Skip navigation


Whether you are a visitor to our community, are researching your family roots, need background on an historic building or are just interested in local history, this website is your one-stop source of information on our heritage. 

The site offers you a glimpse of the history of Dufferin Municipality from the pre-settlement era to the post–1870 influx of homesteading families, and from the arrival of the railways to the rise and decline of the small towns and communities along its path.

You will also discover the wealth of historic buildings, cairns, plaques and other heritage resources that our communities have to offer.

Let us know of any omissions or errors. If you have information or photos you’d like to share, please contact us. Check out this site each month for our Special Features, including vintage photos from the area.

Please visit our Acknowledgements page, which recognizes the many people who contributed towards making the website possible, including the backbone of any endeavour—the volunteers who contributed material, researched, edited or proofread content, and gave in so many ways of their time and talents.

News and Events June 2020

Welcome Back to the 'Carman Standard'. Dismay at the loss of our local weekly newspaper turned to relief May 14 with the return of the new, improved 'Carman-Dufferin Standard.' Local papers are the lifeline of small communities. For anyone interested in our past, newspapers are our richest reservoir of local heritage.

it seems appropriate that 'The Standard' shares the name of our first local newspaper. Published weekly between July 15, 1890 and Sept. 28, 1916, the paper kept a growing community abreast of both world and local news. 'The Standard' was joined in 1898 by the local 'Dufferin Leader.' In 1976, the 'Dufferin Leader' transitioned into the more regional 'Valley Leader' which just published its final issue on May 7, 2020. 'The Carman-Dufferin Standard' seamlessly issued its first edition on May 14, 2020. With a strong staff such as community stalwart Dennis Young on board, the new 'Standard' holds promise of high quality reporting of community news in the years to come. Welcome back.

For an engaging view of our past as seen through our two early newspapers, visit

While the ‘The Carman-Duffferin Standard’ is keeping us up to date with local news, readers will be pleased to see that they haven’t forgotten the past. Check out the May 28 edition for ‘This Week in Review….’, a look back at events and items of interest from early issues of the ‘Standard’ and ‘Dufferin Leader’. And don’t miss Dennis Young’s entertaining “interview” with the Memorial Hall. On May 24, 1920 this unique WWI memorial was officially opened and the list of 83 local military personnel who lost their lives during the conflict was unveiled. The 100th anniversary celebration that was planned for May 24, 2020 was yet another casualty of the COVID-19 epidemic. Thanks to the ‘Standard’ for helping us remember.

Memories of WWII. One of our goals this year is to encourage folks to begin writing their own life stories and to record family stories passed down through the years. I don’t think we were fully prepared for the amazing stories that are a part of our local heritage.

C/D MHAC member Nikki Falk wrote about a moving journey she and her sisters made to France six years ago to attend the 70th Anniversary of the Evaders of the Fréteval Forest. The Sandulak family received an invitation from the village of Villebout, France to attend the ceremonies on behalf of their father Sgt. John Sandulak. Village officials, proud of their community's historic role in the Resistance, were holding ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of the camp in which 152 allied soldiers were kept hidden in the forest by the local Resistance Fighters during WWII—under the nose of the Germans.

Nikki’s father had passed away four years before the anniversary; she and three sisters and their sister-in-law made the trip to France. She wrote:

It was a surreal time—there were five of us but throughout the entire trip we felt there was a 6th person with us. Always thinking we had another suitcase to throw in the vehicle, six chairs at tables, walking through the Fréteval Forest and so on—we like to think it was our Dad along with us. He had never returned in all those years but kept in touch with his French friends long after the war was over. Just before we left on the trip our Mom found a group of photos he brought back with him from the war—of resistance fighters—no names, just their secret numbers written on the back.

I was in touch with a wonderful Belgian historian who was researching and writing about the airmen in the hidden forest. I sent him copies of the photos and he shocked us all when he sent word before we left for France that he had located the woman who hid Dad in their barn after he had to bail out over occupied territory. She was 93 years old, alive and well and willing to meet us. She had been a 23 year old woman when she and Dad met, one year older than Dad.

What a moment that was—a gloomy, rainy Sunday morning in a little French village. I’ll never forget walking up to her door—rain coming straight down, the five of us under the shelter of our Royal Canadian Legion poppy umbrellas. She kept kissing our cheeks, we spent the visit looking at photos together, drinking coffee and making connections.

As we were saying our goodbyes the rain stopped and the bright sun came out from behind the clouds. She gave directions to the farm where they had lived during the war and where they had protected Dad until he was cleared by the Resistance and taken to the hidden forest camp. We then walked around the farm marvelling at how we were standing where Dad had been 70 years before us—a prairie boy in an RCAF uniform, missing one flying boot, doing his best to communicate with sign language.

Dad had described to me the courtyard of the farm, encircled by the house and outbuildings. Standing there almost 70 years later to the day, the memory of that moment is forever etched in our minds. He told us a story of how early one morning in the fog he saw a North American brand farm implement and for a fleeting moment wondered if he was on home soil and it was all just a dream.

We went to France fully prepared to thank everyone involved in the resistance efforts for saving our Dad’s life all those years ago. To our surprise the people of France wouldn’t hear of it and said over and over that their thanks and gratitude went to the all brave allied soldiers who fought for their freedoms. One local woman was insistent she talk to us at the ceremony and with the help of an interpreter she asked us what connection our father had to France. She couldn’t seem to grasp why a young Canadian had crossed the ocean to fight in a war in Europe. Finally my sister Lori said “Our Dad came here because you needed help.” Watching the woman as she realized the connection was as simple as helping your fellow man, seeing her hand over her heart, that moment was worth every mile of our journey. There is so much more to tell, we must sit with pictures someday and I can tell you the stories.

The story of how our family came to be also began during those war years. Our Mom saw Dad’s picture in the Carman paper listed 'Missing in Action'. She said that she walked across the kitchen to her sister, pointed at his picture and announced: “I don’t know this guy but if he comes back alive I’m going to marry him—I like his smile”.  My Mom usually got what she set out to accomplish and Dad was no exception!

Dad was from Sperling and when there was no word after he went missing in action his parents asked for his belongings to be returned to them from his base in England. Sometime later a telegram came in addressed to them. It said that in regard to their son’s belongings there would be no need to return them as they were happy to report he would be bringing them home himself. He had made his way back to England after liberation! Can you imagine getting that telegram? The man at the telegraph office was so excited he drove to the farm himself with the message.  We still have that paper and were always told that Gramma’s tears were dried into it.

I suspect that a few more tears were just shed by those who read this moving account from one family’s life story. For much more about Fréteval Forest and John Sandulak’s amazing experience, check out the following links:  (You can hit the translate link on this page once it’s loaded)


Background to Events of 1870 (cont’d). Our reliance on written history has led to the notion that this part of the country didn’t have any notable history or heritage prior to the arrival of Europeans. Archeological evidence and recognition of the value of oral histories has begun to rectify this ethnocentric approach to our past.

Our histories now begin with accounts of the arrival of the first human emigrants to North America across the Bering Straits land bridge sometime between twelve and seventy thousand years ago. They spread gradually across the continent, inhabiting this region only after the retreat of the Ice Age glaciers. The earliest human artifacts located in southern Manitoba date from about 11000 to 9000 B.C. Evidence of a diversified culture based on gathering, fishing and hunting is found from around 5000 to 2000 B.C. This coincided with the drainage of Lake Agassiz and emergence of a land of prairie grasslands, rivers, lakes and tree-covered parkland. Check our local museums for collections of early artifacts from this area.

For an informative overview of local geology and lives of our first inhabitants, you might wish to locate a copy of the Miami Museum’s ‘Pembina Country: a Land of Promise’ published by D.W. Friesen & Sons, Altona, 1974.

Last month we referred you to Gerald Friesen’s history ‘The Canadian Prairies: A History’ for a more balanced insight into the workings of the western fur trade than most of us learned about in our early schooldays. The chapters on the early history of the western Indigenous cultures and their role in the fur trade are especially helpful in understanding the people and their activities in this region prior to 1870.

Here in brief are some of his insights, points we often miss when we think about the early inhabitants of this land:

1. Diversity of Culture – Early “Indians” often are viewed as a single cultural group, tinted in part by a stereotypical "wild-west" image. Rather like assuming “Europeans” all share the same language and culture. In fact, some 200 language groups were found across North America along with lifestyles adapted to the local environment. These ranged from the migrant hunting/ gathering groups in the north-west to more settled agricultural-based communities in some southern and eastern areas of the continent. Three main linguistic groups were represented in the north-west area of the continent. Over the centuries, different groups relocated or extended their range within this general region. One cultural aspect Indigenous North Americans appear to have shared was a close spiritual connection with the natural environment.

2. History of Trade. Trading goods within a band, between bands of the same culture or amongst other groups with whom they had diplomatic alliances was part of the early Indigenous lifestyle. Plains hunters, for example, migrated long distances to exchange pelts, beadwork or other artifacts for agricultural products produced by Mandan settlements far to the south. These gatherings were occasions for ceremonies, games and social interaction. Some of these practices carried over into the European fur trade.

3. Change on Contact. During the first two centuries of contact in the West (1640–1840), arrival of European fur trade had little impact on Indigenous lifestyles. Trade with the European companies was carried out largely though Indigenous middlemen who travelled to the posts, traded pelts for goods and made the journey back to the local bands. Blankets, cloth, and metal goods replaced the earlier technologies but did not change the lifestyle of the indigenous cultures. Seasonal migration patterns continued, and surplus furs were traded for more desirable goods. The companies in turn had furs delivered to their posts.

4. Approaching 1870. As competition between the fur trading companies evolved, lives of the original inhabitants began to change. Company trading posts were moved inland, Indigenous middlemen were replaced by company employees and canoeists. These changes led to an increased demand for food, especially for pemmican, the staple of the canoeists diet. The traditional buffalo hunt, now more efficient thanks to introduction of the horse and gun, responded to the new demand. Soon the increasing demand for pemmican and buffalo robes, growing competition from US traders and widespread introduction of horses and guns to the buffalo hunt led to rapid depletion of herds in traditional hunting areas. Outsiders also brought diseases. Measles and the smallpox epidemics of 1781 and 1836 took a heavy toll on non-resistant communities. After 1870, homesteaders began to arrive, reducing the size of the seasonal hunting and foraging areas.

As a result, the local Indigenous population experienced a reduction in numbers from starvation, disease, and migration to new hunting territories. The census taken in 1870 as part of the union with Canada recorded only 558 persons classified as “Indian” from a total of over 11,900 persons then living in the ‘postage-stamp’ Province of Manitoba.

After 1870, changes in the local lifestyle accelerated. The traditional hunting/gathering/trade-based economy of previous centuries rapidly changed to an agricultural-based market economy. Indigenous members of the population learned that the European concept of land ownership had replaced their understanding that the land and its resources were for all to use. In future, they would live on reserves.

We’ll continue next month with our rather superficial but hopefully pertinent look at the local pre-1870 population of this region we now call Manitoba.


News and Events May 2020

May 12th. This was the day Manitoba was supposed to be celebrating the 150th anniversary of our Province. All events have been cancelled because of COVID-19—including the long-planned unveiling of our Missouri Trail sign which was scheduled for the 12th. It will all take place in due course.

How appropriate though that this May 12, nurses around the world are placing candles in their windows to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale and International Nurses’ Day. Nightingale’s service during the Crimean War and her image as “The Lady with the Lamp” captured the attention of the British public. She went on to establish the first school of Nursing, thereby laying the foundation for recognition of Nursing as a profession. The Founder of Nursing would be proud to see nurses still out there on the front line during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Local Heritage. Nothing much happening these days as we all cope in our own way with social isolation. A few friends and family members are out on the front line in essential services. Those of us who are retired are grateful to be at home and to have time to tackle that ‘to-do’ list that somehow hasn’t decreased in length over the past few years. Things like working on life stories.
We didn’t get far enough into our life-story sessions for most participants to feel confident enough to work ahead on their own. A couple of group members have emailed stories to our project leader for feedback. Hopefully a few more are doing a bit of journaling and recording their response to this current period of history-in-the-making.

On the world scene, May 8, the 75th anniversary of VE-Day, the day Germany surrendered in WWII, is being commemorated with virtual and distance-conscious ceremonies. Folks in the UK will join in a country-wide sing-along of “We’ll meet again…” This was the signature WWII song sung by Dame Vera Lynn – who incidentally is still alive at age 103. It was probably too revealing to have mentioned recently to our committee that I recall hearing her sing that song on the radio and listening to the family belting it out as they gathered around the piano. One advantage of aging is that you sure have a lot of memories!

Meanwhile, on the home front, it looks like all our Manitoba 150 events and displays will be happening in 2021.

From the Museum. Meetings have been cancelled but the DHS president reports that the Museum has gratefully received a grant from the Carman Foundation and has purchased new dehumidifiers for the museum.

Background to Events of 1870 (cont’d). Back in February, we identified the lengthy conflict between Britain, France, and their colonies in North America as one of the underlying factors in local 1870 events and noted that underlying issues of religion, culture, language, imperial expansion and trade were closely intertwined in the conflicts. In the West, these differences played out in rivalry around the fur trade.

For some three centuries prior to 1870, the fur trade remained the core industry in the West. It also became the main reason for settlement around the Forks and along the Red and Assiniboine Rivers. The key players during this time were early explorers/traders out of New France, the rival Hudson’s Bay and North West Companies, and the Indigenous trappers, hunters and middlemen who supplied the pelts and hides and food (pemmican) that sustained the trade.

In the century and a half between the founding of New France and the defeat of the French colony by the English, explorers and traders extended their activities westward into the heart of the continent and the Northwest. They returned with rich northern furs and with heightened interest in the interior as a target for expanding trade and spreading the Catholic faith. Fur traders from New France were soon making the annual voyage westward. They traded with their Huron allies along the Ottawa River and Georgian Bay, then travelled westward near what later became the Canada-U.S.A. border. Their canoes were laden with supplies and trade goods on the voyage west and with furs on return a year later.

Two of the more adventurous of these explorers/traders, Radisson and Groseilliers, left their party and ventured northward to the head of Lake Superior and beyond. They returned to New France with furs and plans for expansion into the North. Unfortunately, their employers didn’t share their enthusiasm for the venture and disciplined the pair, so they took their plan to the English. The rest, as we never tire of saying, is history.

Rupertsland - the shaded area

Henry Hudson’s explorations for an ice-free Northwest Passage to the Far East had led to discovery of Hudson’s Bay and James Bay. These discoveries unintentionally opened up a shorter route to the fur-bearing lands that Radisson and Groseilliers hoped to exploit. A new trading company was formed under the patronage of Prince Rupert, cousin of King Charles II of England and first governor of the company. On May 2, 1670, a Royal Charter granted the Hudson’s Bay Company exclusive trading and commercial rights in Rupertsland.

This was the name given to the vast lands draining into Hudson’s Bay, an area of 1.5 million square miles and over one-third the area of Canada today. The company held this monopoly for 200 years from 1670 to 1870. However, there was little provision for enforcement of the monopoly. And by ignoring the presence of Indigenous residents and assuming sovereignty over the territory, the charter also opened the way to later confrontation over land claims.

The HBC built forts and fur trading posts along the shores of James and Hudson bays. Indigenous trappers and middlemen brought their furs down the rivers to the posts along the coastline. Formation of the HBC opened the way for competition with traders using the longer canoe route from the East. The HBC also had the advantage of better quality English trade goods.

Through the Treaty of Paris in 1763, France lost most of her holdings in North America. Rather than removing fur trade competition in the West, this led to formation of a reorganized, more efficient fur trade competitor, the North West Company. The new company established a way station at the head of Lake Superior. Canoes brought supplies from the East and exchanged them for furs brought in from the Northwest. This move reduced the eastern leg of the voyage to three months rather than a year. The new company also provided the same quality trade goods as the HBC. It was reorganized internally and, because of its more northern focus, began to intercept trappers and middlemen on their way north to the HBC posts. The fur trade moved into a more highly competitive and conflict ridden era.

The HBC began to see a drop in furs delivered to the shoreline posts. They responded to building inland posts. Then in 1811, Lord Selkirk was inspired by a philanthropic urge to resettle crofters who had lost their holdings when landowners enclosed their lands and transitioned to sheep farming. This venture combined with the further inspiration that an agricultural settlement in the West could provide a local food supply and a place where HBC employees could settle and raise families. The result was the Red River Colony or Assiniboia which included the area around The Forks and much of the pemmican-producing territory west of the Red River.

The Forks had become a center for exchange of furs from the Northwest and for the supply of pemmican, the food staple for the fur trade. Conflict heightened over the new presence at the Forks and attempts by colony officials to regulate trade including export of pemmican. This culminated in the Battle of Seven Oaks (1816). The conflict between the North West Company and the HBC was resolved through union of the companies in 1821. By this time, however the fur trade was changing. Demand for furs from the European market had begun to decline. With the absence of any enforceable law in the area, free traders had begun a growing trade with the American companies which were pressing westward under the banner of Manifest Destiny and offering serious competition in the fur trade. By 1870, The HBC was open to moving out of the fur trade.

Assiniboia – Red River Colony

Like most histories of the fur trade, this brief overview focuses on the trading companies, the Red River settlers and the growing pressures westward of US expansion. As our noted Manitoba historian, Gerald Friesen, points out, the traditional European-centered focus misses a facet of the story without which there wouldn’t have been any trade—the role of the Indigenous population. Rather than being passive recipients of trade, these were the folks who trapped and hunted and sustained the traders by providing the staple food supplies. Next month we’ll look at the people who lived here and who made the trade possible and how it affected their lives.

Note: To flesh out this bare-bones outline and get more background information on any particular topic such as the role of the coureur-de-bois/voyageurs, Battle of Seven Oaks, or early fur companies, you might find it useful to first check out these individual topics on Wikipedia and follow up with other online articles as your interest directs you. When you are able to access libraries, for a readable and perceptive history of the Prairies, try Gerald Friesen’s The Canadian Prairies: A History (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1987).

Recent History

Earlier news items are stored on a separate "Recent History" page.