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Introduction

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 & Events October 2021

Rain—at last. Even our prairie sunshine addicts might finally agree with that famous saying: “Those who say that only sunshine brings happiness have never danced in the rain.”

Missouri Trail sign. After long COVID-induced delays, this interpretive sign is finally installed—an attractive addition to the grounds of the Dufferin Historical Museum. Drop by and check it out.


New Missouri Trail sign at the
Dufferin Historical Museum.
For a larger image, click here.

September meeting. The C/D MHAC met in September to plan our heritage projects for the next three years. With the fourth wave of the pandemic still heating up in this part of the province and funding still in short supply, it’s been rather difficult to plan ahead.

One of the projects that got left on the back burner last year was the proposed marker at the former Kennedy burial site. This is the site of unmarked graves of victims of a typhoid epidemic. These words—‘unmarked graves’ and ‘epidemic’—have dominated our lives over the past several months. They also made our research on the abandoned burial site that much more relevant.

One of the sources we’ve been reading is a fascinating little book titled “Remember Me as You Pass By – Stories from Prairie Graveyards” by author Nancy Millar. Based on visits to cemeteries across Alberta, Millar observed that inscriptions on grave markers provide little information about the person buried there other than dates of birth and death. It’s rare to find anything about cause of death or history of the deceased. As a result, our cemeteries give few hints of events like the devastating epidemics of smallpox, typhoid, influenza or tuberculosis that were part of early life on the Prairies. Not surprisingly, Millar found that graves of Indigenous people often were unmarked or that wooden markers had disintegrated, leaving these burials all but forgotten.

She notes some of the factors that likely contributed to rapid spread of disease—susceptibility, particularly of the native population; close contact (large families in small pioneer homes or institutions such as residential schools); lack of medical or hospital care; lack of understanding of how disease spreads. Millar also learned that, by the time of the Spanish flu, masks were being worn. She relates how one Prairie doctor didn’t think masks made much sense for himself or his children. The local constable informed him that he’d be fined if he didn’t comply.


From Dufferin Leader, 1921-11-10

Newspapers from that time speculated on the cause of disease. An item in the local Dufferin Leader (1920-09-09) played down airborne spread and identified hand-washing as a major preventative measure. The President of the British Sanitary Inspectors’ Association promoted a daily bath as a strategy for wiping out tuberculosis.

Locally, concrete efforts were being made to prevent the spread of typhoid: “The health officer has issued an order that all outdoor closets [toilets] must be disinfected with chloride of lime during the summer months.” (Dufferin Leader, 1924-08-24). The reason for this practice was the recognition that flies carry disease. And at a time when much of the care and treatment took place in the home, the following ad hyped the use of liniment for managing Spanish flu:


Ad in Dufferin Leader, 1924-08-14

These accounts of mask controversy and enforcement, speculation about sources and recommendations for prevention and treatment from over a century ago sound strangely contemporary.

Nancy Millar set out to learn more about the histories of the cemeteries and the people buried there —just as we have been doing these past months for the Kennedy burial site. This abandoned cemetery was located on the Samuel Kennedy homestead at the point where the old Missouri Trail crossed the Rivière aux Îlets-de-Bois (Boyne River).

Kennedy’s claim was based on his military service in the West and was the first claim in this area. He also is credited with renaming the river in honour of his Irish Protestant roots. When a typhoid epidemic struck down family members and neighbours, they were buried just west of the river crossing. The site represents some the most significant aspects of local history—influx of settlers, confrontations over land ownership, changing economy, differences in religion and language—all as a backdrop to the epidemics that were a reality of pioneer life. We are coming to view the area as a microcosm of local history in the 1870s.

Fortunately, descendants of the Kennedy family have identified and provided details about people buried at that site. Most were children. The graves initially had markers. These were later removed by a new property owner and piled on the side of the cemetery along the bank of the Boyne River. This led to a court case in which the Kennedy family tried to prevent what they viewed as desecration of the site. The new owner won. Family members hoped to move the remains to the Greenwood Cemetery but were advised that, after all those years, there would be little left to remove. A couple of the grave markers were retrieved and placed in Greenwood Cemetery beside the graves of Samuel Kennedy and his wife Jane.

Ironically, while dowsing local Greenwood Cemetery gravesites, we found that the person who purchased the property and removed the markers is buried back-to-back with Kennedy descendants. Unfortunately, we still don’t have a date for the court case At the moment, we’re reading week by week through early newspapers in search of this information. You’ll get an update as soon as we strike pay-dirt.


Grave markers in Greenwood cemetery

In the midst of the current pandemic, this site has taken on new relevance in our efforts to identify, preserve and understand local heritage. We hope to work with the current owners to erect a monument to remember those buried at the site and to acknowledge the impact of epidemics on our early history.

Nancy Millar’s explorations were pretty much confined to the Province of Alberta. Many years ago, the Manitoba Genealogical Society undertook an ambitious project to record inscriptions from some 1700 cemeteries across Manitoba. We have yet to check these inscriptions to discover how many of them give a cause of death or other information about the deceased. Anyone interested taking this on and satisfying our curiosity?

We don’t recall offhand finding any such inscriptions in the Carman/Dufferin area. However, we did notice with interest a marker south of us in the Bloomfield-Rosewell Cemetery in the R.M. of Roland. It records the death of three local men who went West to work and who all died in the 1918 flu epidemic.


Marker in Bloomfield-Rosewell Cemetery

Other initiatives. In addition to the Kennedy Burial site, we plan on researching and installing signage at other heritage sites such as Forest City, the location of former Clendenning Mill and a precursor to the Town of Carman.

For the time being, local displays and most person-to-person initiatives will have to remain on hold. We will aim to lay the groundwork and have the projects organized to the point where they can quickly proceed when it becomes safe to do so. We are especially keen on working with people and groups who are searching for roots in the early St. Daniel area—the area where volunteers were starting to do an inventory at the time of the outbreak.

C/D MHAC also hopes to fund digitalization of local newspapers from 1977–2018 so they can be added to current holdings on the Pembina-Manitou Archive website. We also are finding that, with growing interest in family history, more folks are looking for safe, secure storage of documents, vintage photos and other records in their care. Planning for increased archiving needs will be another priority or the next three years. Even with projects on hold, there will be lots to keep our little groups of volunteers busy over the coming months.

Other Community happenings. The Forest City/Clendenning Mill project also is of great interest to our partners in heritage—the Boyne River Keepers. The BRK sponsored a regatta on September 26 to mark World Rivers Day. They dressed as pirates and paddled down the Boyne from the Trestle dock for a fun-filled afternoon in Ryall Park (https://vimeo.com/615521949).


Wild grapes – fruit and vines

Natural History. It also was the BRK folks who first drew our attention to the wild grape vines growing along the riverbank. This is one of our mouth-watering native plants—makes delicious jelly. As with all wild plants it’s important to correctly identify them before you eat them. You can check out sources such as the following to be sure you aren’t mixing up wild grapes with a poisonous look-alike.


A good feed before heading south

The drought has affected much of the fruit and other foods sources local birds and animals rely on for survival. As tempting as they looked, this year we left the wild crops intact for our feathered and furry friends to enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 


 

News & Events September 2021

Planning for 2022. The big news: in August, C/D MHAC met indoors, in person, for the first time since last year. Our new committee chair, Nikki Falk, being an avid horsewoman, quietly picked up the reins and prepared to lead us off into what we’re sure will be new and exciting heritage ventures.

A good feed before migrating south.22–24 Heritage Resource Management Plan (HRMP). This is an outline for how we will work over the next three years towards meeting our mandate to identify, preserve and promote local heritage. There are still some personal-contact projects we weren’t able to finish during the pandemic. Fingers crossed that we’ll get back to working on our inventories of local heritage resources, profiles of early homesteads and life-story workshops over the next few months.

St. Daniel Inventory. The inventories project got stalled out just as we were about to organize a volunteer committee in the St. Daniel area. On the positive side, the delay has given us time to review what we’ve discovered so far about both the history (dates, events) and the broader socio-cultural heritage of the area and to remind ourselves and everyone else why we’re doing the project.


Heritage Certificate Site St. Daniel School

The intent of the inventories is to find out and record what heritage resources are in each community; where they are; and how people can access or get information about them. We work with local volunteer committees to identify heritage buildings, monuments, collections, documents, and other items of significance to each local community. This includes records of local organizations, family histories, photo collections, cemetery records, as well as artifacts in private or museum collections. Occasionally we help preserve these resources. Preservation usually involves simple activities, for example, encouraging a local committee to make a back-up copy of cemetery records and store it in a location separated from the original. The inventories are all works in progress. They can be found on the website under their respective community listings.

So what have we learned so far about the history/heritage of the St. Daniel community? In the most general sense, we’ve looked at the broader context of local history—factors such as the lengthy French/English conflict in North America, early exploration, and competition in the fur trade. Locally, we noted the significance of Métis buffalo hunting along the Missouri Trail and establishment of the first permanent settlement in the Îlets-de-Bois area, prior to the arrival of the first homesteaders. When it came to the history of our local Indigenous population, we faced an additional challenge. Here the tradition was one of oral history, handed down from one generation to the next. As a result, most of our information about early Indigenous residents comes from the experiences and written observations of explorers, fur traders, or early settlers in the area. Fortunately, we got a better understanding of this part of our history while working on the Missouri Trail and Îlets-de-Bois signage projects.

In addition to the general history of the municipality, the History of the RM of Dufferin 1880–1980, we have two other volumes that are specific to the St. Daniel area. In 1992, local residents published a history that portrays an active, close-knit community. A decade later, Antoine Gaborieau, a noted proponent of French language and culture, published another slim volume to fill in some of the ‘missing pieces’ in the earlier history. More specifically, he added details to the account of early Métis and Catholic residents in what was then known as Îlets-de-Bois.


Antoine Gaborieau’s history

Historian Alan B. McCullough, a former St. Daniel resident, also has published articles that provide insight into the Métis presence in the area and early confrontations with newly arrived settlers.

These local histories and articles are informative. They also highlight one of the most basic questions we should be asking about any account of the past—i.e., from whose perspective is it being written or told?

Most of us retain a few significant kernels of wisdom from our years of formal education. Many years ago, one assignment made a lasting impression on a University of Winnipeg history student. The task was to compare and contrast two historical accounts of the same period in East European history.

Two histories of Poland were selected; one historian was German, the other Polish. The bewildered student had to constantly cross-check the historical context—the time and place—to be sure the two scholars were even talking about the same country. Point taken. Thank you, Professor Batzell, for that insight.

In addition to the history of the St. Daniel area—the people, dates and events—we’ve also documented a wide range of other local heritage resources. These include the cairns, cemeteries, churches, schools and other physical records of the past, all of which can be found on the website.


Îlets-de-Bois Cemetery

Our other ‘on-hold’ projects—collecting homestead profiles and life stories—should add to our understanding of the personal experience of individuals and families in the community. We recently received a request for help in locating the grave of an ancestor who had lived in the St. Daniel district. The background information on this individual highlights the inter-connections among families in the area. This family also has ties to the broader context of local history through the noted Métis bard, Pierre Falcon. Since then we’ve met with another local resident who is proudly tracing and honouring their Métis roots. If we can tap into this rich body of family stories it will help considerably towards fleshing out our understanding of the early history and heritage of the area, including interactions between Indigenous residents and post-1870 settlers. In that context, the St. Daniel community should provide a rare opportunity to study the interface between cultures. In the process, it may provide a timely insight into current Indigenous concerns and a broader perspective on the global issues of diversity and humanity.

Trivia for the day. According to Antoine Gaborieau’s history (p2) cited above, the hills west of the escarpment, which we now call the Pembina Hills, were referred to in Alexander Henry’s 1800 journal as the “Hair Hills”. Does anyone happen to know the origin of that name?

Natural History – Wasps. Moving from social to natural history, one of the more distressing effects of the drought has been the unwelcome influx of wasps. It’s made it hard to ignore the impact of the drought on our natural environment. It also challenges our knowledge of local insects, from the basic recognition of species to their habits and their place in the natural world.


Looking for the last traces of nectar

Many of us are challenged when it comes to distinguishing between wasps, hornets and bees. What are those large insects that aggressively chased the hummingbirds from their feeding station? If you are puzzled, you might check out online articles such as the following: https://www.almanac.com/wasps-bees-and-hornets-whats-difference

The drought has resulted in scarcity of flowers, along with the pollen and nectar that serve as a source of food for much of the natural world. We may be so pleased with the absence of mosquitoes and other insects that we haven’t thought about the overall impact on nature. For some extra food for thought, including the impact of human interventions, check out https://youtu.be/VSYgDssQUtA

And to end on a note of beauty and serenity, enjoy this restful photo of a horse with the August “blue” moon rising in the background. If you are curious about blue moons, when we’ll see the next one, or why we use the expression “once in a blue moon”, you might check out the following:

https://www.space.com/blue-moon-august-2021-photos
https://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/when-is-the-next-blue-moon/

Better still, just relax and enjoy the photo.


Moments to remember

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Recent History

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