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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 March 2021

March. One year since the pandemic first changed our lives. For many it’s been a dreary, even depressing, time of isolation from family and friends. Not to mention worries from job loss, hassles of working from home or virtual schooling. Anyone who has had family members in hospital, especially in palliative care, has experienced the depths of grief and loss.

The more fortunate among us have rediscovered the outdoors and gardening or maybe found time to catch up on all those DIY projects tucked away in the back of our minds for the ‘someday’ that finally arrived. Cupboards and closets have never been cleaner. Then there are a few seemingly natural-born recluses who look back at the last months as a sort of vacation from meetings and routine, a time to read, soak up nature, and just do what they want to do, when they want to do it.


The positive side of 2020

From requests we’ve received, it seems that for some folks, it’s finally an opportunity to dig into family history, to discover and preserve their roots. Last month, we mentioned a few of these initiatives. Thanks to pandemic closures, our search has been limited pretty much to online sources. That said, here is an update on what we’ve located so far in response to the request for information on the Carman Sons of England Lodge.

Sons of England. You’ll recall that we knew almost nothing about the S.O.E., other than their name on one of the more significant buildings in Carman. Newspapers from the early 1900s noted that the R.M. of Dufferin Council met in the upper chambers of the building and ads identified it as the location over the years of various business ventures. Photos from the 1970s record loss of the building to fire at the time when the Rex Café occupied part of the lower story [New & Events August & September, 2019]

The Sons of England Society was one of several benevolent societies from the pre-insurance era that provided support for its members in times of need.

“The Sons of England Benevolent Society was a fraternal society for English Protestants, founded in Toronto, Canada, during the year 1874. Its purpose was to bring Englishmen together for mutual support, social intercourse, and to provide financial security to them and their families in times of sickness, hardship or death. In addition to these aims, the society acted as a cultural organisation, aspiring to preserve and celebrate the Anglo-Protestant cultural heritage of its members.”amazon.ca/Early-History-England-Benevolent-Society/dp/1978374992

The Winnipeg and Western Canada Directory, p. 93 lists the Carman S.O.E. as Lodge No. 186. Newspaper items from 1898–99 give some insight into construction of their building:

“The Sons of England, of Carman, contemplate the erection of a hall for meetings and are looking for a suitable site.” (Carman Standard, 1898-09-02).

“The Sons of England have bought a lot from Butchart & Somersall and intend erecting a hall for the meetings of their society the first floor will be rented for a general store.” (Carman Standard, 1898-09-16). The same week, the Dufferin Leader (1898-09-15) reported that the lodge had formed a joint stock company and applied for incorporation. “When completed, it will not only be one of the best business stands but one of the best equipped of any in town.”


Sons of England Building early 1900s

The Carman Standard (1898-09-16) provided further details, including the names of the first directors.

 

 

 


The following year, the building was completed and the first-floor tenants had begun to move in.


Carman Standard, 1899-09-21

Over the years, changes in businesses can be traced through newspaper ads. So far, we haven’t located any records in family histories or the like of financial aid, however, newspaper reports do record some of the organizations’ social activities.

The Carman Standard (1898-06-24) reported that an S.O.E. excursion was being planned from Carman to Selkirk on July 7th. Tickets for the round-trip cost $2. The committee had arranged a three hour trip up the river for an extra charge of 50 cents. In addition, “Those who desire to take a trip up Lake Winnipeg to Cumberland House can, by taking in this excursion, make the round-trip from Carman for $15.70 including berths and meals on steamer.”

There is no indication of the number of excursionists on this outing, however, the following year, the Dufferin Leader (1899-06-22) reported the S.O.E. excursion was “not as well patronized as it might have been” due to rain and mix-up in departure times. As a result, they had only 200–300 on board when the train pulled out. Wonder what the usual number totalled? On that excursion, the newspaper noted, the excursionists were “met by a reception committee of the Sons of England, of that city, and the trolley cars were in waiting, which conveyed the excursionists to the auditorium instead of Elm Park as previously announced. Here the crowd were entertained with music, etc., until 12 o’clock when they dispersed for dinner. Returning, the excursionists left Winnipeg at 8:30, all feeling that an enjoyable time had been spent.” They apparently were not a group to be daunted by a bit of rain.

The Winnipeg lodge also travelled to Carman. The Carman Standard (1898-06-24) coverage gave an account of the outing and the entertainment provided by the local lodge. Under the heading “S.O.E. Excursion” the newspaper reported that:

“The Sons of England came to Carman on Monday for their annual outing. The first train arrived at 10 o’clock, and the remainder of the excursionists came on the regular train at noon. Headed by the Citizens band the visitors wended their way to Clark’s Grove, where the athletic sports were held, a band concert was given and dancing indulged in. The sports were well contested, a number of fine athletes accompanying the excursion and carrying off most of the prizes…. Carman people took a great deal of interest in the tug of war between Carman and Winnipeg Sons of England. It only required two tugs to decide the superiority of the dwellers on the banks of the Boyne over those who pitched their tents by the Red….

The singing contest or rather the comic songs, created a good deal of amusement. There were about half a dozen entries…. The dancing platform was not well patronized, the day being too warm for that exercise. That antiquated old source of amusement, the Punch and Judy show, bobbed up on the grounds and seemed to draw as of yore. The Citizens band gave an enjoyable concert in the evening opposite the station. The Winnipeg Sons of England are a jolly outfit and seem to know how to get all there is in a picnic out of it. All we have to say to them is “come again”. “

An item in the Dufferin Leader (1899-06-01) gives insight into the patriotic roots of the organization. The article describes an S.O.E. service at St. Andrew’s Church. Forty members of the order paraded from the Orange hall to the church, led by the Carman band. Rev. H.C. Sutherland chose his text a theme from the Psalms, “I have a goodly heritage”. He “began by paying tribute to the greatness of England and the nobility of the Queen. He believed that the finest civilization the world had ever known found its highest expression in England”. Sutherland went on to speak of religion as the chief moulding force in the development of civilization and the key to England’s greatness.

Although we have little information on membership in the S.O.E., the following account from the Dufferin Leader (1899-05-18) gives a hint of the fellowship amongst lodge members. Salterville, to the east of the present-day town of Carman, was the fist post-1870 settlement and post office in the area. We gather from the earlier list of directors that Richard Salter was an early pillar of the organization.

Other early lodges. The SOE was just one of several lodges active in the area around this time. Among other organizations mentioned in local newspapers were the LOL (Loyal Orange Lodge), Masons or AF and AM (Ancient Free and Accepted Masons), IOOF (Independent Order of Odd Fellows), IOF (Independent Order of Foresters) as well as women’s groups such as the IODE (Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire). Look for these initials or organization symbols on grave markers in local cemeteries.

 

 

The Orange Lodge figured most prominently in early history of this area. The order was named in honour of Protestant King William of Orange’s defeat of Catholic King James at the Battle of the Boyne. Irish Protestants in Ontario, stirred up by a push to revenge Riel’s execution of Thomas Scott and secure the West from the Catholics, were strongly represented among the first waves of new settlers. Samuel Kennedy, the first post-1870 settler to take up a homestead in the area was a staunch member of the L.O.L. He is credited with making a bold statement of his beliefs by renaming the Rivière aux Îlets-de-Bois the Boyne River. The first L.O.L. meetings were held in his home. As settlements spread, several local communities established their own branches of the Lodge. On July 12, local lodges gathered to march in parades, accompanied by fifes and drums. They also sponsored local community events. The Dufferin Leader (1910-11-03) announced that “Loyal Orange Lodge No. 2137 Roseisle, will give a Grand Ball on the evening of Friday, Nov. 4. On the afternoon of the same day a Turkey Shoot will be held. Admission to ball, $1. Come and bring your girl.”


 

 

 


A local RM of Dufferin lodge

The last remaining local L.O.L hall in Graysville has deteriorated to the point where its valuable records and artifacts have now been donated to the Dufferin Historical Museum. The museum also holds a copy of The Early History of Dufferin Loyal Orange Lodge #1514 Graysville, Manitoba, 1883–1959 by L.O.L. member Dr. T.J. Harrison.
 

March 17 – St. Patrick’s Day. One of the main celebrations in the month of March is St. Patrick’s Day. Given the strong Irish representation in our history, you might also expect to read early reports of parades and celebrations built around shamrocks, fanciful little green leprechauns and green beverages. The event as we know it today is celebrated by anyone with Irish roots or by organizations looking for an excuse to hold a community supper fund-raiser. The LOL, however, were not keen on ‘Saints’ and their association with Catholicism. St. Patrick’s Day events appear to be of somewhat later vintage in the area.

Now and Then. Here is the next picture of the Town of Caman from our rollover Vintage Photos. This is a view of the corner of Main St. and 2nd Ave. as it looked back in 1912. Since that time, these buildings have had many different occupants. As part of Shirley Snider’s research on early Carman businesses, she has managed to identify many of the past owners.

For more on the history of this part of Main St., go to our Now and Then Vintage Photo section.

Natural History. In February, we looked at the groundhog and his annual weather predictions. March also has its animal connections. If the month comes in like a lamb, we should expect it to go out like a lion—and vice versa. This year it came in fairly lamb-like, mixed sun and clouds, chill winds but with promise of a fine week to come. As far as animals are concerned, neither the lamb nor the lion is indigenous to this area. Carman/Dufferin folks have to go the Assiniboine Zoo to see a lion. Sheep are occasionally mentioned among new species being introduced by settlers but they aren’t a mainstay of the local economy. So let’s just check in see how our everyday wildlife friends are managing during our recent erratic change of temperature.

Squirrels. Local squirrels have been surprisingly visible this winter, venturing out of their winter hideaways each time the temperature soars above freezing and snow begins melting from the roof top. They can be seen scurrying up the trees to see if the spring buds are beginning to swell and rooting around in the snow for those caches of nuts they stored in the fall. If they are fortunate, like the one seen below, they may even manage to raid the birdfeeder.

Both red squirrels and their larger grey cousins can be found in this area. The reds are noticeably more aggressive and don’t hesitate to chase the greys from their territory. Although we are often amazed by their speed and climbing skills, we may not give them enough credit for some of their other abilities.



No way the birds need all those sunflower seeds!

Here's an excerpt from a local life story that gives a whole new appreciation of the talents of our wily little wildlife friends:

“One late autumn morning Grandad woke to find the ground covered with a thick blanket of snow. He decided it was time to put out more feed for the birds. So he made a big ball of suet and sunflower seeds. He put the ball into a mesh bag, attached a long cord, and hung it near the end of a tree branch where he could watch the action from the comfort of his rocking chair. All sorts of birds soon found the food—nuthatches, woodpeckers, chickadees, juncos, redpolls, a blue jay, even a beautiful red-breasted grosbeak. And a squirrel. As he watched, a little red squirrel raced up the tree trunk and scampered out onto the branch. When it couldn’t reach the bag on the end of the cord, it just chewed through the cord and dropped the suet bag to the ground. Then it raced down the tree, grabbed the cord in its teeth and pulled the bag of suet towards the base of the tree—and settled in for a hearty meal.

Grandad was determined to outsmart the squirrel. He got a tall wooden post and dug a hole in the middle of Grandma’s flower beds. He nailed a feeding tray on top of the post and put out more seeds and suet. The squirrel watched closely from a nearby tree. As soon as Grandad was back inside, the squirrel raced down the tree, across the snow and up the pole. It stretched out, got its sharp claws around the edge of the platform and soon was enjoying another snack.

The wooden post was replaced with a metal pole. No way even those sharp little claws could get a grip on smooth metal. Have you ever watched a squirrel with its legs wrapped around a pole, using its strong thighs to shinny up, the way you climb coconut trees n the tropics? Believe me, they can do it like they’d been climbing metal poles all their lives.

The next try was a foil pie plate secured part way up the pole to act as a barrier. Tiny squirrel paws and sharp claws soon bent and twisted the flimsy aluminum plate enough to make a hole alongside the pole – then the squirrel was through the hole and back up enjoying its lunch.

Back to the drawing board. The next feeder was an impressive structure—a tall metal pole with a huge 4- foot square platform on top. If the squirrel climbed the pole – he still wouldn’t be able to stretch and reach the edge of the feeder. This seemed to be the answer.

Then, a day later, as he watched, Grandad saw the squirrel come bouncing across the snow and up a tall tree. The closest branch was about twenty feet from the feeder. The squirrel paused for a moment then raced full speed along a branch, took off with a flying leap, sailed through the air and landed with a thump on the platform.

Grandad watched in amazement as the squirrel ate a few seeds then proceeded to roll the suet ball off the platform onto to the ground. Then he jumped down and tried to push the suet ball towards the base of the tree. But the fresh snow was too deep and the ball wouldn’t move. After several tries the squirrel seemed to give up. He ran across the yard to the base of the tree and started digging in the snow. Maybe looking instead for nuts he had hidden away last fall? Not likely. He pulled out something orange from the snow. It was the mesh bag that had originally held the suet ball when he dropped it from the tree.

The squirrel grabbed the bag in his mouth and ran to where the suet ball lay in the snow. Taking the mesh bag in his paws, he spread it carefully over the top of the suet ball. Then he grabbed the cord and tried to pull the bag and the suet. The bag slipped off the ball. He smoothed it back and tried again.

Grandad’s mouth dropped open in amazement. “Will you look at that? Who said animals don’t know how to use tools? The squirrel remembered pulling the suet bag by the cord after he chewed it down from the tree. And he remembered where he hid the mesh bag. Now he’s trying to put the bag back on the suet ball so he can pull it through the snow. You know, if he’s that smart, he deserves to get fed too.”

So he put on his winter parka and warm winter mitts and went outside to scatter seeds all over the ground under the feeder. From then on, he watched both the birds and squirrels enjoy their food.

Later that year, I helped Grandad write up that story for his grandchildren. Years later, they still mention from time to time that they just re-read the story and had another good chuckle at his attempt to outsmart the crafty little red squirrel.”

For more information of squirrels see articles such as: orkincanada.ca/pests/wildlife/squirrels/


News and Events, February 2021

What’s up. What do committees do when the world around them goes into lockdown and face-to-face projects are on hold? It seems that C/D MHAC members have heeded the advice: ‘When nothing goes right, go left’. With the Province still under fairly tight pandemic protocols, Heritage Committee work is still going forward, but most of it is happening in the privacy of our homes or via email and telephone calls.

Our Treasurer Shirley Snider has picked up on a project she began a few years ago—identifying the location of the multitude of businesses that operated in the Town of Carman over the decades. At that time, C/D MHAC placed signs on several local buildings to outline their history. Shirley is trying to unravel a complicated, musical-chairs pattern of occupancy as the center of the growing town shifted north along Villard Ave./Main St. and as new buildings appeared, changed hands, burned, were replaced. We have been scouring early newspaper ads and enhancing old photos to try and read signs and identify locations—and of course, raising even more questions about our past.


Do you know where the first Carman post office was located?

A couple more of our members are working with the Boyne River Keepers (BRK) on revitalizing one of the key features that drew people to this particular area of Manitoba. C/D MHAC involvement to date has been mainly providing historical background on the river, its use and transformation over the years. Our research has documented early pride and concern over condition of river. Back around 1900, both local groups and excursions from as far away as Winnipeg held picnics in the many beautiful treed groves along the Boyne River. One of these outings was reported in the local Dufferin Leader, 1900-08-02:

Last April, we documented early concerns over the impact of growing human presence on water quality (News and Events April 2020)

Part of our interest in the river restoration has been towards encouraging reintroduction of native plants along the banks. This ties in with our current research on natural history of the area. Over the past few months, BRK has been working closely with the local Communities in Bloom (CIB) group to restore the riverbanks and create more attractive green spaces in Town. At a time when our municipalities and organizations are under increased financial pressure, it’s encouraging to see local organizations coming together to collaborate on these initiatives.

CIB also happens to be looking at greening a vacant town lot—the same one we were interested in developing two or three years ago as a showcase for local heritage. It was a large project, and was beyond our human and financial resources at a time when we also were installing signage to mark the Missouri Trail and Îlets-de-Bois heritage sites. We are now looking into the possibility of moving forward on the project in collaboration with CIB other local groups.

Another at-home project that has just been completed is scanning and organizing the Hopeland School material that was donated to us last year by former pupil Bob Briggs. We’ve just finished scanning, editing, organizing and collating over 600 files. These include the School history, an autobiography, school records (student enrollment and attendance, minutes of meetings, financial records) as well as photo collections of family and community activities. All this material is now on disks. A copy has been returned to the donor and others will be placed in our usual repositories. We are waiting delivery of another pioneer family album, as soon as services normalize.

The website also received a request from a researcher in England inquiring about the local Sons of England Lodge. We have information on several businesses that operated on the ground floor of their building on Fournier Street (1st St. SW) and on meetings and events held in the upper lodge chambers, but so far, are having difficulty locating details of S.O.E. activities in the community. Does anyone out there have ancestors who belonged to the local S.O.E., know of existing memorabilia, even the local lodge number?


Sons of England Block in early 1900s

Now and Then. Last month we introduced the first in a series of ‘rollover’ photos with present/past views of local scenes. This month, we’re looking at the former St. Andrew’s Church on 2nd Avenue SW as it is today and as it appeared when it was built back in 1898–99. Be sure and check out the accompanying links for further information on this impressive structure.

Click on the image or go to our new "Now and Then" page of our Vintage Photos collection and see what was once there.



 

 


Riel Day. Each year on the third Monday of February, Manitobans now commemorate the part Métis leader Louis Riel played in the birth of our province. Locally, we’ve looked at this part of Manitoba history mainly as a prelude to the arrival of settlers in the area, the resulting tension between the new arrivals and local Métis population and the resulting changes in the socio-cultural and economic life of the area. A note in the Dufferin Leader (1901-11-21) alerts us to a forgotten closer contact with the military activities of that era.

Thirty years ago on Monday last the second Red River expedition reached Winnipeg in command of Capt. Thos. Scott. They were sent to quell a rumored Fenian invasion on Manitoba and consisted of two companies of 100 men each. A fact of local interest in conjunction with this expedition is that hearing the enemy were lurking somewhere in the southern part of the province, one company of these volunteers was sent out from - Fort Garry and were camped for a couple of weeks on the north side of the Boyne two miles east of here.

This would have been just east of the Missouri Trail—another tie with the past for what was once the main route of passage through this area.

Valentine’s Day. February 14th is a day when we put aside thoughts of rebellions and conflict and celebrate the warm, fuzzy parts of our lives. Remember back when everyone in your class made and exchanged Valentines each year? They all went into a big decorated box and were handed out by the teacher. It was maybe years later before you appreciated the pathos of the whole scene—big smiles on the faces of those who got the most cards; near tears for those who only got one from the teacher and a classmate or two whose parents insisted they send cards to everyone.

This year, COVID protocols will no doubt put a damper on the day. We’re being warned that exchange of cards is a possible source of virus transmission. In keeping with protocol, and since we’re focussing this winter on our natural history, here is a Valentine’s Day ‘card’ featuring one of our local ladies. She’s not wearing a mask, but she’s outside, properly distanced and virtual.

Happy Valentine’s Day to the rest of the herd.

 

 

 


Natural History.
Groundhog (woodchuck). Spring has its Easter Bunny, Christmas, its reindeer, but February is one month in which we recognize one of our real, live, native animals, the groundhog.

Groundhogs are native to many parts of North America. They are usually found in grassy, dry, open areas such as fields, clearings where they can dig their deep burrows and have close access to food. They are noted for their hole-digging ability, huge appetite for fresh green vegetation, love of lying in the sun and hibernation practices. The groundhog’s main claim to fame is its supposed ability to predict the weather. For more details on their lives and habits, visit the Canadian Wildlife Federation's website.


The clover patch is eaten, now it’s time for a sunny nap

Our animal of the month has the distinction of having a day named in its honour. On February 2, Groundhog Day, ceremonies are held at locations in the U.S. and Canada to find out how long winter will last. By tradition, if the local groundhog comes out of hibernation on February 2nd and sees its shadow, we’ll get another six weeks of winter. No shadow, we’ll have an early Spring.

Several locations have joined the prediction business with their own pet groundhogs. The most famous of these prognosticators Pennsylvania's ‘Punxsutawney Phil’, made his predictions virtually this year. He called for six more weeks of winter.

His Canadian cousins are more optimistic. This morning (February 2), Nova Scotia’s ‘Shubenacadie Sam’, was the first to make his prediction. He apparently was reluctant to emerge from his den, no doubt sensing the huge snowstorm that’s approaching from the south. However, he failed to see his shadow and predicted an early Spring, so he may be confused by the weather reports.

In Quebec, Fred La Marmotte also is reported as reluctant to leave his cozy nest. Ontario’s albino groundhog, ‘Wiarton Willie’ wasn’t even disturbed as local dignitaries went virtual. They followed the original tradition of throwing a fur hat in the air and called for an early Spring.

Even though Winnipeg has just recorded the second warmest January since records were kept, it seems unlikely we’re through with our snowy season anytime soon. And, from the groundhogs I’ve known, it seems they’re a bit too smart to wake up this early during a Manitoba winter just to see how much longer they should sleep. Wildlife folks found that the biggest challenge in making a prediction for Manitoba was finding a groundhog. That problem has been settled by having hand-puppet ‘Merv’ proudly do the honours. This year Merv appeared wearing a COVID mask. He didn’t see his shadow so it looks like an early Spring. We’d like to believe him. However, in this little corner of the province, the resident groundhog has yet to be seen, the sun is shining and shadows abound. I think I just heard Mother Nature chuckling.

If we’re really interested in our heritage, we should be asking how and where this tradition began. The likely assumption is that belief in the predictive abilities of groundhogs was a product of indigenous knowledge of the natural world or the observations of early settlers. The IrishCentral website (February 2, 2021) speculates that, because February 2 is situated halfway between the Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox, Groundhog Day may have deeper roots in pagan Celtic rituals. As with other aspects of pagan ritual, elements may have been incorporated in Christianity, now reflected in Candlemas and St. Brigid’s Day.

The site also points to a precedent for Groundhog Day in early Roman pagan divination based on the hibernating hedgehog. If the hedgehog came out of his den on February 2 and saw his shadow, it meant six more weeks of winter. The tradition spread to other countries such as Germany; German migrants brought it to North America where, in the absence of hedgehogs, the groundhog inherited the starring role.

Whatever the origin, it’s useful to explore how deeply the roots of our beliefs and practice really go, in this case, the origins of what might now be seen as largely an entertaining tourism ploy.

Gleanings from Local Life Stories. Remember when groundhogs were known locally as woodchucks? And schoolkids tried to see how fast they could recite “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck wood? He’d chuck all the wood a woodchuck could if a woodchuck could chuck wood.” Who said kids in rural schools didn’t get a well-rounded education?

Then there’s this groundhog memory:

Since early childhood, whenever someone mentioned my uncle’s name, I had a vision of a bed of brilliant orange and yellow nasturtiums. I don’t really remember their house, but back in the years after the 1930s depression, most farm families didn’t plant flower beds, just things you could eat. Years later, I tilled up a new flower-bed in a sunny area of the lawn—it was a no-brainer what should be planted there. The nasturtiums that year outdid memory and we often took our coffee outdoors just to be cheered by their brilliant show. Then, early one morning, I looked out, I blinked and looked again. There was nothing there—except a fat groundhog, stuffing the last plants into his mouth. I’ve never planted nasturtiums again. And I still find it hard to really warm up to the groundhogs that still appear from time to time to feed on the big patch of clover growing in our front yard.

In spite of that sad story, I’ll likely still end the day by watching Bill Murray’s 1993 bizarre movie ‘Groundhog Day’. Wonder what March will bring?


Recent History

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