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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 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.

We’re now working on our 2022–24 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:

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

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:

Better still, just relax and enjoy the photo.

Moments to remember

















News & Events August 2021

Getting Back to Normal? Thanks to the recent relaxing of COVID restrictions, we were finally able in July to hold an in-person Carman/Dufferin MHAC meeting—the first since last Autumn. We still met outdoors, with distancing, but with the bonus of being in the beautiful Memorial Rose Garden in the hamlet of Roseisle. The garden was designed by landscape architect Heather Cram. The focal point is a large-scale model of a wild rose, crafted by the late metal-wizard, Clifford McPherson. An accompanying legend relates how the first local post office was named for an “isle” of wild roses that appeared after a heavy rain.

Roseisle Memorial Rose Garden  Photo: Matt Weibe

This site is a relaxing blend of natural history and local heritage. On the day of the meeting, the roses were at their peak and two water features provided a gentle, cooling background of sound.
We met in the shade of a Manitoba maple that grew in what was once the yard of the local CNR station.

Beside us was the section of the garden dedicated to local soldiers who lost their lives in past wars. C/D MHAC helped fund the obelisk that marks this area. Two of our heritage sites— Roseisle School and the local War Memorial —are located nearby. Cartoon cutouts portraying town tales add a less serious note to the tributes to local heritage. It was a location designed to ease the concerns those members who are still slightly nervous about getting back into social settings.

And as seen from from ground level

A highlight of the meeting was our annual election of officers— an event that usually takes place in January. Nikki Falk agreed to serve as Chair of the committee. She brings youth, enthusiasm, and lots of great ideas. Debbie Nicolajsen will continue as Secretary, Shirley Snider as Treasurer. Ina Bramadat will work with Nikki as Deputy Chair and continue as website coordinator.

We’re all anxious to get back to working on projects put on hold during the pandemic. And we’re keeping our fingers crossed that the potential Fourth Wave doesn’t materialize here this Fall.

Natural History. Meeting outdoors was a reminder of the growing interest over past months in our natural history. Unlike the wild rose that forms the centrepiece of the garden, the roses planted in memory of past residents of the community are hardy, Manitoba-developed varieties.

One of nine roses planted in memory of local casualties of war

They are a reminder of many local horticultural ventures dating back to our early settlers. The work of renowned horticulturist
A.P. Stevenson at Nelsonville was reflected on a smaller scale on other local homesteads.

Within sight of the Rose Garden, you can still see the remains of one such local effort—an orchard planted in the early 1900s by local CNR foreman Harry Otto.

Harry Otto also organized a gardening club at the nearby school and taught the students about growing vegetables and flowers. Tall fir trees bordering the former school grounds were planted by students under his guidance. A local senior recalls how excited he had been years earlier when Harry Otto gave him a tulip bulb to plant.

Harry Otto – if you plant orchards, you also need bees.

Like the development of agriculture, introduction of a variety of new plants is part of the natural history of our area.

On the other hand, the plant after which the local community was named, the wild rose, is native to many parts of North America. One source describes this plant as follows:

Wild rose

Wild roses are rambunctious, pest- and disease-resistant plants that tolerate nearly any soil type and grow practically anywhere, including on plateaus
and prairies, as well as in ravines and open woods.

Because wild roses spread by an extensive root system, the plants serve as an effective erosion control on difficult slopes and other harsh areas. Small, apple-like rose hips appear in late summer and often last for much of the winter. The hips, a rich source of vitamins A and C, are an important source of winter sustenance for birds and mammals.

[Caution: eat the pulp, not the seeds. They have small, sharp hairs that will irritate your gut. The Métis called them “gratte-cul,” which means “scratchy bum.” ]

The earlier Métis name for the local river, Rivière aux Îlets-de-Bois, is a reminder that trees also formed part of the early natural landscape. Until recently, the first store built in Roseisle in 1903 by E.J. Moore, stood kitty-corner across from the present-day Memorial Rose Garden. The long, heavy counter is said to have been built from a single huge plank of wood cut from a local tree. This bit of local history becomes even more credible when you learn of other fine examples from the same era.

Nikki Falk shared this tidbit of natural history at a recent Boyne River Keepers meeting. It refers to the old Clendenning Mill at Forest City near the early Boyne Settlement:

The former Clendenning Mill

H. Clendenning has on his premises an oak tree which measures twelve feet in circumference two feet above the ground. He feels the right to claim the largest tree of its kind in this part of Manitoba.
(Dufferin Leader, 1889-09-08).

This brief item from an early newspaper gives an idea of the rich growth of trees along the river around the time the first settlers arrived. A sawmill also operated at this site. Wonder if the owners resisted turning this magnificent oak into lumber?

Recent History

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