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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 and Events, April, 2023

Past, Present, Future. Can knowledge of the Past help us plan for the future? That's the question that has been in our thoughts since we were invited to meet with other local organizations to share insights and perspectives on the future of the community. What mightlocal heritage contribute to the discussion?

The visitor who in the lovely Manitoba summer days, stops at the town of Carman, romantically . . . abound on every hand of our fair town


Heritage is often seen by communities in terms of tourism – museums, heritage sites, the house where so-and-so was born, or statues that are in some way symbolic of the area – think pumpkins, turtles, or in Carman/Dufferin area, the namesake Roseisle Rose.

Roseile Rose


Perhaps, through hindsight, knowledge of local heritage also can identify strengths and limitations of the community and in that way help define our future. 

Early Visions. Back in 1907, shortly after the Carman incorporated as a Town, a local newspaper reporter asked “What does Carman want?” (Carman Dufferin Leader, 1907-01-03).  They then provided their own view of what the town needed. This included development of local industries to provide essential goods such as wire, bricks, shoes, and white-wear, along with employment for everyone at good wages. To achieve this would require a united and aggressive effort by everyone in the community and action, not just words, on the part of local leaders. 

Over a century later, those goals still sound rather familiar. Although the list of essential industries has no doubt changed, the goals remain relatively the same.  Given the recent call for input from the community, it even seems possible that a fresh, new breeze of collaboration might be wafting through the community. 

Notice that the 1907 article focussed on community needs or deficits. Other newspaper reports from that era reminded readers that the community also had special assets on which to build a vibrant future.  

The Natural Environment – Then & Now.  An earlier Carman Dufferin Leader (1898-05-12) waxed eloquent about the community’s natural setting:                      

The visitor who in the lovely Manitoba summer days, stops at the town of Carman, romantically nestling in the encircling windings of the River Boyne and sheltered by its bordering fringe of stately virgin oaks, is heard to remark “Why, what a lovely spot.” For beauty of situation Carman is not excelled by any other town in the province. Sheltered and embowered by a magnificent belt of oak, ash, maple, elm, bass wood and poplar, it is hard for a visitor who hails from a timbered country to realize that this is indeed a prairie town….It should be said for the originators of the town that their appreciation of the beautiful has preserved to us as far as possible the original trees, which gives to many of our streets the appearance of broad avenues, picturesquely lined with tall and stately trees.  Here and there the visitor catches glimpses of beautiful vistas of river and woodland scenery, a worthy inspiration to either artist or writer. This feature has gained for our town a reputation of almost provincial note and it is becoming more widely known as a favorite resort for excursions and picnics. 

Being situated only 57 miles by rail from Winnipeg, each summer finds a great number of Winnipeg citizens leaving their business and cares behind for a day’s outing to breathe the fresh pure air, enjoy the bright cheering sunshine, or promenade beneath the arched and embowered walks that abound on every hand of our fair town. 

A couple of decades later the paper reported that “Miss Margaret Johnston, garden page and horticulture editor of the Manitoba Free Press…regards Carman as the most beautifully treed town she has seen in the province.” (Carman Dufferin Leader, 1926-06-10).

What is missing in these accounts is the reason these magnificent stands of trees formed an oasis in the midst of the open prairie grasslands, i.e., the existence of the river that threaded its way across the Carman/Dufferin area from the escarpment in the west to the Great Swamp in the east.  It was aptly named the Rivière aux Îlets -de-Bois (“islands of wood”), later known as the Boyne River.

Our history of the river stresses its significance as the main source of water and, as such, as the lifeblood of the region. Over the centuries, Indigenous hunter-gatherers, Métis buffalo hunters and early settlers all relied on the river and its surroundings for water, shelter, fuel, and food. The Town of Carman grew up at this specific location largely because of the nearby water-driven Clendenning mill that ground grain and sawed lumber to build homes and businesses. 

During the post-settlement years, the river also became known as a source for recreation.  For many years, Carman’s Old Swimming Hole was the gathering spot for the community. In winter, swimming and boating gave way to skating. 

Over the years, newspapers frequently pointed out the impact of a growing population on the water supply – pollution from using the river as a dumping ground for sewage, farm manure and garbage, as well as ongoing concerns about flooding and the need for dams and bridges. During these years, the community also began to show an interest and pride in beautifying gardens and home properties.  Mayors such as S.J. Staples were noted for their efforts towards encouraging this trend by offering garden prizes, a practice that persists today. 

In recent years, the community has rediscovered and begun to build upon these environmental assets.  Groups such as the Boyne River Keepers (BRK) are leading the way in promoting the recreational potential of the river along with concern for water quality. They also have fostered a growing interest in the natural vegetation and wildlife along what has become the remaining wildlife corridor across the Carman/Dufferin municipalities. in recent years, the local Communities in Bloom (CIB) group has put the community even more firmly on the map with their colourful floral displays and pocket parks.  

Thanks to the Stephenfield Park dam and water plant, the river now provides water for both the Town and R.M. and serves as a well-used recreation centre. As farms expanded and ponds and sloughs were drained, the river also has become a source of irrigation for agriculture and refuge for wildlife. 

These observations carry significance in that they are being recorded on April 22, this year’s Earth Day.

Stephenfield Park

Stephenfield Park

The Economy – Then & Now.  Much of the impetus for local planning comes from a desire or need to develop the economy. Local histories record how the post-1870 arrival of homesteaders in the area resulted in a rapid socio-economic and cultural transition from centuries of hunting/gathering/ trade and buffalo harvesting to a land-owning, agricultural society. The Carman Dufferin Leader, (1898-05-12) pointed out that 

This district is being rapidly filled up by a well-to-do and pushing class of farmers. With such backing as this a stability is assured to the mercantile and trades interests of which none in the province can boast of better.

Arrival of the railway and construction of local elevators meant that “As a market there are few places in Manitoba so favorably situated.” (Carman Dufferin Leader, 1898-05-12). This comment underlines the importance of transportation to the growth and survival of the local economy. 

Until 1889, a spur line came as far as Barnsley (“End-of-Line”) north of the Carman settlement. The plan was to extend the line east of the Carman settlement to connect at Roland with a line from the U.S.A., hence going westward along what is now Highway 23. Thanks to the influence of local land-owner and politician R.P. Roblin and colleagues, the line veered westward near Carman, ensuring the future of the community and opening the way for other Dufferin settlements at Graysville, Stephenfield and Roseisle.

Train att Roseile early 1900s

Train at Roseisle early 1900s Photo: J.B. Coleman

The significance of this coup can be appreciated by contrasting the outcome with Nelsonville, in South Dufferin. That rapidly growing community was certain it would soon become the Winnipeg or Brandon of the south - as soon as the railway arrived. When the line was routed instead through Morden, the bustling town of Nelsonville vanished from the map. Other local communities such as Bates met a similar fate. 

Today, the Town of Carman stands at the junction of newly resurfaced highways that connect human and other resources from all quadrants of the R.M. to the Town of Carman as well as providing access to Winnipeg and other areas of South-Central Manitoba. This places it favourably to become a centre for whatever economic future it decides to pursue. 

Health Care – Then & Now. Given the pandemic and current health care crisis, this is one area of community planning that will no doubt be identified as a priority.  Carman has long been an important centre for health care with its hospital, doctors, a fine training school for nurses.See more.

1905 Carman Hospital and Nurses Residence

First Carman Hospital and Nurses’ Residence opened 1905      Photo: DHM

Health care has taken on even greater significance as the town has become a major retirement community.  This has increased the need for chronic and long-term care as well as other age-appropriate recreational and social activities designed to maintain the physical and mental health of our senior population.  Availability of health care also is a key consideration in attracting young families and workers to the area. 

Sports and Recreation -Then & Now.  Both recreational activities and competitive sports are key components of a healthy lifestyle.  Sports have always been a strong point of the community, for both men and women of all ages See more.

The competitive side of activities has been well-balanced by a wide range of recreational activities, from the earlier days of the Old Swimming Hole and skating on the river to recent years, when leisure activities have included walking the well-used pathway around the community.  Both sports and recreation are key to maintaining a physically, mentally, and socially active population,  and a healthy and keen pool of volunteers. 

Hopefully, the community will plan towards a future built around support for a healthy, active, lifestyle for all age groups.

Carman swimming hole

Old Swimming Hole Photo: DHM

Business Centre – Then & Now. So far, we’ve been looking mainly at the natural strengths of the community, and their role in providing a foundation for an even brighter future. What are some of the limitations? To go back to the earliest views of the Town, (Carman  Dufferin Leader, 1898-05-12) you’ll find that the actual town and business centre drew less enthusiastic applause than the natural setting:

The town itself takes a longer acquaintance before the stranger fully realizes the extent of its importance. It may be a matter of some regret that those who had the modeling of the town in its infancy did not look more to building up the business portion of it in a more consolidated manner perhaps because it just grew without recognition it would become a thriving centre.

A decade or so later, there were exceptions to that lukewarm portrait when  the striking new post-office (now the Boyne Regional Library) and the then community-centered Memorial Hall were bult.  One visitor even compared the Memorial Hall to the glorious Alamo in Texas (Carman Dufferin Leader, 1931-03-19). 

Carman Memorial Hall

Memorial Hall

What is the business centre image today? Most local businesses excel when it comes to customer service. The buildings themselves may be another matter. Looking at the Town with an outsider’s eye at this time of year, the business section probably appears a bit tired-looking, drab, in need of a good power-wash and a touch of paint. Other than the library, Memorial Hall and older residential heritage homes, the main streets have limited ‘wow’ value. 

The recent development of Ryall Park as the new gathering spot for community activities makes this corner an exception to the tired look. In a couple of months any drabness will be offset by the CIB’s colourful summer plantings and growing number of pocket parks. But there is still room for more flower boxes, planters, a few touches of paint, as well as a few surfaces that might benefit from tasteful murals. 

What can Heritage Contribute?  What can C/D MHAC contribute to the Plan – other than awareness of local history – our strengths, what has worked in past, and possibly past mistakes.  

In the interests of promoting both healthy activity and knowledge of our roots, we can continue to add historical signage and distribution of our heritage walking tours of the Town.  

Collaboration is a concept that is dear to the heart of the C/D MHAC.  Since its formation, the committee has worked closely with the local museum and library on preservation and promotion of local heritage. Over the past few years, we also have nurtured ties with local groups such as the BRK, shared ‘heritage moments’ with them and applauded their rediscovery of the local lifeline and recreation potential of the river and its environs.  We’ve also worked with the CIB towards projects that would honour both our heritage and natural history and serve as a local tourist attraction.  

The Future?  History can provide some insight into our strengths and what worked or failed in the past, but it can’t foretell the future.  What is clear is that Mother Nature is sounding ever more persistent and vocal warnings about climate change.  Locally, erratic weather patterns and recent drought have heightened awareness that climate change isn’t something that is just affecting other parts the world. With that in mind, the community might do well to look carefully at its reason for existing – the natural environment – and favour development of industries that ensure water security and protect our environmental legacy.  

We could, for example, become a hub for solar, geothermal and other earth-friendly industries. Cheap, clean energy in turn could pave the way for other innovative approaches such as year-round greenhouse ‘farming’.  The community might well become the ‘green’, clean-energy capital of South-Central Manitoba. Hopefully these initiatives would place emphasis on jobs and training and help keep younger generations in in the community. Time and local initiative will tell.

Personally, I look forward to the day when Mother Nature can relax and smile on us again rather than bombarding us with her ever more vocal wake-up calls on climate change. It’s just so unmotherly.  And I’m looking forward to the day when I can visit heritage sites in my self-driven, solar-powered flying car. 

Meanwhile, back in real time, it will be fascinating to hear input and perspectives from other sectors of the community such as agriculture, health, recreation, or the Chamber of Commerce.  Hopefully, we have moved well beyond 1907 and will focus on action not just words.

Natural History. Spring seems to be just a bit late arriving this year:

snow in april 2023

April 21, 2023

Finally, in recognition of Earth Day and in respect for Indigenous views of Nature, we’ll leave you with this Apache Blessing: 


May the SUN bring you new energy by day

May the MOON softly restore you by night

May the RAIN wash away your worries

May the BREEZE bring new strength to your being

May you walk through the world and

Know its BEAUTY all the days of your life.


News and Events, March 2023

Bridge. If you are heading for Roseisle between now and July, expect a short detour from Highway 245 into the community. The concrete bridge that has provided access over the south branch of the Boyne River for the past 100 years is being replaced by a wider two-lane structure.

roseisle bridge

The bridge that is being replaced is one of several featured in Gordon Goldsborough’s Manitoba History article on bridges in Manitoba and on the MHS website  In these  articles, the author notes that the “concrete beam bridge was built in 1923 by the contracting firm of J. C. Badger & Sons, using Plan 1000, for $7,782.”   His photos from 2013 illustrate the post and beam structure found in this and other bridges in the area.  Note the rough upper surface of the railings which suggest that some part of the structure is missing. 

We don’t have records of an earlier bridge at this location and, so far, the search for early photos of the 1923 structure have hit the proverbial brick wall. It seems, unfortunately, that this was one of the years the local newspaper didn’t have the usual newsy input from a Roseisle correspondent. But, as often happens, this is where oral histories come to the rescue. 

An early resident recalled that the bridge originally had higher railings with concrete balusters. When a large three-story house was being moved out of town, he had watched the movers jack the house up high enough to clear the railing. From his description, it seems likely that the bridge was similar to the concrete beam bridge no. 929 over the Boyne River between Graysville and Stephenfield. Boyne River Bridge  So what happened to scale it down to the present height?  The same interview throws light on the subject. 

Our informant chuckled as he recalled what happened:

This bridge – do you remember when it was higher – had those pillars on it?  [Name deleted] was going to blast some fish out of there with dynamite.  He put a stick of dynamite in a tobacco tin – he thought it would sink – but it didn’t sink, and just at the time it blew, it was underneath the bridge – and it loosened all those big pillars. They had reinforced steel in them too.  It loosened every one of them.

It's too bad we don’t have other records of the local reaction to an event that must have shaken the small community.  Or maybe our image of a quiet little hamlet guided by three local churches isn’t quite spot on.  The above interview continued as follows:

He [the ‘fisherman’] was a wild guy. One Halloween he and [another local lad] put half a stick of dynamite under a cream can on the station platform and that cream can went up in the air higher than the elevator.

So maybe the bridge story wasn’t even newsworthy? 

The new bridge is scheduled for re-opening by July – hopefully in time for the July 1st celebration that is the highlight of the year in Roseisle. At present, the huge piles are being driven in place and the construction crew report that work is ahead of schedule. The new bridge will be wide enough for two cars to pass. This is not the case at present where one vehicle now has to pull up and wait. 

Meanwhile, this story serves as a reminder that you can learn a lot from the recorded facts and events of history but the memories and stories behind the event are often a lot more fun. If you happen to know of any early photos of the Roseisle bridge, we’d be delighted to see them. Incidentally, have you begun yet to record your own life story? 

Black History Month. February also was Black History Month. Along with news about earthquakes, the anniversary of the war in the Ukraine and the weather, the media carried any number of stories about the experience of being Black in Canada. 

Locally, memories of our brief brush with Black history are likely positive and self-congratulatory. The Carman Cardinals were one of five teams that made up the Manitoba-Dakota or Man-Dak League. The league was formed in 1950 following integration of major league baseball and operated until 1957.  It included a number of talented players from previously segregated American Black Leagues. Carman has always been a sports-minded town. The baseball team was the pride of the community, and the Man-Dak baseball league is one of the bright spots in local heritage.

It may be surprising, then, to look more closely at the broader context of Black history in Canada. It was a bit of a shock for some Canadians to see the new Chloe Cooley postage stamp acknowledging the presence of slavery in 18th century Canada. Weren’t we the chosen land at the end of the underground railway?

 If Cecil Foster’s “They Call Me George” was one of your choices for reading during Black History Month, you likely had even more enlightenment in store. Foster relates how Black porters on our railways struggled until the late 1960s for the right to equal promotion, to bring their families to Canada, and to break the quota barrier that limited immigration of non-white applicants, including those who were British subjects. Foster points out that it wasn’t until 1973 that Canada, in the person of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, officially declared the country ‘multi-cultural’, where every citizen, regardless of racial or ethnic origin, is ‘Canadian’. This included our Indigenous population, who, Foster notes, were as multi-lingual and multi-cultural as any of the early white European colonists. 

It’s a part of our history that most of us didn’t learn much about in school. For much of the local population, the Man-Dak League was one of their first contacts with racial diversity. What we don’t find in our local recorded histories are stories of social interaction or of baseball players remaining in the district and becoming an integral part of local community.  Nor do we have this history from the player’s perspective. Understanding the broader context may help fill in some of the gaps in our local history.  It also may help us frame questions that should be asked about the experience of other ethnically and racially diverse members of the community. 

Natural History.  March arrived bright and sunny, cold, but still pretty much like lamb. Given the erratic weather patterns that have swept across the continent the past couple of months, we have to wonder what it might mean if it goes out like a lion. 

Meanwhile, the weather hasn’t put a damper on local heritage activities.  Presentations of Chris Larsen’s and Nikki Falk’s video “Voice of the River” have been warmly received by both the local Councils and residents of Riverview Legion Place retirement home This creative video tells the story of this local lifeline from the perspective of the river itself. You can view the video on the Boyne River Keepers website. Well done, ladies.

Recent History

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