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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 and Events, January 2022

Welcome to 2022. End to COVID still not in sight. In fact, the reported positivity rate has soared past 40% and case numbers are setting new records. Looks like we won’t be holding that in-person January C/D MHAC meeting as planned. Our Chair is weathering out local cold alerts down in Arizona, missing out on all this crisp, refreshing winter weather that Mother Nature is sending our way. Thankfully we’ve also been getting a good solid snowfall. The snow-ploughs have been busy and the parking lot at the local cross-country ski club was packed with cars this past weekend.

Ongoing heritage activities. The task of revisiting and updating early website content is one that’s too often been put on the back burner in the interests of ongoing work. We’ve located a lot of new information over the years and it is past time to update. So that’s one activity that on the agenda for the next month or so.

We also are reviewing our outline of questions and areas to probe when writing or collecting life stories. This is prompted by discussion of how best to facilitate the sharing of stories among Métis members of the community. We’ve been asking, for example, whether we have been addressing the areas of concern that come with living as part of a racial, religious or ethnic minority in what for many decades was a primarily Anglo-Protestant environment. Carman/ Dufferin now has a much more diverse population than it had prior to the middle of the last century. How have those outside the ethnic majority been received in our community? Are we missing out by not capturing the rich background history of these families?

Our preliminary thoughts on the subject were brought into focus by a recent telephone call from someone wanting help with tracing the history of one of our ‘ethnically diverse’ families. The request came from a person of Indian origin. That’s not a politically incorrect use of the term, by the way—it was someone with origins in India.

Back in the early to mid-1800s, around the time Scottish Highland crofters were seeking land and opportunity in the Red River settlement, a similar migration was under way in India. When slavery was abolished, boatloads of East Indians were recruited to replace the African slaves on cocoa and sugar cane plantations on the Caribbean island of Trinidad. They came as indentured labourers, working for a pittance for five years until they had paid for their passage. The expectation was that they would then return to India and others would come out. Like the Scots, they were a frugal lot, and most saved enough money to buy small plots of land. This was something they couldn’t dream of back home where, as in the case of Scottish crofters, the land was owned by large landlords.

What is of particular interest to us in this story is the impact that the church had on their history. The Presbyterian Church in Nova Scotia took on a mission of building local elementary schools for the children of plantation workers on the island. In keeping with the colonial British system of education, children who passed the highly competitive entrance exams were then given a place for five more years of high school education. The church also established a teachers’ college and a theology program. This opened up a whole range of opportunity. One of the real strengths of the system lay in the preparation of local teachers, who soon formed the core of the education system.

The impact of the church in that setting can be seen through one branch of the family we were asked to track. One of the indentured labourers was a widow who lost her husband to the plague. She came to the island colony with her 10-year-old son. He attended the local school where he excelled and won a place in the high school. He then went on to study in the theology program and became one of the five first local ministers ordained in the church. Of his five sons, three went abroad to university; one became a physician/surgeon, the others became teachers and school principals.

This story was far from unique. While many Indian families remained on the land, many others moved within just two generations from working as indentured labourers into professions. A century after their arrival, East Indians dominated among the doctors, lawyers, teachers, businessmen and politicians on the island.

This is just a snapshot of one small aspect of the story of a fairly recent ‘immigrant’ family. What resonated most with us was the different approach to education of this “Indian” population compared with our Canadian Indian residential schools. The difference seems to lie in part in differences in choice and in opportunity.

With the growing diversity of our population, this glimpse of family history opens our minds and awareness to the range of stories to be explored. How many, for example, of the large number of Mennonite families in Carman/Dufferin have recorded the history of persecution, immigration and success of this important segment of our local population? Katherine Martens’ book, “All in a Row: The Klassens of Homewood” is one exception you might enjoy reading.

We also asked ourselves to what extent our country follows the American ideal of ‘melting-pot’ assimilation rather than our own stated ideal of a ‘cultural mosaic’ of diversity.

Lots of food for thought and debate, which we we’ll continue to pursue. Meanwhile, as we wait and plan, it's exciting to think of how much of our local heritage is still to be discovered, understood, preserved, and appreciated. Now if this pandemic would just go away…

Natural History. There’s not much in the way of wildlife stirring outside right now other than large herds of deer trying to graze in the snow-covered fields. This month we’ll just look at a parable about our animal friends. It’s by our favourite author, ‘Anon.’

A mouse looked through the crack in the wall to see the farmer and his wife open a package. "What food might this contain?" the mouse wondered. He was devastated to discover it was a mousetrap. Retreating to the farmyard, the mouse proclaimed the warning: There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!'

The chicken clucked and scratched, raised her head and said, "Mr. Mouse, I can tell this is a grave concern to you, but it is of no consequence to me. I cannot be bothered by it."

The mouse turned to the pig and told him, "There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!" The pig sympathized, but said, "I am so very sorry, Mr. Mouse, but there is nothing I can do about it but pray. Be assured you are in my prayers."

The mouse turned to the cow and said, "There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!" The cow said, "Wow, Mr. Mouse. I'm sorry for you, but it's no skin off my nose."

So the mouse returned to the house, head down and dejected, to face the farmer's mousetrap...alone.

That very night a sound was heard throughout the house - like the sound of a mousetrap catching its prey. The farmer's wife rushed to see what was caught. In the darkness, she did not see it was a venomous snake whose tail was caught by the trap. The snake bit the farmer's wife. The farmer rushed her to the hospital, and she returned home with a fever. Everyone knows you treat a fever with fresh chicken soup, so the farmer took his hatchet to the farmyard for the soup's main ingredient. But his wife's sickness continued, so friends and neighbors came to sit with her around the clock. To feed them, the farmer butchered the pig. The farmer's wife did not get well; she died. So many people came for her funeral, the farmer had the cow slaughtered to provide enough meat for all of them.

The mouse looked upon it all from his crack in the wall with great sadness.

The moral of the story was: “Each of us is a vital thread in another person's tapestry. If you hear someone is facing a problem and think it doesn't concern you, remember—when one of us is threatened, we are all at risk.” It’s a tale that certainly is timely as we seem to be facing an even more angry and divided world.

On the other hand, one of the positive things about the current pandemic is the number of friends and neighbours who are checking to see if everyone is managing okay. This is a theme we’ve heard before in stories of the Great Depression. Next time you’re bored with this enforced isolation, maybe pick up the phone and call a friend or relative. You’ll likely keep them happily reminiscing for hours if you ask them “What do you remember about…”?

News and Events, December 2021

We’re fast approaching the winter solstice with promise of longer hours of daylight ahead. Contrary to what many expected a year ago, we’re not yet out from under the cloud of the pandemic that’s put a damper on activities over the past couple of years. Restrictions have hampered some of our heritage projects and made planning a bit of a challenge. As a result, our next 3-year plan for C/D MHAC is tentative, particularly when it comes to in-person projects.

We’re itching to get on with collecting life stories, completing community inventories and holding regular meetings. On the flip side, a lot of heritage work involves reading, researching, and tracking down leads through telephone or online contacts. It’s a pleasant relief to find time for this part of our volunteer work.

Thanks to the internet and Zoom, our C/DMHAC chair, Nikki Falk, has her hands firmly on the committee reins from her winter hideaway down in Arizona. We’ve submitted our next Three-year Management Plan to Councils, moved ahead with research on everything from proposed signage projects to information on elusive ancestors, and kept abreast with activities of other local groups. The heritage plaque for the former CNR station is ready to go up when weather permits.


Heritage sign for former CNR Station

It’s interesting how delays often pay off in more satisfying outcomes. When the pandemic put a stop to interviews, we were in the midst of setting up a local committee to do an inventory of heritage resources in the St. Daniel community. This is a community with a rich history. It’s the location of Îlets-de-Bois, our oldest permanent settlement in the area. It’s also the local community in which the interaction between the early Métis residents and post-1870 settlers most clearly played out over several decades.

In 1992, St. Daniel residents published an excellent history of this vibrant community. This was followed in 2002 by brief history by Antoine Gaborieau. Born in Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes and a strong proponent of French language and culture, Gaborieau was “inspired…to retrace the past in an abbreviated form, all the while adding or correcting some important elements the authors may have missed” (Ilets-de-Bois [St. Daniel] - A brief history, p.2). This volume expands upon and heightens awareness of the rich heritage of the Catholic/Francophone/Métis segment of the community. Historian Alan McCullough’s article “Confrontations at Rivière aux Ilets-de-Bois” examines more closely interactions between the coexisting groups.


Some of the early Îlets-de-Bois families
For a larger view, click here.

What can our life stories project tell us about the lives and memories of the early St. Daniel residents and their descendants? We’ve discovered a number of local residents with Métis roots that go deep into that history. We also have found that few have explored their origins; some have never acknowledged their roots, even within the family setting.

We are working with a member of this important heritage group to see how C/D MHAC might help local residents come together to share their history, knowledge and experience of growing up with Métis roots in the Carman/Dufferin area. Some will have positive family stories to share; for others, this will remain a personal and painful journey. We hope a few will be willing to share their stories with the broader community and help flesh out a more complete picture of our local heritage—complete with all the warts and wrinkles.

Tidbits from the Past. Our trek back through old newspapers these past weeks started out as a search for information on removal of the grave markers from the Kennedy Burial Site. We’ve scoured the papers from 1940 back to 1920 and still haven’t located that information. On the way, however, several pages of notes and a multitude of screenshots have accumulated on other little tidbits of local history—everything from obituaries of local pioneers to the trivial and bizarre.

You’ll realize that these were the Great Depression days where the backdrop of local news was one of drought, water restrictions, poor crops, relief work, and carloads of food being shipped to the more destitute areas. The weekly newspaper with its serial romances, news from abroad, tacky jokes, freely shared political opinions and other items must have been a small note of relief —at least for those who could afford a dollar for a subscription. To end our updates on the news and events of 2021, here is a small sample of bits and pieces of local heritage that caught our eye.

Carman/Dufferin in the 1920s and ‘30s. Agricultural awards have been a regular part of local news, thanks in part to the efforts of groups and organizations such as the Dufferin Agricultural Society (DAS) and 4H. Many of the items were complimentary about both the farming practices and the town. Under the heading “Good Publicity for Carman” the Dufferin Leader (1926-09-09) reported:

“Carman town and district have received much excellent publicity recently through two articles in the Family Herald and Weekly Star, Montreal. The third page of this magazine for August 18 carries an illustrated story headed "Carman on the River Boyne, Centre of Splendid Farming Area, and Home for Those About to Retire" Several of the successful farmers and livestock breeders of the district are mentioned, including Alex Murray, with a picture of himself and Mrs. Murray; Wm. Roth, Jas. McFee, Jno. Strachan, Jas. I. Tiller and others. Carman the article calls "The Victoria of Manitoba," a description which may please local people insofar as beauty is concerned if not as to business. The issue of the same paper for September 1 contains an interesting story of the success of Andrew Graham, Forest Home Farm, which is also illustrated, pictures of Mr. Graham and the late Mrs. Graham, and of his buildings and outstanding animals in his Shorthorn herd being used. The article is pretty much an elaboration of the opening sentence, "The statement has been made that Andrew Graham of Carman, Man., has the best balanced and best managed farm (of its size) in Manitoba.”

There also was special praise for the Memorial Hall. The Dufferin Leader (1931-03-19) printed a letter received by Mayor Greer. The writer, a past president of the Young Men’s section of the Winnipeg Board of Trade, commented on use of a reproduction of the Memorial Hall on the Town letterhead. He noted that he had often visited and spoken favourably to others about the memorial, which he compared to the Alamo in San Antonio,Texas—the iconic old monastery that is hailed as the birthplace of independence in that state.


Memorial Hall /Alamo

In his opinion, the Hall was “one of the outstanding efforts made in the Dominion of Canada to erect a memorial that will be of lasting benefit to the community, not only because of its usefulness for Civic purposes but for community betterment….to visitors it is looked upon as something which visibly denotes the sacrifice and spirit of a united community.” He went on to query whether steps were being taken to ensure “that children of the district grow up with a true understanding of all that this building stands for.” What would he write to the mayor if he returned to Carman today?

Carman was always a sports town. Many of the local newspaper items described a hearty rivalry with nearby towns. On at least one occasion there was inter-sport rivalry right in town. The Dufferin Leader (1928-07-31) reported that “The ruling of the park committee in keeping the baseball field at the park closed to automobiles, because they would have to drive in across the race track, has drawn much caustic comment from ball fans this year…It is quite apparent that attendance at the ball games has been kept below what it ought to be, as few people are such ardent fans that they will submit to mosquito-torture in order to see a game. The suggestion is, that as the interests of the great majority lie in the direction of permitting automobiles to be driven into the field, a way be devised to protect the surface of the race track where the cars must cross.”

There is evidence that communicable disease was still a concern in the community. The Dufferin Leader (1927-08-25) announced that a new “pest house” had been built at the hospital: “A small isolated building has been constructed at Carman hospital this week for the accommodation of patients ill with the more dangerous contagious diseases.” It was a common practice at early hospitals to built a detached building with separate staff in which to isolate these patients and help contain spread of the disease. There also are references to local residents visiting family members in the Ninette Sanitorium where tuberculosis patients from across the province were isolated.

At a time when there is concern about the town name vanishing from view when the water tower is torn down, it’s interesting to note how the town council dealt with a similar problem back in the 1930s. The Dufferin Leader (1930-02-20) reported on a meeting of the council “re having the name “Carman” painted in large letters where the name of the town could be discerned by airplane pilots”. The mayor reported that he “had talked with officials of Dufferin Agricultural Society about having the name painted on the roof of the grandstand and that apparently this could be arranged without difficulty. As to the matter of an emergency landing field, F. E. Clark had assured him that his fields near town could be used for this purpose.”


The DAS grandstand, built 1921, roof added 1930

There was no information in subsequent editions to tell us whether a temporary crossing was built to the baseball field, or if the name was actually painted on the roof of the grandstand. Does anyone remember?

 

 

 

Voices of dissent. Back around this time, the newspaper started its “Looking Back” column— items that appeared in the paper 10–25 years previously. That was back at a time when outspoken opinions and no-holds-barred political rhetoric were a regular part of newspaper content. The Dufferin Leader pulled out a couple of gems. One was an item from 1904, around the time Carman was about to incorporate as a town: “The Miami-Herald of last week contained the following item: ‘The Leader wants Carman incorporated as a town. Some day the Boyne will rise in its wrath and sweep that moss-grown settlement into the marsh, and then Carman will be where it should have been long ago—dead and buried.’” (Dufferin Leader, 1929-10-15). This isn’t like the usual comments between neighbouring communities. Do you think maybe Miami lost a hockey match with Carman that week?

An item picked up from 1907 suggests that at least one member of the local community also had strong feelings about local leadership: “The Carman Board of Trade is dead—soporifically, impassively, resistlessly, unresponsively, hopelessly, absolutely dead, and if anyone can supply more adjectives to express how dead, dead, dead, it is, send them along. Everybody seems to be too busy with their own little two by four business to take any interest in pushing the town along—R.I.P.” (Dufferin Leader, 1927-12-06). They did have a way with words back then.

Fake news isn’t new. Social media currently is being credited with the ‘fake news’ that had inundated us in past years. Looks like it’s not a new phenomenon—early newspapers also had to watch what they printed: “Clippings from an Ontario paper regarding a cure for cancer were handed to The Leader editor last week with the suggestion that publication of it here might be of advantage to people suffering with that dread trouble. However, local medical men to whom it was shown declare the remedy to be worthless. In which circumstance it is much better not to be published abroad. People suspecting themselves of having the beginnings of cancer will benefit more by getting early advice from a qualified physician than from waiting to try out remedies of which they do not know the source and tor the efficacy or for the harmlessness of which no guarantee is given. It is safe to assume that when a cure for cancer is discovered and proved it will not be left to the rural newspapers of the country to spread the information.” (Dufferin Leader,1932-02- 04). Sounds pretty contemporary, doesn’t it?

Inflation. With inflation and escalating cost of food adding to our current compendium of woes, we’d like to close this year with an ad from the Dufferin Leader (1929-12-24). This is quite the ambitious menu from the local Rex Café.


Rex Café Menu Christmas 1929

These are certainly eye-popping prices from today’s perspective of rising food costs and the resulting impact on restaurants. What do you think that meal would cost in 2021? And at that time, when newspapers were full of stories about the ravages of drought and onset of the 1930s Depression, you have to wonder how many families could afford it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Holidays! In spite of pandemic restrictions that may keep extended families apart again this holiday season, plus the weird weather, inflation, and all our other real or imagined causes for complaint, we are so much better off than many other places and times past. We all wish you a happy and peaceful holiday season, with understanding and compassion for family members— or pets—that might be finding it difficult getting into the spirit of the season!


Wait till they see the dead mouse
I put in their stockings!

Happy Holidays, everyone! Make lots of good family memories. See you in 2022.

 

 

 

 

 

 



Recent History

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