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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 November 2021

The scope of local heritage is as broad as life itself. Our recent erratic weather—blizzards, freezing rain and changing temperatures—has finally brought the last-minute yard work to a close for another year and freed up time to get back playing detective on the trail of local heritage. Much of this search has been through early newspapers from the 1920s and ‘30s— against the backdrop of drought, failed crops, and general hard times of the Great Depression.

It’s made for heavy reading at a time when Mother Nature is once again giving the world a wake-up call. As always, the search through early weekly newspapers is a time-consuming task. Not just because it involves about 50 editions per year, but because of the distraction of all the other fascinating and often relevant snippets of information that surface, resulting in reams of notes, dates and screenshots. That may help explain why this update touches on everything from hotel art to communicable disease, dowsing graves, and ladies’ corsets, with a touch of horse-racing and speed-skating thrown in for good measure.

But first, let’s have a round of applause for the décor in the new Blue Crescent Hotel that just opened in Carman.

New Hotel, Vintage Photos. Steel Creek Developers are to be commended for their impressive use of local vintage photos in their new Blue Crescent Hotel, next door to Syl’s. Kudos as well to the hotel for drawing upon local input for the project.


Hotel Lounge Photo: Kelly Seward

We're told that the concept was the brain-child of a company shareholder and a local interior designer. C/D MHAC heartily supported the project and helped connect hotel personnel with the Dufferin Historical Museum who in turn provided access to their outstanding collection of vintage photos. We see this as a win-win project that helps identify the hotel with the local community while promoting local heritage and tourism. It’s a model that could be used in other towns across Manitoba.


Old Swimming Hole Photo: Andrew Rempel

These photos show a sample of the hotel’s vintage photos, including the railway station and Ryall Hotel in the attractive lounge area and a photo of the old swimming hole by the indoor pool.

To see a larger image, click on the photo.

 



 



Disease & graves.
We were delighted to hear again from our friend Stephanie Fraser. If you are a regular reader, you may recall her ‘Dear Zelma’ letters (News & Events July 2015; and http://frasertrunk.blogspot.com/2014/11/we-stand-on-guard-for-thee.html). The letters were written by two young soldiers with whom Stephanie’s grandmother, Zelma Hood, corresponded during WWI. Neither of the lads made it home. The letters were a highlight of Roseisle’s WWI commemorative services. Stephanie also contributed to the provincial project naming geographic features after local soldiers who lost their lives in WWI (News & Events April 2017).

Now we’ve discovered the Stephanie has other links to Carman. She wrote:
“I read with interest the post on the Carman Dufferin Heritage website (News & Events, October 2021), about the stories graveyards might tell. The tale of airborne illnesses and parallels with today’s Covid battle certainly rings true. It reminded me of a story I posted on my Fraser blog this summer. The story includes the death of Mildred Fraser, a four-year-old cousin of my father’s. Poor little Mildred succumbed to diphtheria in 1927. Her parents’ gravestone is in Pilot Mound (Gordon and Dot Fraser), but we think wee Mildred was likely buried in Carman, where the family was living at the time. I hope to search that graveyard at some point to locate it.”


Mildred’s obituary (Dufferin Leader, 1927-10-27)

Stephanie shared a link to the blog in which she recorded her impressive research on diphtheria, the disease that took young Mildred’s life:

During the past months, the pandemic has been the central topic in all news media. Most readers will be too young to realize that illness and death from disease were common themes in early newspapers. Accounts of family illnesses, school closures, quarantines, and obituaries give a sense of the prevalence and devastation of disease.

In addition to diphtheria, which took Mildred’s young life, and typhoid which lead to the Kennedy burial site, tuberculosis, infantile paralysis (polio), whooping cough, measles, mumps and scarlet fever were a feature of everyday life and a central part of our early heritage. Thanks to Stephanie for agreeing to share her informative insight into one of these common pre-vaccine diseases.

We’ve been checking local cemetery records. So far, nothing has turned up to confirm Mildred’s burial in Carman. Unfortunately, the Greenwood Cemetery records were among the many documents destroyed in the 1923 flood.

Dowsing for graves. Mention of Mildred’s unmarked grave is a reminder of the fascinating research journey that can spin out from one small bit of information—and of the rich sources of material that are there for the looking.

Most cemeteries have kept just one copy of records. All too often, as perhaps is the case with Mildred Fraser, research comes literally to a ‘dead’ end when early records were destroyed or incomplete and graves remained unmarked. This is one reason archival security is part of our heritage management plan and why we have been encouraging local communities to make copies of records and store them in a location separate from the originals.

This also is the reason we occasionally dowse for unmarked burials in local cemetery plots. This past summer, we were checking plots when an uncommon surname caught our attention. Coincidentally, it was the name of an old friend and colleague, Elaine, who had just been in touch to say she would be coming back to Manitoba and would like to visit. We had been out of touch for the past 15 years.

Somehow in our non-stop, catch-up conversation, the local graves got mentioned. No immediate family connection could be identified but it touched off a spark. A month later, Elaine emailed to say she had visited local cemeteries and newspapers in the town where she grew up, enrolled in workshops on genealogy, tracked down a cousin who had a copy of her uncle’s research into the family line and laid out well-organized spreadsheets to track her family history. Hint: if you want something done fast and efficiently, ask a retired public health nurse.

She also confirmed that the local burials were indeed part of her extended family. This now became another name to watch for in our search through local newspapers. One of the fascinating things about heritage research is that everything seems to be connected in complex web, especially in a small community. A casual mention of the research to another C/D MHAC member brought a startled response. According to her own family history, this was the surname of the person who removed the grave markers from graves at the Kennedy Burial site. In other words, this story now intersected with the Kennedy burial site/typhoid disease research we described in last month’s News & Events. It also added an extra dimension to our search of early newspapers and other local resources.

The Kennedy history claims that the family took the new property owner to court on a charge of desecration of a cemetery—and that the Kennedys lost the case. Queries about reinterring the bodies in Greenwood Cemetery were apparently discouraged on the grounds that there would be nothing much to move. However, a couple of markers were salvaged and remained in the Billings monument workshop until they were placed alongside the Kennedy marker in Greenwood Cemetery.


Grave markers in Greenwood cemetery











 

Through family histories, obituaries and anecdotal accounts, we’ve narrowed the time frame to about a twenty-year period between 1920 and 1940. That’s lot of old weekly newspapers to cover. It wasn’t just the local ski club that welcomed the sudden arrival of winter with a cheery “Let it snow…” It also meant no more yard work this year and lots of guilt-free time to get immersed in tracking down our past. No reports of court cases have turned up yet but we’ll keep you informed if and when they do.

Horse-racing. The court-case search also led us off on another little tangent. Now that we were aware that Mildred and her parents were local residents, a whole volume of stories began surfacing about Gordon Fraser’s success in harness racing, on both Manitoba and U.S. circuits.

Stephanie answered a query as follows:

“Yes, Gordon Fraser is the harness racing one. He is one of the younger Frasers who came west in 1906. He was also a noted speedskater in his day (like my Dad!). My grandfather Pete also had a few racehorses, but was more inclined to show mighty Percherons. He was a ploughing champion. My father, surrounded by all these beasts, had no regard for horses, and preferred steam engines. You don’t have to shovel out their stalls.”

The Fraser horses:https://frasertrunk.blogspot.com/2016/03/horse-traders.html


Cartoon of Grandfather Pete Fraser and horse Lulu

Before coming to Carman, the Gordon Fraser’s lived with other family members in Pilot Mound. Stephanie has scoured copies of the early Pilot Mound Sentinels, another local paper that is online through the Pembina Manitou Archive. It seems that her ancestor Pete Fraser had a great, teasing relationship with the editor of that paper. This cartoon of Pete and one of his horses appeared regularly in the Sentinel and was used on local racing program and posters.

Our local resident, Gordon Fraser, seems to have thrived on competition. As we see from the item below, Gordon also was a champion speed-skater (http://frasertrunk.blogspot.com/2017/06/the-frasers-part-10.html). Back in 1913, he defended the honour of his then home town of Pilot Mound against the Town of Morden. Gordon won.


Gordon Fraser speed-skater

If you check out these links, you’ll be amazed at the way in which this ancestor comes to life. Animal lovers will melt at the photos of the prize family horses. One reason for including all this information on just one local family is because of the inspiration it gives for searching and recording our own family history.

Spirella. And don’t forget ladies’ corsets.The newspaper search for the Kennedy burial site court case turned up several informative references to the family that supposedly was involved with the site —including obituaries, information on their occupations, memberships in local groups and the like. One relative through marriage was said to be a member of the Quaker Club, the Past Noble Grands Club of the Easter Lily Rebekah Lodge, and an agent for Spirella. Whatever Spirella might be—maybe a spiral-bound album, an insecticide? My friend Elaine’s curiosity led her to the internet where she found the following:

https://niagarafallsmuseums.ca/discover-our-history/history-notes/spirella-corset-company

Elaine noted that this “wonderful discovery” that promised to bring comfort to women was designed by a man! We know of course about the Quaker Church but has anyone come across Quaker Clubs?

All these glimpses into the past leave us with one big question: How is your life story coming along?

Hopefully all these strange and entertaining finds will be an encouragement to get on with the search for your own family roots. If your family lived in a small community, everyone knew everything about you and more often than not, it ended up in the local newspaper. Not the more-than-you-ever-wanted-to-know depth of information you can get today on social media, complete with selfies. But even the bare-bones information from a grave marker or vital statistics—birth and death dates—can lead you to newspaper obituaries and further clues about birthplace, family, occupation, often the cause of death. Like Stephanie Fraser, you may just end up with an almost 3-dimensional picture of your ancestor. Or, like my colleague, with good chuckle and another neat addition to your life story.

It’s those details and the little anecdotes that bring them to life. So, if the newspapers disappoint, make sure you sit down and chat with family members—while they are still around to identify who’s who in those unlabelled family photos and pass along priceless stories and memories that otherwise would be lost to future generations. Remember that ’as long as someone remembers you, you are not gone.’

 

News & Events October 2021

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


From Dufferin Leader, 1921-11-10

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

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


Ad in Dufferin Leader, 1924-08-14

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

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

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

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

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


Grave markers in Greenwood cemetery

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

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

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


Marker in Bloomfield-Rosewell Cemetery

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

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

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

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


Wild grapes – fruit and vines

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


A good feed before heading south

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

 

 

 

 


Recent History

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