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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 February 2020

Museum Events. Karen Maxwell is the incoming President of the Dufferin Historical Museum. She takes over from Trish Aubin who has done such a fine job leading the group over the past several years. Karen is well up to the task—and Trish is staying on as Vice-President—so the committee is in good hands. They are busy planning a couple of upcoming events including:

Flea Market & Antique Sale – May 23, 2020
Town-wide Garage Sale – June 6, 2020

The Dufferin Historical Society installed the first Missouri Trail sign back in 1961 so we’re planning on working together to organize unveiling of the new sign this coming May.

C/D MHAC Doings. We’ve been making the most of the recent blast of frigid winter weather to get on with reading, writing and planning this year’s projects. We’ve been looking into options for setting up life story writing groups, figuring out how to accommodate people who are interested but wary of the time commitment when they are still working outside their homes. Or those who find it difficult to write because of arthritis, lack of computer skills and the like. How to be flexible and still get a satisfying outcome. Interesting to see how this works out.

Of course, we’ve not just been hiding out in our homes. We were asked to speak to the Wednesday Morning Group at the Carman United Church this past week. Always great to meet in this lovely old Designated Heritage Site building.

We chose to talk with the group about where they can find information about local heritage and what’s available on our C/D MHAC website. We also pointed out that most of the information in local histories, including our website material, is based on post-1870 writings and recollections. And we touched upon the importance of examining the broader context of events around 1870 if we are to understand the impact that becoming a province of Canada had on this little part of Manitoba. As mentioned in the January News and Events, this is an area we hope to focus on further in 2020.

We also spoke of C/D MHAC plans for commemorating the 150th anniversary of Manitoba by installing highway signs directing visitors to the Îlets-de-Bois cairn and unveiling the Missouri Trail sign.

Missouri Trail Sign. One of our first tasks this year is to arrange the unveiling of the newly re-installed sign. A couple of years ago we asked our committee why they thought we should plan on re-installing the Missouri Trail sign in time for 2020. The response was “because that’s how the first settlers reached the Carman area”. Since then we’ve asked others the same question, including the Wednesday Morning group; each time we get the same reply. That’s not at all surprising because most of the recorded history as we know it has been written by people who arrived after that time. We tend to see history through the lens of ‘our’ experience— in this case, the people who wrote existing accounts of local history. Most of the events and artifacts we’ve collected information about through our C/D MHAC projects fall into the same post-1870 category—our heritage buildings, stories of homesteads and early farms, inventories of resources from communities, vintage photographs.

The only photograph of indigenous people we’ve seen so far in our collections of local photographs was taken by early photographer J.B. Coleman who documented the area around Roseisle in the early 1900s. His family homesteaded along the escarpment beside the local “Indian Trail” marked on early survey maps.

‘Indian’ Trails along escarpment and Indigenous family circa 1900
click on the image for a larger view

The photo clearly is from an era well after European clothing came on the scene. The story we related earlier (News and Events, October 2017) of an encounter between a homestead family and a local “good Samaritan” native occurred just a few years earlier along the same trail.

Seen from a broader historical perspective, the Missouri Trail is a symbol of local pre-1870 history. The legend on the sign records that the Trail dates back a few centuries to the days when the hooves of migrating buffalo first carved out a pathway to the Great Marsh in search of grass and hay. Nomadic indigenous people followed their trail to hunt the buffalo that were essential at that time to their survival. Dried buffalo meat or pemmican was their staple winter food. They used the hides for clothing and tents, the sinews for thread, and bones for needles, tools. Indigenous groups are thought also to have followed the pathway to sacred sites at places like Calf Mountain and to meet with other tribes.

With the arrival of the fur trade, pemmican took on new significance as the main source of a light, portable source of nutrients for canoeists who paddled up to 14 hours a day and carried heavy loads across portages. The buffalo herds were found at that time south of Lake Manitoba and west of the Red River and this area became part of what has been described as the ‘larder’ of the fur trade.

Adapted from The History of the RM of Dufferin in Manitoba 1880-1980, p. 5
click on the image for a larger view

In 1870, Métis made up a large percentage in the Red River settlement. Even though they lived for the most part on land claims, their main livelihood was as buffalo hunters and guides. They also were middleman in the fur trade between the fur agents and the native population because they knew the language and had connections through their Indigenous ties. The hooves of buffalo hunters’ horses and, after about 1806, the creaking wheels of Red River carts further defined the trail with deep grooves from passage of cart wheels. When Manitoba became a part of Canada in 1870, the land was surveyed into townships and sections and opened for homesteading. The Trail initially was the main pathway into this area.

The Trail wasn’t designed for bringing in settlers from the East and their belongings. A.P. Stevenson gave an account of his 1874 journey through swampy areas of the Trail where they were plagued by mosquitoes (see History of the RM of Dufferin, p.4). Within a decade, a railway was built to End-of-Line (Barnsley). It was extended to Carman in 1889 and by 1901, ran from the east through Homewood and other communities. New towns grew up along the rail line to the west. From this broader perspective, the importance of the Missouri Trail lay in the centuries before 1870. Arrival of settlers in effect marked the end of a trail that served as a pathway to and from the southwest. The Missouri Trail sign is not so much a tribute to the present agricultural community as it is a symbol of the rich early history of the territory that became known as Southwestern Manitoba and the Carman/Dufferin municipalities.

Further Reading:

The History of the R.M. of Dufferin in Manitoba 1880-1980, pp. 4-7

A Review of the Heritage Resources of Boyne Planning District, pp.97-101 a study by Karen Nicholson, Historic Resources Branch, November 1984.

Recent History

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