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Local Heritage: Special Places

Leary Brick Works

Boyne Marsh

Missouri Trail or Hunters’ Trail

Snow Valley

Stephenfield Provincial Park


Boyne River (Rivière aux Îlets-de-Bois)

One of the major features of the Carman/Dufferin landscape is the river that threads its way across the municipalities from the escarpment eastward to the Red River drainage system. The river was known to Mètis fur trader and buffalo hunters as the Rivière aux Îlets-de-Bois; early settlers renamed it the Boyne River, the name it still carries today.

Boating on the Boyne early 1900s  (Dufferin Historical Museum)                             

For centuries before the arrival of outside traders and settlers the river, with its heavily forested banks, was a source of fresh water, fuel, wild fruit, medicinal plants and small game for early Indigenous hunter-gatherers. In the post-1870 era, it served as a primary source of water for homesteads and settlements that grew up along its length. A local water-powered mill saved early settlers long trips to larger settlements at Nelsonville or Emerson to grind grain for flour and feed. It also provided lumber for building and helped pave the way for development of the Town of Carman.

Since then, the river has served as a major source of water, outdoor recreation, irrigation and wildlife management. It also has brought concern for floods, water management, and pollution, along with awareness of the need to protect the natural riverbank environment and local wildlife corridors.

In recent months, a local group, the Boyne River Keepers, began exploring options for revitalizing the river. As part of this process, they asked C/D MHAC to provide a brief history of the river. Here is our overview of the features of the river that have made it one of the major contributors to quality of life in the Carman/Dufferin municipalities.

Leary Brick Works

The Leary Brick Works is the last semi-intact remnant of some 200 brick plants that once operated in Manitoba. Based on extensive research, architectural historian David Butterfield completed a study of the Leary brick plant in 2018.

The full report is here.



Boyne Marsh

One of the prominent geographic features of the pre-settlement era was the Great Marsh (later known as the Boyne Marsh). It covered much of the land between the Missouri Trail and the Red River. The Rivière aux Îlets-de-Bois (Boyne River) and a network of creeks drained into the Marsh, resulting in flooding in Spring and providing hay and pastureland in drier times.

Because of the push to homestead the land and develop agriculture, some drainage was undertaken between 1880 and 1889 but without major results. In 1895, the Liberal government passed a Land Drainage Act and carried out a topological survey of the area. The survey revealed the extent of the drainage problem which in effect involved run-off from the Pembina Mountain watershed. An ambitious plan was put forward in 1898 to drain the Marsh, including some 40,000 acres in what was then the RM of Dufferin. The intent was to drain the Boyne River and Tobacco Creek run-off into the Morris and Red Rivers and to divert the Elm Creek overflow into the La Salle and Red Rivers. The plan was to pay for the project through land revenues and taxes that would result from the new farmland.

Newspapers from that time record the deficiencies of the drainage project which was routed through drier areas where dredging was easier but which did little to drain the Marsh. The newspapers also noted the vast amounts of wood and water required to run the steam engines. The Conservative Roblin government designed a new drainage plan which would connect the Boyne drainage to the Norquay Channel. Although still fraught with allegations of patronage, delays in building lateral drainage ditches and ongoing problems with flooding, the project was technically completed by 1907. Additional work continued till the 1920s. In later years, floods, by-pass channels, dams on the Boyne, and more recently, irrigation, have written new chapters in the story of man’s sometimes ill-conceived attempts to control Nature.

Missouri Trail or Hunters’ Trail

The trail skirted the western edge of the Great Marsh from the Headingley area, angling southwest past what would later become the Boyne Settlement, eventually giving access to the Missouri River. The trail was used by early explorers, fur trading companies, buffalo hunters and later by settlers to the area.

The trail crossed the Boyne River about a half mile east of present-day Carman, following the route of what is now Highway #3 south across Tobacco creek and angling southwest to what would become the settlement of Nelsonville, which was then in Dufferin. A.P. Stevenson, (Farmer’s Advocate, Jan. 4, 1911) described the route as settlers saw it: “ .. In the spring of 1874, in company with five others with ox and cart to carry provisions, I started to Pembina Mountain to look for land. The old Missouri trail was followed between Headingly and La Salle River near Starbuck. Nearly two-thirds of the way was through swamps, with water two or three feet deep. The ox and carts were mired three or four times, and what a delightful time we greenhorns had, up to the waist in water, with millions of mosquitoes adding their notes to the proceedings. It was a hungry, tired crowd that camped that night on the dry banks of the high-smelling La Salle, trying to dry socks, etc. Our clothing had early in the day been made up into bundles and tied high and dry on our backs during passage of the swamps. The following morning we found our ox had broken loose and taken the road to the Boyne River, so we started on foot for the same place. The distance was 30 miles, a dead level plain, without a tree, shrub or twig, no house of any description, not a drop of water to drink.”

Source: History of the RM of Dufferin, 1880-1980, p.7

It was this route that led John Grant to settle in the area and for homesteaders to claim land around what became the Boyne Settlement. A sign was erected in 1960 by the Carman/Dufferin Municipal Heritage Advisory Committee (C/D MHAC) to mark the point where the Missouri trail crossed Highway #3; it was later removed by the landowner. C/D MHAC made a replacement of the sign and did further research on pre-1870 history of the Trail the focus of 2020 Manitoba 150 celebrations in this area. [News & Events, July 2020]

Snow Valley

Today, Carman/Dufferin is well known for its golf course and for Stephenfield Provincial Park, which offers a range of camping, boating and other recreational facilities.

The western edge of Dufferin Municipality abuts on the low hills and valleys of the escarpment that once formed the bounds of Glacial Lake Agassiz. Although lacking the agriculture potential of more easterly portions of the municipality, this part of the municipality has always had its own riches to offer and has long been a drawing card for tourists and sports enthusiasts.

During the early years of settlement, woodlots in the hills provided hundreds of cords of wood to heat homes as far east as Sperling; dense forest areas were cleared for lumber; before 1900, clay is said to have been mined here to operate the Carman brick factory. When these natural resources were no longer available, the area continued to yield new riches in the form of recreational facilities.

Snow Valley Ski area operated for many years on SW 19-6-7w along the CNR railway tracks and the South Boyne River. The CNR began clearing ski slopes pre-WWII. During the war, the slopes were used for training soldiers in winter exercises using mixed terrain. After WWII, Frank Roy, a CNR road-master, civil engineer and avid skier supervised installation of lifts and buildings (First Aid hut, coffee shop/warm-up building and ladies’ hut). Special trains brought skiers from Winnipeg each Sunday, returning in the evening.

Snow Valley closed as a CNR operation in 1953; the ski slide later operated for many years under private ownership. A prolonged period of poor snow conditions resulted in closure of downhill skiing at Snow Valley and neighbouring Ski Birch. When the rail line closed, Roseisle station was moved to Snow Valley for use as a ski lodge. Although no longer open for downhill skiing, several kilometres of the local cross-country ski club trails still traverse this beautiful portion of the Dufferin terrain.

[See also: History of the RM of Dufferin, 1880-1980, pp.283 -285,]

Stephenfield Provincial Park

In 1963 Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (PFRA) constructed a dam on the Boyne River approximately 20 km. west of Carman. The resulting reservoir became the Stephenfield Lake. The lake serves as a popular recreation area offering boating, fishing, swimming and camping facilities and is an attractive stopping point for migratory birds. The lake also provides water for the nearby water treatment plant that serves the RM of Dufferin and the Town of Carman. A campground was developed on the south side of the lake and the area was designated as Stephenfield Provincial Park in 1971.