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Recent History News Items from 2020

News and Events December 2020

Good-bye to 2020. Most folks seem glad to be seeing the last of 2020. It’s been a tough year, especially for businesses and their employees and for everyone who’s been socially deprived for fear of COVID-19. The pandemic messed up much of our lengthy planning for MB150 and what was intended as a banner year for celebrating local heritage. Fortunately, the coming year brings hope in the form of vaccines that should be available to us common folks later in the year.

HRMP 2021. It was an interesting task this year to prepare our annual Heritage Resource Management Plan (HRMP)—our report on our 2020 activities along with plans and budget for the coming year. Given the continued uncertainty, we are being quite conservative in our plans for 2021, especially projects involving face-to-face contact. That includes our community inventories, homestead interviews, and life story workshops as well as the usual community displays. Fortunately, we have piles of research and other non-contact projects to keep our members happily occupied. That includes a couple of website initiatives. At the moment, we are still immersed in early newspapers, with an eye for clues to our natural history. So keep checking out this space each month—we’ll be here. And we’ll soon be seeing you back out in the community.

COVID-19 humour. With the pandemic turning the world upside-down, there hasn’t been much humour in our lives. When our area went to Code Red,  we sent a family member an upbeat, ‘this-too-shall-pass’ message, ending with a hearty “Stay positive!” His response was: “Shouldn’t that be “Stay Negative”? Still chuckling – so at least one of us benefited from the exchange.

Natural History. In November, we looked at a few newspaper items that spoke to the interaction between the early settlers and local wildlife. As in later years, sports were then a major feature of the weekly news. In the days before more organized team sports such as hockey or curling dominated the press, emphasis was on hunting as an outlet for the competitive side of mankind. This even applied to holidays.
   Local hunters early 1900s   (Coleman Collection)

Wild Birds. Arbor Day was a day not only to plant trees, it also featured a ‘crow shoot’.  “The crow shoot on Arbor Day resulted in a large bag of game, and the contest was won by M. E. DeMill’s party. The score stood 5,650 points for DeMill and 3,630 for Dr. Brown, giving the former a winning margin of 2,020 points. The scale of points were for crows 50, wolf 50, fox 50, hawk 20, owl 10, gopher 5, blackbird 1. There was no big game secured, but there was a large percentage of crows and gophers. The largest score was made by Mr. DeMill, who brought in 26 crows. The scores were counted in the Massey-Harris storerooms, and were viewed by very many on Saturday before they were carted away. The losing side put up the supper at the Starkey House.”  (Dufferin Leader 1900-05-10).

(If you haven’t already checked out this website, copies of both the early Dufferin Leaders and the Carman Standard can be found online through the Pembina Manitou Archive.)
And on Thanksgiving Day, why not give thanks for a fine harvest by holding a turkey shoot?  “A shooting match for turkeys was held in the fields south of town on Thanksgiving Day. Quite a number of the sports were present, and some very good shooting was done. The weather, however, was a little too chilly to be enjoyable.” (Dufferin Leader  1910-11-03).

In the west end of Dufferin, a local lodge made a full day of it. The Dufferin Leader  (1910-10-27) announced that:  “Loyal Orange Lodge No. 2137 Roseisle, will give a Grand Ball on the evening of Friday, Nov. 4. On the afternoon of the same day a Turkey Shoot will be held. Admission to ball, $1. Come and bring your girl.” 

Picture young ladies adorned in their finery, while the young men had a quick wash up and change of clothing before hitching up the horse and buggy to head for the dance. What do you think the main topic of conversation was at the Grand Ball?

Wild turkeys are a native North American bird. Although sources seem to differ on whether the range of certain subspecies included Southern Manitoba, these tales of early turkey shoots seem to confirm their presence in the area. Hunting took its toll, and it was as recent as 1958 that wild turkeys were reintroduced  to the area near Miami, Manitoba. They have since proliferated and are now both highly visible locally and a prime target during the autumn hunting season. The photos below are of recent vintage – taken of turkeys released in the wild over the past several years.

Wild tom turkey struts his stuff

Wild turkeys  - A tom turkey herds his flock of females across  a local roadway.

In early years, the all-out assault on game birds soon included many outside hunters and brought a reaction from the press and local public. The Carman Standard (1890-09-18) reported that “Over 600 chickens have been slaughtered in this neighborhood by Winnipeg and Yankee hunters, and, as a consequence, the hunting for this season and next has been entirely ruined.”  At a “mass meeting” held at Dufferin Hall, a resolution passed calling on the Provincial government to regulate hunting in the municipality. The resolution stated that “Whereas the game birds of this municipality are now wantonly and wastefully being destroyed, mainly by persons who are non-residents of this district, many of whom are aliens to our country”, these persons should be asked to “desist from further destruction of game” in the present season. Farmers should consider prosecuting trespassers and livery stables and others cease hiring out horses, carriages or other vehicles to transport hunters to hunting areas. This backlash against indiscriminate hunting led to appointment of ‘game guardians’ and introduction of hunting licences.

The arrival of settlers affected wildlife in ways other than hunting. An item in an early Dufferin Leader (1903-04-13) noted the effect on the flight patterns of birds: “Wild geese are almost a thing of the past in this locality. Since the drainage of the Boyne Marsh they have changed their course of flight.”  A century later, most of the small sloughs that dotted local farmlands also have vanished. Dufferin waterfowl now congregate on the man-made lake at Stephenfield Provincial Park where large flocks have recently been scouring nearby harvested fields for the last pickings of grain before heading south for the winter.

Canada Geese – time to head south

Animal Wildlife. It wasn’t just wildfowl that were threatened by overhunting. We have already seen how, in the earlier pre-1870 era, demand for pemmican as food the western fur traders led to disappearance of buffalo in this part of Manitoba.

Other animal species besides buffalo were soon in decline. Pre-1900 newspapers and life stories from that era speak of elk in this area of Manitoba. We noted in the November update that a Dufferin resident had shot two elk near his home. Ethel Chisholm’s parents homesteaded two miles west of the present-day hamlet of Roseisle. She recalled that “There were numerous bears and elk in the hills at Roseisle….Elk could be seen on the top of Mt. Ararat from the doorway of Smith’s home” (The Rural Municipality of Dufferin 1880-1980, p. 70). ‘Mt. Ararat’ as it was then called was part of what was later known as ‘Snow Valley’ ski resort.

And then there were Tom Ticknor’s tame elk. In earlier days when Dufferin extended as far south as the Nelsonville, Ticknor was one of the colourful characters in the district - an early settler who wore a buckskin jacket and wolf tail cap, and drove a harnessed team of elk. He tamed elk calves and built up a herd in the area west of Miami. When he died in 1889, his wife feared that hunters would destroy the herd and they were shipped west to a new home at Banff (Pembina Country – Land of Promise 1974, pp. 58-60).

White-tailed Deer. Everyone is familiar with the herds of deer that visit local fields and bound unseen out of the ditches along roadways. Oddly, white-tail deer are not a native species in Manitoba. In the late 1800s, the arrival of settlers and introduction of agriculture provided a favourable habitat in southern Manitoba; deer migrated northward from their original home range south of the international border. The earliest account of white-tailed deer in Manitoba was in 1881 along the Red River near the border. 

The presence of this species—now one our most common forms of wildlife—is another reminder that arrival post-1870 of waves of settlers permanently altered not only the socio-cultural and economic profile of the Province—it also had a profound impact on the natural history of our area. In the case of the white-tailed deer, this even applied to members of their extended family. 

For more information and insight into this species go to the Manitoba Fish and Wildlife fact sheet.

 A quick look at their genealogy confirms that deer, moose and elk are all hoofed ruminant mammals belonging to the Cervidae family. Unfortunately, white-tail deer are asymptomatic carriers of a parasite that causes brain-worm.  While it has no impact on the deer, brain-worm is deadly in moose.  After their arrival in this region, white-tail deer soon began to displace their local cousins. For more information, go to a fact sheet on moose.
Aptly named white-tailed deer

Moose. There is evidence that at least some moose were present in the area during the early years of settlement. The Dufferin Leader (1901-06-06) reported that “Two moose were found in Alex McCullough’s pasture a mile west of town. They were lying resting in the shade of some trees and apparently had been grazing in the field until satisfied. After being startled by the approach of visitors they started off in an easy trot in the direction of town.”

 It seems that both the moose and the newly-arrived white-tail deer population appreciated the new cultivated crops. We can’t be sure from local histories just how rapidly the deer population spread however there are references to hunting ‘jumping deer’ in the district. Early 1900’s photos from the Garwood Collection show a Mr. Croome, a cook for the C.N.R. train gangs, with his pet moose and with both his moose and a tame deer.

David Croome with pet moose and deer  (Garwood collection)
By the early 1900’s both elk and moose were disappearing. The Carman Standard (1908-11-26) reported that “Those monarchs of the forest, the elk and moose are not nearly as numerous as in the early years. They used to be fairly plentiful in the Pembina Mountains west of Carman, but incoming settlers have decimated them and driven them further away”.

Thanks to the parasite they carried, newly arrived white-tail deer population may have posed an even greater health hazard for their four-legged cousins.

There is no record of what became of the Croome animals. However, in recent years the return of moose to the area has again been short-lived as they succumbed to brain-worm. The only moose we’ve spotted this year is this bright and cheery Christmas decoration. It’s not the dainty reindeer ornament we usually see on lawns, but what could be more appropriate in this pandemic-ridden year than the image of this huge mammal that succumbed to a tiny parasite that it unknowingly picked up from asymptomatic carriers? Could there be a more apt reminder of why we are in lockdown this holiday season in an attempt to combat the COVID-19 virus?

And our wish for you this holiday season - “Stay Negative!”


News and Events November 2020

Remembrance Day 2020.   Local Remembrance Day services were another casualty of the pandemic. Carman Legion #18 aptly met the challenge through a virtual service which you can access at

The usually well-attended public service at Roseisle was cancelled this year. The organizing committee instead honoured local soldiers through exhibits in the community display case and by laying wreaths at the War Memorial.  We’d also remind you that profiles of the young men from this community who gave their lives in WWI can be found on our website.

Roseisle War Memorial November 11, 2020                                        

One of the rewards of mounting the displays was the opportunity it provided for trolling once more through old photos.  And for turning up treasures like this image of a young child in a replica WWI uniform. 

Makes you wonder what children understood about fathers being absent for up to five years – or forever?  What were their memories on Remembrance Day?

Perhaps we should add a section of military images to our Vintage Photos? If you have any photos you'd like to share, please let us know.



Guarding the home front   

C/D MHAC. The committee met October 19th to plan for the coming year. Thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak, this was our just our second meeting since February. Other contacts have been by email or telephone. It was a mite disappointing since we have been planning towards MB 150 celebrations for the past couple of years. Official provincial celebrations have been postponed to 2021 but with the future still uncertain, it looks like we were wise to carry through this year with unveiling the Missouri Trail sign and installing the Îlets-de-Bois signs.

Our three other projects—homestead profiles, community inventories and life story workshops— will be pretty much on hold in the foreseeable future. The health of our present population is more important at the moment than collecting past history—which will still be around when the pandemic subsides.

Fortunately, the website fits into the new virtual contact model and should be able to continue as one bright spot of normalcy. For the next while, you can expect to see about less current events and more content we’ve gleaned from our visits to early newspapers and other low-contact research.

Museum Update.  The Dufferin Historical Museum has likewise had to cancel regular programs like the annual Christmas Tea. It’s become a local tradition and will be sadly missed this year.

Traditions with a twist. With Halloween still officially going ahead this year with caution, some folks got really creative. Here’s how our tricky website manager handed out treats— they were ‘barfed’ out through a monster head attached to the end of a long pipe.  We hear on good authority that kids had to say “Barf!” to get a treat.  This is one twist that may become a tradition.

Natural History.  One helpful response to our new series on Heritage Plants is the suggestion that we expand it to look more generally at the natural history of the area. And that we draw upon the good folks in the community to share some of their favorite nature photos on the website. What a great idea, especially since the pandemic has us all outdoors more these days and everyone is getting top-quality photos with their phones or digital cameras.

We’ll also be trying to track the natural history of this area across past generations. In our review this year of our pre-1870 heritage, we looked very briefly at the lifestyle of Indigenous hunter/gatherers as they followed seasonal plants and animals. Buffalo herds served as a mainstay in the diet of both the Indigenous population and the canoe brigades of the north-western fur trade.  By the time homesteaders arrived post-1870, the vast herds that roamed the area south of the lakes and west of the Red River had been decimated or migrated further to the southwest.
As with other parts of our history, most written records are from the post-1870 era. The early settlers continued to rely on hunting as a mainstay of their diet. (News & Events, October 2017).

By 1900, the local population was largely of European origin and knowledge of the pre-settlement era was fast fading. In 1900, the Dufferin Leader (1900-01-25) noted that:

A buffalo skull with the horns attached was picked up on the banks of the Boyne on Christmas day by one of our townsmen. This raises the query of how long has it been since buffalo made the prairie in this part of the province their feeding ground. It would be interesting to hear from some of our readers on this question.

Newspaper accounts from around this time also suggest a gradual change in focus towards hunting for ‘sport’ as well as survival. Reminder: if you haven’t already checked out this website, copies of both the early Dufferin Leaders and the Carman Standard can be found online through the Pembina Manitou Archive.

I.B. Werseen, of Roseisle, shot two elk near his home on Monday last. They were fine animals. Mr. Werseen says that as he has killed his allowance of deer, he will now turn his attention to bear. Last season he was lucky in securing the pelt of one weighing near 500 lbs. (Dufferin Leader 1899-12-07).

M.E. DeMill and M.J. Hemenway went out for a goose hunt on Monday and returned yesterday with a bag of 47 geese, two ducks and a sand hill crane. (Dufferin Leader 1900-04-26).  

Prairie chickens’ were identified in the early newspapers as a prime source of food and sport, drawing hunters into the area from far afield. It’s difficult from available photos to confirm the identity of these birds, whether they were actually prairie chickens or the ruffed grouse that still frequent the area today.

Hunting prairie chicken (grouse?) ca. 1900            A present-day ruffed grouse

Whatever the species, they were the reason behind another ‘sporting’ venture:

This is the season when the prairie chickens are hatching and at present large numbers of them have congregated in the “Poplars " northwest of here for breeding but the nests are being robbed of the eggs by crows almost as quickly as the chickens lay them. Crows are said to be there in thousands and a crow hunt was organized yesterday to make a raid on these pernicious thieves and exterminate as many of them as possible. Between forty and fifty of our local sportsmen agreed to join in the hunt.  Mr. M.E. DeMill, who was one of the captains, being away from home, the hunt was called off until Arbor Day, when many others will be able to join in the sport. It is said the crows are doing more toward the extinction of these game birds than all sportsmen combined, and for this reason it is deemed advisable to wage a war against them. (Dufferin Leader 1900-04-26).

The crow shoot on Arbor Day resulted in a large bag of game, and the contest was won by M.E. DeMill’s party. The score stood 5,680 points for DeMill and 3,660 for Dr. Brown, giving the former a winning margin of 2,620 points. The scale of points were for crows 50, wolf 50, fox 50, hawk 20, owl 10, gopher 5, blackbird 1. There was no big game secured, but there was a large percentage of crows and gophers. The largest score was made by Mr. DeMill, who brought in 26 crows. The scores were counted in the Massey-Harris warerooms, and were viewed by very many on Saturday before they were carted away. The losing side put up the supper at the Starkey House. (Dufferin Leader 1900-05-10)

A few encounters were still being reported in which the animal population might have gained the upper hand:

The prairie wolves are becoming very wild with hunger, and last week a farmer north of Treherne had a little adventure with three of them. They jumped up repeatedly at his buggy and seemed very desirous of having a human supper. They are supposed to be a cross between the coyote and timber wolf, which accounts for their boldness.  (Dufferin Leader 1900-05-31 from .—Treherne Times ). 

In recent years, there have been reports of coyote/wolf crosses in the escarpment at the west end of Dufferin.

Coyotes - still part of our local natural history

Memories of Coyotes. Early newspaper accounts like those above give valuable insight into our past. One of their limitations is that, like other written histories, they tend to report events and dates but are less likely to enlighten us on the thoughts and feelings of the people involved. That is one reason we are so keen on organizing our life-story workshops.

What can life stories tell us about our natural history that isn’t covered better in newspapers, histories and other textbooks? Perhaps most important is the insight it gives us into the relationship between people and their environment. The best way to illustrate this is through the stories themselves. Here, by permission of our life-story workshop leader, retired veterinarian Lynette (Leary) Stow, are memories she wrote several years ago about growing up and later returning to the family home where she now lives and where coyotes are still an integral part of the natural environment.
A Light in the Darkness

When I awoke this morning, the entire sky was the deep purple-blue of a bruise. I was certain we were in for some weather, as Dad used to say. The southwest wind was stiff but still warm. I slipped my runners on over bare feet and went outside, still in my pyjamas and robe. The goldfinches and chickadees were crowding into the feeders, jostling each other and stuffing themselves with sunflower seeds while they had the chance. I wandered around the yard, sipping my hot coffee and enjoying the fresh crispness of the air. I was reluctant to leave the peace of it all, but eventually I was chilled enough to concede.

By the time I had finished my second cup of coffee, the sky had faded to a dull grey, but the temperature was dropping. The day grew steadily cooler and the wind stronger. By dusk the wind had turned cold and was howling like a wild thing around the windows. It reminded me of the coyotes. Last night they were singing to each other from all areas of the valley. They welcomed the darkness with their cries and called each other together before they trotted off to hunt. Faint, tinny yips from distant points were answered by powerful, quavering howls from just across the river. Standing in the dark yard tonight with no moon overhead and the wind howling through the trees, I felt the night like a living presence. The coyotes were part of the night, but I was weak and alien. I stood rooted to the ground, deafened and unnerved by the wind, the skin on my arms prickling. I was like a deer that could sense the predator but didn’t know which way to run. The dog felt it too, standing stiffly and staring out into the blackness.  I scooped him up in my arms and retreated to the light and warmth of the house.

Now, sitting comfortably in my rocking chair with the wind and night locked outside, I remember another night like this long ago. I was walking with Dad, getting some fresh air before bed. The wind hid all the usual night sounds and I felt exposed, vulnerable. I pulled in close beside Dad and when our feet were crunching the gravel in unison, and I could smell the cigarette he held cupped in his hand, I was immediately safe. It was as though he carried a light with him. To him the night was a friendly creature, as comfortable and familiar as the faded quilt on his bed. 

Dad has been gone five years now; that warm circle around him is gone too. The world seems less predictable, less kindly and safe. It would be easier to turn my back on this place than to discover the security and peace he had here. But I will not. His soul was complete when he was at home in his valley. He understood and trusted it. He celebrated his joys in it and buried his sorrows here. I will also. I will walk the hills and trails, explore the hidden places. 

I will celebrate and mourn here. Someday, I will stand in the dark, beyond the reach of the yard light and listen to the coyotes sing. I will wrap the comfort and familiarity of it around me like an old soft quilt. I will carry my own light — Lynette Stow


News and Events October 2020

Hopeland School History. The one-room rural school is an important part of local heritage. The Schools section of our website shows the location and provides a brief history of 29 schools that have served the educational needs of children in the Carman/Dufferin area. Local schools also served as the social hub of the district. In the year 2000, former students and teachers from Hopeland S.D. #2279 gathered for a school reunion. In honour of the event, organizer Bob Briggs compiled a history of the school.

The book includes school records, board minutes, photos and information on former teachers and students. It provides insight into life in the small rural school and surrounding community between the school’s opening in 1937 and its closure in 1966. The history is now online.

Caroll McGill. We were all saddened this past month by the loss of Caroll McGill, one of our most dedicated long-time supporters of local heritage.  

Caroll McGill at Wellness Fair 

Caroll served for many years on the board of the Dufferin Historical Museum and was one of the most active volunteers in every local heritage event. She recently contributed a history of the fifth-generation McGill family to the Homesteads and Family Farms section of our website.

Caroll also was active in the community with organizations such as the Garden Club. One of her special interests was in native plants which she cultivated and tended in the Museum grounds.
This is one aspect of our heritage that we haven’t yet examined. What plants are indigenous to this region of Manitoba and how have they been used? We had just contacted Caroll this spring for guidance on researching native plants when COVID-19 brought our activities to a halt.

Although most of us are aware that plants and herbs played an important role in Indigenous healing and as part of seasonal diet, we are sadly short on specifics. We have slightly more information about wild fruits that early settlers gathered and plants they used for medicinal purposes. Over the next few months, we’ll be exploring this topic in more depth. Where possible, we’ll draw upon local sources of knowledge and experience. We are hoping one of our local plant enthusiasts will agree to help us on this journey. Two of the local resources we’ll be consulting are Caroll McGill’s notes from the Museum and a small volume titled “Wild Plants of Central North America for Food and Medicine", written and illustrated by our late local Roseisle artist Stephen Jackson and Linda Prine, published in 1978 by Peguis Publishers. 

We are pleased to dedicate this native plant series to the memory of our heritage colleague, Caroll McGill.

Our 1870 Heritage - Native plants. A feature of heritage that often escapes our attention is the impact of the socio-economic and cultural changes on the local environment. The current pandemic has focused attention on the outdoors and on home gardening. This, along with a growing concern over climate change, is reflected in growing interest in native or heritage plants. These are plants that grow naturally in an areas opposed to "exotics" that have been imported from other countries. "Indigenous" plants are native to a particular region.
Organizations such as the Canadian Wildlife Federation (CWF) and the Invasive Species Council of Manitoba (ISCM) are in the forefront of public education on the significance of native plants and on what not to plant. They point out that native plants are a product of the balance of nature that develops over time in a particular area or ecosystem. As such, they are part of our natural heritage. Heritage plants usually survive longer than non-native species and need less tending, because they are hardier and more disease resistant.

A concern with non-indigenous species is that they can become weeds in areas where they aren’t originally from, and can take over habitats. CWF notes that this in turn can “alter the whole ecosystem by not being the plant that species like birds or small mammals feed off, they can change ground water levels by taking up too much water, and they can cross pollinate with the indigenous species, creating hybrids.” For more information, visit the CWF site.

The ISCM provides a list of plants many of us have in our gardens that are not recommended for local planting. We are likely all familiar with invasive plant species such as leafy spurge that proliferate in our ditches and non-cultivated land.

Over the coming months we’ll be profiling some of our native plants that both Indigenous Peoples and early European settlers used for food and for healing. Our recent interest was sparked in part by stories of how early families used local plants in home remedies. We heard for example of a grandmother who healed a severe burn on her foot by using a salve of Balm of Gilead buds steeped in lard (News and Events, March 2018). Those buds, by the way, are the sticky black poplar buds that litter the ground and stick to your shoes each spring.

Please note that many plants may be harmful. Always seek advice from your health care provider before trying a plant for medicinal purposes.
It’s a bit late in the year to begin a series based on foraging for local plants. But there is one shrub that still stands out amongst the fast-disappearing fall foliage - the high bush cranberry. 

Native Plants - High Bush Cranberry

High bush cranberries (Viburnum trilobum) are one of the wild fruits found in this region as well as other parts of Canada. Indigenous peoples added cranberries to pemmican; they also used them as a dye. From the time of the early settlers to the present day, high bush cranberries have been a local favourite for making jams, jellies and juice. You are unlikely to forget the rather unpleasant smell of boiling cranberries or the mouth-puckering taste of the ripe fruit which sweetens slightly after first frost.

This is an attractive shrub with maple-leaf shaped leaves. In spring it sports striking clusters of white flowers. Autumn leaves range from bright red to purple. As seen in the photo, the brilliant red berries can often be seen well after first snowfall, until they are gladly harvested by birds and animals.

High bush cranberries are high in vitamin C. Among its medicinal properties, the bark and leaves can be brewed in a tea for relief of pain and as a sedative. And, though it doesn’t qualify yet a heritage-status beverage, on a hot, muggy, summer day there’s nothing more refreshing than a chilled glass of cranberry juice and fizzy soft drink.                     


News and Events September 2020

Carman Cadets.  Does anyone have information about the Carman Cadet Corps from the around 1916? We received a welcome cross-section of information recently from Bob Briggs, formerly of this area, now living in Victoria BC. Among the treasures he shared were photos of his Briggs/Haycock/Tucker relatives.

This photo of Thomas Haycock was taken around 1916. Bob Briggs asks if anyone has any information about the corps. So far we’ve drawn a blank, so we’d be grateful if you can help us.

Thomas Vincent Haycock
ca. 1916                               


Carman Hospital. Among the photo collection from Bob Briggs were several snapshots taken by his grandmother Elsie Tucker who worked in the laundry at Carman Hospital in the 1950’s.  His grandfather Bruce Tucker drove the ambulance. Most hospital pictures feature the buildings, doctors or nurses rather than the other staff members that help keep the hospital going.

Carman Hospital laundry 1954                                             

Carman Hospital ambulance 1950s- Bruce Tucker driver    

Carman Hospital staff on break 1954                       

In 2000, Bob Briggs organized a reunion for former students and teachers from Hopeland School, north-east of Homewood.  We are working on getting a copy of the school history he prepared at that time. He also forwarded pictures of the 1927 Carman flood and contributed to our life story project through recollections of his early rural childhood and information and photos of local relatives. Great additions to preserving local heritage.


News and Events August 2020

War Memorial Shelter. The Roseisle War Memorial now has a canopy in place to shelter it from the elements. The structure is a heritage certificate site and one of two war memorials in Carman/Dufferin municipalities. It’s also a fine example of what a small community can do when everyone pitches in to help.

Last summer, a local committee under the leadership of Frank Peters and Cheryl Smith-Tranq obtained grants to carry out major repairs to the mortar and brickwork of the cenotaph. Lettering also was restored on three plaques that list the names of 136 local soldiers who served in WWI, WWII, and the Korean War. The central WWI plaque is over 100 years old.

The committee decided to build a shelter to protect the structure from further damage from sun, rain and snow so future generations remember the sacrifices made by these soldiers and their families and the role they played in securing our own way of life.

Newly restored Roseisle war memorial and shelter

Last October, committee members knocked on local doors, made phone calls, sent emails to the families of soldiers whose names appear on the plaques and sold progressive 50/50 tickets. Six weeks later, the estimated $12,000 cost of the project was in place. Actual construction was placed on hold until 2020 and, like most projects, has been scheduled around the reality of the pandemic.

News and Events, July 2020

Summer Vacation. Most of our heritage projects are on hold this summer as concern about the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Manitobans have generally been cautious and our province has seen less infections than many parts of Canada. MB 150 celebrations are officially on hold until next year. If we all keep to the safety protocols, we may be able to enjoy a really big celebration in 2021.

Local Ceremonies. It was 150 years ago, July 15, 1870, the Manitoba Act, that came into effect, making Manitoba the fifth province of Canada. C/D MHAC planned on holding two events to mark the occasion – unveiling the Missouri or Hunters’ Trail sign and installing ‘historic site’ highway signs to direct visitors to the Îlets-de-Bois cemetery and cairn. We selected these projects because we see the signs as symbols of our local heritage both before and after 1870.


The unveiling was to have been a well-publicized event, originally scheduled for May12—until the pandemic arrived. With all the signs in place, the committee decided to go ahead on this alternate date with an unpublicized, scaled-down, social-distanced ceremony. For those of you would otherwise have attended, the best we can do is provide you with photographs and a full account of the event. Thanks to Bev MacLean who did a great job of preserving the event with these photos.

July 15 Unveiling Ceremony. The ceremony opened with a treaty acknowledgement delivered by Elaine Owen. This was followed by recognition of “the most important part of any project, the people who make it possible.”*

All set up and waiting for the people to arrive

Mr. Blaine Pedersen, our hard-working and conscientious MLA for Midland, and Reeve George Gray, RM of Dufferin, a staunch supporter of local heritage, brought greetings respectively from the Province and the Councils of the RM of Dufferin and Town of Carman.

Reeve George Gray                                                      MLA Blaine Pedersen

Transcript of proceedings from Missouri Trail sign unveiling ceremony

C/D MHAC Chair Ina Bramadat outlined why our committee chose the signs as our symbols of 1870. Each month in 2020, News & Events has featured one part of the background to the events of 1870. At the risk of giving away the plot of the story, here’s the full summary:

“It’s interesting when we’ve asked people, even some on our committee, why they think the Trail is important to our history, they invariably look at us as if it’s a trick question and reply “Because it’s how the first settlers arrived.” We’re fortunate in Carman/Dufferin to have a rich body of local history. However, most of it has been written since 1870 by our early settlers and their descendants and, like most histories, it reflects the experiences and viewpoint of those who lived it. But why was there a trail here for the settlers to use? Who made it and where did it go? Answer those questions and you get a sense of the depth of our local heritage and just how significant 1870 really was to this area. And you realize that in effect 1870 ushered in what was likely the most rapid and significant socio-economic and cultural change in local history.

If the Trail were to tell its own story, it would begin hundreds of years ago when large herds of bison, or buffalo as they were then known, carved a pathway as they came to feed on the hay of the Great Marsh that lay east of this area. The Plains people who lived here at that time lived by gathering and hunting. They depended on the buffalo for food, shelter, clothing, tools and for the dried meat or pemmican that meant their survival during the long winter months.

Indigenous bands also travelled southward along the trail, to visit the sacred mound at Calf Mountain and still further south to the headwaters of Missouri River, where they traded for corn and other agricultural products with the Mandan tribe and took part in the large ceremonial gatherings that were part of indigenous lifestyle.

By the time explorers from New France arrived here in the early 1600s the pathway would already have become a well-used trail. The explorers came searching for a western passage to the orient; they soon discovered that the real wealth of the land lay in northern furs. Over the next two centuries the fur trade became a dominant presence in the north-west. During this era, European goods such as metal utensils and cloth replaced earlier indigenous trade goods; but it didn’t really change the basic lifestyle of the people. However, the fur trade did bring other changes.

One of these was a change in the population. Many of the traders intermarried with the Indigenous people of the area. By the time of the 1870 census, their mixed-ancestry descendants accounted for almost 10,000 of the 11,405 residents of the new province. This group, in particular the Métis of French/Indigenous parentage, saw themselves as a New Nation and carved out an important niche in the fur trade as middlemen, interpreters, guides, and expert buffalo hunters. At the height of the fur trade, this became a thriving occupation.

The population around the junction of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers also had changed in the early 1800s when Lord Selkirk brought in crofters from the highlands of Scotland to farm and provide local agricultural products. The Red River Settlement by this time became the main transfer point where furs from the north-west were exchanged for food and other supplies. But the main food supply the traders sought was pemmican. The same portable and highly nutritious food that had sustained Indigenous hunters also fueled the canoe brigades. The Red River settlement became known as the ‘larder of the fur trade’.

The buffalo range was south of the lakes and west of the Red River— which includes this part of the country—Métis buffalo hunters became the main suppliers. By then, introduction of the horse and rifle had made the hunt more lethal than early bow and arrow days. To give an idea of volume of the trade, in 1852 the yield of buffalo products was tallied at well over one million pounds. During the semi-annual spring and fall hunts, this Trail must have turned from a back road into a busy highway.

By then, the Métis had at least a seasonal presence in this area. As early as 1837, the first local baptism was recorded. And in 1867, one of the most colourful local characters, John Francis Grant, came up the Trail from Montana with his herd of cattle and prize horses. Grant was the son of a western HBC agent and Métis mother. He built up a thriving ranching operation in Montana—until with the western flow of American settlers, the area got too crowded—and he headed up the Trail to what was soon to become the province of Manitoba. He started a ranch, build a mill and a large house, planted the first grain in the area— just east of here.

Historians still debate the extent of other Métis settlements in our area but histories of what is now the St. Daniel District record that, in 1866, a school was built northwest of the present town of Carman and that, about 1869–1870, a chapel was established at what was then known as Rivière aux Îlets-de-Bois. This was the first permanent settlement in the area. Which is why it is the other important historic site that we are recognizing this year by installing signs to mark the site.

By 1870, the fur trade era was passing—European demand for furs began to dwindle. With growing competition from American fur-trading posts and free traders, the HBC couldn’t maintain its trade monopoly. In 1867, the four eastern provinces entered into Confederation. A priority with John A. Macdonald’s government was to bring the western territory into the fold. They feared Americans settlers who were flooding westward would outflank the sparse Canadian settlements, lay claim to the Western Prairies, and cut Canada off from the Western ocean. Also Ontario was beginning to run out of arable land. Macdonald moved quickly to negotiate with Britain and, essentially, to buy out the HBC trade monopoly. By 1870, the government was ready to send surveyors to map out the new province for settlement.

At the heart of our 1870 Manitoba history, of course, is the story of how Louis Riel set up a Provisional Government and stopped the survey party. He did so in an attempt to get a say in the transfer process for the several thousand people already living in the area. He wanted in particular to ensure protection for land claims and for denominational schools, religious and language rights of what had become the largest local group, the French/Catholic residents of the area. This is a chapter of our history that has been revisited and rewritten, certainly since our early school day histories. One we should maybe all plan on revisiting in 2020.

Meanwhile, back here on the Trail, the local scene already was changing. In April, 1871, Samuel Kennedy, a volunteer with the Red River Expedition, arrived just here where the trail crosses the river, to claim the first homestead in the area as a bounty for his military service. If we had been here then, we would have heard the sound of axes and the crash of falling trees as he began to clear the land and build a log cabin. And we might have heard harsh exchanges with local Métis who accepted the Indigenous view that land didn’t belong to anyone, it and its resources were placed here for everyone to use. We might also have heard Samuel Kennedy proclaim that the Rivière aux Îlets-de-Bois was now to be known as the Boyne River, in tribute to his Irish Protestant roots.

Land claims became central to politics of the time – and, as you know, they are still with us today. The Manitoba Land Act allocated 1.4 million acres of land to children of mixed ancestry. The Métis leaders laid out claims to blocks of land, hoping to consolidate the population. One of several claims was to a broad swath of land two miles on each side of the river from the escarpment to the Great Marsh.

However, as land claims discussions dragged on, the land was rapidly being staked out for settlement. Eventually, Métis claims to this local block of land and others were abandoned. Much of the Métis scrip—individual certificates of land entitlement—was sold on to land speculators or other settlers. John Francis Grant was awarded a 240 acre homestead. He found that his open ranch land was now being fenced off by homesteaders. Some of his family settled at Îlets-de-Bois. Grant, along with many other disgruntled claimants, left for the still open lands to the West.

So, yes, the first homesteaders did come down the Missouri Trail. But, as we’ve seen, the Trail already had a long history. If you’ve read A.P. Stevenson’s account of the trail, you know it wasn’t any easy way for settlers to bring in their worldly goods from the East:

“ .. 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.” (Farmer’s Advocate, Jan. 4, 1911).

Within a decade, a rail line was built to End-of-Line (Barnsley), which became the new entry point for homesteaders. By 1901, the noisy creak of the Red River carts had given way to the mournful wail of the steam locomotive chugging its way through Homewood and Carman and westward through the escarpment, paving the way for small settlements at Graysville, Stephenfield, Roseisle and points west. Historian Alan B. McCullough who grew up on a farm where the Îlets-de-Bois cemetery and cairn are located points out that “by 1881 the settlement was an overwhelmingly Protestant, English speaking, agricultural community”(Manitoba History Number 67, Winter 2012: The Confrontations at Rivière aux Ilets-de-Bois).

By then, the local fur trade had collapsed, remaining buffalo herds and Indigenous hunters driven far to the south and west, and the early trade-based economy of the area was giving way to a market-driven agricultural economy. 1870 in effect marked the beginning of the end for the Trail. The land allocated to the Trail was eventually returned to landholders, is now cultivated to the point that even aerial infra-red photos shown no trace of what was once the lifeline the area in the pre-1870 era.

Long after it passes, history lives on in our symbols. Over the past couple of months, we’ve been become increasingly aware of how complex and potent these symbols—such as monuments or signs—can be can be in remembering our past. We have chosen to commemorate 1870 by unveiling this plaque and installing ‘historic site’ signs for the Îlets-de-Bois cairn as a reminder to our generation and those to come of both the richness and the depth of our local heritage.” *

Unveiling. Reeve George Gray and committee member Nikki Falk unveiled the Missouri Trail sign.

Nikki Falk, Reeve George Gray, Ina Bramadat, MLA Blaine Pedersen

Their introductions explain why they were chosen for the honour:

George Gray. In many ways, George Gray is a living symbol of our pre- and post-1870 heritage. Through his great-grandmother, George has proud roots among our early Indigenous people; he also had ancestors with the HBC at the height of the fur trade, a teacher at the Red River settlement, and clerk to the Council of Assiniboia. In 1874, his great-grandmother Ann Smith laid homestead claim to the SE ¼ of 25-6-6w with her grant of metis scrip. Great-grandfather George Gray Sr. (also known as “Boss”) brought his family down the Trail from Headingley to the homestead where George still resides and where the local community of Graysville carries the family name. More than a decade ago, George along with Nedra Burnett, helped revive our then-dormant advisory committee. He served as RM Council representative on our committee until he became Reeve and he was one of our most diligent activists towards getting the Missouri Trail sign restored.

Nikki Falk represents our post-1870 heritage. Her great-great-grandmother, Margaret McCullough, was a sister-in-law of Samuel Kennedy and a relative of many of the early families still living in the area. In 1874, Margaret and her children travelled from Ontario to join her husband on their new homestead just west of here. Unfortunately, she contracted typhoid fever. In the midst of this current pandemic, we can only imagine the fear caused by this disease, at a time before health care facilities were available. A doctor was brought out from Winnipeg but Margaret and her 11-year-old daughter Martha died. They were buried just west of where the Trail crossed the river, in the now-abandoned Kennedy burial site (see Carman/Dufferin Cemeteries - A Guide To The Location, History, Art & Craft Of Local Cemeteries, p. 111).

The program closed with singing of ‘O Canada’, led by Shirley Snider and Elaine Owen.

On the left: Shirley Snider Nikki Falk Debbie Nicolajsen George Gray Judie Duthie Vince
On the right: Vince Sotheran Blaine Pedersen Ina Bramadat Elaine Owen

After the ceremony

*Acknowledgements. This is one instance where it has taken a community to raise a sign. Among the many people and organizations that made the event possible were:

Dufferin Historical Society - now the Dufferin Historical Museum Committee - put up the first impressive wooden sign on the site in 1961;

Judie Duthie and Vince Sotherand, landowners, enthusiastically supported the project and worked with us to preserve this important part of our local heritage for future generations;

Debbie Nicolajsen worked diligently during the past couple of years to bring together all the final pieces of this project. She also has compiled a file of articles and other research on the Missouri trail;

Lee & Lee Law Firm donated their legal services and expertise to ensure that this time the sign remains in place and is accessible to the public;

Sperling Industries generously donated the metal framing;

Sean Billing from Carman Granite crafted the sign;

Doyle’s Funeral Home supplied the sound system so we could be heard above the wind and traffic;

The flags were loaned from Carman Legion #18 and the Museum; Elaine Owen kindly provided the Métis flag;

Bev MacLean took great photos of the ceremony; and

The project was jointly funded by the Councils of the Town of Carman and the RM of Dufferin—represented on C/D MHAC by Councillors Bernie Townsend and Barrie Fraser.

Post-script. It was a bit of a ‘goose-bump’ moment when we realized how closely some of our own life stories had intersected on the Missouri Trail. In 1874, George Gray’s great-grandmother, Ann Smith, laid claim to her homestead in the Graysville area. It was the same year, 1874, that Nikki’s Falk’s great-great grandmother, Margaret McCullough, brought her family west to their new homestead. She would have stopped to visit her sister at the Samuel Kennedy home, where the Trail crosses the river. It also was in the summer of 1874 that my grandfather, George Leary, walked down the Trail on his way to homestead at Nelsonville. All of them would have laid foot on this same part of the Trail where we were meeting for our unveiling ceremony.

In recent years, our lives have intersected through a mutual interest in local heritage. Now, almost 150 years after our ancestors passed here on their journeys, we were meeting to preserve a significant part of local heritage—and of our own life stories—for generations to come. We felt sure, if those ancestors were looking down and watching as we unveiled the Missouri Trail sign, they were smiling and giving us a ‘thumbs-up’.

News and Events June 2020

Welcome Back to the 'Carman Standard'. Dismay at the loss of our local weekly newspaper turned to relief May 14 with the return of the new, improved 'Carman-Dufferin Standard.' Local papers are the lifeline of small communities. For anyone interested in our past, newspapers are our richest reservoir of local heritage.

it seems appropriate that 'The Standard' shares the name of our first local newspaper. Published weekly between July 15, 1890 and Sept. 28, 1916, the paper kept a growing community abreast of both world and local news. 'The Standard' was joined in 1898 by the local 'Dufferin Leader.' In 1976, the 'Dufferin Leader' transitioned into the more regional 'Valley Leader' which just published its final issue on May 7, 2020. 'The Carman-Dufferin Standard' seamlessly issued its first edition on May 14, 2020. With a strong staff such as community stalwart Dennis Young on board, the new 'Standard' holds promise of high quality reporting of community news in the years to come. Welcome back.

For an engaging view of our past as seen through our two early newspapers, visit

While the ‘The Carman-Duffferin Standard’ is keeping us up to date with local news, readers will be pleased to see that they haven’t forgotten the past. Check out the May 28 edition for ‘This Week in Review….’, a look back at events and items of interest from early issues of the ‘Standard’ and ‘Dufferin Leader’. And don’t miss Dennis Young’s entertaining “interview” with the Memorial Hall. On May 24, 1920 this unique WWI memorial was officially opened and the list of 83 local military personnel who lost their lives during the conflict was unveiled. The 100th anniversary celebration that was planned for May 24, 2020 was yet another casualty of the COVID-19 epidemic. Thanks to the ‘Standard’ for helping us remember.

Memories of WWII. One of our goals this year is to encourage folks to begin writing their own life stories and to record family stories passed down through the years. I don’t think we were fully prepared for the amazing stories that are a part of our local heritage.

C/D MHAC member Nikki Falk wrote about a moving journey she and her sisters made to France six years ago to attend the 70th Anniversary of the Evaders of the Fréteval Forest. The Sandulak family received an invitation from the village of Villebout, France to attend the ceremonies on behalf of their father Sgt. John Sandulak. Village officials, proud of their community's historic role in the Resistance, were holding ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of the camp in which 152 allied soldiers were kept hidden in the forest by the local Resistance Fighters during WWII—under the nose of the Germans.

Nikki’s father had passed away four years before the anniversary; she and three sisters and their sister-in-law made the trip to France. She wrote:

It was a surreal time—there were five of us but throughout the entire trip we felt there was a 6th person with us. Always thinking we had another suitcase to throw in the vehicle, six chairs at tables, walking through the Fréteval Forest and so on—we like to think it was our Dad along with us. He had never returned in all those years but kept in touch with his French friends long after the war was over. Just before we left on the trip our Mom found a group of photos he brought back with him from the war—of resistance fighters—no names, just their secret numbers written on the back.

I was in touch with a wonderful Belgian historian who was researching and writing about the airmen in the hidden forest. I sent him copies of the photos and he shocked us all when he sent word before we left for France that he had located the woman who hid Dad in their barn after he had to bail out over occupied territory. She was 93 years old, alive and well and willing to meet us. She had been a 23 year old woman when she and Dad met, one year older than Dad.

What a moment that was—a gloomy, rainy Sunday morning in a little French village. I’ll never forget walking up to her door—rain coming straight down, the five of us under the shelter of our Royal Canadian Legion poppy umbrellas. She kept kissing our cheeks, we spent the visit looking at photos together, drinking coffee and making connections.

As we were saying our goodbyes the rain stopped and the bright sun came out from behind the clouds. She gave directions to the farm where they had lived during the war and where they had protected Dad until he was cleared by the Resistance and taken to the hidden forest camp. We then walked around the farm marvelling at how we were standing where Dad had been 70 years before us—a prairie boy in an RCAF uniform, missing one flying boot, doing his best to communicate with sign language.

Dad had described to me the courtyard of the farm, encircled by the house and outbuildings. Standing there almost 70 years later to the day, the memory of that moment is forever etched in our minds. He told us a story of how early one morning in the fog he saw a North American brand farm implement and for a fleeting moment wondered if he was on home soil and it was all just a dream.

We went to France fully prepared to thank everyone involved in the resistance efforts for saving our Dad’s life all those years ago. To our surprise the people of France wouldn’t hear of it and said over and over that their thanks and gratitude went to the all brave allied soldiers who fought for their freedoms. One local woman was insistent she talk to us at the ceremony and with the help of an interpreter she asked us what connection our father had to France. She couldn’t seem to grasp why a young Canadian had crossed the ocean to fight in a war in Europe. Finally my sister Lori said “Our Dad came here because you needed help.” Watching the woman as she realized the connection was as simple as helping your fellow man, seeing her hand over her heart, that moment was worth every mile of our journey. There is so much more to tell, we must sit with pictures someday and I can tell you the stories.

The story of how our family came to be also began during those war years. Our Mom saw Dad’s picture in the Carman paper listed 'Missing in Action'. She said that she walked across the kitchen to her sister, pointed at his picture and announced: “I don’t know this guy but if he comes back alive I’m going to marry him—I like his smile”.  My Mom usually got what she set out to accomplish and Dad was no exception!

Dad was from Sperling and when there was no word after he went missing in action his parents asked for his belongings to be returned to them from his base in England. Sometime later a telegram came in addressed to them. It said that in regard to their son’s belongings there would be no need to return them as they were happy to report he would be bringing them home himself. He had made his way back to England after liberation! Can you imagine getting that telegram? The man at the telegraph office was so excited he drove to the farm himself with the message.  We still have that paper and were always told that Gramma’s tears were dried into it.

I suspect that a few more tears were just shed by those who read this moving account from one family’s life story. For much more about Fréteval Forest and John Sandulak’s amazing experience, check out the following links:  (You can hit the translate link on this page once it’s loaded)


Indigenous Peoples. Our reliance on written history has led to the notion that this part of the country didn’t have any notable history or heritage prior to the arrival of Europeans. Archeological evidence and recognition of the value of oral histories has begun to rectify this ethnocentric approach to our past.

Our histories now begin with accounts of the arrival of the first human emigrants to North America across the Bering Straits land bridge sometime between twelve and seventy thousand years ago. They spread gradually across the continent, inhabiting this region only after the retreat of the Ice Age glaciers. The earliest human artifacts located in southern Manitoba date from about 11000 to 9000 B.C. Evidence of a diversified culture based on gathering, fishing and hunting is found from around 5000 to 2000 B.C. This coincided with the drainage of Lake Agassiz and emergence of a land of prairie grasslands, rivers, lakes and tree-covered parkland. Check our local museums for collections of early artifacts from this area.

For an informative overview of local geology and lives of our first inhabitants, you might wish to locate a copy of the Miami Museum’s ‘Pembina Country: a Land of Promise’ published by D.W. Friesen & Sons, Altona, 1974.

Last month we referred you to Gerald Friesen’s history ‘The Canadian Prairies: A History’ for a more balanced insight into the workings of the western fur trade than most of us learned about in our early schooldays. The chapters on the early history of the western Indigenous cultures and their role in the fur trade are especially helpful in understanding the people and their activities in this region prior to 1870.

Here in brief are some of his insights, points we often miss when we think about the early inhabitants of this land:

1. Diversity of Culture – Early “Indians” often are viewed as a single cultural group, tinted in part by a stereotypical "wild-west" image. Rather like assuming “Europeans” all share the same language and culture. In fact, some 200 language groups were found across North America along with lifestyles adapted to the local environment. These ranged from the migrant hunting/ gathering groups in the north-west to more settled agricultural-based communities in some southern and eastern areas of the continent. Three main linguistic groups were represented in the north-west area of the continent. Over the centuries, different groups relocated or extended their range within this general region. One cultural aspect Indigenous North Americans appear to have shared was a close spiritual connection with the natural environment.

2. History of Trade. Trading goods within a band, between bands of the same culture or amongst other groups with whom they had diplomatic alliances was part of the early Indigenous lifestyle. Plains hunters, for example, migrated long distances to exchange pelts, beadwork or other artifacts for agricultural products produced by Mandan settlements far to the south. These gatherings were occasions for ceremonies, games and social interaction. Some of these practices carried over into the European fur trade.

3. Change on Contact. During the first two centuries of contact in the West (1640–1840), arrival of European fur trade had little impact on Indigenous lifestyles. Trade with the European companies was carried out largely though Indigenous middlemen who travelled to the posts, traded pelts for goods and made the journey back to the local bands. Blankets, cloth, and metal goods replaced the earlier technologies but did not change the lifestyle of the indigenous cultures. Seasonal migration patterns continued, and surplus furs were traded for more desirable goods. The companies in turn had furs delivered to their posts.

4. Approaching 1870. As competition between the fur trading companies evolved, lives of the original inhabitants began to change. Company trading posts were moved inland, Indigenous middlemen were replaced by company employees and canoeists. These changes led to an increased demand for food, especially for pemmican, the staple of the canoeists diet. The traditional buffalo hunt, now more efficient thanks to introduction of the horse and gun, responded to the new demand. Soon the increasing demand for pemmican and buffalo robes, growing competition from US traders and widespread introduction of horses and guns to the buffalo hunt led to rapid depletion of herds in traditional hunting areas. Outsiders also brought diseases. Measles and the smallpox epidemics of 1781 and 1836 took a heavy toll on non-resistant communities. After 1870, homesteaders began to arrive, reducing the size of the seasonal hunting and foraging areas.

As a result, the local Indigenous population experienced a reduction in numbers from starvation, disease, and migration to new hunting territories. The census taken in 1870 as part of the union with Canada recorded only 558 persons classified as “Indian” from a total of over 11,900 persons then living in the ‘postage-stamp’ Province of Manitoba.

After 1870, changes in the local lifestyle accelerated. The traditional hunting/gathering/trade-based economy of previous centuries rapidly changed to an agricultural-based market economy. Indigenous members of the population learned that the European concept of land ownership had replaced their understanding that the land and its resources were for all to use. In future, they would live on reserves.

We’ll continue next month with our rather superficial but hopefully pertinent look at the local pre-1870 population of this region we now call Manitoba.


News and Events May 2020

May 12th. This was the day Manitoba was supposed to be celebrating the 150th anniversary of our Province. All events have been cancelled because of COVID-19—including the long-planned unveiling of our Missouri Trail sign which was scheduled for the 12th. It will all take place in due course.

How appropriate though that this May 12, nurses around the world are placing candles in their windows to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale and International Nurses’ Day. Nightingale’s service during the Crimean War and her image as “The Lady with the Lamp” captured the attention of the British public. She went on to establish the first school of Nursing, thereby laying the foundation for recognition of Nursing as a profession. The Founder of Nursing would be proud to see nurses still out there on the front line during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Local Heritage. Nothing much happening these days as we all cope in our own way with social isolation. A few friends and family members are out on the front line in essential services. Those of us who are retired are grateful to be at home and to have time to tackle that ‘to-do’ list that somehow hasn’t decreased in length over the past few years. Things like working on life stories.
We didn’t get far enough into our life-story sessions for most participants to feel confident enough to work ahead on their own. A couple of group members have emailed stories to our project leader for feedback. Hopefully a few more are doing a bit of journaling and recording their response to this current period of history-in-the-making.

On the world scene, May 8, the 75th anniversary of VE-Day, the day Germany surrendered in WWII, is being commemorated with virtual and distance-conscious ceremonies. Folks in the UK will join in a country-wide sing-along of “We’ll meet again…” This was the signature WWII song sung by Dame Vera Lynn – who incidentally is still alive at age 103. It was probably too revealing to have mentioned recently to our committee that I recall hearing her sing that song on the radio and listening to the family belting it out as they gathered around the piano. One advantage of aging is that you sure have a lot of memories!

Meanwhile, on the home front, it looks like all our Manitoba 150 events and displays will be happening in 2021.

From the Museum. Meetings have been cancelled but the DHS president reports that the Museum has gratefully received a grant from the Carman Foundation and has purchased new dehumidifiers for the museum.

Fur Trade. Back in February, we identified the lengthy conflict between Britain, France, and their colonies in North America as one of the underlying factors in local 1870 events and noted that underlying issues of religion, culture, language, imperial expansion and trade were closely intertwined in the conflicts. In the West, these differences played out in rivalry around the fur trade.

For some three centuries prior to 1870, the fur trade remained the core industry in the West. It also became the main reason for settlement around the Forks and along the Red and Assiniboine Rivers. The key players during this time were early explorers/traders out of New France, the rival Hudson’s Bay and North West Companies, and the Indigenous trappers, hunters and middlemen who supplied the pelts and hides and food (pemmican) that sustained the trade.

In the century and a half between the founding of New France and the defeat of the French colony by the English, explorers and traders extended their activities westward into the heart of the continent and the Northwest. They returned with rich northern furs and with heightened interest in the interior as a target for expanding trade and spreading the Catholic faith. Fur traders from New France were soon making the annual voyage westward. They traded with their Huron allies along the Ottawa River and Georgian Bay, then travelled westward near what later became the Canada-U.S.A. border. Their canoes were laden with supplies and trade goods on the voyage west and with furs on return a year later.

Two of the more adventurous of these explorers/traders, Radisson and Groseilliers, left their party and ventured northward to the head of Lake Superior and beyond. They returned to New France with furs and plans for expansion into the North. Unfortunately, their employers didn’t share their enthusiasm for the venture and disciplined the pair, so they took their plan to the English. The rest, as we never tire of saying, is history.

Rupertsland - the shaded area

Henry Hudson’s explorations for an ice-free Northwest Passage to the Far East had led to discovery of Hudson’s Bay and James Bay. These discoveries unintentionally opened up a shorter route to the fur-bearing lands that Radisson and Groseilliers hoped to exploit. A new trading company was formed under the patronage of Prince Rupert, cousin of King Charles II of England and first governor of the company. On May 2, 1670, a Royal Charter granted the Hudson’s Bay Company exclusive trading and commercial rights in Rupertsland.

This was the name given to the vast lands draining into Hudson’s Bay, an area of 1.5 million square miles and over one-third the area of Canada today. The company held this monopoly for 200 years from 1670 to 1870. However, there was little provision for enforcement of the monopoly. And by ignoring the presence of Indigenous residents and assuming sovereignty over the territory, the charter also opened the way to later confrontation over land claims.

The HBC built forts and fur trading posts along the shores of James and Hudson bays. Indigenous trappers and middlemen brought their furs down the rivers to the posts along the coastline. Formation of the HBC opened the way for competition with traders using the longer canoe route from the East. The HBC also had the advantage of better quality English trade goods.

Through the Treaty of Paris in 1763, France lost most of her holdings in North America. Rather than removing fur trade competition in the West, this led to formation of a reorganized, more efficient fur trade competitor, the North West Company. The new company established a way station at the head of Lake Superior. Canoes brought supplies from the East and exchanged them for furs brought in from the Northwest. This move reduced the eastern leg of the voyage to three months rather than a year. The new company also provided the same quality trade goods as the HBC. It was reorganized internally and, because of its more northern focus, began to intercept trappers and middlemen on their way north to the HBC posts. The fur trade moved into a more highly competitive and conflict ridden era.

The HBC began to see a drop in furs delivered to the shoreline posts. They responded to building inland posts. Then in 1811, Lord Selkirk was inspired by a philanthropic urge to resettle crofters who had lost their holdings when landowners enclosed their lands and transitioned to sheep farming. This venture combined with the further inspiration that an agricultural settlement in the West could provide a local food supply and a place where HBC employees could settle and raise families. The result was the Red River Colony or Assiniboia which included the area around The Forks and much of the pemmican-producing territory west of the Red River.

The Forks had become a center for exchange of furs from the Northwest and for the supply of pemmican, the food staple for the fur trade. Conflict heightened over the new presence at the Forks and attempts by colony officials to regulate trade including export of pemmican. This culminated in the Battle of Seven Oaks (1816). The conflict between the North West Company and the HBC was resolved through union of the companies in 1821. By this time, however the fur trade was changing. Demand for furs from the European market had begun to decline. With the absence of any enforceable law in the area, free traders had begun a growing trade with the American companies which were pressing westward under the banner of Manifest Destiny and offering serious competition in the fur trade. By 1870, The HBC was open to moving out of the fur trade.

Assiniboia – Red River Colony

Like most histories of the fur trade, this brief overview focuses on the trading companies, the Red River settlers and the growing pressures westward of US expansion. As our noted Manitoba historian, Gerald Friesen, points out, the traditional European-centered focus misses a facet of the story without which there wouldn’t have been any trade—the role of the Indigenous population. Rather than being passive recipients of trade, these were the folks who trapped and hunted and sustained the traders by providing the staple food supplies. Next month we’ll look at the people who lived here and who made the trade possible and how it affected their lives.

Note: To flesh out this bare-bones outline and get more background information on any particular topic such as the role of the coureur-de-bois/voyageurs, Battle of Seven Oaks, or early fur companies, you might find it useful to first check out these individual topics on Wikipedia and follow up with other online articles as your interest directs you. When you are able to access libraries, for a readable and perceptive history of the Prairies, try Gerald Friesen’s The Canadian Prairies: A History (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1987).


News and Events April 2020

The world changed over the past month as the COVID-19 outbreak has grown to pandemic proportions.

C/D MHAC Activities Postponed. We cancelled our scheduled March 16 meeting and have postponed all planned events and ongoing heritage projects until further notice. Unveiling the Missouri Trail sign has been tentatively rescheduled from May 12, the day the Manitoba Act received royal assent, to July 15, the day the Act was proclaimed and came into effect. The July date may well be optimistic but we have to hope that with careful attention travel restrictions, closures and thoughtful social distancing, this too shall pass.

Meanwhile, our committee members report that they are staying home, working or keeping in touch with family and friends by phone or other media and catching up with long-overdue chores. A lot of spring cleaning is getting done early this year.

Life Stories. Our first session on writing life stories was held before the onset of COVID-19. The intent with this group was to explore some of the ways in which we can help folks record their memories and life experiences. For most, the hardest part is getting started. For some with added home duties, it’s a question of finding the time. For others, it’s not being comfortable hand-writing, not being speedy enough on a computer, not knowing where to start or what to include. Our life story sessions are being led by a newly retired member of the community who has been working with small writing groups for the past several years. Everyone went home from the first meeting with suggestions for making a start. We’ll see if we can continue working with individuals through phone and internet contact. This could be a fun activity for group members and their families to pursue while we’re all in social isolation. If you can’t be in contact in the present, why not get in touch with your past?

You might even try turning those worries about the present into memories of the past. Does anyone recall the days when families were quarantined for communicable diseases like measles? Homes had quarantine notices posted on the door and families relied on neighbours to drop off supplies. No school, internet, TV or cellphones for the youngsters— just books and board games and more ‘quality’ time than you ever wanted with your siblings. And parents with their patience and nursing skills stretched to the limit. Maybe you’re concerned about how folks today are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic by hoarding supplies such as toilet tissue? Ask what would have happened back in earlier days when you couldn’t hoard Eaton’s catalogues. You just never know where these memories might take you.

Pickings from the Past. Another fascinating way to spend your social isolation time is by immersing in old newspapers such as the early Dufferin Leader and Carman Standard which you can find online at You are sure to discover some real gems of information. For example, if Carman’s recent boil-water advisory piqued your interest in the quality of local water supplies, you might be interested in newspapers between 1906–1909 when the installation of water and sewer lines in the Town of Carman dominated local news.

First, we’ll make a short stop at the Dufferin Historical Museum to help you visualize what the early water pipes were like. Among the many interesting artifacts in the Museum is this piece of the old Carman water main. Notice that it’s made of wood bound together by heavy wire. With this image in mind, we’ll look at some of the trials and tribulations of installing the first water and sewer system in Carman.




Old Carman water line from DHM

The sewer and water system in the Town of Carman was initially scheduled for completion in 1906. Things didn’t quite work out that way. The Dufferin Leader (1907-02-07, p.5) reported:

At the present time there is a hold-up in the completion of the sewers and waterworks. Nearly all the work is done but the short link on Fournier avenue between E. L. B. McLeod’s corner and the river at the Victoria hotel. It is difficult to find fall enough to run the sewage north to connect with the outlet into the river at the flour mill. The contractors were proceeding to give this piece of sewer an outlet into the river at the foot of Fournier avenue, but objection was at once taken to this by Mayor Kernighan who stopped the work until the matter is satisfactorily adjusted. It will be decided on at the council meeting on Friday night how the difficulty may be got over. The material for the water tower and tank has not yet arrived from Chicago by the rail ways.

Concern over location of the outlet into the river seems to have been over its proximity to certain properties along the Boyne. Council deliberated and instructed the Board of Works

to have the sewer completed on Fournier avenue from South Railway street to the river. Dufferin Leader (1907-02-14).

Two months later there was a further hitch in plans.

It is currently reported that it will require about $16,000 more to complete the waterworks system and provide an efficient fire protection service. The engineer gave us to understand that $34,000 would complete the work in a thorough manner, and now to be faced with this proposition leads one to ask is the engineer competent? An anxious public would like him to ex-plain such a wide discrepancy be-tween his original estimate and the actual cost of the work. Dufferin Leader (1907-04-04).

The increase in cost led to a heated and somewhat acrimonious debate in the community. But by June 1907 the newspaper noted that:

The by-law to raise $16,000 dollars for the completion of the water and sewerage system was read a third time and passed. The Council after a discussion came to the conclusion that the mains should be completed at once, and the Secretary was instructed to notify both the engineer and the contractor that the work must be finished with-out further delay. Dufferin Leader, (1907-06-20)

The project apparently was back on track but it wasn’t moving ahead as quickly as people expected:

The work of completing the water and sewage systems has begun, and several openings have been made in the streets, but there is very little activity being displayed. It is time that the engineer and contractor were compelled to put some energy into the work. This manner of taking a year to do three month’s work calls for an intimation to them that the convenience of the town is of primary importance and not as they seem to imagine, the convenience of two men who have so far shown no reason why their convenience should be considered. Dufferin Leader (1907-07-04).

The project dragged on and remained a controversial topic in the local papers. In June 1909, the Dufferin Leader reported that:

Work on the waterworks will begin just as soon as preliminaries are settled. The council are now in correspondence with the Canada Pipe Co. with reference to getting a skilled man to superintend the laying of the water pipes. Engineer Ross recommends employing one hundred men on the work, as it will be all the same cost for foreman or foremen whether few or many men are employed. By the employment of the larger number the work will be completed in shorter time and the cost reduced that would have to be paid out for superintendence. Local men will be given a preference on the work, but so far only a few have applied, in fact, less than twenty.
Dufferin Leader (1909-06-03).

Workers from outside the community were hired but labour issues soon arose.

The town should furnish easy chairs for some of the workmen on the water works trenches so that they may rest comfortably between their strenuous efforts to lift a shovelful of dirt now and then throughout the day. The matter has got to be past the joking stage and the work or walk rule needs to be more strictly enforced. The ratepayers want some return for their money. Dufferin Leader (1909-07-08).

Human nature then was not unlike today and the issue soon took on a xenophobic tone. In a letter titled “Others Think So Too” a reader joined the commentary:

Dear Sir—I noticed in your last issue that you touched a responsive note when you referred to the dilatory manner in which many of the employees on the waterworks are putting in their time and from my observation I would think it applied particularly to the foreign element. No doubt many of these fellows have worked on such jobs before and are expert “ killers of time.” If $2.00 per day is a fair wage many of them are not earning S1.25 per day. If we as ratepayers do not insist that some of them “get a move on ” we will certainly be called upon to “ vote again ” to wind up the job. [Signed] Interested Ratepayer. Dufferin Leader (1909-07-15).

As often happens, there was another side to the story:

There was an incipient strike of the workmen on the waterworks, on Monday, for more pay. The ringleaders were a few Englishmen on the job who did more kicking and less work than any of the others employed. They got the Galicians to go on strike but were promptly paid off and told that their services were not required any longer. Forty of the Galicians returned to work on Tuesday morning, at the pay they were receiving. Twenty-five left for Winnipeg.” Dufferin Leader (1909-08-05).

With that issue sorted, new workers were hired:

Another gang of Galicians came in on Monday evening’s train to work on the waterworks. There are now 110 men on the work and it has been going with a rush during the past week. The end of next week will see them pretty well through on the south side of the river. Dufferin Leader (1909-08-12).

No sooner was one problem solved when another reared its ugly head.

Those who have the work of filling the waterworks trenches with a road scraper are leaving it in a slovenly state. On Villard avenue the surplus earth is left in ridges across the roadway which when driven on will make the road almost impassible and will cost three times as much to level as if it was done now. Dufferin Leader (1909-08-12).

One local resident noticed the town constable illegally riding his bicycle on the sidewalk to avoid the rough roadway and questioned whether he was above the law.

Finally the reports took a positive turn when tests indicated that the water tower pressure was adequate:

A trial test was made Friday evening last on the water pipes between the power house, the Presbyterian church, Browning avenue and McKee’s store, Villard avenue. 50 lbs. pump pressure was put on and only three joints in that distance showed any weakness. Two of them {were new pipes and closed up after they had swelled. Tank pressure of 65 lbs. was left on all night and the gauge had shown no diminution in the morning. That is quite a different result to the test made before [when the earlier contractors] tried to shove the work on the town as completed, when the water in the tank leaked 50,000 gallons in seven hours through the joints in the pipes.
Dufferin Leader (1909-07-15).

A month later, the Dufferin Leader (1909-08-26) reported that work on the waterworks on the south side was practically completed and a move to the north side of the river was being made.

Meanwhile another issue surfaced. When work resumed, inspectors found that:

The little that has been done reveals some scandalous work in connection with the former work. Just one manhole has been opened up and it is found that there is no concrete in the bottom of it. There is not a single atom of cement in the joints of the sewer pipe so far uncovered. Dufferin Leader (1909-06-24).

This didn’t quite address the full extent of the problem. The following item appeared in the paper (1909-09-02):

The opening of the old waterworks trench on Fournier avenue, between McLeod’s corner and the river, revealed some scandalous and even criminal work. The water pipes were placed below the sewer mains but that is not the worst feature of it, there was not a speck of cement on any joint of the sewer pipes and some of the joints were not even connected so that all sewerage had free course to percolate the defective joints of the watermains. Had the system been all right otherwise and the water system ever used for domestic purposes, think of the result.

We’d rather not ‘think of the result’ or of the fact that the sewers emptied directly into the river but it certainly makes the recent boil water advisory sound like small potatoes.

Understanding Events of 1870. Looks like this month’s overview of the impact of the fur trade on local 1870 history also is postponed for the moment. Writing time got lost in recalling local stories and old family memories. Old timers related stories about running a trapline through the local valley when they were kids—how they detoured through the bush to check their traps and snares on the way to school and again on the way home. The few dollars they earned over the winter were an important part of the family income in those days. As late as 1950, school children still trapped for rabbits, ermine (white winter weasels) and the occasional prize of a mink pelt. They became skilled in skinning and stretching pelts on hand-shaped wooden stretchers and felt like millionaires when their small fur cheques arrived in the mail. These days, the fur era has passed and at the moment, COVID-19 - isolated residents of the valley spend their days watching or photographing the abundant wildlife—animals that now are more curious than afraid of their human neighbours.

Thanks for leaving the fallen apples for us

Cross our heart and promise that we’ll soon be back from the past with more on the early fur trade in Manitoba.

Finally, a sincere ‘Thank You’ to all who are out there on the front line carrying out essential services and to those of you who are helping them by staying at home.

News and Events, March 2020

Historical Re-Runs. With all the current news of travel bans and quarantines on cruise ships due to COVID-19, it’s of interest to note how travel and infection have long been companions. The May 25, 1911 Carman Dufferin Leader reported that “A large number of immigrants have been quarantined at Grosse île, Quebec, because cases of smallpox were discovered on board the steamers on which they were.” Imagine the dangers faced by early immigrants, many of whom arrived in the packed holds of ships, the victims of famine, without the benefit of present-day medical and hospital care—and with no option for being evacuated ‘home’ to the country they had left to seek a new life in Canada. For general information on the quarantine station at Grosse Île, Quebec see Wikipedia. To appreciate the scope of activity at the station during more than a century of operation, or to locate individual records, check out Library and Archives Canada.

Early Council Chambers. Our recent search for information on Christian Hansen, Carman town constable from 1908–11, left us with a couple of unrelated questions about our early history, notably: where were the Town Council Chambers, Clerk’s Office, and jail located before the Memorial Hall was built in 1919? In another search of early newspapers, we found an answer. The Dufferin Leader 1907-01-17 reported that “A plan was submitted by the engineer for fitting up a council chamber and clerk’s office in the powerhouse.” The plan was adopted and returned to the engineer for specifications on the understanding that, “if it didn’t cost too much, it would be proceeded with.”

It seems that the jail was at or near the powerhouse. The Dufferin Leader (1911-12-07) noted that the town constable had arrested a local man “for being drunk and disorderly, and conveyed him to the coop, where he left him apparently sleeping at 2 a.m. Shortly afterwards the night engineer at the power house, who went over to make up the fire in the lockup, phoned him that the prisoner had escaped. The bar from the door had apparently been used to wrench the iron bars from the windows, and there had been no help from outside.

Conditions at the early jails may have left something to be desired. The Dufferin Leader (1907-07-04) urged that “Every citizen should pay a visit to the town jail (in an unofficial capacity of course) and see the improvement in the interior of the premises as regards cleanliness. For all that, the place is vile, and totally unfit for the incarceration of a fellow-human being, no matter how vile. If we are to raise those who have sunk in the slough of depravity, we had best begin by teaching them that there is the ineffable spirit of immortality within them, and this cannot be done by putting them in a place unfit even for the lowest beasts that perish. Let our philanthropic citizens look into this. We cannot believe that if they knew of the reality of the conditions they could rest with contentment. To raise money for foreign missions and keep a place for the incarceration of human beings like ourselves who, although they may infringe the laws of the country may in some one respect be even better than sinners who are more careful, seems a waste of money and a misplaced sympathy. Let charity begin at home.”

In 1919, the early jail was replaced by a cell in the boiler room and maintenance area in the basement of the new Memorial Hall. We haven’t located any photos of the early powerhouse facilities. A snapshot taken of the interior of the long-abandoned Memorial Hall jail cell in 2014 suggests that, even in the later post-WWI facility, amenities were fairly basic.

Memorial Hall jail cell 2014                                View of the area adjoining cell 2014


Britain vs France. Our January, 2020 News & Events posed a number of questions basic to understanding the impact of 1870 on local heritage. This month we’ll look briefly at the first area of interest: In what way did relationships between Britain, France, and their colonies in North America serve as a broad foundation for the events of 1870?

Between the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and Napoleon’s defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, Britain and France were almost continuously involved in a series of some 23 battles, including the lengthy 100 Years’  War (1337–1453). Issues of religion, culture, language, imperial expansion and trade were closely intertwined in the conflicts. Each of these factors played a role in shaping events in what was to become the Province of Manitoba.

During much of this time, the empire-building aspirations of both countries, and of their Dutch and Spanish rivals, were playing out in a race to locate a western route to the riches of the Far East. Columbus’ discovery of what he thought was India sparked interest in North America. This in turn led to formation of the British colonies in New England and the French colony of New France along the St. Lawrence River.

Two of the many French/English wars directly involved their North American colonies— the Seven Years’ War (1756–1763), also known as the French and Indian War, and the Anglo-French war of 1778–1783, which was part of the American Revolutionary War.

Between 1608, when Samuel de Champlain founded Quebec and 1760, when English General Wolfe defeated Marquis de Montcalm at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, the colony of New France developed an agricultural base along the St. Lawrence River. They also extended exploration into the interior of the continent, claiming jurisdiction over vast lands of the Mississippi basin. Instead of discovering a passage to the Pacific or the richness of Inca gold, they returned with canoes laden with furs. They also returned with heightened interest in the West as a target for expanding trade and for spreading the Catholic faith. Fur traders from New France were soon making the annual voyage westward through the Great Lakes and into northwest in canoes laden with supplies and trade goods.

Meanwhile, Henry Hudson’s explorations for an ice-free north-west passage to the Far East led to discovery of Hudson’s Bay and James Bay. Although the northern passage never materialized, Hudson’s discoveries unintentionally opened up a shorter route to the rich fur-bearing lands of the north-west. Indigenous trappers and middlemen brought furs down the rivers to the forts and fur-trading posts built on the coastline, and opened up competition with traders using the longer canoe route from the East.

In 1763, the Treaty of Paris not only stripped France of most of her North American holdings, it also changed the dynamics that had developed in the competition over the fur trade. Meanwhile, to the south, the American Revolution created a new nation. Westward expansion of the former colonies under the banner of ‘Manifest Destiny’ brought a new competitor onto the scene. In our next News and Events update, we’ll look at development of the fur trade as a key factor in background to events in 1870 Manitoba.


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.

Lands, Trails and People

One of our first tasks this year is to arrange the unveiling of the newly re-installed Missouri Trail sign. A couple of years ago we asked our committee why they thought we should plan on re-installing the sign in time for 2020, the 150th anniversary of the province of Manitoba. 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 history and heritage of earlier inhabitants of the area were handed down through the generations largely through oral tradition. Much of what we know is from artifacts in museums and recorded contacts with European explorers, traders and settlers. 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.

This trail along the escarpment was one of several that crossed what became known as the R.M. of Dufferin, an area extending from the escarpment in the west to the Great Marsh east of present-day Town of Carman.  The most prominent of the trails was the Missouri or Hunters’ 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.

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

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.

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.


News and Events January 2020

2020. A new decade. And a year that’s significant to us as the year we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Province of Manitoba. In 1870, the Canadian government purchased the territory held under charter by the Hudson’s Bay Company and Manitoba became the fifth province under Confederation. This led to a rapid influx of settlers seeking land and opportunity in the West. With it came sweeping socio-economic change for a part of the continent that had been known primarily for its role in the highly competitive fur trade and for the small settlement along the Red and Assiniboine Rivers.

Over the past months we have been trying to gain greater insight into local history of this during the pre- and post-1870 era. C/D MHAC members have researched the story of the Missouri Trail and re-installed a sign where the trail once crossed the Rivière-aux-Îlets-de-Bois (Boyne River).

Unveiling the original sign in 1961                                         New sign installed 2019

We’ve searched out articles on the early settlement in the St. Daniel area northwest of present-day Carman. In 2020, highway signs will be erected giving directions to the site of the original settlement and cemetery in the area. Meanwhile, our Homestead/Early Family Farm researchers have been collecting and recording information and stories of the first European settlers — many of whom still have descendants in the area. We’ve also been working on inventories of heritage resources in local communities with a goal of identifying and preserving the information, records and artifacts that are rapidly disappearing with passing generations.

An exciting new initiative is planned for 2020: a series of life story workshops to encourage collection and preservation of our history-in-the-making. It should be a busy, fun year.

20/20 also is the standard for perfect vision. It’s unlikely we’ll achieve this level of insight, but we’ll be aspiring this coming year to gain at least a sounder understanding of the history of Carman/Dufferin municipalities. We hope to share our findings with you through this website and to provide you with a list of resources for further exploring our complex and rather fascinating heritage.

Where to Start?

Our local history didn’t occur in a vacuum — it was the product of interaction of local people and circumstances within the context of provincial, national and international events. If you’re like most of us and have forgotten much of what you learned in your early school years, we’d suggest beginning your quest by reviewing a general history of Manitoba. What better time to review the broader framework of the Carman/Dufferin story than the 150th anniversary of our Province?

The biggest dilemma lies in selecting resources from the vast array of books and articles that offer interpretations of our past. For one of the more perceptive and readable analyses of our early history, check out Gerald Friesen’s “The Canadian Prairies: A History” (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1987).

Another general source we’d recommend is ”The Centennial History of Manitoba” by James A. Jackson. (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart Ltd. and the Manitoba Historical Society, 1970). This volume provides a readable, balanced overview of the many factors that drove our development as a province from the Ice Age through to the past generation. Jackson places Manitoba in the larger geo-political space that is now known as Canada, including its relationship with Great Britain and the rest of North America . In so doing, he lays a foundation for a deeper understanding why history played out as it did on our little part of the province.

Some of the questions you might want to ask in your reading are:

How did relationships between Britain, France and their colonies in North America help lay the foundation for their activities in the West?

How did the geography of Manitoba impact on its development as a fur-trading and later as an agricultural province?

What role did early explorers and fur traders play in opening up the West? What impact did rivalries between the major fur-trading companies have and how were they resolved? What was the origin/use of the Missouri Trail?

How did arrival of the Selkirk settlers change our history? What was the number and distribution of settlements in Manitoba in 1870?

What role did Luois Riel and his Provisional Government play on the history of Manitoba?

What were the terms and the outcomes of the Dominion Lands Act of 1872?

Who was living in our local area of Manitoba in 1870? How was the lifestyle of indigenous inhabitants affected by first the fur traders and later, by arrival of homesteaders in the area? What happened when the different cultures met?

Let us know what resources you find particularly helpful in understanding the broad context of local history and the events around 1870. Next update we’ll zero in on what is now the Carman/Dufferin area of the province.

Groaners. And now a final thought on the realities of the passage of time:

A young boy was looking through the old family album. He asked his mother “Who’s this guy on the beach with all the muscles and curly hair? “ Mother: “That’s your father.” Son: ”Then who’s that man who lives with us now?”