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Recent History News Items from 2021

News and Events, December 2021

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

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

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


Heritage sign for former CNR Station

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Memorial Hall /Alamo

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

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

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

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


The DAS grandstand, built 1921, roof added 1930

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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


Rex Café Menu Christmas 1929

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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


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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

News & Events November 2021

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

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

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

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


Hotel Lounge Photo: Kelly Seward

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


Old Swimming Hole Photo: Andrew Rempel

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

To see a larger image, click on the photo.

 



 



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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Grave markers in Greenwood cemetery











 

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

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

Stephanie answered a query as follows:

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

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


Cartoon of Grandfather Pete Fraser and horse Lulu

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

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


Gordon Fraser speed-skater

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

News & Events October 2021

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


From Dufferin Leader, 1921-11-10

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

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


Ad in Dufferin Leader, 1924-08-14

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

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

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

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

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


Grave markers in Greenwood cemetery

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

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

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


Marker in Bloomfield-Rosewell Cemetery

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

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

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

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


Wild grapes – fruit and vines

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


A good feed before heading south

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

 

 

 

 

News & Events September 2021

Planning for 2022. The big news: in August, C/D MHAC met indoors, in person, for the first time since last year. Our new committee chair, Nikki Falk, being an avid horsewoman, quietly picked up the reins and prepared to lead us off into what we’re sure will be new and exciting heritage ventures.

A good feed before migrating south.22–24 Heritage Resource Management Plan (HRMP). This is an outline for how we will work over the next three years towards meeting our mandate to identify, preserve and promote local heritage. There are still some personal-contact projects we weren’t able to finish during the pandemic. Fingers crossed that we’ll get back to working on our inventories of local heritage resources, profiles of early homesteads and life-story workshops over the next few months.

St. Daniel Inventory. The inventories project got stalled out just as we were about to organize a volunteer committee in the St. Daniel area. On the positive side, the delay has given us time to review what we’ve discovered so far about both the history (dates, events) and the broader socio-cultural heritage of the area and to remind ourselves and everyone else why we’re doing the project.


Heritage Certificate Site St. Daniel School

The intent of the inventories is to find out and record what heritage resources are in each community; where they are; and how people can access or get information about them. We work with local volunteer committees to identify heritage buildings, monuments, collections, documents, and other items of significance to each local community. This includes records of local organizations, family histories, photo collections, cemetery records, as well as artifacts in private or museum collections. Occasionally we help preserve these resources. Preservation usually involves simple activities, for example, encouraging a local committee to make a back-up copy of cemetery records and store it in a location separated from the original. The inventories are all works in progress. They can be found on the website under their respective community listings.

So what have we learned so far about the history/heritage of the St. Daniel community? In the most general sense, we’ve looked at the broader context of local history—factors such as the lengthy French/English conflict in North America, early exploration, and competition in the fur trade. Locally, we noted the significance of Métis buffalo hunting along the Missouri Trail and establishment of the first permanent settlement in the Îlets-de-Bois area, prior to the arrival of the first homesteaders. When it came to the history of our local Indigenous population, we faced an additional challenge. Here the tradition was one of oral history, handed down from one generation to the next. As a result, most of our information about early Indigenous residents comes from the experiences and written observations of explorers, fur traders, or early settlers in the area. Fortunately, we got a better understanding of this part of our history while working on the Missouri Trail and Îlets-de-Bois signage projects.

In addition to the general history of the municipality, the History of the RM of Dufferin 1880–1980, we have two other volumes that are specific to the St. Daniel area. In 1992, local residents published a history that portrays an active, close-knit community. A decade later, Antoine Gaborieau, a noted proponent of French language and culture, published another slim volume to fill in some of the ‘missing pieces’ in the earlier history. More specifically, he added details to the account of early Métis and Catholic residents in what was then known as Îlets-de-Bois.


Antoine Gaborieau’s history

Historian Alan B. McCullough, a former St. Daniel resident, also has published articles that provide insight into the Métis presence in the area and early confrontations with newly arrived settlers.

These local histories and articles are informative. They also highlight one of the most basic questions we should be asking about any account of the past—i.e., from whose perspective is it being written or told?

Most of us retain a few significant kernels of wisdom from our years of formal education. Many years ago, one assignment made a lasting impression on a University of Winnipeg history student. The task was to compare and contrast two historical accounts of the same period in East European history.

Two histories of Poland were selected; one historian was German, the other Polish. The bewildered student had to constantly cross-check the historical context—the time and place—to be sure the two scholars were even talking about the same country. Point taken. Thank you, Professor Batzell, for that insight.

In addition to the history of the St. Daniel area—the people, dates and events—we’ve also documented a wide range of other local heritage resources. These include the cairns, cemeteries, churches, schools and other physical records of the past, all of which can be found on the website.


Îlets-de-Bois Cemetery

Our other ‘on-hold’ projects—collecting homestead profiles and life stories—should add to our understanding of the personal experience of individuals and families in the community. We recently received a request for help in locating the grave of an ancestor who had lived in the St. Daniel district. The background information on this individual highlights the inter-connections among families in the area. This family also has ties to the broader context of local history through the noted Métis bard, Pierre Falcon. Since then we’ve met with another local resident who is proudly tracing and honouring their Métis roots. If we can tap into this rich body of family stories it will help considerably towards fleshing out our understanding of the early history and heritage of the area, including interactions between Indigenous residents and post-1870 settlers. In that context, the St. Daniel community should provide a rare opportunity to study the interface between cultures. In the process, it may provide a timely insight into current Indigenous concerns and a broader perspective on the global issues of diversity and humanity.

Trivia for the day. According to Antoine Gaborieau’s history (p2) cited above, the hills west of the escarpment, which we now call the Pembina Hills, were referred to in Alexander Henry’s 1800 journal as the “Hair Hills”. Does anyone happen to know the origin of that name?

Natural History – Wasps. Moving from social to natural history, one of the more distressing effects of the drought has been the unwelcome influx of wasps. It’s made it hard to ignore the impact of the drought on our natural environment. It also challenges our knowledge of local insects, from the basic recognition of species to their habits and their place in the natural world.


Looking for the last traces of nectar

Many of us are challenged when it comes to distinguishing between wasps, hornets and bees. What are those large insects that aggressively chased the hummingbirds from their feeding station? If you are puzzled, you might check out online articles such as the following: https://www.almanac.com/wasps-bees-and-hornets-whats-difference

The drought has resulted in scarcity of flowers, along with the pollen and nectar that serve as a source of food for much of the natural world. We may be so pleased with the absence of mosquitoes and other insects that we haven’t thought about the overall impact on nature. For some extra food for thought, including the impact of human interventions, check out https://youtu.be/VSYgDssQUtA

And to end on a note of beauty and serenity, enjoy this restful photo of a horse with the August “blue” moon rising in the background. If you are curious about blue moons, when we’ll see the next one, or why we use the expression “once in a blue moon”, you might check out the following:

https://www.space.com/blue-moon-august-2021-photos
https://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/when-is-the-next-blue-moon/

Better still, just relax and enjoy the photo.


Moments to remember

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


News & Events August 2021

Getting Back to Normal? Thanks to the recent relaxing of COVID restrictions, we were finally able in July to hold an in-person Carman/Dufferin MHAC meeting—the first since last Autumn. We still met outdoors, with distancing, but with the bonus of being in the beautiful Memorial Rose Garden in the hamlet of Roseisle. The garden was designed by landscape architect Heather Cram. The focal point is a large-scale model of a wild rose, crafted by the late metal-wizard, Clifford McPherson. An accompanying legend relates how the first local post office was named for an “isle” of wild roses that appeared after a heavy rain.


Roseisle Memorial Rose Garden  Photo: Matt Weibe

This site is a relaxing blend of natural history and local heritage. On the day of the meeting, the roses were at their peak and two water features provided a gentle, cooling background of sound.
We met in the shade of a Manitoba maple that grew in what was once the yard of the local CNR station.

Beside us was the section of the garden dedicated to local soldiers who lost their lives in past wars. C/D MHAC helped fund the obelisk that marks this area. Two of our heritage sites— Roseisle School and the local War Memorial —are located nearby. Cartoon cutouts portraying town tales add a less serious note to the tributes to local heritage. It was a location designed to ease the concerns those members who are still slightly nervous about getting back into social settings.


And as seen from from ground level

A highlight of the meeting was our annual election of officers— an event that usually takes place in January. Nikki Falk agreed to serve as Chair of the committee. She brings youth, enthusiasm, and lots of great ideas. Debbie Nicolajsen will continue as Secretary, Shirley Snider as Treasurer. Ina Bramadat will work with Nikki as Deputy Chair and continue as website coordinator.

We’re all anxious to get back to working on projects put on hold during the pandemic. And we’re keeping our fingers crossed that the potential Fourth Wave doesn’t materialize here this Fall.

Natural History. Meeting outdoors was a reminder of the growing interest over past months in our natural history. Unlike the wild rose that forms the centrepiece of the garden, the roses planted in memory of past residents of the community are hardy, Manitoba-developed varieties.


One of nine roses planted in memory of local casualties of war

They are a reminder of many local horticultural ventures dating back to our early settlers. The work of renowned horticulturist
A.P. Stevenson at Nelsonville was reflected on a smaller scale on other local homesteads.

Within sight of the Rose Garden, you can still see the remains of one such local effort—an orchard planted in the early 1900s by local CNR foreman Harry Otto.

Harry Otto also organized a gardening club at the nearby school and taught the students about growing vegetables and flowers. Tall fir trees bordering the former school grounds were planted by students under his guidance. A local senior recalls how excited he had been years earlier when Harry Otto gave him a tulip bulb to plant.


Harry Otto – if you plant orchards, you also need bees.


Like the development of agriculture, introduction of a variety of new plants is part of the natural history of our area.

On the other hand, the plant after which the local community was named, the wild rose, is native to many parts of North America. One source describes this plant as follows:



Wild rose


Wild roses are rambunctious, pest- and disease-resistant plants that tolerate nearly any soil type and grow practically anywhere, including on plateaus
and prairies, as well as in ravines and open woods.

Because wild roses spread by an extensive root system, the plants serve as an effective erosion control on difficult slopes and other harsh areas. Small, apple-like rose hips appear in late summer and often last for much of the winter. The hips, a rich source of vitamins A and C, are an important source of winter sustenance for birds and mammals.

[Caution: eat the pulp, not the seeds. They have small, sharp hairs that will irritate your gut. The Métis called them “gratte-cul,” which means “scratchy bum.” ]

The earlier Métis name for the local river, Rivière aux Îlets-de-Bois, is a reminder that trees also formed part of the early natural landscape. Until recently, the first store built in Roseisle in 1903 by E.J. Moore, stood kitty-corner across from the present-day Memorial Rose Garden. The long, heavy counter is said to have been built from a single huge plank of wood cut from a local tree. This bit of local history becomes even more credible when you learn of other fine examples from the same era.

Nikki Falk shared this tidbit of natural history at a recent Boyne River Keepers meeting. It refers to the old Clendenning Mill at Forest City near the early Boyne Settlement:


The former Clendenning Mill

H. Clendenning has on his premises an oak tree which measures twelve feet in circumference two feet above the ground. He feels the right to claim the largest tree of its kind in this part of Manitoba.
(Dufferin Leader, 1889-09-08).

This brief item from an early newspaper gives an idea of the rich growth of trees along the river around the time the first settlers arrived. A sawmill also operated at this site. Wonder if the owners resisted turning this magnificent oak into lumber?


News & Events July 2021

Shades of the Past. Last month we took a break from the pandemic and other gloomy thoughts to look at the positive side of the world around us—our rediscovery of the outdoors, the beauty of changing seasons, returning wildlife, blossoms, some favourite memories of Spring.


Behind the Legion/Community Hall June 9, 2021

Shortly after that was posted, Mother Nature reminded us that she isn’t always a nice predictable lady—we had blizzards in the North while Southern Manitoba temperatures topped 40°C; tree-toppling winds, thunderstorms and heavy rain. On June 9, sewer lines in Carman weren’t able to handle a sudden downpour that flooded local streets, harkening back to earlier pre-diversion days when the Boyne River periodically inundated the town.

Since then, we’ve experienced record-breaking temperatures and destructive wildfires across the West. The contrast between last month’s idyllic images of nature and current weather patterns may serve as a harsh wake-up call to folks on the impact of climate change. Or not.


Lives and lot of local women (cont’d). As you know, during these past months our in-person heritage projects have been on hold. We’ve used this time instead to search through early newspapers and local histories for further insight into local heritage. What’s become evident is that our social history, like our natural history, hasn’t always been one of sweetness and light. One theme we’ve been exploring is the life and lot of women—societal attitudes to women, their work and their social lives in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Although Manitoba women were the first in Canada to get the vote, this and other aspect of social equality didn’t extend to all local women. This month we’ll begin looking at the timely and complex topic of societal attitudes and their impact on the lives the Indigenous women of Manitoba.


Local Indigenous presence. From our earlier glimpses of Indigenous history in the area [see News & Events, Feb. 2020, June 2020, July 2020] we know that early Indigenous history was transmitted orally from one generation to the next. Much of what has been recorded locally comes from the post-1870 writings of our non-Indigenous population. And by the time the first homesteaders arrived, decline in both the fur trade and local buffalo herds had driven many Indigenous hunters and gatherers towards the south-west. The 1871 census recorded only 558 ‘Indians’ along with 5,757 Métis in the new province of Manitoba.


J.B. Coleman collection

As a result, we have just a few accounts of interactions between local settlers and Indigenous migrants [see News & Events, Feb. 2020]. So far, only one photo of an Indigenous family has turned up in local photo collections. It was taken near the escarpment during the time when small groups of hunters/gatherers still migrated along what are marked on early maps as ‘Indian' Trails. It’s important to note that family stories from that era speak of contacts that were mutually friendly.

One of the few items in early local newspapers on Indigenous culture [Dufferin Leader, 1902-02-02, page 5 at the Pembina Manitou Archives], gives a glimpse into the difference in perspective that existed between the two cultural groups. It relates how a missionary was questioned by two chiefs of the Blackfoot tribe. Both were polygamous and, as was their custom, had purchased their wives with horses as currency. Asking in turn about the marriage practices of ‘white men’, they were highly amused to learn about the custom of dowries. To their minds, the notion that men got paid for taking a wife meant the bride must certainly be of little value.


Plaque on cairn at Îlets-de-Bois Cemetery
[To see a larger view, click on the image.]

By the 1870s, the local residents in the area along the Rivière aux Îlets-de-Bois were primarily of Métis origin. As we learned from McCullough’s study of the area,The Confrontations at Rivière aux Ilets-de-Bois by Alan B. McCullough, the confrontation of local Métis with newly arrived homesteaders played out on a number of potentially divisive fronts—the question of land ownership, race, and religion.

This Indigenous group settled initially in the Îlets-de-Bois community north-west of present-day Carman where they had a school, church, post office, and cemetery. In the ensuing years, many left for the still unoccupied lands of the Western Prairies. The cemetery at the site has since been marked by a cairn that lists families who lived here—albeit with an anglicized misspelling of the name.

Attitudes to Indigenous Women. To understand the lives and lot of local Indigenous women, we have to look beyond our limited local sources, deep into the roots of early contacts between European explorers/fur traders/settlers and First Nations as a whole. But we’ll begin by looking at the events of the past month.

This past week, July 1 celebrations were cancelled in many parts of Canada and flags flown at half mast. The statue of Queen Victoria the Manitoba Legislature was toppled, beheaded, and the head thrown in the river. Why?

This year, Indigenous History Month took on new dimensions as it coincided with the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves at former residential school sites and more assertive calls for action on issues such as the Report on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. As hundreds more unmarked graves were found at other sites, the month culminated in organized marches and vigils as well in unprecedented actions such as defacing or burning churches. Not unlike our weather extremes, it’s been something of a stark wake-up call.

There is a rapidly growing body of literature addressing Indigenous history. We’ll look at just a couple of these writings to get a sense of the issues that evolved from the meeting of different cultures.

The roots of non-Indigenous perceptions date back to archaeological theories about the early inhabitants of this area. In her informative article on local mound builders, The Manitoba Mound Builders: The Making of an Archaeological Myth, 1857-1900, Gwen Rempel notes that back in the 19th C, archaeologists became intrigued by the 100 or so burial mounds located across Southern Manitoba. One of these sites is the sacred Calf Mountain mound that Indigenous people visited south of us on the Missouri Trail. Over the decades, origin of the mounds was subject to changing interpretations, based on what were often armchair theories about comparable structures in the United States. The conclusion of local writers was that the contemporary Indigenous residents of this area were incapable of building the mounds. This led to a myth that our they were the product of an earlier and more advanced civilization.

One local theory held that Mound Builders had been a peaceful race of agriculturists who culturally resembled European Canadians more than they did local Indigenous peoples. The assumption was that agriculture was more ‘civilized’ than hunting and gathering. Although later archaeologists rejected these earlier views, Rempel points to the significance of the Manitoba Mound Builder myth in providing a ‘scientific’ justification for the European-based perception and treatment of Manitoba’s Indigenous peoples. We see these perspectives reflected in the treaties that established reserves and the promise of agricultural equipment and training as a means to a ‘better’ way of life for Indigenous Manitobans. Residential schools were perhaps the most potent tool for assimilation of the Indigenous population.

The many factors leading to marginalization of Indigenous women in Canada are summed up in this article.

Just as new European arrivals made these assumptions about our First Nations, they viewed the lives of Indigenous women from the same egocentric perspective. Early European arrivals in North America related how native women had to till and tend the land, doing all the work while the men had nothing to do except hunt, fish, and wage war against their enemies.

Because Indigenous women performed what Europeans considered to be men’s work, many viewed them as “slaves” to the males of the tribe. In fact, at the time of contact with Europeans, men and women had different but complementary roles and Indigenous women had more autonomy and social and political power than European women. Their authority steadily declined because of cultural assimilation and because the new arrivals, given their patriarchal background, insisted on dealing with Indigenous men in trade negotiations.

The authors point out that Indigenous women experience challenges and discrimination that are not necessarily shared by non-Indigenous women or by Indigenous men. They face a “double burden” of being discriminated against as women and for being Indigenous. In addition to the early mischaracterization of women’s roles, the European egocentric view of gender relationships, kinship and family systems further undermined the roles, status and treatment of Indigenous women.

The Indian Act of 1876 enacted these biases in law. It denied women the right to possess land and marital property. A later amendment that remained in effect until 1951, allowed men to will their estate to their wives, if the Indian agent determined she was of “good moral character.” In 1851, the federal government ruled that to have Status rights, “one had to be an Indian male, be the child of an Indian male, or be married to an Indian male.” If a woman with 'Indian' status married a non-status person, she lost her status. This no doubt applied to many Métis women in our area. This meant loss of treaty benefits, health benefits, the right to live on her reserve, the right to inherit her family property, and even the right to be buried on the reserve with her ancestors. However, if a man with status married a woman without status, she would gain status.

The federal government also introduced a band structure as a new form of Indigenous government. This eradicated traditional hereditary leadership and facilitated federal influence and control. Under this system, Indigenous women also lost any political power. They were no longer able to become chiefs or band councillors. Until 1951, they were not allowed to vote in band elections or to hold office. In 1960, the government of Canada finally gave all Aboriginal peoples, male or female, the right to vote federally but it was not until 1985 that Indigenous women in effect gained equal rights with Indigenous men.

Within this context,  the announcements of Mary Simon as the first Indigenous Governor-General of Canada and the selection of RoseAnne Archibald as first female national chief of the Assembly of First Nations mark a significant milestone in our history.

The above sample of writings on this topic just scratches the surface of the complex and difficult issues shaping the lives of Indigenous women. We leave it to your curiosity and drive to understand the roots of current events and interest in local heritage to search out some of the other articles on this important topic.

Post-script. Nikki Falk just forwarded an article she came across on the unique accomplishments of an early Manitoba woman. In his article Sadie Grimm: First Canadian Woman Motorcycle Medalist, author Ross Metcalfe tells the story of “a remarkable young woman motorcyclist who, in 1914, did something exceptional on two wheels that no man could accomplish. And, for the record, this was two years before women achieved the right to vote.” Sadie probably didn’t fit into R.P. Roblin’s category of ‘nice women’ who ‘didn’t want the vote’. She wasn’t from our local part of Manitoba, but we encourage you to read on and applaud the life of this remarkable woman.

 

News & Events June 2021

June 2021 in MB. Our optimism of past months that we would be back to normal by June hasn’t been borne out. Instead, Manitoba currently has the dubious distinction of having the highest incidence of COVID per capita in North America. Not a record we can be proud of, only one where we can each do our part to help get past these uneasy times.

If you look hard enough, you can usually find something positive about even in the most trying situations. In the case of the pandemic, one cheerful note is the growing interest in outdoor activities. And what could be more rewarding than being outdoors during the transition from Spring to Summer?


The new BRK dock

Boyne River Keepers. This new interest in the outdoors has had a positive effect on the activities of the BRK, the group that is working to revitalize the local river. We’ve seen this winter how their activities made the Boyne a center of outdoor fun. The group recently received funding for a dock from which folks can launch their canoes and kayaks and enjoy a summer of outdoor family fun. The aluminum dock is now in place just north of the old Midland Bridge.

Ideally, this is where we should add one of our ‘Now and Then’ rollover photos, showing the river as it was a century ago. Unfortunately, these photos are another temporary casualty of the pandemic. You’ll have to use your imagination, along with this photo from the Dufferin Historical Museum to flip back to earlier days of recreational boating on the Boyne.


Early 1900s outing on the Boyne River


Natural History. One of the remarkable features of the local environment is the way in which our seasons change so quickly and so dramatically. Spring is a time of blossoms, sudden greening of trees, reappearance of hibernating animals and arrival of migratory birds. Fortunately, Mother Nature is one visitor who’s not subject to pandemic restrictions. We’ve asked folks to share their photos and to recall their favourite memories of Spring. Here are a few gems from local life stories. All respondents are known to us; some choose to remain anonymous.

Poplar leaves. One of the first trees to burst into leaf each Spring is the poplar or trembling aspen. A local life story relates how one family always associates poplar leaves with the arrival of Spring:

“Bright new trembling aspen leaves were always one of our first signs of Spring. They seemed to just pop out overnight. Our family members still smile when they recall our mother, standing out on her front veranda in the early morning, looking up at the hillside and the greening poplars and announcing to the world 'The valley is popping. Spring’s here!' Years later, our family members are spread around the world. Those of us ‘at home’ continue to announce the arrival of Spring each year—via email or telephone—with the message “The valley is popping…”

White poplar/trembling aspen and leaves

The same family recalls a three-year-old’s sheer delight when she looked out the window one morning at her grandmother’s home and saw the poplar leaves fluttering in the breeze. ‘Look, Grandma!’ she exclaimed. ‘The leaves are dancing!’

For more information on this native harbinger of Spring, including why they seem to ‘dance’, check out this University of Manitoba article.

Apple blossoms. The sweet scent of apple blossoms is a reminder of how we’ve changed our natural environment over the last century by introducing new species of fruit trees and ornamental shrubs. The old native standbys—saskatoons, chokecherries, cranberries, pincherries, wild plums—the wild fruit that local folks relied on in earlier days, are disappearing across much of the countryside. Many of the small experimental orchards that dotted the countryside during the early years of settlement also have run their course. In their place we rely in large part on local fruit farms and stores and grace our properties with ornamental flowering trees and shrubs.


Apple and ornamental crabapple blossoms delicately perfume the Spring air

Ferns. One of the intriguing sights of early Spring is the sudden unfurling of delicate green fronds of the native ostrich fern. This fern is found in local wooded areas and in gardens where it has been transplanted as a low-maintenance backdrop to lawns and flowering plants.


Fiddleheads unfurling with brown spore-bearing fronds; a patch of maturing ostrich ferns


For more on these fascinating plants, visit Wikipedia.



Dandelions. Dandelions are at the top of most people’s list of pesky weeds. But here’s a different memory of these ubiquitous plants:

“This is one of my fondest memories of Spring. One day I was supposed to be cutting the grass. But I was just sitting on the mower, looking at a huge patch of dandelions that had burst into flower in the front yard. They were glowing in the morning sunshine and I wondered if it was really necessary to mow down something that beautiful. Suddenly there was an explosion of yellow as a flock of goldfinches took flight from among the blooms – it was like the whole patch of flowers coming to life. I said to myself, ‘Look, a weed is just a plant that’s growing where you don’t want it. Why cut them?’ We still have one of the finest patches of dandelions around—and each Spring I watch hopefully for another flight of goldfinches.”

If you relate to this little story, you may appreciate a much-repeated ‘dialogue’ that has circulated for some time on gardening and other websites, such as God and The Great Heresy of Lawn Care.


Dandelions


The common dandelion is said to have been introduced to North America from Europe and Asia. The name is a corruption of the French «dent de lion» or lion’s tooth from the jagged leaves. To learn more about these flowers/weeds check out online sites such as Wikipedia.

For information on edible and medicinal use of dandelions and other local plants see: Wild Plants of Central North America for Food and Medicine by former Dufferin artist /author/environmentalist Steven Jackson and co-author Linda Prine (Winnipeg, MB; Peguis Publishers, 1978). As always, we urge caution in the use of wild plants for food or medicinal purposes.

Birds also are an important part of the Spring scene. Here are a couple of local bird stories.

Ravens. We’ve all grown up with the common black crow as part of our natural environment. The last few years, however, we’ve begun to see their larger cousins, the raven, in this area. Their nests are hard to miss—a large rough platform of branches, and sometimes other objects, in the crotch of a tree or rafters of an open building. Even harder to miss are their loud, harsh cries—‘like someone strangling a goose’ was one description. For more information on ravens— their habitat, nests, eggs, prey—see sources such as Breeding Birds of Manitoba.

C/D MHAC member Shirley Snider got a close-up look at a hatch of young ravens this past month when she came across five young birds on the floor of the hay barn. The nest had collapsed and the youngsters, still far from ready to take flight, had dropped to the hay below.


Young pre-flight ravens and two weeks later


Shirley followed their progress. Two weeks later only two birds were still there. She watched them hopping off through the grass, and so far, she hasn’t spotted them again. Have they fallen prey to the local cats or other predators or will they appear in flight one day to feed on the local chipmunks, newborn cats and other small prey?

Although the ravens aren’t especially welcome, Shirley has been keenly awaiting the arrival of our migratory birds. She had just put out orange halves on her rather elaborate bird-feeder and settled down to watch for the arrival of orioles when she spotted this unwelcome visitor devouring the bird-seed. Banging on the window didn’t disturb this pesky racoon, she settled for getting us this picture.


Racoon and hummingbird feeder


Shirley tells us that his incident touched off another memory of racoons and bird-feeders. At one time she had the hummingbird feeder attached to the railing of her deck. She looked out one morning to check on the level of the liquid, only to see a racoon, holding the feeder in its paws and tipping it up to drink the sweet nectar. She says she was so ticked off, she didn’t even think of grabbing the camera to take a photo. So you’ll just have to imagine the smile on the face of the racoon and the fury on the face of our story-teller.

Meanwhile, we haven’t forgotten our research on the lives and lot of local women. We’ll try to get back to that topic next month. Until then, enjoy the outdoors—knowledgeably, safely and at a distance. And don’t forget to carry your camera. All photos and stories welcomed.

 

News & Events May 2021


May Events. Does anyone remember when we were school-kids, chanting: “The 24th of May, it’s the Queen’s birthday; if you don’t give us a holiday, we’ll all run away”? It sticks in memory as always being a day of sunshine and the promise of long summer holidays to come.

Now we celebrate May 12, Manitoba Day. Can you believe it’s a whole year since we unveiled the Missouri Trail sign, one of the last times we met as a group?

May 12 also is recognized by nurses around the world as Florence Nightingale’s birthday. This year May 12 would be a good time for all of us to honour a profession that has provided health care to the community for over a century and has been right there on the front lines for us throughout the pandemic. Thank you.

Heritage Happenings. A third wave of variant-fueled viral infections continues to restrict our meetings and other face-to-face heritage activities. This hasn’t put a damper on our behind-the-scenes activities.

The search continues for information on early local businesses. This has paid off well in helping us identify buildings and background information on our website manager’s intriguing ‘Now and Then’ rollover photos.

We also continue to receive requests for help with family research. This is one of the few positive outcomes of our isolation—more folks finding time to follow up on family histories. The present owners of the former Roblin home in Carman are diligently researching background on the house and family members who lived there over the years. There is an abundance of information on Rodmond Palen Roblin, less on the rest of the family. R.P.R. and his brother-in-law Malcolm E. DeMille owned much of the land on which Carman was built and were among the main movers-and-shakers in the local business and political world of the day. If anyone has stories or photos to share, we’d love to hear from you.

Since we are looking this month at the lives and lot of local women, I wonder how many of you have seen a photo of Adelaide DeMille Roblin (1853–1928) who married R.P.R. in 1875?


Adelaide DeMille Roblin
R.P. Roblin’s declaration that “Nice women don’t want the vote” provided Nellie McClung with a potent battle-cry in her campaign for the vote for women. Roblin’s wife Adelaide was clearly one of the ‘nice women’. The irony is that “In the rank and file of the suffrage movement were to be found the wives and daughters of successful men, newly leisured and eager to assert themselves outside the narrow domestic sphere.”
(Gutkin & Gutkin, 1996)

We are left wondering how Adelaide felt about voting after Manitoba became the first province to grant women the franchise in January 1916. Or how local women reacted to being granted the vote.

This month, C/D MHAC members have been looking through our local histories and family stories to locate information on the lives of our early pioneer women. Not surprisingly, the findings underline some of the common limitations of recorded history. One of those limitations is the lack of information history provides on the lives and thoughts of everyday women. It’s difficult for present generations who have grown up with either the Feminist movement or the ongoing struggle for ‘human’ equality to imagine a time when women were both voiceless and invisible.

Given the societal norms at the turn of the 20th Century, nice women, like children, were best seen and not heard. In Laurel Ullrich’s much-quoted words “Well-behaved women seldom make history”. So, unless you were a Mary Queen of Scots or a Lizzie Borden, your story and your political or other views probably weren’t recorded in the local newspaper. If you browse through local history books and family stories from that era, you’ll find accounts of women’s household duties but less about their thoughts and attitudes.

A second limitation to history that it is recorded from the perspective of the writer. The information depends on who is doing the writing or telling. You’ll recall that most of our local histories date only from the post-1870 arrival of the first ‘white’ settlers. With these points in mind, let’s look at a couple of these early accounts.

The Kennedys, Sexsmiths and McCulloughs, were all related and were among the first homesteaders in what they renamed the Boyne River area. These families came with the early wave of settlers from Ontario, making the long journey to the Forks or Emerson before travelling by ox-cart to their Boyne area homesteads. They have left us with some of the more detailed accounts we have of early pioneer life in the area.

For a better notion of the homes in which pioneer women set up housekeeping, visit the reconstructed George and Flora Sexsmith log cabin at the local museum. It was built with “oak logs chinked with blue clay. The roof was of poplar poles covered with sod. Later a frame lean-to was built on and the entire building shingled” (History of the R.M. of Dufferin, p.726). Flora’s daughter describes how her mother did “all the sewing and knitting necessary for her family. She made all the clothes for both the boys and girls and did all the washing and ironing too.” Ironing was done with “sadirons” like those seen below “which required a hot stove summer and winter.” They were called sadirons from the obsolete word ‘heavy’. The handle was interchangeable and one iron was used while the other heated on the stove-top.


Sadirons
We are told that Flora also made butter and raised chickens and geese. The butter and eggs were exchanged at the store for groceries. Down from the geese was used to make feather ticks and pillows. Wild fruit—plums, cranberries, wild grapes, raspberries, pin cherries—were gathered to make jams. She also made pickles, cured pork in brine, and baked the family’s bread supply. Vegetables from the garden were stored in a root cellar. In the days before electricity, the house was lighted with candles made at home from tallow, later by coal oil lamps and a mantle lamp.

George and Flora were parents of fifteen children, which wasn’t too unusual at that time. Births were usually at home, with perhaps a neighbour in attendance. Four of the children died in infancy, another hazard and source of grief that was not unusual at a time when typhoid and other diseases often struck the community. Several members of their extended family were victims of an outbreak of typhoid fever and are buried in the Kennedy Burial Site.

As more settlers arrived, the hard work and loneliness of pioneer life were tempered by house parties, cards, games and music and by church services. The earliest services were held in homes, later in schools that soon became the focal point of social life in rural districts. As the railways came through and small towns grew, women’s lives outside the home centered around church and women’s groups, organizing picnics, concerts and socials along with ‘good works’ in the community.


Roseisle Ladies’  Aid ca. 1905

It was a labour-intensive life for both the women, men and children in the family. In later years, as the farm prospered, a ‘hired girl’ and a ‘hired man’ were employed to help. By 1901, the family was able to built a new 12 room home designed by local architect Edmund Watson.

Other stories provide information about the nature and process of women’s work – everything from soap-making to baking bread. One of these sources describes in more detail what wash-day and bath day were like down on the farm:

“Household duties were labour intensive. Women had to slave over hot stoves for all the cooking and in the heat of summer, temperatures in the kitchen could easily get to 100 degrees or higher. The laundry process would begin by hauling of water before dumping it into a copper boiler. It would sit on the wood stove overnight and by morning, boiling water would be ready to be transferred from the boiler to the washing machine. As soon as the soap was added you were ready to begin. “You’d start with hot, hot water and your whites. As the water cooled, and got dirtier, you’d move on to your colours, then dirty stuff like overalls. You just kept using the same water and by the time the last load was done it was black like tar.

In the 1940’s the new washing machines would agitate the clothes, but then you would have to work each item through the rubber wringer on the machine. Items would fall into the rinse tub, where a blueing agent was added to make the clothes whiter—only if you could afford the product. After you had rinsed the clothes and put them through the wringer again, they’d be ready to hang on the outdoor clothes line. The clothes would flutter in the breeze in summer, or freeze like boards in the winter. They’d also be strung up on makeshift lines in the front room or put on a wooden clothes rack. In the early days all clothes had to be ironed requiring may hours to complete, even with the children helping. Forget the trip to the gym as we do today. These women were getting a total body workout and burning calories like crazy.

Water for the bath was hauled once a week, again with the same process for washing clothes, with the girls bathing first and the boys next with the same water. Things sure have changed as soon people now shower twice a day.”

From Maurice Cox, The Clearwater Family History - 1813-2004, p.145 (Copies in library and the Dufferin Historical Museum).

From this account, we realize that, for many local families, the life of rural farm women really didn’t change that much over the first half of the 20th Century. Some families came after the first land rush and acquired more marginal agricultural land. After the ravages of WWI and the ‘Spanish’ flu, optimism of the 1920s was dampened again by the Great Depression and WWII. At war’s end, electricity, indoor plumbing, hot and cold running water, and central heating were still a luxury on rural farms as well as in most small Dufferin towns. Whatever the reason, for many local women the same lifestyle of hard domestic work persisted well into mid-century.

Note that these accounts focus primarily on the women’s side of the story. Looking at pioneer histories as a whole, one feature that stands out is a sense of the hard work underpinning rural farm life. All family members—men and women and children—worked from dawn till dusk at physically challenging tasks. While his wife slaved over a hot stove, the husband was engaged in back-breaking work of clearing the land, planting, harvesting, and tending the animals. Women were far from equal when it came to the vote or being able to own property, but from the perspective of hard work, rural farm life has always been a great equalizer. And while these excerpts give some notion of the heavy workload of rural women, many other topics were taboo. Back in the days before Facebook and Twitter, women didn’t talk much within the family, much less publicly, about such matters as pregnancy and childbirth, bodily functions, female complaints, intimate or abusive relationships. They may have shared some of their concerns with other women but they didn’t record the ‘personal’ aspects of their lives in the written histories they left for later generations.

Gutkin & Gutkin also point out that one of R.P. Roblin’s issues with women’s suffrage was that if women got the vote, others “might shortly come to us for the extension of the franchise to servant girls, on the plea that servant girls have as good a right to vote as any other class of women.” In at least some minds at that time, not only were women inferior to men but not all women were equal. We’ll explore that perspective further next month when we look at the rights of local Indigenous women.


1st Ave. SW (formerly Maple Ave.)

Now and Then. Last month we looked at the history of the building in the background of this photo—the one-story building that now houses Nine Lives clothing store.

For a view of this avenue during the WWII era, go to Vintage Photos, Now and Then.




Natural History.
Spring is in the air and the buds are staring to swell on the trees. It’s a reminder of one of our early pastimes as children—tapping local Manitoba maple trees to make maple syrup. One of the reasons the Métis along the Assiniboine came south to the Boyne River area—then the Rivière aux Îlets-de-Bois—was to make maple syrup. This activity was later carried on by local pioneers.


Making Maple Syrup – Coleman farm ca. 1900

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A local life story relates how:

“When we were kids, at the first sign of swelling buds, we gathered up the empty tin cans and lids that we saved up during the winter months and got ready to make maple syrup. We used a nail to make holes near the rim of the can and secured a piece of wire through the holes to make a handle. The lids were bend into a v-shape to make spouts. Saturday morning after chores were done, we headed out to the grove of Manitoba maples in the back yard. Using a brace and bit, we drilled a hole through the bark about three feet from the ground. The bent lid was tapped into the bark below the hole to form a spout and the metal can hung on a nail to catch the sap. We kept checking the cans all weekend. When Monday rolled around, we raced to check and empty the cans before school, then again at noon and after school was out for the day. As the clear sap was collected, it went into a boiler on the end of the cook-stove where the heat kept up a slow evaporation process. We collected something like a half boiler of sap before the novelty wore off and the urge to taste the final product took over. As it gradually boiled down the sap took on the characteristic brownish colour of maple syrup. We could never believe the small amount of final product left when it got to the proper stage of condensation. It never had the rich sweetness of commercial maple syrup but it was our own making and it quickly disappeared on top of stacks of pancakes we insisted on having for supper the day it was ready to use.”

For more on making maple syrup see: Manitoba maple syrup … on tap! at Prairie Shore Botanicals

 

News and Events April 2021

Boyne River Keepers. Last month we mentioned how the Boyne River Keepers (BRK) group has made the past winter a happier time for many local folks by clearing a river trail and helping them rediscover the joy of being outdoors.


Photo courtesy BRK

With the early arrival of Spring, winter fun on the Boyne is now a fond memory. But if you visit the BRK Facebook page you’ll find a great assortment of photos such as these two as well as video clips that will keep these memories alive over the coming months. You’ll also find photos from last summer that will make you begin to look forward to months of kayaking and canoeing through the revitalized heart of Carman.


Photo courtesy BRK


Women in local history
. On a more sober note, recent media reports around International Women’s Day have focused on the pronounced impact the pandemic has had on women. Many are struggling to maintain their own physical and mental health while trying to juggle home, family and work responsibilities. They are experiencing more job loss, often from already lower paid, service sector positions. Many who still have jobs are front-line workers who fear taking the virus home to their families. Women who work from home have taken on greater responsibility for child care, homework and home management. Other data show an increase in spousal abuse as well as the higher levels of depression and general stress experienced by socially isolated families.

Over the past months, we’ve been doing a lot of searches in early newspapers for information on such diverse topics as the Sons of England lodge, early businesses, the river and water supplies, and natural history. One reason it’s been more time-consuming than intended is because of all the other interesting but distracting bits of local news—from politics to prohibition to women’s role in society. One question these news items raise is: just how much has the lot of women changed over the past century?

At the dawn of the 20th century, the Dufferin Leader (1901-02-14) challenged its readers to predict what we might see in the century to come. Among their own speculations were the following:

Will the housemaid be a houseman? Will men wear frilled shirts and women trousers? Will college girls carry a cane and smoke a pipe? Will women bosses run politics as they now run the home? Will men wear birds on their hats and crochet? Will the wife kiss her husband goodbye before starting off to business?

An earlier article on education of women, reprinted in the Carman Standard (!890-09-25), suggests that equality with men, let alone role reversal, was not likely to happen in the near future.

A decade later, the Carman Standard (1902-01-23) printed the following advice on teaching girls:

Where there are two or three girls in a family, it is an excellent plan to allow each one, in turn, the responsibility of housekeeping for a certain time. It does not hurt girls to be made to take a measure of responsibility concerning household tasks, far otherwise, it does them a world of good, and it lifts much of the burden from the overworked mother’s shoulders. Let them, in succession, have a week at a time, charge of the chamber work, the mending, the cooking, the buying even, for the family; all of course under proper supervision, and their faculties of reason, perception, judgement, discrimination and continuity will be more developed in one month of such training than in six months of common schooling.


Another article reprinted in the issue of the Carman Standard (1890-09-25) titled “The Pecuniary Servitude of Wives”, addressed the matter of household finances:

Men who are rated as honest, upright citizens, dealing justly with their fellow men; will, when the question of money comes up, treat their wives, the mothers of their children, with less honesty than they do the tax assessor, and with much less consideration than they do their office boys. They children, when not granted a weekly allowance, are ‘tipped ‘occasionally, but nothing goes to the wife without some haggling, duplicity or humiliation on her part. Let it be understood that reference is made solely to the pitiable state of things that so widely prevails in the disbursing of money in the household and the wife’s private purse.” The article goes on to describe an example of one wife’s stoic acceptance of the situation, of which ‘She was proud in a certain way, and she believed the existing state irrevocable.’

It appears that women working outside the home a century ago didn’t fare much better than their at-home counterparts (Dufferin Leader 1901-05-30):

It’s also interesting to note how current the complaint sounds more than a century later.
The authors of the “Twentieth Century predictions” (Dufferin Leader 1901-02-14) ended their article by asking readers:

Now, candidly, wouldn’t you like to know what sayers will be saying, thinkers thinking, writers writing, doers doing, and plotters plotting at the end of the next hundred years?

Now here we are, over a century later, able to answer that question—and to ponder whether gender issues will still be making news at the end of the 21st century. It’s important to note that these articles reflect the views of society in general at that time. Next month we’ll pick up on this theme and look further at what we know about the activities and the lot of local women.



#40-1st Street SW

Now and Then. This month’s rollover photo features the NW corner of 1st Street and 1st Avenue SW, formerly the corner of Fournier St. and Maple Ave.

The site is best known for the clothing stores located here since before 1900. The following ad appeared in the Dufferin Leader (1898-12-22).


The original two-story Victoria Hall block was later replaced by a single-story building. For an earlier view of this location as well as more information on businesses located here over the years, see the rollover photo under Vintage Photos Now and Then.


 

 

 

 

 

Natural History. Spring has officially arrived. It’s warmer and drier than normal this year. But no matter how mild the winter, we always get a lift from seeing the snow start to melt, the creeks and ditches fill with run-off water and from being able to put aside the heavy winter clothing. An email last week from one of our members summed it all up:

“Wasn’t that gorgeous weather yesterday?  I heard some geese honking and it brought me a jolt of joy! We saw a beautiful fox walk right past the house yesterday morning just as the sun was coming up.  The sun’s first rays lit up its healthy red coat.  Maybe I should have taken a picture but sometimes it’s nice to just enjoy the moment.”

With Easter arriving in April, we likely should be following our ‘animal of the month’ theme looking this month at the habits and habitat of our local bunny rabbits. But for now, let’s just welcome Spring with our memories of outdoor winter fun, the joyful sound of returning geese and those special moments of insight into the beauty of nature. What is your favourite image of Spring?

 

News & Events March 2021

March. One year since the pandemic first changed our lives. For many it’s been a dreary, even depressing, time of isolation from family and friends. Not to mention worries from job loss, hassles of working from home or virtual schooling. Anyone who has had family members in hospital, especially in palliative care, has experienced the depths of grief and loss.

The more fortunate among us have rediscovered the outdoors and gardening or maybe found time to catch up on all those DIY projects tucked away in the back of our minds for the ‘someday’ that finally arrived. Cupboards and closets have never been cleaner. Then there are a few seemingly natural-born recluses who look back at the last months as a sort of vacation from meetings and routine, a time to read, soak up nature, and just do what they want to do, when they want to do it.

The positive side to 2020—rediscovery of the outdoors. The Boyne River Keepers have spearheaded the return to use of the Boyne by clearing what has become a well-used skating and hiking trail. As Dennis Young reported in the Carman-Dufferin Standard (2021-01-14), “The Boyne River has found new life this winter with games of shinny, avid walkers and snowshoers. The old swimming hole area welcomes visitors.”

Photo: Dennis Young, Carman-Dufferin Standard

From requests we’ve received, it seems that for some folks, it’s finally an opportunity to dig into family history, to discover and preserve their roots. Last month, we mentioned a few of these initiatives. Thanks to pandemic closures, our search has been limited pretty much to online sources. That said, here is an update on what we’ve located so far in response to the request for information on the Carman Sons of England Lodge.

Sons of England. You’ll recall that we knew almost nothing about the S.O.E., other than their name on one of the more significant buildings in Carman. Newspapers from the early 1900s noted that the R.M. of Dufferin Council met in the upper chambers of the building and ads identified it as the location over the years of various business ventures. Photos from the 1970s record loss of the building to fire at the time when the Rex Café occupied part of the lower story [New & Events August & September, 2019]

The Sons of England Society was one of several benevolent societies from the pre-insurance era that provided support for its members in times of need.

“The Sons of England Benevolent Society was a fraternal society for English Protestants, founded in Toronto, Canada, during the year 1874. Its purpose was to bring Englishmen together for mutual support, social intercourse, and to provide financial security to them and their families in times of sickness, hardship or death. In addition to these aims, the society acted as a cultural organisation, aspiring to preserve and celebrate the Anglo-Protestant cultural heritage of its members.”amazon.ca/Early-History-England-Benevolent-Society/dp/1978374992

The Winnipeg and Western Canada Directory, p. 93 lists the Carman S.O.E. as Lodge No. 186. Newspaper items from 1898–99 give some insight into construction of their building:

“The Sons of England, of Carman, contemplate the erection of a hall for meetings and are looking for a suitable site.” (Carman Standard, 1898-09-02).

“The Sons of England have bought a lot from Butchart & Somersall and intend erecting a hall for the meetings of their society the first floor will be rented for a general store.” (Carman Standard, 1898-09-16). The same week, the Dufferin Leader (1898-09-15) reported that the lodge had formed a joint stock company and applied for incorporation. “When completed, it will not only be one of the best business stands but one of the best equipped of any in town.”


Sons of England Building early 1900s

The Carman Standard (1898-09-16) provided further details, including the names of the first directors.

 

 

 



The following year, the building was completed and the first-floor tenants had begun to move in [from the Carman Standard, 1899-09-21].

Over the years, changes in businesses can be traced through newspaper ads. So far, we haven’t located any records in family histories or the like of financial aid, however, newspaper reports do record some of the organizations’ social activities.

The Carman Standard (1898-06-24) reported that an S.O.E. excursion was being planned from Carman to Selkirk on July 7th. Tickets for the round-trip cost $2. The committee had arranged a three hour trip up the river for an extra charge of 50 cents. In addition, “Those who desire to take a trip up Lake Winnipeg to Cumberland House can, by taking in this excursion, make the round-trip from Carman for $15.70 including berths and meals on steamer.”

There is no indication of the number of excursionists on this outing, however, the following year, the Dufferin Leader (1899-06-22) reported the S.O.E. excursion was “not as well patronized as it might have been” due to rain and mix-up in departure times. As a result, they had only 200–300 on board when the train pulled out. Wonder what the usual number totalled? On that excursion, the newspaper noted, the excursionists were “met by a reception committee of the Sons of England, of that city, and the trolley cars were in waiting, which conveyed the excursionists to the auditorium instead of Elm Park as previously announced. Here the crowd were entertained with music, etc., until 12 o’clock when they dispersed for dinner. Returning, the excursionists left Winnipeg at 8:30, all feeling that an enjoyable time had been spent.” They apparently were not a group to be daunted by a bit of rain.

The Winnipeg lodge also travelled to Carman. The Carman Standard (1898-06-24) coverage gave an account of the outing and the entertainment provided by the local lodge. Under the heading “S.O.E. Excursion” the newspaper reported that:

“The Sons of England came to Carman on Monday for their annual outing. The first train arrived at 10 o’clock, and the remainder of the excursionists came on the regular train at noon. Headed by the Citizens band the visitors wended their way to Clark’s Grove, where the athletic sports were held, a band concert was given and dancing indulged in. The sports were well contested, a number of fine athletes accompanying the excursion and carrying off most of the prizes…. Carman people took a great deal of interest in the tug of war between Carman and Winnipeg Sons of England. It only required two tugs to decide the superiority of the dwellers on the banks of the Boyne over those who pitched their tents by the Red….

The singing contest or rather the comic songs, created a good deal of amusement. There were about half a dozen entries…. The dancing platform was not well patronized, the day being too warm for that exercise. That antiquated old source of amusement, the Punch and Judy show, bobbed up on the grounds and seemed to draw as of yore. The Citizens band gave an enjoyable concert in the evening opposite the station. The Winnipeg Sons of England are a jolly outfit and seem to know how to get all there is in a picnic out of it. All we have to say to them is “come again”. “

An item in the Dufferin Leader (1899-06-01) gives insight into the patriotic roots of the organization. The article describes an S.O.E. service at St. Andrew’s Church. Forty members of the order paraded from the Orange hall to the church, led by the Carman band. Rev. H.C. Sutherland chose his text a theme from the Psalms, “I have a goodly heritage”. He “began by paying tribute to the greatness of England and the nobility of the Queen. He believed that the finest civilization the world had ever known found its highest expression in England”. Sutherland went on to speak of religion as the chief moulding force in the development of civilization and the key to England’s greatness.

Although we have little information on membership in the S.O.E., the following account from the Dufferin Leader (1899-05-18) gives a hint of the fellowship amongst lodge members. Salterville, to the east of the present-day town of Carman, was the fist post-1870 settlement and post office in the area. We gather from the earlier list of directors that Richard Salter was an early pillar of the organization.

Other early lodges. The SOE was just one of several lodges active in the area around this time. Among other organizations mentioned in local newspapers were the LOL (Loyal Orange Lodge), Masons or AF and AM (Ancient Free and Accepted Masons), IOOF (Independent Order of Odd Fellows), IOF (Independent Order of Foresters) as well as women’s groups such as the IODE (Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire). Look for these initials or organization symbols on grave markers in local cemeteries.


 

The Orange Lodge figured most prominently in early history of this area. The order was named in honour of Protestant King William of Orange’s defeat of
Catholic King James at the Battle of the Boyne. Irish Protestants in Ontario, stirred up by a push to revenge Riel’s execution of Thomas Scott and secure the West from the Catholics, were strongly represented among the first waves of new settlers.

Samuel Kennedy, the first post-1870 settler to take up a homestead in the area was a staunch member of the L.O.L. He is credited with making a bold statement of his beliefs by renaming the Rivière aux Îlets-de-Bois the Boyne River. The first L.O.L. meetings were held in his home. As settlements spread, several local communities established their own branches of the Lodge.

On July 12, local lodges gathered to march in parades, accompanied by fifes and drums. They also sponsored local community events. The Dufferin Leader (1910-11-03) 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.”The last remaining local L.O.L hall in Graysville has deteriorated to the point where its valuable records and artifacts have now been donated to the Dufferin Historical Museum. The museum also holds a copy of The Early History of Dufferin Loyal Orange Lodge #1514 Graysville, Manitoba, 1883–1959 by L.O.L. member Dr. T.J. Harrison.
A local RM of Dufferin lodge
 

March 17 – St. Patrick’s Day. One of the main celebrations in the month of March is St. Patrick’s Day. Given the strong Irish representation in our history, you might also expect to read early reports of parades and celebrations built around shamrocks, fanciful little green leprechauns and green beverages. The event as we know it today is celebrated by anyone with Irish roots or by organizations looking for an excuse to hold a community supper fund-raiser. The LOL, however, were not keen on ‘Saints’ and their association with Catholicism. St. Patrick’s Day events appear to be of somewhat later vintage in the area.

Now and Then. Here is the next picture of the Town of Caman from our rollover Vintage Photos. This is a view of the corner of Main St. and 2nd Ave. as it looked back in 1912. Since that time, these buildings have had many different occupants. As part of Shirley Snider’s research on early Carman businesses, she has managed to identify many of the past owners.

For more on the history of this part of Main St., go to our Now and Then Vintage Photo section.

Natural History. In February, we looked at the groundhog and his annual weather predictions. March also has its animal connections. If the month comes in like a lamb, we should expect it to go out like a lion—and vice versa. This year it came in fairly lamb-like, mixed sun and clouds, chill winds but with promise of a fine week to come. As far as animals are concerned, neither the lamb nor the lion is indigenous to this area. Carman/Dufferin folks have to go the Assiniboine Zoo to see a lion. Sheep are occasionally mentioned among new species being introduced by settlers but they aren’t a mainstay of the local economy. So let’s just check in see how our everyday wildlife friends are managing during our recent erratic change of temperature.

Squirrels. Local squirrels have been surprisingly visible this winter, venturing out of their winter hideaways each time the temperature soars above freezing and snow begins melting from the roof top. They can be seen scurrying up the trees to see if the spring buds are beginning to swell and rooting around in the snow for those caches of nuts they stored in the fall. If they are fortunate, like the one seen below, they may even manage to raid the birdfeeder.

Both red squirrels and their larger grey cousins can be found in this area. The reds are noticeably more aggressive and don’t hesitate to chase the greys from their territory. Although we are often amazed by their speed and climbing skills, we may not give them enough credit for some of their other abilities.




No way the birds need all those sunflower seeds!

Here's an excerpt from a local life story that gives a whole new appreciation of the talents of our wily little wildlife friends:

“One late autumn morning Grandad woke to find the ground covered with a thick blanket of snow. He decided it was time to put out more feed for the birds. So he made a big ball of suet and sunflower seeds. He put the ball into a mesh bag, attached a long cord, and hung it near the end of a tree branch where he could watch the action from the comfort of his rocking chair. All sorts of birds soon found the food—nuthatches, woodpeckers, chickadees, juncos, redpolls, a blue jay, even a beautiful red-breasted grosbeak. And a squirrel. As he watched, a little red squirrel raced up the tree trunk and scampered out onto the branch. When it couldn’t reach the bag on the end of the cord, it just chewed through the cord and dropped the suet bag to the ground. Then it raced down the tree, grabbed the cord in its teeth and pulled the bag of suet towards the base of the tree—and settled in for a hearty meal.

Grandad was determined to outsmart the squirrel. He got a tall wooden post and dug a hole in the middle of Grandma’s flower beds. He nailed a feeding tray on top of the post and put out more seeds and suet. The squirrel watched closely from a nearby tree. As soon as Grandad was back inside, the squirrel raced down the tree, across the snow and up the pole. It stretched out, got its sharp claws around the edge of the platform and soon was enjoying another snack.

The wooden post was replaced with a metal pole. No way even those sharp little claws could get a grip on smooth metal. Have you ever watched a squirrel with its legs wrapped around a pole, using its strong thighs to shinny up, the way you climb coconut trees n the tropics? Believe me, they can do it like they’d been climbing metal poles all their lives.

The next try was a foil pie plate secured part way up the pole to act as a barrier. Tiny squirrel paws and sharp claws soon bent and twisted the flimsy aluminum plate enough to make a hole alongside the pole – then the squirrel was through the hole and back up enjoying its lunch.

Back to the drawing board. The next feeder was an impressive structure—a tall metal pole with a huge 4- foot square platform on top. If the squirrel climbed the pole – he still wouldn’t be able to stretch and reach the edge of the feeder. This seemed to be the answer.

Then, a day later, as he watched, Grandad saw the squirrel come bouncing across the snow and up a tall tree. The closest branch was about twenty feet from the feeder. The squirrel paused for a moment then raced full speed along a branch, took off with a flying leap, sailed through the air and landed with a thump on the platform.

Grandad watched in amazement as the squirrel ate a few seeds then proceeded to roll the suet ball off the platform onto to the ground. Then he jumped down and tried to push the suet ball towards the base of the tree. But the fresh snow was too deep and the ball wouldn’t move. After several tries the squirrel seemed to give up. He ran across the yard to the base of the tree and started digging in the snow. Maybe looking instead for nuts he had hidden away last fall? Not likely. He pulled out something orange from the snow. It was the mesh bag that had originally held the suet ball when he dropped it from the tree.

The squirrel grabbed the bag in his mouth and ran to where the suet ball lay in the snow. Taking the mesh bag in his paws, he spread it carefully over the top of the suet ball. Then he grabbed the cord and tried to pull the bag and the suet. The bag slipped off the ball. He smoothed it back and tried again.

Grandad’s mouth dropped open in amazement. “Will you look at that? Who said animals don’t know how to use tools? The squirrel remembered pulling the suet bag by the cord after he chewed it down from the tree. And he remembered where he hid the mesh bag. Now he’s trying to put the bag back on the suet ball so he can pull it through the snow. You know, if he’s that smart, he deserves to get fed too.”

So he put on his winter parka and warm winter mitts and went outside to scatter seeds all over the ground under the feeder. From then on, he watched both the birds and squirrels enjoy their food.

Later that year, I helped Grandad write up that story for his grandchildren. Years later, they still mention from time to time that they just re-read the story and had another good chuckle at his attempt to outsmart the crafty little red squirrel.”

For more information of squirrels see articles such as: orkincanada.ca/pests/wildlife/squirrels/


News and Events, February 2021

What’s up. What do committees do when the world around them goes into lockdown and face-to-face projects are on hold? It seems that C/D MHAC members have heeded the advice: ‘When nothing goes right, go left’. With the Province still under fairly tight pandemic protocols, Heritage Committee work is still going forward, but most of it is happening in the privacy of our homes or via email and telephone calls.

Our Treasurer Shirley Snider has picked up on a project she began a few years ago—identifying the location of the multitude of businesses that operated in the Town of Carman over the decades. At that time, C/D MHAC placed signs on several local buildings to outline their history. Shirley is trying to unravel a complicated, musical-chairs pattern of occupancy as the center of the growing town shifted north along Villard Ave./Main St. and as new buildings appeared, changed hands, burned, were replaced. We have been scouring early newspaper ads and enhancing old photos to try and read signs and identify locations—and of course, raising even more questions about our past.


Do you know where the first Carman post office was located?

A couple more of our members are working with the Boyne River Keepers (BRK) on revitalizing one of the key features that drew people to this particular area of Manitoba. C/D MHAC involvement to date has been mainly providing historical background on the river, its use and transformation over the years. Our research has documented early pride and concern over condition of river. Back around 1900, both local groups and excursions from as far away as Winnipeg held picnics in the many beautiful treed groves along the Boyne River. One of these outings was reported in the local Dufferin Leader, 1900-08-02:

Last April, we documented early concerns over the impact of growing human presence on water quality (News and Events April 2020)

Part of our interest in the river restoration has been towards encouraging reintroduction of native plants along the banks. This ties in with our current research on natural history of the area. Over the past few months, BRK has been working closely with the local Communities in Bloom (CIB) group to restore the riverbanks and create more attractive green spaces in Town. At a time when our municipalities and organizations are under increased financial pressure, it’s encouraging to see local organizations coming together to collaborate on these initiatives.

CIB also happens to be looking at greening a vacant town lot—the same one we were interested in developing two or three years ago as a showcase for local heritage. It was a large project, and was beyond our human and financial resources at a time when we also were installing signage to mark the Missouri Trail and Îlets-de-Bois heritage sites. We are now looking into the possibility of moving forward on the project in collaboration with CIB other local groups.

Another at-home project that has just been completed is scanning and organizing the Hopeland School material that was donated to us last year by former pupil Bob Briggs. We’ve just finished scanning, editing, organizing and collating over 600 files. These include the School history, an autobiography, school records (student enrollment and attendance, minutes of meetings, financial records) as well as photo collections of family and community activities. All this material is now on disks. A copy has been returned to the donor and others will be placed in our usual repositories. We are waiting delivery of another pioneer family album, as soon as services normalize.

The website also received a request from a researcher in England inquiring about the local Sons of England Lodge. We have information on several businesses that operated on the ground floor of their building on Fournier Street (1st St. SW) and on meetings and events held in the upper lodge chambers, but so far, are having difficulty locating details of S.O.E. activities in the community. Does anyone out there have ancestors who belonged to the local S.O.E., know of existing memorabilia, even the local lodge number?


Sons of England Block in early 1900s

Now and Then. Last month we introduced the first in a series of ‘rollover’ photos with present/past views of local scenes. This month, we’re looking at the former St. Andrew’s Church on 2nd Avenue SW as it is today and as it appeared when it was built back in 1898–99. Be sure and check out the accompanying links for further information on this impressive structure.

Click on the image or go to our new "Now and Then" page of our Vintage Photos collection and see what was once there.



 

 


Riel Day. Each year on the third Monday of February, Manitobans now commemorate the part Métis leader Louis Riel played in the birth of our province. Locally, we’ve looked at this part of Manitoba history mainly as a prelude to the arrival of settlers in the area, the resulting tension between the new arrivals and local Métis population and the resulting changes in the socio-cultural and economic life of the area. A note in the Dufferin Leader (1901-11-21) alerts us to a forgotten closer contact with the military activities of that era.

Thirty years ago on Monday last the second Red River expedition reached Winnipeg in command of Capt. Thos. Scott. They were sent to quell a rumored Fenian invasion on Manitoba and consisted of two companies of 100 men each. A fact of local interest in conjunction with this expedition is that hearing the enemy were lurking somewhere in the southern part of the province, one company of these volunteers was sent out from - Fort Garry and were camped for a couple of weeks on the north side of the Boyne two miles east of here.

This would have been just east of the Missouri Trail—another tie with the past for what was once the main route of passage through this area.

Valentine’s Day. February 14th is a day when we put aside thoughts of rebellions and conflict and celebrate the warm, fuzzy parts of our lives. Remember back when everyone in your class made and exchanged Valentines each year? They all went into a big decorated box and were handed out by the teacher. It was maybe years later before you appreciated the pathos of the whole scene—big smiles on the faces of those who got the most cards; near tears for those who only got one from the teacher and a classmate or two whose parents insisted they send cards to everyone.

This year, COVID protocols will no doubt put a damper on the day. We’re being warned that exchange of cards is a possible source of virus transmission. In keeping with protocol, and since we’re focussing this winter on our natural history, here is a Valentine’s Day ‘card’ featuring one of our local ladies. She’s not wearing a mask, but she’s outside, properly distanced and virtual.

Happy Valentine’s Day to the rest of the herd.

 

 

 


Natural History.
Groundhog (woodchuck). Spring has its Easter Bunny, Christmas, its reindeer, but February is one month in which we recognize one of our real, live, native animals, the groundhog.

Groundhogs are native to many parts of North America. They are usually found in grassy, dry, open areas such as fields, clearings where they can dig their deep burrows and have close access to food. They are noted for their hole-digging ability, huge appetite for fresh green vegetation, love of lying in the sun and hibernation practices. The groundhog’s main claim to fame is its supposed ability to predict the weather. For more details on their lives and habits, visit the Canadian Wildlife Federation's website.


The clover patch is eaten, now it’s time for a sunny nap

Our animal of the month has the distinction of having a day named in its honour. On February 2, Groundhog Day, ceremonies are held at locations in the U.S. and Canada to find out how long winter will last. By tradition, if the local groundhog comes out of hibernation on February 2nd and sees its shadow, we’ll get another six weeks of winter. No shadow, we’ll have an early Spring.

Several locations have joined the prediction business with their own pet groundhogs. The most famous of these prognosticators Pennsylvania's ‘Punxsutawney Phil’, made his predictions virtually this year. He called for six more weeks of winter.

His Canadian cousins are more optimistic. This morning (February 2), Nova Scotia’s ‘Shubenacadie Sam’, was the first to make his prediction. He apparently was reluctant to emerge from his den, no doubt sensing the huge snowstorm that’s approaching from the south. However, he failed to see his shadow and predicted an early Spring, so he may be confused by the weather reports.

In Quebec, Fred La Marmotte also is reported as reluctant to leave his cozy nest. Ontario’s albino groundhog, ‘Wiarton Willie’ wasn’t even disturbed as local dignitaries went virtual. They followed the original tradition of throwing a fur hat in the air and called for an early Spring.

Even though Winnipeg has just recorded the second warmest January since records were kept, it seems unlikely we’re through with our snowy season anytime soon. And, from the groundhogs I’ve known, it seems they’re a bit too smart to wake up this early during a Manitoba winter just to see how much longer they should sleep. Wildlife folks found that the biggest challenge in making a prediction for Manitoba was finding a groundhog. That problem has been settled by having hand-puppet ‘Merv’ proudly do the honours. This year Merv appeared wearing a COVID mask. He didn’t see his shadow so it looks like an early Spring. We’d like to believe him. However, in this little corner of the province, the resident groundhog has yet to be seen, the sun is shining and shadows abound. I think I just heard Mother Nature chuckling.

If we’re really interested in our heritage, we should be asking how and where this tradition began. The likely assumption is that belief in the predictive abilities of groundhogs was a product of indigenous knowledge of the natural world or the observations of early settlers. The IrishCentral website (February 2, 2021) speculates that, because February 2 is situated halfway between the Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox, Groundhog Day may have deeper roots in pagan Celtic rituals. As with other aspects of pagan ritual, elements may have been incorporated in Christianity, now reflected in Candlemas and St. Brigid’s Day.

The site also points to a precedent for Groundhog Day in early Roman pagan divination based on the hibernating hedgehog. If the hedgehog came out of his den on February 2 and saw his shadow, it meant six more weeks of winter. The tradition spread to other countries such as Germany; German migrants brought it to North America where, in the absence of hedgehogs, the groundhog inherited the starring role.

Whatever the origin, it’s useful to explore how deeply the roots of our beliefs and practice really go, in this case, the origins of what might now be seen as largely an entertaining tourism ploy.

Gleanings from Local Life Stories. Remember when groundhogs were known locally as woodchucks? And schoolkids tried to see how fast they could recite “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck wood? He’d chuck all the wood a woodchuck could if a woodchuck could chuck wood.” Who said kids in rural schools didn’t get a well-rounded education?

Then there’s this groundhog memory:

Since early childhood, whenever someone mentioned my uncle’s name, I had a vision of a bed of brilliant orange and yellow nasturtiums. I don’t really remember their house, but back in the years after the 1930s depression, most farm families didn’t plant flower beds, just things you could eat. Years later, I tilled up a new flower-bed in a sunny area of the lawn—it was a no-brainer what should be planted there. The nasturtiums that year outdid memory and we often took our coffee outdoors just to be cheered by their brilliant show. Then, early one morning, I looked out, I blinked and looked again. There was nothing there—except a fat groundhog, stuffing the last plants into his mouth. I’ve never planted nasturtiums again. And I still find it hard to really warm up to the groundhogs that still appear from time to time to feed on the big patch of clover growing in our front yard.

In spite of that sad story, I’ll likely still end the day by watching Bill Murray’s 1993 bizarre movie ‘Groundhog Day’. Wonder what March will bring?


News and Events January 2021

Ring in the New Year. The world has been impatiently waiting for 2020 to end. The rapid development of vaccines gives promise of a safer year ahead—after most of us get vaccinated. It’s likely to be a few months yet before we can resume some of our heritage projects that depend on face-to-face contact. Or we can change our strategies.

Our small group life-story sessions are on hold right now, but what about all those long conversations most of us are having these days with isolated family members and friends. You’ve probably talked about some of the Christmas traditions they’ve had to forego or modify this year.

Did you ask how long has this been part of their family traditions? Do any of them date back to the ‘old country’ before the family came to Canada? What was their childhood Christmas like? These memories no doubt helped fill a lot of lonely hours. Be sure to keep notes and share their stories with other family members. If your family is like ours, you’ll likely get the family network sharing stories, checking family trees and digging out old photos.

Christmas village 2020 – restaurant (no lights) in lockdown;
carollers ignoring distance protocols?

“The Past” is relative. Sharing stories across generations also helps put your own life in perspective. A colleague shared the following story: “In a clinical teaching group, we were talking about our outside interests. The students asked me what I liked to do to relax. I told them I like to watch old movies. Their response was that ‘they sure made some good movies in the 70s.’  (Actually I was thinking of the 40s).”

Now and Then. Nothing brings the past to life like a good photograph. One of the most exciting projects we had planned for 2020 was a series of photographs showing local scenes from the early days alongside the same location today. The project is the work of our website manager. It involves taking a current photo from exactly the same location and angle as the original picture. If the match is perfect and the technology is in place, a simple scroll across the photo instantly transforms it to the corresponding view. Prepare to say “Wow!”

Recognize this location?

Click on the image or go to our new "Now and Then" page of our Vintage Photos collection and see what was once there.

We planned on adding these bits of magic to our Vintage Photo collection as well as using them as highlights in the several displays planned for the 2020 celebration of MB150. The pandemic put an end to those displays and to completion of the project. We hope to present one in each of our next few monthly updates. They will be added to our Vintage Photos collection, along with a brief background on any changes over the years.

Natural History revisited. In the meantime, the pandemic has given us more time to focus on other aspects of local heritage such as our natural history. Over the past couple of months, we’ve been looking at our historic relationship with local animals as one of either food or sport. We know that our early settlers relied on hunting as an important part of the family food supply (Recent History, October, 2017). Another local account gives some insight into the importance of wildlife as food during another global crisis, the 1930’s Depression.

This life story describes how, as the depressions settled in, a lot of local families were hard pressed to survive. In those days, families were often large, with maybe ten or more children. There was little outside work to be found other than municipal projects like cutting brush along road-ways. Men who were lucky enough to get these jobs were paid about 50 cents a day.

The storyteller notes that, as newlyweds, she and her husband were just starting their family and they also had a large garden. So she always made sure she had a big pot of thick soup on the back of the cook stove each afternoon. She said “The men, when they were walking home from brush-cutting, always made a point of stopping in ‘just to see how our family was doing.’ And we always said ‘We’re just sitting down for some soup. Will you join us?’ So it was never taken as charity, just being neighbourly. But that was maybe the only hot meal some of them got for the day. Anything local families could trap or snare went into providing a bit of protein for the family. By the end of the Depression years, there wasn’t wildlife of any sort—including birds, rabbits, even squirrels—to be found in this area. It took years for wildlife to recover."


Seasonal change. Besides providing food or sport, wildlife and nature in general have always served as indicators of the changing seasons. The Dufferin Leader (1907-10-10) alerted its readers to the onset of winter:

It does not take the shortening of the days nor the lowering of the thermometer to warn us that winter is near; all nature, birds, animals, trees and flowers alike tell us the season is changing; and bid us, with them, make preparations for the reign of the Frost King.

These changes are so much a part of our lives that we pretty much take them for granted. It’s over a month since most of our plants vanished under the first snowfall and our migratory birds headed south. Hummingbirds were amongst the first to go, finishing their final frenzied feed before vanishing overnight for warmer climates. Robins were close behind, their cheery chirp replaced by the harsh voice of blue-jays and other winter residents.

By now, all have left except that other sad group of annual migrants, our ‘Snowbird’ retirees, whose migration to escape northern winters has been halted at the border this year by COVID-19 restrictions. This year they’re an extra grumpy lot, given the well-publicized holiday travel of several politicians.

Meanwhile, most of our animal population stick around for the winter, hibernating or adapting to the change in environment. Among the most noticeable seasonal changes we’ve been observing over the past couple of months are the highly visible changes in the coat of white-tail deer. Note the sleek, reddish-brown summer coat of the deer in the first photo. The fawn in front still has its camouflaging spots that help it blend in with foliage.


White-tailed deer in summer coat with spotted fawn

The young buck in the second photo is losing his winter coat and growing new antlers. The ‘velvet’ covering on the antlers nourishes growth of underyling bone, supplying blood, oxygen and nutrients for rapid growth. As autumn approaches, the velvet dies and sloughs off. The buck helps this process by rubbing against trees and other surfaces. The bone then hardens and it also dies. The antlers drop off during the winter months, ready for regrowth the following year.

     
Young buck in velvet, losing winter coat    Warm winter coats that blend in with barren trees

Some local animals such as squirrels and groundhogs, hibernate for the winter. Others, notably rabbits and weasels trade in their dull brown coats for white winter camouflage. These are just a few of the fascinating signs of changing seasons that are all around us, adding another rich dimension to the study of our natural history.