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Recent History News Items from 2022


News & Events, November 2022

People and Family Stories. Last month we commemorated the loss and remembered local connections of Naval Nursing Sister Agnes Wightman Wilkie. It also served as a reminder of the many other People and Family Stories who are part of our local heritage. Among them is S.J. Staples, an early businessman, Councillor, Town Mayor, and active community volunteer.

Samuel James Staples was one of the early builders of the Town of Carman. He was in his third term as mayor of Carman when he died of cancer on August 21, 1930.

EJ Staples - Nov
Samuel J. Staples

S.J. Staples was born in Manvers, ON in 1863. He came to Carman in 1899, accompanied by his wife Elizabeth (née Ecclestone) and their children, Ernest and Ellen. Until 1902, S.J. Staples worked in his brother Richard’s dry goods store, located at what is now the northwest corner of Hwy #13 and PR 245. He then opened his own store in partnership with E. Abercrombie, the North End Grocery and Clothing Store, next to the C.N.R. Station (now GPAC). His brother Richard moved to Elm Creek where he also operated a store. In 1904, Abercrombie left the partnership and son Ernest joined the store.

In 1907, S.J. Staples took out a five-year lease on commercial space in what was then the Sons of England building on Fournier St. (1st Street SW), the current location of Home Hardware. The store was then renamed S.J. Staples and Son, General Merchants.

sons of england
Sons of England Block
staples store
S.J. Staples & Son Store. Ernest on left;
S.J. Stapes on right

When the lease ended in October, 1912, the store was moved from S.O.E. Block further south to what is now 34-1st St. SW, the present location of Carman Pharmacy.

On March 5, 1918 Ernest joined the 43rd Battalion of the Canadian Infantry (Manitoba Regiment). Sadly, he did not come back from the war. Ernest lost his life on Sept 28, 1918; he is buried in Crest Cemetery, near Cambrai, France.

Ernest Staples before war
Ernest Staples, before the war
Ernest Staples
Ernest Staples

His father continued in business under the name of S.J. Staples until November 1918 when he sold to Mr. J.G. McGowan of Treherne, Manitoba.

S.J. Staples was known for his active interest in the affairs of Carman and district. He served as a town councillor before becoming mayor of Carman. His obituary (Dufferin Leader, 1930-08-28) attests to his “unremitting attention to matters…and constant effort to keep the municipal machinery working smoothly. He was one of the chief workers in the movement for town beautification.” This included offering prizes for the best gardens and home surroundings.

staples grave
S.J. Staples' grave

He also was active in the community as an elder in the Wesley Church and as a member of the Independent Order of Oddfellows (I.O.O.F.). His duties with the I.O.O.F. included serving as provincial Grand Patriarch. The order was prominently represented at his funeral service. S.J. Staples is buried in Carman’s Greenwood Cemetery.

S.J. Stapes has six surviving great-grandchildren, one of whom, Edwin Pritchard, currently is living in the Carman area and following his great-grandfather’s tradition of community service.

P.S. We should point out that this profile is a good example of the teamwork behind most C/D MHAC projects. The Staples name first came to our attention through the research of member Shirley Snider, who, for the past decade, has been tracing the location and ownership of various Carman businesses. The S.J. Staples’ obituary was located on the front page of a 1930 Dufferin Leader, thanks to our research in early local newspapers. But the jackpot turned out to be the family archive compiled by Staples’ descendants, including Edwin Pritchard and his cousins. This impressive collection recently came to C/D MHAC attention through discussions of the growing need for safe storage of family histories and documents. And thereby hangs yet another tale.

I.O.O.F. Among his many achievements, S.J. Staples rose to prominence in the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. The I.O.O.F. was formed in 18th Century England as a mutual self-help society with the motto “Friendship, Love and Truth”. The origin of the unusual name “Odd fellows” is uncertain but is believed to come from the fact that members devoted their time to helping others. This was unusual for fraternities of the time so they were known as “those odd fellows."

The I.O.O.F. also differed from many other societies of the day in being “non-partisan, non-sectarian, and welcoming of all people without regard to religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, and national origin”, based on their belief in the “universal brotherhood of Man and the fatherhood of God”. As evidence that they didn’t just pay lip-service to these principles, the I.O.O.F. were the first fraternal order to admit women to their companion order, the Rebekahs, who also were active in the local community.

November at C/DMAC. November is the month when we prepare our year-end report to the Town and R.M. Councils. It’s a time when we take a critical look at our activities for the year, evaluate how well we met our objectives, and lay out our plans, goals and projected budget for the following year.

Usually this is a pretty rewarding task. We’ll admit, though, that this year we’re feeling a bit of frustration over the ongoing impact of the pandemic. COVID didn’t become history in 2022, the way everyone hoped. As a result, we still have a few projects that had to remain on the back burner until we feel more secure about in-person, indoor contacts. Among these were the St. Daniel community inventory of heritage resources and our life story workshops. It’s been frustrating in a way, but it puts us in sync with most committees and organizations who have been feeling the impact of restricted contact and economic constraints.

On the positive side, 2022 became a year in which we could catch up on research, planning and other non-contact activities.

In one of our major accomplishments, C/D MHAC funded and assisted with the next phase of digitalization of local newspapers. Copies from the 1890s to 2018 are now available online through the Pembina Manitou Archive.

We also had time to work with our trusty web manager on a complete review and update of the website content and layout, all while adding eleven new monthly ‘News and Event’ updates. Another highlight involved working with a talented local artist and Indigenous advocate who will be helping local residents explore their experience of growing up Métis in the Carman/Dufferin area. And we located other valuable background on other projects that had to be put temporarily on hold. Seems there’s always a positive side to events, if you can look past the doom and gloom.

As soon as our year-year report for 2022—or as it’s referred to by MHACs, our Heritage Resource Management Plan (HRMP)—receives final approval by our members, it will be available on the website under ‘Heritage Management’.

Natural History. The general response to all this white stuff that continues falling rather steadily has been “Already? We hardly got summer!” You must admit, that first fresh snow is a beautiful sight.

With arrival of snow, birdbaths
are closed for the winter

The local ski crowd are rejoicing. Others are making last minute arrangements for snow clearing, sucking up the fact that, thanks to the high cost of fuel snow removal, like everything else, is going to cost more this year.

Locally, the BRK just pulled their dock from the river for the winter and are now awaiting the arrival of skating season. If we look back to earlier years, it seems that skating was well under way by Remembrance Day. The Dufferin Leader (November 10, 1910) reported that:

The Boyne has been frozen over for some time and the ice is now about three inches thick. Some of the younger generation have already enjoyed the pleasures of skating. Except a slight flurry about three weeks ago, there has been no snow.

And the Dufferin Leader, November 11, 1926 under the heading “Skaters Busy On River”, recorded the following:

The freezing temperatures of the nights of the past week have resulted in a good sheet of ice forming on the surface of the waters of the Boyne and this, with the absence of snow, makes things very nice for those who like to skate. A party of boys went up the river yesterday to a point about six miles west of town and found the going fine.

Two winter freeze-ups don’t make the argument for climate change but it will likely send some of you off in search of data on a few more annual freeze-up dates. Let us know what you find.

News & Events, October 2022

Agnes Wightman Wilkie. October 14, 2022 marked the 80th anniversary of the death of Naval Nursing Sister Agnes Wightman Wilkie, the only Canadian Nursing Sister in military service who died by enemy action during WWII.

Nursing Sister Agnes Wilkie,
RCN Grave in St. John’s, Nfld.
[Photos: War memorial site]

Agnes was named after her grandmother, Agnes Wightman Wilkie. Her grandparents, Tom and Agnes Wilkie, came to Canada from Roxboroughshire, Scotland, in 1885 with six of their seven children. After a year at Campbellville, they homesteaded on SW 32-6-7w near Roseisle. [History of the RM of Dufferin, 1880–1980, p. 17] The grandparents are buried in Roseisle Cemetery.

Agnes Wilkie’s parents, John and Helen (Usher) Wilkie, farmed at Oak Bluff (where she was born) and in the Carman/Dufferin area. Agnes graduated from high school in Carman. For more on the Wilkie family, see [History of the R.M.of Dufferin in Manitoba, 1880–1980, pp. 798–800].

In 1924, Agnes Wilkie was admitted to the Misericordia General Hospital (MGH) School of Nursing. She graduated with distinction in 1927. After working in Winnipeg as an operating room supervisor then as a private duty nurse, in January 1942, Agnes enlisted as a Nursing Sister in the Royal Canadian Navy. She was one of 343 nursing sisters in the Royal Canadian Naval Medical Service.

Agnes had been on leave, visiting her family in Carman. She was returning to duty as assistant matron on the RCNH (naval hospital) Avalon when the ferry she was travelling on from North Sydney, NS to Port aux Basques Nflld. was sunk by an enemy torpedo. Agnes Wilkie was one of 106 passengers and 31 crew members who died in the attack.

Nursing Sister Agnes Wilkie
Royal Canadian Navy

Wilkie plot in Greenwood
Cemetery In memory of
Agnes Wilkie [IB]

Agnes was buried with full military honours in Newfoundland in St. John’s Mount Pleasant Cemetery. [see The Canadian Virtual War Memorial]. She is commemorated locally on the family grave marker in Greenwood Cemetery.

Read more about more about this local hero—her bravery, compassion, her final ordeal, and the ways in which she has been honoured—in a 2018 CBC News story.

Women in Military Service. Agnes Wilkie joined the Royal Canadian Naval Medical Service during WWII when, for the first time, women were being enlisted for service in the Canadian Armed Forces. They could now serve in the army, air force or navy and in the nursing services associated with each military branch. The intent was to have women perform traditional female work such as cooking, laundry or clerical duties so the men who traditionally did those jobs could be freed for combat. Some female recruits also served in areas such as recruitment or communications, others as drivers or mechanics. They are viewed as pioneers for full equality of women in both leadership and combat roles in our present-day military services. See also the Canadian Encyclopedia.

Display of uniforms, aimed at recruiting women during WWII [Photo: W.A. Leary]

CWAC personnel from Mobile Recruiting Unit recruiting at fair WWII [Photo: W.A. Leary]

Although women’s service in the Canadian military officially began during WWII, the wartime role of nursing sisters, such as Agnes Wilkie, began much earlier. Nursing, as a profession, had its origin in Florence Nightingale’s service in the Crimean War and her subsequent establishment of training schools for nurses. In Canada, Nursing was an official part of military operations long before WWII. In an informative article published in the Canadian Encyclopedia, author Nancy Miller Chenier outlines how Canadian Nursing Sisters “carried out official duties with the military during the North-West Resistance, the South African War, the First and Second World Wars, and the Korean War. She points out that at least 70 nursing sisters died from enemy action and disease during their service.” See also the Canadian Encyclopedia.

This overview of the broader context of military nursing serves as a reminder that Agnes Wightman Wilkie is part of a long history of nursing service during times of war. Perhaps, by extension, it also should remind us of the front-line service of nurses and other health care providers who are ‘battling’ the current pandemic.

September 30, 2022 [IB]

Wasp nest in basswood
October 3, 2022 [IB]

Natural History – Basswoods & Wasps. This year, autumn colours seemed to fade overnight. One day last week, strong gusts of wind blew in from the north-west, creating showers of swirling leaves; within a few short hours, trees were left looking cold and bare.

The basswood tree had been especially beautiful this year. Suddenly it was a skeleton of bare, grey-brown branches.

Along with disappointment came a surprise. The summer’s heavy growth of leaves had been hiding the wasp nest we had been trying to locate all summer. And it wasn’t just any wasp nest. This one was the size of a large football.

The nest is still in place, so we can’t show a dissected cross-section. But if you want to see what it would look like on the inside and learn a bit more about the wasps that have been busy pollinating our plants and swarming the hummingbird feeders over the past month or so, check out this link.


News & Events September 2022

Work Rivers Day.  It turned out to be a fine, autumn afternoon for the Boyne River Keeper’s annual commemoration of World Rivers Day. Fifty-three boaters in pirate costume joined the procession of canoes and kayaks that enjoyed a relaxing afternoon paddling down the river from the trestle dock to Ryall Park. In the picture left, C/D MHAC Chair Nikki Falk carries the BRK pirate banner as she arrives back at Ryall Park to check in with the home crew.

Back at the park, landlubbers visited displays set up by local merchants and organizations and enjoyed musical entertainment. C/D MHAC and the Dufferin Historical Museum (DHM) shared a display table featuring a piece of the original waterworks pipes, vintage photos of the river and local surroundings, and an assortment of publications and brochures. We answered scads of heritage-related questions and enjoyed hearing personal memories of the river, notably from the many folks who recalled happy times at the old swimming hole. There are so many fascinating stories out there, just waiting to be told.

Some of our younger visitors couldn’t imagine swimming in the river rather than in the ‘clean’ local pool, although recent BRK activities had made them aware of the fun of boating and winter sports. It was a reminder of the importance of encouraging families to share their stories across generations. As our favourite author, Anon., once said: “The most treasured heirlooms are the memories that we pass down to our children.”

By coincidence—if such there is—another visitor to our display reminded us why it is important to encourage people to make time now to record their family’s life stories. Margaret Ruddell is well known as an author, and for her interest in local history. She and other residents living near the old swimming hole have spent years maintaining the area. In one of our display photos, shown below, she appears beside the sign C/D MHAC installed at the site. Incidentally, she wrote the legend for the sign. The other photo was taken at the BRK event.

Swimming Hole sign   July, 2015

BRK World Rivers Day displays Sept., 2022

What is Margaret Riddell’s  special connection with memories? It’s not just because, years later, discussion is still taking place around upkeep of the swimming-hole area. Given our aging population and concern over the increasing incidence of dementia, her poem “Thief in the Light” reminds us how fragile memory can be. She wrote with sensitive insight:

It sneaks up undetected
A brazen thief in the bright light of day
It steals small to begin with: an expression
A small memory, a recognition.
The losses are inconsequential, barely noticed at first.

The thefts begin to accrue. Others begin to notice
The things that go missing—the recall of details of the past,
The words lost to the tip of the tongue,
The clarity of judgment….

[re-printed with permission of the author]

It’s not that everyone will experience memory loss, but it does highlight the importance of asking parents and grandparents about the past and recording life stories while memories are still keen.  And, of course, while we still remember to do it.

Speaking of keen memories….

On the other hand, we were reminded recently of how we sometimes clearly recall the smallest details from years ago. We took this picture recently of a local resident when he visited the DHM. The old Graysville mailboxes are on display there and he wanted to see if he could remember the combination to the old family mailbox. It had been his job as a youngster to pick up the mail. To his delight, the mailbox opened first try. 

Hopefully, the pandemic is finally part of our history. We’re itching to get back to recording life stories and to encouraging families to capture their own ‘heirlooms’ while they still can.



Natural history. Autumn colours have arrived in rather speedy fashion this year. After a couple of nights of frost, the leaves are turning from lush green to yellow and dry brown. Apples have taken on a ripe, pink blush and, to the delight of the deer, are beginning to fall to the ground. Even the deer’s coats have suddenly begun to change colour.


Speaking of nature, you never know what you might see while you’re watching Mother Nature busily making her seasonal changes. What would you think if you looked out the window and saw this in your back yard? If you guessed it’s the head of an elderly, decapitated sasquatch, you’d be wrong.   

It is, in fact, the north end of a porcupine that’s going south. He even left a few quills on the deck as a calling card. Just hope he doesn’t chew up the cedar siding and walkway boards the way he did last time he visited the yard.

News & Events, August 2022

It’s been a busy month for everyone.  We’re getting back to travelling and welcoming visitors again after months of isolation. Local organizations are taking advantage of the current relaxation of pandemic restrictions to catch up on fundraising events and other face-to-face activities. One of the challenges they are facing is that many former volunteers still haven’t returned to the workforce. On the positive side, we are finding that  our local groups are more often working together, sharing information and building a stronger community spirit.

BRK logo

Boyne River Keepers (BRK). In our May update we noted, for example, that the Boyne River Keepers (BRK) had asked C/D MHAC to write a history of the river. You’ll find our story of the history of the Boyne River here.We are pleased to report that they now have their new website up and running. The group will be celebrating World River Day September 24 with events on the river and in Ryall Park. C/D MHAC has been invited to attend and to set up a display. Check out their site to learn more about their projects and upcoming events.

Dufferin Leader, 1934-02-22

Local Women in Business also are hosting an event in September. We’ve been pointing them to early newspapers for ads and information on early business ventures by local women. These include such enterprises as nursing homes, music lessons, sale of greenhouse plants, gift shops, clothing and hat shops. One that caught our attention in an earlier update was an ad placed by an agent for Spirella in our Recent History, November 2021.

Snow Valley. It’s also encouraging to receive queries from well beyond the local community. This past month we heard from a contact in Ontario who is researching former ski operations across Canada. He read our brief website profile on Snow Valley and had further questions about dates and location of the site. We were able to share a link to Cliff McPherson’s informative account in the RM history book along with information on nearby Ski Birch.

Métis life stories. Meanwhile, Chris Larsen has been meeting with key individuals and laying out plans for gathering local Métis life stories. One of the neat things about our work with this group is the fact that we are always learning something new. For example, we’ve all admired the beautiful designs and colour of Métis embroidery. Chris explained that the origin of the designs lay in European embroidery. It was first taught to Indigenous women and girls by nuns in Quebec, later introduced on the Prairies when the Grey Nuns came to what is now Manitoba. The new floral patterns were a departure from the more geometric designs of earlier Indigenous women. Beading and other materials were used instead of earlier porcupine quills and hides. For more information on this important part of local heritage, check out this article from the Métis Museum or enjoy the wide array of designs by browsing ‘Métis beadwork‘  online.

Natural history. Some of the most interesting ‘history-in-the-making’ events from the past summer have been happening in the world around us. Mother Nature has continued her wake-up calls with everything from thunderstorms and heavy rains to prolonged heat and humidity. Our August meeting was postponed when a tornado alert sounded just as we were leaving for Carman. Fortunately, a tornado didn’t materialize, but the storm did bring golf ball to baseball size hail to nearby areas.

Early morning beauty

One of the positive outcomes of Mother Nature’s rather extreme activity has been the opportunity it’s provided for some stunning photographs. Heat waves followed by cold fronts have brought heavy fog. Nikki Falk captured this striking image one morning on the family farm.


Monarch butterfly and Milkweed

Monarch butterfly. One of the more concerning environmental reports has been the declaration that monarch butterflies are now considered an endangered species in CanadaMonarchs are threatened by the effects of climate change, loss of the forest habitat where they overwinter in Mexico, and loss of the native plants such as milkweed, on which their survival depends.  We likely all remember when farmers were actively using pesticides to eradicate milkweed from their crops and making sure that roadside ditches were carefully mowed to get rid of any stray plants. Their success combined with the erratic weather patterns of recent years have made annual migration hazardous and have brought these fascinating insects to the attention of environmentalists. The narrative is changing from one of eradication of milkweed to encouraging establishment of butterfly gardens that incorporate milkweed along with such flowers as goldenrod, black-eyed susan, asters and coneflowers.

One of the fascinating things about history—if you don’t agree with a trend, just wait a generation.

News & Events, July 2022

What’s in a date? Here we are in July, the second half of the year, with days already growing shorter. The good news is that this year the July 1st parades and summer fair were back again, giving us a glimmer of what we have come to think of over the years as a ‘normal’ summer.

Graysville L.O.L. #1514 now abandoned

It just happens that this update is being written on July 12, a day that conjures up memories of ‘Orange’ parades that were once a regular part of local summer celebrations. Many of the first post-1870 homesteaders to this area were staunch Irish Protestant Anglophones. They are credited with changing the name of the local Riviére aux Îlets-de-Bois to the Boyne River, in honour of the Battle of the Boyne, in which Protestant King William of Orange defeated Catholic King James. Back in the days when ‘LOL’ stood for Loyal Orange Lodge, branches were active locally in Carman, Graysville, Miami and Roseisle. For several generations, July 12th parades ‘with fife and drum’ were a prominent feature of local summer festivities. For more on this aspect of local heritage, visit the Dufferin Historical Museum’s fine display of L.O.L. artifacts and read Dr. T.J. Harrison’s history of the Graysville lodge (copies at museum and library).

As we know from our overview of local history, the new wave of settlers rapidly changed the economic and socio-cultural character of this area. It also created tension and resulted in confrontation with the predominately Métis population who differed from the newcomers in their culture, language, religion and view of land ownership.

Present-day Impact. We’ve been working these past months to see if we can help set up interviews or gatherings in which local residents with Métis roots can share their life stories. The organizers understand the experience of growing up with Métis roots and the importance of establishing a comfortable environment for sharing their stories. Our hope is that we can all learn more about both the culture and the prolonged impact the early confrontation had on Métis families who remained in the community. Were recent generations aware of cross-cultural tensions? Did they view themselves as an integral part of community?

Personal attitudes and biases traditionally have been deeply rooted in family and community values. In recent times, they seem as likely to be influenced by social media. Another question we might explore is what impact recent media coverage on Indigenous rights and reconciliation has had on attitudes and understanding of Métis roots and experiences.

Life story interviews with individuals from such diverse origins as our post-WWII Dutch settlers, new immigrants, or refugees from war-torn countries, also should allow us to compare and contrast the impact of that early ‘invasion’ of settlers with the experience of more recent arrivals.

A blanket is added (to the horse,
not the human) when the insects are
really bad

Natural History. This past couple of weeks have seen our ponds start to dry up. Unfortunately, the resident ducks have been replaced by an onslaught of mosquitoes. One small advantage of recent drought years was that we haven’t been plagued by these pesky insects for the past 2–3 years. As we see in this photo, both people and animals are finding ways to enjoy the outdoors in spite of the little pests.

We just received a report and picture of the rare local sighting of a pink lady slipper. This member of the orchid family is said to be native to the area. As we learn from this life story excerpt, pink lady slippers once grew in abundance in certain parts of the municipality:

A rare pink lady slipper

There was one area we kids trekked to each June to marvel at a large expanse of these beautiful flowers. We didn’t pick them and always kept the location pretty much secret. Years later, I took [my husband] to share the magic of this secret place. We found that the trees had been cut, the land was under cultivation and there was no longer a trace of pink lady slippers. It is one of the saddest memories I have of the past. So you can imagine our excitement a few years ago when the grandkids spotted a couple of the flowers when they were here for a family gathering. They were the first I had seen for almost 60 years.  It was a special treat for family members who had only heard of these beauties from my stories.

But the real significance of the pink lady-slippers for our family goes way back to the 1930s and the Great Depression. Our mother’s grandmother died and Mom was very upset that she couldn’t afford to buy flowers for the funeral. Dad said, ‘Don’t worry—I have an idea.’ She knew she could trust him to come up with something creative. On the way to the funeral, Dad stopped the car, disappeared down a slope into a gully and came back with a small spray of pink lady-slippers. They were pretty much the only flowers at the funeral, and they were given pride of place on the coffin. Being so beautiful and unique, they paid proper respect to a woman who was much beloved by both her family and the community—and one who prided herself in her own well-tended garden. That was one of our mother’s only positive memories of the Depression.

“The most treasured heirlooms are the memories of our family that we pass down to our children.” (Anon.)

News & Events, June 2022

Archives. C/D MHAC has a mandate to identify, preserve and promote local heritage resources. As we note elsewhere on the website, much of our local material is housed in the museum, library, in our own C/D MHAC holdings, or available online. Through our ongoing Inventory of Local Heritage Resources we also have identified a wealth of material that is held by organizations or in private collections across the municipality.

Having located these resources, how do we ensure they are preserved? We also have received calls from local organizations concerned about deterioration of their records. Custodians of private collections are faced with the reality that families are becoming smaller, more dispersed and out of touch with their roots. Both have had questions about safe, secure places to store their documents, photographs and life stories, the goal being to ensure they are preserved for future generations. See our March 2017 News and Events for one such treasure trove of local heritage records that almost ended up in the trash.

A sample of the many community records and vintage
photos C/D MHAC has rescued

Without providing any embarrassing or painful details, let’s just say that one of the major challenges we face is that none of our local storage areas fully meet archival standards for environmental control, storage, handling and access.

This is why our recent Heritage Resource Management Plans (HRMPs) have acknowledged the need for an archival quality local repository to ensure safe, secure preservation of records, documents and other original heritage materials.

One solution that has been proposed is to move to digitlization of old records and photographs. An advantage of this approach is the current enthusiasm for digital media and the opportunity it presents to fulfil our mandate for wider promotion of local heritage. This is one of the reasons we share digital copies of reports, histories, newspapers and other C/D MHAC holdings with the local Dufferin Historical Museum and the Boyne Regional Library. Where possible, we share this information on our website and make a point of providing links to online resources. We also have been encouraging community groups to scan records such as local cemetery books and to store copies in a location separate from the original. The museum, in turn, has recently begun digitizing vintage photos to enhance accessibility and reduce handling.

Could digitization rather than archiving be the way of the future? For the family historian, seeing a copy of a family baptismal certificate or an ancestor’s naturalization papers, no matter how good the copy, is not the same as seeing the original. It’s a bit like having a museum without artifacts—just viewing pictures of the objects on a device. Would those grade-school students who thrill at trying on the old buffalo coat or touring the former one-room Boyne School get the same feel for local history viewing images on a screen?

Then there is that other complication. Have you tried recently to open those old 3.5” disks on which you used to store your material? Or looked for a website that’s no longer available online? Even tried to open files created a couple of program updates ago? Our heritage-biased thoughts are that digitization is a valuable adjunct, but not a replacement for the original records.

South-Central Regional Archive. Given these issues and concerns, it was timely that members of the newly formed South-Central Regional Archive attended our May meeting to bring the committee up to date on plans for building a regional archive in St. Claude.

While we were still in our ‘location of resources’ phase of preservation, the St. Claude Historical Society has been working for the past four years on plans for an archive to house local heritage records. From discussions with nearby communities such as Portage la Prairie, the group realized that the need for archival storage extends far beyond their own municipality. Consequently, they have expanded their vision and incorporated under the regional banner. The revised plan involves expansion and reworking of the original building plan to meet this new perception of their mission and catchment area. The intent of the SCRA is to meet the need for archival quality storage in South-Central Manitoba for family, business or organizational records, with access to be determined by contract with the donors.

The group has now applied for charitable status and is preparing policies and by-laws. Meanwhile, members are visiting other municipal councils and heritage groups to assess potential storage needs and obtain letters of support for the regional concept. They also will be seeking financial support from participating municipal councils.

One of the complicating factors here is the rather fierce loyalty of organizations and individuals to their own towns and communities and the resulting preference to see their resources held in their own district. These biases are based on commercial competition for business and small town survival along, perhaps, with a bit of ‘why didn’t we think of that?’ These sentiments often have roots as well in our early history of differences in ethnic origin, religion and language.

We have a few options. We can essentially ignore the SCRA project and let them move forward without our support. Better to lose some of our heritage resources than have them go out of our municipalities? If we want to keep records locally, we could invest in enhancing our own storage facilities. Or we could work with the SCRA to develop a high quality, accessible regional archive.

The St. Claude folks have already committed a huge amount of time and energy towards initiating and organizing this project. It is one that should greatly benefit heritage preservation efforts across the South-Central Region. Who knows, getting to know our neighbours and working together with them on a joint project might even begin to write a new chapter in local heritage.

Natural History. Has summer finally arrived? The ducks are still swimming merrily about in that front yard pond, except that now the females are less often in sight. In this recent photo, the ‘men’, having done their ‘progenitive duty’ for the season, are hanging out together down at The Pond. The ‘ladies’ no doubt are busy keeping the eggs warm back on the nest.

Meanwhile, the plant kingdom is bursting forth with new growth and sweet-scented blossoms.

Native ferns beginning to unfurl

The ornamental crabapple - welcome for its beauty
and sweet scent








We are fortunate to have four separate seasons, each with its own sights, sounds, and scents and each with its own special beauty.

News and Events, May 2022

Where’s Spring? This year Manitoba saw one of the top half-dozen heaviest snow falls since records were kept. A single day in April recorded twice the average precipitation for the month. Temperatures over the past month have been running around 15° below normal for this time of year. Now the month of May is being ushered in with local flooding, closed roadways and evacuation alerts. Mother Nature hasn’t done much to brighten the spirits of folks who are still grizzling away about their neighbours’ views on pandemic restrictions.

In the midst of this doom and gloom, a recent random act of kindness stuck out like a bright ray of sunshine. We were just digging out from that last big dump of snow, when a phone call came from someone we knew by sight and by reputation through heritage activities. The caller said she would be in the area—would it be alright to pass by and drop something off? This Good Samaritan drove bravely up the slushy, muddy lane and arrived at the door with a jar of homemade soup, muffins and - a big bouquet of soft, fuzzy pussy willows. “The pussy willows,” she said, “are a sign of hope.”

Sign of hope that Spring is coming?

I figure this is the closest you can come to getting a ‘warm fuzzy’. These are the moments we’ll remember long after the snow has gone.

History of the river. We mentioned last month that the Boyne River Keepers (BRK) had requested our help in writing a history of the river for their new website. The group’s interest in the past has been piqued in part by the ‘heritage moments’ Nikki Falk has been presenting at BRK meetings.

We’ve often mentioned the river on our own website, mainly because it has featured in so many aspects of local heritage. Now we’ve been going back over that content and pondering how best to present a history that would be meaningful to the BRK.

From what perspective should the story of the river be told? We recognize that histories are interpretations of the past, based on the narrator’s own experiences and view of the world. Most of our local sources—histories, life stories, photos and newspaper accounts—date from the post-1870 era and reflect the experience and viewpoint of early settlers and their descendants. These river stories speak primarily of floods, pollution, dams, bridges and recreation.

What if the story of the river were told by the Indigenous people who lived here in the centuries before 1870? Given their different perspective on nature, an Indigenous history likely would focus more on the life-giving importance of water, ceremonies, plants and animals native to the area, or the best places to find medicinal herbs. This part of our local heritage was passed from one generation to the next by oral tradition. So far, we haven’t retrieved these early stories of the river we now know as The Boyne.

What if the river were to tell its own story? What would it have to say about its use and abuse by human cohabitants?

Identifying and preserving local heritage is an ongoing process. We’ll continue trying to fill in the gaps in our knowledge by seeking out oral histories and memories of the past. We’re also taking careful note of the new chapters of river history being written by groups such as the BRK. That said, here is an outline of what we know so far about the history and heritage of the Boyne River.

History of the Boyne River. The story begins centuries ago when glacial Lake Agassiz receded, leaving behind an expanse of rich prairie soil and a winding stream that drained the land between the western escarpment and the Great Marsh1 east of present-day Carman. From there, the water flowed into the larger Red River drainage system. Although the Great Marsh itself was drained in the early 1900s, the river remains a key factor in local water management and a major feature of the Carman/Dufferin landscape. Of equal significance is the role the river has played in our local heritage.

The river, with its heavily forested banks, was a source of fresh water, fuel, wild fruit, medicinal plants and small game for early Indigenous hunter-gatherers. During the era of the fur trade and western exploration, larger rivers and waterways provided the fastest and most efficient means of transportation. Although our river was too shallow and meandering to serve as a major transportation route, it played a crucial role in the history of that era.

The Missouri Trail2 was the major pathway followed by early Indigenous peoples, on their way to gather and trade at the junction of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers in the north and the headwaters of the Missouri River to the south. It was the route to the sacred site at Calf Mountain and the pathway later used by fur traders and buffalo hunters. The trail followed the western shore of the Great Marsh, passing through miles of swampy land and open prairie before crossing the river about a mile and a half east of present-day Carman. The wooded crossing provided an oasis where travellers found water, food, and fuel as well as wood for repairing their Red River carts. In springtime, maple syrup was harvested. By the 1830s, a number of Métis families were living in the area. The name they gave to the river was the Rivière aux Îlets-de-Bois (‘islands of wood’), possibly a translation of an earlier Indigenous name.

Most of our local written histories date from the 1870s. This leaves a huge gap in our knowledge and understanding of the earlier centuries of Indigenous interaction with the river, making it a part of our heritage that remains largely unrecorded and unrecognized. We know from a large volume of other oral histories and Indigenous writings that water, as a giver of life, was sacred, that it held a central, spiritual place in Indigenous cultural belief systems.3 We can only hope that local oral history projects will capture some knowledge and understanding of these beliefs and their significance to the river’s story.

Settlers arrive. In 1870, Manitoba became a province of Canada and was opened to homesteading. Given the rich local resources, it is no surprise that the first settlers to this area chose land near the river.

Samuel Kennedy, the first arrival, settled at the key point where the Trail crossed the Rivière aux Îlets-de-Bois. A staunch Irish Protestant Orangeman, he is said to have renamed the river the Boyne, in honour of the defeat of Catholics at the Irish Battle of the Boyne.4 The river thus became a factor in the tensions that arose between the local Métis and the new arrivals around differences in culture, language, religion and attitude to land ownership5—issues that have remained part of the broader context of local history.

Clendenning Mill

With the arrival of this new population, the story of the river began to change. In 1879, William Clendenning built a dam and flour mill on NW 24-6-5w, later adding a lumber mill.6 The local mill saved settlers from long trips to settlements at Nelsonville or Emerson to grind grain for flour and feed.

It also provided lumber for building and helped pave the way for development of the Town of Carman.

Early newspapers and memoirs are among our richest sources of information about our past. Many of these news items refer to the Boyne River and affirm its importance in local life.

Local churches and other organizations reported on annual picnics held in wooded groves along the river. In the summer of 1900, the Dufferin Leader carried this glowing account of a local picnic:

On Friday, July 27th, the members of the Old Maids’ Society of Orr, together with a few invited guests, spent an enjoyable afternoon in Mr. Usher’s grove, on the banks of the Boyne. Repairing to the rendezvous, the pleasure-seekers first amused themselves by wandering through the lovely greenwood, admiring the many beauties of the spot and plucking the luscious cherries that hung so temptingly on the branches of trees. After roaming around some time the party gathered together under a majestic maple where they enjoyed a recherche repast of sandwiches, cake and other delicacies, Songs and other amusements were then indulged in and in the evening the party returned to their respective homes after having spent a most pleasant and profitable afternoon.7

Another small item in the local paper gives a hint of the age of the woodlands along the banks of the river. In 1889, the Carman Dufferin Leader reported that “H. Clendenning has on his premises an oak tree which measures twelve feet in circumference two feet above the ground”.8 How many decades would it have taken for a slow-growing oak tree to each that size? What became of the tree? These popular picnic groves and immense trees are largely part of our past. Could this part of our heritage be revived for future generations?

Wildlife. Like our present-day boaters, early residents of Carman were intrigued by wildlife in and along the river. They were aware of beavers and the impact of their upstream dams on local water flow. This was knowledge they used during periods of drought when they built man-made dams to ensure a water supply for the town.

Beavers and turtles that boaters now are thrilled to see along the stream were part of the early habitat. Back in 1907, the Carman Standard reported that:

 A very large turtle, or tortoise was captured by Mr. Leary, of Roseisle, the other day, and exhibited in Carman on Monday. It weighed over 30 pounds, and opinion was divided as to whether it was a tortoise, a terrapin or a snapping turtle. Its shell was strong enough to support a man.9

Around the same time, the paper also reported that wolves were “plentiful along the river west of Carman”.10 With the arrival of settlers in the area, these predators were seen as a danger to livestock and substantial bounties were put on their heads.

Recreation. From early stories, it’s clear that recreational use of the river and interest in its environment were a rich part of our past.

Boating on the Boyne: sisters Allie & Mabel Clark boating ca. 1900

Boating. This vintage photo from the Dufferin Historical Museum collection suggests that the BRK weren’t the first enthusiasts to discover the joys of boating on the Boyne.

Skating was a favorite winter pastime. Flora Sexsmith (1896-19490) recalled:

I remember one night in particular when I skated with my brother Freddie on the river all the way downtown to Browning Avenue and back to the mill dam and back home in the moonlight. I was maybe twelve years old. I still remember that magic night.11

The length of the early skating trails might offer a challenge to today’s enthusiasts. Under the heading “Skaters Busy on River”, a 1926 edition of the local paper reported that:

The freezing temperatures of the nights of the past week have resulted in a good sheet of ice forming on the surface of the waters of the Boyne and this, with the absence of snow, makes things very nice for those who like to skate. A party of boys went up the river yesterday to a point about six miles west of town and found the going fine.12

Carman Swimming Hole

Swimming. From the time of early settlement, swimming holes along the Boyne River were popular areas for fun and recreation. The most notable of these was the Carman Swimming Hole. Opened in the mid-1940s by the Carman Swimming Club, this was one of the most popular gathering places in the town. Annual swim meets drew crowds of up to 2,000 people.

The Carman Band entertained the crowds from a bandstand on the south side of the river.

Cooling off in the South Boyne

The site was a major recreational centre until the 1960s when the Kinsman opened the pool in Kings Park. In 2014, C/D MHAC installed a sign at the site to commemorate this important part of local heritage.

Less formal swimming holes, like the one here, were found the length of the river.


Railway pumping station beside
S. Boyne River at Roseisle

Railways. When the railways arrived in Carman/Dufferin area, the river served as a source of water for the steam-driven engines. Dams were built at key points, such as Carman and Roseisle to ensure adequate water for the pumping stations.

Midland Railway trestle

Trestles, such as the one that marks location of the BRK dock, are among the few reminders of the importance railways played in transforming this part of Manitoba from a traditional hunting/gathering/trading area into a settled, agricultural market economy.

Early McKnight Bridge, near present-day Boyne Lodge

Bridges. As the Town of Carman grew, building bridges became a major focus for the town. Town Councils reports note ongoing debates about funding for a Fournier Street (1st. Street) bridge, repairs to the Villard Street bridge, or rebuilding the McKnight Bridge to allow for better access to settlements in the west.


Pollution. Many of the Boyne River stories were less affirmative. We may think of concerns about the environment and pollution as modern issues; items from early newspapers suggest otherwise.

As the local population grew, the Boyne River served as a handy source for water and ice. This soon was offset by concerns for the presence of sewage, garbage, dead animals and other sources of pollution, as well as litter along the river banks and the presence of slimy green summer scum.

As early as 1898, warnings were being issued abut use of river ice, which was the source of summer refrigeration:

The practice of cutting ice on the river below the town should be looked into by our health authorities. A number of stables are located along the river banks, and the offal from these pollutes the water to some extent and renders it unfit for use for dairy and other household uses, and those who store such ice for summer use are laying up a first-class disease breeder. We throw out this hint in hopes that steps will at once be taken to stop cutting ice except above the town.13

An item from a few years later suggests that little progress had been made:

A number of citizens make the river a dumping ground for garbage, manure and other debris. The town authorities should shut down on this practice at once. It is not only a violation of sanitary laws, but a breeder of contagious diseases. Very soon the cutting of ice will be in progress and the crop will be beautifully flavoured with the juices of manure, dead animals and even more revolting refuse. The public health should not be subjected to the selfishness of a few who have no regard for sanitary rules.14

Concerned citizens petitioned the council to have the river banks cleaned and laws against dumping enforced. They were worried about the image this gave the town, that it did “not fit in very well with the advertised beauties of the town and its surroundings. For very shame’s sake if not for sanitary reasons, making river banks a dump heap ought to be abated.”15

It would seem that some civic action was taken; no further complaints of this nature appear until around 1907, when water and sewer systems were being installed in Carman and concerns were raised by residents who objected to having sewage flowing into the river near their property.

Thanks to growing awareness of the cause of disease and enforcement of sanitary laws, as well, perhaps, as growing pride in community, news items of this nature become less prevalent. Later references to river bank trash more often speak to efforts to clean up branches and debris or, as one reporter remarked following a severe drought, it was to be hoped at least that the river would “rise high enough to obliterate some of the superfluous junk lying on the river bank.”16

There is little documentation of what happened outside town limits. One life story relates how:

We used to pile the manure we cleaned from the barn on the bank of the river. When it flooded in spring, the bank was swept clean, ready for the next pile. We did that until the garden and fields started getting overworked. Then we started spreading the manure on the land to fertilize it. Nowadays the concern is about all the pesticides and chemicals that leach from fields into our water systems. A bit of manure doesn’t look so bad anymore.17

Concern about the state of the river is one aspect of our heritage that persists to this day—one of the many ways in which history repeats itself.

Flood on Villard Ave, (Main Street) 1893

Floods. Until recent years, flooding was an annual concern in the Town of Carman. The Town experienced major floods in 1893, 1923, 1970, 1974, and 1979. Floodwater caused millions of dollars of property damage.

Floods also resulted in irreplaceable loss, including municipal records prior to 1924, which were destroyed when waters flooded the basement of the Memorial Hall.

Finally, in 1991, a diversion was built to redirect flood water from west of the town through a six-mile ditch into the Norquay Channel northeast of Carman.

Spring breakup on the Boyne River

Floods also affected properties along the course of the Boyne and its branches. In the spring of 1933, flooding along the river destroyed railway tracks and bridges, bringing rail service to a
temporary halt. This excerpt from a life story describes one family’s experience:

There was thick ice on the river that year. We were sleeping upstairs one night when we were wakened by the crash of ice and logs on the walls of the house. Downstairs was flooded and we could hear the clink of glass jars as they floated up from the storage area in the basement. We could see though the windows that the house was already surrounded by fast-flowing water and ice. It turned out that an ice dam had formed upstream from us and when it broke, the water rushed down-river, taking everything moveable with it. [Our son] was just 18 months old at the time and we couldn’t tell if the house would stay on its foundation. We were trapped upstairs until morning when the water went down enough that we could wade out back to higher ground. We lost all the cordwood the men had spent the winter cutting and hauling. The water took out the railway trestle and a lot of the track. The folks across the road slept through it all and never even knew we were in trouble.18

1933 flood damage to railway

In other years, drought and water shortages were a concern. This prompted the Carman Council to introduce water restrictions and plan for building dams.





Water management. The Boyne River also serves an important role in the growing concern for water management. In 1963, a dam was built near the junction of the north and south branches of the Boyne River, at the west end of the R.M. of Dufferin. This created Stephenfield Lake in what is now Stephenfield Provincial Park, a popular recreational centre and site of a water treatment plant. Water levels at the dam help regulate use of the river for irrigation of local farm crops.

Since piped water has largely replaced the time-honoured practice of hand-pumping and carrying water from wells, facilities such as indoor plumbing, automatic washing machines and dish washers have become ‘necessities’. They also increased water consumption. When we add to this more efficient drainage systems and growing demands for irrigating farmlands, it’s clear that water has become one of our most precious commodities.

Stephenfield Provincial Park

The lake also provides an important habitat for migratory birds. Local drainage projects have reduced the number of ponds and sloughs, and wildlife management has become an increasingly important consideration. There also is a growing awareness that the Boyne River watercourse is the one remaining wildlife corridor in the Carman/Dufferin municipalities.

The river was here long before the land was settled and converted to farmland. Knowing the history of the Boyne River helps us understand why protecting the river and its environment is so significant for all facets of our lives—from the joys of outdoor recreation and wildlife management to water management and the quality of life for future generations in the Carman/Dufferin municipalities.


For the purposes of this brief overview of the Boyne River history, we’ll draw primarily upon a
couple of sources that are readily available locally and online. The most comprehensive source of information on local heritage is the The History of the R.M. of Dufferin in Manitoba, 1880–1980, compiled and edited by June Watson and committee and published by the Council of the R.M. of Dufferin. The book is available online through the University of Manitoba digital collection of local histories. Early newspapers are another rich source of local history. The Carman Standard, Dufferin Leader and Valley Leader can be accessed online through the Pembina Manitou Archive website.

       1. Watson, June. The History of the RM of Dufferin in Manitoba 1880-1980, (Council of the R.M. of Dufferin, 1982), pp. 145–150
       2. Ibid., pp.4–7
       3. See, for example, for an account of the role of Indigenous women and water.
       4. Watson, June. The History of the RM of Dufferin in Manitoba 1880-1980, (Council of the R.M. of Dufferin, 1982), pp.2–3
       5. See The Confrontations at Rivière aux Îlets-de-Bois, by historian Alan B. McCullough for an account of the implications and impact of the arrival of post-1870 settlers to the area.
       6. For more information on the Clendenning mill, see Nicholson, Karen. A Review of the Heritage Resources of Boyne Planning District (Heritage Resources Branch, 1984), pp. 101–102. Available online (search ‘Nicholson’)
       7. Carman Dufferin Leader, 1900-08-02
       8. Ibid., 1889-09-08
       9. Carman Standard, 1907-06-20
       10. Ibid., 1906-12-06
       11. Watson, June. The History of the RM of Dufferin in Manitoba 1880-1980, (Council of the R.M. of Dufferin, 1982), p. 728
       12. Dufferin Leader, 1926 -11-11
       13. Ibid., 1898-12-15
       14. Ibid., 1901-11-21
       15. Ibid., 1903-05-13
       16. Ibid., 1920-11-04
       17,18 Note that persons agreeing to share their life stories may opt to remain anonymous.

News and Events, April 2022

C/D MHAC resumes meetings. The big news this month is that, after a long winter of pandemic restrictions and virtual contact, our committee has finally been able to resume in-person meetings. Needless to say, there was a lot on the agenda.

It was rewarding to see how much heritage activity has been taking place behind the scenes since our last meeting in October, 2021.

Hotel project. Chairperson Nikki Falk reported that the vintage photo project at the newly opened Blue Crescent Hotel was in place for the hotel opening and has been positively received. The hotel will continue to work with the Dufferin Historical Museum on labelling the photos.

Bison statue. She also noted that the local Communities in Bloom (CIB) committee, along with other individuals in the community, revived and expanded our earlier proposal for installing a commemorative bison statue on the vacant site at the junction of Highways 3 and 13. Town Council is unable to support the project at present, so it remains on our wish list for the time being.

Meeting space. Meanwhile, efforts by local volunteer committees to locate a suitable, shareable space to meet are ongoing.

The most gratifying aspect of all this activity is the cooperation and cross-fertilization of ideas that has developed among local volunteer groups. This is evident in other requests that C/D MHAC has received over the past month.

History requests. The Boyne River Keepers (BRK) committee has asked our group to help them write a history of the river. As anyone who has been following our website over the past decade is aware, stories of the river date from centuries past and touch upon so many aspects of local heritage. We are working at the moment on consolidating these stories into a more comprehensive account of this valuable and sometimes neglected natural resource.

We also have been asked to help complete a history of Boyne Lodge. This is a project that has been temporarily stalled due to unfortunate life events. We can happily report that a highly skilled and knowledgeable former employee of the institution has agreed to take over coordination and completion of the project. Based on the inspiring stories we’ve heard so far, this history is one we can’t wait to read.

Newspaper digitization. Readers will be pleased to learn that copies of the Valley Leader from 1976-2020 are now online through the Pembina Manitou Archive website. This has been one of our key projects over the years. C/D MHAC previously funded digitization of earlier editions of local newspapers from the 1890s through 1976 and made disk copies available to both the local library and museum. The R.M. of Dufferin and Town of Carman Councils made this project possible through annual grants.

Ongoing projects. We are hoping to resume two of our on-hold projects—life stories and community heritage inventories—later this summer. We are especially excited about ongoing discussions with one of our most creative and thoughtful local residents about setting up life story sessions with persons of Métis ancestry.

Website. We managed to complete the long overdue revision and updating of website content. This is one of the projects that we were able to find time to work on thanks to COVID isolation. One more confirmation that there’s something positive to be found in every event—though sometimes it’s pretty hard to see.

Natural History. Or, more aptly this month, unnatural history. As I write, we are still in the midst of a major snow event. In this case, a picture taken April 15 says more than words can convey.

Happy Easter, everyone!

News and Events, March 2022

In like a lamb? For at least one member of C/D MHAC, March came in like a lamb—as in “Baa Humbug!” An unplanned outing on the informal skating rink around one of our rural stores gave us a rare opportunity to get an up close and personal look at the current workings of the Southern Health Care system. Not in our own municipalities, of course, because thanks to the pandemic, Carman Hospital staff were still redeployed elsewhere.

We found out that the news media are right about the pressure on ambulance services and potential delays in transport. Which is yet another reason for appreciating our rural communities where friends are always there to offer a hand—or, in this case, a ride. It’s difficult to imagine the impact similar delays and uncertainty around scheduling have had on hospital staff, who are used to working in an environment that normally runs like clockwork.

Given all the current dysfunction in the system, the biggest and perhaps most surprising takeaway from this experience was the consistent, across-the-board excellence of care provided by hospital staff. Everyone seemed to go out of their way to be friendly, helpful and considerate. As if these challenging times have brought out the very best in everyone—not unlike what we are seeing these days among people in the Ukraine. Let’s be sure we give our own health care workers a warm heroes’ welcome when they return to Carman Hospital.

February 2022 - Second lane
plowing in a week.

February doings. We didn’t write a News and Events update in February, working instead on revising and updating website content. It was a month in which fingers were crossed as COVID stats slowly declined. Being a largely rural area, we weren’t host to the protests and blockades in larger centres and at strategic border crossings. The exception has been Mother Nature’s ongoing demonstrations of the impact of climate change in which she has been hitting us with alternating extreme low temperatures and heavy snowfall, even blockading rural lanes and driveways. Winnipeg recorded the fourth highest February snowfall since records were kept, a total of over 50 cm. Total snowfall between November and February was a whopping 160 cm.




Looks like this white coat will be in use
for a while yet

The rest of nature remained fairly oblivious to our human concerns and anxieties. Groundhog Day passed uneventfully in this area. Local prognosticators stayed soundly tucked away under deep drifts of snow. The only wildlife spotted locally on February 2 was this rabbit, still in its winter coat and probably not even interested in shadows. Elsewhere, groundhog predictions were for six weeks more of winter—about what we always get, with or without seeing shadows.

Social distancing wasn’t a concern if you are a flying squirrel and your human friends had just loaded the feeder with sunflower seed.


C/D MHAC meetings. March also marked the lifting of some COVID restrictions on gatherings and masks, with more to come. Thanks to a combination of other circumstances, our C/D MHAC meeting, scheduled for March 18, had to be postponed to next month, April 11. Hopefully, April will see us moving slowly back to normal, whatever that new ‘normal’ may be.

News and Events, January 2022

Welcome to 2022. End to COVID still not in sight. In fact, the reported positivity rate has soared past 40% and case numbers are setting new records. Looks like we won’t be holding that in-person January C/D MHAC meeting as planned. Our Chair is weathering out local cold alerts down in Arizona, missing out on all this crisp, refreshing winter weather that Mother Nature is sending our way. Thankfully we’ve also been getting a good solid snowfall. The snow-ploughs have been busy and the parking lot at the local cross-country ski club was packed with cars this past weekend.

Ongoing heritage activities. The task of revisiting and updating early website content is one that’s too often been put on the back burner in the interests of ongoing work. We’ve located a lot of new information over the years and it is past time to update. So that’s one activity that on the agenda for the next month or so.

We also are reviewing our outline of questions and areas to probe when writing or collecting life stories. This is prompted by discussion of how best to facilitate the sharing of stories among Métis members of the community. We’ve been asking, for example, whether we have been addressing the areas of concern that come with living as part of a racial, religious or ethnic minority in what for many decades was a primarily Anglo-Protestant environment. Carman/ Dufferin now has a much more diverse population than it had prior to the middle of the last century. How have those outside the ethnic majority been received in our community? Are we missing out by not capturing the rich background history of these families?

Our preliminary thoughts on the subject were brought into focus by a recent telephone call from someone wanting help with tracing the history of one of our ‘ethnically diverse’ families. The request came from a person of Indian origin. That’s not a politically incorrect use of the term, by the way—it was someone with origins in India.

Back in the early to mid-1800s, around the time Scottish Highland crofters were seeking land and opportunity in the Red River settlement, a similar migration was under way in India. When slavery was abolished, boatloads of East Indians were recruited to replace the African slaves on cocoa and sugar cane plantations on the Caribbean island of Trinidad. They came as indentured labourers, working for a pittance for five years until they had paid for their passage. The expectation was that they would then return to India and others would come out. Like the Scots, they were a frugal lot, and most saved enough money to buy small plots of land. This was something they couldn’t dream of back home where, as in the case of Scottish crofters, the land was owned by large landlords.

What is of particular interest to us in this story is the impact that the church had on their history. The Presbyterian Church in Nova Scotia took on a mission of building local elementary schools for the children of plantation workers on the island. In keeping with the colonial British system of education, children who passed the highly competitive entrance exams were then given a place for five more years of high school education. The church also established a teachers’ college and a theology program. This opened up a whole range of opportunity. One of the real strengths of the system lay in the preparation of local teachers, who soon formed the core of the education system.

The impact of the church in that setting can be seen through one branch of the family we were asked to track. One of the indentured labourers was a widow who lost her husband to the plague. She came to the island colony with her 10-year-old son. He attended the local school where he excelled and won a place in the high school. He then went on to study in the theology program and became one of the five first local ministers ordained in the church. Of his five sons, three went abroad to university; one became a physician/surgeon, the others became teachers and school principals.

This story was far from unique. While many Indian families remained on the land, many others moved within just two generations from working as indentured labourers into professions. A century after their arrival, East Indians dominated among the doctors, lawyers, teachers, businessmen and politicians on the island.

This is just a snapshot of one small aspect of the story of a fairly recent ‘immigrant’ family. What resonated most with us was the different approach to education of this “Indian” population compared with our Canadian Indian residential schools. The difference seems to lie in part in differences in choice and in opportunity.

With the growing diversity of our population, this glimpse of family history opens our minds and awareness to the range of stories to be explored. How many, for example, of the large number of Mennonite families in Carman/Dufferin have recorded the history of persecution, immigration and success of this important segment of our local population? Katherine Martens’ book, “All in a Row: The Klassens of Homewood” is one exception you might enjoy reading.

We also asked ourselves to what extent our country follows the American ideal of ‘melting-pot’ assimilation rather than our own stated ideal of a ‘cultural mosaic’ of diversity.

Lots of food for thought and debate, which we we’ll continue to pursue. Meanwhile, as we wait and plan, it's exciting to think of how much of our local heritage is still to be discovered, understood, preserved, and appreciated. Now if this pandemic would just go away…

Natural History. There’s not much in the way of wildlife stirring outside right now other than large herds of deer trying to graze in the snow-covered fields. This month we’ll just look at a parable about our animal friends. It’s by our favourite author, ‘Anon.’

A mouse looked through the crack in the wall to see the farmer and his wife open a package. "What food might this contain?" the mouse wondered. He was devastated to discover it was a mousetrap. Retreating to the farmyard, the mouse proclaimed the warning: There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!'

The chicken clucked and scratched, raised her head and said, "Mr. Mouse, I can tell this is a grave concern to you, but it is of no consequence to me. I cannot be bothered by it."

The mouse turned to the pig and told him, "There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!" The pig sympathized, but said, "I am so very sorry, Mr. Mouse, but there is nothing I can do about it but pray. Be assured you are in my prayers."

The mouse turned to the cow and said, "There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!" The cow said, "Wow, Mr. Mouse. I'm sorry for you, but it's no skin off my nose."

So the mouse returned to the house, head down and dejected, to face the farmer's mousetrap...alone.

That very night a sound was heard throughout the house - like the sound of a mousetrap catching its prey. The farmer's wife rushed to see what was caught. In the darkness, she did not see it was a venomous snake whose tail was caught by the trap. The snake bit the farmer's wife. The farmer rushed her to the hospital, and she returned home with a fever. Everyone knows you treat a fever with fresh chicken soup, so the farmer took his hatchet to the farmyard for the soup's main ingredient. But his wife's sickness continued, so friends and neighbors came to sit with her around the clock. To feed them, the farmer butchered the pig. The farmer's wife did not get well; she died. So many people came for her funeral, the farmer had the cow slaughtered to provide enough meat for all of them.

The mouse looked upon it all from his crack in the wall with great sadness.

The moral of the story was: “Each of us is a vital thread in another person's tapestry. If you hear someone is facing a problem and think it doesn't concern you, remember—when one of us is threatened, we are all at risk.” It’s a tale that certainly is timely as we seem to be facing an even more angry and divided world.

On the other hand, one of the positive things about the current pandemic is the number of friends and neighbours who are checking to see if everyone is managing okay. This is a theme we’ve heard before in stories of the Great Depression. Next time you’re bored with this enforced isolation, maybe pick up the phone and call a friend or relative. You’ll likely keep them happily reminiscing for hours if you ask them “What do you remember about…”?