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Introduction

Whether you are a visitor to our community, are researching your family roots, need background on an historic building or are just interested in local history, this website is your one-stop source of information on our heritage. 

The site offers you a glimpse of the history of Dufferin Municipality from the pre-settlement era to the post–1870 influx of homesteading families, and from the arrival of the railways to the rise and decline of the small towns and communities along its path.

You will also discover the wealth of historic buildings, cairns, plaques and other heritage resources that our communities have to offer.

Let us know of any omissions or errors. If you have information or photos you’d like to share, please contact us. Check out this site each month for our Special Features, including vintage photos from the area.

Please visit our Acknowledgements page, which recognizes the many people who contributed towards making the website possible, including the backbone of any endeavour—the volunteers who contributed material, researched, edited or proofread content, and gave in so many ways of their time and talents.

News and Events: June 2017


Bill Curtis at genealogy workshop
Genealogy workshop. The Introductory Genealogy Workshop, given May 13 by Bill Curtis of the MGS, was enthusiastically received by participants. The second workshop on use of internet resources is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 9 at 1:30 p.m. at the Golden Prairie Arts Centre.

Century Farm Interviews. Jack McKinnon and C.J. Piatowski have plans in place to begin interviews this fall with owners of Century Farms in the area.


Collections. The Smith Family materials, donated recently by Bev (Garwood) Russell, are finally sorted, with photos in archival envelopes, everything scanned, printed and organized in binders, along with a DVD copy of the whole works. This process always seems to take a lot of time, much of it spent studying photos or becoming distracted by interesting tidbits of previously unknown history.


Thomas and Jane Smith
One item of interest surfaced in a note attached to a Smith family photo. Thomas and Jane Smith farmed near Morden. One of Thomas Smith’s “most valuable possessions” was a diploma he received at the World’s Fair in England in 1886 for growing the “best ten bushels of wheat in the world.” This was a sample of Red Fife, No. 1 hard wheat, weighing in at 98 lbs. per bushel. The grain was exhibited at the fair by McBean Bros. from the Winnipeg Grain Exchange. According to the note, the company informed Thomas just the day before they needed to send the sample.

The Smith family stayed up most of the night hand-picking ten bushels of grain so it could be ready to send the following day. Incidentally, the wheat sold for the grand sum of 50 cents a bushel.

This little note speaks to a rightly proud event in the Smith family heritage. From a broader perspective, it would have supported John A. Macdonald’s efforts to settle the West. After 1870, Macdonald was determined to populate the newly purchased HBC territory before it was overrun by the westward surge of American settlers. The Smith’s prestigious award added credibility to extravagant promises made by land agents and government posters. No doubt the promise of cheap and fertile land helped fire the dream of a second ‘gold-rush’. This time, the dream was of golden wheat from the unbroken prairie soil, land that could grow the “best wheat in the world”.

Museum Doings. The Dufferin Historical Museum folks have been spending long hours putting the finishing touches on the restored Boyne School, cleaning the log cabin, getting the150 stories of Carman project off to the printer and otherwise getting ready for their big July 24th celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary.

News and Events: April 2017

Genealogy Workshop - Change of Date. Due to a change in Manitoba Day events, workshop leader Bill Curtis has had to reschedule the Introductory Genealogy Workshop from May 6 to May 13. The workshop will now be held Saturday, May 13, 1:30 p.m. at the Golden Prairie Arts Centre. For further information or to let us know you will be attending, contact Nedra Burnett Tel.: 204-435-2191 email: nburnett@mymts.net

Battle of Vimy Ridge. April 9-12 marked the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Ceremonies in Europe and across the country marked the battle where Canada ‘came of age”. Local soldiers fought at Vimy and some did not survive; others, whose bodies were never found, also have their names inscribed on the monument. The following poem was written by a local soldier in memory of a brother who did not return home; it is reproduced courtesy of a great-nephew:

image of the Vimy Ridge MemorialVimy Ridge is green they say.
Where larks sing now and children play,
I know there’s truth to what they say,
I saw the Ridge in a different way.

The Ridge wasn’t green that long gone and fateful day,
They saw the Ridge in a different way, 
A ridge that seemed too far away,
Rain swept and dangerous gray,

Cold and wet, a cheerless dawn,
The command that was passed along said, “up and over, carry on”.
They left the trench with muffled curse and bated breath,
No lark sang here, so close to death.

The flare that turned their night to day,
Kept them low, in slippery clay.
Machine gun fire and screaming shell,
Made their journey a living hell,

A rusting rifle laying where,
My brother died and left it there,
I see the ridge a different way,
I see the ridge in sorrow gray.

Pte. William “Bill” Colvin RCCS

A ceremony was held April 10 at the Manitoba Legislature to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Thirteen Manitoba soldiers who died in the April 9-12, 1917 assault had Manitoba lakes named in their honour. Family members attended and received special certificates. Two of these young men were from the Carman/Dufferin area.

Pte. Iver Bernhardt Werseen was born in Roseisle and lost his life on April 9, 1917, at the age of 23. He is remembered on the Vimy Memorial, Pas de Calais, France.

Werseen Lake northeast of Flin fFlon has been named in his honour.

 

The Werseen family. The person holding the certificate is the official  family historian, a great-niece who now lives in the USA. The Werseens are among our most regular visitors to Roseisle Cemetery where several family members are buried.

 



Pte. Dorval Augustus Saunders was born in Carman and was living with family near Roseisle when he enlisted. He lost his life on April 11, 1917, at the age of 19. He is buried in the Barlin Community Cemetery Extension, France.

Dorval Saunders Lake, north of Flin Flon, has been named in his honour.


In 2015, Stephanie Fraser from Winnipeg contacted our website in her search for living relatives of Iver Werseen. Stephanie had found a number of letters, carefully preserved between the pages of an old copy-book that belonged to her grandmother Zelma Hood. Zelma had corresponded during WWI with both Dorval Saunders, a relative through marriage, and another local lad, Iver Werseen. Stephanie’s goal was to return the original letters to family members. Her efforts have gone far beyond that mission, re-connecting families, sparking deeper family research, and prompting a belated memorial service. Stephanie also placed a copy of the letters in the War Museum in Ottawa.

For more, see our Recent History for March 2015 and July 2015.

Heritage Queries. Shirley Tort from B.C. wrote recently to ask if we had a photo of one of our WWI soldiers. She is active with the Find-a-Grave program and is planning another trip this summer to visit war graves in Europe. In preparation, she has been researching local soldiers with the hope of visiting their graves and writing their stories for the FAG site.

Shirley also has early connections with Carman. She wrote: “My grandparents were Alice and John Henry Johnston who had a machine shop and garage in Carman.  His son, Ross, was a mechanic. Gert Bowie, their daughter, had a beauty parlor and her husband Hugh was a partner in the Bowie Bakery.  My cousin Mildred Johnston married Jim McFadden… I saw the piece on the Bowie Bakery, knew the horse, Barney, and was given 5 cents/week for driving him when I was visiting in town, not that Barney needed driving because he knew where he was going.  But Hugh made a little girl feel good by giving her work driving a horse.  Barney was retired and they got a younger horse before they went to a vehicle.”


Canada 150. The Dufferin Historical Museum folks are taking the lead locally on celebrating the 150th anniversary of Canada. One of their main projects, collecting 150 stories about Carman, is in the final stages of production and should be ready for the Grand Re-Opening of Boyne School on June 24th.

The Museum has put a huge amount of time, effort and money into moving the school to the Kings Park site where they have re-designated it as a heritage site, restored the building and preserved it as a fine example of the one-room schoolhouses that once dotted the municipality. As many of you know, their recent booklet “School Bells and Honey Pails” documents the history of schools across the municipality.

C/D MHAC 2020. Meanwhile, the C/D MHAC is planning ahead to the 150th anniversary of Manitoba in 2020. When the John A. Macdonald government purchased this territory from the HBC, surveyed it into townships and sections and opened it up to homesteaders, they did more than save the west from encroaching Americans. They also precipitated the most dramatic change in the local social and economic history since the disappearance of Lake Agassiz.

The Hunters’ or Missouri Trail had long been used by buffalo, indigenous tribes, fur-traders and buffalo hunters to skirt the massive Boyne Marsh that stretched east of the trail to the Red River.

After 1870, the trail became a conduit for settlers who staked out holdings on what is now some of the most fertile farmland in the province. This included the land along the Rivière-aux –Îlets-des-Bois, now known as the Boyne River.


View larger image (Source: History of the RM of Dufferin, 1880-1980, p.7)

This wasn’t the first settlement in the area. Métis settled near the Boyne from around 1832. The first baptism in the area was recorded in 1837 and in 1969, a Roman Catholic church was built at the Îlets-des-Bois settlement, the site where some 100 Métis are buried. And as can be seen on the above map, John Grant also had established a cattle transfer station, mill and large dwelling east of the Trail. He grew the first grain in the district in 1869. A change in the name of the local river to the Boyne marked the ascendancy of Irish Protestant settlers and gradual withdrawal of Metis from the area.

In 1960, the Dufferin Historical Society installed a sign to commemorate the place where the Trail crossed the Boyne. A property owner later removed the sign. One of the priorities in the C/D MHAC plans is to replace the sign for the 2020 celebration.

 

1960 Missouri Trail sign on 29-6-4w east of Carman


Recent History

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