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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 April 2018

At this time of year, weather seems to dominate our lives and conversations even more than usual. The impact of weather is a constant theme that runs through local histories, life stories and early newspapers. Blizzards, floods and hailstorms are part of most memories of the past as well as accounts of current events.

Another common factor is the effect of lengthing days and sunshine. Spring is that rare time of year between grumbling about the cold and complaining about mosquitoes, when prairie folks come out of hibernation and actually beam at the world.

Here are a few comments on the subject from both our past and present:

St. Patrick’s Day. One time of year when a slice of our local heritage hits the spotlight is March 17th. People without a drop of Irish blood find something green to wear and small towns across the district hold their annual St. Patrick’s Day supper. It’s a welcome gathering with friends and neighbours after winter hibernation and maybe the green reflects a bit of longing for the green grass of Spring.

      

It is interesting to note that this tasty dinner, served at one of the local events, reflects how different groups and their traditons meld over time into the local scene. Here the traditonal Irish stew is replaced by a pork loin and beans, the cabbage appears as coleslaw, however the potato still holds true to its roots. And of course the punch was dyed green.

More thoughts on Spring. Now, a month after St. Patrick’s Day, there are unimistakable signs of Spring. Deer are back at the salt block, squirrels nipping buds from the awakening trees and tom turkeys on the prowl. Spring is definitely in the air as rural Manitoba turns to thoughts of mud and floods.

It shouldn’t be a surprise to find weather dominating local life in a farming community, just as it is now on everyone’s minds with talk of global warming and climate change.


 

 


An Early Settler on Weather.
Among some old family letters was one from an early settler who eloquently expressed the impact of overcast skies and who had her own interesting theories about weather anomalies and forecasting.

“Aunt Kate”, as she was known to everyone in her small community, was loved by all for her sharp wit, entertaining stories and for the Irish brogue that she never lost over a lifetime in this country. She lived to the age of 102, the last few years spent with her daughter in a city apartment where she dearly missed her rural home community. She wrote: “…it is the heavy black clouds that hurt me. All this month it has been so dark we sometimes put the light on.”


At her 100th birthday party, Aunt Kate still holds the rapt
attention of her audience.

Apparently unfazed by recent triumphs of science and technology, she goes on to give her own ideas about the reason for prolonged bad weather: “I wish those lads who went to the moon had stayed home as our weather has been broken at all times since they started climbing up there. What do you think?”

After a bit of family news, she continues on a brighter note: “Oh, my dear, I just looked out the window and we are having a nice day tomorrow. The sky is just pink over your house down to the south-west. We do not want any more rain for at least three weeks or more to give the poor farmers a chance.”

But don’t knock winter. I’ve always maintained that there is something positive to be found in any situation. At times, like this past winter when everyone was grumbling about the frigid temperatures and wind chill that kept them indoors, it took a bit of searching to recognize the obvious. Maybe this was an opportunity to scratch off an item that was high on that ‘Things to do in Retirement’ list made—how many years ago? Somehow, “Sort family letters” never quite made it onto the daily ‘to-do’ agenda.

We’re told that finding the family pack-rat is like a prospector discovering pay dirt. Our mother had lived through the Great Depression and never threw out anything because you “never knew when you might use it”. An initial sorting years ago—e.g., cutting out an obituary rather than saving the entire paper—turned up a few obvious nuggets of information and left three or four boxes of ‘tailings’ to rework at a later date.

The result of finally revisiting this cache was a rewarding and fun-filled trip down memory lane. It also made me think again about how we preserve our own family history or more often, how we don’t get around to preserving it.

1) Why do we put it off? Probably because we don’t really accept our own mortality or that of family members. We don’t do the family life stories because we somehow expect them to be around forever.

2) What should we save? Other than birth, marriage, death documents and the like, what would be useful to family historians a couple of generations from now? What about the hundreds of photos taken over a lifetime? For example, you likely don’t need to save 40 pictures of trees in Northern Alberta—well, maybe one, in case there aren’t any trees left fifty years from now.

3) Is everything labelled? A key question. This is likely the reason those lovely old photos get thrown out—no one has a clue who they are, whether they are family or friends or how they are related. Think of the value of attaching a short description of that artifact you kept and why was it kept, who the letter writer was, to whom they were writing and when.

4) Letters and photos call up vivid memories of people and events. Why not keep your phone or recorder handy and record those stories and memories while you reminisce? And have you made copies of important material?

5) Who gets what? Now that everything is sorted and labelled and remembered, who will be the custodian in years to come? This is often one of the big decisions. With luck and foresight, hopefully you have laid the groundwork by making sure at least one person in the next generation is as keen on family history as you are. You don’t really want to lose all your work sorting, labelling and preserving to have it all chucked out in the next 20 years.

6) A final bit of obvious ‘wisdom’ from someone who is feeling virtuous at having finally started re-working the family ‘pay dirt’—it won’t get done if you don’t start it.
So that’s our mother’s boxes sorted. Blame it on nature or nurture, but we also kept every letter, childhood drawing, school report, programs and the like from our own children and grandchildren. Let’s hope we soon get another long spell of nasty weather.

 

Recent History

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