R.M. of Argyle
When the first Euro-settlers arrived in Argyle it was obvious to them
were not the first inhabitants of this land. Aboriginal people often
and evidence of past inhabitants was more visible in those days, be it
the form of burial mounds or prairie trails. Stone projectile points
in the Avery Mound (SW 14-3-13) near the northeastern corner of Rock
show that an early culture called The Lake Shore Culture occupied the
about 1500. BC. The discovery of well-made spear points in other area
is evidence that hunters seeking the now long extinct giant bison were
the region up to eight or ten thousand years ago. As years passed
advanced and cultured people left evidence of well-crafted pottery, and
importantly, a clear picture of burial practices in the form of the
identifiable mounds that dot the region. Although settlement by the
Algonquin, Plains Cree and Assiniboine people was intermittent as
their dependence on the roving herds of bison, it was ongoing and
Absence of any written record is of course a challenge as we try to
the times, but thanks to archaeologists, like Argyle’s own Chris
we know the region was then, as it is now... a home.
I’m sure that the region’s lakes and landmarks have carried
given to them over the ages by the inhabitants of the time, but of
when our ancestors arrived they often (but not always) had their own
about names. A 1754 map based upon LaVerendrye’s notes refers to
as “L. du Brochet” (Pike Lake). Peter Pond on
his 1785 map refers
to it as ”Rib Lake” and the Pembina River as the “Rib
River”. These were
the names in use by native tribes of the time and referred to the whole
– Swan Lake system which curved like the flat ribs of a bison.
dates from the correspondence in 1845 of Father George A. Belcourt of
in which he describes as the “Lake of the Rocks”, and it
on an 1872 township map by dominion land surveyors.
Anticipating the great boom of the 1880’s a trickle of
souls lead the way into this land in the 1870’s. Perhaps the
first were a
small group of Metis from Red River who came to the western end of Rock
after the Riel resistance and backlash that occurred there against
people. They likely knew the area well as the annual buffalo hunts,
recently abandoned, took hunters right through the area.
The Rural Municipality of Argyle represents an extensive and diverse
stretching from Rock Lake northwards through gently rolling terrain
Glenora and Baldur, over the patchwork of steep hills and lakes north
that town, to the very edges of the sandy prairie south of the
near the town of Glenboro. There were several routes that
might use to get here.
Many followed the well-traveled Pembina or Boundary Commission trail
Emerson to near Manitou the pushed westward into new territory. Later
followed the Assiniboine westward from Winnipeg, often on overload
steamboats, and after unloading near Cypress River or Millford, they
into the northern parts of the region.
The settlement of the region began in earnest with the arrival of John
and his family who crossed the Pembina River between Glenora and Pilot
and homesteaded in the Marringhurst region in 1879. Other settlers,
Peter Strang, soon appeared in the Moropano district at the west end of
Lake, while the Cramers and Playfairs began farming at Otenaw a few
northeast of Baldur. The districts of Bru and Grund were founded by
settlers from the recently established colony at Gimli, while William
was the first to homestead at Dry River between Greenway and Glenora.
Marringhurst School - a link to
one of the earliest selttements in Argyle.
By 1881 the first council of the newly created R.M. of Argyle was in
and by 1886, 15 school districts had been established. Land was being
Crops were grown.
There were no towns in Argyle as we know them in the 1880’s.
were known by the Post Office sometimes accompanied by a general store,
perhaps a school or a church nearby contributing to the sense of
Services such as grist and saw mills opened to serve very local needs
were not usually associated with an identifiable village or settlement.
of the relative isolation of the region in the middle ground between
Boundary Commission Trail and the Assiniboine they avoided the
boom towns that blossomed then disappeared along those routes.
in the early
Winnipeg Daily Sun - Dec 3, 1884
As in all parts
of the province in pioneer times the communication and population
patterns evolving in the pre-railroad days were to undergo a big change
those rails arrived. In those pre-railway days the recognized
the municipality set about organizing to various degrees. Marringhurst
lay claim to being the earliest recognized community. While never even
to the status of town or village the newcomers there nevertheless
a community whose identity has survived until the present day. A
church, and cemetery were created. Community activities were organized.
district is readily identifiable today partly because of the strength
those early efforts at community building, and partly because the
towns that sprang up with the rail lines came after Marringhurst was
established and weren’t so close as to overshadow that identity.
And of course
the fact that the school and several notable buildings such as the
Heritage House are still standing has helped.
Contast that with the Otenaw community. It too was an important first
It had a post office early. Its settlers became prominent in the
But when the rails arrived the town of Baldur was just too close to
it to retain the same level of identity. That along with the fact the
physical links such as schools, cemeteries or heritage sites remain,
rendered Otenaw a somewhat forgotten first settlement.
followed another pattern. One also repeated throughout the province.
It had an identity and some services, including an important grist ands
and was able to transfer that identity when the rail line located
a few miles of the original site. Glenora is the one spot in Argyle
there was an attempt to create a speculative town based on hopes and
that a railway would soon arrive. In the Manitoba Boom of 1881 numerous
“cities” were surveyed and promoted as the next big thing.
All were touted
as important railway centers of the future. False claims of services
buildings were common. Examples include Manitoba City (Near Manitou)
(Near Melita) Souris City (Near Wawanesa) and my favorite - Moberly
contrary to the promotional drawing depicting a steamboat landing, a
square, and a lakeside promenade, was actually located on swamp land at
west end of Whitewater Lake. With almost no exceptions these towns
came into being.
The Glenora claims however were somewhat less extravagant, modest even,
ads were placed in Winnipeg papers and lots were sold, and money was
And it did beat the odds – it became a thriving village that
And it thus may claim however to be the first “town” in
Argyle in that there
was a half-hearted effort to promote the original site of Glenora by
usual method of selling lots to speculators. The site, unlike the many
wonder towns did have both some potential and some actual commercial
Thomas Rogers was operating a store on SW 20-3-13. The building was a
to Edmund Crayston in 1888 and it rests, somewhat the worse for wear
on the Greg Crayston farm about a kilometer from its original site.
was a sawmill, first started by Alex Blaine in 1879, then taken over by
and Taylor in 1880. (McKitrick) In 1882 Blaine & Reid built a flour
It was the mill that is credited with providing Glenora with its
It was named after an Ogilvie Co. mill near Montreal that was called
Mill and produced “Glenora Patent” flour. Interestingly,
although the ad
in the Winnipeg Sun from September of 1881 has clearly identified the
of Glenora (without giving the exact location!), at least one pioneer
that “I never heard any name except “Mill and Store”
for that village”. McKitrick
p79, Named or not it was the the commercial centre of the region for a
time and is recalled in several pioneer reminiscences. Alex Rankin from
recalls traveling to Glenora “for grists” Wlliam
Cummings recalls that
the first school in the Huntly area was built of lumber hauled from
(Stories of pioneer days at Killarney.) George Lawrence, later an MLA
Killarney, operated an agricultural implement business for the Massey
Company at Glenora in 1883 likely out of his homestead . (Bryce p
Both mills burned in 1885 and it appears that the store may have closed
after, but the name was well enough established to be resurrected when
railway finally arrived a few kilometers to the northeast. The
from that mill has been carefully placed on grounds of St.
Church, in that new Glenora.
Stone from the Glenora Mill - no
the grounds of St. Georges' Anglican Church in Glenora
In 1892, Chas Graham built another store North of the lake. The
has been removed but this became the present day site of Glenora.
the same year, the first Glenora School opened and once the Dominion
Elevator was built, Glenora became a bona fide town.
Another historic point of interest is the Lime Kiln on the Sutton
on Rock Lake.
The area surrounding Glenora is also rich in pre-settlement history.
Vickers, in his archaeological work in the 1940's found evidence of
hunting groups dating back to 1500 B. C. and identified many village
and mounds in the Rock lake vicinity.
Winnipeg Daily Sun - Sept. 13, 1881
- Dec 3, 1884
Elsewhere in Argyle
post offices also put Dry River and Moropano on the map
(literally) and while Dry River did retain its identity for decades
was absorbed by the creation of Neelin.
But the most unique settlement in Argyle, indeed one of the most unique
in the province would be the Icelandic Settlement in the Grund and Bru
In the early 1870’s a combination of economic factors and natural
such as volcanic eruptions prompted increased, and large-scale
to North America. On the advice of a Missionary named John Taylor a
large group of
arrived there on the west side of Lake Winnipeg in the late fall of
establishing a settlement that has shaped the culture of that part of
through to the present day.
A combination of bad luck and bad weather nearly put an end to that
as a smallpox epidemic, harsh winters and wet summers made life
difficult for the first years. The colony persevered and eventually
For those that preferred fishing over farming the location served them
once they adapted. But it wasn’t great farm land and that likely
some to try their luck elsewhere.
Everett Parsonage, a pioneer of the Pilot Mound district, had worked
John Taylor in Ontario and through him had contacts with some of the
settlers at Gimli. He advised them to visit Argyle. In August of 1880
Kristofferson and Kristian Jonsson set out to vist Mr. Parsonage and he
them a largely unsettled area in the rolling country in the northern
of the Municipality an area we now know as Grund.
As soon as he could Sigurdur filed on SE 10-6-14 an dcalled his new
An Icelandic word meaning grassy plain. More soon followed with two
men taking homesteads that fall. In the spring of 1881 four families
at their new homes, by winter there were eight familys, then 17 by the
year. By 1884 they had “650 cultivated acres, 60 head of cattle,
60 sheep, 9 work horses,,,,” and more. Six schools and a church
by 1900. Before Baldur was established a strong community was in place,
although the store and post office established at Sigurdur
home didn’t evolve into a village, the name Grund has lived on.
Established – But it was a close call!
In 1890, after several unsuccessful efforts to secure a much-needed
link, the Canadian Northern Pacific Railroad (a branch of the American
completed a line linking Morris with Brandon and passing through the
of Argyle. The towns of Baldur and Greenway and Belmont were quickly
But that left quite a stretch without a station and farmers felt they
While the surveyors came were busy grading the line farmers in the
district lead by A.W Playfair suceeded in convincing the railway
that another station was needed. The first site chosen was three miles
of the present town and again citizens including Jesse Chester, Reeve
Strang and Sigurdur Chistopherson, rallied in support of the current
The surveyor reconsidered and chose a location a few miles further
This still wasn’t what the locals had in mind and Jesse Chester
carried the surveyor’s equipment himself to the current site. His
won out and in the spring of 1890 land was purchased from M.T. Cramer
Mr. Taggart for $7.00 per acre.
Given that beginning, the name “Chesterville” suggested by
a railway official
Mr. Lehorn would have seemed appropriate, but Sigurdur
Carrie has been given credit for the suggesting name
“Baldur” the Nordic
God of innocence and summer sun. A vote settled the issue and Baldur it
Carrie herself was recognized in the name of the second avenue of the
Before all this was settled Mr. A. E. Cramer had moved his creamery
his farm to the site of the new town. It was in turn sold to G.W.
as a general store in the spring of 1890, still before the town site
settled. The main street was named Elizabeth after Mr. Griffith’s
In the fall of 1989 Mr. G.W. Playfair had moved his grain buying
(which he conducted for Bawlf & Co.) to the new town site in a
he also moved from its previous location on his farm. Once the issue of
town site was firmly settled he moved the building to the front street
began a lumber, furniture and coal business.
Jesse Chester’s house became a sort of unofficial restaurant for
workers and he was soon persuaded to open a boarding house that became
as the Chester House.
Other businesses soon followed. Sigurdur Christophers, who had taken
role of Icelandic Immigration Officer, opened an office. William
build a carriage and blacksmith shop. Thomas E. Poole erected a
for his hardware and tinsmith business. A.E. Cramer build a two-storey
used as a saddlery shop by C.W. Watson. G.W. Cramer built a blacksmith
which was operated by Harry Goodman.
Thus the names we have come to know as Baldur pioneers established
in the very early days of the town. By 1898, when Frank Shultz
the town site from the Northern Pacific Railway, the population was
400 and townspeople could choose from four general stores, a hardware,
fruit and confectionery stores and a host of other businesses.
Brandon Sun, Jun 5,
The growth of
the town created a population shift that quickly necessitated
a change in the local school districts. The new school district of
was carved out of existing districts. As the name “Baldur”
was taken by a
school district in Hnausa, north of Gimli, the name Simpson was chosen
the district and the new two-story frame school that was soon erected.
was the name of the surveyor who obtained the school site from the
Pacific. The first classes were held in 1891 in the upper room of the
where C.W. Watson operated a saddlery shop with Miss Jeannie Wells as
teacher. When the building was completed in 1892 the upper floor was
as a lodge room and public hall but as population grew additional
and two new teachers were required. By 1905 a new school, a much larger
building was needed. The old one was sold and moved to first street. In
the trustees of Baldur School district at Hnausa were convinced by
of Education official to relinquish the name “Baldur”
allowing for its use
in Argyle’s leading town.
As with schools, churches and congregations had been established
Argyle with notable buildings at Grund and Marringhurst. The formation
towns and the population shifts involved caused a flurry of church
In Baldur Methodist, Presbyterian, Anglican and Lutheran Churches were
between 1898 and 1907. All but the Presbyterian are still in use!
Baldur’s first elevator, the Manitoba Elevator, was a
built in 1891 by W.O. Fowler and operated by his son Alex. This was
replaced by the Farmer’s Elevator with a 12 horsepower engine.
followed. Today the Baldur Pool Elevator, built in 1927 by the Canadian
Co. for the newly formed Pool, remains.
In 1893 W.O. Fowler built the first two-storey brick building on
Avenue in Baldur. Over the years this building, demolished in
served as a post office, a bicycle shop, an IOOF Hall and a pool room
The oldest building on Elizabeth Avenue in 2010 is the Fowler Block
by Alex Fowler and it is still in use as retail outlet. Originally Mr.
operated his harness, saddlery and shoe business from the eastern
and the west side was rented to by J. Smith and Sons for a grocery. In
R. Rollin took over the J. Smith business. After a long run it was
over by Karl and Lily Bjarnason (1938-60) then Marcel Fransoo operated
until the current owners, Joy and Earl Johnson purchased it. It is a
designated heritage site.
Percy F. Curtis bought out the business of George Griffith on the
of Elizabeth ab Second Street about 1895. It had been the first store
town. In 1901 he completed a new brick two-storey building with a
corner entrance and a second level balcony. The new building would
until 1957 a prominent fixture on the corner location. Over the years
has been known as The Playfair Brothers, the Neil McDonald Store,
Cash Store and more recently it was operated by W.G. Kilgour and the
The upper level was called the Victoria Hall after Queen Victoria. It
home to various public gatherings and entertainments, including movies
its later years.
Baldur’s first drug store opened in 1894 under the supervision of
M. Kleghorn. In 1900 he purchased the building vacated by J. Smith
Co, (they moved to the new Fowler Block). His son Raymond took over in
and the building was Cleghorn’s Drug Store until it burned
Thomas E. Poole moved to Baldur in 1890 and established himself as a
dealer and tinsmith. In 1901 he built the brick building that in 2010
the Argyle Museum.
This designated municipal heritage site has been the site of Hardware
operated by Hunter and Gemmill, Hunter and Sons, Wm. Burton (as a
Wells Store), and Joe Januska. The interior retains some of the
metal ceiling and elements of trim and wall coverings.
Baldur’s first bank was privately owned by Frank Schultz and
opened in 1893.
In 1897 he built the building that served Baldur until it was replaced
1977. It became a Union Bank (operated by Mr. Schultz) in 1903 and in
the Royal Bank absorbed the Union Bank.
Mr. Lee Foon, who purchased a restaurant business from Charlie King in
built a new building in 1924 which houses his store and café and
shop. It remained in the family until 2010.
Dry River has to be my favorite place name from the Argyle district.
been intrigued about it since hearing my Grandfather Young speak of it
I was quite young. Perhaps its just a perfect “prairie”
name, or perhaps
because there were no rivers that I knew of in the vicinity of our
I wasn’t surprised that the first one I did hear about was dry!
To identify the place I can do no better than to introduce you to May
and let her explain:
“Dry River district is about 10 miles north-west of Pilot Mound
as the crow
flies and approximately 4 miles south-west of Mariapolls. It is bounded
the east by the Pembina River. The Pembina River derives its name from
Indian name - Pembina meaning "native cranberry". The old school
ran as far north as Township 4 for a short distance and at it's
it stretched west to the west side of rhe township On the south it goes
far south as the township for a part of the way. Then it reaches the
River which it follows. Later on in 1907 when Zephyr school district
organized, some land. was taken away from the west side of the district.
This district was not settled quite as early as the land to the south
east of it owing to the fact that the Pembina River had to be crossed.
one point there was a ford in the river and at a place north of the
the Diedrick Bridge was built. The name Diedrick was the name of a man
lived in the valley not far from the bridge. It is now known officially
the Creamery Bridge. In 1885, the Fairplay Creamery was built and the
Bridge was erected. This gave the residents of Dry River two crossings
the Pembina River. A man by the name of S.A.Johansen came from Denmark
run this creamery. He also helped to build it.”
The first settlers came via Emerson along the Boundary Commission
In 1882, the Canadian Pacific Railway came as far as Manitou, and in
it was extended to Pilot Mound, shortening the journey considerably.
Mrs. Graham offers an explanation for the unusual name.
“west of the road which is now known as Highway No. 440, there is
Ash Creek runs down from the north and runs west while the Dry River
from the south and runs east to Swan Lake. There is a piece of land
the two creeks which is a little higher than that surrounding it. This
where the Indians used to cross and J. Flannagan Sr. named it the Pass.
only the Indians used this as a pass, but when buffalo roamed this
they used it also.”
Pioneers included Alex McQuarrie and Tom Frey who came from Ontario in
year 1881, followed in the spring of 1882, William Robinson and his
George Stewart. Mrs. Grahgam tells us that arrivals from 1882 to
included Archie McAuley, William Apperley, W. Wardman, I.
W. Davis, Ike Tealing, A. Bonnan. J. Flanagan, Joe Sauders, W.
John Elson. T. A. Andersen, James and William Baird, Jack Baird, W.
and William Craik.
Dry River School District No. 339 was organized in 1885. The post
was opened in 1884 in the home of George Stewart, then moved to
Craik in 1904, followed by S. Robinson who had it until his death in
when it was closed. The first religious services were held in the
by Rev. H. Cain Presbyterian minister. Church was held in the school
many years and also Sunday School.
I seems that subsequent events may have proved that the Baldur
of 1889 were right in holding out for a rail station and the town that
follow. The site prospered and expanded. Had the Northern Pacific
had its way Greenway would have been its only stop as it passed
through Argyle (Belmont was in Argyle at the time but that was soon to
Named after no less a person than the Premier himself who had pioneered
the Crystal City area to the south, it would logically have been an
commercial centre. The creation of Baldur, followed by a change in
which placed the upstart village it in the centre of the revised and
municipality, meant that Greenway would never grow beyond its small
status. The towns were just too close together.
Even so, Greenway, as the focal point of a vibrant and energetic
had an important role to play in Argyle. Before its appearance locals
have got their mail at the W. Craik residence, the address
Dry River. If you lived in the eastern part of that district you might
to Mariapolis for mail and supplies. But as of 1889 the railway company
determined that Greenway was the place.
The town site may never have grown beyond the 3-street – three
that was originally surveyed, but it quickly developed the basic
educational, recreational and spiritual facilities that would carry it
most of a century. For a short time its inhabitants might have hoped
more, especially around 1903 when a the Wakopa Subdivision which
the new towns of Glenora and Neelin made Greenway somewhat of a
hub. But there was just no need for more people or more services and
remained on of those tiny villages whose importance and far outstripped
Neelin, the town, didn’t make an appearance until the Canadian
the Wakopa Line – which left the main line at Greenway and
toward Wakopa, an early settlement south of Boissevain. The route
sharply southward for the first few miles, recognizing the need to
the growing district of Glenora (it didn’t hurt that MLA George
family had extensive holdings there) and then skirted the north shore
Rock Lake in search of a suitable place to cross the deep valley
Rock Lake and Lake Louise. It found such a place on 19-3-14 a site that
Neelin had recently purchased and a town was born.
The community though had been there quite a while. Mr. Neelin had
just east of the future town site in 1881. John Cumming, former soldier
ship’s captain, who first came to the Marringhurst area in 1879
to the Huntly area northwest of Neelin in 1882. The region was
served by the Moropano Post Office. In 1887 Roseberry School was
on SW 33-3-14. Before long, however, both the school and the post
were located in the new town while the building of commercial,
and community building was underway.
the line near
Neelin (James Wall Collection - McKee Archives)
A "street" in Neelin
region about 1900
Rail Lines in
Gleanings of the Past, The Glenora
Boosters History Book Committee
Peel 6387: McKitrick, Thomas George (1873-1952) (compiler) [info].
stones of empire: The settlement of Crystal City and district in the
Lake country. Crystal City, Man.: Courier Publishing Co, 1940?. .
Copied Pages relating to Glenora P28&29
Peel 5350: Killarney Women's Institute (compiler) . Stories of pioneer
at Killarney. Killarney, Man.: Women's Institute of Killarney, . .
Peel 5010: Andrew Stewart of the prairie homesteads
Author: McKitrick, Thomas George. Language: English
Altona, Man.: D.W. Friesen & Sons, 1951
Peel 2915: Bryce, George (1844-1931) [info]. A history of Manitoba: Its
and people. Toronto & Montreal: Canada History Co, 1906. .