The Argyle Document Archive

Dry River (*By May Graham)

This is written as a tribute to the pioneers of the Dry River District who had sufficient courage, ambition, strength and faith to leave their homes, their relatives and their friends in the east to come to a new country about which they knew very little. They certainly must have been endowed with a great spirit of adventure. It is also intended to be a record of those who settled in the district not only in the beginning, but also through the decades which followed.

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 on the east by the Pembina River. The Pembina River derives its name from an Indian name - Pembina meaning "native cranberry". The old school district ran as far north as Township 4 for a short distance and at it's beginning it stretched west to the west side of rhe township On the south it goes as far south as the township for a part of the way. Then it reaches the Pembina River which it follows. Later on in 1907 when Zephyr school district was 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 and east of it owing to the fact that the Pembina River had to be crossed. At one point there was a ford in the river and at a place north of the ford the Diedrick Bridge was built. The name Diedrick was the name of a man who lived in the valley not far from the bridge. It is now known officially as the Creamery Bridge. In 1885, the Fairplay Creamery was built and the Creamery Bridge was erected. This gave the residents of Dry River two crossings over the Pembina River. A man by the name of S.A.Johansen came from Denmark to run this creamery. He also helped to build it.

The District was surveyed in 1872. At that time it was comprised of some prairie, but a great deal of it was solid bush. The main trees in the solid bush were Oak, Poplar, and Balm of Gilead. There were also many willows, especially around the sloughs of which there were many - some large and some small. There were a great deal of wild fruit trees: Saskatoons, Pincherry, Chokecherry,Cranberry and also numerous patches of wild raspberry and strawberry. These fruit trees proved to be a wonderful asset to the pioneers and also to those who followed in the 1930's. The those pioneers and to those who lived in the dirty thirties, rhubarb was combined with strawberries which made a very edible fruit and Saskatoons made good fruit too, and it was preserved in sealers for winter use and lovely jelly was made from Pincherries and Cranberries.

This land, when cleared, proved to be very fertile. One of the great drawbacks in those very early years were the summer frosts. Consequently the farmers turned to raising cattle and hogs as well.
Wildlife was quite common too. Thee were lots of wolves, deer. lynx, and also a few bear. Of course deer and rabbits were the edible ones. Gophers were a real problem to the farmers as they dug holes in the fields and ate the grain surrounding this hole. Therefore poison was put out beside the holes. Traps were set and in many cases this was done by the young boys and girls. The reason being that when they caught the gophers, they removed the tails, took them to town and received 1 cent for each tail. The boys and girls used to down the gophers out also. I'm not sure that this bounty was given in the very early days, but it was quite a common thing forty and fifty years ago.

While speaking of wildlife, we must also remember there were wild ducks and wild geese, prairie chickens and partridges. The rivers and lakes teemed with fish too, Pike and Suckers. Of course, the Pike were the best. In the winter time the fish used to jam and the were taken out by the half sleigh loads, so there was plenty of good fish to eat. We even canned them for winter use in the dirty thirties.

The first settlers had to make their way from Emerson in wagons drawn by either horses or oxen. There was one other altermative, and that was to walk. It was a distance of 100 miles. In 1882, the Canadian Pacific Railway came as far as Manitou, and in 1885 it was extended to Pilot Mound.

As the summer frosts disappeared, the farmers went into grain growing. Wheat, barley and oats were the main crops. The Dry River district was known to grow the finest malting barley in Manitoba and the Dry River district once held the world's record for the largest yield of hard spring wheat per acre.

How the distict got its name is rather a conundrum. Dry River is what we would call a contradictory name. The reason for this is the fact that west of the road which is now known as Highway No. 440, there is a divide. Ash Creek runs down from the north and runs west while the Dry River comes from the south and runs east to Swan Lake. There is a piece of land between the two creeks which is a little higher than that surrounding it. This is where the Indians used to cross and J. Flannagan Sr. named it the Pass. Not only the Indians used this as a pass, but when buffalo roamed this district, they used it also. From this piece of dry ground was derived the name "Dry River. The original road across the Dry River Valley had many curves in it on both sides but now it is absolutely straight up and down. There is also another creek north of the Dry River and there once was quite a steep hill there. This was known as the Welman Ravine named after a contractor who worked for the Canadian National. This railway came through in 1894. This was a great boom to the Dry River District as they only had to haul their grain less than half as far in order to put in on the market. Every farmer in those days didn't have to put their grain in the elevator. If they had sufficient grain to fill a freight car (wheat or barley) they could order a car through the station agent. When the car came it was loaded, usually the neighbors helped one another load their cars. At that time there was no wheat board and instead there was the grain exchange and the price of grains fluctuated from day to day. Every car was shipped to the lakehead and the tamer had the privilege of selling his wheat when he so desired. Some people used to gamble on the wheat market. In fact some did gamble who had never grown a bushel of grain in their lives. Previous to this, Dry River farmers made Pilot Mound their
town, but after the new railway came through Mariapolis, a large
part of the district went to Mariapolis. They drew their grain there and purchased their groceries and other necessities there too.

Sections 11 and 29 in each township were school sections and coud not be homesteaded. The Hudson Bay Company also had land given to them by the government and the C.P.R. had some given to them also. The rules regarding homesteadings were as follows: The homesteader had to agree to live on his quarter for 6 months out of each year for 3 years and break 10 acres a year. After that he could buy another quarter called a pre-emption at $3 per acre and many took advantage of this.

Mr. Alex McQuarrie and Mr. Tom Frey came out here from Ontario in the year 1881. At first Mr. McQuarie was going to homestead in Maringhurst and his brother in Dry River but however they changed their minds and Mr. Alex McQuarrie took up a homestead on the S.E. 1/4 of 16-4-12. Later on he acquired the S.W. 1/4 of the same section as his pre-emption Tom Fry located on the N. E. 1/4 of 16-4-12. He built a house on that quarter and he went back east in the fall of 1882 to get married. His fiance did not want to come out to Manitoba to live so he gave up his homestead. He returned to the community some years later.

In the spring of 1882, Mr Wm. Robinson and his brother-in-law George Stewart came out from Ontario from a village called Nobleton. Mr. Robinson had his belongings in a freight car along with
another man. The Canadian Pacific Railway wouldn't put off Mr. Robinson's effects at Emerson therefore they had to go on to Winnipeg. The snow was very deep. In fact they could walk from the
roof of the freight car right on to the snow. They put the horses
in a livery barn and they took a room at the hotel. The horses took
distemper and therefore the men had to remain in Winnipeg until they were almost out of money. Finally they struck out west and found the water was so deep they had to return to Winnipeg and go south to Emerson. From there they were able to go west and then north. Finally, they arrived at Alex McQuarrie’s - friends they had known in the East.                        

Mr Robinson took up a homestead on the N.W. 1/4 of 14-4-12.
He went back east in August and brought out his family. They came from Emerson in a wagon drawn by horses. They had cows tied behind the wagon, two for themselves and one for George Stewart. The mosquitoes were the worst they had ever experienced. Mr and Mrs Robinson had five children when they came west and another girl was born November 2d of that year. Such an undertaking would be considered ridiculous in our day and age, but they managed and didn't have to discard any of their belongings on the way as some of the more unfortunate people had to do.
They lived in Tom Fry's house during the first winter. In the spring, George Stewart, who was a carpenter, completed the house on the homestead of the N.W. 1/4 of 14-4-12 for Mr. Wm. Robinson.
Of course all of these homes were made of logs hewn out of the bush and put together with square nails. This story is an example of the trial and privations that all the pioneers experienced. From 1882 to 1885, several settlers came to locate in the Dry River district. Namely: Archie McAuley. Wm. Apperley. W. Wardman, I Bentley, W. Davis. Ike Tealing. A. Bonnan. J. Flanagan,  Joe Sauders, W. Cressard, John Elson. T. A. Andersen, James and Wm. Baird, and Jack Baird, also W. Tisdale and Wm. Craik.

Dry River School District No. 339 was organized in 1885 with D. Bentley, Alex McQuarrie and Wm. Robinson as trustees and Miss Thring, of Belmont the teacher. School was held in W. Robinson's home until the next year when the school was built. A full list of the trustees and teachers will be found near the end of the book. The post office was opened in 1884 in the home of George Stewart, then moved to A. Eason's. In 1904 it was taken over by Wm. Craik followed by S. Robinson who had it until his death in1948. It was closed in 1948. The north district is now served by Mariapolis and the south by rural mail from Pilot Mound. The first religious services were held in the school by Rev. H. Cain Presbyterian minister. Church was held in the school for many years and also Sunday School. Some of the ministers were R. Hunter 1903 - 1904; Rev. Ashcroft, Rev. McLean, Rev. McLean, Rev. Turnbull. Rev Little and Rev. Morrison. The church was closed about 1920. This is a list of the Dry River Sunday School pupils in 1898.

Class I – Mrs. Elson — Ira Craik, W. J. Davis, Annie Davis, M.J.
Davis, Archie McAuley. Sam McAuley, Kate McLennan. Jane McLennan, Jennie Stewart.

Class II - Mrs Barnes — Eddie Apperlev. Mary Craik, George Craik
Lila Davis, Charlie Eason, Fanny Eason. Bertha Eason, Jesie Eason
May Elson, Reggie McAuley, Aleck McAuley, John McLennan Maggie McLennan, Vina Robinson, Jack Stewart.

Class III – Mr. Sproule — Golda Apperlev, Gertrude Apperley
Cora Apperley. Lillie Craik. Annie Eason,   Annie McLennan, Ethel Stewart.

Glass IV – Mr. McQuarrie — Fred Craik, Dan McLennan, Duncan McLennan, Houston McAuley, John McQuarrie, Walter Richardson, Edway Robinson, Robert Robinson, Willie Robinson.

Class V – Mr. Eason — John Bames, Jessie Craik, Christina Crail
Charles Ealson» Charles Filden, Archie Graham, Willie Herrick
Mary McLennan, Mary McQuarrie, Alex McQuarrie, Angus McQuarrie Archie McQuarrie Lena Robinson, Harvey Robinson.

Portage Weekly, July 10, 1889

Brandon Sun, June 19, 1890

Brandon Sun, Oct 31, 1889

Brandon Sun, Dec. 3, 1891

Daily Nor' Wester, April 3, 1894

Daily Nor' Wester, May 14, 1894

Brandon Sun, May 19, 1892