The Story of the Chapman Museum


Ab and Harriet Chapman

At the beginning it wasn't a dream, or even a thought to own our own Museum or anything of that nature. It was just a desire to acquire a set of crockery jugs from the small pint to a large five-gallon. This started after we purchased the old General Store at Carnegie. While dismantling it, we discovered a huge five-gallon jug in one of the corners. It found a place in our kitchen and in no time was the center of a set of other sizes and trade names. Then along came Canada's 100th Birthday - 1967 - with the desire to set up a small display as our way of celebrating the Centennial. Well! We had an empty "Bunk House'' which had been built during the 1940's to accommodate extra harvesters needed to help with our farming operations. This seemed like the ideal spot to put the jugs, churns, and a few other articles acquired during 30 years of wedded bliss. From there it was off and running! We were bitten by the "Bug". We came to know the fun and rivalry of Auction Sales. We found ourselves the recipients of gifts from folk who didn't want to throw old, unused articles away, but who wished them to be kept undercover. Soon our "Bunk House" was bulging at the seams. Luckily, some years prior to 1967, we had purchased the Pendennis Railway Station which we intended to use for grain storage. It was moved to a new location and soon became part, and full, of our collection. The "Complex" as we now call if as it seems to be "the word" nowadays, is made up of Robinville School, a Jug House, a General Store, a Library, andSmoke Shop combined, as well as the two above-mentioned buildings. Oh yes, the "Bunk House" has been renamed-the "Glass-House". Much more sophisticated.

Pendennis Station at the Chapman Museum

Before they knew it they had sixteen buildings that represented the scope of the region’s history. The collection included five one-room schools, a store, a few houses and a church. In those buildings were treasures that tell the story of the times.

Things like; a collection of glassware and china, a huge Bible with an inscription on the cover showing it was given as a gift in 1756, a "Grain Growers Guide", from September 10th, 1919, a GTP baggage wagon, a feed cooker or pig scalder, a Raleigh's peddar's carrying case from 1921.It was an array of farm and domestic equipment that documented prairie life at the turn of the 20th century. Eventually the operation of the museum was taken over by their daughter and son-in-law, Lois and Gordon Allen.

At its peak, the museum averaged over 400 visitors per year. Schools, Churches and Sunday Schools, Cubs, Senior Citizens, and Pioneer Groups were regulars. 

In 2014, the museum closed after forty-seven years of operations.

Ab Chapman - Farmer, municipal official, archivist.

Born on the family farm near Rivers on 3 February 1918, Ab was a Councillor and Reeve for 42 years, and was President of the Union of Manitoba Municipalities (1974-1979). He was instrumental in the building of Riverdale Hospital at Rivers and was its first Chairman; was the first President of WestMan Regional Development Limited at Brandon.

In recognition of his exemplary community service, he received the Manitoba Golden Boy Award in 1964, the Spirit of ‘70 Citation in1970, and many such citations thereafter including induction into the Manitoba Agricultural Hall of Fame. He died on 7 August 2013 and is buried in the Roseville Cemetery.