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MHS Gazette.

President's Message: Working Together

Some of you may not have met me, so I will start with a few biographical details. Born in Winnipeg, with roots in rural Manitoba, I have worked for 34 years as a wetland and aquatic scientist with the Manitoba government and at the University of Alberta, Brandon University, and presently at the University of Manitoba, where I am a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences. My wife Maria and I have two adult children, Stefanie and Josef.

I became involved with the MHS in 2002 and have served a number of roles, including First Vice-President (2002-2004), Chair of the Dalnavert Management Committee (2004-2010), President (2004-2006), and Secretary (2010-2013). I am the production coordinator and Pageant editor for Manitoba History, and Secretary for the MHS' nomination evaluation committee for the Lieutenant Governor's Award for Historical Preservation and Promotion. My proudest accomplishment has been growing the MHS website into a comprehensive source of information on the history of our province. Outside the MHS, I am a member of the Heritage Committee of Engineers Geoscientists Manitoba, the City of Winnipeg's Historical Buildings and Resources Committee, and the Legislative Building Restoration and Preservation Advisory Committee, and I am Secretary to the Board of the Manitoba Agricultural Museum at Austin. I write a weekly column on historical grain elevators for the Manitoba Co-operator, I do a weekly series on CBC Radio 1, and I have written four books on Manitoba history, including the national bestsellers Abandoned Manitoba and More Abandoned Manitoba.

As MHS President, I intend to work on increasing membership in our Society, undertaking new initiatives to increase our public visibility, and improving our relationship with other historical groups around the province. I will have more to say about the first two goals in subsequent columns but I would like to speak about two specific projects relating to the third goal. First, I am keen to have MHS Council meetings at places outside of downtown Winnipeg where our administrative office is located. Whenever possible, I want to meet outside of Winnipeg so we can fulfill our mandate as the Manitoba Historical Society, to counter a mistaken impression that we are the Winnipeg Historical Society. Recently, the Council met with representatives of the Charleswood Historical Society at the Charleswood Public Library. The work done by this group of passionate heritage advocates in the southwestern corner of Winnipeg is diverse, important, and highly commendable. But they have some of the same problems experienced by local historical groups elsewhere in Manitoba: their members are typically older and recruitment of the next generation is challenging. We had an excellent wide-ranging conversation with them, and anticipate that we will work with the CHS to host public events for our respective members.

On another level, it concerns me that there have been too few opportunities for the eight "Provincial Heritage Associations" in Manitoba--MHS, Heritage Winnipeg, Manitoba Genealogical Society, Association of Manitoba Museums, Association for Manitoba Archives, Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada, Manitoba Archaeological Society, and St. Boniface Historical Society--to meet and discuss challenges that we all face and ways we can cooperate with each other to mutual advantage. We have had preliminary discussions and have applied for funding to host what we tentatively calling a "Manitoba Heritage 2020 Summit and Celebration." It will be a one- or two-day meeting in late September or early October 2020 that will be open to representatives from the PHAs and interested members of the general public. We believe this will be the first time that such an all-encompassing meeting has been held in at least a generation. Its four objectives will be as follows: 1. identify common themes among PHAs relating to heritage and history in Manitoba, 2. identify present and future opportunities and challenges that will be beneficial for the delivery of heritage-related programs and the management of heritage resources around Manitoba, 3. foster improved collaboration and communication between PHAs and smaller heritage facilities around the province, and 4. prepare a White Paper on the state of heritage in Manitoba and its development over the next 10 to 20 years, toward a long-term vision for Manitoba's 200th anniversary in 2070.

The formal program of the Heritage Summit will consist of keynote talks, presentations by the participating PHAs, and panel discussions with members of the heritage community. The recently completed Manitoba Cultural Review will be used as a jumping-off point for participants to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats going forward. I hope that more details on this initiative will be provided in the next issue of this newsletter.

In the meantime, I encourage you to contact me with comments and questions at or by calling the MHS office at 204-947-0559.

Significant Passings

MHS notes with sadness the passing of the following Manitobans:

Ron Kirbyson Born on September 1, 1937 in Fairfax, Manitoba, Ron Kirbyson spent his formative years in a variety of communities in the southwestern part of the province. He became a teacher at 18, overseeing a one-room school in Belmont. It was the start of a lifelong passion for teaching. He earned his Bachelor of Arts (1959) and his Certificate of Education (1960) from Brandon College and his Masters of Arts from the University of Manitoba in 1966.

A life-long historian, Ron authored two of Canada's best-selling history textbooks, Challenge & Survival as well In Search of Canada, Discovering Canada in a North American Perspective. These works were long used in Manitoba schools. In his later years, Ron was a popular book reviewer for the Winnipeg Free Press.

David McDowell Educator, heritage activist and author, David McDowell was an active member of the Manitoba Historical Society for 50 years. He served on the MHS Council, chairing committees and working to rescue and restore Dalnavert and other significant buildings in the province, including the Millennium Centre (former Bank of Commerce) on Main Street. David was twice president of Heritage Winnipeg, Manitoba Governor of the National Trust for Canada (1997-2003), and served on the board for the Manitoba Museum. In recognition of his community service, he received the Canada 125 Anniversary Medal (1992) and a Heritage Winnipeg Distinguished Service Award (1993).

Mitch Podolak Founding artistic director of the Winnipeg Folk Festival (1974) and founder of Winnipeg's West End Cultural Centre, Mitch Podolak had been a legend in the music scene in Manitoba and western Canada since the 1970s. Established by Mitch Podolak, Colin Gorrie, and Mitch's wife Ava Kobrinsky in 1974 as a celebration of Winnipeg's centennial, the Folk Festival itself has grown into an event with attendance of over 80,000 'folkies' over the four days in July in Bird's Hill Park. Through his work, he assisted many musicians, organizations and music lovers. In recognition of his community service, Mitch Podolak was inducted into the Order of Manitoba (2015) and received an honorary doctorate from Brandon University (2015).

Kathleen Richardson MHS lost a stalwart supporter and friend with the passing of Kathleen Richardson in September. A companion to arts and culture, she devoted much of her energy to making her province an artistic mecca. Quietly, she created new opportunities and audiences while always shunning the limelight. She was a leader in MHS's rescue and conservation of Dalnavert from a dilapidated rooming house to a stunning museum and national historic site. She served on the Winnipeg Art Gallery's board of governors from 1983 to 1991. The Royal Winnipeg Ballet benefitted with Miss Richardson as president from 1957 to 1961 and honorary president until her death. She supported the RWB through difficult financial periods, leading the campaign to raise $5.5 million towards construction of its new headquarters in the mid-80s. In the 1950s, her purchase and donation of the former Dominion Theatre supported the establishment of the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre as a model for regional theatre nationwide. After her mother's death in 1973, Richardson demolished the family house on Wellington Crescent, and donated 5.4 acres of family property to the city to create Munson Park.

Berenice Sisler Dedicated to change while often shunning the limelight, Berenice Sisler was a long-time advocate for women's rights. From the 1970s forward, she worked towards challenging the Province's judiciary system to amend deeply unfair and antiquated provisions in family law, which was then flawed with sexist discrimination. Sisler served on boards and committees, including the federal Charter of Rights Coalition, and the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women. Her 1995 book A Partnership of Equality detailed the fight for equality in Manitoba. In 1985, Sisler was honoured with the Manitoba Order of the Buffalo Hunt and later, with a honourary doctorate from the University of Winnipeg.

1919 Strike Commemorative Events Continue

Projected Images of the Strike

The fall night air will be illuminated with a projected digital experience commemorating the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike on the south facade of 436 Main Street, the former Bank of British North America. The display is the work of Heritage Winnipeg.

A team of designers, animators and historians has crafted a unique and memorable media experience. Using state of the art projection technology, the team will immerse the audience in the stories of Winnipeg's early twentieth century architecture and social uprising, which culminated in one of the most significant events in Canada's history.

The event will take place Thursdays through Sundays at dusk (which presumably becomes a bit later through the month) September 27 through to October 27. The images will be projected from a parking lot onto the south wall of the building, the former Bank of British North America, which is on the west side on Main Street, south of McDermot Avenue. Fittingly, this is a structure that existed in 1919 and shows up in photographs taken at the time of the strike.

Recipes for Young Homemakers

Who remembers taking home economics in middle grades at school, and using this handy booklet for cooking recipes? Eighty-four pages in length in a soft cover, Recipes for Young Homemakers is chock-full of basic information from recipes to Manitoba-made products and how to get them, to information on the chemistry of cooking and baking. First printed in 1959, Recipes was updated from time-to-time to reflect food science and agricultural economics, and in particular, Canada's Food Guide. The version I own lists the selections made by the Manitoba Suburban Home Economics Teachers through the Department of Home Economics at the University of Manitoba.

The recipes are grouped by food categories (cheese dishes, flour mixtures, soups, vegetables, fish, meat etc.) that take nothing for granted by the reader. Thus, the quantities, method, yield and predicted problems and outcomes are included so young cooks are not left dangling to wonder if their creation was correct. Recipes are guided towards using local products for reasons of nourishment and economy, concepts more valid today than ever before. Recipes are all in imperial measure, from quantities to temperatures.

Towards the back are instructions for the preservation of food, guidelines for making jelly and marmalade and a sensible "guide for selecting pots and pans". There is a section on party foods, especially useful for large quantities (remember going to a tea at your church or school?), as well as rules for tough cuts of meat to make them more appetizing. 'Cookery Terms You Should Know', substitutions, equivalents, and the availability of Manitoba vegetables by the month were included as well. Stir-frys, smoothies, sushi and even kale were not around yet.

In case the most you learned about table settings came from watching Downton Abbey, there are established protocols prescribed in the booklet that provide winsome reading:

1. Tablecloths should be placed with the centre crease in the centre of the table; place mats straight, evenly spaced and even with the edge of the table.

2. A table centre should be a low arrangement.

3. A "cover" is a complete setting of china, glass, silver and linen for one person. The space allowed should be 20"x24", and should be arranged in order of use. A. knives are placed to the right of the plate B. spoons are placed to the right of the knives, bowls up C. forks are placed to the left of the plate, but if a main course does not require a knife-then the fork may be placed to the right D. silver is arranged in order of use-from outside in, but spoons and knives are always grouped separately E. glasses are placed at the tip of the knife F. bread and butter plates are placed at the tip of the fork G. serviettes are folded in flat squares or oblongs and placed to the left of forks with the open corners to the lower right hand corner, [text excluded here]

4. When each course is finished, all food-service for that course is removed before bringing in the next course. Leftover food is removed first, then soiled dishes, then salt and pepper shakers. Remove dishes two at a time. Do not stack dishes.

5. Silver for serving is placed beside the food and not in it.

Unveiling of 'Bloody Saturday' Streetcar 356 at Market and Main in Winnipeg

A new installation of public art captures one of the most iconic images from the Winnipeg General Strike. Unveiled on the 100th anniversary of 'Bloody Saturday', June, 1919, the overturned streetcar on the rails in front of City Hall has returned, this time as a statue. During the 1919 strike, most of the streetcar drivers were striking as well, but streetcar 356 did come through Main Street on that Saturday from the north, driven by replacement workers, which the strikers took as an attempt to break the strike. Frustrated after so many days of inaction to their 'silent strike' tactics, some strikers shooed off the railwaymen and attempted to tip the heavy streetcar. It would not tip completely so they broke the windows and lit it on fire. Not long after, the mounted 'special constables' rode in on horseback, charged and scattered the crowd. The streetcar was doused and remained upright, albeit at an angle.

And now, immediately across the street from this scene, and still in front of City Hall, the new installation consists of a replica streetcar, 10 metres by 2.4 metres, made of weathering steel oxidized to an orange patina. Like the original, it features windows lit from within and has a single working headlight. It also is tipped at an angle, and partially sunk in concrete at its base at the corner of Market and Main, in front of Pantages Theatre Plaza.

Named 'Bloody Saturday', the design of the installation was a collaboration between Winnipeg film writer Noam Gonick and artist Bemie Miller. The craftsmanship came from local manufacturer DMS Industrial Construction, a feat in engineering, transportation and installation. Winnipeg Arts Council commissioned the work and assisted in raising funds to complete it.

The last streetcar rolled into the city's history in 1955 and the steel tracks were pulled up. Trolley and diesel powered buses took over.

Heritage Conservation Districts

While not many civic politicians would claim that heritage conservation is a top-of-mind issue on their daily agenda, events over the last year in Winnipeg may be altering that impression. A key issue that has emerged in Winnipeg surrounds the creation and impact of Heritage Conservation Districts.

You might ask "What is a Heritage Conservation District?". On September 20, 2018, the Heritage Conservation Districts By-Law came into force in Winnipeg. This by-law formalises the process for the nomination, evaluation and designation of heritage conservation districts (HCDs). It also incorporates and reflects up-to-date best practises for heritage conservation and ensures fairness, clarity and certainty throughout the process of reviewing and listing of potential HCDs.

At the heart of the concept for HCDs is the recognition that neighbourhoods have special qualities and characteristics that residents want to protect, and to sustain. An area is eligible to be designated as a Heritage Conservation District if it is deemed to have elements of special architectural and historic significance, and substantial parts of the area are over 40 years old.

On 25 April 2019, Winnipeg's Civic council officially designated Armstrong's Point as Winnipeg's first HCD, following an elaborate planning and consultation process. On 6 June 2019 the City's Director of Planning, Property and Development nominated an area within the neighbourhood of Crescentwood to be considered as an HCD. The process has now begun to determine if Crescentwood will receive HCD designation. The Glenwood neighbourhood in north St.Vital has also indicated that it would like to be considered, and there is interest in designating the Exchange District and Point Douglas as well.

The potential designation of Crescentwood became controversial when the city intervened to stop a property owner's plan to demolish a century-old mansion to make way for a new multi-family development. The owners of 514 Wellington Crescent now plan to take the City to court, while at the same time the Heritage Conservation Committee for Crescentwood move forward with their support for the Heritage Conservation District. How this issue evolves will certainly garner the attention of Winnipeg city councillors and go a long way to shape how the HCD by-law is applied to Winnipeg's distinctive areas and neighbourhoods.

40 Years On: Boat People No Longer

There is a new Heritage Minute on the Historica Canada website: Vietnamese 'Boat People'. Those of us old enough will remember the gut-wrenching images viewed in real time on TV news of frantic families clinging to life in rickety open boats, fleeing Vietnam and heading to refugee camps in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. From there, desperate and penniless, the refugees attempted to find homes elsewhere. Canadians opened their hearts and their borders to 100,000 so-called 'boat people' between 1975 and 1995, with 5,850 people of Vietnamese origin accounted for in the Manitoba census of 2016.

With an ever-tumultuous past and recent colonial rule, Vietnam had been locked in a bloody civil war that ended in 1975. But further violence and misery ensued between the war-torn nation and neighbouring Cambodia and China, into the 1980s. Those families who were initially accepted into Canada were often sponsored by church and cultural groups, as well as with government support. The first wave in 1979 was followed for the next two decades by more immigration from the homeland as settled former 'boat people' sent for extended family members. Through the tough times, the new Canadians worked hard, supported one another and gradually made their way successfully into their new home society and economic lives.

The Heritage Minute can be viewed at

New Appointment to Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada

The federal government recently announced that Diane Payment has been appointed as the Manitoba representative to the Historic Sites and Monument Board of Canada. Diane, who lives in Winnipeg, had a distinguished career with Parks Canada as a Historian. She was particularly well known for her scholarly research in the field of Metis History, in association with the development of Riel House and Batoche as national historic sites.

Manitoba Commemorations 2019-2020

A plaque commemorating the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) was unveiled in Winnipeg on 16 August 2019. Upcoming plaque ceremonies in 2020 are Winnipeg Falcons Hockey Club, Ducks Unlimited and Tommy Prince. The Treaty One commemoration is planned for the 150th anniversary in 2021.

Historic Sites and Monuments Board Update

by Diane Payment, HSMBC member for Manitoba

The 100th anniversary Symposium: "Reflections on Commemorating Canada" in June 2019 brought together scholars and members of the general public for insightful presentations and lively discussions. Topics included Indigenous cultural landscapes, the complexity of commemorating controversial colonial leaders such as Lord Jeffery Amherst and John A. Macdonald, the re-naming of places and the issues of race, gender and class. A current challenge for the Board is addressing the issues of conflict and controversy in existing and new designations. Designations are not only celebratory but recognize the tragic, controversial and even shameful dimensions of Canada's history. An interesting point raised at the symposium was the involvement of youth in commemorations, for example in plaque ceremonies, posting research reports on the web and seminars. The students in attendance raised the issue that Canadian history is not compulsory at the secondary level in most provinces (including Manitoba) and many don't know their history!

A Private Members' Bill to create an Indigenous Board representing the Inuit, First Nations and Metis died with the dissolution of Parliament but Parks Canada and the Board are committed to pursue this initiative. In the interim, it will work to create a cultural circle or other means of inclusive representation. This is particularly important in light of the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Call for Action and Parks Canada's commitment to the commemoration of Indian Residential School sites and their history and legacy.

The 2019 Parks Canada Systems Plan identified three strategic priorities for commemoration: History of Indigenous Peoples, Environmental History, Diversity (of peoples, class and gender), and Canada in the World. The key principles and practices to address those priorities are integrity, inclusiveness and relevance. There is the on-going challenge of integrating stories and multiple voices in light of the limitations of plaque texts. Interestingly, communities are still interested in plaque texts as a form of commemoration but there is a need to enhance these through virtual presentations, artworks and other mediums.

Manitoba History at the Theatre

There are many ways we access our Manitoba history these days. It may be through the relaxing medium of a scholarly article or an interpretive tour of a neighbourhood. Another stimulating way to quench your thirst for interpretations of our past is by attending Manitoba's lively theatre scene. A quick glance at the 2019-2020 theatre menu has much on offer.

Starting 27 February 2020, one can contemplate attending the premiere of Frances Koncan's award-winning comedy, "Women of the Fur Trade", at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre. This play explores the cultural inheritance of three 19th century women as they navigate the rapidly changing world of the Canadian fur trade. Using 21st century slang, these women share their views on life, love and Louis Riel along with other period figures such as the controversial Thomas Scott. Koncan mixes humour and history to illustrate shifting perspectives on women's power in the past and present.

Beginning on 2 October 2019, you may want to attend Ian Ross's new play at the Prairie Theatre Exchange. Called "The Third Colour", this absurdist 'dramedy' traces the history of Canada from the Indigenous people's era to the present day, through the eyes of two spirits in the shape of indigenous women. You may remember Ian Ross from his CBC show entitled "Joe from Winnipeg." Using his well-timed sense of humour and his own indigenous experience, Ross explores the notion of reconciliation by posing the questions: "How did we get here?", and "What's next?."

Manitoba's 150th Anniversary in 2020

In September 2019, the Provincial Government began to roll out announcements on how it proposed to define and fund programs for Manitoba's 150th anniversary in 2020. Manitoba will mark its sesquicentennial in recognition of the keystone province officially joining Confederation on 15 July 1870.

The initial announcement laid out some details on three specific programs. A pot of $1.2 million will be available to 55 eligible foundations through the 'Build 150' program. Projects funded by this program "should leave a lasting presence in the community and impact the largest number of residents possible", a news release on the provincial website commented. Possible projects could include public amenities such as benches, bike racks or public art, or revitalization of historically significant structures such as buildings or statues.

The 'Celebrate 150' initiative is for one-time events that celebrate the province's anniversary, with funding available to non-profit groups like the Manitoba Historical Society, municipalities and First Nations. Grants will range from $10,000 to $70,000 and cover as much as 70% of an event's eligible costs.

The third category, the 'Honour 150' program, will recognize 150 Manitobans for their volunteer contributions. Honourees will be presented with a Manitoba 150 medal at a ceremony at the Legislature, attend a gala dinner and take part in the Santa Claus parade in November.

Heritage Minister Cathy Cox was on hand for the announcement and promised, "It is going to be the very biggest and best celebration in Manitoba History". Let us hope that as the plans for the 150th anniversary unfold, we hear a renewed commitment to the preservation and interpretation of Manitoba's heritage resources.

A Manitoba Mystery? The Well-Dressed Man

by James Kostuchuk

I gave a lot of consideration to whether this article should be published. The subject matter is disturbing. In the end I was reminded of the advice of one of my history professors many years ago. We should not shy away from historical evidence, no matter how difficult it is to confront. I also feel that the subject of this article would want to have his story revealed. His life was no doubt difficult and this photograph may be his only legacy.

The Carte-de-Visite (CdV) photograph of a "well-dressed man," attached to this article, was once part of a collection purchased by a book dealer. Of the thirteen images in the collection, eight were determined to be relevant to Manitoba and therefore were acquired by the University of Manitoba Archives. These photographs included views of Winnipeg and Louis Riel from the 1860s ( I was curious about one of the rejected photographs, so I reached out to the seller and came to terms to purchase it. There is no evidence that this image was taken in Manitoba, as the other images in the collection were from the American Civil War. However, there is no reason to immediately discount this as a Manitoba photograph either. To date, I have no firm evidence one-way or other. However, I have received many suggestions as to the story behind the photograph. Here are some possibilities:

1. Civil War Amputee

Theory--The CdV was sold as a fundraiser for a Civil War amputee.

Photographic technology had advanced to such a degree that during the American Civil War it was possible to capture images both on and off the battlefield. Camera pioneers like Matthew Brady made a lot of money during the war selling photographs of generals, soldiers, and the horrors of war. It is estimated that three quarters of all battlefield surgeries during the war were amputations. Studio photographs of soldiers with amputations are therefore quite common.

The Civil War was largely fought far from Manitoba, but Civil War veterans were not hard to find in the Red River valley. Trade between Grand Forks and Winnipeg was well established in this time period. Veteran soldiers were among the group arrested at Pembina in 1871, attempting to advance the Fenian cause by invading Winnipeg.

2. Victim of Frostbite

Theory--The image shows the aftermath of a severe case of frostbite.

Settlers were continually at risk of frostbite during Manitoba's cold winters. Manitoba Pageant records the story of Louis Bouvet who had his arm amputated by Dr. Schultz at Red River in 1868. Memorable Manitoban Harry Kirk lost all his fingers in a blizzard in 1873. A quadruple amputee, Benjamin Franklin Work, lost his limbs to a Minnesota blizzard in 1865. Interestingly, Work relied on the sale of CdV photographs to supplement his income.

3. Survivor of a Fire

Theory--The amputations and facial scarring suggest someone who survived a terrible fire.

Wooden buildings and fire are a dangerous combination. This was especially an issue at a time when fire codes were not clearly defined, and firefighting science was in its infancy. Portage la Prairie was devastated by a serial arsonist in the 1880s, losing most of the business district to flames that spread from building-to-building. Brick facades didn't fare any better. The Winnipeg Theatre, built in 1883, caught fire in 1926 and claimed the lives of four firefighters.

4. Casualty of the Dakota War

Theory--Tine severity of the injuries, especially the removal of the nose, may suggest torture. The presence of the well-dressed man in Manitoba would have generated a lot of interest as a reminder of the horrible events taking place south of the border. Perhaps this man was a speaker on the lecture circuit and stopped to have his photograph taken in Winnipeg.

The Dakota War of 1862 ended with 303 warriors being sentenced to death. Eventually 38 Sioux were executed at a mass hanging at Mankato, Minnesota. Pursued by American soldiers and Anishinaabe bounty hunters, the Dakota fled north. It is reported that in 1863 over 400 Dakota arrived at Fort Garry in a "state of absolute starvation". The Flee Island Entrenchment, near Portage la Prairie, was built as a fortified Dakota encampment. The arrival of the Dakota provoked widespread fear among settlers throughout the Red River valley. It is estimated that 400 to 800 settlers were killed by Dakota in 1862. Mutilations of settlers were apparently rare, but they did occur.

For more information on the Flee Island Entrenchment Site, go to


The injuries sustained by the well-dressed man are severe. He is missing all his limbs, and he has evidence of wounds to an ear, his mouth and his nose. There is no evidence that this was a widely produced photograph, so it is unlikely it was used as a fundraiser. The lack of photographer's imprint is further evidence that the image might be a one-off. If the subject had been exposed to fire, it has been suggested that his facial wounds would be more severe. It is also unlikely that frostbite would lead to such extensive injuries. If the well-dressed man was tortured, one wonders how it might be possible to survive such severe trauma, especially at a period when hospitals were few and far between.

For now, the well-dressed man, remains a mystery.

St. Mary's Academy Celebrates 150 Years of Education

Well-known to Winnipeggers for its prominent location and long-standing role in advancing the education of girls, St. Mary's Academy is the oldest independent school in western Canada. Founded in 1869 by the Greg Nuns order of Catholic sisters, at the request of Archbishop Tache, the school started classes for girls and boys in a rented house near the present-day Forks. Expansions and moves proved inadequate to meet demand as the city grew around its later quarters on Notre Dame Avenue East. Subsequently under the direction of a Montreal-based teaching order, the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, St. Mary's Academy opened a large new brick school on a 15-acre site at the corner of Wellington Crescent and Academy Road in 1903.

While now a landmark in an established community, the move into the fringes of the city seemed remote and risky in those early years, but the demand was there for education for Winnipeg girls. The new school opened in 1903 with 27 teaching sisters, 148 boarders and 48 day students. Within six years, a large addition was needed. The original school construction was designed by Samuel Hooper, who shortly thereafter was appointed as Manitoba's first Provincial Architect. The 1909 addition, which duplicated the basic design of the original construction, forms the core of the older brick building at present, and was the design of Joseph Senegal, a favourite of Catholic Church institutional construction throughout western Canada.

Emphasis was on a classical education and music. In 1926, the school evolved to become affiliated with the University of Manitoba as St. Mary's Academy and College. In 1960, the boarding school within the Academy closed, ending a ninety-year-old tradition, and the elementary grades and the College were phased out to help reduce crowding. However, as enrolment continued to climb, a third expansion was necessary. The modern 1964 addition, a large wing including a theatre, library, fine arts studio and gym, was inspired by a desire to enrich the school culturally. By the end of the decade, the Academy was a junior and senior high school for day students. Responsive to society's evolution, the Academy has added additional facilities for sports, art, science and drama. Today the school has around 600 female students and roughly 50 faculty members.

University of Manitoba Press Publication Action

For those of you interested in Manitoba history, a major source is the University of Manitoba Press, a publishing house based at the University of Manitoba. This productive organization, founded in 1967, publishes five to eight books a year, with an emphasis on Indigenous History and Native Studies, Canadian History and Canadian Literature.

The University of Manitoba Press was very active on the Manitoba History front in 2019. If you are interested in the narrative surrounding the Canadian grain trade, Paul Earl published his comprehensive study entitled The Rise and Fall of the United Grain Growers, Cooperatives, Market Regulation, and Free Enterprise. If you follow the extraordinary history of the Jewish community in Winnipeg, we recommend Arthur Ross's recent book, Communal Solidarity, Immigration, Settlement and Social Welfare in Winnipeg's Jewish Community, 1882-1930.

Many Manitoba Historical Society members know past-president Jim Blanchard. Over the past decade, Jim has prepared three works on Winnipeg's history. In September 2019, the University of Manitoba Press published Blanchard's third book, this one entitled A Diminished Roar: Winnipeg in the 1920s. As Blanchard pointed out in his recent blog, this new book takes up Winnipeg's narrative in 1920 and traces the city's evolution as it struggles to regain its former upward trajectory.

Of particular importance is the way in which the Winnipeg business community loses the control it had previously wielded through the City Council and Board of Trade. For students of Winnipeg's history, Blanchard's accessible writing style will provide the reader with an enjoyable trip through Manitoba's capital in the 'not so roaring' 1920s.

New Support for Graduate Students Studying History

Through gifts from Manitoba citizens to The Winnipeg Foundation, long a staunch supporter of the MHS and Manitoba History, there is new financial support for graduate students studying Canadian history. Students in the joint Master's Program offered by the Universities of Manitoba and Winnipeg have access to new assistance in their studies, which augments the Foundation's support available to students who select either Canadian or Indigenous Studies as a major.

As there are several categories of scholarship support through The Winnipeg Foundation, students should go the Foundation's website for details: Or contact at the Foundation directly: Jennifer Lucas. Supervisor of Student Awards; 204-944-9474; (toll free 1-877-974-3631)

While plans are being made for additional substantial support for doctoral students in the near future, there are now financial contributions in place for master's students in Canadian or Indigenous History, with two more grants becoming available in 2020. The first is in recognition of the importance of truth and reconciliation in our modern-day Canada; the second is for a student studying the role of women in Canadian history. The awards are named the Year Two Indigenous History Scholarship or the Year Two Elizabeth Alloway History Scholarship.

One Hundred Years to Celebrate: The Rural Municipality of Victoria Beach Reaches a Milestone

One hundred years ago, inl919, the smallest (and possibly the feistiest) rural municipality in Manitoba was formed by an act of incorporation by the Manitoba Legislature. Confined geographically to a wooded peninsula on the eastern shore of Lake Winnipeg, the summer resort with a growing permanent population was already well established when its governance shifted from a small, private development enterprise. At that time, there were several small cottages, a rudimentary grid of eight avenues, a rail station for the CNR line, a grocery store, butcher shop and bakery. There was also a small year-round settlement of families who fished and farmed, built cottages and roads, and assisted summer residents with supplies of firewood and ice.

A hand-in-glove relationship continued for several years between the elected officials of the new Rural Municipality of Victoria Beach and those business agents of the Victoria Beach Company, which owned the undeveloped cottage lots. The summer cottage community grew and thrived as a wonderful spot to raise children, swim and golf, enjoy nature and rejoice in sunsets on a boundless horizon over the big lake. By another unique act of the legislature, vehicular traffic was prohibited by law on the rambling lanes in 1933. A site-specific sub-culture of active transport developed, augmented by a cartage service from permanent residents, helped form what remains today a place where bicycles and walking take priority and cars are still kept out of the designated 'restricted area' in July and August.

This cohesion withstood the transfer of all remaining assets from the original development company to the RMVB in 1969. After 100 years of growth and development, it seemed only fitting to celebrate this summer. Looking forward and looking back, the RMVB led its residents, permanent and summers-only, with several community events. These culminated through the second week of August with the dedication of a series of beautifully designed plaques spaced throughout the municipality which outline the narrative and events which contributed to the present community.

Among the events were a display of storyboards by the founding families and their offspring, which detailed their evolution from fishers and farmers to mink ranchers to developers and all modern occupations. Tours of the pioneer cemetery and bible camp were offered. A musical, written and performed to appreciative throngs, told the Victoria Beach history in song and dance. A sharing circle of 'old-time' permanent residents hosted story telling under a big tent one evening. And the plaques were unveiled along with a commemorative statue on the village centre with a huge party and picnic, hosted by the same RMVB on 6 August, the actual date of the finalizing of the formation of this unique place.

It's Always Been fun to Stay at the YMCA (for the last 140 years)

The 'Y' in Manitoba is celebrating 140 years as a formative institution and popular resource in our province. With its roots in the societal tumult of mid-1800s industrial England, the Young Men's Christian Association clearly had strong religious foundations and principles which translated well into the rough and ready society that existed in the Canadian west in 1879. On May 16 in that year, a reading room and lending library was opened over a store on Main Street in Winnipeg, under the YMCA auspices. It gave young men untethered from family far away a place to meet, read newspapers, write letters, and generally find alternatives to some of the negative influences of pioneer society.

The modest little Y recorded 23,500 visits to its reading room. There were Bible readings, organized hospital visits and fellowship such that a new-dedicated building for the YMCA was opened in January 1901 on the southeast corner of Portage and Smith streets. This later became the Birks Building when the Y expanded again to the existing facility on Vaughan north of Portage in 1913 (now known as the Downtown Y).The first building demonstrated how the organization had evolved as it contained the city's first indoor swimming pool, a gymnasium, billiard room and quarters for rent for single men. A YWCA for women opened in Winnipeg in 1897.

The YMHA, Young Men's Hebrew Association, also started in modest quarters above a store on Albert Street before dedicated facilities were built at 370 Hargrave Street. In 2001, this facility was folded into the new Asper Jewish Community Campus at 123 Doncaster Street as the Rady Jewish Community Centre. Just for fun, the weekend of November 15 to 17 has been set as 'YMHA Nostalgia Weekend' at the Rady Centre, with old pictures and storytelling.

The YMCA has also grown both in capacity and in range of services. Besides providing for the community locally, the Y opened the first summer camp for youth in 1891 at Camp Stephens in Lake of the Woods. Y staffers invented the sports of basketball and volleyball, developed a national swim program, built an extensive network of day-care services throughout the province and invested in youth, women and girls, and mental health and inner city youth services, among others.

Additional YMCA centres were opened on 363 McGregor in the north end, Elmwood-Kildonan and the South Family Y in St. Vital. The YWCA and YMCA merged in 1987 as the YM-YWCA.

According to their website, the YM-YWCA today exists as a registered charity 'committed to nurturing potential, promoting healthy living and fostering social responsibility in the community'. A worthwhile set of goals developed over 140 years in Manitoba.

The 1901 YMCA on Portage and Smith became the Birks Building. It remains following much alteration The YM-YWCA Downtown Branch built in 1901 on Vaughan Street north of Portage Avenue http://www.ywinnipeg,ca/about-us/celebrating-140-years-of-community/

Action at Winnipeg Architecture Foundation

The Winnipeg Architecture Foundation (WAF) continues to build upon its diverse mandate of research, publications, events, tours, and programming to build its constituency of interest throughout Winnipeg and beyond. From its base in Winnipeg's Exchange District, the organization, under the leadership of its Executive Director Susan Algie, has used social media and innovative programming to connect to new audiences.

Currently, the Winnipeg Architecture Foundation is developing a series of children's architectural tours. For each tour, there will be an activity guide available in several languages. Guides are being prepared for the Exchange District, Broadway, Central Park, The Forks and the Skywalk system. The tours will be available as down-loadable PDFS on the website.

On the publication front, architectural historian Abigail Auld continues to work on the Tyndall Stone project. Auld examines the use of this magnificent Manitoba stone in architectural use across the country, including the interior of the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa. This research will be used to inform public tours, a book and an exhibit to be launched in 2020.

Poppies in November: A Personal Reflection

by Jean Friesen
They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old: Age shall not
weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in
the morning, We will remember them

(Lawrence Binyon--For the Fallen)

And on 11 November of every year, on the anniversary of the end of the armistice, we do remember the approximately 61,000 Canadians who lost their lives in the battles of the First World War. We remember them in prose and poetry, in schools, places of worship and workplaces. We remember them at the graveside, in ceremonies and services, and with statues and memorials. In addition, across the country we make visible that collective memory in the wearing of the poppy.

Last year in the older parts of Winnipeg, particularly in the West End, Fort Rouge, the North End and Crescentwood, one Winnipeg fibre artist, Letty Lawrence, made November 11 unforgettable. Her project was not only a tribute to the many who lost their lives in that conflagration but a moving example of the lasting impact of the vision of one artist.

In the weeks before 11 November 2018, small white flags appeared on lampposts and telegraph poles along Winnipeg's residential streets.

Secured only at the top, they fluttered in the autumn winds attracting attention to the plain handwritten message in the following style... "My name is Joe Burgess. Those who loved me lived at 15 Home Street. I was a railway worker. I went to fight in the Great War and did not return. Age 21. Nov 3 1895. Nov 20 1916". And each was signed with a poppy. The banners were simple, stark, immediate and memorable and there were almost 900 of them on the streets of the city, linking the houses, communities and families of 2018 to those of 1918. (1)

Letty Lawrence was inspired by a memorial installation she had seen in Australia where a prominent Melbourne square had been filled with poppies, representing some of the thousands of Australian lives lost in the First World War. Her Winnipeg project took this strong visual commemoration further, giving the individual a name, a home, a family, a profession and a memorial on the street where they had lived. Like the Australians, Ms. Lawrence was able to draw on the rich resources of historical research on the Great War. (2) But it was she who, at her own expense and with her own artistic direction and the practical help of a few close friends, took that information, made it tangible and created all November 2018 that was poignant and intensely personal for many.

My grandfather, whom I was fortunate enough to know, died when I was 12. He had been a miner before the war and volunteered in 1914 to escape from the mines. Like so many others he believed that he would be home by Christmas. He began and ended the war as a private in the Royal Artillery, was buried alive in one battle but survived with a leg full of shrapnel and lifetime of remembered terror. In his memory, I have attended many official ceremonies, some of them at Vimy Ridge Park at the end of our street. But in 2018 as I walked the three blocks to the park I was astounded to read in that short distance the names of five young men who had not returned. Other neighbourhood streets told a similar story of grief and mourning during and after the war. Was it this that brought a much larger gathering of neighbours and families to the Vimy Ridge service last year? Perhaps so. But certainly Letty Lawrence's vision gave direct testimony to the importance of bringing the big stories of History home, rooting them deeply in a sense of place and in the lives of families. It is a Nov 11 that I will always remember. Thank you Letty Lawrence. (3)

(1.) The banners, made of flannel, were intended eventually to be donated to the Army, Navy, Air Force Veterans Rockwood Unit 303, Wilton, Winnipeg.

(2.) See the websites of Library and Archives Canada, The Canadian War Museum, Archives of Manitoba, University of Manitoba Archives, and many others.

(3.) See also three news sites on which these reflections are based: Kevin Rollason and Carol Sanders, Winnipeg Free Press, 10/30/2018, Aidan Geary, Sam Samson, CBC news Nov 2/2018, Jason Gaidola, CTV News, Nov 2018

Rural Baseball Memories

by Keith Smith

The Kenton Baseball team from western Manitoba are shown here in July 1954 just after they had won the $250 first prize in a ball tournament in nearby Oak Lake. The final game was a close one but the 9th-inning home run by big Cec Russel won the day!

Baseball in Canada was a popular sport in earlier times--especially on the prairies. These ball players mostly came from the farm or from small communities, many of which no longer exist. When the half section (320 acres) farm ceased to be an economical unit, it disappeared and with it many of the young men who worked the land. They moved to jobs in the city or took on many more farm acres and no time for baseball.

Canada's Supreme Court Travels to Winnipeg

In the week of 23-27 September 2019, the entire Supreme Court of Canada travelled to Winnipeg for the first hearings ever conducted outside of Ottawa in the 144-year history of the nation's top court. On Wednesday, the nine Supreme Court judges heard arguments in a case that will determine how to hold courts across the country accountable for the impact of delays in their decisions, the 'Jordan' principle. The second case involved minority language rights in BC. These sessions were open to the public, who came out in large numbers, to hear and see the top judiciary in action in the province's own courtrooms.

This move represents the Supreme Court's ambition to make the highest level of the law more understandable and valued as a critical part of Canadian society. Part of this process brought the justices out of the courts, into classrooms and meeting halls. The Chief Justice Richard Wagner and the Court's members met with Franco-Manitobians' at the Universite de Saint-Boniface, the Manitoba Metis Federation at the Fort Garry Hotel and Indigenous leaders at The Forks. Grand Chief Arlen Dumas called it "a step towards reconciliation". There was also a Q&A with University of Manitoba law students, which was closed to media.

Leaders of the top courts in other countries, (England, France and Australia, among others) have also had tours beyond their capitals for similar reasons. Chief Justice Wagner is committed to making the courts in Canada better understood through clear communication and transparent processes, with much accessible information and videos on the website for the Supreme Court. Canadians are also welcome to visit and view these processes in person.

The Winnipeg trip also included a tour for the Justices of the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, which houses a display of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, within an interactive display that challenges participants to consider what this means in Canada and around the world. Then the nine justices assembled in the large hall in the museum to address the overflow crowd of assembled public, to speak about the judiciary in Canada and take questions from the audience. Dressed in business attire and responding directly, the court members were candid and articulate, as well as confirmed in their value of the rule of law as a cornerstone of Canadian society.

On Thursday morning, a ceremony was held at the Oodena Celebration Circle at The Forks. It introduced eagle feathers to be available in every courtroom in the province so that Indigenous people will be able to swear their oath and give their testimony with the feather, a powerful tradition for truth and inclusiveness. Manitoba's Chief Justice Glenn Joyal views the role of the eagle feathers as a step in reconciliation. "It's important to the work of the courts that all Manitobans have confidence in the justice system" he said.

70th School Reunion in Oak Lake

In June 1949, the senior class of Oak-wood High School at Oak Lake consisted of five girls and four boys. Seventy years later, on 20 July 2019, six of them reunited on the steps of the former school building. Most had not seen each other in 70 years. The reunion was instigated by Keith Smith who wondered how many of his classmates could be enticed to come. He found that two were now deceased and a third was living in a care home in British Columbia. But six were able to come, one from as far away as rural Nova Scotia. Said Smith, "I was thrilled to be able to bring this group, or at least part of the original nine, back together again." They participated in a local parade and had a photo taken on the school steps wearing bright yellow shirts.

MHS Membership Renewal ?

To renew your MHS membership, contact our office at 204-947-0559 or

Fees can also be paid online, quickly and securely:

Did You Know?

In addition to its website, the MHS uses social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) to distribute news, announce events, and discuss historical topics. Follow MHS at Facebook manitobahistory Twitter manitobahistory Instagram manitobahistory

MHS Gazette is a benefit of membership in the Manitoba Historical Society. Join the MHS and enjoy the Gazette three times a year.

Red River Resistance Commemorative Stamp

On 6 November 2019, Canada Post issued a stamp commemorating the Red River Resistance of 1869-1870. The stamp combines a lithograph of Lower Fort Garry based on an 1848 sketch with a 1870 photo of Louis Riel and his councillors.

A total of 130,000 stamps have been produced, some in booklets of ten stamps for $9.00. Available at all postal outlets, the stamps can be used permanently on all domestic mail.

Did. You Know?

MHS Gazette is available in a digital version for MHS members at no charge.

Dear MHS member,

As Western Canada's oldest historical organization, the Manitoba Historical Society has worked for over 140 years to preserve and promote our province's rich history. We do this through our newsletter, journal, and website; as well as our award programs, dinners, and public events. In 2020, we will commemorate Manitoba's 140th birthday with several exciting new initiatives.

With all this work to preserve and promote Manitoba's history, our need for funds has never been greater. Your membership in the MHS shows that you understand the importance of what we do. But your membership fees cover only a portion of the costs of offering these services. Donations and grants are critical to our operations, along with the work of many unpaid volunteers. In the spirit of this holiday season, I respectfully ask you to continue your support of the MHS with a donation to help us keep history alive for our children and grandchildren.

Contributions can be mailed to our office address shown below, or you call us at 204-947-0559. For your convenience, we accept Visa and Mastercard as well as personal cheques. Memberships and donations can also be processed quickly and easily via our website ( Your contribution will be used where it is needed most or, if you wish, it can be directed to a specific program, event, or project. Please note that tax receipts for contributions postmarked on or before 31 December will be issued for the 2019 tax year.

As always, I welcome your comments about the Society and how we can work together to make it better. Please feel free to call me at 204-474-7469 or send email to

Best wishes for a restful and enjoyable holiday!

President, Manitoba Historical Society
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Publication:Manitoba History
Date:Sep 22, 2019
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