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A Town Gets Its Name

by Peter Brown

Manitoba Pageant, January 1959, Volume 4, Number 2

This article was published originally in Manitoba Pageant by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make it available here as a free, public service.

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The first owner of the quarter section of land on which the town of Winkler is situated was a Mennonite farmer, Mr. Isaac Wiens. He obtained the land as a Crown Grant on September 6, 1883. However, part of the quarter section had already been turned over to the C.P.R. right-of-way in 1881. In 1892, the C.P.R. acquired the station grounds and one-half interest in the quarter section. The part bought by the C.P.R. as right-of-way and station grounds was about eighteen acres.

As the early Mennonite churches looked askance at any member who moved to town, Wiens was reprimanded and advised not to have anything to do with the establishment of a townsite on his farm, although he himself was living one and a half miles to the north of the proposed site. It is true that the first Mennonite settlers of this area lived exclusively in villages but these villages were away from the railways and organized in such a manner that the principles of the church and its leaders were the controlling influence. Hence it appears that when the siding at Winkler was started in 1892, Wiens was in a quandary for he did not want to lend his name to the new townsite. When he did not know quite what to do with his quarter section of land, Mr. Valentine Winkler of Morden came to his aid. Mr. Winkler owned a quarter just a half mile to the north-east. Consequently, Wiens and Winkler traded farms to their mutual satisfaction. Thus, Mr. Wiens was relieved of embarrassment and any qualms of conscience and the new siding could begin to grow.

After Mr. Winkler traded his quarter for the Wiens quarter section, he had the latter surveyed into lots for a village site. The surveyor was M. B. Rombough, D.L.S., who lived near Morden. Mr. Rombough was the father of Mrs. Valentine Winkler.

The understanding with the Canadian Pacific Railway was that Mr. Winkler was to give the Company every second block of land in the village site. In return, the C.P.R. established a station which they named "Winkler." For a number of years it was only a flag station. An old box car without an agent served the purpose. In 1898, the present station was erected.

Mr. Winkler had close associations with this community from the time he was fourteen years of age. He represented the municipality of Stanley in the Manitoba Legislature from 1892-1930. For part of that time, 1925-1930, he was the Minister of Agriculture. His son, Mr. Howard W. Winkler, served four terms (1935-1953) as Liberal member for the Constituency of Lisgar in the House of Commons at Ottawa.

Besides owning one-half interest in the village site, Valentine Winkler also operated a lumber yard and a grain elevator in Winkler. Although he himself resided at Morden, seven miles to the west, he paid frequent visits to the town which bears his name. These visits were made with horse and buggy. It appears that he also found some time to interest himself in hunting game. Therefore, he kept several large hounds which would accompany him on his trips to Winkler. Since there was a farmer with a herd of sheep living on the road which led to the village from the north, Mr. Winkler found it advisable to enter the hamlet by the south road and thus retain control over his game-minded hounds.

On one of his business calls, Mr. Winkler lost the sum of $3000 on the road between Winkler and Morden. Fortunately, he resided in an honest community and did not have long to wait before the finder returned the entire amount to him.

On April 7, 1954, Winkler was incorporated as a town. As the incorporation as a village had taken place on April 7, 1906, it was 48 years later that the required number of citizens for status as a town was exceeded. In July, 1956, the Golden Jubilee of incorporation was celebrated in the form of church services, programmes, sports days, exhibitions, and a beard growing contest. Most of these activities were sponsored by the Winkler Chamber of Commerce.

Page revised: 30 June 2009

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