The Letters of Arthur Sherwood
Preface by S. W. Jackman, PhD, FSA, FRHistS,
Professor of History, University of Victoria
Manitoba Pageant, Winter 1971, Volume 16, 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.
Please direct inquiries to email@example.com.
In the nineteenth century many British families saw in the prospect of cheap or free land the road to fortune for their sons. They believed that by taking up a farm in what were then called “the colonies,” in particular Canada, Australia and New Zealand, a young man could, with reasonably hard work to be sure, ensure his future. What parents and relatives in the old country did not understand or declined to comprehend was that farming in the new worlds was not exactly the same as farming at home. They failed to appreciate the problems encountered by these young immigrants and simply did not reckon it possible that they might have difficulties. Many of the young tried very hard to make a success in their new life, some did so, but many failed - not by want of hard work - for lack of knowledge, inadequate capital and physical difficulties encountered.
Arthur Robert Sherwood (1862-1945) was a typical example of the son of the gentry sent to make his way in Canada. He was one of three sons of Thomas and Ann Sherwood who lived in some style at Alderly in Wooton. Arthur Sherwood was sent out to Canada in 1882; the story is that he came with only nineteen dollars in his pocket. While this may be family mythology, it is clear that he was short of money. Initially he settled in Wellington in May 1882, moved to Elkhorn, then to Kola and finally left Manitoba in 1892. His sojourn in Manitoba had not brought him a fortune but he survived. He worked in the interior of British Columbia. He married Elizabeth L. Crickmay in 1895. They had two children, a son and a daughter.
The letters are not great literary masterpieces but they do give a graphic picture of the experiences of a young immigrant. Sherwood initially was a “greenhorn” but he soon learned how to cope with the situation in which he found himself. It would appear from the letters that his family were not overly generous to him financially - that they believed him to be somewhat improvident. They certainly seem unable to understand why a young man who worked hard could not do better. Indeed, a 160 acre farm in England brought in a good income; it should do the same in Canada; there was simply no appreciation of altered circumstances. The Sherwood correspondence could probably be repeated on many occasions with just a change of name or place. These letters are particularly useful since there are enough of them extant to provide a chronology and a fascinating story of life on a farm in Manitoba at the end of the nineteenth century.
I wish to thank Mrs. A. C. Wurtele for permission to publish these letters.
Professor Jackman has given permission for the Arthur Sherwood letters to be published in extract. Some things have therefore been left out. The intimate asides about family, relatives and friends in England, and general observations about things overseas have been cast aside so that the writer’s comments about life in rural Manitoba in the 1880s might be given full play within the available space.
Such extraneous deletions have been made without calling attention to them by the use of suspension points (...). Another change, the break-down of long paragraphs into short ones, has been made on a large scale, for many of Mr. Sherwood’s paragraphs run on and on, one subject jumping on another without warning. In all such cases, the original narrative has been preserved.
Beyond this, the environment in which the letters were written is clearly seen in the letters themselves and in Professor Jackman’s fine preface.
The first letter herein was written from Wellington, Manitoba, on May 12, 1882. Pertinent extracts from four earlier letters are as follows: Alderley, Wooton Under Edge, England, April 7, 1882: “I have take a through ticket to Winnipeg and am very lucky in having secured a berth I asked for, namely the cheapest in the saloon.”
The second is from a hotel in Liverpool, April 12, 1882: “It is 7:30 a.m. and as they have just brought me my bath, so hot I can’t get into it ... I am improving the shining hour [by writing my farewells]. The third letter, written the same day en route to Queenstown, [Ireland], is full of farewells, and one nostalgic sentence runs: ”We get there at 11:00, so I shall have time to see the land of my birth.”
The fourth letter, from the Halifax Hotel, April 23, 1882, is full of the crossing - storms, seasickness, and the passengers - “Rather a seedy lot, I don’t think there were a dozen gentlemen on board, but they were all nice fellows, most of them going to Brandon which seems to be the place to go now. I shall go by ordinary express [to Winnipeg] tomorrow, and as the carriages here all open into one another, it does not matter which class you go by as you may walk from one end of the train to the other.”
Here then is the background against which Sherwood’s hopes and aspirations may be assessed.
May 12, 1882
I am in Manitoba at last and I can’t say that it quite comes up to my expectations. Certainly I have not seen much of it yet but everyone says ’’at it is all the same.
We were rather lucky coming to Winnipeg as we came right through with hardly a block but some people took six weeks coming from Ontario as the floods were so bad. We had to stop a day or two in Winnipeg as the train could not run.  Lots of our fellow passengers went home they were so disgusted. At Portage la Prairie we were stopped and camped out in a tent for two days when we again moved on here taking twelve hours to do twenty-five miles.
There was such a crush in the train that we had to cram into a luggage van with a dozen or more other fellows who could not get room inside. In Winnipeg I tried to get into one of the survey parties but they were mostly made up and anyhow they did not want any but very experienced men or good Canadian axemen.
The one redeeming point about this country is the enormous quantity of game. I am rather out of it without a gun but the other fellows generally supply something for dinner. We had what they call a whooping crane  today. It tastes rather like goose and made a dinner for eight of us.
The inhabitants here call this place Manitaba and not Manitoba. Only the English pronounce the “A” long.
Wellington Post Office
About the time that your letter came telling me that I had made a fool of myself, I came to the same conclusion, determined to chuck up the homestead and look for work.
My boss is one of that infernal race of low bred Canadians which are found all over Manitoba, but a very good specimen of men. He is awfully lazy even for a Canadian so I get my share of the work to do. As I agreed to come for five dollars I shall have to stay the month.
Meanwhile I shall try for another place or else ask him to double or treble my wages as I work from 5:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and never get a scrap of time to sit down except at meals while he gets up at 8:20, lies about all day doing nothing.
Wellington Post Office
October 8, 1882
My Dear Father:
I have made another change since I last wrote and am now living with my English friends for the winter, who with a young Welsh farmer have homesteaded here and are getting on well so far but then they have capital and the farmer has more experience than half a dozen Ontario men. May I be preserved from Ontario men for the future.
The family I was with made life a burden to me. Not that they abused me, on the contrary they were exceedingly kind and I and the boss were great friends in a way, but the best of them are snobs and the farming part of them are about on a par with our navvies  except that they are about as profane as any Australian bullock driver and lazy enough to let an inexperienced fellow like me run the farm to all intents and purposes and which I can only think I could do as well if not better than they could.
This is a very curious climate. Summer splendid and not much too hot but since August we have had a fortnight’s hard frost, a week or so’s hot weather, then rain, then winter again and now we are having regular April weather with a thunderstorm at intervals at night, followed by hard frost.
Wellington Post Office
November 5, 1882
I have got into a good shop after all you see, for I am in comfortable diggings and with a gentleman and a practised English farmer and his wife besides. I am receiving no pay it is true, but at the same time if I like to break away on either of their four sections, I can sow on it, besides which I am running stock without any expense whatsoever.
Juckes, the farmer, has taken a ten acre field close by belonging to a doctor who is only holding it for speculation and charges no rent as of course cropping it will keep it in good condition and out of which J has offered to let me have two and half acres next year. Now I consider myself lucky. I learn more practical farming this way than I should with Canadians or in an English farm settlement where there is nobody but young English-men who do more “running around” than farming.
I have the same advantages that I should with land of my own, but minus the expense and besides I am in a good stock raising country with a few cattle of my own (which, by the way, I picked up cheap), and butter is selling at 25 and 35¢ per pound only twenty-five miles distant. 
Winter has set in at last though as yet not severe. We had the first snow storm about three weeks ago, but it went (I mean the snow) and we had a spell of fine weather until last week when another storm covered the ground with about three inches of snow, which by the by is thawing hard at present and I expect to see the country, which is perfectly level, converted into a swamp or a harrowed swamp as the shipping agent described Manitoba when I got my ticket in London.
The eldest Earwaker who left for England a short time ago has promised to look up Tom and will give him a good, though not flattering description of the country. He will exaggerate it a little as he has tendency that way, but I defy him or any other man to exaggerate the mosquito part of it.  One would not mind half a dozen or even half a hundred, but when it comes to millions of mosquitos rising up from the wet grass whenever you go out and multiplying until you see nothing but a dense cloud all round through which you have literally to cut your way, you wonder why men live in such a country infested by such insects. Happily the plague is over for it only lasts from June to September.
Wellington Post Office
December 16, 1882
You asked me about life, neighbors, etc. Manitoban life is nothing like Australian. It is more like a farmer’s in the Old Country except that you have not the luxuries, the friends or the rents  and have to rough it a good deal and go long distances for anything purchasable.
And now the neighbors, well a good many Englishmen come out here but when they get to Winnipeg, they either don’t like the place and go home or to the States and knock about the towns and speculate in town lots or anything else with money or loss of money in it. Again some take to farming, but there are so few that they get lost in this big country and you run across one every now and then who seems as glad to see you as if you were an old friend.
There are two or three settlements of English alone, namely Rapid City, Turtle Mountains, and Birtle, but they are mostly do-nothing, expensive sort of settlements where there is more play done than work. As for the ladies, I believe there is one somewhere out west but have not heard whether they have imported any more yet. 
Our neighbors are made up of English factory men, blacksmiths etc., or a few Scottish Highlanders and a great many Canadian backwoodsmen, most of whom have been about three years acquainted with farming, though they make money by it all the same.
The house we live in is a frame one made of lumber  and put up by ourselves with the help of our next door neighbor, a carpenter. It has two rooms on the ground floor and two upstairs. The usual house here is made of logs, hewn and cornered, namely dovetailed together and contains one room generally partitioned off by a curtain for a bedroom. Anyone out of the family sleeps on the floor in the living room.
We had to sleigh down to Portage, our nearest town, about twenty-five miles distant to get groceries, etc. We also had to get our winter outfit, namely mitts, which are fingerless gloves, as any other kind are too cold. Even my fur ones do not keep my fingers from freezing, and moccasins, which you could not get out here. They are made of rawhide, either buffalo or moose, and are much warmer than tanned leather, besides which they are shapeless things which allow room for three or four pair of socks and allow circulation of the blood besides.
Portions of the Land Applications of Alfred Henry Juckes and Alfred Pottes Earwaker under the Real Property Act of 1885. See references in letter here, also supplementary note here.
Source: Mrs. G. E. Thompson, Portage la Prairie.
Wellington Post Office
February 11, 1883
My Dear Girls:
You must excuse my putting in a good deal about the weather, but as that is about the only thing of interest at present in the country, and as one is always being most painfully reminded of the fact that it is winter, it is not surprising that it should be more a subject of conversation here than at home.
Our thermometer is a mercury one which freezes at 42 degrees below ftro so does not register the very cold days, but it has been as cold as 52 degrees below I believe, and in the province west of here it fell as low as 56 degrees, 88 degrees of frost. Try and imagine it if you can.
All of my fingers, both of my ears, my face, and last but not least my nose, have all been frozen times innumerable. They first lose all feeling, then on snow or very cold water being applied, they come to life and hurt fearfully. A day or two afterwards they feel and become very tender and as soon as they are well generally freeze again immediately. In fact for the first three weeks in January when the thermometer was seldom higher than 10 below and generally 30 or 40, my nose froze about six times a day.
It was kind of you to think about the mince pies but I ate more than was good for me this Christmas in the way of mincemeat and plum pudding so you see we are not quite so uncivilized out here as you think.
August 11, 1883
I got your letter some time ago and have had no opportunity yet to write as we are fifteen miles from the station and very busy too. By the by send all letters, etc., to me to Brandon c/o H Chrisp Esq.,  as there being no post office here, I find that letters don’t always come to hand.
About the gun, I hope it is not sent off yet as I believe I was rather remiss in giving directions and it would not perhaps be safe to send it here. Send it to Brandon. Ducks are getting plentiful now and this promises good shooting this fall and so as I am not much of a shot on the wing, don’t want to lose the chance of improving. In case I do not make myself clear, here you are again: Double-barrelled breach-loading shotgun,  bore, one barrel choked - this last is not pressing - rebounding loads, bottom opening action as it is of simpler construction than other actions not so apt to get out of order and easier sighted, and I guess that’s all (excuse the Americanisms but they are catching out here).
And now about myself (this is somewhat egotistical but I know that you are foolish enough to care to hear about me). Well I feel very well and like the country better than I did though I don’t know what I shall say on the subject this winter. I am with a very jolly crew and an out and out good boss, which is the main thing out here. I am stronger than I was but there does not seem to be much chance of my getting fatter but I live on hope.
I expect I shall leave here the end of October, stay a few days with Earwaker and return to Brandon which I shall make my headquarters as I know a good many fellows there and it is a jolly little city. We have nothing between a shanty and a city out here. I expect I shall find something to do. At any rate I have an offer to do the chores and odd dirty jobs at a hotel and pretty good pay into the bargain so I can always fall back on that. It does not sound inviting to you Old Country folks, but this, sir, is a free country I guess.
Original homestead of W. J. Stinson at Wellington; later owned by Leonard and Walter Hartley. Purchased in 1893 by John Barber, who lived there with his family until 1937. The construction is Red River Frame. See note 9 here.
Source: Mrs. C. M. McKelvey, MacGregor.
August 13, 1884
You can’t tell how glad I am that you are all pleased with my venture and I think myself that on the whole it is the best thing I could have done.
We are in our house at last and are now quite comfortable and pretty well settled. We got drowned out in the shanty and most of our things were pretty near spoiled. It rained 26 hours without stopping and the heaviest rain I ever saw in the country.
We have had the most fearful storms this summer. One man about five miles away was killed by lightning and others stunned, numerous horses, oxen and buildings struck. This summer has also been hot. Last Sunday the thermometer was 120 in the shade and it has often been up to 110.
We have thirty tons of hay stacked and are going to stack twenty more. Hay is very scarce this year. After haying we are going to put up a lumber stable 20 x 30 and then we shall have nothing of importance but [indecipherable] to do. The cows are all doing well but there is not a very good sale for butter at the present so we are packing. We hope it will go up in price next month. We still get rid of a good deal among the neighbors.
We found the pony and since then have got two more. They draw the mower and hay rake just as well as heavy horses, are tougher, cost less to feed and are procurable at half the price.
Wainwright’s fathers  has procured us one pupil and I think he can get us another both at sixty pounds per annum so they will help us on a bit. I think we can teach them something and make it comfortable for them. We can fit up two more at fifty pounds a year and as much more as you can screw out of them.
September 28, 1884
I got your letter last night and was awfully glad to hear that you are thinking of coming out here. I think that the sooner you come out the better. If you could get out here by the end of November or beginning of December you will get here nicely before the really cold weather sets in and you will be able to stand the winter all the better for having some good Old Country blood in you and you will be better prepared for work next year.
You will want a pretty good stock of good strong flannel shirts, under-shirts, drawers etc., socks and stockings. Get them all strong as you can. Bring a good many pairs of service boots as you cannot get a good boot out here. Those K boots are the very thing for this country. Don’t get any lined as I did. You will find them useless as they are too cold for winter wear. Don’t have the soles nailed as the soles always last longer than the uppers.
Bring all your old clothes and invest in as many cord trousers or britches as you like. Blankets, towels, pillow slips etc., all come in handy, especially the blankets. Sheets are not necessary.
We are getting on pretty well now. Have started a small store and are doing a pretty good business considering we are in an out of the way place. I don’t know whether I mentioned about the store and the post office,  but we have applied for the latter and have a pretty good chance of getting it.
June 1, 1885
It is such a long time since I heard from any of you people that I fancy some letters must have gone astray.
We are getting on pretty well out here. The crops are looking well, the spring has been a little too wet if anything, but if we have some warm sunny weather now everything will go ahead splendidly.
We have a pupil, this year but unfortunately he does not pay anything. Still he does a good bit of the work and is very useful as he only costs us his board. We can’t grumble. Besides we have the satisfaction of knowing that he came all the way from the Old Country to learn farming from us and that we were recommended to him by one of our neighbors.
May 5, 1886
My dear Father:
I am afraid I made things out to be rather worse than they really are in my last letter and I feel that it will be rather difficult to explain to you how I really stand. I am about clear of debts out here now and don’t mean to run up any more. They mounted up to more than I had first thought when I came to pay them, about sixty pounds and the building of my shanty which is a shabbier affair than I first meant to put up and the expense of starting afresh though I have been awfully careful of every cent, cost a good deal.
However I am all right now with the exception of your 125 pounds. The mistake I made was one that even old hands seem to make at first out here. I invested my money too fast and did not leave any for a rainy day and two years ago things cost 50% more than now so what I have would not realize the original amount and I never having had such large sums of money before was not careful enough and lived too well.
I have lost about 300 dollars over that wretched store business which was a failure in every way. However, experience is an asset and as everybody seems to agree unanimously, that I shall get on well now I am alone. Now for my reasons for dissolving partnership, I found out that Wainwright was no worker. In fact, he is infernally lazy, very selfish and has a disagreeable temper and so while I was with him I was by no means happy.
I am afraid Father that I could not better myself by selling out and moving. To begin with I should lose my land as I have to put in two years more at least before I can get the deed and should forfeit all chance of homesteading again. I should have to sell everything at a heavy loss and now is the time that my stock is starting to improve and the young cattle are just growing up.
I don’t know what part of the country is much better than here. We have splendid land, in fact the soil from Pipestone Creek took first prize at New Orleans Show. Some of the best grain in Manitoba has been grown here this year and we are within easy reach of Virden and Moosomin, two flourishing towns west of Brandon, and Elkhorn our nearest town is starting to go ahead now.
We have had a grand spring again this year. Everything is in advance of last year and we thought last spring early. I am cropping 15 acres, 10 of which I am sowing with barley. I think I ought to do pretty well if I can turn out a good ripe sample. There was a great demand for barley last winter at fair prices and there promises to be an even larger demand this year and if it does not get coloured, I can feed it or get good prices for it as a feed which I could not do with frozen wheat so well as it makes inferior feed.
I should like to be able to get a good bull by next year. I have a good grade now which I shall kill in the fall as this is his second year. I want to get a thoroughbred as most of my cows are poor though the young stock are not so bad but they are nearly all steers. I have had luck in that respect and they are all bull calves again this year so far.
July 14, 1887
You probably received notice before now that twenty pounds twelve shillings and sixpence has been placed to your account at the London & Westminster and I am doing the best to raise the balance. I ran things a little too fine this spring and reckoned on being able to collect money owed me before now but have not succeeded in getting as much as I expected so could only scare up a hundred dollars.
If we have any luck this year the crops ought to turn out fairly well as they are looking really good now. I have rented 35 acres from a man near here and paid him cash which was unnecessary but I hated to run into debt if I could help it. I also bought a binder cheap. It is a second-hand one which I have seen working since it was new and know it to be a good one. I got it for $70.00 cash. I have also had to do some building to my shanty, buy a stove, etc., for I am living more like a pig than a man last year.
I have nearly 60 acres in crop this year so if we have anything like average crops I shall do pretty well. Of course there is a chance of frost or snow but I suppose there is a risk in everything and I hope anyway to clear myself. Of course my expenses have been heavy this year but I have got through double the work and have better prospects than ever before and can get ahead better now that I am not bothered with those cattle.
I am afraid I have got rather behind these last few years but then I have been handicapped but I hope to get square by sticking to the life I have chosen. If a fellow is not endowed with brains the only thing for him is to plod I suppose. I hope to be able to forward you the amount I owe you before long.
John McLachlan home, Wellington-Katrime District, 1905. The flat-milled siding is clearly seen in this photo. See note 9 here.
Source: Mrs. C. M. McKelvey, MacGregor.
“The wind howled, the snow sifted, and chinks of daylight crept through our house which was built of flat poplar boards. Our house had two rooms, one upstairs which was not used, and one downstairs which was an all-purpose room in which a tent was placed in the winter to keep out the wind and snow. We all slept in the tent.” John McLachlan’s home seems to be of more substantial vintage than this; it probably had interior walls, but many settlers set up tents in their cabins to keep out the “prairie winter.”
March 8, 1888
My dear Mother:
I have a good deal to say but hardly know how to say it all. I did not get threshed out before the winter which has made things rather hard. The large amount of wheat raised in Manitoba last year being considerably more than the amount estimated, threshers were scarce. I worked with a gang of threshers for two months this winter as I wished to stay by the machine in order to ensure getting threshed and after having threshed about 30,000 bushels  around the country the engine went wrong just at my place and cold weather coming on (it was 42 degrees below zero the day I threshed). We had to quit after threshing 200 or 300 bushels.
However, in a week or two I will get the machine down again I hope and though I don’t suppose I shall be able to get all my wheat drawn out before seeding, I must make the best of a bad job before summer. So far as I can judge by the little I have threshed I am going to have a good average crop though I lost about 150 bushels by the wind before it was cut.
I shall not be too flush with cash however as expenses seem to have been heavy this year but I shall have a nice bit of ground to seed this year again. I counted up what I thought my expenses would be and what I owed and valued my crop lower than it will turn out to be and calculated to have a few dollars over this year after paying everything off, but as things are shaping themselves, I shall hardly be able to square everything off.
If I can get anything like square this year I am going to try and treat myself to run across the Atlantic in the Fall but of course it all depends on circumstances. I am going to try and sell out if I can as soon as I get my patent  and believe that there will be a good chance this year as there seems to be a good many new people coming into the country. Land is getting scarcer all the time. And then if I can effect a sale and get home for the winter I will talk to the Guv’nor though I don’t think I should like to Ieave Canada for good.
I have had a pretty good winter for it. To begin with I froze my feet about Christmas time, not badly, but enough to cripple me for a week and our sole lady neighbor hearing of it made me come over and stop for a fortnight with them. I had a time of it that fortnight I can tell you as I had just come from two months threshing and that is about as hard a job as you can get on. I was bushelling, that is to say taking grain from the machine in a bushel measure and dumping it into a sack and as a bushel of wheat weighs 60 pounds and I often have to handle over 1,000 a day, you may know it is not easy work. Lifting 60 pounds three feet is nothing but to lift it twice a minute for eight or nine hours is not light work. However, I made up for it at Mrs. Stewart’s and put on five pounds weight in a fortnight.
I have been to one or two dances  this winter and last night was at the best one I have been at since I came out here. I am going to another dance in Virden next Tuesday so you see we are getting quite worldly out here. I am going to combine duty with pleasure for I shall take a jaunt into the mill for flour and go to the dance at night. Fancy going to a ball twenty miles and more with a sack of wheat.
You asked me particularly to mention in this letter whether I was strong. My dear Mother make your mind easy on that score, I am as strong as a horse. I feel better this winter than I ever have and am going quite fat for me. The Virden photographer  is putting in his homestead duties on his farm at present so I can’t get taken or else I meant to have sent a photo this spring.
Kola Post Office
October 3, 1888
My dear Father:
I had intended if it were possible to take a trip home this year but my crops have turned out so badly that I don’t see my way to doing so. I threshed a few days ago and was awfully disappointed. My crop which was one of the finest to look at around here turned out one of the poorest and because the yield being poor, the grain is a poor sample being slightly frozen and badly shrunk so that although prices are high I don’t get much more than I would any other year.
There’s a lot of bad wheat in the country this year.  I am afraid of course one can hardly tell yet how much damage has been done by the frost as threshing has only just commenced but there is no doubt that there is a considerable quantity of poor wheat and that the yield instead of equalling last year as was supposed is going to run a long way below the average. If I gather in all the money that is owed me besides what I get for my wheat after paying my debts, I might be able to scrape together $350.00, half of which I owe you so you see I would not even have enough to make the two trips, besides which I should have to rig myself out anew as my wardrobe has dwindled down to almost nothing.
Mrs. Stewart’s eldest daughter was married the other day. This marriage took place in Kola church  and about sixty guests were present. The wedding was in the afternoon and we had a dance afterwards. I was best man and got myself up an awful dude. In a white waistcoat I hardly recognized myself.
St. Michael & All Angels Church (Anglican), Wellington.
Source: Mrs. C. M. McKelvey, MacGregor.
“The little Wellington cemetery was associated with the church of St. Michael & All Angels, but there were never many graves in it, most of them if not all, being of a later date than 1878. This little graveyard was consecrated ground, being part of the Church of England churchyard, and the little abandoned plot is now on the farm owned by Mr. Bert Caskey, the farm on which the Thomas Stinson house stood. Wellington Church, according to the records of the Diocese of Brandon, was the smallest Anglican Church in Canada. When the church was dismantled in 1946, the sound lumber was used in the new St. Paul’s rectory at MacGregor.” - Mrs. G. E. Thompson.
1. Wellington - a post office in the Squirrel Creek Settlement, Municipality of Westbourne, county of Marquette, (Sec. 9, Tp. 13, Rg. 10w). Mail weekly, nearest railway station McGregor, distance 8 miles. Has Methodist and Presbyterian churches. Population 140. Postmaster John McGelvrey - Henderson’s Manitoba Directory and Gazetteer, 1890. “Wellington, the earliest settlement west of Willow Bend, between the Whitemud and Assiniboine rivers was, geographically speaking, the western tip of the Portage Plains which extended to the Squirrel Creek timber-line, known as ’The Bush.’ Alexander Edgar, the father of Wellington, explored this fertile plain in 1872, and in the following year returned and built a shanty and a pole bridge across Squirrel Creek.” - Wellington-Katrime Districts, Roy McLaughlin; Trails Old and New, edited by Rupert Leslie Taylor.
2. In 1882, train service west of Winnipeg was irregular. Ernest Thompson Seton, who arrived in Winnipeg one month before Arthur Sherwood, had to wait two days before a train was ready to leave for the west. It took him 8½ hours to reach De Winton (Carberry), at an average speed of 13 miles an hour.
3. Whooping Crane - In the late 1870s, this species dwelt in all the large marshes of Manitoba, but the building of the main line of the Canadian Pacific Railway in the following decade, the extension of branch lines, the building of other railroads thereafter, and the increase in rural settlement drove this lover of solitary places farther north and west. Today, a few pairs, nesting each summer in one remote place, are slowly making a return from the verge of extinction. If Sherman saw this largest of the cranes in plumage, it is not likely that he would have mistaken it for the common eating crane of the prairies, the sandhill crane, the turkey or wild turkey of the west.
4. Navvy, originally used to mean a construction worker on a canal in England, came into general use in the late 19th century as a generic term for unskilled laborer, but on the way it gathered opprobrium. Hence its use here.
5. Portage la Prairie.
6. “... the mosquitoes are a terror to man and beast ... one could kill 100 with the stroke of the palm. At times they obscured the color of the horses, and on six square inches of canvas I counted thirty mosquitoes; and the whole surface of the tent was similarly supplied; that is, there were 24,000 of them and apparently as many flying about the door.” - Ernest Thompson Seton (Carberry) 1882.
7. Many farms of the landed gentry in England were divided into small leaseholds which were worked by tenant-farmers. The income derived therefrom was known as rents, and a substantial part of the revenue of a manor or landed estate came from this source.
8. This caustic comment has a classic antecedent in Charles Mair’s outlandish observations about the women of the Red River Settlement. (Toronto Globe, 1868). However, when the news got back to the local ladies, retribution set in, and, as Hargrave pithily puts it: “One lady pulled the poet’s [Mair’s] nose, while another used her fingers rudely about his ears.” - Red River; Hargrave, John Lobel], Montreal, 1871, p. 456.
9. Some small settlements had their own sawmills, and these produced rough siding for houses and barns. Some clapboard for siding, thicker at one edge than the other, was turned out in the 1880s. Some of the early homes were of Red River frame construction, the horizontal logs being slotted and pegged into vertical corner posts. Unlike the Slavic and Scandinavian saddle or dovetail joints, Red River frame got its stability from its upright members at corners, doors, and windows.
10. Elkhorn - a village of some 500 people, on the main line of the Canadian Pacific Railway and on the Trans Canada Highway, 189 miles west of Winnipeg. The railroad reached there in 1882. Named by the engineers from a large rack of elk horns found on the line of survey.
11. This may be the same H. Chrisp who was appointed a councillor for the Municipality of Wallace in 1885. It is not known why he used the Brandon post office. for, contrary to Sherwood’s statement, there was a post office at Gopher Creek, the antecedent site of Virden, in 1882, and at Virden itself in the following year. One explanation is, however, that many newcomers from Britain did not know where the local post offices were located, and thus had their letters marked for delivery in Brandon. From this point westward they were frequently delivered (unofficially) by any trustworthy person who was going that way. Letters from local post offices also were delivered this way, a neighbor, friend, or passerby oftimes being the carrier. The Editor is indebted to Mr. Lorne Chapple, Manitoba Government Information Services Branch, for this information. His grandfather, William Henry Stewart, pioneered in the Kola District in the 1880s, and it is from this source that the foregoing explanation arises.
12. This individual has not been traced, but a C. W. Wainwright took over as manager of the brickyard in Virden in 1906, an enterprise which had originally been operated at Gopher Creek in the 1890s. The pupil referred to here is not a pupil in the academic sense, but probably a lad from the Dr. Barnardo Home for orphaned children, many of whom were sent to Canada to learn farming and make their way in the New World. The A. P. Stewart, mentioned in the third part of Note 14 was instrumental in bringing these boys to the Kola District as well as families from depressed areas of England.
13. Sherwood and his partner Wainwright secured a license to operate a post office in the Kola district. On the dissolution of their partnership, Wainwright ran it alone. “The Kola Post Office was about one and a half miles from the Weldon home-stead, kept by a Mr. Wainwright, a bachelor.” - A History of the Weldon Family; Florrie Gibbs, Elkhorn.
14. Kola P.O. - Sec. 34, Tp. 9, Rg. 29w, in the municipality of Pipestone, western judicial district. Nearest railway, telegraph, and express office Elkhorn. Distance 16 miles. John Thomas Madge, Postmaster and Auctioneer - Henderson Directory, 1894. Kola (1970) is a small village; a shopping, servicing and distribution centre, with planing mill and lumber yard. Ready-built homes are currently a major product. Kola, originally Kola Barton, was the name fixed to an indeterminate area west of Virden and south of Elkhorn by A. P. Stewart, a pioneer settler of some substance. The name is derived from an English manor house, Kola Barton, barton stemming from the Anglo Saxon beretun - the demesne lands of a manor. This information came to hand following a shot-in-the-dark telephone call which fortuitously hit the target. The Editor is therefore indebted to Mrs. J. A. Chapple, Winnipeg, nee Elizabeth Pearl Stewart, born in Kola District in 1895, for supplying this explanation. There is no reference whatsoever to Kola in either The Place Names of Manitoba; Geographic Board of Canada, 1932, or in Manitoba Mosaic of Place Names, J. B. Rudnyc’kyy, 1970.
15. The volume of wheat threshed corresponds, perhaps coincidentally, with the capacity of “standard elevators,” which had 30,000 bushels or over storage space, being powered by steam engines.
16. Arthur Sherwood filed on the W½ of NE¼ Sec. 16, Tw. 10, Rg. 29w on September 3, 1884. The patent was issued on January 7, 1890, the homestead number being 31415. - Courtesy of C. E. McLean, Manitoba Department of Mines and Natural Resources. Under the original Dominion Lands Act of 1872, the claimant for a homestead had to be the head of a family or a single male over twenty-one years of age, and a British subject by birth or naturalization. The claimant had to pay a registration fee of $10.00, live on the homestead six months each year for five years, and fulfil certain other requirements.
17. In the Virden Advance, March 15, 1888, Mr. A. R. Sherwood is listed as being in attendance at the Bachelors’ Ball, Elkhorn on February 17, (a string band of five pieces being in attendance). He was also listed among the guests at “The Last Ball of the Season,” Town Hall, Virden, March 13.
18. “Photographer A. D. Cooper has set up his studio in a building with a large glass enclosed section at the back which resembles a conservatory, with a clever arrangement of awnings worked by ropes and pulleys to control the light ...” Virden Advance, October 15, 1885.
19. The poor crop of 1888 was the result of an early frost, and many farmers asked their municipal councils to give them relief from taxes and to supply seed grain. As the crops throughout the entire province were poor that year, the Manitoba Government passed a Seed Grain Act empowering the provincial treasurer to make loans at 6% to municipalities to enable them to provide seed grain. The loan to a municipality was not to exceed $5,000, and the advance to any farmer was limited to $75.00 - Trails and Crossroads to Killarney; Aileen Garland, p. 135.
20. Kola Church is still standing. The original name, Kola Barton Church, was given by A. P. Stewart, and the inscription on the baptismal font bears this designation. - Mrs. J. A. Chapple.
After the foregoing notes were off the press, additional corroborative material came to hand from Mrs. G. E. Thompson of Portage la Prairie. The points of reference for this material are given below under Sherwood, the dateline and subject. This procedure has been followed in order to avoid extensive revisions in the numbering and sequence of the original notes.
Sherwood - Wellington Post Office, October 8, 1882. Welsh farmer ... “This might have been William Thomas. There was also a Rolan Thomas living near the present day Katrime. My husband’s grandfather was born in Cardiff, but was never referred to as anything but an Englishman.”
Sherwood - Wellington Post Office, November 5, 1882. Juckes ... “Alfred Henry Juckes is a familiar name to me. He apparently moved from the location as stated in the Land Application by about 1887, as people by the name of Cockburn were living there then. In fact, this farm is known to the present day as the Cockburn Place. I find in looking through the records that sometimes the “c” in Juckes was dropped. Mr. Gordon Juckes, a prominent executive of the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association, is a descendent, but I do not know whether he is in direct line from Alfred Henry Juckes.”
Sherwood - Wellington Post Office, November 5, 1882. Earwaker ... “The name Earwaker is totally unfamiliar to me. I have a copy of an old memory map and on it an E. Wickes is shown on the next quarter section to Mr. Juckes. On the strength of the similarity in names, I went to the Land Titles Office and sure enough it should be Earwaker, as shown in the Land Application (see page 6). The information on the Land Application is all I can give you. I do not think he [Earwaker] could have been in the district for any length of time ...” This would seem to be the case, for Earwaker’s place of residence, as shown on the Land Application (1886), appears as Manchester, England.
Wellington - “The area immediately surrounding Mr. Sherwood’s place of residence was eventually merged with Path-Head, Beaver or MacGregor. My grand-father homesteaded in the MacGregor District in 1882 and my father in 1883. They never referred to Wellington as anything but Wellington, but Katrime could be either Katrime or Squirrel Creek. There is a fine line here, due in part to the origin of the settlers. The people of Katrime and Squirrel Creek were real hardy Irish and Scottish, or else Ontario or Quebec woodsmen. Wellington, a little community within a community, was made up of real greenhorn Englishmen. How they ever survived one would never know. I have had access to several diaries kept by people who lived in the surrounding districts and they always referred to Wellington and Squirrel Creek as two different districts. Wellington Post Office was the mailing address of a very large area, but Squirrel Creek, which became the Katrime of later years, and the Wellington District around Mr. Juckes farm were two distinct areas.”
The Editor is indebted to Mrs. Thompson for furnishing the preceding material and for giving the source of several of the pictures which appear herein.
This is the mill at Virden (1888) where Sherman took his sack of wheat to be ground when he went to the “Last Ball of the Season.” See letter here, and note 17 here.
Source: The Virden Story, Ida Clingan.
This threshing outfit, operated by William Creighton in the Wellington-Katrime District (c1890), is probably the type on which Sherwood worked in Kola District in 1888. Some of these portable outfits (Kinneard-Haines, Marshall, Sawyer Massey, J. J. Case), were owned and operated by local syndicates. See letter here.
Source: Trails Old & New, MacGregor District, Rupert Leslie Taylor.
The Adam Lamb home, Path-Head District (c1875), appears to have square saddle-joints at the corners (not tongue and groove) as mentioned in Sherwood’s letter here. Tongue and groove, and mortise and tenon were used, however, by English settlers (from rural parishes).
Source: Trails Old & New, MacGregor District, Rupert Leslie Taylor.
Lands Open for Settlement in the Municipalities of Wallace, Woodworth, Pipestone & Sifton, published in Manitoba Homesteads by the Virden Board of Trade (c1897). - Source: Historical Atlas of Manitoba, p. 329.
Page revised: 30 October 2010
Back to top of page