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Elma Memories

by John Gilewich

Manitoba Pageant, Winter 1979, Volume 24, 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 webmaster@mhs.mb.ca.

One of the men who played a prominent part in the affairs of Janow community (Elma) is Mr. John Gilewich. He was its first Post Master, a businessman and a councilor of the Whitemouth Municipality. His story, as told to C. S. Prodan in 1963, is informative, enlightening and shows this pioneer's trust in the future of the district. Here is Mr. Gilewich's story.

I am 91 years old now. I may not look my years, but it's the true age. I came to Winnipeg in 1897, from my birthplace in the village of Mozylowske near Yaworiw in Galicia. During my first five years of living in Canada I worked on construction and in quarries getting 11 cents per hour. Later I worked in a shoe factory in Winnipeg. There I was getting $2.00 per day. This was better pay than on construction jobs.

In 1902 I married Miss Anna Malachowski, daughter of John Malachowski who came here with his family at the same time I came. After considerable thinking I decided to move out of the city and take a homestead. To find out about homesteads I went to see Mr. Carl Genik, the Immigration Officer of the Canadian Department of Immigration who was located in the Immigration Hall near the Canadian Pacific station. Mr. Genik told me that there was some good land south of Whitemouth in Manitoba. I came here in the summer of 1902 and made a homestead entry on NE quarter of 20-10-12 east of the Principal Meridian. Later I purchased another quarter section west of my homestead. When I came here I found here Mr. Frank Kustrowski and Stefan Czarny. There were no roads. We had to travel to Whitemouth for our mail and the things we needed. In 1903 many more settlers came here. A number of Polish families came here from the United States.

Knowing a bit of the language and having some money, I decided to open a store. At first I made a few purchases at Whitemouth but later on I dealt with wholesalers in Winnipeg. This was in 1903. I had a team of horses and hauled my supplies from Whitemouth. In 1905 the settlers applied for a Post Office. Being a spokesman for the community I went to Winnipeg and saw the inspector of Post Offices. The people in the district wanted to name it the Yaworiw Post Office. The Inspector, after seeing the name, said it would be a difficult name. He asked me, "What is your name?" "Jan," I said, and recalled that there was a place named Janow near Lwiw in Galicia. The inspector said, "Name it Janow." So this was accepted by the Post Office authorities in Ottawa.

At first I had just a few things in my store, things needed by the settlers. As time went on more settlers came and my business was very extensive. In 1922 I had goods valued at $40,000.00. Settlers brought their firewood to me for which I paid from $2.00 to $5.00 per cord depending on the kind and quality of wood as well as on the market conditions in Winnipeg. In 1903 I sold four brands of flour at $1.00 per 100-pound bag. Flour called "Strong Baker" I sold at $1.35 per 100-pound bag. Bran was sold at 50 cents and Shorts at 75 cents per 100-pound bag. In 1902 I bought hay for $1.00 per ton. But in 1903 I had to pay $40.00 per ton of similar hay. This was because of drought in 1903. During the First World War things were much higher in price than before.

In 1905 many settlers had employment clearing of right-of-way for the Grand Trunk Railway. This brought prosperity to the community. In 1905 I brought the Greek Catholic priest to Janow. He was the Rev. S. Dydyk. During the same year we organized a parish. There were 70 members in it. About half of the parishioners wanted a church building of an interdenominational nature; that is, any denomination could use our church site and the church building. With the arrival of Bishop Nikita Budka of the Greek Catholic denomination the change was made. This change did not come easy. Those opposed padlocked the church when they learned that the Greek Catholic Bishop insisted that the church site and the building be signed over as part of the church corporation. We, Greek Catholics, had our services held in the open air. After some litigation in 1913 the majority of the parishioners, being 40 of us against 30 of the others, out-voted them and this church became a part of the Greek Catholic church and is known as Holy Ghost Cross.

In 1905 we tried to have a school to send our children to. There was the Stony Hill School about three miles from here. The Department of Education advised us to use this school. We did use it although it was very hard on our children because there were no roads. About 1907 a group of settlers about half way between Janow and Whitemouth wanted to build a school near their homes. With the help of Mr. Theodore Stefanyk, and Mr. Paul Gigejchuk, school organizers of the Department of Education of Manitoba, we managed to organize and built our Elma school in 1908. Frank Karlowsky and Oleksa Zadorozny donated one acre each for the school site. We paid them $1.00 per acre.

In 1907 the rails of the Grand Trunk Railway were laid here. The name of the station was of some concern to us. Some settlers wanted to name it Shwetz, because it was on the farm of Wasyl Shwetz, which was three miles west of the present site. The contractor of this section of the railway purchased an island on the Whitemouth River nearby. On this island there were many large elm trees, so he named this place Elms. The railway officials named it the Elma Station.

In 1923 I moved with my family to Winnipeg. After two years of businesses in Winnipeg I came back to Janow and am living here since.

Page revised: 3 April 2011

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