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Fraser's Grove
from the Thomas Norquay Papers, Manitoba Archives

Manitoba Pageant, Spring 1979, Volume 24, Number 3

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.

The experiences of the Selkirk Settlers is a matter of record. This paper deals with certain descendents of these early settlers, who, through their efforts, have left us a heritage of property coupled with a sense of accomplishment and civic pride.

The original settlement was in Old Kildonan centering on Seven Oaks, with property reserved on the east side of the Red River as wood lots for the settlers. The man who gave Fraser's Grove its name was William, a son of James Fraser, one of the original Selkirk Settlers. William Fraser was born in Kildonan in 1832 and died in 1909. F. H. Schofield, in his History of Manitoba Volume II refers to him in the following manner - "The youthful experiences of William Fraser were those which usually fall to the lot of sons of pioneers. His early environment was that of the farm and he acquired his preliminary education in the common schools. His education, however, was largely self acquired, outside the school room, for he read extensively and, moreover, learned many lessons in the school of experience. He lived on the old home farm on the west side of the river where his father had taken up his abode as a pioneer settler, and there he carried on general agricultural pursuits year after year, bringing his fields to a high state of cultivation and aiding materially in the work of progress along agricultural lines. About 1880, however, he removed across the river, purchasing a place upon the banks of the stream, where he built a home and lived in comparative ease and retirement to the time of his demise. However, he performed important public duties, for following his removal to the east side of the river he served as a member of the council for twenty-two years and was otherwise actively and helpfully interested in affairs of public moment. He seemed to realize the value or otherwise of any project or public movement and the fact that he endorsed a measure lent influence in gaining for it other support."

On November 29th, 1855 he married Miss Annie MacBeth, a daughter of John MacBeth, who with two companions arrived in Red River in 1812 in advance of the main body of colonists. The Frasers had no children of their own so they adopted three a boy and two girls. The boy grew up to become Dr. W. R. D. Sutherland, while the girls married local men, Christina M. becoming Mrs. Robt. Tait and Jemima Mrs. W. R. Ross.

The assessor's field book of 1878 and 1879 as compiled by James Harper and J. M. Gunn respectively, contains much valuable information on the general welfare and stability of the people of the Red River settlement of that date. Perhaps a short review of some of the entries would be of passing interest and therefore permissible.

James McKay - Farmer, Kildonan

4 Chains

Brot up

575

64 Acres 6

384

1 Reaper very old

25

1 Mower

60

1 House

1 Rake

30

1 Stable

1 Sleigh

20

- Stable

600

1 Sled

2

$984

3 Carts one old

20

1 Cutter

20

2 Mares

150

2 Harrows

8

3 Oxen

120

1 Plow

15

9 Cows

225

$775

1 3 Yrs

20

12 Sheep

48

Real Estate

984

2 Pigs

10

Personal

775

2 Little ones

2

$1759

$575

Robert Gunn Jr. - Farmer, Kildonan

6½ Chains

Brot up

546

72 Acres 6

432

1 Set Harrows

20

1 Sleigh

20

1 House

1 Buggy

60

2 Stores

1 Cutter

15

1 Stable

550

$661

$982

Real Estate

982

2 Horses 1st

225

Personal Property

661

1 3 Yrs 2nd

50

$1643

1 1 Yr

20

1 1 Yr small

15

2 Oxen

80

2 Cows

50

1 1 Yr

8

17 Sheep

68

6 Pigs

30

$546

Jas. A. Murray - Farmer, Kildonan

5½ Chains

Brot up

141

53 Acres

424

1 Plow old

5

1 Set Harrows

20

1 House

1 Wagon

40

1 Stable

450

1 Light Wagon

40

$874

1 Sleigh

15

1 Cutter

20

1 Horse

60

$281

1 Cow

25

1 3 Yrs

20

Real Estate

874

2 2 Yrs

28

Personal Property

281

1 1 Yr

8

$1155

$141

William Fraser - Farmer, Kildonan

5 Chains

Brot up

968

80 Acres W.S. 5¼

500

1 Fan Mill

30

4 Chains

1 Comb. Machine

150

64 Acres E.S. 6

384

1 Rake

30

$884

2 Plows

30

2 Harrows

8

1 House

1 Wagon

60

1 Store

1 Buggy

80

1 Barn

3 Carts

30

2 Stables

800

1 Sleigh old

10

$1684

1 Cutter

20

$1416

4 Horses

325

1 3 Yrs

60

Real Estate

1684

2 Oxen

80

Personal Property

1416

7 Cows

175

$3100

4 3 Yrs

80

5 2 Yrs

70

6 1 Yr

48

20 Sheep

80

10 Pigs

50

$968

In checking through this assessor's field book it is interesting to note that there were very few individuals with a higher assessment valuation. In his day and generation William Fraser was a man of considerable means when he established his home on the east side of the Red River.

The rigors of the ancestral homeland of the Selkirk Settlers had developed in them a sense of independence and interdependence. Independence in thought and action and interdependence in sharing experiences with each other. From this interdependence there developed an open house hospitality only found in pioneer districts.

The Fraser family was no exception and the new home on the east side of the river soon became famous for its friendly social atmosphere. The sweep of the flat from the break of the first bank to the river was ideal for summer picnics, while in the winter time the abruptness of this first bank gave an excellent start for the toboggan slide with the glade toward the river sufficiently sheltered for snow shoe parties. Hospitality cannot be kept long under a bushel measure and ere long picnic parties were coming to Lot 69. In the early '90s the stern wheeler Antelope was running excursions from Winnipeg to this beauty spot on the east bank of the Red River.

By 1900 river excursions became quite popular and commercial interests endeavored in vain to persuade Fraser to let them develop his grove as a public park. The old gentleman was unyielding the public had the freedom of his land for pleasure purposes but not for monetary gain. When he would not consent to this promotion scheme the interested parties went farther afield and built a dance hall at Highland Park, on the river frontage where the Imperial Oil Refinery is now located. The Winnitoba and the Bonitoba used to run excursion trips to this dance hall until the Winnitoba burned at the Highland Park dock and the Bonitoba went down the river with the ice and over the dam at Lockport.

The year 1911 saw quite a land boom in western Canada when subdivisions were promoted round and about every prairie city from the Great Lakes to the Rocky Mountains. The area from Elmwood north and east of the River Road, as it was then called if it was referred to as a highway - it was not yet christened "Henderson Highway," was still more or less agricultural land. The earlier popularity of Fraser's Grove naturally focused attention on this area and river lots 70-73 were subdivided into what was called "Ross-mere Grove" subdivision. This project extended from the Highway to the river, with the river frontage divided into building lots fronting on Kildonan Drive. The two avenues were Rossmere and Layden. The promoters or owners were Helen Ross, Louise M. Ross, Rod. G. Ross, A. Stanley Lay, and Rich. L. Walsh. The boom burst before very much of this property changed hands and eventually the subdivision was cancelled, after the bulk of the area had reverted to the Municipality for tax arrears during the depression of the 1930s. The actual cancellation did not take place though until after the Second World War as portions of the area were used as Victory gar-dens in the early '40s and the individual permits were designated as lots so and so plan - as the case may be.

The seriousness of the situation during the First World War put quite a crimp in the development of local improvement schemes and strictly pleasure projects. Highland Park dance pavilion gradually lost patronage and in a reorganization the area was renamed Keenora Park, and when the Winnitoba burned the pavilion was closed. For the next fifteen years or so while the Rossmere Grove area was held by the municipality it erroneously became known as "Fraser's Grove" and this impression has persisted through the years. It is understandable that the name of the popular picnic ground would extend beyond the property line.

Fraser's Grove is appropriately named, for it honours a man who generously shared what he had - a beauty spot in the great outdoors.

Page revised: 20 July 2009

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