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Silver Creek District in the Early Days

by The Honourable T. A. Crerar

MHS Transactions, Series 3, 1955-56 season

MHS Transactions were originally published by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make online versions available as a free, public service. As an historical document, Transactions may contain language that is no longer in common use and which may offend some readers. They should not be construed to represent the views of today’s Manitoba Historical Society.

This online version was prepared using Optical Character Recognition software so that spelling and punctuation errors may have occurred inadvertently. If you find any such errors, please inform us, indicating the document name and error.

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The main physical characteristic of the Manitoba terrain is a range of hills in the western part of the Province known as the Riding Mountains, a rather ambitious name for this range of hills and valleys. They have very little, if any, rock outcrop. The eastern boundary is north and west of Neepawa where they rise in a fairly sharp ascent. In this part is found the highest altitude in Manitoba. They extend in a westerly direction for approximately one hundred miles. The distance across from south to north varies from about forty to sixty or seventy miles. The drainage from its watershed is generally in two directions, south and north. In the main, the hills and valleys were covered with forests, mostly poplar and coniferous in origin, and seventy-five years ago numerous lakes and streams could be found within their limits. Towards the eastern end is found one of the National Parks of Canada, the area of which is approximately 1,200 square miles. This park area has a few streams and several lakes. Clear Water Lake, or, as the Indians named it, Wasagaming, from which the Park takes its name, extends for eight or nine miles with a width at its widest point of around three miles. This lake is fed mainly by springs, Indeed, fresh water springs can be found all over this hilly area from east to west. On their southern slope these hills give way to a park like country that falls gently to the valley of the Assiniboine River, which, at the western end of the range, is fifteen to twenty miles away. The location of the Silver Creek and Russell districts is near the western end of this range of hills, Here was good soil and water and grass. This part of the land had evidently given good grazing for the buffalo since the larger bones and skulls of these animals frequently could be found in the open stretches of country for years after the first settlers located their farms. This story has to do with the Silver Creek district, which lies eight to ten miles east of the present Town of Russell.

The early settlement, later incorporated into Silver Creek Municipality, has a rather interesting history. Commencing in 1832 there was a migration from the Highlands of Perthshire in Scotland to western Ontario, which continued for some fifteen years. It may be of interest to note that the County of Perth in western Ontario derived its name from this early migration. The early pioneers of Ontario usually had large families. There was, consequently, as time passed, an increasing demand for farming land, the price for which tended, with this demand, to rise ever higher. This led many in the western Ontario counties to turn their eyes to, what was then generally called, the North West. This vast country had been taken over by the Federal Government from the Hudson's Bay Company a few years earlier, and the Province of Manitoba had been organized. Stories had filtered through to eastern Canada of its richness; a railway connecting it with the East had been decided upon and so settlers began to come with ever increasing numbers into Manitoba in the late '70s and early '80s of the last century. The first settler selected his land in the Silver Creek district in the year 1880, seventy-five years ago.

The district in Perth County, Ontario, first settled by these people from Scotland, was known as North-East Hope, the name of a Township in the County.

In the summer of 1881 my father, with a few other young men from North-East Hope, decided to pay a visit to the prairie country. Many stories had been carried back by the few who had visited Manitoba as to its richness of soil and the excellence of its summer climate. These stories were incomplete because few, if any, of them had spent a winter in Manitoba. At any rate, my father and these others reached Winnipeg in June, 1881, travelling by Chicago and St. Paul, with which Winnipeg had already been connected by railway. This was the time of the first railway construction in the Prairie country. The Canadian Pacific Railway chartered that year, was building both east and west from what was then the Town of Winnipeg. After reaching Winnipeg these travellers obtained a wagon and team of horses, secured a tent, some food, and some simple cooking utensils, and started out across the prairie to spy out the land. They followed what was known as the old Fort Pelly trail which, as the Province then was, ran in a north-westerly direction to Pelly in what is now the Province of Saskatchewan, and which at that time was an important Hudson's Bay Company centre. This oxcart highway linked Fort Pelly with Winnipeg, the headquarters of the Company. After travelling as far as Pelly, they returned to Winnipeg by the same route and decided to locate in what later became known as the Silver Creek district, which, by the way, took its name from a crystal clear creek that had its origin eight or ten miles back in the hills and was fed by a good many springs as it wound its way down to the Assiniboine River some fifteen miles distant. These prospective settlers, all of Highland origin, passing over much level country of excellent soil, decided to pitch their tents where they could see some running water or an occasional bit of valley and hill and generally a rolling park-like country. Their choice was probably influenced by an instinct inherited from their Highland ancestry.

After the business of securing his land was settled, my father returned to Ontario and a few months later, in the month of October, started with a carload of settlers' effects, for what was to be a new home in the Prairie Country. It was arranged that my mother and her small family, of which I was the eldest, would follow a few weeks later. Travelling with us was another family named Stewart, also with a few small children, destined for the Silver Creek district. In due time Winnipeg was reached by railway. My father had had his carload of effects moved to Portage la Prairie, to which point the construction of the C.P.R. had been completed, and there a few weeks later the family was re-united. From Portage la Prairie the journey was made overland by wagon and ox-team. There was one team of horses, owned by may father, and, in the vehicle they hauled, the women and children had first place. I was then five years old and the memories of childish impressions still remain vivid. Among them is one of an ox team and wagon bogged down in the mud of what is now Winnipeg's Main Street. Another is of the bustle associated with the railway construction in what is now Portage la Prairie.

The previous year two of my mother's brothers had located new homes at Newdale, twenty miles or so west of the present Town of Minnedosa, and so the objective of the trek was this point. Memory is clear that we had a tent, several wagons loaded with household gear and farm equipment and several head of cattle that were driven along as the procession moved slowly across the prairies. There had been an unusual amount of rain that autumn and much time was taken up making detours around ponds of water of varying size which, even then, were called sloughs. At night the tent, not a very large one, was pre-empted for the women and children; the men who attended the teams slept in the open under their wagons. I recall one morning when we were in the Gladstone district of coming out of the tent to find the ground covered with snow. Rain had started during the night and turned to snow before morning. Fortunately, we were camped near a haystack that some settler had made. When the rain commenced to fall the men burrowed into the haystack. I have a distinct recollection of seeing the men emerge from this strange bed in the morning. In due time we arrived at Newdale. The autumn weather had turned fine, as Manitoba's autumns often do, and the few settlers were able to continue tilling their land well into December.

Silver Creek was about seventy-five miles west of Newdale by road the old Fort Pelly trail as it then was. My father was busy most of the winter taking out logs for the construction of his early farm buildings. These logs were all poplar and were found in the wooded hills to the north a few miles distant. Then in the spring those intended for the house were hewn to about six inches in thickness; a secure foundation was laid on the ground and the log structure erected on this foundation. The interstices between the log were chinked. These later were plastered. If the settler was fortunate enough to find some lime and sand, the plaster was mortar; if not, it was clay. Someone had established a sawmill some twenty miles north of Newdale. Here rough lumber could be purchased and also shingles. My father secured enough of this material to complete the building of his home. By mid-June of 1882 the house was up with a roof upon it and a floor in it; and so the Crerar family moved from Newdale and reached their new home in June, 1882. This house, which was typical of several others which were being built in the district at the same time, had a cellar underneath it, that is, an excavation in the earth five or six feet deep. The main purpose of this was to store vegetables throughout the winter where they would be free from frost. The house itself was 18 feet wide and 24 feet long. On the ground floor was a combined kitchen, living room and dining room, with one bedroom and a store room and pantry. The upstairs was all in one room, later curtained off by cotton sheets to give some degree of privacy. The house, and stable for livestock, had been built where a bluff of poplar trees lay to the north and west of it-a very wise precaution, since it gave shelter against the cold winter winds from the north and northwest. All this personal experience is mentioned in some detail, and with some hesitation, to give a picture of the common experience of all the other settlers not only of Silver Creek, but elsewhere, in these early days.

Silver Creek, as it took its way to the Assiniboine, sometimes passed through level country and then between banks that rose from twelve to twenty feet high. Our home was built on one of these banks. A hundred yards away was a strong spring of water at the foot of the hillside, and for many years our water needs were secured from this spring. A very clear recollection remains in my memory of carrying pails of water daily from the spring to our house.

The Silver Creek settlement was mainly Scottish in origin. The names give evidence of this. This roster included MacKay, Stewart, Broadfoot, Rutherford, McFarlane, Keating, Peddie, Hyde, MacIntosh, Kippen, Anderson, Coulter and Crerar. Some of the older people could still speak the Gaelic; but it was not spoken in the homes so the younger generation grew up without a knowledge of it.

And so we have this picture of the district in '82 and '83. Settlers coming in, living in tents or makeshift dwellings until they could erect more substantial homes and secure equipment to break up a few acres of prairie and commence growing grain. By 1882 the building of the C.P.R. was being energetically pushed forward. A station was established at Moosomin, sixty-five miles distant, and until 1885 this was the nearest railway point to the settlement. In the first few years the nearest doctor was at Brandon, over eighty miles distant. One member of the Kippen family was a blacksmith and he built a rude blacksmith shop. His first fuel came from charcoal, derived from piling wood of a certain quality in crossed formation, covering the whole with sod and earth, leaving a vent and lighting a fire beneath which slowly reduced the wood to charcoal. A little later he was able to secure blacksmith coal and for many years provided the blacksmith service for the whole community. The Kippen farm buildings were located across the creek about a quarter of a mile north of where the Crerar home had been established.

Early in 1883 a family named Anderson moved into the community. The head of this family opened a country store near Kippen's blacksmith shop and freighted his supplies from Moosomin. Here tea and sugar, salt and pepper and a few other groceries could be bought, also cloth of various kinds which came mainly in webs or rolls, and some hardware and footwear. Generally, the store supplies were of a practical and staple kind. For several years this emporium served much of the needs of the community. It provided a sort of meeting place where neighbors gathered and, sitting around on nail kegs or boxes or the rough counter, exchanged the gossip of the community.

It might be expected that a Scottish community would be interested in something more than their rough pioneering experiences. It was typical of the community that it went about very early to secure a school, and church services. There were a number of youngsters in the settlement and the parents strongly desired that they learn at least the rudiments of the Three R's. Before the school was organized, the cabin of a bachelor, by the name of Duncan Stewart, had been rented. In this cabin the first school assembled early in the month of June, 1883, and then, along with others, began my first experience in learning. This, at the beginning, was on a voluntary basis as no school district had been organized. One of the homesteaders was a man named Edward Steele who had taught school in Ontario, and he was engaged as teacher. The equipment he had to work with was of the crudest kind and the school work was confined to teaching the youngsters to read and write, to spell and do simple arithmetic. There were no desks. A few long benches had been made, upon which the pupils sat to do their work. The pupils were equipped with slates and slate pencils and did their sums on their slates. A blackboard was made of planed boards painted black. In this way the little settlement made its first effort in the field of education.

All the people I have mentioned were Presbyterians. They had been accustomed to religious services and observances in the homes they had left, to pioneer in a new country. Nothing was more significant in the development of the Prairie Provinces than the effort put forth by the various churches to carry the gospel to the new settlements. There is little doubt that the success which attended their efforts was in large measure responsible for the strong sense of law and order in the early days of Manitoba, and later in Saskatchewan and Alberta. This stands out in rather strong contrast with the lawlessness that accompanied the opening up of the western areas of the United States.

In the early '80s the Presbyterian Church in Canada took a farsighted step when it decided to appoint a Superintendent of Presbyterian Missions in western Canada. It could not have been more fortunate in its selection of a superintendent for this worthy work than it was in the person of Dr. James W. Robertson who, for a few years, had been Pastor of Knox Church in Winnipeg. I have a very distinct recollection of Dr. Robertson - tall, of athletic build, he had dark hair and beard. In his early days as superintendent he travelled literally thousands of miles by horse and buggy, ministering to these little settlements which sprung up all over Manitoba, and later in Saskatchewan.

The first church service in the Silver Creek community was held in the combined living room, dining room and kitchen in my father's home. Dr. Robertson was the preacher. He had sent word ahead that he would be in Silver Creek on a certain day. Since the service was to be held in our home, some preparation had to be made. There were no pews and only a few chairs, so blocks of wood were sawn to a measured length, some boards gathered up, placed upon these blocks of wood, and these seats were arranged in a few rows and seated the small congregation. Dr. Robertson stood by the kitchen table. Psalms - not hymns - were sung, a prayer was offered and the minister dwelt on the mercies of God, urging the little congregation not to forget the church of their fathers and the services it could render in this new land. That night Dr. Robertson spent in my father's home, and next morning he was on his way.

In 1883 the Municipal Act of the Province was amended by the Provincial Legislature and quite a number of new Municipalities were created. These Municipalities usually embraced six or eight Townships. Among those created was Silver Creek, 12 by 18 miles in area. The system of surveys which had been followed by laying out sections a mile square, with 36 sections in a Township, left it a comparatively simple matter to organize roads, since each Section had a road allowance reserved around it for public needs. The boundaries of Silver Creek were fixed by this Act and steps taken to organize municipal work. The Council consisted of a Reeve or presiding officer, and a Councilman for each Township. The Reeve was elected by the Municipality at large and each Township elected its own Councilman. The Council appointed a Secretary-Treasurer, who kept the records and to whom taxes were paid. The Council, of course, had the power to levy taxes and establish roads and services.

Part of its work was to supervise the organization of school districts and one of the earliest of these was the Silver Creek district. As a result, a school was built on the prairie at a point that would most conveniently serve the community. This was a much more pretentious building than the homesteader's cabin where the school had started. There were homemade desks and a good blackboard, with a few maps. In this school the early education of the youngsters was continued. School at that time was held only in the summer months, beginning when the snow was off the ground in the spring and continuing well into October.

Once the school was built the church services were held in the school. To the north of Silver Creek district some seven miles, another district grew up, known as Miniska. Here too, the Scots were found to predominate, with several families of MacLeods, MacDonalds and MacLennans. By this time the Village of Russell, seven miles distant, was on its way. There had been a Hudson's Bay store there from the beginning, and a few other small business places, including a blacksmith shop, a livery stable and a small hotel, gathered around. No one of these communities could by itself support a settled minister of the gospel, so Russell, Miniska and Silver Creek were combined into one ministerial charge. The minister resided at Russell and travelled by horse and buggy in summer, or sleigh in winter, to Miniska, seven or eight miles distant, for Sunday service at 11 o'clock; after he had dinner, as the midday meal was then called, he drove to Silver Creek school, where the service was held at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. When it was concluded, he drove back to Russell, had his evening meal and preached in Russell at 7 o'clock in the evening. This, of course was fairly arduous work. Nothing but the highest praise can be offered these church ministers who, often mid rain, frost, snow and storms, filled these charges every Sunday and conducted church service.

There was very little lawlessness in the early settlements of Manitoba and the Silver Creek settlement was no exception. If one left the farmstead for a day the doors were never locked. This is often a common experience in a pioneering community where people share the same fortunes and reverses. As the settlements grew a few villages grew from hamlets and later into towns. These were the days of the open bars in small hotels, where those inclined to do so could buy whiskey, and not very good whiskey at that. This sometimes led to quarreling and fist fights and to complaints of assault, as between two or three individuals. Some eight or nine years after the commencement of the settlement, a local Justice of the Peace was appointed. The choice fell on a Mr. Rutherford, Scottish born, who had come to Western Ontario as a lad and in 1883 migrated to this part of Manitoba. He was a short, thick-set man, who enjoyed some of the advantages of an education, and was a good, worthy citizen. Since he possessed some slight knowledge of law and of the Rules of Evidence, he was, in a measure, equipped to carry on with dignity the work in the court of a Justice of the Peace. The cases brought before him were few and far between. Most of them arose out of quarrels where assault had happened. One of these became locally famous. A man named Almack who resided near Binscarth, some twelve miles distant, had, when under the influence of liquor, struck a neighbor in the face, following some hot words between them. The injured man was not seriously hurt, but his eyes were blackened. He appeared before Rutherford and laid a charge of assault against Almack, who was summoned to Court to answer the charge. Quite a number of people gathered to hear the case. After opening the Court with proper dignity, the charge was read to Almack. Mr. Rutherford, peering over his glasses at the accused said "Prisoner at the Bar how do you plead, guilty or not guilty?" Almack, a powerfully built but inoffensive man, except when he had consumed too much liquor, answered, "Well, your Honor, I guess I am guilty. I was drunk when I struck him and I am sorry it happened." The Magistrate then ordered the first witness to be called, whereupon Almack protested, "Your Honor, there is no need to call witnesses, I struck him and will pay whatever fine you put upon me." To this the Court answered, "No, no, we canna proceed that way. The law maun take its course." So the witnesses were heard, Almack's confession of guilt was confirmed and he was duly fined. Mr. Rutherford may have been over zealous in maintaining the majesty of the law, but he was a worthy upholder of it in the early years of a frontier community, and that he should do so was a matter of some considerable importance.

As is often the case in a frontier settlement, the social life and doings of the Silver Creek community were simple and wholesome. In June of 1883 a picnic was organized by the settlers and took place in a fine grove of poplar trees. It provided an opportunity for neighbors to visit with each other and enjoy a brief relaxation from their arduous daily toil. Simple sports were organized for the children, and everyone went home happy. A few years later an annual picnic was planned and carried through. A suitable grove of trees was selected, all the underbrush was cleared away, rough tables for food were built, a stove for making tea and coffee provided, and several swings made for the younger people and children. Football and baseball were introduced and games in these sports arranged with competing teams from neighboring communities. When the 1890s were reached the Silver Creek Annual Picnic had acquired quite a reputation and people came from far and near to attend it. There was always an abundance of food without charge, mainly sandwiches, pies and cakes, and all home-made. These annual events had a very definite value in opening up new friendships through good neighborliness.

The regular Sunday church service was another useful way of bringing the settlers together in fruitful co-operation for the good of the community. In the early nineties of the last century a new church was built, as the congregation had outgrown the facilities of the country schoolhouse. This new church was a fine building for the time and place, and a good deal of financial sacrifice went into its construction. These early pioneers of a new community never lost the vision of the moral values of the church and school. It was dedicated and the first sermon preached in it by the Rev. Dr. George Bryce of Manitoba College, who journeyed from Winnipeg to perform the ceremony. Many years later it was moved one and one-half miles to the present village of Silverton, and here the church service begun by Dr. Robertson in 1883 in my father's humble home is still carried on. A Sunday School was also organized in the early years with John Stewart, one of the first settlers, as superintendent. There was a Bible Class for adults, and two or three other classes graded down to the younger children. There is no doubt the influence of the Sunday School was of real value in the settlement.

In the first few years of the settlement mail was delivered once a month. Later a semi-monthly service was given, and after the Manitoba North-western Railway reached Binscarth in 1886, some twelve miles distant, a weekly service was established. Mr. Rutherford, to whom I have already referred, was appointed Postmaster. It need scarcely be said that this was regarded as a great boon. Several of the early settlers had brought a few books with them, but in the main their reading was confined to the periodicals received through the mails. The Manitoba Weekly Free Press could be found in most of the homes, and the Weekly Witness, a leading Protestant publication in Montreal, could also be found. In the late '80s several of the settlers were subscribers to the Nor'West Farmer, a farm paper published in Winnipeg. The Presbyterian Record, the journal of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, came to almost every family. The news provided in the weekly papers was quite extensive, especially in the political field and a good deal of discussion took place about political matters. In the early years when a Federal or Provincial election came along, the practice was to hold joint meetings where the respective candidates told their story. Something very valuable was lost when this practice was abandoned. Of course the Bible was found in almost every home and was read in most of them. Family worship daily was the usual practice in many homes.

About ten years after the first settlers arrived in the district, a Literary and Debating Society was organized, and after the harvest work was completed in the autumn, meetings of the Society were held twice a month in the schoolhouse. Once a month a debate was staged. Here I made my first essay in speaking before an audience, with rather disastrous consequences. I have forgotten the subject for debate, but I have a clear recollection of wiping the perspiration from my face with the few notes I had prepared to assist me in the oration, and then taking my seat in confusion. The other semi-monthly meeting was given over to songs, recitations and readings. About this time country dances, more so in the winter months, became a feature in the social life of the community. There were several in the district who could play dance music on the violin. Some times these dances were held in the schoolhouse, after the desks had been temporarily removed, but much more frequently in neighbors' homes. The popular dances were the waltz, military and seven step schottische, the polka, French minuet and different kinds of square dances. This provided wholesome enjoyment, more so because it was provided by the young people themselves. It had some advantages over the "canned" variety of entertainment so common today.

Another form of co-operation was found in the final stage of harvesting operations. As the years passed more land was broken up and crops grew larger. By 1885 the odd self-binder had come into the community and a few years later almost every farmer had one. The practice was to stook the grain after it was cut and then stack it. When all this had been completed, threshing began. Two of the settlers, Kippen and McFarlane, purchased a threshing outfit. The early threshing was done by horse power, supplemented a few years later by a steam engine and steam power. The outfit had a crew of three or four men. But twelve to fifteen men were required for the operation, and in the early years this was supplied by neighbors helping each other. At these gatherings much discussion took place. It might be on the quality of the sermon preached the Sunday previous at the church, and of course politics were not overlooked. Here early settlers were almost all Grits as distinguished from Tories, so it was perhaps natural that they regarded with a doubtful eye Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir Charles Tupper, who were among the political giants of those days. On the other hand, Edward Blake, Alexander MacKenzie and Wilfred Laurier were all fine patriots. Nevertheless, they had a sound understanding of what government was about. In July, 1888, a severe frost caught the wheat when it was in the delicate blossom stage and completely destroyed any prospect of a yield. Though the fields looked lovely, there was no grain. This created a. problem of seed for the following spring sowing, for seed wheat had to be brought in from some fairly distant point. A proposal was advanced that the credit of the young Municipality should be used and the Municipality buy and distribute the seed. Though this was finally done, the proposal aroused strong opposition on the ground that it was not the responsibility of the Municipality to come to the rescue of the individual, that it was establishing a most dangerous precedent, and this from men who were uncertain how they could secure seed. I was then twelve years of age and can recall the arguments occasioned by this proposal. Needless to say, times have changed greatly in the intervening 67 years.

The Silver Creek community of today stands out in strong contrast with what it was seventy years ago. The old log buildings of the pioneers have all but disappeared, and good comfortable homes and barns, electrically lighted, have taken their place. No longer do the farmers have to travel miles through the storms and cold of winter to get the yearly supply of firewood to keep their houses warm. The electric range and the oil heater of modern days largely make firewood unnecessary. No longer is it necessary to haul a load of wheat twenty-five miles to a grist mill to get the year's supply of flour. Indeed, no longer does the housewife need to bake her own bread. A railway now passes through the district, with the railway station of Silverton, seven miles east of Russell, located on the old farm where John MacIntosh settled in 1881. Some of the buildings of this small village are across the road on the farm where Duncan Stewart settled at the same time. In the early years grain had to be hauled with oxen or horses to market eight or ten miles, or often farther. Today it can be hauled in trucks to any one of three grain elevators in the village at a distance of a few miles. Now motor cars have taken the place of the wagon, powered by horses or oxen used by the old settlers. The old Fort Pelly trail, with its numerous ruts made by the caravans of Red River carts, has long since disappeared and good gravel roads have taken its place. And there are other contrasts. Some of the descendants of the old settlers still remain in the district, but many, like the autumn leaves, have scattered far and wide. Some have gone into business; some into the profession of teaching or nursing and the odd one into medicine or the ministry. One of the first marriages in the settlement took place in the winter of 1882-83 when John MacIntosh married a Miss Whiteman from Perth County in Ontario. Dr. Herbert MacIntosh, for several years superintendent of Winnipeg City Schools, was their second son.

In the early days the species of grouse called Prairie Chicken was found in abundance, as were wild ducks on the sloughs and creeks, and these provided many a good meal. Now the Prairie Chicken, a shy bird, has all but disappeared to more remote parts of the country. The wild duck can still be found, but in nothing like the numbers of sixty or seventy years ago. In the hills and valleys to the north the elk and the lordly moose were frequently hunted. Now this is all changed. The need for preservation of game of all kinds has brought closed seasons when they cannot be hunted and the ever increasing need of public revenue, now requires the hunter to take out a licence for which he has to pay a fee. In the days seventy years ago much wild fruit could be found; wild strawberries and raspberries, the saskatoon berry and the wild high bush cranberry were the favorites. These were gathered in the summer and autumn and preserved against the needs of winter. All this is now very much a thing of the past.

What were the qualities found in these old God fearing pioneers? Well, they had faith in themselves, perhaps because they believed in a Divine Providence. They had superb courage, since it required courage to go into the wilderness of a new country and build up homes for themselves and their families. They had in high degree, self-reliance and the initiative to get around difficulties and overtake disappointments. While here and there a weak individual might be found, they were almost all, in these early years, men and women possessed of honesty and character. They were neighborly and kindly. If anyone met with misfortune through illness or otherwise, or if the angel of Death visited a home, there were always willing hands held out to help ease the burden. We live in an age of rush and hurry, when propaganda of one kind or another, much of it the product of shallow and superficial thinking, or self-interest, beat in daily upon our conscious and sub-conscious minds. But amid all this din, humanity still pays its tribute of respect to the qualities I have just described. It is good that it is so, for when humanity fails to do so, it is headed for the jungle.

The story I have attempted to tell here of the early settlers of the Silver Creek community is not an isolated one. It could be duplicated in hundreds of communities in this province. These were the people who faced the mosquitoes and flies and heat and rain of summer, and endured, often with too little protection, the cold and frost and blasts of winter. These were the people who laid, truly and well, the foundations of what we enjoy today in abundance, our material prosperity, our churches and schools, and our governing institutions. These old pioneers of seventy years ago have long since passed to their reward. They rest in the little cemeteries of the land, their resting place usually marked by a humble headstone. Amid all the pre-occupations of today, with their anxieties and hopes and fears, it will be good for us to pause once in a while, and, in all humility, salute their memory.

Page revised: 22 May 2010

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