Manitoba Historical Society
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Manitoba History: Oral History: Clanwilliam, 1918

by Mr. Pax Crawley
Minnedosa, Manitoba

Manitoba History, Number 9, Spring 1985

This article was published originally in Manitoba History by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make this online version available as a free, public service. As an historical document, the article may contain language and views that are no longer in common use and may be culturally sensitive in nature.

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For some years now, the Manitoba Historical Society has actively promoted oral history; and it is happy to be able, through the Documents and Archives section of this issue of Manitoba History, to make many members of the general public aware of the new emphasis on oral history at the PAM. Recently two readers of this magazine contributed items that reveal a couple of the benefits of conducting interviews. Excerpts from them are printed below.

In the first item, Mr. Pax Crawley of Minnedosa unintentionally reminds us that written documents can be lost, and that oral testimony then becomes the only evidence on just how or why something occurred. In the second, Ms. Jo Ann Tymchak of Winnipeg has used conversations with her mother and her aunt to tell us that “ordinary” people, who likely would not think of writing their memoirs or an autobiography, may have had extraordinary and interesting experiences that others can he made aware of only through interviews.

Here is a little bit [of] Manitoba’s history [that might be of interest] ...

When the deadly flu of 1918 hit the Minnedosa area, the little village of Clanwilliam, which is almost in the centre of the little Municipality of Minto, ... decided to do something about it. A quarantine was placed on the village. I do not know who was responsible—probably the local merchants and the Reeve and Councillors of Minto. No municipal records are available, for they were all lost when the Minnedosa dam broke in 1950 and flooded the vault where they were stored.

[Because of the quarantine] no one ... could buy a train ticket to Clanwilliam. I knew of one lady who got on the train at a siding to come to Clanwilliam to look after a new granddaughter. She expected to get her ticket on the train. The conductor said, “I’m sorry I can’t sell you a ticket to Clanwilliam.”

He stopped the train and let her off when they passed her farm home ... Mail bags were left on the [Clanwilliam] platform, where the [train] crew picked them up and left the incoming mail [making contact with no one from Clanwilliam].

Farmers bringing grain to the elevators ... had to wear a mask with disinfectant (mostly oil of Eucalyptus). I was 17 so I remember wearing such a mask. The result was that no one in the area got the deadly flu, even though Minnedosa, just 8 miles south, had 17 deaths in 1 week, while the Hilltop area 7 miles north had several deaths.

I strongly suspect that R. A. (Bob) McQuarrie had much to do with [the action taken]. He ran his own store for 50 years ... and shook hands with 500 friends on his 100th birthday ... I only wish I had asked him about it before he passed on. I do know that we are deeply in debt to those far sighted men.

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