2017 Annual Cultural Fundraiser

This year, on December 2 at the Lac du Bonnet Community Center, the Lac du Bonnet and District Historical Society partnered with the Brokenhead Ojibway Nation to celebrate the Anishinaabe for our Cultural Fundraiser (formerly the Wine and Cheese), presenting history, culture, song, food and dance.

The weather certainly cooperated, as we had a full house of guests coming from all areas of the RM of Lac du Bonnet and beyond. Many new and familiar faces enjoyed the evening of historical displays, entertainment, draws and food, featuring wild rice quiche, bison meatballs, salmon, pickerel, and, of course, bannock.

MC for the evening was Maryanne Folster, Events Coordinator, of Brokenhead Ojibway Nation.

Elder Harry Bone, who is well known for working tirelessly and quietly throughout his life to bolster Indigenous rights, said the opening and closing prayers.

Display of Sgt. Tommy Prince's WWI Medals

Chief Jim Bear, of Brokenhead Ojibway Nation, spoke to the crowd about the background and origins of Brokenhead, in addition to reconciliation.

Entertainment for the evening was provided by the Southern Thunderbird Medicine Drum group, Hoop Dancer George Bear of Scanterbury, and ten year old singer Jordon Brooks of Whitemouth.

Isaac Cardinal and Autumn Abdilla, representatives of the Lac du Bonnet Senior School’s Indigenous Studies class, introduced their project, in partnership with the Lac du Bonnet District Museum. Students will paint an interior liner of the Museum’s newly acquired tipi depicting images of a “Winter Count” — a record of history done in pictographs by Indigenous peoples. This project will provide a self-guided Indigenous tour within the tipi for the upcoming season.

At the end of the night, members of the Lac du Bonnet and District Historical Society were taken completely by surprise when the Brokenhead Ojibway Nation presented them with a generous $5000 cheque from the South Beach Community Spirit Fund.

Photo Arlene Davidson Lac du Bonnet Clipper

The Anishinaabe (comprised of the Ojibway, Chippewa and Saulteaux) are descendants of the original inhabitants of Turtle Island (North America), who have occupied the land for thousands of years. Long before to European contact, they had sophisticated civilizations based upon traditional laws and cultural practices, along with complex trading relationships between nations. Historically, the Anishinaabe peoples moved freely and frequently within their traditional use areas as dictated by the seasons and the abundance of plants and animals used for subsistence. By 1775, the Anishinaabe had pushed west from their ancestral strongholds of the Great Lakes into the Winnipeg River area. Come the 1820s, the Anishinaabe had displaced the Cree and the Assiniboine in the Lake Winnipeg watershed as far west as Portage La Prairie.

The Lac du Bonnet area is encompassed in both Treaty 1 and 3 territories.

Treaty 1 was signed at Lower Fort Garry on August 3, 1871 by representatives of the Crown and seven First Nations Indigenous Communities: Brokenhead Ojibway, Sagkeeng, Long Plain, Peguis, Rouseau River, Sandy Bay and Swan Lake. This boundary falls along the west side of the Winnipeg River, encompassing the Town of Lac du Bonnet and western half of the RM of Lac du Bonnet.

Treaty 3 was signed at the North-West Angle Hudson’s Bay Company post on Lake of the Woods October 3, 1873. Twenty-four Anishinaabe Chiefs signed the treaty, surrendering 55,000 sq. miles to the Crown for agricultural settlement and mineral discovery. This land extends to the east side of the Winnipeg River, including the eastern half of the RM of Lac du Bonnet. Chief Powassan, of the NW Angle, was spokesman. Chief Ma-we-do-pe-nais spoke some infamous words: “…I hope the promises you have made will last as long as the sun goes round and the water flows.”

Library and Archives Canada

Kairos Blanket Exercise

The Lac du Bonnet & District Historical Society held a Kairos Blanket Exercise on October 12th, 2017.

The circle is a space where the sometimes disturbing and unsettling act of unlearning can take place safely. It creates a community with a shared vision of a different story of Canada.

This is the true power of the Blanket Exercise.

...

It is the hope that more people will be able to begin the process of unlearning the story they’ve been told their whole lives. Only then will they be able to walk on the path of reconciliation and create a new story for Canada.

The Blanket ceremony is one of the best tools available to help people move from unaware to awareness. It brings out the heart discussions that are so needed in Canada to ensure we can move to degrees of reconciliation relationship building.

It was an incredibly humbling experience!

Thank you to Leslie Wakeman and Andrea Maxwell from Sunrise School Division, Elder Adrian Jacobs from Sandy-Saulteaux Spiritual Center, along with all participants.

 

  

Museum Has Impression on Summer Student

Kaitlyn Mitchell, 2017 Summer Museum Assistant

Throughout the month of July, Kaitlyn gave museum tours and performed a number of office duties including: cataloging multiple donated artifacts, taking pictures of such artifacts and uploading the images onto computer, organizing the Springfield Leader weekly newspaper, making arrowheads and doing craft preparation for Heritage Day. She also did regular cleaning of the museum.

Kaitlyn has noticed that the RM 100 travelling trunks are among the first things visitors look at upon entering the museum. The interactive exhibits, like the wool carder and furs, are also quite popular, and believes another interactive exhibit would encourage more people to attend and enjoy their visit.

Kaitlyn has also suggested that more advertising is needed to inform the public about where the museum is located and when it is open. She lists the public library as a place for museum brochures and, since it is a high traffic area, the Sunova sign for advertisements.

For the month of August, Kaitlyn continued to give museum tours, organize and catalogue artifacts, make arrowheads, and prepare craft materials and posters for Heritage Day.

She has noted that a lot of visitors have commented on how well the museum was constructed and organized, mentioning that their visit was enjoyable.

She also attended the Fire & Water Festival, with a table in Artisan Square. They sold two books, one membership and thirteen bags of wild rice. Overall, the wild rice fundraiser did quite well this month, with a total of twenty-seven bags sold both at the museum and the Fire & Water Festival.

Kaitlyn suggested that a larger sign is needed near the highway to attract more visitors, informing them when the museum is open.

Heritage Day 2017

Kaitlyn believed the Heritage Day was “quite a success.” She noted that the performers were excellent and that the kids’ obstacle course and craft making went really well. A lot of positive comments were received about the event throughout the day. Kaitlyn stated that those in attendance were “very pleased and left with smiles on their faces.”

Travelling Suitcase Exhibit

Kaitlyn created a travelling suitcase exhibit on growing up in the 1950s. She thoroughly researched and planned the case before putting the artifacts, photographs and written information together in the display.

Overall, Kaitlyn believes the museum did well this summer, especially with the Open House, Canada Day and Heritage Day events. She enjoyed all aspects of the job and found it an educational experience. Kaitlyn is incredibly grateful for Terry and Marlene, appreciating the time and hard work given to help her with all aspects of the job. She enjoyed her time at the museum and hopes to apply for the position again next year.

Starratt Airways and Transportation

Starratt Airways and Transportation 

Written by Bob Starratt 

All photos courtesy of Bob Starratt

Early History

Born in 1887, Robert Wright Starratt grew up in Dorchester, New Brunswick. As a young man, he ventured west in 1910 to Saskatchewan, working with the survey crew for the Grand Truck Pacific Railway. His fiancée, Iris Irving, travelled west in 1913 and they were married that year in Wakaw, Sask. When his work on the railway ended, he joined the Hudson's Bay Company freighting supplies by canoe and small boat during the summer season and horse teams in the winter. His territory encompassed Lac Laronge, Sk in the west to The Pas, Mb in the east, traversing Montreal Lake and navigating the Montreal and Saskatchewan Rivers. Iris travelled back to the east coast by train in 1916 for the birth of their first child, a son named Bud.

Soon, the young family moved further west into the Peace River country of northern Alberta. Bob broke the land and the family homesteaded there until late in 1925. While there, sons Billie, Don and Dean were born into the family. Iris returned to New Brunswick with the four children and Rob gained employment in Winnipeg during the winter, painting a hotel owned by former Peace River neighbour, Jack Grey.

Hudson History
Bob secured employment with the Hudson's Bay Company once again and was sent to Hudson, Ontario in the spring of 1926 to run their transportation interests in the Woman and Confederation Lake areas. There were 7 gold mines in production here before the first mine in Red Lake became operational. In September 1926, Iris and the four children arrived in Hudson. In 1928, Starratt, along with prospectors George and Collin Campbell, formed Northern Transportation(NT). George left the company after only 9 months but would go on to discover the Campbell gold mine in Balmertown. Mining was flourishing in the north and the company used tractor trains in winter and then bought Red Lake Transport and the Lac Seul boats of the Hudson's Bay Company. Collin Campbell, fearing it was all over with the crash of the stock market in October 1929, departed Northern Transportation leaving Starratt as the sole owner.

In 1932, NT acquired a new deHavilland 60M Moth, their first airplane, to keep in contact and monitor the progress of the tractor trains. The first pilot was the legendary bush pilot and early aviation pioneer, Harold Farrington. The company was now an all-season hauler utilizing land, air and water. In 1935, Starratt Airways and Transportation (SAT) was formed and additional aircraft were rapidly acquired. Airplanes were only part of the company with numerous boats and tractors carrying the bulk of the freight. Virtually all of the mining equipment for the Red Lake and Pickle Lake gold zones was hauled from Hudson by plane, boat or tractor train. Very quickly SAT became a dominant player in the transportation industry in Northwest Ontario. In 1939 alone, Starratt airplanes flew 12,604 passengers and 6,583,804 pounds of freight while flying over 1,000,000 airmiles. Boat and tractors hauled another 600 passengers and 34,000,000 pounds of freight. Other major contracts undertaken were a 10,000 cord pulpwood haul to the rail at Sioux Lookout, a late winter equipment haul from the rail at Savant Lake to Pickle Crow and an Ontario Hydro contract to haul cement and other supplies from Ferland on the rail to the Ogoki diversion project.

Starratt initiated the use of marine railways on the three portages between Lac Seul and Red Lake. This allowed fully loaded scows to be shuttled between the lakes rather than being unloaded and transported across portages by horses or people only to be reloaded again and again. Prior to the marine railways, this had to happen three different times before reaching Red Lake and at the tram at Ear Falls. The boat route from Hudson to Red Lake was 184 miles. Use of portages starting right out of Hudson and along the route shortened this considerably for the tractor trains.
Overall SAT had 18 airplanes in service during its 7 year existence. Some burned, some crashed and some were conscripted by the RCAF during WWII. Eight were transferred to the CPR when the company was sold in 1942.

Lac du Bonnet Connection

CF-BGY

Starratt Airways started flying regularly scheduled flights into Manitoba in January 1938 after purchasing a Beechcraft 18 twin engined aircraft, CF-BGY. BGY was the first Beech 18 on skis and floats. Initially, the flights landed at the Winnipeg airport on skis, but because the airplane was equipped with floats in the summer, a water base would have to be established. Discussions with the city of Selkirk resulted in the city constructing a dock to accept the Starratt aircraft. At this time, other airlines servicing the gold fields in NW Ontario, such as Wings Ltd and Canadian Airways, were flying into Lac du Bonnet and transporting their passengers to Winnipeg via taxi, but the Starratt fare to Winnipeg and Selkirk was lower than the others fares to Lac du Bonnet.

Shorty Holden

The Department of Transport ruled that they would allow Starratt Airways to continue to fly into Winnipeg and Selkirk, but they would not approve the lower rate, therefore to remain price competitive Starratt began using LdB as their Manitoba base. The base agent converted a Dodge car into a 7 passenger vehicle by removing the trunk, adding dual rear wheels and a roof baggage rack and made the taxi runs in and out of Winnipeg with this Vehicle. Shorty Holden, later a resident of Lac du Bonnet, was a pilot for Starratt Airways.

Planes at Lac du Bonnet

In 1938, the schedule was Kenora, Red Lake, Winnipeg (Winter) and Kenora, Red Lake, Lac du Bonnet (Summer). In 1939 the route was expanded and BGY was based in Hudson instead of Kenora. All days of the week but Sunday, BGY piloted by Hump Madden would fly Hudson-Sioux Lookout-Uchi Lake-Red Lake-Lac du Bonnet and returned to Hudson by the same route.
In 1940, the route expanded again and during that year Hump Madden joined the Royal Canadian Air Force and was replaced by Bud Starratt, son of the owner Robert W Starratt. Pickle Lake was added to the route and the sched became Hudson-Sioux Lookout-Pickle Lake-back to Sioux Lookout-Uchi Lake-Red Lake-Lac du Bonnet. If one of the locations on the route did not have any passengers any given day it would be bypassed.

Bud Starratt

Tragically in January 1941, on the return flight from Lac du Bonnet via Red Lake, Bud Starratt was overcome by carbon monoxide poisoning and BGY crashed onto the ice on Bruce Lake near Ear Falls. Bud and the lone passenger were killed, the only fatalities ever suffered by the airline. Starratt Airways rented another Beech 18, CF-BQG, and continued to fly into Lac du Bonnet until the company was sold to Canadian Pacific Railways. The name Starratt Airways was used by CPR for a few years and then along with similar feeder airlines in the country were eventually joined together to form Canadian Pacific Airlines, Canada's second national airline.

Starratt The Man

RW Starratt was a very benevolent person while living in Hudson. Missionaries of all denominations were flown free of charge to do their ministering. Trappers and miners were looked in on by air and toys were delivered gratis to Indian Reserves and isolated communities. In 1939, 72 school children and their chaperones from Red Lake were barged from Red Lake, over the portages and then the length of Lac Seul to meet the King and Queen at the railway station in Sioux Lookout, during the Royal Tour. He flew the Red Lake Wanderers hockey team to Port Arthur to compete in the semi-final of the Allen Cup without charge. During World War II, RW worked as a dollar a year man overseeing the national scrap metal collection program for the war effort.

Robert W. Starratt, middle

After he left Hudson in 1942, he owned lumber mills in Spurfield, Alberta and then for many years the Canyon Creek Sawmill in Valemount, BC. He wintered in Hollywood, Florida and spent the summers in Valemount. In 1967, he passed away in Florida at the age of 80. If you are travelling highway 16 west of Jasper and through Valemount you will see a sign on the highway at the west end of town stating "Robert W Starratt Wildlife Sanctuary." After Starratt’s death, his sons Don and Dean donated 600 acres of Bob Starratt's wetland property to the British Columbia government at this site.

Robert Starratt and his first wife Iris, along with the remains of his sons Bud and Billie (killed as a teen in a shooting accident), are interred in the Elmwood Cemetery in Winnipeg.

Museum Opening 2017

Lac du Bonnet & District Historical Society board members with Reeve and Mayor (left to right): Reeve Loren Schinkel, Mayor Gordon Peters, Brigitte Schneider, Gord Emberley, Hallie Lavoie, Terry Tottle, Marlene Tottle, Mae Lavoie, Kaitlyn Mitchell (summer student), Gus Wruck, Denise Joss, Skylor Mitchell, and Maryanne Shipley... missing Norm Plato & Kathy Willis

Visitors, volunteers, vendors, and weather all contributed to a great Open House on Saturday, May 20th at the Lac du Bonnet District Museum!

This being the 100th birthday of the formation of the Rural Municipality of Lac du Bonnet and Council, we showcased exhibits celebrating RM100. Included among these exhibits are the “Community Travel Trunks,” which we created as our RM100 project.

The outdoor exhibits of the Wendigo, Hans Erickson cabin and Lac du Bonnet’s CPR train switch featured new descriptive signs, funded in part by the Lac du Bonnet Charitable Foundation.

Special VIP guests Reeve Loren Schinkel and Mayor Gordon Peters graced the attendees with opening speeches.

RM100 cakes were served along with coffee and lemonade.

Lac du Bonnet & District Historical Society President Gus Wruck starting with an introductory speech to our VIP guests Reeve Loren Schinkel and Mayor Gordon Peters.

Getting the RM100 cakes ready for cutting....

 

Hydro Electric Generating Stations

Pinawa Generating Station

Report on a Collection of Primary Documents, 1903-1928
          By Jennifer Strassel

To read the full report, please click: Pinawa Generating Station Primary Documents

This collection of documents contained primary source materials such as letters, invoices and ledger books from the construction period of the Pinawa Generating Station. The dates found on these papers were between 1903 and 1928.

While sorting through these papers and books, not a lot of new information was uncovered regarding the history of Pinawa. The majority of the materials pertained to the day to day needs of the site and solutions to any issues that arose.

Among the things discovered in these documents was that the Lac du Bonnet Mining, Development & Manufacturing, Co. only appears in 1904 invoices, billing the Winnipeg General Power Co. primarily for meals and board for workers, along with a few miscellaneous goods like a pair of rubber boots or a couple of hammers.

These records also show that the J.D. McArthur Co. was a constant supplier of assorted lumber throughout the period indicated within these papers. He also charged for meals and board and a few other miscellaneous goods, in addition to supplying beef for a time.
Otherwise, the majority of grocery purchases were made through large Winnipeg wholesalers, and construction materials primarily came from throughout Eastern Canada and the Eastern United States.

Overall, these primary documents outline the struggles and roadblocks faced, all while providing insight into both sides of the Company, the workers and overseers; however, the focus was always on the day to day operations and the need to get things done, in addition to the men working on the site and the few women helping with laundry and some cooking, who made all of it possible. Without that, construction on the generating station would not have been completed and Winnipeg’s power supply would have been much less.

Hangar Collapse at Lac du Bonnet

By Gerald Sarapu

In 1926, the main operational base for aerial photography by the RCAF was transferred from Victoria Beach to Lac du Bonnet. An aerial photograph apparently shows that the hangar was being constructed during the summer of 1928. Yet, another aerial photograph supposedly taken in 1929 shows no evidence of any building. I suppose in the long run the exact date is not important for the purposes of this article.

Circa 1950's

At the time, the primary aircraft were flying boats like the Vickers Viking and Vedettes, so the adjacent runway had not yet been constructed. The clearing for the runway by the base only commenced during 1933, as it was a summer of little activity.

In 1937, operations of the RCAF ceased and the Department of Transport assumed responsibility for the site and presumably the hangar itself. Following WWII, the site was disposed of by Crown Assets.

I do not know, at this time, if and when the old hangar became a separate entity from the adjacent land and runway, but over the years the building had seen numerous occupants such as Central Northern Airways, Transair, AV Air Service and finally Airpark Aviation, which all operated out of the old military structure.

In a letter written to me, senior Aircraft Maintenance Engineer, Rollie Hammerstedt stated: “I first started working there (the Hangar) in 1953. Prior to May 1953, George Fournier, who was the water base engineer in tow, supervised the hangar at changeover period for a few years. Then afterwards Slim Graham was hired by Central Northern Airways (CNA) to take charge of the hangar operation. They designated the operation as Central Maintenance. The duties not only included change overs, but also had a policy of all aircraft serving the bush to be cycled through the Lac du Bonnet hangar every 200 hours of flight time.” He also went on to say that “CNA/Transair, at one time, operated 18 Norseman, plus a couple they took over from Arctic Wings. We usually had 4 Norseman in the hangar at one time. Most years, the back of the hangar was tarped off and heated by a barrel wood stove. We would have three aircraft around the old wooden hoist outside, beside the rail dolly on the ramp. There was a warehouse between the hoist and the water that we used for a few years as a stores department. There was a night watchman on duty seven days a week.”  Hammerstedt left Transair in 1961.

On February 7, 1980, the old hangar collapsed. The exact cause is speculative and may or may not be as a direct result of one or more contributing factors. As time passes memories fade, facts are altered and assumptions are created as to the cause of the incident. In any regard, four of the prime factors put forward, as observed by myself as an employee of the company at the time, are as follows:

Factor 1 - Snow loading

Although there was snow on the roof, it was not an abnormal amount of snow in comparison with other years. Snow would have contributed to the overall weight of the structure, but was probably not the singular cause of the failure.

Factor 2 – Bracing cables removed

Originally, the hangar had cables installed along the sides of the building acting as guy-wires. These can be seen in some earlier photographs of the hangar. However, during the previous summer of the collapse, a worker hired for various jobs complained about the difficulties cutting grass with a larger machine around these cables. It was suggested that since all of the cables had no tension on them, and were slack, that they served no useful function and could be removed. The decision was made to cut the cables. A further justification possibly was to better accommodate parking along the side of the building. The worker then proceeded to cut the cables with a cutting torch, but complained that as each strand was cut they unraveled rapidly splattering molten metal everywhere, including on himself. Nothing unusual happened after the cables were cut and that appeared to be the end of that discussion.

Factor 3 – Structural decay

During the previous summer, a new hangar door was being installed. The framework and bracing for this new door was attached to the existing wooden structure of the building. The installation crew observed that there was a significant amount of decay on the vertical rafter supports that ran along the sides of the building. The door was finally installed, but I do not know if the structure of the building was further compromised by the installation.

Factor 4 – The weight of the roof itself

The original roof had been constructed of lumber similar to what is called boxcar siding. To describe the construction: it would be like attaching 2x4 lumber on its flat, tightly spaced, directly onto the rafters over the entire span of the roof. Over the years, it had been patched and resealed several times with additional material layered over top. During demolition after the collapse, it was discovered that on top of the roof lumber was an additional three layers of rolled asphalt roofing and a topped off with a layer of galvanized roofing tin. The weight all added together was significant.

On the day of the collapse the hangar contained three aircraft. A Cessna 337 Skymaster, a Paper PA23-250 Aztec and a Dehavilland DHC3 Otter. During the previous day, the Otter was being readied for an engine removal by myself, the companies Aircraft Maintenance Engineer, and Larry Sarapu, the apprentice. Since I had to make a quick trip into the city the next day, the disconnections for removal were to continue the following day, Friday, by the apprentice himself with the plan to drop it from the aircraft entirely the first thing Monday.

As the apprentice worked by himself, he later said that he kept hearing various noises and frequently looked around to see if anyone else had come into the building. Not seeing anyone and since it was an old building, unheated and not sealed very well, birds often got inside and fluttered around in the rafters, he passed the noises off as that. Having gone as far as he could, he quit early and left for Winnipeg. He did not tell anybody of his plans because nobody else was in that day except for a grader operator hired to clear some snow around the area.

As the grader operator cleaned the taxiway to the main runway, he would make his turnaround in front of the hangar and then continue on back down the taxiway for another pass. Upon returning again, it would be safe to say, he was shocked to see the hangar flattened. In conversation with him later, he was very concerned that he might have accidentally done something to initiate the incident, which of course was in no way the case.

Photo courtesy of Gerald Sarapu

I am not sure of the sequence of events that occurred as the alarm was raised, but I had coincidentally arrived back in Lac du Bonnet and was contacted not long after the collapse. Upon arriving at the scene, it had to be determined if anyone was inside, or should I say, under the rubble. It was known that the apprentice worked that day, but nobody knew he had left early. For that matter, it was unknown if anybody else might have been in the building.

The roof had collapsed so completely in some areas that one could not see under it with a flashlight. To make matters worse, gasoline had leaked out from somewhere and the potential for a fire was a concern. Hydro disconnected the power somewhat easing that concern just a little. One by one everybody that we could think of that might remotely be the inside was accounted for including the apprentice. Other then the authorities securing the area, not much else could be done until daylight the next day.

Commencing the following days, various authorities like the Department of Transport and insurance companies were contacted advising them of the incident and plans were made to extract the aircraft from under the former building.

Photo courtesy of Gerald Sarapu

It was decided that the best way to remove the aircraft was to somehow cut the roof into sections and lift it off piece by piece with a hired dragline. First, the outer layer of galvanized sheeting had to be removed and then chainsaws were used to section it up, rolled roofing and all. Cutting through the three layers of the wooden roof with the rolled asphalt roofing still on it, not to mention the nails, quickly dulled the saw blades, but a large quantity of used saw chains were allocated from a local scrap dealer, and with someone continually sharpening as they were replaced, the job was done. The roof sections were extremely heavy and awkward to lift, but finally the first aircraft, the Aztec, was able to be pulled out. It had rafters crushing the cockpit/cabin area and the right wing was crushed, folding the landing gear backwards along with other major damage.

Photo courtesy of Gerald Sarapu

The next aircraft was the Otter, and it had sustained the most damage of the three aircraft. The back of the airplane, at the cabin doors, was crushed so the belly sat on the ground. One wing was crushed to the floor. The engine, that myself and the apprentice were working on, sat on the floor having been sheared off the airframe by a rafter slicing through the cockpit at the pilot’s seat. It is also to be noted, that prior to lifting off the roof, one could see that the rim of one of the main landing gear wheels was sitting on the concrete, thus assuming the tire had popped. Not so. The weight was so great on the airplane that after it was lifted off, the tire resumed its normal shape. I also have one picture of the Otter’s vertical stabilizer penetrating the hangar roof prior to its removal.

The final aircraft to come out was the Cessna 337. It also suffered substantial damage. Probably the most interesting of the damage this aircraft suffered was that the arch of the spring on one of the main landing gear had significantly straightened out. Thus, an indication of the weight that sat on it.

One by one, the aircraft were disposed of by the insurance companies and the rubble from the former hangar cleaned up so that by the end of that summer all that was left was a concrete pad. Today, the property is a private residence, and has been landscaped and treed so there is no evidence that the former military base once existed.

2016 Annual Wine and Cheese

This year the Lac du Bonnet and District Historical Society celebrated a tribute to our German settlers on Friday, December 2 at the Lac du Bonnet Community Center. It was a wonderful evening with the German dancers getting everyone off their chairs, dancing and singing. A silent auction, rainbow auction and 50/50 draw were held to raise funds for the Lac du Bonnet and District Historical Society. We would like to thank local businesses, members, and everyone who generously donated prizes and their time to make this event a success.

The history of Germans in Manitoba began as early as 1670 when Ruprecht Von Wittelsbach (Prince Rupert of the Rhine) became the first Governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company. One hundred and fifty years later, German mercenaries were among the settlers brought in by Lord Selkirk. They tilled land along the Seine River until 1826 when most of these settlers moved to Eastern Canada or the United States because they found the farming conditions on the area poor.

By the late 1870s, 7,000 German-speaking Mennonites arrived in Manitoba, followed by many more settlers of German descent in the early 1900s brought to Canada by news of the rich farm land in the West. There was great diversity among these German Manitobans: they practiced a variety of religions, including Lutheran, Baptist, Hutterite and Mennonite, and many spoke either High or Low German, which were so different of dialects that they could not always understand one another.

In this area, the first Lutheran German settler was Friedrich Karl Wenzel, who registered for a homestead in August 1884, which was located twelve miles north of Beausejour and two miles west of the Brokenhead River. By 1896, a large group of Russian-Germans arrived in the Brokenhead area. These farmers were very successful over the coming years. In December 1906, the Beausejour German Society held their first ball, which some 200 people attended. The areas of Thalberg, Glenmoor and Golden Bay were also settled by German families. By April 1900, some forty German families were living in Whitemouth, primarily in the area that would become River Hills.

On March 12, 1908, Hermann L. Otto of Thalberg reported to the German Newspaper Der Nordwestern that he had been “working for J.D. McArthur in a bush camp at Milner, where [he received] $30 per month.” He also stated that once they were finished at Milner, eleven men were moved to Lac du Bonnet to work there.

Arnold Weiss, 1905
Courtesy of Karen Weiss

Two of the local German settlers were Arnold Weiss and Roy Freund. Arnold Weiss moved to Lac du Bonnet in 1903 and, for sixteen years, worked as a sawyer for J.D. McArthur. In 1905, he married Emeila Bruneau. They lived on Second St. for five years until they purchased and worked two farms one mile west of Lac du Bonnet. Weiss Road, off Hwy. 214, serves as a reminder of where they lived with their twelve children. In 1921, Arnold took on the contract to build a road from Lac du Bonnet to Milner Ridge, which would provide additional access to Beausejour, Whitemouth and Winnipeg.

Roy Freund, outside Allard Building Store May 1932
Courtesy of Charlotte Kitzmann

Roy Freund emigrated from Germany in 1928, settling in Green Bay with his sister and family. He took work where he could: painting, harvesting, working in bush camps and mines, until he found a steady job at the butcher shop in the Allard Building. During WWII, Roy served with the Canadian Army. Upon return to Lac du Bonnet, he married Verna Slaboda and worked for Harry Springman for two years before becoming manager of the Allard Building store. In the early 1950s, having saved enough money, Roy built a new grocery store, the IGA Food Market, located on Park Ave. where the dental clinic now stands. In 1962, he expanded and built a new store on Second St. (where Dancyt’s Fine Foods is today) called Roy’s Solo Food Market. This development sparked the change from residential to commercial buildings on Second St. Roy also served on the Town Council, was Chairman of the School Board and was involved with many community pursuits including the Anglican Church, Legion and curling. Roy retired in 1972, selling his business to the Hudson’s Bay Company.

Today, 9% if the areas’ residents are German.