Window on Our Past History Series

Since January 2020, the Lac du Bonnet Clipper has featured the Window on Our Past history series written by local researcher and writer, Jennifer Strassel.
The goal was to showcase the history of the area with the hope that these articles would get locals and visitors alike interested in our past.

The Clipper editor, Mark Buss, has called these Window on Our Past articles a “highlight of the paper.”
They also feature in the Lac du Bonnet Living magazine each year.

To read the Window on Our Past articles, please click on a title below.
Please note: You will be redirected to the article on Jennifer Strassel's website.


A Tale of Two Brick Plants
Published:  October 12, 2023
This article was done in partnership with the Whitemouth Municiapal Museum and the Lac du Bonnet & District Historical Society.
In April 1899, shortly after Walter Wardrop hauled Lac du Bonnet’s brick making machinery from Whitemouth, samples of brick and tile displayed in the window of the MacPherson Fruit Company on Winnipeg’s Main Street gathered significant interest. Experts considered the Lac du Bonnet clay products “equal to anything of the kind in the world” and the best “ever seen in this city.”

The Railway’s Last Act 
Published: June 15, 2023
By the 1960s, Manitoba’s pioneer era was over. Hydroelectric generating stations powered most of the province. A labyrinth of all-weather roads connected farms to villages, towns to cities and transported tourists across the country in search of summer escapes. Railway companies saw a decline in their passenger service and communities faced decades of change.


The Last Forty Years – Final of 4-part series
Published: November 17, 2022
Done in partnership with the Winnipeg River Heritage Museum and the Whitemouth Municipal Museum.
In 1928, Abitibi became the sole owner of the Manitoba Paper Company mill at Pine Falls. J.D. McArthur’s original pulpwood berths remained largely untouched, covering a vast territory with Little Black River in the north, Manigotagan and Bird Lakes to the east, and the Bird River in the south. The Maskwa River, one mile north of St-Georges, was a main tributary for transporting logs to the Winnipeg River. The annual spring log drive brought thousands of cords of pulpwood to the mill.

Pine Falls Pulp and Paper – Third of 4-part series
Published: August 11, 2022
Done in partnership with the Winnipeg River Heritage Museum and the Whitemouth Municipal Museum.
For forty years, trainloads of timber shipped daily out of southeastern Manitoba. Railway ties in the 1880s and 1890s, and by the 1900s, cordwood and assorted lumber were bound for Winnipeg’s consumer markets. By 1916, timber in the Lac du Bonnet, Whiteshell and Whitemouth Valley areas began to decline.

For Capital and Honest Enterprise – Second of 4-part series
Published: June 30, 2022
Done in partnership with the Whitemouth Municipal Museum
At the turn of the century, the boundless natural resources of southeastern Manitoba appealed to the civilized world. Some came in search of solitude, though most desired the timber, minerals and potential for water power. An April 1899 Manitoba Free Press article remarked that “capital and honest enterprise will exhume its buried treasure and establish a prosperous population” along the Winnipeg River. The Lac du Bonnet Mining, Developing and Manufacturing Co. was established for this singular purpose.

The Timber Frontier – First of 4-part series
Published: June 2, 2022
Done in partnership with Whitemouth Municipal Museum
In October 1877, Canadian Pacific Railway work crews reached Whitemouth. The line was cleared, bridges and rails would soon follow, opening up the timber frontier of southeastern Manitoba. Railway contractor, Joseph Whitehead, and his son-in-law, David Ross, worked on the line until bankruptcy shifted their focus from the railway to lumbering. In late June 1880, Whitehead and Ross transported their sawmill in pieces from St. Boniface to Whitemouth to capitalize on the timber trade.

Calm Waters: The History of Pinawa
Featured in the 2022 Lac du Bonnet Living magazine
The magazine PDF is available here.
Pinawa is the only Manitoba town that has existed in two time periods, moved eight kilometres and was supported by two separate industries. Its history is vast, complex and confusing: the name, Pinawa, an Indigenous word meaning “calm or gentle” refers to the river channel, but also to the hydroelectric generating station built on this channel and its company town, and later the nuclear research site and its accompanying town, before progressing to the community known today.

Lakeview Turkeys Limited
Published: April 7, 2022
Turkeys fascinated Fred Gauer and, even though he knew nothing about the birds, he wanted to raise them. In 1956, after vacationing in Lac du Bonnet for thirty-two years, Gauer decided to make the community his permanent home. He entered into a one-year partnership with a local turkey farmer, who had started his interest in the birds, and purchased 200 acres of land on the east side of the Winnipeg River, near the bridge. Local men cleared the bush and constructed buildings. That first year he raised 1,500 turkeys, a number that doubled annually.

The End of an Era
Published: January 13, 2022
The 1950s were a time of great change in Lac du Bonnet. The Winnipeg River rose fourteen feet with the construction of McArthur Falls and Lac du Bonnet’s aviation heyday was coming to a close.


In the Path of the Storm
Published: December 23, 2021
On Wednesday, May 10, 1922 at 12:45pm, storm clouds darkened the sky. A “great black funnel-shaped cloud” appeared over the trees as a “mighty wind smote the district.” Five miles north of Lac du Bonnet, in Landerville, teacher Stanley Pitre and his family took shelter inside. The cyclone lifted the Pitre’s house clear off the foundation, bringing it down in a mass of “kindling wood.” Trees, a foot in diameter, snapped. In addition to the teacherage, the Landerville school and nearby farm buildings were destroyed.

Flying North – Final of a 3-part Series
Published: October 14, 2021
By the 1980s, the duties of the Lac du Bonnet RCMP were as vast and varied as the territory they covered. Having outgrown their space on Lake Avenue ten years earlier, new detachment quarters were built on the corner of Minnewawa Street and Leslie Avenue. The fourteen officers based out of this “nondescript office” patrolled the village and its surrounding areas, and conducted routine northern patrols in a “large area north of Bissett,” only accessible by air, summer water routes or winter road, which included the communities of Berens River, Bloodvein, Poplar River and Little Grand Rapids, with day trips made into Pauingassi.

Bootleggers, Car Chases and Safecrackers – Second of a 3-part series
Published: September 2, 2021
The presence of Mounties and provincial police in Lac du Bonnet forced crime into remote territories, conducted in secret and with some sophistication. Prohibition, implemented in 1916, kept police busy, searching for makers of bootleg liquor even after prohibition ended in Manitoba by 1921.

Policing the Frontier – First of a 3-part series
Published: July 8, 2021
An English poet passed through Lac du Bonnet in 1913, observing a village of “wandering workmen” from construction and labour camps, speaking with the voices of many nations. A rough place on the fringes of law and order, Rupert Brooke referred to it as “the ultimate outpost of civilization.”

The 2021 Lac du Bonnet Living magazine featured 10 previously published Window on Our Past articles and other historical features.
The magazine PDF is available here.

Park Avenue School
Published: June 3, 2021
In 1904, a ten member board held the inaugural meeting of the Lac du Bonnet School District #1235. J.D. McArthur donated land at the corner of Park Avenue and Fourth Street for the school, which was funded through donations and newly implemented school taxes. By July, the logs were cut and the contract was awarded to local builder, Thomas Houston, for a one-room school house. By October, the school hired their first teacher.

McArthur Falls Generating Station
Published: May 6, 2021
In the early 1900s, following the success of the Pinawa generating station, Winnipeg officials turned their attention to harnessing more of the Winnipeg River to power the thriving city. Throughout 1906, representatives for J.D. McArthur petitioned the Power Committee to build at his site, McArthur Falls, 16 km north of town. McArthur’s engineers boasted of the “remarkable water storage possibilities in Lac du Bonnet.” The city’s engineers disagreed, reporting that the falls were unsuited for development.

The End of the Line
Published: March 11, 2021
Lac du Bonnet has always been at the end of the line, a gateway to the wilderness. Built upon a solid foundation of industry, Winnipeg businessmen sought to capitalize on the area’s mineral and clay deposits, ample supply of timber and water power potential. Through the decades, the town became a transportation hub. Trains and roads brought goods in; horses, company trains and airplanes shipped them out.

Ahead of the Times
Published: February 18, 2021
In January 1953, five years after incorporation, Lac du Bonnet made headlines across Canada with the appointment of 39-year-old housewife and mother of two, Edythe Brown, as Manitoba’s first female mayor.

Bernic Lake: Discovery & Legacy
Published: January 21, 2021
Ask anyone in Lac du Bonnet and they either work for Tanco, or know someone who does. Located 48 km from Lac du Bonnet, on the shores of Bernic Lake, the Tanco Mine has become one of the area’s main industries.


Flying with the Canada Goose
Published: December 10, 2020
For nearly a century, the Lac du Bonnet dock has been a town landmark. Viewed now as merely a place to swim, this pier was once home to the fearless trailblazing bush pilots opening up the North and securing Lac du Bonnet’s place in Canada’s aviation history.

A Time to Remember
Published: November 12, 2020
November is a time of reflection on those who lived through war. Hello Soldier, a 1974 book of letters published by Lac du Bonnet’s Aileen Oder (nee Small) commemorates her time as the town’s special war correspondent during the final years of WWII.

The RCAF in Lac du Bonnet
Published: October 15, 2020
When the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) was officially established in 1924, their Winnipeg operations were located at Victoria Beach. Their fleet were aging Vickers Vedette and Viking aircraft. These planes required regular maintenance and the aircrew always carried tool kits for emergency repairs which comprised of, among other items, copper wire, bits of fabric and spark plugs. Chewing gum was also included for quick mid-air fixes of leaking hoses.

Electricity Caused Travellers’ Hotel Demise
Published: August 27, 2020
The Travellers’ Hotel, located where the Sunova Credit Union is today, was built in 1927 by the Shapland family.

A Local Enterprise for 86 Years
Published: July 16, 2020
Bush planes are a fixture in Lac du Bonnet. It’s officially summer and fire season, when CL-415 water bombers circle low over the town doing practice runs on the river. Up until two years ago, the Manitoba Conservation De Havilland Otter would often taxi out past the Town Dock and take off to the backcountry. Both were courtesy of the Manitoba Government Air Service.

Wings Limited
Published: July 9, 2020
In July 1934, Manitoba was in the midst of a gold mining boom. At the forefront was Wings Ltd., an airline established by Lac du Bonnet bush pilots: Milt Ashton, Ted Stull, Jack Moar and their “flying president” Roy Brown. They had a fleet of five aircraft capable of heavy payloads on floats or skis, ensuring year-round service to remote mining communities and a reliable lifeline for trappers, hunters and fishermen throughout Southeastern and Northern Manitoba and into Northwestern Ontario.

The 1918 Spanish Flu
Published: June 11, 2020
Many believe history repeats itself. While in the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic, startling similarities can be made to the Spanish flu outbreak from 100 years ago.

The Traders
Published: May 21, 2020
By the time spring came in 1808, Hudson Bay Company clerk, Thomas Miller, and his ten men, were glad to leave. They had arrived at “Lake du Bonnet” eight months earlier with two boats and a winter’s worth of provisions and trade goods to establish a post.

To read the full version of the story outlined in the “The Traders” article, please see: Thank God the Lake is Open
These are the adventures of eleven Hudson Bay Company men as they overwintered on Lac du Bonnet in 1807-1808 as told in the HBC journal in the Manitoba Archives, written in Thomas Miller’s own hand.

A Rich and Plentiful Land
Published: April 23, 2020
Soft spring snow slid beneath sleigh runners. Bells jingled as horses brought an unnamed Manitoba Free Press correspondent to the site of early Lac du Bonnet development. For several weeks, brick-making machinery had been hauled in and temporary accommodations had been set up, the foundation of a vision for the area that started many years before this day in 1899.

Devastating Blaze Unites Community
Published: February 20, 2020
February 21, 1965 — mid-afternoon, the furnace in the basement of the Lac du Bonnet bakery, on the corner of Park Ave. and First St., exploded, setting fire to the building. Three people died. Two injured. Numerous people rendered homeless. An entire block of landmark buildings destroyed.

Long-standing Name of Unknown Origin
Published: January 9, 2020
Often, place names have interesting origin stories. Other times, a name exists with no real history behind it. Take Lac du Bonnet: French for Bonnet Lake. Local folklore states that Pierre Gaultier de La Verendrye stopped on the shore, tossed his hat against a tree and named the body of water Lac du Bonnet. It’s a good story. There are just no indications in the historical records that La Verendrye, or his sons, stopped on this piece of the Winnipeg River.