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Commemorating the Wasyl Negrych Pioneer Homestead

Manitoba History, Number 48, Autumn/Winter 2004-2005

This article was published originally in Manitoba History by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make it available here as a free, public service.

Please direct all inquiries to webmaster@mhs.mb.ca.

Canada’s National Riding & Dancing Cossacks & Company, Honour Guard at the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada ceremony to commemorate the Wasyl Negrych Pioneer Homestead as a national historic site, 1 August 2004.
Source: Parks Canada.

This past summer the Negrych Pioneer Homestead, located near Gilbert Plains Manitoba, became one of this province’s newest national historic sites. At a ceremony held on August r a Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada plaque was unveiled at the Wasyl and Anna Negrych homestead, believed to be the most complete and best-preserved Ukrainian farmstead in Canada. Among its 10 buildings are unique or extremely rare features, including the only Canadian example of a long-shingle Carpathian roof and in the bunkhouse; a rare, fully preserved working peech—the massive, log-and-clay cook stove that was once the heart of every Ukrainian home. The Homestead also boasts the oldest known Ukrainian dwelling which rests on its original site. Traversing the property is the still-visible Colonization Trail—a route originally cut by Aboriginal people and later used by Ukrainian settlers heading northwest.

Responding to Canada’s offer of 160-acre homesteads in the Canadian west, and inspired by enthusiastic letters from recent emigrants, Wasyl and Anna Negrych left their Carpathian mountain homeland with their seven children in the spring of 1897. A few months later, they arrived in Dauphin, Manitoba, and claimed a quarter-section in what is now the Venlaw District, 12 miles northwest of Dauphin. (Dauphin had one of the earliest major concentrations of Ukrainians in Canada.)

Wasyl Negrych Pioneer Homestead
Le Homestead de Wasyl Negych

Within their first year in Canada, the Negrychs had built a log home. A log granary soon followed. The Negrychs built the present house in 1899, after fire destroyed the first. Six more buildings—a chicken coop, barns, bunkhouse, piggery and sec- and granary—followed in rapid succession. By 1910, eight of the present buildings had been completed. A garage was added in 1937 and a third granary in 1940.

Remarkably, two of the children born to Wasyl and Anna in Canada ran the farm according to traditional practice until their deaths in the 1980s, never introducing electricity, sewers or telephone lines. Stephen Negrych, the last surviving child of Wasyl and Anna, chose to honour his parents’ courage and tenacity by preserving rather than modernizing the family homestead.

Canada’s National Ukrainian Festival Choir performing at the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada ceremony to commemorate the Wasyl Negrych Pioneer Homestead as a national historic site.
Source: Parks Canada.

At the 1 August plaque unveiling, the Canadian National Ukrainian Festival Choir opened the proceedings with O Canada, after which historians Dr. Jaroslav Petryshyn and Ed Ledohowski spoke of the unique cultural significance of this late 19th century homestead. Other speakers included William Neville, the Manitoba representative on the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Gilbert Plains Deputy Reeve Lawrence Safronetz, and Dawn Bronson, the Superintendent of the Manitoba Field Unit of Parks Canada.

The designation of the Negrych homestead as nationally significant commemorates early Ukrainian craftsmanship and the resourcefulness of the Negrych family who, like thousands of other immigrants, learned to adapt to life on the Canadian prairies.

Ed Ledohowski, William Neville, Jerry Petryshyn and Father Nicholas at the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada ceremony to commemorate the Wasyl Negrych Pioneer Homestead as a national historic site.
Source: Parks Canada.

More information:

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Wasyl Negrych Pioneer Homestead (RM of Gilbert Plains)

Page revised: 16 January 2012

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