Looking Back - The Pioneers of Victoria Beach
Manitoba Pageant, Winter 1977, Volume 22, Number 1
Away back in the beginning of this century, summer visitors from Winnipeg came to the shores of Victoria Beach by the steamer "Pilgrim."
Leaving Selkirk early in the morning, they would make the mouth of the Red River about noon. If the weather out on the lake was fair, the journey would be continued; if rough, a halt would be made until the winds moderated. The Company had a shack fitted up with bunks where passengers could remain if they did not care to stay on the little steamer.
Those trips were trying experiences. All the food and equipment for the season had to be taken along, as much as was needed until it could be replenished from week to week.
The landing place was the old dock on the bay, which today is almost a shambles, last autumn's storms almost finishing its destruction.
Dr. Neil John MacLean, it appears from records, is the oldest pioneer who is still a resident of the Beach, and he deserves the "Crown of Balsam."
Those who were companions of the doctor in the early years, have either passed on or their families are not coming down at present. None, to the knowledge of the keeper of the Beach's records, have gone to another beach in preference.
There were C. W. N. Kennedy and Charles Vokes, who secured the title to the property included in the first beach, and later with the help of F. C. N. Kennedy, acquired other positions included in the 1,200 acres, the present area of Victoria Beach.
Dr. Webster camped on the Beach in the days when the occupied portion was the point where the "Inn" now stands. No one in those days ever thought of going farther up the shore, where beautiful homes are now built on Sunset Boulevard. They confined their attention to the Point and to cruises on the water, every one owning a boat of some sort.
Those were happy days, stated Dr. MacLean recently to the writer. The days were just as long and the evenings just as cool and enjoyable to sleep in, with the odour of the pine and the balsam to bring health and refreshment to the physical form. A remarkable feature of the year 1912 was that Charles W. N. Kennedy, the chief promoter of the Beach, before there was a wagon-trail or a log-house built along the shores, (outside of those at the "Inn," which were occupied by Messrs. Kennedy and Vokes) sold the entire lake frontage to friends in Winnipeg, "One tenth down and one tenth each of the nine years following."
Some of the most prominent citizens bought these lots, and only three weeks ago, Will Dunlop, the druggist, sold his holding on Sunset Boulevard without having ever seen it. He paid taxes on it for seven years, and received a good price for it in the end.
Occasionally citizens of Winnipeg would come over and spend two weeks, and then return by boat. But very little permanency was noticeable until the advent of the Canadian Northern branch line, the building of which was started before the War, then was stopped at the outbreak of the conflict owing to all their workmen deserting the job, and the contractors finding it impossible to secure others to take their places. Finally, however, the railway entered Victoria Beach in September, 1916.
What energy and vision it required to induce the C.N.R. to build into Victoria Beach, and what it cost the promoters to secure the line, only Charles and Fred Kennedy and one or two of their intimate friends know. However, it was accomplished, and no one felt prouder of what he had done for the people of Winnipeg than did Mr. Charles Kennedy.
Page revised: 20 July 2009