Historic Sites of Manitoba: Asessippi Townsite / Steel Through Truss Bridge (Shell River, RM of Riding Mountain West)
In 1882, with a federal land grant and hope of an early railway connection, the Shell River Colonization Company founded the village of Asessippi (Cree for “shell river”) at this site in the Rural Municipality of Riding Mountain West. A twelve-foot-high dam and water wheel provided power to operate a roller-process grist mill and saw mill. Other industries included a shingle factory, brickworks, and cheese factory. A general store were built at the site, along with a church, store, boarding house, livery barn, blacksmith shop, and school. By 1883, some 50 settlers from Ontario had taken up residence at Asessippi and the Rural Municipality of Shell River was incorporated. Municipal meetings were held in the Asessippi Town Hall. In 1885, a curling club was founded at Asessippi.
The expected railway did not arrive as the Canadian Pacific Railway bypassed Asessippi to the south. Lacking access to a larger market, the local industries failed and, in 1888, the Canadian government revoked the company’s charter. Asessippi residents gradually moved to Roblin, Russell, and other nearby centres.
Despite the early abandonment, a settlement persisted into the 20th century. A steel through-truss bridge was built across the Shell River in 1893. The brickworks closed in 1902, after producing bricks for buildings throughout the area, including the Doig Block and Red House in Russell. The post office closed in 1917. The church, built in 1896, was moved to Inglis in 1924 where it became Inglis United Church. The building was later sold and renovated into a private residence. The schoolhouse, which operated until at least 1947, was likewise moved to Inglis and turned into a home. A steel through-truss bridge, built in 1893, fell off its abutment in 1961 and, some years later, fell into the river. One of two remaining buildings, at the time of a 2020 site visit, was a former boarding house occupied by a local family until June 1961. The other is the Fish-Robin House.
A plaque erected in 1974 by the Manitoba Heritage Council marks the beginning of a trail that meanders through the former village, now situated in Asessippi Provincial Park.
Photos & Coordinates
Shellmouth, Our Century: History of Shellmouth and District, Manitoba, Canada by Shellmouth Historical Club, 1983, pages 30-31.
Geographic Names of Manitoba, Manitoba Conservation, 2000.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 7 October 2020