Manitoba Historical Society
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Honorary Secretary’s Report, Annual Meeting

by Edith Steenson

MHS Transactions, Series 3, Number 27, 1970-71 season

This article was published originally in MHS Transactions by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make this online version available as a free, public service. As an historical document, the article may contain language and views that are no longer in common use and may be culturally sensitive in nature.

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This annual meeting is being held on a significant day in the history of Manitoba - the 101st anniversary of the signing of the Manitoba Act, 12 May 1870.

Tonight we will have the privilege of hearing Senator Grattan O’Leary speak on the Right Honorable Arthur Meighen, Prime Minister of Canada, 1920-1921 and 1926.

The 1970-1971 season began last September when one hundred members and friends went on a weekend tour through west-central and southwestern Manitoba. The journey covered some 700 miles of historic trails to places where trading posts once stood.

After leaving the grounds of the Legislative Building we travelled west on Portage Avenue, passed Omand’s Creek and old St. James Anglican Church, and then continuing on to Sturgeon Creek, St. James-Assiniboia, we stopped at the mouth to see the site where several grist mills stood. We also saw the plot of unbroken prairie which is being preserved as a centennial park. At the John Blumberg golf course we caught a glimpse of Gowler’s Creek, named after a pioneer family who came to the west in 1837. Farther west we passed the old Anglican Church at Headingly and then the cairn marking the first meridian, the line of which was struck by the Webb party in 1899.

West of the White Horse Plain marker we passed through St. Francois Xavier, formerly Grantown, and at Poplar Point saw Archdeacon Cochrane’s church, St. Anne of the Poplars. At Portage la Prairie we saw the Fort la Reine cairn, and at Austin stopped for coffee and visited the Manitoba Agricultural Museum. In Brandon we had lunch with the members of the Assiniboine Historical Society, and afterwards saw parts of old paddlewheel steamers which had been recovered from the Assiniboine River. We were given booklets about these boats and the men who sailed them.

We passed through Minnedosa, then on to Riding Mountain National Park and Dauphin. From there we went to Grandview to see Mr. Watson Crossley’s museum. We enjoyed a delightful banquet served by the ladies of the Grandview United Church, and were welcomed by the Reverend James Scott, an old friend and former minister of my home church. We stayed for the night in Roblin.

On Sunday morning, 20 September, we went to the old mill site on Shell River, and from there went to Lake Asessippi and on to Russell, through Binscarth and St. Lazare to the site of Fort Ellice near the junction of the Assiniboine and Qu’Appelle rivers.

At Elkhorn we were served a delicious luncheon by the ladies of the Royal Purple. Coming eastward we passed through Virden and at Oak Lake turned south to Souris where we visited the Hillcrest Museum. Many of us passed over the swinging bridge which spans the Souris River. As it had started to rain, it was decided at Wawanesa to forgo the trip to Pelican Lake and Ninette and return by way of the Spruce Woods Reserve to Carberry - then back to Winnipeg.

We all enjoyed two wonderful days, and our thanks are extended to all who contributed to our pleasure and comfort, with special thanks to Miss Areen Mulder and Mr. Wilson Green.

It was heart-warming to learn that during Manitoba’s centennial year, over 2,200 Manitobans participated in historical tours sponsored by the society - some in conjunction with other organizations.

The papers read before our members this past season were all interesting. All meetings were well attended, and the social hours following each were thoroughly enjoyed, thanks to Mrs. Dorothy McGill, our social convener.

The first paper presented in October was on Captain William Kennedy by Dr. E. C. Shaw. Slides were shown of Kennedy’s search for Sir John Franklin. At the inaugural meeting of the Manitoba Historical and Scientific Society, 13 February 1879, Captain Kennedy had the distinction of presenting the first scientific paper. Dr. Shaw is the owner of Captain Kennedy’s home on the River Road and has made it into a museum.

In November the Reverend R. L. Taylor spoke on the Winter Mail Packets and showed slides on getting the mail through by dog trains.

The final meeting of Centennial Year was shared with the members of the Western Canada Jewish Historical Society. Mr. C. E. Leonoff gave his paper on the Wapella Farm Settlement, 1888-1958, The First Successful Jewish Farm Settlement in Canada.

The annual Sir John A. Macdonald Anniversary Dinner in January was addressed by James Grey who spoke on Macdonald and Riel - Men in Conflict. Some three hundred members and friends were present.

The February paper, The Red Lights of Winnipeg, was given by Miss Joy Cooper.

In March Mr. Alan Artibise spoke on Advertising Winnipeg.

Ethnic Politics in Winnipeg was the April paper by Professor Thomas Peterson.

Last year it was learned from various sources that the old Sir Hugh John Macdonald home at 61 Carlton Street was to be torn down. The public raised objections that this lovely old home of the 1890s should be demolished and our society was asked to help save the house. Your executive and council decided to take on this project and a public appeal for funds was launched. In June, through the leadership of our President, Dr. Steward Martin, and with the cooperation of television station CJAY, a weekly series of bingo games was started. The public responded well, and in March 1971 through miscellaneous donations and bingo receipts, Dr. Martin was able to announce that enough money had been obtained to secure the house and property. A member of the National Heritage Limited, Toronto, had inspected the home to make preliminary suggestions on restoration. Mr. John Chivers and Mr. George Walker, who helped supervise the restoration of Lower Fort Garry, have been engaged to supervise the restoration of Macdonald House.

In December 1970 the icebreaker Louis St. Laurent was anchored some six miles from the Port of Churchill. A member of our society was invited to join a party of provincial and federal officials to visit the vessel. Mr. Gordon Pruden, vice-president, represented the society.

In March 1971 several members of the executive went to Ada, Minnesota to join members of the Red River Valley Historical Society and hear Anne Henderson speak on the Selkirk Settlers.

Commemorative Awards: The Society has minted some 400 special medals to be awarded later to citizens who have made noteworthy contributions to the Province of Manitoba.

Fourteen local chapters are now affiliated with the society.

Transactions No. 26 will be mailed to members shortly. The Spring Pageant and Mrs. R. S. Bowles’s paper on Manitoba’s Government House were recently sent to all members.

Paid up membership is approximately 800, though it had been hoped that 1000 would be enrolled in Centennial Year.

During the society’s 1970-1971 season, several members and former officers of the society passed on, all of whom made significant contributions to the preservation of our history in various areas-leadership, writing, and research.

Ross House will be opened on June 1st for the summer months. The Margaret McWilliams medals will be presented tonight. At the 5th Annual Awards Banquet of the Red River Valley Historical Society, held at Crookston in April, Mr. Frank Hall, Honorary Vice-President, was presented with the Pioneer Historian Award.

A unique film of Eskimo life, made before these native people had been exposed to civilization, and produced for Bing Crosby, was presented to the society by its president, Dr. Steward Martin. At a suitable time the program committee will make a showing of this film for members.

The Centennial publications, The Manitoba Historical Atlas and the Centennial History of Manitoba have been selling well. The balance of Manitoba Beat 70 Quiz Game will likely be purchased for use in the public schools.

Tonight Dr. Steward Martin, our president for the past three years, will turn over the responsibilities of his office to Mr. Gordon Pruden. We would like to thank Dr. Martin for his leadership and all the wonderful things that were accomplished during his term of office.

I move the adoption of this report.

Page revised: 24 January 2015

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