|6. The Municipality of Arthur and its
by Charles F. Campbell
The successful Essay in the recent competition
for prizes offered by
The Pioneer Association, June 20, 1901:
To give as comprehensive and reliable a record as possible of the
events and changes which make the history of the settlement and
development of this corner of our fair province is the object of this
The settlement of the District claims our attention first. In the year
1879 a party of three white men left Winnipeg via Portage la Prairie,
for somewhere. Having built sleighs at Grand Valley, a few miles east
of the present Brandon, to replace their wagons, (for winter was coming
on) they pushed on southward and westward through the sand hills and up
the river to Red Deer Head Crossing of Souris River on the Old Boundry
Commission Trail. At this crossing they pitched camp December 1st,
1879, within a few yards of the Sourisford post office. The camp was
pitched to stay. Of these three, one is still with us in the role of
the "oldest inhabitant" Mr. W. F. Thomas. A home was made in the bush,
which in those days was no mean forest, and the Pioneer life began.
Trips to Oak Lake and Grand Valley for supplies provided work and
incident to pass the time away, and on one of these trips the camp dog
and a stray skunk had to be pressed into service to supply provisions
for the march. A short time after the camp was established the settlers
were surprised one morning by the sight of strange human footprints on
the snow. A search revealed a neighbour in the bush, a certain Charlie
West, alias Smith, whose business relations with the Hudson Bay Co.
were said to be the cause of his particularly shy and retiring
disposition. This man had neither gun nor provisions and had been, for
no one knows how long, subsisting on roots and such small animals as he
could catch. In the spring he moved still further westward away from
the advance of settlement. In the year 1880 the colony was strengthened
by the arrival of Messrs. Alfred Gould and David Elliot and in 1881 Mr.
J. B. Elliot also joined the little company. The year 1882 saw a flood
of settlers and a flood of waters. In that season a very large number
of persons crossed the river, being obligingly ferried over by either
the Gould or the Thomas line of boats at $5 per load. Each proprietor
had one vessel, the largest of which, 16' long, was made of two boards
which cost the owner $8. The Souris at that time, was full from bank to
bank and in many places at least a mile wide, and many of the incoming
travellers were heard to say "how fine it would be when the steamers
got running up and down the river". In May of that year, a certain
Cap¬tain Naughton and Archibald McBeau came up the river-prospecting
for a site for a water power grist mill. Mr. William Walker and Mr. P.
B. Reekie, with their wives and families, came in at that time and
settled in what afterwards became the Butterfield and Lyleton districts
respectively. These ladies were the first white women in the district
and Master John R. Reekie the first white child born in the community.
The Lyles and Hostetters to the west, the McDonalds, D. G. Morrisons,
W. H. Crowell and others to the north, John Edward and Charles Dobbyn,
James and Pat McConnell and Joseph Gurnon, as managers for Mr. Trerice,
Fred and William Strotton, Charles Roblin and many others also date
their arrival in this season. Mr. Alex Trerice had erected on his farm,
12-4-27 in 1882, the first frame house in the district. At this time
wood and timber were plentiful in the vicinity of the river and creeks
and a large number of buildings were of logs. The majority however, for
several years were built of sods and cut in the form of "bricks" making
very warm and com¬fortable houses, though not perhaps so elegant in
appearance. The next year, 1883, saw the next farm house being the
first in Township 3, Mr. A. M. Campbell's. Stone and brick buildings
scarcely came until the nineties, Mr. James Duncan erecting the first
From these humble beginnings, the present com¬munity with its close
neighbors and its fair town has grown. Of course fertility of soil and
other natural advantages are responsible for the rapid manner in which
the district has gained and held good settlers.
The political and municipal history of Arthur must by briefly noted.
The members of Parliament have been, Hugh Sutherland (Lib.) in 1882,
Hon. T. M. Daly (Con.), then the late Dolton McCarthy (Ind.) carrying
and resigning the seat in 1896 to the present member Hon. Clifford
The first Provincial representative was the pres¬ent Hon. Senator
Finlay M. Young, who represented the southern part of the province
before its division into Electoral Divisions. On such organization of
Districts in 1886 Mr. J. P. Alexander (Con.) secured the election
against Mr. A. M. Livingston (Lib.). He in turn was defeated by Mr.
A.M. Campbell in 1888 who held the honour until defeated in 1899 by Mr.
A. E. Thompson, the present M.P.P.
In 1884 Returning Officer E. P. Snider held the first Municipal
nomination at the house of Mr. Amos Snyder on 28-2-27. The first
council was then and there, unanimously elected by acclamation as
fol¬lows: Reeve Mr. James Downie, Councillors Amos Snyder, Dr. Dann, J.
B. Elliot and Andrew Lyle, with Mr. W. F. Thomas as Clerk, a position
he has held ever since. The council met in the same house in which it
had been elected and on the Clerk's asking how he should "draw up" the
first by-law he was told "Oh it doesn't matter. Draw it up with oxen".
There was also a County Council, composed of the Reeves in all the
municipalities in the Souris River County. For this county, these were
Mr. Jim Downie for Arthur, Mr. E. H. Atridge for Medora, Mr. Henry
Polloch for Brenda, Mr. R. M. Graham being clerk. The County Council
however had an existence of only a few months and was abolished as
In 1885 the municipality was divided into wards. It consisted at that
time of Townships 1, 2 and 3 in Ranges 27, 28 and 29, each Range being
a ward and having two councillors. Mr. J. F. Campbell was elected Reeve
by a majority of one in 1886, succeed¬ing Mr. Downie; this position he
held by acclamation until 1889. In 1887 a redistribution had occurred
arranging the wards as follows: No. 1 - - Twp. 1 in Ranges 27 and 28;
No. 2 — Twp. 2 in Ranges 27 and 28; No. 3 — Twp. 3 in Ranges 27 and 28;
and No. 4 - Twps. 1, 2 and 3 in Range 29. The number of councillors was
at the same time reduced to one for each ward. Mr. G. F. Gale was Reeve
in 1890. In 1891 the municipality was enlarged to its present size, Mr.
A. M. Livingston being Reeve, who held the first meeting of the council
of the new municipality in the school on 2-4-27. The succession of
Chief Magis¬trates since then has been as follows: Mr. A. M. Livingston
1891 and 1892; Mr. A. Trerice 1893 and 1894; Mr. G. T. Dodds, 1895-98;
Mr. R. J. Dobbyn, 1899 and 1900; Mr. J. W. Henderson at present, 1901.
It is perhaps from the social standpoint, the great¬est advancement is
noticeable. An incident is told, and vouched for, which gives an
interesting insight into early manners and customs. In the winter of
1881-82 a certain young Indian Chenewechokie by name, had a lovely
sister with an absolutely unpro-nouncable and unspellable name, which
being inter¬preted means "thunder and lightning". A good deal of
rivalry was supposed to exist for the hand of this handsome squaw.
Meeting one of the pioneers alone one day the Indian said "You want my
sister? Eh W. F?" "No!" said the person addressed "but I think J. B.
does". Soon afterwards the home of J. B. was invaded by the mother of
the dusky damsel. The old matchmaker opened the conversation with "You
give me pony, you have my daughter". The victim was cornered but
protested vigorously that he had no pony and could not trade for the
girl. "You give me sack flour then?" "No." "You give me some clothes
then." (prints) "Haven't any at all." A long pause and then "You good
man — take her — take her — give nothing." The giver however was
disappointed by a refusal and the heartbroken maiden still lives in
single loneliness on the Pipestone Reserve, though she often visits the
old haunts, and old friends always get a pleasant smile from "Susie".
As the years went on the community rapidly took on an old settled look.
Stores were opened where one could buy eight Ibs. of sugar for a dollar
or one pound of tea for a dollar. Mr. R. M. Graham's store at
Manchester, Messrs. Warren and Snider at Menota, Mr. Pat McConnel's
west of Manchester and a branch of the first-named at Sourisford and
later Lyleton. Post Offices were established, first at Sourisford with
Mr. Alf Gould in charge about 1882, and at short intervals, Menota Mr.
E. P. Snider postmaster, Melita, which replaced the name Manchester,
Mr. R. M. Graham; Butterfield, Mr. Henry Dann; and Lyleton Mr. Andrew
The religious interest of the people were early attended to, for we
find that on the first Sunday in August 1882 a religious service was
held in Mr. Alf Gould's house at Sourisford. A meeting in October of
the same year may be taken as typical. The pulpit was occupied on both
these occasions by Rev. A. D. Wheeler, and the audience in the October
meeting mentioned, which was in Mr. A. Trerice's house 12-4-27,
consisted of two settlers, John and Kenneth McDonald, and three Ontario
land hunters, Mr. R. M. Graham, his brother Sam and Mr. A. M.
Camp¬bell. Of this early pastorate many tales are told. How, that the
minister in paying a pastoral call had to sit in the doorway with a
goodly stick to keep the pigs out of the parlor. In another occasion he
was forced, before he could carry on any conversation to assist the
good wife of the house to eject a couple of roving porkers that had
invaded the house in search proba¬bly of congenial companions and had
become stuck fast beneath a hot stove. Some of his calls however were
evidently to better purpose for we find Mr. Wheeler forming about one
half of the first couple to be married in this district. The other part
was Miss W. Langton, the officiating clergyman being Rev. J. M. Harris
In 1884, a Presbyterian minister Mr. Manchester, labored in the
district and in 1885 a Mr. McTavish. In '85 Mr. John Brown came to the
community and became the pastor and friend to all. He continued his
earnest work in the same field almost until his death in 1892 and is
loved in memory by all whose fortune it was to know him. The small and
scattered con-gregations of those early days have now been super-seded
by four churches in Melita alone, with large congregations, and other
parts of the municipality are similarly well provided for.
In the matter of schools — to save repetition -this will be covered
under the heading of Melita School.
We may perhaps take a brief look at the Judicial record of the
municipality. In 1881 the Dominion Government survey was completed. In
1882 the regi¬stration of lands was attended to by Registrar A. P.
Stewart of Deloraine. In 1883 the west was separated from Turtle
Mountain District with Mr. J. P. Alex¬ander Registrar and the office
still at Deloraine. The following year the office was moved to the town
of Souriapolis in 26-2-27. This town had been surveyed in 1882 by
Messrs. Carbett and Letts of Emerson, hundreds of lots were sold and
the town destined to become the great city of the West. It is now but a
memory of speculators and ploughed field. In 1896 the present Registrar
Mr. J. L. Campbell was appoint¬ed and the office moved to Melita. The
County Court Division was not established until 1893, Mr. S. A. Bell,
In the early days there was little wheat grown owing to the distance
from market and the small amount of cultivators. What grain was sold
had to be hauled at first to Brandon, later to Virden, then Deloraine
became the market, and in 1891 the C.PR. extended itself southwestward
from Hartney and towns were started at Melita and the next season, Elva
and Pierson. In the first years, the lands being new, good crops were
the rule, wheat averaging prob¬ably 25 bushels to the acre. Frost early
in the fall however was a serious enemy and consequently very often, if
not, almost every year, frozen wheat was much in evidence. Hauling
loads to Virden and sell¬ing for 350 per bushel was occasionally known.
In some cases a storm-stayed farmer would come home after selling his
load of wheat, in debt for his ex¬penses. The crop of '83 was cut by
the only self-binder in the neighbourhood, Mr. C. S. Dobbyn's. The next
year the western side of the river secured one, as Mr. A.M. Campbell
imported aMcCormick from Virden for $350. These machines and Mr. C. S.
Dobbyn's first threshing machine in 1884 were in wide demand. Articles
and stock were expensive and scarce. Rough lumber was bought for $65
per M. A good team of horses would bring from $450 to $600. One three
year old by the way, imported into Man¬itoba in 1880 was bought by A.
M. Campbell who still has him alive and well. Mr. Pat McConnell had no
difficulty in disposing of his good grade cows at $85-$100. Hens were
sold at $1 a piece and cats $5 down. We do not know when hens were
first intro¬duced but are informed that one of the first settings of
eggs brought in could not be hatched for lack of a mother so the good
wife of the farm improvised an incubator by carrying the eggs next to
her heart for the three weeks needed to hatch them. The experi¬ment is
said to have been a success. Oats were hard to buy at $2 a bushel in
1882 and for flour $8 per sack was reasonable enough, while other
prices in propor¬tion made high living a necessity.
The Agricultural Society was formed in 1897 with N. Gates President and
J. T. Newberry Secre¬tary. The first fair was held in Menota in that
year and in excellence of exhibits, some of the fairs, in the first few
years have scarcely been surpassed, particularly in the line of roots
and other farm products.
Of the fact that this municipality can and does grow farm products to
perfection no proof is needed but the fact that Mr. William Kilkenny
won first prize for wheat at the Chicago Exhibition in 1893 and Mr.
A.M. Livingston, the Grande Prix for barley at Paris in 1900.
Mention might have been made of many events of interest in the early
days of settlement had we room to go into the matters; of the
excitement caused in 1885 by Indians trekking through from the United
States to aid in the North West Rebellion, ferrying their stuff across
the rivers in tubs made of their tent covers stretched over willows; of
the opening of ancient mounds and the finding of the skulls, bones and
implements of the builders of that old race before Indians; of the
formation in 1884 of the Sourisford Literary Society which built a hall
and really flour¬ished for several years and the establishment of an
annual picnic at Lyleton in the later 80 's which lasted till '99.
Arthur Municipality is to be congratulated on the character of its
settlers and the success and prosperity which has attended many of the
pioneers. The sturdy, patriotic energetic nature of the men, yes and
the women too, who ventured into an unknown world to carve their
fortunes, is shown in their every act of those early days and
thoroughly deserves the reward it has achieved. Away back in '82 a flag
pole was erected and annual Dominion Day celebrations inau¬gurated. The
colonists showed themselves possessed of push, life and optimistic
ambition. They were determined to be a people and now they are.