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6. The Municipality of Arthur and its History
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 short sketch.

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 brick house.
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 Sifton (Lib.).

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 unnecessary.

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 Lyle.
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 of Souris.

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, clerk.

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.

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