By Eva L. Ferguson
One of the great lakes and inland waterways of Manitoba is Lake Winnipegosis – Little Winnipeg, or Little Muddy Water – so name by the Cree Indians. Lake Winnipegosis stretches its tapering, irregular, graceful length due north of Lake Manitoba and west of Lake Winnipeg. Together, Lake Manitoba and Winnipegosis repeat, in general outline, the contours of their larger neighbor. Hence the name for the more northerly body, Little Winnipeg – Winnipegosis.
The waters of Winnipegosis teamed with fish, pickerel and white fish, the latter is now largely depleted because of intensive commercial fishing, and the use of four and one quarter inch mesh nets. The pickerel are of a distinct class, different in color and flavor from the pickerel of other lakes. For, strangely, Little Muddy Water contains salt. The Winnipegosis pickerel are known locally as Salty yellows, and by American buyers as yellow pike. The old timers claim that there are no yellows like them anywhere in the world, that the fish of Lake Winnipegosis are superior to those of Lake Winnipeg, that Lake Winnipeg has no whitefish, and that the whitefish is making a comeback in the waters of Little Winnipeg.
In the early days, the salt of Lake Winnipegosis was a boon to the whole of the Northwest Territories. The Hudson’s Bay Company operated salt wells at a marshy point of the lake, situated about a mile and a half northwest of the present town of Winnipegosis. The water boiled in large eight-by-ten-foot pans. The resulting deposit of salt was then shipped by ox cart to all parts of the Northwest Territories.
The shores of Lake Winnipegosis, were, for a depth of many miles, heavily wooded with a thick stand of poplar, interspersed with maples, birches, elms, and oaks. Wild animals were numerous. The Indians, besides fishing, did a great deal of trapping. They brought to the Hudson’s Bay Trading Post, the furs of lynx, fox, muskrat, and mink. The Company baled many thousands of hides each year.
There was plenty of moose hides too for the making of moccasins. The moose were so populous that the early settlers told of meeting them in droves. The baby moose cried like human babies. Three of these babies were adopted by the Hudson’s Bay, raised and shipped to New Zealand.
The Indians also gathered Seneca root, which is still exported for the making of certain medicines. From the sap of the Manitoba maple, they made maple sugar and maple syrup. They collected the sap n their handmade birch bark baskets.
The first white people to come to Lake Winnipegosis were trappers and traders. Two of the very earliest of these were the brothers Batiste and Pat McLeod, metis of Scottish extraction. The first traders were men of the Hudson’s Bay Company. Others, who came a little later, for trapping and fishing were English, Scottish, French, German. Ukrainians and other Central Europeans came following the railroad, which arrived in 1897. In 1900, Icelandic fishermen came by boat, bringing cattle, to settle at Red Deer Point on the west side of the lake, about eighteen or twenty miles from present town of Winnipegosis.
The town of Winnipegosis is situated at the mouth of the Mossey River on the south-western end of the lake. The log buildings of the Hudson’s Bay Company were across the river from this townsite. Evidence has also been discovered of an even older fort or trading post in the same vicinity.
Early in 1906, Joseph Grenon, Junior, started a mink ranch across the river, from where he sold the animals and furs to Moncton, New Brunswick. A few years later, Mike Debetsky bought the mink ranch. One day when digging in his garden he found skulls and bones. He reported his find. In 1910, a party in charge of Professor Ami of Ottawa did some excavating on the scene. They found masonry and markings which clearly indicated an old fort. Professor Ami thought it very likely that here was on of La Verendrye’s posts. It has since become one of the claimants for the controversial site of Fort Dauphin, which, other evidence, discovered about the same period, places on the west shores of Lake Dauphin.
Two of the most colorful and interesting of the very early pioneers were John Chief and Benjy Sanderson. These two men were first at Cumberland, near the present The Pas. John Chief was known as the best fisherman at Cumberland. That was in the eventful year of 1884-5. When they head that experienced York boatmen were wanted for rowing boats in Egypt, they, being qualified, immediately volunteered, through the Hudson’s Bay Company. They were sent to Egypt, where they served as boatmen on the Nile River, at the same time of the ill-fated attempt to relieve General Gordon at Khartum. The war over, they returned to Little Muddy Water, to resume the more peaceful occupation of fishing.
Peter McArthur, who owned and operated the first lumbering industry on Lake Winnipegosis, had an important part to play in the quelling of the Northwest Rebellion, which broke out in the spring of 1885. He had the contract to take three boats up to Grand Rapids from Lake Winnipeg to Cedar Lake.
These boats, Northcote, Marquis, and Northland, used by the Dominion Government to carry troops and supplies, had been built of solid oak, in North Dakota, and were two hundred foot long, stern wheel steam boats. They were sailed down the Red River to Lake Winnipeg, and through the length of the lake, until they reached Grand Rapids, on the northwest corner. Here Peter McArthur took charge and saw them safely into Cedar Lake. From Cedar Lake, they proceeded into the Saskatchewan River and up the Saskatchewan all the way to Edmonton.
Cedar Lake is separated from Lake Winnipegosis by only a narrow strip of land. The first mails were brought in by dog teams from Grand Rapids, to the scattered population of Little Winnipeg. Johnny Simpson trotted behind his dogs for most of the snowy miles. In the summer, an occasional boat brought mail up Lake Winnipeg, to be picked up at Grand Rapids.
The first sturgeon were brought by Captain Alex Vance from Grand Rapids in 1897. Sturgeon is strictly a Lake Winnipeg fish and will not thrive in the salty water of Winnipegosis. However, fishermen from Mafeking on the west side of Little Muddy Water, had only about sixty miles to go, by dog team or horse-drawn sleigh, northeast to Cedar Lake, which is an outthrust arm of Lake Winnipeg, to obtain these desirable fish.
The first steam boats on Lake Winnipegosis were built in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s at Totogan, a Hudson’s Bay Landing Place on the White Mud River, near Westbourne, on the southern tip of Lake Manitoba. “Lady Isobel” and “idell” were purchased by Peter McArthur, and “Lady Ellen” and “osprey” by the Armstrong Company. “Lady Isobel” was the first steam boat to make the journey up Lake Manitoba, through the Waterhens, River and Lake, to Winnipegosis.
“Lady Isobel”, originally, “Lady Blanche”, was purchased, by Peter McArthur, from the Pratt brothers. A.D. McArthur, accomplished for her, the running of the rapids on the lower Waterhen River, by the use of two government barges. By means of two lighters, he lifted the steamer to lessen the drag. The barges, connected with timbers and screws attached to the steamer, lifted the boat, without taking it out of the water.
In 1899, “Iona” and in 1900, “Manitou” were built on the Mossey River, at the south end of Lake Winnipegosis, and just across from the already growing village.
In 1899, also, Captain Coffey of the North-West Fish Company, brought tugs up from Lake Michigan, through the Lake of the Woods, and by connecting lakes and rivers, all the way to Winnipegosis. Captain Coffey also acquired the steam boat, “Mockingbird”, which had been built on the Canadian side of Lake Huron and sailed from Port Arthur.
Water travelling necessitated the use of portages on certain routes. River rapids had to be circumvented, where they could not be conquered, and connecting links had to be made, where they did not exist. Two of the main portages were High Portage, between Cedar Lake and Lake Winnipegosis, and Meadow Portage, between Lake Manitoba and Lake Winnipegosis.
Sailing boats were used in the fishing industry. These boats, some with three sails, having a sail both fore and aft, some being one-masted, two-masted sloops, were brought from Collingwood Ontario. In the early years, thirty or forty sail boats, each manned by three men, for fishing, might be seen on the lake at one time.
As Lake Winnipegosis is relatively shallow, it becomes story and choppy without much weather warning. Consequently, there is no lack of stories of shipwreck and drowning. In the summer of 1901, “Mockingbird”, loaded with cordwood, sank in a storm, between Big Island, in the north of Lake Winnipegosis, and High Portage. Five men, including Captain Robert Gibson, were aboard. The men got out onto the freed and drifting wood. One man was drowned, one swam four miles to Big Island, and the others finally drifted to shore.
Another tragedy occurred in the summer of 1898, the summer following the coming of the railway.
An excursion train came up from Dauphin, with a coach load of people, bound, in holiday mood, for a picnic on Lake Winnipegosis. Five men, among them, Ross, Padfield and McNeil, al of Dauphin, rented the only available sail boat and sailed gaily out into the calm waters of the lake. Before long, the weather changed. Rain began to fall. The wind arose and the waves rode high.
The excursionists took refuge in the train. The little sail boat was too far out for them to see how it was faring. Some of those waiting became uneasy. They felt that the tiny, bobbing object far out in the lake, should be investigated, to see whether all was well. But, alas, there was not another boat left in the dock. There was no way of helping, if help should be needed.
When it was nearly time to go home, the engineer blew his whistle, long, persistent blasts, to try to call the sailors in. Finally, reluctantly, the train pulled out without them.
Meanwhile, the sail boat had capsized in the storm. The crew were clinging to the sides, hoping for rescue. They heard the train whistle. Darkness overtook them. They were alone in the surly waters. All night they clung there, numb and cold. Jack McNeill kept encouraging the others, telling them to hang on, that help would come soon. The three younger men, managed to ease the two older ones into the most comfortable positions.
In the morning, they saw that they had drifted to swimming distance from land. Suddenly a great wave washed over them and McNeill was gone. Padfield, seizing an oar, declared that he was going to swim ashore. With strong strokes, he started out. In a few minutes, the horrified watchers on the upturned boat saw him throw up his hands and disappear. Ross, then made a successful swim, contacting Indians on the shore. The remaining two, the older men were rescued. The bodies of McNeill and Padfield were recovered within the next two days,
Joseph Octave Grenon was the first white man to engage in large scale commercial fishing in Lake Winnipegosis. He was born at St. Barthelemy, Quebec, in 1849. While living there, until the age of twenty-seven, he studied the various methods of fish propagation, becoming an authority on the subject.
For the next fifteen years he lived in Michigan, employed by the United States Government as General Superintendent of Hatcheries, for the propagation of fish. Then, for a few more years, he acted in an advisory capacity to that industry.
In 1894, Joseph O. Grenon came up from Michigan to investigate the possibilities for fishing in Lake Winnipegosis. So impressed was he, that on his return, he had a boat built in Detroit, and brought his family to the little village of Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. In Portage, the next spring he built two sail boats, “Sir Wilfred Laurier”, and “Diamond Jubilee”. The latter was named in honor of Queen Victoria, who was to celebrate two years hence, in 1897, the sixtieth anniversary of her ascension to the throne.
Upon their completion, “Diamond Jubilee” and “Sir Wilfred Laurier”, boats 32 feet long, with a 12 foot beam, were loaded into wagons and hauled to Westbourne, from where they were launched into Lake Manitoba. Joseph O. Grenon and his son Joseph P. sailed these boats to the north end of Lake Manitoba, through the lower Waterhen River and Waterhen Lake to Lake Winnipegosis.
At the southern end of Lake Winnipegosis, the Grenons built an ice house, that summer. When winter came they filled it with ice. The next spring 1896, they started fishing. They found one white man established ahead of them. He was Emile Hartman, a free trader, who later became the first postmaster for the district of Mossey River.
As yet there was no railroad. Fish had to be hauled by wagon to Sifton that first summer, and by sleigh or dog team in the ensuing winter. Boat loads of white fish were caught in those first seasons. Boats, using ten or twelve nets, came in filled with large whites.
In the fall of 1897, the railroad came, a branch line of the Canadian Northern, up from Dauphin, through Sifton. The Grenon family and other settlers arrived. Soon there were a hundred people, all living in little log houses along the shore. Fishing increased. It became common to catch two or three tons of white fish on one day. One winter day in 1900, Captain William Mapes, who drove dogs and fished for Captain Coffey, drew in four tons of whitefish.
In 1900, Joseph O. Grenon sold his fishing business to Hugh Armstrong of Portage La Prairie. Armstrong was at that time the Provincial Treasurer for Manitoba, and also president of the Armstrong Trading Company, which in turn, was a subsidiary of the Booth Company of Chicago. Hence, the firm, though operating largely with American capital was under Canadian management. Mr. Grenon’s son Jospeh P. was made manager of the Armstrong Trading Company’s interests on Lake Winnipegosis.
But Joseph Grenon Junior, or “Josey” as he was called in distinction from his father, who was “Joe”, was not the only Grenon to keep his connection with fishing. The father with his other two sons, Walter and Harry, continued to fish privately. In 1912, Grenon senior was appointed Superintendent of Fish Hatcheries on Snake Island, about four and a half miles east of the village. On this island, hatcheries for white fish had been established in 1907, with Sandy McPherson as manager.
The whitefish hatcheries have since been discontinued, and all their buildings have vanished. However, for several years, pickerel hatcheries have been in operation at Duck Bay. Joe Grenon retired from active connection with fishing in 1921 at the age of 72 years. His son, Harry still maintains his participation in the industry.
In the early fishing years dog teams were used in the winter. Then horses and sleighs were put on the ice. Now many of the fishermen use trucks. The men and their families still go up the lake for the winter season, and live in little houses on the islands. The actual fishing is done from cabooses.
One winter Archie McDonald had twenty-five lines. On some of his trips he took in fifteen hundred boxes of fish, with about one hundred and fifty pounds to a box. He freighted with horses from the snow bound lake. Twenty-five hundred to three thousand boxes were loaded on the sleighs. Three or four trips were made during the season. Two hundred and forty car loads of fish were shipped out that winter. The number is now reduced to about thirty.
But Mr. Harry Grenon, who has followed the fishing industry from its very beginnings on Lake Winnipegosis, states that with the higher water and the closed seasons, the fish are again increasing and the whitefish are making a comeback. During the dry seasons, the lake went down badly. Now that the annual rainfall is greater the waters have risen considerably. Too, there is usually a summer fishing season of only about seven or eight weeks. Then the lake is closed until November. The winter season then runs to mid February. Tugs with a million pound limit for a summer season the fish are afforded some protection. There is no limit in the winter.
Mr. Charles L. White, outside manager for Booth Fisheries, came to Little Muddy Water in October, 1899. The following spring, “Manitou”, a ninety foot long boat, with a loading capacity of 70,000 pounds of fish, was built on the Mossey River, opposite the little settlement of Winnipegosis. For twenty years, Charles White served on the tug “Manitou”, first as mate and later as Captain. She carried a crew of eight men.
Summer fishing in those early days was done entirely from sail boats. The steam boat tugs were used for freighting and passengers. Before freeze-up in the fall, the fishing companies sent their tugs up the lake to the fishing camps on the various points and islands. The fishermen and their families had to take with them sufficient supplies and necessaries for four or five months of winter camp life. For a whole day and sometimes a night before departure, the loading would continue. Processions of teams and sleighs carrying supplies, would make a steady stream towards the docks. Finally loaded, the tug would carry, besides men, women, and children, quantities of food stuffs, sleds, toboggans, dogs, horses, baled hay, cows, and chickens. On one trip with “S.S. Manitou”, Mr. White had ninety dogs aboard.
The tugs had to make several trips before the families were all settled in their winter quarters. The ones to go the furthest went first. Some went as far as one hundred and fifty miles up the lake, some only about twenty. Some went northwest to Mafeking and many to intervening points.
Dogs were used on the lake, for any necessary running around and hauling. The camps used a dozen or more of these alert animals. They were fed once a day on frozen fish. The heavy freighting was done by horses and sleighs. A good team could haul five or six tons of frozen fish. There were accidents, of course, with horses dropping through snow-covered cracks in the ice. There were no snow ploughs until 1912.
Mr. White himself, also engaged in fishing for a few winters. In 1902, he had a log cabin on an island half way up the lake. That was the small pox year. Many of the teamsters stopped for a rest at the little twenty by thirty foot house. Some of them and some of the Indians contracted the dread disease. Everyone was exposed to it, but, miraculously, most escaped its ravages.
Many Indians fished being outfitted by the trading companies. At one time the Armstrong Trading Company had trading posts at Duck Bay, Camperville, Shoal River, and Waterhen on Lake Winnipegosis, and at Crane River on Lake Manitoba. The Indians still fish at these and other points.
In the summer, “Manitou” and other tugs were used for freighting and towing. During the summer of 1907 and for five succeeding summers, the lake was closed for summer fishing, as a conservation measure. Charles White and his “Manitou” freighted lumber and towed logs for McArthur’s Standard Lumber Company in that period.
The Booth Fisheries now have forty licensed boats on the lake. All their fishing vessels are gasoline powered, all freighters diesel. There is still one steam boat on the lake towing lumber – “Odinak”, owned by Captain John Stefanson.
Mr. White brought carrier pigeons to Lake Winnipegosis in the summer of 1918. After seeing a moving picture, in which pigeons were used, he began to wonder if he could use them himself. As an experiment, he obtained two pairs from Charles Irwin. John Buter took charge of them. A little later Mr. White got another pair from a bush pilot, who used to carry them on his flights.
The pigeons were carried in crates on “Manitou”. The first season, they were taken up to Spruce Island a distance of about fifty miles, and sent back with messages telling how may boxes of fish had been caught. They returned to their home where John Butler reported the message to the Company. The next year the distances were increased, first to Whiskey Jack Island about ninety miles, then further to Fox Bay and so on up the lake. Mr. White liked to have a pair on the boat all the time. In case of a breakdown, he could send his pigeons for help. One little hen pigeon had a speed of a mile a minute. They must not, however, be let out in a fog, as they had to be able to see their way.
Another old timer, Kenneth McAulay, who also came to the lake in 1899, tells of working eighteen hours a day for three months, seaming-making nets for the coming fishing season. At that time over fifty years ago, there were only two men on the lake, who knew the art of seaming. These two were Kenny McAulay and Joe Bickle.
When freeze-up was early, nets were wanted correspondingly early. Everyone was in a hurry. They all begged, “Do mine first”. So Kenny and Joe worked night and day to oblige.
Presently others learned to seam. Many of the women took up the art, as they could do it in their own homes. Now practically all th seaming is done by the women.
Mr. McAulay also remembers vividly the winter of 1917, when “Manitou” was frozen in the ice near Pelican Portage, and had to stay there all winter. The men had to walk 58 miles though muskeg and slough, to reach Mafeking.
Mr. Walmsey, coming in 1904, was the first Fish Inspector. He remembers going up the lake that winter, when there were no cabooses for the fishing. He needed twelve pairs of woolen mitts a day. He went up with two dozen pairs at twenty-five cents a pair. The men all wore moccasins.
In those days, seventy-five to a hundred dogs might be heard all howling at once. Before long horses were being used extensively. Salt spots on the ice were always a hazard for the horses. More than one fine team plunged through the treacherous spots, to meet death in the icy waters.
Horses and dogs frequently saved their human companions, when allowed to use their superior sense of direction. On one trip, Mr. Walmsey had left Ed Morris at Staple Island. It began to snow. It snowed so hard that the men could not see where they were going. It seemed to him that the horse was going straight out into the middle of the lake. He had no idea which way to turn. Wisely, he gave the horse it head, and presently found himself back where he had left his friend on Staple Island.
Scotty Howatson tells of a time when the dogs insisted that left was right. The men were taling in their nets. A fog like a thick blanket, covered the lake. When ready to return to camp, the men tried to start to the right. Shep the lead dog pulled to the left. For a moment it was tug of war. Then suddenly Shep bolted like a shot from a gun, with the other dogs tearing after him. They were going to the left, and nothing could stop them. Shep led them straight into camp.
A certain amount of ranching and mixed farming were carried on in the vicinity of the lake, from the very early times. Among the earliest to engage in these occupations were the Marcrofts, Mestons, Seifferts, Geikies, and Harrisons. The Booth Company used to butcher and export cattle.
Booth Fisheries had a section of land, pasturing a couple of hundred head of cattle. On this ranch, they also pastured their horses, some thirty teams, which were used on the lake for the winter fishing season. They also had cattle at other farms. In the fall, about a hundred cattle were rounded up and butchered at the docks.
The old timers still chuckle over the case of the immovable steer. No amount of persuasion or prodding had been able to make the creature advance voluntarily to its doom. Walter Grenon threw two pails of gasoline over it, lit a match and burned he hair off its hide. Still it did not move. Its fate is left in doubt.
In 1897, Peter McArthur started the lumbering industry on Lake Winnipegosis. His company was known as the Standard Lumbering Company. McArthur also operated a saw and tie mill, built in 1898. Ties were made for the building of railway into Winnipegosis, and were also shipped to other places of construction.
The saw mill could turn out 50,000 board feet of lumber in a 24 hour day. The men worked eleven hours a day. The mills had another practical use too. The smoke stacks and wind mills were good land marks and guides for boats on the lake.
In the late nineties, Peter McArthur’s gang made the first large cut of timber. They cut from the shores of Lake Dauphin, east of the Mossey River, and attempted to drive the logs down the Mossey to Winnipegosis. This attempt was not very successful. The water was high. The booms were not sufficiently strong. Most of the logs broke away, escaping into the lake and the marshes. Only a small percentage were salvaged.
The Standard Lumber Company then started logging operations on Lake Winnipegosis, at Duck Bay, about sixty water miles from the village. There was big poplar forest in this region. White spruce were also obtained further up the lake. The loggers were paid a dollar a day and their board. The men in the mills worked for thirty cents an hour.
A keen rivalry existed between the lumbering and the fishing industries. Incident occurred to engender grudges on both sides. The lumber company had a power drag saw for cutting tree lengths into logs. The fishermen complained that the saw left saw dust in the lake and that the saw dust was harmful to the fish.
When Captain Coffey’s “Mockingbird” sank in 1901, with a man drowned, the cries for help were not heard by the Standard Lumber Company’s boats. Nevertheless, there were some in the ranks of the fishermen, who blamed the lumbermen for heartlessness or carelessness in not coming to the rescue.
Spikes were found in the logs causing shut-downs in the saw mill. Who put the spike in the logs? Why, the fishermen, of course, reasoned the lumbermen.
Peter McArthur’s son John recalls his first trip on the Standard Lumber Company’s tug “Lady Isobel”. A.D. McArthur was captain and William Sifton Junior, mate. They were towing lumber form the logging camp at Big Island. The logs were chained together, and a succession of chained logs towed behind the boat. On one of “Lady Isobel’s” trips to Big Island, the crew found that a lumber company heavy draft horse had been killed by fishermen’s dogs.
Another time when a settler woman had been mauled by dogs, the Siftons went out and shot about a hundred dogs, which were running at large.
About 1900, James Parker, coming out from New Brunswick, showed Peter McArthur how to make lumber rafts. The lumber, sawed up the lake, was made into large rafts, big enough to carry horses and men. Each raft was then towed by a tug. One raft, built by Captain Vance, with pulpwood, went adrift and was lost.
When the steam boat “Iona” was discovered opposite the old planning mill, with her decks under water and her watchmen asleep on top, James Parker was commissioned to raise her. He sharpened small piling. The piles, he drove in with a huge mallet. Then, with a scow on one side of the unfortunate “Iona” and the piles on the other side, to support the timbers, he succeeded in raising the vessel.
Because it was found too expensive and difficult to transport logs by water at that time, the big saw mill was closed in 1905. There had been considerable loss of logs on the run, and through rafts going adrift. For a time logging was confined entirely to land. Portable mills were transported by lake to convenient places of operation.
Peter McArthur’s Standard Lumbering Company continued its activities on Lake Winnipegosis until 1930. In the early days both the fishing and the lumbering companies had their own private docks on the lake. McArthur’s Landing was situated on the southeast side of Little Winnipeg, about seven or eight miles due north from Lake Manitoba. In 1930, the McArthur interests and equipment were purchased by the Pine Falls Pulp and Paper Company.
For years the only industries carried on, in and around Lake Winnipegosis were trapping, fishing, lumbering, and cattle raising. The terrain east of the river was believed to be too stony and swampy ever to support agriculture. Nevertheless, in the course of time settlers cleared land and produced many fine grain crops.
The tiny settlement which began to grow at the mouth of the Mossey River, on the southern end of Lake Winnipegosis, was first known as Mossey River, in honor of the river. When it became a little larger its name was changed to Winnipegosis, to link it with the lake.
Prior to 1897, very few people came with the intention of remaining. There were trappers who came and went. Then there was Hartman whom the Grenons found established in ’95. And there was Rosser, who ran a Hudson’s Bay Company Trading Post across the river. On May 24th, 1897, T.H. Whale and D. McAulay drove by team from Dauphin, a distance of over forty miles. Driving was difficult, over the muddy bush trails. Streams had to be forded, as there were no bridges. Trails followed the river, to avoid muskeg and heavy bush.
T.H. Whale built the first privately owned general store in Winnipegosis, in the summer of 1897. This tore which handled food, clothing, flour, and feed was built of packing boxes, logs, and cardboard. It was a good store. A year or so later Mr. Whale built a warehouse. He also built a store at Fork River. After a few years, he had a private telephone line between the two stores.
The first log house on the present townsite was that of Alex Richard, a trapper. Mackenzie and Fann, then proprietors of the Canadian Northern Railway, bought Richard’s property for their right of way into Winnipegosis in 1897.
The summer of 1897, saw a considerable amount of building activity. Sandy McPherson who had a saw mill on Lake Dauphin brought lumber down the Mossey River to Winnipegosis for the building of a hotel. This first hotel was owned and managed by John Sieffert. The following year, the Ross brothers from Dauphin built the Lakeview hotel, which was later destroyed by fire.
The first church and the only one to precede the railroad was the Roman Catholic. The first priests were Father Champind and Father Compere. This little church as well as a number of houses was built in 1897. The builders of the first houses were David and Alex Stewart.
The railway came to Winnipegosis in the autumn of 1897. From then on the village and settlement expanded rapidly. Soon a school was needed. The first school though a Public School was conducted in the Catholic Church building with a Miss Tooey as teacher. The first qualified teacher was Mr. W. Coleman.
In 1901, a little school house was built. In the same year a Methodist Church was opened with Mr. S.A. Bailey as minister. Mr. E. Cartwright of Winnipegosis recalls working on the building of this church. Previous to this time, Protestant church services were sometimes held in the station. In 1902, a Presbyterian Church was ready for services, which were first conducted by a Mr. Towner. Anglican and Greek Catholic churches were built at a later date.
Social times were not lacking for the pioneers. Dances were held in Whale’s warehouse, in the school and in Cohen’s Hall, above the Whale store. Local Fiddlers supplied the music, and everyone had a good time. By 1903, there was a curling and skating rink, built by Whale and Telford. Four sheets of ice provided ample room for good local bonspiels.
An interesting little establishment was started in 1903, at a beautiful bend in the road, two miles down the track from the village of Winnipegosis. This little place, named Gruber, after is founder, had a street of tiny mud huts and a post office. Gruber, a Jew brought out other European Jews and some Ukrainians to start a miniature colony. The place flourished for a while, but presently its settlers all scattered to take homesteads.
The first doctor arrived in Winnipegosis in 1898. He was Doctor McRuary. Dr. Livingstone came in 1900. From this time on more and more people came, until at the present time, the population is about thirteen hundred. On March 10th, 1915, Winnipegosis was incorporated as a village. The first mayor was Joseph P. (Josey) Grenon.
About thirty-five miles up the west coast of the lake from the village of Winnipegosis, is the village of Camperville. Here are located the beautiful buildings of a Roman Catholic mission school and church made of hard rock stones. Over a hundred treaty Indian children attend the school.
Nature was lavish in her gifts to Lake Winnipegosis. The waters teemed with fish, the shores were clothed with forests. Many species of animals dwelt on the land. Many varieties of birds made their nests in the trees or skimmed the waters of the lake. Beautiful, picturesque islands dotted the lake.
On some of these islands curious rock formations have been found. Limestone formations on Snake Island have aroused scientific interest. Expeditions have studied these formations, from a geological point of view. Parts of the shore line also present a rocky cliff-like appearance.
Big game, moose, elk, deer, fur bearing animals of many kinds, game birds, ducks, geese, and every northern species of song bird are indigenous to the region. One of the most curious and interesting of the feathered inhabitants is the cormorant, or crow duck, as it is known locally. These long-legged, long-necked, long-billed birds are fishers, which carry their fish in a pouch like a pelican. They nest during the summer on a reef at the very edge of the lake.
This has been the story of a lake – a lake, which has sustained fish, forest, animal, bird, and finally man – the story of Winnipegosis – Little Muddy Water.