One of the early missionaries, who travelled in this area, using St. Laurent as a starting point, was the Rev.C.J.Camper. By that time the Hudson’s Bay Company had established a post at present-day Camperville on what is now Lot 6, under the management of a Mr. McKenzie. Isaac Cowie, in his book The Company of Adventurers, states that in 1867, “there was an outpost of Shoal River at Duck Bay on Lake Winnipegosis.” With the encouragement of Father Camper, more Metis from the St. Laurent area began to settle there. Eventually this settlement became known locally as Camperville in honor of the ministrations of Father Camper. However, it wasn’t until around 1914 that this name was used on the map. Until then it was still known geographically as Pine Creek.
Today the term, ‘Canadian Mosaic’ is much used to describe the mixture of cultures making up our population. This is a fitting term to describe the three men who played the major role in the development of the small settlement at Duck Bay. For it was a Negro, a Frenchman and a Jew who were mainly responsible for the development of this totally Indian settlement, 15 miles north of Camperville on the west side of Winnipegosis.
The French form of the name, Baie de Canard, was applied in very early years to a bay half way up the west side of Lake Winnipegosis and 56 miles east of Swan River. The settlement along the shore eventually adopted the same name, which was gradually anglicized over the years to Duck Bay. We can only assume that the quiet waters of this bay were a resting and feeding stop for waterfowl on their yearly migration north and south.
Until around 1917-1920, there was no permanent settlement at this point, although it was a good fishing spot with the Indians and Metis for many years. There was no official fishing season as we know it today. Winter fishing began whenever the ice became thick enough. Cooled by strong northwest winds, this bay as usually one of the first parts of the lake to freeze over.
A general migration to its shores took place in late October and early November, when the fish preferred the quiet bay to the rough waters of the large lake. Thus, Duck Bay became the favourite camping site of the Indians of Pine Creek Reserve during this season. When fishing was over, they would move back the 15 miles to Pine Creek (Camperville). This became their habit for many years, with the result that there was no permanent settlement at Duck Bay. To provide for the needs of these people and to catch the migrant trade, a merchant moved north for these few months from Camperville.
The only store in the area for many years was the Hudson’s Bay Company on Lot 6 in Camperville, but it was sold to Magloire de Laronde in 1908. In 1912 he employed a French-Canadian from Quebec named Rodier to help with the Duck Bay seasonal trade and to work at other times at Camperville. Eventually Rodier bought the business and continued merchandising in this manner. In 1910 another merchant, J. Desrocher, formerly a teacher at Waterhen and Meadow Portage, stated a store in opposition to the Rodier Brothers, on adjoining Lot 5 in Camperville. In 1918 the store of J. Desrocher came under the management of another French-Canadian, Joseph Barnabe from St. Jean Baptiste, near Winnipeg. These merchants dealt in furs, fish, berries and Seneca roots, in exchange for tools, clothing and other things that had become necessities to the Indian people by this time. Until 1915 there was no permanent merchant at Duck Bay.
During that time a homeless young Jewish boy name Abe Sanoffsky was growing up on the streets of London, England, making his way by begging and other means. Shrewd, cunning and strong, he often put his talents to work to provide for other street orphans. In the course of events he was sent to an institution for destitute children probably founded by Baron Rothschild. Often such boys were sent to the colonies to get a new start with a hope of a brighter future. Abe Sanoffsky landed in Montreal and was sent west to work on a farm in Neepawa. He excelled in sports, and at an exhibition of sports events, his abilities were noticed by Joseph Barnabe, the Camperville merchant, and the boy was eventually adopted by Mr. Barnabe and his wife.
As he grew older and took charge of the family store at Duck Bay, Abe came to the conclusion that if work could be found for people at Duck Bay between the fishing seasons, they would not have to move back to Camperville and neither would he. An abundant supply of timber on the lakeshore and adjacent island encouraged him to set up a sawmill. Over the years he enlarged it, until an output of a million board feet of lumber was processed in a single year at peak production.
The fish catch was hauled 50 miles with team and sleigh to Winnipegosis on the railway which had been extended to that point in 1897.
Excerpt from “Manitoba Pageant, Volume 18, Number 3, Spring 1973” by Gwen Palmer