As far back as anyone in Winnipegosis remembers, there had been a dredge with its tug and barges in the Mossey River. It is not known when the first dredge arrived, but one local story is that it dug its way down the Mossey River, which was much deeper then than it is now. There was a need for a dredge because the steam tugs found it difficult to navigate the shallow water at the river’s mouth. Also, slips had to be dug at various points around the lake where there were fishing stations.
The first dredge was made entirely of wood, and docked in the slip which can still be seen at the east end of the government dock. This slip was known as “the blood sucker hole”, because if you swam there, you were sure to find one or two good-sized blood suckers attached to your skin. The picture above shows the old dredge, and the tug ready to start towing scow full of mud.
When the old dredge began to show signs of wear, it was replaced by a second wooden dredge which was constructed here under the direction of Sammy Bullivant of Selkirk. It was on this dredge that Charlie Denby, captain on the tug, severely injured his leg, when the slip was being dug at Snake Island.
There was a time during the thirties when blasting was done the length of the river from the mouth to the government dock. This was done to clear rock from the river bed, which the dipper was unable to move. Blasting was done in both summer and winter.
The dredge, docked in its place, with the tug and scows beside it, was always a favourite spot for young anglers and swimmers. Fisherman could drop their lines in the water, halfway across the river, and swimmers could dive into the very deepest part of the river.
The little workhorse towing tug was always called “The Mossey”. The first steam tug was brought here by rail. In 1949, a diesel “Mossey” arrived from Owen Sound by CNR. The hull was transported on its side, well sandbagged, on a flatcar. The deckhouse followed along, right side up on a separate car.
In the early years, the boiler of the dredge and tug were fired with coal, and this is the explanation for the black smoke which can be seen in many pictures. The extra scow taken along carried coal at first, then later tanks for diesel fuel.
When a carload on coal arrived by CNR, a tramway was built from the railway line to the river, and the coal was carried in wheelbarrows from the car to the dredge.
The hull of the third and last dredge was made of steel, and the deckhouse of wood. Building was started in the fall of 1959, and completed in the spring of 1960.
The caption on the picture on the bottom left reads Captain Tom Campbell’s last trip on the “Myrtle M” up the Mossey River with fishing boats in tow. The Myrtle M was a much larger freighter named after Myrtle Morrison (nee Grenon).
– Contibuters: Edna Medd and Jo Bunka