Hayfield – A Manitoba Ghost Town

Reid Dickie

   

Part 1 of 3

Hayfield History

     Hayfield, Manitoba no longer exists. It’s gone, expunged, vanished. Located 10 miles south of Brandon on Highway #10 and 4 miles west on Hayfield Road, Hayfield sat at the western edge of the Brandon Hills just as the hills begin their final smoothing into farmland. Hayfield was west of the enormous broadcasting tower near the eastern edge of the Rural Municipality of Glenwood.

    An article in a September 1906 issue of the Souris Plaindealer stated, “Hayfield is to be the name of the new town on the Brandon Saskatchewan and Hudson Bay Railway, northwest of Carroll. A. Wilson will be the pioneer merchant of the future city, having decided to establish a branch store this fall.” Despite the best efforts of all the storekeepers and area residents, the City of Hayfield was not to be.

An early picture of Hayfield with the store on left, then barn and church. The railway station is obscured by smoke from the locomotive but the water tower is visible behind the train. The elevator was on the left out of the picture.

   The original store was built on the future site of Hayfield even before the railroad tracks were laid. In 1906, A. Wilson and his sons, Guy and Red, built the two-storey wood frame store. With the arrival of the Great Northern Railroad (the subsequent name of the BS & HB Railway), Hayfield began to grow. The store, which included a post office, did a thriving business.

    Over the years, Hayfield General Store became an important meeting place for the community. With the store open from morning til night, neighbours visited while shopping, discussing issues of the day. Besides groceries, hardware and dry goods, you could have a sundae in its ice cream parlour. My father used to call the men who sometimes gathered at the store in the evenings the Hot Stove League, no doubt due to their vast wisdom and willingness to share it.

    The Great Northern Railroad built a station at Hayfield in 1907. The busiest place in the community after the general store, the railroad station served residents and visitors for 22 years before being relocated to the place known as “The Diamond,” three miles west of Carroll. This was where the Canadian Pacific and Great Northern Railroads’ tracks crossed. Here it was known as Griffin Station and continued to operate until 1933.

   Station agents at Hayfield over the years included Bill Lauterwasser, Mr. Henderson, Glen Carter, Gordon Maxwell, Mr. Lenarz and Bill Oty. Hayfield was one of the water stops for steam locomotives. A water tower was built north of the station and water was piped in from a spring located a mile to the north. GNR built two residences at Hayfield for company section men and their families.

Bustling Hayfield Railway Station in 1908 alive with prim and proper children, ladies in picture hats and gents in bowlers.

     The McCabe Grain Company began construction of their Hayfield elevator in the fall of 1906 but a severe winter delayed completion until the spring of 1907. The company placed railcars on the siding in the fall of 1906 so farmers could deliver their grain but it didn’t move until the following spring.

     The McCabe Grain Company supplied a residence for its Hayfield elevator agents. That house was later moved to Carroll then to east of Log Cabin as a private residence for the Flickwert family. The elevator continued serving the area until the railroad ceased to operate. McCabe closed the elevator in 1935 and tore it down the following year. Some of the material was used to build the Newstead Elevator, which operated until 1982 and was demolished in 1986.

   Some of the agents who ran the McCabe Company elevator in Hayfield were Charles Davidson, Bill Cameron, Bill Rathwell, Bill Porteous, Sweeney Bergeson, Bob Anderson and Curly Law.

    Baptists built Hayfield’s first church in 1910. The building included a baptism immersion tank and all the church furnishings. However, due to lack of Baptists, it became a Union Church in 1912 and served all denominations until 1925. Thereafter, the building became Hayfield Community Hall operated by a board of trustees consisting of Aaron Johnson, W. E. Lawson and William Cameron. The hall was used mainly for whist drives and dances. In 1957, the year the Dickie’s closed the store for good and left Hayfield, the hall building was sold by tender to Russell Cunningham who moved it to his farm.

   In 1929, Hayfield’s new rink opened. Surrounded by an 8-foot fence with a small opening on the east side for spectators, the rink was situated southwest of the store. A small shed accommodated skate changing. For many years, the rink was flooded by water tanked in from a spring north of Hayfield. Ron Sopp witched a well in 1940 just south of the store and thereafter, the well supplied rink water. A gas engine ran a lighting system for night skating and hockey games. Saturdays were a popular skating day. Sometimes hockey players spent the whole afternoon clearing the snow off the rink for a night game. Teams from Kemnay, Brandon, Beresford, Carroll, Roseland, Brandon Hills, Little Souris and Souris played hockey in Hayfield.

    The original builder and owner of Hayfield Store, A. Wilson, sold the business to another man named Wilson – J. B. Wilson who also owned Simmington’s Store in Brandon. J. B. hired Robert Scott to run the store. Scott eventually bought the store and ran it on his own for five years. The next owners were the E. C. Drury family who sold out to yet another Wilson – Mr. & Mrs. Vic Wilson who were proprietors longer than any other owners.

    Vic Wilson had an Imperial Oil dealership and sold International Harvester parts. Vic started the first mail delivery service for the Hayfield district in 1915, developing two routes. Mail was delivered using teams of horses. Wilson constructed a barn just north of the store to house the teams. The first mail carrier was T. Upton who was paid $600 a year for his services, which include four horses. Going the extra mile for customer service, on mail delivery days, area residents could phone the store with their grocery orders and have them delivered with their mail. Vic installed the hand-pumped gas bowser in front of the store.

   Other mail carriers over the decades were Vic Wilson, E. Lawson, W. Turner, Frank Beckett, Donald McCollum, Harold Rogers, Jack Davis, Alf Lovatt, Morley Lovatt, Bob Lovatt, Harold Brown, E. Canning, Wilmot McComb, Bruce Dickie and Lawrence Murphy.

    In the 1940s, the Wilsons sold the Hayfield store to Steve Kowilchuk who sold it to Mr. and Mrs. Ermine Canning in 1946. After Mr. Canning died, his widow sold the store to Bruce and Helen Dickie in 1952. Our family was the last to operate a store in Hayfield. In 1957, we held an auction sale to liquidate the stock and sold the building to Lawrence Murphy who continued to operate the post office and mail routes until January 8, 1968. The store had operated continuously for 51 years.

   Lawrence Murphy sold the property to Alice Magel and her son Mike in 1982. They occupied the place for a few years but by 1991 the building was vacant, its story almost over.

Hayfield as it looked in the early 1990s, just before it disappeared.

    The store and the barn in Hayfield came to a sad but useful end in the 1990s when firefighters-in-training from Brandon and Souris used them for practice. They set the buildings on fire then put them out, set them on fire then put them out and so on until they were gone.

    All that remains of Hayfield today is a small bluff, a little patch of gravel and the elevation for the ¼-mile lane overgrown with grass, all surrounded by fields and pasture. The name remains in Hayfield Road as the sign on Highway #10 states. Once a home to hopes and dreams and a popular oasis for locals and travelers – it existed for almost 90 years – Hayfield has now vanished into memory.

All that’s left to remind you of Hayfield

You can find my boyhood memories of living in Hayfield here and my experience attending a one-room schoolhouse here.

3 Comments

Filed under 1950s, Family, Ghost Towns, Life and Life Only, Manitoba Heritage, Prairie People

3 responses to “Hayfield – A Manitoba Ghost Town

  1. Bob Braun

    Hi

    Thanks for a great article. We live on Hayfield Road. I often wondered when happened to the old buildings at Hayfield. Now I know. I I remember seeing them in the early 90s.

    Bob

  2. Scolish

    Reid, thanks for the interesting read on Hayfield. I am a metal detectorist and would love to search the site for old coins etc., any chance of a tour of the area?

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