Tag Archives: ghost town

Manitoba Heritage – Union Point United Church

Reid Dickie

Union Point United Church, Hwy #75

Two lanes of Hwy #75 flow northward and two lanes flow southward and between them is this pretty little Gothic wooden church, the last remnant of a ghost town. Situated a few kilometers south of Ste. Agathe, MB in the Rural Municipality of Morris, Union Point United Church is a dramatic, albeit final, vestige of a pioneer settlement called Union Point. A few dozen headstones near the church also memorialize the community; the oldest stones read 1879.

According to Manitoba wood carver Warren Breyfogle, who was born on his grandparent’s farm at Union Point, the community was so named because it was the stopping place for both the paddlewheel boats that plied the nearby Red River and for the stage coaches that traveled north and south along the river between Winnipeg and the U. S.

The first Union Point Church, originally serving a  Presbyterian congregation, was built here in 1887. Destroyed by fire in 1939, the present building replaced it in 1940.

Simple Gothic details abound on this little church: the rectangular shape, the pointed windows all around and complementary tracery, similar pointed openings in the off-centre steeple with its steeply pitched roof and wooden pinnacle pointing heavenward, off-centre entrance with pointed arch over the doorway and the octaflor stained glass window above the trio of lancet windows. Classic materials were used to build the church: clapboard siding and plain wood trim, all painted white, exposed rafter tails and buff brick chimney. Watch my 2:09 video of Union Point United.

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Filed under Churches, Day Tripping, Ghost Towns, Manitoba Heritage, Pioneers

Hebron School – 1 Room 8 Grades 30 Pupils 1 Teacher

Reid Dickie

HEBRON SCHOOL

Part 3 of 3

Though I was home schooled early by my teacher mother, my formal education began in Hebron School, a one-room schoolhouse. This sounds like a pioneer situation but it was actually the 1950s. The area south of Brandon had plenty of young farm families at the time. Dad and Mom along with several neighbours with school-aged children petitioned the provincial education department to reopen Hebron School. With the baby boom in full bloom, the province agreed with the local wisdom of using an old one-room school to help educate the population surge. The school reopened in 1955, the year I attended Grade One. Hebron School sat at the intersection of two gravel grid roads, three miles from Hayfield, one west, one south, one west.

Hebron School as recorded in A Study of Public School Buildings in Manitoba (1994) by David Butterfield for the Historic Resources Branch of Manitoba Culture Heritage and Citizenship (as the department was known then)

Between 1903 and 1918, the building of one-room schools flourished all over Manitoba. About 400 new schools were built over that 15-year span bringing the total number of one-rooms in Manitoba to 1,400. Built about 1910, Hebron School was a traditional one-room country schoolhouse, wood frame with a pyramid roof and a low dormer above the front entrance. The doorway sported a small porch with modest Classical Revival stylings in the form of a pediment supported by columns. Almost square with a small cloakroom at the entrance and a little office for the teacher on the west side, the rest was the classroom with blackboards around two sides and a row of large windows facing east. A flagpole flew the Union Jack. The school’s amenities included a small stable out back where you could tie up your pony or mule for the day while you went to school, and a manual pump for water. In the spring and fall, I rode my little two-wheel bicycle to school.

About 30 pupils demanded the attention and wisdom of Miss Bernice McRae, a young local woman fresh out of Normal School. During the school day, Miss McRae moved from the large Grade One row to the much shorter Grade Eight row, giving each her own special attention, their lessons and the direction their attentions needed to go. I learned everyone’s lessons in one year. It was impossible not to, a bright, curious child getting eight years of knowledge at once! It was school immersion. I attended Hebron until the middle of Grade Three.

Every year the School held a Christmas pageant that disrupted the room completely because the stage, built on wooden trestles, took up a third of the classroom. The show consisted of the familiar songs, drills, costumes, the usual Christmas trappings all cute as the dickens when done by little kids, your little kids! I “sang” and “acted” in the nativity play, usually as a shepherd.

Hebron School had a basement, which meant it had a furnace that kept it relatively warm most of the winter. On the coldest days, we lit an extra stove on the classroom.

When Miss MacRae noticed black clouds streaked with lightning building in, she’d herd us all into the cement basement of the building to wait out the storm in safety. I recall the sound of the daily attendance binder she kept as she snapped it shut after taking attendance as we entered the basement. I suppose she brought it to account for her small brood of charges should we be hurled into oblivion or taken to heaven by a twister. 

My Grade One picture from Hebron School 1955

Like Hayfield, Hebron School no longer exists. Sold and moved off the original site in the 1990s, its corner of the world has turned into cropland. Often unused schools became granaries, shops or sheds but I’m not sure of the eventual fate of Hebron School. A stone with a commemorative plaque marks the spot where the school stood.

Though I excelled in terms of the requirements of Miss MacRae and Hebron School, and despite school immersion, in Shoal Lake Grade Three, I was behind. I couldn’t multiple or divide for my level. Before and during Christmas, while I recuperated from an accident, Mom taught me math at the kitchen table. Dad would come home from work and we’d report how the multiplication was going, complete with demonstrations. “Six times nine,” Dad would say and I would spout out the answer. I caught up.

In addition to the plaqued rock, there is one other reminder of Hebron. Hebron Road, a good gravel road, runs off Hwy 2 east of Souris and goes right by the former school site.

 

Find more stories about Manitoba schools on my Schools page.

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Filed under 1950s, Family, Ghost Towns, Local History, Manitoba Heritage, Prairie People, Roadside Attractions

My Memories of a Ghost Town

Reid Dickie

Part 2 of 3

HAYFIELD, MANITOBA

This article about Hayfield along with a store picture was supplied to the Souris and Glenwood Municipality history book, published in 2006.

    I may be the last person alive who ever lived in Hayfield, Manitoba.

    My parents (Bruce and Helen Dickie) and I moved from Margaret, Manitoba in 1952 when they purchased the Red and White store in Hayfield. I was three years old. Dad bought grain in Margaret for Pool Elevators after he returned from the war and wanted a new experience.

   Hayfield provides my earliest firm memories. The country general store my parents bought was a huge two-story rectangular building with shed-roof wings, slat siding and Red and White Store emblazoned across the front. We bought the buildings, not the name, from Mrs. Canning after Mr. Canning passed away. Thereafter it became Dickie’s General Store though the white with red trim remained. As you came over the rise traveling west on Hayfield Road, the store, blazing white in the bright sun, stood against a rolling landscape of crop and fallow making it impossible to miss.

Front view of Dickie’s General Store in Hayfield. Note the handpump-style gas bowser. The child in the picture is me.

    The store, which faced east, had a flat roof and façade with a central entrance and sidelights bracketed by two large multi-paned display windows. The sidelights sported large Coca-Cola decals. On the façade a pair of narrow rectangular windows opened into the second floor. The wing on the south housed vehicles, the one on the north a storage area with its own entrance. A windbreak of trees to the north and west of the store helped protect it from inclement weather.

    Don’t mistake Hayfield for a town or even a village. It was mostly just a store. Besides my parents and me, just two others resided in Hayfield: the hired man, Lawrence Murphy who rented a room from us and an older man named Dave Rogers who lived in the only remaining house in Hayfield. More cats and dogs than people lived in Hayfield.

   On the main floor, our store sold groceries, dry goods, house wares and a few farm supplies. A soft drink cooler – the kind with a tank of cold moving water holding drinks like Kik Cola, Wynola, cream soda and a myriad of Stubby flavours – stood next to the front door. Customers came in from the summer heat, opened the large lid of the cooler and either poured over the vast variety of drinks or reached right for their brand, likely Cokes all clustered together. I accumulated a huge bottle cap collection from the sticky catch bin of the cooler.

    At the rear of the store, a post office offered the services of the Royal Mail. Mom was the postmistress and Dad delivered the mail to the local farms. In winter, he drove a horse and cutter, in summer he used a half-ton. The post office was the only place off limits to me, federal property and all – there and Lawrence Murphy’s room upstairs in the corner, personal property and all.

    Oiled wooden planks, likely original to the place, covered the floor of the store. I recall the slightly chemical smell of the crumbly green stuff we put on the floor before we swept it. In front of the store in the parking lot was an Esso gas bowser, the kind with the glass tank overhead into which you hand-pumped with a handle the required number of gallons then gravity pulled it into the tank.

   We lived at the back and above the store. Behind the store were our kitchen, family room and mudroom. A crude summer room led off the kitchen. Our bedrooms were upstairs, my parents in the front corner, Lawrence’s in the opposite back corner, mine along side Mom and Dad’s. These bedrooms all opened into a huge living room with linoleum floor and four wood frame windows across the south side We never had much in the way of furniture up there (our financial situation was modest at best) so I rode my tricycle around and around in the bright airy empty room.

    In one upstairs corner down a short hallway, a dusty storage room housed an enchanting assortment of things from the store’s past. A moveable type printing press, in pieces but with the type open and available to my little fingers sat next to store displays for products that hadn’t been made in decades and a few personal effects of families who lived there before us. I’m not sure why but my parents completely ignored this room and its contents. It became my secret place.

    The mysterious and intriguing thing that turned the storage room into a secret place was not left behind by a person. On the sill of a west window, I found the perfectly preserved skeleton of a mouse, bleached white by the sun. It provided my first exposure to death encountered suddenly in an unexpected place. I remember how the sheer brightness of the tiny bones reached out and grasped my attention, how I would stand and stare at the glowing white structure, arranged like jewelry on the grey wooden ledge, the sun pointing slanty fingers through the slowly moving dust.  My young imagination strained to picture those frail dry bones supporting a tiny body in a soft fur coat, tail sweeping back and forth, warm life pulsing inside. Over the years, I watched these fragile bones turn to a soft white powder.

This promotional item from Dickie’s General Store is a small first aid kit in a plastic box containing an antiseptic solution, cotton absorbent, a spool of tape and basic first aid instructions.

      By the time we arrived in Hayfield, only a short section of the raised grade across the prairie remained to remind you that railway tracks once ran through here. At some point Hayfield had at least one elevator but all that remained of it was a metal grain bin set deep into the ground, its shiny slanted metal sides gaping and open to the sky, a great danger to anything that fell into it. It usually held enough water in the bottom of the hopper to drown a child, a constant worry to my parents. I recall Mom’s frequent warnings not to go near the hopper. It was the most dangerous thing I ever encountered in Hayfield.

   North of the wooden store, two small sheds and a barn, all with gable ends, sat next to a corral. The last building in the row, a big wooden hall, provided me with endless hours of amusement. (This was formerly the Hayfield church.) The hall consisted of a large room with rectangular windows along both sides and an open raised stage at one end. Used for storing lumber, the place was full of planks in piles. I found some old drums left behind by a band that made music there at some previous time. The skins were broken but I can recall standing on the stage all alone banging on the drums with a stick singing at the top of my lungs to my captive audience of old planks.

   Being an only child in a rural setting without nearby children, I became a self-amusing kid, my performances to old lumber an example. I roamed the area with our black lab, Jet. Mom could always tell my whereabouts because she’d see Jet’s black tail above the tall grass or crop and know her son was safe. 

   left: Bruce and Reid at front door of Dickie’s General Store in Hayfield, 1955  below: Mom in front of store 1955

    Cats abounded in Hayfield. I recall one rainy day racing back and forth from barn to house excitedly reporting every new kitten our cat Freckles produced. A few barn cats tried to keep the mouse population under control.

     Southwest of the store, a dilapidated wooden fence encircled a space for an ice rink in winter, another hint of Hayfield’s past. Unused by the time we arrived, Dad would cover a small section of the rink with water, clean off a smooth patch with a rusty old ice scraper and let me skate. I learned to skate on this bumpy ice by pushing a small kitchen chair ahead of me.

     In summer, wild windstorms swept in from the northwest or, more scarily, from the east. Dust devils as big as funnel clouds came swirling across the black summer fallow, lifting cones of dry dust into the heat. The wind would pop out a pane of old glass in the upper floor of the store, sweep through the place looking for egress, punch out a window in the back room downstairs and continue its desperate journey across the prairie. I have jumbled, frightening recollections of the wind and thunder pounding outside while we frantically held pillows to the windows on the storm side of the house. On more than one occasion, the weather became our enemy, vulnerable as we were out there.

    Dickie’s General Store would be the last store in the old building. Newly mobile, people found Brandon nearby, alluring and centralized. Our country store was obsolete. In the fall of 1957, we held an auction sale liquidating the stock. Dad found a job running a Texaco consignee business delivering bulk gas and fuel oil to service stations, farms and homes in and around Shoal Lake, Manitoba out on Highway 16. He moved there first and we followed a month or two later. I don’t know the arrangement but Lawrence Murphy stayed on as caretaker of the Hayfield buildings. He may have run the post office for a few more years after we left. Later Lawrence lived in Souris.

The store and all the remaining buildings 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. It brought a tear to Dad’s eye when I told him the details of Hayfield’s demise but we agreed the cause was worthy and a fitting finale.

Helen Dickie passed away in 1993, Bruce in 2001. They lie side-by-side in Shoal Lake Cemetery. I make a living as a freelance writer, working out of Winnipeg although since my wife Linda passed away, I am trying to retire. My areas of interest include urban and rural architecture, history, heritage issues, music and spirituality.

My years in Hayfield, ages three to eight, were formative in my life and in the world. Humanity emerged out of the darkness of a great war into a time of sunny optimism when hope invaded our hearts and souls. The future glowed with promise and prosperity. Somehow, that sense of optimism filtered through to our little family and gave us the strength we needed to move and survive in a new town.

Though I consider Shoal Lake my hometown, Hayfield, Hebron School and the Brandon Hills left indelible impressions. That was where the mysteries of life and death revealed themselves to me in obvious and subtle ways, where I learned lessons that are still useful and relevant to me every day. Hayfield is gone but I expect its lessons will last a lifetime.

A bluff of trees in a cow pasture and the grade of the lane suggest Hayfield but its only a suggestion against the big prairie sky.

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Filed under 1950s, Family, Ghost Towns, Linda, Manitoba Heritage, Prairie People

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.

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