Dry River (*By May Graham)
written as a tribute to the pioneers of the Dry River District who
had sufficient courage, ambition, strength and faith to leave their
their relatives and their friends in the east to come to a new country
which they knew very little. They certainly must have been endowed with
great spirit of adventure. It is also intended to be a record of those
settled in the district not only in the beginning, but also through the
Dry River district is about 10 miles north-west of Pilot Mound as the
flies and approximately 4 miles south-west of Mariapolls. It is bounded
the east by the Pembina River. The Pembina River derives its name from
Indian name - Pembina meaning "native cranberry". The old school
ran as far north as Township 4 for a short distance and at it's
it stretched west to the west side of rhe township On the south it goes
far south as the township for a part of the way. Then it reaches the
River which it follows. Later on in 1907 when Zephyr school district
organized, some land. was taken away from the west side of the district.
This district was not settled quite as early as the land to the south
east of it owing to the fact that the Pembina River had to be crossed.
one point there was a ford in the river and at a place north of the
the Diedrick Bridge was built. The name Diedrick was the name of a man
lived in the valley not far from the bridge. It is now known officially
the Creamery Bridge. In 1885, the Fairplay Creamery was built and the
Bridge was erected. This gave the residents of Dry River two crossings
the Pembina River. A man by the name of S.A.Johansen came from Denmark
run this creamery. He also helped to build it.
The District was surveyed in 1872. At that time it was comprised of
prairie, but a great deal of it was solid bush. The main trees in the
bush were Oak, Poplar, and Balm of Gilead. There were also many
especially around the sloughs of which there were many - some large and
small. There were a great deal of wild fruit trees: Saskatoons,
Chokecherry,Cranberry and also numerous patches of wild raspberry and
These fruit trees proved to be a wonderful asset to the pioneers and
to those who followed in the 1930's. The those pioneers and to those
lived in the dirty thirties, rhubarb was combined with strawberries
made a very edible fruit and Saskatoons made good fruit too, and it was
in sealers for winter use and lovely jelly was made from Pincherries
This land, when cleared, proved to be very fertile. One of the great
in those very early years were the summer frosts. Consequently the
turned to raising cattle and hogs as well.
Wildlife was quite common too. Thee were lots of wolves, deer. lynx,
also a few bear. Of course deer and rabbits were the edible ones.
were a real problem to the farmers as they dug holes in the fields and
the grain surrounding this hole. Therefore poison was put out beside
holes. Traps were set and in many cases this was done by the young boys
girls. The reason being that when they caught the gophers, they removed
tails, took them to town and received 1 cent for each tail. The boys
girls used to down the gophers out also. I'm not sure that this bounty
given in the very early days, but it was quite a common thing forty and
While speaking of wildlife, we must also remember there were wild ducks
wild geese, prairie chickens and partridges. The rivers and lakes
with fish too, Pike and Suckers. Of course, the Pike were the best. In
winter time the fish used to jam and the were taken out by the half
loads, so there was plenty of good fish to eat. We even canned them for
use in the dirty thirties.
The first settlers had to make their way from Emerson in wagons drawn
either horses or oxen. There was one other altermative, and that was to
It was a distance of 100 miles. In 1882, the Canadian Pacific Railway
as far as Manitou, and in 1885 it was extended to Pilot Mound.
As the summer frosts disappeared, the farmers went into grain growing.
barley and oats were the main crops. The Dry River district was known
grow the finest malting barley in Manitoba and the Dry River district
held the world's record for the largest yield of hard spring wheat per
How the distict got its name is rather a conundrum. Dry River is what
would call a contradictory name. The reason for this is the fact that
of the road which is now known as Highway No. 440, there is a divide.
Creek runs down from the north and runs west while the Dry River comes
the south and runs east to Swan Lake. There is a piece of land between
two creeks which is a little higher than that surrounding it. This is
the Indians used to cross and J. Flannagan Sr. named it the Pass. Not
the Indians used this as a pass, but when buffalo roamed this district,
used it also. From this piece of dry ground was derived the name "Dry
The original road across the Dry River Valley had many curves in it on
sides but now it is absolutely straight up and down. There is also
creek north of the Dry River and there once was quite a steep hill
This was known as the Welman Ravine named after a contractor who worked
the Canadian National. This railway came through in 1894. This was a
boom to the Dry River District as they only had to haul their grain
than half as far in order to put in on the market. Every farmer in
days didn't have to put their grain in the elevator. If they had
grain to fill a freight car (wheat or barley) they could order a car
the station agent. When the car came it was loaded, usually the
helped one another load their cars. At that time there was no wheat
and instead there was the grain exchange and the price of grains
from day to day. Every car was shipped to the lakehead and the tamer
the privilege of selling his wheat when he so desired. Some people used
gamble on the wheat market. In fact some did gamble who had never grown
bushel of grain in their lives. Previous to this, Dry River farmers
Pilot Mound their
town, but after the new railway came through Mariapolis, a large
part of the district went to Mariapolis. They drew their grain there
purchased their groceries and other necessities there too.
Sections 11 and 29 in each township were school sections and coud not
homesteaded. The Hudson Bay Company also had land given to them by the
and the C.P.R. had some given to them also. The rules regarding
were as follows: The homesteader had to agree to live on his quarter
6 months out of each year for 3 years and break 10 acres a year. After
he could buy another quarter called a pre-emption at $3 per acre and
took advantage of this.
Mr. Alex McQuarrie and Mr. Tom Frey came out here from Ontario in the
1881. At first Mr. McQuarie was going to homestead in Maringhurst and
brother in Dry River but however they changed their minds and Mr. Alex
took up a homestead on the S.E. 1/4 of 16-4-12. Later on he acquired
S.W. 1/4 of the same section as his pre-emption Tom Fry located on the
E. 1/4 of 16-4-12. He built a house on that quarter and he went back
in the fall of 1882 to get married. His fiance did not want to come out
Manitoba to live so he gave up his homestead. He returned to the
some years later.
In the spring of 1882, Mr Wm. Robinson and his brother-in-law George
came out from Ontario from a village called Nobleton. Mr. Robinson had
belongings in a freight car along with
another man. The Canadian Pacific Railway wouldn't put off Mr.
effects at Emerson therefore they had to go on to Winnipeg. The snow
very deep. In fact they could walk from the
roof of the freight car right on to the snow. They put the horses
in a livery barn and they took a room at the hotel. The horses took
distemper and therefore the men had to remain in Winnipeg until they
almost out of money. Finally they struck out west and found the water
so deep they had to return to Winnipeg and go south to Emerson. From
they were able to go west and then north. Finally, they arrived at Alex
- friends they had known in the
Mr Robinson took up a homestead on the N.W. 1/4 of 14-4-12.
He went back east in August and brought out his family. They came from
in a wagon drawn by horses. They had cows tied behind the wagon, two
themselves and one for George Stewart. The mosquitoes were the worst
had ever experienced. Mr and Mrs Robinson had five children when they
west and another girl was born November 2d of that year. Such an
would be considered ridiculous in our day and age, but they managed and
have to discard any of their belongings on the way as some of the more
people had to do.
They lived in Tom Fry's house during the first winter. In the spring,
Stewart, who was a carpenter, completed the house on the homestead of
N.W. 1/4 of 14-4-12 for Mr. Wm. Robinson.
Of course all of these homes were made of logs hewn out of the bush and
together with square nails. This story is an example of the trial and
that all the pioneers experienced. From 1882 to 1885, several settlers
to locate in the Dry River district. Namely: Archie McAuley. Wm.
W. Wardman, I Bentley, W. Davis. Ike Tealing. A. Bonnan. J.
Joe Sauders, W. Cressard, John Elson. T. A. Andersen, James and Wm.
and Jack Baird, also W. Tisdale and Wm. Craik.
Dry River School District No. 339 was organized in 1885 with D.
Alex McQuarrie and Wm. Robinson as trustees and Miss Thring, of Belmont
teacher. School was held in W. Robinson's home until the next year when
school was built. A full list of the trustees and teachers will be
near the end of the book. The post office was opened in 1884 in the
of George Stewart, then moved to A. Eason's. In 1904 it was taken over
Wm. Craik followed by S. Robinson who had it until his death in1948. It
closed in 1948. The north district is now served by Mariapolis and the
by rural mail from Pilot Mound. The first religious services were held
the school by Rev. H. Cain Presbyterian minister. Church was held in
school for many years and also Sunday School. Some of the ministers
R. Hunter 1903 - 1904; Rev. Ashcroft, Rev. McLean, Rev. McLean, Rev.
Rev Little and Rev. Morrison. The church was closed about 1920. This is
list of the Dry River Sunday School pupils in 1898.
Class I – Mrs. Elson — Ira Craik, W. J. Davis, Annie Davis,
Davis, Archie McAuley. Sam McAuley, Kate McLennan. Jane McLennan,
Class II - Mrs Barnes — Eddie Apperlev. Mary Craik, George Craik
Lila Davis, Charlie Eason, Fanny Eason. Bertha Eason, Jesie Eason
May Elson, Reggie McAuley, Aleck McAuley, John McLennan Maggie
Vina Robinson, Jack Stewart.
Class III – Mr. Sproule — Golda Apperlev, Gertrude Apperley
Cora Apperley. Lillie Craik. Annie Eason, Annie McLennan,
Glass IV – Mr. McQuarrie — Fred Craik, Dan McLennan, Duncan
McAuley, John McQuarrie, Walter Richardson, Edway Robinson, Robert
Class V – Mr. Eason — John Bames, Jessie Craik, Christina
Charles Ealson» Charles Filden, Archie Graham, Willie Herrick
Mary McLennan, Mary McQuarrie, Alex McQuarrie, Angus McQuarrie Archie
Lena Robinson, Harvey Robinson.
Portage Weekly, July 10, 1889
Brandon Sun, June 19, 1890
Brandon Sun, Oct 31, 1889
Brandon Sun, Dec. 3, 1891
Daily Nor' Wester, April 3, 1894
Daily Nor' Wester, May 14, 1894
Brandon Sun, May 19, 1892