Heritage Projects


We have attempted to relate these site to the history of the region through a series of short articles on:

1. Historic Claims of the area
2. Analysis Critera - Where sites fit in terms of the Community Heritage
3. Community Layout
4. Notable People (See the Argyle Notable People Project)

The project is intended as a "Beginning" rather than a Finished Product. Local groups and individuals are invited to amend and add to it. New information is always welcome and we will make every effort to add anthing that is sent to us.

One goal is to collect as much information about Argyle's older buildings as we can. This will be found in the Sites section, and we would appreciate corrections, additions, comments and questions as we complete the project.

Community Historical Claims

Baldur may claim to be one of the few settlement-era railway towns whose location was not arbitrarily chosen by the railway company. In fact it was not slated to appear at all but prominent local farmers suceeded in convincing the railway company that another station was needed.  After rejecting the first two locations local settler and prospective businessman Jesse Chester apparently carried the surveyor’s equipment himself to the current site, almost single handedly determining the town’s eventual location.

By the end of the settlement era two sets of tracks crossed the Municpality, the “Main” line having spawned the towns of Greenway and Baldur in 1890, and the, the Wakopa Branch,  giving birth to Glenora and Neelin in 1903.

So, although the first towns appeared in 1890, the region itself had a long and interesting history. The wooded valley of the Pembina, and the string of lakes along it had long been a place of shelter, a gathering place for various aboriginal peoples. Ongoing archeological explorations, especially along Rock Lake have documented a series of significant burial mounds. 

In 1879 settlers began trickling in along the Boundary Commission Trail and from the north along the Assiniboine River corridor. Vitally important to the eventual cultural makeup of the community however was the visit, almost by chance, of two traveling south from Brandon,

For the most unique settlement in Argyle, indeed one of the most unique settlements in the province would be the Icelandic Settlement in the Grund and Bru districts.

In the early 1870’s a combination of economic factors and natural disasters such as volcanic eruptions prompted increased, and large-scale emigrations to North America.
On the advice of a Missionary named John Taylor a large group of settlers arrived there on the west side of Lake Winnipeg in the late fall of 1875, establishing a settlement that has shaped the culture of that part of Manitoba through to the present day.

A combination of bad luck and bad weather nearly put an end to that experiment as a smallpox epidemic, harsh winters and wet summers made life extremely difficult for the first years. The colony persevered and eventually thrived. For those that preferred fishing over farming the location served them well once they adapted. But it wasn’t great farm land and that likely prompted some to try their luck elsewhere.

Everett Parsonage, a pioneer of the Pilot Mound district, had worked for John Taylor in Ontario and through him had contacts with some of the Icelandic settlers at Gimli. He advised them to visit Argyle. In August of 1880 Sigurdur Kristofferson and Kristian Jonsson set out to vist Mr. Parsonage and he showed them a largely unsettled area in the rolling country in the northern part of the Municipality an area we now know as Grund.

As soon as he could Sigurdur filed on SE 10-6-14 and called his new home Grund”. An Icelandic word meaning grassy plain. More soon followed with two more men taking homesteads that fall. In the spring of 1881 four families arrived at their new homes, by winter there were eight familys, then 17 by the next year. By 1884 they had “650 cultivated acres, 60 head of cattle, 62 oxen, 60 sheep, 9 work horses,,,,” and more. Six schools and a church were built by 1900. Before Baldur was established a strong community was in place, and although the store and post office established at Sigurdur Kristofferson home didn’t evolve into a village, the name Grund has lived on.
After the visit of the surveyors in 1890, the building began in Baldur and Greenway. When the train whistle sounded for the first train Mr. A. E. Cramer had moved his creamery from his farm to the site of the new town. It was in turn sold to G.W. Griffith as a general store in the spring of 1890, still before the town site was settled. The main street was named Elizabeth after Mr. Griffith’s wife. In the fall of 1989 Mr. G.W. Playfair had moved his grain buying business (which he conducted for Bawlf & Co.) to the new town site in a building he also moved from its previous location on his farm. Once the issue of the town site was firmly settled he moved the building to the front street and began a lumber, furniture and coal business.

Jesse Chester’s house became a sort of unofficial restaurant for railway workers and he was soon persuaded to open a boarding house that became know as the Chester House.

Other businesses soon followed. Sigurdur Christophers, who had taken the role of Icelandic Immigration Officer, opened an office. William McKnight build a carriage and blacksmith shop.  Thomas E. Poole erected a store for his hardware and tinsmith business. A.E. Cramer build a two-storey building used as a saddlery shop by C.W. Watson. G.W. Cramer built a blacksmith shop which was operated by Harry Goodman.

Along with the P.F. Curtis family, Jesse Chester and the Cramer brothers several other notable early citizens have left their mark on Hartney.  Some, like Frank Schultz,  and G.W. Playfair contributed to the commercial growth, others like Dr. Cleghorn and Sigurdur Christophers served in other ways.

In the early years of the twentieth century Baldur consolidated its position as the primary trading centre for the region while Greenway, though a vibrant community offered more limited commercial service. The additional rail line created the nearby smaller villages of Glenora and Neelin. 

As Argyle looks forward to the next century it has taken steps to preserved important aspects of its past, including the expansion of the Argyle Museum in the Thomas E. Poole building, the designation of several other local buildings and the creation of the Marringhurst Heritage House and Marringhurst School Museum.

Analysis Criteria

  Aboriginal Peoples

When our ancestors arrived in Argyle it was obvious to them that they were not the first inhabitants of this land. Native people often passed through and evidence of past inhabitants was more visible in those days, be it in the form of burial mounds or prairie trails. Stone projectile points found in the Avery Mound (SW 14-3-13) near the northeastern corner of Rock Lake, show that an early culture called The Lake Shore Culture occupied the territory about 1500. BC. The discovery of well-made spear points in other area locations is evidence that hunters seeking the now long extinct giant bison were in the region up to eight or ten thousand years ago.  As years passed more advanced and cultured people left evidence of well-crafted pottery, and more importantly, a clear picture of burial practices in the form of the readily identifiable mounds that dot the region. Although settlement by the Sioux, Algonquin, Plains Cree and Assiniboine people was intermittent as befitted their dependence on the roving herds of bison, it was ongoing and substantial.  Absence of any written record is of course a challenge as we try to understand the times, but thanks to archaeologists, like Argyle’s own Chris Vickers, we know the region was then, as it is now, a home.

Settlers and Defining Culture

Anticipating the great settlement boom of the 1880’s a trickle of adventurous souls lead the way into this land in the 1870’s. Perhaps the first were a small group of Metis from Red River who came to the western end of Rock Lake after the Riel resistance and backlash that occurred there against their people. They likely knew the area well as the annual buffalo hunts, only recently abandoned, took hunters right through the area. In 1879 a few Ontario settlers followed the Boundary Commission Trail westward from Emerson and crossed the Pembina River to settle in the Marringhurst district. By 1880 a trickle of settlers, again largely from Ontario approached the district from the north having taken river steamers up the Assiniboine to landings near Cypress River and at Millford. Also in 1880 the first few Icelandic settlers claimed land in the Grund and Bru districts, followed in 1881 by many more in a migration that to this day has had a large influence on that region and, indeed the whole municipality. The beginning of regular railway service to Brandon brought many more in the spring of 1882, also from Ontario - with some from the British Isles as well. The area was well settled by the time the railway arrived in 1890.

Other Settlement/Ethnic Groups

To the east of Argyle the communities of St. Alponse and Mariapolis were settled largely by French Canadians and by the beginning of the twentieth century Argyle was home to immigrants from French Canada, France and Belgium, giving the region a multi-cultural aspect somewhat unique in Maniotba

Economic Engines

Farming formed the economic basis of virtually all prairie settlements but many communities sought to enhance the agriculture by encouraging some local “value added” processing. In Argyle where settlement preceded the arrival of a rail link by a decade, necessity created viable Grist and Saw Mills in the early 1880’s, but with the arrival of the railway these services could best be provided by well established communities to both the west and east.

Commercial Growth

The establishment in 1890 of the town Baldur in the midst of well-populated and productive farmland led to an initial burst of commercial enterprises. The usual banks, general stores, drug and jewelry stores appeared. Some of these would naturally be housed in quickly erected-frame buildings, but as the first decade drew to a close a few noteworthy buildings such as the brick Curtis Block and Fowler Block were erected. And although only the Fowler Block remains in use today, several of those built near the turn of the century created the downtown streetscape, the general outline of which does still exist today.

Social & Cultural Development

The settlement of the region began in earnest with the arrival of John Wilson and his family who crossed the Pembina River between Glenora and Pilot Mound and homesteaded in the Marringhurst region in 1879. Other settlers, including Peter Strang, soon appeared in the Moropano district at the west end of Rock Lake, while the Cramers and Playfairs began farming at Otenaw a few kilometers northeast of Baldur. The districts of Bru and Grund were founded by Icelandic settlers from the recently established colony at Gimli, while William Craik was the first to homestead at Dry River between Greenway and Glenora.

For the first ten years after farming operations commenced the scattered rural nature of settlement in the area was characterized by various small rural centres, often just a Post Office / General Store and perhaps a school which might double as a church. In 1890, after several unsuccessful efforts to secure a much-needed rail link, the Canadian Northern Pacific Railroad (a branch of the American company, completed a line linking Morris with Brandon and passing through the center of Argyle. The towns of Baldur and Greenway and Belmont were quickly established. But that left quite a stretch without a station and farmers felt they deserved better service.

While the surveyors came were busy grading the line farmers in the Otenaw district lead by A.W Playfair  suceeded in convincing the railway company that another station was needed. The first site chosen was three miles west of the present town and again citizens including Jesse Chester, Reeve Peter Strand and Sigurdur Chistopherson, rallied in support of the current location. The surveyor reconsidered and chose a location a few miles further east. This still wasn’t what the locals had in mind and Jesse Chester apparently carried the surveyor’s equipment himself to the current site. His persuasion won out and in the spring of 1890 land was purchased from M.T. Cramer and Mr. Taggart for $7.00 per acre.

In most Manitoba communities, the “Establishment” era is defined by the replacement of “Pioneer” log, sod and rough lumber buildings by more ambitious constructions of milled lumber. With that definition in mind the towns in the municipality of Arygle can be said to have almost skipped the Pioneer stage and proceeded directly to Establishment. The rural areas of course did go through this phases but it was somewhat shortened by the existence of at least two sawmills near Rock Lake. The earliest existing structure, a dwelling built for Peter and Harry Strang in 1884, was sided with locally milled lumber (although over a frame of squared logs) and the local history contains numerous examples of the widespread use of local lumber. The Consolidation period can be said to have started in the late 1890’s with the erection of the first of the three substantial churches, all of which survive today and the several “downtown” brick blocks replaced earlier dwellings. It was in that period that many fine homes, such as the Fowler House, were erected.

Community Form and Layout


The layout of the village of Baldur, as with the other villages in Argyle, was a direct response to the railway line to which it owes its existence. Like many prairie communities, it grew primarily on one (north) side of the tracks, with a few residences on the south side along with (typically) the railway and elevator buildings.  

The railway runs west-east and the town was surveyed to conform. Elizabeth Avenue, (named after the wife of the first storekeeper) runs parallel to the track and from the first days has housed the majority of retail outlets. Of the grid of side streets running northwards, two evolved as business streets with some residences.

That Baldur grew quickly and confidently is not surprising in that the community with its agricultural base well developed by the time the rail line arrived. There was very little speculation or uncertainty about its potential importance as a service centre but at the same time, very little fanfare and boosting. It was as if it knew exactly what it was going to be. The building that followed the arrival of the rail line established both the limits and a pattern of the layout which has remained relatively unchanged.


Greenway was the first town established in Argyle as the railway approached westward from Morris. The nest stop was to have been Belmont (then in Argyle) about 25 km west. Had the good citizens of the Otenaw district, in between the two stops, not agitated and received a station, Greenway may have developed on a larger scale. Its survey was not ambitious, just with a Main Street running parallel to the tracks and a limited grid of crossing streets. Housing and basic businesses sprang up and its form and layout lasted for nearly a century before it ceased to exist as a village.


Unlike Greenway, Glenora had existed as an identifiable community for two decades before the arrival a branch of the Canadian Northern connecting Greenway with Wakopa to the southwest in 1903. In typical fashion the new location attracted the usual businesses and both a school and church soon moved from nearby locations.


The same branch line that created Glenora gave rise to Neelin. It owes its existence to geography in that Joseph Neelin’s farm just happened to be right at an ideal spot for crossing the deep valley of the Pembina River between Rock Lake and Lake Louise. The town was laid out to the south of the tracks in a small grid with commercial properties on the street parallel to the tracks and on two of the side streets.


Maps Explore