|It is important to set the
stage for the following stories.
The creation of the village of Baldur as a commercial centre in its
current location, was not part of the plan when The Northern Pacific
and Manitoba Railway began building its railway through the
Municipality of Argyle in 1889.
In 1899 the Baldur Gazette Historical Edition offered this introduction
to the history of the region;
“Up to the year 1879 the municipality of Argyle was a wilderness of
bluffs and prairie grass in which the wolf, the badger and the prairie
hen found shelter. In that year John Wilson crossed the Pembina river
and pitched his tent on what is now known as the Marringhurst plains.
Mr. and Mrs Wilson's hospitality to the immigrants passing through in
those early days is not forgotten. In the same year William Stark,
John. O. Bell and John Harrower and others settled in the Roseberry
District. In the year 1880 the influx of settlers began in earnest to
the east half of the municipality. The Playfairs, Cramers and others
took possession of that fine township east of the town of Baldur.
There were no towns in Argyle as we know them in the 1880’s.
Settlements were known by the name given the Post Office. Sometimes
these locations included a general store, with perhaps a school or a
church nearby contributing to the sense of identity. Services such as
grist and sawmills opened to serve very local needs but were not
usually associated with an identifiable village or settlement. Because
of the relative isolation of the region in the middle ground between
the Boundary Commission Trail and the Assiniboine, Argyle avoided the
speculative boomtowns that blossomed then disappeared along those
By the summer of 1882, the completion of the Manitoba portion of the
C.P.R. trans continental railway had created a string of town along its
line from Winnipeg to Moosomin. A second westward line was soon
completed along a route south of the R.M. of Argyle bringing service to
LaRiviere, Pilot Mound and eventually Boissevain, and a third line to
the north served Glenboro by 1885.
This map, from the pre-railway days, shows the
communities that did
exist in the Argyle district.
That left the people of Argyle in the middle, forced to make long trips
for supplies and to market their produce. That didn’t stop them from
establishing farms schools and churches, raising families, and
generally getting on with life. But the story of the early days in
Argyle is the shaped by those geographic circumstances.
By 1881 the first council of the newly created R.M. of Argyle was in
place and by 1886 15 school districts had been established. Land was
being broken. Crops were being grown.
As in all parts of the province in pioneer times the communication and
population patterns evolving in the pre-railroad days were to undergo a
big change once those rails arrived.
While the surveyors 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 between Greenway and Belmont.
The first site chosen was three miles west of the present town and
again citizens, including Jesse Chester, Reeve Peter Strang 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.
Given that beginning, the name “Chesterville”, suggested by a railway
official Mr. Lehorn, would have seemed appropriate, but Sigurdur
Chistopherson’s daughter Carrie has been given credit for the
suggesting name “Baldur” the Nordic God of innocence and summer sun. A
vote settled the issue and Baldur it was. Carrie herself was recognized
in the name of the second avenue of the new town.
The Brandon Sun, Jun 5, 1891
Before the first train arrived, 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.
In the fall of 1989 Mr. G.W. Playfair had moved his grain buying
business 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.
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 shopwhich was operated by Harry Goodman.
Thus the names we have come to know as Baldur pioneers established
themselves in the very early days of the town. By 1898 the population
was around 400 and townspeople could choose from four general stores, a
harware, three fruit and confectionery stores and a host of other
businesses. It had become the commercial centre of the agricultural
region that surrounded it, and in doing so had become, quite separate
from that, a community.
Baldur’s development and growth in the years surrounding the
beginning of the twentieth century followed a pattern established
across Manitoba as newcomers, often quite young an from a variety of
backgrounds, came together and through their energy ingenuity and
determination made a life for themselves and their descendants.
The “Invincibles”, Baldur’s unbeatable hockey team, ca. 1903
Photo from the S. J. McKee Archives
Change…. and Opportunity
So as the decades passed new transportation choices and the continually
improving roads changed everything, leaving no need for more than one
“full-service” market town. Being centrally located, and having a
well-developed business section, that town was Baldur.
And today? No its not as busy as it was in on any given Saturday
night 1956 with all the stores on a two block span of Elizabeth Avenue
and down Second Street open until late; with both tables busy at the
pool hall; with a movie playing at the Memorial Hall and with every
parking spot full. But a walk down that same Elizabeth Avenue today
will take you past the K-12 school, that replaced the 1905 Simpson
School, and the Credit Union that long ago replaced the Union Bank
built in 1903. The Fowler Block is still home to a thriving grocery
store and T. Poole’s Hardware, built in 1910, now houses the Argyle
Museum. The Train Station grounds have been lovingly re-cast as a park;
and several newer buildings housing Senior’s Housing and a Personal
Care Home have appeared. Several commercial services are evident; such
as the “modern” Motor Hotel across he street from the site of the
original Chester House, the nearby Post Office, a café and
variety store, the offices of the Baldur Gazette, and a Coop. The
needs of Baldur’s population are different than they were in 1896, or
in 1956, and such a walk reminds us that times change and what we
see is a town adapting to its changing role. What we see is a community
that continues to serve its purpose.
Photo from the S.J. McKee Archives
Two views of Elizabeth Avenue – separated by more than a century.