A bit of history
A band of Cree-Salteaux natives under Chief Ouk-an-nay-sic
hunted buffalo near "Naowawgunwodju" - the Hill of the Buffalo
Chase, fished in the waters of the surrounding lakes and roamed the
area south to the bend in the "Saskawjewum river".
The fur trade advanced into the area and a Hudson Bay Trading Post was
established near present day Elphinstone.
The Dominion of Canada signed treaties with the natives and wagon trails
soon rolled out across the prairie. The Audy Trail was to become known
as the Strathclair/Dauphin Colonization Trail to the north; the Carlton/Ellice
trails west and the Fort Pelly trail reaching northwest saw hundreds
of wagons in the mid to latter 1800's.
The heavily laden wagons carried settlers, largely of Scottish descent,
to open the new territory. Settlements sprung up along the trails. South
of the Hudson Bay Post at the Bend "where the river takes a wide
curve to the southeast" such a settlement developed. A sawmill,
providing the much needed lumber from the bush up river and employment
for many was among the first enterprises. As the land was found to be
fertile, agriculture was soon practised and a grist mill also became
necessary. Population grew with a church, post office, general store,
and stop over house being added. It was decided an official name should
be chosen, and by combining "Strath" meaning "valley"
in the Scottish tongue and "clair" in honour of Duncan Sinclair
the area surveyor, "Strathclair was deemed a suitable name.
On July 7, 1883, an act was passed dividing the area previously represented
by the County Council of Minnedosa into different municipalities. Under
this act the Rural Municipality of Strathclair was to take shape, comprised
of townships 16, 17 and 18 in Ranges 21 & 22 west of the prime meridian.
The first Council Meeting was held Tuesday, January 8, 1884 in the Presbyterian
Church with Reeve J.P. Tulley presiding.
In 1886, fire destroyed the mills at Strathclair and they were not rebuilt.
Nearby the site now is marked by the historic Bend Cemetery, the final
resting place of many stalwart pioneers as well as the Surveyor, Mr.
The Manitoba & North-western Railway established their route and
prospective settlement sites. Strathclair Station was located in the
Southeast quarter of 35-16-22W and once again began development with
the construction of the post office, churches, stores, hotels and liveries.
The community of Elphinstone (located NE 8 and NW 9-18-21 W), origination
as a Hudson Bay Post, was so named for Lord Elphinstone of England.
Lord Elphinstone established a large ranch in the hills of the river
valley, importing English cattle to the area. Many colourful stories
are associated with this holding. The Merchiston Ranch located on 2-19-21
west and 34-18-21 west was owned by retired Hudson Bay Co explorer Robert
Campbell. Both Mr. Robert Campbell and later his son Glen Campbell lived
the lives "that movies are made of". Among many happenings
Robert Campbell then with the Hudson Bay Co was recorded as having travelled
more than 3000 miles on snowshoes; son Glen Campbell was a member of
Boulton's Scouts engaging the Louis Reil forces at Duck Lake and Batoche
A number of communities and school districts were named throughout the
municipality over the years. Menzie, Glenforsa, Wisla, Ipswich, Glossop,
Elgin, Salt Lake, Green Bluff, Penrith and Wolf Creek are in some cases
names known only locally now.
The trend of the settlement and population growth continued into the
1900.s when a large number of people of Ukrainian descent came to homestead.
Many of these folk settled near Menzie, a small community still dedicated
to preserving the culture of its pioneers; remembering the labours.
Menzie was named after John Menzie, and early settler reported to have
supplied the railway workers with the necessities as the camped at the
siding throughout the long cold prairie winter.
Since these early days, people from many reaches of the world have populated
our region, bringing a broad mosaic of cultural actives.
Some Historic Points of Interest
Strathclair Municipal Hall -- Was built in 1906, by renowned architects
S.F. Peters and W.A Peters, Winnipeg. There have been renovations to
the original building , however, the brick exterior and hardwood dance
floor still reflect the old style charm. The hall continues to be used
regularly for community functions.
War Memorial -- Is located on the Municipal Hall grounds at 120 Minnedosa
McMurachy Wheat Cairn -- Recognizing Malcolm J.S. McMurachy, a pioneer
responsible for the development of "McMurachy Wheat", a rust
resistant strain bred into succeeding rust resistant varieties.
The Bend Theatre -- Completed in 1947, constructed of fine woods from
the Kippen Mill, by entrepreneurs Alex Kippen and Paddy Trim. The Bend
Theatre served the viewing public with motion pictures from July 1947
to 1980. Since 1983, the Strathclair Drama Club presents an annual full-length
live musical production and the Strathclair Theatre Committee organize
a concert season with guest performers gracing the stage at "The
Strathclair Museum -- the CP Rail Station has been re-located and preserved
here in Strathclair to house a myriad of antiques, artefacts and local
colour! Also on the site is the St. George(Hepworth) Anglican Church
and a replica building of the old blacksmith shop.
At the Bend -- North of the Bend Cemetery is the original site of the
Strathclair community with settlement beginning in the 1870's. Still
remaining at the site, of significance to budding historians, are the
old millstone and an old thick walled building used to store ice in
the times past.
Settlement Trails -- Early trading and settlement Trails cross the municipality.
Working its way in a general east west direction we have the Carlton
or Ellice Trail. The trail crosses near the southern boundary of our
municipality where sections of this historic landmark are still visible.
This Trail proceeded on to Fort Ellice and ultimately to Fort Edmonton.
Another east west Trail crosses through the centre section of the municipality
and veered north along our wet boundary to Fort Pelly. With a general
following of the Little Saskatchewan River the Audy or Strathclair/Dauphin
Colonization Trail extends south-north to Lake Audy and beyond eventually
Miniature Replica of Ukrainian Home -- At the turn of the century immigration
to the Menzie area included a number of settlers from the Ukraine. As
a salute to, and a preservation of the culture, there stands at Menzie
a replica of a Ukrainian home complete with whitewashed clay walls and
a thatched roof. A woven fence constructed of willows completes the
setting. Each year, many visitors stop and add their name to the guest
book as they enjoy the old world charm associated with this spot!
Hudson Bay Steam Boiler - When the Hudson Bay Co decided to build the
flour mill, the big steam boiler used to power the mill was shipped
to Fort Churchill and from there by river barge along the inland waterways
to Fort Ellice. It was then dragged overland to its destination at Elphinstone.
Both freighters and settlers helped in this arduous task. The old steam
boiler is still situated on the Hudson Bay property in Elphinstone.
Salt Lake - In early yeas Premier Norquay, D.L. Harrison Agriculture
Minister and one Dr. Pennyfather had plans to build a health spa on
Salt Lake. The waters were considered medicinal and while the untimely
death of Premier Norquay also brought an end to this project, there
are many who have found the waters to be soothing to certain ailments.
Also in the region of Salt Lake are mounds containing evidence of very
early travellers who probably camped t the lake for periods of time
during their nomadic life.
Local Historic Research - there are a number of churches, cemeteries
and cairns marking past history in the area. For many folks these may
provide interesting material and further enjoyment of prairie heritage.
Further information on the history, or the location of the above mentioned
area of the municipality can be obtained at the Strathclair Municipal
Office (204) 365-2196 or Strathclair Museum.
We look forward to seeing you!