European Trading and Immigrants
The 1700’s to late 1800’s the area was mainly nomadic fur trading between initial First Nation colonists, Native middleman and Europeans. The Assiniboine, the Cree and the Ojibway (Salteaux) migrated into and lived in this region at different times during the fur-trade era. The LaVerendryes established their Trading Post on the Mossey River in the 1740’s, people from this area who wanted to trade, had to make the long and difficult journey to Hudson Bay by way of rivers and lakes.
Young European men lived with the local First Nations for trapping and trading and for 125 years this area became well known to French and Anglo Saxon trappers and traders. The Duck Mountains were mapped by the Northwest Company in 1812, though at that time they were known as the Fort Dauphin Mountains (a translation of the Cree name).
In 1869, an agreement between the Canadian Government and the Hudson Bay Company transferred all Company lands to Canada which led to a large number of Métis, white trappers and traders to leave the area and move north to the Swan River Valley. The lands in the District became unknown again and later pioneers did not know if there had been Europeans in the area.
The first recorded homesteaders arrived in the late 1880’s. Settlers came over the Riding Mountain slope on the Strathclair Trail, which was a wagon trail to facilitate movement across the mountain to the Dauphin Lake area. The historic trail is now used for recreation in present day “Riding Mountain National Park”.
The main trading corridor to the north was a gravel ridge (present day PTH #10) which was regularly used by settlers as they would come to Ethelbert to cut tamarack trees for building bridges, fence posts and buildings. By 1897, this gravel ridge was graded and bridges were installed which allowed further settlement and trade with Ethelbert and further north to Swan River. The first settlement in Ethelbert was by railroad crews who wintered there. Many of the original Ukrainian settlers of that area were working on the railroad. The name of the Village came from the names of the two children of Railroad Inspector R. MacKenzie (Ethel & Bertha), who spent part of that first winter there. Within 10 years settlement spread west and north, mostly of Anglo Saxon decent and a majority of them were newcomers from other areas of Canada and southern Manitoba.
Much of the area to the west had become well-settled before the arrival of the railway around 1900. Up to this time, Dauphin was where most business was conducted and supplies were purchased. In the fall of 1900 the Canadian National Railroad (CNR) railway was completed to Grandview (so named for the beautiful view across the valley), bringing more settlers to the district. By this time the villages were being incorporated and surveyed lots were offered for further settlement.
Early Business Development
By 1900, the district had been divided and villages were being incorporated with surveyed lots for further settlement. Commerce was well established with numerous business providing all the essential products and services.
Two of the most important industries that thrived in the new economy was agriculture and forestry. Numerous farms were supported with new grain elevators that were established along the railway to transport grain. Theodore Burrows, a famous lumber entrepreneur in Manitoba had developed several sawmills and planning mills for the lumber industry across the region. Communities have memorialized his contribution with the naming of streets in his honor.
The people of the region are proud of their rich history and celebrate with several annual community gatherings that promote traditional farming practices, food and dance. Many of the original buildings are still being used today.