Born on May 16, 1830, Thomas Bunn was the son of a local doctor and a Métis mother. Throughout his life, he contributed greatly to the surrounding community as a farmer, lawyer, and politician.
In 1860 he established his farm on Lot 97 along current day Old Henderson Highway. In the 1850s Bunn lived with his wife in the Kildonan area and experienced many devastating floods. After surviving the great flood, he promised his wife that he would construct her a house located high on the riverbank, safe from possible flood waters. A site north of Lower Fort Garry was selected. Bunn’s house, constructed by Samuel Taylor, remains today the most well-preserved example of a single storey stone house in the province.
Thomas Bunn first entered politics as a member of the Council of Assiniboia in 1868. In 1869, Louis Riel chose Bunn to represent his Provisional Government as they negotiated with the Canadian Government for the terms that resulted in Manitoba becoming a province. Bunn was elected to the first Legislative Assembly of Manitoba in 1870, serving until his death in 1875. He was the clerk of the General Quarterly Court from 1868-72 and was called to the Manitoba Bar in 1871.
Thomas Bunn Jr. carried on his father’s tradition and served on St. Clements Council from 1899-1906 and then as Secretary-Treasurer from 1906-1940.
Bunn’s Road is currently located off Old Henderson Highway (PTH #204). A ferry used to run at the end of this road, transporting goods and people across the river to Selkirk and to the St Clements Church. The ferry was removed with the creation of the Selkirk Bridge in 1937.
Bunn’s Road geocache site is located near East Selkirk, Manitoba, Canada at N 50º 07.176´ latitude and W 96º 52.916´ longitude. If you find the geocache and scan the QR code inside of it, it brings you here to learn more. Watch all of our videos on our YouTube Channel. Other heritage content can be found on our Red River North Heritage Youtube channel.
In this video, hear Rachel Bunn tell the story of how her new stone home came to be built in 1862. Learn about the bungee dialect (now extinct), about Rachel’s husband Thomas Bunn and about the serious impact of Red River spring flooding.
Bungee with Translation
Here are some words from Rachel Bunn, spoken in the common dialect of the 1800s in this area. It was known as Bungee. Bungee is a mixture of the English, Scottish, Gaelic, Cree, and Ojibway languages. It is now extinct.
Oh, aye, djust down the road, you know
Oh, yes, just down the road
Aloang the ruvver
By the river
Me Thomas thur built ma a hoose so solid he built it.
My Thomas built me a solid house.
Twill aver stand foraver, aim thinkin!
I’m sure it will stand forever, I think!
Siu(r) as me name is Rachel Bunn
Sure as my name is Rachel Bunn.
Samuel Taylor put a handle on it een sixta-too ye-naw-see.
Samuel Taylor put the finishing touches on it in 1862.
Every marnin back and fore he come across from the stone fort—he worked thur but.
Every morning back and forth he came across the river from Lower Fort Garry, where he worked.
He built the English tsarts you know on the cross side.
He built St Clements Mapleton church across the river.
Loang-headed is my Thomas Bunn is loang-headed.
My Thomas Bunn is a visionary
Me hoose, mind dese wallis are stone and tree foot tick you know.
My house, the walls are stone and three feet thick!
I’s taired of the fluudis.
I was tired of the floods.
Aye, so calm this ruvvers bein no, doon be fooled!
So calm this Red River is but don’t be fooled!
Come sprink this ruvvers hes a- vurra wicket
Come spring the river is very ill-tempered!
Upsouth een Kildonan, and didn’t thut ruvver nigh on took our hoose een the big fluud of fifta-too
South of us, when we were upriver in Kildonan, the river nearly took our house in the big flood in 1852.
Mana people lost everythink.
Many people lost everything.
Oh ma hairt ake-it! We fled maina males to the paines and had a sweet time.
Oh the heart ache! We fled many miles to the high ground at Bird’s Hill and had a difficult time.
Mind, tanks to my Thomas Bunn, fein and coomfortable we are sertently and saiventa foot haigh from the ruvver—we’ll not fluid ere.
Now thanks to Thomas we are certainly comfortable seventy feet above the river and will never flood again!
More about Bungee
- Bungee, also known as Bungi, Bungie, Bungay or Red River Dialect is a creole of Scottish English strongly influenced by Orcadian, Gaelic, Cree and Ojibway
- What is creole?: a mother tongue formed from the contact of two languages through an early stage of simplified language.
- Bungee flourished in Manitoba’s Red River Settlement
- Bungee reached its peak in the 1800s. About 5,000 Countryborn (now known as English Métis) were native speakers of the dialect in 1870. However, over the next century, standard Canadian English gradually replaced it; and by the late 1980s, only a handful of elderly speakers remained. Bungee is now extinct.
- The name Bungee itself is believed to have come from the Ojibwa word bangii, meaning a small part or portion. The vocabulary and word order were primarily English, but the speech was lilting, like that of Gaelic speakers. And Bungee included vocabulary, structures and speech patterns borrowed from the languages around it.
- One interesting shift in pronunciation came from Plains Cree (which does not pronounce the sound sh): in Bungee, shawl became sawl, and she became see. But speakers often reversed the process, turning words like story and sniff to shtory and shniff. Sounds like ch and j also underwent a change, so that catch came out as cats and jump as dzump. One speaker had this advice for a careless child: You sould never shtop when you are goin on a messidze [message] and never tawlk to strainzers in the buss [bush].
- Bungee also borrowed words and structures. The standard Bungee greeting “I’m well, you but?” came directly from Cree. The influence of Cree also appeared in words such as apeechequanee (to somersault), chimmuckkaykatchkeeyam (never mind). Similarly, the sentence I’m just slocked it the light uses a Scots verb sloken (to put something out, to extinguish) with an Orkney past tense I’m slocked (I have extinguished).
- Another unusual verb tense possibly evolved from Gaelic and Orkney influences: Bungee speakers expressed a past tense by combining am been, is been are been with a verb form ending in -ing. This excerpt from a fairy tale told in the Bungee dialect is a good example: Little Red Ridin’ Hood’s bin thinkin’ [thought] it’s a good idea.
More about Thomas Bunn
Thomas Bunn built his home on the banks of the Red River in 1862. He and his wife, Rachel were flooded out of their house in the Kildonan district of Winnipeg in the great flood of 1852. Thomas, as a good husband told Rachel that he would build her a house that would never again be affected by floodwaters. If you go to the end of the road to the river you will see that the river bank is about sixty feet high.
They were fortunate to find a local stone mason, Samuel Taylor who was working at the time at the Lower Fort to build them a solid stone house. The walls were a metre thick constructed using the stone and rubble technique which involved placing the large stone on a solid base, filling the space between the stone with stone rubble using lime as the binding agent to hold it together. The lime was obtained from the stone from the shore of the river, ground up and heated in a lime kiln. They called the house Victoria Cottage after the reigning monarch of England.
Thomas Bunn had many accomplishments in a relatively short life of 45 years. In 1868 when Louis Riel was forming his new government, Thomas who was of Metis ancestry, was elected to represent the parish of St Clements on the first provisional government. He was appointed Secretary of State and was the one who was in the process of negotiating with MacDonald’s government in Ottawa for Manitoba to join Canada as a province. When the first provincial government was formed, Thomas was also elected to represent the parish and later the new municipality of St Clements on the first provincial assembly. He held a position as the clerk of the General Quarterly court and completed the requirements to be able to practice law.
His son, Thomas Bunn Jr, (born in 1874) lived in the stone house after his father died and was also involved in local politics as a St Clements councillor. He resigned his Council seat and took on the position of Secretary Treasurer for the RM of St Clements a position he held for 40 years. During that time he was responsible for the organization and development of the new municipality. This involved reorganizing school districts, developing the infrastructure of the RM and convincing the Federal government to build a bridge at Selkirk during the depression as a make work project in 1937.
The family subdivided their river lot #97 into 5 acre lots that you can see as you drive down the road which were sold to many of the new arrivals from Europe in the early 1900s.
Thomas Bunn (1830-1875)
- Married Isabella Clouston (died 1857) in 1854
They had two children:
- John Robert Bunn born August 26, 1855
- Isabella Bunn born March 15, 1857
Thomas wife Isabella died in 1857, likely during childbirth
Thomas married Rachel Harriott in 1859 at St. Andrews Church
They had four children:
- 1862 Flora Bunn (died age 12)
- 1868 Margaret Bunn (died age 7)
- 1870 Frances Jemima Bunn (died age 1)
- 1874 Thomas William George Bunn
Thomas Bunn Biography at redriverancestry.ca
More about Floods
Note by the Anglican Bishop of Rupert’s Land David Anderson (1814-1885) on one of the worst floods in recent history.