The Roundhouse at East Selkirk was built by the Government of Canada as a Public Works project during the years 1878 and 1879. There were more than two contractors involved in the construction. It was an enormous building built of stone and brick. The stone came from our own East Selkirk Quarry and the bricks came from the plant lying west of Cook’s Creek. It was a Mr. Williams, who was in charge at the completion of the project, and it was Messrs. Rowan and Sinclair that did the final inspection in late 1879. The Roundhouse (enginehouse) was handed over to the Government of Canada in Jan. 1880 and by May, Mr. Joseph Logan, had completed installing the large turntable in the enginehouse. The entire weight of the table and engine rested on the pivot. The large turntable was manufactured by WIm. Hazelhurst of St. John, N.B. Almost the same day as the turntable was being put in place, the work on the CPR spur track from the main track to the head of the east slough on the Red River was commenced. The track was to be 2 miles long and the Hudson Bay Company were to build a large warehouse and depot for the receiving of freight and supplies, on the river, at the end of the track.
What follows is a chronology of events, rather than a story, and we hope it proves of some interest to the reader, especially those now living on the land so described, and for those who have perhaps relatives having passed through this structure.
For many years the Roundhouse was the centre of much activity in East Selkirk. It was not only used as a Railway Station, but as a dance hall, recreation, for schooling, hospital, church and a general meeting place. Now on with the chronology of events starting in 1898.
W.F. McCreary was appointed Commissioner of Immigration at Winnipeg at a salary of $2200.00 per annum, in 1897. At the same time, Mr. Frank Pedley, Barrister of Toronto was appointed Superintendent of Immigration, as well as Inspector of Immigration Offices. He was paid $2,500.00 per annum and this position commenced Sept. l, 1897.
During the late fall of 1898, Mr. McCreary was corresponding with the Deputy Minister of the Interior, responsible for Immigration: “there is an old roundhouse at East Selkirk that I intend looking up which might hold 500 to 1000 of them (Doukhobors) if it could be put in shape.
By mid Oct. 1898, McCreary had not yet viewed the roundhouse or checked to see if it was available as an Immigration Hall or what the outlay for repairs would be should it be secured by his department. However, he must have investigated somewhat, as he was able to report to the Deputy Minister: “it would be a most suitable place for about 500, because fuel would not cost you one half, vegetables would be cheaper and all the men could get work in the cordwood camps East of here. “
Mr. McCreary and Dr. Patterson journeyed to East Selkirk on Oct. 16, 1898 “to look over the roundhouse” and McCreary reported to his superiors that “if I think it will do at all I will send a carpenter down to estimate putting it into repair. ”
McCreary sent a telegram to the Minister on Oct. 17, 1898 and was able to report that he “inspected Selkirk round-house yesterday, would cost $2,000 to repair, would hold 1500 to 2000 people.” Dr. Patterson and Dr. Wendelbo had accompanied him on Oct. 16, the latter gentleman was “somewhat of a mechanic” and as such assisted with the estimates and inspection. McCreary met with local authorities to establish availability of “supplies and so forth. ”
The building was about 90 feet wide by 180 feet long and had a stone foundation that was up to 12′ deep and 2′ thick. The walls were of brick 18″ throughout. The ceiling was about 15′ high for the most part, but in the centre where the turntable was, it was near to 25′ or 30′ high. The building had cost $60,000 to erect. The walls and foundations were found to be in good shape but the roof however, which was covered with a mica substance covered with gravel, was out of repair. It would require extensive repair to keep out the water.
The Town of East Selkirk that day in Oct. 1898 was very much deserted and many vacant houses were evident within easy distance of the roundhouse. Mr. McCreary commented that these empty dwellings “could probably be rented, leased or purchased, if needed, to house contagious diseases, should any break out. ” If the roundhouse were converted into an immigration shed, wood could be secured in the area as the gov’t owned two school sections within 3 miles that had over 2000 cords of wood available.
The roundhouse had four brick wings. McCreary felt that maybe two of these could house the ovens needed by the Doukhobors for bread making, etc. while the other two large rooms could be used for sickness, such as maternity cases or like nature. “We may expect some of this among 1500 to 2000 people,” he said.
The roundhouse had in the centre, over the turntable, a very high ceiling with steel beams running across it. Mr. McCreary thought this could be changed quite easily by adding a new floor and building a second story where three or four hundred children could sleep. ln fact, McCreary felt the building was definitely capable of housing “2000 souls for the winter. ”
The ventilation prospects pleased Dr. Patterson. There were windows that could be opened by pulleys, and, besides, there were 5 or 6 flues connected by pipes which used to carry off the smoke from the train engines, which could now be used not only for cooking ranges, but as ventilators. Dr. Patterson was impressed and promised McCreary he would write to the Minister highly recommending the East Selkirk Roundhouse as a building “suitable for check quarantine’ Besides, the good Doctor had discovered that milk and vegetables could be secured readily in the neighborhood. Also, the gov’t owned several hundred acres adjoining the building which could be fenced and used by the immigrants next spring (1899) for the raising of crops and vegetables that would be needed by the new settlers.
Not everything viewed round favor with the Doctor or Mr. Mccreary. Unfortunately, the horses and cattle had been allowed to go into the building and there was fully a foot or two of manure covering the floors. The clean up was estimated to be about $150.00. While it would take another $500 to floor it. The windows were all broken and some would have to be covered up with double and tar paper while others should have to be replaced with glass panes to allow sufficient light to enter.
All in all, McCrcary found the building excellent for the purpose of the Doukhobors, and being such a large structure, would also service the Galicians and any others who would come in large numbers. Cook’s Creek, they commented, “was a nice little stream” running within a quarter mile of the building, “where good bath arrangements!’ could be made. A view bath tubs would also have to be put in the building, was another notation They recorded. One well would have to be dug in the corner of the building and another one outside. Closets (dry earth type) should be built outside and carried away every few days for good sanitation reasons.
Another advantage noted about the East Selkirk Roundhouse was the large 50′ square basement it possessed. This cellar had a good stone wall and brick floor and a sewer leading to Cooks Creek. Sufficient vegetables to keep the immigrants all winter could be stored in this large cellar as well as the “ten smaller cellars which ran under the ten engines which the building contained.” These smaller cellars were about 4′ wide. 5′ deep and 20′ long, walled and floored with bricks. it was felt that about 6 large cooking ranges round be required to burn continually in order to “boil sufficient vegetables” and such for the immigrants. The heat from these and that from the brick baking ovens, it was estimated, should be sufficient to heat the building.
Mr. McCreary wrote to Ottawa asking them to advise as to “what action should be taken in regard to the building at East Selkirk” for if they were to use it for the Doukhobors they had to have the root repaired and the Windows done before the snows set in. He concluded. “the inner workings could be done afterwards.”
The Minister quickly wrote back, advising McCreary that “there will be,1,000 of these people instead of 2,000, and I am glad you have suggested the Roundhouse al East Selkirk.”
The Minister of the Interior quickly wrote to the Supt. of Immigration who in turn wrote to the Canadian Pacific Railway Company indicating they were “anxious to know at the earliest possible moment whether the building at East Selkirk could be placed at the Dept. disposal for housing Doukhobors during the winter.”
The Canadian Pacific were tardy in their reply, but by Nov. 4, 1898 D. McNicoll of Montreal had promised that Mr. Whyte would discuss the “roundhouse project” with Mr. James A. Smart (Deputy Minister of the Dept. of the Interior) when he visited Winnipeg.
McCreary went ahead with gathering estimates for t he roundhouse repairs and had received three in particular by the 22nd of Nov. One was from G.F. Stephens Co. for the 690 panes of double thick glass, 15 l/2 x 15 1/2 at .250 a pane, 500 pounds of putty at 2 1/20 a pound and the red priming paint at $1.00 per gallon, in 5 gallon buckets. The other two quotes were for lumber to complete the flooring, closing up windrows, partitions, carrying the floor over all the cellars and building of the closets. One quote was from R. Dickson of Winnipeg and the other was from J.P. Rowley of East Selkirk. The prices quoted were close, about $1,500 for material and $700 for lab our.
This was enough information for McCreary to urge Mr. J.A. Smart to get a lease signed with the CPR and by Dec. l, the Minister had sent a telegram to Wm. Whyte asking his company to “grant a twenty year lease of the old Roundhouse at East Selkirk to the Dominion Gov’t at nominal rate.” Whyte granted a 5 year lease to the Dominion for an annual lee of 55.00. The agreement was signed, finally, in Jan. of 1899.
Meanwhile. in the Town of Selkirk, situated on the west bank of the Red River, they were speaking out editorially from Oct. to Dec. 1898 against the scheme. They were against the roundhouse in East Selkirk being used as a “dumping off point lor Russian Immigrants” and it went on to say, “they seem to be infected with that dreaded disease of which Selkirk has been free from” and it will “retard our trade and discourage progress if it be known they are there. ”
There were over 2000 Doukhobors on their way to Canada and may be followed by 5000 more from Russia, and it was natural that considerable curiosity and some misapprehension should prevail. Selkirk once again, were getting eye-strain from peering across the Red River in the direction of East Selkirk.
Another article in the Selkirk Weekly Record, about mid-Nov. 1898, was directed against Sift on and his immigration policy. Mr. Stewart, the editor of the local newspaper, was a staunch Conservative and missed very few opportunities to land a blow, where Sift on was concerned. The item was critical, it said: “There is plenty of room here for English speaking settlers but no room for foreign refuse such as being dumped into Manitoba by Sift on and his immigration policy-in a few years if this thing continues we will have in this western country people of every sect, nationality and creed.
Selkirk newspaper reported weekly on the activities of he east side of the river and it stirred up a lot of interest and discussion in the surrounding areas.
McCreary was negotiating with D.C. Cameron of Rat Portage for lumber needed for roundhouse repairs. The Deputy Minister (Smart) had suggested, that it would be wise “to purchase from Cameron’s firm as they are probably the largest dealers at Rat Portage and will be able to give the best satisfaction.” James A. Smart also wired Cameron at Rat Portage on the same day advising him, “have given instructions to McCreary to see you re: lumber for the Selkirk Roundhouse. ”
James Smart wrote to the Hon. J. Tarte, Minister of Public Works at the end of Dec. and requested the speedy approval to expend about $2000 on the roundhouse. He also urged an early allowance as the Doukhobors he said “were on their way and would likely arrive about mid- Jan.” Mr. Smart went on to say that “the intention is that the immigrants would do all the rough carpenter work, and it is desired that Mr. Smith, your inspector at Winnipeg should have general supervision, and there should also be two or three good carpenters in charge you will, of course, name these. ”
A controversy was brewing about the lumber contract for the roundhouse repairs and also the appointment of taff to oversee the project. McCreary wrote to Smart at Ottawa Dec. 31, 1898 and pointed out “l have just got your wire re: price of lumber from Cameron at Rat Portage. Now I have already spoken to Dick and Banning in regard to supplying this lumber and I fear they will be somewhat put out if they do not get the order, more especially as Mr. John Chisholm spoke to the Minister.”
McCreary reminded Smart that the estimate of quantities of lumber, etc. as prepared by Richard Dixon (Dickson) and by Rowley of East Selkirk were forwarded under cover of a memo dated Nov. 22, 1898. McCreary went on to say, “My own idea was, as far as fixing up that building was that we engage Dixon who is an old Selkirk man, as Foreman at $3 to $5 per day, together with a Russian carpenter here named Murkowski who speaks the language of the Doukhobors.”
His plan was that these 2 men should be in charge of a gang of about 100 Doukhobors and that with 25 to 50 pick axes they could dig up the manure in the roundhouse as well as do some spiking of planks. Also, McCreary thought that a couple of caldrons for boiling vegetables on the site and some bread from Winnipeg to do them a week along with necessary food stuffs etc. The men, outside of the Doukhobors, would stay at the Hotel there. McCrery wanted to hire teams to haul out the manure and get wood as well as haul the lumber from the railway cars to the roundhouse. The glazing of the windows that were not nailed up could be done by Owen Davis of Winnipeg. He would also repair the roof of the building. The sewer had to be cleaned out, so it could take off the surplus water in the spring. Two of the side rooms or wings, would be first to be cleaned out, windows nailed, doors hung and so forth, so that the Doukhobors could set up their caldrons for cooking, and also sleep there at night. lf not, the CPR could allow a couple of boxcars (colonist) which they sent down with the men, to remain on that switch for at least one night until the men had their sleeping place ready. McCrery also wanted to purchase a team of horses, large quantity of blankets and permission to have wells bored.
Mr. McCrery was quite clear about the hiring of Mr. Dixon (Dickson), “whom I have put in charge” and he went on to explain why, “he is an old friend of the Gov’t, having worked under the former Gov’t on the CPR Construction, and is a well qualified mechanic. ”
Mr. McCrery wrote to the Deputy Minister of the interior (James A. Smart) on Jan. 5, 1899 saying “l have already written you in regard to Smith’s frequent absences from the city and the difficulty of having work carried out rapidly – if you do not wish Dickson employed or if you wish anybody to supersede him, or Mr. Smith put in charge, write me or wire me.”
Mr. Roy of the Dept. of Public Works in Ottawa by Jan. 7, 1899 had written to Jas. Smart informing him that “Mr. Smith of the Dept. of Public Works would be in charge of the East Selkirk project and he will see that 2 or 3 good carpenters are put in charge. ”
The Supt. of Immigration was warning all concerned, and especially Mr., McCreary that the strictest economy would have to be enforced re: Doukhobors, as the cost of maintenance would be charged to these people them- selves, therefore, expenditures should be kept as low as possible.
The Deputy Minister had to remind Mr. McCreary that it was the intention to use the Roundhouse on a permanent basis for immigration purposes and therefore expenditures for repairs, purchases and renovations should be made with a view to permanency. He also repeated that he had asked the Public Works Dept. to wire Mr. Smith that the men to be engaged at the Roundhouse were to be employed, “only after consultation with you. Mr. Dixon (Dickson) would be a good man, and I presume you have engaged him. ”
The well was being tendered by Mid-Jan. and bids were received at a cost from $ 1.70 up to $2.50 per foot with the contractor supplying the casing and the gov’t providing the pump. Colin Mclean bored the two wells for a total cost of $432.59.
A progress report dated Jan. 12, 1899 outlined that tender bids were being considered for the wells. Putty, glass, etc. was on hand, lumber was expected within a day or two and the permission was asked to purchase a team of horses for hauling and blankets for the men. Fifteen cords of wood had been piled up inside the building and two tons of hay for bedding the people Mr. McCreary received a telegram on Jan. 26, 1899 from James Smart which more or less instructed him to order lumber for bunks at the Roundhouse “it will save space, Doukhobors can build them, buy from Banning.” Meanwhile in the Town of Selkirk the events were being viewed not as progress but as political interference. Several letters to the editor pointed out irregularities and attacked the M.P., Mr. MacDonnell re: dismissal of Mr. Dickson and Mr. Lyon re: discrepancies in the sand hauling and carpentry contracts. It was quoted that Mr. Dickson was dismissed on Jan. 21, 1899 and a less experienced man was placed in charge.
The newspaper also mentioned that the “Selkirk Trading Company had secured the contract for supplying the flour for the Doukhobors at East Selkirk. lt would necessitate the Mill being run day and night. ”
The added business and purchases made by the government in the town of Selkirk in relation to the East Selkirk immigration Hall didn’t satisfy the town at all. They continued to hit out at the East Side.
Very early in Feb. the Selkirk Weekly Record made mention of smallpox being discovered amongst the party of Doukhobors arriving at Halifax and of course this caused a lot of concern locally. The article in question concluded: “what do our Council and Health Officers now think of the proposal of the old roundhouse at East Selkirk being turned into a place of disease and pestilence?”
Then a controversy arose over the payment of wages for those working on the roundhouse. It appears Mr. Smith discharged more men and they were requesting their severance pay. Some confusion existed as to who was responsible for paying them. Then the Dept. of the interior at Ottawa cleared it up somewhat when the Deputy Minister wrote to McCreary in Winnipeg telling him that: “I beg to say that all the expenditures in connection with the purchase of material and the men engaged on the work at the East Selkirk roundhouse to be paid by this dept. (Dept. of Interior)-keep separate accounts–The Public Works Dept. has nothing at all to do with the work except that they have their Inspector oversee it and direct it be done in a satisfactory way—they have no appropriation. We have undertaken to pay for it out of our Immigration vote. It is absolutely necessary to have this work proceeded with.”
Beginning in late Jan. 1899 the Doukhobor groups landed in Halifax, St. John and Quebec. Interpreters were sent from Winnipeg to meet them. Chief among them was Philip Harvey. Harvey made only the first trip, and then remained at East Selkirk to supervise the incoming trains.
Pressure was being placed on those in charge to get the facility ready for the Doukhobor contingent which was in Winnipeg and another group on the way. McCrery was trying to pull it all together but was not getting a great deal of cooperation from those working on the project. He wrote to the Deputy Minister (Jas. Smart) on Feb. 9, 1899 saying in regard to the East Selkirk Roundhouse: “matters are not working very smoothly and have not from the first. I sent 30 Doukhobors down yesterday and wished Mr. Smith to go with them, but so far he has not done so. I imagine these Doukhobors will be able to complete the building by Tuesday next, all except the roof, which Mr. Smith refuses to repair. ”
Mr. McCrery believed that unless the roof was covered with tar paper, etc. outside, or the building was plastered inside that all the heat would escape through the roof and it would be impossible to heat it. McCreary concluded by saying that they would start up all the caldrons and other stoves and try it out before the people arrived. He would oversee this himself by going down to East Selkirk on the weekend.
On Feb. 20, 1899 Mr. McCrery reported that: “the building is ready at East Selkirk except for the roof which may leak and some difficulty with pipes. We have 10 caldrons of 60 gallons each, 12 box stoves, two large ranges and about 3 or 4 small ranges. The pipes from these will all lead into one large pipe in the centre of the dome. ”
It appears Mr. Smith and McCreary were still at odds over the roundhouse preparations because the latter gentleman concluded: “in my opinion, the other chimney should have been used, but Mr. Smith thought more heat would be given by extending them in this way, but I fear they will smoke and sweat. lf so, we shall have to change them.”
The Doukhobors, about 1700 arrived in East Selkirk on Wed. Feb. 22, 1899 and took up their quarters in the old roundhouse. and the first death amongst them since their arrival took place on Wed. March l, 1899, a little girl of about 4 years of age, who died of pneumonia.
The chief diet for those quartered in the roundhouse was reported to be: bread, rice, barley, butter, sugar, tea, cheese, potatoes, cabbage, molasses, rolled oats, Onions, salt and pepper, and citric acid to “sour their soup”. Meat was not for these immigrants as the Doukhobors were basically vegetarians. McCreary reported on Feb. 9, that “each soul here is now consuming one loaf of bread per day, and this with a copious supply of vegetables.”McCreary figured out that it would take about 10,000 sacks of flour to feed 4000 Doukhobors for 5 months. At $1.50 per sack, this would mean an expenditure of some $15,000.00.
On March l, Mr. J.T. Speirs of Winnipeg a Baker, went to East Selkirk and took along some fellow bakers to initiate the Doukhobors in the art of “baking” in the brick ovens that were erected at the roundhouse.
In the March 3, 1899 issue of the Selkirk Weekly Record, the newspaper kept the pot boiling on the west side while the bread was baking on the east side. “As time rolls on cases of irregularity and highhanded work are being brought to light with the fixing up of the East Selkirk Roundhouse. In the first place the contracts were let without tender then came the providing or materials without tenders and then the argument over labor—then MP J.A. MacDonnell stepped in and wanted a say in the running of things–he had a favorite he wanted in charge, so out went Mr. Dickson, who had been hired by Commissioner McCreary and the Chief of the Dominion Public Works Dept. This action was done without warning, a purely and simply political move—no reflection on Mr. Dickson’s ability or integrity. ”
Another news item of the same day caused some discussion and debate locally: “The Doukhobors are safely lodged at East Selkirk in the Roundhouse– enjoying the bean soup and other necessities furnished at public expense. Concessions will likely be demanded for religious, education and Munc. Gov’t, etc. They appear to get free transportation over here, free accommodation, free food, free homesteads, free implements. But, the British and Anglo Saxon has to maintain himself all the way and is heavily taxed once he gets here–he has to paddle his own canoe–besides he is called upon to defend the country he has just arrived in. People would like to see “free aid” (now given to foreigners) given to people of our own race. ”
Another editorial comment on March 25, re: Roundhouse, asked the question: “why was lumber and material for repairs to Roundhouse got from Rat Portage (Lumber) and the Hardware from Winnipeg when we all know that lumber and hardware could have been gotten cheaper in Selkirk?”
Mr. Dickson didn’t help the situation much when he wrote a letter to the editor claiming political intervention caused his dismissal off the East Selkirk project. He also brought to public awareness the fact that he and Mr. Lyons (Postmaster at East Selkirk) had a disagreement over the hauling contract and Mr. Lyons carpenters. The teams didn’t give satisfaction and the carpenters were not very good. Mr. Lyons had told Dickson not to use Nelson’s teams nor give work to either Mr. D. Miller or Mr. Thomas, for they were all rank Tories, etc.
On April 17, the Supt. of Immigration at Ottawa, Mr. Frank Pedley telegraphed McCrery in Winnipeg asking him: “Wire when Richard Dickson was appointed for service at roundhouse, what were his duties, was he dismissed, if so, for what reason and upon whose recommendation. Write fully immediately.”
McCreary sent a return telegram on the same date and it stated: “Dixon was appointed foreman of Repairs at Roundhouse on Jan. 6, and relieved on 24th, when it was decided to have Doukhobors do repairs. Relieved on recommendation of MacDonnell. ” ln the meantime the town of Selkirk must have had their spies and roving reporters on the job still, because next they hit out at illegal fishing. Another problem was brewing and the newspaper in Selkirk reported on April 21, 1899: “We have been informed that Doukhobors and settlers on the east side of the river are catching Pike and Pickerel wholesale at Cook’s Creek–as the fish are now going up to spawn. Fishing for them is illegal and in contravention of the Fisheries Act. As the fishery Inspector’s Office is not a mile away from the scene they isn’t something done?”
Then on Sat. April 22, about 600 more new settlers arrived from the east (Galicians) and were placed in the Roundhouse at East Selkirk.
On May 18, 1899 Mr. Owen Davis was demanding his payment of $200 for work at the roundhouse and questions were being asked why the labor account on the building totaled $1528.14, almost double to what was originally estimated. Mr. Davis had the contract for putting the mica roof in order. The Supt. of immigration, Frank Pedley, advised no accounts would be paid before July l, next.
The newspapers were full of dispatches about the movement of new settlers: About 1030 Doukhobors were expected to reach Quebec on May 1, via the steamship “Lake Superior” and the “Lake Huron” was bringing in about 2000 more on May 31, and 1500 Doukhobors were enroute to the west by train on May 19, the majority being children ranging from 2 weeks to 12 years of age. D. Morrison of Selkirk brought up a car load of oxen the week of May 19 and shipped them west for the Doukhobors.
A letter from McCreary to Pedley dated May 25, 1899 refers to the East Selkirk Roundhouse and the purchase of a tent 80 x 130. This tent was supposed to have been sent to Yorkton, Sask. but was still stored in Winnipeg. McCreary went on to say, “My intention now is to try and get rid of the 1400 Galicians who arrive tonight and who will be placed in the Roundhouse for a time, before the Doukhobors will arrive, pitch the big tent down at East Selkirk and if it is necessary to hold them over, place the entire party there. This tent will, I imagine, hold about 1000, the Roundhouse 1600.”THE HOMESTEAD ACT
During July 1899, there were lively days at the CPR station in Ottawa as 9 special immigrant trains with l0 lf settlers were to come west, there had to be a way in which they could buy land. In 1872, an act was passed that showed them how to do this.
Surveyors went out to divide the land into homesteads. They laid out townships, each of which was six miles square. Each square mile, or section, of 640 acres was divided into four quarter sections. The townships were numbered north from the 49th parallel, and east and west from a line drawn through Winnipeg.
The land act said that anyone over 21, or anyone who was the head of a family could make entry for (claim) a quarter section of land. The only sections he could not claim were numbers 11 and 29, reserved for schools, and numbers B and three-quarters of 26, reserved for the Hudson’s Bay Company.
A would-be homesteader chose his land and paid his $10 registration fee. Then he started out for his homestead. Once he found the numbered stakes that showed him where the homestead was, he could start to build his house and farm his land.
If he did as the Homestead Act asked, he would receive full title to his land in three years. He had to live on the land for six months in each of those years, build a house on the land and make other improvements.
If the homesteader wanted, he could “pre-empt” another quarter section of land next to his homestead, for about $z or $2. so an acre. Between his homestead and his pre-emption, he could farm 320 acres of land.
coaches each passed through carrying Galicians and Doukhobors. The East Selkirk Roundhouse will be full one day and within the week could almost empty again. In July there were 2000 lodged at the Roundhouse. They were expected to be there for some time as no reservation had been set aside for them further west. It was arranged that representatives from amongst them would shortly leave for the west with equipment, horses, wagons, etc. for the purpose of selecting sites for settlement. Once the advance party had been successful in this quest they would send for 300 to 400 and they would prepare making homes for the balance still at East Selkirk.Trouble erupted at the Roundhouse toward the end of July, 1899 and complaints were received about Mr. Stratton who had done a lot of the cooking, ordering in of food stuffs and the ledgering of the gov’t accounts. In fact, although this gentleman was described as “cleanly in his habits and has kept the office, kitchen and dining room in clean condition” it was decided to dismiss him by August sometime. Because there was no hotel or stopping place near the roundhouse, many govt officials, Bankers going to exchange money, the Doukhobor delegates such as Hilkoff, Sulerjitzky and Konshin, including the interpreters, often stayed for some time and had to be serviced at the roundhouse. A lot of responsibility had fallen to Mr. Stratton and “he has done his work well” was an often repeated phrase. Messrs. Phillip Harvey and Morrison were the only other two men in full charge and because about 1500 of the Doukhobors were staying all summer, it was doubtful if they could handle the work load. It was generally agreed that Mr. Harvey was a very qualified interpreter and although he had been hired on a temporary basis, it was doubtful if they could have got along without him. As the Commissioner of Immigration said to James A. Smart in a memo regarding Mr. Phillip Harvey dated July 21, 1899: “Just imagine 2000 foreigners in one building for quite a lengthened period without any police, controlled practically by two men, and no serious riots or rows occurring. I think you will say the work has been well done. ”
The intent was that Harvey be placed on permanent staff and if the roundhouse emptied a bit in winter that Mr. Morrison could handle that building and Mr. Harvey could be utilized part time in East Selkirk and part time visiting the colonies, as interpreter, etc. and reporting on conditions and recording any hardships or complaints, etc.
Oct. 10, 1899 found 600 to 700 persons still residing in the roundhouse. Commissioner McCreary wrote to Frank Pedley, the Supt. on May 22, 1900 and was quite troubled about the total number of immigrants heading west. He mentioned that about 1200 Galician were on their way. and where to place them was a very serious problem. Their condition was very unsatisfactory and their amount of funding was small. McCreary said he would require tents and they were all in use and requested permission to purchase 3 or 4 more tents. A very large percentage€ of the new immigrants did not have a dollar, so McCreary stated that the families be held at the East Selkirk Immigration Hall until the men went out and earned a little money on the “Section” if employment could be obtained. very fortunately, there was still some Saurkraut and potatoes at East Selkirk and all that had to be bought was cornmeal and flour, There were about 400 waiting for work and not much available. “What is going to be done is a problem. ”
ln his yearly Report dated Dec. 31, 1899 Commissioner McCreary stated that “the first group of 2078 “Souls” arrived Jan. 27, 1899 followed by 1,973 in Feb., in May l, 136 came, and July saw 2,335. Four more contingents arrived in Sept. and one in Dec.” He was referring basically to the movement of the Doukhobors and concluded, “with some reasonable allowance for error, a total population of 7,354 souls, living in 795 houses, comprising 57 villages, and who, averaging 5 to a family, are settled on some 1500 homesteads of 160 acres each.” On May 30, 1900 a very sad incident upset the entire community when a Doukhobor child was killed by a train. The press visited the roundhouse about mid-July 1900 and found everything well under the able supervision of Messrs. Harvey and Morrison. The office was at the south-east corner of the building and was neatly fitted up with chairs and table, pictures on the walls, giving it a cheery appearance. In the centre of the building was a large space used as a reception or waiting room. On each side of this were tables and stoves for the convenience of the immigrants. Back of this was large rooms used as sleeping apartments.
At the front of the building there was no fence and the road from the Railway Station led right up to the main door. At the rear of the building were found large ovens and a good well with a pump. Inside the building was a cookhouse and other conveniences for the washing of clothes, etc. Because the building was off the main road travelled, it was not so much visited by the inquisitive as it would have otherwise been. It lacked outside painting and it also had no sign to identify what the building was.
That winter, the roundhouse held only about 200 souls and was very cold. Permission was asked for an expenditure of about $60.00 to partition off just two of the rooms which would be easier to heat and be more comfortable for the people housed there. Besides, it would be cheaper than trying to heat the whole building. The Public Works Dept. in Winnipeg would do nothing until authorized from Ottawa, and they moved very slowly. The Acting Commissioner, Alex Moffat, said in a memo dated Dec. 18, 1900: “Would you, if you can, hurry up the business, as the people are poorly clad and the place is too cold as it is now. ”
By Jan. 8, 1901 the approval had been granted by Ottawa to Mr. Moffat and the alterations were made and some improvement was expressed as to the warmth of the building.
However, once April came, the roof, which required substantial repairs the year before, was even worse. By mid April, they were forced to have 20 to 30 pails spread about inside the building to catch the rainwater coming in and they had to be emptied frequently. As the Commissioner said, when he requested that this outstanding repair be looked after, “I think you will agree this is not a cheerful situation for immigrants coming to a new country, and I hope you take the matter up with Public Works or better, authorize me to do work at once. ”
Ottawa informed Mr. J. Obed. Smith, now Commissioner of Immigration in Winnipeg and he in turn wrote to Frank Pedley the Supt. of Immigration by April, 1901, “that the building will be ready in a few days for reception of large number of immigrants and the Public Works Dept. have, so far as I know, failed to honor our requisitions in this respect for kalsomining etc. and we have been compelled to do the same ourselves. ”
J. Obed Smith wrote to the Dept. of the Interior by the 27 of April and reported that the next day, they expected about 600 Galicians and that the roundhouse was leaking badly. He went on to say that now it was raining and pouring into the building, all the pails and tubs were in use and the main hall was flooded. In the hospital, bedrooms, store-room and upstairs bedrooms the water was pouring in. The Public Works Dept. had been requested to repair the defective roof but have not completed the work. J. Obed Smith was some annoyed and told Ottawa that unless it was fixed at once, he would arrange to do it. Ottawa replied that the work had been ordered but the weather was unfavorable to complete it, but the request was ordered again.A short distance from the roundhouse was 12 acres of land that had been cleared and cultivated for garden use. Potatoes and several other articles of food were planted during 1900 which saved the Dept. considerable expense plus afforded the inmates of the building exercise and a form of employment for those required to stay for any length of time. The 12 acres, to the best of my knowledge, consisted of blocks 7, 8, and 9 on Parish Lots No. 72 and 73 in St. Clements.
During the spring of 1901, Mr. David Lyons it would appear was about to purchase same and J. Obed Smith was urging the Dept. to stop the sale and retain same for the use of the roundhouse staff and inmates until such time as the building ceased to be used for immigration purposes.
Mr. Obed Smith, early in May, 1901 started hammering at Ottawa to get the CPR to lay tracks from the main line (a little over 1/2 mile) up to the roundhouse. There was a good grade almost right up to the door of the immigration Hall that had been laid at the time the Roundhouse was constructed. According to Smith, all that was needed was the laying of ties and rails to provide a temporary track on which to carry coaches as close to the building as possible. Smith was quite sure the authorities would agree if they could see the unloading of a special trainload of foreign immigrants at East Selkirk particularly when it was raining. The people had to struggle under their loads of baggage for over 1/2 mile through mud. Mr. Smith felt it was a small concession to grant these people who had mostly all paid their railway fare, even though a low fare, to the railway company.
Around May 20, 1901 Smith was pleased to inform Frank Pedley that amongst the party which had come in via the “Assyria” the week before was a fair proportion of Germans who were heading for the territory west of Gimli and that they had brought considerable money with them, some had up to $600 per family. Smith reported that he inspected the Immigration Hall at East Selkirk on May 14, and “I found everything except the building in excellent shape, and out of the two boatloads of foreign immigrants which were landed there since the commencement of the season, only eight families now remain. ” Smith kept on requesting that rails be laid up to the shed and never missed an opportunity of putting in a pitch whenever he could. He had the Deputy Minister writing to the CPR and Sir William Van Horne had promised to look into it, as did D. McNicoll and Mr. Leonard, all of the railway company. Finally, Mr. Leonard, the General Supt. of CPR at Winnipeg promised to come out to East Selkirk to see if the work of laying the track could be readily done.
Meanwhile Mr. J.P. Rowley of East Selkirk along with the following men and women did a considerable amount of work on the Immigration Shed which included: whitewashing, repairing the roof, scrubbing and cleaning, painting and other repairs. The total cost was $331.27 and the work was done by: J.P. Rowley, Wasyl Hrynanik, Nestor Marzuk, Geo. Reharzuk, Wasyl Reharzuk, Nikola Renik and wife, K. Kostiuk, A. Wolanzuk and wife, D. Kostinuk, S. Sokara, and Jacob Guerillo and wife.
They had 300 feet of box drains built of planks and placed in the ditch so that it could be cleaned out with hose instead of being left in a filthy condition like it had been found on inspection. The box drain was 2′ wide and l4′ deep. Then they had put up 260′ of close-board fence to cut off the yard from the public roadway. The whole roof was overhauled and was in good order, and it no longer leaked except where the water came in through the rotten siding on the high part of the building. A platform was built and laid down at the front door measuring 16 x 20, 2″ planking. The caretaker had used some old stove
pipes to take the place of eaves roughing over the front and back doors. Mr. Rowley had found that nearly all the plaster had fallen from the ceilings and had placed building paper on the ceiling and held it up with laths. The whole building was kalsomined three times and the woodwork twice giving it all a very clean appearance. The bunks were repaired and other necessary repairs. These were the first repairs and painting carried out at the roundhouse since the original major renovations done when the building was leased from the CPR.
A terrific windstorm about mid July 1901, caused some damage to outbuildings at the building and further work was done. The roof was still giving them trouble. It was the upper structure above the main roof which was originally covered in siding, but the siding was now rotten and although the roof was watertight, this part of the building was by no means waterproof. As J. Obed Smith said, “When there are large numbers of people in the building it is hardly the proper thing to have water pouring in from all sides.”
The business of the extension of the spur track from the East Selkirk Station to the Immigration Shed was revived again in late Aug. l90l when D. McNicoll of the CPR had written to the Dept. of the Interior stating it would cost $3,600 to lay in the sidetrack. The Debt. Wrote back to the CPR saying it was a more costly undertaking than expected and that it should be placed in abeyance for the time being.
Good news was received, however, by the end of Aug. 1901 when the Roundhouse staff were advised that Blocks 7,8, and 9 of lots 71 and 72, Parish of St .Clements (49.25 acres) was being reserved for the use other Immigration Hall at East Selkirk. They were happy to hear this as they had a large garden that year and the root vegetables had yet to be taken off the land.
The winter of 1901 was an uneventful one with very few settlers remaining for any length of time. This quietness gave the Caretaker and his family the opportunity to put the building in good order and J. Obed Smith was able to advise the Supt. of Immigration (Frank Pedley) by the lst of April, 1902 that: “Our accommodation for large numbers of immigrants at this point is ample and sufficient. The building is now in good shape and ready for reception at any time.”
However, with the spring, 1902, came the request again for a spur track. Mr. Smith said the urgency will be just as great this year as at any other time. He said the people arrive at East Selkirk and after a tramp for the best part of a mile, carrying all their belongings, struggling along problem water arrival much spring with their little ones, and by the time they arrive there, “they are almost in fighting hum our. ”
Fire broke out at the Immigration Hall at 6 am. On Wed. April 23, 1902. It was found that one of the stoves had set fire to a partition. The flames got into the roof, and but for the prompt action of the officials and inmates, the whole building would have been destroyed. As it was, by the use of a chemical extinguisher and fire hose, the damage was kept to about $200 or less. However, the records read the partial distraction by fire of the immigration building at East Selkirk.
With the excitement of the fire over and the repairs being carried out, Mr. Pedley started in to work on the CPR again trying to convince them that they should “afford the necessary accommodation and take this question up with view to having such provided.” Meaning. of course. the rail tracks
Early in May, five carloads of Galacians were transferred west from the East Selkirk Immigration Shed by rail. While they had been stationed there, there had been a lot of problems with the water pump that was located outside the building. The pump had been condemned in the summer of 1901 but with a lot of patching up it had been kept going until the spring of 1902. There was only two pumps, one inside and the one outside. There was a great need of a plentiful supply of water, especially when the building was at full capacity. Mr. J. Obed Smith, in a letter to the Supt. of Immigration (Pedley) on April 21, 1902 said: “from personal inspection I think the pump, which is now worn out, was not still any minute of the day, and, in fact, there were always crowds around ready for their turn to get water. This rendered it impossible to use water for flushing drains, etc. and what is really needed is a wind-mill and tank put up over the outside pump, and the pump either repaired or a new one provided. ”
While Ottawa was digesting the new request for a Windmill at the roundhouse, the CPR answered the memo written by Frank Pedley about the request of laying a track from the East Selkirk Station to the Immigration Building. Mr. D. McNicoll of the CPR said to Pedley (April 26) “Am I to understand that you are of the opinion the Dept. of Immigration should do nothing and that the Railway Co. should assume the entire cost of doing the work? I understand that we (CPR) have already given you use of the building there for the accommodation of the immigrants, ”
On April 29, the Caretaker at the Roundhouse advised the Commissioner that the water pump at the outside of the building had gone all to pieces and was utterly useless. A large group of settlers were expected to arrive any day and everything was in a panic as the outside pump was the principle means of supplying water to the people using the building. imagine,2000 people and no water!
On May 3, 1902 Ottawa had not replied about the pump Or the water mill and 1600 people were expected to fill the place by May 5. Mr. Smith was worried about two problems at this time. One was the lack of a pump for the water that would be badly needed by 1500 to 1600 new arrivals. The other problem oddly enough, was about too much water. The weather had been very bad, a very wet spring and the day before the new trainloads were due to arrive, East Selkirk had a very heavy rainfall. The rains had caused the roads and trails to be in a terrible condition. Mr. Smith wrote, “one has only to draw upon his imagination a little to adequately realize what it means to have 1500 to 1600 people walk through the mud and pot holes from the East Selkirk Station to the immigration Hall, nearly a mile away, because the Railway Co. will not put in the spur track, as requested. The feelings and indignation of these people on being ejected from the trains and compelled to plough through the mud in this way, makes them a very “difficult lot of people to handle,” and I would not be at all surprised if some of these days these large bodies of people would refuse to obey the orders of the very limited number of Gov’t officials who can be spared to attend to them at East Selkirk. ”
Obviously, Mr. Smith was quite annoyed with the CPR. He mentioned that the local CPR group of employees at East Selkirk claimed they had no iron to put on the grade and that the Dept. should erect a large Immigration Building at honor or some station near Winnipeg. As to the CPR not having any iron rails to lay on the East Selkirk grade from the Station to the Shed, Mr. Smith wrote, “l am advised that there is about 900′ of old iron on Sir William Van Horne’s property at East Selkirk running down to an old quarry, which could partly fill the requirements. ”
Commissioner Smith felt that if the Railway Co. wanted to do the work they would have no difficulty in finding the needed materials for such a small piece of work. He went ahead and tried to have some of the mud holes on the way down to the Building from the Station filled in but concluded by saying, “it is alarming to think that this large body of men, women and children will have to plough through the mud and carry all their baggage that long distance, and carry the same back again when they are ready to move. ”
The appeal was not lost yet, as the Supt. of Immigration corresponded with the CPR (May 13, 1902) saying that his Dept. would be willing to contribute $1000 toward the cost of laying the track from the Station to the Shed. The commissioner had received appeals from East Selkirk, especially following the April 16, and April 27, car loads of immigrants who were scheduled to stop there. This time, the settlers had flatly refused to leave the railway cars, and some force had to be used, and trouble erupted. On April 27 the staff remembered previous experience, so when people refused to step out into the mud and rain, they let them sit there and took to the roundhouse, only those willing to walk the, almost one mile. At 5 o’clock next morning, when officials returned to the station, there was over 100 with their bundles on their backs, walking the track from East Selkirk to honor. The roundhouse staff and the gov’t were soundly roasted for having allowed the immigrants to walk all the way to Winnipeg after having paid their fare on the railroad to that point. This whole problem was repeated again on May 17 , 1902 and it seemed to be the fashion to refuse to make the long walk to the roundhouse, especially in the mud and rain of spring. It also meant going over the volumes of records trying to sort out who was who and it was determined at one point that at least 100 single men of the party had struck out walking the rails and were not registered at the East Selkirk stop over. One of the advantages of having them spend a period of time at the roundhouse was that the officials could make sure that no one was ill, no one was hungry or destitute, It also gave the people a chance to have another look at settlement areas, to establish what trade and work was available as well as make changes in money and have the benefit of an interpreter for the last time before hitting the City of Winnipeg or points west. Besides, it gave people a chance to wash, eat and rest before meeting the large urban crush and confusion in the City.
J. Obed Smith wrote again to Ottawa on May 19, 1902, saying that, “If this track were provided we could put the cars right up to the building and the trouble would end there: but nothing short of dynamite seems to be able to get them out of the cars and into the Immigration Hall and it is not the best thing for our Dept. to have these people strewn along the railway track between Selkirk and Winnipeg a distance of some 25 miles-struggling under their bundles. ”
Letters and telegrams were flying between East Selkirk, Winnipeg and Ottawa daily trying to sort out the approval forms and money needed to lay the spur tracks. The destitute settlers that were staying over at the roundhouse were utilized for work parties and the grade from the station to the hall were placed in perfect and complete condition to receive ties and rails. It was felt that three days’ work, with the necessary material, would complete the job.
In the meantime, the pump for water and the windmill that was on order and approved for installation had not arrived at East Selkirk. In view of the large numbers of people that had been serviced at the roundhouse, the wet spring, and other problems, the Supt. of Immigration wrote to the Public Works Dept. in Ottawa saying, “I would ask that immediate step be taken to remove the difficulty about water supply at once. ”
Toward the end of June, 1902, the windmill and pump were at East Selkirk and being erected. The reasons for delay they said was that parts had to be ordered from Ont. But at last it was erected, on view and functioning. Over the winter months, not too much trouble was experienced, with the exception of trying to heat the big barn of a place, and the condition of the ceiling and roof. The roof was not stable and upon inspection early in Feb. 1903 was reported to be “highly dangerous to life and limb both from its tumbled down condition and its danger from fire. ” The Commissioner of Immigration wrote to the Supt. of Immigration, in Ottawa on Feb. 5, 1903 pointing out that, “the chimney is continually setting fire to the roof; and in fact during the last season the roof and parts of the building were on fire no less than seven, different times.”
In view of the fact that they often had 2000 people housed in the building at one time, was sufficient reason to remove the danger. There was an urgent appeal to Ottawa to authorize the necessary expenditure and approve the work or else discontinue the use of the building as a receiving and distributing point for new immigrants. As Mr. J. Obed Smith, the commissioner said under cover of an appeal in Feb. 1903, “l think the Dept. is not justified in endangering the lives of so many people by housing them in this building, which is unfit and unsafe at the present time. ”
The Supt. of Immigration, W.D. Scott, instructed by telegram that the proper officers look into the matter and place the building at East Selkirk in a condition of safety and comparative comfort for the use of the immigrants. The Chief Architect of Public Works was instructed to visit the scene and look at the building. The Roundhouse was expecting a very large contingent in March of 1903′ and was very concerned about the condition of the building, it was very unsafe. No instructions had been received to proceed with the necessary changes, and by March 16, the officials were reporting that the ceiling over the hospital wing had let go and now the condition was “urgent”. The immigrants had started to arrive in large numbers and an immense movement was expected during the 1903 season. However, by April l, nothing had been done to correct the dangerous situation at the East Selkirk sheds.
Finally, on April 8, 1903, Mr.’ James A. Smart of the Dept. of interior at Ottawa, telegraphed the commissioner in Winnipeg to “take immediate steps to make necessary repairs to Roundhouse at East Selkirk-do not delay putting building in order and advise me. ”
That was all the approval J. Obed Smith needed and he moved relatively fast. He told Ottawa that material for steel ceiling was on site and that the cost would be over $2000. Ottawa replied by April 10, 1903 with a short telegram worded, “Yes, proceed quickly as possible. ”
It is interesting to note that Ottawa (Minister of interior) had been forwarding instructions regularly to the Public Works Dept. (Winnipeg) over the years and the large majority of requests had been ignored. A memo, with no date, from the Deputy Minister of the Interior addressed to Smith, then the Commissioner of Immigration in Winnipeg makes mention of this lack of cooperation that East Selkirk had experienced since the beginning when the Roundhouse was turned into an Immigration Hall. The memo says in part: “regarding the repairs to the Selkirk building, I may say that I do not care anything at all about the Public Works Dept. as I do not think that they will undertake to pay for any repairs we may do, so we will have to pay for this ourselves. Regarding any further repairs that are necessary, while the Dept. may give the Public Works a chance to do it, if they do not undertake it, in a reasonable time, we propose to carry it our ourselves. This should have been done with regard to the roundhouse long ago ”
Toward the end of March 1903, at least five carloads of immigrants arrived at the roundhouse to take up their abode for a time and by late April, about 2000 more arrived, occupying about 27 coaches.
On Aug. 5, 1903 the immigration Dept. got wind of some land (about 100 acres) that was to be put up for public auction adjoining the 48 acres being used by the roundhouse staff in East Selkirk for the production of food stuff and feed. The Van Horne Farm was used as an example and mentioned that East Selkirk supplied incidental farm hands for use on that farm and they thought the long range plans were to run an Instruction Farm in conjunction with the immigration Building: “I understood it was the Deputy Minister idea that sooner or later the Dept. would consider the necessity or advisability of having some farm near at the hand where experienced or newcomers desiring information on actual farming operation might obtain the knowledge they desire.
The Dept. of interior and the Immigration Branch were hesitant in replying. The Supt. Of immigration stated that in his impression they should attend strictly to immigration work, as it is about all we can manage successfully.”
The reply was received by Aug. 19, 1930 and W.D. Scott the Supt. Of Immigration advised Commissioner J. Smith that about increase the size of the landholding in East Selkirk, “ I have discussed this matter with the Deputy Minister and he holds the view that it would not be well for us the present time to undertake to compete with Sir Wlm. Van Horne at East Selkirk.” There appears to be no further mention of increasing the acreage attached to the roundhouse or of starting up an Instructional Farm for the benefit of the new immigrants stationed there. However, they had got their spur line and were thankful for that concession.
The cost of repair to the roof, and the covering of the ceiling with metallic plates, was about $2,190.00 and when the supplementary estimates were presented to the Dominion Parliament during the latter part of Sept. 1903 amongst the items was the sum of $2600 for repairs to the Immigration Hall East Selkirk. D. Morrison had supervised the contract for the roof, ceiling and for the fitting up of the stoves as per the tenders submitted.
The old building required more repairs by Jan. of 1904, because of the heavy use made of the structure during 1903. The stove were warped and twisted, until they were both useless and unsafe, so new ones were ordered. Window had to be continually replaced and new putty adhered, bunks had to be repaired or replaced, and the Public Workers were advised to complete the works as soon as possible. By March of 1904, the Immigration Agents were advised at St. John and Halifax, that there was a lack of accommodation in Winnipeg therefore, these newly arrived immigrants should be prepared to be taken off the trains at East Selkirk. It promised to be another heavy year.
When the Amos Barnes building were offered for sale in Dec. 1904, the roundhouse staff wanted to bid on at least one of the building which was half shed and half stable. At the time the East Selkirk Immigration people were housing the Gov’t team and cattle in an old log shed which had been made weather-proof by a hay roof and piled up with manure on the outside. The roof had fallen in many times, and the Caretaker thought Barner’s old stable would do the trick.
However, the Supt. Of Immigration replied that they could not entertain the purchase of the stable, so it was not bib on. The cost would have been $25 for the building and 425 to have it skidded into place.
Things went along much as before, and then on July 13, 1906, a memo was received from the Dept. of the Interior ( Immigration Branch ) which read, “ Immigration hall at East Selkirk to be closed Sept. 30, 1960.”
That Oct. 1906, a memo was received from the “La Corporation Archiepiscopale C.R de St. Boniface”, requesting to purchase from two Parish of St. Clements, for a church site. This property formed a part of the reservation set aside for the Immigration Hall and they were advised as such, but also told that should it be removed as a reservation, their application for land would be considered.
The land in question had been used exclusively for the purpose of raising sufficient oats to keep the Gov’t team in feed, The shed had been closed since Sept. 30, 1906 and the Commissioner wrote on Oct. 20, 1906 to the Supt. Sayings, “ the said building has been closed, and will not, in my opinion, be need for immigration purpose in the future,”
An auction sale Dominion Lots in the town site of East Selkirk was held on Dec. 16. 1907 in the IOGT Hall, Selkirk. The lots were sold at an “ upset price” per acre and the purchaser had the option of the sale or 25 % down and the balance in 3 annual instalment at 5 5 per annum, interest. And at last, by early March of 1908, the Dominion Govt had sold most all of its lands in East Selkirk. The principle purchaser by 1908 were: Lyons 80 acres, Hicks 35 acres, Yule 65 acres and Frank 50 acres. The building was not used any longer for housing Immigrants and the Selkirk WEEKLY Record report in their issue of March 7, 1908:” The Immigration Hall at East Selkirk has now been scuttled and everything useful removed. A very expensive institution while it lasted, thank goodness it is gone and all the political managers with it. Sweet Peace for East Selkirk! A large quantity of cordwood belonging to Hick and Lyons is piled at the sidings.
There was quite a bit of interest sparked over the removal of contents and some rumors were circulating about wrongdoings.
The Selkirk Weekly Record reported that at 11 am on the 9th of April,1908 in the House of Commons in Ottawa the following questions were asked and answers given which should be of interest of Selkirk electors:
1. Re: Immigration Hall at East Selkirk – what was the total inventory of contents, plus cattle, hogs and horses attached to the Hall?
2. Have they been disposed of, if so, how? (Public or Private sale?)
3. Who disposed of them and the receipts of the sale made?
4. What has become of the Hall, does it still belong to the Gov’t?
And answer were given by the Hon. Frank Oliver, Minister of the Interior as: “A report is being obtained from the Commissioner of Immigration at Winnipeg re: above question. It will be “ brought down “ as soon as received. It is voluminous and should be brought down in the from of a return.”
The answer to these question were partially answered in a memo from the Commissioner at Winnipeg to G.D. Scott, Supt. Dated to discontinue the use of the Immigration Hall at East Selkirk last year ( 1907) and that instruction had been issue for the sale of the furniture, stove and other effect of the Hall as well as a team of horses and one cow which had been attach to the Hall for several years. The Furniture and stove as well supplies were purchased second-hand when the Hall was first equipped, and through multi-use, were not of much value when the Hall was closed in 1907.
Instruction were issued to the former Caretaker to dispose of everything to best advantage and he did so. The team of horses which cost the Gov’t $220. five years earlier, sold for $200.; while the cow, which cost $20 seven years ago, brought in $25.00. The lumber used for bunk, beds, and seating farms were sold to D. Morrison bringing a total of $425.00. An old truck, 3 cookstoves, feed boiler, two box stoves, 100 tin cups were sold to Messrs. Hill and Nordal of East Selkirk for $72.00.
As of April 16, 1908 there still remained, unsold, ten feed boilers, an iron pot, one cookstove, two box stoves and a set of platform scale. The value of the items left were estimated to be of about $ 100 And no purchaser had come forward.
The Item referred to were by private sale and Commissioner stated. I am of the opinion that a public sale, cost of advertising and auctioneering would have resulted in the realization of a smaller sum obtained.
The whole story will probably never be told. However, suffice it to say that many a home in and around East Selkirk it to say that many a home in and around East Selkirk boasted of chair , tables, utensils, pots and pans, pails and what have you, courtesy the gov’t. The Hall which was leased at $5.00 per year, was still the property of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company and the lease would be up in few months. A notice of intent to terminate the lease was supposed to be forwarded the CPR in 1908.
On april 14, 1908 a letter was received from the real Estate firm of Walker of Walker and Frank requesting the rental of the roundhouse for Mr. George Frank who wanted it for only 5 months of the year. George Frankl had just sold his farm at East Selkirk and needed a temporary residency. His request was forwarded to the CPR for reply, and it was refused.
The Dept. of the Interior received a receipt No.1447 representing the $435.00, being the proceeds of sale of furniture, stock, etc. from the old Immigration Hall at East Selkirk.
The building was occupied well on into 1908 and the “ Surrender of Lease” was signed in 1909.
In 1910, the building was used by various groups because this article appeared in the Selkirk Weekly Record on Aug. 19,1910: “ East Selkirk had a concert and tie Social and Dance at the East Selkirk Roundhouse on Friday last. Outside talent proved very disappointing (Wm. Scott of Winnipeg and D. Stanley McLeod of Keewatin, Ont, )but our own Miss Eva Baldwin on the organ saved the entertainment of the concert. After the concert, ties were sold ($23.75 sum raised). After auction, dancing was enjoyed until it was time for the farmer’s boys to go home and feed up the stock for breaking.” The Presbyterian congregation made extensive use of this building. East Selkirk could even boast of an indoor skating rink, because for several years the large room in the roundhouse ( reception area ) was flooded for skating and enjoyed indoors. They had coal-oil lamps for lighting and local musicians played for the ice and carnivals.
The placed leaked like a sieve, and people just adjusted to the weather conditions. In winter skated and when it was dried out buy late summer, they danced and had a high old time.
During the early years of World War I (Oct. 1915) arrangements were being made in various parts of the province for the winter housing of the soldiers at Camp Sewell. Lower Fort Garry, it was reported could be fitted up for some of them. The Selkirk Weekly Record suggested the “Roundhouse” at East Selkirk could be called into requisition as with just a few improvements the building could be converted into comfortable quarters for several hundred men.
In the spring of 1916 it was reported that the woodwork of the Roundhouse was gradually disappearing. Detectives were placed on the case and at least 25 persons were found guilty of the theft and charged. They appeared before Magistrate Hay the first week in April, pleaded guilty and were all fined from $3 to $7 and costs. It was said that at least 25 more people would be charged, summoned and tried in relation to the same case. There were of course, hundreds who were never detected or apprehended. The names of those convicted and fined would really serve no purpose here, because twice as many got away with even more. Besides, half the houses for miles around, have chimneys built of the bricks, outbuildings and porches and spare rooms built from the wood of the old Roundhouse.
Edgar C. Goulding, the Police Magistrate, East Selkirk, forwarded a memo dated April 22, 1916 to J’ Bruce Walker the Commissioner of Immigration of Winnipeg. In it he made mention that the CPR were now selling off the old station grounds, Right of Way and Roundhouse. what concerned Goulding was that some of the people living in East Selkirk had come to him asking him to arrange to reserve a portion of the site that had been used as a cemetery. It appears that about 75 to 80 people had been interred there during the use of the building. And the East Selkirk residents were anxious to keep the cemetery plot reserved from the sale and preserved. Mr. Morrison confirmed what Goulding related and the site was placed on a sketch and marked Graves.By May, 1916 the Deputy Minister of the interior , Mr. w. D. Scoter, was viewing the memo, the sketch and the request that the burial plot be reserved from the sale of lands. Mr. Scott reviewed the case and was somewhat puzzled and at a loss to understand how it came to be that a cemetery was allocated Without any authorization. There was nothing on file relating to the subject and he suggested that this particular feature of the case be looked into. He had reviewed the lease and noted no provision made for any part of the property to be used as a cemetery. He did note however, that blocks 7, 8 and 9, (‘7’792 and 7793 and 7794) were reserved for cultivation purposes. From the sketch it was hard to tell if the cemetery was located upon the gov’t land reserved for cultivation or upon the lot belonging to the CPR and adjoining the roundhouse. The sketch would indicate that the burial plot was on the CPR property.
The Land Patents Branch of the Dept. of the interior were involved with the search by the end of May, 1916 and informed Mr. W.W. Cory, Deputy Minister, that it the cemetery sites were within either the CPR station grounds or within Lots 7, 8, and 9 that these parcels had all passed from the Control of the Crown. Lot 7 was patented under a time Sale to David Lyons on Nov. 23, 1911 and Lots 8 and 9 were patented under Time Sale to E.P. Hickes on Oct. 1, 1910. it was suggested that if there were people living in the area who had relatives buried in this cemetery plot, that they correspond with the CPR or the private owners and negotiate for the burial grounds in question.
When Joe Stoban was working on the land in connection with his blacksmith shop he unearthed some tombstones and graves on his property, according to Fred Kordalchuk.
The controversy over the old school building in the Village of East Selkirk erupted during the summer of 1916. The structure was built in 1880/81 and had been repaired to death and the Dept. of Education had condemned it as being unfit for school purposes and it was very overcrowded. However, the locals were allowed to continue using it until they built another one. They did so reluctantly. The tenders were called by Oct. 2, 1916 and work was started by Oct. 12. The school was to be four rooms and would be built from stone taken from the old Roundhouse. So during the fall of 1916 and over the winter months. stone was hauled to the school site and used in the construction of the new Happy Thought School, which was formally opened on Monday, Feb. 5, 1917.,
The stonework of the Roundhouse was dismantled and the contractors building the school would pick and choose what they wanted. Teams and wagons would haul it to the job (school) site where the stonemasons fashioned the building. Fairly soon the roundhouse site was a rubble.
It has been said that almost everybody within walking distance of East Selkirk had “filched” something from the Roundhouse building and property while it was still standing. Houses, all of a sudden, sprouted brick chimneys, storm porches got built with fine planking, extra rooms and additions to houses became the fashion. The cattle, horse, pig and chicken. were enjoying new quarters and never had it so good, Older buildings around town ceased their constant leaking by the installation of tin sheeting “filched” from the roundhouse.
You might say the whole town and surrounding countryside had taken on a new appearance, courtesy the federal gov’t and the Canadian Pacific Railway.
The old stone Happy Thought School, which was fashioned from the roundhouse stone, was sold in 1983 back to the R.M. of St. Clements for $1.00. it had stood vacant for a number of years and looked, not unlike how the roundhouse must have looked, many years before, with its broken windows and unkept appearance.
The tracks that came almost right up to the round house were left in their former location and were used for loading cordwood and supplies etc. for Winnipeg. The two store keepers in town traded groceries and supplies in exchange, for wood and also potatoes. Eventually, the tracks were no longer used, and were lifted and taken away.
The immediate roundhouse property was bought by the CPR station agent then sold to Waluk’s and finally to Les Mazur, and it has experienced much division of title.
In conclusion, it is to be hoped that we have preserved some of the early history with the recording of this account.
1. Public Archives o Canada, Files of the Department of the interior. 1898 to 1916.
2. Selkirk Weekly Records Issues. 1E97 to 1916.
3. Interviews, 1982 and 1983.