A Visit with a Clergyman; overnight in a Mennonite village and then home to West Lynne

At the warm personal invitation of Rev. Mr. Wilson, Episcopal clergyman at Nelsonville, we visited his residence and farm situated a short distance from the town.i We found the place most beautifully located, the grounds approaching the residence were tastefully laid out and the whole farm was under a high state of cultivation that would win an encomium of praise from the greatest connoisseur. The reverend gentleman informed us that a large church edifice was to be immediately built in Nelsonville, a solid brick structure. He also expressed himself with confidence of the great future in store for this country and the homes that could be made for the starving populations in the crowded old countries of Europe.

After dining with our host and his estimable lady, we bid adieu to the Rev. Mr. and Mrs. Wilson and, after a journey of twelve miles, we camped for the night in one of the numerous Mennonite villages of the West Lynne Reserve.ii Next morning, after a hasty meal, we commenced the home stretch with the pleasure of reaching West Lynne the same evening putting us in the best of spirits. Travelling through the West Lynne Mennonite Reserve we found the crops of the Mennonites greatly advanced and giving rich promises of a most bountiful yield. A short stay at the popular Central Hotel under the proprietorship of the genial landlord Brown and on again to West Lynne, arriving in your town about four in the evening of a glorious summer day.iii

Our trip to the west forces us to emphasized how much this town needs communication with the great and soon-to-be prosperous western country. The rival roads from Winnipeg via Portage la Prairie will, if some effort is not made on the part of the citizens of West Lynne and Emerson, leave these two thriving towns on the boundary line completely cut off from the trade that has actually made them what they are at present. It behooves the leading men of both places to be on the alert and lose no opportunity to advocate and advance those interests which will lead to our closer communication with the west and those thriving settlements laying between here and the Turtle Mountain and Souris district.

i

. For additional information on Rev. Mr. Wilson please see the Trail Association’s publications, Southern Manitoba and Turtle Mountain Country, Footnote 8, and Thou Grand Old Church of England … in the Pembina Mountain Country.

ii

. This Mennonite village may have been Osterwick, the settlement along the Post Road closest to the foot of the Pembina Mountains. It is 12 miles southeast of Nelsonville, but about 16 by the trails “Buckboard” would likely have followed.

(*21). OSTERWICK 6-2-4w, Stanley Municipality. According to local traditon, it received its name, “Easter Vetch”, from the flowers brought to the first Easter service in the newly established village.

iii

. The Grand Central Hotel Hotel and its proprietor no doubt have more history associated with them than any other similar location along the route. The booklet published for the Re-Union of Old Timers and Ex-Students of Morden and District in 1931 recalls:

About halfway between Mountain City and Emerson “Billy” Brown squatted on a school section in the Mennonite Reserve much to the disgust of the Mennonites, and put up a good, large house, commodious barns and graneries and farmed extensively. He had been a hotel man all his life in Ontario and Manitoba, and in Winnipeg, it was stated, he ran the Davis House for a while. He continued his hotel, keeping on the school section, accommodated travellers with meals and beds, and shelter and fodder for horses and oxen. He also furnished all kinds of beverages, alcoholic and non-alcoholic to the thirsty, for he had a regular license to dispense spiritous and malt liquors and had a well equipped bar and a typical bartender. His place was known as “Brown’s Half Way House,” and was a great boon to the weary and often storm-battered travellers, especially in the winter time when a blizzard was not uncommon. Billy was almost an exact replica of the pictures of Santa Claus so widely displayed at Christmas time, and his stature was about the same as given to the artist of the children’s saint. His legs were short, and always encased in top boots reaching almost to the knee; he generally wore a red vest as a sartorial decoration; his waist line was capacious, and his hair and long beard were white. He was a great host, and the travellers putting up with him for the night, and especially the youthful ones, enjoyed him immensely. The “boys” sometimes got hilarious and reckless, and ordered champagne at five dollars a quart. Then it was a sight for the gods to see Billy ascending from the depths of the cellar, and holding in his hands before him, as if he were performing a solemn and sacred rite, a cobwebby, dust encrusted bottle, which one of the unsanctified, with brutal frankness, was heard to declare was nothing more or less than gooseberry wine.

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