Crystal City; Clearwater; Badger Creek and Waugh Town

The following morning we rose early and, after breakfast, bade goodbye to Mr. Latimer and his family before we proceeded on our way. The day was remarkably warm, a striking contrast to the cold wind of the previous day. Pilot Mound could be seen to the right of the trail and some distance to the north.i The settlers around here are energetic and working hard to build up a town on the Mound. We believe that a mill is already under construction there. This section of the country was settled by the Paisley Colony.ii The chief person instrumental in the settlement of this fine district was Mr. Thos. Greenway, now a member of the Provincial Legislature in Manitoba and, we understand, a former member of the Provincial Legislature of Ontario. Mr. Greenway’s selection of a site for the Paisley Colony was by no means at fault. A more beautiful prairie setting could not be found although there is one drawback, the lack of good water.


Crystal Cityiii

the townsite of Mr. Greenway, we met with an obstacle called a bridge, (a misnomer) which spans Crystal Creek. We now had the choice of climbing over the bridge which has approaches to it similar to a good high rail fence, (they are not quite, but very nearly perpendicular), or crossing the dirty creek. This stream belies its present name of Crystal Creek most outrageously as it is very muddy, rather alkali, and fairly stinks when stirred up. Consequently we had to give our preference to crossing on the bridge. Leading the horses over carefully, we drove up to the store and post office kept by Mr. Rollins who appears to be doing a very good business.

The people around the store were also anxious about the bridge at Pembina Crossing and were pleased to learn from us that although it was in a bad state, it was still usable. Crystal City has not yet got out of its swaddling clothes, but it is making strenuous efforts to strike out into vigourous manhood. It is settled by people of perseverance and the town proprietor is a man of energy. A mill is now being built and will be completed in time for this season’s harvest. Four townsites, all in easy distance of each other, Pilot Mound, Preston, Crystal City and Clearwater, are ample evidence that the country around it is well settled.iv We wish each of them, and all their residents, success but, of course, railway communications will decide the supremacy of these young rivals. There are resident in Crystal City two clergymen, Methodist and Presbyterian, also the residence of Mr. Greenway, M.P.P., [Member of the Provincial Parliament], one general store and blacksmith shop and a few dwelling houses.

From Crystal City we can see the timbered banks of the Cypress River four miles west. As we proceed the numerous surveyor’s stakes make us aware that we are once more in one of the infant cities of the great Northwest. The Cypress, or


as it is now called, is a beautiful stream and well worthy of its name. The heaviest of loads can cross the ford here without the slightest difficulty and, as we do, we can see the smallest stone of its clear, pebbly bottom. The town proprietors of Clearwater, if they did not have the first choice of locating a town before Crystal City was staked out, certainly have made a far better choice. Of the two localities, Clearwater stands head and shoulders over its rival as the best location for the building of a town. Situated as it is in the beautiful little valley of the Cypress, with the best of water, plenty of wood, good farming land, what more can settlers desire but a ready means of transportation to the outer world. This eventually will come and Clearwater, (or some other point on the beautiful Cypress), will become a town of importance in the developing great Northwest.

Arriving at the hotel in Clearwater, situated in a sunny nook at the bottom of the valley, we are welcomed and received by Mr. McLaren, the worthy host of the Clearwater hotel, and, (with Mr. L. O. Armstrong, Esq.), one of the townsite’s proprietors. Mr. McLaren at once saw that our horses were properly cared for and then invited us to take a stroll with him to some points of interest within an easy walk of his hotel. Ascending the hill on the western side, our host pointed out to us the place across the stream where a contract had already been let to construct a dam for a mill. As a matter of fact, the timber was already on the site.

In answer to a question, Mr. McLaren informed us that during the time he has been living here, (even during the severe winter of the past season), he had never seen the Cypress frozen over. During every month of the year, cattle can go to the river and quench their thirst in the beautiful, clear spring water that babbled along in its independent freedom, joyously wondering what could have happened to have locked up with an icy iron key all and every other stream of the great Northwest.

The Clearwater mill, according to the contract, will be ready for grist by 1st of August. Continuing our stroll, we enter the store of Mr. McKellar. He is doing a thriving business and reports himself quite satisfied with the future prospects of increasing his trade. At the store there were quite a number of people waiting for the mail and, again, there were numerous questions relative to the condition of the bridge across the Pembina, questions we answered to their evident satisfaction.

Leaving the store we entered the warehouse of Mr. Laidlaw, agent for Westbrook and Fairchilds. Here it was certainly a surprize for us to discover at this point, 100 miles distant from West Lynne, such a heavy stock of farm implements. These were offered at West Lynne prices with only the cost of the freight added. They are hauled in during the winter months on the hard winter roads when freighting can be done at much cheaper rates than at the present time of year. Settlers can realize considerable savings by buying their farm implements here rather than hauling their own in all the way from West Lynne.

At the invitation of Mr. McLaren we went to his hotel for dinner. There were many other guests but, as our host made no comment that the number was unusually large, we said nothing about this. After dinner we called on the blacksmith to make a few repairs we needed on our buckboard and then continued on our way. We soon crossed what was only a very short time ago the boundary between the Province of Manitoba and the Great Northwest. However, since the recent legislation in the Dominion House of Commons in Ottawa, the possessions of our fair province extend west as far as Range For the sixteen miles between the crossing of the Cypress at Clearwater and Badger Creek, but little or no settlement is to be seen. The quality of the land is not as attractive for settlement as that in the immediate vicinity of Clearwater or Crystal City, but as we approach the Badger the land improves. As it does so, the signs of settlement become evident, rough hewn logs and the marks of the plow across the prairie.

The valley of

Badger Creek

is similar to the Cypress, but as the stream contains a far greater body of water and a greater fall, consequently it has a more rapid current. In the valley is situated the house of Mr. Waugh occupied by J. McKibbon who has rented the place for the purpose of entertaining travellers on the road. The stream has a hard stony bottom, rather rough, but still a good ford. It is a beautiful camping spot and contains the natural qualifications to make its owner the proprietor of a town in the Northwest. The stream is full of fish and has several good mill sites. This splendid agricultural district, with a large supply of timber within easy distance, needs nothing but the surveyor’s stakes, the mill and the town plan to make

Waugh Townvii

on the banks of the Badger come into prominence amongst the ambitious sites of the Northwest. We were received by Mr. McKibbon, a young man but recently out from Ireland. Almost immediately he recognized in my companion a neighbour of his father’s from the old days gone by in their distant homes in the Green Isle. With words of welcome we were received into the shanty, at present the best and only hotel in Waugh Town, and after a short stay, we started to walk up to the residence of Mr. McKibbon, Sr., some distance north of the crossing. Arriving there my companion was received with outstretched arms and right joyously welcomed by his old friend, a tenant farmer from the north of Ireland.

The evening was passed pleasantly in chatting about old times, the troubles going on in the old land, and the bright and good prospects in store for great numbers if they could only get to see the advantages of this great Manitoba. Mr. McKibbon explained to my companion his experience of the country, his past trials and future prospects, his confidence in this land of his adoption. Not for the best farm in Ireland, rent free, would he exchange his lot. The next day we spent with Mr. McKibbon in viewing his farm, 40 acres of which he had under crop. My companion dug up samples of the soil from different depths and carefully packed them away to show in distant lands.


. In July 1880 the Emerson International reported that 74 houses could be counted from the top of Pilot Mound, the original location of the town by the same name. A few extracts from the columns of the Emerson International in its 14 July 1881 edition will provide the reader with some insight into the town rapid progress.

Space prevents me from giving a full account of the progress this young and thriving town has made, suffice it to say that only one year ago there stood one log hut 10 x 12. There are now large frame agricultural warehouses, stores, post office, saw and grist mill, (grist mill in course of erection), blacksmith shop, school house and several other public buildings and a number of private houses.

Pilot Mound is a beautiful rise of ground, 116 feet above the level of Stewart’s Lake near its base on the northwest side. I was considerably surprized on arriving at the mound to see such a large quantity of people and every person busily engaged. Quite a number of men are furnished with steady employment at McKenzie & McIntosh’s saw and shingle mill. Many more are prosecuting the construction of the gristmill with great vigor under the supervision of A. Kelsey, Esq. It is expected to be ready for machinery in a few days.


. For additional information on the Paisley Colony see Footnote No. 17 Southern Manitoba and Turtle Mountain Country. The author, “Buckboard”, is mistaken in his attributing the establishment of this group of settlers to Thomas Greenway. Particulars regarding this gentleman’s first visit to Manitoba will be found in the chapter entitled “The Establishment of the Methodist Church in the Pembina Mountain Country” in Volume II of the Trail Association’s publication The Life and Times of the Rev. Andrew Gordon and his Wife, Ann Copp Gordon.


. (32). CRYSTAL CITY 13-2-12w, Louise Municipality. In April 1880 Mr. Thomas Greenway brought the first of more than 300 settlers to the Rock Lake Country and selected the Commission Trail ford through Crystal Creek as the townsite for Crystal City. By 1884 Crystal City had several hundred residents but during the winter of 1885-1886, after being bypassed by the railroad, the entire town was moved to the newly constructed CPR line.

Mr. Robert Rollins opened his first store in Crystal City in June 1880. A year later, in September 1881, the first edition of the Rock Lake Herald carried 20 inches of display advertising for his business. In later years, in Crystal City, he specialized in the hardware business and opened up branches at Baldur, (its original name was Glasgow, its original owner Mr. Burnham of Emerson), and in Killarney. In January 1890, according to the Rock Lake Herald, Mr. Rollins purchased the stock of one of his competitors in Crystal City, Mr. J. Smith, formerly in the general store business at Pembina Crossing.


. Preston, a post office opening in the fall of 1879, took its name from pioneers of the district who came out in 1879.

The advance guard of the Paisley colonists arrived in the same year and two cabins were occupied during the winter of 1878-1879. The cabin located near Barbour’s Lake was occupied by Mr. and Mrs. James Beveridge, Mrs. Wilson, (the mother of Mrs. Beveridge), and Messrs. Robert Blackburn, W. Kemp and John Moffatt. The other cabin was located in a beautiful oak grove near Gourney school four miles north of Crystal City and was occupied by Peter Butchart and two Preston Brothers, sons of Richard Preston. One of the brothers died during the winter. This was the first death of a white man recorded west of the Pembina River. – Cornerstone of Empire, page 13

This bluff in Township 3-12E later became known as Preston’s Grove. Richard Preston Sr. homesteaded NE 13-3-12, his son R.S. Preston, SW 17-3-11.


. (33). CLEARWATER 16-2-12w, Louise Municipality. In 1873 the Boundary Commission established their LONG RIVER DEPOT at the CYPRESS CROSSING. In March 1880 Rev. Armstrong laid out the townsite of Clearwater. Today the distance between Clearwater and Crystal City is four miles but prior to the arrival of the railroad, the survey of each had been so enlarged that their suburbs were just a mile apart. Today Clearwater is the only town along the Trail remaining on its original location.

For addition particulars concerning Mr. McLaren and the establishment of Clearwater, please see Footnotes, 16, 18 and 19 of Southern Manitoba and Turtle Mountain Country. Henderson’s Directory for 1884 mentions Mr. James Laidlaw as a dealer in agricultural implements and as secretary-treasurer of the Clearwater school district.

In December 1880 Winnipeg newspapers reported that the Coulthardt brothers had gone to the Turtle Mountains to secure timber for their mill which was to have three sets of millstones. These brothers, John and Thomas, had been farmers and millers in Glencoe, Middlesex County, Ontario prior to their coming to the Clearwater district. Their mill began its operations in December of 1881.


. The western boundary of the “Postage Stamp” province established by the Manitoba Act of 12 May 1870 was the 99th parallel between Crystal City and Clearwater. During the survey of southern Manitoba, it was discovered that this parallel passed through the middle of the townships of Range 12. On 28 April 1877, legislation was passed to move the boundary a few miles west to the western edge of the townships of Range 12. This located the boundary a mile and a half west of the future site of Clearwater. In March 1881 the boundary was again moved west to the western edge of the 29th range of townships, (not the 28 range as noted by Buckboard), its present location.


. (34). CARTWRIGHT 34-2-12w, Roblin Municipality. The first settlement at the Badger Creek ford of the Commission Trail was known as WAUGH TOWN after Mr. J. C. Waugh. In 1880 the property passed into the hands of the town’s namesake, Sir Richard Cartwright, Minister of Finance during the Liberal regime of Alexander McKenzie. Cartwright’s rival townsite was ROCK LAKE CITY.

In June 1879 Mr. P.C. McKibbon secured NE 30-2-14 as his homestead. It was his son, Joseph P. McKibbon, who operated the stopping house. According to local legend, the present name of the village was decided by the toss of a penny. The elder Mr. McKibbon wanted the site named Caledon after his former home in the north of Ireland; the new purchasers of the site, Kean and McFarlane, land agents in Emerson, wished to name it after its new owner, Sir Richard Cartwright. The penny came up heads for Mr. Kean and so the name was Cartwright not Caledon. This same event is noted in the columns of the Manitoba Mountaineer, 16 August 1881:

Mr. Kean, of McFarlane & Kean, returned home from a trip west on Saturday. He reports the crops looking splendid. While west Mr. Kean purchased from Mr. P.O. McKibbon for the firm a townsite of the quarter section on the crossing of the trail to Turtle Mountain at Badger Creek for which he paid the sum of $1,500. Surveyors will be put to work at once to run out town lots. The new town will be called Cartwright and is said to be situated in one of the finest farming sections in Manitoba. Already arrangements have been made for the erection of a grist mill which is to be ready for work this fall – Gateway Express

Mr. Waugh is mentioned in Footnote 21, Southern Manitoba and Turtle Mountain Country.


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