History of the Lac du Bonnet Historical Society
The Lac du Bonnet and District Historical Society Inc. has been in existence since 1988. An important appreciation of the thinking in the early days can be obtained from the following Policy Statement in terms of the mandate of the Society.
Policy Statement – Mandate
The Lac du Bonnet & District Historical Society was incorporated on January 18, 1988 as a non-profit organization with a mandate to “collect, preserve and display the history and artifacts pertinent to the Lac du Bonnet & district area”. The village of Lac du Bonnet has long been a service center that met the needs of a large geographical area. From the presence of early man, followed by explorers and fur traders, the area has provided the needed resources to the hunters, trappers, homesteaders, prospectors, storekeepers, etc.
At the turn of the century power development has occurred along the Pinawa Channel and the Winnipeg River, and natural resources have been harvested from as far away as Manigotogan, Bissett and Cat Lake.
Through the years the natural beauty of the area and the summer and winter recreational opportunities has been utilized by ever increasing numbers of cottagers and tourists. When we consider our past, Lac du Bonnet is unique when it comes to presenting and preserving its varied history.
What sets us apart from other communities?
The Lac du Bonnet area is especially unique in three ways. First, our immigration mix has brought people from over 25 different countries. For instance the Swedes, Finns, and Latvians settled in the farmland east of the Winnipeg River while the Poles, Ukrainians and Germans settled the land to the west and south, the French from Quebec came to work in the lumber camps. The Hutterites came to take advantage of the available land northwest part of the RM, while the Scots and the Anglos came to provide many of the services and businesses the community needed. There are many others you could readily add to this short list.
Secondly, Lac du Bonnet has always acted as a hub for the smaller communities that grew up around it. Industries such as mining, aviation, forestry, and agriculture, surrounded the village while the basic medical, educational, postal, and police services were centralize in the village.
With these industries so wide spread and of such diverse nature, traditional artifacts are probably best left where they are. What can we move in from the power plants at Old Pinawa and Pointe du Bois, the mining communities at Cat Lake, Wadhope, Bissett, or Bernie Lake? Long before the paper mill was established at Pine Falls, woodcutters were taking timber out of the area, some of it pre-sawn, some barged and boomed out on the river. Where would we house a barge or a boat? Forestry fire towers are quickly becoming obsolete, but many fine examples of towers and the wooden accommodations and offices are still intact.
Thirdly, we are surrounded by traditional museums, with Whitemouth, Beausejour and St. Georges already providing the public with a range of homesteading artifacts. What we have are artifacts that are still on site. One might add the old homesteads still intact in Bird River, the Brightstone Post Office and the Riverland School which stands where it stood and served the community for many years.
An Orientation Center
A unique concept in museum presentation.
These three unique features are good reason to rethink the original concept of what a museum should be. What we would like to propose is an Orientation Center concept, a concept which would be unique to Manitoba. This uniqueness is important to marketing a museum, for without visitors, the museum becomes a white elephant to the community. An Orientation Center, staffed only during the summer months, would be more economical. It would serve a much greater area and would allow greater participation in the development process.
An Orientation Center would act as a hub of the area’s history; just as the community itself has and continues to do. A log building, such as the ones handcrafted within the area, seems the most appropriate way of staying with the theme of this area.
Such a building could house a reception and display area, a hands-on center for children, an artifacts workroom, storage, a meeting room, a kitchen with catering facilities, an office and washrooms.
Displays would be a combination of still photographs, slides, and videos, written material, brochures on the various sites and communities, each to contain pictures, history, driving instructions and a map.
There would be a collection of small, quality artefacts that would reflect the family/ethnic traditions, unique to the area.
Capital funding in the form of grants and donations are readily available from corporations, government, and within the community. This would provide the dollars for initial construction. Operating funds, which are generally not considered, are ongoing, and much more difficult to raise. Donations are more readily available on a project basis, not for salaries, heat and light.
It also follows that we stand a better chance of fitting into a tourist corridor concept. This service could be both seasonal and informative.
Staffing requirements could be met locally and entrepreneurial opportunities would be created in the areas of tour guiding, food and accommodation services. It would further support and assist local community efforts to preserve their individual histories.
The Lac du Bonnet & District Historical Society can meet its mandate and more effectively respond to the needs of the associated communities if we develop an Orientation Center. It would create a focal point for the diverse and widely dispersed historical sites in our area.
Policy Developed December 1989 Lac du Bonnet & District Historical Society.
Numerous people have served on the Board of Directors from that time. They are shown below.
Founding Board Members: (1988)
|Emberley, Gordon; President||Hammerstedt, Stella|
|Bruneau, Louis||Lesko, Joan|
|Byczek, Adele||Stine, Helen|
Over the course of some 4 to 5 years there were issues concerning a lack of interest in the activities of the Society.
A Press Release (click on link) in January of 1992 indicated a Lack of Support for Society.
ANNUAL REPORT LAC DU BONNET AND DISTRICT HISTORICAL SOCIETY Inc.
PRESIDENTS REPORT G. C. Emberley; March 4th 1992
The society has always struggled to achieve its goals with a small nucleus of dedicated members. What we seem to lack is more active support from our local community. To this end a Press Release appeared in the January 7th issue of the Lac du Bonnet Leader requesting the public to take a more active role in the Society and its projects. This netted one enquiry but no increase in interest at our following February meeting. Consequently the Annual Members Meeting of March 4th reflected on our situation and agreed to revert to an inactive status and the following Press Release was issued.
In the spring we successfully installed our new display cabinet in the local library reading room. The unit provides adequate space to house our files and small collectables. However, the larger storage facility to have been located in the RM of Lac du Bonnet enclosure was not constructed. The building is still required. For the storage of our large artifacts as the current location is temporary at best.
The only other activity was the addition of a number of photographs to the collection.
It is hoped that the action taken by the Board and its members in placing the Society in an inactive state will ensure that when the community responds to the need to preserve its history that the Society can be reactivated and that what we have done will not be lost.
Lac du Bonnet & District Historical Society is Reactivated
In 2004 the Society was given a mandate to develop a community museum. They have since been restoring an old log cottage built circa 1935, situated nearby the Old Pinawa Dam for use as a museum. It is a fine and rare example of log construction, built by a Norwegian immigrant named Hans Erickson
Erickson was one among many men hired to build the Pinawa Hydroelectric Generating Station between 1903-06. (The generating station closed down in 1951, and then for years the property was used as a training site by the Canadian Army. In the mid 1980’s the Manitoba Government declared it the Pinawa Dam Heritage Park, commonly referred to now as the Old Pinawa Dam.)
The cottage is currently being referred to as the Erickson Cabin, or the Hans Erickson Log Cabin; but it will eventually be called the Lac du Bonnet District Museum. It was designated a historic site and is listed on the Canada’s Historic Places website. It originally received Municipal Heritage Building status through the Provincial Government in 2005; that status was re-assigned once the building was placed on its new foundation in Halliday Park in 2009.
Renovations began at the original site, and continued after the building was moved unto a new foundation at Halliday Park, located nearby the town of Lac du Bonnet. During the summer of 2010 a frame extension was added to the back of the building and sided with log siding, and the log front porch was re-assembled and cedar shingles adjoined all the roof sections. Then a fresh coat of paint, and new windows and doors have given the outside of the old log building the dignity it deserves. Work on the interior of building will be ongoing during the summer months.
The had hoped to celebrate completion of the renovations by hosting a party for the community on the Civic Holiday, September 4th., 2010. Plans are to have a fully functioning community museum during the summer months of 2011.
Recent history compiled by: Miriam Simoens, Secretary
The Lac du Bonnet and District Historical Society Inc. June/2010
Currently, with clear mandate, dedicated members and wide acceptance in the community it is hoped that the Lac du Bonnet & District Historical Society will be able to continue uneventfully into the future with a program that will benefit the entire community and incoming visitors.