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Plum Coulee: The Spirit Remains
Plum Coulee: The Spirit Remains
*Click on any picture to expand*
Almost 150 years and many generations have passed since Plum Coulee was first put on the map in 1872. Several men were surveying land in the area and when they ate the delicious fruit of the abundant plum trees growing along the coulee, they labelled that location on their map, Plum Coulee.
When the Canadian Pacific Railway came through, they planned to start a town a mile east of the present site. However, a farmer by the name of Peter Peters offered the CPR every other lot of the land he owned to have the town on his land. The offer was accepted, and Peters Street now exists in his honour.
When you take a look at Plum Coulee’s history, it can easily be seen that the Mennonite residents over the years have heavily influenced it. What is interesting to note, however, is that Plum Coulee’s citizens in the first half of the town’s existence were diverse, coming from various ethnic and religious backgrounds. The census of 1901 shows that most of Plum Coulee’s founding families arrived in Canada in the 1890’s, many from Austria and the German colonies in Russia. Joining them were a group of English, Scottish and Irish families from Ontario that moved West, as well as a small group of Jewish people (also from the Russian colonies).
In 1901, the town was incorporated as the Village of Plum Coulee and they built a Municipal Office and a two-cell jail, plus space for the fire engine, which was pulled by a team of horses.
At it’s peak, this village was the center of commerce in southern Manitoba, more so than the other new communities of Winkler, Morden or Altona. If you needed to go shopping in the early 1900s, Plum Coulee was the place to go. As the village rose in prominence, it proudly displayed 7 elevators, 5 general stores, 2 blacksmith shops, a drugstore, several banks, a post office combined with the doctor’s office, and a barber shop located in the Queen’s Hotel.
There was also The Commercial Hotel, a harness shop, a Chinese laundry business and 3 livery stables, two of which provided 24 hour horse service for all the traffic coming through the town.
The following is a timeline on some important events in Plum Coulee’s history, mostly based on what was printed in the 1950 Plum Coulee High School Yearbook.
The History of Plum Coulee
1888 – The CPR rail line was built through Plum Coulee.
– The first elevator, The Ogilvies, was built in Plum Coulee.
1889 – Lake of the Woods elevator was built.
1891 – Wagner Brothers opened a lumber yard.
1892– Hanson & Schultz had a store in town, where Dr. McGavin’s office later stood.
1894 – Plum Coulee had a population of 200.
1896 – The Mill was built in town and owned by Giesbrecht & Wiens.
1897 – Rosner and Brownstone established a store in town.
1900 – Plum Coulee had one of the best football teams in southern Manitoba.
– The Bank of Hamilton was established
1901 – Plum Coulee incorporated as a village with A. Harder as it’s first Mayor.
– Plum Coulee got it’s first school. The new community grew at such a rapid rate that the attendance recorded in 1903 showed 117 students.
– Plum Coulee had two hotels, “The Commercial” and “The Queens Hotel”.
– Plum Coulee now had six stores: A.A.Harder; J.I. Bargen; D.C. Peters; Rosner & Brownstone; and the drug store and post office owned by Mrs. McTavish.
– By this time there were seven elevators: Winnipeg, Ogilvies, Dominion, Lake of the Woods, DeFehr, Wagner and the Farmers.
1902 – Dr. McGavin moved to town.
1904 – The Bank of Hamilton was robbed.
1906 – The great Northern Railway, a second railway line was built. It ran through Plum Coulee connecting it to Grand Forks, Gretna, Carman and Portage la Prairie. However, it was sold in 1926 and removed.
1907 – The telephone line was built, with the first telephone exchange in A. Harder’s store.
1912 – Bank of Montreal established in town.
1913 – Bank of Montreal was robbed. Mr. Arnold, bank manager, was shot and killed by John Krafchenko. Read more here: http://www.mhs.mb.ca/docs/mb_history/35/krafchenko.shtml
1914 – The First World War began, but few men from Plum Coulee took part.
1917 – The Sommerfeld Church was built.
1918 – The War ended. Plum Coulee had no casualties.
1919 – Plum Coulee got it’s second school, this time a stone structure.
1926 – Plum Coulee had one of the best baseball teams in the district.
– The Bergthaler Church was built.
1928 – Plum Coulee received a Cup for best tennis.
1931 – The school burns. A new school built in summer of 1931.
1935 – Hydro built in town.
1936 – Rudnerweide Church separated from Sommerfelder Church.
1937 – The Church of God was built.
1939 – World War II began, and many young men and women joined up.
1945 – War ended. Plum Coulee had few casualties.
1947 – Skating rink built in new location.
1948 – New post office built.
– Dr. McGavin day held.
*Dr. Hugh McGavin was a loved doctor who served the people of Plum Coulee for 46 years and who figured he had brought approx. 5,000 babies into the world. He said, “If I had a platform for a doctor, it would be ‘Do all the good you can for as many people as you can for as long as you can.’ ”
1949 – One of Plum Coulee’s oldest citizens, Mr. B. Alt passed away.
*Bernard Alt was mayor from 1913-1915 and well known as a longtime grain buyer for the Lake of the Woods Milling Company. He was a well-liked citizen of Plum Coulee.
1950 – Population now is 550.
1953 – The curling rink was built.
1978 – Choice Realty was established in Plum Coulee by Henry Penner.
1981 – Street paving began
1984 – After 50 years of service, the old school had to be replaced with a new building in 1984. The new school was built to the north and west side of the red brick school and the old school was demolished piece by piece.
Although many small prairie communities have had a history of struggling to survive, Plum Coulee has remained quite steady throughout it’s 100+ years with population growth and a number of important advances. Many successful businesses have operated in Plum Coulee over the years, including several that are still operating today! And we can’t forget the athletic success – the town has prided itself in it’s history of producing good quality players in hockey, baseball, curling and golf.
Patrick Hiebert was one of the many who felt privileged to grow up in Plum Coulee and wrote the following in a tribute;
“How many places in the world create an environment so pure that people can grow up learning what is important in life. Plum Coulee must be one of the few. No matter how many places I’ve lived in since moving away from Plum Coulee, and there have been over 30, it’s nice to know I can still go back there, to what will always be my hometown. The businesses and the landmarks may be different, but for me the spirit remains.”
Plum Coulee: A Century – Plus, 1901-2001