Griffin Family Inquiry

Reid Dickie

Today I received this inquiry:

I spent an hour or so going through the Shoal Lake history books and the related material I’ve collected over the years, scanned a few things and sent Susan the following reply:

Hello Susan,

    Thanks for your inquiry. I set the research hounds loose and found some great stuff for you.
    Shoal Lake’s major history book, Ripples on the Lake Volume One, published in 1984, has this listing written by Marjorie who is also pictured:

Ripples… also has this picture taken in 1907 of South Railroad that shows the Eakins & Griffin Hardware, third from left with pole in front of store:

GRIFFIN2 After Shoal Lake was incorporated as a village, W. J. Griffin was on its first council. This is from Ripples… and includes some of the early council’s business:

  • Quality Hill, as described by Marjorie, was in the northwest corner of SL, north of the tracks. The Griffins lived at the corner of Birtle St. and North Railway Ave. During my time in SL in the late 1950s and 1960s I never heard the term Quality Hill. It had dissolved into the mists of time although a few other small towns in Manitoba did have areas they called Quality Hill, self-described by those with wealth. His business partner, Eakins, also lived on Birtle St.
  • The earliest reference to Griffins in Manitoba Henderson’s Directories is 1904 when the listing says: Eakins (W. J.) & Griffin (W. J.), hardware and implements. In 1906 they have added tinsmiths and undertakers to their services.
  • The earliest record of telephones for the Griffins is in 1909 when the hardware store number on Station Road is 76, Griffin’s home number is 48.
  • The Narrows, where Crawford drowned in 1919, is at the south end of Shoal Lake, about 5 miles from town, before the lake links with Cooks Lake.
  • There are no Griffins buried in any of SL’s cemeteries. Possibly Crawford was buried in Hamiota Cemetery.
  • Hamiota, where the family moved, is 18 miles south of SL.
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SL History Blog 3rd Anniversary


Reid Dickie

Three years ago today I began sharing this blog with the world and the world has responded!

Almost 15,000 views have been recorded since March 30, 2011, a pleasing and rather surprising number. This represents people from 73 countries who have checked out Shoal Lake’s history.

The Top Ten most interested countries are:

1. Canada

2. United States

3. United Kingdom

4. Australia

5. Brazil

6. Russian Federation

7. Germany

8. India

9. France

10. Philippines

Sincere gratitude to everyone who visited the site.

In my video series The Lonesomes: 16 Prairie Stories I used details from the founding of Shoal Lake as the basis for one of the videos called Squatters. Watch it here.

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The Lonesomes: 16 Prairie Stories

Snapshot 1 (23-05-2013 5-59 PM)

Reid Dickie

This falls under the category of blatant self-promotion.

When you drive down a country road and see a lonesome old farmhouse, sun-baked and tumbling down or a busted-up half ton rusting away on a rise or an abandoned red barn, don’t you wonder what happened in those places? Maybe you even create stories about them.

That’s what I did. I found sixteen such places in Manitoba and Saskatchewan and let their stories arise in my imagination. The Lonesomes is the result!

In The Lonesomes, it’s life and death at play on the open prairie. Change is chronicled in personal events, measured by lifetimes. The stories tell of the desperate births of people, towns and ideas, of mystery,trickery, love, revenge and bizarre deaths, glimpses of the human condition that resonate deeply with people everywhere, city and country, town and farm.

Several of the stories grew directly out of Shoal Lake’s history. Squatters, story #10, reveals the town’s founding moment. I Don’t Like Trains, story #11, is based on actual events that happened just outside of Shoal Lake. I used the Prairie Dog Central (above) as the train. A Town with Water, story #13, though completely fictional, was based on my memories of the waterworks being installed. Snapshot 17 (06-02-2012 2-05 PM)One of the outhouses I used in The Lonesomes (left) is in Bryd Siding. Several Shoal Lakers inspired some of the other characters.

I wrote, directed and produced all sixteen stories in the 45-minute video that range in length from one to five minutes.

For a unique glimpse of our prairie past, follow The Lonesomes online.

The Lonesomes is being made available on YouTube, one new story every day for sixteen days starting Sunday, March 16, 2014 at On March 31, the entire video will be available on YouTube.

Offering a peek into my creative process, each story will be accompanied by its script, character backstory and location information on my blog at

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School Opening Program 1962


Reid Dickie

Looking through a box of family stuff I came across this program from the Nov. 16, 1962 opening of the newly-built Shoal Lake elementary school (right side of picture) and the transition of the red brick school to becoming the high school.

SHOAL LAKEscan0001

SHOAL LAKEscan0002

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Requesting info on Charles Concordia

I received this contact from Don Menzies:

This is a long shot but I recently heard a story that might be true.  During WW1, a boy from New York state spent a year or two with relatives (possibly) in Shoal Lake. His name was Charles Concordia. Does anyone know if the name “Concordia” shows up anywhere in Shoal Lake’s history?

I checked the history books and the cemeteries but came up with nothing. Anyone got any information for Don?

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M. J. G. McMULLEN – Who?

mcmullen 1958

Reid Dickie

He was manager of North American Lumber in Transcona where he became president of their board of trade. He was amcmullen t Transcona school trustee and elected five times as a town Councillor. He was main organizer in the Transcona 1950 flood fight. He chaired the historical booklet committee for the Golden Jubilee Celebrations. He was enthralled by magic and performed from an early age. His stage name was Len Vintus. His puppet was named Jerry. He co-founded the International Brotherhood of Magicians in 1922 which became the largest magician organization in the world. He was Manitoba manager of the Canadian Chamber of scan0002Commerce. In 1958 he was appointed the Provincial Deputy Minister of Industry and Commerce. As manager for the Manitoba Travel and Convention Association promoting Manitoba, he became known as Mr Manitoba due to his unfailing enthusiasm for the province, its heritage and resources. He was an author and a poet. He was M. J. G. McMullen and he was born in Shoal Lake in 1903.

In his many roles, McMullen became extremely well-traveledscan0003 and well-known in Manitoba. He was familiar with Shoal Lake, probably performed here and became friends with some locals. One Shoal Laker so impressed the magician/politician that he waxed poetic about him in #11 of his pamphlets of poems about Manitoba. J. D. McLean, who built and landscaped the lovely Queen Anne brick on Chestnut Street, was the subject of this poem by McMullen. Click to enlarge.

McMullen died at age 95 in 1999. Read more about him on MHS site.

 I wrote about J. D. McLean’s legacy to Shoal Lake in a feature on the People page of this blog.

mcmullen 1990

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Phoenix Family History Request

Reid Dickie

I received this email from Robert Boynton in Calgary this weekend. The homestead was between Shoal Lake and Strathclair. If anyone has information to help out Robert, he came be emailed at

Robert’s email:

Thanks for having this website.

The Phoenix family came from Ontario and homesteaded NW21-3-27 W1. Jon Phoenix died in 1932, his wife, Martha Janette McNaughton died in 1935. Three of their children never married. Jessie Rhoda Phoenix died in 1962, Winford Roy died in 1963 and Mary Dott Phoenix died in 1965.

They had a sibling Marion who was born April 14, 1893 and died in Union, Union New Jersey in February of 1976.

Is there any mention of whether Marion had children or not in any local history story for the family that might exist?

Thanks, in advance for your consideration of supplying any information that might exist.

Rob Boynton

My reply:

Hello Robert,
Thank you for your contact and for your positive comments about the SLH blog.
I checked the history books and could find but one reference to the Phoenix family. That was in the cemetery listings. In SL Cemetery there is Nathaniel Phoenix 1849 – 1936. There was no Phoenix family entry in the body of the book and no reference to Marion.
I will post your letter and this response on the SLH blog. Maybe someone in the community remembers the family or has more information.
Thanks again,
Reid Dickie
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So God Made a Farmer

Since Dodge Ram’s use of Paul Harvey’s speech in their Super Bowl ad has caused such a flurry, I thought I’d investigate the speech. Originally read to a gathering of the Future Farmers of America in 1978, Harvey’s speech was edited to fit into the two-minute commercial. Here is his entire tribute to farmers including the two sections omitted in the ad.

And on the 8th day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, “I need a caretaker.” So God made a farmer.

God said, “I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in the fields, milk cows again, eat supper and then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board.” So God made a farmer.

“I need somebody with arms strong enough to rustle a calf and yet gentle enough to deliver his own grandchild. Somebody to call hogs, tame cantankerous machinery, come home hungry, have to wait lunch until his wife’s done feeding visiting ladies and tell the ladies to be sure and come back real soon — and mean it.” So God made a farmer.

God said, “I need somebody willing to sit up all night with a newborn colt. And watch it die. Then dry his eyes and say, ‘Maybe next year.’ I need somebody who can shape an ax handle from a persimmon sprout, shoe a horse with a hunk of car tire, who can make harness out of haywire, feed sacks and shoe scraps. And who, planting time and harvest season, will finish his forty-hour week by Tuesday noon, then, pain’n from ‘tractor back,’ put in another seventy-two hours.” So God made a farmer.

God had to have somebody willing to ride the ruts at double speed to get the hay in ahead of the rain clouds and yet stop in mid-field and race to help when he sees the first smoke from a neighbor’s place. So God made a farmer.

God said, “I need somebody strong enough to clear trees and heave bails, yet gentle enough to tame lambs and wean pigs and tend the pink-combed pullets, who will stop his mower for an hour to splint the broken leg of a meadow lark. It had to be somebody who’d plow deep and straight and not cut corners. Somebody to seed, weed, feed, breed and rake and disc and plow and plant and tie the fleece and strain the milk and replenish the self-feeder and finish a hard week’s work with a five-mile drive to church.

“Somebody who’d bale a family together with the soft strong bonds of sharing, who would laugh and then sigh, and then reply, with smiling eyes, when his son says he wants to spend his life ‘doing what dad does.’” So God made a farmer.

If you’d like to hear Paul Harvey read the entire work, click pic for an audio track only.


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Bell Family Information Requested

The SL History blog received the following contact from Sue Visser at

Hello. I’m trying to find information about Donald and Mary (McCannel) Bell and children Flora and Katie who emigrated to Shoal Lake from the Isle of Islay, Argyll, Scotland in 1884. They joined their sons, Alexander and John, who’d already settled there .

Donald Bell c1818 – 26 Jan 1897
Mary McCannell Bell c1830?
Alexander b 1852
John b 1857
Flora b 1859
Katie b 1862
I believe some, if not all, are buried in Argyle Cemetery. If there obituaries for the parents, that would be very helpful.

Thank you for any help you can share.
Sue Visser

None of her relatives appear to be written up in either volume of Ripples on the Lake but I checked the Argyle Cemetery listing and four Bells are listed:

Donald Bell died Jan. 7, 1887, 83 years

John Bell 1857-1929

John Alexander Bell, son of J & B, died July 8, 1905, 5 weeks old

Mary McDannell Bell Sept 12 1908, 89 years

Can anyone one shed some light on the Bell family for Sue?

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Happy New Year!

Thank you everyone who contributed to and visited the SL History blog in 2012. I wish you a safe and warm New Year’s Eve and nothing but blue skies, green lights and fresh coffee in 2013. Reid Dickie

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