Academic journal article Manitoba History

Scratching the Ancient Ground of Manitoba's Interlake: Stonewall and Its Quarry Park

Academic journal article Manitoba History

Scratching the Ancient Ground of Manitoba's Interlake: Stonewall and Its Quarry Park

Article excerpt

Early Settlement of the Stonewall Area

At the time of the 1885 Metis Resistance around Batoche, Saskatchewan, an event long-associated with the name of Louis Riel, a detachment went to the front from the Rockwood District of Manitoba's Interlake country. They were part of the 95th Battalion D Company and it included men with such familiar western Canadian names as Ellis, Lusted, and Rutherford. The Captain of D Company was an Irish immigrant, Samuel Jacob Jackson, a man of considerable past and future achievement in the young province of Manitoba. When Jackson led his contingent to the valley of the Saskatchewan River he already had behind him experience as a Winnipeg merchant, alderman, and member of the Provincial Legislature. Jackson had come to Manitoba from Ontario in 1871. He undertook a number of jobs before accepting a clerk position with John Higgin's Dry Goods Store in Winnipeg. By 1876 Jackson was homesteading in the Grassmere area a few miles northwest of the city near present-day Stonewall, and he quickly came to take an interest in the abundant limestones which characterized that vicinity. At the time much excitement surrounded the route selection of the Canadian Pacific Railway and this encouraged Jackson to purchase lands in that area where limestone lay close to the surface. The railway would require great quantities of crushed stone for road bed establishment across the prairies. Jackson became one of the main forces behind the founding of the new town of Stonewall. Local tradition has it that surveyors working on the definition of town plots bestowed on Jackson the nickname "Stonewall" in recognition of his affinity with the American Confederate General of that name. In return, Jackson decided to give the name to the new town. His calculation that the land around Stonewall represented a favourable location for a townsite from which to produce ballast for railway enterprise was sound. Even though the CPR route was relocated further south through Winnipeg rather than through Selkirk, his quarry lands were still well positioned to contribute to the construction effort. The needs of the railway provided a stimulus for town development.

In the late 1870s Jackson financed the construction of the first kilns in the town, thus initiating systematic quicklime production, an industrial commodity for which the town would gradually achieve fame. At the same time, he made building stone available free-of-charge to any intending settlers interested in establishing homes and farms around Stonewall. By the time a colonization rail line reached Stonewall from Winnipeg in 1881, A.H. Clarke and John Gunn had already entered into cut-stone quarry work in the southern part of the town. The new line thus stimulated an even more disciplined development of building stone operations, useful for servicing the building demand in Winnipeg.

The actual location of Jackson's original lime kilns is uncertain, but they were near the setting of today's Stonewall Quarry Park in the north end of the town. These kilns were dismantled or altered in 1882 after two experienced limeburners from the Great Forest of Dean in Gloustershire arrived in Stonewall. Enoch Williams came to Canada in that year, joining his brother, Joseph, who was already working in Selkirk. Samuel Jackson could not have been more pleased with this development, for as a businessman, soldier, and politician, he undoubtedly viewed himself as a rank amateur in the art of lime production. The Williams brothers on the other hand, had been reared to a practice which was of great antiquity in the Welsh borderland country of the Severn and Wye Rivers. It is not clear if the Williams men were in a direct line to that elusive `John Williams called by the name of Skimmington' who played such a prominent role in the revolt of the miners in the Forest of Dean between 1628 and 1631. This particular Williams was `the most Principal Offender and Ringleader in those Rebellions and Ryotts', a time when aristocratic movements were afoot to `enclose' large portions of the forest from its customary users. …

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