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The Rural Municipality of Woodlands is a rural community composed of a population diverse in cultural heritage who share a common desire for the quality of life found in a rural agricultural setting. Residents enjoy the wide-open spaces, clean air, water and a safe, friendly atmosphere in which family life thrives. You'll find the rural lifestyle in both a rural residential setting and in several small villages.

Through a cooperative effort, all residents are provided with the social and cultural opportunities of a progressive, modern community. Building on the strength of its people and a prosperous agricultural background, its residents will develop a diversified economy to provide the opportunity for future generations to remain and prosper in their home community.

Immigrants came with much interest to the "postage stamp" province of Manitoba when it became a province in 1870. Traveling by oxcart, riverboat, rail or on foot making their way to the area that is now the R.M. of Woodlands. This land had previously only been touched by Aboriginal people. The settlers saw a diverse region of bush, scrub, gravel ridges and miles of flat prairie. These settlers emigrated from the United States, Europe, the British Isles and Scandinavia, bringing with them the ways and customs of their homeland. Work has hard, and life was tough. The land had to be cleared, houses and outbuildings had to be built, but neighbours were always willing to help.

Early Development

As each area of the municipality increased in population, settlements were given names. Some of these names described the type of landscape in the region, such as Poplar Heights for its poplar trees, and Woodlands because it was heavily wooded. Others reflect the name of a prominent person – Lake Francis after Frances Wagner, who was a surveyor, A.E. Warren, who was a railway official and later Vice-President of the C.N.R., and Marquette after Father Marquette.

The east side of Woodlands Municipality lies on the prime meridian of western Canada. Woodlands was created from Marquette east. In 1872-'91, the area was surveyed into townships. The incorporation of Woodlands Municipality occurred on February 14, 1880. The region was divided into six wards with a councillor to represent each, changing to councillors at large in 1995.

Ward 1 encompasses Warren (1907) and portions of Marquette (1880). Ward 2 is made up of (1865) Woodlands and Stodgell. Ward 3 consists of (1880) Marquette, Reaburn, and Poplar Heights,.Ward 4 is composed of (1872) Ossawa. Ward 5 encompasses (1872) Lake Francis. Ward 6 consists of (1872) Erinview, (1891) Woodroyd, (1874) Argyle, and Oswald.

There was also a seventh ward, which was part of the Municipality in 1906. This ward included the East Shoal Lake and Inwood areas, but due to distance factors, this ward ceased to exist after 1909. Statistics from 1887 indicate that 289,393 acres of land were in the municipality and 176,595 belonged to the government, schools and rail. The population was 975.

Many of the immigrants to the area were well-educated people and, as there were a number of children in the families, one room schools were soon built. Another priority of the people was the opportunity to practice the religion they knew. Churches were erected, and now include Roman Catholic, Anglican, United, Plymouth Brethren, Mennonite Brethren and Jehovah's Witness.

Rail stations, post offices, stores, shops, mills, halls, agriculture societies, and other services were soon developed in these active communities to meet the needs of the people. Commodities such as clothing and furniture that weren't available in town could be ordered through the Eaton's and Sears' Mail Order Catalogues. These catalogues were mulled over endlessly and provided a link to the "outside" world.

Rail lines provided a link as well. The first rail line built through the area was the "Air Line" which linked Warren, Stonewall and Winnipeg and was to extend to Portage La Prairie, but it was taken out of service in 1882 before it was fully developed. The abandoned rail bed became the main street of Warren. The Hudson Bay CPR line was built to Shoal Lake but was stopped due to lack of funding in 1886.

The Canadian Northern Railway was built in 1903-04 through the Interlake creating a link to the north as far up as Gypsumville. Areas along this line became more heavily populated (Warren, for example), but those further away saw a decline due to people moving to be closer to the rail, which was an integral part of the community.

The many gravel ridges of sand, stones and lean soil helped the municipality prosper. In the 1880's, Canadian Pacific Rail built rail lines to the ridges and pits to transport the deposits that were used for the development of roads throughout the province. This development also created jobs for the locals. Eventually, the supply of gravel from the pits was diminished, and rail lines leading to these pits were closed. Today, gravel hauled out of the pits is primarily used in the municipality.

Community Life

Consolidation of the schools occurred in 1910 at Warren and 1921 in Woodlands. A new larger school was built in Warren in 1957. In 1967, the Interlake School Division, which was established in 1959, made the decision to discontinue local school boards. Many of the one-room schools were closed at this time, and the Grades 1 to 8 children were moved to the larger schools at Warren and Woodlands. The communities of Ossawa, Woonona, Poplar Heights and Reaburn diminished or disappeared as a result of the school closures. A collegiate was built in Warren in 1961 for all students in the area. It included neighbouring Rosser Municipality students but did not include students from Argyle and Erinview. A new school was built in Woodlands in 1975. Kindergarten was offered in 1971.

Social life was important; many took "tea" with neighbours, sometimes several neighbours visited at one home to play games and dance. Books were often read aloud in the evening; families would also gather around to sing old favourites, including many gospel songs. Church singing groups arranged concerts throughout the year. Women's Institutes were formed to provide help where needed and to provide a social network for the ladies of the community; their slogan was "For Home & Country". Picnicking was also a favourite pastime.

An interest in sports caused baseball and football to become popular in the summer, with a growing interest in hockey over the winter. Curling caught on in 1929. Checkers was played, and a league was formed in 1926. The development of Miami Beach in 1958 became a popular spot during the long hot summer days. A Health Care Nurse was hired in 1921 and in 1942, the first doctor was appointed to the Municipality. A senior citizen's home, Oak Park Lodge, was built in 1977.

Lifestyle Changes

Telephones arrived around 1915, which changed the means of communication for many. The advent of the motor car, telephone and electricity brought many changes to the area's lifestyle. In the 1930s, the tractor took over for horses, changing farm practices. As a result, farmers were able to do their work faster and were able to work more land, which allowed for an increase in the size of farms. Grain Elevators were built in Warren and Marquette in 1920 to handle the large volume of grain that was produced in the rich fertile soil of these areas. In the north end of the municipality and parts of Reaburn and Marquette, farmers raised livestock. Mixed farming also took place in some of these areas. Farming was, and still is a productive industry in the municipality.

Greater mobilization changed the focus from the small towns to the city. People were able to get work in Winnipeg, and while there they were able to do their banking and shopping. At one time, there was a Credit Union in the Poplar Heights area. A Bank of Hamilton was established in 1918 but did not prosper. In 1923, the Merchant's Bank in Woodlands was closed, and in 1924, the Home Bank in Marquette burned down.

Other Highlights

  • In 1924, the Shoal Lake Sanctuary was formed.
  • In 1945 government-operated community pastures were established.
  • 1946 saw the establishment of the first Hutterite Colony in the sparsely populated southeastern corner of the R.M.
  • In 1970, the municipality joined Interlake Development Corporation.
  • In 1971, the Woodlands Pioneer Museum was established. Many newcomers have moved into the R.M. from Winnipeg over the last number of decades, resulting in a blend of urban and rural lifestyles which has created a shift in customs and traditions. We hope the values and spirit that the ancestors of the municipality were proud of will carry on in the future, further embedding what this municipality holds dear.