It was a brief one-paragraph official notice about the formation of Manitoba’s newest rural municipality.
Charleswood is Now in Existence was the headline 100 years ago: “The Manitoba Gazette announces that the act amending the municipal boundaries act by which certain territory is detached from the rural municipality of Assiniboia and constituted into a separate rural municipality of Charleswood, came into effect by proclamation, February 25 (1913).”
Prior to 1913 and the incorporation of Charleswood into a rural municipality (RM), The RM of Assiniboia, established in 1880, reached from Colony Street to Headingley, along both sides of the Assiniboine River, incorporating the parishes of Headingley, St. Charles, St. James and portions of St. Boniface Parish. The RM of Charleswood was carved out of RM of Assiniboia land south of the Assiniboine River.
On March 21, 1913, the Manitoba Free Press, reported that George Chapman became the first reeve by acclamation of the RM.
During the earliest days of human habitation in the area, Charleswood was noted for its favoured position as a natural ford across the Assiniboine River, which was used by aboriginal people for thousands of years, By the time of European settlement, in the early 18th century, the ford became known as “The Passage.” Métis buffalo hunters from White Horse Plains used The Passage when travelling to Pembina, as did independent fur traders who wanted to bypass The Forks, where the Hudson’s Bay Company had its headquarters. The independents avoided the HBC fort as it was from that location that the fur trade monopoly was enforced throughout the vast expanse of territory awarded by a 1670 Royal charter to the “Company of Adventurers.”
The trail used by the buffalo hunters and independent traders is today’s Roblin Boulevard. To better mark the trail. a road was cut along the south bank of the Assiniboine by the HBC to Baie St. Paul in 1865.
The land that became Charleswood was surveyed by the HBC in 1857. The Company divided the land into narrow lots extending 3.2 kilometres from the riverbank along both sides of the Assiniboine. It was on this land that the first pioneer Charleswood farmers settled, which included the Beauchemin, Hogue, Morrisette and Branconnier families.
To serve the settlers and travellers, a ferry service was established at The Passage in 1870, which linked Berkley Street to Rouge Road. The location of the ferry landing on the Charleswood side became known as Kelly’s Landing. The ferry service remained in existence until the late 1950s. The ferry provided the only crossing of the Assiniboine River between Headingley and the Maryland Bridge in downtown Winnipeg.
“People would go downtown by horse and wagon from Portage Avenue, and they’d take the ferry to go to the Catholic church at St. Charles,” Len Van Roon of the Charleswood Historical Society told reporter Ilana Simon in a May 10, 1999, Free Press article. “It was well used. It was a long way to go around to Portage Avenue to have to travel all the way to Headingley.”
Patrick H. Kelly, after whom the ferry landing was named, moved from Perth, Ontario, to the RM of Assiniboia in 1906. He bought over 500 acres of land that is now located in the Charleswood suburb of Winnipeg. Kelly is regarded as the founder of Charleswood, where he established the first general store and ran the first post office. It was through his efforts that the Winnipeg Electric Railway Company agreed to extend its streetcar service to the area in 1908. It was also through his encouragement that local residents pushed for the formation of the RM of Charleswood.
It is unknown how the name Charleswood came to be, but there are two suggested origins: one is that it was named Charles Kelly who served on the first RM council, while the other is that it is derived from the Parish of St. Charles combined with the plentiful woods — forest — the area contained.
Charleswood remained primarily rural with little housing growth until after the Second World War.
“In 1948, 90 per cent of Charleswood’s 36.7 square miles was given over to agricultural pursuits — with grain farms, market gardens, nurseries, dairy farms and more than 80 mink farms,” wrote Frances Bidewell (Free Press, December 31, 1971).
“By 1967, 90 per cent of the municipality was still classified as farmland, devoted mainly to grain farms from 200 to 2,600 acres.”
After the war, residential development began in earnest with the formation of the Veteran’s Land Act project known as Roblin Park. With growing development came new schools, churches and recreational facilities.
Charleswood Village, a commercial centre of the community, was developed in the 1940s along Roblin Boulevard between Wexford Street and Alcrest Drive.
The first permanent Municipal Civic Centre was built in 1965 at 5006 Roblin Boulevard.
Soon other residential developments, such as Marlton, Westdale, River West Park and Varsity View neighbourhoods, sprang into existence. In the 1970s, growth was at its highest level when 7,500 homes were built.
Charleswood remained an independent municipality until the formation of Unicity in 1972 when it became part of the greatly expanded city of Winnipeg.
Charleswood Mayor Arthur Moug was against amalgamation with the city, although prior councils had favoured such a move. Moug said Charleswood residents had nothing to gain through Unicity. Instead, he proposed that Charleswood amalgamate with Fort Garry, Tuxedo and St. James.
“People liked the semi-rural attitude Charleswood has been able to enjoy,” Moug told Bidewell in 1971. “They’re moving out here for that reason.”
But Moug could not prevent the momentum building for the establishment of Unicity, especially since the amalgamation was favoured by the provincial government.
He need not have been too concerned about the future of Charleswood, as the the suburb still retains much of its rural charm in an urban setting.
The Charleswood Historical Society , the Charleswood Legion and the Swedish Society have planned a number of events this weekend (June 21 to 23) to mark the 100th anniversary of the community, including a Friday night meet and greet barbecue (5 to 11 p.m.) at the Legion ($5 per person, adults only), a Saturday morning pancake breakfast and antique car show (9 a.m. to noon) at the Park West Inn ($5 per person), a Saturday night dinner (smorgasbord) and dance (5 p.m. to 1 a.m.) at the Legion ($40 per person), and a Sunday family picnic (1 to 4 p.m.) at Vasa Lund Park. More information is available at: www.charleswoodhistoricalsociety.ca