Once the home of noted author and activist Nellie McClung, Manitou possesses a unique history. Read on to learn more about the birth of our great town and some of the colourful characters who have helped to shape it.
Manitou actually started life as Manitoba City, located just north of the present day town site. Legend has it that a Mr. John Stewart, a CPR contractor from Winnipeg, gleaned inside information from secret sources and quietly purchased a north ½ section of 30-3-8 and drew up a plan for a town site convincing everyone that he knew where the rail terminus would be located. In 1880 promises of the railway coming by 1881 gave Mr. Stewart’s town a boost and lots were sold and businesses sprang up in the new town, Manitoba City.
In 1882 residents noticed activity happening on the south ½ section of 30-3-8. Another town site had been staked out. Mr. Wm. Ellis, a young lawyer from Toronto, had purchased the land and laid out streets to line up exactly with those already in place in Manitoba City. He assumed that this new town would be an extension to Manitoba City, but his plans were soon squelched as Mr. Stewart completely rejected any connection to this new plan. Mr. Ellis took on a partner, Mr. Jukes, a CPR surveyor and lawyer.Both Mr. Stewart and Mr. Ellis believed they had inside information as to where the railway would be.
In 1883 a survey crew was sent out to finish laying out the much anticipated rail line to which the overseer happened to be Mr. Jukes. Instead of the track continuing north along the right arm of the “Y” and to the north side of Manitoba City it veered southward providing excellent access to the Ellis-Jukes town site.
By 1884 much of Manitoba City’s businesses and residents had pulled up roots and moved across the tracks to the new town site and a thriving little town became a prosperous agricultural center called Manitou. The village incorporated in 1897.
Manitou’s most famous former resident is that of Nellie McClung. Nellie, then Mooney, moved to the area around 1890 when she started her teaching career at Hazel School, a small country school 3 miles northwest of Manitou. In 1892, following two excellent inspector’s reports, she obtained a teaching position in Manitou for 1 year. Here she met a woman she would regard as a mentor and role model, Annie McClung. Mrs. McClung, was the wife of the Methodist minister in Manitou, and the mother of Nellie’s future husband, Wes.
August 25, 1896 Nellie married Wes McClung and the couple settled in Manitou where Wes was the local pharmacist. They lived above the drug store, now the present day Spot Lite Café. Wes McClung built a brand new drug store across the street from the old one in 1901. Shortly after that time they moved into their new home. The house sat on what is now the War Memorial Park. The McClungs remained in Manitou until 1911. In Manitou four of her children were born, here the first of her 16 books, “Sowing Seeds In Danny”, was written, and it was here that she began her lifelong dedication to improving the political and social well being of women.In 1963 the new high school in Manitou was dedicated and named Nellie McClung Collegiate. A local actor offers a glimpse at life as Nellie McClung at the Archibald Museum.
A bronze bust of Nellie McClung stands outside the Opera House in Manitou and was dedicated in 2004 as a symbol of Mrs. McClung’s time in Manitou and her accomplishments to the social and political well being of women in Canada.
The house once occupied by Wes and Nellie McClung now stands at the Archibald Historical Museum grounds fully furnished, as it would have been in their time.
IN RYTHYM WITH OUR ROOTS
As a commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of the Town of Manitou in 1997 this book was compiled as a permanent record of the Manitou area and her residents. This book describes through research, pictures and quotes from newspapers the beginning of this town and her residents. Over 600 family histories are included with sections on government, War Times, Churches, Schools, Businesses, Agriculture, Sports, Recreation, Arts and stories from the past. 825 pages are jam packed with interesting write-ups and photographs.