Quest in Roots:
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The village of Oberon itself, as seen today, would seem to boast of little history, yet many interesting facts have been unearthed. What we call Oberon, was originally called McKenzieville, due no doubt to the vast holding of Adam McKenzie and perhaps to the fact that all original buildings were built by him. These included a store, blacksmith shop, boarding house and livery barn.
In 1905, the name of the village was changed to Oberon, this name being formerly used for mail delivery to the McKinnon Post Office in the earlier days. With the coming of the railway, two elevators were built, the first by G.B. Murphy, later of the Winnipeg Grain Exchange, and its first buyer was Ed Gamble. This elevator was demolished a number of years later and taken to Alberta, where it was reconstructed. Oglivie Grain Company built the second one. It, too, was demolished, but a new and larger one was built on the same site in 1956.
The building called the Community Hall, was started first by the Foresters, but for some reason was not completed. Adam McKenzie took it over and finished it. Then for the sum of one dollar in the year 1913, he turned it over to the community to be used for social, religious, and political purposes.
The Oberon Hall continues to be put to good use.
Each generation makes some improvements. In 1981 a new storage room and kitchen were built on by volunteer labour. This will indeed be a boon to everyone since the building is used for a variety of occasions, such as: farewells for departing friends, receptions for newlyweds, potluck suppers, afterfuneral teas, bridal showers, and of course dances.
The first blacksmith shop was operated by Alex Donald from Edrans. Later "Smithies" included R. Rasmussen, R. Dennis and J.Huduk, who sold the premises to J. Carmichael.
In the early years our village boasted an implement business owned by Murdock Murchison, and Hermand Houston and in 1915, "Scotty" Burnett, started up a butcher shop.
In 1908 Auburn School was moved to the village. Oberon United Church was built in 1902.
Adam McKenzie constructed the original store and Mr. Johnstone from Edrans, was the first merchant. Through the years it has changed hands often. McQuire Brothers from Minnesota, once owned it. Later, George Brown left farming to try this business, as did J. Olstead, who started a second store in the present living quarters of Bernard Jakubowski. The other local men bought out both stores, establishing living quarters in the second one. Wm. Byram, who had come to this district with his parents from Firdale, took over ownership in 1929. In 1930, this original building was burned, but Mr. Byram rebuilt and continued to run the store until 1947, when Mr. Hall from Belmont, bought him out. He stayed only a few months and sold to another local man, J.L. Carmichael.
Jim Carmichael, who had owned and operated the store since 1947, sold his business in 1970. The new proprietor, Mr. G. Snyder, operated the business until 1971, at which time the store was closed down. The property now belongs to Joe and Jean Jakubowski. Because this also meant the closing of the post office, mail boxes now dot the entrances to farmyards, with mail being delivered by carrier from Brookdale. Mr. Carmichael, whose wife Agnes, passed away in 1970, continued to live in his Oberon home. In 1974, having remarried, he and his wife, Vera, retired to Portage La Prairie, where they resided until Jim''s death in February of 1982.
Vera returned to Thunder Bay, Ontario, her former home.
There have been so many changes in the socalled "March of Progress". Granted, many of these have been for the better, others, are questionable.
But doubtless it has always been so, and one must try to change with the times.
To proceed, the village itself has seen the greatest change. This has been due to many factors.
Perhaps it all began when the railway service, which was begun in 1902, gradually diminished, until finally in 1976, the last train, probably a worktrain, crossed over the tracks. The rails were lifted in 1979. This information has been kindly given to me by a retired railroad man, Mr. J. Corbett, who now lives in Portage La Prairie.
The tracks had been serviced from Brookdale since 1960 but are now removed. The section house has been removed and now sits in the farmyard of Ken Mitchell of Brookdale. Gordon Bowler served as our section foreman from 1950 to 1960, at which time he and his wife Hazel and their family moved to Portage La Prairie where they still reside. Perhaps railroad phasing out was in a degree caused by good hardtop roads such as Provincial Highway No. 5 and the road to Brookdale which made car and truck travelling more attractive.
With no train service, the Manitoba Pool Elevator ceased operation in 1974. However, it still stands on the same site, having been purchased by Joe Jakubowski. Joe, along with his farmer sons Larry, Joe Jr., Dennis and Bernard now use it for storage of their own grain. Forrest Alexander who had served the community faithfully through three generations of grain haulers, was the last agent. He and his wife, Margaret, remain in their village home.
In passing, I would like to note that Forrest, often jokingly referred to as the "Mayor of Oberon", carried out many tasks - such as acting as rink caretaker, lighting of school, church and hall fires over the years. Now he and Margaret, Bernard and Sharron Jakubowski together with Leslie and Suzanne May and families are Oberon''s only residents.
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