of the Swan River Valley
100 Years in the
Swan River Valley
1898 - 1998
Edward and Francis Baird
In 1944, Edward Baird of Dauphin was working through Swan River as a brakeman on the CNR, when he met Francis Provins. She was teaching at Square Plains School, about four miles from her parent’s home. They married July18,1946 at the Provin’s family farm, taking up residence in Swan River. On May8,1954 they moved into their newly built home at 532 7th Street N.E.(now River Park Drive). That part of town was not yet serviced with water and sewer lines, so for a few years, Ed carried buckets of drinking water from the pump near McKay’s house.
From the beginning they enjoyed the river, with it’s beauty,activities, water for lawns, birds, fish (suckers) being flipped out by net on the far bank to be canned, and that ever exciting site of spring- the ice going out.
Beyond the river, and highway, is still the railroad track, easily seen from the house. Steam engines with their shrill whistles and great puffs of smoke came and went, from the north. There was regular passenger service from Regina, and Winnipeg into Swan River, the latter going to Churchill three times a week. Long lines of loaded pulp cars came from the Porcupines, and limestone from Mafeking came through daily. Train, freight, express, even the mail was moved by train. A wave from the caboose or a little toot-toot of the whistle added a friendly touch as they rumbled in.
Many local men were employed by the CNR, and a highlight of the winter was the CNR social, with entertainment provided by the families themselves. Numbers were large enough to require the Legion Hall.
Eventually steam engines were replaced by diesel units, the very last steamer on the CNR system made it’s final trip through Swan River April, 1960.
On July11,1970, the Royal Passenger Extra came into town from the north to be greeted by an expectant crowd at the station. The train carried Queen Elizabeth, Prince Phillip, Princess Ann and Prince Charles.(pictures in the town office) After a mini-rodeo and other entertainment, they moved on to Ethelbert, which was considered a secure place to spend the night.
A bit more CN history- the last train orders transmitted in Canada by morse code, on the CNR were sent by Jim Wynes and received by Stan Pawlinsky at Swan River station for freight train #894 to Dauphin, June25,1972. Passenger service to Swan River was cut off on Dec.15,1981; and in the 90’s, the tracks were taken up between Birch River, and Hudson Bay,Sask. Grain is still shipped south from the valley, in modern round grain cars.
Ed worked out of Kamsack, Dauphin and The Pas; to Chisel Lake Mine; on the grain haul to Churchill; and on rail line construction from Sheridan to Lynn Lake. That work crew combatted bears, bush, sink holes, muskeg and rivers. Ed was conductor of the first train into Lynn Lake. But most of his working years were spent running from here to Kelvington, Canora, or Hudson Bay Sask..
Before retiring from the CN in 1974, Ed arranged to drive the Royal Mail-it wasn’t Canada Post until 1979, on rural route one and two from Swan River. This he did until 1980, and by then he had the contract to deliver the bagged mail from Swan River as far north as Westgate, including Lenswood Post Office on the Return trip. Family members assisted with the driving over the next nine years.
In Dec.1988, Ed suffered a stroke, and then in a slow decline until his death in 1995.
While Ed was away working, Frances taught piano, and found challenge and fellowship in community organizations. Interested in children she chose groups which gave them opportunities- Tyros, a midweek church group for 9-11 yr. old boys; Wellman Lake United Church Camp Board, Sunday School, Lidstone 4-H Garden Club. Figure Skating Club, Band Booster Club, and the Swan Valley Fine Arts Festival Association. She has enjoyed long term membership in the Swan Valley Agricultural Society, the United Church and Senior Golden Agers Choirs, both which she was the director.
In 1970, Ed and Frances received the Chamber of Commerce Manitoba Centennial Award for outdoor Christmas decorations, with their nativity scene.
In 1994, Frances was made honorary life member of Associated Man. Arts Festivals, for the many years of festival work, done in the Swan River Valley.
But life’s deepest satisfaction came from parenthood. This Ed and Frances found with the arrival of Doug, Mar.9,1957; Maureen July31,1960 and Byron Oct.30, 1961. While in school all three were members of the School Band,-Maureen and Byron on European tours, before graduating from SVRSS.
Douglas worked at R.L. Enterprises silk screening in Winnipeg; T-bar installation at Thunder Hill; mail truck driver for Baird Courier Service; rug and upholstry cleaner; and at Hunt Motors. He is a licensed Ham Radio operator, and is presently upgrading his education. He married Pamela Terry in 1982, had one son Daniel but was later divorced. Danny 15, lives in Flin Flon. Doug now resides with his partner of 8 years, Rita Munro, at the Starlite Trailer Court; Swan River.
After working for one year, Maureen continued her education majoring in music and math at Dickinson N.D.; and later in Greeley, at the U. of Northern Colorado, where she received her Masters degree in Music Education, with the highest honors in that graduating class. She taught band in Deloraine and Waskada, MB, as well as River Park West, Laidlow and Shaftesburg High in Winnipeg.
After marrying Bill Bambridge of Coulter, MB, Dec.29,1989, and taking up residence on their farm, she taught at Minto, Ninette and Boissevain for two years. With three children, Hanna 5. Liam3, and Elisha 6 mos., she now teaches part time, privately at Melita.
Byron took courses at Dickinson music and Phys-Ed; Lethbridge C.C.- Masonry; and a Health Care Course in Swan River. He worked at Flin Flon mines, the Lodge for Sr’s, S.R., but before the longest period for Natural Resources in the Swan River Valley.
He married Dawn Bowlin, July 5,1986. They reside in the former Anglican rectory, built in 1905, at 221 5th Ave N., with their two sons, Noah 8, and Luke 4 and aninfant daughter, Natasha. Byron is employed at the Louisianna Pacific Oriented Strand Board plant, near Minitonas, and Dawn cares for small children in their home.
For fifteen years, Frances has enjoyed meeting and assisting many people as agent for Quinn Memorials, of Neepawa Man.
In large part, life is what you make it, and with tried and true friends and neighbors, life in this fertile and beautiful valley has been very good.
Submitted by: Frances Baird
Manitoba's Swan River Valley is an area rich in history. These family histories were a part of the 1998 Pioneer Centennial History Book project. If you would like the history of your area available online, have your historic group contact the Key Rock Group for information on electronic publication. We offer publication free of charge and also provide the option for making your history book available on CD.