Family Histories
of the Swan River Valley
Manitoba, Canada
Pioneer Centennial
History Book
100 Years in the
Swan River Valley
1898 - 1998

John and Clara Alexander

John M. Alexander was born April 14, 1894, at Birnie, MB. Clara (Watson) Alexander was born December 12, 1896, at Riding Mountain, MB.

Dad and mother were married in October 1916 in Neepawa, MB. They farmed in the Riding Mountain area until 1940, and dad also hauled railway ties and cordwood during the depression to help supplement income. They raised a family of three boys and one girl. In 1940, the family moved to Bowsman to farm SW 11-38-27, now owned by Brian Burick. Dad continued to farm until 1957, at which time mother and father moved to Cranberry Portage and worked with Land Branch of the Provincial Government. Then to Guy Hill north of The Pas where they both worked at the sanitarium. They moved to Winnipeg, and mother underwent open heart surgery and in 1975, returned to Swan River and resided in the Swan River Valley Lodge. Here dad passed away in 1976, and mother moved to the Personal Care Home where she suffered a massive stroke, passing away in September 1978. The first son, Gordon, was born April 1917, and received his education at Glenallan school in the Riding Mountain District, then worked on the home farm. In 1940, he moved to Bowsman with the family. The following spring he rented a half section across from dad’s farm and in 1942, purchased the farm. That same year, he married a Bowsman girl, Alma Stephen and raised a family of three sons and a daughter. In 1953, Gordon became crippled with polio, and had to give up farming. His one son was also crippled with polio at the same time. In 1954, he was employed as a linotype operator at the Star and Times from 1956 - 1969. He also worked at other various places as a linotyper, Rivers, Melita, and Russell. He then returned to Swan River to work as a partsman at Webb Implements until he retired in 1980. Gordon served as secretary of Bowsman Farmers Union and Trustee of Bowsman School Board. Gordon passed away November 1988.

Wilma was born in May 1919 at Birnie, MB. She received her education at Glenallan school and then Wilma married Vern Willey, in May of 1939, and made Bowsman their home until 1960. In 1942, Vern joined the Navy until 1945, and Wilma lived with her parents. They raised one daughter and one son. Wilma was a nurses aid at the sanitarium at Guy Hill and Vern worked with Mid Canada Dew Line from 1956 - 1957 at Cranberry Portage. He then went to The Pas and then to Saskatoon in 1959, with Department of Transport. In 1960, Vern transferred to the Winnipeg office of Dept. of Transport, where he retired in 1983. In 1987, they moved to Stonewall, MB, where Vern still resides. Wilma passed away in March of 1993, after a lengthy illness.

Mervyn was born August 19, 1924, at home in Birnie, MB. Merv attended Glenallan school and in 1940, moved with the family to the farm at Bowsman and worked with dad, until 1946. Merv worked as a carpenter with Vern Willey and continued his carpentry work until 1951. In 1949, he married a Bowsman girl Jean House, and in 1951 was employed with Searle Grain Co. at Bowsman and in 1953 moved to Swan River as a manager of Searle Grain elevator. From 1968 - 1972 he worked for Federal Grain and in 1972 worked with Manitoba Pool and purchased all Federal Grain facilities and continued employment with Pool until retirement in December 31, 1987. Merv is a charter life member of Swan River Elks Lodge and a Life member and past President of the Swan River Curling Club. Mervyn also belonged to other organizations over the years. Merv and Jean raised two daughters and a son, and the two of them still reside in Swan River. Calvin was born in February 1934, at Neepawa, MB, and attended school in Bowsman, MB. After finishing school, Calvin joined the RCMP in 1952. Most of his service was spent in the north from Haines Junction east to Baffin Island, ending in Yellowknife. He married a Swan River girl, Shirley Marks, and they raised a family of three sons. After 24 years in the service, Calvin retired from the force and was employed with the Territorial Government, as a security officer. In 1988, Calvin retired and he and Shirley moved to Westbank, BC. Mother, Father, brother Gorden and sister Wilma are all buried in the Birchwood Cemetery in Swan River.

Submitted by: Mervyn Alexander

Back Row: Mervyn, Gordon, Wilma, Calvin Front Row: Clara and John


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.