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

William and Florence Bateman

In the later part of the nineteenth century, there was a concerted migration of young men from eastern Ontario to the newly opened farm lands of Manitoba and the Northwest Territories. One of these was a William Joseph (Bill) Bateman, born in 1880, on a farm near Eldorado, Ontario. Bill could not see a future for himself on the farm near Eldorado and, hearing of land available for homesteading in Manitoba, decided in 1898 it was time for him to head west. He travelled by train from Madoc, Ontario, to Winnipeg, Manitoba, and together with two buddies, one horse, one oxen and a red river cart headed north to Tent Town, near present Minitonas. Another early settler recalled Bill and his buddies arriving in Tent Town the same day a “travelling show” was offering ten dollars to anyone who could throw their wrestler to the ground. Bill Bateman was not a big man but this slim eighteen year old left Tent Town ten dollars richer. It is interesting to note that it cost ten dollars for Bill to register his homestead on the NE quarter of 6-35-28. Bill later purchased the SE quarter of 6-35-28 from Art Walliker, and then purchased three quarters of 1-35-29 from the railroad.

When speaking of the early days in the Valley, Bill recalled that after harvest, they would load their bags of wheat in the ox cart and take them to Swan River for milling. This was a three day trip and at the larger creeks they would unload the bags, carry them across the creek and reload them on the other side. They would follow the same procedure on the return trip.

In 1902 Mr. and Mrs. Henry Lea, their three sons and daughter Florence immigrated from England and homesteaded all of section 2-35-29. The Leas travelled by train from Montreal to the Swan River Valley. Florence recalled the train travelling so slow that she was able to get off the train, pick a basket of flowers or a bucket of berries and run to catch up to the train. Mrs. Lea complained to the conductor about the slowness of the train and the conductor told her that she could walk if she didn’t think it was fast enough. Her reply was that she had considered walking but she wasn’t expected in Winnipeg until time for the train to arrive. Florence later married Bill Bateman and they lived in the house Bill had built on the NE quarter of 6-35-28. In 1925, Bill and Florence built a big new home on the SE quarter of 6-35-28.

Bill and Florence both enjoyed the pioneer spirit, believed in hard work and had a genuine concern for their neighbors and the community. They were both active in the Anglican Church, helped in building the church, the school, the community hall and the rink. Among the many community activities in which they were involved, Florence was a founding member of the Durban Womens Institute and Bill was a member of the Community Hall Board and spent twenty-five years as Secretary of the Durban School Board.

Bill was proud of his horses which he raised for workand for show. Even after most of the farming was being done by tractors, Bill still prided himself in hooking up a six or eight horse team to work the land or seed the crops. He owned his own threshing machine and for many years did custom threshing for many of his neighbors. Florence was an acitve partner in the farm, raising the children, maintaining a large garden, and spending many hours picking wild berries, preparing meals for her family and the hired help as well as feeding and entertaining many neighbors and friends. They both believed in assisting the neighbors and organized and participated in barn raising bees, wood sawing bees and community projects. Pleasure time was spent reading by coal oil or gas lamps, playing checkers, quilting or taking part in community affairs. Some of the checker games with R.D. MacLeod or Art Shaw would go on for two hours or more before they would call it a draw.

Bill and Florence retired from the farm and moved to Durban in 1951. Bill continued to work on the farm until he had his left leg amputated below the knee and his right foot amputated at the instep. He continued to look after his garden on his hands and knees and would use the wheel chair only when necessary. He designed and carved his own wooden leg and was beginning to feel quite comfortable with it when he passed away in January 1960. Florence passed away five years later.

Bill and Florence raised six children. Fred, the first born, married Mae MacLeod and they raised two sons and three daughters. Fred and Mae bought the west half of 6-35-28 and built a home on this land in 1945. Fred passed away in April, 1960, at forty-nine years of age. Mae later married Arni Sigurdson and presently lives in Swan River. Ettie was the second child and she passed away at the early age of nine years.

Roy, the second son, married Evelyn Mantie, and they raised three sons and four daughters. After Bill and Florence retired to Durban, Roy and Evelyn moved the farm house and they continued to farm the east half of 6-35-28 until 1988 when their son, Norman, took over the farm. Roy passed away in November, 1996, and Evelyn presently resides in Benito.

Isabella, married Ralph Martin in 1947, and they farmed in the Thunderhill area, raising two boys. Larry, the second son, lives on the Martin farm. Isabella passed away in 1992 and Ralph presently lives in Benito.

Earl, the third son, passed away at the tender age of three years.

Lloyd, the last born son, married Grace Trumbley and they raised two boys. Lloyd and Grace farmed the three quarters of 1-35-29 that Bill purchased from the railroad many years before. Lloyd passed away in 1984 and Grace presently resides in Winnipeg.

The descendants of these two early settlers in the Valley are proud of their heritage and of the family’s contribution in making the Swan River Valley the fine community it is today.

Submitted by: Bonnie Ray


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.