This year is something of a significant milestone for the country, as you might have heard. It’s also a notable anniversary for the Historical Society of St. Boniface and Maryhill Community, which marks 40 years.
To commemorate its anniversary, the society is kicking off festivities with a July 1 celebration in conjunction with Canada’s 150th birthday and ending the year in the fall with a special heritage Sunday hullabaloo.
Tom Schell, the current president and only remaining active charter member of the society, reflected on the society’s birth four decades ago.
“There was an anniversary for the church, this particular church here was built in 1877 so the 100th anniversary was in 1977. We had quite a large celebration, at that time there was a number of people we had a good time planning it,” Schell explained.
“We ended up deciding we should form a historical club – it was 10 years after Confederation in 1967 when all of that celebrations were going on, so we thought we should get something going. That is how we got started.”
Although Schell was one of the founding members, he only really got involved as an active member five years ago. Since then the society has seen the most progressive growth in its 40-year history.
“The whole society has been transformed in the last four years with the new projects,” said Ken Hanson, the group’s secretary.
Hanson, who joined the executive just a few years ago in a similar timeframe as Schell, has seen the evolution of the society firsthand, including reaching out to the community, developing a more modern newsletter and a website.
The group, which currently has 300 members, is hoping its push to be more involved in the community will in turn get more of the community involved with the historical society itself.
“It has taken a long time to have these changes,” said Hanson. “So now we can do a mass email that has been the big reach to get more of the community involved, and that has really helped.”
In addition to the electronic revolution of the society, the new executives decided it was time to add in more celebrations.
“Once we got in and got a few things going I decided that we needed to be a little bit more proactive and promote a few more things,” said Schell. “We promoted July 1 because, really, it’s our national day – we should have that as a historical society.
“And our big society celebration will be on September 24 on a Sunday, Heritage Sunday. We will be having a mass and there will be a tour of the countryside, followed by a lunch and awards. It’s our big fundraiser for the year.”
On July 1 the celebration will begin at 11 a.m. at Halter House with the raising of the flag, the singing of O Canada and remarks from local dignitaries. Following that, local youth from the high school will be honouring veterans from the area who fought in the Great War and the Second World War.
A special planting of a Canada 150 maple tree will be happening at the house, with the Maryhill Knights of Columbus sponsoring a BBQ for all those who attend.
In the afternoon there will be crafts and music by the Melody Train. Visitors will also have the opportunity to participate in horse-drawn wagon tours of the community, a self-guided tour of the church and a tour of Halter House, which serves as the society’s headquarters.
Acquiring the building was an instrumental part in the historical society’s development. It now houses physical documentation, antiques and information displays available to the public.
“It has been our only building and fortunately it was one of the earliest buildings that was built here – the Halter House was owned by Edward Halter,” said Schell.
Halter, born in what was then Lower Alsace in 1834, emigrated to Maryhill (then New Germany) as a child, becoming a prominent community member and serving on township council for three years, 1877 to 1879, the last year as reeve.