Arden History

Excerpts From:

The Lansdowne Story : "Grain, Gravel & Growth" / by A. F. (Dick) McKenzie: Lansdowne Centennial Committee, 1967


How did Arden get its name? Nothing of a definite nature has been advanced, but three suggestions have been made:

First, that M. E. Boughton, one of the earliest inhabitants of  the area, named it after a small town near his original home to the United Kingdom.

Second, that an early surveyor, a native of the Ardennes, or the vicinity of the Forest of Ardennes, in Europe, gave it its name because it brought back nostalgic memories of his native land. But the Ardennes is a wooded plateau (1600-2300 ft.) partly in northern France, but mostly in SE Belgium and in the Grand Duchy of
Luxembourg. Its highest point is 2283 feet. It is heavily dissected by entrenched rivers, is pastoral, and has been the scene of bitter fighting in both World Wars.

Third, that it might have been named after a cook named Arden, on a construction gang working in the vicinity. He may have been an efficient cook, but between meals he had the habit of hiding himself to snatch 'forty winks.' It was common for the foreman to demand, "Where's Arden?" Possibly a bit far-fetched
but a theory, nevertheless!

The following is taken from an issue of THE COLONIST, a Winnipeg publication dated September, 1896.

The town of Arden of which mention is made in our general description of the county of Beautiful Plains, is situated on the M.& N. W. Ry. about 10 miles east of Neepawa, and 50 west of Portage la Prairie. It is the market town of the rural municipality of Lansdowne, and occupies a very pleasant and healthful site upon the top of the ridge that is a conspicuous feature of this part of the country.
This high, dry ridge runs in a north-westerly direction from Arden all the way to the Dauphin country, and there is a road from thither expropriated by the municipality. A great many people contend that Arden was the natural terminus of the railway; and there is no doubt that from an engineering point of view, if from no other, a great many difficulties of construction would have been avoided, if the railway had started from this point. Although the railway has taken another route, this must always remain the natural roadway into this fertile district, and there is no doubt that there will always be a good deal of intercourse between Arden and the Dauphin country on account of this advantage. Even as it is, part of the new Dauphin railway crosses the northern part of the municipality. The old primitive, depot that is seen in our illustration was built in 1872, as a base of supplies for survey parties, and subsequently was occupied for a time by the mounted police. Exactly where this old log building stood, now stands the thriving village of Arden, and the present post office is built on the same lot.

As an indication of progress during the earlv years of the village of Arden, the following is taken from HENDERSON'S DIRECTORY — 1894.    

ARDEN — A village on the M. and N. W. Ry., on Sec. 13, Tp. 15, Rg. 14, in the Municipality of Lansdowne, Central Judicial district. Mails three times a week each wav on every train; telegraph and express offices,  has 2 grain warehouses; 135 bbl. roller flour mill. Most direct route to Lake Winnipeg. Methodist church and public school. Pop. 130. Anderson, T. G., gen. store; Boughton. M. E., postmaster; Boughton, M. E. & Co., gen. store; Burlington, J. C., contractor; Clarke, W. T., grain buyer; Davidson, M.D.; Earngey, J., blacksmith; Jackson, Geo., butcher; Lamb, Robt., stone mason; McCamis, H. D., of M. E. Boughton & Co.; McClung, J., school teacher; McLean & Armstrong, blacksmiths; McRae, Duncan, livery; Manitoba & N. W. Ry. Co. of Can., J. W. Graham, Agent; Methodist Church, Rev. R. Halsall, Pastor; Moore & McFarlane, millers; Presbyterian Church, Rev. Jas. Lang; Renwick, Wm., hardware; Roe, J. W., cattle dealer; Snelgrove, Mrs. M., gen. store; Van Blaricom, B., implements; Wade, George, butcher.

In addition to the information gleaned from THE COLONIST, Mrs. Adam Thompson reminisces about those early days and supplies some interesting bits. Apparently, the Northern Bank was the first financial institution to serve Arden. It is not certain how long this bank operated; but later, not long after the turn of the century, the old Union Bank, later to be absorbed by the Royal, also had a branch in Arden.

It is quite evident that Arden was a prosperous trading centre with an enterprising group of business men. This was particularly the case for many years; in fact, until the coming of the motor car and the building of better roads. A hotel served the village for many years but was torn down. Arden was the seat of municipal government and remains so. Schools, churches, fraternal societies filled a vital need. Young men and women answered the call in two world wars. The many who served as members of council and on school boards over the years worked diligently and contributed much. To name them all is beyond the scope of this book.
Many are mentioned, all too briefly, in later pages. Unfortunately, too many have been missed due to lack of information. The purpose of the book, in the main, was to record those early years, the trials and the triumphs of the early settlers who laid the foundation for the R. M. of Lansdowne. Too much of such history is lost over the years, particularly those biographical sketches which form an integral part of the overall picture.

Life in the village of Arden continues at an orderly pace. Keyes, Tenby, Helston and other places which served the early settlers are, in the main, merely memories, but pleasant memories to the few remaining citizens who experienced those earlier days.


The Arden Cemetery was established as a public cemetery by a By-law of Council on March 14th, 1888.

The Cemetery was to be self-supporting, and under the regulation of the council who set aside fifty dollars for a detailed survey dividing the cemetery into 5-10 lot blocks.

The cemetery was given to council by Hector Mclean who retained Block 39 for his own use. Mr. McLean died in 1917 at the age of 80 years, and is buried in lot 1 of Block 39; his wife Margaret McLean died in 192(i and is buried beside him in lot 2.


Over seventy years ago Arden had a flour mill. Here is a quote from the records of M. R. Boughtnn, long-time secretary-treasurer of Lansdowne: ''We would emphasize the fact that our new roller flour mill is to be ready by Sept. 1, 1890." And from the Provincial Archives a (1894): "Arden — 135 bbl. flour mill;" —
"Moore & McFarlane Millers."

It has not been established who built the mill, but an article in "THE COLONIST", Sept., 1896, records: "The Arden roller mills with a daily capacity of 125 barrels, belonging to Wilson and Co., has been described in the article on the County of Beautiful Plains, but we may add here that their special brands — Manitoba
Choice Strong Bakery, Star, Second Bakers, XXXX and Superfine — are favorably known over a wide area far beyond the limits of Manitoba. Besides its supping business the mill docs a large local trade in flour, bran shorts and chopped feed, and altogether is of immense value to local farmers. The mill is run by steam power, but has also a water power in connection on the White Mud River."

This river water was conveyed by means of a rope belt arrangement to the mill. The rope was suspended on poles to clear traffic "along the street, with the mill engine creating the power to work the pump at the river. Wes Graham seems to have been the firstengineer at the mill.

The mill was ccrnpletely destroyed by fire in July, 1908. Robert Younger, Sr., father of Clifford, still of the Keyes district, had the distinction of delivering the last load of grain to the mill before the fire.


At one time Lanssdowne did have a cheese factory. From the Provincial Archives, "The Colonist" of September, 1896, reports:

"A cheese factory is now in operation at Orange Ridge. It is fully equipped with modern machinery and is capable of producing 900 pounds of cheese a day. Orange Ridge is about fifteen miles northeast of Neepawa  and is most favorably situated for any kind of agricultural enterprise. The cheese factory is much appreciated by the farmers of district find its success is a foregone conclusion."       

Other sources of information indicate that the factory was situated on NE 32-17-14 on the farm of David Wilson. He homesteaded there in 1888. Later, the land belonged to Sam Alexander. Members of the company included: David Wilson, Billie George, Billie Col tarn, Thomas Bailey, Sam Alexander, Billie Gilroy and Frank Donaldson.

The company eventually went out of the cheese business and made butter. Frank Harper was the cheese-maker and Chester Walker turned out the butter. It is reported that Dave Wilson sold one lot of butter for eight cents a pound. By 1905 the factory had ceased operations.


Two lumber mills operated in the Mekiwin district at two dif-ferent periods. William Bryce owned the first one which was built by James Milne on the river east of the J. R. Stewart place.

Apparently much difficulty was experienced in getting this first mill into operation. All parts and equipment were shipped by rail from Galt, Ont. to Portage la Prairie. From here to the mill location proved to be a task of no mean proportion. It had to come from Portage to Bryce's by ox-cart and wagon, necessitating a great deal
of manual labor and loss of time. Then nature turned against them. A flash flood carried away what bridges there were, and so, ferrying had to be carried out at Woodside and Westbourne. A 1,200-lb. wheel presented the greatest difficulty. In attempting to ferry it across the White Mud, the boat capsized in rather deep water. This, of course, meant more delay and more hard work. Eventually, the
journey was completed, all the parts assembled, and the new mill went into operation under the supervision of James Milne, Sr., a millwright by trade. Much was accomplished that winter and the men were kept busy sawing logs into lumber. These logs were brought to the mill by settlers and the lumber was taken away by them to be used for houses and shelters for the animals. The mill served
a definite need during the time it was in operation.

Again disaster struck. The mill, which had almost been doomed to failure before it was even built, was definitely doomed the following spring. A heavy run-off caused the White Mud to flood and the mill was carried away.

Some time later, another mill was put into operation at Bjurlings and gave much-needed service to the settlers. It was operated for a time by Robert Hunter, one of the early pioneers of the Union district, east of Neepawa. There was still another mill on the Adam McKenzie land south of the Bjurlings in the hills. Duncan McLaren and his son, John, operated this one, having previously
filed on homesteads in the area.


The School District of Arden was formed in 1884 and confirmed by the Board of Education on October 6 of that year. But it was not until June, 1887, that the first school was opened in Arden, with the Nova Scotia-born H D. McCamis as its first teacher.

Thirteen names appeared on the first school register, and in the first year of operation the school was kept open for 157 days. This was a one-room school and, according to information supplied by some of the earliest settlers, it stood on the property later occupied by the home of Peter McKinnon. This school was destroyed by fire several years later. Among the first names to appear on the roll were Hockin, Stewart, McKenzie, Boyce, Van Blaricom, Gill, Boughton and McLean.

A new 2-room school was built in 1900. This included a senior and a primary room; and it is believed that Grades 8, 9 and 10 were taught by the principal, J. W. Gordon. The primary teacher was Miss Kate Crawford. At that time the principal received $600 per annum, while Miss Crawford was paid $470. The total enrolment was 78 pupils. Among he trustees of that time were B. Van Blaricom, hardware merchant; M. E. Boughton, secretary-treasurer of the municipality; John McMurchy, lumber merchant; H. D. McCamis, merchant; and George Currie.

Some of the records pertaining to Arden School have been lost or misplaced. Consequently, there is a lack of definite information. In 1906 there was still a 2-room school with Mr. George Ruttan as principal. Mrs. Jos. (. Foreman, of Arden, after considerable research, has supplied seme additional information.

"After two years,'' she says, "Mr. Ruttan left Arden to join the staff of Brandon College. The next year he returned to marry a former pupil. Miss Eva McCamis. The former Anna Drysdale, also a former pupil and now a resident of Neepawa, tells of the wedding which took place in the Presbyterian Church. Arden pupils stood on the school steps to watch the bridal party drive to the reception at the home of the bride. They rode in a democrat drawn by a spanking team of horses, likely belonging to Duncan McRae, the owner of i livery barn. This was in 1908."