The Origin of the Winkler-Morden Rivalry?


“It’s like the Mason-Dixon Line,” remarked Andrew after I had quickly filled him in on the whole Menno-Canuck Line situation.

Honestly, my whole point of telling Andrew this story was to try to entice him into exploring the Burwalde Woods.

You see, I had just read The Early History of Burwalde by Edwin D. Hoeppner (obtained from the Mennonite Heritage Archives) and was rather captured by the idea that in 1877 there had been confrontations in the dark woods of Burwalde lining the Dead Horse Creek. (At one point this was even called a “war”… later downgraded to a “scuffle”.)

These confrontations had been between the Ontario homesteaders and squatters who had arrived before the Mennonites. And yet, the reason the Mennonites arrived on the West Reserve was, well, because the Canadian government had reserved that land for the Mennonites. They expected to own that land because, well, they technically did.

Yet, possession is nine-tenths of the law as they say. It seems there was a lot of confusion about who owned what. And so when Mennonites went into the woods to cut down a few trees to build their housebarns, they encountered folks who declared they were stealing their timber.

It was such a problem that five Mennonite men were arrested and taken into Winnipeg and housed in a jail cell for several days before William Pearce was called upon to figure this out.

His solution was to create the Menno-Canuck Line. It ran north-south near the western edge of the reserve. All land west of the line was Anglo-Celt. All land east of the line was Mennonite. And that was that.

It’s pretty interesting. If you look at a map, you’ll see that this line clearly separates Morden on the west side and Winkler on the east. It’s distinct.

Now, I’m not sure if anyone from the R.M. of Stanley would have much to say about this today. I feel like even just by talking about it, I’m exposing myself as a total East Reserve Mennonite… I’m just not from there (though I do have roots in the area!) so I’m fairly oblivious and here I am now blogging about it of all things. The nuances escape me.

Even though the Menno-Canuck Line has probably been long since abolished (since also the Mennonite Reserves have not actually been a thing for a super long time) I can’t help but wonder if this divide explains a few things.

It’s interesting how historical decisions, many of which we’re not even aware of today, can influence how we think of our neighbours.