Turtle Mountain City and Wabeesh
1881 – 1887
Turtle Mountain City
In June of 1881 the Reverend L. O. Armstrong from Emerson, Manitoba, put up a store and stopping place where the Boiler Trail fords Waubeesh Creek just south of Whitewater Lake. In 1882 the Turtle Mountain City post office was established on this site. Located in a pretty spot among rolling hills and dales, Turtle Mountain City didn't have the chance to grow before the Englishman John A. Brondgeest homesteaded the section and established the town of Waubeesh less than a mile north.
With the subdivision of nearby homesteads, Brondgeest planned a townsite and sold lots. Soon the post office, general store, blacksmith shop and hotel moved north from Turtle Mountain City.
Brondgeest envisioned Waubeesh becoming a thriving settlement, and by 1884, it was indeed a chief commercial centre for the region along with Old Deloraine. Although it was given a good start and what looked like a prosperous future, Waubeesh never had the opportunity to fully get off the ground before the railroad came through in 1886 and bypassed the town by one and a half miles (two kms).
The first of the general stores was owned by Rev. Armstrong but operated by Mr. Alexander N. Tregent and Beck while they waited for their own store to be constructed nearby. The building acted as a stopping place for travellers heading west and as a general rendezvous for settlers in the area. Impromptu concerts were known to occur in the store as people gathered. Two more stores were built after a time, along with a shingle mill. Mrs. Brondgeest's brother, Jack Livingstone, brought the mail by stagecoach as he moved around the area on his weekly circuit between Wakopa, Desford, Waubeesh, Old Deloraine and Brandon. A grist mill, whose wheel was to be turned by the water from Waubeesh Creek, was built by Robert John Hurt, and a huge celebration was held at its completion. For unknown reasons the mill never ground a kernel of grain. Similarly, a building for a printing press was built to house a newspaper that was going to be published in the village, but the printing press itself was never installed.
When the CPR passed a mile and a half north of the village in 1886, a freight car was used for a railroad station, and an agent was employed during the busy season. For a long while this agent was Mr. Simpson, and it's said that he was a survivor of the famous Battle of Little Bighorn of 1876. He had been the signalman for the ill-fated battle-party and had been out on the hills during the Dakota's attack. Simpson's freight-car office, one and a half miles (two kms) northwest of Waubeesh, was the beginning of the village of Whitewater.
Waubeesh started out with genuine promise, and it was growing and expanding with incoming settlers. Two unfortunate events conspired to finish off this pioneer village: the railroad was built too far north and John Brondgeest, the town's primary promoter, died. So the town was abandoned in 1887. A stone from the grist mill is all that remains to help tell the story of the town's brief existence.
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Author: Teyana Neufeld, 2009.
Boissevain History Committee. Beckoning Hills Revisited “Ours is a Goodly Heritage” Morton Boissevain 1881—1981. Altona: Friesen Printing, 1981.
Moncur, William. Beckoning Hills Pioneer Settlement Turtle Mountain Souris-Basin Areas. Compiled in conjunction with Boissevain's 75th Jubilee. 1956.
Moncur, William and Anna Grace Diehl. “Whitewater Settlement Tour.” Bill Moncur Box 1 Series 1-4 MG14/C164. Boissevain Community Archives.
Tennant, J. F. Meet You on the Trail or West Before the Railroad Volume II, Jottings from a Buckboard 1881. Winnipeg: Boundary Commission—NWMP Trail Association, 1991.