Marringhurst Heritage House

The stately Marringhurst Heritage House, located 15 km northwest of Pilot Mound near Rock Lake, is the much-storied centrepiece of the Marringhurst District.

An elaborately appointed, and now lovingly restored, Four Square-style red-brick farm home, it recalls the lives and times of the region’s many Anglo-Ontario settlers in general, and more specifically that of Richard “Dick” Wilson, known locally as the RM of Argyle’s earliest homesteader, and a highly respected and successful farmer, civic leader and political activist.

Arriving in the spring of 1879, along with his parents and two younger siblings, Richard Wilson selected NW20-3-12WPM as his homestead claim, on a sweeping site on a fertile plain close to the lip of the Pembina River valley. He quickly set about to construct a log cabin and stable, prepare a small field for crops and cut hay for his precious first few head of livestock.

In 1882, he married Annie Baird, the daughter of a neighbouring homesteader and together they began to raise a family and expand the farm operations. As was the pattern throughout the Prairies, agricultural success and a growing family resulted in the modest first log house soon giving way to a larger and more permanent 1-1/2-storey wood-frame dwelling. And, frequently, during the prosperous and heady years leading up to the First World War, many successful homesteaders moved up to a stately two- or 2-1/2-storey third home — invariably built of prestigious materials like brick, stone or moulded concrete block. The Wilsons vacated their 1879 log cabin, for their larger wood-frame home, in 1890. By 1909, buoyed by their success in raising thoroughbred Percheron horses, polled Shorthorn cattle, Berkshire hogs and with almost 600 acres of cropland, the Wilsons were in a position to construct a dwelling befitting the image of a large, progressive and thriving Manitoba farm family.

The red brick used in its construction was Manitoba made, purchased from the Leary brickworks near Roseisle, shipped by train to Pilot Mound and then hauled the final 15 km to the farm site by teams of horses and wagons.

By 1909 standards, the large six-bedroom house was highly fashionable and featured, among other thoroughly modern amenities: central steam heating; full indoor plumbing with water tanks in the attic and a sewage system. There was a large summer kitchen and even a dumb waiter for bringing food items to the dining room and pantry from the cool room below. Aladdin chandeliers lit all the downstairs rooms and it sported high ceilings, gleaming hardwood floors and 30 large windows.

In addition to establishing a thriving farm, Richard Wilson was an active local politician involved in establishing the first school in the district and constructing the first bridge over the Pembina River. He was also a driving force behind the creation of the Farmer’s Elevator Company which later became the United Grain Growers Association, for which he served as a director for six years.

The Wilson family was highly regarded and respected and their home became the district social centre and the scene of many suppers, dances, meetings and celebrations. Tragically, in 1915 Dick was seriously injured after being thrown from his buggy during a runaway and passed away the next summer.

The family continued to operate the farm until 1974 when the house and surrounding farmland were sold. For the next 20 years the house remained unoccupied and decaying.

In 1993, district residents established the Marringhurst Historical Society to try to save the landmark, receiving a major boost when then owners, Bill and Marie Barron, donated the house and yard for use as a district heritage site and community centre.

On March 8, 1994 the RM of Argyle designated the house a municipal heritage site under The Heritage Resources Act, and the society then set about to raise funds for a restoration, hosting many events ranging from quilt making to community suppers. Funds raised were matched with provincial heritage grants.

Restoration work included: a new roof; repairing and repointing the brickwork; window repairs; refinishing the interior woodwork and floors and repairs to the plaster walls. During the restoration items anonymously removed years earlier “for safekeeping” mysteriously “returned home” including the large china/dumb waiter cabinet. The fully restored house museum now includes an upgraded summer kitchen, which allows it to serve as a catering facility.

Rechristened the Marringhurst Heritage House, this handsome structure is once again an active district landmark and social centre and has hosted anniversaries, weddings, family reunions, meetings and bus tours. More information on the Marringhurst Heritage House is available online at: www.gov.mb.ca/chc/hrb/mun/m110; www.mhs.mb.ca/docs/sites/marringhurstheritage house; and www.mhh.vdkwp.com.

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