By Ellen Boryen
About 1.5 hrs north of Winnipeg is a small town called Eriksdale. On May 20, 2015, 27 Swedes from the Winnipeg area piled into 7 cars and headed north to visit this former Swedish town in the Manitoba Interlake district.
The trip became a natural step in the Exploring Swedish Immigration – A Group Endeavor, a 4-week discussion group that happened last fall at the Scandinavian Centre. Laurel Anderson-McCallum started the group to explore members' Swedish roots, discuss how that influenced the coming generations, and understand how prominent the Swedish influence has been in Manitoba. The interest in the discussions was great, and as names and places started popping up, Eriksdale and the surrounding area became a focal point for many of the participants. And it was a great excuse to get out of the city on a beautiful spring day!
Eriksdale – map of the Interlake district, courtesy of Google Maps
Several Swedes in the group grew up in the area, and many others have strong connections to the district. The first stop was the Eriksdale Creamery Museum with its local artifacts and stories. A picnic style lunch was provided and enjoyed on the museum veranda.
Craig Sidwall talks about what used to be there. Taken at the trip, courtesy of Ellen Boryen
Craig Sidwall, our resident Eriksdale area expert, led the group to two one-room school sites, Clydebank and Nord schools, with their memorials, and he provided highlights of the now gone buildings, including the teachers, the kids, and the wood stoves. Sometimes several siblings of varying ages were in the same grade. The schools were also used, besides teaching children, as dance halls, funeral parlours, wedding venues, and meeting rooms. The school sites had stables to house the horses people used to get to these events. The two cemeteries, Mulvihill Cemetery and Nord Cemetery, hold many early Swedish settlers. Most of the headstones have Swedish names on them, and on some, the inscriptions are also in Swedish.
Ole Nord, Swedish settler family, from Steeprock. Taken 1976, courtesy of Ted Simonsson
The interest in family research and the history of Swedes in Manitoba has increased over the last year. This trip will not only serve as an spring picnic, but also as a foundation for further research, more networking and the collection of ancestral information. A more detailed report about Eriksdale connections has been discussed. Its purpose would be to supply information to other family members and Swedish-Manitoban history research enthusiasts, and to ensure that stories, names and dates do not disappear.
The Scandinavian Centre or the Strindberg Vasa Lodge, in Winnipeg, can provide contact information to any interested parties.