ABOUT THE CLEARWATER ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
Clearwater is located in Rural Municipality of Louise, Manitoba. Part of the Boundary Trail Heritage Region, in the Pembina Valley on the banks of the Cypress Creek, the town is enveloped by hills and valleys that interrupt southern Manitoba's more typical prairie landscape. Stories about Clearwater grow out of this geographic context; the recurring themes of steadfastness, community cooperation, and adaptation they contain emerge as much from this landscape and its inhabitants.
The Hamlet of Clearwater was established in 1876, in the North West Territories. The border of Manitoba at that time, marked by the 99th meridian, was approximately one mile to the west. Clearwater residents became Manitobans with the shift of territorial borders in 1881. In 1885 a Canadian Pacific Rail line was laid down through this farming community, and that same year, a major flood in the valley prompted residents to move their entire town up the hill to the higher ground on which it presently sits.
Much has changed in Clearwater since its earliest days, but a walk through the town today reveals evidence of its earliest days and layers of change over 140 years. Memorials, remnants of the Canadian Pacific Railway, various other buildings, and scars on the land reach back into earlier days. In the spaces between these landmarks, the town's age is well-concealed. The Curling Club and Arena, the sprawling and tidy parcel of land—home to Manitoba's longest running baseball tournament every July 1st—the Learning Centre, the Community Hall, and the town's two churches are as impeccably maintained as the homes of the town's current residences, hinting at their relationship to one another. A deeply rooted sense of community, generosity and volunteerism maintains Clearwater. Many of the town's social gatherings are annual affairs, and many of it's social clubs as old as the churches.
It was in this spirit that the Harvest Moon Society was established in 2001. The HMS is a collaborative urban/rural initiative formed by farmers, educators, musicians and various other skilled individuals. The HMS works with local residents of Clearwater to develop a action planning for long-term environmental and economic sustainability, and educational programming—and importantly, helps to implement those actions. Their work has resulted in the development of the eco-agricultural education and training centre (the Learning Centre) and the Harvest Moon Festival.
The Harvest Moon Oral History project explores and documents the history of Clearwater and the Harvest Moon Society through the stories told by past and present residents of Clearwater, visitors, and Harvest Moon Society collaborators.
The project’s intention is to highlight the interconnectedness of Clearwater's past and present with storytelling that it firmly rooted in the town's geography. We hope that by making Clearwater's history more accessible, we can highlight the commitment and collaboration that has allowed Clearwater to survive into the twenty-first century. With stories of historic landmarks, events, farming, community building, rural/urban collaboration, sustainability, food security, education, music, art, and a map of the town, we hope the Harvest Moon Oral History project will allow you to virtually learn about the town much as we did: by visiting, exploring and listening.
Special Thanks To:
Project Coordinator: Kent Davies
Design and Layout: Kimberley Moore (with help from Squarespace and ArcGIS and their user communities)
Researchers and Interviewers: Kent Davies, Kimberley Moore, Scott Price, Daniel Emberg, Brian Fowler, and Jo-Lene Gardiner.
Photos: Kimberley Moore, Robert Guilford, Gordon McGill
Louise History Book Committee, Prairie Pride Land (Louise History Book Committee, 1998).
Mrs. Clifford Gosnell, Echoes of the Past; A History of the Rural Municipality of Louise and its People (1968).
Clearwater Women's Institute, Clearwater, 1876-1885 (1927).
The personal archives of Mr. Gordon McGill.