The Rivers History Book

Available at the Library

A Short History - From the Rivers Website

Some­times thought of as a dia­mond in the rough, the Town of Rivers has qui­etly shone brightly through his­tory. It all started when Sir Charles RIVERS-Wilson brought his Grand Trunk Rail­way across the plains bring­ing promise and hope to settlers.

Through adver­sity of a time of uncer­tainty, those very pio­neers estab­lished busi­nesses, ser­vices and fam­i­lies who still call Rivers and area home.

In 1883 the Man­i­toba Provin­cial Gov­ern­ment drew out the bound­aries for all rural munic­i­pal­i­ties in South­ern Man­i­toba which included the R.M. of Daly. The R.M. of Daly, which entirely sur­rounds the Town of Rivers, has one of the most unique topo­graph­i­cal lay­outs in the province. It includes a man-made lake (Lake Wah­topanah), two rivers (Lit­tle Saskatchewan and the Assini­boine River) as well as sev­eral beau­ti­ful and col­or­ful ravines and valleys.

The Town of Rivers, named in hon­our of The Grand Trunk Pacific Railway’s pres­i­dent Sir Charles Rivers-Wilson, was con­ceived when the rail­way was being planned and a divi­sion point was required. Con­struc­tion of the round­house, coal shed, water sys­tem, repair shops, etc., began in 1907. The needs of the 350 rail­work­ers and their fam­i­lies were met by the con­struc­tion of houses and busi­nesses. In 1911 the set­tle­ment had grown to vil­lage size and was incor­po­rated as a town in 1913. The com­ing of the rail­road and the estab­lish­ing of the Town of Rivers had a major impact on the sur­round­ing area.

Prior to WWII, the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment estab­lished a Cen­tral Nav­i­ga­tional School known as #1 CNS just south of Rivers. This quickly grew and with the con­struc­tion of run­ways became an air-training base dur­ing WWII. Closed at the end of hos­til­i­ties, it was reopened in the late 1940’s and became a Joint Train­ing base with all three of the mil­i­tary branches rep­re­sented. This base was con­sid­ered redun­dant in 1968 and closed in 1969/70.

The base was turned over to the Depart­ment of Indian Affairs and became Oo-Za-We-Kwun Cen­tre, a train­ing place for the abo­rig­i­nal peo­ples of West­ern Canada. An indus­trial park was estab­lished and indus­tries were encour­aged to rent the hangars for their var­i­ous man­u­fac­tur­ing enter­prises. This ven­ture was closed in 1980 by the Depart­ment of Indian Affairs, and the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment offered the base for sale. An entre­pre­neur presently owns the base, uti­liz­ing some of the build­ings for agri­cul­tural purposes.

The Town of Rivers has had sev­eral peri­ods of growth and depres­sion. The change in the rail­road, from steam to diesel, the amal­ga­ma­tion of the repair facil­i­ties, and the clo­sure of the local ones caused a down­turn that was ended by the com­ing of the Cana­dian Forces. The sub­se­quent clo­sure of and the re-opening of this facil­ity and the final clo­sure brought about a major depres­sion; how­ever, the sur­round­ing agri­cul­tural enter­prises have been a con­stant source of oppor­tu­nity for Rivers, and the town has sur­vived. Agri­cul­ture is the eco­nomic dri­ver for the town, and with the com­ing of major agri­cul­tural enter­prises such as Maple Leaf Meats (located in Bran­don), it is expected that the town and the RM of Daly will con­tinue to thrive and grow