The House Beside the Rock Hill

A Story of pioneer life in a Latvian settlement.

The Book Introduction to: 

The House Beside the Rock Hill

A Story of pioneer life in a Latvian settlement.


Aina (Gulbis) Turton

 Bird River. In my recollection , the most wonderful place on earth.

Bird River, a not-too-wide, friendly river, flows gently between two ranges of outcropping rocks in the Precambrian Shield of south-eastern Manitoba. It was a distance of only four and a half miles from the falls westward to its mouth whereit empties into lake Lac du Bonnet. It was accessible only by boat in the summer and horse-team in the winter.

Along its banks sprang up a lively community of Latvian settlers in the early 1900’s. These people had been emancipated from serfdom in their native country (still under Russia rule at the time) and were hungry for land; the barons of wealthy land-owners still hung on to their estates and property in their homeland was unattainable.

Under Lord Sifton’s immigration policy the Latvians found their way to Canada and were funneled into this area east of Lac du Bonnet, where their desire to own their own piece of earth was fulfilled.

After each family recieved the description of their quarter section of land, for the sum of ten dollars ath the Winnipeg Land Office, they took the C.P.R. Train to the town of Lac du Bonnet. There they had to acquire a boat and then row 25 miles across the lake to the mouth of Bird River. Once the located their property, the first was to make some type of shelter. Some had tents with them. Others cut down small spruce trees for walls and used boughs for the roof. In time they errected sturdy large houses of spruce logs with flattened sides and neat Latvian-style dove-tailed corners. Some of the logs were 12 inches wide on all four sides.

My father Willis Gulbis, along with his family, was one of these pioneer settlers, arriving September 10, 1910.

Take Highway 315 to Bird River. Cross the bridge and turn left. Follow a paved road along the north side of the river foa a mile and a half and you will see a big rock hill on the right. At the east end is a dense tangled overgrowth of plum trees, lilacs and weeds. Here was my childhood home.

This was once a beautiful, well-maintained farmyard developed by a Latvian immigrant who homesteaded here in 1910.

Read this recollection of life in a pioneering community as told by a woman who experienced it.

Copyright 2010 by Aina V. (Gulbis) Turton


The book can be found at Trappers Esso in Auglen Park.

In Winnipeg

McNally Robinson

Prairie Sky Books


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