In The Beginning

(The following appeared in the Victoria History Book published and distributed in 2002 – commemorating the centennial year of the R.M. of Victoria.)

The Holland district was settled in 1878 and 1879. The land north of the Assiniboine River was settled sometime in the 1880’s. People from many parts of the world settled here. With the coming of these settlers, it soon became necessary to form some type of local government.  

Thus the county of Norfolk was established in 1880. It consisted of townships 7,8,9, 10, 11 and 12 in range 9, 10, 11, and 12. (Today known as South Norfolk, North Norfolk, and Victoria.) The first Reeve was R.H. Little who settled in the little village of Littleton.

The second Reeve was John Moir. The first council meeting of Norfolk was held at the home of George Smart. These meetings were held in various places for several years, until in 1892 it was decided that Treherne would be the permanent meeting place.

The seal of the County was an ox and Red River cart with the inscription of "Progress – slow but sure” in Latin. Council of that day traveled many miles in the discharge of their duties which included the building of roads and the formation of school districts. Many hardships and difficulties must have been endured in the rendering of this public service due to the fact that there were no roads and very few horses in those days.

The first school district formed was Dawson. (All of Township 7, part of Township 8 in Range 11). This land was later divided into Holland School District, Barley School District and part of Camille School District.

The first Agricultural Society was formed in and around this time with the first shown being held at the Dawson School House. Events included horse exhibits, vegetable and ladies’ work, even a mile race in Red River carts drawn by oxen.

In 1884 the County of Norfolk was divided into the municipalities of North (Townships 10, 11, & 12) and South Norfolk (Townships 7, 8, & 9). In December 1896 a ratepayers meeting was held in Cypress River to attempt to form a new municipality which would include the territory adjacent to Cypress River. In January 1897 petitions drawn up from Holland and Cypress River were sent to the legislature. The R.M. of South Norfolk sent one in as well opposing the change.

In 1901 the R.M. of Elm River to the east of South Norfolk dissolved adding three more townships in Range 8 to South Norfolk. In 1902 another division was made, forming South Norfolk (Range 8, 9 and part of 19) and Victoria (Part of Range 10, Range 11 and Range 12). 

The very first meeting of the Council elect was held on Tuesday, January 6th, 1903 at 12:00 noon in Stewart’s Hall. A seal was ordered (sheaf of wheat bearing the inscription "Organized 1902). A municipal assessor appointment by-law was drafted. The yearly salary allotted was $125.00, which was to cover the task of assessing the value of land and buildings in the new municipality.

Mr. Dave Mawhinney became the first assessor. The first secretary-treasurer was Ed Sharpe receiving a salary of $400.00 per year – which was raised to $500.00 in 1905. Other secretary-treasurers serving the R.M. of Victoria have been Ed Sharpe 1903-1907; Arthur Goulding 1907-1932; W. Robert Manning 1932-1959; Walter (Doc) Rutherford 1959-1984, and Yvon (Ivan) P.L. Bruneau 1984 to present date.

Remuneration for councillors and other officers was established at the first meeting. Rates were set at $2.00 per day and 10 cents per mile from home to the meeting place. The first councillors were Hector McLean, Archie Drummond, Donald Ross and James Stevenson. Offices such as ferryman, pathmasters, appraisers, fence viewers and poundkeepers were filled by appointment of council. Appointed as ferryman for Rae’s ferry was Nelson Drew with a salary of $160.00 per year.

The ferryman was required to be in attendance from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day from spring break-up to freeze-up in the fall. No charge was levied to ratepayers unless after hours, in which case a 25 cent charge was applicable. Any single or double rigs from outside the municipality had to pay 50 cents each way or 75 cents for both ways. A foot passenger from outside the municipality paid 10 cents each way.

Tom Woodley and Oliver Tichborne built a new ferry in 1934, which was used until the Holland Austin Bridge was constructed in 1954.

Pathmasters were a necessary part of municipal government in 1903. There were 18 men appointed in Ward 1, 15 men in Ward 2, 8 men in Ward 3, and 5 men in Ward 4. These men looked after statute labor, under the direction of the clerk. There were few taxes and residents were expected to do a certain amount of statute labor. Residents could either choose to do the work themselves or send someone else and it would be credited to the person doing the work.

The pathmaster had the power to call any resident to do road repair at any time due to washouts or damage to bridges. The pathmaster could hire horses, plows or any necessary implement necessary to perform the repair work. Any person performing statute labor worked an eight-hour day and was expected only to work within a three mile radius of the property he owned.

Failure to perform the statute labor assigned resulted in the amount being added to his taxes. Any pathmaster who failed to perform his duty would appear before a justice of the peace, forfeit his post and pay a $10.00 fine. If he refused to pay the fine, the punishment was not more than 21 days in jail.

When the municipality was formed the council found it necessary to borrow money in order to carry on business. An amount of $8,000 was borrowed at the first meeting to meet current expenses. The first municipal purpose levy was 6.5 mills; 5 mills for school tax and 1 mill for the municipal commissioner.

These amounts were levied in 1903. In 1911 a by-law was passed changing taxes in the village of Holland from statute labor ($1.00 per day) to a money tax. 1919 imposed a money tax over the entire municipality to replace the statute labor, which was by then $2.00 per day. In 1924 a number of ratepayers petitioned council to return to statute labor, which was left over until the next election and never came to be.