Planet Ipswich : A bridge between the Ipswiches of the world

Ipswich, Rural Municipality of Strathclair, Manitoba, Canada

Ipswich is located in the Rural Municipality of Strathclair in the province of Manitoba, Canada at 50° 24 0 N 100° 24 0 W. As well as Ipswich & Strathclair, the municipality also includes the communities of Elphinstone, Menzie, Elgin, Wisla, Glossop, Glenforsa, Salt Lake, Green Bluff, Wolf Creek & Penrith. Up until 1890, Strathclair was in Minnedosa County. However, in that year the county system was abolished in Manitoba.

Population:- No separate figures exist for Ipswich. Strathclair’s population in the 2016 census was 709.



How to get there:-

By road: Trans Canada Highway 16, also known as the Yellowhead Highway, runs east to west through the Rural Municipality of Strathclair to Shoal Lake. From Winnipeg take Trans Canada Highway 1 west, then Trans Canada Highway 16. From Brandon take Provincial Highway 10 north, then Trans Canada Highway 16 west.

By rail: The Canadian Pacific Railway runs through the Rural Municipality of Strathclair westwards to Shoal Lake, closely following the route of Trans Canada Highway 16.

Manitoba’s largest airport is Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International.

Time Zone: Central Standard Time (GMT -6 hrs).  Daylight saving time in summer + 1 hr.


Order of contents on this page: (Click on the links below)

Pre-European Settlement

Early Settlement & Derivation of Name

The Rural Municipality of Strathclair



Pre-European Settlement

The prairie land around Ipswich did not see any permanent settlements in the preEuropean period.  However, there is some evidence that early hunter-gatherers crossed the prairies some 6,000 years ago.  Running east-west to the south of Ipswich was the ancient Carlton Trail, which was a migration path for these early hunters.  Many artifacts of these early periods have been unearthed at Shoal Lake, four miles to the west of Ipswich. 

The nomadic Assiniboine (Nakota) tribe was probably the first to inhabit Manitoba, arriving in the early 17th century.  In southern Manitoba they later came into contact with the Cree, with whom they became allied. To the native people, the wooded uplands around Riding Mountain to the north of the Ipswich-Strathclair area were the favourite hunting and fishing grounds. By 1740 the Cree were the dominant tribe in the area and had settled permanently at Riding Mountain. The Assiniboine basically remained Plains Indians following a nomadic lifestyle on the prairies. The Assiniboine in particular were devastated by a great small-pox epidemic in 1781, and by the end of the 18th century another tribe, the Saulteaux or Salteaux, had moved in to take their place as partners of the Cree. They are better known today as Ojibwe or Chippewa, although the people call themselves Anishinaabe or Anihšinape meaning “original people”. Through their friendship with French traders they were able to procure guns and this gave them the advantage in their conflicts with the Sioux and Fox tribes to their west and south. As a result, by the end of the 18th century the Anishinaabe were the almost unchallenged owners of nearly all of the present Michigan, northern Wisconsin and Minnesota, westward to North Dakota, together with the entire northern shores of Lakes Huron and Superior. The pressure from the Europeans coming into this part of the Great Lakes gradually pushed the tribe westwards into Manitoba, during the late 18th  & early 19th centuries. Among them was a clan of mixed blood, the head of which had been given the French name of Michel Cardinal, but who is better known by his native name of Okanase or Oukannaysic (Little Bones).  He was of mixed Saulteaux, Cree and Scots descent. The Okanase band of Cree-Saulteaux natives roamed the area south of Riding Mountain including the Strathclair-Ipswich region, which was known as “Naowawgunwodju”; this translates as the “Hill of the Buffalo Chase”.  When Okanase died, his son, Mekis the Eagle, became chief and his was the name attached to the treaty ceding the native lands to the Dominion of Canada. 

 The first Europeans to visit the area regularly were fur traders in the 1740s.  However, it was not until 1858 when the area was surveyed that its full potential as an agricultural region was recognized. In1867 the creation of the Dominion of Canada opened up the possibility that there would be the need for westward expansion of European settlement.  At this time the Strathclair-Ipswich area was still part of the territory of the Hudson’s Bay Company, until it was sold to Canada in 1870.  In order to obtain title to these lands, the Canadian government proceeded with a series of treaties with the native peoples.  In exchange for a surrender of their rights and title to these lands, the First Nations were given a smaller parcel of land as a reserve, and certain rights to continue to hunt, trap and fish on the land surrendered.  Treaty No. 2, signed on 21 August 1871, covered today’s southwest Manitoba and the area of Strathclair and Ipswich, which thus came to Canada.  On the death of Mekis the Eagle in 1874, his half-brother, Keeseekoowenin (Sky Chief), took over and this is the name by which the band is known today.  The “Keeseekoowenin First Nation Reserve” is adjacent to Elphinstone, to the north of Ipswich.

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Early Settlement & Derivation of Name

Ipswich Siding was established around the year 1910 by the Canadian Pacific Railway on the farm that was at the time owned by the Stevenson brothers. According to ‘Our Story’ published by the Rural Municipality of Strathclair in 1970, with an updated version in 1984, the name derived from the fact that the brothers were originally from Ipswich, Suffolk, England. Ipswich is first noted on a map of 1911.
Charles Stuart Stevenson, usually known as Stuart, was born in 1876 & emigrated to Canada in 1897 (not 1887 as ‘Our Story’ states, as he is still shown on the 1891 census as being in England. The Canadian census of 1901 gives the correct date of 1897). Initially he stayed with his aunt & uncle, Daniel & Sarah Turner, who lived in Strathclair, having emigrated in 1881 from Wix near Manningtree, Essex, which is around ten miles south of Ipswich. Three years later, in 1900, his brother Alfred Harrold, (with two r’s) known as Harold & born in 1879, joined him. Two other brothers, Robert & Reginald, also emigrated to Strathclair. In 1903 Harold bought the land that was to become Ipswich, later building a house there.

The UK census records for 1881 & 1891, however, disprove the theory that the Stevenson’s were from Ipswich, Suffolk. In 1881, the family is shown as living in Bitteswell in Leicestershire, where the brothers had been born. Ten years later, they are shown as living in Aldham, Essex, which is approximately five miles west of Colchester & more than twenty miles south west of Ipswich. (This Aldham is not to be confused with Aldham in Suffolk, which is eight miles west of Ipswich). Why they should choose to name their new home Ipswich, rather than Aldham or Colchester is not clear. However, the brothers may have worked and lived in Ipswich for a few years after 1891, since they obviously considered it to be their home town.

Around 1911 the first grain elevator was built at Ipswich Siding. This was sold to the Pool Elevator Association in 1963.  In 1928, after the formation of the Ipswich Co-op Elevator Association, another elevator was built to the west of the first. Other buildings were also constructed at around this time. This elevator closed in December 1975 & has since been demolished.

Ipswich Siding has been recognised as an Historic Site of Manitoba by the Manitoba Historical Society and a monument was erected alongside Highway 16 in 2012 to commemorate this.

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Rural Municipality of Strathclair

The Rural Municipality of Strathclair, of which Ipswich is a part, is located in the northern part of Westman region, which itself is in the southwest of the province of Manitoba. Strathclair is adjacent to six other rural municipalities, namely: Park (South), Shoal Lake, Blanshard, Hamotia, Saskatchewan & Harrison. In the nineteenth century, the area was part of Minnedosa County. However, the county system was abolished in Manitoba in 1890.  Strathclair is approximately 58 miles from Brandon, the second largest city in the province.

During the mid to late nineteenth century, large numbers of colonists, many of Scottish descent, took the newly opened wagon trails to the area & settled in the region. The original settlement of Strathclair was five miles to the north on the Little Saskatchewan River.  When the Manitoba & North Western Railway crossed the prairie to the south in 1882 the town relocated to its present position, and in 1883 the Rural Municipality of Strathclair came into being, with the first council meeting taking place in January of the following year. The name Strathclair was chosen from the Scottish Gaelic word 'Strath', meaning valley, with ‘Clair’ being a tribute to the area surveyor at the time, one Duncan Sinclair.

Agriculture is the largest industry in the municipality, with grain production & mixed farming providing the major commerce.

Tourist attractions in the general vicinity include: Salt Lake & Thomas Lake, which are favourites for camping, fishing, swimming & water skiing,  the Valley Trail on the Saskatchewan River, which is a popular venue for hiking, horse riding & cross country skiing, & the Riding Mountain National Park, which rises from the surrounding prairie & provides protection for a wide variety of flora & fauna.

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