Oak River sledge ride to school A little snow in Manitoba


Posted earlier on Ancestry message board for Manitoba, and now updated with scans of photos:

An old family photo album came out for the first time (for me anyway) this Christmas, with a few snaps from our Neal relatives who had emigrated to Manitoba.

Bob, Harry?, Stan, Nellie

One photo was labelled ‘School-van Oak River’ – a sledge cart with high sides pulled by 2 horses, with Oak River (and some less legible writing) written on the side. On the same page of the album, the construction of a building which looks remarkably like Oak River United Church as shown on Oak River village webpage (but we are told that it was built somewhat later, so no it isn’t the same).

Nellie again in front.

One or two photos of snow puts our recent flurry in perspective – roads tunnelled through depths about the height of an adult.

Nellie and Stan near the railway bridge?

I have only got a 1916 census for the family for there – the 1906 census, while still in the general area, seems to be a different place. Would be grateful for any suggestions of any sources of more info – for family data or Oak River history.

Bob Neal first went to Canada 1892, returning to England for marriage to Mary Earl in 1897. Offspring William, Harry, Stanley, Nellie, plus 3 boys who died very young in Norwich 1902/5: Earl, Frank, Archibald.

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9 thoughts on “Oak River sledge ride to school A little snow in Manitoba

  1. I have since discovered a local history book held on the Our Roots archive site. Page 245 of ‘Proudly we speak : a history of the Rural Municipality of Woodworth’ mentions school sleighs with “canvas sides containing little wood heaters”.

  2. The Bob Neal family lived on boundary between the Rural Municipalities (RM) of Daly and Blanshard. You may find more info in the Bradwardine and District History book (pub 2003). Our farm was next to that of Bob and Mary Neal and I was often at their home as a boy (1930’s). I knew all the others Bill, Harry, Stan, and Nellie. Descendants of Stan and Nellie still live in the district – family names of Neal and Gerrard. Contact me if interested in the book, may still be a few for sale.

    1. Wonderful to hear from you, Keith. I’ll try to contact you by email, but yes certainly interested in the book.

  3. Those were called school vans, drawn by two horses. A wooden box mounted on a sleigh.was covered by a heavy canvas top that let in light after sunrise. There were benches along two sides and a small wood burning stove about centre on one side. Wood was stored under the benches. Driver sat at front with reins to horses and was protected from cold by a door with a glass panel in order to see where he was going. I rode in one for several winters – very warm when stove was fired up.

  4. I found your Neal family pictures while searching for Bradwardine, Manitoba. I knew the Neal family; we had to drive past their houses (Granny Neal & Stan Neal) to get to my grandfather’s farm, Harry Bridgeman. The building you think could be the Oak River Church, I think not. The church as pictured was built in 1965. I know because our high school class was the second to hold graduation ceremonies in the new church. The photo of the snow and the railroad bridge would be the main line of the Canadian National Railroad, between Norman and Oakner stations. The line either bordered or ran through the Neal farm.

  5. Thanks very much for your comments, JM. It all helps to give a better picture of the place and times.

  6. My mother, Elizabeth (Nellie’s oldest child, but as she was illegitimate, was raised by Nellie’s parents. I found this out by accident at the age of 10). Anyway…my mother told me a story about an accident she and Stan’s son, Jim were involved in while riding the horse drawn school van. Apparently, the horses got spooked by a train and ran, out of control across the tracks. The horses were killed and my mother grabbed hold of Jim and jumped from the van before it too was destroyed by the train.

    1. Hi Glen, thanks for the message. I’ll drop you a note direct to your email address (I haven’t shown the address here due to possible spamming).

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