I came across this interesting history for Hillside Beach the other day. Though I have been going there since the late 60s and have been a permanent resident there for some time, I didn’t know all that much about its history.

I knew Harry Craig and knew that his sister Mrs. Williams owned the 40 acres of property behind mine till recently. I didn’t realize that there is more to the past of Hillside Beach.

During the fur trading expeditions of the Voyageurs the lagoon was part of a portage for traveling between the Winnipeg River and Lake Winnipeg en route from French eastern Canada to the Red River Valley, avoiding the long often choppy route around Elk Island. That was way before they built the dam to connect Victoria Beach to the main land. Victoria Beach was then known as Isle á la Biche. Some people may argue that the name still sounds appropriate. 🙂

One of the first cottage subdividers was Colonel Chambrey. Colonel Chambrey was supposed to have been a veteran of the Boer War(1899-1902)and received Hillside Beach as a land grant for his military service.

Edith and Arthur Williams purchased a cottage lot from Colonel Chambrey in the early 1920s. At this time, Hillside Beach was made up of homesteaders and cottagers. Some of the homesteaders were the Smeltzers, Rodgers, Taylors, Bergeys, Watleys and Lesters.

Some of the cottagers were the Cavanaughs, the Lyons, and the McLellans. Tony Chapple was the local entrepreneur, contractor, and employer. His son still runs a business out of Victoria Beach.

At this time, the CNR train was the quickest way to get to Hillside, Albert, Victoria and Grand Beaches from Winnipeg(no good roads, yet). In about 1938, George and Elizabeth(Bessie) Williams (George Williams is the son of Edith and Arthur Williams) bought the Hillside Beach Lodge including a half-section of land with beach and lagoon frontage along the beach.

The Lodge included six sleeping cabins on the beach front with hundreds of yards of sand in front of them. Meals and transportation from the train were provided. The Lodge included a store. Activities included horseback riding, volleyball and swimming in the lake. The cabins on the Beach front had to be moved to higher land twice (once in 1940 and once in the late 1940’s), because of rising Lake Winnipeg levels. In 1950 the lake water reached up to the Lodge and the road to the lake was under seven feet of water during a storm!

Harry Craig is Elizabeth Williams’ brother. Harry Craig became a business partner with George and Elizabeth Williams in the 1950’s. When George Williams died in 1959(age of 46yrs), Harry Craig became a major business partner with Elizabeth Williams.

Elizabeth Williams and Harry Craig started the Hillside Beach Trailer Court and campground in the 1950s and 1960s. The amount of surrounding cottages kept growing as they sold off property to new cottagers. Soon other land owners, such as the Trainor Family and the Bergey Brothers started developing cottage property – first along the shore and then gradually further inward.

Upon the death of Mr. Craig(age67) in the early 1970s the Williams estate sold his trailer court to a co-op, jointly-owned by the people that used the trailer park. No new trailer sites are currently being added to the park and the waiting list to become a member of the co-op is quite long.

Since then the resort has been constantly growing with new cottages being built every year. We now even have our own store again, after the one at the trailer court was closed in the late 70s.

The water level and frequent flood that harassed Hillside Beach Lodge and the Trailer Court are now more or less a thing of the past. Thanks to Nelson River and its big dam. I remember in Spring we often had to use the Belair Road, as the gravel road to Hwy 59 was flooded.

There seems to be a lot more to local history than I thought.


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