Domain, Manitoba original settlers were from America

The community of Domain, population around 75, is located 25 kilometres southeast of Winnipeg on Provincial Road 330.  

Colonization of the district began in the early 1880s after the Canadian Pacific Railway built the La Riviere Subdivision that stretched from Winnipeg to La Riviere, Manitoba.

Many of these early settlers were American. The first store was opened here in 1901 by a North Dakotan and four years later, a Western Colonization Company executive boasted to the Winnipeg Tribune that he had just arranged for the transportation of 72 rail cars of household property to the siding on behalf of new arrivals from Illinois and Iowa.

Domain was originally named Shanawan by the CPR. In 1925, it changed it to Selburn to save freight customers confusing it with Shaunavon, Saskatchewan. For reasons unknown, that name lasted only about a year before being changed again to Domain. Residents successfully petitioned the federal government in 1933 to rename the Shanawan post office to match.

Though many traces of its early development, such as the Mennonite Church, original stores and curling club, are gone, the community still boasts a community hall, indoor rink, elementary school and Legion branch.

Domain is also home to one of the province’s remaining Women’s Institutes. These are a network of committees that support and promote the betterment of rural families and communities. The movement peaked during the Depression with committees in nearly 200 communities. There are now just 21.

In 2011, Domain hosted a couple of very special guests when Ken Dryden and the Stanley Cup came for a visit.

Dryden’s father was born and raised in Domain and he brought the trophy to the Domain rink to honour his father’s roots and pay tribute to small-town prairie hockey communities. He wrote about the visit in the 2013 update of his book, The Game, concluding: “The night was about the Cup, but, as it turned out, more than that it was about the spirit that wins the Cup. It was about Domain.”

Domain School (1953)

Domain Consolidated School Division No. 2342 was created in late 1952 as part of the province’s campaign to consolidate one-room schoolhouses into larger buildings. Domain had already taken in children from the defunct Shanawan School, now it would take those from Kinlo and Macdonald schools as well.

On May 9, 1953, residents of the R. M. of Macdonald voted in favour of borrowing $30,000 to construct this two-room schoolhouse. One class was for grades one through six and the other for grades seven through eleven.

Hopes of having the building open in time for the following school year were dashed by a wet summer. Wally Miller, the provincial education minister, cut the ribbon at an opening ceremony on November 4, 1953.

Classified ads in Winnipeg newspapers seeking to attract staff to the new school boasted that the building contained amenities such as electricity, a piano and radio. They also noted the daily train service, an active surrounding community and the use of a teacherage, or teachers’ residence, if required.

The school had 44 students in its first year. That number grew to 73 in 1974. Today, the Domain Elementary School is part of the Red River Valley School Division and in 2017 - 2018 had an enrollment of sixteen children ranging from grades one through eight.

Avonlea United Church (1903)

The roots of this church building date back to 1903 when the MacDonald Presbyterian Church was built in the Avonlea district, south east of Domain. Its name was changed to Avonlea Presbyterian Church in 1909.

In 1950, the building was moved to Domain and underwent an extensive remodelling that included an expansion, a new roof and construction of a basement to house its Sunday school program. It was reopened in time for Christmas 1951 and rededicated the following May.

A notable feature of this building are two stained glass windows created in the 1960s by renowned artist Leo Mol.  Mol is credited with creating 80 stained glass windows during his career.

As communities and congregations shrank starting in the 1950s, area churches had to pool their resources. In 1960, Domain, Sanford, Union Point and Oak Bluff churches banded together to pay for a single minister to serve them all.  Today, that coalition is known as the Meridian Pastoral Charge and includes the Starbuck United Church in Starbuck, Sanford United Church in Sanford and Avonlea United Church in Domain.

Worship services still take place at the Avonlea United Church every Sunday.

Domain Grain Elevator (1948)

The most prominent feature in Domain is its grain elevator.

The first elevator was built in the community by the Western Canada Grain Company in 1918. Prior to that, farmers loaded their own grain into rail cars from a siding along the track.

The Domain Co-operative Elevator Association was formed in March 1928 and the resulting Manitoba Pool elevator was erected later that year along the track. Domain was a two-elevator community until 1940 when the Pool took over the private elevator and demolished its earlier one.

The current Domain elevator was built in 1948, which makes it 70-years-old this year. The original annex was added in 1965.

In the summer of 2001, Agricore, the successor to Manitoba Pool, closed the Domain elevator along with others in nearby Lowe Farm and McTavish. It is now privately owned and used for grain storage.

Christian writes about local history on his blog, West End Dumplings.