Shantz Immigration Sheds Cairn

Tourond Creek

Waypoint Info

Lat Long

(49.530536, -96.916382)

GPS Coordinates

49° 31′ 49.9296” N
96° 54′ 58.9752” W

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Shantz Immigration Sheds Cairn

History of the site

In July of 1874, Ontario Mennonite businessman Jacob Y. Shantz employed local Métis men to build four 20’ by 100’ (6m x 30.5m) immigration “reception houses” here at the corners of the four adjacent corner sections (NW17, NE18, SE19, SW20) which he would receive as a grant in return for expenses incurred (almost $3000). These buildings were divided into 12 sections each, and were intended to provide temporary albeit primitive shelter for 48 families and their possessions. While the women and children remained here, the men selected village sites and homesteads on the eight townships reserved for Mennonite settlement. The Reserve lay within Treaty No. 1 lands.

On August 1, 1874, the first contingent of Mennonites immigrating from what is now Ukraine disembarked from the paddle-wheeler S.S. International at the junction of the Red and Rat Rivers, five miles west of here. Supplies and baggage were loaded onto Red River carts and taken to the sheds by Métis freighters hired for the job by William Hespeler, the immigration agent. Small children and some women could ride the carts.

Many boatloads of Mennonites (roughly 440 families) rotated through the sheds in the summers of 1874 to 1876. Difficulties here included lack of water, leaking roofs, and disappointing reports of the Reserve land.

A cemetery was established northeast of the sheds for the more than 30 deaths that occurred here, many of them children.
By the fall of 1875, Jacob Y. Shantz had dismantled two sheds to build a general store/warehouse in their place to permit storage of interim supplies while homes were being constructed. He anticipated that later arrivals would likely choose the newly-opened second Reserve, west of the Red River.


The EastMenn Historical Committee (Jacob L. Peters, Ernest N. Braun, Glen R. Klassen, Henry N. Fast, Orlando Hiebert, Harold J. Dyck, Ben D. Funk, Edward G. Krahn) were aware of the significance of this site. However, with nothing to mark the site, they were also aware no one else really knew about it. And so, they decided to place a cairn here to mark the site for future history seekers. The process took many years, but finally on Manitoba Day, May 12th, 2022 the completed cairn was unveiled before a small crowd.

What you see here today

In summer months, the cairn is typically flanked by two flags. However, long before you see the cairn, you’ll see 13 giant white Meridian bins on the west side of the road. The cairn itself is on the east side of the road, set against the backdrop of a charming farm. Beyond that, the bins, farm, and cairn are together in the midst of fields – reinforcing the fact that the immigration sheds were long gone, a long time ago.

Possibly the most significant spot you can stand on this site is not in front of the cairn, but rather in the middle of the intersection of Shantz Road and Hespeler Road. Had you stood in this place in 1874, you’d have been standing between all four of the immigration sheds.

A drainage ditch runs parallel to Hespeler Road, and on Shantz Road there is a wooden bridge across the ditch.
The cemetery is mentioned in the history above, but at time of writing it has not been precisely located.