John Dobbyn of Melita and Dobbyn City

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CraigBaird

When Richard and Maria Bobier, aged 20 and 18, decided to make a new life in Canada, they could not have known the land that waited for them. A vast landscape of promise, they had decided to make their home there. Prior to getting to what would one day be Canada, Richard would be captured by a press gang, escape and reunite with his wife. Before long, they would find their way to Ontario to work as farmers. Richard would also teach school for 12 years.
The couple also had 11 children, four girls and seven boys. The eldest, born in 1820, would be John Dobbyn.
John would marry Jane Laird in 1847 and by the 1880s, despite being in his 60s, John made his way out to Manitoba. In 1881, he settled in the Melita area and put up a homestead. Returning to Ontario in 1882, he returned with his family the following spring.
As the railway was being built across the country, John kept a key eye on its progress and was under the firm belief that the railway would cross the Souris River, right near where his homestead was located.  
Throughout the early-1880s, the Manitoba Boom was causing a lot of excitement among people throughout the area. Rumours of rail lines coming through caused many to create speculative cities, which were marketed and put down on paper. Each person who did this thought their location would be the next big Canadian city, and John Dobbyn was no different.
He would survey out Dobbyn City along his land, in the belief that the rail line would come through. Dobbyn wasn’t the only one to build a city, at least on paper, on his land. A.M. Livingston and Dr. Sinclair both did the same thing. Lots were even sold to people in Winnipeg and Ontario, and the possible-maybe future town of Manchester, created by Dr. Sinclair, and that of Dobbyn City, were already creating a rivalry. When a post office called Melita appeared near Dobbyn City, and after a huge flood hit the area, it looked like Dobbyn City might win out in the battle of two possible cities. Manchester for its part built a ferry, and a had a post office of its own.  
As it turned out, John was right about the rail line crossing the river near his farm. Unfortunately, it would cross the river one mile farther north than he expected. As such, his future metropolis of Dobbyn City was soon forgotten and faded to the dusts of history. Manchester lost both its name and location, and became Melita.
While his city failed, he was always one to start up new ideas. In 1905, despite being in his 80s, he started up the Melita Brick and Tile Company after he found red brick clay near his home.
Suggestions for columns or questions? E-mail Craig at crwbaird@gmail.com. Listen to his podcast by searching for “Canadian History Ehx” on your podcast platform. Find his show on YouTube by searching for “Canadian History Ehx”.
Information for this column comes from Melita: Our First Century.
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