Major "Hell’s Bells" Rogers Brings Millford MB Into Existence….Then It Fades Away

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An early store in Milfford

In July of 1879, two men came out to the area that would one day be Millford, ready to survey the area and possibly find a new site for a sawmill and town. E.C. Caddy and D.L.S Huston journeyed to the west, with the task given to them by Major R.Z. Rogers, brother-in-law to Caddy to keep an eye out for a good site to serve as the centre of an industry for the area.
While surveying in the Souris Valley, Caddy saw that the site was perfect for a waterpower mill. He sent a letter to Rogers immediately describing the area. Major Rogers for his part immediately assembled men and machinery. He would arrive in the spring of 1880, on the first boat to go up the Assiniboine River. With a large tract of land, the community of Millford as born.
With Major Rogers, also known as Hell’s Bells Rogers, for his ability to charge forward with a plan, the village of Millford began to pop up. Before long, a sawmill was built, and the rivers were soon full of logs floating down stream.
Two men named Sherwood and Burritt would open the first store, while Rogers built a boarding house for his staff to live in. Having a sawmill so close by helped the community in those early years with all the log homes being built using lumber from that mill.
Knowing that people needed proper transportation to get to the new community, if it was going to succeed, Rogers had the settlers get to work on building a road, as well as a bridge over Oak Creek, and then Spring Brook. A ferry was also established, run by John Wheeler, who also owned the boot and shoe store in the community.
The general store would be bought by Alex Reid and Leonard Callender, with help from Rogers. It was initially known as Rogers Reid before Major Rogers withdrew from the venture. The boarding house built by Rogers would also be purchased by a man by the name of Leadbeater and become the Leadbeater Hotel. A second hotel, Henry’s Hotel, was built in 1883 by John Henry.
In 1880, a blacksmith shop was set up by William Turnbull. Turnbull and his family, like many of the first settlers to the area, lived in a tent. After weeks of rain, cold and bugs, Turnbull’s wife demanded Rogers build her a house or they would leave. Rogers agreed, since he didn’t want to lose his only blacksmith, and the Turnbull’s had the third house in the community.
Church services began early in the community’s founding and until 1882, they were held at the boarding house of Rogers. That year, a Methodist church was built on the hill overlooking the community. In the same year that the church as built, a school was built beside the church. Will Somersall would be the first teacher at the school.
Rogers traveled to Ottawa around this time and urged the officials of the Canadian Pacific Railway to run their railway through his community, but he could not get a promise of cooperation. Many people remained hopeful the line would come through. Sadly, in 1886 the branch line was built to Glenboro and Millford would never receive an extension.
For a few years, the school and church would continue but Millford was on its last breath and would fade from history after a brief and hectic few years of life.
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 Beneath the Long Grass 
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