In 1884, Glenlyon Campbell, son of a Scottish Hudson Bay trader, rode his pony over the Riding Mountains and viewed for the first time the area that is now named Gilbert Plains. He found one person and his wife living in a small log house. This was Gilbert Ross, a Metis after whom the constituency was named.
Campbell traded Ross his pony for the house, and he and his wife moved in. They cleared some land and planted a small acreage. Other settlers took up residence in the area, and there was soon a general store, school, and the Glenlyon Post Office.
By 1900, the CNR Railway was completed through the area, and in 1906, the Village of Gilbert Plains was incorporated. Early industry took the form of a brick manufacturer, a lumber yard, and of course, farming which included wheat, livestock, poultry, a creamery and a flour mill.
The local telephone system was completed in 1906 and the first automobile came to town in 1908 (a single cylinder Reo). Power lines were erected in town in 1930, but it was not until 1949 that the rural municipality was electrified.
Of particular interest today is the Negrych Pioneer Homestead, a provincially and federally designated Heritage Site, which is believed to be the most complete and best preserved Ukrainian farmstead in Canada. Among its 10 buildings are unique or extremely rare features, including the only Canadian example of a long-shingle Carpathian roof and in the bunkhouse, a rare, fully-preserved working peech – the massive, log-and-clay cook stove that was once the heart of every Ukrainian home. (For more information on the Negrych Pioneer Homestead, contact the Gilbert Plains Historical Society, Box 662, Gilbert Plains, MB R0L 0X0.)
Gilbert Plains Today
The Town of Gilbert Plains was incorporated in 1906. Service to agriculture is the main component of the local economy in this town of 757 people and rural municipality of 1,071. The area around Gilbert Plains enjoys some of the most fertile farmland in the province of Manitoba.
Gilbert Plains is located in the heart of the province’s Parkland Region between the Riding Mountains to the south and the Duck Mountains to the north. It is situated 360 km northwest of Winnipeg on Provincial Highway #5.
The area consists of 1,009 square kilometres of improved acreage of which not only the standard cereal crops are produced but also forages, specialty crops, honey, cattle, hogs, poultry and other agricultural based products.
A complementary blend of younger and older residents has resulted in services for everyone. Recreational facilities and activities include the beautiful Gilbert Plains golf course and campground.
(Excerpted from Settlers of the Plains, O.E.A. Brown, 1953)