Once upon a time there were no houses, pools, concrete driveways or even the manmade lakes with parallel pathways.
Island Lakes and Royalwood both began as farmers’ fields. I remember growing up in Windsor Park and all you could see past Southdale was farmland adorned with bales of hay.
To my delight I recently received an email from a reader about the story I wrote on the trails along the Seine River in Royalwood. He mentioned how his family had a farmstead in the area.
Ernie Dormer said his family actually used part of the forest and an adjacent clearing for work horses to graze in and he said it was interesting to see that the paths the horses had made are now the walkways through the forest.
I got in touch with Ernie to find out more.
Ernie’s parents, Henry and Anna, came to Canada in 1927 from Hungary and purchased a parcel of land. These parcels were sold by the parishes, and because the demand for property around the Seine River was high, even in those days, their parcel was only 220 yards along the river and ran as a narrow strip for miles past the railway tracks all the way into what is now Island Lakes.
The family later purchased additional land that ran as far as Prairie Grove Road and across into what is now Sage Creek.
Many Island Lake residents will recognize Henry Dormer Drive but Ernie isn’t certain how the name came about.
The Dormer family’s original homestead was located on what is now Tascona Road in Royalwood, and was surrounded by bush. The Bruces were their neighbours on John Bruce Road.
Ernie’s dad Henry sold his Royalwood property to Ladco in the early ’90s. He then moved across the train tracks into another older home on what is now Pamela Road in Island Lakes. That property was about five acres and was a part of the original parcel of land that extended from the Seine River. Henry Dormer was still farming until about 1991 or 1992. He passed away in 1994 at 94 years of age.
Ernie was the youngest of five children, all of whom helped on the farm. They had dairy cows on Tascona Road until the late ’80s but also grew a little wheat. The family had a contract with Modern Dairies, and Ernie fondly remembers delivering milk downtown by horse carts in the summertime.
Ernie said that, through working with a sod farmer from Belgium who owned the parcel of land north of Pamela Road, Henry was able to purchase more land in and around what is now Highway 59 West and up to the Perimeter. The Dormer family recently sold the remaining portion of farmland it still owned in Sage Creek but it has yet to be developed.
Henry lived to see the start of the new community and felt he received a fair price for his land.
Ernie said that he’s glad that the Save the Seine group continues to fight for the preservation of the beautiful forest around the Seine River, but that it is a shame Island Lakes did not retain the lush 20 to 30 acres of mature oak trees he vividly remembers.
Jasmine van Gerwen is a community correspondent for Island Lakes. She can be reached at email@example.com