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The Fraser homes — a tale of two houses
Two early pieces of West Kildonan pioneer heritage, belonging to the same family, have met with very different fates.
The Fraser brothers, sons of James Fraser, a pioneer and farmer from Scotland who settled in Kildonan, lived in the mid-1800s near what is now Kildonan Park.
John Fraser, born in 1819 in Kildonan, married Jane Matheson in 1839, according to Lillian Gibbons, who wrote about John Fraser’s home in Stories Houses Tell. It was first built on what is now Bannerman Avenue in 1839, she says, and then taken apart and moved, log by log, to the Fraser homestead in Kildonan.
Gibbons says it was moved in order for the family to be closer to the old Kildonan Presbyterian Church, built nearby in 1851.
It became a post office at one time because it was halfway between Lower Fort Garry and Fort Garry.
"Even as late as 1906..." Gibbons tells us, the house was "a signpost pointing the way. It stood on the prairie. No streets were marked out then. ‘The Fraser house’ was mark enough."
The house remained and stood the test of time for 150 years as the old red barns gradually gave way to houses that sprang up around it. When numbers and street names became the norm, it was known as 160 Newton Ave.
In 1989, says Murray Peterson, historic buildings supervisor with the city, the owner of the house at the time received permission from the City of Winnipeg to move the structure to his property in the RM of Springfield.
A Free Press article from 1989 reports that nearby residents were not happy with the house and complained that it was deteriorating and a possible fire trap. So owner
Brendon McMahon moved the house 24 years ago to his farm in Springfield with hopes of restoring it.
It became financially impossible, however. The upper storey still sits on a foundation.
"We put a new foundation in," says McMahon today, "but the foundation cracked.
"I’d love to do something with it, but the cost is unbelievable," adds McMahon.
And so one of the few Red River log houses left in Manitoba awaits an uncertain future.
The nearby William Fraser house, known as 117 Leila Ave. when streets were put in, is believed to have been built in the 1830s by his father, James Fraser.
Lived in by William and his wife Annie MacBeth, the house was known as Rose Cottage. Over a century later, in the 1950s, owner William Prins attempted to restore much of it. This log house was moved to Lower Fort Garry in 1970 where it is now on display.
Cheryl Girard is a community correspondent for Riverbend. You can contact her at email@example.com.
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