In 1907 when the Grand Trunk and Pacific railway expressed an interest in the district, the land was sold, and the village of "Free Port" was born. Perhaps not the most original name, but a name nonetheless.
, The subject of just why the name of Free Port was changed to Anola is an interesting one indeed. However, it is all speculation as no concrete reason has been found in the records that were searched, except that the change occurred in 1912. According to the book Place Names of Manitoba, published for the Geographic Board of Canada in 1933 by the Department of the Interior, the name Anola is an "invented name, formerly known as Richland Post Office". A 1905 letter from M. Holloway, who ran the Richland post office which served the area, may have prompted this conclusion. In his correspondence to the Geographic Board of Canada, it was indicated that residents were unaware of why it was so named except "as a more convenient means of referring to it than Township 10-7E"
Considering the date of his letter, this makes one think that people in the area were calling it "Anola" even before it was officially changed; at least as far as mail delivery was concerned.
Ted Stone states in his book The Story behind Manitoba Names: Locals sometimes ascribe the name to the rise in elevation there. The area is on a slight but perceptible, ridge. According to this theory it's on "a knoll," which gave rise to the name Anola. Others have suggested that Anola is named after the wife of a railway official. This theory has some credence since Anola comes at the end of a series of rail points (Elma, Hazel, Vivian) using women's first names. It's likely that the same official named at least two of these towns after one or more daughters. Since all four towns received their names at about the same time, Elma, Hazel, Vivian and Anola may have been sisters. Or perhaps the local legend is correct and Anola was the mother of the other three."
Another possibility is that early homesteaders in the area were of Finnish descent and so the name chosen would reflect that, as there are at least seven towns in southern Finland whose names end with ola: Askola, Hollola, Karkola, Nastola, Kouvola, Hartola, and Heinola.
The explanation behind the village name change may be a complicated story, or as simple as someone liking the name Anola better than Free Port. Either way, it could pop up out of nowhere, perhaps to be found amongst memories locked away in an attic; or be lost to us forever.
The Train Station
Now back to the early 1900s and the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway. After buying the right of way, a station house, freight shed and loading platform were built in 1910.
According to the book Railway Station Guide, by B. Ballantyne, the station was a Type NTR3, or a standard #3 station. Cost to the railway for the station house is listed at $2,963, which is a very high figure in those days, so it is possible that this amount is the total cost, including upgrades done in later years. It had a public waiting room which was carefully monitored by the section foreman, Mr. Oscar Adolfson. He was the first section foreman for Anola and lived in the station house with his family, as Anola had no station agent. A cattle corral and loading chute were used extensively by Mr. George Moorhouse to ship the large amounts of cattle that he bought from area farmers, resulting in a thriving cattle trade. The train was most definitely a link to the survival of people from all around, bringing Boxcars of dry goods and other staples needed for daily living.
Old timers recall milk cans on the platform awaiting the arrival of the train, although cans were sometimes picked up at non-designated stops where families who lived further from the station would leave them. Names were painted on the cans so they could be returned to their rightful owners.
In 1935, insulation was added and stucco was applied to the walls of the station. Electrical service including lighting was installed in 1953, and in 1961 it was sold to an independent party and moved from its original location. It is believed to be located at a private club just one mile east of the village.
Of Track and Men
Track maintenance in Anola was done under the supervision of the section foreman. As mentioned, Oscar Adolfson was the first, and sometime later Steve Loza took over. For many years he and his wife lived in the community. Crews were responsible for the upkeep of 1 mile of track per man, from 4 miles west up to Glass and 4 miles east. The men would ride a jigger, which was a little railway car powered by a 1 cylinder pump engine, up and down the section they were tending and visually check the condition of the track. Manual jiggers were used for only one or two men. Oftentimes, a small trailer loaded with equipment such as shovels, spikes and nails would be pulled behind the jigger. All necessary repairs were done by hand, whether it was simple like hammering in a spike, or more physically challenging like the replacement of an old tie, which required a substantial amount of brute strength. This involved manually lifting the tracks and pounding the old tie out, then putting the new tie into position, sliding it under and lowering the track back down, making sure that all was straight and level. The crew laboured in the biting cold of winter or the intense heat of summer. At times their work would be interrupted when a train approached, barreling down the tracks towards them; in this case they would simply lift the jigger off the track and move to the side, wait for the train to pass, replace it, and resume their work.
Definitely worth mentioning is that prior to the Grand Trunk Pacific, a private rail line existed from Elma to Winnipeg. It was built by a very enterprising fellow named McArthur, and it was used to carry supplies and passengers to various stops along the way. Imagine the endless hours of hard labour required to carry out the task of actually building a rail line (from Elma to Winnipeg is a distance of 78 kilometers) with the resources available to settlers of the time. One can only look back with great admiration at the tenacity and will to survive displayed by people such as that.
The re-routing of the train tracks resulting in the "S" curve crossing on Highway 15 (7 miles west of Anola) has an immediate connection to our village. When the first survey was done for the railway, it was discovered that the tracks would have gone right through the homestead of a certain William McCotter, who owned the first homestead in what is now known as the village of Anola. Located on Section 1, Township 11, Range 6E (the northwest comer of the junctions of highways 15 and 12), it is the site of the present Anola Elementary School. In order to avoid dissecting the McCotter family farm, the "s" was put in place to run the tracks from the north side directly across and to the south side of highway 15. To Mr. McCotter, this must have been a worthy compromise on the part of the railway. But alas, it has caused grief to modem day motorists, who dread being delayed by the train while on the commute to Winnipeg, and who also dread driving over the tracks and testing the limits of their vehicles' suspension.
Are we there yet?
Driving on the roads of the early 1900's was no doubt much worse than repeatedly driving back and forth over that "s" curve crossing. Roads were not much more than trails stretching this way and that, winding their way atop ridges, and from the memories of local old-timers, bumpy and treacherous beyond belief. The perils associated with being on the road when inclement weather hit could be downright dangerous for travellers. Homesteaders en route needed to be aware of the lay of the land, as adequate drainage had not yet been accomplished. After heavy precipitation, creeks could quickly turn into raging rivers, with hazardous consequences for unprepared travellers. Swamps could easily swell to the size of a lake. Louis Bugyik, whose father ran Bugyik's store in the village, remembers when much of the north east comer of highways #12 and#15 was swamp.
Respecting the space of wild creatures scurrying about was another issue. It's not clear if wildlife then was more abundant than it is today, or whether the animals of the time were still not sure if we were a threat to them, so didn't feel the need to be inconspicuous. In speaking with people who grew up here, there has been mention of wolves, bears and coyotes, and the ever-present worry of these animals crossing the paths of children while walking to school. Most travellers, adults or children, did not savor the idea of exchanging pleasantries with curious wildlife at the best of times; especially when their wagons were stuck up to the axle in mud.
Time consuming delays of any kind could amount to much more than mere inconvenience; they could very well result in the spoilage of cargo and loss of supplies needed for existence; in which case another trip was evident. If that weren't enough to worry about, there was the ever present nuisance of insects, particularly mosquitoes and biting flies, who had nothing better to do than feed and multiply by the millions. When travelling in the evening, a smoking smudge pail was hung on the wagon pole to provide some measure of relief to the livestock pulling the wagon.
Motor cars began making an appearance in around 1910- 1920, but they were very few and far between. Because of the condition of the roads, the ride wasn't much smoother than being in a wagon and the likelihood of getting stuck and tormented by bugs was about the same. Of consolation to the traveller were perhaps the cushioned, button tufted seats.
In winter, the horse drawn cutter was the chosen form of transportation even after motorized vehicles arrived in the district, as the cold weather prevented most cars from starting anyway. Gliding in a cutter across the snow was no doubt exhilarating, and was often done for recreational purposes; the ruts, potholes, and insects of the summer roads a distant memory. Of course there were dangers of travelling in winter as well. Getting caught in a blizzard and/or freezing to death was a very real possibility in those days. In the Springfield Municipality book there is mention of men, women and children getting lost on the prairie or in the bush; one of which was caught in a winter storm and found days later, frozen to death.
If you had neither motor car, wagon, cutter, or horse, you walked everywhere; at times as far as Winnipeg and beyond. Walking for miles to get to your destination was something that was normal and necessary in those days; a far cry from modem times when circling the parking lot to find a spot twenty feet closer isn't thought of as strange ..
In 1959, travel was improved immensely when highway # 15 was black topped, followed by highway #12 the year after. A Transcona News article written in 1959 by Howard Wright, regarding highway # 12, predicted "The highway will become a very important north and south road."
In later years, the trip to the big city was made much more convenient for area residents when Eastern Bus Lines started two daily runs from Anola into Winnipeg. The buses went as far downtown as Graham and Hargrave and back again. No doubt this service opened up a never ending assortment of answers to the question "What are you doing today?"
In 2007, a large number of people in the area commute to Winnipeg, many driving into the city five days per week. The 20 - 25 minutes it takes to arrive at the perimeter highway is really amazing, considering the amount of time it took the earlier settlers to get there, and the ways they accomplished the journey.
Source: Anola Past and Present, Compiled by Mary DeJong