Follow PTH 9 north from Boundary Creek (Winnipeg Beach), the former southern boundary of New Iceland and work your way up to the Arnes Harbour Fish Plant, and you trod in the footprints of the Icelanders, Ukrainians, Poles and Germans who preceded you a century ago in their quest for a little piece of “The Last Best West”.
The last segment of the trail you follow is the Colonization Road cleared in 1876–77 by Icelandic settlers, some infected with and dying of smallpox. Experience the heritage our forebears built and left behind and the markers and monuments erected in their memory by their children and grandchildren.
Free copies are available by contacting the New Iceland Heritage Museum.
Polish Pioneer Cemetery (1903) and Lundi Cemetery (1903)
The Polish Cemetery was independent, non-denominational, while the Lundi Cemetery catered to the Icelandic population of the area.
Foley South Roman Catholic Cemetery (1930) and Ruthenian Cemetery (1926)
The Foley South Cemetery was a Polish cemetery, while the Ruthenian Cemetery catered to Ukrainian Catholics. A wire fence separates the two cemeteries.
Hofi Cemetery (1892) and Steinkirki Cemetery (1876)
On this site in 1878, settlers built the first church in New Iceland and called it the Vidirnes Church or Steinkirki. It later burned.
Husavick Cemetery (1901)
This cemetery contains unmarked graves that date back to ca 1885. This is an old Icelandic graveyard.
St. Michael’s Ukrainian Catholic Church and Cemeteries (1905)
St. Michael’s Ukrainian Catholic Church is a modest example of Byzantine architectural influences recreated by early Ukrainian settlers. Through its single banya (dome), one-room plan, decorative intact interior and extensive iconography, including floral motifs painted by visiting Belgian priests, the church represents a simplified version of more substantial Eastern rite structures found in Ukraine and elsewhere in Manitoba. Wood siding covers the original log structure.
The churchyard contains the cemeteries of the Ruthenian Catholic Mission, the German Reform Church and the Russian Church.
RM of Gimli Centennial Monument
Erected in 1987, the monument features pictorial panels tracing the development of fishing and agriculture after the establishment of the RM in 1887. It outlines the contributions of the founding group, the Icelanders and the subsequent communities of Ukrainians, Poles and Germans.
This airplane hangar is an excellent example of the kind of facilities contructed and operated across the prairies under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan.
At this and other bases, WW II bomber crews from Commonwealth and Allied countries were trained for service in overseas theatres of war. Gimli’s facility was the largest in Manitoba and actor Richard Burton was trained here. The military base remained open until 1971 and was a vital part of Gimli’s economic life.
Today the base continues to serve as a civic airport, flight training centre and an industrial park.
Sts. Cyril And Methodius Roman Catholic Church (1921)
When they bult this church, the congregation had already endured the loss to two previous churches, in 1909 and again in 1911.
The architecture of this church is based on the symbolism of the Holy Trinity, with the three-tiered bell tower, the three chambered floor plan and the three windows on either side of the nave.
Felsendorf Sts. Cyril and Methodius Roman Catholic Cemetery (1917)
This is a Polish Roman Catholic cemetery.
Gimli Holy Ghost Polish Independent Cemetery (1904) and Gimli Ridge Grace Lutheran Cemetery (1916)
Grace Lutheran contains only a few headstones of German families no longer in the area.
RM of Gimli Community Cemetery (1904)
Formerly Unitarians were buried in the original south half of the cemetery and Lutherans in the north half. As an indication of the depth of religious division within the Icelandic community, there were separate gates into each section and a barbed wire fence between the sections.
Dnister Nativity of Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Cemetery (1903)
Dnister was the second township settled by Ukrainians around 1900.
St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church (1905–06)
This church is a modest example of how long-established architectural practices from Ukraine were adapted to the pioneer conditions of rural Manitoba to enable early settlers to maintain and foster their religious traditiions.
The building’s simple form, interior layout, materials and detailing—including a single banya (dome)—recall in a humble manner important symbols associated with more elaborate Eastern rite facilities in Ukraine.
From its donated site to lumber sawn from local logs, this church demonstrates the desire among Ukrainian pioneers to give tangible expression to their religious values and practices, despite limited resources.
Camp Morton Greek Catholic Society Cemetery
This cemetery is located on the gravel ridge west of Gimli.
St. Benedict’s Bell Tower (1938)
This freestanding bell tower is a local landmark and also a fascinating example of construction. The structure exhibits impressive decorative features carried out with stones and copious amounts of mortar.
Camp Morton (1920)
Beginning in 1920 and operating for about 50 years, Camp Morton provided summer recreation for underprivileged Roman Catholic children and their parents. Later it was taken over by the Province of Manitoba and turned into a public park. The site features many buildings with fascinating construction procedures—some using logs in a technique called stack-log, and others exhibiting the appeal of stones placed in decorative patterns.
The original log structures on Berlo Road were part of the unique German farming village of Berlo. Most were constructed around 1905 on long narrow lots fronting on Berlo Road.
Originally the Church of the same name stood in the front of the cemetery, but the Church burned in the early 1960s.
Erected in 1969, this monument honours the most famous son of Arnes. Vilhjamur Stefansson was born at Hulduarhvammur in Arnes in 1879 and moved with his parents to North Dakota at the age of two. Stefansson was the last of the great Arctic explorers, and also wrote 24 books and about 400 articles on the Canadian Arctic and its people. In 1968, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada declared him to be a person of national historic interest.
This is one of the few surviving fish packing plants still in operation in Manitoba, and, like most, it is simple and functional. In the early 1950s, Steve Sigurdson and Joe Dzydz maintained two fishing crews out of this building. In winter, tracked Bombardiers with mounted ice auger and puller, both designed and manufactured by Mr. Sigurdson, were used to get to and from nets set under the ice.