One hundred years ago, a fever swell of prospecting and mining-related activities was just hitting its apex in the community of Herb Lake, Manitoba. As a result of the seclusion of the area and somewhat antiquated modes of transportation, the hamlet of Herb Lake Landing didn’t exactly spring up, but was carved from the virgin bush and craggy shore on the south end of Wekusko Lake. It began as a stopping-off place and a staging point for workers and travellers on their way to the mining community and mines of Herb Lake. The settlement was first known as The Portage, as it was a 12-mile tote from the train station at Wekusko Siding on the CNR Bay Line, to the landing on Wekusko Lake. From there it was another eight miles by boat or sleigh to Herb Lake.
The first lodge to begin commerce at the landing was owned by the Folsters. It was later purchased by Bill and Mary Hale. When Hales owned the lodge and ran a supplementary freighting business, The Portage became known as Hale’s Landing, while an area further down the lake was called The South End. However, Hale’s Landing was the main freighting centre. Herb Lake Landing was chosen as the village’s official name when it became a Northern Affairs community on July 2, 1983.
Herb Lake Landing is still a small community, but there has been continual settlement since Herb Lake was established. It is now cottage country and is home to wild rice harvesters, trappers, fishermen and retired folks.
On the afternoon of Sept. 10, many of the current residents, along with family, friends and officials gathered outside the Herb Lake Landing Community Hall to celebrate the village’s 100 years of existence. With resident Ted Stabback acting as emcee, he introduced Wayne Huculak, who is a regional recreation consultant with the Manitoba government, Bev Shlachetka, a former consultant with the province, Ron Bruneau from Municipal Relations, Dave Koop of Koop Geophysical, Blair Burdett from Manitoba Hydro, Flin Flon MLA Tom Lindsey, and Snow Lake Mayor Kim Stephen.
Resident Dawn Roberts followed, directing attendees to the hall for a delicious lunch of soup, bannock and sandwiches put together by residents and family members. Following this, folks gathered once again in front of the hall for a group photo and to cut a magnificent cake, baked and iced by resident Brittany Hilderman. Four generations of the community’s longest residents, the Corman family, cut and passed out the cake, as well as numerous other sweets.
Resident Cathy Stabback then invited everyone over to the Community Fire Hall for a half-hour presentation by Dave Koop entitled "Mining in Manitoba." Koop did a masterful job outlining his subject, first laying down his experience and work within the industry, then moving on to how mines are formed and found. He then covered the tools and technology of mine finding down through the years, and then moved to early explorers and prospectors in the Herb/Snow Lake area. Koop’s presentation was very thorough and all-encompassing. He was able to take the intricacies of geology and geophysics and break them down into an easily understood form, and he did so in a very interesting manner. He closed stating, “Herb Lake is not done yet! There’s still a lot more to be found, and we wish the best of luck to Rockcliff (owners of the former producer Rex/Laguna Mine) in their efforts.” He was given a loud and long round of applause for his presentation and then answered a few questions.
Following the Koop presentation, Cathy Stabback directed people over to the back of the Community Hall for a walk through "Memory Lane" – a comprehensive compilation of newspaper articles and photographs that shed light on the history and accomplishments of this beautiful little community and its inhabitants. At the conclusion, each person was given a jar of raspberry jam made by the hamlet’s longest-reigning inhabitants, Hazel and Jim Corman. Each person was also offered a small bag of lavender, provided by area historian Linda Butler.
Subsequent to "Memory Lane," people reassembled at the Herb Lake Landing "Gathering Place" for a dedication of the Centennial Commemorative Cairn. Cathy Stabback again handled the mic duties. She outlined the planning of the ceremony, thanking each person involved, before calling on Wayne Huckaluk, MLA Tom Lindsey, The Pas’ Tom Kobar (who donated a piece of Prairie Rose Marble from the Kobar’s Manitoba Marble quarry), and Mayor Kim Stephen (who presented a plaque from the Town of Snow Lake). Ted Stabback then read a history of Herb Lake Landing compiled by Hazel Corman and resident Barry Phillips. After Jim Corman and Blaine Spencer unveiled the plaque, resident Cindy Shapka came forward and read the commemorative plaque aloud. The words are: “Herb Lake, Herb Lake Landing, Mile 81
One hundred years of progress has brought much to our area, but nothing greater than an understanding within us of the hardships and sacrifices early settlers and travelers throughout this region withstood. Carving a thriving and vibrant settlement out of the Shield was not only a dream, it became their reality and today it is ours.
We celebrate their ingenuity, their courage, and the foresight they displayed in populating an area with vast and awe-inspiring beauty and an endless bounty of resources.
The generation that settled the eastern shore of Wekusko shed sweat and laboured endlessly to endure, the one that followed does the same to remember.”
The final speaker of the afternoon was resident Dave Roberts, who gave a summary of the community’s centennial project, which is a large community garage. Following his talk people made their way down to view the garage and from there back to the community hall for coffee, cookies and fellowship. A fine afternoon at a beautiful location … celebrating a momentous occasion.
- with files from Linda Butler