Crystal City and how it all began...The story of this town is intertwined with the stories of other such settlements of the region and the story continues today.
Canada itself was only twelve years old when settlers from the east scouted the area and selected homesteads. The "Postage Stamp Province" and the Rock Lake District proved interesting to Thomas Greenway, who then lived in Ontario. He took an extended tour of Manitoba in 1877 and would file for a homestead near the junction of Boundary Commission Trail and Crystal Creek. In the spring of 1879, after extensive travel through his Ontario home area of Huron County, he and eight other members of his Rock Lake Colonization Company left for Manitoba, with other parties following and settling land near the Greenway property that May and June. In the following year, four more groups followed.
Between 1879 and 1898, Greenway acquired 648 hectares of land and established the prairie Home Stock Farm. Here he raised purebred cattle, cultivated wheat and encouraged horticulture. His farm and the output of it, was described by a visitor from Ontario as being "a shining example of what can be done with mixed farming on the prairies."
Greenway proceeded to map a street layout for a "city" south and east of Crystal Creek. The idea of our "town" being a city in the then future was not so far-fetched. Crystal City had a population of 230 plus, with Brandon recording around 100, while even Winnipeg numbered in at 400 in 1878. Greenway had seen Ontario towns with less, become great, simply due to time, immigration and internal growth. The dream for the town was to become a city, a leader in the southern prairies, maybe even the provincial capital.
The town, like many others, became not only a settling, but also a stopping point for travelers from Emerson (on the banks of the Red River) to other points west. The settlers, many Ontario English, followed the trail known as the Post Road. The trail had been used prior to that by those creating the boundary and the North West Mounted Police (R.C.M.P. today) as they brought law into the new territory. Prior to that, the treaties were signed with the prairie Cree, Assiniboine and other first nation in the 1870s.
The arrival of the railroad in 1885 came with change for the growing "town." Crystal City was bypassed; the track was laid two kilometres north of the village. Greenway, as speculator, was unable to sell his land for village lots as planned and the entire village moved to be close to the much needed rail line.
During this time, while raising a large family (seven children from a first marriage and seven more from his second) he also became the area's first elected representative and encouraged his sons and daughter to be instrumental in the building of Crystal City. The children took on many jobs and roles including that of Postmaster, CPR agent, the affairs of school and church, and local politics. Two brothers, William and John, also were very influential in the community's life at its beginning.
With a background in politics in Ontario, Greenway became the elected member for the newly formed provincial constituency of Mountain. He was chosen as the leader of the provincial Liberal party and in 1888 won the election, formed the government, and was Premier from January 1888 to 1900. There were many changes and decisions during his tenure as our leader, but one change was the extension of the borders of Manitoba on the west to the present state in 1881 to accommodate settlers to the province. Greenway served Manitoba and the area for 25 years, and then entered federal politics as a member for the constituency of Lisgar, later accepting a position on the Board of Railway Commissioners and served in this position until his death, on Saturday, October 30, 1908.
Today we are still benefiting from the ingenuity, perseverance, sweat, and hard work of not only Greenway, but all the first settlers, along with community members and farmers of the years since then. The community was incorporated January 1, 1948. With this effort and continued like manner, as seen in ourselves and future generations, the time ahead looks promising.