The Hicks family from the Boissevain-Ninga area are working together with Turtle Mountain Souris Plains Heritage Association (TMSPHA) and Parks Manitoba on a family project at Lake William in the Turtle Mountains.  Interpretive signage will be installed at Lake William to share the story of Joseph and Eleanor Hicks who homesteaded south of Ninga in 1884.  They farmed both crop land and raised cattle. 

In the late 1800's Joseph Hicks homesteaded in Ninga and grazed their cattle in the Turtle Mountains near Lake William. Two of his sons would spend the entire summer camped at Lake William to herd the cattle to and from the wooded area close by. 

There are a number of facets to the Hick's family's interpretive storyboards: the early years of cattle grazing around Lake William, the development of the Turtle Mountain Forestry Reserve in 1906, the Ninga Livestock Association formed in the early 30's, and the NW Mounted Police had an outpost at Lake William referred to as 'Police Point'.

Janelle (Hicks) Villeneuve was born and raised in the Boissevain-Ninga area and is working with the TMSPHA and Parks Manitoba on the Lake William project.  Janelle is the granddaughter of Les Hicks, who is one of the 8 sons of Joseph and Eleanor. 

"My grandfather, Les Hicks, was born in 1902, and he talked about spending his summers, as early as 13 years old, with his older brother, who was only 15 years old," explains Janelle.  "They would spend the whole summer camping in a tent on the side of the lake and were responsible for the herd of cattle there, for the whole summer."

There is much more to this story, and all of that will be included in the Lake William storyboards.

Here is some of the information already collected from the Hicks family:

'Years of fire suppression has made the Turtle Mountains now mostly forest, but in the early 1900’s, frequent fires made grass meadows plentiful. When the Turtle Mountain Forestry Reserve was officially established in 1906 (to manage the timber harvest by the influx of settlers and control fires), farmers were still able to utilize the area for grazing with the purchase of a grazing permit The Hicks family, as well as others in the area, had grazing permits in the Forestry Reserve.'

'There were no fences, so summer grazing involved keeping watch over the herd during the day and herding them into corrals at night. The Hicks family’s permit included land south and west of Lake William. The peninsula on the south side of Lake William was used as the overnight corral as only a short fence across the top was needed to contain the cattle.'

Janelle's grandfather, Les, recalls becoming a very good swimmer that summer. A cabin was eventually built so herders didn’t have to sleep in tents.

In 1921, the Hicks family fenced their grazing permit ‘right around the mound’ (Turtle’s Back), and the herding days were done. The grazing continued but the constant herding was not needed.

Janelle and her family continue to gather as many stories, and pictures, that can be shared of those early years, to capture the way of life at Lake William from long ago.  Dear reader, if you have any information or photos to share, please feel free to reach out to the Hicks family, or the TMSPHA.

Janelle (Hicks) Villeneuve now lives in Lethbridge, AB with her husband and two sons.  Please listen to a portion of the interview with Janelle below.

All pictures have been submitted by the Hicks family.  Below pictures include: 

Frances Hicks with the deer at Lake William, Gord on the horse, and Gord pulling in a boat on the beach of Lake William.  The picture of the cattle shows the peninsula and old corrals across the top.

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