Manitoba Stay-Cation #6 ~ Simply “Hair-endous”

I’ve now been a teacher for more years than those I have not. I’ve been on countless field trips and visited many museums. The strange thing is that I somehow totally missed this common hobby from the 1800’s. It wasn’t until our Manitoba Stay-Cation that I first heard of hairwork. We visited the Hillcrest Museum in Souris last week and our tour guide pointed out a “hair wreath” hanging on one of the walls. At a glance or from a distance, you honestly would never know it was made of human hair, but when you get up close…well, yuck! I was totally grossed out and in fact, my gag reflex started to kick in. Are you kidding me…a wreath, a decoration for your home, made entirely out of human hair. Who would do that and why?


I mentioned this to my neighbour as she is extremely well read. She totally knew what I was talking about and went on to explain that sometimes hairwork was done using hair from loved ones to make a form of a family tree. I have to admit, like my own mother, I did keep a lock of hair from both of my kids’ first haircuts, but I certainly didn’t wear it as a broach! Besides wreaths, other crafts were made and given as gifts to loved ones. Although “hairwork” was not always created when mourning the passing of a family member, it often was.

Having had long hair most of my life and forever finding strands here and there about the house, I can’t even imagine the thought of twisting and weaving them into a special piece of art or jewellery. To think these “art” pieces would actually be a like a family heirloom. To me hair is disgusting, but I must say the thought of  hairwork was so far out there for me, I had to google and see what else I could learn about this “art” form from so long ago.

What is even more interesting is that “hair jewellery” was actually a viable industry in the mid 1800’s. Evidently, you could choose the design you liked and submit the hair you wished to be used in the finished piece. Hairworkers would do “contract work” to create the desired pieces. So in fact, they got to touch and work with the hair of a stranger. I don’t mean to knock history as I know times were completely different. For example, you couldn’t order a floral spray for a funeral, but for me it’s just a little more than I can fathom. I guess it made for cheap and accessible craft supplies and came in a variety of hues, but really? Don’t get me wrong, I think that the concept is genius and the intricate work is phenomenal, but I personally just can’t get passed the medium used. Perhaps if this was something that my own family had passed along for generations, I might feel differently. In fact, this post had me thinking about a locket that has been in my mom’s family for a long time. I emailed my cousin to see if she could email me a photo of it because if my memory serves me correct, I think one side of the locket contained a photo of an ancestor and the other side contained locks of hair. Perhaps this was some how part of this popular trend.

For your enjoyment, I have included some lovely photos (Ha! Ha!), but if you want to see some actual pieces, I know that the Hillcrest Museum in Souris, Manitoba has one and the Seven Oaks House Museum right here in Winnipeg has three as well. Seven Oaks House was built in 1851 and is one of the oldest surviving residents in Manitoba. We live quite close to it, so I have been there several times, but never even noticed the hair wreaths. You can bet I’ll be going back to check them out this summer.

Manitoba Stay-Cation #3: Souris, MB

Instead of taking our typical route home to Winnipeg from Binscarth along the Yellowhead (Hwy #16), I had done some advanced planning and decided to take an alternate route via Highway #83 through Birtle and then south to Virden. The road was re-opened, but the Assinaboine River and ground water was still very high along the highway. From Virden, we took the TransCanada Hwy#1 to Hwy#21 south. We stayed on this highway until we reached Hwy#2 and then began our trip eastward towards home. Our chosen “pit stop” was Souris, MB. I remember visiting Souris as a child as my dad coached the Binscarth Orioles Senior Men’s baseball team and we travelled through much of Manitoba to games and tournaments during the summer months. I didn’t remember much, but did remember “The Swinging Bridge”.  Of course, my memories of the bridge re-surfaced in 2011 when the town was forced to sever the bridge due to extremely high water levels. The bridge was re-built in 2013 and is once again the longest bridge of its kind in Canada.

The Swinging Bridge:

The first swinging Bridge of Souris, (Plumb Creek) was built in 1904 by ‘Squire’ William Henry Sowden to help him sell land on the east bank of the Souris River.  

Mr. Sowden owned land on both sides and the bridge helped him to cross the river and access his land on the opposite bank of the river. To learn more about the history of the bridge, check out this article on eBrandon.

The Hillcrest Museum:

William Henry Sowden also built the beautiful castle like home on the river bank just west of the bridge. The Hillcrest Museum was once home to the Squire and his wife. She had always wanted to live in a castle and thus he built this beautiful home to please his wife. The home was built in 1910 and is loaded with character. The tin ceilings are incredibly designed with some of them being 3 dimensional. Although there are only one or two pieces of furniture from the original home, the museum is set up to show what tools and accessories would have been used through the earlier years of the home’s existence. Some of the rooms have been set-up in themes such as a toy room, vintage clothing room, history of Souris room, etc. The museum is even home to a collection of more than 5000 butterflies. The admission is $5 for adults and $2 for children, so for less than $10 the kids and I had a guided tour of the beautiful home. As a lover of heritage homes, this was a real treat. This incredible home is considered to be in the Top 64 Canadian Heritage Properties.

Victoria Park:

Although we did nothing more than drive through the park, I immediately knew this would be a great place to camp. Plum Creek winds its way through Victoria Park and gorgeous treed campsites line its banks. Aside from the gorgeous camping spots, the park is also home to the town pool which is equipped with water slides and sprinklers.

Other Attractions:

In the few hours we were in Souris, we certainly didn’t have time to take in all the local attractions. There are actually many things to do when visiting this picturesque rural community. There were at least 2 other museums we didn’t visit. The history of Souris was very evident in the heritage homes and buildings we passed as we explored the small town (with less than 2000 people living there). The town is also known for the Agate Pits and for $20 the entire family can explore the pits to see what kind of treasures they might find.

Regarded as North America’s largest deposit of semi-precious gems, this twelve acre glacial deposit is known for agates, but the site has also yielded epidote, jasper, petrified wood and additional varieties of stones, unique to this area.

Woodfire Deli:

We totally lucked out when it came to lunch! We asked the young man at the Hillcrest Museum if he could recommend some place for lunch. He immediately directed us to the Woodfire Deli. The building itself is obviously close to 100 years old, but was recently renovated by the new owners of the building. The ambiance is wonderful with this old versus new contemporary design. The original wide planked floors have been beautifully refinished, but yet proudly reveal the decades of wear and tear. The deli seating is a combination of antique church pews and modern cafe style seating. The ceilings must be at least 15 feet high (maybe 20??) and the decor is very open and airy. The chalkboard menu and whimsical tile work make it visually appealing and very quaint. We absolutely loved the design and the wood fired pizza was delicious! The open wood oven is visible from the tables and the pizza was cooked to perfection. While the kids opted from something very plain, my pizza had roasted red peppers and artichoke. Scrumptious! I had asked if I could take a few pictures for my blog and “Buffy”, one of the owners came by our table and shared a bit of the history of the deli. The owners purchased the property last October and after renovating the space, just opened for business in April of this year. Although we only had the pizza, the restaurant also serves salads, sandwiches, cooking ingredients, gelato and fresh baking.  I think Steve and Elizabeth have a real gem here. In perusing their website, I was intrigued to learn that Elizabeth is a trained holistic health coach and their recipes are made from whole ingredients.

Our Deli brings you all the quality of ‘slow food’ made simple and convenient. The Wood Oven is the heart of our operation, bringing a traditional, slow cooking method into modern ‘fast’ food.

For me, every good trip involves great food and that includes a Manitoba Stay-Cation! The Woodfire Deli was an incredible find and I can’t wait to take my husband back with us next time. I’m not sure if we’ll camp at Souris this summer, but it is definitely on our list of places to visit again.