© 2020, Christian Cassidy
On my recent road trip to Swan River, (more about that in a future post), I dropped into Bowsman, Manitoba on a misty afternoon. It is a pretty little village about 20 kilometres north of Swan River with a 2016 population of 262.
On the surface, it would seem to have a lot going for it with tree-lined residential streets and mix of historic and modern buildings. Its amenities include a post office, curling club, library, newer elementary school, Legion hall, fire department, seniors home, and is about a 15 minute drive from a major town with a regional hospital.
Bowmsan has a proud history. Its Bowman Maroons (1948 - 1953) are in the Manitoba Baseball Hall of Fame for their stellar performance in the Manitoba - Saskatchewan Baseball League. It was one-time headquarters for the the Burrows Lumber Company and to the Henry Stevens Bank, believed to be the last independent bank in Canada, (more on that in a future blog post !)
There's even a cairn in town to commemorate the "Biffy Burn" of 1967 when locals burned their outhouses en masse to celebrate the centennial and the new sewer system !
Unfortunately, Bowsman is a village in decline. Census data shows that it had a population of 315 in 2006. That dropped by 5 per cent by the time of the 2011 census and by another 12 per cent by 2016.
1st Avenue is the main drag that once faced the railway tracks and its accompanying train station and grain elevators, all long gone. In more recent years, it was home to a TD Bank and a grocery store, also now gone. The Bowsman Hotel is up for sale with its price reduced to $345k.
I feel a bit sad, and even frustrated, when I see a town like Bowsman and imagine what it will look like 20 years from now.
With cities overcrowded and crimey, housing prices out of reach for many, and regular news stories of people around the world risking their lives to make a fresh start, it seems such a waste to have fully serviced villages like this - and there are many of them - wither away.
I’d bet 150 people would inject a lot of new life to Bowsman and, in return, it would provide them with a great quality of life.
More photos of Bowsman.