The Deeper Roots of Oakville
 Blights Carved a Niche in History of Community

by A. J. Moore
The Portage la Paraire Manitoba Leader, Tuesday, February 19, 1953

Two well-known pioneers who have carved a niche in the annals of Oakville history are Mr. and Mrs. George Blight, but as they have both passed on, I am indebted to Hugh Blight- and his sister, Mrs. Wilfred Metcalfe, for information concerning the early years of the Blight falmily. George Blight was born in Merton, North Devon, England in 1867 and was brought out to Canada by his 1870 and was raised at Witon, Ont. 

In his early twenties he came west to this district and put his savings into the down payment for a farm which is situated 2 1/2 miles north and a half mile east of the Oakville town line. xxxx

For three years he worked around, spending some of his time on the farm to build a frame house and log barn. In 1891, after having collected a certain amount of equipment to operate his farm, he took time off to journey back east where he married Miss Isabelle Dixon of London; Ont. 

They came back west right-away and as the Oakville line had not then been constructed, the nearest rail halt was at High Bluff, where they alighted. 

The bride's possessions were loaded into an ox-wagon for transportation to the farm and while it is generally accepted that oxen are slow, steady plodders, on this occasion they got into a gallop and much of the new crockery was smashed. It was with this yoke of oxen that George did his first breaking and her dates used an additional horse

As time went by the Blights raised five girls and five boys, all living today in different parts of the commonwealth, four of the son residing in this locality farming or as town business men.  Wilfred Blight now farms the old home farm.

 In 1900 after a few years of hard slugging, the family took a winter holiday back to Ontario, there being at that time five children, leaving a friendly neighbour in charge of things at home. 

Speaking of farm equipment, Hugh Blight said that the first gang plow he remembers on the farm was a two furrow implement the depth control being operated by levers. For seeding an eight foot broadcasting drill was used this being mounted above a narrow toothed type of tillage cultivator. With the gradual influx of settlers in this district in the 1890's a school became an urgent problem. and the first one built here was in 1895 on the farm which is now occupied by J. Tooth. 

Oakville had grown a little too, and the old Forresters Hall was rented to serve as an additional centre in town, until they were both replaced by the present high school building.

Mr Blight was an active member on the school boards for about 25 years and a supporter of the choir when the Oakville church was built.  Mrs Metcalfe  told me that before a church was available in Oakville, friends used to meet at the Blight home for services. In the early years Mrs. Blight fully occupied in raising her family but when the children were older she entered actively in the church organizations and the W.A. and later served on the Portage Fair board and Rest room committee. 

All kinds of wild life were to be found around the country at the beginning of the century and bears were by no means uncommon. One incident which will be remembered by many concerned a terrific spring storm which stampeded a herd of cattle from the farm of a neighbour named King into a flooded slough on the Blight farm and drowned them all. About 40 to 50 cattle were lost.

A flood in 1900 which affected the neighbourhood  brought hundreds of fish into the Blight slough and Hugh recalls some splendid fishing. 

It was interesting to hear that the road running east and west by the farm was known as the old Portage Road and had originated as an indian trail. 

For neighbours the Blights had the Brays, Pages and Billy Thomas while to the north were the King's, Holiday's Maloney's and the Kitchen's. A sister of Mrs Blight married a Mr. Weir and farmed just south of them. Mr. Weir became a well-known public figure as a councillor and later Reeve. 

Referring once again to school days my informants recall the first teachers as being Mr. Marlot, Mr. Billy Stewart and Mr. Dalzell, now Dr. Dalzell of Portage la Prairie. In their younger days the children found many indian relics such as flint arrow heads around the farm as they were improvising their own sports and several years caches of pemmican. For several years indian trappers used to came back along the sloughs to trap but with the coming of more settlers they disappeared. 

The farm began to mechanise in 1917 with the purchase of a Waterloo Boy tractor but Mr. Blight retained horses until he died in 1935. Wilfred Blight, one of the sons, took over the home farm and Mrs. Blight retired to live in Oakville with another member of the family and passed away there in 1945. 

Two more links with the past are gone but their record remains as bright light in the annals of Oakville history.

The above picture was taken about 1902 and shows the old home of Mr. and Mrs. George Blight of Oakville. In the foreground are Mrs. Blight and her mother, and a daughter, Mrs Wilfred Metcalfe. 

All the world beats path 

Stories by Chris Smith 
Photos by Frank Chalmers
Winnipeg Tribune, Saturday, August 14, 1976

Jim and Jackie Blight seem to be operating a miniature United Nations on their Oakville farm.  

They have German, Danish and Manitoba visitors right now, and have had others from Japan, New Zealand, Ontario, Quebec and the United States. 

The couple is part of the International AgricUlture Ex-change Association, which arranges for young Europeans. to visit and work on Canadian farms for up to a year, 

Jim is "really enthused" about the program, which allows him and the young people to share different farming methods. 

The Blights have a Danish couple staying with them now as part of the exchange program, but Peter Gravert, a 31-year-old German farmer, is also with them, on his own. 

Peter's sister stayed with the Blights last year as part of the exchange — she is now in New Zealand for a year —and this year Peter fulfilled his ambition to visit Canada. He said he would like to farm in Canada, but that the farms are too large, as are their prices. He has been looking at farm land since he arrived in Vancouver in late June. 

Conversely, German farms arc too small, he said, averaging 100 to 200 acres. His own farm, is 200 acres, is only a fifth the size of the blight's 1,000 acre hay and beef operation.

Peter said he is learning different farming methods in Canada, especially as his home farm has just crops and no livestock. 

He got to see quite a bit of Western Canada on his trip from Vancouver to Oakville as a friend from Saskatchewan met him with a camper. 

Jim said people on the exchange program are screened before coming to Canada to make sure they are agriculturally oriented. They are paid is Canada by their hosts, and are a great help because good Canadian farm workers are hard to find. he said. They generally move to urban areas looking for more money. 

The European farmers have to learn a great deal, he said, as methods here are so different. As one girl put it, everything in Canada is so much bigger, except for the houses. He said they are "top-notch workers" and are eager to work and learn. He has only attended one of the orientation sessions held in Brandon,  but he said the enthusiasm of the young people is great.

He said they are treated as Canadians while in the country: they are put on the farm's regular payroll; they must take out social security numbers; and pay income tax. 

The Blights have many Canadian farmers stop at their farm, and have learned from them as well, Jackie said. Farming operations in Ontario and Quebec are "altogether different" from those in Manitoba, she said. 

The Blights are also part of the Manitoba Farm Vacations Association, and while vacations of a week or two must be booked in advance, they have many people stop off for a night or weekend to camp. 

Their farm is listed in tourist department brochures handed out at Canadian-American border crossings, and they recently had an Ohio couple stop off to talk about farming. 

A woman from Boston touring Canada, who had never even been on a farm in the United States, decided she would like to spend the night on a farm and spent three days there, Jackie said. 

They have also had girls from France and Scotland stay on the farm, and two women do route back to Edmonton stopped off. 

How does Jackie feel about all these people dropping in on her? "We're here anyway if people stop off." 

Unless they have made prior arrangements, most people come prepared to camp out, and they must be prepared to help themselves. 

The Blights are also part of the Manitoba Farm Vacations Association, and while 

Picture, Enjoying a brisk canter are Kim Blight, (left), Keri-Lynn Blight and Allison Davie, who loves farm vacations. 

Subpages (2): Farm & Area History Photos