The Little Church on the Prairie

The Little Church on the Prairie

For so many years we have been passing by a little white-steepled church with a few headstones in the grassy divide between the north and south bound lanes of Highway 75, Province of Manitoba. Finally, one day on our trip back from Minneapolis, Minnesota, we decided to make a stop to satisfy our curiosity. So glad we did. Greeted by the sign “Union Point United Church Built in 1887, Destroyed by Fire 1939, Rebuilt in 1940”, Lita and I, our daughter Marie-Anne and her husband Jerry together with our granddaughter Cassy, explored the site and after several photo ops headed home to Winnipeg.

So, why the little church and the cemetery between two roads of a high-speed traffic divided highway?

The little white church is known as the “United Point United Church”. It was all that remains of a Manitoba ghost town once known as “Union Point” that vanished by the 1950s so named due to its location as the stopping place where steamboats and paddlewheelers from the Red River and stagecoaches from the Red River Trail met for provisions into the praries. Red Red trails are ox cart trade routes popular in Manitoba in the 1820s to the 1840s until the early 1870s.

With the presence of the railway the large sandbar in the nearby Red River as a prime docking area for water transportations carrying cargoes and travellers became no longer useful.

The Red River trail eventually became what is today Highway 75 and later a divided highway in 1988 when the southbound lanes were added. Left in the median, the United Point Church was saved from demolition because the “government could not pave the cemetery and went around it instead”.

Once a flourishing town with a hub of activity Union Point had a post office, a school, a general store, and a town hall.

However, it did not stand the test of time due to several factors such as changes in economic conditions, changes in transportation network and depletion of its natural resources as what happened to other ghost towns or abandoned villages across the southern part of Manitoba.

Located about 40 kms. south of Winnipeg the church with a wooden pinnacle pointing skyward is designated as a Manitoba Municipal Heritage Site and is described as a “Gothic Revival-style structure that succeeded an 1887 Presbyterian facility”. Rectangular in shape with “pointed windows all around and complementary tracery” the sanctuary seats about 80 people. It even has a guest book for travellers to scribble notes and comments. They stopped holding services in 1960.

In 2005 the church was almost almost turned down but two families bought the property for a token amount of $1 and they are now the caretakers of the church to maintain the site year round.

A few headstones beside the church also memorialize the original site of Union Point pioneer settlement; the oldest stone reads 1879 for the first burial of the landowner who donated the land for the church and cemetery, Daniel Lowe. The 16th Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba from 1965-1970, Richard S. Bowles, a lawyer from Winnipeg, was buried here.

The little church on the prarie is worth a visit.