Project Description

Located in the heart of Richer you will find the breathtaking and intriguing Dawson Trail Museum. As you explore this Heritage Site discover the history of the development of southeastern Manitoba while taking in the stunning artifacts and the building itself. The Museum was once a church called Enfant-Jésus Roman Catholic Church. The site now features this Romanesque-style church, a century-old cemetery, artifact displays, and guided tours.

Travel Back in Time

In 1910, Fr. Albert Beaudry arrived to become the first priest of the Enfant- Jésus. He quickly took on the project of building a new, larger church due to the growing population of the village; as the small wooden church that they had been using could not keep up with this growing and thriving community. Construction for the new church began in 1910 and was completed in the fall of 1913. The blessing of the new church took place on December 14, 1913, by Mgr Béliveaua, and confirmation was conferred onto 25 children from the region.

The Enfant-Jésus Roman Catholic Church served mass to the community of Richer for years, but in 1995 it was closed by the Archdioceses of Manitoba due to shrinking attendance. It was on September 17, 1995, that the last mass was celebrated in the parish of the Enfant-Jésus by Fr. Edouard Bonin.

While Enfant-Jésus Roman Catholic Church is no longer a church, the stories, memories, and everlasting charm and beauty of the church still lives on through the Dawson Trail Museum and the wonderful, hardworking volunteers that manage it. 

Converting the deserted church into the Museum we now enjoy was anything but easy. With major fundraising efforts, thousands of volunteer hours, and some elbow grease, the building was preserved and restored to the eye-catching beauty it is today and for the years to come. 

Some of the repairs that were needed included repairs to the cemetery fence and entrance archway, a new roof and passage door for the garage, repairs to the sacristy windows and storm windows, repairs were done to the grotto to reset the stones in front and on the sides of the structure, and more. 

It was in 2016 that the doors of this building opened once again – this time as the Dawson Trail Museum. The heart and soul of the building continue to be the same as it was a century ago – to be a community gathering place and bring people together. The volunteers of the Dawson Trail Museum keep the spirit of what has been alive, not only for Enfant-Jésus Roman Catholic Church but for all of Richer and area history.

The presence of a church in a village is the heartbeat of the community. In 1913 this building called l’Église de Enfant-Jésus served many voyageurs as it was the first stop to worship as they traveled on their way west. The church is of historical significance as it is on the Historic Dawson Road, which provided easier access for early settlers. These families were mostly Métis and French. At the time, the church serviced 81 families and as many as 426 parishioners. Today, many of the residents of Richer and its surrounding areas are descendants of these families.


Discover the Fun

What makes the museum stand out is that the Historic Dawson Road runs in front of the museum.

The Dawson Trail, or Dawson Road as it is known in the community, starts at Lake Superior and follows rivers and portages to the Lake of the Woods. On the West side of the Lake of the Woods, it begins at the North West Angle, at the boundary between Canada and the U.S.A., near Harrison Creek. 

This land and water route from Fort Williams to Red River was Canada’s first attempt to provide an all-Canadian Highway linking the east with the prairies.

Most settlers arrived by The Dawson Trail, built between 1867 and 1871 by surveyor and engineer Simon James Dawson. This also made the Dawson Trail the first Federal Government funded road.

Much of the way west is through “bottomless swamp,” or where the Dawson Road crosses the Caribou Bog it is built on corduroy, that is, logs laid across wise, or in some places three layers, crosswise, lengthwise, crosswise in order to carry the Red River carts which were the mode of travel in the 1800s. In the early 1870s, families traveled by carts, covered wagons, and horseback.

The Dawson Trail was designated a historical route by the Province back in April 1995, and in 2008 the Rural Municipality of Ste Anne designated the Church of the Enfant-Jésus Heritage Site a Municipal Heritage Site and paved the way for the transition of the church to the Dawson Trail Museum in the summer of 2013. Many families donated items to be kept in the museum for future generations to visit. 

The building and grounds remain in beautiful condition with the awe-inspiring, towering spire, fascinating century-old cemetery, and artifacts and displays that tell the stories of daily life for people that lived in the community a hundred years ago.

Through various events and programs, you can experience another side of this organization. With their Artisan Sales or Farmers Market, the Museum presents local artisans and makers, bakers, and growers. From exciting activities like beautiful yarn crafts and woodworking to kids’ crafts, there’s always tons to do. With Up-cycled treasures, bath and beauty products, local jewelry, and delicious, sweet treats, you’ll find countless treasures to take home with you. 

Their annual Spring Craft Market is on May 1, 2021, from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM. Their Farmers Market is every Saturday from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM from July 3, 2021, to September 25

The Dawson Trail Museum also offers guided tours of the site by appointment for $5.00 per person. 

The Dawson Trail Museum will be opening on June 1, 2021, on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM. Their open season ends on September 4, 2021. Find out more by visiting their website


Local Hotspots

Local Hotspots