An Early History "Tongue in Cheek"
The following is from pages 12 to 14 of
McConnell Little Town Lost, 1982
(Click on Picture to Enlarge)
AN EARLY HISTORY
"TONGUE IN CHEEK"
Some of the stories about the early days of McConnell are pure foolishness but I would like to
tell you about Big John McCandle, the very first white settler to enter McConnell (McCandle).
During the snifty eighteen fifties the land in your district was covered with water to much the same
extent as it is now covered with mortgages. The only residents were a few Cree who lived on the
Grierson Hill. Their Chief was named Big Bittern and his squaw was called Little Duck Foot. They were
peaceful friendly people and when they saw a house boat coming up the Oak River they made welcome its'
lone occupant, a tall black bearded fur trader named John McCandle.
McCandle had worked as a Hudson Bay factor, but had been fired for some trifle like boring small holes
in gold coins. He was a shrewd bargainer and in no time at all he had the house boat packed with
beaver pelts. These he sold and with the proceeds he bought several cast iron tallow - cooking
As a former candle maker in his native Glasgow he longed to get back to his former occupation. When
great herds of fat buffalo drifted eastward into Manitoba he saw his opportunity and was quick to
capitalize on it. His tallow vats flared far into the night and not only did he supply the incoming
settlers with candles, but he did a thriving export trade as well.
There were white candles for weddings, black ones for occasions of mourning, scented ones for miladis'
boudoir and even red and green ones for the buggy traffic.
McCandle made money and he took unto himself a wife named Slough Foot, the eldest daughter of Big
Bittern. Fortune smiled on them and they had six sets of twin daughters who formed the first Brownie
group in McConnell.
Then disaster struck. Out of the blue a Yankee trader moved in with a stock of kerosene in barrels and
a display of fancy lamps. Almost over night McCandle's candle business was snuffed out and he found
himself a poor man. Actually McCandle was a square peg in a round hole and his real interest lay in
agriculture. He crossed brown leghorn chickens with the native prairie chickens and the resulting far
ranging progeny were a blessing to the settlers. There were no patent laws in those days and he didn't
make a dollar on the idea. He also developed the process of stuccoing buildings, which he somehow
managed by throwing pepper in the faces of tethered buffalo.
As the fur trade petered out McCandle was hard pressed to remain solvent. He seemed to thrive on
adversity but his creditors didn't and they hired a bailiff to seize his belongings. Sadly he cut
the rope on his houseboat and with his numerous progeny he floated southward in the night. It was
rumoured that he founded a settlement called Brandon, but I don't know about that.
Certainly McCandle was not one to complain of his fate. He came to McConnell with nothing and he left
with nothing, making him the only business man in the district to break even.
Have a good time at your reunion.