The Neepawa Land Titles Office is a large, red brick building located at 329 Hamilton Street. Stone medallions above the main entrance reveal the building’s construction date of 1905. Provincial Architect Samuel Hooper designed this neo-classical style building; he was an architect and builder easily at the head of his profession. Some other buildings of interest accredited to him include the Winnipeg Law Courts, Brandon and Minnedosa Court Houses, St. Mary’s Academy, Winnipeg Land Titles, Winnipeg’s Carnegie Library, the Portage Jail and many of the University of Manitoba buildings such as Tache Hall. The contractor for our building was Fussee & McFeetors; it was built at a cost of $15,000.00.
The front entrance is arched with limestone, as are the steps, windowsills, and foundation. The Romanesque inspired archway is one of the main attractions, and in the early days it provided a location for many people to have their pictures taken.
This building was considered at one time one of the more spacious and “best-appointed” buildings in the Land Titles system providing some 3,800 square feet of space of which 1,750 square feet is vault and storage area. There are two fireproof storage vaults on the main floor for storage of current documents and titles. The basement also has two fireproof rooms both of which are used for documents. Accumulation of thousands of documents throughout the years once caused a serious storage problem that we no longer have today due to legislation and the continuation of the microfilm program. The interior was arranged into offices for the District Registrar and staff; it was finished with a pressed metal ceiling and elaborate woodwork. The public waiting area originally featured a skylight that no longer exists today.
In the early days of land settlement, this part of Manitoba was divided into small districts each with a land registration office where people could register their Crown Grants; and as time went by, the changes of ownership and all other documents pertaining to land holdings. A Crown Grant is a document issued by the Crown as the first title to land. Before a Crown Grant could be issued to a homesteader the Dominion Lands Act required that each homesteader provide proof the land had been improved. If after three years he had complied with the stipulated requirements, he was issued a Crown Grant to the quarter section.
Neepawa and surrounding area was known as Beautiful Plains, and it is reported that the registration office was first located in the County Court building until our current building was constructed. Other similar districts included Russell, Shoal Lake, Minnedosa, and part of Westbourne. These smaller divisions were amalgamated into a very large district known as the Neepawa Land Titles District. The southern part of the district was bounded on the south by Township 12, on the North by Township 45, on the West by the Saskatchewan boundary, and on the East by Range 12, all of which lie West of the Principal Meridian. The Northern portion consisted of all portions of Manitoba lying North of Township 44 and extending to the Arctic Ocean.
As settlements in the Roblin, Dauphin, and Swan River areas developed, it was deemed necessary that a Land Titles District Office be built in Dauphin. The portion taken from Neepawa to create this district in 1912 (7 years later) covered approximately the area north of Riding Mountain Park and south of Township 45.
For many years our office was considered the largest in its area and second only to Winnipeg in volume and fees. The number of Land Titles districts has also changed over the years as there used to be as many as nine offices: Winnipeg, Portage, Brandon, Morden, Neepawa, Boissevain, Carman, Virden, and Dauphin. Carman Land Titles has since moved to Morden; Boissevain Land Titles has since moved to Brandon; and in 1985, the Northern part of our district moved to Portage. The six districts in operation now are Winnipeg, Brandon, Portage, Morden, Neepawa, and Dauphin.
In 1980 tragedy hit the Neepawa Land Titles office: it was broken into and fires were set in five different places. Thanks to our caretaker at the time, Russell Craig, who came to work early that Saturday morning was able to call in help immediately, keeping the damage to a minimum. In the basement, apparently two of the five fires had burned and smoldered for several hours resulting, thankfully, in only a limited number of destroyed documents. The majority of the damage was from smoke and water and the smell lasted for several months afterwards.
Over the years, there have been many changes in the format of a Land Title. In the beginning all titles were approximately 14” by 17” in size, included the District Registrar’s red seal, and were written by hand. It wasn’t until 1961 (approx. 75 years later) that titles were no longer hand written thanks to the advent of the typewriter. In 1989 the size changed to 14” by 8 1/2” and instead of the red seal, the green Manitoba Buffalo emblem graced the document. And today, since 1999, we have been computerized with all new titles entered into an electronic system.
Our 2012 staff members include:
Elizabeth Sims – District Registrar
Cathy McGrath – Accounting Clerk
Patricia Sharp – Accounting Clerk