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Icelandic River Roast Coffee

Other Sites
Other Icelandic River Historic Sites
Other Sites of Interest

Numerous other locations in the Icelandic River area are of historic interest, including such significant sites as historic Sandy Bar Townsite (the location of John & Betsey Ramsay’s gravesites), Víðivellir (home of poet Guttormur J. Guttormsson), the ‘Stopping Place’ at Engimýri, and Ísafold Cemetery – to mention a few. The following listing is for information only and does not indicate proprietorship by Icelandic Heritage Sites Inc.

Most of the sites listed here are on private property and should not be visited except by prior arrangement with the property owners.

 

 

Sandy Bar Townsite
The townsite of Sandy Bar, not to be confused with the landmark Sandy Bar (Sandy Bar Beach), is situated on the lakeshore 3 miles south of Riverton. Originally the site of an aboriginal fishing village occupied seasonally by the semi-nomadic Sandy Bar Band, this site was surveyed into streets and lots in 1877, along with the townsites at Icelandic River (Lundur/Lundi) and Gimli. Among the winter residents of Sandy Bar were John and Betsey Ramsay, whose Red River-style home was a hewn log structure with a thatched roof. Though Sandy Bar failed to thrive as a village, it is well known in association with John and Betsey Ramsay, who lie buried here along with many Icelandic men, women, and children, and its name has become highly symbolic through the famous poem ‘Sandy Bar’ by Guttormur J. Guttormsson and a cantata of the same name, composed on the occasion of New Iceland’s centennial in 1975. This site has received considerable attention over the years and was the scene of filming for a documentary entitled In Search of John Ramsay.

 

Víðivellir – Home of Poet Guttormur J. Guttormsson
Best known as the birthplace and home of poet Guttormur J. Guttormsson, the riverside homestead of Víðivellir (Willow Fields) is almost unique in the annals of New Iceland for having remained in same family since 1877. The unique natural environment and historic setting of Víðivellir were the inspiration for many of Guttormur’s poems, and here the poet and his gracious wife, Jensína, hosted many notables in their fine home - later lost in a tragic fire. The site is marked by a flowing well and a grove of trees.

Engimýri – Historic Stopping Place
The historic house at Engimýri (Meadow Mire), now one of the oldest surviving residences in the Icelandic River area, was built in 1901 – making it well over a century old. The home of pioneers Tómas Ágúst Jónasson and Guðrún Egidía Jóhannesdóttir, who arrived in New Iceland in 1876, this homestead was named for Tómas’ birthplace in the Öxnadalur Valley of Northern Iceland. As Engimýri was situated at the northern terminus of the original ‘Icelanders’ Road’ (Colonization Road), which connected Icelandic River with Sandy Bar, Gimli, and points further south, the home here became a ‘stopping place’ for travellers and a haven of Icelandic hospitality – a tradition carried on from Tómas’ parents, whose home at Bakkasel in Öxnadalur served as a wayside inn for many years. Subsequently occupied by son and grandson of the same name, Engimýri was designated a ‘centennial farm’ in 1977. The house is one of the few remaining structures built by pioneer carpenters Trausti Vigfússon and Jónas Jónasson of Lón.

Sigtryggur Jónasson Gravesite

The final resting place of Sigtryggur Jónasson (1852-1942), ‘Father of New Iceland’ and one of the most remarkable Icelanders to immigrate to Canada, is in the Riverton Cemetery, on the east bank of the Icelandic River, a half-mile south of Riverton. Here Sigtryggur lies among his kinsmen, on the bank of his beloved Icelandic River in the heart of New Iceland.


Vindheimar
The historic home of pioneers Halli Björnsson and Guðrún
Gísladóttir, Vindheimar (Home of the Wind) was built shortly after
the turn of the century and was noteworthy not only because of its size and innovative features, but for its architectural embellishments and original wall paintings of Icelandic scenes by artist Snæbjörn Polson. The house is on private property and is now unsafe, so it should not be visited unless by special arrangement with the owners. Originally settled in 1876 by Jóhann Jóhannsson, who moved to Dakota Territory, this homestead was named for Jóhann’s birthplace, Vindheimar in Skagafjörður.

The ‘Royal Grave’
Both family and genealogical lore attest that Friðrika Björnsdóttir, whose grave on the historic homestead of Árskógur dates from 1884, was a great- granddaughter of King Friðrik VI of Denmark, whose natural son Samúel Friðriksson moved to the East Fjords of Iceland. The wife of Pétur Árnason, who took over Árskógur from the original settler in 1881, Friðrika died here of childbirth on Aug. 8, 1884. Because the cemetery at Nes was then no longer in use and the present community cemetery had yet been established, she was buried near the family home, as home burials were common at that time. The descendants of Friðrika Björnsdóttir, the pioneer of ‘royal blood’, now number in the hundreds and live across North America.

Óskíll - John Ramsay’s CampsiteRamsay

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Óskíll (Ós Creek), now a blind creek but still visible on the homestead of Ós just north of Riverton, is historically significant as the site of an encounter in 1876 between settler Ólafur Ólafsson from Espihóll and John Ramsay, who occupied a campsite on the north bank of the creek at that time. Though this encounter was less than friendly, it is significant that it was settled through negotiation and that John Ramsay and the settlers quickly developed a cordial and cooperative relationship. A soapstone pipe found on this site by Lárus Björnsson of Ós was dubbed “John Ramsay’s pipe”.

Grassy Narrows House
While the exact location of Grassy Narrows House, the Hudson’s Bay “outpost” near the mouth of the Icelandic River, remains somewhat uncertain, Icelandic settlers reported a Hudson’s Bay log building on the riverbank just north of what is now Riverton’s Centennial Park. Extant ledgers preserved in the Hudson’s Bay Archives show transactions for Grassy Narrows House from 1868 and 1871, including items traded by John Ramsay. Occupied by the first Icelandic families to arrive at Icelandic River in the early summer of 1876, this Hudson’s Bay building became known as ‘Bóla’, in associated with the smallpox, as it served as a makeshift hospital during the epidemic of 1876-77. Situated on Möðruvellir, the homestead of Sigtryggur Jónasson, this building was later used as a boathouse by Friðsteinn Sigurðsson, whose york boat was stored here. This structure is thought to have burned.

The Möðruvellir Cemetery
ModruvellirNow part of Riverton Centennial Park, the little cemetery at Möðruvellir has only three marked graves, those of cousins Hermann Frederickson (1879-1883), Vilberg Friðsteinsson (1885- ), and Björn Vilberg Sigurðsson (1870-1885). According to Guðný Sigurðardóttir, however, John Ramsay lost a little girl at the same time that she and her husband, Friðjón Friðriksson, lost their son Hermann in 1883, and as the two children were about the same age, Ramsay asked if his daughter could be buried with their son. Guðný and Friðjón felt this was “a beautiful thought” and the children were buried together. The site is therefore symbolic of the mutual understanding and empathy that developed very early between the settlers and their aboriginal neighbours. The heritage sign marking this little cemetery was sponsored by Robert Frederickson of Victoria, BC, a great-grandson of Friðjón Friðriksson.

The Icelanders’ Road
RoadOriginally surveyed during the winter of 1876-77, the Icelanders’ Road (the 'Colonization Road') extended all the way north from Boundary Creek (at the southern limits of New Iceland) to the Icelandic River. Because the land between Sandy Bar and Icelandic River was low and poorly drained, this road followed a ridge angling across country in a northwesterly direction and ended at Engimýri, a homestead just east of the Lundur (Lundi) townsite. Still clearly visible, this wooded ridge angles southeast from Engimýri to the former Sandy Bar townsite, through the Colonial Log Mill site and the former landfill at Ásgarður.


The Ísafold Cemetery

The burial site of approximately 20 men, women, and children, the Ísafold Cemetery dates back to the late 1880’s when the Ísafold district (later Howardville) was first settled by Icelandic families. Currently an unmarked site in a cultivated field, this cemetery is located on the SE of 15-24-4E (Starmýri) - on “a small rise near the centre of the quarter” - just northwest of the original building site first occupied in 1887 by Sigfús Jónsson and Guðrún Hildibrandsdóttir. Though no graves were marked with a headstone, several had wooden markers that have long since disappeared, as has the wooden fencing that surrounded the cemetery. Not far from this site was Graveyard Lake, now drained but likely still discernable as a low spot.

Árbakki: The Haunted Homestead
ArbakkiLocated along the beautiful banks of the Icelandic River and comprising Riverlot 15 West-23-4E, Árbakki (River Bank) was first settled in 1876 by Jóhannes Jóhannsson from Vindheimar in Skagafjörður – a brother to Steinunn at Akur and Jóhann at Vindheimar. According to superstition, both in Iceland and at Icelandic River, a female spirit known as Skotta - who could be troublesome and even dangerous - followed this family from Iceland and made her presence known in the settlement for many years - both at Árbakki and in the homes of Jóhannes' siblings. Horses driven down the River Road often balked in the vicinity of Árbakki or shied away from unseen and unheard things, which was blamed on Skotta, and it was claimed that suspicious mishaps sometimes preceded visits by members of the family from Árbakki.

 
Arnheiðarstaðir
ArnheidarstadirArnheiðarstaðir, a beautifully marked and maintained historic site along Highway 68 (in the Geysir district a few miles west of Hnausa and east of Arborg), is a shining example of the potential of many heritage sites in the Icelandic River area. Dedicated in 1989 with the participation of then Icelandic President Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, while she was on an official visit to Canada, the cairn at Arnheiðarstaðir marks the homestead of celebrated pioneer teacher, poet, and novelist Jóhann Magnús Bjarnason (1866-1945), originally from Meðalnes in Eastern Iceland, and his wife, Guðrún Hjörleifsdóttir. Besides making an exceptional contribution to community life in the Geysir district and inspiring many of his students to pursue further education and professional careers, this popular teacher and master storyteller penned numerous short stories and novels set in Manitoba, Brazil, and Nova Scotia (where he spent part of his boyhood in the Icelandic settlement of Markland). He was also an accomplished poet and was read by school children in Iceland during much of the 20th Century. The site at Arnheiðarstaðir, where marks of the wooden house foundations are still discernible, is carefully maintained by property owners Greg and Laureen Palsson. The cairn, which includes an historic map of the Geysir district on the back, was designed and erected by community volunteers with local support and the backing of Manitoba Culture, Heritage & Tourism. Visited by hundreds of travellers from as far away as Iceland every year, the Arnheiðarstaðir site preserves a valuable chapter of the area's culture and heritage that otherwise would be invisible and in danger of being forgotten.
 
The Gullbringa House

Likely the oldest surviving log structure in Northern 'New Iceland', the historic house at Gullbringa in Geysir dates from the late 1880's and is a rare example of Icelandic pioneer log construction. Though associated with Gullbringa (Golden Mound), the riverlot homestead where it has stood since shortly after the turn of the last century, this dwelling was actually built at nearby Hagi (Haga) by Geysir pioneer and legendary strongman Gestur Oddleifsson, who together with his wife, Thórey Stefánsdóttir, raised a large family within these walls until the house could no longer accommodate the many children. When a new home was built at Hagi, this house was moved to Gullbringa, where it was occupied by Gestur's widowed sister-in-law, Sigríður Oddleifsson. Though in a state of ruin by the 1960's and threatened by fire and demolition many times, this log structure remained sturdy and was eventually saved by the volunteer efforts of Edwin and Wilmar Sigvaldason, who reroofed it with cedar shingles, replaced windows, and re-sided the log walls with salvaged ship-lap. Historic Gullbringa House is situated in the Geysir district just east of Arborg, along the old river road that follows the north bank of the Icelandic River, and is visible from Highway 68 across the river.

 
Historic Breiðavík (Hnausa) Cemetery
BreidavikOne of at least eight New Iceland cemeteries dating back to the Smallpox Winter of 1876-77, the original Breiðavík (Hnausa East) Cemetery was established to serve the area between Sandy Bar and Árnes. Situated on a low rise some distance from the lakeshore, on the east shoulder of the original Icelanders' (Colonization) Road (not far north of the Hnausa Dock), the Breiðavík Cemetery is adjacent to the former site of the Breiðavík Church, built just west of the road c 1906. An earlier community meeting house used as church, school (Baldur School), and hall was also located nearby, across the road and slightly to the north. While it is known that several local victims of the smallpox from 1876-77 are buried here, the earliest marked grave is that of Guðrún Jónsdóttir (d.1877), wife of pioneer Pétur Pálsson. The oldest original headstone, marking the resting place of Sigríður Guðmundsdóttir (wife of Gunnar Einarsson, later of Winnipeg), is a white marble memorial dating from 1878. Two heart-rending tragedies are commemorated by markers recalling the deaths of three little brothers from nearby Kirkjubær and the father and sons who died in the tragic fire at Borg. Breiðavík (Hnausa East) Cemetery and the nearby 'Hnausa West Cemetery' are beautifully maintained and cared for by local volunteers on the Hnausa Cemetery Committee.
 
Fljótshlíð
FljptshlidThough a lone blue sign bearing the words Fljótshlíð Cemetery is scant evidence of the fact, historic Fljótshlíð was once the community centre of the "Upper Settlement" along the banks of the Icelandic River.  As homesteaders moved up the river during the mid-1880's, Fljótshlíð was selected as the site for the new community's meeting house, which served as school, hall, and church.  It also became the site of the district's cemetery from about 1887, and several Icelandic men, women, and children rest here, on the peaceful east bank of the Icelandic River.  As this community centre was situated on low land along the river, however, it was vulnerable to flooding, and just after 1900, when a new school was built along the main road (Geysir Road, now Highway 68) one mile to the south, a new cemetery was established away from the river.  Both school and cemetery became associated with the district's post office, Geysir, and gradually Fljótshlíð became neglected and forgotten.  When riverbank reconstruction was undertaken to reduce flooding in the 1960's, a large dike was constructed across a portion of the cemetery at Fljótshlíð.  More recently the site was marked with a blue heritage sign, visible to the north of the Kjarna Bridge just west of Geysir Hall.  While the name Fljótshlíð (River Side) is obviously descriptive of the site, it was no doubt also chosen for its association with the beautiful district of this name in Southern Iceland made famous by a memorable reference in Njall's Saga.
 
The Gullbringa House
Gullbringa HouseLikely the oldest surviving log structure in Northern 'New Iceland', the historic house at Gullbringa in Geysir dates from the late 1880's and is a rare example of Icelandic pioneer log construction. Though associated with Gullbringa (Golden Mound), the riverlot homestead where it has stood since shortly after the turn of the last century, this dwelling was actually built at nearby Hagi (Haga) by Geysir pioneer and legendary strongman Gestur Oddleifsson, who together with his wife, Thórey Stefánsdóttir, raised a large family within these walls until the house could no longer accommodate the many children. When a new home was built at Hagi, this house was moved to Gullbringa, where it was occupied by Gestur's widowed sister-in-law, Sigríður Oddleifsson. Though in a state of ruin by the 1960's and threatened by fire and demolition many times, this log structure remained sturdy and was eventually saved by the volunteer efforts of Edwin and Wilmar Sigvaldason, who reroofed it with cedar shingles, replaced windows, and re-sided the log walls with salvaged ship-lap. Historic Gullbringa House is situated in the Geysir district just east of Arborg, along the old river road that follows the north bank of the Icelandic River, and is visible from Highway 68 across the river.