Much Ado About Squat Much Ado About Squat:

Squatters and Homesteaders Ravage Riding Mountain Forest


Author: Ron Stevens



On July 6, 1906, in a one-room settler’s home near the tiny village of Birnie, Manitoba, three drunken oafs savagely raped a fourteen-year-old girl in front of her ten-year-old sister and two younger brothers. This brutal crime stunned the district already caught in the midst of an eighteen-month wave of violence that included arson, theft, assault, cattle rustling and intimidation.

The context of this compelling story was the influx of immigrant settlers into the southeastern spur of Riding Mountain. Arriving from Britain and Ontario seeking free land, they come upon the newly established timber reserve that blocked their way. Their assault on this land ultimately resulted in the plundering and permanent loss of rich forest resources. Implicated in the surrender of the reserve land were bureaucrats and politicians who allowed poachers, squatters, homesteaders and ranchers to ravage with impunity. From a mine of archival material, author Ron Stevens uncovers memorable characters caught up in unexpected conflicts, defiance of authority, the pitting of neighbor against neighbor.

But there’s a gentler side – humour, compassion, loyalty and neighborliness. The protagonists, modeled on Stevens’s grandparents, overcome incredible odds to gain title to their homestead.


Winner: Margaret McWilliams Award for Local History, 2012 and Manitoba Archivists Award, 2012

Ron StevensAuthor: Ron Stevens

Much Ado About Squat is Ron’s first published book. A retired teacher of high school English, he grew up in the hamlet of Birnie, prominently mentioned in the book, and located just east of Riding Mountain. As a child in the 1930s and ‘40s he knew several of the settlers whose histories are recounted. His career in teaching, which began in rural Manitoba, was mostly spent in Winnipeg. He holds M.A. and M.Ed. degrees from the University of Manitoba. He now lives with his wife Irene near Selkirk.


Two stories previously published in recent anthologies of prairie writing are based on earlier versions of chapters from the book. He also performed “Stories My Grandad Told” on CBC radio.



Original illustrations by Judy Stevens  






WINNER: Manitoba Historical Society award for Local History and the Manitoba Archivists Award in 2012.



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Purchase Details:


6 x 9

303 pages


$22.95  CDN



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