This information below comes from “Bridging The Years – Era of Blaine Lake and District 1790 – 1980”
When the Dominion Lands Act was passed on April 14, 1872, it prepared the way for homestead regulations, defined the Education Endowment plan (school section lands) as well as lands to be reserved for the Hudson’s Bay Company. Because they were here before other settlers, lands were set aside for the benefit of the families of the half-breed residents. They were entitled to 160 acres of land scrip (knows as North West Half Breed Scrips), or money scrips to purchase Dominion Lands with. Although not many lands were reserved in this area for that purpose, most of those were sold by the Metis to other settlers in the area. In the late 1870’s the Hamlet Clause was added to the Act and the Mennonites who had chosen large blocks of land were allowed to live in villages. In May 1898, (before anyone knew the Doukhobors would come to Canada), another amendment to the Act allowed co-operative farming. Therefore, when the Doukhobors came to Canada they were allowed to live in villages and to work the land communally. However, in 1901 under pressure the government posted notices that any lands not entered by May 1, 1902, would be thrown open for general homestead entry to any other settler.
The largest single group to settle in the surrounding area were the Doukhobors. The group that settled in the Petrofka village came in the spring of 1899 and their voyage originated in Batum, Turkey and ended at Quebec City 22 days later. Stops along the way included Selkirk, Manitoba and the French community of Duck Lake, Saskatchewan. The Doukhobors had been exiled several times by the Russian Tzarist government to remote regions because of their religious beliefs and their conscientious objection to military service. Upon reaching the Blaine Lake area and to obtain full title to land the settler had to be a Canadian citizen or a British subject by birth or naturalization. Each individual had to swear allegiance to the Crown. It’s not clear how well the Canadian government explained this rule to the Doukhobors or their interpreters but for most Doukhobors swearing allegiance posed a problem because in Russia this meant having to join the military thus they thought the Canadian government had deceived them.
Petrofka BridgePetrofka was the name of the Doukhobor village near the bridge site.
With traffic congestion at the Petrofka and Laird Ferries it was evident there was a need for a traffic bridge and besides there were always five or six months each year when the ferries were out of commission.
Crossing the ice was no longer practical with the onset of the heavier cars, trucks and powered farm vehicles. What the well-populated area, on both sides of the river, need and wanted was a bridge that would allow them to come and go without time-consuming delays or long detours.
A meeting was organized and held in Shellbrook on October 23, 1956 and the newly formed organization took their petition to the Government in November. The need for a bridge was pressed until agreement was reach. The Department of Highways announced at a public meeting on July 16, 1959 that after several studies and tests a bridge would be built near the Petrofka Ferry site with construction starting in December 1960. The bridge was officially opened on September 26, 1962. The bridge was erected by McNamara Construction Western Ltd. with Premier Woodrow S. Lloyd cutting the ribbon.