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Handbook to Winnipeg and the Province of Manitoba
Sketch of the History of the City of Winnipeg and of the Four Provinces of Western Canada by the Rev. George Bryce, D.D., L.L.D.

AROUND the pageant enacted at Sault Ste. Marie by Sieur de St. Lusson in 1(570 gathered the interest of the French nation in the Canadian West, when, in the name of Louis XIV., the Commissioner took possession of “Sainte Marie de Saut,” as also of Lakes Huron and Superior, the island of Manitoulin, and all countries, rivers, lakes and streams contiguous and adjacent there unto. A cedar cross was raised, and upon it the royal arm of France were fixed. Seventeen Indian tribes were invited to the spectacle, even the far distant Crees and Assiniboines. None of these tribes disputed the French claim.

In the same year Charles II, King of Great Britain and Ireland, gave to the Hudson’s Bay Company “all the lands, countries and territories upon the coasts and confines of the seas, streights, bays, lakes, rivers, creeks and sounds lying within the entrance of the streights commonly called Hudson’s streights,” with one limit ation, viz., except those “which are not now actually possessed by any of our subjects, or by the subjects of any other Christian prince or state.” Here then came in the French claim that their occupation of the Canadian West was first, and here, in after days, arose the claim of Canada for the territory held by the Hudson's Bay Company.

From 1762, shortly after the conquest of Canada, the Fur Traders of Montreal began to extend their trade and build forts throughout the wide region from Lake Superior and Lake of the Woods westward to the distant Saskatchewan.

In 1772 the Hudson’s Bay Company left the shore of the Bay, which it had tenaciously hugged for a century, and erected ii.. the Saskatchewan district its first inland post at Cumberland House, within a few hundreds of yards of Sturgeon Lake Fort, which Joseph Frobisher, one of the Canadian traders, had built. From this time forward the conflict of the Companies continued, until, when once a fort of the one Company was established, soon beside it appeared a fort of the other. At one time, about the year 1800, an offshoot of the North-West Company of Montreal added a third fort at all the chief points of competition through the Western country, while there were also a few independent or ' free’ ’ traders who joined in the fray. Competition led to waste, and ruin stared all in the face..

The North-West Company of Montreal was chiefly led by a number of vigorous Scottish merchants, who after the capture of Quebec had remained behind from Amherst’s army or had been drawn over from the American colonies to Montreal. They became the “Lords of the North.” Their vovageurs and servants were chiefly French Canadians. Through the intermarriages of both the leaders and the laborers, with the Indian women in the West, by the end of the century there had grown up a stalwart race of Bois-brules, Metis, or Half-breeds, as they were (‘ailed. Among these occur the names of Grant, McKenzie, Sinclair, McGillivray, McLeod and Fraser, as well as of Saver, Nolin. Falcon, Delorme, Lepine, Goulet and many others.

Bound together by the common bond of Indian blood, they began to feel their power in the country, and called themselves “The New Nation.” The employees of the Hudson’s Bay Company were largely of Orkney origin, and the children of their Indian wives were known as Engli&h speaking or English-half-breeds.

About the year 1800 the competition of the fur traders became so fierce that the strife at times reached the point of bloodshed, and the companies began to feel that ruin would soon overtake them. At this juncture a young Scottish nobleman, the Earl of Selkirk, as early as 1802 was planning to bring a colony of his Highland countrymen to settle at the south end of Lake Winnipeg. The British Government, fearing that his plan of bringing colonists to Hudson Bay,and then by rapid and portage to the Red R’ver, would fail, refused to his Lordship their countenance in the undertaking.

Having planted some eight hundred Highlanders on Prince Edward Island and a small colony at Balcoon in Upper Canada, Lord Selkirk took advantage of the low price of Hudson’s Bay Company stock and, w’ith his friends, bought heavily and gained control of the Hud son’s Bay Company. He was bitterly opposed in this by Sir Alexander Mackenzie, the most prominent man of the Canadian company. For better or worse, Lord Selkirk’s first Colonists to the Far West left the Scottish Hebrides by ship in 1811 and reached York Factory on Hudson Bay. After a miserable winter they ascended the stream from the fort in heavy boats, and the first party reached the site, on the banks of the Red River, where the city of Winnipeg now stands, on the 25th of August, 1812.

This is accordingly the natal day of the Selkirk Colony, and other parties followed. In 1815 some one or two hundred of the colonists were induced by one Duncan Cameron, an officer of the North-West Company, who wore a flaring red coat and acted “le grand Seigneur,” to leave the country. The fugitives settled again in Upper Canada. After their departure the strongest band of the colonists arrived. Jealousy, assaults, and in some cases fatal violence, prevailed. Lord Selkirk’s first Governor, Miles Macdonell, having been arrested by the Nor’-Westers, the founder sent out a military officer, Robert Semple, to be Governor. The new military Governor seized Fort Gibraltar, demolished it, and floated the material down the Red River to Point Douglas.

Hostilities now commenced in earnest; the Nor’-Westers were roused. They stirred up the Bois-brules on the Western prairies, and sent an expedition westward from Fort William. The mounted Western hunters came down to the Red River, and crossed the prairie in sight of Fort Douglas. A parley between them and the Governor took place, and seemingly, by the accidental discharge of a gun, a fusilade began, and Governor Semple, his staff and a few others, numbering in all twenty-one persons, were killed. This took place at Seven Oaks on June 22nd, 1816, and the spot is marked by a monument on Main Street a little north of the city of Winnipeg. Fort Douglas was then seized by the Bois-brules.

In the following year Lord Selkirk arrived on the banks of the Red River with a band of several hundreds of discharged soldiers and voyageurs, whom he had hired as settlers in Canada. Fort Douglas was retaken, and the founder, after settling many things, including a treaty with the Indians, took his departure on the arrival of Commissioner Coltman, by whom the matter was concluded. In a few years the conflicts ceased, so that after much negotiation the two companies united in 1821, under the name of the Hudson’s Bay Company. The new Governor was George, afterwards Sir George Simp son, of Scottish origin, a man of the greatest ability who succeeded in thoroughly consolidating the new organization.

While this fierce contest was raging on the east side of the Rocky Mountains, the North-West Company was vigorously pushing westward its posts, and fixed its eye upon Oregon and New Caledonia, as the regions on the west side of the Rocky Mountains were called. No doubt this movement was stimulated by the fact that an American vessel had in 1792 entered the mouth of the Columbia River from the Pacific Ocean. After this event, two American explorers, Captains Lewis anil Clark, ascended m 1805 the Missouri River and crossed the Rocky Mountains, as described in Washington Irving’s rather inaccurate work known as “Astoria.” John Jacob Astor, a New York merchant,.shortly afterwards planned a fur-trading expedition to the Pacific Coast, visited Montreal, induced a number of Nor’-Wester traders to enter his services, and sent them by ship around Cape Horn to enter from the Pacific Ocean into the mouth of the Columbia River and found his trading post of Astoria.

An expedition of the North-West Company, under the leadership of Astronomer Thompson of that company, hurriedly crossed the Rocky Mountains and sought to forestall Astor’s expedition. The Canadian expedition was too late to prevent the founding of the American post, but this incident happening at the time of the war with the United States in 1812, the post was seized by the Nor’-Westers ; it was afterwards purchased from Astor, and his employees were taken back into the North-West Company. The northern part of the coast was known as New Caledonia, the majority of its traders being of Scotch descent. After the union of the Northr West and Hudson’s Bay Companies under the name of the latter, the trade was carried on in the Pacific department with more energy than ever. The boundary question between the British and American possessions long continued a matter of dispute. At length bv the adoption of the Ashburton Treaty of 1842, which was ratified in 1846, the territory south of the Columbia River up to 49° N. lat. was given to the United States, though the Hudson’s Bay Company had large posts and much trade in this district. This decision led to the transfer of Chief Factor James Douglas, afterwards Sir James Douglas, from the Columbia River to Vancouver Island, and here he founded the fort around which grew up the city of Victoria.

The mainland of the Pacific Coast and the island of Vancouver belonging to Britain, were both controlled for many years by the Hudson’s Bay Company, till after various changes they were united in 1866 into British Columbia, which remained a British Crown colony for several years. It was an autonomous province until its entrance in 1871 into the Dominion of Canada.

Coming back to the east of the Rocky Mountains, we find that about this time on the banks of the Red River the first Fort Garry was built. Lower Fort Garry being erected in 1831. Lord Selkirk, discouraged by lawsuits: Canada and by the troubles of his colonists, died in Prance hi 1820. The land, forts and other establish ments belonging to the Colonizer were administered for fifteen years after his death at great expense, and were then sold to the Hudson’s Bay Company. In the year 183d a government was organized for the Red River settlement, and a number of the leading settlers and more notable persons were selected by the Hudson’s Bay Company and made into the Council of Assiniboia, as they now called the Red River settlement. The colony grew slowly, till in 1869 it numbered about 12,000 people, 5,000 French half-breeds, 5,000 English speaking half-breeds, and 2,000 whites, the last including the Hudson’s Bay officers and their descendants, the Selkirk colonists, and a few Canadians and Americans. Outside of this settlement up to the Rocky Mountains practically no settlers dwelt, apart from the officers of the Hudson's Bay Company.

Agitation had at times taken place among the people ot Red River settlement to protect their liberties against this Council, which was still a body appointed by the Hudson’s Ray Company, responsible for the government of the country. About the year 1849 a number of French half-breeds rescued one of their number from the hands of a severe judge and carried the prisoner away, crying, “Le Commerce est libre."

Large petitions which were numerously signed by the settlers, had been sent over to England in 1847 a brilliant lawyer and educationalist in London, A. K. Tsbister.who wss a native of the Hudson’s Bay Territories, a man of Arcadian and Indian descent, became the trusted advocate of the people of the Red River settlement. This true son of Rupert’s Land afterwards left $83,000 to the University of Manitoba. Further agitation led to the appointment of a committee of the House of Commons in 1857, and a voluminous blue book marks the era which led to the opening up of the whole Canadian West. Canadian public men crossed the Atlantic again and again to England, until at length, through the good offices of Mr. Gladstone, it was decided that Canada should come into possession of Rupert’s Land and the Indian Territories, on the payment of a million and a half of dollars to quiet the claim of the Hudson’s Bay Company. The better elements of the Red River settlement were now in great hopes for the future of their country. But a cloud overshadowed their bright visions. So far back as 1857 the Canadian Government had despatched to Rupert’s Laud a geological and topographical expedition under Professor Hine. About the same time Great Britain sent the Palliser Hector expedition to spy out the land and make a report. Even during these expeditions some question was raised as to whether such parties should be sent at will to explore the country. Again, in 1869, when it was thought that the transfer of the fur trader’s land to Canada was probable, the Canadian Government sent out surveying parties to block out the land for incoming settlers. The surveyors chanced to begin in the rear of the Trench parishes, which '.av to the south of Fort Garry. The surveyors showed themselves as discourteous to the native people as their masters, the Government at Ottawa, had shown themselves in ignoring the whole body of Red River settlers. The action of the Ottawa Government in this matter is almost unaccountable They failed to send a message, have a conference, or in the slightest extent recognize the twelve thousand people in the confines of Assiniboia. The Hudson’s Ray Company officials resident in the country were far from enthusiastic about, the establishment of the new regime. All trouble might have been avoided by a small amount of tact and conciliation.

The Hon. William McDougall of the Canadian Parlia ment, who had taken much part in the opening up of the west, and who really had the best interests of the new country at heart, came through the United States to the boundary of Manitoba to take possession of the new land.

Suddenly the French Metis, under a vainglorious but impulsive leader of their own blood, Louis Riel, following the tactics of their race in Paris, erected, some nine miles south of Fort Garry, a “barriere” and sent a hostile message to the incoming Governor. With a band of French half-breeds, Riel next seized Fort Garry, the Hudson’s Ray Company making no active opposition. The English-speaking people were paralyzed, efforts were made to restore peace, but the French held the Fort. Mr. Donald A. Smith, now Lord Strathcona, a .high officer of the Hudson’s Ray Company, came post haste over the American prairies in the dead of winter as Commissioner of the Canadian Government. He took up his abode in Fort Garry, where Riel had also made his headquarters, and succeeded in undermining the rebel chieftain’s power.

Up to this time all the illegal acts of the rebel leader might have been pardoned, had not Riel, with unaccountable wisdom, put to death by public execution a Grand Trunk Pacific and their branches. The prosperous condition of these railways now justifies the building of the Hudson Bay Rai’wav, which will give a route, with a sea voyage from Fort Churchill to Liverpool, shorter than from New York to any British port.

As to population, Manitoba began with some 12,000 people fei 1870. and now is estimated to possess about 400,000 of a population, partly made up of large numbers of foreigners from the continent of Europe, as well as of many settlers from the United Sates.

Two great problems have, in the provincial history of nearly forty years, been of transcendent importance. First came the great agitation for obtaining in the face of the bargain with the Canadian Pacific Railway the rignt of the province to build its own railways. This fierce and determined struggle ended in the province gaining the same rights in this respect as those possessed by any other province. The other question, which for some ten years disturbed the province and even spread into an excitement over the whole Dommion, was the introduction of a non-denominational system of public school education. This question was also decided in favor of the province.


The name ‘North-West Territories’ was used in regard to the old region of Rupert’s Land, whose rivers ran to Hudson Bay, and also in reference to the wide extent known as the Indian Territories, occupying the slope which is drained into the Arctic Ocean. After Manitoba had been taken from these territories and organized into a province, the remainder was, under an Act passed by the Mackenzie Government of Canada in 1875, placed under the North-west Territories Act, and a Governor, with advisers, was given to them. He resided in the Territories, first at Fort Pellv, then at Battleford, and subsequently at Regina. The Territories were also placed under a strict Prohibitory Liquor Law. Money grants were passed for the various departments of the public service by the Dominion Government. In course of time a Local Legislature was granted to the Territories, in view of the large, influx of settlers pouring in. So great was this increase that the Territories grew to have a population of two-thirds that of Manitoba. In 1905 the Dominion Parliament at Ottawa passed legislation forming two great provinces lying between Manitoba and the Rocky Mountains and extending from 49° N. the International Boundary line to lat. 60* N.


The first of these autonomous provinces is Saskatchewan. It has the vast extent of 250,650 square miles, and is .possessed of the greatest agricultural possibilities. It is in its southern half chiefly a prairie; its northern regions are, covered with forests. The south-western part of the prairie is chiefly adapted for ranching, some portions of it needing irrigation, but the greater part, of the province is adapted for the growth of cereals and for mixed farming. Its population is about 250,000. The province has a large proportion of the old settlements made up of Canadians from the eastern provinces, but in the last decade vast numbers of foreigners from the continent of Europe, and Americans have become British subjects in Saskatchewan. Many of those who have come from the United States are repatriated Canadians or their children. The capital of Saskatchewan is the city of Regma, which in the last few years has built up rapidly. Near by is the city of Moosejaw, a railway centre created by the Canadian Pacific Railway, which rivals the capital in population. The city nf Prince Albert, near the present northerly line of settlement of the province, is beautifully situated on the Saskatchewan River, and, being on the verge of the wooded district, may be considered the lumber metropolis. Between Regina and Prince Albert is the remarkable railway city of Saskatoon, made by the three great lines of railway crossing the South Saskatchewan River at this place. The province of Saskatchewan has attracted a most enterprising population, and bids fair to be most influential in the counsels of the Dominion. It has a well organized svstem of primary and secondary schools, and has taken steps to establish a University.


The sister province of Alberta is more broken in surface, and from being near the Rocky Mountains is more varied in topographical features than Saskatchewan. It has an area of 252,540 square miles, though possessing a population of about 100,000. It contains land of every variety, forest lands and prairie, lands for grazing and grain growing, with a large portion of the southern part of the province demands irrigation. It has vast coal deposits of lignite, bituminous and anthracite coal, and at points, such as Medicine Hat, great reservoirs of natural gas. The capital of the province is Edmonton, a city beautifully situated on the North Saskatchewan River, and the depot of the great fur trade of the vast Mackenzie and Peace River districts. It has grown with great rapidity, and is recognized by the railways as the great centre of the North-western prairies. The second city of the province is Calgary, on the main line of the Canadian Pacific Railway. It has been more steady in growth than Edmonton, is about the same size, and is an important wholesale centre for Alberta. Railways run from Calgary to the different parts of Southern Alberta and connect with the American system of railways. Two places of some importance are found in Southern Alberta : Lethbridge, a coal centre and Medicine Hat, with manufacturing ambitions. The irrigation works of Southern Alberta are notable, and in recent years, by the introduction of winter wheat, Southern Alberta is becoming a wheat-growing district. The population of Alberta is very mixed ; it has a Canadian basis, with large settlements of European foreigners and an American population, of which considerable numbers to the south of Lethbridge are Mormons.


Mention has been made already of the early occupation of the region beyond the Rocky Mountains The early history of British Columbia was, outside of the fur trading interests, of very little note.

The rush for gold 1857-8 added a few thousands of people for a time, but they chiefly left for different parts of the world when the gold fever subsided. When the province entered the Dominion in 1871 the population was estimated at 17,000, and these were mainly in the old centres of Victoria, New Westminster and Nanaimo, with ranching settlements up the valleys of the Fraser, the Thompson and the Kootenay Rivers. The increase of population in British Columbia has not been so rapid as that of the prairie provinces, although the growth of the city of Vancouver, the terminus of the Canadian Pacific Railway, has been remarkable. The population., which gathered around the Hudson’s Bay Company establishments, was chiefly English, mixed with a large element coming up the Coast from San Francisco and California. Being mountainous—it has indeed been called a sea mountain —- and lying on the sea, British Columbia has a great variety of resources. The salmon and deep sea halibut fishing of British Columbia, atoog, with the seal fishing up the coast has always been a source of wealth to the coast cities. Victoria, the capital on Vancouver Island, was the earlier and more important trade centre. New Westminster on the Fraser River had the inland trade up the river. Nanaimo has long been tamous as the greatest coal-producing centre on the Pacific Coast, supplying large quantities to San Francisco. The choice of Vancouver citv on Burrard Inlet, by the Canadian Pacific railway in 1885-6, at once made a new trade centre. The establishment of great Pacific lines of ships to China and Australia from the port of Vancouver has built up the city, while the easier access to the upper country by railway has largely given Vancouver, with its 70,000 of population, the leading place in the province.

The mountains of British Columbia are rich in gold, silver, copper and other minerals. The central district of Upper British Columbia along the Kootenay River, and the adjacent region have attracted population and brought in capital for the mines. The most considerable place in this district is the town of Nelson. But the greatest resource of British Columbia at present is the forests with their enormous growth of pines and firs of different varieties. The timber export from British Columbia to every part of the prairie provinces, as well as to different parts of the world, by sea from Vancouver is enormous. Being on the western coast of the continent, the climate of British Columbia is moderated by the Pacific current, just as that of the British Isles is by the Gulf stream. Accordingly the valleys of British Columbia, especially on the Kootenay, Okanagan and Shuswap Lakes are well adapted for growing fruit, as are all the valleys of the Fraser and Thompson. In many parts, however, irrigation is necessary for this industry. The soil of the great interior of British Columbia is largely made from disintegrated volcanic rocks, and is said to be specially suitable for plant growing. The fact that the prairie provinces are not adapted for growing other than small fruits gives this industry of British Columbia a great opportunity for development. British Columbia had before the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway no intercourse whatever with the prairie regions, nor with Eastern Canada For years after the province entered the Dominion, much discontent prevailed with the terms of Confederation. This was practically allayed by the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1886. The presence of large numbers of Chinese, Japanese and Hindoos has given rise to great prejudice and even personal oppsition to the Asiatics in British Columbia. Laws for the exclusion of these classes have been passed by the British Columbia Legislature, but these have been vetoed by the Canadian Government on account of British treaties and interests requiring friendly relations with Asiatic nations. The building of the Grand Trunk Railway through the northern part of British Columbia towards its terminus, Prince Rupert, will open a new region of country and introduce a large Canadian population. An educational system has, with much expense and Government assistance, been maintained in the scattered settlements in the valleys and ranching districts, and many centres of the province. No provincial University has yet been founded in British Columbia.


The later development as a field for settlement of the four provinces now described, and their separation from Eastern Canada by the great stretch of unoccupied terri tory has naturally led to a diversity of nterest between the agricultural and manufacturing conditions of the West and the East of Canada. New communities, moreover, are apt to be assertive and dictatory. In consequence of this it has been a constant line of policy among the better class of Western Canadians to resent the local feeling where too exaggerated, and to plead for a United Canada. The cry “Manitoba First” or “British Columbia First” is a dangerous and troublesome one. No one doubts that Western Canadians are as thoroughly loyal to the British Crown, the British Constitution and the British Empire, as Eastern Canadians are. Well nigh forty years of Confederation has, it is to be hoped, led the West beyond most of the dangers of young communities The prosperity of the West and the spread of a Canadian spirit has been largely brought out by a few causes worthy of mention. The interests of Western Canada have been strong in the imagination of the two great statesmen Premiers of the Dominion—Sir John A. Macdonald (1878-1896) and Sir Wilfrid Laurier (1896-1909). They have both been enthusiastic for the West, both have made their policy national and not local, both have laboured and planned for the greater Canada. The systems of public school and University education brought to the Western provinces have been thoroughly Canadian. Besides, the flow of population from the East formerly going to the United States because new fields of activity were needed, has been turned to our West-err* provinces, and the proportion of young Canadian University graduates who have come to us has been very large. These as educated men have given a character to our provincial life in its legislative and educational aspects. Religious organizations have also done their share. The great self-supporting churches of the Dominion — Roman Catholic, Episcopalian, Presbyterian and Methodist—have lavished men and money from Canadian sources to mould the West. In this the Canadian Western movement has greatly exceeded that of the United States, for in the United States the movement of the churches fell behind that of the people. In Western Canada the Canadian missionaries of the different churches have kept abreast of the forward line of settlement. The national, educational and religious movements of Canada have thus been strong and uninterrupted, and now the Canadian spirit takes hold of the newcomer, who, if he come from the continent of Europe, is at once ambitious to learn the English tongue and to embrace Canadian customs. These considerations constitute an adequate reply to ardent Imperialists, who fear the results of the admission into the country of such a large foreign element. There is nothing in the immediate outlook to warrant anxiety, and Canada need have no fear for the future.


Winnipeg, the capital of Manitoba, is situated at the junction of the Assiniboine and Red Rivers, in the middle of a wide plain. The Red River valley being of exceptional richness, early attracted the traders, and so, in the beginning of the nineteenth century, gained the attention of Lord Selkirk, a benevolent Scottish nobleman, who sent out in 1811-15 several hundreds of Highland settlers. On the site at the junction of the two rivers where, as before said, Verandrye—the first white explorer to visit the Red River— had three quarters of a century before this time erected Fort Rouge, and where, a decade before, the Nor’-Westers of Montreal had built Fort Gibraltar, the Hudson’s Bay Company added Fort Douglas, so named after the family name of Lord Sel-ki rk. After bloodshed between the rival fur companies and their union in 1821, Fort Garry (1) was built as a trading post and settlers’ depot. Afterward with a more elaborate structure, stone walls, bastions and port holes, Fort Garry (2) was constructed at a considerable cost in 1853. A short distance north of this fort, about the yearl860, the first house on the plain was erected, and to the hamlet rising there was given the name of the Lake, 45 miles north, Winnipeg (Cree: Win murky; nipiy, water). The name referred to the contrast between its water and that of the transparent lakes to the East. For ten years the hamlet grew, though very slowly, since it was more than four hundred miles from St. Paul, the nearest town in Minnesota, to the south. The fur traders did not seek to increase its size. When the transfer of Rupert’s Land to Canada took place in 1870 the Governor of Assiniboia had his residence at Fort Garrv, and here was the centre of Government for the settlers in the surrounding area. The acquisition of Manitoba bv Canada, and the influx of settlers from Eastern Canada led to the greater importance of Winnipeg, as the new town was now generally called. The establishment of Dominion Government agencies, the formation of a Local Government and the machinery required for the Government of the province, the influx of a small army of surveyors, who mapped out and surveyed many districts of the country, and the taking up of free lands in all directions by Canadian settlers, all helped to build up the village of Winnipeg into a considerable town.

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