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Across the Canadian Prairies
Regina to Prince Albert

Prince Albert is provided with railway communication by means of a line from Regina, the distance being about 250 miles. After the first few miles, the country for a considerable part of the journey is not of a particularly inviting character, especially in autumns like that of last year, when drought prevailed for many weeks. There was little or no grass on the prairie, and, as far as the eye reached, it presented a burnt-up appearance. This part of the territories does not appear to be popular with settlers, at any rate along the line of the railway. Things began to look brighter as we approached Saskatoon, 160 miles from Regina. At that place the trail to Battleford branches off from the old Prince Albert trail, which, however, is now but little used, owing to the railway. Up to Saskatoon little or no timber had been visible since leaving Regina; but for the rest of the way clumps of trees and scrubby bush became more abundant, and the country has a better and more practical sort of look, from an agricultural point of view. This applies to all the country north of Saskatoon right up to Prince Albert. We left the train at Duck Lake and spent the evening in discussing the district with several gentlemen residing in the neighbourhood, who are keenly alive to its attractions and advantages.

On the following day wo drove from Duck Lake to Prince Albert, a distance of about 50 miles, the whole district being full of associations connected with the Riel rebellion in 1885. A little time was spent at Batoche, where we crossed the south branch of the Saskatchewan River and had a look over the old rifle pits of the half-breeds, and walked over the ground on which the famous charge was made that settled the outbreak. We saw several persons who were engaged in the troubles, but the affair has now become ancient history and is not much talked about in the neighbourhood. The country along the river bank, through St. Laurent to Alexander’s Crossing, where we again ferried over the Saskatchewan, is fairly well settled, largely with French half-breeds, with a good sprinkling of retired Hudson Bay men and other settlers, who all speak favourably of its agricultural resources. The houses and farms present a fairly comfortable and prosperous appearance. In this district very little trouble is experienced from summer or autumn frosts, and last year, an exceptional one in the matter of droughts, they had a sufficiency of rain for their farming operations. On the whole, the people seem to be doing well, and to be quite satisfied with their lot. All they want is more people to occupy the thousands upon thousands of acres of good land that are simply lying idle, only waiting to be tilled to produce all the crops that can be grown in temperate climates.

The country north of Saskatoon is not nearly so monotonous as on the level plains to the south. There is plenty of rolling ground, wood and water are abundant, and game of all Kinds is plentiful. We stayed at several farms after leaving Alexander’s Crossing, and had conversations with the settlers, all of whom seemed to be fairly contented and happy. About six or seven miles from Prince Albert and all around that place the country really presents the appearance of an old and well-settled district. Among several largo farms, we visited that of Mr. McKay, a half-breed, a member of the Legislative Council of the Territories, and a most intelligent man. He farms altogether about 5,000 acres, and we saw one field of about 1,000 acres in extent, all fenced in, containing golden crops that were just about to be cut. It was a sight which will not easily be forgotten. Prince Albert is the centre of a good district, in which any new settler might make a comfortable home, and have the advantage of a good climate and congenial surroundings.

Prince Albert itself is a town of about 2,000 people, and lies in the valley of the North Saskatchewan, about 300 feet below the level of the prairie. It is well built, and has a prosperous sort of look, and the first glimpse of it from the top of the prairie is very picturesque. Most of the houses are painted a pleasant brown colour, and the uniformity is in pleasing contrast to the appearance of many other places of the same size. The river is from a quarter to half a mile wide, and on the north side the timber belt begins. At Prince Albert, there is a force of the North-West Mounted Police, under the command of Major Cotton, an energetic and able officer, who is well known all over the country. Of course every man in the North-West owns one or more dogs for sporting purposes, but one of the most clever animals we came across in our travels was a dog belonging to Major Cotton. It was a cross between a Cocker spaniel and a setter, and had a wonderful nose. Ono night, at about 11 o’clock, the dog was shown an egg, which two of the visitors afterwards hid on the prairie about 200 yards from the house. After their return the dog, which, in the meantime, had been lying under a chair in the smoking room, was sent out to bring the egg back. He took rather longer than usual, being somewhat confused by the crossing of the tracks, which was done in order to throw the dog off the scent if possible. However, the attempt was not successful, and in the course of a couple of minutes the dog brought the egg back uncracked, showing not only a keen nose but a tender mouth. The egg, it may be mentioned, was marked with initials, so that there could be no mistake made in the matter.

On the following day we returned by rail to Regina, which we reached safely, very well pleased with our three days’ excursion in the Saskatchewan country.

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