Brandon in 1881

A Month-by-Month look at the Brandon's Early Days

Based on the News Reports of the day.

It is interesting to note that the comings and goings of our frontier predecessors
were chronicled by quite a variety of North American papers:

The Winnipeg Time (WT)
The Winnipeg Daily Sun WDS)
The Brandon Sun Weekly (BSW)
The Portage La Prairie Weekly (PLP)
The Minnedosa Tribune (MT)
Quebec Daily Evening Mercury (QDM)
Montreal Daily Witness (MDW)
Ottawa Daily Telegraph (ODT)
Toronto Daily Mail (TDM)
Providence Journal (PJ)
Ottawa Daily Free Press (ODF
The Nation (Nat)

and even..

The New York Times (NYT)

View the Newspaper Clippings


Although its been but a short while since Brandon celebrated the 125th anniversary of its incorporation as a city (2007) the spring of 2011 has brought another anniversary of sorts.  Brandon is somewhat famous for having almost skipped the "town" phase and going directly to city status in 1882 slightly more than a year after the first buildings were erected. So while we measure Brandon's existence as a city from 1882  Brandon's real beginning was in 1881and if there is one month of the year that is especially significant to Brandon's appearance on the map, it would be the month of May. On May 1st, of 1881 no one lived here and  the end of that month dozens of businesses had been established, many in tents,  and it was already a bustling place.

A busy month  indeed.

Not only did Brandon spring up quickly, it seems its appearance was genuinely unanticipated - no one saw it coming. Elsewhere across the province speculative  or "paper"  citys  were everywhere.  With names like "Souris City", "Manitoba City",  Dobbyn City" and yes, even "Rapid City", there was no shortage of contestants for the title "Next Great City of  the West". The years 1881 and 1882 are known as the "Manitoba Boom" and fortunes were made and lost in selling real estate, largely in the form of lots in these would-be cities. (1)

7-April 1881, Winnipeg Times

Meanwhile, in the winter of 1880-81, the site of Brandon lay idle, its very sod unbroken, not a building in site. To the north Rapid City had already experienced its first boom as investors were sure that the C.P.R. would pass that way. It remained the only real town in the area.

A few miles downriver from our current city William Currie had settled on a farm that straddled the river at the foot of the Brandon Rapids (then called the Grand Rapids) . He soon had a ferry crossing and steamboat landing that became the jumping-off point for settlers heading the bustling Rapid City Settlement. (2) Though locally known as Currie's Landing  it was also called Rapid City Landing as well.  A  Post Office and store a few kilometres east known as Grand Valley was another sign of settlement, it took soon had a warehouse and landing.

Early in the spring when rumours began to circulate that the transcontinental railway, instead of following the expected, more northerly route, might cross the Assiniboine nearby, and strike a more southerly trail towards the coast, it began to appear that the little settlement at Grand Valley might be destined for greater things. It became a place to watch (and an investment opportunity!), while the site of Brandon attracted only a would-be homesteader who hadn't yet bothered to build and plant.

Of course the name Brandon had been associated with this region for decades. A Hudson's Bay Co. Fur Trade Post named Brandon House was established before 1800 near Treesbank. The range of hills to the south of our city, previously the Moose Head Hills, began to be called the Brandon Hills some time after the Fur Trade Posts appeared. A Post Office called Brandon was opened in the area we know know as Brandon Hills after the a groups of Nova Scotians settled there in 1879.

So, with an eye on the the upcoming anniversary of this busy month, and the busy year that followed, I'd like to introduce a month-by month account of the happenings as they occurred 130 years ago. In doing so I have to say a word about my main sources. Today's online newspaper archives  have made it much easier for the historian to get a feel for day-to-day life in pioneer times.  I invite everyone do some looking themselves at, and Google News, and I propose to accompany this series with a website with a complete set of the clippings I am using.

That said, let's first begin by setting the stage. To fully appreciate the events of May in 1881 we have to look back a bit. Not too far however. Lets start with a look at 1879.


If one does a search for Brandon, Manitoba, in the newspapers of 1879 it comes up blank. Not only did in not yet  exist, but this bit of geography we call home wasn't yet in Manitoba.  Until the boundary of the "Postage Stamp Province" was extended westward in 1881, the region's settlements were in the Northwest Territories.

The press however did take note of the important happenings in our area. And there were things happening. For instance on June 11, 1879 the Toronto Daily Mail reported that improved river transport would soon make it easier for immigrants to, "be provided with though tickets right to the Little Sasktachewan  and to Fort Ellis (sic)" (1) The report goes on the recognize that the river route will cut travel times, between Winnipeg and the Saskatchewan River from eight  days to three.

11-June, 1879 - Toronto Daily Mail

In 1879 there was a lot of talk in Ontario about the "Great Lone Land" as described by William Butler in his recent book about the west. Settlers were beginning to trickle into this new land but they really were on the frontier. Supply posts were primarily the long-established Hudson's Bay Posts such as Fort Ellice, and these were few and far between. Numerous posts such as Brandon House - had closed as first the fur-bearing animals, and more recently, buffalo, had almost disappeared from the plains.  The other main news from the frontier was the ongoing saga of the long promised trans-continental railway.

A long and detailed article in the Montreal Gazette in the summer of 1879 outlines the progress and plans of this project. The big news was that a new route was being planned. The first proposed route  would have seen the railway cross the Red River at Selkirk and proceed north west through the narrows of Lake Manitoba, through the Swan River Valley, and towards Edmonton. Now, the plan was to go by way of Portage, Fort Ellice, and then towards Edmonton. One effect of the plan was to prompt a fair share of the new settlers to search for land that would be close to this route, and to avoid even good farm land that was far from it. This helps explain why the first notable settlements in western Manitoba evolved to to the north of Brandon.

But there were a few hardy souls in the neighbourhood. Another article from 1879, this one in the Ottawa Daily Witness, in a report based more on gossip than on fact, reported that,"This morning's telegrams from Winnipeg state that immense beds of coal have been discovered on the River Assiniboine, about sixty miles south of Grand Valley...". (3) It goes on to mistakenly report that this is puzzling because, "Grand Valley is ten miles south of the Assiniboine." and assumes that the informant is thinking of  the coal beds known to be on the Souris at Beinfait in southeastern Saskatchewan. Who knows what the truth of the whole matter was but the article is an excellent reminder of the shortage of hard facts in reporting about the frontier. There was indeed some talk of coal in the Turtle Mountain area and there were some early attempts at settlement of that region. Grand Valley certainly was on the Assiniboine, perhaps again the original reported confuse that with the Roddick or Nova Scotia  settlement in the Brandon Hills. Aside from learning to beware of newspaper reports the only thing we can learn from this article is that a place called Grand Valley seems to have been put on the map.

Anyone driving east of Brandon on Veteran's Way will pass by a relatively unobtrusive cairn a few kilometres east of First Street. This is the site of Grand Valley. It was at a convenient crossing point and home to the first post office south of Rapid City. For a short period of time (less than two years) it was quite an important spot, especially as a drop off point for frieght shipped by steamboat to places like Rapid City. If and when a railway arrived it would be the logical place to erect a station and build a town.

To get a more reliable picture of the general pattern of settlement in western Manitoba one need only look at the routine publication of Mail Routes and Schedules. An entry entitled "Western Mails" shows us that Grand Valley was indeed on the map and receiving mail service in 1879, on a route that included the more well established village of Rapid City. (4

So as we approach that hectic period, 130 years ago, we see that conventional thinking in 1879 wouldn't have predicted that in less than two years the new town of Brandon would appear overnight and within days this unanticipated collection of hastily erected commercial buildings would become the most important place on the prairies west of Winnipeg.


The summer of 1880 saw quite an upswing in activity in the neighbourhood of the future city of Brandon and the Winnipeg newspapers  did take an increasing interest in the happenings in our area. For instance on April 16, 1880 the Winnipeg Times reported that "A ferry has been established at the Grand Valley crossing of the Assiniboine River. This will give people visiting the Souris country from the north shore better travelling facilities. Another ferry is projected at Brandon crossing 15 miles further down the river." (1)

This is a very informative little article. It seems to indicate that the importance of the Grand Valley location was it offered access to the regions to the south were settlements near the mouth of the Souris, and in the Turtle Mountains, were just beginning. That is not to say Grand Valley wasn't a destination in and of itself. It was the first post office in the area, and the McVicars, who first appeared in 1878 had established a river crossing, a steamboat landing and eventually some warehouse buildings to facilitate its role as a river port. But that was about it. The article also  reminds us that although the name Brandon appears, its use bears no relationship to the site of the current city. The projected "Brandon crossing" ferry sight would in fact close to the location of the former fur trade posts at Souris and near the already established town of Millford. If the term was used in reference to a community, that community would be Brandon Hills settlement.

7-May, 1880 - Winnipeg Times

The advertising in old newpapers is also a valuable source of information. A large display ad for the North-West Navigation Line which ran in the Winnipeg Times throughout April informs us that the "Steamer Marquette will be put on the Assiniboine as soon as the ice goes out.." (2) The destination listed is Fort Ellice (an H.B.C. Post near St. Lazarre) with stops at: "Portage la Prairie, Cypress River, Souris River, Grand Valley, Oak River, Arrow River and Bird Tail Creek." It reminds us that "Freight for all points on the Little Saskatchewan (such as  Rapid City and Minnedosa) will be warehoused at Grand Valley."

The ad reminds us that in the pre-settlement days place names had flexible meanings. A place didn't need to be a "town" in the sense that we know it to be on the map. Indeed in the sparsely settled land that we now call home, towns and villages were of little consequence. There weren't enough farms, therefore, enough commerce, to justify them. Portage la Prairie was a town, indeed an important one. Cypress River, Souris River, Oak River, Arrow River and Birdtail Creek were not towns but landings named after streams entering the Assiniboine. (Cypress River, Oak River and Arrow River would later come to identify towns, but in each case many kilometres from the river landings.) In the case of Grand Valley, although it later aspired to being a town, it was, as we see, essentially a landing - a stop on a route. Which brings us to another thing about place names on the frontier. If a newspaper report that someone was going to locate at Grand Valley they general meant Grand Valley, the region, the  area, and sometimes, literally, the valley.

Another informative story, from May 17 tells us of a party of 60 immigrants brought to Rapid City as part of an organized colonization program. It reminds us the Rapid City was expected to be the commercial centre of the region. It mentions that, "They will leave by the Assiniboine boat ...for Rapid City Landing." (3) The importance of the landings at both Currie's and Grand Valley is reflected by the name used. They were seen as waypoints rather than destinations. Another report from May 9 mentions Rapid City Landing as a destination for the steamer Minnesota, (4) while an August 18 ad has the Marquette heading for "Curries Landing" (5) - the same place by another name. One notes that the trips in the summer months didn't go past the Brandon Rapids, while the springtime trips went as far as Fort Ellice, and its easy to see why river transportation so quickly disappeared when the ever more reliable trains arrived.

18-August, 1880  - Winnipeg Times

In searching through old newspapers it becomes apparent that news from the frontier slowed to a trickle in the winter. Traveling was not advised, or shall we say, barely possible.  All that changed when the ice left the rivers. May was an especially busy month as settlers took advantage of the river boats to move themselves an goods onto homesteads.  What we can ascertain from glancing through the news of the day is that things were happening in this region, things that would mark the beginning of a great wave of settlement that in ten short years would change the face of the the region. People were starting to arrive and big plans were being made, but the future city of Brandon was not on the drawing board.

Winter 1880 - 81

On January 6, 1881, The Winnipeg Times reprinted a Letter to the Editor from the Montreal Witness about, "an educational institution recently established in Rapid City." The letter outlines the reason for the establishment of said institution: "allow young settlers (men) to receive a good mental training" and to be "brought under the influence of the gospel." (1)  The efforts of these young men  of Rapid City toward the erection of a suitable building are detailed and the letter ends in a plea for funds.  The letter is notable for two reasons. Once again we witness the pre-eminence of Rapid City as the place to be in western Manitoba (technically still the Northwest Territories). As well, we are witnessing the beginnings of the McKee Academy, which later moved to Brandon, setting up shop on the upper level of the Fraser Block before being incorporated into the Brandon College. All in all it tells us quite a bit about Brandon's roots.

In the same issue of the Winnipeg Times we find an ad for "The Edmonton Passenger-Express and Fast Freight Dispatch Co."  which informs us that they are "running regular Passenger Coaches as far west as Carleton." (2) The route west from Winnipeg is by way of Gladstone and Birtle, following the old fur-trade route known as the Carleton Trail. This was the Trans Canada Highway of its day, and so far we haven't seen a hint in the media about any change in the transportation or settlement patterns. Keep in mind that the only real agricultural settlements in what we now call Saskatchewan and Alberta were along that route in the fertile valleys of the North Sashatchewan River. (One such settlement was at Batoche, a ferry crossing operated by a Metis leader Gabriel Dumont - Canadians would soon be hearing about it.) There was no apparent reason for a more southerly transportation route. 

6-Jan, 1881 - Winnipeg Times

Another article on February 1 in the same paper offers a small glimpse of the future.  Under the heading "Western Division" a C.P.R. ad  informs us of daily train service to and from Portage. In an interesting aside, we are told that the trains "are run by St. Paul time, which is seventeen minutes faster that Winnipeg time." (3) That Canadian invention, Standard Time would soon solve the problem of each settlement having its own time.

Also in that Feb. 1 paper the "Western Mails" column show that the route serving our area is as follows: Minnedosa, Odanah, Salisbury, Rapid City, Grand Valley." Although Grand Valley is on the mail route, it is on an offshoot of the main line which runs along a fork in the Carleton Trail.

So in the winter and early spring of 1881 we see only hints of the changes that were taking place in terms of settlements, Post Offices and routes. Hindsight allows us to see the occurrences in these few months as what we might now term a paradigm shift in settlement patterns all hinging on the  C.P.R. decision to follow a much more southerly route to the Rockies, which would soon be followed by the choice of the exact location of the necessary Assiniboine crossing.

As yet there was only speculation of a change in the line. But the champions of the earlier, more northerly C.P.R. route did not take such speculation lying down.  A Birtle resident sent a long letter to the Winnipeg times stating thet. It is believed to be the intention of the Syndicate to deflect the line... south of the Assiniboine." and goes on to advance the argument that such a most would be reckless because that river, "forms a capital line of defence, and a serious obstacle to an invading force." (4) Thus the line, for safety's sake, should be north of that admirable line of defence. One suspects the the writer, identified only as "Veteran" was overstating his case just a bit.

What we can see is that by the end of March, 1881, something was in the air. Discussion was taking place, and decisions would soon be made that would alter the future of settlement and commerce in western Manitoba.

In searching through news reports from 1880 that mention happenings in what we now call Westman, we, of course, find no mention of the city of Brandon. In fact we see no real hints that anyone even anticipated the establishment of a town on this site, or even in the area. As we look at the beginning of 1881, our earlier impression that Rapid City would be the future urban centre of the region are confirmed. As well we note that although the first settlers in the little frontier settlements in western Manitoba may have felt far removed from the heart of Canada,  but their efforts at bringing a little civilization this wild land being noticed "back home".

April 1880

The month of April, 1881, which was to become, in hindsight, such an important month for the future city of Brandon, was quite quiet in terms of newpaper articles.  But the news that did appear in the papers turned out to be quite important.

The Toronto Daily Mail, under the heading, "Manitoba Notes" (1) a survey of news from western province, datelined April 5, has picked up the story that "General Rosser, chief engineer of the Canadian Pacific railway, has returned from locating the second hundred miles west, and has instructed the district engineer to direct the main line some distance east of the terminus a hundred miles, so as to run south-westerly toward the Assiniboine, and cross near the rapids of that river."

5-April, 1881 - Toronto Daily Mail

The rapids, then known as the Grand Rapids, but soon to be known as the Brandon Rapids, are a few kilometres downstream from today's Brandon. If you drive east on Richmond Avenue as far you can, walk down to the river bank and look south, you will be looking at the very beginnings of those rapids. It is clear from this article that the exact site of the future crossing has not been chosen, but that article and the rumours that would certainly have accompanied it, would have caught the interest of settlers, or anyone with an interest in speculating in the region.

This would appear to confirm the worst fears of settlers along the Carleton Trail. The railway that they felt was coming their way would bypass them. Their loss would mean an opportunity for settlers and landowners along the newly announced southern route.

Also in that roundup of Manitoba news we learn that, "A new post-office is to be opened after the first of May at section 9, in the township of Range 17 west to be called Eleton. It is in the neighbourhood of Grand Valley, and will receive regular mail service from that post-office. I'm not sure if the spelling of Elton is a misprint or if it was changed later but 1884 listing of Manitoba Post offices has it as Elton. The mention of it hints at a steady, if modest increase in settlement.

Buried in the third paragraph of an article in the Toronto Daily Mail (2) (reprinted from the Winnipeg Times but based on "Cable news from England") we learn that at a meeting of the shareholders of the Canadian Pacific railway has announced that, "350 miles of railway west of Winnipeg are expected to be in operation by the end of the present year." and it later refers to "the crossing of the Assiniboine at Grand Valley". We also learn that "General Rosser has just returned from a reconnaissance of the proposed route for some distance west."

There was no doubt the the immediate vicinity of our hometown was about to become a more important place, but details remained sketchy, and the exact location of the crossing was either not yet decided, or kept secret.

It is worth pausing at this point to consider once again how unexpected this series of events was, and just how empty the countryside was around here.

The first settlers to western Manitoba came by three routes. Some came up from St. Paul Minnesota on the Red River and took the Boundary Commission trail westward from Emerson, where in succession communities such as Manitou (originally Manitoba City), Crystal City and Wakopa were founded.

Others took the Assiniboine, when the first steamboats ventured west of Portage in 1879, and the community of Millford (3)

Many took the well-established Carlton Trail which ran from Winnipeg, via Gladstone, through Minnedosa and on the Fort Ellice. The town of Birtle (4) at the crossing of the Birdtail River was also well established by 1881. Offshoots of the Carleton Trail had earlier  led settlers to Rapid City, which by 1878 has become the commercial centre for the district. That's were new settlers went for supplies.

And a few strayed southwards from that Carlton Trail, along a branch that passed through Carberry, which had a few settlers by 1879, with some making it as far as Grand Valley and the Brandon Hills before selecting land.

Because it was an established fact that the railway would pass much to the north the few settlers that did select this vicinity seemed to have accepted that they would be on the frontier so to speak for some time. No boom towns were advanced and it seemed as though the Grand Valley and Brandon Hills settlements were in between the action spots. A short report in a March edition of the Winnipeg Times outlines the Federal Government plans to establish Land Title Offices to serve settlers in the "north-west".  These new facilities were to be located in "the  Turtle Mountain district one at either and Ellice or Bird Tail Creek."  (5)  At this time the first Land Titles office in the region was already in operation near the mouth of the Souris River near Treesbank.  Grand Valley was in between these important establishments.

Ads like the one posted in February of 1880 had reinforced the idea that the route would follow the established trail to Fort Ellice. Tenders were called for construction of  the line from, "near the western boundary of Manitoba (at that time this was near Gladstone) to a point on the west side of the valley of Bird Tail Creek. (Birtle)   (6) It had seemed a done deal.

28-Feb, 1880 - Winnipeg Daily Sun

The announcement that the a rail line, in fact the main rail line, now was coming this way, was a surprise. Some would say that was the whole point. The C.P.R. and its operatives, General Rosser in particular it seems, stood to make more money by opening up new towns rather than visiting established ones. Whatever the motivation, the railway was coming and excitement would follow.

May 1880

Although Brandon still did not yet exist, one finds that from early May of 1881 there are news reports discussing the recent decision to direct the C.P.R. line in a more southerly course and reviewing the implications. On May 3rd the Times reports on "the decision of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company to cross the Assiniboine at Grand Valley". (1) The lengthy article outlines the progress of surveys and comments upon the wisdom of the choices made.  No news about the new crossing appears for over a week. But it was certainly an important week.

1-May, 1881 Winnipeg Times
(Complete article at bottom of this page.)

How was the decision made to locate the station, and thus the town site where Brandon sits today? Why was it not located on the site of Grand Valley, an established steamboat landing and ferry crossing with a post office, store and a few other facilities? There are two theories. One is that physical aspect of  Grand Valley was not suitable.  The river was high that spring and the Brandon site offered a more secure location. The other story is that Dougald McVicar, the owner of the Grand Valley site held out for a higher price and Rosser, who intended to make a profit himself on the creation of town sites, found a better deal upstream.

As we approach this crucial turn of events that would determine the future of Brandon, it is worth looking at two written accounts that didn't appear in the newspapers at the time, but were in fact, eyewitness accounts by men who had front row seats, so to speak. Those two men were Beecham Trotter who was here at the time, working on the railway, and James Secretan, the surveyor who worked with General Rosser.  I'll quote first from my earlier work on General Rosser: (2)

"The story of the founding of Brandon has often been told, in its various and conflicting forms. Where does fact give way to legend? Do we believe Mrs. Dougald McVIcar. sister-in-law of the Grand Valley property owner, who makes no mention of Rosser’s offer to purchase the town site. [1] How reliable are the various other accounts that have McVicar falling victim of bad advice from cronies? What about Brandon pioneer Beecham Trotter’s account wherein McVicar immediately asks for double what Rosser was willing to pay, only to be stung by Rosser’s, equally quick reply, ”I’ll be damned if a town of any kind is ever built here.” [2] The most reliable account may be found in the memoirs of James Secretan, a C.P.R. surveyor who worked with Rosser. He recalls that Rosser in fact made a $50000 offer, and when McVicar did counter with a request for $60000, the General abruptly ended negotiations and moved on upstream. [3]"

It is possible that it was in that first week of May that General Rosser had his famous conversation with Mr. McVicar (If indeed Mr. McVicar was the un-named landowner Mr. Secretan describes.),  thus sealing the fate of the town of Grand Valley and opening up the possibility of the new city of Brandon. It  could be that this occurred earlier and was kept quiet for a month, or it could have all happened on-the-fly so to speak. 

Brandon historian Martin Kavanagh in "The Assiniboine Basin", reports that:

"On May 3, 1881,  J.W. Horne, a real estate broker, and at the same time a representative of the Manitoba and Northwest Mortgage Company, arrived.  J.W. Vaughn, the surveyor, came about  May 9. He was evidently in the company of Ross or Rosser, for he began his survey immediately.." P 153  

On May 13 the Times reports that, "Gen. Rosser is laying out the station grounds and Mr. Vaughn is surveying the town plot adjoining the station at Grand Valley, the Canadian Pacific Railway crossing of the Assiniboine."(3)  A few days later (May 16)  they report that the station will be on section 23, township 10, range 19. The report suggests that, "The syndicate intend to build repair shops at this point which will make the town one of the most important on the line of the C.P.R." (4) The name Brandon has not yet been used, and on the very next day large ads appear under headings such as, "The Grand Valley Crossing, site of the Great City of the C.P.R and crossing of the Assiniboine River", and announcing that said town" has been located by the Chief Engineer of the C.P.R. on Section 23, Township 10, Range 19 West, On the south-west side of the river". The ad continues in this vein making it clear the the C.P.R. station will be on the aforementioned site and that .."Any other lots advertised are from two to three miles distant from the station."(5)

This is a direct reponse to the continued efforts to promote the original Grand Valley location. From the moment that the first reports mentioned that the line would crossing the Assiniboine in the area speculators had seized upon what they hoped was a golden opportunity. Deals were made and the sell was on. In fact on the same page an ad appears selling lots at "Grand Valley" calling it the "C.P.R. Crossing of the Assiniboine River, McVicar's Landing, Grand Valley."(6) Another ad,  also on the same page, appears for  McEneany & Curran's City Tea Store, 225 Main St, and McVicar's Landing, Grand Valley." Grand Valley hasn't given up the ghost just yet.(7)

All in all, this one page from a  May 17 Winnipeg Times outlines the situation. (16)  What the "Syndicate" that owned the new town needed was a way to define themselves and their property, and they soon did. On another page in that same edition we find a collection of brief reports under the heading, "What is going on "round town" containing these nuggets, one after the other: "A brick-yard is to be opened at Grand Valley by McGerrigle and Strachan." and, "Mr. Harvey goes west in a day or two to erect a hotel at the new town of Brandon." So the name "Brandon" is in use! (8)

If the name had already been chosen why wasn't it used in the ad?  The next day the name appears again but this time far away in the Toronto Daily Mail. They report that, "There is great excitement over the new syndicate, at Brandon, where the Pacific railway crosses the Assiniboine, some one hundred and fifty miles west of Winnipeg. The survey is nearly completed, the town lots will be on the martket next week. Industrial enterprises have already begun, and stores have been opened as well as hotels under canvas."  (9)

Things are obviously moving along, and on May 22 we see the first large display ads advertising, "The Town of Brandon. Grand Valley." (10)

22-May, 1881 Winnipeg Times

The issue would seem to have been settled. The battle fought and won. Brandon had a railways station and it would be the C.P.R. town. But rumours will persist. The day after the first large display ad mentioning "Brandon"  appears, a letter to the editor entitled "Latest C.P.R Rumors" provides another twist. It advises us that, "..the Grand Valley boom may receive a cold water bath." and goes on to outline a rumour to the effect that the C.P.R hasn't settled the issue and that it may be planing a line from Winnipeg, "south-west to the Pembina Mountains, thence west andfarther on somewhat to the north-west, skirting the south borders of the Grand Valley, and joining the main line somewhere in the Saskatchewan country." It follows this up with other unsubstantiated rumours. (11)

On May 30 another ad runs offering lots in "Brandon, the C.P.R. Crossing of the Assiniboine Rivers at Grand Valley" going on to extoll its virtues as "The Future Great City" and reminding us that the the site was , "Selected Located and Surveyed by the Chief Engineer of the C.P.R." (12)

It was important that we know this. Across the province extravagant claims were being made for sites that existed only on paper. All claimed to be the next big thing. Every one of them was sure to be the next great railroad hub of the northwest. It may have been a bit of a stretch to hail it the "Future Great City" but it was surveyed and it did have a railway crossing. That was certainly more than was true of places being promoted.

Still it was only and ad. They sometimes lied. But on May 25 a short news article mentioned with very little fanfare that the steamer Manitoba had arrived at noon and that "Among the passengers was A.H. Vaughn, D.L.S., from Grand Valley with the plans of the new town of Brandon at the railway crossing of the Assiniboine." (13)

Thw Toronto Daily Mail was a little less specific in reporting on May 28 that "there has been a great rush of settlers to Grand Valley, and there is every prospect that it will continue for some time to come."(14)

For a summary we can turn again to Kavanagh's account.
He tells us that by May 28,  the first load of lumber for the new town was brought in by Whitehead and Myer on the steamer Northwest. The Coombs and Stewart store on the northeast side of  6th & Pacific (facing Pacific) had its tent replaced by rough boards from the shipment. That the new city was somewhat lacking in services, and was still not firmly established in the minds of all is indicated by this little report on May 30: "A stage line has been started between the Portage and Grand Valley, making several trips a week." (15) Many who read this at the time still might not have fully understood that while Grand Valley may still have been the terminus for both the steamboats and this fledgling stage line, it was the new town of Brandon that was  the real destination for much of the traffic.

**For additional summaries by writers who were witnessing these events check out the excepts from works by Carle, Macoun and Trotter at the bottom of this page.. (16)

near the mouth of the Souris, was well-established by 1880.

June 1880

For some reason lirttle notice was taken of Brandon's growth in June of 1881.

But growth there was.

The news article from June 9 opposite claims $25000 changed hands in 2 days. Those are 1881 dollars! The next item from June 22,  advises that "The Rapid City Landing Warehouse has been changed..." What has happened is that Grand Valley - which had been a key hub for goods and people going to Rapid City - has been bypassed and the new landing is at the new town.
This may well have been primarily due to the flooding, but it also signalled that the future was in Brandon.

22-June, 1881 Winnipeg Times


Helpful Local Newspapers

The Winnipeg Daily Sun  
The Brandon Sun Weekly  
The Portage La Prairie Weekly  
The Minnedosa Tribune  

Available at:

The Winnipeg Times

Available at:

Print Resources 

Barker, G.F., Brandon: A City (Self-Published, 1977)

Berton, Pierre, The National Dream (Penguin Books Canada,1989)

Berton, Pierre, The Last Spike  (Toronto: McLelland and Stewart Ltd., 1971)

Brown, Roy, The Brandon Hill Connection, (Tourism Unlimited, Brandon MB.)

Brown, Roy, The Fort Brandon Story, (Tourism Unlimited, 158 8th St. Brandon Mb.)

Brown, Roy, Steamboats on the Assiniboine, (Tourism Unlimited, Brandon MB)

Coates, Ken, and McGuiness, Fred, Manitoba : The Province and People  (Hurtig Publishers, Edmonton, 1987)

Coates, Ken, and McGuiness, Fred, The Keystone Province : An Illustrated History of Manitoba Enterprise  (Windsor Publications, 1988)

Fleming, Sandford, C.M.G., Report : Canadian Pacific Railway 1880, (Ottawa,: Maclean, Roger & Co.1880)

McVicar, Mrs. Dougald, Reminiscenses of early Brandon (Unpublished Memoir, 1946)

Kavanagh, Martin, The Assiniboine Basin, (The Gresham Press, Old Woking, Surrey, England 1966 Ed.)

Secretan, J.H.E., Canada’s Great Highway: From the First Stake to the Last Spike (London, 1924)

Trotter, Beecham, A Horseman and The West (Toronto: Macmillan Company of Canada Ltd., 1925),

Welsted, John, Everitt, John, And Stadel, Christoph : The Geography of Manitoba : Its Land and People (University of Manitoba Press)