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What’s the connection between Rosser Avenue, Brandon’s “Main” street, and the Rural Municipality of Rosser near Winnipeg? How about the connection between The Battle of Little Bighorn and the creation of Manitoba’s second city?

It all starts with the railway. At the beginning of 1881 what we now call southwestern Manitoba was part of the Northwest Territories, as the western provincial boundary stretched only slightly past Portage la Prairie.  It was, quite literally, not on the map. Specifically, it was not on C.P.R.  Chief Engineer Sanford Fleming’s map, dated April 8th, 1880, and submitted as part of his report on possible rail routes westward. He mentions that that the regions thereabouts had “so far as known, have not been explored”.  [1]

Though perhaps not explored, the territory had been considered in an abstract way. Mr. Fleming, despite continuing to advocate for a slightly more northern route along the Little Saskatchewan Valley and skirting the Riding Mountains to the south, also envisioned a southerly extension that would cross the Assiniboine near the mouth of the Little Saskatchewan. He noted the agricultural potential of the region and that it might become a site for a future city that would “shortly become important”.  [2]

This largely unpopulated area was slowly developing the first tentative forays into agriculture with the noticeable beginnings of towns seen at Rapid City, Minnedosa (Tanner’s Crossing), Millford (near the confluence of the Souris and Assiniboine Rivers), and Grand Valley (a few kilometers east of Brandon).  These locations are mentioned in the George Wyatt’s 1881 “Guide for Settlers”, which includes a list of post offices and charts with destinations for both steamboat and stagecoaches, [3] while the site that would later become Brandon was an undeveloped homestead.
But before the end of 1881 this unassuming patch of riverside prairie had become a bustling town with hotels, grocery stores, restaurants and various outfitters popping up like crocuses on the sunny side of a hill. Now, in any normal prairie town, activity of this sort would be taking place on Main Street; or on a main street by any of the other generic names: Front Street, Railway Street, sometimes even Commercial Avenue. Even Winnipeg has a Main Street. 

Winnipeg Times,Nov. 15, 1881


Settlements, as of 1881 (Wyatt)