Fort Desjarlais Site

Off The Beaten Path - Hikes and Explorations in the Brandon Region

Fort Desjarlais, built in 1836 by Joseph Desjarlais, was located between Hartney and Lauder

Its sturdy oak palisade surrounded a long log building and several smaller ones. The Souris River ran past the south wall. At its peak there could often be over seventy men at the fort. It operated for about twenty years, and was likely destroyed in a great prairie fire that swept through the region in 1856.

Sandhills Trail to the site.



Start of Trail:

100. 726036

The fort was along the Yellowquill Trail which connected with Portage and Winnipeg to the east and proceeded
southwest along the north bank of the Souris.

The Fort was on the riverbank to the right - much of the site has eroded.

View upriver.

Wider view - there is evidence of grave sites in the bush at the centre of this shot.

This small patch of sunken ground likely indicates a grave. We know many burials took
place here over the 20 year history of the site.

A smaller post, known only as "The American Fort" (ca. 1810- 1820) was located about
a kilometre, downriver, about the centre of this photo.

A drawing by Larry Clarke

A short walk downstream takes us to another fur trade era site.

This buffalo vertebrae is a sample of the remains that are still readily found at the site..

The site of the "American Fort".

The dark spots in the river are schools of small catfish.

Two accouns by Local Historians

Souris River Posts
G. A. McMorran
Editor. The Sourls Plaindealer Souris. Manitoba


 Souris Valley Plains - a History by Clarke, Lawrence B,
Souris Plaindealer, 1976


Louis Riel Institute Repport - By Lawrence Barkwell


An excerpt from G.A. Morran's "The Souris River Posts"

Fort Desjarlais

At Fort Desjarlais the site was more open to the wind and the ashes seem to have been scattered over the prairie on which the fort stood. In 1931 the Souris party succeeded in locating the eastern boundary of the stockade. In this we were assisted by finding a layer of ashes extending at varying depths of one to five inches for a distance of at least a hundred and fifty feet in the bank of the river. At the eastern end of this layer of ashes we located the remains of three oak pickets, presumably the corner of the stockade as no fences had eve, been kno'w'll in the neighborhood. Following this line of pickets two more pickets were found a hundred or more feet north. On the river bank, and presumab1y fallen from the layer of ashes above, were found fragments of crockery, glass and the stem of an old clay pipe.
According to Mrs. Lafontaine, Fort Desjarlais was built by Joe Desjar- lais about the year 1836, 112 years ago. It was burned about 1856, she told us, perhaps in the great prairie fire that Prof. Hind tells us swept the whole country from the Rocky Mountains east in that year. At the Fort, Mrs. La- fontaine also told us, besides Desjarlais, were his son-in-law, Charles De- montine, his son Baptiste Desjarlais, Eusebe LedouI' and Simon Blondin. In all s.he told us there were alway::; 75 or 80 men at the Fort.
One incident she distinctly recalled was the killing of two Assiniboine Indians by the Crees at the Fort. They were buried in or near the stockade

Her father, Francois Jeannette, \vorked in both Fort Mr. Grant and Fort Desjarlais.
According to the old Indians living in the Turtle Mountains in 1934'1 Desjarlais was known as " Mitche Cote" or "Hairy Legs" and at one time operated a post on the Mouse river near where Minot now stands.

Madame Lafontaine, to whom we are indebted for information that other- wise might never have been obtained, was born at St. Francois Xavier, and lived as a young girl there until she married. Her parents she told us kept a home in the Fort Garry 01' Red River settlement for many years, spending the winte!'s there. The snn::.mers were spent with the buffalo hunters and it was during this period of her life that she spent some time at Fort Desjarlais and Fort Mr. Gr3-nt. In 1880 they moved to Oak Lake and in 1886 to the sand hills of Grand Clariere close to the scenes of her early life.