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1. Introduction

2. The Distant Past

3. First Nations

4. The Fur Trade

5. European Settlement

6. Notable People

7. Railway Era

8. Resources

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A River Crossing

Many of the pioneers who came to take up homesteads in the southwestern corner of Manitoba in the 1880’s came from Ontario. One popular route was via boat to Duluth on Lake Superior then by rail to a point on the Red River directly south of Winnipeg where they might have a choice between a riverboat or a train. From the border crossing at Emerson they could then make their way westward along the Boundary Commission Trail, often in wagons drawn by oxen or horses with whatever belongings and supplies they owned. It was a long, slow, journey, but the trail first blazed by the Boundary Commission in 1873 was well travelled, and several “Stopping Houses”, pioneer versions of the roadside motel, had been established in farm houses along the trail. If the weather cooperated, and the wagon didn’t lose a wheel or break and axle, it might well have been almost and enjoyable trip.  Preferable in some ways to the crowded steamboats, and uncomfortable railway cars they had just left behind.

 

The Boundary Commission Trail in western Manitoba.

River crossing could be tricky, depending on the time of year and the water levels. Fortunately, the Boundary Commission, following roughly the lead of a route used for centuries by Aboriginal hunter and Metis traders, had selected advantageous locations for crossing creeks streams. In reaching the southwest corner in what would become the Melita / Pierson areas, the Souris River was the main obstacle.

The Boundary Commission has chosen a natural crossing that had been used for centuries. Bison herds in their yearly migrations, Aboriginal Peoples on their hunting trips, fur traders and Metis pemmican brigades; each had used the site. 

In this place, which was soon called Sourisford, a gravel bottom spans the width of the river and the soft banks on either side were worn down by herds of bison over years of migrations. The bank of this portion of the river was a popular camping place for First Nations and the location of impermanent villages. It was also a camping place for early explorers, the Boundary Commission Surveyors and the North West Mounted Police.

 

The path the buffalo took down the east side of the Souris Valley.


 
Early photo of the crossing by the Boundary Commission.

The highways of one era can be forgotten in the next.

The Sourisford Crossing, which was so important for the many centuries, was no longer necessary as railways and automobiles replaced the horse and cart.

The community that grew up around the crossing is long gone, but the story lives on. As new towns began to thrive along rail lines and highways, the pioneers took steps to commemorate the location through the creation of Coulter Park and the conservation of this important site.