2. The Distant Past
3. First Nations
4. The Fur Trade
7. Railway Era
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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
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
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