2. The Distant Past
3. First Nations
4. The Fur Trade
7. Railway Era
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The Oldest Highway in the West
The Boundary Commission trail was the route taken by the Boundary
Commission in 1873 & 74 as they surveyed the Canada – US Border.
They bridged creeks, established crossings and cleared bush as
necessary, but the general route they followed spans centuries, crosses
cultural lines and involves a multitude of goals and purposes. Although
one short period of its life in at the dawn of European settlement gave
the trail its name, it was well travelled long before that time.
Parts of it began as a First Nations travel and trading route, which
the fur traders of the 18th Century took advantage of when they began
penetrating the interior of the then-called Rupert's Land. Not too long
afterwards, the Red River carts of the Métis wore grooves into the
prairie sod of the trail in their pursuit of the buffalo as the large
animals retreated ever westward and into eventual disappearance.
published in 1876, this map likely relied on information gathered prior
to the Boundary Commission’s work.
In 1818, Canada and the United States had agreed that from Lake of the
Woods to the Pacific, the 49th parallel would separate the two
countries, but there was no pressing need to be more specific about it.
In 1870 when Canada had purchased Rupert's Land from the Hudson's Bay
Company, and thoughts were turning to the possibility of large scale
agricultural settlement, on both sides of the border, the time
had come to mark it more precisely.
In September of 1872, two parties set forth from Lake of the Woods,
Ontario: Her Majesty's North American Boundary Commission and the
United States Northern Boundary Commission. The two parties worked in
cooperation from their respective sides of the border. They each had
their own astronomer who calculated the location of the 49th parallel
and in the event that calculations were different, the mid-point
between them was accepted as being correct.
– Sourisford is on the map.
America Boundary Commission camp at] South Antler Creek., Man. 1873
Crossing - Souris River 170 miles west of Red River & 10 miles
north of Boundary. 1873
Over two summers, the
Boundary commissioners, guided by Métis scouts,
were followed by labourers breaking the trail and by surveyors
traveling behind. While the British commissioners traveled very lightly
armed, the Americans on the other side of the border were accompanied
by heavy military escort. The Dakota, who hunted on both sides of the
line often hostile towards Americans for establishing posts on sacred
land and for ignoring and breaking treaties.
supply ox train leaves from the Long River depot, following the newly
cleared Boundary Commission Trail. CREDIT: Manitoba Archives
When they came to the
Souris River they were fortunate in finding a
spot about ten miles north of the border where there was not only a
firm gravel bottom, but where the soft banks on each side of the stream
seemed to have been worn down by the immense herds of Bison, furnishing
an easy approach to the ford from each side of the river. For this
reason Sourisford became well known to all Boundary Commission
teamsters, and subsequently to the incoming European settlers who would
soon be arriving.
over Souris River - 1st Crossing [Manitoba, June 1874]]
The North West Mounted
Boundary Commissioners finished their survey during the summer of
1874. Near the end of that year the North West Mounted Police used the
Boundary Commission Trail – freshly blazed – as their avenue of travel
on their trek to “establish law and order in the west” and to prepare
the frontier for settlement.
Beginnings of a New Community
centuries the Boundary Commission Trail had served as the highway
to the west, transporting goods and people.
familiar with the feet of Nakota and Dakota bands, and their
horses, and later with Red River carts pursuing the hunt, it next
became accustomed to the sound of settlers heading west.
first villages in southern Manitoba were established alongside the
Trail, flourishing until the railroad came to the area.
late 1879 Walter F. Thomas came by way of Winnipeg and in the spring
of 1880 Alfred Gould and David Elliott arrived using the Boundary
Commission Trail. Gould and Elliot built a house and barn at the
crossing of the Trail and the river. With the increase of settlement
travel westward, their home became established as a regular “stopping
settlers were relieved to arrive at Gould and Elliot’s where there
were warm and comfortable stables and a hot meal served in the house
for a very moderate price.
stopping place slowly grew into a small unofficial community.
During the summer of 1882 a store was operated out of a tent by
settlers Warren and Snider. A regular post office called “Sourisford”
was installed the next year. T. B. Gerry opened a blacksmith shop and
F. B. Warren opened a store which operated for two or three years.
On July 6th, 1883, the
Registrar's Office for the Electoral Division of
Souris River was removed from Deloraine to the "town of Souris", on the
NW 26-2-27. A plan of a townsite, had been filed in the Souris River
Registry Office on March 11th, 1882, by two early settlers, Carbert and
Lett under the name of Souris City. “ It was referred to as Souriapolis
in some accounts.
J. P. Alexander. The Land Titles Registrar built a house and office
on the townsite. His was the only house to be built, and it was moved a
few years later, when he obtained a homestead nearby. The office was
moved again in 1886 when Mr. Alexander resigned to contest the seat in
the Provincial Legislature and once more, in March 1891, to the Town of
Melita where the building was soon put to other uses