Welcome to Vantage Points Flashback, where we look back to the people who came before us in this corner of our province and acknowledge their passion and adventure spirit to begin a new life out on the prairies.

Thank-you municipal councils and Manitoba Heritage for your support.

By Ships, Trains and Oxcarts

In the days before the completion of the all-Canadian CPR route in 1885, most travelers coming wet came via the Great lakes to Duluth, Minnesota.  From there they could take the Northern Pacific either to a port on the Red River, where they could take a riverboat or a train to Emerson, or to Winnipeg.

Those heading for the southwest corner of Manitoba could land at Emerson and proceed by wagon or on foot along the Boundary Commission Trail.  

That involved a tough climb up the Pembina escarpment, a crossing of the Pembina River near Pilot Mound, and several other challenges, before that all-important visit to the Land Titles Office, conveniently located along the trail near "Old" Deloraine.

Prior to 1882 passengers arriving in Winnipeg could take one of the several steamboats that churned up and the down the Assiniboine at a slow, and hopefully, steady pace.  They would land near the mouth of the Souris River where the thriving town of Millford offered lodging and supplies. 

From there, after a somewhat exhausting climb out of the Souris Valley, or perhaps the equally exhausting experience of convincing oxen to climb that hill, Turtle Mountain could be seen in the distance.  The end was in sight!

After regular train service arrived in Brandon in 1882, many chose to use that service.  Brando soon became the hub of settler activity. Supplies could be purchased including oxen or horses, and wagons.

From Brandon well-established trails led southwards, with the crossing of the Souris River being the main obstacle.

By 1881 services such as Sheppard's Ferry directly south of Brandon were operating.  Sheppard's Ferry, was a ferry that crossed the Souris River at Riverside, just east of where our Highway 10 crosses the Souris.  

An alternate route took one to the crossing at Souris City a bustling community just south of where Wawanesa would later be located.

Stopping Houses were available along the route where one could get a meal, feed the oxen, and get a bed for the night.

But, as so many pioneers were about to learn... getting here was the easy part!

So, the next time you take a trip to Winnipeg or to the eastern side of the province, remember those who came before us travelled by ship, by trains, steamboats, ferry or by ox-cart, or by foot.  And for those with perseverance they would travel by all six means to homestead near the Turtle Mountains.


Ships Trains and Oxcarts was taken from Vantage Points 5 - Vantage Points is a 5-book series that shares our rich history here in southwest Manitoba.  Please learn about Turtle Mountain Souris Plains Heritage Association at vantagepoints.ca. 

All stories in this series are found on Discover Westman’s Community Page or click HERE!

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