This section of the country embraces an area of one hundred and fifteen thousand square miles, being about half the size of the German Empire in Europe. Its southern border adjoins Northern Manitoba, while the northern boundary is, for purposes of present description, located at the Seal River, just north of Fort Churchill. This brings the northern boundary a little south of the City of St. Petersburg. The eastern boundary is a continuation of Manitoba’s eastern border until it reaches the Nelson River, while the western border would correspond to a line drawn north from the northwest angle of Lake Winnipegosis. The present population of this large territory is small, being composed chiefly of Indians, though its capacity for a large white population would seem to be very great. Norway House and Fort Churchill are at present the principal centres within its area.
Not only is this territory magnificent in its proportions, but also in its resources and possibilities. Like other sections described, it abounds in many beautiful lakes and rivers ; probably in this respect it excels them all. The Churchill, Nelson, a portion of the Saskatchewan and many lesser streams flow within its borders, while a large part of Lake Winnipeg would also be within its limits.
The position of this territory is also strategical in another sense: it is near the great wheat centres of the west, and it lies in the pathway of the shortest route to the markets of the Old World. Churchill Harbor, on Hudson Bay, at the northern part of this territory, is also the best harbor on the west coast of this great inland sea. Being tributary to the great river systems of the interior, and on the pathway of transatlantic commerce, the pulses of the new century’s development must throb through the heart of this northern land.
Favored as the country is by its geographical position, its agricultural possibilities must not be overlooked. The extreme northern location of this territory renders this question the more important. Perhaps few sections of the north have been so misunderstood from this standpoint. It will be observed, however, that the summer isotherms place this territory well within the agricultural area, and much of it within the wheat growing belt. This can be still further confirmed from authentic and reliable reports.
The southern section of this territory, from Norway House to its southern boundary, as here given, is quite well known and needs little reference here. Wheat and all crops incident to the west are constantly grown with as much ease and bounty as in any part of the country. The agricultural possibilities, however, of the northern section along the coast of Hudson Bay, may be regarded as somewhat more precarious, and, perhaps, regarded as impossible. But even here it is found, from actual expertment, that agriculture, to some extent, is still possible. Mr. Bell, in his official report, says of the country about Fort Churchill, in the extreme north : ” I saw very good potatoes and turnips growing in the garden at this place. Previous to the advent of Mrs. Spencer the cultivation of potatoes had not been attempted, and the possibility of raising them at Churchill, when suggested by Mrs. Spencer, was ridiculed by the oldest inhabitant. However, in spite of predictions of certain failure the ground was prepared and planted and a good crop harvested. The experiment has been successfully repeated for seven consecutive years, so that the question of the practicability of cultivating the potato on the shores of Hudson Bay has been pretty fully solved.”
It would seem that notwithstanding this extremely northern latitude this country has special adaptation for grazing and dairying purposes. Such is the nature of the climate that hay grows abundantly without cultivation, and of such nutritious quality that cattle grow fat in a short time when grazing on the natural pastures. The same authority states that hay can be cut in abundance in the neighborhood of Fort Churchill, and cattle thrive well. ” The same ignorance as that already referred to formerly prevented any attempts being made to raise stock at this spot, so that every fresh animal required had to be brought from another post. Now the small herd which is kept at the place is replenished by raising the animals calved at the fort itself. The open grassy land near the sea is practically of unlimited extent. Much of it is dry and undulating, affording abundance for cattle. The butter made by Mrs. Spencer could hardly be excelled for quality, firmness and flavor in any country.”
Favorable as are the conditions in the extreme north, they are, as we would expect, even more favorable as we move southward. Despite the somewhat long winters, it is not impossible that this region, bordering on the so-called barren grounds, will yet become a grazing and dairying country of great extent and value.
The central portion of this territory is now largely forested, and the agricultural possibilities are unquestioned; this is vouched for by the character of the timber growth, both as to soil and climate.
Mr. J. B. Tyrrell says ” There are large areas of rich, cultivable lands west of the Nelson, and though wheat is not grown, simply because it would be of no value, all varieties of vegetables are produced in the gardens of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s posts, and proved hardy. Large stretches of prairie also occur, and I have stood on the banks of the Burntwood River and gazed on just such rich stretches as might have been seen on the Saskatchewan and Assiniboine, land that will be good for agricultural purposes and excellent for stock-raising some time, though now it is practically inaccessible.
” All this country is but a continuation of the Red River Valley. It is all the deposit of a great lake, of which Lake Winnipeg is the sunken representative, which stretches from a short distance east of the Red River to the Pembina Mountains on the west, and from Grand Forks on the south to a point farther north than was reached this trip.” It goes without saying that fish and game abound in all this virgin country.
From the foregoing it will be apparent that this whole section has been fitted by the hand of a beneficent Creator for a place and destiny in association with mankind more worthy than that of a fur preserve for wandering Indians. These vast areas and vaster wealth must in the progress of this new century reveal themselves, like the treasures of Aladdin, to those who learn their secrets and dare to discover them. In the meantime it seems almost like a crime against this great country, and against the vast homeless multitudes of more crowded lands, to keep such opportunities beyond their reach. Creesylvania is good for a population of at least two millions.