The Canadian Prairie Province – Geographical Position Of Manitoba

THE Province of Manitoba was established on the 23rd of June, 1870, by order of the then Governor-General, Lord Lisgar, in Council, under authority of the Act of the Dominion Parliament passed 12th May, 1870. It lies in the middle of the North American continent, nearly equally distant from the Pole and Equator, and Atlantic and Pacific. Its southern boundary is the northern limit of Minnesota and Dakota, being the parallel of forty-nine degrees north latitude, along which it extends from the ninety-sixth to the ninety-ninth degree of West longitude. In shape a parallelogram, bounded on the north by the parallel of fifty degrees thirty minutes North latitude, which runs through the southern extremities of Lakes Winnipeg and Manitoba. The Red River courses through the Province from the southern boundary till it enters Lake Winnipeg at a distance of about forty miles north of the City of Winnipeg, and about one hundred miles from the United States boundary. At the south-eastern extremity the Roseau enters, draining a rich pasture land and connecting Red River with a valuable wooded country, which is generally rich, but much of it will require draining. The Roseau Rapids will afford many excellent mill sites. They extend for a distance of about fifteen miles, through which the stream runs swiftly over a gravelly bed. The Assiniboine, rising in the western territory, winds northerly past the village and English settlement of Portage La Prairie, which has several stores and mills ; thence easterly between banks along which are many beautiful spots occupied by old half-breed families, originally from the Selkirk settlement, and by the more modern residences of later settlers. It so winds through the parishes of High Bluff, Poplar Point, Baie St. Paul, Francois Xavier, Headingly, St. Charles and St. James, till it joins the Red River at Fort Garry. Near Pigeon Lake is, as described in Mr. Shantz’s narrative, the Hudson Bay Company’s post, known as “White Horse Post,” where they carried on farming on an extensive scale, 9,870 bushels of grain having been raised in 1871 on two hundred and ninety acres of land. The Company also then maintained here about 500 head of cattle. The Province is by these rivers divided into three sections.


The first is that east of the Red River, with the fast growing town of Emerson at its south-western corner, through which the Pembina branch of the Pacific Railroad will run. Capital and enterprise are here at work. A sale of town lots was had in Winnipeg in December 1875 ; the number of lots sold was fifty-one, and the prices ran from $25 to $57, the average per lot of the entire sale being about $40. We next pass five townships reserved for French Canadians resident in the United States whom it is proposed to induce to come to Manitoba. Then we come to the Mennonite country the Rat River Reserve it is called which begins at a distance of eighteen miles from the southern boundary, in the sixth range of townships east of the river, and extends north and west across the river, there called the Pembina and Scratching River Reserves, embracing in all twenty-five townships. The Mennonites who came in 1874, with the exception of about thirty families, settled on the Rat River Reserve, and a considerable number of the arrivals of last year joined them, so that there are now upon this reserve about five hundred families. The other thirty families settled at Scratching River. The Rat River settlers broke about three thousand acres of land, and sowed the same last spring, but suffered severely from the grasshoppers. The thirty families that settled at Scratching River escaped the grasshoppers and had good crops. The Pembina Re-serve has been only recently made, and has upon it about three hundred families. The Mennonites have given the following names to their settlements, viz.: Blumenhof, Hochfeld, Blumenort, Bergthal, Schonthal, Chorlitz, Rosenthal ,Tannenan, Steinbach, Grünfeld, Schonweise, Steinrich. Four other villages are not yet named. The nearest of the above, Schonthal, is twenty-five miles ; the farthest, Steinrich, is thirty-three miles south-east from Winnipeg. Passing northerly, we cross the little River Seine, which doubtless received its name, Seine River, or German Creek, from the hardy old continental soldiers who followed Lord Selkirk to this region, and which flows past the village of Point de Chênes, north-westerly, through a rich soil, of which a large portion requires to be drained, and enters Red River below St. Boniface. Caledonia is a flourishing settlement of nearly one hundred souls, three miles north of Point de Chênes, and twenty-eight from Winnipeg, on the Dawson Road, with a good supply of growing wood for all purposes. Ten miles from this is the yet younger Millbrook settlement. The rail-way from Thunder Bay will pass through the northern half of the section of the Province in which we now are on its way to cross the Red River below Sugar Point.


The second geographical division is that west of Red River and north of the Assiniboine, through five town-ships of which the railway must also pass on its course by the Narrows of Lake Manitoba to the Saskatchewan Valley.

In the north-east corner of this, on the banks of Lake Winnipeg, is the Icelandic settlement, which includes Great Black Island.

The Icelanders, as might be expected, require to be situated on the shores of an expanse of water. Here they will be congregated in long narrow villages close to and parallel with the shore, for convenience of fishing, boating, &c., having their farming and pasture lands in the rear, which latter, respectively, it is presumed, will be held, more or less, by each community or village in common, as we learn from the Report of Surveyor-General Dennis. It is hoped that this branch of a hardy and intelligent race will do justice to the good character given them by Lord Dufferin in his interesting ” Letters from High Latitudes.” They are said, indeed, thoroughly to enjoy and appreciate the advantages afforded to them on Canadian soil, and though not so well provided at the outset as the Mennonites, are equally welcome. The first instalment was of three hundred who arrived in October, 1875, and proceeded to their locations. The shore plot assigned them consists of a double row of lots, each lot 300 feet square with a road allowance or street along in front and rear, with cross streets (between lots) connecting these at convenient distances.

Near the Lake, in the parish of St. Peter’s, now called Dynevor, is laid out the prospective town of Peguis, so called in honour of a former Chief of the Swampy Crees. South-west of this are Whitewold and Clandeboye. The central portion contains the fine and rapidly filling town-ships of Grassmere, Greenwood, Rockwood, Victoria, Woodlands and Meadow Lea. In Rockwood is Stony Mountain, ” R is,” says Professor Hind, writing in 1858, ” a limestone island of Silurian age, having escaped the denuding forces which excavated the Red River valley.” * * * ” Viewed from a distance Stony Mountain re-quires little effort to recall the time when the shallow waters of a former extension of Lake Winnipeg, washed the beach on its flank, or threw up as they gradually re-ceded, ridge after ridge, over the level floor of the lake, where now are to be found wide and beautiful prairies covered with a rich profusion of long grass.” The mountain is of some fifteen hundred acres in extent, raised by gradual ascent till its highest part is sixty feet above the plains. About one-fifth of this area is the government reserve of well-wooded land, known as Stony Mountain Park. The new Provincial Penitentiary is erected on a bluff surrounded by the park. It is of white brick, which is seen on the plain for many miles, the foundation is of native limestone, the plan and arrangements are similar to those of the Toronto Central Prison. The atmosphere is here clear and bracing on the warmest summer day. The view is extensive and varied. “From the roof,” says a recent visitor, “may be seen the city of Winnipeg looking immense in its long stretch of Main Street, and scarcely broken from the parishes of St. Boni-face, St, James and St. Charles, St, John and Kildonan, and St. Paul, as they stretch on either side in an unbroken line of dwellings along the Assiniboine and Red Rivers, while in other directions may be discovered the homesteads of Grassmere, Rockwood and Victoria, hanging out from the woodlands over the Prairie for miles ”

North-west from Portage La Prairie are the settlements of Burnside, Westbourne, Woodside, Totogan and Palestine, and some townships reserved for Danish immigrants on the borders of Lake Manitoba, Portage Creek and the stream running through swampy land a few miles east of it, called Rat Creek, are said to have sometimes at high water actually connected the Assiniboine and Lake Manitoba, which is less than fifty feet above the level of Lake Winnipeg, and twenty-six miles from the Assiniboine. Government has caused a survey to be made, for the purpose of testing the practicability of here joining these waters ; and Mr. Hermon, P.L.S., reports their relative level to be such as to admit of turning those of Lake Manitoba into the Assiniboine To regulate its depth and for the creation of water power —both objects of great importance—Mr. H. B. Smith C.E., proposes that a ship canal of seven feet in depth’ and having a breadth at bottom of 100 feet, be cut, with an average grade of six feet three inches in the mile. A darn would also be laid across Partridge Crop River, the only outlet of the Lake, to raise its surface. This would elevate the lake and river surfaces three feet. The cost of canal and locks is estimated at $878,400. At present the navigation of the Assiniboine is impossible at low water, owing to rapids at a few miles from Winnipeg, and to occasional rocky and sand shoals and large boulders ; but at high water Red River steamers have ascended as far as the Portage. The stream is winding and slow in its course, and so suffers from evaporation and absorption that its volume is larger beyond the Province limits than at its confluence with Red River. It was through the region between Lake Manitoba and Red River that the first trial survey of the Pacific Railway ran, and many too confidently invested here largely in wild lands, which have as yet brought no return to speculative purchasers, as the track is to run through the firm bottom said to exist at the ” Narrows ” of the Lake, and no sufficient demand has yet arisen to make these lands saleable. Such lands will, however, ere long find a market, as this region between Lake Manitoba and the Assiniboine River is being rapidly brought under cultivation. Some of the settlers in this neighbourhood had last year considerable crops, producing on the average twenty to twenty-five bushels per acre (after feeding the grasshoppers), for which they received highly remunerative prices : oats commanding $1 per bushel ; wheat, $1 50 to $1 75 ; barley, $1 50 to $2 ; and potatoes, 75 cents. The returns of the hired threshing machines, as we learn from a late number of the Free Press, show the entire crop of the County of Marquette to be about 40,000 bushels in 1875.

In the neighbourhood of Lake Manitoba some of the leading farmers are gathering valuable herds together, and the more enterprising of them are already reaping considerable advantage from investments made a few years ago in the importation of thorough-bred bulls. Of these, Mr. Walter Lynch was among the most prominent. Some of his sales have been remarkably good, considering the circumstances ; such as a heifer calf at $300 and eight bull calves at about an average of $150 each. He has in yard still, we believe, seven cows and six calves, all the product of one Durham bull and three cows imported in 1872.

Messrs. Shannon, Newcome, and others in this neighbourhood also have considerable herds of grade cattle.

Messrs. Hugh Grant, K. McKenzie, M.P.P., Hon. Mr. Ogiltree, Paschall Breland, of White Horse Plains Thos. Lumsden, of St. Francois Xavier ; John Taylor, M.P.P. ; W. Tait and W. B. Hall, of Headingly, and John F. Grant, of St. Charles, are also extensive farmers and breeders of horses and cattle. It may be mentioned that it was at this village of Headingly that the strange career of the so-called Lord Gordon, or Lord Glen-cairn, ended in 1874. After perpetrating enormous frauds in England and the States, and almost causing an international squabble, he was arrested here by Alexander Munro, a Toronto detective. The story entitled ” Glencairn : a Dramatic Story in Three Acts,” is told in Chambers’s Journal for November, 1875, and ends thus. Munro says :

” I told him that I had come to arrest him, and that I had a warrant. He asked if it was another case of kid-napping, and I said it was not, but everything regular, and I showed him the warrant. He said it was all right, and, just glancing at it, professed himself ready to go ; only he wished to be allowed to put on warmer clothes. He got dressed, and was all ready to go, with the exception of a Scotch cap, which he wished to get from the bedroom. I closely followed him. On entering the bed-room he laid hold of a loaded pistol, and, declaring that he would not move a step further, he put the pistol to his head. I made a rush to prevent his shooting, but it was too late. He pulled the trigger and shot himself through the head. He sank down and died almost immediately.”

The author, who is Dr. W. Chambers, in concluding this drama of real life, says :

” In none of the printed proceedings or elsewhere is there a scrap of intelligence concerning the real name or the relatives of this remarkable person. No one seems to know who or what he was, who were his parents, or where he was born. He altogether remains a mystery. It would be curious to know if any one lamented his lost opportunities of well-doing or mourned his deplorable fate.”


The third division of the Province is that west of the Red and south of the Assiniboine Rivers, having at its south-easterly extremity the villages of Dufferin and West Lynne ; near its centre, the Boyne settlement, on the River Iles de Bois, of about forty families, who have excellent grain and grass lands ; and west of these, the rolling land called the Pembina Mountains, and the river of the same name. Poplar is here the most abundant tree, though groves of oak are found. ” The soil is fertile, though not so deep or inexhaustible as that of the Red River Valley, and rests on a gravelly drift subsoil. The rain-fall of this region is probably slightly less than that of the Red River Valley, but appears to be sufficient for agricultural purposes.” (Report of Mr. G. M. Dawson to the North-west Boundary Commissioners, 1875, page 288.) It is in this region, and still more in the more western valley of the Souris River, one of the tributaries of the Assiniboine, at a distance of two hundred and fifty miles from Red River, that large deposits of lignite have been found, and it is hoped that ere long the fires of Winnipeg will be hence supplied with fuel in convenient form and at moderate cost.

A charter for a Provincial railway, the “Manitoba Southern,” to connect this south-west part of the country with the capital, has already been obtained. If the canal referred to be constructed, the carriage of this fuel will be also facilitated. In one place in the Souris Valley Mr. Dawson found the lignite seven feet three inches in thickness : ” The lignite (page 91 of the Report referred to) is continuously visible for at least two hundred feet along the face of the bank, and seems to preserve uniformity of character and thickness. It is quite black on freshly fractured surfaces, and in many places the structure of the original wood is still quite discernible.” On the opposite side of the same river valley, and elsewhere along the stream, seams of lignite of good quality are described in the same Report, which continues thus : ” The whole of these deposits, though in some places showing a dip amounting to a few degrees in one direction or other, appear to have no determinate direction of inclination, but over large areas to be as nearly as possible horizontal.” This coal region will be nearer to Red River, and probably of more convenient access, than the great beds of coal well known to exist in the Saskatchewan Valley.

The various streams that course through the Province and flow into its two main arteries have been referred to in this or in other parts of this narrative. They are in-valuable to the agriculturist and breeder of cattle. Their banks are covered with verdure, and their course may be marked by the winding lines of trees and shrubs that spring up on either side.

In dimensions, the Province measures from the United States line to its northern boundary 102 miles ; from east to west it is 120 miles. Its total area is of about 13,900 square miles, or nearly nine millions of acres. Proposals have been made for enlargement to the north and on either side, but no definite arrangement for this end has yet been agreed on.

To facilitate an understanding of the Map, we may say the lands, as surveyed, are laid off in quadrilateral town-ships containing thirty-six sections of one mile square in each, together with road allowances of one chain and fifty links in width between all townships and sections.

The townships are numbered consecutively from one to seventeen, from the southern boundary northerly. Ranges of townships, each six miles broad, are numbered east and west respectively, from the ” principal Meridian,” which will be seen on the Map to enter the Province at a distance of about ten miles west from Pembina, and thence pass up till it crosses the boundary line between the two lakes. The mode of division is simple and convenient.

The Diagram on the map shows how each township is laid out in sections, and how they are numbered.

As soon as a new settlement is formed, the neighbours gather together and choose a name, which, being communicated to the Land Office, is generally adopted as that of the township ; thus township 14, in the fourth range east, became, at the request of the Messrs. Muckle and Gunn, Clandeboye ; and another twelve miles further north, Whitewold. Millbrook is the last which has thus been christened, and is eighteen miles east from Winnipeg, in the sixth range.

There are three ,Government Land Offices, viz., at Winnipeg, Westbourne and Emerson, where all necessary in-formation, including lists of lands open for sale or settlement, may be obtained. Offices for the registration of deeds are established, and the system of land conveyance is, like that in Ontario, simple and inexpensive.

The homesteads entered in the Province till the end of 1874 numbered 2,537, of which 283 were entered ‘in 1872, 878 in 1873, and 1,376 in 1874, representing 405,920 acres. Notwithstanding the grasshopper plague of the last summer, 500 homestead entries, representing 80,000 acres, were made in Manitoba up to the end of October, 1875 ; pre-emption entries, in connection with homesteads, of 61,500 acres were made ; 5,000 acres were sold for cash, and 17,000 were disposed of under military bounty warrants. Lands which have been reserved in favour of certain companies, on condition of early settlement, are shewn on the map. Some being within others beyond the present limits of the Province.

To summarize : the settlements formed in and near the Province, and named as above since Confederation, not including those of the Mennonites, Danes and Icelanders, in each land district, with the agents’ names, are as follows:



Township 14—Range 1 W Argyle.

” 8 1 E & W Riviere Sale.

13 1 E Grassmere.

” 13 2 E Rockwood.

12 2 W Union.

” 14 2 E Victoria.

” 15 2 E Greenwood.

16 2 E Dundas.

” 9 4 E Prairie Grove.

” 10 5 E Plympton.

11 4 E Springfield.

” 11 5 E Sunnyside.

10 6 E Millbrook.

” 10 7 E Richland.

” 12 6 E Cook’s Creek.

” 17 4 E Whitewold.

14 2 W Woodlands.

” 13 2 W Meadow Lea.

” 13 3 W Poplar Heights.

” 13 4 W Ossowo.

” 16 3 & 4 W Simonet.

” 17 3 & 4 W Belcourt.

” 12 5 W Melbourne.

” 14 4 E Clandeboye,

Township 15—Range 2 W Fivehead.

” 14 1 E Brant.



Emerson P.O.


Township 1—Range 2 E Dufferin.

7 6 E Clear Spring.

” 6 4 & 5 W Boyne.

” 3 2 E Almonte.

1 3 E Hudson.

2 3 E Franklin.

1 4 E Belcher.

2 4 E Parry.

3 1 E White Haven.

” 2 2 E Marais.

3 3 E Mellwood.


A. MILLS, Agent.


Township 12—Range 8 W Burnside.

13 & 14 ” 9 W Westbourne.

13 11 W Golden Stream.

” 14 9 W Totogan.

14 10 W Woodside.

14 11 W Palestine.

15 14 W Beautiful Plain.

14 12 W Livingstone.

Mr. Donald Codd is General Agent for Dominion Lands, both in this Province and the North-West Territory.

Our Map has been carefully framed from the most recent and reliable sources. Our readers are referred to it for other geographical details in regard to the Province.

We beg here to acknowledge the kindness of Surveyor-General Dennis, who has given us much reliable information regarding land and other matters in Manitoba.