The Canadian Prairie Province – Manufactures, Labour, Trade And Markets

THERE are several steam flour mills in the neighbour-hood of Winnipeg, and within its limits, one woollen factory, three saw mills, and two sash and planing factories. The most extensive of the lumber establishments are those of Messrs. McCaulay & Jarvis, which were at work day and night and capable of turning out 50,000 feet in the twenty-four hours. This firm has two mills the saw-mill supplied with logs floated down the Red River many a mile. Two circular saws are in constant operation here, driven by a Waterous engine of fifty horse-power. Near the saw mill is the sash, shingle, and picket factory, driven by a Minneapolis engine of fifty horse power. The yards are piled high with cut lumber of all dimensions, and there will be no scarcity of building material. The fires are fed entirely with saw-dust, carried, as it falls, to the furnaces by an endless chain. The mill and factory give employment to nearly one hundred men ; the pay is from $3 to $150 a day. The produce sells in the mill yards at the rates given in the price list copied below. The raw material used is brought a long way on rafts, and is mostly from Minnesota forests, but some of it comes, by the Roseau and Red rivers, from the Lake of the Woods region. The greater part of these pine lands is owned or controlled by an American company with whom McCauley & Jarvis have made arrangements, under which, they assert, that they can for ten years yet hold a monopoly of this most profitable business. Logs of clear stuff cost them about $12 per M. feet. It was late in the season of 1875 before a supply of logs could be got in, but by dint of employing a large force and running the saws night and day, the mills succeeded in turning out the astonishing quantity of 3,340,000 feet of lumber during the summer, The running expenses of the concern averaged about $1,500 weekly. During the winter the firm’s lumbermen were getting out five million feet of logs, of which one-fifth would be from the region of South-east Manitoba, the remainder from Minnesota.

There seems ample room for investment in manufactures of furniture, which is imported from the States, Ohio especially. When, too, we see the boats and scows of the Kittson line of steamers, which has, by recent arrangement, swallowed the ” Merchants’ line,” their late rivals, and so again practically monopolized the carrying trade, loaded down with wares and products, carried often two thousand miles before reaching their destination, we feel convinced that capitalists will find in this growing city and rapidly filling Province, most profitable means of investment in manufactures of many kinds. The “Kittson line,” or Red River Transportation Company, has for stock-holders Hudson’s Bay officials and St. Paul merchants. They have been accustomed to charge such freights as that one trip at high water repaid to the Company the whole cost of the vessel. Until railway communication comes to its relief, the Red River region will thus be held like the cow in the story, the adventurers of England at one end, Kittson, Sibley & Co. at the other, and the restive creature will be milked between them.


It is not to be wondered at that our wide awake neighbours comment on the growing importance of the Northwest trade, with interest scarcely less than our own. To illustrate this we refer to a late issue of the St. Paul Press, which, after giving certain details from the customs returns, continues thus :

” We have frequently had occasion to refer to the magnitude of trade between Manitoba and Minnesota, of which ample evidence is afforded by the statistics of navigation of the Red River of the North. The goods represented by these sums were transported on Minnesota railroads and on Minnesota steamers to their place of destination, as were also nearly all immigrants to Manitoba, besides the products of that country seeking market here and abroad, and also travellers therefrom. The aggregate, therefore, of benefit derived by Minnesota from inter-course with Manitoba cannot easily be estimated.”

More recent reports of the customs of the port of Winnipeg for the year ending June 30, 1875, show that the total imports at that port for the year amounted to $1,243,-309, of which the United States, principally Minnesota, furnished $781,323, and Great Britain, $457,449. The amount of duties collected at Winnipeg for the same period was $172,600. In addition to the goods which yielded these duties, Manitoba merchants also imported from Ontario and Quebec, during the fiscal year, goods on which duty had been paid to the amount of $180,000. During last season a party with outfit goods and provisions, in charge of Mr. O. E. Hughes, of Kew, Stobart & Co., Winnipeg, went with boats by Lake Winnipeg, to open direct trade between Winnipeg and the Far West.

We since learn that Mr. Hughes has succeeded in establishing a trading post at Cross Lake, one hundred miles north-west of Norway House, and about five hundred miles from Winnipeg, where he is doing a large and in-creasing business.

Mr. J. J. Healy, an extensive trader of the Bow and Belly Rivers region, the last stronghold of the buffalo, visited Winnipeg in the autumn of 1875 for the purpose of opening direct trade. He sent 2,500 buffalo robes that season to Montreal in bond, via Benton and the United States railroads, and stated that 100,000 robes were exported from the Bow River country in 1874.

There is an immense business done in his region by traders mostly Americans. Mr. Healy estimated it at one million of dollars annually. The natural outlet for this is through the Red River valley.

Other extensive traders are making arrangements to bring their furs from this region to the Winnipeg market. We learn from a late number of the Free Press, ” that the competition will, it is likely, be unusually sharp, as some large Montreal and Toronto buyers, who have never been here, contemplate coming this year. The stock of goods held by the merchants for this particular trade will not be less than before, and is likely to be increased by the addition of at least one more dealer who has bought heavily for this trade. Few have any idea of the vastness of this interest and the amount of money expended here for furs ; but some idea may be had from the fact that the entries of fur exports at this port alone amounted for the year ending June, 1875, to $588,958, a respectable offset to our imports of about $2,000,000 in the case of a new country.”

As to workingmen’s wages—Mr. H. Linton, superintendent of roads, has twenty men under him ; the best get $2 a day, and so down to $1.70 ; man and team get $5 a day. Living is so dear, he considers $2 here not better than $1.50 in Toronto. Common board and lodging cost $5 a week. Domestic service is also well paid for, at $10 to $16 per month in private families, and still more in the hotels.

There is a good demand for money, which can be in-vested, on excellent real estate security, at 12 per cent. per annum. More enterprising capitalists will find ample scope in the timber regions surrounding the Roseau and Winnipeg Rivers and Lake of the Woods. This lake discharges its waters by the Winnipeg River, which will afford numerous and ample water powers ; the vertical descent from lake to lake being three hundred feet.

The Indians and traders now look to Winnipeg and the Hudson’s Bay forts for their market and supplies. Let companies of agriculturists and traders occupy convenient positions in the interior, and they will find ample demand for all their flour and like produce, receiving furs in exchange, and thus the difficulty raised, as to the expense of shipment, will be obviated. Lands of some thousands of half-breeds will soon be in the market at low figures, as many of this class will not settle down, the lands reserved at present for them must he thrown open. We only thus glance at this land question as one of interest, and refer to the means that far-seeing and energetic persons with some capital and united effort are beginning to use, at once to increase their fortunes and open up the vast resources of these fertile plains.

The carrying trade of the city from the States and Provinces to the south and east is in the hands of the company mentioned, who have steamers and many scows which they tug; but we learn that three or more steamers are being constructed by private enterprise for the Red River grain trade and will be launched soon. The ” Kitt-. son Line ” managers are alert and determined to hold to their monopoly, and will therefore probably buy up these vessels as they have those of other rivals.

Dr. Schultz has a small steamer that plies in the rivers. For internal trade and navigation a good steamer was in 1875 put on Lake Winnipeg. Lakes Manitoba. and Winnipegosis will also be navigated by vessels of light draught. The steamers Colville and Northcote will continue to ply on Lake Winnipeg and the Saskatchewan. The extent of the water system immediately available is marvellous. Some obstructions in the Red River, between Winnipeg and the lake, impede navigation when the water is low, but can. be removed at trifling expense, and we will then hear, as a common occurrence, of steamers floating from above Edmonton down the Saskatchewan to the northern end of Lake Winnipeg, which they will enter at a distance of 300 miles from the mouth of Red River, then coasting by the Icelandic and other settlements along the lake shores, entering the Red River laden with grain and all other produce of the farm, with salt, coal, kerosene and various minerals from the teeming Nor’-West, and with fish from the lakes, passing the bridges of the great Canada Pacific Railway, reaching the Lower and Upper Fort, and so on to the American Northern Pacific Railroad at Fargo ; or the course may-be turned westerly after passing Fort Garry. The Assiniboine may, and will no doubt ultimately, be opened to the Pembina mountains and Souris valley regions, a distance of 250 miles to the west.

If the proposed canal be constructed, the water of Lake Manitoba will be raised and made more serviceable for trading purposes than it now is, and a further extensive and valuable water stretch, through that lake and Winnepegosis, will be made available.

While Winnipeg will probably retain the pre-eminence, many another town will spring up along the course of stream and lake and add to or take from the cargo as the vessels pass.


In addition to the cultivation of grain, referred to elsewhere, the farmer will find Manitoba unsurpassed as a grazing country. Horses, cattle and sheep flourish and increase abundantly. Excellent horses and graded bulls were long since introduced. High stepping steeds and fat cattle may be seen on all sides, and are held at high figures. Sheep were introduced forty years ago, and are not subject to the rot and other diseases of warmer climates. Mr. Thos. Spence says in his pamphlet on Manitoba (page 30) : ” Beyond all question, wool would be the best crop to raise for some time to come, for exportation, as the freight on two hundred dollars worth of wool will not be worth more than on five dollars worth of wheat


Many are starting orchards and have satisfactory success with the plum and such smaller fruit, which is indigenous ; with the apple only partial success is yet reported, as stated elsewhere. No special inducement to plant forest trees, such as has been tried in some of the prairie States, has yet been offered to settlers, a reasonable supply of timber for the pur poses of settlement having been so far found available in Manitoba.

The Minister of the Interior has, however, announced that a scheme to induce the planting of prairie land with trees will be immediately adopted, and cuttings of trees suited to the country furnished to settlers at cost through the Government land agencies. It is to be hoped that this will be generally taken advantage of, and that an amelioration of the climate will so result, as has been the case most markedly in formerly exposed lands in the Western States after being so protected by wind-breaks.. Our Government will, to a great extent, in encouraging this culture, follow the example set in the United States. The law there provides that the settlers may

1. Enter public land up to the extent of 160 acres for timber culture.

2. He must break and plant one-quarter of the land entered.

3. One-fourth of this area must be planted within two years, one-fourth more within three years, and the remaining half within four years from the date of entry.

4. The trees must be not less than twelve feet apart each way, and must be kept in a healthy and growing state for eight years next succeeding the date of entry ; and on the above conditions being fulfilled, the person will be entitled to a patent.

The State of Minnesota has also passed a law to encourage this industry.

From an essay lately published by the Hon. L. B. Hodges, Superintendent of tree planting on the St. Paul and Pacific Line of Railway, it is ascertained that in Minnesota alone, up to the middle of January last, the enormous area of 170,307 acres had been entered under the Acts encouraging tree planting ; and that the success attending the operations so far had satisfactorily proved. that this new industry, if prudently and patiently followed up, is even a surer source of wealth than wheat growing, and without the additional expense and anxiety connected with the latter.

Surveyor-General Dennis, in lately laying a scheme for encouraging forest culture before the Minister of the Interior, quotes from the above mentioned essay, thus :

Mr. Hodges asserts that in Minnesota forest trees properly cared for, at an expense in all not exceeding five cents per tree, have been known to turn out one cord of wood per tree within sixteen years from the planting. He mentions instances of cottonwood, in Minnesota, of seventeen years’ growth, from fifty to sixty feet in height and sixty to eighty inches in circumference.

The most desirable varieties for propagation, as proved in Minnesota, are the white willow, the cottonwood, Lombardy poplar, box elder and balm of Gilead. Of these, the cottonwood is the most valuable, being very hardy and of wonderfully rapid growth.

To the various trees for culture mentioned above, should be added, says the worthy Surveyor-General, the following varieties indigenous to the Province, that is to say : the poplar, aspen, ash-leaved maple and elm, the rapid growth of which, under ordinary circumstances, proves that they would abundantly repay for cultivation.

Mr. Hodges asserts as undoubted facts :

1. That, at a trifling expense, the stockyard and buildings on the bleakest prairie homestead may be surrounded within five years by a belt of trees, forming a wind-break, affording an effectual protection.

2. That a grove of trees can be grown as surely as a crop of corn, and with far less expense in proportion to its value.

3. That ten acres properly planted to timber, and properly cultivated, will, in five years, supply fuel in abundance for a family, and also fencing for a farm of one hundred acres.

4. That apparently worthless prairie lands can, by the planting and cultivation of timber thereon, be sold for $100 per acre within twenty years.

5. That the net profits of lands properly planted and cultivated with trees will, within ten years, realize at the rate of ten to one as compared with the profits attending the raising of wheat.

Other propositions, even more forcible than those above, are put forth in the essay mentioned, and the author states his ability to prove all he alleges.

It is hoped that Manitoba settlers will follow the ex-ample set them in Minnesota.


The valuable region north of the Red River has yet to be fully made known. That it will be found replete with mineral and other wealth there is no doubt. Hon. Dr. Schultz, in moving, in the House of Commons, on 22nd March, 1876, for Returns of imports and exports through posts on Hudson and James Bays, speaks of the present and possible trade of that country as follows—(Page 773, Hansard Reports) :—” There is in these bays themselves and on their shores the possibility of a great trade for Canada. From very credible sources he (Dr. Schultz) learned that at Paint-Hills and on Paint Islands, in James Bay, there is a vein of magnetic iron ore, which, when examined by a practical English miner in 1865, was pronounced to be one of the largest and most valuable veins of that mineral in existence. Graphite or plumbago, in a very pure state, is also found at the same place. Galena is very abundant along the east coast, and a quantity sent to England was found, when assayed, to contain 80 per cent. of lead and 8 per cent. of silver. Coal is also said to exist near the Little Whale River, and the Esquimaux report iron mines on the mainland near Hudson’s Straits. All this mineral wealth is especially valuable because found on the shores and near the excellent harbours of these bays. There is also a very large fishing interest in these regions. Immense numbers of white porpoise or arctic whales annually visit the Hudson’s and James Bays, where they enter the rivers, and could in these rivers, as well as on the shores of the Bay be profit-ably fished. The Hudson’s Bay Company, who carried on business in two of these rivers, captured 7,749 of these fish, which yielded 768 tons of oil, worth upwards of £27,000 stg. in the London market. Porpoise skins are also a valuable article of trade, a very superior sort of leather being made from them. On the islands of the bay, seals are to be found in great numbers, as well as the walrus and the polar bear. Salmon are abundant in the rivers, which drain the range known as the South Belchers, and cod fish are also found about Hudson’s Strait.”

Game and fish are abundant in the Province, and of great variety. The valuable resources of Lakes Winnipeg and Manitoba will soon be developed by the hardy men from Northern Europe and Iceland who have selected their shores as their homes. Saline springs, producing salt of excellent quality, are common near Lake Manitoba and elsewhere, and will be of much value, in a country in which the curing of meat will soon be an extensive and lucrative business. The prairie will for many years continue to be the home of feathered and other game in great variety. We refer our readers to what has been, in other parts of this narrative, stated as to the productiveness of the farther West and of the region north and east of the present limits of Manitoba.

The immigrant is advised to come to Manitoba early in the summer season, not later than in June, though much of the land is locked up at present in reserves for Indians, half-breeds, railway construction, and for particular nationalities or companies whose agents have obtained the right of selection of large adjacent tracts on condition of speedy settlement, yet no one who desires to settle as a farmer will find difficulty, for years to come, in obtaining his farm of 160 acres. These reserves are shown on our map. An office charge of 810 and three years’ actual residence, cultivation and improvement of a reasonable part will be required, and then will be obtained a deed in fee. A quarter section near by will, meantime, if he so desire, be reserved with right to purchase at Government upset price now one dollar an acre. The planting of land successfully with trees will probably soon be considered equal to actual occupation for the purpose of securing a homestead, as stated, but the deed will not issue till six years expire from the time of locating. To buy the necessary outfit of a farmer, put up a log house and stable, and lay in provisions till the home supply may be expected to come in sufficiently, will require a sum variously estimated at from six hundred to one thousand dollars.