Route and Settlement described, 1857, 1860

Transcript: The Daily Globe (Friday, 27 February 1857), 2.

“The Red River Settlement.”

(To the Editor of the Globe)

Sir:— In the Colonist of the 13th instant, there appeared a short note of enquiry relative to the Red River Settlement and the means of reaching it. Permit me to give “C.V.V.” some light on the subject, for really he seems to need it sadly. When a person gravely enquires, at this time of day, where the Red River Settlement is, we can scarcely think him serious, and we feel disposed to decline replying; however, as “C.V.C.” has coupled several important practical questions with that, and as he probably represents a large class in our community, I cheerfully answer him.

Mr. “C.V.C.” will please set a map of North America before him as he follows my sketch. About the middle of the continent he will find lake Winnipeg — which is, by the way, about 300 miles in length. He will observe that the Red River flows into the southern end of this lake. It takes its rise near the source of the Mississippi, and runs due north throughout its course. He will observe, further, that a river running in a north-easterly direction, joins the Red River at some distance south of Lake Winnipeg. This river is styled the Assiniboine, and joins the Red River 40 miles from its mouth. The Settlement is much like the French settlements of Lower Canada — it extends along the banks of the river; and, on this account, although its population does not much exceed 10,000, its length is considerable, being about forty or fifty miles. Its southern [sic: northern] extremity is twenty miles north of the junction of the two rivers, and it therefore extends about 50 miles south of said junction, running on both the rivers. The place where the two rivers meet, usually called the Coblenz — suitably so, if it be true that this is a mere corruption of the word confluence, and was given to the good old classic place in Rhenish Prussia, owing to the junction there of the Rhine and the Mosella. It is impossible to imagine a more beautiful site for the town than this selfsame Coblenz. The ground between the two rivers at the place of junction, is high and level, and clear of woods. The right or east bank of the Red River is in general covered with forests — oak, pine, poplar, &c.; while the left or west bank is mostly bare. An extensive prairie of 20 or 30 miles extends inwards from this left bank. The soil is excellent, as has been stated again and again — yielding in general, with little or no manure, thirty-fold. Wheat, barley, oats, pease, potatoes, and Indian corn are grown in abundance, and could be grown in a ten-fold greater abundance were there a sufficient market. It is saddening to think that the energies of the settlers should be cramped and paralyzed by the existing state of things, but such is the fact.

Such, then, is a coup d’œil view of this interesting little colony. I will only add, as this is likely to become the centre point of the grand colonization scheme which is contemplated, that it is connected by means of water communication with a very large portion of the country. The Red River and the Assiniboine connect it with the south and west, as well as with the north by running into Lake Winnipeg, which, again, is connected with Hudson’s Bay by Nelson River, and with the great North West towards the Rocky Mountains by means of the Saskatchewan. Lake Winnipeg is, however, connected with Lake Superior. And when we remember that the Red River and the Mississippi require but a very short canal or railroad to bring them together, I think we must be struck with the happy seleotion [sic: situation] (as far, at least, as water communication is concerned) of the place which is destined to become the headquarters of a great Province.

As to the means of getting to this settlement, a few words will suffice. “C.V.C.” desires to be told this in plain common-sense English, without any of the ponderous erudite explanations and technicalities which have of late appeared in the Globe and Colonist. He has an awful horror of learned [“]charter discussions and boundary-line quibbling,” and wants a plain answer to the question — “How can we reach the Red River Settlement?” Here it is. There are two routes — the one by land, the other by water. The water route leads you by the Saut [sic: Sault] St. Mary’s to Fort William at the north west extremity of Lake Superior. Thence you have water communication — interrupted occasionally by portages — to Fort Alexander in the south east corner of Lake Winnipeg. Once there you have of course simply to ascend the Red River. At Fort William you exchange the steamboat for the birch-rind canoe, which can accommodate twelve or fifteen persons comfortably. It is with such canoes as this that Sir George Simpson makes his princely visit to the Red River settlement year by year. In describing the land-route, I will suppose “C.V.C.” setting out from Toronto (which he evidently intends doing shortly.) He would go by railway continuously to Galena in Illinois State, touching en passant, at Hamilton, London, Detroit, and Chicago. From Galena he would ride up the Mississippi, by steamboat, to St. Paul’s. Thence he would go by carriage to St. Anthony’s, nine miles further up the river. The “St. Anthony’s Falls” prevent the steamer from doing this part of the journey. At St. Anthony’s, he again takes steamboat and has another ride of 60 miles to a place called Sauk Rapids. Here the water part of his journey ceases, and he enters upon the romantic and pleasant prairie-travelling, which is done on horseback. The distance from Sauk Rapids to the settlement is about 400 miles, and is usually gone over in eight or ten days. After leaving Sauk Rapids, “C.V.C.” will still meets with houses and farms for 50 miles or more. A little village called Crow Wing is the remotest outpost — the last vestige of civilisation on the American frontier. Thence my friend passes into the prairie proper — into a vast and rich territory, beautiful in its scenery as it is simple in its resources. “S.” said it took him 32 days to reach St. Paul’s from Red River. That may be so, but “D” is quite right when he says that “now the journey from Red River to Quebec can be accomplished in half the time.” But let us accompany “C.V.C.” On he rides, on, ever on. Sunrise sees him gallantly sweeping on like “a good knight and true, of times chivaric.” At mid-day he pauses for two or three hours to let his pony rest and feed, and off again! One [sic: On] while galloping o’er hill and dale in some beautiful prairie – anon, he is passing through some dense forest — some classic grove — in all its native grandeur and majesty. And now he issues forth from grove and forest — once more he is ‘mid grassy meads and undulating plains. A wolf hovers in the distance, inviting pursuit; “C.V.C.” sees to his pistols and onward he dashes. The wolf had just said in his lonely pride — “I am monarch of all I survey” but up comes “C.V.C.” and lays him low. Nor is this all. The discharged pistol had since been charged, when lo! a bear, shaggy and grim! Pursuit again full tilt. The scene is acted over and with equal success of course. Nor all even yet. The fox comes out — and mayhap a herd of buffaloes, the veritable bison Americanus!

But, Mr. Editor, I must crave your indulgence for the length to which I have spun my theme. I can assure Mr. “C.V.C.” that my picture is no fancied one, as I speak from experience. The existing, romantic adventures of the journey from St. Paul’s to the Red River Settlement are sufficient of themselves to repay a visit to that settlement. One acquainted with geology and botany, and who has some skill in drawing landscape scenes, &c., would enjoy it all the more, as well as turn it to greater profit.

Yours respectfully,


Toronto, February 17th, 1857.


to fort garryLink to text of article, Nor’-Wester (14 February 1860), 4, column 1, column 2.


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