An Indian Village*

19th-Century Trip to Manitoba
Portage Travel
Guest Writer Mary FitzGibbon

“The American Indian is of the soil, whether it be the region of forests, plains, pueblos, or mesas. He fits into the landscape, for the hand that fashioned the continent also fashioned the man for his surroundings.” ~Luther Standing Bear

Toward noon we turned westward into Clearwater Bay, and were soon at the landing. How changed from the night when we landed here nearly a year and a half before! Then it was only a forest traversed by a narrow path; now the scene is crowded with a log storehouse and well-used roads, several shanties, piles of nitroglycerin cans, a barge waiting the arrival of the tug, swarms of boats and canoes, and groups of navvies [“navigators”: road or rail construction crew] standing round the storehouse, whence we hear the twang of a rudely played, but not unmusical, violin: Indians and squaws, beside their wigwams, complete the picture. Continue reading

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Portage*

19th-Century Trip to Manitoba
Canoe and Tugboat Travel
Guest Writer Mary FitzGibbon

“Autumn burned brightly, a running flame through the mountains, a torch flung to the trees.” ~Faith Baldwin

August 27 dawned sultry and oppressive, but having decided to leave Inver for a long-promised visit to Ostersund on that day, and feeling that if I did not get the parting with the children over at once I should never succeed in going away at all, I determined to carry out my intention, though by doing so I was obliged to forego the pleasure of visiting Kalmar, which I much regretted. Continue reading

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On the Shores of Lake Deception*

19th-Century Trip to Manitoba
Frontier Days
Guest Writer Mary FitzGibbon

“As a camel bears labor, heat, hunger, and thirst, through deserts of sand, and faints not, so the fortitude of a man sustains him through all perils.” ~John Ruskin

A few weeks after the fire, the C—s had another loss, in the sudden death of two cows. No cause could be assigned for it, unless there might have been poison in the wild hay they ate, put there by the Indians to kill the foxes. The difficulty of supplying their place on the line in the spring made the loss considerable, especially with children in the house, and no fresh meat. Continue reading

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Roughing It in the Shanty*

19th-Century Trip to Manitoba
Frontier Days
Guest Writer Mary FitzGibbon

“Endurance is nobler than strength; and patience, than beauty.” ~John Ruskin

We had plenty of strange visitors; almost every day men passing along the line came in, either to inquire the distance to the next shanty, or to ask for a meal or drink of milk. Some showed a friendly disposition, and would entertain us with their full family history. Others, with many professions of gratitude for our kindness, would eat enough to last them a week, one would suppose, and go on their way. Others, more taciturn and independent, took their refreshment in silence, and offered to pay for what they received. Continue reading

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Compulsory Temperance (or Prohibition)*

19th-Century Trip to Manitoba
Frontier Days
Guest Writer Mary FitzGibbon

“The days may not be so bright and balmy—yet the quiet and melancholy that linger around them is fraught with glory. Over everything connected with autumn there lingers some golden spell—some unseen influence that penetrates the soul with its mysterious power.” ~Northern Advocate

The chimneys in Mr C—’s house were built of mud, and one of them, which smoked whenever a fire was lighted, had to be pulled down and rebuilt. The workmen, of various nationalities—Carrière an Indian, old Cahill an Irishman, a Scotchman, and a Mennonite, who thumped the mud mortar with a dogged perseverance that was quite amusing—were all engaged on this chimney. Continue reading

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The Indian Mail Carrier*

19th-Century Trip to Manitoba
Frontier Days
Guest Writer Mary FitzGibbon

“Life is like playing a violin solo in public and learning the instrument as one goes along.” ~Samuel Butler

A detailed account of how we spent the next few weeks would be of little interest, so I will give it only in outline. We slept in the house and took our meals at the fort, Carrière doing the cooking under a low tent close by, which, as a kitchen, was decidedly a curiosity. It occupied a small space not ten feet square, in only five feet of which we could stand upright, and contained cases of tinned fruits, vegetables, sauces, and meats, barrels of flour and meal, caddies of tea and coffee, a small sheet-iron cookstove, all the pots, pans, pasteboards, and all other culinary necessaries. Continue reading

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Lake of the Woods*

19th-Century Trip to Manitoba
Overland
Guest Writer Mary FitzGibbon

“It is wonderful how well watered this country is…. Generally, you may go any direction in a canoe, by making frequent but not very long portages.” ~Henry David Thoreau

The “Nor’west Angle” is a little village at the northwest corner of the Lake of the Woods, and at the mouth of a nameless river, or narrow arm of the lake. The banks on one side are high and wooded, on the other high also, but completely bare of shrubs or trees, while between them the river wanders hither and thither through marshy ground, looking somewhat as one fancies the fens [marshes] at home must do. Continue reading

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