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Chapter 6: Pre-historic and Early Historic Settlements

6.3: Lower Fort Garry and Long Lots on the Red River Plain

The Red River 1 flows northeastward across the flat Red River Plain eventually emptying into Lake Winnipeg. Interrupting the flatness of the plain are several gravel pits 2 cut into a glacially deposited ridge almost buried by Lake Agassiz sediments.

On the northwest bank of the river is Lower Fort Garry 3 built during the period 1831-1839 “at the foot of the St. Andrews Rapids [just off the photo to the south] to replace the original Fort Garry, which was abandoned as a result of flooding in the spring of 1826. The new location eliminated the need for heavily laden York boats to portage the St. Andrews Rapids. Although in 1835 the original Fort Garry was rebuilt, Lower Fort Garry remained an important entrepôt centre because of its favourable location. It became the head of schooner traffic on Lake Winnipeg, and a large farm was developed at the fort…. The Hudson’s Bay Company used the fort as a trading port until 1911 from which time the Motor Country Club of Winnipeg leased it. In 1951, it was declared a National Historic Park[i] and since then the buildings have been restored. As can be seen on the photo and on the map (figure 6.3a) the fort was square with round turrets at each corner. Captions on the map show that the fort was “of some importance during the Riel Resistance.”

Most of agricultural Manitoba was surveyed by the DLS system that results in a series of uniform squares. However, “in 1812 a small agricultural settlement was established by Lord Selkirk on the site of the present Winnipeg…. The settlement pattern…was derived from the “rang” or river lot system of Quebec. The lots were established facing the river with their long axes running as nearly as possible at right angles to the riverfront. The majority had a twelve-chain frontage (1 chain=66 feet=20 m) and extended 2 mi (3 km) in depth. In addition, “hay privileges” on more poorly drained lands beyond the natural levees were granted to each settler, thereby extending the lots an additional two miles in depth.” This system is used along both the Red River and the Assiniboine River as far west as Portage la Prairie as well as in other smaller areas—along the Seine near Lorrette and Ste. Anne, and at St. Malo. “When the Hudson Bay Company lands were transferred to the Dominion of Canada in 1870, the river-lots varied from one chain to over half a mile in width because of both subdivision and consolidation.”[ii] This pattern of long lots is well illustrated on both sides of the Red River although in the west—west of PTH 9A 4—consolidation has occurred resulting in wider strips 5.

Two roads (4 and 6) roughly parallel the Red River. The river-lots result in a linear settlement pattern 7 particularly on the east side of the Red. In addition to the roads are two railway lines: in the west is the Canadian Pacific Line 8 which subsequently runs along the west side of Lake Winnipeg; and in the east is the Canadian National 9 line which runs to Pine Falls on the Winnipeg River. Finally, in the south is the northern end of the Red River Floodway 10 with a drop structure 11 where water runs into the Red. At this date there is only a small trickle of water in the floodway 12.

Figure 6.3: Lower Fort Garry and Long Lots on the Red River Plain

Figure 6.3: Lower Fort Garry and Long Lots on the Red River Plain

Figure 6.3

Vertical air photograph: A20410-35

Flight height: 11,000 feet a.s.l.; lens focal length: 152.44 mm

Date: May 20, 1968

Scale: 1:29,000 (approx.)

Location of Lower Fort Garry: 50º 07', 96º 55' W

Map sheets: 1:250,000 62I Selkirk

1:50,000 62I/2 Selkirk

Figure 6.3a Lower Fort Garry

Plate 80 Warkentin and Ruggles op. cit p 197.


[i] Farley A. L. ed.. Trans-Canada Field Excursion Guide Book. Vancouver: University of British Columbia, Department of Geography. 1972, 74.

[ii] Farley, A. L. op. cit. 1972, 74.

Figure 6.3.a: Plan of Lower Fort Garry

Figure 6.3.a: Plan of Lower Fort Garry