Lang’s Valley and the Tiger Hills

The North American Indians, like other races, have many notions peculiarly their own that surprize a stranger to their customs. This mode of burial with the coffin elevated some seven or eight feet above the ground is quite common to the Sioux and other Indians of the plains and is witnessed time and time again by all travellers in the west. It was with great interest that our companion listened for a while to a short talk on the customs of the Indians hereabouts. No doubt, this solitary grave on the Mountain, with the manners and customs of the Indians, has since formed the theme for many a conversation between our companion and his friends around their firesides in the old land.

Returning to camp, we prepared for a fresh start and, accompanied by Mr. Gauvreau, we soon arrived at the Land Office. Here our companion signified his intent of becoming a settler in the Northwest. With a critical eye he had surveyed the manners and customs of the country and was impressed with the fertility of the soil. His opinions were formed from close personal observations and, as he himself expressed it, there were here, in this “Great Northwest”, homes and an easy competence for thousands who, in the crowded countries of Europe, toil hourly and from day to day for what will barely keep their families from starvation. When he returned to Ireland his Irish neighbours would hear from him what fine homes they could make for themselves in the west. With the faith and confidence he now had in the country, he would use all the influence he could exert to persuade his countrymen to join him when he returned in the spring to actually become a settler in this great Dominion of ours.

The agent, Mr. Newcombe, then received the homestead and pre-emption entry from my companion who, after paying an entry fee of $10, received a receipt. With Mr. Newcombe’s kind consent, Mr. Gauvreau, his assistant, was given permission to accompany us to Millford on the Assiniboine. It was the Irish delegate’s desire, while on this inspection tour, to secure as much information as possible about the land we were travelling through. Mr. Gauvreau would be able to give us a good deal more information, which could be shared by my Irish friend with those who had sent him out.

After bidding adieu to Mr. Newcombe, a drive of two hours once more brought us to Whitewater Lake and the hospitable shelter of Tregent and Beck’s store. After camping for the night, an early start was made, and it was only necessary to follow the Boiler Trail for about four miles before we struck off north over a trail laid out the previous year by Mr. Newcombe.i Owing to our being the first travellers over the route this year, the trail was very indistinct, but our right bearings having been taken, little difficulty was experienced in keeping the right direction.

Some thirty miles was travelled over a beautiful rolling prairie entirely destitute of timber, without any sign of settlement and with nothing to disturb the solitude and freedom of life of the animals and birds so numerous on the prairie. It would have been a sportsman’s paradise with prairie chickens and ducks to no end and large flocks of wild geese peacefully feeding on the prairie grass near some pond holes. An occasional deer disturbed from its domain would go bounding across the prairie. A stop was made close to a small lake while we camped for dinner.ii After finishing our repast, a drive of ten miles brought us to what is known as

Lang’s Valley.iii

This is a beautiful valley connected by a small stream with Pelican Lake. In some respects it resembles the valley of the Pembina, though not so large. It is well wooded with a thick growth of poplar mixed with a little oak. The scenery is grand. The land on the south of the valley can not be surpassed for richness of soil and the number of sturdy pioneers already settled there show that it has been appreciated to a very great extent. The valley and small river running through it take their name from Mr. Lang. Originally from Ottawa, he was one of the first settlers attracted to this district’s beauty and fertility.

After a short stay at the residence of Mr. Lang, (his house is built in the rich bottom lands of the valley), we had to cross the stream at a rather bad ford because the bridge had been swept away in the spring flood. Ascending the valley on the north side, we found the land not nearly so good. Although well wooded with small groves of poplar here and there it was also more stony and swampy. Yet here too there was an abundance of prairie chickens. As we proceeded the land became very hilly with numerous small lakes. This district is known as the

Tiger Hills.iv

It is well timbered but the land is far inferior to the Turtle Mountains district and that immediately to the south of Lang’s Valley. It is inclined to be alkali and although the trail from Lang’s Valley is well beaten by the numerous settlers travelling from there to Millford, it is a very bad road and extreme difficulty was experienced in crossing some of the alkali swamps. However, this was but a narrow strip and a journey of nine miles brought us to another district, the outskirts of the settlement of the Assiniboine.

i

. Our author would have been more exact had he stated that this trail had been improved rather than “laid out” the previous year by Mr. Newcombe. Because the trail to the northeast was the principal route for settlers coming in from the junction of the Souris and Assiniboine Rivers, one of Mr. Newcombe’s first tasks was to upgrade this trail to the Assiniboine River.

Like the Commission Trail, this route, no doubt, was originally one of the principal north-south trails followed for centuries by the native people. Later it was one of the main routes between the various fur-trading forts and posts located near the junction of the Souris and Assiniboine Rivers and the Turtle Mountain Country.

A variety of names are associated with this trail. Some maps refer to this route as the Yellow Quill Trail, for example the Economic Atlas of Canada, which shows it linking with the southern branch of the Saskatchewan Trail west of Portage La Prairie and continuing on down into North Dakota. By Section Township and Range notes it as Bang’s Trail, a reference to the fact that it also led to Bang’s lime kiln located at the point of the Souris on the extreme southwest corner of SW 9-6-18w. (This name appears on one of the original township survey maps of 3-20 published in January 1881.) The maps drawn by Mr. Wm. Moncur for the 1956 Deloraine community history Beckoning Hills calls it the Mandan Trail and notes that it linked the Turtle Mountain district with Fort Brandon.

ii

. The original township survey maps compiled in 1880 and 1881 show little of this trail. However, a re-survey of Township 4-19 done in 1889 shows the route of this trail across the entire township and names it “Trail to Turtle Mountains & Millford”. In this township northwest of Ninga, the trail passes between two lakes.

iii

. Striking to the northeast from Township 2-11W south west of Whitewater Lake, this trail angles to the northeast to the vicinity of the present location of Margaret, 2-5-18w, on Highway 23 in Riverside Municipality. Lang’s Valley was some five miles beyond this in Township 6-18W.

Among the first settlers of this district were members of the Lang family, including James Lang who arrived here in June 1880. He was a son of Rev. James Lang, (a noted Presbyterian minister in Ottawa), and the grandson of Capt. John Lang, a veteran of the War of 1812. Eventually, members of the Lang family owned most of the north side of the valley. In the second half of the 1880s, a post office was established in the district on 2-6-18w and given the name Langvale. See page 75, Place Names of Manitoba.

Although none of the original township survey maps of this area show the exact location of this trail, it is possible that it passed through the homestead of C.M.D. Land on the NE 4-6-18, the section in which the Souris River makes a sharp bend from the east to the north.

The little stream today known as Lang’s Creek, has a long and significant history. On H.Y. Hind’s Topographical map of the Assiniboine and Saskatchewan River Country, 1859, this stream bears the name of Back Fat Creek in keeping with the collective name for all the Lakes in the district, the Back Fat Lakes.

In ancient times, Lang’s Creek was a mighty rushing torrent carry water from the glacial lakes at the face of the last glacier into the Pembina River via Pelican Lake. As such, it was the link between the Souris River and the Pembina.

iv

. There are several opinions as to the origin of the name of the Tiger Hills. Penny Ham’s Place Names of Manitoba states:

Early settlers gave this name to the hills and with the passing of time the origin of the name has become hazy. One version suggests that the settlers named the hills thus because of the striped effect the autumn frosts gave to the foliage. Another version claims the hills reminded a man of the jungles he had visited in India. Lyn Harrington suggests that the name might have originated with the bright orange tiger lilies that grow in the area, but says that Upham claims that the name came from aboriginal names which referred to the cougar or panther. (Manitoba Roundabout).

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