Mountain City; Darlingford; Pembina Crossing

Mountain Cityi

is situated on a fine rise of ground in the Pembina Mountain country. Stretching away far to the east on the level prairies below can be seen the numerous villages of the Mennonites with whom Mountain City does a prosperous trade. Two general stores, one tin and hardware store, a grist and saw mill, blacksmith shop, a neatly built Presbyterian church, schoolhouse, two hotels with a number of private buildings, all built within the limits of the town survey, give Mountain City, an embryo city, quite a respectable appearance. We found its inhabitants consisting for the most part of sturdy Canadian settlers, well contented with their lot and the future in store for their town.

They express great eagerness for railroad communications with the east. With them it is an absorbing topic, and no wonder, considering the heavy expense their merchants and store keepers are put to in freighting over the “slough of despond”, (as you might call it), lying between West Lynne and the Twelve Mile Village.

Next morning we bid adieu to our host, Mr. Fred Helliwell, one of the earliest pioneers of the Pembina Mountains, and now the proprietor of the British Lion Hotel in Mountain City. With expressions of good will from our old friend R. Brown, with whom we had spent a very pleasant evening the night previous, we continue our journey on through a partly wooded and fair farming country, now and again crossing a deep ravine generally called a river.ii

We pass through Alexandria almost without being aware of it.iii An anxiousness to become the owner of a town site often leads to a survey, and the locating of a city on the map, without any perceptible difference to the location itself or to the adjacent farms. This is how the appearance of Alexandria struck us. Driving on we pass Calf Mountain, a mound so called because of its peculiar shape.iv Continuing westward we came to where the trail crossed the Little Pembina, another surveyed townsite consisting of a store and hotel. We cannot congratulate friend Alderson on the present appearance of his town of


but we do sincerely congratulate himself and his estimable lady for the warm reception and good square meal with which they are at all times prepared, at the Hotel Darlingford, to receive travellers on the road.

Our horses refreshed by a good feed of oats, we proceed cautiously on the road, warned that there are bad places ahead of us, worse than any we have come We pass through several bad alkali sloughs and, still in dread of the ones before us, we meet with Mr. Landerkin of the Dominion Lands Office, Nelsonville, who to our great satisfaction reports good roads ahead and that we had already cleared the bad place.vii Our spirits rose as we thought of the endeavour of our previous informant to scare us and calling to our gay little team, we flew merrily to the

Pembina River

situated in a deep and beautiful valley about one mile in width. To the tourist travelling in Manitoba and fond of a nice bit of scenery, this beautiful valley can furnish some charming views. Slowly proceeding down the side of the valley we arrive at a level plateau. We once more stop to take in the beauty of the scene before proceeding on our way. Arriving at

Pembina Crossingviii

(the name of the townsite laid out here), we are informed by John Smith, an old resident of your sister town across the river, Emerson, and at present a thriving merchant at the Crossing, that the bridge, built by the local government in their unbounded generosity to Southern Manitoba, had about collapsed.ix

For fear of a delay we determined on pushing on at once and to take in Pembina Crossing on our return. Nearing the bridge, we found it shaped exactly like a W. Unhitching the horses from the rig, we led them over carefully and then returned for our buckboard. We were soon on the other side with everything again in readiness to proceed with our journey. However, a hail from a loaded immigrant team approaching warned us that assistance in getting the heavy wagon over would be acceptable to the new settlers, two young Englishmen, late arrivals.

Again the business of unhitching the horses and leading them across was gone through. Then the wagon was unloaded of all heavy and bulky articles and these were carried across. After this the four of us put our shoulders to the wheel and, by main strength, we forced the wagon up the steep inclines of the W bridge. After assisting our two friends to load, we bid them goodbye and proceeded to slowly climb the long, steep road up out of the valley of the Pembina. Arriving at the beautiful plain at the top of the hill we pass another party of English settlers on the road west, a hardy lot of young fellows. They were accompanied by a Mr. Heath, an English settler who had located in the vicinity of Badger Creek last year and now was their guide to that district in which they also intended to locate.

Four miles distant from Pembina Crossing we pass Ruttanville, a store and stopping place where we had intended on stopping for the night.x However, as the afternoon was yet long before us, and the roads were getting better with every mile we proceeded, we pass Ruttanville. Ten miles further on we arrive at Latimer’s about six miles from Crystal City.xi As Mr. Latimer was willing to receive travellers we concluded to visit Crystal City the next day.


. (23). MOUNTAIN CITY 24-2-6w, Stanley Municipality. In July 1877 F. T. Bradley, Collector of Customs in Emerson, had his land along the St. Joe Trail surveyed as a townsite. The first business, a general store, was opened later that year by Mr. W.C. Alderson, later of Darlingford. Since the Pembina Hills are only a gentle rise at this point, it was almost certain that any railroad from the east would pass through Mountain City. In 1882, in anticipation of the arrival of the Southern Manitoba Colonization Railroad, more than $25,000 was spent on construction.



Grand Auction Sale of

200 Lots!

in this beautifully situated town

The Gateway of the Pembina

Mountain District

The Only Outline for Three Important

Railway Lines Over the

Pembina Mountains

Sale on Thursday and Friday Evenings

the 15th and 16th Sept., at the



Beginning both evenings at 7:00 sharp

Good Speculative Investment

Mountain City is situated 45 miles west of Emerson and 9 miles north of the International Boundary Line and immediately on the Boundary Commission Trail leading from Emerson to Rock Lake, Turtle Mountain and Souris River settlements and in the heart of the great wheat-producing belt of Southern Manitoba.

There are now in Mountain City some 65 buildings, comprising one large steam grist mill and saw mill, two hotels, 2 general stores, 1 hardware store and tin shop, 1 church, (Presbyterian), and two other churches built this season, 1 large grain warehouse owned by Trail & Maulson which last season was filled with choice seed grain grown in the vicinity of Mountain City, and being sold to the farmers westward at $1.25 per bushel for seed.

Mountain City is the County Town of South Dufferin and will be a station of the Emerson North-Western R.R.

Brick clay of a superior quality is plentiful; limestone, lime and sand can be taken from the mountain range some two miles distant from the town. Taking into consideration the high and dry location situated as it is on the high table land, (the second plateau of the Pembina Mountains), and in close proximity to fifty Mennonite villages, the rich tract of farming land by which it is surrounded, together with its future railroad prospects, it has been most deservingly styled


of southwestern Manitoba.

An important fact in connection with the position of Mountain city should command the attention of every observant buyer of property in the new towns which have sprung up into existence during the past year or so:

Mountain City is fortunately located upon the Pembina Mountains that from its natural position it absolutely commands the crossing of the whole three of the railway lines which pass over to the fertile plains beyond, there being only a distance of about 2 1/2 which can be made use of for that purpose, Mountain City being in the center of that distance. Two out of three roads, namely the Canadian Pacific and the Emerson & North-Western have already made their survey into this city and there is not a question or doubt but that the Southwestern will also adopt this route, thus creating at this point the


in the province of Manitoba. Upon the face of the mountains and within two miles of the town splendid oak timber is to be had and any quantity of any other first-class building timber is easily obtainable. The site of Mountain City, apart from its business location, is one of the


commanding a grand view North, East and South-East for twenty-five miles of the most fertile and populous districts to be seen in the North-West. No less than forty Mennonite villages can be counted from the mountainside. Taking these facts, which are facts and not romances, we would say to all, buy at least one lot in this town, and it will prove unquestionably on of


it is possible for a buyer to make

The Title is Perfect!

The Sale without Reserve.

The place of the Sale is the


Sale Room

The Terms Very Liberal

The sale will be on

Thursday and Friday Ev’gs

September 15 & 16

The sale will be conducted by

Joseph Wolf


Manitoba Free Press, 15 September 1881

Frederick J. Helliwell, in addition to being the proprietor of the British Lion Temperance Hotel in Mountain City, at this time was also the owner of a stage coach line between Emerson and the Pembina Mountains. The Emerson International mentions the British Lion Temperance Hotel as already being in operation in January 1879 with Mr. W.C. Alderson as its first owner.

In addition to Charles Helliwell, Rough Times also notes an A. Helliwell as a member of the No. 6 Company of the 2nd Battalion of Quebec Rifles. Other members of the Helliwell family prominent in the history of southern Manitoba include Mr. Wm. J. Helliwell, the owner of a store in Preston, the first mail carrier between the post offices of the Rock Lake district and, in April 1880, the first returning officer for the newly established RM of Louise. In August of 1881, the International mentions a Rev. T.L. Helliwell as a resident of Lizzie Street in Emerson.


. Mr. R. Brown was the proprietor of a well known Mountain City Store. In the 22 July 1881 edition of the Southern Manitoba West Lynne times one finds the following advertisement with spelling as below:


Mountain City



Westward Bound Settlers


This store is situated on the main route to the Turtle Mountains, Souris River and the great country west, all descriptions of goods, vis. Hardware, Dry Goods, Boots and Shoes, Hats and Caps, Groceries, Earthenware and Crockery can be purchased here as cheap as at Emerson or West Lynne.

Settlers spare your teams and save the cost of freight by purchasing at


Mountain City


. (24) ALEXANDRIA 20-2-6w, Stanley Municipality. In July 1877 Alexandria became the site of the first post office west of West Lynne opened in the home of Mr. John Elliott. That same year Thomas McInrue opened a store and stopping house and in 1881 the Bible Christians, (members of an early branch of the Methodist church), completed the Ebenezer Church.

For further information concerning Alexandria, please see Volume I of the Trail Association publication Whither Thou Goest: The Life and Times of the Rev. Andrew Gordon and his wife, Ann Copp Gordon.


. (27) CALF MOUNTAIN 5-3-7w, Pembina Municipality. This ancient burial mound is the landmark most frequently mentioned in all the early records of southern Manitoba. Pioneers attributed its construction to the extinct race of Mound Builders and opened it several times during the first years of settlement in the hopes of discovering some clue as to the fate of its builders. In addition to copper from Michigan and shells from the Gulf of Mexico and Vancouver Island, more than 20 skeletons in a sitting position were uncovered.


. (28). DARLINGFORD 6-3-7w, Pembina Municipality. In July 1880 Mr. W. C. Alderson of Mountain City put up a stopping house, Hotel Darlingford, beside the ford of the Commission Trail across the Little Pembina River. The location’s original name was DARLINGTON, (Darlington City, according to a 27 January 1881 notation in the Emerson International), but soon after it was changed to Darlingford. Less than a year later EAST DARLINGFORD was laid out on an adjoining quarter.

Mr. Wm. C. Alderson was one of the earliest pioneers of the Pembina Mountain Country. The first business man to establish himself in Mountain City, in July 1879, he became the father of the first child born in that town. In appreciation, his son received the gift of a fine corner lot from the town’s godfather, Mr. Bradley.

This pioneer was a native of Darlington, Durham County, England, famous as the site of the opening of George Stephenson’s Stockton and Darlington Railroad in 1825, the line which introduced the railroad age to the western world. The name Darlington was first associated with this district in May 1879 with the establishment of the Darlington School District, Number 79. According to local tradition, Darlingford is a contraction of “Darlington ford”, a name which first came into use in January 1880 with the establishment of the Darlingford School District.

In the mid 1880s Mr. Alderson moved to Manitou where he became a clerk in the post office. In the early 1900s he retired to Winnipeg where he made his home in Fort Rouge.


. Mr. Ed. T. Caughlin, a pioneer of the Clearwater district and a traveller along the trail in the early spring of 1880, recalls in T.G. McKitrick’s 1941 Cornerstone of Empire; The Settlement of Crystal City and District in the Rock Lake Country, (page 26), “I remember coming across Township 2-8 between the Little Pembina and the Big Pembina. You did well if you made that 8 miles in one day.” In the history of the Alexander McLaren family in that same volume, page 108, Elsie McLaren, (Mrs. Jas. McGregor), writes, “This piece of road, which they called 2-8, was nearly a continuous slough for six miles and was considered a day’s travel. Very few loads went through complete; nearly everyone left a part of their load at some of the numerous sloughs.”

For additional insights into how bad this section of the Commission Trail see Pembina Manitou 100th Anniversary and Reunion, 1979, Chapter I, page 30, the recollections of Mr. James J. Dougall in May 1879.


. Mr. Henry Landerkin, the Dominion Land Agent, Nelsonville, was widely known for his amazing ability to recite chapter after chapter of the New and Old Testaments, a feat recalled by some of the pioneer authors of Cornerstone of Empire. The Land office in Nelsonville was opened in October 1878 with this gentleman in charge. Born in 1850 in Simcoe County, Ontario, he died in September 1917 at the age of 67 at Pilot Mound while visiting his nephew, Wm. Landerkin, a homesteader west of Purves in 1879. (See Echoes of the Past, page 610.) He was survived by his wife and daughter; his brother, Dr. Landerkin of Simcoe Co., parliamentary whip; and a sister in Montreal. Retired and living in Winnipeg for some years, his funeral took place in the Grace Methodist Church on Ellice Avenue. Among his pallbearers was one of his best friends, George Tweed, a former pioneer of the Rosebud district south of Crystal City and a great-great uncle of the editor of these notes.


. (29). PEMBINA CROSSING 25-2-9w, Pembina Municipality. Pembina Crossing’s first resident, John E. Adamson, established a small store a few hundred yards from the Commission Trail’s ford through the Pembina River. It soon became the Pembina Crossing Post Office and a well-known stopping house. In 1880 the land was purchased for a townsite by Rev. L. O. Armstrong, rector of St. Lukes Church of England in Emerson.

The store in which Mr. Smith was a “thriving merchant” had a long and distinguished history. When no longer used for its original purpose, it became the first Pembina Crossing School and later the original St. Lukes Pembina Crossing Church. Pictures of its exterior and interior and full particulars of its history will be found in the Boundary Commission NWMP Trail Association’s publication Thou Grand Old Church of England … in the Pembina Mountain Country.

The bridge spoken of as collapsed into the shape of a W was less than six months old. It had been constructed during the winter of 1880 – 1881 by Mr. Robert Bell, a contractor from Mountain City. Constructed in two sections, 229 feet and 115 feet, at a cost of $4,125.00, it had been officially opened on 14 March of 1881. Its builder has suggested that the design was defective but his advice to span the river in three sections resting on piles was rejected and so it had been constructed with only two. In April, while a heavily laden team was passing over the bridge, one of these sections sank 3 1/2 feet. An unsuccessful attempt was made to prop this section up but it was not long before the other span gave way as well.


. John Smith, previously of Emerson, was already in business at Pembina Crossing in October 1880 as reported in the columns of the International by the Archibald correspondent, Mr. Alex Bethune.

….. I made my way to the store of Robinson and Smith, the latter being an old friend of mine. John appears to be doing a rushing business, (thanks to the National Policy), and reports daily sales from $50 to $75. The firm is putting up a large addition to the store which they purpose using for a warehouse. The post office has been removed to the store and John will shortly sign PM. to his name. John has a host of friends up here who wish him every success.

According to “Clear Grit,” the Turtle Mountain correspondent of the Manitoba Free Press, Mr. Smith did not remain much longer at Pembina Crossing for on 8 September 1881, in the first column for the settlement of Grip Grove, he reported:

Mr. Robert Smith, of the late firm of J.H.R. Smith of Pembina Crossing, has very lately opened a fine general store here where he is prepared to meet the needs of the many settlers this side of the Pembina who have always been at the great inconvenience of having to go to Preston and Pilot Mound for all kinds of goods.

Grip Grove is situated twelve miles west of Pilot Mound on the main trail leading to Pelican Lake, Souris River and Turtle Mountain and one mile and a half north of Rock Lake … the center of one of the most beautiful tracts of farming land in the grand North West.

This district soon became known as Glenora, the name of the station and townsite in Township 3-13e later located on the CNR line linking Greenway to the north with Louise, Holmfield, Lena and Wakopa to the southwest.

In January 1890 Mr. Smith sold out his business to Mr. Robert Rollins, a pioneer merchant of Crystal City.


. (30). RUTTANVILLE 24-2-10w, Pembina Municipality. In April 1879 Mr. W. D. Ruttan built a sod shanty along the Trail which he replaced in December 1880 with a two-storey frame building, the first store and post office in the district. In 1886 it was taken apart and rebuilt on Manitou’s Main Street.


. Thomas Latimer was the pioneer homesteader of 23-2-11E half way between Crystal City and Purves. (The Huron School was later located on this section. Provincial road 423 links the Snowflake Highway, 242 to Highway 3 a mile south of Crystal City. The Commission Trail crosses 242 a mile north of its junction with 423 and reaches No. 3 at its junction with 423. The site of the Latimer homestead was a mile north of 423.) On 19 April 1880, the Latimer homestead was the location of a meeting called to organize the Rural Municipality of Louise. The attendance was more than the sod hut would hold so the meeting was conducted from the top of a snow bank at the east of the house.


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