Pembina Crossing and Nelsonville

Arriving at Pembina Crossing, we found the bridge, which had been in such a dangerous state on our previous crossing, fixed. The bridge had been taken down by the municipality in which it was located and repaired by C. Troyer at their expense, and a really good job Mr. Troyer had made of it.i

Pembina Crossingii

is destined to be one of the chief towns of the Pembina Mountain district provided it get connected with one of the present line of railroad now under construction in the Northwest. We found an old pioneer settler, John Smith of the town of Emerson, located here. Mr. Smith is doing a first class general trade and keeps one of the heaviest stock of goods we had yet seen in any of the country stores we had visited west of West Lynne. The Crossing also boasts of two hotels, the Valley House kept by J. Adamson and the Pioneer’s Rest kept by W. P. Hutchinson, the pioneer hotel keeper of Emerson.iii A grist and saw mill is now in the course of construction at the Crossing. Everything points towards the general prosperity of the place in the near future. It is surrounded by one of the best agricultural districts in southern Manitoba and its beautiful scenery, pleasing to the eye, lend additional attraction towards inducing settlement in the place.

At sunrise we were once more on the road and in a short time we had reached that portion of the road situated between the two Pembinas which has been a source of disaster to more than one of the many immigrant wagons that had travelled that route this spring. It was not long before we were called upon to extricate another of our new settlers who was receiving his baptism of mud in one of the numerous sloughs which lay in this great travelled route of our leading western highway. So long as this state of affairs exists on this road, it will be a standing disgrace to the local government and the present heads of state that are running the machine. Our united efforts were not sufficient to extricate the wagon from its soft bed of mud and extra help had to be solicited from some of the farm houses close by.

At noon we arrived at Darlingford and once more enjoyed the hospitality of our old friend Alderson. After dinner we took the Nelsonville trail and about four in the afternoon we arrived at


the premier town of the Pembina Mountain settlement. Although both residents of southern Manitoba, this was to one of us our first visit to Nelsonville and it was with something more than astonishment we viewed the growth of the place. The town, we should judge, contains a population of about 500 with numerous general stores, and business offices, churches and schools, livery stables and blacksmith shops and in fact everything that goes towards the general makeup of a lively western business town. Nelsonville also boasts of a good weekly journal, the Mountaineer, which has a large circulation in the west. It is one of the best weeklies published in the province. Reform in politics, its management has been such as to commend it to the favour of all parties independent of its political tendencies. v


.Moved by Councillor Miller, seconded by Councillor Stephenson, that the Council hereby condemns the Pembina Crossing bridge and gives notice that persons crossing said bridge do so at their own responsibility. Carried

Tenders for repairing the Pembina Crossing Bridge were received from the following; Messrs. Joseph Tees, Nicholas Hughes and John Adamson, $800; Chris Troyer $1200.

A tender to repair the bridge by placing the injured bends in position and securing them with piles was received from Chris Troyer amounting to $300.

– Meeting of the Louise Council, 14 May 1881, as recorded in the Emerson International, 27 May 1881

A Young Family Scrapbook, Section IIII, Chapter 1, “Winnipeg, December 1881” also mentions Mr.Troyer:

Southern Manitoba had one other Stayner pioneer, Mr. Chris Troyer, a charter member of the Northern Light Lodge, its first Inner Guard, and its Worshipful Master in 1875 when I became a member. Born in Scotland in 1836 and a member of the Church of England, he came west in April 1879 and secured the east half of Section 30-2-9 as his farm. Mr. W. D. Ruttan took the west half of the same section the very same day. Mr. Troyer did not take up homesteading full-time immediately but instead found an excellent position as the steam engineer at the flour mill at Pembina, North Dakota, just across the border from Emerson. He later took over positions in the Emerson Lumber Yard and then with the Wilson Implement Firm in the same town. A clipping from the 1 April 1880 edition of the Emerson International recalled, “Chris Troyer, who is Thompson & Co’s machinery commissioner, may be seen from day to day in West Lynne alternatingly enchanting the attention of groups of amazed Mennonites while he mows down and heaps into bundles thousands of tons of imaginary grass and millions of bushels of possible grain with that perfect machine, the Toronto mower and reaper. Chris is a linguist and slings German as well as the vernacular.”

When he moved onto his farm next door to Ruttanville with his wife Priscillia and sons Roderick, Albert and Edgar, he also was in the implement business and served on the Louise Municipal Council. Here his engineering and construction gifts were put to good use when he became the builder of some of the first bridges in the municipality including the first over the Pembina in the vicinity of La Riviere.


. “There is no more historic place in southern Manitoba than the old crossing of the Pembina a few miles south of Manitou.”

The Manitou Mercury, 19 June 1897

The first building in what later became the Pembina Crossing townsite was a general store built in July 1879 by Mr. John E. Adamson. Three months later the Pembina Crossing Post Office was opened in these premises. Pembina Crossing suddenly became a place of some importance early in 1880 when it was envisioned as the midpoint of a railway linking Emerson and all of the settlements along the Boundary Commisssion Trail as far west as the Turtle Mountains. The Emerson and Turtle Mountain Railroad was expected to cross the Pembina Valley at this point and in April of that year a townsite was surveyed here.

The leading business men of Emerson were the principal founders of the new town although it was not long before wealthy Winnipeg citizens also obtained an interest and, finally, Mr. James Lowe, the Secretary of Agriculture in Ottawa, the last owner of the townsite. The center of business for a large area, Pembina Crossing consisted of a church, a school, a post office, two hotels, (both licensed, one with a saloon), a grist and saw mill, a butcher shop, a blacksmith shop and a general store selling everything from Sunday shoes to walking ploughs.

The first years of the 1880s were boom years for the little town. A regular column from Pembina Crossing appearing in the Emerson International newspaper described a volume of business in the town that was remarkable even for that time. The store carried the largest stock of goods west of Emerson and the huge hotel built by the town’s founder, Rev. L. O. Armstrong, boasted of having the first billiard table west of Emerson and the first organ in the district. Pembina Crossing was a lively place, especially the hotels, full of activity “with lots of singing every night” as one contemporary account states. It also had big plans and larger dreams for the future for in addition to the railroad connection, a steam boat line was planned to link Pembina Corssing with Pembina, North Dakota and with Emerson.

The boom was brief. When it became obvious that Pembina Crossing would never be able to secure a railroad connection, the little village faded away almost as quickly as it had appeared. The post office closed November 1885 and the following spring its last place of business, the Valley House Hotel, shut up shop. All that remained was St. Lukes Church of England and the Pembina Crossing School House, now in the Manitou Centennial Park.



The first hotel, in fact the first building in Emerson, was erected by William Hutcheson in 1873. He and his wife were well known for their generosity to early settlers and their names are kept in memory by old timers. Hutcheson later put up the “Pioneer’s Rest” at Pembina Crossing….. and still later he built the first sawmill in the Turtle Mountains at St. John, North Dakota, south of the boundary line. He died in Los Angeles some years ago. His wife, who lived for some years after his death, died at Churches Farry, North Dakota, in 1913.

Rough Times, page 182.





Auction Sale

70 Lots

In the best portion of this now


The Queen’s Real Estate

Exchange Sale Room

Saturday Ev’g, Sept. 10

Being that portion of the Nelson Estate adjoining the new line into Nelsonville of the Southwestern Railway


The Queen City of Southern Manitoba


is the oldest, largest and most favoured town in the far-famed Pembina Mountain country. There are now in Nelsonville one large three-run grist mill, one shingle mill, five general stores, two furniture stores, two harness shops, three hotels, five agricultural warehouses, one printing office in which is published the Mountaineer, three churches, (two brick and one frame), Government Land Office, two livery stables, two blacksmith and carriage shops, one school house, one stove and tin shop, one shoe store. Among the socieities and professional men can be found: an Orange Hall and Masonic Hall, three resident ministers, two resident doctors, one lawyer, and over fifty private residences in addition to the above.

A branch line of the Emerson & Northwestern Railway is already located to Nelsonville, and the Southwestern Railway is already bonused for $100,000, and by January 1st next will have the line completed to Nelsonville.

Nelsonville is also the County Town of North Dufferin, with the Registry Office and County Court already established.

Do not forget these

Seventy Lots

which I shall offer on

Saturday Ev’g.

Are doubtless the best value that

has yet been offered in this town.

Title Perfect- No Reserve

Liberal Credit Terms

Joseph Wolf


Manitoba Free Press, Wed. 7 Sept. 1881

Today the site of Nelsonville is marked by a cairn unveiled on Sunday afternoon, 29 June 1958. The plaque on the cairn bears the following inscription:


1877 – 1885

In 1877 Adam Nelson built a grist mill on Silver Creek marking the beginning of Nelson. 1882 saw Nelson as an incorporated town of over 1,000 people. It had a Land Titles Office and was the judicial seat for North Dufferin. A newspaper was published from 1880 to 1885. Nelson was on a regular stage coach route. The railroad bypassed Nelson in 1882 and the people gradually moved their homes and business places to other locations, the majority going to Morden. The last building was moved away in 1905. The community was later named Dunstan. In 1958 this cairn was erected in memory of the pioneers under the auspices of the Dunstan community.

Additional information concerning Nelsonville may be found in The Hills of Home, page 122 and the 1931 Re-Union of Old Timers and Ex-Students of Morden and District.


. Digression might be well made here to mention a book entitled Both Sides of Manitoba written by J.F. Galbraith under the pen name of Jeff Gee, a contraction of his initials, J.F.G. The book, a paper covered one, was evidently written for the most part prior to 1877 and was printed by the author himself in 1881 when he had established a printing plant in Nelsonville and published and edited the Nelsonville Mountaineer. … The author sent a copy to Mark Twain, (Samuel Clemens) and assured him he had not tried to copy his style and received a characteristic reply which he showed to the writer. Mark Twain wrote in part something like this: “My dear boy, don’t worry! We think in our writing we are absolutely original; but alas! If the truth must be told we are all miserable plagiarists, and unconsciously so.”

Mr. Galbraith came to Winnipeg, (then Fort Garry), in 1873 to take a position on the Free Press. He said the city had then a population of about one thousand. His farm [at Nelsonville] consisting of 320 acres, was acquired about 1875, and when he had moved there and built a house, he started a small store and did some trading with the Indians. … When the exodus from the town of Nelson took place, Mr. Galbraith moved his printing plant to Morden, and continued the publication of a newspaper there.

Re-Union of Old Timers & Ex-Students of Morden and District



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