The White Mud River and the Lake District

That evening, after consulting with our host, Mr. McKibbon, we determined to leave the trail and strike towards Pelican Lake, where he said we would find a most beautiful tract of country.i Accordingly the next morning we resumed our journey in a different direction, accompanied by Mr. McKibbon. Three miles from the crossing or ford we arrived at Long River, (or as it is named on the maps, the White Mud River), and were introduced to the pioneer settler, Mr. Turnbull.ii He is a very well informed man about the district and country he is living in and at the solicitation of Mr. McKibbon, gladly consented to accompany us for a day.

While descending the valley by a very steep trail, and catching the first glimpse of the river, we were very much astonished to find it spanned by a good substantial bridge with regular graded approaches. Upon inquiry we learned that the bridge was built by the private enterprize of Messrs. Turnbull and Weaver. If anyone should be complimented for their spirit and energy in undertaking a work of such public character, these men should be. This bridge itself must have cost, by a close estimation, the full sum of $300.

At this point, the south side of the valley of the Long River is thickly wooded by poplar. From the north side, some nice views of this beautiful, picturesque little valley can be obtained. Mr. Heath, the gentleman we passed at the Pembina Crossing in charge of a party of English settlers, has his residence snugly located in one of the most beautiful spots in the valley.iii Mr. Heath’s party will indeed be hard to suit if they do not at once take up with this place and make their future homes on the lovely banks of Long River. Ascending the hill on the north side, which is not so steep, we are once more on a level prairie thickly covered with small groves of poplar. Here, although the land is of the finest quality, there are but one or two settlers’ houses to be seen. Indeed, the whole country for miles around is vacant and waiting only for the sturdy arm of the settler to guide the plow to make the prairie yield up untold treasures from the cultivation of the soil.

Travelling on, we skirted the groves of trees, (of a variety of types), and occasionally crossed some bright clear little brooks until we came to the lakes which are connected together by the Pembina River. At one time we picked up a fine elk horn, a single branch and at another place startled a beautiful spotted deer from its solitary repose. Mr. Turnbull guided us to a point where a most beautiful view could be got of the lakes. At our feet lay Lorne Lake; stretching far to the north and west Pelican Lake could be seen and in the opposite direction, to the south and east, Louise Lake was plainly visible and beyond, a distant glimpse of Rock Lake. Altogether it was a most beautiful scene, and one well appreciated by our party. Indeed, in the whole northwest we do not think finer scenery could be found than is to be seen around this group of beautiful lakes.

Camping for dinner, we released our horses for a time, and after finishing our repast, we walked to several different points on the hills surrounding the lake. A large quantity of oak timber grows on the shores of the lakes on either side and although the land is also of the finest quality, yet there was not a settler within miles. Returning to camp our horses were once more harnessed up and their heads turned south to return to the Badger. Arriving back at Long River, we bid adieu to our obliging companion, Mr. Turnbull, and just as the sun was setting in the west, crossed the ford at the Badger and were again the recipients of the hospitality of our friend, Mr. McKibbon.

The next day was Sunday, but early in the morning we were making our way at a good speed along the great trail west. Sixteen miles from Badger Creek, we came to a small sheet of water known as Pancake Lake.iv It is situated in a country that is broken, rough and very stony. On the shores of Pancake Lake we found the two small shanties placed here by L. O. Armstrong, Esq. at the expense of the Dominion Government. One of them was almost completely knocked to pieces by some mischievously disposed persons but the other was still in a good state and must have been a regular haven of rest for many weary travellers crossing the bleak, dreary stretch of prairie lying between Badger Creek and the Turtle Mountains during the severe winter of the past season.

After a short rest, we proceeded on and soon we beheld a good view of the Turtle Mountains. As we got closer, we gradually realized that what appeared here and there in the distance as many little white spots were actually the homes of the settlers on the mountain. It is not possible to praise too highly the fine agricultural district of the Turtle Mountain. It contains, within its many acres of fertile land, in addition to its woods and fine water, all that is required to make it the home for thousands. Here at no distant day, will one of the cities …. so rapid in the west spring into line and earn for itself a name and reputation second to none in the province.

It was about two o’clock in the afternoon when we arrived at our destination for the day, Mr. La Riviere’s.v

i

. From the original site of Cartwright, (or Waugh Town as referred to by the author of these Jottings), in Township 2-14E, this side trip was some nine or ten miles to the northwest through Township 2-15 and 2-16. They likely passed close to the former location of Louise on the CNR line between Neelin and Holmfield. The lookout point above Lorne Lake from which they were also able to see Pelican Lake, Louise Lake and Rock Lake was likely about 6 miles north of Holmfield, (a mile south of the junction of 240 with 253), and a mile west.

ii

. Mr. John Turnbull was a pioneer settler on the w 1/2 36-2-15w; Wm. H. Weaver homesteaded the east half of the same section on 6 June 1881. On the original homestead maps of Township 2-15w, one finds that the Heaths are associated with the next two sections west of Messrs. Turnbull and Weaver. Mrs. Elizabeth Heath purchased the south half of section 35 on 11 June 1889 and her husband, F.R. Heath, homesteaded the se 34-2-15w on 20 June 1881.

Mr. John Turnbull was also associated with the organization of the first municipality in this district, Derby, in October 1883 and also served that same year as the secretary of the first Cartwright fair.

iii

. Mr. Heath was, in the words of the Emerson International, 3 June 1880, a member of the “First English Party…. induced through the efforts of L.O. Armstrong to immigrate to southern Manitoba”. He homesteaded at Long River on 34-2-15w, 5 miles northwest of the Commission Trail ford through Badger Creek, on 20 June 1880.

Mrs. P.A. Watt’s History of the Cartwright School District found in Memories along the Badger, 1885 – 1960, published in 1960, recalls Mr. Heath in these lines:

The last time I saw Mr. Heath he was riding a beautiful sorrel pony and was dressed as though about to take part in an English hunt, (minus the red coat). His coat and cap were matching tweed, well-tailored whipcord breeches and shiny brown leggings, shoes and gloves. Everything was just right – even to the riding crop tucked at a jaunty angle under his arm.

Mr. Heath later moved to Boissevain where he was widely known as “Squire” Heath and a prominent member of the Methodist church.

iv

. (35). PANCAKE LAKE 6-2-16w, Turtle Mountain Mun. Local legend credits a pioneer resident, Harry Coulter, with christening this lake as he sat on its shores enjoying his evening meal cooked over a fire of wild willow scrub. Early in 1880 the federal government placed four portable shelters here for the convenience of travellers along this particularly open stretch of the Trail.

v

. (36). WAKOPA 29-1-18w, Turtle Mountain Municipality. In 1873 the Boundary Commission established their TURTLE MOUNTAIN DEPOT at the Long River ford. Its pioneer settler was Mr. Bernard B. La Riviere, who purchased the depot and its remaining supplies in 1874 from Major D.R. Cameron, Boundary Commissioner, and established a trading post and farm. By 1880, LA RIVIERES was one of the best known stopping places along the Trail with Mr. La Riviere also being the proprietor of the townsite of WAKOPADOSA. The present name came into use in 1881 with the establishment of a post office. STANLEY CITY, a rival townsite, was laid out on an adjoining quarter by its proprietor, Rev. Armstrong.

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