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The Post Office

Manitoba Pageant, April 1963, Volume 8, Number 3

This article was published originally in Manitoba Pageant by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make it available here as a free, public service.

Please direct inquiries to webmaster@mhs.mb.ca.

An editorial from The Nor'Wester, January 28, 1860:

The indications of progress in this settlement are various and unmistakable. We desire ourselves on this occasion to confine our-selves to one - the post office; and to lay before our readers some facts which may prove both interesting and instructive. Our mails are much larger than they used to be besides being more frequent. And when we say "used to be" we must define it as applying only to the period since 1850; for anterior to that there was properly speaking no post office. The decade which has just closed witnessed the establishment of this valuable institution, and the introduction of almost every other important change which marks our onward career. Previous to 1850, and even for some years since we had but two mails a year. The outgoing mails were in August and December, the former by York Factory and Hudson Bay, the latter by Lac La Pluie and Fort William. The incoming mails were in June and October and the former came by the "governor's canoe" from Sault Ste. Marie, the latter by the company's boats from York Factory. We have used the term "mails", but it is too important and dignified to be fairly applicable to the in-significant parcels of one or two dozen letters. The Hudson's Bay Company were almost the sole dealers in post office matter. The few outsiders who received or sent out letters had to avail themselves of the "company's express". These matters went on the first forty years of our existence as a settlement. We were kept in blissful ignorance of all that happened abroad until about eight months after the actual occurrence. Our easygoing and self-satisfied gentry received their yearly fyles of newspapers about a twelvemonth after the date of the last publication and read them with avidity, patiently wading through the whole in a manner which did no violence to chronology. Wars were undertaken and completed - protocolling was at an end and peace signed long before we could hear that a musket had been shouldered or cannon fired.

But these times at length passed away. To meet a want which was generally felt the post office was organized in the autumn of 1853 and a mail carrier was engaged to convey the mail to and from Crow Wing. Minnesota progressed so much since 1853 that the authorities there soon found it necessary to extend their mail operations to Pembina, thereby relieving us of a great burden, as we had thence-forward only to send our mails to that post. The first post master was the late Mr. James Sinclair who was killed two or three years ago at the Cascades, of the Columbia River, under painful circumstances. The present post master is Mr. James Ross, between the two were Messrs. W. Ross, W. Drever, and J. Stewart. The post office is entirely self-sustaining and even contributes something to the public treasury. During the year 1853-4, there were only a few dozens of letters and papers. In 1855, a monthly average was 150 papers and 40 letters coming in, and about 90 letters going out. In 1856, 280 papers and 120 letters were the incoming monthly average, and 200 letters sent out. In 1857, there were 360 papers and 150 letters coming in, and 230 letters going out. Though numerous papers came in, not a solitary journal found its way out. This was a peculiarity of the Red River post office, and to be accounted for by the fact that at that time there was no newspaper published in the whole of this vast region or country.

The year 1858 witnessed a new arrangement in the postal arrangements of the country. In that year, the Canadian Government authorized the conveyance of mails to and from the settlement via Fort William. Since that time therefore, and up to the beginning of the present winter we have had two lines of mail communications - one through American and one through British territory. The former has hitherto on the whole given great satisfaction, and we doubt not that the latter will also give satisfaction after some more experience of the route and its requirements. In June 1859, the two lines together brought in 713 papers, 400 letters besides a number of magazines and reviews. The last mail which arrived on the evening of the 19th instant brought in 1880 newspapers and 210 letters. This is the largest number of papers ever brought by a single mail. The number of letters is smaller than by previous mails, and there will of course be a fluctuation. Our mails are only monthly. We may, it is true, send to Pembina twice a month, but as there is but a monthly mail from there the arrangement is unsatisfactory. Let us have a genuine fortnightly mail. There was one from July 1858 to July 1859; why was it given up?

The outgoing mail on the 28th ultimo conveyed 350 letters and a large number of newspapers. As that was the first instance of newspapers being sent abroad from this settlement, it will mark an important era in the history of the Red River Post Office.

Page revised: 1 July 2009

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