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Red River Settlement and the Toronto Board of Trade

Manitoba Pageant, Autumn 1964, Volume 10, Number 1

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.

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From The Nor'Wester, 28 March 1860:

At the annual meeting of the Toronto Board of Trade, on the 26th January, The Nor'Wester and the Red River trade formed subjects of remark. We give the following report from a Toronto journal, only observing that the letter addressed to Mr. Vickers was from Mr. Donald Gunn:

Mr. Vickers wished to call the attention of the Board to a newspaper which he had just received from Fort Garry, Red River Territory, published by two gentlemen who had recently left Toronto for that purpose. (The Nor'Wester was left on the table and was scrutinized with much pleasure by the member of the Board). Mr. Vickers read the following letter from a resident of Red River, in answer to some questions he had addressed to him:

"Red River, Dec. 19, 1859. (Extract)

"To John J. Vicker, Esq.,

North Western Express, Toronto.

"My Dear Sir: Your favor of the 27th September came to hand by the November Mail; and I embrace this, the earliest opportunity of answering your letter to the best of my ability.

Your desire of gaining information regarding this country, or the feelings and wishes of the inhabitants of this colony as to the route from Lake Superior to Red River, is not only reasonable but laudable; and I can assure you that no apology is necessary for addressing me on that subject, as I am as desirous of seeing the route opened up as you can possibly be to carry goods on it.

"You ask the feelings of the people of Red River as to the opening of the route via Fort William. I would simply say that the difficulties into which the Transit Company's affairs have got by the unfortunate misunderstanding which has taken place between the stock-holders in that Company, has almost destroyed all our fond expectations of every-thing like a speeding opening of that most desirable route; so much, indeed, does this feeling prevail among all classes here, that our importers are even now endeavoring to establish agencies from the Atlantic to St. Paul's as a matter of necessity, but certainly not of choice; however, I feel justified in saying, that were the roads made so that all sorts of goods could be conveyed over them easily and expeditiously to the Lake of the Woods, and a good storehouse built at the N.W. angle of that Lake, the people of this Settlement would gladly take their goods by that route, and even take the goods from the store-house at Lake of the Woods in winter; as the road from the Lake of the Woods in winter is much better than it is at present in summer.

"I have read your letter to a number of my friends, and they are all of the same opinion as myself on the points which I have stated here. Wishing most sincerely that the Transit Company may lay their beckerings to one side, and apply their united talents and means to the great work which they have undertaken, and that the road may be made soon, and that you may get abundance of goods to carry thereon, I remain, &c."

Mr. Howland, M.P.P. said that the members of the Board were agreed that the Red River Territory was soon going to be of vast importance to Canada and to Toronto. The whole trade of the North-west country ought to be secured, and not be allowed to pass away beyond our reach. His own ideas correspond precisely with those suggested in the letter, that a depot should be formed for goods at the Lake of the Woods, and the people would certainly prefer going there rather than to St. Paul's for supplies. As to the difficulties which had existed among the members of the North-west Company, he believed they were terminated, and they were now prepared to give their undivided exertions to the carrying out of the enterprise. He thought the whole mercantile community should give their influence to the cause.

Mr. Vickers said he had written to his friend to Red River, and told him that if either he or any other persons chose to order dry goods from Toronto, he would forward them to the Settlement.

The subject then dropped.

We may be permitted to add that, in the meantime, the Toronto merchants take a very poor method of manifesting their interest in this region. They are anxious to have the Red River trade; but do little or nothing to secure it. They are eager to establish intimate intercourse; but particularly careful that it shall cost them nothing. In this regard, our advertising columns exhibit a striking difference between the Torontonians and the enterprising traders of St. Paul. The latter make themselves known, and incur sacrifices to promote ultimate advantages. Our Toronto friends are profuse with good professions, and trust to the chapter of accidents for the result. There are, however, some honourable exceptions.

Page revised: 18 July 2009

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