Memorable Trip to Fort St. Charles

by George Florence
Winnipeg, Manitoba

Manitoba Pageant, Volume 16, Number 3, Spring 1971

This article was published originally in Manitoba Pageant by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make this online version available as a free, public service. As an historical document, the article may contain language and views that are no longer in common use and may be culturally sensitive in nature.

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George Florence, Lion's Manor Winnipeg, put the following observations together after reading of the Society's trip to Fort St. Charles, 19 June 1970, thirty-three years to the very day after he and his friends made the trip as guests of the Minnesota Historical Society.

In the spring of 1937, Harold C. Knox, a teacher of Canadian History at Daniel McIntyre Collegiate, Winnipeg, and secretary of the Manitoba Historical Society, received a communication from the Minnesota Historical Society announcing a joint conference with the North Dakota Historical Society, in celebration of two historic events of local significance - the twenty-fifth anniversary of the rediscovery of the site of La Verendrye's Fort St. Charles, and the seventy-fifth anniversary of the placing in service of the first locomotive and train in the State of Minnesota.

Mr. Knox enlisted the cooperation of Dwight N. Ridd, a history teacher at St. John’s High School, J. M. Scurfield of Kelvin High School, Frank Fox of Ravenscourt School, and George Florence, a history teacher at Daniel McIntyre Collegiate, and they set off Friday afternoon, 18 June, in Mr. Ridd’s car, and reached the border at Emerson by night-fall and spent the night there. On Saturday they drove to Roseau, Minnesota, in time for luncheon and the afternoon addresses.

This was followed by participation in the Great Northern Railway's contribution to the occasion, the arrival and inspection of the locomotive, William Crookes, and one passenger car, which had made the first trip on the line seventy-five years before. The highlight of the gathering for the Winnipeg visitors was, however, the steamboat voyage from Warroad to Fort St. Charles, and souvenirs of the occasion are the snapshots accompanying this article.

All the members of the party had a knowledge of the area they were visiting. The required reading for college matriculation at the time in both Manitoba and Ontario was Clement's "History of Canada," the first Canadian History for schools, as distinguished from local colonial histories. This book was written in 1897 in honour of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee and adopted as a textbook in 1898 from Nova Scotia to British Columbia. On page 136 it described La Verendrye's "Opening of the Route to the West."

All the members of the party also has some extension of this general knowledge, for each had taught entrance to high school or matriculation classes from Duncan's "Story of the Canadian People," authorized in 1910 in Ontario, Manitoba, and British Columbia. In this history, paragraph 100 deals with La Verendrye, and the concluding sentence reads: "The ambition of the elder Verendrye to win his way through to the Western Seas was not realized, but yet his perseverance in the face of great difficulties had opened channels of trade running to the heart of the great West."

Page revised: 16 January 2019