Selkirk’s 75th Anniversary
by Elsie McKay
Manitoba Pageant, September 1957, Volume 3, Number 1
The town of Selkirk might well be called Manitoba’s inland port, for it is the headquarters for all dredging of waterways in western Canada and the North West Territories and has the only dry dock in the province. In addition, it is still the centre of a large fishing industry.
Years ago, it was the logical stopping-place for north or south-bound travellers (when waterways were highways), because of its location half-way between the mouth of the Red River and the forks of the Assiniboine and Red Rivers.
As early as 1738, La Verendrye built his fort six leagues from the mouth of the Red River, and in 1767, two fur-traders of the French regime, Forrest Oakes and Charles Boyer, erected a small trading-post three miles north of Selkirk at Dynevor.
After the amalgamation of the Hudson’s Bay and North West companies in 1821, many of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s servants were given grants of land and settled on the banks of the Red River between Kildonan and Lower Fort Garry. Well-educated and hardy men, they built many fine homes along the river years before Winnipeg and Selkirk were incorporated.
When the Canadian Pacific Railway was seeking a suitable location for their telegraph line and railroad, the post office was at Mapleton, one of the three points under survey for the railway crossing of the Red River. In May, 1875, the first message went over the wire from George Black’s Store, where the Rolling Mills are now located. Soon afterwards, the commodious home of Chief Factor William Joseph Christie was leased as a telegraph office.
Among the many great citizens of the early days who resided or frequented this area were: Chief Factor Alexander Christie, the genius who designed the architectural marvel that we know as Lower Fort Garry; Peter Fidler, who surveyed the King’s Highway, now Eveline Street; William Robinson, who masterminded a million dollar shipping, fishing and lumber industry before and after the town’s incorporation; Captain Roderick Smith, mate on the Northcote in the Riel Rebellion of 1885, who with Canadian John McDonald as helper, spent four hours under withering fire while cutting the cable strung by the rebels in an attempt to get ammunition off the boat. (These were the only two Canadians ever to wear heavy tin armor in battle on Canadian soil in the west); Archdeacon William Cochrane, the builder of churches; Duncan McRae, John Clouston, Samuel Taylor, stone-masons at Lower Fort Garry; Murdoch McLennan, well-known trader and traveller; Captain Gilbert Spence Hackland, first seven-sea captain to sail Lake Winnipeg waters, who later retired to Oak Point; Captain William Hughes, lighthouse keeper and many others. These have left us a heritage of wealth and matchless records in the fine buildings and industries they promoted.
The first fish company, the Reid-Clark Fish Company, started by D. F. Reid, a Wolseley expedition man had only one tug, the Lady Ellen.
Perhaps the most noteworthy development in recent years is the Winnipeg-Selkirk Sand Company, which is the only silica sand plant in Canada. Other major industries are the Manitoba Rolling Mill and the Manitoba Steel Foundry; ship-building and boat manufacturing; Canadian Industries Limited; farming; bakeries and dairy; and the new steam plant under construction at East Selkirk.
Page revised: 29 March 2010