Manitoba Historical Society
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Westward to Birtle, 1882
letter dated March 19th, 1931 from Mrs. Hector Porteous (nee Borrowman)

Manitoba Pageant, Winter 1979, Volume 24, Number 2

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 As an historical document, the article may contain language and views that are no longer in common use and may be culturally sensitive in nature.

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Dear Mary: In reply to your letter, I will give you our experience coming to Manitoba, as far as I can remember. I was only a youngster at the time ...

We came in May, 1882, to Birtle, or rather the prairie, as my uncle had a farm near (later) Solsgirth. No towns were there then, of course. Father took a homestead beside him - foolish of course, as Father knew nothing whatever about farming.

We came to Winnipeg by train. It seemed an endless journey, most of a week. The city was full of crowds of settlers, hunting luggage lost, mud all over like glue - lots of Old Country settlers going in all directions. In 1882, the year of the flood, the Assiniboine was a wide river. We came from Winnipeg by boat, a Mississippi steamer, flat-bottomed, two decks, huge wheels on either side. The boat was full. Mrs. Lawrence Herchmer was on board. Their home was already in Birtle, where Mr. Herchmer was the Indian agent. We were nearly a week on board, and got to know mostly everyone.

Our way up the Assiniboine was from bank to bank. The boat would run over a willow bluff, and break a paddle or two off the wheel. Then a stop for a few hours to mend it - or a stop to cut cord-wood to take us a few more miles. We had forty mounted police and horses on board. They went to Fort Ellice, and were stationed there.

The Herchmers had a farm on the banks of the Assiniboine. Mrs. Herchmer pointed this house out to us, told us to take a good look. We then travelled on an hour or so. She called "See that house?" - "Yes" - "Is it like the others I showed you?" - "Very" "The same one," she said. We came in sight of that house three or four times. The Assiniboine is not a straight river, is it?

Contributed by Marion Abra

[Note: Mrs. Hector Porteous was the daughter of Charles Webster and Catherine Borrowman. Source: Birtle history book, Birtle cemetery transcript, United Church archives marriages - Birtle]

Page revised: 20 July 2009

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