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Red River carts headed west in 1882

Bresaylor Happenings

The year was 1882 and Battleford was the capital of the North West Territories. During the summer as many as five paddle wheelers travelled the North Saskatchewan River from Edmonton to Grand Rapid, Man., moving freight and passengers. What was to become the Bresaylor settlement was not yet surveyed.

In the spring of 1882 a group of farmers (Bremners, Sayers, Taylors and others) had sold their land in Headingly, Man., which was part of the Red River Settlement, now Winnipeg. There were many settlers coming to that area at the time so it would have been an easy time to sell out at a reasonable price. These people were descendants of the fur trade era, mostly a mixture of Scottish and Cree, who had themselves or their ancestors at one time worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company.

As soon as there was enough grass on the road for travel and animals (May 13), the group loaded up Red River carts and headed west. Each family would have probably loaded a stove, a heater, a plow and other farming implements, tools, cooking supplies, dishes and cutlery, clothes and possibly some furniture. They probably brought a keg of salt pork, flour, maybe pemmican, seed grain, a crate with a couple of chickens and another one with a pig or two. They would also have brought rifles and lots of shot for shooting wild game along the trail. Some families herded as many as 40 head of cattle with them and some sheep.

The Red River carts would have been arranged the way the freighters did, with usually a horse on the front cart to set the pace. Oxen were on the carts following with the oxen tied to the corner of the cart ahead. The tracks were then spread out instead of getting bogged down in one deep rut. Two people would then move as many as 13 carts, one person driving or leading the horse on the front cart and another person looking after the other carts. This also kept oxen from heading to the nearest slough if flies were bad, as oxen were sometimes prone to do.

The group travelled about 10 miles per day. They followed the Carlton Trail west then branched off to the Battleford Trail and proceeded west of Battleford. The Bresaylor area looked like good land, no rocks and fairly flat with the proximity of the Battle and North Saskatchewan Rivers for water and logs for building material. Also, it was the beginning of August, which didn’t leave much time for putting up hay and buildings for the winter.

Each family settled on separate quarters of land. They must have paced out the quarters roughly themselves from Thunderchild Reserve, which was just east of Delmas, and surveyed. For, when the land was surveyed a few years later, they were pretty much each on their own quarter. One person did goof up as he found his house was on the road allowance and he had to move it 15 feet.

Other families came out the following year and by the end of 1883 there were 600 people living in the Bresaylor settlement.

Check out the Bresaylor Heritage Museum Facebook page for more information. The museum is open by appointment only from June 9 to Aug.31. Please phone306-895-4813.