Day 79 – August 24 – Boissevain, MB to Brandon, MB

There was a thunderstorm with heavy rain last night in Boissevain. And a warning for potentially loonie-sized hail. We did not hear if that came true, but a lot of grain fields that are due to be harvested are now wet. We had overcast skies and cool temperatures all day today so nothing was drying very fast.

We drove through an area with quite a few jackpumps.

A few kilometers west of Boissevain John spotted an historical marker pointing to the left that said Newcomb’s Hollow. Neither of us had any idea what that was so we went to find out. We drove 2 miles south (well, we actually drove about 4 miles south and had to turn back because there had not been a sign at the two mile mark for when we had to turn east) and 1 mile east on another of Manitoba’s good gravel roads.

Newcomb’s Hollow turned out to be a very historically significant place in Manitoba (and Canadian) history.

The need arose to mark the boundary between Canada and the United States. In 1873 a Boundary Commission was jointly formed by both countries, and guided by a Metis scouting party, the group travelled along the 49th parallel on the Canadian side using the old Native Trail. It took two years to mark the border. The Canadian crew consisted of 11 officers, 128 men, 114 horses, 55 ponies, 120 oxen and 179 wagons.

On the 10th day of this grand march from Fort Dufferin, the newly formed Northwest Mounted Police reached Newcomb’s Hollow. Accounts from several diaries were posted on the information boards.

With pioneers coming westward on the Boundary Commission Trail there was need to register land and distribute it in an orderly and fair fashion. In April 1880 John A. MacDonald established the Land Titles Office at the junction of the Boundary Commission Trail and the trail from the Souris and Assiniboine Rivers leading to North Dakota. George Newcomb was appointed administrator over 2700 square miles covering a large part of present-day Southwest Manitoba and Southeast Saskatchewan. Newcomb’s two story house and land office was the social centre, often used for church services and also hosted the ‘First Agricultural Exposition’ in December 1881. By 1893 over 4,000 homesteads and 2100 pre-emptions were filed to cover an area of 1,200,000 acres of virgin prairie. This spot was once the busiest site in southwestern Manitoba.

There was a geocache hidden up on the hill near the old Land Title Office so, of course, we had to go find it.

On the way to Newcomb’s Hollow we passed the Deloraine Pioneer Cemetery and there was a geocache hidden there as well.

The cemetery is still used. They planted a lot of fir and spruce trees and the cache was hidden under one of the lovely prickly ones. I found a nice bird’s nest while on the cache hunt.

There was a guest book in a box with the lid weighted down with a couple of stones. After I signed the book I put the stones back and realized they were granite and had belonged to grave marker – and the big piece belonged to someone named John.

I had recently discovered that my mother’s foster parents, whom we knew as Grandma and Grandpa Isaac, were buried in Souris where Grandpa had been born. When I was growing up they lived in Victoria so I assumed they were buried there and had checked every cemetery to find them. When I was looking at his military records they said he was buried in Souris so I wanted to find the graves on this trip.

Souris is well known for its swinging bridge. The story of the Souris Swinging Bridge is one of resilience.  Since 1904, the swinging bridge was reinforced in 1907, 1961 and yet again in 1974. The bridge was completely rebuilt after the floods of 1976 and 2011. The new design measures 184 metres (604 feet) tip to tip and regains the title of the longest swinging pedestrian bridge in Canada!

After the bridge was destroyed in 2011 the new bridge was built to survive floodwaters so it barely moves and certainly does not swing without a lot of effort.

The old bridge would certainly have moved a lot!

The cable is so thick my hand would only wrap halfway around it.

The Souris River.

The Souris-Glenwood cemetery has 3,000 graves in it. I had no plot number so we asked a fellow mowing the grass if there was a directory. There was one in a box at the front gate that we had not noticed, but he had another in his equipment shed and looked it up for me. Turned out we drove right past them! Grandma and Grandpa were buried right behind the shed. So funny. We were so busy looking at all the graves wondering how we would ever search them all that we didn’t even notice what was right beside the truck as we drove in.

Beside my Grandma and Grandpa’s marker were markers for his parents and there was another Isaac behind and three more markers on the other side of the road – obviously a family section.

My grandpa’s parents.

Grandpa and Grandma Isaac. They raised my mom from age 9 to 17 after she and her sisters were orphaned when mom was 6.

We drove around Brandon looking at some of the big old houses and went past Display Building Number II built for the Dominion Fair. Brandon had established an agricultural exhibition in 1882 and it had become one of the foremost exhibitions in Western Canada. Since the 1913 construction, the building has been used continuously for exhibition purposes for the Provincial Exhibition of Manitoba.

The Daly House Museum had a nice little garden.

We are spending two nights in Brandon. Tomorrow we will drive eastward a short distance to Spruce Woods Provincial Park to see the sand dunes.

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