Monday, September 10, 2007


Mary Agnes FitzGibbon
Mary Agnes FitzGibbon

First impressions, as we all know, are important. Below are some first impressions of early Pembina/St. Vincent by travelers (not of the fur trade or military); the one thing they have in common is their attention to a particular feature that stood out like a sore thumb:

The frontier post, Pembina, is well known as the spot beyond which in 1869 the rebel Louis Riel, the "Little Napoleon" of Red River, would not allow Mr. McDougall, the "lieutenant-governor of Manitoba," appointed by the Canadian administration, to pass. Here we had a visit from the custom-house officers. They were good specimens of their different countries. The Canadian was a round, fat, jolly, handsome, fair man; the Yankee was tall, slight, and black-eyed, with a cadaverous look, increased by his close-fitting mackintosh and cowl. They did not give us any trouble, and I felt sorry for their lonely life, and the pounds of mud they had to carry with them everywhere.
Such mud! There is no wharf or planking of any kind, and all freight and baggage is landed on (or into) the muddy bank. Barrels rolled through it became unrecognizable, and were doubled in weight before they reached their warehouse. Men worked on bare feet, with trousers rolled to their knees, and the slippery, swashy look of everything was horrible. An Indian (not of the Fenimore Cooper type) leant against an old cooking-stove stranded on the bank, and an old squaw squatted on a heap of dirty straw, watching with lack-lustre eyes the disembarkation. A mile or two above Pembina is the American fort, with its trim barracks, fortifications, mounted guns, sentries, and some military life about it. Near it is the house built by Captain Cameron, when out with the expeditionary force in 1867...
From A Trip to Manitoba by Mary Agnes FitzGibbon