Checking Out the Boundary Commission Cairns


When Andrew and I visited yantzied during spring break, I had a list of places I wanted to visit while we were there. (We did not get to all of them. Not even close.) Using the Manitoba Historical Society’s online maps, I took note of cairns to visit and marked them on my Manitoba backroads map.

And so, the day after seeing these murals, we found ourselves at the site where the March West had begun.

We were kind of frantically driving around trying to squeeze it all in, so really I was just directing Andrew to drive to where I had put indiscriminate dots on my map, without really realizing what exactly we were driving TO, until we arrived. And this is what we saw.

The cairn says:

“The earliest known photograph of the area was taken from this location, just six miles north of the 49th degree of latitude, on June 11, 1873. The 24-unit wagon train of the newly formed British North America Boundary Commission on its way west from Fort Dufferin (Emerson), charged with the responsibility of mapping the boundary line between Canada and the United States, inched its way westward across the Dead Horse Creek and up the Pembina slopes.

One year later on July 13, 1874 the North West Mounted Police, with their 274 mounted officers, a similar number of other personnel, together with 73 wagons, 114 ox-carts, and many spare horses and cattle crossed at this same location.

Other historical data regarding this site include:

-September 20, 1802 – Fort Pinancewaywining built nearby.

-July 30, 1857 – Campsite of John Palliser and his party.

-June 1, 1877 – Post Office of Alexandria established (first in the Pembina Hills).

-August 13, 1877 – Alexandria Townsite surveyed by John W. Harris.

-1880-1881 – Ebenezer Church constructed and dedicated.

-July 10, 1988 – Unveiling and dedication of Alexandria – Elam Cairn.

Boundary Trail Heritage Region – Erected in Memory of Edmund and Bessie Reichert August 2000″

This is right on the western edge of the R.M. of Stanley. I feel like the picture above depicts the creek you see in the picture on the cairn. Here is the corresponding mural:

Obviously a lot has changed since that day in 1873 but the land has not been developed or anything, so it might be interesting to walk a bit of the site of this trail. (If you have a connection to the land owner, and they are an agreeable sort, please let me know!)

If you look west, the hills roll upward (toward Mountain City?) and if you look eastward from this spot, it’s very flat.

That sign in the picture above, on the left, is for Stanley Park. (That that, Vancouver!) We drove by Stanley Park but did not stop… this time.

A short distance from the Boundary Commission cairn is the Alexandria and Elam cairn, which we also went to check out.

This is what the above cairn says:

“Alexandria and Elam Districts 1877 – 1965 To our pioneers, we offer this tribute.

Boundary Trail – crossed Dead Horse Creek, 75 mile south, used by traders, surveyors, and homesteaders. 1874 the North West Mounted Police used this route on their trek to Fort Macleod.

Alexandria Village – developed near this trail. 1877 a 270-lot townsite of 53-acres was surveyed on north half 20-2-6. The village with store, post office, and hotel served the settlers to 1887.

Alexandria Schools – 1879 District No. 73 formed. 1882 first school was built .5 mile south near trail. 1894 the second location 1 mile east 1.5 miles south. 1906-65 site, 2 miles south.

Elam Schools – 1891 District No. 684 formed on north half of Alexandria. 1892 opened first school 1 mile west 1.5 miles north. 1938-64 last Elam school 1 mile north .75 mile west.

Ebenezer Church – built by Bible Christians 1881 first site N.E. 19-2-6 near trail, west of village. 1886 moved to N.E. 26-2-7. 1896 Ebenezer replaced by Zion Methodist N.E. 27-2-7.

We give thanks to God for men and women of vision and courage who travelled to the trails, settled here and left a history of pioneering. To their memory we humbly dedicate this cairn.

Erected by the community – a reminder of the past – a challenge for the future – July 1988.”

Related posts: 

Learning About History From Murals in Morden

Fort Dufferin: The Other Mennonite Landing

Climbing Mount Nebo