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reached its zenith in 1902 when the population rose to 880, but the town's location on the International Boundary, along with the tariff greatly reduced its hinterland. Gretna's aspirations to greater status were briefly revived in 1906 when the town received its second railway connection to the United States.
This new railway, known as the Midland Railway, was part of the Great Northern's scheme to redirect part of the annual Canadian grain crop to Chicago instead of Winnipeg." This railway also connected Gretna to Plum Coulee, Carman, and Portage la Prairie, raising expec tations of growth in these centers. The failure of reciprocity and the decline in the prairie economy doomed many of these lines and by 1926 the Gretna line had been sold to the CPR. Shortly thereafter the track between Gretna and Plum Coulee was removed.
Fig. 19 Origin and Religion of Gretna Inhabitants 1901 & 1911
Source: Census of Canada
The first major blow to the fortunes of Gretna, however, was the large fire of 1913 which destroyed half of the town's business section. The fire broke out in the Hespeler Avenue office of Christian Pieper on April 28, 1913 and because of the high winds that day, threatened to engulf not only the entire business section, but also a substantial residential section of the town. Plagued by malfunctioning fire fighting equipment and a scarcity of water, the Gretna fire brigade was fortunate to receive aid from the towns of Neche and Altona. While the residential section and some businesses were saved, most of Main Street was razed including the Post Office, Telephone Office, Bank of Montreal, Ogilvie Elevator, C. Wahn warehouse, Coblentz warehouse, six houses and a number of smaller business establishments. 28 Many of these businesses were never replaced and some of the older proprietors retired from business altogether. For many years the comer where the Post Office had stood looked like a trash heap.
Altona, while it grew slowly, made the most solid gains during this