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CHAPTER TfVELVE

PIONEER

STORIES

JAMES HENDERSON 1879

A blustery north-west wind was blowing across the Red River late one afternoon during the last week in March 1876 when my family got off the emigrant train, the first to enter Manitoba, at Emerson. There wasn't a building in sight, so we crossed and proceeded down the river for two miles to the government sheds and there we had to remain for a week until our belongings arrived. We bought a yoke of oxen and acart and with our supplies headed for my brother's place at Nelsonville, a distance of fifty miles. During the first day's journey we waded for fifteen miles through water three to six inches deep. It seemed such a long day and not very warm. My teeth chattered until we disembarked on a dry ridge that evening. Two and one half days were to pass before we reached our destination.

I stayed there for three years and then with my brother Robert headed west for La Riviere, known as Wakopa. I stayed here while my brother went by the Commission Trail to Deloraine. I took up the first homestead that was taken in 1 - 16, section 32, and my brother the second, 2 - 16, section 6.

As winter was approaching I decided that a dug-out would be the quickest and the warmest shelter. I must have constructed it too hurriedly as all I did the first part of that winter was eat ban­ nocks and freeze. I just couldn't see the sense of living that way until spring arrived, so I packed a couple of cooked prairie chickens and bannocks in a tin, bid my first neighbour, Arnold Smith, adieu and with my oxen and cart, headed back to Nelsonville. My brother, who had planned to come back with me had been asked by land hunters to take them to Deloraine Land Office and there he stayed that winter doing some logging.

The night preceding the day I arrived at Nelsonville a severe blizzard broke over the prairies. I realized long before morning that I would freeze to death if I remained in my little tent. Pulling it down and tossing it into the Red River cart I hitched up the oxen who were as close to freezing as I was. They had become stiff with the cold and were badly caked w-ith snow. It was most difficult to get them going. We travelled for about six miles until the oxen· had warmed up a bit. I stopped in a depression and while they ate what dead grass showed above the snow I had the last of the chicken. It was late that evening before I could lie down on a Warm

bed. .

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