1902 Encyclopedia > Manitoba


MANITOBA, one of the western provinces of the Dominion of Canada, is situated midway between the Atlantic and the Pacific coasts of the Dominion, about 1090 -miles due west of Quebec (see vol. iv. plate xxxv.). It is bounded on the S. by the parallel 49° N. lat., which divides it from the United States; on the W. by 101° 20' W. long; on the N. by 52° 50' N. lat.; and on the E. by the western boundary of Ontario. Manitoba formerly belonged to the HUDSON'S BAY COMPANY (q.v.), and was, after the transfer of their territory to Canada, admitted in 1870 as the fifth province of the Dominion. At that time the infant province had an area of 13,500 square miles, and some 12,000 people, chiefly Indian half-breeds. In 1881 the limits were increased to the extent indicated above, and now contain, taking the Lake of the Woods as the eastern boundary, upwards of 80,000 square miles, an area only 8782 square miles less than that of England and Scotland together, extending 264 miles from north to south and upwards of 300 from east to west. The old district of Assiniboia, the result of the efforts in colonization by the earl of Selkirk in 1811 and succeeding years, was the nucleus of the province. Manitoba was so called by the Dominion parliament after the lake of that name ; the designation is usually considered to be a com-pound of the Ojibway words, Manito, great spirit, and Waba, straits between lakes, or a word meaning echo.

The drainage of Manitoba is entirely north-eastward to Hudson's Bay. The three lakes—whose greatest lengths are 250, 150, and 130 miles respectively—are Winnipeg, Winnipegoosis, and Manitoba. They are all of a very varying and irregular shape, but average respectively 30, 18, and 10 miles in width. They are fresh, shallow, and tideless. Winnipegoosis and Manitoba at high water, in spring time, discharge their overflow through small streams into Winnipeg. The chief rivers emptying into Lake Winnipeg are the Winnipeg, the Red, and the Saskatchewan. The Assiniboine river, with its source in the province, and navigable from 250 to 350 miles for steamers of light draught, enters the Red river 45 miles from Lake Winnipeg, and at the confluence of the rivers ("The Forks") is situated the city of Winnipeg. The Winnipeg, which flows from the territory lying south-east of Lake Winnipeg, is a noble river some 200 miles long, that after leaving Lake of the Woods, dashes with its clear water over many cascades, and traverses very beautiful scenery. At its falls from Lake of the Woods is one of the greatest and most easily utilized water-powers in the world. Like most rivers in the New World, the Red river is at intervals of years subject to freshets. In the seventy years' experience of the Selkirkcolonists there have been four " floods." The highest level of the site of the city of Winni-peg is said to have been under 5 feet of water for several weeks in May and June in 1826, under 2-|- feet in 1852, not covered in 1861, and only under water on the lowest levels in 18S2. The extent of overflow has thus on each occasion been less. The loose soil on the banks of the river is every year carried away in great masses, and the channel has so widened as to render the recurrence of an overflow unlikely. The Saskatchewan, though not in the province, empties into Lake Winnepeg less than half a degree from the northern boundary. It is a mighty river, rising in the Rocky Mountains, and crossing eighteen degrees of longi-tude. Near its mouth are the Grand Rapids. Above these, steamers ply to Fort Edmonton, a point upwards of 800 miles north-west of the city of Winnipeg. Steamers run from Grand Rapids, through Lake Winnipeg, up Red river to the city of Winnipeg.

Geologically Manitoba may be said to be the resumption of the Secondary rocks left behind in the fertile portions of Ontario. The whole north-east of North America, running from Labrador, crossing the Ottawa, and skirting the Georgian Bay and Lake Superior, is a region of Laurentian or Primary rocks—containing copper, silver, and probably gold-bearing rocks. From Lake Superior north-westward to within 40 miles of Red river and up to the eastern shore of Lake Winnipeg the same region con-tinues for about 500 miles, including near its western limits the Lake of the Woods. This barren region left behind, the fertile plains of Manitoba begin—a district resting on Silurian limestones. For 100 or 150 miles these rocks continue. This is the first prairie steppe. At very few points does an outcrop of limestone occur. A range of hills running from south-east to north-west bounds this region on the west. These are Pembina Mountains, Hiding Mountains, and Duck Mountain, varying from 200 to 700 feet in height. Before the Riding Mountains are reached, on the shores and islands of Lakes Manitoba and Winni-pegoosis are found a few buff-coloured Devonian limestones. From this line of hills westward spreads out the second prairie steppe, extending some 400 or 500 miles. Beyond *,his for an equal distance, at a still higher elevation, is the third prairie steppe, till the Rocky Mountains are reached. From the Pembina and Riding Mountains to the Rocky Mountains, say 1000 miles, Cretaceous beds underlie the plains and crop out at long intervals. The most striking feature of this formation, of which only the eastern 100 or 150 miles are within Manitoba, is the presence of coal. It is, like most of the Tertiary varieties, a lignite; a specimen analysed gives water 7'82 per cent., volatile combustible matter 31'35 per cent., fixed carbon 54-97 per cent., and ash 5'86 per cent. The supply of this coal is, according to Professor Selwyn, practically inexhaustible, Mr G. M. Dawson, Government explorer, has figured exposures of lignite 1 foot, 7 feet, and even 18 feet in thickness in the Souris valley, 250 miles south-west of Winnipeg. As a fuel for domestic purposes, this coal in general answers very well. The drift deposit on the first and second prairie levels varies from 20 to 100 feet, and consists of clay and boulders. A clay lying near the surface is used for making the white brick of which Winnipeg is built. The most recent geologic deposit is a rich vegetable mould, sometimes 4 feet in thickness. It is this that gives the reputation for fertility which the soil of the province enjoys.

The surface of Manitoba is somewhat level and mono-tonous. It is chiefly a prairie region, with treeless plains of from 5 to 40 miles extent, covered in summer with an exuberant vegetable growth, which dies every year. The river banks are, however, fringed with trees, and in the more undulating lands the timber belts vary from a few hundreds of yards to 5 or 10 miles in width, forming at times forests of no inconsiderable size. The chief trees of the country are the aspen (Populus tremuloides), the ash-leaved maple (Negimdo aeeroides), oak (Quercus alba), elm (Ulmus americana), and many varieties of willow. The strawberry, raspberry, currant, plum, cherry, and grape are indigenous.

The climate of Mauitoba, being that of a region of wide extent and of similar conditions, is not subject to frequent variations. Winter, with cold but clear and bracing weather, usually sets in about the middle of November, and ends with March. In April and May the rivers have opened, the snow has disappeared, and the opportunity has been afforded the farmer of sowing his grain. The month of June is often wet, but most favourable for the springing crops; July and August are warm, but, excepting two or three days at a time, not uncomfortably so; while the autumn months of August and September are very pleasant. Harvest generally extends from the middle of August to near the end of September. The chief crops of the farmer are wheat (which from its flinty hardness and full kernel is the specialty of the Canadian north-west), oats, barley, and pease. Hay is made of the native prairie grasses, which grow luxuriantly. From the richness and mellowness of the soil potatoes and all tap-roots reach a great size. Heavy dews in summer give the needed moisture after the rains of June have ceased. The traveller and farmer are at times annoyed by the mosquito. This troublesome insect is chiefly found near swampy ground or on the uncultivated prairie. It usually continues through June and July.

The population of the province is very mixed. In 1870 there were 2000 whites and 10,000 Indian half-breeds. Of the latter, one half are of English-speaking parentage, and chiefly of Orkney origin ; the remainder are known as Metis or Bois-brûlés, and are descended from French-Canadian voyageurs. In 1875 a number of Russian Mennonites (descendants of the Anabaptists of the Reformation) came to the country. Some fifty years ago they originally emigrated from Germany to the plains of southern Russia, but came over to Manitoba to escape the conscription. They num-ber nearly 8000. About 4000 French Canadians, who had emigrated from Quebec to the United States, have also made the province their hume, as well as a number of Icelanders. The remainder of the population is chiefly made up of English-speaking people from the other provinces of the Dominion, from the United States, from England and Scotland and the north of Ireland. Though some-what difficult to estimate, the population of Manitoba is estimated by competent authorities at upwards of 120,000 in 1882.

In 1881 the religious opinions of the people were as follows :— Episcopalians, 22 per cent ; Presbyterians, 22 ; Roman Catholics, 19; Methodists, 14; Baptists, 2J ; Lutherans, 1J per cent.

There is a system of primary and secondary free school education for Protestants, and another for Roman Catholics. For the higher education there are the three colleges of St Boniface (Soman Catho-lic), St John's (Episcopalian), and Manitoba College (Presbyterian). These are affiliated to the university of Manitoba, which is an ex-amining and degree-conferring body.

Like other provinces of the Dominion, Manitoba is under a lieutenant-governor, with a council of five ministers responsible to the local legislature, which again is composed of thirty-one members. The province is represented by three senators in the Dominion senate, and by five members in the Dominion house of commons. There are three judges of the superior court, and a number of county court judges. The whole province is divided into municipalities, each of which chooses a warden and six councillors annually.
The city of Winnipeg, the provincial centre of government, law, education, and religion, had in 1882 upwards of 20,000 inhabitants. The trade of the country has chiefly grown up since Winnipeg was connected in 1878 with the United States railroad system, and it has received a further impulse from the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway, which traverses the territory. (G. BR.)

About this EncyclopediaTop ContributorsAll ContributorsToday in History
Terms of UsePrivacyContact Us

© 2005-19 1902 Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.

This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries