Beaten Path - Hikes and
Explorations in the Brandon Region
Desjarlais, built in 1836 by Joseph Desjarlais, was located
between Hartney and Lauder
Its sturdy oak palisade surrounded a long log building and several
smaller ones. The Souris River ran past the south wall. At its peak
there could often be over seventy men at the fort. It operated for
about twenty years, and was likely destroyed in a great prairie fire
that swept through the region in 1856.
Sandhills Trail to the site.
Start of Trail:
The fort was along the Yellowquill Trail which connected with Portage
and Winnipeg to the east and proceeded
southwest along the north bank of the Souris.
The Fort was on the riverbank to the right - much of the site has
Wider view - there is evidence of grave sites in the bush at the centre
of this shot.
This small patch of sunken ground likely indicates a grave. We know
many burials took
place here over the 20 year history of the site.
A smaller post, known only as "The American Fort" (ca. 1810- 1820) was
a kilometre, downriver, about the centre of this photo.
A drawing by Larry Clarke
A short walk downstream takes us to another fur trade era site.
This buffalo vertebrae is a sample of the remains that are still
readily found at the site..
The site of the "American Fort".
The dark spots in the river are schools of small catfish.
Two accouns by Local Historians
Souris River Posts
G. A. McMorran
Editor. The Sourls Plaindealer Souris. Manitoba
Souris Valley Plains - a History by Clarke, Lawrence B,
Souris Plaindealer, 1976
Louis Riel Institute Repport - By Lawrence Barkwell
|An excerpt from G.A. Morran's "The
Souris River Posts"
At Fort Desjarlais the site was more open to the wind and the ashes
seem to have been scattered over the prairie on which the fort stood.
In 193·1 the Souris party succeeded in locating the eastern boundary of
the stockade. In this we were assisted by finding a layer of ashes
extending at varying depths of one to five inches for a distance of at
least a hundred and fifty feet in the bank of the river. At the eastern
end of this layer of ashes we located the remains of three oak pickets,
presumably the corner of the stockade as no fences had eve, been
kno'w'll in the neighborhood. Following this line of pickets two more
pickets were found a hundred or more feet north. On the river bank, and
presumab1y fallen from the layer of ashes above, were found fragments
of crockery, glass and the stem of an old clay pipe.
According to Mrs. Lafontaine, Fort Desjarlais was built by Joe Desjar-
lais about the year 1836, 112 years ago. It was burned about 1856, she
told us, perhaps in the great prairie fire that Prof. Hind tells us
swept the whole country from the Rocky Mountains east in that year. At
the Fort, Mrs. La- fontaine also told us, besides Desjarlais, were his
son-in-law, Charles De- montine, his son Baptiste Desjarlais, Eusebe
LedouI' and Simon Blondin. In all s.he told us there were alway::; 75
or 80 men at the Fort.
One incident she distinctly recalled was the killing of two Assiniboine
Indians by the Crees at the Fort. They were buried in or near the
Her father, Francois Jeannette, \vorked in both Fort Mr. Grant and Fort
According to the old Indians living in the Turtle Mountains in 1934'1
Desjarlais was known as " Mitche Cote" or "Hairy Legs" and at one time
operated a post on the Mouse river near where Minot now stands.
Madame Lafontaine, to whom we are indebted for information that other-
wise might never have been obtained, was born at St. Francois Xavier,
and lived as a young girl there until she married. Her parents she told
us kept a home in the Fort Garry 01' Red River settlement for many
years, spending the winte!'s there. The snn::.mers were spent with the
buffalo hunters and it was during this period of her life that she
spent some time at Fort Desjarlais and Fort Mr. Gr3-nt. In 1880 they
moved to Oak Lake and in 1886 to the sand hills of Grand Clariere close
to the scenes of her early life.