The explorers who came in the early years to this unmapped region in the heart of the country were guided in their travels by the native people, over trails, along canoe routes, and across lakes. They found that the Indians had their own system of map-making. The distinguishing feature of these maps was the pictorial representation of the landmarks which were necessary to identify the route. These maps, although primitive, were good enough to be used in the mapmaking of the first official company maps of the country.
Some of the early trail blazers lived with the natives, to learn how to adapt to a new way of life in a new country. Henry Kelsey, Peter Fidler, and David Thompson, all lived with the Indians for a time, learned their language, and were guided by them in their travels. They learned from them how to live off the land, how to make clothing and moccasins from hides and fur, and how to make snowshoes, toboggans, and canoes.
One of the earliest traders to venture into the interior of what is now Manitoba was Henry Kelsey. He was sent by the Hudson’s Bay Company officials to try to persuade more tribes to take their furs to Fort York. In 1690 he reached the Swan River Valley, not far from Lake Winnipegosis.
Pierre de La Verendrye, in 1741, sent his son Pierre to establish Fort Dauphin near the mouth of the Mossy River. The father, Pierre, did not himself come to the fort. However he recorded the event by writing to minister Maurepas on May 12, 1742, from Fort La Reine: “I have established a new fort, at the request of the Mountain Crees, on the Lake of the Prairies, the past autumn, named Fort Dauphin.” I.
In 1769-70, William Tomison, a servant of the Hudson’s Bay Company, followed the Pedlars’ track to the Fort Dauphin region. “Pedlars” was the name given by Hudson’s Bay Company employees to rival traders from Montreal who later formed the North-West Company. Their route was from Lake Winnipeg to Dauphin River, to Lake Manitoba, across Meadow Portage and into Lake Winnipegosis. William Tomison continued on this route to Mossy River, “on which their post stood”.
When David Thompson left the Hudson’s Bay Company, he was employed by the North-West Company as a geographer. He travelled widely through unmapped country, surveying and mapping. He charted much of Manitoba. In 1797, his travels brought him here. He followed the “Pedlars’ route”, crossing Meadow Portage and entering Lake Winnipegosis. His party camped a mile and a half north of the Mossy River.
Peter Fidlar was born in Derbyshire, England, in 1769. He was a fur trader, explorer, and surveyor for over thirty years in the west. His life was one of hardship, and loyalty and service to the Hudson’s Bay Company. He had no doubt travelled frequently in the area of Lake Winnipegosis, which he called Lake Winnipegasish. He lived his last years at Fort Dauphin, a small post near Dauphin Lake. He died in 1822 at the age of fifty-three at Fort Dauphin, and is buried there.In 1857-890, J.B Tyrrell of the Geological survey spent the summer in Lake Dauphin and Lake Winnipegosis areas.
Much as been written about Pierre De La Verendrye and establishment of Fort dauphin. In 1741. Pierre sent his son to establish the fort, and documented the event in 1742. In 1749 he detailed the route to follow to reach fort Dauphin from Fort La Reine there is a portage of three leagues to the north east to get into the Lake Of The Prairies (Lake Manitoba). You follow the south shore of the lake till you come to the mouth of a river coming from the great prairies, at the lower end of which is fort dauphin.
The question to consider is what is the river flowing from the west? Daniel Harmon, in 1800 described The Dauphin River as rising in the Duck Mountain (the Valley River), crossing the northern part of Lake Dauphin, becoming the Mossy, Crossing the south end of Lake Winnipegosis, flowing through the Waterhen, crossing the northern part of Lake Manitoba, and emptying into Lake Winnipeg by the rivers St. Martin and dauphin.
Bougainville, in 1757, stated that the Fort Dauphin was situated on the River Minanghnachequeke, or Troubled water. J.B Tyrrell noted that the Indians of his time called the Mossy River the Menakweniskegow.
Joseph Derouen (Drouin) placed Fort Dauphin near the place where today is the village of Winnipegosis, and towards the mouth of the River. He wrote in 1760: “route from Lake Winnipeg to Fort La Reine): Dauphin River,20 leagues, – Partridge Lake, 10 leagues, St Martin River, 3 leagues,- 3 leagues of crossing to the Little Portage of half a league – 10 leagues of lake up to the Big Portage, one league-5 leagues of crossing up to Snake Island, 2 leagues of crossing up to small Snake Island- at three quarters of a league Fort Dauphin: Crees , Assiniboines , Mandans, Whitebeards, Big pikes, little pikes and nations which are in the Prairies.”,
J.B. Tyrrell had at first thought that Fort Dauphin was on Lake Dauphin, as he had written in 1892. later he saw ruins of buildings on the bank of the Mossy River, not far from the mouth of the river, and he thought that one of these cold have been that of Pierre De La Verendrye.
On the Basis of this information , a cairn was erected in 1952 in Winnipegosis to commemorate the establishment of Fort Dauphin in 1741 by Pierre De La Verendrye.
Fort Dauphin on the Mossy River was said to have been abandoned in 1743 for lack of provisions,
Antoine Champagne, “ Novelles Etudes sur les La Verendrye et la Post de L’ouest,” Les Presses De L’ Universite Laval