The land where this park now stands has been inhabited for over 6,000 years. When European settlers came to this area, they saw the advantage of building an outpost at the confluence of our two rivers, the Red and the Assiniboine, as rivers were the main trade routes to other settlements.
Of course – the land was already spoken for…
The first Fort that stood at or around this spot was Fort Gibraltar – built and owned by the NorthWest Company (one of Canada’s oldest companies – you can see their building across from you on Main Street!). Fort Gibralter was built in 1810 and then destroyed in 1816 by Governor Semple and the Hudson’s Bay Company. Fort Garry was built soon after, but then destroyed by massive flooding in 1826 (as a point of interest – this flood is why Winnipeg doesn’t have any buildings that predate 1826).
Rebuilt in 1835 by the Hudson’s Bay Company, Upper Fort Garry (to differentiate itself from Lower Fort Garry, upstream on the Red River) became the administrative and judicial hub of the Red River Colony.
In late 1869, Upper Fort Garry was seized by Louis Riel and his Metis followers during the Red River Rebellion – which was prompted by the seizure of this land by the newly-formed nation of Canada. For nine months, Upper Fort Garry was the home base for the Metis resistance against Ottawa.
For several summers in the early 1900s, the Canadian Mounted Rifles would camp at the Fort and hold summer exercises. At midnight on a summer night in 1907, one of the overnight sentries of the Canadian Mounted Rifles reported seeing a Metis man and woman in a Red River Cart being drawn by oxen. According to the sentry log, the cart passed by a number of times between midnight and two am. Deciding that they must be up to no good, the sentry called out to the drivers of the cart to halt – and as soon as he did so, the ox, cart and it’s Metis inhabitants disappeared into thin air!
It was speculated that some of the original inhabitants of the Red River Valley had come back to express their displeasure at the Canadian Mounted Rifles summer occupation. The ghostly appearances continued nightly for several weeks, until the Canadian Mounted Rifles left the Fort.
Do you feel brave enough to stay in the park between midnight and 2am to see if you, too, see the phantom ox cart and it’s ghostly riders?