SIGURDUR - FATHER OF SWAN RIVER VALLEY, MB (MAY 27, 1897)
From Nonni Jonssons WebSite (Swan River)
Nonni considers Sigurdur "the Father of Swan River Valley" for bringing in people.
The Swan River Valley is located in north-western Manitoba, Canada, close to Saskatchewan, about 300 miles north-west of Winnipeg. Like all the other valleys on the great prairies of central North America, this valley is merely lower flatland along the rivers limited on two sides by hills formed in the gradually rising landscape. Deep valleys are non-existent except where there are high mountains, and therefore there are no actual valleys on the vast prairies, but rather wide depressions along riverbeds. The Swan River Valley lies between the Duck Mountains to the south and the Porcupine Mountains to the north; while Thunder Hill stands like a gable on its west side. All these hills are low, they are the first stage in the rising landscape from western Manitoba to the Rocky Mountains. Although the hills are low they add a sorely needed diversity to the lowest and flattest areas in Manitoba.
"Around 1898 many Icelandic families were living in the Argyle district, some were recent arrivals from Iceland who were unable to obtain land because most of the homestead lands were already taken and the price of available land was too high. These people were eager to find farmland to move to, and they were working on several plans. Sigurður Christophersson, farmer at Grund in the Argyle district, had been much involved with matters of immigration. In the summer of 1897 he travelled to the Swan River Valley to take a look at the land available there. When he returned he praised the quality of the land and encouraged landless Icelanders to move there. His reports may be read in the Icelandic newspaper Lögberg. (You will have to install a DjVu plugin). 24 June 1897 page 1 and 29 July 1897 page 8. Or in English here. In the winter of 1897-1898 a meeting was held at the home of Skapti Arason, a farmer in the Argyle district, to discuss moving to the Swan River Valley. Sigurður Christophersson was asked to make another trip to the valley to inquire about land for a few families. While he was there he made arrangements for A. J. Vopni´s quarter."
From the Swan River Valley webpage by Nonni Jonsson
Here are the two Newspaper Ads placed by Sigurdur and without Komakur's tanslation would probably be unknown in this day and age. From the Icelandic Newspaper Lögberg 24 June, 1897, page 1
translated by Kormákur Högnason
Swan River Valley
On 27. May we left from Winnipeg in order to survey land in the northern part of Dauphin county and in the Swan River valley, which lies from north east to south west between Duck Mountain and the Porcupine Mountain. From the town of Dauphin we drove (by buckboard) north through
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east to south west between Duck Mountain and the Porcupine Mountain. From the town of Dauphin we drove (by buckboard) north through Dauphin county to Sifton, but from there we rode (by horse) north to Pine River and west into the Swan River valley. In Dauphin county we didn't see any unsettled land, that we really liked, the land generally lies low and is also in many areas sandy and rocky and forested. We don´t mean to imply that there is no good land in Dauphin county, but to state that the good land is almost all claimed and we wish that Icelanders had gotten their share of it.
The Swan River valley is completely unsettled at present, and the main reason, first and foremost is that the land has not been surveyed and furthermore it has until now been located very far from a railroad; but now neither element is a deterrant and it can be taken for granted that, the entire valley will be settled within a short time.
When we arrived two miles west of the northern corner of Duck Mountain the land began to look prettier, there we walked on beautiful prairies surrounded by forest. Four miles from the mountain we arrived at very beautiful prairies, they are so well shaped for field cultivation (agriculture) that we had no complaint to make. There are also the finest fields and pastures and beautiful forested tracks along rivers and streams. What we surveyed the most were township 36 and 37, R.26 and 28, and there, where we traveled, the thickest forest was on the south-east side of the river (Swan River). That river is about 200 feet wide, where we travelled along side it and the river banks are close to 100 feet high. We arrived at three other rivers, whose names we didn’t know but there are beautiful forested tracts growing along side them. There is therefore plenty of good wood in the valley for building houses, for firewood, fence making, etc. The soil is good everywhere, black soil, 7 to 18 inches deep and below there is brown clay.
There is a lake in the northern part of the valley called Swan Lake and we were told that it is full of fish, and that is true, because there is fish in every river. There is plenty of good water everywhere, the water is clear in the rivers and we also found spring water in a few places. There is a large number of elk and moose in the mountains on both sides of the valley. This valley lies 35 miles to the west of Lake Winnipegosis and 70 miles from the end of the Dauphin railroad; but there is little doubt that this railroad will be lengthened in the near future, and then it will reach across the valley.
Presently there is no driveable road north to the Swan River valley, but the government has determined the road location and we hope that this road will be constructed this summer. We expect a more detailed assessment of this area to appear in Lögberg within a month; but this brief survey should nevertheless be sufficient to show Icelanders that this is a good opportunity - perhaps the best opportunity ever to present itself in the future of this country - to obtain a good farm in a good community.
Finally we want to repeat again, and we hope that men take notice, that this valley will be densely built within a few months after the land has been surveyed. Icelanders will therefore not obtain this land unless they react right now.
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Located in Winnipeg 23. June 1897.
From the Icelandic Newspaper Lögberg, 29 July, 1897, page 8
Swan River Valley
As was mentioned in the issue of Lögberg, published on the 1st of this month, we left Winnipeg on 26. June to survey land in Swan River valley. We travelled on the Manitoba & North Western railroad west to Yorkton and from there we drove (by buckboard) north east to the valley. The road from Yorkton to Fort Pelly, nearly 50 miles, is especially good, but it is in many places difficult to travel the nearly 75 miles from Fort Pelly northeast to Swan Lake. Not even minor road repair has been performed in that region (the Pelly Trail) and yet there has been a considerable traffic over many years, both by Indians and the white men (Fur traders) who have conducted trade with them. We had small horses (Indian ponies) during the journey, and when we arrived in the north we rode through the valley. This valley lies southwest from a fairly large and attractive fishing lake, called Swan Lake (Álptavatn), it is about 30 to 40 miles wide and approximately the same length. Two separate mountains lie on either side of the valley, Duck Mountain (Andafjall) on the southeast side and Porcupine Mountain (Broddgaltafjall) on the northwest side, the former is 2500 feet and the latter is 2400 feet above sea level. The bottom of the valley forms a 1900 feet high plateau, called Thunder Hill (Þrumuhæð). All of these mountains are covered by a forest, that in many places has very tall trees. Two large and attractive rivers run along the entire valley and into Swan Lake, the one in the west is Woody River and the one in the east is Swan River. Many creeks and brooks run down the mountains and into the two main rivers. We soon realized that we would not be able to travel across the entire valley at this time and since it did not escape our notice that the south-eastern part lends itself better to developing a community we decided to pay less attention to the north-west part. We carefully surveyed the land area between Woody River and Swan River, from Thunder Hill all the way down to the lake and a large part of the land that lies between Swan River and Duck Mountain; all in all we covered 17 townships. Between Woody River and Swan River are many exceptional grassy sloughs, in particular toward the north and near the lake. These sloughs were in many places wet, partly due to the fact that the grass plexus is so dense that the water can’t escape, nor can the sun dry it, furthermore there was nearly constant rain during the time we were traveling there. Our guide said, that all these fields are usually dry during the latter part of the summer. The grass was everywhere superb in both growth and quality. The land along the north-western side of Swan River is very attractive for field tilling, it lies high and is dry, and the soil is good - the soil is in general good everywhere we went with the exception of two or three patches that were sandy. In some places the sides of the rivers are covered in forest but in most places this is just new growth, that requires little effort to remove, and some places are completely devoid of forest. There is however plenty
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in most places this is just new growth, that requires little effort to remove, and some places are completely devoid of forest. There is however plenty of good woodland further away from the river, so nobody needs to fear a lack of sufficient and good wood. We were especially pleased with this land for field tilling and for livestock (mixed farming), because those who will be fortunate enough to acquire the land along the river will be able to use the fields that lie further away for many years. In township 35, range 29 a large creek, called Thunder Hill Creek; runs into Swan River, along side this creek is a very attractive and good land suitable for any purpose, the pastures there are exceptionally attractive. The most attractive place that we saw during our journey was undoubtedly between Rolling River (Roaring River) and Duck Mountain. There is a hill just west of the mountain, called Minitonas Hill, it lies 1500 feet above sea level, and Rolling River (Roaring River) runs along the west side of the hill and Favel River runs along the east side of it. The land around this hill and down along the rivers is of good quality and particularly attractive. The entire area has obviously been covered by forest until recently, but the wood has been completely destroyed by fire over a large region. This region may be described as a single savanna, high and dry, with small but attractive forest belts along the rivers. In our opinion the pastures in this region are scarcely sufficient should the land be used exclusively for livestock, however they are well suited for field tilling or both together (mixed farming). We met land surveyors at Minitonas Hill. The man in charge stated that he had never in his life surveyed a more attractive land, and quite honestly we don’t doubt that he was telling the truth. There is plenty of wood in the entire valley and in some places the saw wood is so good that a sawmill would be well viable. The most common trees are poplar and spruce. But we did see tamarack and birch in a few places and along Swan River there was a considerable number of maple trees.
There is plenty of good water everywhere. All the rivers and creeks have a sand bottom and the water is therefore clean and clear. We found many ice cold and silver clear springs.
Fishing is in all the rivers and abundant whitefish catch in the lake, as would be expected since a navigable river runs out of it north to Lake Winnipegosis. That river is called Shoal River and it is only 14 miles long. At present it is costly and difficult to move west to Swan River valley, however it is not nearly as difficult as some would think. As we already stated there is an excellent road from Yorkton to Fort Pelly and from there it’s only an additional 30 to 40 miles to the location that we liked the best, and the road is quite useable during this time of year. The Government of Manitoba has decided to clear a roadway, this Fall, west of Dauphin and into the valley, all the difficulties involved in getting there will therefore disappear by next summer. However, if Icelanders are to acquire these land areas, they cannot wait for this roadway, they must react immediately and secure the land. Hon. Thos. Greenway has made attempts to have a few townships in the Swan River valley set aside for Icelanders, but that will apparently not go through. The most that Hon. Clifford Sifton has done, in this matter, is to permit those Icelanders who wish to be absent from their land longer than the law stipulates in order to earn money, this prerequisite may turn out to be of considerable value.
In conclusion we want to stress that we liked the land so much that we don’t hesitate to urge Icelanders to react immediately and acquire land there. If a few band together and go as a group, then the Government of Manitoba will undoubtedly provide them with a guide and offer them a subsidized fare on the Manitoba & North Western railroad. The undersigned are willing to answer letters and supply all relevant information.
Winnipeg 26. July 1897.
M. Paulson, S. Christopherson,
618 Elgin ave, Grund
[END NEWSPAPER ADS]
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regarding money matters