What life was like back in early Manitoba history in the 1850’s
One of my first visits to Lower Fort Garry was during an elementary school field trip. I remember walking into the blacksmith’s shop and saw the blacksmith pounding his hammer on red hot metal against an anvil. It was a real fire, real coals and real iron. After the blacksmith finished pounding the iron, he dipped the red hot iron piece in water. The blacksmith asked, “Who wants to touch it?” Many of my classmates were afraid to touch it believing it was still hot. I was reluctant to put my hand up but somehow, my curiosity got the best of me. “Me, me, me,” I said. I slowly put my hand out to reach for the piece of iron and much to my surprise, it wasn’t hot at all. That how I remember Lower Fort Garry.
Fast forward to 2011 and over two decades later, the same blacksmith (different student) is doing the same thing to a small family with two young girls. Not only was my visit to Lower Fort Garry a vivid reminder of my childhood but even after 20 years, the costumed animators, mostly university students, are helping visitors understand, appreciate and reenact how life was like back in the 19th century. The interpreters as I found out, are part actors, part teachers and part historians. While playing the roles of labourers, housemaids, blacksmiths and aboriginal women, including Governor George Simpson and his wife, costumed interpreters are continuously learning and researching their characters so they can be as authentic as possible.
Located against the south wall of Lower Fort Garry is the Furloft/Saleshop and was the main centre of commerce. Most of the business transactions such as shopping and trading took place here. Going through the wide selection of artifacts, you can certainly begin to appreciate how life was like back in the 1850’s. Situated in the centre of the walled fort was the Big House and home to the executives and officers of the Hudson’s Bay Trading Company. As I was on the “Behind the Scenes” tour, I was able to learn about some fun stuff that goes on in the Big House. You’ll just have to visit Lower Fort Garry to find out.
In 1951, Lower Fort Garry became a Parks Canada National Historic site. Lower Fort Garry has over 45,000 artifacts on record and is one of the top 10 National Historic Sites in Canada. It displays the finest collections of stone buildings in Western Canada. It is where Treaty No. 1 was signed by the federal government and the Ojibway and Cree nations. It was the site of the first training base of the Northwest Mounted Police in Western Canada.
Until the end of August, Lower Fort Garry offers special theme days: Sunday: Family Day; Monday: A Taste of History; Tuesday: Crafts & Trades Day; Wednesday: Children’s Day; Thursday: Rumours & Scandals Day; Friday: Behind the Scenes Day and Saturday: Drama Day. I highly recommend the Friday theme tour, where you get to see what is behind the closed doors, secret basements and behind the velvet ropes.
Upcoming events at Lower Fort Garry
October 14, 15, 21, 22, 28, 29
Ghost Tours – Enjoy a guided candlelit walking tour through one of the most haunted places in Manitoba! Not only will we acquaint you with a few of the most interesting characters to live and die here, but we will also tell real stories of people’s real experiences with real spirits.
More information about Lower Fort Garry can be found on the Parks Canada website: http://www.pc.gc.ca/