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The Heritage Trails are presented courtesy of CKUA Radio Network and Cheryl Croucher

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Government of Alberta

Government of Canada


U.S. Canada Boundary Survey: Part One

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The Alberta portion of the border between Canada and the United States was surveyed in 1874. But as Historian Merrily Aubrey explains, the effort to set a border goes back to the early 1800's.

Now in the commerce Convention of 1818 between Britain and the United States, the second article proposed to draw a line from the most northwestern point of the 49th parallel north latitude to the Stony Mountains... not the Rocky Mountains.

In the 1820s the angle of Lake of the Woods was determined by an agreement between the US and Great Britain.

But nothing more happened until the 1860s, when the American doctrine of Manifest Destiny became a serious threat to Canada's plans for western expansion.

Many Americans had an eye on Rupert's Land, which included what is now Alberta- and much of the rest of our land mass, our continental land mass.

We have to remember that ...

We have to remember that at Confederation, Canada consisted of only four provinces: Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. And the whole of Rupert's Land was under the control of the British based Hudson Bay Company.


The British Minister in Washington wrote home in 1867 with the following observations...

"There is a considerable section of western American population looking forward to the acquisition of the territory which includes the Saskatchewan River and the Red River Settlement. And I foresee that if it is not shortly occupied with settlers who can turn its natural resources to account, it will be overrun by squatters pushing up from Manitoba with whom the Hudson Bay and Canadian authorities will find it difficult to deal."

So he was pretty adamant at that time.

The need to establish British and Canadian Sovereignty was beginning to take hold.

In the 1850s, the British Government sponsored the Palliser expedition to explore the west. There was the Dominion Lands and Geological Survey in the 1870s and 1880s.

In the mid 1870s, a mounted police force was deployed to the northwest. And the new Canadian government promoted the idea of building a railroad to join the country from sea to sea. By 1872 everything was in place to begin surveying the 49th parallel.

On the Heritage Trail,

I'm Cheryl Croucher.

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            For more on the history of settlement in Alberta, visit Peel’s Prairie Provinces.