One of the oldest historical markers in Western Canada sits unobtrusively in a tiny park on the corner of Main Street and Rupertsland Boulevard in West Kildonan, awaiting a long overdue makeover first announced in 2011.
The stone monument, weathered by over a century’s worth of brutal winters, sun, rain and fumes, commemorates the Battle of Seven Oaks fought near that location in 1816.
Said to have been made of "native Selkirk stone" the marker was erected and unveiled on June 19, 1891 by the Historical and Scientific Society of Manitoba, now known as the Manitoba Historical Society.
When Sir John Schultz unveiled the memorial he commented on the historic ‘highway,’ now Main Street, that ran alongside it.
"Over it has passed discoverer, courier, missionary, arctic voyageur, chief, warrior and medicine man, governor, factor, judge, councillor and commander; along it have been carried wampum and tomahawk, message of peace and of war."
Once a widely used trail, Main Street was referred to long ago by various names, Red River Trail, King’s Road and Main Road and travelled by horses, dog sleds and Red River carts.
The 1816 struggle is often the subject of debate but — briefly — it resulted in Gov.Semple and 21 of his party of Hudson’s Bay Company men being killed as well as one of the brigade of the North West Company led by Cuthbert Grant.
The monument displays an inscription which has worn away from exposure to the elements and was designed by sculptor and architect Samuel Hooper.
The Carnegie Library on William Avenue, the Central Normal School and St. Mary’s Academy are just a few examples of Hooper’s work.
The monument also owes much of its existence to two women. Cecily Louisa, the widow of the sixth Earl of Selkirk (son of the founder of the Red River Colony), both suggested and funded the project. The land for the marker was donated by Kildonan’s Mary Inkster, daughter of pioneer settler John Inkster and sister to the well known sheriff then, Colin Inkster.
Two of the historic Inkster homes, Seven Oaks House (now an important museum) and Bleak House, sit close by. adding to the historic significance of the corner of Rupertsland and Main.
New housing sprang up all around in the early 1900s when the ‘new’ Seven Oaks suburb was advertised as an area of natural beauty and historic interest. More housing encroached in the 1950s and, except for a plaque mounted in 1951, not much visible improvement has been made to the monument or grounds to date.
Cheryl Girard is a community correspondent for West Kildonan. You can contact her at email@example.com