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Canadian Historic Sites: Occasional Papers in Archaeology and History No. 4

The Big House, Lower Fort Garry

by George Ingram

Lord Dufferin

In August, 1877, when Lord Dufferin passed through the lower fort with an official party on his way to the Saskatchewan, he probably stayed in the Big House. On 13 August, Grahame wrote to William Flett, still in charge of Lower Fort Garry, informing him of the possible visit of the Governor General and telling him to prepare for his arrival.

As it is possible that Lord Dufferin may visit your post in passing during the current week I have to request that you will try and have all about in good order and extend any hospitality in your power to himself and party. I must leave the details to your own good judgement — of course you should hoist the H.B.C. red flag but do not have any firing.1

Much to Flett's surprise, the Governor General and his party not only visited the fort but also spent two nights as his guest. All went well, and Flett reported to Grahame in a rather testy letter:

And I have to say that although I have [sic] no certain information either official or otherwise that Lord Dufferin and party intended to pass two nights here yet I think we got over the difficulty pretty well and apparently they were quite satisfied with the accommodation and reception they got. Their cook and waiter came down here from the rapids with their travelling kitchen about an hour before Lord Dufferin arrived and that was the first certain information we had when they handed me the Honourable D. A. Smith's note.2

After its short stay, the viceregal party boarded the Company steamboat, Colvile, for its trip across Lake Winnipeg. On his return, Lord Dufferin was again accommodated at the lower fort.3

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