The Frenchman’s trail, also known as the Old French Trail was an integral part of the early history of the Mortlach region. It served as the primary trail that led buffalo hunters, traders, surveyors, and homesteaders to the southwest.
This trail came into prominence after the CPR opened the passenger service through Mortlach in 1882. It snaked across the prairie through areas that later developed settlements known as Coderre, Courval and ended at Gravelbourg a distance of 60 miles. Homesteaders destined for districts as far away as Limerick, Palmer and Lafleche would also use the trail.
Mortlach became the main trading centre for the pioneers, as they carried all the possessions to their homestead. In the ensuing years, they followed the trail back with wagon loads of grain and bought supplies, fuel and lumber. In cases of severe illness, pioneers brought the patient to Mortlach to catch the train to the nearest hospital in Moose Jaw.
Hauling grain to Mortlach was a 2 to 3 day trip by horse and wagon. It was easier to haul grain by sleigh in winter, but there was a real danger of running into a blizzard or sliding off the trail. In this case they had to shovel off the grain, get the sleigh back on the trail and reload the grain. Sometimes the homesteaders traveled in convoys of six to eight sleighs for safety sake. They faced many hardships as they carved a future for their families in a harsh unforgiving land.
Parts of the Frenchman’s Trail are still visible in aerial photos of unbroken land.