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By Kasey Finke


Indian tribes hunted the Mouse River Loop area for buffalo. Trails they made have disappeared, but old history sources say some were near present day Mohall, north of modern Minot (this went wrest of Glenburn and into the Mohall area), near McKinney (crossing the river at the riffles near there), and near the old Henry Stammen ranch. A popular stopping place on the trail north of Minot was Half Breed Lake (later homesteaders also found it a good stopover). An old Indian burial ground was in the area, but the exact location was not given in any histories I found. No major Indian battles were fought in the area, although Indian artifacts are still found at times.

The first white men to visit the Mouse River Loop were members of an expedition from Fort LaReine (Portage la Prairie, Manitoba) led by Pierre Gaultier de Varennes sieur de la Verendrye in 1738. His group followed the Mouse to the future site of Minot, then cut south to the Missouri River, where they reached Mandan earth-lodge village.

A few years later Verendrye’s two sons followed the course of the Mouse again. They however, named it the St. Pierre River, in honor of the memories of their father and the governor of Quebec. The St. Pierre (Mouse) was the pathway to their discovery on January 1, 1743, of the Rocky Mountains.

In 1797, David Thompson, dauntless trader, explorer and geographer for the North West Co., explored and mapped the Mouse River basin. He led a party from the fort at the mouth of the Mouse to the Mandan village on the Missouri.

In December 1804, a party followed the Mouse with a message from the trader Chabollez to the Lewis and Clark Expedition, who were wintering with the Mandans.

During this time, trappers drifted in and out of the Loop. Their trails have also disappeared; approximate locations only can be given. Trails from the east followed the low level land between the Mouse River valley and the Missouri escarpment, following around the loop of the Mouse. One cross trail ran along the Cut Bank Creek. Their trails followed the river to be near a supply of water, wood for campfires, and fish for food. In good weather they used the Indian travois made of 16’ poles fastened to the saddle of a horse, the pole ends dragging on the ground. In winter, dog sledges were the common transportation. Boats on the river itself were used in times of “flood.”

Sometime in the period of trappers, the Mouse received its present name. As it is in the French form that was given, Souris, it must have been a group of French trappers who camped on its banks one night. During the night, the camp was overrun with hordes of mice. Therefore, the St. Pierre became the Souris River. Later settlers who were not French preferred the English translation of the name, Mouse. It is by that name we now know it in North Dakota, though the Canadians still prefer to call it the Souris.

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