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As Canada marched through the first part of its second decade, the country began to expand and face several challenges unlike anything it had seen before.
Let’s begin our look at Canada in 1873.
On Jan. 10, George Orton was born. He would go on to become the first Canadian to win a medal at the Olympic Games, when he won bronze in 400 metre hurdles in 1900, followed 45 minutes later by a gold in the 2500 metre steeplechase. Amazingly, Orton had fallen out of a tree at three and was paralyzed. He also suffered a blood clot to his brain and severely damaged his right arm. Not able to walk until he was 10, and unable to have full mobility until he was 12, he would go on to set a then-record of 17 national running titles in the United States, win the U.S. one-mile championship six times, and would set a mile record of 4 minutes 21 seconds that lasted for 42 years. In his career, he won 131 races, including 33 national and international championships. He would pass away in June of 1958.
Nine days later on Jan. 19 in Woodstock, Thomas Pattullo would be born. He would go on to become the premier of British Columbia, serving from 1933 to 1941.
Another Olympian was born this year for Canada when Etienne Desmarteau was born on Feb 4 in Boucherville. A police officer in 1904, he was denied leave to compete in the Olympics, so he quit his job and left anyways. He would go on to win the gold medal that year in weight throwing. When he returned, he was rehired immediately but would sadly pass away in 1905 from typhoid fever. He is contended as our first true Olympic champion because George Orton was competing for an American university when he won his medal in 1900.
On Feb. 26, Gedeon Ouimet became premier of Quebec. He would serve as the second premier of the province from 1873 to 1874 before he had to resign as party leader due to the Tanneries scandal, which had severe implications for the Quebec government. The scandal had seen the government exchange land worth over $200,000 for a farm west of Montreal worth less than $40,000. An organizer for the party had received $65,000 in the deal and several members of the government were implicated in the deal.
On April 1, Prince Edward Island had its first provincial election just prior to becoming part of Canada. James Pope would be elected and be the first provincial premier of the province after the island joined confederation.
Also on April 1, the SS Atlantic would be wrecked off Peggys Cove. The Atlantic was an ocean liner belonging to the White Star Line that ran between Liverpool and New York. On its 19th voyage, it hit rocks and sank off the coast of Nova Scotia. Of the 952 people aboard, including 835 passengers, 535 people would die, making it the deadliest civilian maritime disaster in the North Atlantic Ocean at that time. It would also be the worst disaster for the company until the loss of the Titanic in 1912. Every woman, and every child except for one 12-year-old boy, would die.
On April 2, the Pacific Scandal would erupt when 150 members of the Conservative government took bribes in an attempt to influence the bidding for a national rail contract. Canada had agreed in 1871 to build a railway to British Columbia but with the scandal, the line was not built and an entirely different line would be built later by Canadian Pacific Railway. The scandal would have severe consequences on the Canadian government and would result in the resignation of Sir. John A. Macdonald, and the transfer of power from his Conservative government to the Liberal government, making Alexander Mackenzie the new prime minister. The first act of that new government was to introduce secret ballots at elections to improve the integrity of future elections.
On May 12, J.E.H. Was born in England. He would come to Canada and was one of the founders of the Group of Seven, who would initiate the first major Canadian national art movement.
On May 23, the North West Mounted Police are officially founded and will begin to police the Northwest Territories in an effort to bring law to the west and prevent the situation that was seen in the Wild West of America.
On June 1, the Cypress Hills Massacre occurred. One of the darkest chapters in Canada’s history occurred when a group of American bison hunters, American wolf hunters, along with whiskey traders, were camped near the Teton River. In the night, a group of First Nations stole their horses and in response, the men travelled to Fort Benton to receive their horses. The men asked for assistance and justice but were met with refusal from the military commander there. In response, the party of 13 men travelled north looking for their horses. They reached the trading post of Abe Farwell who told them the Assiniboine had no horses. The next day, the men began walking towards the First Nations camp and Farwell attempted to restrain the men from leaving to prevent violence. Little Soldier of the Assiniboine attempted to avoid violence by offering two horses as hostages until their the men’s horses could be found. By this time, the party of 13 men were quite drunk and Farwell urged the men not to resort to violence. Unfortunately, he was unsuccessful and the end result was at least 20 Assiniboine dead and one of the 13 men dead. This incident would lead to the establishment of the aforementioned North West Mounted Police.
Also on June 1, Joseph Howe, a former premier of Nova Scotia and a person who initially opposed Nova Scotia’s entry into Canada but would be instrumental in bringing Manitoba in, passed away. He had been chosen to be the Lt. Governor of Nova Scotia but died only three weeks into his new posting.
On July 1, Prince Edward Island joined Canada, becoming the latest Atlantic province to join since Confederation brought in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. It would be another 50 years before Newfoundland joined.
On Aug. 25, a cyclone hit Cape Breton Island, killing 500 people. On Sept. 1, L.C. Owen became the second premier of Prince Edward Island and he would serve for three years until 1876.
On Sept. 23, the Canadian Labour Union is founded. This was the first attempt at a national central organization in Canada and would consist of 46 unions. Unfortunately, tough economic times would result in few unions existing by the end of the decade and the organization would fade in away in 1878.
On Oct. 4, The Argonauts Football Club, which would one day become the Toronto Argonauts, are established. The football team would appear in the Grey Cup final 23 times and win a record 17 Grey Cups so far.
On Oct. 20, Nellie McClung was born in Chatsworth, Ontario. She would help lead several social and moral reforms throughout Canada including temperance and women’s suffrage. It was through her efforts that Manitoba became the first province in Canada to give the women the right to vote and run for office in 1916. In 1927, she along with four other women, called The Famous Five, launched The Person’s Case, which contended women could be qualified person’s and eligible to sit on the Senate. In 1954, she was named as a Person of National Historic Significance. In 2009, McClung and the rest of the Famous Five were made honorary senators. She served in the Alberta Legislature from 1921 to 1926 as well.
On Nov. 5, the House of Commons passed a vote of no confidence, the first in Canadian history, in Sir John A. Macdonald’s government due to the Pacific Scandal. Two days alter, he would resign as prime minister.
On Nov. 8, Winnipeg is officially incorporated into a city. It had started out as a fur trading fort, and would eventually become one of the most important cities in Canada’s west.