When we look back through the years to the year 1875, we see several amazing anniversaries taking place in Canada. As with so many other years I have covered so far, 1875 has many notable events, births and deaths.
On January 14, the Halifax Herald begins publishing. Officially founded the previous year, the newspaper operates to this day, although it has seen its circulation decline to 91,490, a drop of 15 per cent, between 2009 and 2015.
On Jan. 14, the Ontario election occurred, with Sir Oliver Mowat picking up a second majority. Mowat actually saw his Liberals increase their seats, rising seven seats to 50, while the Conservative’s led by Matthew Crooks Cameron fell by four seats to 34. This election is notable since it is the first where paper ballots were used instead of public declarations of votes.
On March 1, Sir Henry Keller would pass away in Ireland. He was a member of the Royal Navy who took several trips to Canada during his naval career. He would also join in the search for Sir John Franklin in 1848 after he had gone missing on the ill-fated Franklin Expedition. He would sail through the Bering Strait during that voyage.
On April 5, the Supreme Court of Canada was established, providing a vital judicial branch to the government.
For the first time, on April 8, the Northwest Territories were given a lieutenant-governor that was separate from that of Manitoba. Alexander Morris would take on the role, serving in the position until 1876.
Philip Carteret Hill replaced William Annand as premier of Nova Scotia on May 11. He had served as the provincial secretary during that time and with feelings against Confederation still strong in the province, Hill was able to succeed Annand as premier. He would only serve for three years until 1878.
On June 1, one of the most important events in the early history of Canada occurred. The construction on the Canadian Pacific Railway, which would connect the country, began.
On June 12, Sam De Grasse would be born in New Brunswick. While trained as a dentist, he would turn to acting in 1912 and appear in several movies over the course of the next two decades. Some of the notable movies included Birth of a Nation, King of Kings, Robin Hood and The Man Who Laughs. He would pass away at the age of 78 in 1953.
On June 15, Herman Smith-Johannsen was born in Norway and would go on to become a notable pioneer in the sport of skiing, through the building of ski jumps and trails in Ontario. In 1972, he would be appointed as a member of the Order of Canada for helping to push skiing as a recreational sport for people to enjoy in Canada. He would die at the age of 111 on Jan. 5, 1987, making him for a brief time, in the last 22 days of his life, the oldest man on the planet.
On June 22, Sir William Edmond Logan would pass away in Wales. Born in 1798 in Montreal, he would go on to found and become the first director of the Geological Survey of Canada, a post he would hold from 1842 to 1869. He would also establish the Geological Museum in 1856, which would be the forerunner of both the Canadian Museum of Nature and the Canadian Museum of History. In 1869, he published a 983-page book called The Geology of Canada that would gain critical acclaim.
On June 30, the Land Purchase Act came into effect in Prince Edward Island. This Act was meant to settle the land question that had come up as PEI joined Confederation. At the time, much of the land in the new province was owned by absentee landlords. The new act would force landlords to sell their estates to the provincial government, who would then sell the land at a lower price to farmers on the island. This legislation was one of the most important in the history of the province. The first Chief Justice of Canada, William Buell Richards, would state that it should be, “viewed not as ordinary legislation, but as the settling of an important question of great moment to the community, and in the principle like the abolition of seigniorial tenure in Lower Canada and the settling of the land question in Ireland. The great object of the statute seems to have been to convert the leasehold tenures into freehold estates, a matter of great importance, and one which, if not settled, would be likely to affect the peace as well as well as the prosperity of the province.” To this day, many principles of this act are still in place in PEI. Non-residents are not allowed to purchase land of more than 4.9 acres without approval of the legislature cabinet.
On July 20, the British Columbia election was held with the issues of the unbuilt railway and Chinese immigration being the biggest topics. At the time, there still no official parties and the titles of government, opposition and independent were used instead of parties. A total of 25 members were elected from 12 ridings with some ridings having multiple candidates going to the government.
On Aug. 21, George Coles would pass away in Prince Edward Island at the age of 64. He was the first premier of Prince Edward Island, and a father of Canadian Confederation. He served as the colony’s first premier, prior to it joining Canada, from 1851 to 1854 and 1855 to 1859, followed by 1867 to 1869.
On Aug. 26, John Buchan, the first Baron of Tweedsmuir and future Governor General is born in Scotland. He would serve as the Governor General from 1935 to 1940. Unlike many previous Governor Generals, Buchan had a deep knowledge of Canada and had written about the country extensively as an author and journalist. As Governor General, he made it his goal to travel across the country, including into the Arctic regions to promote unity. In regards to his job, he stated, “A Governor General is in a unique position for it is his duty to know the whole of Canada and all the various types of people.” He also would say that Canadian’s first loyalty is not to the British Commonwealth but to Canada. He was also known for pushing the idea of keeping the ethnic character of groups in Canada, stating that they “should retain their individuality and each make its contribution to the national character,” and “the strongest nations are those that are made up of different racial elements.”
On December 5, Arthur Currie was born in Napperton, Ontario. Enlisting with the Canadian Army, he would earn the nickname of Guts and Gaiters and rise to the rank of a senior officer during the First World War. Starting as a simple pre-war militia gunner in 1897, he rose to become the first Canadian commander of the Canadian Corps. He is today considered to be one of the most capable commanders of the Western Front during the war, and one of the finest commanders in Canadian military history. He would eventually reach the rank of general and be knighted prior to his death in Montreal in 1933.
On Dec. 14, Marie-Anne Gaboury would pass away at the age of 95. Born in Quebec in 1780, Gaboury would marry and travel west with her new husband to the area that would one day be Winnipeg. She continued to travel with her husband through the years, reaching nearly to modern-day Edmonton. She would become the first woman of European descent to travel and settle in Western Canada. She would also be the grandmother of Louis Riel and would live long enough to see her grandson help to create a province in the area that she called home for so many years.
Interestingly since his grandmother died that same year, also during 1875, Louis Riel was granted amnesty on the condition that he stay banished from Canada for a period of five years. Jennifer Trout would become the first woman licensed to practice medicine in Canada. Emily Stowe had been the first woman to practice medicine in Canada since 1867, but she did so without an official licence.
Grace Lockhart would a Bachelor of Arts degree, the first ever awarded to a woman, from Mount Allison University. While she would be the first to earn the degree, she would spend most of her life as the wife of a Methodist minister but her academic achievement would help push more women into higher education.
The Hospital for Sick Children was founded this year. Located in Toronto, the current Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning is believed to be the largest paediatric research tower in the world. The hospital had been founded based on the example of the Great Ormond Street Hospital in London. At the time of its opening, the hospital was an 11-room house that was rented for $320 a year by a women’s bible study group led by Elizabeth McMaster. Six iron cots were set up and it was declared open as a hospital for the admission and treatment of all sick children. The first child to attend the hospital was named Maggie, who came in on April 3, 1875 due to scalding. Within its first year, the hospital helped 44 children. In 1876, the hospital would move to a larger location.