Canada Year-By-Year: 1884

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On Jan. 2, the Humber Railway Disaster would occur, with 32 men and boys being killed in a head-on collision of a Grand Trunk Railway commuter train with an unscheduled freight train near Toronto. A young man by the name of Goodwood would see the eastbound train moving 50 kilometres an hour through a snowstorm, and then see a second train coming down the track in the opposite direction, that was the commuter train. He would tell The Globe the following, stating he saw “many of the men in the foremost car laughing and talking pleasantly together”. Those men were on their way to the Toronto Bolt and Iron Works. Goodwood would close his eyes as the trains were only a few feet from each other. The freight locomotive plotted through the commuter locomotive, pushing the boiler of that locomotive into the passenger car. The steam from the burst boil would scald the passengers inside.

The Mail would describe the crash as such, “bolts and rods, not of iron alone but wrought steel were bent and twisted Ike hair pins. The roof was splintered into kindling wood and there was not a piece of it six inches square but was split or crushed.”

The toppled fireplaces would set the passenger car on fire. A local resident, Mr. Tolton, stated what he saw.

“Bloody fragments of flesh and detached limbs were lying about and made a horrid sight.”

Today, it is the worst train disaster in the history of Toronto.

On Jan. 10, David Scott was elected as the first mayor of Regina. Scott was not new to the role of being a mayor. After serving in the military until 1879, by which time he had reached Lt. Col, he would be elected as the mayor of Orangeville from 1879 to 1880. He would serve as mayor of Regina until 1885, at which point he became named Queen’s Counsel in 1885. As a junior counsel for the crown in the trials of Louis Riel, Big Bear and Poundmaker after the North-West Rebellion, he would raise in prominence in Canada and was the first person admitted as an advocate of the Northwest Territories. Chosen as a justice on the new Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories in 1894, he would serve until the establishment of Alberta. In 1907, he became a member of the Supreme Court of Alberta. He would eventually become the Chief Justice of Alberta in 1921, three years before his death.

On Jan. 17, the modern era arrived in Ottawa when the Parliament Building’s new electric lights were turned on for the first time. The contract to install the lights had been given to Henry Byllesby from the Edison Electric Light Company. A small power plant was installed in the basement of the House of Commons and each wing was furnished with 150 lights of 16 candlepower each. The technology was quite new, and there was few Canadian companies producing electric parts. The sockets and lamp bulbs were made by the Canada Clock Company in Hamilton as a result.

On Jan. 23, John Jones Ross would become the premier of Quebec. First elected to the Legislative Assembly of Quebec in 1867, he would resign only a few months later to serve on the Legislative Council. From 1873 to 1874, 1876 to 1878 and 1879 to 1882, he would serve as the Speaker of the Legislative Council. Chosen as premier, he would serve until 1887. That same year, he was appointed to the Senate of Canada. He would die in 1901.

On April 5, Walter Huston would be born in Toronto and as a young man he would work in various jobs while also acting on the stage. In 1904, he would give up acting to marry Rhea Gore and move to Nevada, Missouri to work as a manager of an electric station. In 1909, he began acting again and would become a star on Vaudeville, which he was able to turn into an acting career once talking pictures arrived. His first major role was in The Virginian in 1929. He would continue acting in various films through the 1930s and 1940s, as well as on Broadway. He would receive his first Oscar nomination in 1936 for his role as Sam Dodsworth in Dodsworth. During the Second World War, he would continue to act through various war propaganda films and documentaries. In 1949, he was cast by his son John as Howard in The Treasure of Sierra Madre, for which he would win a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award. Here is the audio from that ceremony. With his win as Best Supporting Actor and his son’s win as Best Director, they became the first father and son to both win Oscars. John’s daughter Anjelica Huston would also win an Academy Award, becoming the third generation of the Huston family to win acting’s top prize. Walter Huston would pass away on April 7, 1950 just after his 67th birthday.

On May 1, Henry Northwest is born in Fort Saskatchewan as the Métis son of Louis Northwest and Genevieve Boucher. He would spend his early years working on ranches and as a rodeo performer before joining the Royal Northwest Mounted Police, serving until 1915 when he enlisted in the Canadian Army. He enlisted as Henry Louie, was kicked out for misbehaviour and then reenlisted as Henry Norwest. In three years with the 50th Canadian Infantry Battalion, he would reach the rank of Lance Corporal and prove deadly as a sniper, recording 115 kills. An expert with stealth and camouflage, he was often sent behind enemy lines. In 1917, he was awarded the Military Medal for service at Vimy Ridge, and the next year he earned a bar on his Military Medal, becoming one of only 90 Canadian soldiers to have the honour. Three months before the end of the war, on Aug. 18, 1918, while on a mission, he was killed by an enemy sniper. His Ross Rifle is currently on display in The Military Museums in Calgary.

On June 22, the Lady Franklin Bay Expedition led by Adolphus Greely, is rescued by Winfield Scott Schley. Of the 25 men who went on the expedition, six were rescued and five would make it home. The expedition had been launched in 1881 with the purpose of establishing a meteorological-observation station as part of the first International Polar Year, and to collect astronomical and magnetic data. Two members of the expedition would make a new farthest north record. The first year for the expedition had been good with unseasonably warm weather but by the summer of 1882, their supply ship from the south was forced to turn around due to ice and weather.  By the third year, 1883, rescue attempts were tried to get the men who had been living at Lady Franklin Bay the past few years but both failing in that attempt due to ice. In the summer of that year, the men attempted to go south to the Nares Strait to get supplies that would be left there if their position at Lady Franklin Bay could not be reached. Only 40 days of provisions were found at the cache spot. By the winter, with no chance of getting to Greenland or back to their wintering spot, the men had to winter where they were. Only seven men would survive the winter, with rest dying from starvation, drowning, hypothermia and, in the case of Private Henry, being shot for theft of food rations.

On July 28, William Fielding became premier of Nova Scotia. An ardent anti-Confederation supporter, he would win the 1886 election on the pledge or removing Nova Scotia from Canada. On May 10, 1886 he will pass a resolution asking Ottawa to release the province. In his resolution he argued that the federal government’s transportation and tariff policies, and its failure to recognize Nova Scotia’s claims for better terms had left it no potion. He failed in this resolution, and instead focused on developing the coal industry. He would serve as premier until 1896, at which point he became the Minister of Finance in the House of Commons, serving until 1911, at which point he became the editor of the Daily Telegraph of Montreal. In 1917, he wears re-elected to the Houes of Commons and would serve until 1925 and become the Minister of Finance once again. He would die in 1929.

On Aug. 27, John Brownlee would be born in Ontario. He would enter into politics in 1921 and serve as the Attorney-General of Alberta from 1921 to 1926. In 1925, he was asked to replace Herbert Greenfield as premier of the province after supporters grew frustrated with Greenfield’s leadership. Serving as premier from 1926 to 1934, his government would see early success but the poor economy, The Great Depression and budget deficits would begin to tank his popularity. It was also under his leadership that Alberta would implement the Sexual Sterilization Act, which I talked about on the podcast on Saturday. In 1934, he would be sued by a family friend for seduction, and a jury would find in the favour of his friend, Vivian MacMillan, while Brownlee denied a relationship with her. This would force his resignation as remit and in attempting to run for re-election in his Ponoka riding, he would be defeated. He would resume practicing law following his defeat and would pass away in 1961. Despite the scandal of the relationship, Brownlee is today remembered fondly by some academics. In 2005, the University of Calgary ranked him the third greatest premier after Ernest Manning and Peter Lougheed. Some have also called him the greatest premier in the province’s history.

On Sept. 2, Angus MacInnis would be born on Prince Edward Island. He would eventually move to Vancouver and served for five years on Vancouver City Council before being elected to the House of Commons in 1930. He would end up serving for the next 27 years in Parliament, in three different ridings. An outspoken supporter of civil liberties, he was against the discrimination of Japanese-Canadians in British Columbia and pushed for Japanese-Canadians to get the right to vote. In 1943, with his wife Grace, he would publish Oriental Canadians-Outcasts or Citizens, which called for the humane treatment of Japanese Canadians, but also somewhat supported evacuating Japanese Canadians from the BC coast for wartime security. This Japanese Internment was something I talked about a few weeks ago on the podcast. He would pass away in 1964.

On Sept. 15, the Nile Voyageurs would depart Canada for Africa as part of the Nile Expedition. This expedition was part of a British mission to relieve Major-General Charles Gordon in Sudan, who had been sent to the Sudan to help Egyptians evacuate from Sudan after Britain abandoned the country in the face of a rebellion. The Canadians were tasked with helping the British navigate their boats up the Nile River. This was the first overseas expedition by Canadians in a British conflict. Rather than being troops, the expedition members were civilians that did not wear uniforms. A total of 386 voyageurs, including 86 Indigenous, would set out. The expedition would reach Alexandria on Oct. 7 and after six months their contract was due to expire. They were asked to re-enlist but only 86 would sign up for a second six-month contract. The rest returned to Canada. The remaining voyageurs would arrive at their destination two days late, and would return to Canada from Alexandria on April 17, 1885. In total, 16 Canadians died in the expedition.

On Oct. 15, La Presse would be founded in Montreal. Today, it is still around as a digital newspaper with 204,948 daily subscribers.

Also this year, the Parliament of Canada would pass the Indian Advancement Act, which would encourage the democratic election of chiefs. The Mohawks in Ontario would resist the provision, choosing their traditional method instead.

Information comes from Wikipedia, Torontoist, The House of Commons Heritage Collection, Canada Channel,

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