After a tumultuous year in 1885 that saw rebellion, but also the completion of the transcontinental railway, things would slow down a bit in 1886 as Canada moved into the second half of the 1880s.
On Jan. 15, Clarence Howe is born in the United States, but would come to Nova Scotia as a young man to become a professor at Dalhousie University. He would be elected to the House of Commons in 1935, serving until 1957 and is credited with taking the Canadian economy from an agricultural-based economy to one based in industry. Due to his extensive work in the government during the Second World War, he was called the minister of everything. In addition to taking charge of the economy, he would help found the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and Trans-Canada Air Lines, which would become Air Canada. After leaving politics, he would work as a director on various company boards before passing away on Dec. 31, 1960 in Montreal.
On Jan. 21, George Kingston would pass away. He was noted for organizing Canada’s first national scientific services and is today called the Father of Canadian Meteorology. He had been born in Portugal on Oct. 5, 1816 to British parents. He would come to Canada in 1852 to take on the position of Principal of the Nautical College in Quebec City for the next three years, followed by time at the University of Toronto. In 1871, he persuaded the federal government to setup a network of stations to observe and issue storm warnings. By 1872, this network ran from Halifax to Winnipeg. In October of 1876, the first storm warning was issued and in 1877, the first general forecast. Weather predictions would be sent by telegraph to 75 cities and towns in Canada every day.
On March 25, the Workman’s Compensation Act would be passed in Ontario, signalling a growing change in the country for protection of workers and providing them with more rights.
On March 30, Joseph-Alfred Mousseau passed away. He would be elected to the House of Commons in 1874, serving until 1882 when he left federal politics and joined the Quebec Legislature, serving as MLA and premier of Quebec from 1882 to 1884. After that point until his death, he worked as a judge.
On April 6, Vancouver would be incorporated as a city. The Indigenous people had first arrived in the Vancouver area 8,000 to 10,000 years ago. Europeans would begin to arrive in the 1700s, although some sources say Sir Francis Drake arrived in 1579. George Vancouver would arrive in 1792 and would explore the harbour, lending his name to the future community. Simon Fraser would be the first-known European to set foot on the site of the present-day city in the early 1800s. As for Vancouver, the first settlement on what would one day be Vancouver would not happen until 1862. The community would slowly grow and in 1881, it had a population of 1,000. By 1900, it boasted 20,000 people and in 1911, it was a bustling metropolis of 100,000.
On April 26, the New Brunswick general election would be held. The province still did not have political parties but 41 members were elected. Andrew George Blair had come to power in 1883 after a no-confidence vote against the government of Daniel L. Harrington and would win the following election. In the 1886 election, he would pick up 33 seats to Daniel Hannington only getting eight and yes, those Daniel’s are two different people with very similar names. Blair would continue to serve as premier of the province until 1896, his 13 years in the office is the second most in New Brunswick history.
On May 13, William Patterson is born in Grenfell, of what would one day be Saskatchewan. He would be elected to the Saskatchewan legislature in 1921 and would serve until 1949. During that time, he would also serve as the sixth premier of the province, from 1935 to 1944. He would resign as the Liberal leader in 1946. In 1951, he was named the tenth Lt. Gov. Of Saskatchewan, becoming the first person to have been both premier and Lt. Gov. Of Saskatchewan. He would pass away in 1976.
On June 7, Elzear-Alexandre Taschereau would become Canada’s first cardinal. His father was a judge and his mother was the daughter of the first speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada. He would study at the seminary of Quebec from 1828 to 1836 and then travel throughout Europe. In 1856, he obtained his doctorate in canon law in Rome and served as a teacher afterwards. At the urging of the Canadian government, Pope Leo XIII made him Cardinal-Priest of Santa Maria Della Vittoria, Rome. Unfortunately, illness forced him to turn his workload over to an archibishoip. Taschereau would die in Quebec City in 1898.
From June 8 to June 15, the Nova Scotia General Election would be held. The Liberals under William Stevens Fielding would continue their domination of the provincial politics winning 28 seats, an increase of four from the previous election. Fielding would continue to serve as premier until 1896.
On June 13, the terrible Vancouver Fire would erupt only a few months after the community became a city. Most of the city was completely destroyed after two land clearing fires to the west of the city grew out of control. The fires were clearing land for the Canadian Pacific Railway. Prior to the fire, the city had gone through three weeks of extreme heat and June 13 was. Hot day with a strong breeze coming off the Pacific Ocean. The city had been expanding aggressively as well, resulting in a lot of deadfall around the city. As both fires began to grow out of control, the workers who had been clearing land attempted to put it out with water, wet blankets and shovels. Unfortunately, the breeze pushed the fire towards Vancouver and soon the sky was filled with smoke. Men fleeing from the fire warned others of the incoming fire and residents packed their belongings and stores and began heading towards the shore. Sadly, some residents did not think the fire was a danger and they remained where they were. The Squamish people, who lived south of Vancouver, took their canoes out to view the fire. They also helped residents who had swam out in the water to escape the fire. The men of the Vancouver Volunteer Hose Company removed a supply of explosives from a store to save further damage. A city clerk also saved the city records of the new city by giving them to a stranger. By the time the fire had burned through, 600 to 1,000 buildings were destroyed and the Bridge Hotel was turned into a morgue to handle the 21 people who had died from the fire. That is at least how many were found, the actual death toll could be higher. Following the fire, the first police force was created, the first fire engine was bought and the building of brick buildings quickly began.
On June 25, Jean-Louis Beudry would pass away. He was born in 1809 in Lower Canada and would grow a successful business in Montreal. In 1860, he was elected councillor and in 1862 began to serve as mayor of the city. He would serve as mayor three different times, from 1862 to 1866, 1877 to 1879 and 1881 to 1885. His younger brother also served as mayor of Los Angeles from 1874 to 1876. Also, from 1867 to 1886, he would serve in the Quebec Legislature. During his time as mayor, he would establish fire and health departments, inaugurate the new Montreal City Hall and would keep the peace between the Protestants and Catholics in the city.
On June 30, the Prince Edward Island election was held. William Wilfred Sullivan won again, taking 18 seats, a drop of three from the 1882 election. Sullivan would serve until 1889 after 10 years as premier of the province.
On July 4, Poundmaker would pass away. The chief of the Plains Cree people, he would gain prominence during the Treaty 6 negotiations and in 1881 his bad would settle near Battleford. He grew critical of the fact that the federal government did not live up to the promises it put forward in the treaties and in 1885 he went to Fort Battleford to speak with the Indian Agent there. Upon reaching the town, they found it had been abandoned as the residents fled to Fort Battleford because they had heard reports of the Cree and Assiniboine leaving their reserves and heading to Battleford. The Indian Agent refused to come out of the fort to meet Poundmaker, keeping Poundmaker waiting for two days. Looting of the town, now empty, would be done by white settlers leaving and apparently Indigenous from another band, which Poundmaker did his best to stop. His band would leave the next day and set up an encampment at Cut Knife Hill. As I related in a previous episode, Lt. Col. William Otter would attack Poundmaker’s camp on May 2, 1885 with 332 troops and suffer a terrible defeat. The only thing that saved Otter and his men as they fled was Poundmaker telling his people to let the troops escape. Poundmaker had not taken part in the fight, but he saved hundreds with his actions. With his people starving, Poundmaker and his band made peace and Poundmaker would surrender. Since a letter written by Riel had the name of Poundmaker in it, Poundmaker was convicted of treason and sentenced to three years in prison. At his trial he is said to have stated, “everything that is bad has been laid against me this summer, there is nothing of it that is true. Had I wanted war, I would not be here now. I should be on the prairie. You did not catch me. I gave myself up. You have got me because I wanted justice.” His adopted father, Crowfoot, was able to ensure that Poundmaker’s hair was not cut in prison and he would only serve seven months before dying of a lung hemorrhage. On May 23, 2019, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with members of the Poundmaker Cree Nation and officially exonerated Poundmaker, helping to right a historical wrong. This clip comes from that ceremony.
On Oct. 10, Yoho National Park is created in British Columbia. The park would be created after John A. Macdonald and his wife Agnes passed through the Rockies on the new transcontinental railway. Upon their return to Ottawa, the creation of the park is inspired. On that same day, Glacier National Park is created as well. These will be the second and third national parks in Canada’s history after the creation of Banff the previous year. In 1984, the park would be labelled as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
On Oct. 14, Quebec held its election and Honore Mercier would become the new premier of the province after a massive victory. Leading the Liberal Party of the province, he was able to take advantage of the anger among voters for the hanging of Riel the previous year by the federal Conservatives. The Liberals rose from 15 seats in 1881 to 33 seats in 1886, while the Conservatives fell from 49 to 26 seats. The Conservatives would hold onto a minority government with the help of independents and the Parti National, until Mercier became premier in 1887 and would serve as premier until 1891.
On Nov. 23, William Jack would pass away. Born in 1817, he was the first surveying professor of the University of New Brunswick and its second president. He would determine the longitude of Fredericton in 1855 using telegraph signals. This was the first precisely determined longitude in Canada.
On Dec. 28, the Ontario general election is held with Oliver Mowat and his Ontario Liberal Party cruising to their fifth consecutive majority government. The party gained nine seats, rising from 48 to 57, from 1883. The Conservative Party would see their party seats fall from 37 to 32. Mowat will continue to serve as premier until 1896, for a total of 24 years.
The Mohawk men from the Caughnawaga Reserve in Quebec are trained to help build a steel bridge across the St. Lawrence River. This will lead to a tradition of high steel construction among the Iroquois in the province.
Also this year, work would begin on the Banff Springs Hotel, one of the defining destinations in the Canadian Rockies. The hotel would open in 1888 and was one of the earliest grand railway hotels in Canada. In 1988, it would become a National Historic Site and has been the place to stay for the famous and royalty for over a century.