Canada Year-By-Year: 1889

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We close out the 1880s in Canada today with a look at 1889. Overall, it was a quiet year.

On Feb. 11, Andrew Elliott would pass away in San Francisco. He had been born in Ireland in 1829 and by 1866, was the High Sheriff for the Colony of British Columbia. In 1875, he was elected to the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, serving until 1878. During that time, he would become the fourth premier of the province, serving from 1876 to 1878. In his obituary, the Victoria Colonist stated, “He administered justice with fearless hand and soon had discordant elements well in check. He was a genial, whole-souled gentleman of generous impulses and possessed the highest kind of honour. He was a brave man.”

On Feb. 27, Samuel Bronfman is born in the Russian Empire. His family, which included his parents and seven siblings, came to Wapella, Saskatchewan as refugees and then moved to Brandon, Manitoba. The family was wealthy and brought with them their rabbi, several servants and would soon find out that they could not continue to grow tobacco in the cold environment of Canada. Nonetheless, the family would thrive working various jobs and in 1903, Samuel set up shop as a liquor distributor and in 1924 founded Distillers Corporation, right at the time when Prohibition was in effect in the United States. The company sold liquor to northern cities in the United States, making a great deal of money in the process. Samuel would become one of Canada’s most famous businessmen and was awarded the Order of Canada in 1967. He would pass away at the age of 82 in 1971 in Montreal.

On May 4, A.B. Rogers would pass away. While he was an American, he would hold the distinction of having Rogers Pass named after him. The Canadian Pacific Railway had hired him in April of 1881 to find a rail route through the Selkirk and Rocky Mountains. On May 28, 1881, his birthday, he found a pass through the mountains. The Canadian Pacific Railway, in their gratitude, named the pass for him and gave him $5,000.

On June 5, John Hamilton Gray would pass away. Born in Bermuda in 1814, he would come to Canada later in life and work as a lawyer in Saint John, New Brunswick. Interested in politics, he would become the Leader of the Conservatives in the provincial legislature and in 1856, became premier of the Colony of New Brunswick, serving one year. He would become a Father of Confederation and in 1867, was elected to the House of Commons, serving until 1872. He would then become a judge of the Supreme Court of British Columbia and in 1878 ruled that the Chinese Tax Act of the province was unconstitutional. After his death, he was buried in Victoria, the only Father of Confederation buried west of Ontario.

On July 5, John Norquay would pass away in Winnipeg. Born in St. Andrews, Manitoba in 1841, he would enter public life after the Red River Resistance and quickly move up in the government. In 1878, he would become the fifth premier of Manitoba, and the first premier of the province born in Manitoba. He would serve until 1887. Overall, he served in provincial politics from 1870 to 1889. Today, Norquay is remembered for developing Manitoba during his time in politics and Mount Norquay in Banff National Park is named for him, which was a mountain he attempted to climb in 1887 but did not reach the summit.  

On Aug. 1, for the second time in its history, British Columbia loses its premier after he dies in office. Alexander Davie, who had been premier since 1887, had been in ill health for some time and had spent his first year as premier living in California because it was better for his health. He had returned to British Columbia in 1888 but his health was still very poor. Following his death, in 1892, his brother Theodore Davie would come to power as premier, serving one year longer than his brother from 1892 to 1895. Today, Davie Street in Vancouver is named for him.

On Aug. 2, one day after the death of Davie, John Robson would become the new premier of British Columbia. Starting his career as a merchant before becoming the editor of the British Columbian, he would retire in 1864 and would become the MLA for Nanaimo in 1871, the year British Columbia joined Canada. He would serve as MLA for that district, as well as New Westminster, Westminster and Cariboo over the next two decades. As premier, he would serve until 1892 and his chief contribution to the province’s history was enabling homesteading and the construction of a dry dock just west of Victoria. Sadly, in 1892 he would hurt his finger in the door of a carriage and would get blood poisoning, also dying in office. Marking three times in a row that a premier had died in office. Several places are named for Robson including the Town of Robson, several streets and an elementary school. Mount Robson, the tallest mountain in Canada, is not named for him.

On Aug. 13, Camillien Houde was born in Montreal. Nicknamed in his political career as The Unpredictable, he was first elected to the Legislative Assembly of Quebec as a member of the Conservative Party in 1923, serving until 1927. He would be re-elected in 1928 in a by-election and became leader of the Conservative Party in 1929, but he would lose his seat in 1931. Well known for his wit, when King George VI and Queen Elizabeth came to Montreal in 1939, they were greeted with cheering crowds and Houde turned to the King and said, “You know Your Majesty, some of this is for you.” He would run for federal politics in 1938 but lose. He was highly against conscription and he urged the men of Quebec to ignore the conscription measure. As a result, on Aug. 5, 1940, he was arrested on charges of sedition and confined at an internment camp until 1944. Upon his release, 50,000 Montrealers greeted him when he returned to the community. In 1945, he would run in the federal election and be defeated, but would finally be elected in 1949, serving until 1953. In addition to serving in provincial and federal politics, he was also the mayor of Montreal from 1928 to 1932, 1934 to 1936, 1938 to 1940 and 1944 to 1954, becoming one of the few Canadians to serve at all three levels of government. He would be made a Commander of the Order Of The British Empire in 1935, and an Officer of the Order of St. John in 1953. He would pass away in 1958.

On Sept. 13, Henry Clarke would pass away in Medicine Hat. Born in Ireland in 1833, he had come to Canada in the 1860s and would move to Manitoba in 1870, helping to establish the provincial government. He would be elected to the legislature in 1870, and would serve until 1874. During that time, from 1872 to 1874, he would serve as the third premier of Manitoba.

On Sept. 19, one day after heavy rains had fallen on Quebec City, an overhang of slate brock off a nearby mountain and fell 300 feet onto the houses below. A total of 28 homes were completely crushed, with 100 people buried under 80 feet of rock. The death toll of this rock slide would be 40 people.

On Oct. 13, Douglass Dumbrille is born in Hamilton, Ontario. After working as a bank clerk in Hamilton, he would pursue a career in theatre and begin touring the United States. In 1913, he would appear in his first film, What Eighty Million Women Want, but would not appear in another film for 11 years. In 1924, he made his debut on Broadway and performed on Broadway off and on while working as a salesman. During The Great Depression, he moved to the west coast and played character roles in various films including Broadway Bill, The Buccaneer and The Three Musketeers. Over the course of his career, he would perform in over 200 movies, with his final film role being in The Ten Commandments. He would also perform on television, including on Perry Mason, Crossroads and Batman. He would pass away from a heart attack in 1974.

In November, Neil McLeod would become the premier of Prince Edward Island. He replaced William Wilfred Sullivan, who had served as premier since 1879. Sullivan had resigned to become the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the province, leaving McLeod to become premier. He would serve as premier until 1891 when several by-election losses resulted in losing a Motion of No Confidence.

On Nov. 6 in the Newfoundland election, William Whiteway and his Liberals would win a majority, defeating the Reforms led by Robert Thorburn. Thorburn had served as premier since 1885 and Whiteway, who had served as premier of the colony from 1878 to 1885, would serve from 1889 to 1894, then again from 1895 to 1897. In the election, the Liberal Party went from 13 seats in 1885 to 28 seats in the election, while the Reforms fell from 18 seats to just three.

On Nov. 20, John McNair would be born in New Brunswick. A stellar student who was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to attend Oxford University, he would go on to serve with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in the First World War, reaching the rank of Lieutenant. After returning back home in 1919, he would get involved in public affairs and in 1935 would be elected to the Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick, serving as an MLA until 1952, except for a brief time in 1939. During that time, he would become premier of New Brunswick, serving from 1940 to 1952. During that time, he would implement a four per cent sales tax to help finance public education and social services. After the defeat of his government in 1952, he would practice law and in 1955, he was named Chief Justice of New Brunswick. In 1965, he became the Lt. Governor of New Brunswick. In 1967, he was awarded the Order of Canada. He would pass away the next year at the age of 78.

Also happening this year was the creation of the Dominion Women Enfranchisement Association, which would campaign to get women the right to vote. As well, an Act was passed in the British Parliament to give control of the northern region of Ontario to the Ontario government, allowing the province to set policies to develop the region’s natural resources.

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