As Canada approached its ninth year, closing out its first decade of existence, the growing pains and changes continued.
Let’s begin our look at the year 1876.
At the very start of the year, on January 1, the Fredericton City Hall was completed. Today, the building still stands and is the oldest municipal hall in Atlantic Canada still used for civic administration. On Nov. 23, 1984, it was declared as a National Historic Site of Canada and from 1883 to 1971, the Fredericton Police had their headquarters there.
On January 27, Frank Cahill was born in Calumet Island, Quebec. He began work as a postal clerk in Sault St. Marie, Michigan before moving to Saskatchewan and becoming a real estate broker in Saskatoon. In 1909, he opened a real estate office in Ottawa. It was there he would be elected to the House of Commons beginning in 1917 and again in 1921, 1924 and 1926, before losing in the 1930 election. He would pass away four years later at the age of 58.
On February 1, Andrew Elliott replaces George Walker as the premier of British Columbia. Elliott had been the High Sheriff of the Island and Mainland Colonies in 1866 and after British Columbia joined Canada, he was elected to the legislature and was Leader of the Opposition. Following the Motion of No Confidence over Walkem’s government, Elliott became the fourth premier of the province. He would lose the next election and his seat in 1878 after failing to get a railway built out to the province.
On April 3, Margaret Agnlin was born in Ottawa. The youngest of nine children, her father was Timothy Anglin, who was the Speaker of the House of Commons at the time of her birth. As a young girl, she fell in love with acting and would make her stage debut at the age of 18 in 1894 when she appeared in Shenandoah. In 1898, she made her Broadway debut in Lord Chumley, helping to raise her stature in theatre circles heavily. In 1905, she became known as the new star of American theatre after Sarah Bernhardt, the biggest female stage star in the world, asked her to perform with her. Anglin began to perform across the world at this point, focusing mostly on performing in Greek tragedy plays and Shakespearian plays. In 1911, she became a US citizen and would continue to perform until her final Broadway performance in 1936. Offered many times the chance to perform in movies, she always refused, sticking to her true love of the stage. She would pass away in 1958, 20 years after her husband Howard Hull.
On April 21, William Henry Wright was born in England. After serving with the British Army, including a stint in the Second Boer War, he came to Ontario and sold a plot of land that gave him a tidy profit in 1907. In 1911, after getting lost while out shooting rabbits with his brother-in-law, he stumbled upon a quartz outcrop. He could see free gold in the outcrop and he staked three claims. The seven gold producing mines that would be set up there by Wright would produce 13.5 million ounces. In 1916, he was a millionaire and approaching 40 but he signed up to serve as a private in the First World War and turned down promotions several times. In 1936, he bought The Globe and The Mail and Empire and merged them into The Globe and Mail, which is Canada’s national newspaper today. Wright passed away in 1951.
On July 1, nine years to the day after Canada became a country, the Intercolonial Railway that connects Central Canada to the Maritimes is completed.
Harriet Brooks was born in Exeter, Ontario on July 2, the third of nine children to George and Elizabeth Brooks. Her father worked at his own flour mill until it burned down. It was sadly not covered by insurance and this would hit the family hard. He would have to work as a commercial traveller for a flour firm to make ends meet. As a result of this new job, the family had to move throughout Quebec and Ontario during Brooks’ childhood. Eventually, the family would settle in Montreal.
For Harriet, she would go to McGill University in 1894 at the age of 18. This was a big step as McGill had only graduated its first female student only six years previous.
Her genius was clear and she would receive a scholarship for her final two years of her degree studies, but oddly because she was a woman she was not allowed to have a scholarship for the first two years.
Nonetheless, she would graduate with first class honours and a B.A. in mathematics and natural philosophy in 1898. Her outstanding performance in mathematics would earn her the Anne Molson Memorial Prize.
Sir Ernest Rutherford, considered the father of nuclear physics, was working at McGill University at the time and Brooks would be the first graduate student in Canada for him. He would also see her genius immediately and after graduating, she began to work with him. It was with him that she would study magnetism and electricity and earn her master’s degree. In 1899, before the thesis was even done, her work was published in the Transactions of the Canadian Section of the Royal Society. She would then receive an appointment as nonresident tutor at the Royal Victoria College that same year.
In 1901, she became the first woman at McGill to receive a Master’s degree.
Following finishing her degree, Brooks would begin to do a series of experiments to determine the nature of radioactive emissions from thorium. Her experiments would serve as one of the foundations in the overall development of nuclear science. In 1901 and 1902, Rutherford and Brooks would publish papers in the Royal Society Transactions and in the Philosophical Magazine. Rutherford had put her to work trying to figure out why radioactive thorium was emitting something that could be carried away on air currents. Brooks discovered that this gas was actually radon. Her contributions to the work on Rutherford’s work on radioactive decay would help Rutherford win the Nobel Prize in 1908. Rutherford always gave credit to Brooks for making the discovery, but over time it would become associated exclusively with him. In fact, during a presentation at the Royal Society of London, Rutherford specifically gave credit to Brooks and her contributions.
In 1905, she was appointed to the faculty of Barnard College in New York City. In 1906, she became engaged to a physics professor at Columbia University which would lead Dean Laura Gil of Barnard to respond to this engagement by stating that any engagement would end her professional relationship with the college she was working at.
Over a series of letters, Brooks would state that she had a duty to her sex and her profession to continue her work after marriage.
She would state, “It is a duty I owe to my profession and to my sex to show that a woman has the right to the practice of her profession and cannot be condemned to abandon it merely because she marries.”
Margaret Maltby, the head of the physics department at Barnard, took Brooks’ side but sadly Dean Gil had the support of college trustees who agreed that a woman could not be married and a successful academic. To keep doing her work, she called off the engagement.
Possibly because of the whole situation, Brooks would soon find herself moving away from physics at the height of her career.
By the end of 1906, she had moved to a retreat in the Adirondacks run by Fabian socialists. It was there she met Maxim Gorky, the noted Russian writer who would be a five-time nominee for the Nobel Prize for Literature. She would then travel with him and a group of Russians to the island of Capri. It was also during this time that she met a giant of physics, Marie Curie. Curie invited Brooks to be one of her staff in Paris. While none of Brooks’ research was published under her name during this period, her contributions were citied in three articles and was considered highly invaluable.
With her work with Thompson, Rutherford and Curie, she is likely the only person to have worked for all three Nobel Prize recipients.
At this time, she also worked to secure a position at the University of Manchester and Rutherford wrote a recommendation on her behalf. In his recommendation he would state, “next to Madame Curie, she is the most prominent woman physicist in the department of radioactivity. Miss Brooks is an original and careful worker with good experimental powers and I am confident that if appointed she would do most research work in physics.”
Oddly and unfortunately, for unknown reasons, Brooks terminated her physics career at this moment.
In 1907, she would marry Frank Pitcher, a physics instructor at McGill and settle in Montreal. Pitcher had apparently fallen in love with Brooks and wrote her over and over, insisting that she accept marriage to him and take on a domestic life that he said would give her more joy than science.
On April 18, 1933, she would pass away at the age of 57, believed to be from leukaemia caused by radiation exposure. The New York Times would credit her as the discoverer of the recoil of the radioactive atom for her work as one of the first persons to discover radon and help to determine its atomic mass. Rutherford, her constant supporter, would write a highly laudatory obituary of Brooks in the journal Nature.
For many decades, the contributions of Brooks to physics were unknown but in the 1980s she began to be recognized for her foundational work in nuclear science. She was the first person to show that the radioactive substance emitted by thorium was a gas with a molecular weight of 400-100, which was crucial as a discovery because it showed that elements undergo some transmutation in radioactive decay.
Today, the Harriet Brooks Building, a nuclear research laboratory at the Canadian Nuclear Laboratories is named for her. In 2002, she was inducted into the Canadian Science and Engineering Hall of Fame.
In August, Sir Louis Henry Davies succeeds Lemuel Cambridge Owen as the premier of Prince Edward Island. Davies had established a coalition government after the defeat of the Conservative government of Owen, serving as both premier and attorney-general. As premier, he was able to establish the Public Schools Act that made school attendance for children mandatory when it was passed in 1877. Davies would last as premier until 1879 when he lost a Motion of No Confidence. Following his premiership, he served as an MP in the House of Commons, including as the Minister of Marine and Fisheries. In 1901, he was appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada and was appointed Chief Justice, the oldest person appointed when he was 73 years old in 1918. He held the position until 1924 when he passed away. To date, he is the only Chief Justice of Canada to have held elected office, and the only Prince Edward Islander to have served on the Supreme Court.
On August 10, the world’s first ever long-distance phone call connects the Bell residence with a shoe and boot store located in Paris, Ontario.
On August 23, William Martina was born in Norwich, Ontario. In 1908, he would be elected to the House of Commons for Regina, serving until 1916 when he chose to enter provincial politics and took over leadership of the Saskatchewan Liberal Party, becoming Saskatchewan’s second premier. He would be re-elected in 1917 and serve as premier until 1922. He then became a judge of the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal and from 1941 to 1961, he was the Chief Justice of Saskatchewan.
In 1876, Dufferin made a long official visit to British Columbia to help diffuse tensions between the province and Canada over the delayed railroad. His visit went a long way to ensuring that British Columbia didn’t leave Confederation.
The month-long trip in the province was greeted warmly by the residents of the new province. In Victoria, the leaders of the town would announce in a proclamation quote:
“We, the Mayor and Council of Victoria, British Columbia, desire to accord to you a hearty welcome and beg respectfully to offer our felicitations to Your Excellency on the occasion of the arrival of yourself and Lady Dufferin at Victoria.”
Another article would state quote:
“The magnificent speech delivered by the Governor General to the citizens of Victoria, on the eve of leaving British Columbia, stamps Lord Dufferin as one of the ablest, most eloquent, and most patriotic representatives of royalty that Canada has ever had.”
The article would continue talking of the travels of the Governor General, stating quote:
“With the present visit to British Columbia, the Governor General may be said to have visited and travelled over the greater part of his vast domain. From Thunder Bay to Halifax and now to the Pacific, the courtly figure and well-turned sentenced of the Earl of Dufferin, and the countenance of his fair and graceful Countess are quite familiar.”
On Sept. 9, 1876, the Carnarvon Club was formed with the object of, quote:
“To organize a society for the purpose of using all constitutional means to compel Canada to carry out her railway obligations with this province, failing which, to secure the withdrawal of British Columbia from Confederation.”
Premier A.C. Elliot and his provincial government would not align itself with the Carnarvon Club and became an ally of the Mackenzie and the Liberal government. On Vancouver Island, there was considerable anger towards this.
Soon after forming the Carnarvon Club held three public meetings. The first meeting, held on Sept. 19, 1876, had 700 people in attendance, all of whom voted in favour of separation. There was worry among the Elliot government that the Carnarvon Club would influence the upcoming election.
During this year, on Aug. 23, 28 and Sept. 9, Treaty 6 was signed by the Plains and Woods Cree, Assiniboine and other Indigenous peoples around Fort Carlton and Fort Pitt. Treaty 6 differed from the other previous treaties because it had terms that the others did not, including a medicine chest at the house of the Indian agent, protection from famine, more agricultural implements and on-reserve education. Inspector Morris would leave Fort Garry on July 27 and travelled to Fort Carleton to negotiate the treaty with the Cree. Negotiations would continue over the next month with various Indigenous nations. The terms of Treaty 6 would give every family of five on a reserve one square mile of land. Each person also received $12 and $5 per year. Four chiefs and officers per band were paid $15 each and a salary of $25 per year, plus a horse, harness and wagon. Every year, the Indigenous people would receive $1,500 per year to spend on ammunition and twine to make fish nets. Treaty 6 would cover all of central Alberta and most of central Saskatchewan.
On September 20, the Ottawa Football Club, which will one day be the Ottawa Rough Riders, is established. The team would become one of the oldest and longest-lived professional teams, winning the Grey Cup in 1925, 1926, 1940, 1951, 1960, 1968, 1969, 1973 and 1976. The team would fold in 1996.
On Oct. 6, Ernest Lapointe was born. He would work as a crown prosecutor before entering politics. He served in the Canadian Parliament beginning in 1904 and would continue to serve until 1941. He was appointed to the first cabinet of William Lyon Mackenzie King in 1921, and was known as a top advisor and the Quebec lieutenant for King, who consulted with him on legal affairs for issues related to French-speaking Canada. He would pass away in 1941 while in office.
Also on Oct. 6, John Young would pass away at the age of 69. He had been born in 1807 in Bombay, India. He would go on to become the second Governor General of Canada from 1869 to 1872. Within Canada, several streets and neighbourhoods are named for him.
On November 18, Walter Allward was born in Toronto. A noted sculptor, respected for his mastery of the classical form and brilliant craftsmanship, he would create the Bell Telephone Memorial, which would gain him fame and the task of creating the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France, which is by far his most known work. Many of his works are in the National Gallery and he has been described as Canada’s most important monumental sculptor of the first third of the 20th century.
On December 9, Breton Churchill was born in Toronto. He would begin acting at a young age and move to New York City in 1903 where he worked as a pressman. He performed in over 30 Broadway plays during that time and in the 1920s, he moved to Hollywood and began acting in a variety of films, often in roles as a banker, state governor or land baron. His most famous role was in the 1939 classic Stagecoach, which starred John Wayne. He would be instrumental in creating the Screen Actors Guild in 1933. He passed away in New York City in 1940.
Other events of the year including the establishment of the District of Keewatin, which covered a large area west of Hudson Bay. It would eventually form into parts of Manitoba and Ontario.
The Toronto Women’s Literacy Club would be founded, serving as a front for the suffrage movement that would get women the right to vote in 40 years.
The first group of Sioux arrived in Canada in November of 1876, consisting of a dozen scouts who came to the trading post of Jean-Louis Legare at Wood Mountain. Legare, seeing the poverty and desparate situation of the Indigenous, offered to trade with them. He also gave them $30 and they left. The next day 70 Indigenous groups were surrounding the store, looking for a place to camp.
On Nov. 24, 1876, North West Mounted Police Inspector James Walsh and several officers intercepted Sitting Bull and with the help of an interpreter, told him that Canada could not be used as a launch point for raids into the United States.
The Indian Act is created, defining the status and land regulations of the Indigenous people of Canada who live on reserves. It also states that status Indians have no vote in elections but are exempt from taxes.
Also this year, a smallpox outbreak would be recorded in Gimli among the Indigenous and local settlers. With smallpox appearing again in the prairies, the Canadian government appointed Dr. D.W.J. Hagarty to vaccinate the entire Indigenous population. One Indigenous man in The Pas, upon hearing that his entire tribe would be vaccinated, stated, quote:
“Now I know that our Great Mother, the Queen, regards us, and that her chief councillor in Canada, wishes us to live. The Great Spirit has heard the cries of our afflicted people and has given them good medicine.”
This year, Fort Macleod, having been founded two years earlier after the North West Mounted Police March West, would become the headquarters of the force. The original fort was located along a peninsula along the Oldman River, but it would move to its present location in 1884. When it was made the headquarters, it had the fort complex, guardrooms, stores and a hospital. The original fort was 230 feet by 230 feet, and would serve as the headquarters until 1878. In 1923, it became a National Historic Site of Canada.
Wilson Abbott died in 1876, although the exact date is unknown. He was born in Virginia in 1801 and would find his way to Toronto in 1835, where he began to prosper as a businessman. He would serve in the militia that protected Toronto during the 1837 Upper Canada Rebellion, and was elected to Toronto City Council in 1840, making him one of the first black elected officials in Canadian history. His son, Anderson Abbott, would become the first black Canadian to practice medicine.