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Canada reached its tenth anniversary this year and it had been quite the first decade for the new country. Several notable, tragic and amazing events would happen in this anniversary year for Canada.
On Jan. 2, Jonathan McCully would pass away. Considered to be a Father of Canadian Confederation, he would use his newspapers to promote union of the country. After Canada became a country, he was rewarded for his efforts with an appointment to the Canadian Senate in 1870, serving until his death.
On Jan. 5, Edgar Nelson Rhodes, future premier of Nova Scotia, would be born. He would serve as premier from 1925 to 1930. Prior to this, he served in the House of Commons from 1908 to 1921, a time in which he would also serve as Speaker of the House of Commons. He would be appointed as a senator, serving from 1935 to 1942 when he would pass away at the age of 65.
On Feb. 28, the University of Manitoba would be founded and was the first university in western Canada. Still operating today, it boasts almost 30,000 students and is the largest university in Manitoba and the 17th largest in Canada. The university has had 98 Rhodes Scholars, more than any other university in western Canada, and several notable people have graduated from the university including a Nobel prize winner, an Oscar winner, several members of Parliament and a few premiers of Manitoba. In 1970, research at the university would lead to the creation of canola oil.
On May 4, Charles Wilson would pass away. He was born in 1808 and as a young man, established a hardware business in Montreal that became very successful. He would serve as a city councillor for Montreal from 1848 to 1849, and from 1850 to 1852. He would also serve as Mayor of Montreal from 1851 to 1854.
In 1852, he became a member of the Legislative Council of the Province of Canada, and after Confederation, he was appointed to the Senate of Canada, where he would remain until his death.
On June 20, the Great Fire of Saint John, New Brunswick would erupt. The fire started when a spark fell into a bundle of hay at a storehouse. Within nine hours, the fire would spread and destroy 200 acres of the city, including 1,612 buildings. Eight churches, six banks, 14 hotels, 11 ships and four wood boats would be destroyed. In addition, 19 people would die.
The Ottawa Daily Citizen would write quote:
“The terrible fire that has reduced to ashes the business portion of the commercial metropolis of New Brunswick is one of the most disastrous to have ever taken place in Canada.”
The Kingston British Whig would say of the fire quote:
“This afternoon at half-past two a fire broke out in McLaughlin’s boiler shops. A strong north-westerly wind was blowing at the time, and in an incredibly short space of time, the flames burst out, carrying with them hundreds of houses, stores and lumber yards.”
On Aug. 5, Tom Thomson was born in Claremont, Ontario. He would enter into a machine shop apprenticeship in 1899 through a close friend of his father. Soon after, he was fired for constantly being late. That same year, he attempted to fight in the Second Boer War but was turned away due to a medical condition.
In 1901, he would go to business college in Chatham but would drop out eight months later and travel to Seattle where he would join his brother in operating a business school. Three years later, he would return to Canada.
In Ontario, Thomson joined the Legg Brothers and began photo-engraving with them. In 1908, he joined up with Grip Ltd. and started working on artistic design. It was there he would work with several of the Group of Seven. He would remain with the company until 1912 when he left to join another artist firm.
That same year, he travelled to Algonquin Park and it was there that he would find a major source of inspiration for his paintings.
He would begin working with several artists that year, who would form the Group of Seven,.
One year later, his art was displayed at the Ontario Society of Artists and he would join the organization in 1914. His work would continue to be exhibited there until his death.
Also in 1914, the National Gallery of Canada began to acquire his paintings and this would change his entire life. He would begin living and working with fellow artists and would spend most of his time at Algonquin Park, working as a firefighter, ranger and guide. He disliked the work though, due to the fact it didn’t leave him enough time to paint.
For the next three years, he would produce some of the best-known Canadian artwork including The Jack Pine, The West Wind and The Northern River.
Completely self-taught as an artist, his most creative period would be 1914 to 1917 when James MacCallum served as his patron so he could continue to make art without needing to have a full-time job. Much of his artwork of this time has been compared to that of Vincent Van Gogh.
Sadly, the world would only have him as a full artist for three years until 1917. It was on July 8, 1917 that he disappeared during a canoeing trip on Canoe Lake. His body was found just over one week later.
Upon examination of the body, it was found that he had drowned and the drowning was accidental.
With his death, many have begun wondering if there was more to it than just drowning. Some theorize that he committed suicide, or was even murdered. Some theories say the suicide was over a woman, or due to what he felt was a lack of artistic recognition. Other theories say he was killed by poachers at the park, or was in a fight with two men living at Canoe Lake.
This was also the year that Treaty 6 was signed. Negotiations were planned for the fall of 1877, but the Blackfoot were skeptical. They had not had negotiations with the federal government but some of their leaders had signed a treaty with the United States in 1855, most of the promises outlined on that treaty were not fulfilled.
Representing the government this time was David Laird, the new Lt. Governor of the North West Territories, and James MacLeod, the commissioner of the North West Mounted Police.
The Indigenous involved did not see the treaty negotiations as a surrender of land, but a peace treaty, which they would allow settlement, but they would be able to cohabitate on the land in peace.
Negotiations would begin on Sept. 19, 1877, at Blackfoot Crossing. Laird spoke to the Indigenous, outlining the positive aspects of the government, which included ending the whiskey forts. He added that the bison would soon be gone and the Indigenous needed to switch to ranching and agriculture and the government would support them in that. The Indigenous wanted the right to hunt and fish on their traditional lands, as well as payments and other items similar to Treaty 4.
One old chief, who was not identified, stated quote:
“I am very old. I am like a child. All I ask of the Great White Mother is that this place where we are now may remain quiet as it is at present, that no building be raised upon it, but that we may live here at peace.”
Following initial speeches and negotiations, talks ended while the gathered groups waited for the arrival of the Kainai. The federal government group gave out rations of beef and flour to everyone present, but Crowfoot refused to take any, stating he wanted no favours until he had decided what to do regarding the treaty.
Negotiations ended until Sept. 21, when Red Crow, the leader of the Kainai, arrived. After speaking with Crowfoot, Red Crow agreed to the terms.
On Sept. 22, the Indigenous agreed to the terms and the treaty was signed. Every man, woman and child were given $12, and an annual payment of $25 per chief was approved, as was $15 per minor chief and $5 for all others. All the chiefs would receive a Winchester Rifle, while the head chiefs would also receive a medal and flag to commemorate the treaty. Chiefs would also receive a new suit of clothing every three years. The government also agreed to pay the salaries of teachers on reserve and provide $2,000 worth of ammunition each year.
The land agreed to in the treaty covers from Red Deer, down to the US Border, to the Rocky Mountains, and east to Medicine Hat. The largest communities in that territory are Calgary and Lethbridge. In all, a total of 517,997 square kilometres was taken by the Canadian government, which is larger than the country of Spain.
In September 1877, Lord Dufferin became the first Governor General to visit Manitoba. While in Manitoba, with his wife Lady Dufferin, they would each drive a spike into the line of the still-in-construction Canadian Pacific Railway. To honour them, the first engine on the railway was named the Lady Dufferin.
The Brantford newspaper would write quote:
“The visit to the North-West will form one of the brightest pages in the history of Manitoba. If the Earl of Dufferin had returned to England without having made this trip to Manitoba, although he had visited every other province, he would have left North America without having seen the Dominion of Canada, although five years its Governor. We feel proud of the honor he has conferred upon us.”
During his visit, he would take a canoe trip down the Winnipeg River. It would be reported quote:
“The vice-regal party returned to Winnipeg on Saturday afternoon. The canoe trip down the Winnipeg River was much enjoyed. They visited Gimli yesterday and were warmly welcomed by the Icelanders. Stormy weather was experienced on the lake.”
On Dec. 18, James Allison Glen was born in Scotland, where he would receive his education before coming to Canada in 1911 and settling in Winnipeg. In 1926, he would be elected to the House of Commons as a Liberal-Progressive. He would lose his seat in 1930, but regain it in 1935. In 1940, he would become the Speaker of the House. After 1945, he would be appointed as a Liberal to position of Minister of Mines and Resources, where he remained until 1948 he retired after a heart attack. He would pass away in 1950.
Some events are important but no date is specifically given. Manzo Nagano would become the first Japanese immigrant to Canada in 1877. He would become a salmon fisher before taking a job hauling timber onto ships. After returning to Japan in 1884, he would come back in 1892 and open a hotel and store. After a fire destroyed everything he owned in 1922, he moved back to Japan and died in 1923. Mount Manzo Nagano is named for him and Keegan Messing, a Canadian Olympic figure skater, is his great-great-grandson.
Refugees from the Lakota people would enter Canada this year following the end of the Great Sioux War, hoping to find safety from American violence against them.
Sitting Bull, who had taken refuge with his people in Canada following the Battle of Little Big Horn, would refuse the pardon offer from the United States and choose not to go back to that country. By May of 1877, after following the Frenchman River between Val Marie and Mankota, Sitting Bull sent an emissary to the Cypress Hills to warn the North West Mounted Police about his arrival and requested a meeting with them. Walsh met with Sitting Bull and assured him of protection in Canada in exchange for peaceful compliance under Canadian law. Sitting Bull presented a medal and stated, quote:
“My grandfather received this medal in recognition of his battle for George III during the revolution. Now in this odd time, I direct my people here to reclaim a sanctuary of my grandfather.”
Walsh asked Sitting Bull if he would turn over any items taken in battle from the soldiers that died at Little Big Horn, which Sitting Bull complied with. Walsh then had those items returned to the families of the soldiers.
The two men would grow close, developing a friendship and a mutual respect for each other. Walsh would assure Sitting Bull of protection from the Americans as long as the Sioux obeyed Canadian laws. Walsh, for his part, truly felt that the Sioux had been mistreated in the United States.
Eventually, 5,000 Sioux were in the area and the Wood Mountain NWMP post was established with 22 NWMP officers serving there.
By all accounts, the first year for Sitting Bull and his people was quite good. They found bison and were able to rest in peace. The Americans did come to Canada to try and convince Sitting Bull and his people to return to the United States. Three American emissaries were imprisoned by the Sioux but Walsh was able to convince Sitting Bull to let them leave.
In the United States, Sitting Bull’s name was growing in prominence as newspapers reported on him, touting him as the mastermind of Custer’s demise and he gained fame being described as the last hold out of the Indian Wars.
After meeting with Sitting Bull, NWMP Commissioner Acheson Irvine would state, quote:
“His speech showed him to be a man of wonderful capability and I was much impressed.”
Work continued on the transcontinental railway, with surveyors covering 19,000 square kilometres of countryside through the Canadian Shield, with 800 men working on surveys by 1877.
Sandford Fleming would write of the surveyors, quote:
“Many of those we were obliged to take, subsequent events proved, were unequal to the very arduous labour they had to undergo, causing a very considerable delay and difficulty in pushing the work.”
Fleming would write, quote:
“The whole country along the line of projected, surveys, embracing an extant of not far short of one thousand miles, being densely wooded and without a road or trail of any description, made the prosecution of the work unusually difficult.”