Canada A Yearly Journey: 1885

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Now, there is a major event that happened this year that had long lasting ramifications on Canadian history, the North West Resistance.

I am not going to cover that in this episode, beyond saying it happened this year. The reason for this is that it is such a huge event, it deserves its own episode and that is coming in the New Year on my main history podcast, Canadian History Ehx.

On Jan. 11, Gordon Conant was born in Ontario to a well-known family in the area. He would go on to attend the University of Toronto and would begin working as a lawyer in Ontario in 1912. In 1914, he was elected as the deputy reeve of Oshawa and then served as the reeve, or mayor, in 1916. This made him the youngest mayor in Oshawa history. Once he was done as mayor in 1917, he devoted himself to developing the hydro-electric power potential of Ontario. In 1937, he would be elected to the Ontario Legislature. In 1942, with the resignation of the premier, he became premier, but not leader of the party. He would serve as premier from Oct. 21, 1942 to May 18, 1943. He would attempt to run for the leadership of the party but collapsed hours before the leadership vote and withdrew his candidacy.

Art Ross was born on Jan. 13, 1885 in Naughton, Ontario. One of 10 children, nine sons and one daughter, his family moved around as his father worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company. In 1886, they would settle at a trading post near Whitefish Lake in Northern Ontario that was far from civilization, requiring the family to journey 370 kilometres twice a year for supplies.

When Ross was seven, the family moved to Lake St. John and three years later his mother left his father and moved back to Ontario with her younger children. She would marry Peter McKenzie, the Chief Factor of the Hudson’s Bay Company in the region and they would settle in Montreal in 1896.

It was in Montreal that Ross began to play more sports, becoming skilled in rugby and hockey.

By 1905, Ross was playing for Montreal Westmount in the Canadian Amateur Hockey League, the top league in the country.

In 1904-05, his last season with the team, he played eight games and scored 10 goals, creating the image of a rushing defenceman.

In 1907, the Kenora Thistles, a team I have covered on the show, wanted to win the Stanley Cup and defeat the juggernaut Montreal Wanderers. Ross, being one of the top players of his day, was offered $1,000 to play two games. He would accept it, as it was equivalent to being paid $30,000 today. It paid off not only in terms of money for Ross, but professionally too as he won his first Stanley Cup with the team that year. Despite his high pay, he would have no points in the two games.

By 1909, Ross was being paid $1,200 by the Wanderers, double the average salary for a hockey player at the time.

Before the 1913-14 season, Ross refused to sign for the Wanderers, asking for a salary increase. The Wanderers agreed to his request for $1,500 to play for the team, and he had nine points in 18 games.

When the Wanderers, Canadiens, Quebec Bulldogs, Senators and Toronto Arenas joined the new NHL, Ross became the coach of the Wanderers and played in the first NHL game ever on Dec. 19, 1917. He would earn the first penalty in NHL history.

On Jan. 2, 1918, the Wanderers arena burned to the ground and the team folded after only four games. With the team gone, Ross retired as a player and began decades long managerial career.

In his hockey career, he had his greatest success with the NHA, where he had 72 points, including 56 goals, in 131 games.

In 1924, when a Boston team was admitted to the NHL, Charles Adams hired Ross as his vice president, general manager, coach and scout. Adams asked Ross to come up with a nickname that portrayed a cunning, agile and fast animal. Ross decided to name the team the Boston Bruins.

In 1929, the team won the Stanley Cup and in the 1929-30 season, Ross guided the team to 38 wins in 44 games, a record at the time. The .875 winning percentage of his team continues to be a record. From Dec. 3, 1929 to Jan. 9, 1930, the team won every game, the longest streak in NHL history until 1982.

In 1934, Ross stepped aside as coach to focus on managing the team and he hired his friend Frank Patrick with an annual salary of $10,150 to coach the team. Unfortunately, off ice issues and a poor winning record meant that Ross relieved Patrick of his duties after the 1936 playoffs and once again coached.

That year, Ross signed Bobby Bauer, Woody Dumart and Milt Schmidt, all three Hall of Famers, who formed the legendary Kraut Line. In 1937-38, this team would win another Stanley Cup.

In 1947, his two sons donated the Art Ross Trophy, which is now awarded to the leading scorer in the regular season.

In 1949, Ross was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame

On Aug. 5, 1964, Ross died at a nursing home in Boston at the age of 79.

On Feb. 4, Cairine Wilson would be born in Montreal. She would move with her family to Ottawa in 1918 and begin doing an immense amount of volunteer work with the underprivileged, and also running organizations to influence women to get into politics. She would serve as the president of the National Federation of Liberal Women of Canada from 1938 to 1948. In 1930, at the age of 45, she would be appointed the first female senator in the history of Canada, only four months after the Persons Case, something I talked about in a previous episode. In 1949, she would become Canada’s first female delegate to the United Nations General Assembly and was the chair of the Canadian National Committee on Refugees and the first woman to chair a Senate Standing Committee. She would be given the Legion of Honor by France in 1950. In 1955, she became the first woman deputy speaker of the Canadian Senate. She would die suddenly on March 3, 1962. Today, a school is named for her in Orleans, Ontario.

On April 8, Susanna Moodie would pass away at the age of 81. She had been born in 1803 in England and wrote her first children’s book in 1822. In 1832, she immigrated to Canada with her husband and children and would continue to write about her life in Canada. In 1852, she published Roughing It In The Bush, detailing her experiences on a Canadian farm in the 1830s. This book would become her greatest and most successful work.

On June 27, Arthur Lismer would be born in England. He would come to Canada in 1911 and settle in Toronto where he became an official war time painter, painting many of the ships that came into Halifax Harbour, and also doing sketches of the damage after the Halifax Explosion. He was an original member of the Group of Seven and would eventually become a member of the Canadian Group of Painters. In 1967, he was awarded the Order of Canada and would pass away in 1969 in Montreal.

In 1885, the Royal Commission created to look at Chinese immigration would submit its final report, concluding there was little evidence to support claims against Chinese immigration. The commissioners stated that the Chinese were judged on unfair standards. Even with the lack of evidence of any threat of Chinese immigration, the report still recommended moderate legislation against immigration.

Only a small minority felt that no legislation was needed.

Instead of pushing for an outright ban on Chinese immigration, the commission stated that a head tax was the best option.

On July 20, the Chinese Immigration Act of 1885 would be passed. This Act would put a $50 head tax on Chinese immigrants, with the exceptions being diplomats, tourists, merchants, men of science and students. This Act was brought in because of a wave of Chinese immigration into Canada. Within the Act it stated plainly, “An Act to restrict and regulate Chinese immigration into Canada.”

This was the first piece of legislation in Canadian history to exclude immigration on the basis of ethnic origin. Under the new law, vessels coming into Canada from China could only transport one Chinese immigrant per 50 tons of ship weight. Essentially, a 300-ton ship could carry six Chinese immigrants. In 1887, the law would be changed to allow Chinese women married to non-Chinese men to enter Canada. Things would not improve in the 20th century. In 1900, the tax was increased to $100 and in 1903 it was raised to $500. In 1923 the Act was superseded by the Chinese Immigration Act, which banned Chinese immigration into Canada. This Act would be repealed in 1947.

On June 22, 2006, Stephen Harper apologized in the House of Commons for the Chinese Head Tax.

On July 23, Izaak Killam is born in Nova Scotia. He would eventually start working for the Union Bank of Halifax and gain full control of the company in 1919. He would be involved several projects and businesses, including the Mersey Paper Company, and would become the richest man in Canada during his life. He would also buy the Mail and Empire in 1927, and sell it in 1936 when it became the Globe and Mail. With no children, he and his wife devoted themselves to using their wealth to promote higher education in Canada. They would create the Killam Trusts as part of this. This endowment today is worth $400 million and is used to artistic ventures and scientific research in Canada. Dalhousie University would receive $30 million from the couple, or $215 million today. He also established the Izaak Walton Killam Hospital for Children and his inheritance taxes went to create the Canada Council For The Arts following his death in 1955.

On Sept. 15, the Northwest Territories would hold an election, the first major election in the history of the territory. This election would elect 11 people to the Council of the Northwest Territories. In 1888, the first Northwest Territories General Election would be held.

In 1885, Montreal would be hit hard by a smallpox epidemic. In order to deal with the disease, municipal authorities decided to make vaccination a requirement but at the time medical opinion was heavily divided on the effectiveness of vaccinations. The population, for its part, generally refused to get vaccinated and many felt that it was just a way to spread the disease further. Things would reach a critical point when on Sept. 18, 1885, residents rioted and tore down pro-vaccination posters and destroyed the home of the official medical vaccinator, while also attacking pharmacies and city hall. This outburst did not stop the spread of the disease of course, and by the end of the smallpox epidemic, 3,164 people in Montreal had died, with three quarters of them being children. With this number, Montrealers began to accept that vaccinations were a good idea, aided by the prompting of authorities and clergy within the city. This would be the last major epidemic of smallpox in a North American city. Ontario, seeing its success the previous year, would actually send Bryce in to Montreal to deploy medical inspectors to ensure that anyone coming to Ontario was free of smallpox infection. While Montreal would see that terrible epidemic, and Quebec would see 5,964 deaths, Ontario only had 30 deaths.

On Oct. 23, Lawren Harris was born in Branford, Ontario and would become a member of the Group of Seven. Many consider him to be the stimulus behind the creation of the organization. He would make several trips out to the Rocky Mountains with A.Y. Jackson to sketch the landscape. He would pass away in 1970 and his South Shore, Baffin Island painting would sell for $240,000 in 1981, a record at the time for a Canadian painting. That painting was then sold in 2001 for a record $2.2 million.

On Nov. 7, the Last Spike would be driven in for the Canadian Pacific Railway at Craigellachie, British Columbia. The spike was driven into the ground at 9:22 a.m. by Donald Smith, who helped to finance the railway.

As the big day approached, which came four years behind schedule of the initial timeline, but six years ahead of schedule for the revised Canadian Pacific Railway timeline, two crews coming from the east and west converged at the Eagle Pass at Craigallachie, British Columbia.

The CPR wanted to have some sort of celebration but by this point, it was nearly bankrupt. The directors had borrowed immense amounts of money to get the job done, and there was no chance for a grand spectacle to end the construction with a flourish. Instead, only a modest celebration for one of the greatest engineering projects in Canadian history, would occur.

There would be no reporters at the event, nor any politicians, including Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald. Even company president George Stephen was away in England and could not attend.

It fell to Donald Smith, the main director and financier of the project, and general manager William Van Horne to journey out to the Eagle Pass. They would be joined by surveyor Sandford Fleming, Major Albert Bowman Rogers who had directed the CPR to go through the Rogers Pass, and several other officials.

On Nov. 6, the workers had finished the construction of the railroad, just in time for the officials to ceremoniously finish it for the camera. There was no community there at that point, but Van Horne would name the spot Craigellachie, in honour of a Clan Grant gathering place in Scotland where he and George Stephen grew up near.

There would be no gold spike, as was often used in this type of ceremony.

Van Horne had asked for a gold spike from the CPR but received the reply of quote:

“The last spike will be just as good an iron one as there is between Montreal and Vancouver and anyone who wants to see it driven will have to pay full fare.”

A silver spike had been made for the Governor General Marquess of Lansdowne, who was supposed to be at the ceremony, but poor weather forced his return to Ottawa with the spike. The silver spike would actually remain with the Van Horne family until 2012 when it was donated to the Canadian Museum of Civilization.

Van Horne would then say a few words, stating quote:

“All I can say is that the work has been done well in every way.”

Later that day, he would telegraph Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald, stating quote:

“Thanks to your far seeing policy and unwavering support, the Canadian Pacific Railway is complete. The last rail was laid this morning at 9:22.”

As for that photograph, there are some interesting stories behind it. First, it was taken by Alexander J. Ross, who was noted for his portraits of the Indigenous between 1884 and 1891. Ross happened to be at the site and he was pushed into service to take the photo after Cornelius Soule, the expected photographer, did not arrive. This allowed Ross to take one of the most famous photos in Canadian history.

The CPR would make many reproductions of the photo and sell them.

On Dec. 5, Ernest Cormier would be born in Montreal. He would go on to become one of Canada’s greatest architects and would he design the Supreme Court of Canada Building in Ottawa. In 1974, he was awarded the Order of Canada. He would pass away in 1980 and in 2018 was named a National Historic Person.

Frank Alexis Patrick was born in Ottawa on Dec. 21, 1885, where his father Joseph Patrick was a wealthy lumber baron in the city. As a teenager, the family moved to Montreal.

In 1903-04, Patrick played for the Montreal Victorias, recording five points in five games.

In 1909-10, Patrick joined his brother Lester on the Renfrew Creamery Kings in the NHA.

By this point, Patrick was one of the top players in the country and was known for his skilled defensive abilities. To play for the Kings, he was paid $2,000, amounting to nearly $60,000 today.

After their brief time with the Kings, the two brothers would found the Pacific Coast Hockey League with their father Joseph. It would be Joseph that would come up with the idea of having numbers on the sweaters of players. The brothers would also build the first major sporting venue in Vancouver, the 10,000 seat Denman Arena. This was the largest arena in Canada at the time, and the first to introduce artificial ice. That arena would last until 1936 when it burned to the ground.

With the league created, Patrick would play for, coach and manage the Vancouver Millionaires, a team he created. His time with the team would include playing for the team from 1911 to 1918, and coaching and managing the team until 1918-19. Then again from 1924 to 1926 when the team was called the Maroons. 

In the team’s first season, it finished with a record of seven wins and eight losses and did not make the playoffs.

In 1914-15, the Vancouver Millionaires finally broke through. Patrick would have 20 points in 16 games, leading his team to compete for the Stanley Cup, which they won with Patrick scoring three points in the three games.

While playing, coaching and managing the team, Patrick was also the president of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association.

As president, he would bring several innovations into hockey that would later be adopted by the NHL. These included the creation of the blue line, the penalty shot, the boarding penalty and even raising the stick when a goal is scored. He and his brother also allowed goaltenders to fall to the ice to make a save, and for the puck to be kicked anywhere but in the net. In all, Frank has been credited with 22 changes that remain in the NHL rule book to this day.

In 1950, Patrick was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

On June 29, 1960, exactly four weeks after his brother died of a heart attack, Patrick died of a heart attack.

Before he died, Patrick said quote:

“I am not afraid of death. It could be the opening moment of the best story a fellow ever read or a writer ever wrote.”

On Dec. 24, A.A. Heaps was born in England and would find his way to Canada and Winnipeg in 1911. He would become one of the leaders of the Winnipeg General Strike, which I did an episode on several months ago and would then serve on Winnipeg City Council from 1917 to 1925. In 1925, he was elected to Parliament and was instrumental in bringing in Canada’s first old age pension. A founding member of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, the forerunner of the NDP, he would serve until 1940. He would pass away on April 4, 1954.

Also this year, Canada would outlaw the potlatch ceremony among the Indigenous people of the Northwest Coast. The law is often ignored by the Indigenous people but it would remain in place until 1951.

Also related to the Indigenous people, it was this year that the Electoral Franchise Act was passed. This gave the right to vote to Indigenous men who lived on reserves if they owned land and had $150 worth of improvements on property. This was extended only to the Indigenous people in the east, not the west in the Canadian Prairies and British Columbia. During the debate over this act, it was suggested that unmarried women get the vote, but this was put down quickly in Parliament.

Banff National Park would be established this year, the first national park in Canada and today one of the biggest tourist spots in the country.

Lastly this year, Paulin Johnson published her iconic poem that would spark her career, A Cry from an Indian Wife.

The setting for the poem was the Battle of Cut Knife during the North West Resistance, and it was published in The Week by Charles G.D. Roberts. Roberts was a noted poet in his own right and a soon-to-be a lifelong friend for Pauline.

Paulines poem centres on an Indigenous woman whose husband has gone to fight the Canadian forces attacking the hill, in it she wrote – quote

“Who prays for vict’ry for the Indian scout?

Who prays for our poor nation lying low?

None—therefore take your tomahawk and go.

My heart may break and burn into its core,

But I am strong to bid you go to war.” end quote

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