IN THE DAYS OF THE BOOM
Second Article in the Series of Reminiscences, Seventy Busy Years
COL. GEORGE H. HAM
WINNIPEG is a live wire city.
That does not have to be proven. Almost any one pf its progressive business men will admit that, if cornered, but it is doubtul if in its couple of hundred thousand or so of people it holds as many or as distinguished “live dres” as did the muddy, generally disreputable vilage that in, say, 1873,
With a thousand or perhaps fteen hundred people, traggled along Main Street rom Portage Avenue to Brown’s Bridge, near the
present site of the City Ha11, andsprawled between Main Street and the river. was without sidewalk pavements; it had either water works, sewerge nor street lights. The rest railroad was at Moorhead on the Red River, 225 miles away, connection with the er world was one, or sibly two, steamers on Red River in the sum•, and by weekly stage winter. It boasted telegraph connection with the United States and Eastern Canada by way of St.
Paul, during the intervals when the line was working.
Although essentially Canadian it was practically cut off from direct connection with Canada. The Dawson route to Port Arthur could be travelled with great labor, pains and cost; but did not admit of the transportation of supplies. All freight came by Northern Pacific Railway to Moorhead, otherwise by steamer, flat boat or freight team to Winnipeg.
But the Winnipeg of that day was recognized to be then, as it is now, the gateway to the Canadian Prairie West where lay the hope of Canada’s future greatness. The transfer of governmental authority over Rupert’s Land from the Hudson’s Bay Company to Canada had teken place in 1869; Canadian authority had been established by the first Red River expedition of 1870; a transcontinental railway was to be built at an early date that would displace the primitive conditions then existing. The doors of vast opportunity lay wide open and Canada’s adventurous sons flocked to Winnipeg to have a part in the great expansion—the building of a newer and greater Canadian West. They were big men, come together with big purpose. Their ideas were big, and they fought for the realization of them. They struggled for place and power and advantage, not with regard to the little, isolated village which was the field of their activities and endeavors; but always with an eye to the city that now is and to the great plains as they now are.
i They saw what was coming; they were there to bring it. Tet those who lived to see their visions realized, as they are to-day, are few and far between. The boom of 1881 seemed to promise that realization, while the pioneers of the early ’70’s were still to the fore. But the promise of the boom was not fulfilled—then. It was only a mirage, and when it passed it left the majority of the pioneers blown off the map financially and otherwise. And they never “came back.” Since the boom of 1882, the soul of Winnipeg has never been what it was before. The later Winnipeg may be a better city, but it is not and never can be the same city. It was a short life from '71 to ’82, but while it lasted, it was life with a “tang” to it—a “tang” born of conditions that cannot be repeated and therefore Cpnnot be reproduced.
The Live Wires of the Seventies
Xï^HO were those live wires of the ’70’s? I shall just ’ ’ mention a few whose reputations have been established before the world by after events. No one will deny the outstanding ability and commanding position in national, imperial and even world affairs, achieved by the late Lord Strathcona. In Winnipeg in those early ’70’s he was chief commissioner of the Hudson’s Bay Company, resident in Winnipeg, and took an active part in all that concerned the business or politics of the country.
“Jim” Hill flatboated down the Red River from Aber-
crombie and Moorhead to Winnipeg in ’70, ’71 and ’72.
In ’73 he was the chief member of the firm of Hill, Griggs & Company, owning and operating the small steamer Selkirk on the Red River in opposition to the “Kittson Line” (really the H.B.C.) steamer International. .Alex. Griggs was captain of the Selkirk, Hill rustled business and was general manager. How small that day of small things was may be judged by the fact that these two stern wheel steamboats on the Red River transported all supplies of all kinds used in the trade of the vast north-west; and at that the International was laid up in the fall for lack of business. Of course they had to meet the competition of flat boats. In any case Hill was squeezed out of the transportation business on the Red River. The Selkirk passed into the service of the “Kittson” line and Hill entirely withdrew his interest in the development of the Canadian West. Some years afterwards he joined forces with his late opposition on the Red River in organizing and pushing what became the Great Northern railway system of to-day.
Amongst the men of the ’70’s; or indeed before the ’70’s, was Jas. H. Ashdown, one of the many who entered in the business race, and one of the few who has realized to the full the success for which he hoped and planned. Mr. Ashdown was in Winnipeg before the transfer to Canada— no doubt in expectation of the event. As a Canadian he opposed the ambitions of Louis Riel and was imprisoned by Riel during his short reign. A careful but enterprising business man, the boom of 1882, that destroyed so many of his business colleagues and competitors, left him unshaken. His business has steadily expanded since that time. To-day Mr. Ashdown belongs to his business. In the ’70’s he was a fighting force for progress. In the struggle for competition and lower freight rates on the Red River he took a leading part, and was the means of establishing the “Merchants Line,” consisting of the Minnesota, and the Manitoba. The Manitoba was sunk on her first trip by a collision with the Kittson Line International. While that seemed likely to put the Merchants Line out of business, the course of the subsequent damage litigation was such that a favorable arrangement towards Winnipeg merchants was made by the Kittson Line; and this bridged óver the river freight conditions until the arrival of the railways. In later days when financial difficulties seemed likely to overcome the big city, Mr. Ashdown became mayor and admittedly put the city on its feet. No one to-day will deny Mr. Ashdown the attribute of being a live wire.
Another old timer of the early ’70’s to establish his title to rank with the best of them under modern conditions
was “Sandy” Macdonald. Mr. Macdonald was a resident of Winnipeg in the ’70’s but did not go into business for himself until after the boom. However, he soon made up for lost time. During the slow moving decades that followed the boom, Mr. Macdonald expanded his wholesale grocery business until it spread all over the West from Winnipeg to the Coast. Some years ago he sold out to a then recently organized company for several millions. But his activities did not cease. With a new organization he is doing as much and as widespread a business as ever, following his own original lines as to cash sales and co-operative employment. Mr. Macdonald is essentially a progressive along all lines and has served the modern city both as alderman and mayor.
But a city must have other interests than commerce and transportation if it is to be a real city. Education is of paramount importance. Now that there is a Manitoba University and a number of colleges given to higher education along all accepted modern lines, representing an expenditure of millions, it is in order to recall that the first Manitoba college was established through the single-minded purpose and almost single-handed efforts of Rev. Dr. Bryce, of the Presbyterian Church, who still occupies a high place amongst the educationists of the West. Manitoba College was begun, like almost all else in those early ’70’s, on faith in the future and a determination to be ready for it when it came. The chief trade of the city was in buffalo robes from the plains; production from the farms, limited as it was at best, had been paralyzed for several successive seasons by the grasshopper plague. The immigrants, who were arriving, needed almost everything more than they did education. And yet Dr. Bryce, having the future in mind, worked on. It is a long road from the Manitoba College of 1873 to the University and College of 1920. But Dr. Bryce has been pushing the cause through every change and has the satisfaction of seeing to-day the realization of the hopes with which he entered on the work.
Lord Strathcona and “Jim” Hill have passed from the scene of their efforts and triumphs. Messrs. Ashdown and Macdonald and Rev. Dr. Bryce are still here to answer for themselves. It is not to be supposed that these names exhaust the list of outstanding figures who held the stage in those early years. They are merely mentioned as examples that prove beyond argument the live wire character of the early population. '
The Rivalry Between Smith and Schultz
AN INSTANCE of the rivalry of those early giants was that between Donald A. Smith and Dr. Schultz. Mr. Smith was commissioner of the Hudson’s Bay Company, by far the most powerful commercial organization in the West, which also controlled the only inlet and outlet of trade or travel by its "Kittson” line of steamers on the Red River. He was active in civic, provincial and federal politics and was considered by the new Canadian influx to be anti-Canadian and non-progressive. Dr. Schultz was a Canadian physician from Windsor, Ontario, who had come to the Red River settlement and established himself in medical practice before the transfer of 1869. He had championed the Canadian cause both before and during the Riel rebellion, and escaped Riel’s vengeance by leaving the country in the middle of winter; but his property was confiscated by the rebels. When he returned in the wake of the first expedition he was of course in strong favor with the constantly increasing Canadian element of the population. At the same time in his practice as a physician he
acquired the confidence of many of the native Red River settlers, so that he was in a strong position to contest the claims of Mr. Smith’s political support. He had some aptitude for trade as well as for medicine, politics and real estate and there is no doubt that his vision of the future was as far reaching and on much the same lines as that of Mr. Smith, who was the first representative from Manitoba in the Canadian Parliament.
Both were men of boundless energy and ambition. They were in opposition to each other on all points and at all times. While Dr. Schultz helped to ultimately defeat Mr. Smith for parliament, the latter finally carried away the prize of railway construction and control that had been the great dream of Dr. Schultz. Although the doctor was finally distanced in the race by his great rival he nevertheless achieved a large measure of distinction. He sat in the Commons and afterwards in the Senate. He was made a knight and for years was lieutenant-governor of Manitoba. Had his health not broken down, his death following, there is no saying how far he might ultimately have gone. These facts are mentioned not to revive ancient animosities but to prove that the men who achieved success did not do so because they had the field to themselves. They had to fight every inch of the way; then as much as now or possibly then more than now.
The Political Leaders
/'■'•ENERALLY speaking, the politicians of Manitoba in the ’70’s were of higher calibre than is generally found in new countries. Head and shoulders above all was Hon. John Norquay, a native, who became Premier after the retirement of Hon. A. R. Davis, a very shrewd politician. Mr. Norquay, who personally resembled Sir James Carroll, the Maori-Irishman or Irish-Maorian of New Zealand, was a high minded statesman, eloquent bevond ordinary and his honesty and motives were never questioned, except by the cheap agitating politicians. His sudden death was a loss to Canada, for had he lived he would have left his mark at Ottawa. Hon. Thomas Greenway was his sturdy opponent and they were great bosom friends. There were others like John Winram. Col. McMillan, H. M. Howell, Tom Scott, Hugh Í land, Gilbert McMicken, Stewart Mulvey, Kennet! kenzie, Hon. Joseph Royal, C. P. Brown, D. M.
Walker, Tom Daly, Hon. A. A. C. Lariviere, Senators Girard and Sutherland, Joseph Ryan, Dr. O’Donnell, E. P. Leacock, Charlie Mickle, Alex. Sutherland, E. H. G. Hay, with whom at later date were associated Hon. Joseph Martin, Clifford Sifton, Dr. Harrison, Dr. Wilson, Sir R. P. Roblin, Sir James Aiken, L. M. Jones, T. W. Taylor, W. B. Scarth, Hon. Robt. Rogers and many others, all of whom played their part in the development of the country.
I Strike Winnipeg
TXTHEN I struck Winnipeg, the embryo » " city was just putting on its first pants. The route from Eastern Canada was made in summer by the Great Lakes to Duluth or by rail through Minnesota to Fargo or Moorhead emdash;just across the Red River from each otheremdash;■ the one being in Minnesota and the other in Dakota; and then by boat to the future Western Metropolis. I went up the Great Lakes to Thunder Bay, walked across the ice and rowed up the Kamnistiska River to Fort William on May 24th, 1875. Then I drove over to Port Arthur, where at Julius Sommer’s tavern, I sat down to a table covered with a checkered red and white table cloth for the first time in my life. The food was good enoughemdash;what there was of itemdash;and plenty of it such as it was. After a short stay, I took the steamer for Duluth and the Northern Pacific to Moorhead. My seat-mate on the train from Duluth to Moorhead was Billy Bellemdash;now Col. William G. Bell, a prominent citizen of Winnipeg. There were no sleeping cars then. At Aitken, Minnesota, a lumbering centre, one of those wild-eyed lumber-jacks with his red shirt sleeves rolled up and his trousers stuck in his top boots, leaped on the car, and, furiously brandishing a revolver, swaggered down the
Who am I?” was his constant cry, to the half-scared occupants of the coach. “Say, who am I? blankety, blankety, blank my blankety blank eyes, who am I?”
As he approached our seat, his voice became if possible a little louder and the revolver was flourished a little more frantically. It peeved me. So I grabbed Billy by the arm, and looklnf^!-he disturber in the eye, sharply remarked: ‘Billy, tell the gentleman who he is!”
That’s all there is to the story, for the bully subsided and vamoosed by the rear door amidst the sighs of relief and hearty laughter of the passengers.
The boat trip from Moorhead to Winnipeg
occupied a couple of days and nights. There was keen competition between the old Kittson Line and the Merchante Line. I was a passenger on the International, which left first for the north. The Manitoba passed us some distance down the river, reached Winnipeg, and on its return south-bound trip was at Lemay’s Point, about five miles from Winnipeg, during the night. In rounding the bend, the International, doubtless not unintentionally, made a straight run for her, struck her under the guards, and she partially sank. I was unceremoniously thrown out of my berth, and rushed to the cabin, which was the scene of wild confusion and uproar. One scared fellowpassenger loudly shouted that the boat was sinking, and just then the mate came along, and, hitting him a wallop on the ear, which knocked him down, said: “You’re a dom liar. It’s the other boat that’s sinking.”
Something About Hotels
TTÏ7TNNIPEG warmly welcomed the new-comer, and » » made him feel at home. The old Davis House on Main Street had been the only hotel in town but, as population increased, the Grand Central and International were its rivals, and afterwards the Queen’semdash;the palace hotel of the Northwest, as it was ostentatiously advertisedemdash;was built, and with it the Merchants.
Later came the Leland, Winnipeg, Golden, Grand Union, Imperial, Pat O’Connor’s, St. Nicholas, George Velie’s, Gault House, Denny Lennon’s, Billy O’Connor’s and goodness knows how many more to fill in the immediate wants, until the Manitoba, an offspring of the Northern Pacific, was erected, only to be shortly after destroyed by fire. Now the city has the Royal Alexandra and Fort Garry, which rank amongst the finest hotels on the continent, and a host of smaller but very comfortable places. Winnipeg during and ever since the boom has never lacked splendid restaurants. Clougher’s and Jim Naismith’s and the Woodbine were the leading ones, but that old veteran, Donald McCaskill, had a mania for opening and closing eating places with astounding regularity. Chad’s ’ place at Silver Heights was a pleasant and well-run resort,
Dut one can t play ball all winter and so other games we«r played in some oí which what are called chips were subs stituted to the satisfaction of all concerned, except perhaps the losers. y
All of this reminds me that one of the north-end hotelgi was called the California, and its proprietor was Old Matt Wheeler. When in the late ’70’s it was determined form a Conservative Association, the California was cha as the place for the gathering of the faithful in that locali., Hon. D. M. Walker, afterwards appointed to a judgeshi; and myself were in charge of the meeting. We arriv early to see that all necessary arrangements had b completed. Sitting in an upper room the Judge asked u if I knew what Wheeler’s politics were and I said I didn’ but would ascertain. So I stamped on the floor, whilt; was the usual signal that someone was wanted. 01 Man Wheeler quickly appeared on the scene, and t Judge asked:
“Wheeler, what are your politics?”
"Oh, I don’t mind,” he replied, “I’ll take a little Scotch.^ The meeting was a huge success, after such an auspicious opening. The Judge said it could not help but be.
The Trials of a Reporter rHILE Winnipeg in the ’70’s was in a sort of Happjj Valley, with times fairly good and pretty nearlji everybody knowing everybody else or knowing about them! the reporter’s position was not, at all times, a very pleasant one, for on wintry days, when the mercury fell to 40 degrees below zero, and the telegraph wires were down, and! there were no mails and nothing startling doing locally^ it was difficult to fill the Free Press, then a comparatively small paper, with interesting live matter. A half-dozen! or so drunks at the-police court only furnished a few finest nobody would commit murder or suicide, or even elope t® accommodate the press, and the city council only met onck a week; but we contrived to issue a sheet every day th-w was not altogether uninteresting. Of course when any» thing of consequence did happen, the most was made of it.j The city council was an attraction to many citizens^ rited encounters were frequent and popular with ;mbled crowd. At one meeting Aid. Frank Cornish called Aid. Alloway a puppy, and, when asked1 by the mayor to apologize, did so by saying that when he came to think of it, his brother aiderman was not a puppy, but a full grown dog. This did not meet with the approval of his worship, whereupon Aid. Cornish very humbly and penitently apologized to the entire canine race. Aid. Wright and Aid. Banning had a regular set-to at another meeting, in which both got the worst of it. “Them was the days.” It was said of Mr. Cornish that when he waai mayor of Winnipegemdash;he was the firstemdash;he Hauled himself up before himself on a charge of being, well, let’s say not too sober, and fined himself $5.00 and costs. The attendants at the police court loudly applauded this Spartan act, until they heard the mayor say to himself : “Cornish, is this your first offence?” and culprit Cornish blandly informed Mayor Cornish that it was. Then his worship addressing« himself to himself said :emdash;
“Well, if it’s your first offence, Cornish, ITT remit your fine.” And the laughter was re-* sumed.
The Big Winnipeg Boom
THEN came the boom of 1881-2 and seal-4 skin coats and cloaks and diamond pins and' diamond brooches and diamond rihgs wer«! greatly in evidence. The city was all ablaz® with the excitement of prospective richest Champagne replaced Scotch and soda, and game dinners were very common. Auctioif sales were held daily and nightly, and in th» auction rooms of Jim Coolican and Joe Worn people bought recklessly. Property changed hands quickly at greatly enhanced values. Cerl tainly a land office business was being dontó The craze spread to the rural districts and landfj surveyors and map artists worked overtime t# fill orders. Lots in Winnipeg were plotted fo^* miles beyond the city limits. Some non-exist*; ing “cities” were placed on the eastern market^ and some swamps were brazenly offered iaij Winnipeg. If there ever was a fool’s paradise^! it sure was located in Winnipeg. Men mad# fortunesemdash;mostly on paperemdash;and life was oiH»j continuous joy-ride.
A lot of us boarded at the Queen’s Hote^i then run by Jim Ross, at whose table a quiet coterie sat. Amongst the personnel of thej party was La Touche Tupper, as good a fellosi as ever lived, but a little inclined to vain boaste! ing. He was a fairly good barometer of th# daily land values. Some days when he claimed to have made $10,000 or $16,000 everything WB»;
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lovely. The next day, when he could only credit himself with $3,000 or $4,000 to the good, things were not as well, and when the profits dropped, as some days they did, to a paltry $500 or $600, the country was going to the dogs. We faithfully kept count of La Touche’s earnings, and in the spring he had accumulated nearly a million in his mind. There were others. And all went as merry as a marriage bell, with wealth and wine on every hand, until one day, when lots in Edmonton were placed on the market, the craze ran higher than ever before. It was a frightful frenzy. Without any knowledge of the locality of the property, people invested their money in lots at fabulous prices. Many overbought, some tried to unload and the next morning there was a slump, and you couldn’t give away property as a gift. The boom had busted. Where, the day previous, the immense throng had gathered in such numbers that window panes were smashed, in their eagerness to buy, only those who wanted to sell were seen. It was the morning after the night before. ■ And a mighty sad one it was.
And Winnipeg came down to earth again.
For some time after the big boom busted, there was a decided sag in the finances of ptany a Winnipegger. Of course, I kept in the procession, and managed to worry along pretty well, as I had a very warm
friend in the late JChief Justice Howell, | then a partner in the law firm of Archibald & Howell. We kept flying kites with a j good measure of success, for he had a high financial standing, and we never had a 1 misunderstanding but once. It was all over a similarity of figures and a series of curious coincidences. We had a note for $175 in the bank, and it was overdue.
A renewed note was promptly given— most of the promptness being due to the urgent request of the bank manager. It i so happened that Mr. Howell’s current account had exactly $175 to his credit, I and strange to say I was overdrawn just a similar amount. The bank at once wiped out my indebtedness with the note, and then took Mr. Howell’s $175 to pay it. When my good friend gave a small cheque the next day, it was returned to him with the ominous “N. S. F.” marked legibly upon it'. My, but he was wrathy, and in his anger came to me. We were both dumbfounded, but finally it got through my wool how the thing was done, and we both looked at each other like two lost babes in the wood. So we went out and soundly cussed all financial institutions in existence, and were only reconciled to our fate after a prolonged visit to Clougher’s.
Another time—but here is the letter Mr. Howell received from me, which is selfexplanatory. It was sent me a short time ago by Mr. Archibald, who found it in his late partner’s papers:
St. Boniface, Man.,
13 March, 1888
My dear H. M.,
Have been chasing you around for a couple of days, but of course you were evading service. That blooming old note of yours—now down to the respectable figure of $41—is past due, and Frank Patton demands that it shall be fixed up before the opening of navigation. I have suggested that he wait till monopoly is done away with, or a Tory is elected, or my other debts are paid, or Ginger Snooks is elected alderman—but he places the limit at the opening of navigation. So you must either chip in $10 (I’ve that much to my credit) and endorse a note, which I will sign, or pray on your knees for a late spring. If there is another boom we ought to have this little financial undertaking wiped out in a couple of years.
In haste yours,
(Sgd.) GEORGE H. HAM P.S.—Could you get F. L. Patton to suggest some bank which would be a combined father, mother and hired girl to us, like the Federal has been?
You know the now defunct Federal was a real bank—none of those confounded money grabbers, which insist on quick settlements. That was when good old Tom Renwick was manager of the Winnipeg branch. You could always depend upon being assisted in any personal financial crisis, and when the bank closed its doors I only owed it $20, which the late Mr. Hammond wanted to wipe off, but I wouldn’t stand for it. Great Caesar, if some one would only start another Federal Bank, it would do a rushing business. Certainly I would be amongst its very first and best customers.
The Inside Story of a Deal
TT WAS in January, 1882, that Mr.
A Robert S. White, then, as now, chief editor of the Montreal Gazette, whose casual acquaintance I had previously made in the East, arrived one morning at Winnipeg, on an interesting mission. He was accompanied by General J. S. Williams of New York; or, as Mr. White took pains to tell me, he was merely General Williams’ cicerone for the trip. Their object was to purchase the charter of the Great Northwest Telegraph Company. It came about in this way; the Union Mutual Telegraph Company had been organized in New York a few months previously by Messrs. Evans, Moore and other financial magnates as a competitor of the Western Union. A considerable mileage of wire had been strung and was in operation.
It was important for the Union Mutual to obtain connection with Montreal, Toronto and other principal Eastern points in Canada. Learning of the existence of the Great Northwest Telegraph charter they decided to buy it if possible. General Williams was deputed to proceed to Montreal to confer with Mr. Charles R. Hosmer, now a leading figure in Canadian finance, railways, banking and in-
dus try who had then left the position of manner of i lie Dominion Telegraph Cornpar;’, at .Montreal to join the staff of the Union Mutual. It was agreed that (ieneral Williams with Mr. White-should proceed to Winnipeg.
Time pressed. It had leaked out that the Western Union was hot after the G.N.W. charter. The telegraph lines to Winnipeg being under control of that company, the risk of a message to myself to obtain options on the G.N.W. shares held in Winnipeg was deemed too great. So the conspirators, Williams and White, proceeded by rail. Fortune did not favor them, they arriving at Winnipeg, about two days after Erastus Wiman’s agent, acting for the Western Union, had secured the plum. And it was a plum, the G.N.W. charter being of the blanket variety; good for all kinds of telegraph construction and operation from Dan to Beersheba within the Dominion of Canada. fyly recollection is that the price paid by the Western Union agent for the whole capital stock of the G.N.W. was about $8,000. When Hon. John Norquay and his associates, who jiad parted with their stock, learned what General Williams was prepared to pay, what they said was quite unfit for publication. However, we solaced our sorrows in the club and took it out of Mr. Wiman in the manner customary to such incidents. It may be of interest to learn how nearly the Great Northwest Telegraph charter escaped the Western Union, which soon after that date became perpetual lessee of the property linked up under the former name, and in which the old Montreal Telegraph Company was merged.
Lord Strathcona—and Profanity
IN THE general election of 1878, the A then constituency of Lisgar, which included Winnipeg and the country around it, was contested by the then Hon. Donald A. Smith and the Hon. Alex. Morris, who was previously Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba. It was a very closely contested election and Donald A. (as the afterwards Lord Strathcona was generally alluded to) won by the narrow majority of 9. For some hours on the night of the election, the result was in grave doubt, owing to the returns from St. Charles not being received. - The general impression was that Mr. Morris was elected. There was deep consternation in the Smith camp and while Mr. Smith himself was not at all a profane man, circumstances caused him to swear by proxy, so to speak. Bob Woods was his right hand man, and when things looked decidedly sombre Bob gave vent to his pent-up feelings and burst forth into language which he did not usually indulge in. Trying to console his chief, he very forcibly remarked;
“Oh, blank the blank sons of guns, they’re a lot of low-down dirty blankety, blank traitors and scoundrels.”
And the supposed defeated candidate, clasping his hands and rubbing them as if washing them in invisible water—a peculiarity of his—acquiescently replied :
“Are they not, Mr. Woods, are they not?”
“Yes, and they are a miserable blacklivered lot of blankety, blank pirates and political prostitutes.”
“Are they not, Mr. Woods, are they not?” Mr. Smith enquiringly coincided.
“Judas Iscariot was a Simon Pure white angel, compared with these blankety, blank blackguards and cut-throats.”
And Mr. Smith again agreed by:
“Was he not, Mr. Woods, was he not?” “And they can all go to h—” (not heaven) hotly thundered Bob.
“Can they not, Mr. Woods, can they not?” sympathetically came Mr. Smith’s reply.
And this conversation unceasingly kept up, until the missing returns came in, and showed that the expected defeat had been turned into victory.
And that was the nearest that the future Lord Strathcona was ever known to indulge in profanity.
The Republic of Manitoba
A WELL-KNOWN if not very prominZA ent resident of Winnipeg was, Mr. Thomas Spence, who arrived in the‘60’s. He was well educated and possessed of the average amount of brains, but he was not by any means in the first or second rank of statesmen, capitalists or commercial magnates. And yet Tom, as he was familiarly called, was the first and only president of a Canadian republic that ever existed. When the authority of the Hudson’s
Bay Company was nearing an end, Tom hied himself to Portage la Prairie, then little more than a hamlet, and founded the Republic of Manitoba, which was to be altogether self-supporting and to be separate and distinct from the Hudson’s Bay Company, in fact a government on its own hook. Tom surrounded himself with a committee of five and immediately proceeded to provide for the levying of taxes, the erection of public buildings, the making of Indian treaties, the construction of roads and other public works, all of which he set forth in a letter to the Secretary of State for the Colonies. In a little oyer four months after the dispatch of his letter, _ President Spence received a body blow in the shape of an acknowledgement from the Duke of Buckingham and Chandos in which he was plainly told that his “so-called self - supporting government had no force in law” and “no authority to create or organize a government without reference to the Hudson’s Bay Company or the Crown,” and he was officially warned that he and his coadjutors were acting illegally and incurring grave responsibilities. The republic then collapsed—long before it had reached its first birthday. It was an inglorious ending, and Tom’s roseate dreams of a proud presidential career were rudely shattered. The ex-president returned to Winnipeg, and_ became satisfied with a fairly good position in the local Government service, but he always insisted that, if he had been given a chance, the Republic of Manitoba would have been one of the greatest and most prosperous countries in the universe —at any rate it would have been larger tnan the Principality of Monaco, more fertile than Greenland, not so torrid as Florida nor as mountainous as Mexico, and would have had as big a navy as Switzerland.
The Plot to Secede
of the most exciting of the episodes in which I figured was the secession meeting held in the third storey of a big building immediately opposite the city hall. Mack Howse, Charles Stewart and some other disgruntled people called the meeting to pass resolutions that Manitoba should secede from the Dominion. T. J. Lynskey, of the Government Railway, learning this, resolved to head off the disloyal ¡fathering. Obtaining a card of admission, a few hundred imitation ones were printed and distributed where they would do the most good. When the meet-
ing opened with Mr. Stewart in the chair, the hall was packed—but not with faces familiar to many of the organization. Mr. Stewart, who was an Englishman and erfectly sincere in his views, seeing before im what might be a hostile audience, discreetly gave a moderate address, and when the secession motion was read, there were loud calls for Mr. Wilson, father of Charlie and Herb Wilson, the lawyers, and himself a barrister of high standing. He was a staunch Liberal and also a staunch Canadian, and the merciless tongue-lashing he gave the secedere in a twenty minute speech, would have done credit to Sir Richard Cartwright himself. His peroration, if not grand, was effective. Turning to the chairman, he shouted at him:
“And now, sir, if it were not for your gray hairs and your advanced age I would
And he glanced significantly at the open window near him.
There were calls for me and I was trying to keep the young men around me in leash, but I simply told them that I had not come to speak, but to listen, but if it would facilitate matters at all, I would move that the chairman be a committee of one to secede. This fully met the views of the great majority of the meeting and when Johnny Gum, who kept a restaurant which was not run altogether on temperance principles, rose and said: “I seconds the motion,” pandemonium broke loose and the meeting broke up. In descending the long flights of stairs some attempts were made by too enthusiastic individuals to interfere with the malcontents but there were enough of us to safeguard them.
At four o’clock next morning my doorbell rang— I lived in Fort Rouge then— and on going to the door who should be there but Charlie Stewart. Inviting him in, and offering him and myself some liquid refreshments, he began to explain about the meeting. What I wanted to know was who were the real instigators of the affair, but say what I would, he would not betray his friends. All I got out of him as he left the house at daybreak was:
“But I’ll tell you one thing, Mr. Ham, there’ll be no more meetings for me on a third storey. Ground floors for me every time after this.”
And thus ended an important chapter in the history of Manitoba, for if the secession motion had found its way into the American and European press, as it was intended it should, the results might have been serious.