Manitoba Historical Society
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Manitoba History: Review: Dale Gibson, Lee Gibson and Cameron Harvey, Attorney for the Frontier: Enos Stutsman

by Sidney Green

Manitoba History, Number 9, Spring 1985

This article was published originally in Manitoba History by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make this online version available as a free, public service. As an historical document, the article may contain language and views that are no longer in common use and may be culturally sensitive in nature.

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Attorney for the Frontier: Enos Stutsmon. Dale Gibson, Lee Gibson and Cameron Harvey. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1983. xii, 180 pp. ill., maps, ISBN 0-88755-131-9.

Few Manitobans, even those reasonably well acquainted with the history of the province, would recognize the name “Enos Stutsman.” A perusal of the index to W. L. Morton’s definitive history of Manitoba reveals two fleeting references to this person, who now has a book all to himself, thanks to the efforts of author-professor Dale Gibson and collaborators Lee Gibson and Cameron Harvey.

Enos Stutsman, 1865.

Enos Stutsman, 1865.
Source: Department of Special Collections, Chester Fritz Library, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, ND

The purpose of this biography is to bring to public attention the importance of the contributions made by Enos Stutsman, an American, to the history of the province and the Northwest generally. It also attempts to impress and entertain the reader by highlighting Stutsman’s personal qualities.

The most striking revelation is that Enos Stusman made his substantial achievements in life despite a significant and what would be to many an embarrassing physical disability. He is described as having no legs as such, and as a result of a birth defect he walked with the aid of short crutches. As a pivot he used an underdeveloped limb located where his legs should have been.

The title of the book, “Attorney for the Frontier,” is not entirely descriptive. Although trained as a lawyer, Mr. Stutsman’s activities were much more directed toward politics. Few legal cases are discussed in the book, and by far the most significant activities related to Manitoba concern Stutsman’s role as an American trying to influence Louis Riel and the Manitoba future just prior to the Canadian takeover.

Stutsman comes out as an American meddler insofar as the Canadian authorities are concerned. He is speculatively described as having influenced the strategy of Louis Riel in the formulation of the provisional government. The biography contains numerous references to what Stutsman must have done or probably did. This probably results from the lack of definitive material on his actual activities.

Stutsman’s political achievements included numerous elections to the territorial legislature of the Dakotas, where he undoubtedly made significant contributions.

The authors have provided a very readable book which will make more fully complete the historical literature available to those who are interested in the history of Manitoba. They have also provided a source of useful reference material to those who have up to now been puzzled by the paucity of in-formation on a man who was involved in the development of our future when the border between what is now Manitoba and the United States was apparently less an inhibiting division of political activities than it is at the present time.

Page revised: 5 February 2022

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