Manitoba History: Golf Introduced into Manitoba: Samuel Bedson and a Link at Stony Mountain

by Al Hackett

Number 28, Autumn 1994

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 As an historical document, the article may contain language and views that are no longer in common use and may be culturally sensitive in nature.

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For about a dozen years now, Mr. Al Hackett of Winnipeg has been carrying out research on the history of golf in Manitoba. This is an excerpt from one chapter of his manuscript.

In 1877, Stony Mountain Penitentiary was established and Col. Samuel Lawrence Bedson became the first warden. Bedson was born in 1849 in Montreal, son of an army officer. He came west with the Wolseley expedition of 1870 and later that year was put in charge of the prison at Lower Fort Garry. When the Dominion government established a penitentiary there in 1871, Bedson became the first warden. He later chose the site for Stony Mountain Penitentiary and when it was ready for occupancy in 1877, he continued in charge.

Samuel Lawrence Bedson, 1873.
Source: Archives of Manitoba

Warden Bedson soon gained a province wide reputation as a man with an understanding heart. He was firm but fair with the inmates, concerned with their welfare, as he was with the welfare of his staff and of the settlers of the district. He took a keen interest in sports and held prominent positions in many athletic organizations. He kept prisoners out of mischief, for a time, by having them construct a nine-hole golf course near the prison, also a curling rink. People came from far and near to enjoy the games. The warden built a race track. He also organized a hunt club and many of his Winnipeg friends joined him in riding to the hounds—pink coats, horns and all.

Interested in all good works in the community, in a later era he would have been elected to president of the Kiwanis or any Service Club. He was the Rector’s Warden at Victoria Anglican Church, a member of the Masonic Order and became Grand Junior Warden in Manitoba.

He liked good food, whiskey on occasion, and he enjoyed entertaining. Playing the flute, he was the life of the party. There were plenty of good stories about his parties, but the one most enjoyed by everyone was the occasion when he invited two Judges and their wives to dinner. To assist he obtained the use of a special butler, and dressed as a butler should, everything went well until one of the Judges recognized the butler as one he had sentenced to the penitentiary for armed robbery. The butler was sent back to the cell block and the social evening proceeded.

Warehouse building at Lower Fort Garry, 1858. Between 1871 and 1877, it served as Manitoba's first penitentiary with Samuel Bedson as warden.
Source: Archives of Manitoba

The Stony Mountain Golf Course: 1889 — Manitoba Free Press reported the following:

The links as laid out consists of nine holes, and from post to finish following the line of flags from out course to home course, covers about three miles, and offers heaps of opportunities for swiping and driving.

It is the intention however, to introduce additional holes, making possibly fourteen in all. The starting point, or in Golf phraseology, the teeing ground, is immediately opposite Col. Bedson’s residence. The course is then due west toward the railway station; then south along the line of the C.P.R. until you reach the fourth, or Joe’s (Sabiston) Hotel; then southeast across the spur line, to the track hole, on to the brickyards and Dr. Sutherland’s cottage, where the course turns north. The last stretch of link, crossing the ditches and big ploughing, lands you at the eighth hole on the breast of the Hill, the last drive being over boulders and badger holes (pretty pronounced hazards) and down the same hill west to the first putting green.

Taken all around, the Stony Mountain link is a hard one, knolls, bunkers (sandpits), ploughed land, burnt prairie bushes, and long grass all helping its diversity.

Although it was somewhat of a makeshift course, people came from far and near to enjoy the game of golf.

As golf dates as far back as the fourteenth century, there is no lack of precedent for introducing the game into Manitoba, and there is no reason why it should not, especially amongst curlers, become the roaring game of the dog-days, and vastly popular. Some two hundred clubs exist in Great Britain, the list by no means being limited to Scotland. As a healthy, honest pastime, calling for all athletic qualities, its advent amongst us is to be welcomed, and as a golf club exists in Montreal, the question of procuring the necessary “out-fit” is at once solved.

It is now in order for Winnipeg and Provincial athletes to organize and start golfing clubs throughout the country. In Winnipeg, Mr. John Baisillie and Mr. Oswald, both old time golfers, can be counted on to take the initiative.

The first game of golf (a foursome game) was played over the Stony Mountain Links some days ago. Appended is the score:

Dr. Sutherland
Walter R. Nursey
6 3 9 10 20 16 11 12 10 = 97

Col. Bedson
Dan Smith
11 9 10 12 18 17 13 15 8 = 113

The first pair winning

Although the Free Press reported that Bedson established a golf club in Stony Mountain, there is no evidence of an elected committee.

In 1891, Warden Bedson resigned as Warden to accept a position with the Alaska Boundary Commission. While at Ottawa in July, 1891 preparing for the Commission work, he died suddenly on July 17th.

Samuel Lawrence Bedson, the man who introduced golf into Manitoba, was buried in St. Johns Cemetery on July 22nd, 1891. A special train, made up of two coaches, a flat car, on which the casket was strapped, a caboose and an engine—old no. 11—took the body to Winnipeg.

Golf at Stony Mountain seems to have died out before 1892. In 1925, golfers in Stony Mountain formed the Assinawa Country Club, proclaiming at that time that this marked the revival of the pioneer club of the province.

Stony Mountain Penitentiary.
Source: Archives of Manitoba

Page revised: 4 December 2011