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Joseph Burr Tyrrell - Nov. 1, 1858 - Aug. 26, 1957

by Barbara Johnstone

Manitoba Pageant, September 1957, Volume 3, Number 1

This article was published originally in Manitoba Pageant by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make it available here as a free, public service.

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Did you think that all the great explorers had died ... that such men as Thompson, Fraser and Mackenzie were the last of their line?

No - one of the 'greats' died only a few weeks ago: Joseph Burr Tyrrell. True, J. B. Tyrrell was not the first man by any means to travel the routes he did - but he surveyed those routes scientifically, and he explored, as a mining engineer - and in his findings he was as much a 'first' as the "first white man to see this" or the "first white man to see that."

In Manitoba alone, he surveyed from our eastern boundary, west across Lakes Winnipeg and Winnipegosis; north and northeast down the Nelson River; up the Grass River to Lake Athapapaskow, locating rich areas of zinc, gold and copper.

His field work took him through the Rockies, into Northern Saskatchewan, through the "Barrens", and into the Yukon. He received many honours, and remembered to give back, in the form of endowments and funds for young geologists and historians. His standards in surveying were so accurate that a phrase was coined, "As good as Tyrrell". He was ninety-five years old when he retired as president of the Kirkland Lake Gold Mining Company ... then he took up apple growing!

If you are not very strong, bear in mind that J. B. Tyrrell, who travelled by foot and canoe before the days of outboard motors, took up surveying because his doctors recommended an outdoor life.

The giant has gone - but his gifts to Canada - and his name, remain.

(There is an article, called "Tyrrell of Canada" in the December 1952 issue of The Beaver magazine which you might like to read. It's an exciting story).

Page revised: 30 June 2009

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