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No. 87

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Memorable Manitobans: John Wesley Cockburn (1856-1924)

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J. W. Cockburn
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Businessman, municipal official.

Born in Thorold, Ontario on 9 January 1856, the son of Charles and Caroline Cockburn. He completed his high school education there and graduated in mechanical engineering. He practiced as an engineer for ten years and had a part in the development of hydroelectric power from Welland Canal and the Niagara Falls.

He came to Winnipeg in 1882 where he was employed by the Canadian Pacific Railway. He later formed a business partnership with A. C. McEown, operating general stores in Winnipeg and Boissevain. The partnership was dissolved after five years with Cockburn continuing the Winnipeg store, turning it into a grocery, while McEown took over in Boissevain.

Cockburn was elected a Winnipeg City Alderman in 1891, serving for two years. He was elected again in 1901 and served until 1907. He was a member of the Winnipeg Board of Control from 1907 until it was abolished in 1918. During his civic service, he was a strong advocate for development of the Winnipeg Hydro utility, which for many years provided the city with cheap electrical power. He also served for three years as Chairman of the Police Commission.

He married Jennie McDonald Mason in Winnipeg, 1883, with whom he had one son and two daughters.

He died in Winnipeg on 9 November 1924, at the age of 69 years, and was buried in Kildonan Cemetery. He is commemorated by Cockburn Street in Winnipeg.


This profile was prepared with information compiled by Harry Shave.

Who’s Who in Western Canada: A Biographical Dictionary of Notable Living Men and Women of Western Canada, Volume 1, edited by C. W. Parker, Vancouver: Canadian Press Association, 1911.

“Former Controller J. W. Cockburn Dead” Newspaper clipping. [Manitoba Legislative Library, Biographical Scrapbook B8, page 27]

Manitoba Legislative Library, Biographical Scrapbook B8, page 27, Obituary - J. W. Cockburn.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 22 December 2012

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