Manitoba Historical Society
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Memorable Manitobans: William Coldwell (1834-1907)

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William Coldwell
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Born in London in 1834 and educated in Dublin. He married Jemima Ross, youngest daughter of Alexander Ross, in 1860, at Red River. They had four children. In 1875 or 1876 he married Jemima Mackenzie Ross (1826-1912), widow of William Ross, the first Postmaster at Red River.

He came to Canada in 1854 and was a correspondent for the Toronto Leader until 1859 when he journeyed to Red River with William Buckingham to found the Nor’Wester. When Buckingham left the following year he remained as publisher and editor in partnership with James Ross. Ross withdrew in 1863 and Dr. John Schultz joined the partnership in 1864. The office of the paper was destroyed by fire in the spring of 1865 and in the following summer Coldwell returned to Toronto. He became a reporter for the Globe and remained there until 1869 when he returned to Red River to found another newspaper, the Red River Pioneer. But only its outside pages were printed when Louis Riel seized it for his own use.

During the Riel regime Coldwell was clerk to the Provisional Assembly. In association with Robert Cunningham, a Toronto Globe correspondent, he commenced publication of the Manitoban in 1871. It ran for two years when its office was wrecked but it was resurrected and continued to publish until 1874. It ultimately merged into the Manitoba Free Press. Coldwell’s last work was as a parliamentary reporter for the Free Press. He was secretary of the first Masonic Lodge in Red River, sometime during his first sojourn there. He was a founding member of the Manitoba Historical Society.

Because of ill health Coldwell lived in retirement for twenty years and died in Victoria, British Columbia on 14 February 1907.

There are papers at the Archives of Manitoba.


“Wm. Coldwell pioneer editor,” Manitoba Free Press, 19 February 1907, page 6.

“Mrs. J. R. Coldwell passes away,” Manitoba Free Press, 19 March 1912. [Manitoba Legislative Library, Biographical Scrapbook B5]

Pioneers and Early Citizens of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Manitoba Library Association, 1971.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 17 August 2016

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

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