Memorable Manitobans: William Sanford Evans (1869-1949)
Publisher, Mayor of Winnipeg (1909-1911), MLA (1923-1927), MLA (1927-1932), MLA (1933-1936).
Born at Spencerville, Ontario on 18 December 1869, the son of Rev. J. S. Evans and Mary Jane Vaux, he was educated at the Collegiate Institute in Hamilton, Ontario, Victoria University and Columbia University. He subsequently moved to Manitoba and became active in the publishing industry of his new province, founding the Winnipeg Telegram and writing a book on Canadian Imperialism during the Second Boer War. In 1920, he co-founded a publishing firm specializing in grain industry news which continued through his later political career. He wrote The Canadian Contingents and Canadian Imperialism (1901).
Evans ran for the federal Conservatives in Winnipeg in 1904 but was defeated by Liberal David Bole. He served on the Winnipeg Board of Control in 1908 then was elected Mayor of Winnipeg in 1909, and served in that position until 1911. Evans was first elected to the Manitoba Legislature in 1922, leading the Conservative Party. He was re-elected in 1927 and 1932. When Fawcett Gowler Taylor resigned as Conservative leader in 1933, Evans was chosen to lead the party’s parliamentary caucus. He did not run against Errick French Willis at the party’s 1936 leadership convention, and did not run in the provincial election which followed. In 1931, while still serving in the Manitoba Legislature, Evans was appointed by British Columbia Premier Simon F. Tolmie to head a commission investigating that province’s fruit-growing cooperatives. In keeping with Evans’s free-market ideology, the commission’s report recommended a return to open competition, and was opposed by many within the trade.
On 24 January 1900, he married Mary Irene Gurney with whom he had four children: Katherine Jeanne Evans (1900-?, wife of Alan B. Harvey), Eleanor Evans (1902-?, wife of George B. Binns), Gurney Evans, and Mary Margaret Evans (1912-?, wife of Chris Sanford). He was President of the first Canadian Club, organized in Hamilton, helped to found the Canadian Club of Winnipeg and served as its President from 1911 to 1912. He also served as President of the Winnipeg Stock Exchange. He was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Manitoba in 1936. His Winnipeg home, 208 Dromore Avenue, was designed by architect George Browne.
He died on 27 June 1949 and he was buried in the St. John’s Cathedral Cemetery. He is commemorated by Evans Street in Winnipeg. Extensive papers are at the Archives of Manitoba.
Birth and marriage registrations, Manitoba Vital Statistics.
1901 Canada census, Automated Genealogy.
The Story of Manitoba by F. H. Schofield, Winnipeg: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1913.
The Leading Financial, Business & Professional Men of Winnipeg, published by Edwin McCormick, Photographs by T. J. Leatherdale, Compiled and printed by Stone Limited, c1913. [copy available at the Archives of Manitoba]
Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.
Members of the Legislative Assembly (deceased), Legislative Assembly of Manitoba.
Obituaries and burial transcriptions, Manitoba Genealogical Society.
We thank Katherine Maki for providing additional information used here.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 15 April 2022