Memorable Manitobans: William Gomez da Fonseca (1823-1905)
Merchant, municipal official.
Born at Santa Croix in the Danish West Indies in 1823, perhaps of Creole background, his full name was Don Derigo Nojada Gomez da Silva Fonseca. He migrated to New York, where he became an American citizen, then moved to Wisconsin and Minnesota and, in 1860, to Winnipeg. With the capital obtained from the load of goods he had transported from Minnesota, he purchased a lot on Maple Avenue where the old family home was located for many years. The original building was a log cabin used both as a store and for living quarters.
He lectured on the West Indies and was regarded highly enough to be considered for the post of American consul that went to Oscar Malmros. In 1869 he was carting and freighting. He was arrested by Louis Riel on 13 December and released two days later upon the surrender of his American citizenship papers.
In 1876 he began publication of the Manitoba Weekly Herald which proved unprofitable and was discontinued after a short time. He assisted in planning the streets in the northern part of Winnipeg and named many thoroughfares. His property investments comprised most of Point Douglas. He prepared a bird’s-eye map of the city. He believed in the navigability of Hudson Bay and wrote a lengthy review of the subject. He endeavoured to further the interest of the Hudson Bay Railroad. He served as a Winnipeg City Alderman for the North Ward for six terms, a member of Holy Trinity Anglican Church, and a vestryman in St. John’s Cathedral for 36 years.
In 1865, he married Margaret Ann Logan (?-?, daughter of Thomas Logan and niece of Alexander Logan) and they had ten children: Mrs. G. G. Nagy, Benjamin Gomez Fonseca, Albert Gomez Fonseca, Alfred Gomez Fonseca, Mrs. A. F. McClellan, Alfonso Gomez Fonseca, Margaret Fonseca, Sarestha Gomez Fonseca (1880-?), Gordon Leslie Fonseca (1882-?), and Elsidore Fonseca (?-?).
He died at Winnipeg on 22 April 1905 and was buried in the St. John’s Cathedral Cemetery. He is commemorated by Gomez Street in Winnipeg. There are papers at the Archives of Manitoba.
His articles for the Manitoba Historical Society:
Birth and death registrations, Manitoba Vital Statistics.
“A pioneer passes into eternity,” Manitoba Free Press, 24 April 1905, page 8.
“Early settler of city dead,” Winnipeg Tribune, 24 April 1905, page 10.
A History of Manitoba: Its Resources and People by Prof. George Bryce, Toronto: The Canadian History Company, 1906.
The Story of Manitoba by F. H. Schofield, Winnipeg: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1913.
Pioneers and Early Citizens of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Manitoba Library Association, 1971.
Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.
We thank Nathan Kramer for providing additional information used here.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 24 October 2022