Manitoba Historical Society
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Memorable Manitobans: James Simmons Freer (1855-1933)

Farmer, filmmaker, journalist.

Born at Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England on 4 January 1855, he immigrated to Canada in 1887, after a career as a journalist at Bristol, and settled on a farm in the Brandon Hills southeast of Brandon. In 1897, he obtained an Edison combination movie camera-projector and began making films. Arguably Canada’s first moviemaker, he toured England in 1898 under the auspices of the Canadian Pacific Railway with a film lecture series titled “Ten Years in Manitoba.” Freer also filmed English scenes to show to homesick Manitobans. A less successful tour followed in 1902 under the auspices of the federal government. In 1901, Freer relocated to a farm seven miles northeast of Elkhorn. He moved to Winnipeg in 1917 to become staff editor for the Manitoba Free Press. He died at Winnipeg on 22 December 1933 and was buried in the Elmwood Cemetery.


1901 Canada census, Automated Genealogy.

Death registration, Manitoba Vital Statistics.

“James S. Freer, pioneer Manitoban and veteran Free Press employee, dies,” Winnipeg Free Press, 23 December 1933, page 1.

“Interment of late Jas. Simmons Freer took place Monday,” Winnipeg Free Press, 26 December 1933, page 4.

“J. S. Freer leaves estate valued at $45,792 in will,” Winnipeg Free Press, 30 December 1933, page 14.

Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.

We thank Linda McDowell for providing additional information used here.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 1 April 2015

Memorable Manitobans

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