Memorable Manitobans: Robert Gerrie (1830-1908)
Born at Insch, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, and came to Dundas, Upper Canada as a child, where he was educated. During the American Civil War he served with the Union Army as a veterinarian, stationed in Chicago. After the war, he went to Montreal and worked with his half-brother in the retail and wholesale tobacco business. In 1871 he headed for Duluth, Minnesota, and arrived in Winnipeg aboard the first stern-wheel steamboat, The Cheyenne with a load of furniture (“a better class of house furnishings”) in 1873. He opened the first furniture store in the West. He later went into the wholesale and retail grocery business with his brother-in-law, Robert Dundas Bathgate. His real estate investment begun in 1880 included practically all of Princess Street. In 1880 he built the Grand Union Hotel, later the Princess Opera House, the Gerrie Block, and the Palace stables.
He married Margaret Bathgate (?-1890) and they had five children: Charles A. Gerrie, Mrs. Patterson, Mrs. Lawrence Johnstone, Mrs. Frank Johnstone, and Mrs. William Moir. His health declined following a street assault in 1889 in which he lost an eye, but he helped open the West End in the early years of the twentieth century and was known as the “father of the Winnipeg Boom.” He died at his Winnipeg home on 29 January 1908.
Pioneers and Early Citizens of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Manitoba Library Association, 1971.
Death registration, Manitoba Vital Statistics.
“Death removes a Winnipeg pioneer,” Manitoba Free Press, 30 January 1908, page 8.
Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 17 April 2014