Memorable Manitobans: Cuthbert James Grant (1793-1854)
Born at River Tremblante (near present-day Kamsack, Saskatchewan) in 1793, second son of a Scottish father Cuthbert Grant and a mother of aboriginal blood, after his father’s death in 1799 he was taken to Montreal where he was baptized in the St. Gabriel Street Presbyterian Church on 12 October 1801. He was probably sent to Scotland to be educated.
In 1812 he returned to the West with a North West Company canoe brigade and was placed in charge of a small outpost on the Qu’Appelle River. He had three wives, Elizabeth McKay (married 1815), Madelaine Desmarais (married 1818) and, in 1823, he married Marie, oldest daughter of Angus McGillis. His qualities of leadership, added to his racial background, quickly made him one of the leaders of the Métis. The North West Company, then engaged in the struggle with the Hudson’s Bay Company, made him Captain-General of the Métis early in 1816. He was the leader at the Battle of Seven Oaks on 19 June 1816. In 1817 he surrendered himself and went to Montreal to face murder charges. He returned to the West the following year, subsequently being cleared of all indictments in the courts of both Upper and Lower Canada.
In 1823 he was employed by the Hudson’s Bay Company at Fort Garry, but resigned in 1824 and accepted a grant of land on White Horse Plain (St. Francois Xavier). Here he founded a settlement, known as Grantown, where many Métis families joined him. In 1828 he was given the title of “Warden of the Plains,” with an annual salary of £200 and the duty of preventing illicit trade in furs. He held this title until 1849. From 1835 until his death he was a member of the Council of Assiniboia. On 12 February 1835 he was appointed a Justice of the Peace for the Fourth District of Assiniboia and on 20 March 1839, one of the two Sheriffs of Assiniboia.
Grant is known to have had considerable knowledge and experience in medicine. Apart from leading the settlers of White Horse Plain, he also farmed and built one of the first water mills on the banks of the Assiniboine River, recreated as Grant’s Old Mill in Winnipeg. He died on 15 July 1854 and was buried in the cemetery of St. Francois Xavier. He is commemorated by Grant Avenue in Winnipeg.
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 Kenneth Normand for providing additional information used here.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 11 February 2023