Manitoba Historical Society
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Memorable Manitobans: Hugh Harley (1848-1918)

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Hugh Harley
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Civil servant.

Born at Reading, England in 1848, he came to Canada with his widowed mother and six siblings in 1853. They lived at Guelph, Ontario until 1878 when they moved to a farm near Arden, going in 1881 to Portage la Prairie. There, Harley was an agent for the David Maxwell Company and later the Massey Harris Implement Company. In May 1898 he moved to Swan River area to take a position as Dominion Land and Immigration Agent, being one of the early residents of the Minitonas Tent Town. He was also the first postmaster of Swan River.

He and wife Eleanor Rutledge (?-?) had four children: Olive Harley (?-?, wife of Hugh McKenzie), Ethel Harley (?-?, wife of Dr. Bruce), Edith Velma Harley (1886-?, wife of James Bell Hutchison), and Herbert Rutledge “Bert” Harley (1877-1929).

He died at Winnipeg on 16 June 1918. His home in Swan River has been preserved by the Swan Valley Historical Museum. The character “Hugh Hurley” in the 1920 novel The Heart of Cherry McBain by Douglas Durkin is based on him.

See also:

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Harley House (512 Second Street North, Swan River)

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Tent Town Monument (Municipality of Minitonas-Bowsman)

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Harlington School No. 1164 (RM of Swan River)


Tread of the Pioneers by J. H. Metcalfe, 1932.

Marriage and death registrations, Manitoba Vital Statistics.

“Hugh Harley, pioneer, joins great majority,” Manitoba Free Press, 17 June 1918, page 5.

We thank Nonni Jonsson for providing additional information used here.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 25 October 2020

Memorable Manitobans

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