Manitoba Historical Society
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Memorable Manitobans: William Alfred “Wilfred” Knowles (1886-1915)

Community activist.

Born at Welland, Ontario on 26 August 1886, son of William Knowles and Rachael Speece, he came to Manitoba where he worked as a clerk for the Canadian Pacific Railway. In 1907, he began to bring homeless boys back to his boarding house where he fed, clothed, and educated them. As the numbers of children under his care grew, he appealed to friends for help and the Knowles Home for Boys was established at 738 Broadway. He quit his railway job in early 1908 to focus on the facility but resigned in June 1914, intending to take up farming. On 2 October 1914, he married Anna Wilke at East Kildonan. While on holiday at Los Angeles, California, he died of appendicitis on 28 February 1915 and was buried at Palmerston, Ontario. He is commemorated by Knowles Avenue and Wilfred Knowles Bay in Winnipeg.


Ontario birth registration [Millan Alfred Knowles], Ancestry.

“Home for boys,” Winnipeg Tribune, 4 December 1907, page 9.

Marriage registration, Manitoba Vital Statistics.

“Knowles Home,” Winnipeg Tribune, 11 January 1908, page 12.

“Staunch friend of boys is dead,” Manitoba Free Press, 5 March 1915 [Manitoba Legislative Library, Biographical Scrapbook B6]

“Littlest drummer boy product of the Knowles Home for Boys,” Winnipeg Tribune, 25 September 1915, page 6.

Henderson’s Winnipeg and Brandon Directories, Peel’s Prairie Provinces, University of Alberta Libraries.

We thank Nathan Kramer for providing additional information used here.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 2 January 2016

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

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