Memorable Manitobans: William Fisher Luxton (1844-1907)
Born at Devonshire, England on 12 December 1844, he came to Canada with his parents in 1855. He was educated at St. Thomas, Canada West [now Ontario], and became a public school teacher. Together with the Honourable G. W. Ross he founded the Strathroy Age newspaper in 1866. He purchased the Seaforth Expositor, and subsequently founded the Daily Home Guard at Goderich. He came to Winnipeg in 1871, and was its first public school teacher, from 1871 to 1872. He was a member of the school trustees board from 1879 to 1882 and 1885 to 1887, during the latter term becoming Chairman.
He founded the Manitoba Free Press in partnership with John A. Kenny, the first issue appearing on 9 November 1872 with the assistance of Samuel Reid Marlatt and “Sandy” Macdonald. He was its first editor and remained in control for 21 years. He was noted for his veracity, his fearless editorial policies, and his assistance to young journalists. His editorial opposition to the Greenway Liberals contributed to his loss of the newspaper when, in 1893, Donald A. Smith called in a loan that Luxton had accepted while in earlier financial difficulties. Luxton started another paper, the Daily Nor’Wester, in 1893 but sold it in 1896 and became a reporter for the St. Paul Globe.
He was a candidate in the first mayoralty election in Winnipeg 1874, and in December 1874 was elected to the Legislature as a Liberal representative for Rockwood. His political goals were prohibition, a purely secular school system, the abolition of French as an official language, and the demise of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Defeated in a February 1885 by-election, he was re-elected in the 1886 provincial general election. He defended himself successfully in 1890 from both civil and criminal libel charges brought against him by Joseph (“Fighting Joe”) Martin, the province’s attorney general.
In 1901 Luxton became inspector of public buildings for the Province of Manitoba. During his early days in Manitoba he was president of the Provincial Agricultural Society (1878) and a director of the Society for ten years. He was also a member of the Provincial Board of Education, the Council of the Winnipeg Board of Trade, Chairman of the Winnipeg School Board, and a life member of the Winnipeg General Hospital, of which he was one of the founders.
On 4 April 1866, he married Sarah Jane Edwards (c1848-?) of Lobo, Ontario. They had eight children: William F. Luxton Jr. (c1867-?), Henry “Harry” Luxton (c1870-?), Eleanor Luxton (1873-1966, wife of ? Foster), Norman K. Luxton (1876-?), Louis Luxton (c1878-?), Olive Luxton (c1880-?), George Luxton (1881-?), and Harold Malloch Luxton (1884-1915).
He died at the Winnipeg General Hospital on 20 May 1907 and was buried in the St. John’s Cathedral Cemetery. He is commemorated by Luxton Avenue and Luxton School in Winnipeg. His extensive papers are in the Archives of Manitoba.
1881 Canada census, FamilySearch.
A Political Manual of the Province of Manitoba and the North-West Territories by J. P. Robertson, Winnipeg: Call Printing Company, 1887.
Attestation papers [Harold Malloch Luxton], Canadian Expeditionary Force, Library and Archives Canada.
“Eleanor Foster dies at 93,” Winnipeg Free Press, 22 August 1966.
Pioneers and Early Citizens of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Manitoba Library Association, 1971.
We thank Oliver Bernuetz (Legislative Library of Manitoba) for providing additional information used here.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 6 December 2022