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Memorable Manitobans: Duncan MacArthur (1840-1907)

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Duncan MacArthur
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Banker, MLA (1886-1888).

Born in Nairnshire, Scotland on 29 May 1840, brother of Peter MacArthur and Alexander MacArthur, he was educated at Free Church Academy, Nairn, Scotland, and entered the service of the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1865. He came to Manitoba in 1872 and was appointed manager of the Merchants’ Bank of Canada in Winnipeg, a post he held for ten years, and became President of the Commercial Bank of Manitoba from 1885 to 1893, when the bank suspended payments and never resumed business.

He was involved in a number of pioneer enterprises: the Nelson Valley Railway and Transportation Company (1880), the Portage, Westbourne and North Western Railway (1882), the Manitoba Central Railway (1883), the Manitoba and Northwestern Railway Company, the Northwest Fire Insurance Company, director of Canada Settlers Trust and Loan Company, and Manitoba and Northwest Land Corporation, and member of the first Hudson Bay Railway Company. He assisted in incorporating the Bank of Winnipeg in 1895.

In 1887 he withdrew a bid as Conservative candidate for Parliament, but ran provincially in a by-election in 1888 in Assiniboia. He ran against John Norquay in Kildonan in the 1888 general election, but lost by two votes.

He married thrice, first in 1873 to Catherine Robertson with whom he had a son. On 4 June 1876, he married Christian Ross and they had a daughter. On 7 September 1886, he married Elizabeth Sydney Pauline McKeagney, daughter of J. C. McKeagney, at Winnipeg. In 1879, he was a founding member of the Manitoba Historical Society. He was the author of The Scottish Highlander: His Origin, Literature, Language, and General Characteristics (1893). MacArthur also wrote a number of manuscript histories of the fur trade. Some of his letters are published in MacArthur Family Letters edited by Medd and Medd (1992).

He moved to Chicago in 1898 and died there on 20 January 1907. His body was returned to Manitoba for burial in the Kildonan Cemetery. There are papers at the Archives of Manitoba.

See also:

Duncan MacArthur, Dictionary of Canadian Biography XIII, 608-9.


Marriage registration, Manitoba Vital Statistics.

“D. Macarthur dies in Chicago,” Winnipeg Tribune, 21 January 1907, page 1.

Obituary, Winnipeg Tribune, 28 January 1907, page 7.

Pioneers and Early Citizens of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Manitoba Library Association, 1971.

Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by J. M. Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 22 September 2015

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