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Memorable Manitobans: Duncan MacArthur (1840-1907)

Click to enlargeBanker, 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. In 1872 he came to Manitoba and married Elizabeth McKeaghney, September 1886.

He 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. He was a founding member of the Manitoba Historical Society, in 1879.

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 moved to Chicago in 1898 where he died on 20 January 1908. He was buried in Winnipeg.

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).

There are papers at the Archives of Manitoba.

More information:

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


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.

Page revised: 22 January 2010

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