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Memorable Manitobans: William Martin (1856-1932)

Click to enlargeBusinessman.

He was born on 5 March 1856 at Cluden Bank House, Holyrood, Dumfriesshire, Scotland, the eldest son of William Martin and Georgina McCall. Receiving his education in Edinburgh, he came to Canada in 1880 and farmed between 1885 and 1906. From 1888 to 1891, he was a partner in the grain brokerage firm of Martin, Mitchell & Company, after which, until 1900, he was Vice-President of the Northern Elevator Company. He served as President of the Winnipeg Grain Exchange in 1901.

Around 1900, Martin quit his position with the Northern Elevator Company to turn his attention to the burgeoning gypsum industry, which provided materials much in demand for the construction boom in Winnipeg and other prairie centres. Martin opened quarries on the east side of Lake Manitoba near the present site of Gypsumville and a mill was established at the head of Portage Bay. The manufactured plaster was brought from the plant to McArthur’s Landing on the White Mud River, near the present town of Westbourne.

In 1904, Martin established the Manitoba Gypsum Company, manufacturers of plaster of Paris, wall plaster and fire proofing material. The company had offices in Winnipeg, and a manufacturing plant at Gypsumville, where gypsum mined there was processed. It was then shipped on steamboats on Lake Manitoba to a railhead on the Whitemud River, to be taken to market across the prairies. The Gypsumville mill burned soon afterwards and was replaced by a similar facility in Winnipeg, so that the raw materials had to be transported rather than the finished product. Transportation was made easier with the 1909 construction of a railway line along the east side of Lake Manitoba to Gypsumville. This change spelled the end of the Lake Manitoba shipping industry. Later in his career, Martin renewed his interest in the grain industry, forming a grain and stock brokerage with J. D. O’Brien under the name of O’Brien and Martin. O’Brien was later replaced by S. P. Clark, one-time president of the Northern Elevator Company to form the firm of Clark and Martin. Martin retired from business in 1930.

William Martin must have first seen Delta Marsh as a consequence of his travels to his company’s shipping facilities at the Whitemud River, which is located just west of the property where the Lakewood Country Club would be established in 1909. As well, he was a member of the Manitoba Club and St. Charles Country Club.

In 1886, Martin married Katherine McMillan, daughter of Thomas McMillan of Scotland, with whom he had one son and five daughters. His hobbies included automobiling, golf, and shooting, and he described his political affiliation as “independent.” A Presbyterian by faith, Martin lived in a large home at 125 Wellington Crescent in Winnipeg where he died on 6 February 1932 and, after a private family funeral, was buried in the cemetery of Winnipeg’s St. John’s Cathedral.

Sources:

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 5 August 2009

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

This is a collection of noteworthy Manitobans from the past, compiled by the Manitoba Historical Society.

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