Memorable Manitobans: Willard S. McPhedrain (1903-1971)
Railway agent, businessman.
Born at Ethelbert, Manitoba on 30 March 1903, he moved to Sifton in 1926 as agent for the Canadian Northern Railway. When, in the mid-1930s, local blacksmith John Weselowski invented devices for processing raw wool into fiber, McPhedrain became involved in advertising and sales for the woollen mill that was established at Sifton. The mill relocated to Brandon in 1941 but McPhedrain remained at Sifton, founding Sifton Products to market goods from the Brandon mill as well as items hand-made by local residents.
Following the Second World War, he began advertising products in farm publications using the name of his family housekeeper Mary Maximchuk, later shortened to Mary Maxim. In the early 1950s, he asked local knitter Stella Sawchyn to design a pattern for a sweater, which formed the basis for a highly successful line of distinctive Canadian patterns featuring Aboriginal motifs and animals. The company moved to Dauphin and eventually to Paris, Ontario, to be nearer its source of yarn. He retired from the railway in 1954 and took over management of the company’s office at Dauphin. Five years later, operations were consolidated at Paris. The firm grew to become one of the world’s largest mail order companies.
McPhedrain died on 29 December 1971 and is commemorated by a monument in Sifton, erected in 2000.
1911 Canada census, Automated Genealogy.
“The spinning wheel, Sifton, Manitoba”, Baldur Gazette, 31 August 2004, page 8.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 9 November 2012
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