Manitoba Historical Society
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Memorable Manitobans: John Henry McTavish (1837-1888)

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John Henry McTavish
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Fur trader, MLA (1871-1874).

Born at Grafton, Ontario on 11 June 1837, and educated at the Jesuits’ College and High School, Montreal, he came to Upper Fort Garry in 1856 in the service of the Hudson’s Bay Company and was in charge there during and after 1870. Unrelated to Governor McTavish, he was a Roman Catholic, spoke French fluently, and was rumoured to be a sympathizer of the Métis.

In December 1870, he was acclaimed as a Conservative representing Ste. Anne to the first legislature of Manitoba. In 1874 he was chosen a member of the North-West Territorial executive council but left the political field to become land commissioner of the Canadian Pacific Railway. He was a close friend and associate of Lord Strathcona. He was one of the founders of the Winnipeg Board of Trade, in 1873.

He married Maria Rowand (1849-1889, daughter of John Rowand) and they had two children: Margaret McTavish (1867-?) and George Taché McTavish (1868-?).

He died at Winnipeg on 5 March 1888 and was buried in the St. Boniface Cathedral Cemetery.


1871 and 1881 Canada censuses, Library and Archives Canada.

A Political Manual of the Province of Manitoba and the North-West Territories by J. P. Robertson, Winnipeg: Call Printing Company, 1887.

“A sudden death,” Manitoba Free Press, 6 March 1888, page 4.

“Funeral of Mr. J. H. McTavish,” Manitoba Free Press, 12 March 1888, page 4.

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

Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.

We thank Beth Balsillie and Oliver Bernuetz for providing additional information used here.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 16 January 2021

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

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