Memorable Manitobans: Charles Bruce Pitblado (1836-1913)
Born at Dunfermline, Scotland in 1836, he came to Canada with his parents in 1851 and the family settled at Truro, Nova Scotia. At the age of 19, while he was still in the Presbyterian College at Halifax, his father, a prominent railway contractor, was killed, leaving him, the eldest of ten children, to carry on the contracting business until a younger brother was able to take charge of the work. He then studied for the ministry, graduating from the Presbyterian College, Halifax in 1865. He accepted the position of pastor at St. Mary’s, Nova Scotia, where he served for over six years. While at St. Mary’s, he married Sophie Christie, and they had five children, among whom was son Isaac Pitblado. In 1871 he became pastor of Chalmers Church, Halifax, Nova Scotia.
In 1880 he made a tour of the North-West, travelling from Winnipeg to Prince Albert by buckboard, and wrote a series of articles on the West for the Presbyterian Witness. He returned west in 1881, becoming the first pastor of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. He preached in the old courthouse and later in Selkirk hall, which was built by the St. Andrew’s congregation. He served as chaplain of the 90th Rifles and went to the front in the North-West Rebellion. He was a member of the delegation that escorted Louis Riel from Batoche to Regina, and he afterwards gave evidence at his trial. For reasons of health in 1886 he took a seven-month vacation in Europe. He accepted the offer from Calvary Church, San Francisco, in 1888, later moving to Santa Rosa. He returned to Winnipeg in 1893 to become pastor of Westminster Church. In 1901 he received the degree of Doctor of Divinity from Gale College.
A recurrence of ill-health in 1903 forced him to give up preaching. He returned to California and then made the practice of spending the winters in California and after 1909 resided there permanently. He returned to Winnipeg to officiate at the opening of the new Westminster Church in June 1912.
He died at Oakland, California on 21 April 1913 and was buried in the Elmwood Cemetery.
“Rev. Dr. Pitblado dies at Oakland,” Manitoba Free Press, 22 April 1913, page 3.
Pioneers and Early Citizens of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Manitoba Library Association, 1971.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 29 January 2017