Manitoba Historical Society
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Memorable Manitobans: John Smith (1854-?)


Born at St. John, New Brunswick on 7 September 1854, son of Edward Smith and Ellen Horner. Married Isabella McDougall, 1881. Has two sons and two daughters. Worked with William Dodd, Corner Main and McDermot; later with Thomas Ryan; since 1877 for himself. We quote from the Winnipeg Tribune of Monday, 24 August 1923:

“Aged Veteran Tramps Alone Old Trail Which Him to Fort Garry Forty Years Ago—Private John Smith Holds One-Man Parade on Main Street to Old Fort Gate—That these tall buildings might rise along the route of the Muddy Trail, while automobiles and streetcars wended their raucous ways through the vast canyon of commerce in between, Private John Smith and his sturdy companions came West in 1875 with the last contingent of the Red River Expeditionary Forces. And that the memory of these defenders might not die, Mr. John Smith, cobbler, of 414 Ross Ave., traversed again the route on Sunday, celebrating in a one-man parade the golden jubilee of the event. Fifty years!—and he was alone this time. Fifty years!—and what were these noisy monsters making hideous the quiet serenity of the old-time trail. Verily, he thought, this route is far more dangerous than when a Metis sniper lurked in the offing to add a notch in his rifle butt if the light was good. At 2.30 o’clock, John Smith, the cobbler, again became Private John Smith of the Red River forces. He was not so young nor yet so spry as in the yesteryear. But the spirit still was within him as he snapped smartly to attention in front of the Royal Alexandra Hotel, and struck off southward for “the fort.” Greying and slightly stooped from long years over the last, he steered his course between the car tracks and walked with fine military tread. Fifty years!—and a modern civilization had relegated into historic oblivion the noble sight that had brought gladness and confidence to a tired battalion. Only an ivy-clad ruin remained of gallant old Fort Garry, the pile which had welcomed the travellers half a century ago. Only one old grey man of the splendid regiment that had come to the Northwest to uphold the traditions of the Empire. Alone, Private John Smith sat down on a bench in the miniature park and smoked. He had kept faith with his old companions. Mr. Smith takes an honest pride in the development of Winnipeg. Never since first he came to the West has he been east of the Red River. And he and his wife were the first couple to be married in Minnedosa. He came originally from St. John, New Brunswick, serving his apprenticeship in Woodstock, Ont. So far as he knows there is only one other survivor of the march. He is Bob Scott—”Sergeant Bob, you know”—who lives on Morley Ave. Bob was too old to attempt the memorial parade. Smith was only 21 years of age when the force arrived.”


Pioneers and Prominent People of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Canadian Publicity Company, 1925.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 28 June 2017

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

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