Manitoba Historical Society
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Memorable Manitobans: Joseph Walter Sparling (1843-1912)

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Joseph Walter Sparling
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Cleric, educator.

Born in Blanchard, Perth County, Canada West (now Ontario) on 14 February 1843, he was educated in St. Mary’s High School and received his BA and MA (1874) from Victoria University, Cobourg. He received the degree of Bachelor of Divinity (1871) and Doctor of Divinity (1889) at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois. He was ordained a minister of the Methodist Church in Belleville, Ontario in 1871 and was awarded a DD by Northwestern University in 1889.

He served in pastorates of the Methodist Church in Montreal, Ottawa, and Kingston, and was President of the Montreal conference of the Methodist Church in Canada. He was a member of the Board of Education and of the General Board of missions of the Methodist Church in Canada. In 1888 he was selected by the Church Board of Governors to establish Wesley College at Winnipeg.

Under his administration, Wesley College grew from a handful of students to 400. At his death in office, the college was free of debt and had an endowment of $250,000. He had recruited a number of important teachers, including Salem Bland.

In 1871, he married Susannah Mary Weir Kerr (1850-1915) of Toronto, Ontario and they had three children: John Kerr Sparling, Frederick Walter S. Sparling, and Laura Ethel Sparling (1879-1916, wife of Arthur Henry Povah).

He died at Winnipeg on 16 June 1912 and was buried in the Elmwood Cemetery. He is commemorated by Principal Sparling School and the Sparling Building at the University of Winnipeg.

See also:

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Wesley College / University of Winnipeg (505 Portage Avenue, Winnipeg)

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Sparling Methodist Church / Sparling United Church (1609 Elgin Avenue West, Winnipeg)

Joseph Walter Sparling, Dictionary of Canadian Biography XIV, 952-53.


Who’s Who in Western Canada: A Biographical Dictionary of Notable Living Men and Women of Western Canada, Volume 1, edited by C. W. Parker, Vancouver: Canadian Press Association, 1911.

Marriage and death registrations, Manitoba Vital Statistics.

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 Linda Dietrick for providing additional information used here.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 3 April 2021

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

This is a collection of noteworthy Manitobans from the past, compiled by the Manitoba Historical Society. We acknowledge that the collection contains both reputable and disreputable people. All are worth remembering as a lesson to future generations.

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