Memorable Manitobans: William Wagner (1820-1901)
Surveyor, immigration promoter, MLA (1883-1886).
Born in Prussia on 13 September 1820, he was educated at Breslau, Posen and Berlin as an engineer and architect before becoming active in the revolutions of 1848, which resulted in his immigration to the United States. He came to Canada in 1850 and worked as a land surveyor. He was married 6 August 1859 to Adelheid Fenner, of Ossowo, Posen. His daughter, Margaret Augusta Wagner, married clergyman Arthur W. Goulding.
In 1860 the Canadian government sent him to Germany to promote immigration to Canada, and during his three years there he wrote several pamphlets on Canada and the North-West, including Antleitung fur Diejenigen, welche sich in Canada (1861), Canada, ein Land fur deutsche Auswanderung (1861), and Das Petroleum, aus Canada bezogen, in seinem Wethre fur Deutschland (1863).
He came to Manitoba in 1870. He was active in the dairy industry and received credit for advancements made in the manufacture of butter and cheese in the West. He wrote about his experiences in articles that were published in 1872 as Einwanderungnach Manitoba. He settled at Ossowa near Poplar Point and was an active promoter of dairy farming in Manitoba, becoming the first President of the Manitoba Dairy Association (1886-1887). He was elected as the representative for Woodlands in the 1883 provincial general election and, although defeated in the 1886 general election, held a federal appointment as swamp lands commissioner to 1896. He was later appointed an assistant sergeant-at-arms in the legislature under Premier Hugh John Macdonald.
He died at his home on College Avenue, Winnipeg, on 25 February 1901. He is commemorated by Wagner Street in Winnipeg.
His survey field books are at the Archives of Manitoba.
“Dairy Association of Manitoba gains unique reputation,” Winnipeg Tribune, 26 March 1938, page 52.
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.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 4 October 2019