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Memorable Manitobans: William Methven Whyte (1843-1914)

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William Whyte
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Born in Dunfermline, Fifeshire, Scotland on 15 September 1843, son of William Whyte and Christina Methven. He was educated in the public schools of Charleston, then he worked as a clerk in the office of the factor of Lord Elgin’s estate, from 1860 to 1862. He entered railway service as a station agent, West of Fife Railway, in May 1862.

He came to Canada in July 1863 and for twenty years was employed by the Grand Trunk Railway in various parts of Ontario, in various positions: brakeman (1863), freight clerk at Cobourg, Ontario (1863-1865), freight clerk at Toronto, Ontario (1865), foreman of the freight department at Toronto (1866), yardmaster at Toronto (1867), conductor (1867-1869), night station agent at Toronto (1869), station master at Stratford, Ontario (1869-1872), station master and freight and passenger agent at London, Ontario (1872-1878), freight agent at Toronto (1879-1880), assistant superintendent in the Central division of Grand Trunk Railway from Kingston, Ontario, to Stratford, including the Galt and Waterloo branches (1881-1883). In 1884 he was appointed general superintendent of the Ontario division of the Canadian Pacific Railway. In 1886 he was appointed general superintendent of the western division, and the following year was made manager of western lines. In 1901 he became assistant to the president and in 1904 second vice-president in charge of all lines west of Lake Superior. In 1910 he was appointed vice-president. He retired the following year. He was knighted in June 1911.

In 1871, he married Jane Scott of Toronto and had a son and four daughters.

In addition to his railway interests, Whyte was Vice-President of the Winnipeg Electric Railway Company, and Standard Trusts Company, and a Director of the Imperial Bank of Canada and Confederation Life Assurance. He served as President of the Canadian Club of Winnipeg from 1907 to 1908, the St. Andrew’s Society of Winnipeg from 1911 to 1913, and the St. Charles Country Club from 1912 to 1913. He was a member of the Manitoba Club and the St. Charles Country Club.

He died in California in April 1914. Fort Whyte, in south Winnipeg, was named in his honour, as is Whyte Avenue, William Whyte School, and William Whyte Park.

See also:

Historic Sites of Manitoba: William Whyte School (200 Powers Street, Winnipeg)

Historic Sites of Manitoba: William Whyte Park / Fort Douglas Cairn (Higgins Avenue, Winnipeg)

The Background of the Battle of Fort Whyte by James A. Jackson
MHS Transactions, Series 3, 1945-46 Season

William Whyte, Dictionary of Canadian Biography XIV 1,062-63.


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.

A History of Manitoba: Its Resources and People by Prof. George Bryce, Toronto: The Canadian History Company, 1906.

The Leading Financial, Business & Professional Men of Winnipeg, published by Edwin McCormick, Photographs by T. J. Leatherdale, Compiled and printed by Stone Limited, c1913. [copy available at the Archives of Manitoba]

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 Nathan Kramer for providing additional information used here.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 6 September 2023

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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