Manitoba History: Brandon’s Quasquicentennial

by Tom Mitchell
S. J. McKee Archives, Brandon University

Number 56, October 2007

This article was published originally in Manitoba History by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make this online version available as a free, public service. As an historical document, the article may contain language and views that are no longer in common use and may be culturally sensitive in nature.

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The past just won’t go away. It shows up in many places—street names, old letters, unpublished autobiographies, historical postcards, and formal historical writing. We just know the past is important, now. It can be a source of inspiration and pride, regret and shame. It cannot be ignored. Unresolved historical trauma—personal or collective—troubles our present, demanding attention, demanding resolution and closure. Historical accomplishments, unfinished business, can inspire our present. Individual lives, collective struggles may serve as moral exemplars to those searching for a compass in the disorder of the present. So a history that embraces all human possibility and seeks a full and satisfying account of the past is fundamental to healthy societies. We hope you find this edition of Manitoba History as bracing as a brisk fall walk and as good for you.

This 56th edition of Manitoba History contains an extended mediation on aspects of the history of Brandon, Manitoba on the occasion of the city’s 125th birthday: born, legally at least, on 30 May 1882. Ken Storie shares the remarkable story of General Thomas Lafayette Rosser, founder of the city in his capacity as Chief Engineer for the Canadian Pacific Railway Syndicate. Tommy McLeod, who graduated from Brandon College in 1940, convinced to come here from Weyburn, Saskatchewan by his Baptist minister and Brandon College grad Tommy Douglas, relates the Victorian Baptist origins of that most important of Brandon institutions: Brandon University. Doug Ramsey and John Everitt canvas the sites of historical social drinking—and hard drinking—preferred by the city’s imbibers. George Buri takes us to the Great War in this prairie city and the story of the Alien Detention Camp established at the Winter Fair Building and Wheat City Arena at Tenth Street and Victoria Avenue. Martin Kavanagh came to the “Wheat City” in 1929 and lived in Brandon the rest of his life until his death in 1987. In his inimitable style, he recalls his first encounter with streets and people of the city. Pat Forkin was an “East Ender” who died in the Soviet Union in 1939, having gone there in 1937 as the correspondent for the Communist Party of Canada newspaper The Clarion. His letters to the “folks” back home in Brandon give us a glimpse into the life of Soviet Russia in the 1930s. Scott Kukurudz tells the unusual and complex story of three Brandon women who were instrumental in the founding of the Indian and Métis Friendship Center in Brandon in the 1960s. Jack Stothard, local historian and dedicated collector of Brandon postcards, adds words, colour, and images to our account of the city.

Finally, many people have helped to compile this edition. Without the initiative and persistence of Gordon Goldsborough, a member of Brandon University’s faculty in the early 1990s, this edition simply would not have happened. Thanks to Errol Black and Jim Blanchard for their introductions to articles. James Naylor of the BU History Department offered important suggestions and provided vital editorial assistance with several of the articles. Christy Henry read through the entire edition and tidied it up from start to finish. All but a few of the images come from Brandon, from the formal collections at the Daly House Museum (1882 home of Thomas Mayne Daly, first mayor of Brandon) and the S. J. McKee Archives at Brandon University, or from family photos of Gerry Beaubier and Audrey Silvius. We thank Thomas Rosser Cochran Jr. and his daughter Ann Cochran Culley for providing a copy of an old daguerreotype of General Rosser, their ancestor. We are very pleased to thank the Whitehead Foundation for a grant that made possible the color reproduction of Jack Stothard’s Brandon postcards.

Rosser Avenue

Commerce was well developed by the time of this photograph of the 600 block of Brandon’s Rosser Avenue (circa 1883)
Source: S. J. McKee Archives, Brandon University, Lawrence Stuckey Fonds, C2.

Page revised: 8 September 2013