Memorable Manitobans: George Frederick Newcomb (1840-1907)

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George Frederick Newcomb
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Pioneer land agent.

Born at Kentville, Nova Scotia on 19 June 1840, he moved to the Red River Settlement (now Winnipeg) in 1869 where he worked as a Dominion Land Surveyor. On 11 October 1869, while working as a chainman on a survey crew under A. C. Webb, he was turned back by a group of angry Metis land owners led by Louis Riel. When the resistance heated up, a few weeks later his employer, head surveyor J. Stoughton Dennis, ordered him to train a volunteer militia at Poplar Point in an ill-fated attempt to confront Riel and his supporters. Then, in February 1870, he joined the Portage Party to release prisoners held by Riel, but instead was imprisoned with 47 others, for more than a month, in Upper Fort Garry.

In October 1879, A. R. Valmore Gauvreau wrote to Prime Minister John A. Macdonald, requesting that a Land Titles Office be established in the Turtle Mountain area, beyond the western border of Manitoba, in the region near the present Manitoba towns of Boissevain and Deloraine. Gauvreau asked to operate the office, and he accompanied his letter of request with references from his father P. L. Gauvreau and federal Minister of Public Works Sir Hector Langevin. On 13 April 1880, Macdonald agreed to open an office for the Turtle Mountain Land District but he put Newcomb, an experienced land officer, in charge with Gauvreau as his assistant. Newcomb was to receive an annual salary of $1,200.

In late July 1880, Newcomb arrived at the Whitewater Creek [now Turtlehead Creek], in the vicinity of the Turtle Mountain, and found a number of settlers waiting impatiently. Building his home and office on the creek bank, he set the stage for rapid development in the region. The tiny settlement was the administrative centre for more than 2,700 square miles of territorys—five rows of townships lying north of the international boundary, extending from a mile west of the village of Cartwright to the range line located thirty miles west of the present Manitoba-Saskatchewan boundary. Newcomers had to come to Newcomb’s office to make application for land. From 1 November 1880 to 31 October 1881, he received applications and fees for 328 homesteads and 301 preemptions. These numbers increased to 1,641 homesteads and 1,404 preemptions in the ‘boom’ year of 1882. Businesses began to collect around the Land Office so that, within six months of Newcomb’s arrival, the settlement was described as being “better supplied with stores than any part of the Northwest.” The community became known as Old Deloraine when it was bypassed by the Canadian Pacific Railway. Most town buildings were moved to the new town site northwest of the old site, with only the old town hall and a fieldstone bank vault left behind.

In December 1882, Newcomb was the Dominion Land Agent at Millford.

He was married twice, first on 29 October 1863 to Emma Sangster (1842-?) with whom he had three children: John Northrop Newcomb (1864-1911), Annie Maria Newcomb (1868-1890), and Lillian Antoinette “Lily” Newcomb (1871-1906). On arriving in Winnipeg in 1869, he built a home on James Street where he planted a large number of trees. On 16 October 1876, he married Emma Thursa Kinsman (1853-1903) at Boston, Massachusetts and they had six children: Sabia Louise Newcomb (1881-?), Emma Sangster Newcomb (1883-1973, wife of Charles Robinson Martin), Bessie Mavis Newcomb (1885-1885), Cecil Clive Newcomb (1886-1961), Annie Mavis Newcomb (1892-?, wife of William Henry Hassing), and Frederick Horace “Fred” Newcomb (1894-?). He was active in the Masons, serving in 1877-1878 as Grand Master of the newly formed Grand Lodge of Manitoba.

He died at the Winnipeg General Hospital on 9 December 1907 and was buried in the Napinka Cemetery.

See also:

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Newcomb’s Hollow / Old Deloraine Land Titles Office (Municipality of Deloraine-Winchester)


“City and provincial news,” Manitoba Free Press, 8 July 1876, page 3.

“Report of the Minister of the Interior,” Manitoba Free Press, 6 March 1878, page 2.

Birth registrations [Emma Sangster Newcomb, Bessie Mavis Newcomb, Cecil Clive Newcombe, Annie Mavis Newcomb, Frederick Horace Newcomb], Manitoba Vital Statistics.

“Brandon,” Manitoba Free Press, 25 December 1882, page 2.

Marriage registration [Emma Newcombe, Charles Robinson Martin], Manitoba Vital Statistics.

“Johnny comes marching home,” Manitoba Free Press, 19 September 1903, page 3.

Marriage registration [Lily Antoinette Newcomb, Richard Kellett], Manitoba Vital Statistics.

1901 Canada census, Automated Genealogy.

Death registrations [Bessie Mavis Newcombe, Lily Antoinette Kellett, Emma Thursa Newcombe], Manitoba Vital Statistics.

Obituary, Winnipeg Tribune, 11 December 1907, page 5.

Cecil C Newcomb, FindAGrave.

Obituary [Emma Sangster Martin], Shoal Lake Star, 15 March 1973, page 2.

George Frederick Newcomb (1840-1907), FamilySearch.

Obituaries and burial transcriptions, Manitoba Genealogical Society.

We thank Stan Barclay and Allen Brown for providing additional information used here.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 26 June 2024

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

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