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This Week in Western Canadian History
June 20 - June 26
June
22
1611

In April of 1610, Henry Hudson captained an expedition to seek a short route to China via the North Pole. Within weeks of leaving England, the expedition ran into trouble off the coast of Northern Canada. There was dissension -- to the point of mutiny -- among the crew. Hudson's ship, the Discovery, was caught by winds and tides and dragged off course. Food ran short and efforts to supplement the rations by hunting and fishing were unsuccessful, and several men became seriously ill. After a winter of hardship, in June of 1611, Hudson began the journey home. Convinced that Hudson intended to continue his search for a northeast passage and not return to England, and believing that he had secreted a large supply of food in his quarters, the ship's crew mutinied. On the evening of June 22, 1611, 12 seamen overpowered Hudson, his son John, and seven of the weaker men, forced them into a boat and cast the boat adrift. No trace of them has ever been found. Nine of the original dozen sailors made it back to England where four of them were tried for murder. All were acquitted.

June
26
1754

Although the Hudson's Bay Company was granted the rights to the vast territory west of Hudson Bay in 1670, it wasn't interested in exploring this land. By the mid-1700s, however, it was evident that others were anxious to exploit its resources, and the Company wanted to protect its property. In an attempt to encourage the western tribes to trade with the Hudson's Bay Company, on June 26, 1754, Anthony Henday, an employee of the Company, left York Factory, Manitoba, with a party of Plains Cree who were returning to the interior. Although there are discrepancies in Henday's journals, and his exact route is uncertain, by the time he returned to York Factory on June 23, 1755, he had travelled as far west as present-day Red Deer, Alberta.

June
25
1807

In an attempt to establish whether the Columbia River could be used as a gateway to the Pacific, David Thompson, surveyor, explorer and fur trader in the employ of the North West Company, crossed the Rocky Mountains at what would later be named Howse Pass. This route is still under discussion today. For over 30 years, it's been suggested that a highway be constructed between Rocky Mountain House in Alberta, and Golden, British Columbia. Proponents of the highway suggest it would provide a safer and faster alternative to the route of the TransCanada Highway through Kicking Horse Pass, while opponents claim it would cause irreparable damage to wildlife habitat in one of the last undeveloped passes in the Rockies.

June
25
1898

Front Street in Dawson CityOn June 25, 1898, a small party of Salvation Army members arrived in Dawson City, capital of the Klondike gold rush, prospecting for souls, not gold. Of the many thousand goldseekers who made the perilous journey to the gold fields, only a few found the wealth they were seeking. Some found just enough gold to keep themselves housed and fed, ready for the next strike; most didn't make enough to allow them to leave. The Salvation Army provided food, shelter, and medical services for those who needed them, and entertainment for those who did not. Although the gold rush was over within three years, the Salvation Army maintained its depot in Dawson until 1912.

June
24
1904

RNWMP BadgeIn recognition of 30 years of loyal service, King Edward VII conferred the right to use the prefix "Royal" on the Mounted Police, so that it became officially known as the Royal North-West Mounted Police.

June
22
1911

Calgarians celebrated the coronation of King George V with a day of parades, galas, and games of lacrosse, football and baseball. The following day, a record number of cases were heard at the city police court. Most involved offenders who had celebrated their allegiance to their new sovereign by imbibing, not wisely, but too well.

June
21
1919

As the general strike in Winnipeg dragged on [see This Week in Western Canadian History, May 15, 1919] , the federal government arrested 10 of the strike leaders from the Central Strike Committee and two from the One Big Union. Public unrest grew, and the strikers held mass meetings across the city. On Saturday, June 21, hundreds of workers gathered in front of Winnipeg's City Hall for an illegal parade. City police and 90 mounted policemen surrounded the square as the mayor read the Riot Act from the steps of the city hall. Although the events of the next several minutes were confused, it appeared that the police fired a volley into the crowd to disperse them. One man was shot and died on the scene; another died later of gangrene associated with his injuries. The crowd fled in a panic, but many of the strikers were cornered by police cordons, and in the resulting melees scores of police and strikers were injured. "Bloody Saturday" ended with federal troops occupying the city of Winnipeg. The strike ended four days later.

June
23
1922

In the first case of its type, a female moonshiner was convicted of operating an illicit still in the province. All agreed it proved that feminism had gone too far.

June
23
1925

Mount Logan, Canada's highest mountain in the St. Elias Range on the Yukon- Alaska border, was first recorded and named in 1890. In May of 1925, a nine- member expedition set out from McCarthy, Alaska, to conquer the peak. On bad days, the climbers battled -35 C temperatures and howling winds. On good days, the blistering sun reflected from the snow and caused temporary blindness and cracked and bleeding skin. At 8 p.m. on June 23, seven members of the team finally stood on the summit. While the mountain has been climbed several times since then, it remains one of the great mountaineering challenges because of its sheer vertical rise and severe weather conditions.

June
20
1930

Editorials in Alberta's urban newspapers reflected disappointment that the United Farmers of Alberta were returned to power in the provincial election. Several writers noted a rural-urban split in the vote, and suggested that Premier Brownlee had given too much power to farmers at the expense of urban communities.

June
25
1937

After spending two weeks on the roof of their cabin, a trader and his wife finally returned to land as the floodwaters of the Mackenzie River subsided. An ice block caused the river to back up. The couple gathered food and blankets and scrambled to the safety of the roof. "And there we perched just sitting and looking at the water, and wondering when it would go down for two long weeks," he sighed.

June
23
1940

The St. RochIn 1928, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police acquired a wooden sailing schooner with an auxiliary engine for police operations in the Arctic. On June 23, 1940, under the command of Sgt. Henry A. Larsen, the St. Roch sailed from Vancouver bound for Halifax via the Northwest Passage. The ship took the southerly route through the Arctic islands, and after two winters trapped in the ice, finally arrived in Halifax on October 11, 1942. She was the second vessel to traverse the Northwest Passage (Roald Amundsen's ship Gjoa was the first), and the first to make the voyage from west to east. When she returned to Vancouver by the northerly route through Lancaster Sound and the Barrow Strait, the St. Roch became the first vessel to negotiate the Northwest Passage in both directions. The St. Roch was declared a national historic site in 1962, and is berthed at Vancouver's Maritime Museum.

June
20
1942

According to Prime Minister Mackenzie King, every Canadian should feel the "nearness and the vastness of the danger" after Japanese ships fired more than 30 shells on a government wireless station on the west coast of Vancouver Island. No one was injured, and little damage was done during the attack -- the first on Canadian soil since Confederation. The Canadian and American governments ordered reinforcements to the area.

June
26
1947

Richard Bedford BennettRichard Bedford Bennett, Prime Minister of Canada from 1930 to 1935, died at his home in Mickleham, England. Bennett was born in Hopewell Hill, New Brunswick, and read law at Dalhousie University in Halifax. He moved to Calgary in 1893 where he went into practice with Sir James Lougheed. He was elected a Conservative member of the legislature of the North-West Territories in 1898, was defeated in the 1905 election when Alberta became a separate province, but was elected to the provincial legislature in 1909.

In 1911, Bennett entered federal politics as the Conservative member for Calgary East. Bennett did not enjoy his position as a back-bencher in the federal government, and did not stand for re-election. He received a cabinet position when he returned to Ottawa in 1926, and was elected leader of the Conservative Party in 1927. In 1930, Bennett's Conservative Party won an easy victory over the Liberals under William Lyon Mackenzie King. Unfortunately, even Bennett's business instincts could not pull Canada out of the economic doldrums of the Depression, and his authoritarian style made him unpopular with Parliament and the public. In the federal election of October 1935, the Conservatives were soundly defeated. Bennett remained in opposition until 1938, when, in apparent bitterness and disappointment, he abruptly moved to England.

June
21
1952

Wilfred MayCanadian aviation pioneer Wilfrid May (christened "Wop" by a young cousin who could not pronounce the name) had a career unparalleled in the history of Canadian aeronautics. Born in Carberry, Manitoba in 1896, he moved to Calgary with his parents in 1903. He received training as an auto mechanic, but in 1916 he joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force and went overseas with the 202nd City of Edmonton Battalion. In March 1918, he was returning to base after a sortie when his guns jammed. Hot on his tail was the German ace, Baron Manfred von Richthofen (the Red Baron). According to one account, May was saved when another Canadian pilot, Captain Roy Brown, shot down von Richthofen.

After the war, May returned to Edmonton and started a commercial aviation company. The company operated a flying school and put on barnstorming exhibitions. In 1920, May joined Imperial Oil as a pilot, and convinced the company to use aeroplanes to transport men and equipment into some of the remote drilling sites. In 1921, May again went into business on his own. In January 1929, as a diphtheria epidemic raged in northern Alberta, May flew a two-seater Avro Avian aircraft -- with an open cockpit -- in minus 40F temperatures to deliver the desperately needed antitoxin to the small northern communities. May made several other life-saving trips in his career, carrying medication in, or patients out of isolated communities. He was also involved in the first Arctic manhunt by air during the search for Albert Johnson, the Mad Trapper.

During the Second World War, May was involved in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan and in 1943 initiated a project to train first-aid parachute crews. After the war, he served with Canadian Pacific Air Lines. During his lifetime, May was the recipient of many honours including the McKee (Trans-Canada) Trophy awarded to him in 1929 for outstanding contributions to the development of aviation in Canada, the Order of the British Empire in 1935 for his many mercy flights to outlying points in northern Canada, and the American Medal of Freedom, Bronze Palm in 1946, for his assistance to the American war effort in Alaska and the Aleutians. "Wop" May collapsed and died suddenly on June 21, 1952.

June
26
1954

Officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police justified their use of shadow, or ghost cars on Alberta highways by pointing to the numbers of speeding motorists who had been charged and fined. Motorists contended that marked cars had a greater deterrence effect in slowing traffic and claimed the only reason to use unmarked cars was to catch offenders so the province could receive revenue from the fines.

June
26
1954

Postal authorities were swamped with chain letters which included three fish hooks chained together, supposedly for luck. With handling, the hooks detached themselves and the sharp points often worked their way through the envelopes. Local postal workers complained that this latest craze in chain letters was more than a nuisance, it was actually dangerous.



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