This Week in Western Canadian History
October 17 - October 23
October
17
1840

Reverend Robert RundleRobert Rundle, one of four Methodist missionaries invited by the Hudson's Bay Company to establish missions in their territories, arrived in Edmonton House on October 17, 1840. Rundle remained in the area for eight years, making Edmonton the centre of his district which extended north to posts at Lesser Slave Lake, east to Fort Carlton and Fort Pitt in Saskatchewan, south to the lands of the Blackfoot, and west to the Rocky Mountains. On one of his trips in July of 1847, Rundle fell from his horse and severely injured his arm. It did not heal, and in 1848, Rundle left the west to seek medical care in England. He never returned.

October
22
1854

John Rae, an explorer, fur trader and surgeon, made four expeditions to the Arctic between 1846 and 1854. On his last expedition, he met an Inuk who told him of a group of white men who had died of starvation four years earlier. Later, Rae spoke to several more Inuit and was given some marked silverware and a medal which confirmed that the small group was the remains of Sir John Franklin's expedition. On October 22, 1854, Rae returned to England with the relics and claimed the £10,000 reward the British government had offered to anyone who could ascertain the fate of Franklin and his men. His report provoked a storm of controversy because he quoted Inuit statements that the last survivors had resorted to cannibalism in their final days. Many Britons, including Lady Franklin, insisted that the Inuit could not be believed, since sailors of the Royal Navy would never do such a thing; therefore Rae had not discovered the fate of the expedition. The controversy continued until July of 1856, when Rae and his men finally received the reward.

October
21
1876

Fur traders and Red River settlers were the first to grow wheat in western Canada, but because of the early and harsh winters they met with limited success. After experimenting with different strains, most Manitoba farmers planted Red Fife which was hardier than other types, although it froze during early frosts. Because of the difficulties of cultivation and transporting the crop, most farmers in Manitoba seeded only three or four acres -- just enough for their own needs. In 1876, conditions were virtually perfect and a bumper crop resulted. In Ontario, however, the crop was poor, and farmers there agreed that they needed to import a new seed variety. In early October, a representative from an Ontario seed company came to Manitoba to purchase 5,000 bushels of wheat from local farmers. Although the harvest was successful, no one had much wheat to sell, but after 10 days the seed merchant returned to Ontario with 857 bushels of western wheat -- the first shipment of wheat from what would become the rich breadbasket of western Canada.

October
21
1880

Sir John A. Macdonald and members of the Stephen Syndicate signed the final contract for the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Among other considerations, the contract provided a subsidy of $25 million dollars in cash and 25 million acres of land to the Syndicate in return for completion of the line within 10 years and a guarantee that the company would operate the railway "efficiently" forever. The contract was vigorously challenged by members of Parliament, the press and the public, but finally, after exhaustive debate, it received parliamentary approval.

October
23
1884

Buffalo BonesA notice in the Moosmin, Saskatchewan, newspaper remarked on the growth of a new industry in the Canadian Northwest: the shipment of buffalo bones to the United States where they were used in the manufacture of fertilizer. Huge piles of bones from decimated buffalo populations lay all over the prairies as a final reminder of the once great herds. The first shipment weighed four tons, and took up four railroad cars. By 1897, when the industry came to an end, over 20,000 tons of bones had been collected and exported.

October
22
1920

Alberta Lieutenant-Governor R.G. Brett spared no words when he told the province's nurses that their demands for an eight-hour day commercialised their profession and neglected their duty to serve humanity in times of its direst needs. Lieut.-Gov. Brett, himself a physician, noted that if nurses remained committed to this trade-union approach, then they were not prepared to meet the demands of their profession and should not continue in it.

October
18
1929

Persons Case by Nellie McClungIn April of 1928, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the word "person" in Section 24 of the British North America Act did not include female persons. The justification for the decision was that since persons required for public office had to be "fit and qualified" for such an appointment, women were not eligible. Five Alberta women - Henrietta Muir Edwards, Nellie McClung, Louise McKinney, Emily Murphy and Irene Parlby - appealed the decision in Canada's highest court of appeal, the Privy Council of England. In a landmark decision, on October 18, 1929, the Privy Council ruled that women were indeed persons under the law, and so could be summoned to and serve as members of the Senate of Canada.

October
18
1935

A young Edmonton woman was convicted of vagrancy after it was discovered that she had been travelling and working disguised as a man for over five years. The police magistrate refused to accept the young lady's explanation that she enjoyed farm labour and outdoor work and that those jobs paid much better than the positions that were available to women. Her deception was uncovered when the proprietor of a men-only rooming house suspected that she was a female despite her overalls and short hair.

October
19
1942

Under new regulations for conserving tin, anyone requiring toothpaste or shaving cream in tubes had to return the used containers when purchasing new ones. It was estimated that there was enough tin in a single tube to provide the lining for 20 water bottles used by soldiers. Tin cans were also in scare supply and were replaced by glass and fabric containers. Before the war, most tin was imported from Japan, a source that was no longer available.

October
23
1942

Calgarians practised their first black-out to test the civilian defence system. The exercise was conducted for two hours, and every aspect was strictly controlled by ARP (Air Raid Precautions) wardens and city police. The windows and skylights in all houses, apartments, businesses, and industrial plants were covered so no light appeared. All streetlights and illuminated signs were turned off. Anyone who needed to be outside on the streets required a permit from the local warden, and those travelling by automobile had to obtain a permit and cover the vehicle's headlights. Anyone who was outside was forbidden to smoke or to light a match. Originally, it was proposed that city hospitals would turn off their electricity for the two-hour period, but that plan was abandoned when it was pointed out that it could be fatal to some patients. Although several minor problems were encountered, officials were pleased with the results.

October
23
1946

Bannertail: The Story of a GraysquirrelErnest Thompson Seton, naturalist, author and illustrator of over 40 children's books on nature and woodcraft, died on October 23, 1946. Seton had homesteaded in Manitoba and, in 1892, was appointed naturalist for the Manitoba government. Many of his animal storybooks were based on his experiences during this time. His books were popular and critically acclaimed, and many are still regarded as classics of the genre.

October
19
1950

In response to an ultimatum from their American head offices, officers of Canada's trade unions were under investigation for suspicion of pro-Communist sympathies. Several union officials in Ontario and Quebec had already been expelled for their alleged Communist affiliation, and the investigation was spreading to the unions in Western Canada. Union management demanded that the purge of the "red menace" be vigorously pursued.

October
18
1965

The store manager at the Hudsonís Bay post on Holman Island, Northwest Territories, was busy painting his golf balls red as he waited for a spell of cold weather to freeze the ice so that he could lay out his golf course. The manager, a keen amateur golfer, constructed a small course on the ice every year. His usual playing partners were visiting bush pilots and Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers who claimed, even in -20įC temperatures, to enjoy the novelty of a mid-winter round.

October
21
1965

The lawyer for Canadian railway employees challenged the Canadian Pacific Railway, saying that the company was not doing enough to increase passenger traffic on the trans-continental line and suggesting bingo games or movies in passenger cars to attract travellers. The railway wanted to abandon some of its scheduled cross-country trips, saying that it lost millions of dollars on passenger services. The employees, concerned about the loss of jobs, claimed that the railway had not done enough research into passenger composition and transportation trends and had simply opted for the easiest solution.

October
19
1984

Grant Notley, leader of the Alberta New Democratic Party, died in an airplane crash near High Prairie, Alberta. Notley was first elected to the Legislature in 1971 and served as a one-man caucus for 11 years. When a second NDP member was elected in 1982, Notley became Leader of the Official Opposition, a position he held at the time of his death.



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