Manitoba Historical Society
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Manitoba History: Dr. Donald Loveridge

by Gerald Friesen and Barry Potyondi
Winnipeg, Manitoba

Number 79, Fall 2015

Readers of this journal may not have heard of the passing of a fine historian of Manitoba, Dr. Donald Loveridge. For the past forty years he had worked as a researcher and historical consultant in New Zealand where, according to historian John Weaver, he was acknowledged as an authority on land claims under the Treaty of Waitangi. Don worked for both the Crown and for claimants because, Weaver writes, despite the sensitive nature of such work, “his integrity, thorough research, and clarity of writing” provided participants on both sides with the assurance that their position would be expressed fairly and accurately: “I know for a fact that people in the Waitangi research community who might have conflicting positions all trusted Don.”

Donald Merwin Loveridge (1950-2015)
Source: Ian Loveridge

Gerald Friesen Writes

Don Loveridge studied at the University of Saskatchewan and then moved to Brandon University, where he completed his Bachelor of Arts in 1974 and was awarded the History Department’s highest award, a silver medal. He graduated from the University of Manitoba with a Master of Arts in 1977 and received the W. L. Morton Gold Medal and Prize in History (1978), the Department’s highest award at that level. His thesis was entitled The Settlement of the Rural Municipality of Sifton, 1881–1920. He graduated from the University of Toronto with a PhD in 1986. His dissertation, written under the supervision of Dr. Carl Berger, was The Garden of Manitoba: The Settlement and Agricultural Development of the Rock Lake District and the Municipality of Louise, 1878–1902.

During his decade in Manitoba, Don earned praise for his historical research. His publications included: A Historical Directory of Manitoba Newspapers, 1859–1978 (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press 1978); several chapters in A Guide to the Study of Manitoba Local History (Gerald Friesen and Barry S. Potyondi), University of Manitoba Press, 1981; and, with Barry Potyondi, From Wood Mountain to the Whitemud: An Historical Survey of the Grasslands National Park Area (Ottawa : National Historic Parks and Sites Branch, Parks Canada: Environment Canada 1983).

The son of the late Al and Ann Loveridge, and brother to Lee and Ken, he was the doting father of Ian and Helen and loved husband and friend of Jenny. He moved to New Zealand in 1982 and passed away unexpectedly on 4 April 2015 in Wellington. The announcement concluded: “He leaves behind a comprehensive and passionate legacy of historical evidence for the Treaty of Waitangi settlements.”

Barry Potyondi Writes

I met Don in the autumn of 1976. We were enrolled in the Master’s degree program in history at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg and shared a deep interest in the story of the Canadian prairie west. Both of us were also starving students, so when we learned that Parks Canada was letting a six-month contract to write an historical overview of its proposed Grasslands National Park in the Province of Saskatchewan, we jumped at the chance to bid. Parks Canada is the federal government agency with responsibility for protecting and interpreting the natural and human history of the country.

We were young (I was 22; Don 26) and naïve, so naïve that we had to ask one of our history professors (Ed Rea) how to put together a bid on a government contract. With his basic outline in hand, we divided the project into two sections, Pre-agricultural settlement (Don) and Post-agricultural settlement (me). We guessed at a budget (based largely on our rent, grocery, gas and beer requirements) and agreed to divide it equally if we landed the job. Much to our surprise and delight, we did land the job.

Most of the research was documentary in nature (compiling a comprehensive bibliography and identifying relevant archival documents and photographs), but we also spent a week or so touring the area of the proposed park. It is situated some 400 or 500 miles west of Winnipeg. We loaded our research materials into a car and hit the road, stopped in Don’s hometown of Brandon long enough to sample Mrs. Loveridge’s strong coffee and filling oatcakes, and then continued down the TransCanada Highway to the city of Moose Jaw where we made a sharp left turn and followed ever smaller roads into the beautiful desolation that is southwestern Saskatchewan. It is a vast calming land of gently rolling grassy hills, flat-topped buttes, small creeks and skittish herds of pronghorn antelope. Even now, few people live there. As we drove, Don taught me more about the geomorphology of the prairies than I ever wanted to know.

Don was truly in his element on that trip, for the region’s history took in so much that enthralled him: Aboriginal archaeological sites and encampments (including Sitting Bull’s Sioux camp at Wood Mountain), Métis trading posts and wintering settlements, military and para-military history (in the form of American Army incursions and the North-West Mounted Police), exploration and politics, and of course LAND, mainly in the form of the tumbledown remains of failed farmsteads created by the flawed Dominion Lands Act that Don would later come to know inside out. While I drove, he continually plotted forgotten settlements, old ranch headquarters, abandoned farms and still-visible buffalo wallows on a 1:20,000 topographical map. Don seldom left home without a map. His only complaint about our trip, as I recall, was that Saskatchewan radio stations didn’t seem to care much for jazz.

Upon our return to Winnipeg, we wrote up our findings as From Wood Mountain to the Whitemud: An Historical Survey of the Grasslands National Park Area. It was subsequently printed by Parks Canada as Manuscript Report Number 237 in an edition of perhaps 300 copies. It is hard to find a copy now, although professional historians and other scholars still cite the report from time to time. Mercenaries that we were, we happily pocketed our cash, forgot all about southwestern Saskatchewan and turned our attention back to our neglected history theses. Then, after graduation from the University of Manitoba we went our separate ways. Don moved to Toronto to study for his doctorate; I stayed in Winnipeg.

I believe I saw him only twice after that, once in Toronto when I was there on a research trip (we enjoyed a beer while listening to New Orleans jazz down at Albert’s Hall) and later in Winnipeg when Don proudly introduced Jenny to my wife and me. In both instances, it was just like old times. I suppose the distance and time then separating us mattered so little because of the singular trip to Saskatchewan that we shared at a pivotal time in our lives. Even now, I can’t hear someone say “quarter section” or “pre-emption” without smiling and thinking of Don.

See also:

Memorable Manitobans: Donald Merwin “Don” Loveridge (1950-2015)

We thank Clara Bachmann for assistance in preparing the online version of this article.

We thank S. Goldsborough for assistance in preparing the online version of this article.

Page revised: 24 July 2020

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