The Lord Selkirk Association of Rupert's Land

by Anne M. Henderson

Manitoba Pageant, April 1962, Volume 7, Number 3

This article was published originally in Manitoba Pageant 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 As an historical document, the article may contain language and views that are no longer in common use and may be culturally sensitive in nature.

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What is it? What does it do? How can one join it?

It is almost like any of the other Associations that you hear about; we meet, have dinners, teas, raise money for different reasons, but the one big difference ... and this is a very important one ... you have to be born into it, you cannot buy your way in by paying a membership fee. Only direct descendants of an original Lord Selkirk Settlers or persons resident in Rupert's Land prior to 1836, are eligible for membership in the Association.

And this is how it came about. Away back in 1908 a number of the descendants of the Lord Selkirk Settlers met in the City Hall, in Winnipeg, to consider forming an association to honor the Earl of Selkirk and those sturdy Scottish settlers who ninety-six years before had arrived at Red River to establish the first settlement west of the Great Lakes.

In 1912 it would be the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the first Settlers and how could this be more suitably celebrated than by having a thriving association, a monument or two, perhaps a club room, and a museum. When 1912 arrived the Association had several hundred members, men only ... in those days woman's place was still in the home! Plans had been drawn up for a monument to Lord Selkirk, but the money to pay for it, while promised, had not all been collected. But nothing daunted - when that early Executive heard that the Governor-General, the Duke of Connaught, would be visiting Winnipeg in July, they invited him to unveil the corner stone of the monument. Everything was made ready and on July 15, 1912, the corner stone, laid in a concrete base at the south east corner of Portage and Main, was duly unveiled.

Before the necessary funds were to hand World War I came, and for the time being all plans were set aside. After, the War many people who had promised money, in all good faith, found they had not that surplus that finds its way into monuments, club houses' and museums. Also the Bank of Montreal wanted to erect their war memorial in front of their own building, so the base laid in 1912, with such hopes, was removed and the box containing papers, membership lists, coins and such things that go into corner stones, was taken out and given to the City for safekeeping.

After the war the Association was revived and with the exception of the Second World War years, 1939-45, it has been active in a quiet, leisurely way. The womenfolk were permitted to become members and not long afterwards formed a Ladies' Auxiliary, which meets each month. In 1924 a monument was placed in Kildonan Park honoring Peguis, the Saulteux chief who was so very good to the Settlers in the early days of the Settlement, and in 1949 instead of a monument of stone and bronze the Association established the Lord Selkirk Memorial Scholarship in the University of Manitoba, which is awarded annuallyi to a fourth year Honors student in Canadian History.

Photo: The author Miss Anne Henderson, past-president of the Manitoba Historical Society at the time of the unveiling of the Selkirk Memorial, The Mall, Winnipeg. Courtesy of Winnipeg Tribune.

Perhaps we haven't accomplished the things our grandfathers set out to do back in 1908 but we have kept alive in our own restricted circle our appreciation of Lord Selkirk's truly great and generous work on behalf of our forefathers, and at the same time we remember, with pride and in humility the hardships, trials, and ultimate succes of those first settlers, not only of Red River but of Western Canada.

Page revised: 1 July 2009