Memorable Manitobans: Edmund Lorenzo Barber (1849-1909)
Born at Hamden, Connecticut in 1834, son of Guy Barber, he received little in the way of formal education and at the age of fourteen he left home on a year’s voyage around Cape Horn to California. By 1854 he had moved to St. Paul, Minnesota where he found employment with the Minnesota Democrat newspaper. In 1856 Barber’s cousin, George Brott, came west and together they formed the Breckenridge Land Company. In 1859 Brott purchased the dry goods firm of W. G. Fonseca and S. Fullerton of St. Paul and in February 1860, he appointed Barber as his agent to open a retail store in the Red River Settlement.
In 1868 Barber extended his business, becoming an agent for furs, hides, and firewood and part owner with J. F. Robinson in the Crescent Farm. In 1869 he joined J. C. Schultz in a real estate venture in the Point Douglas area. His business prospered with the arrival of the Wolseley Expedition as he received part of the Mounted Constabulary account. His business soon declined, however, and to pay his creditors he entered into a brief partnership with John MacGregor in 1871. In 1872, he opened a store in Portage la Prairie which was operated by Martin Burnell, which proved to be a failure, as were his plans to operate a saloon at Pembina, North Dakota to capitalize on the thirst of the Boundary Commission surveyors.
On 23 September 1873, Barber purchased The Nor’Wester from J. C. Schultz for $2,400. The newspaper did not do as well financially as expected and Barber’s sister-in-law Margaret Logan, arranged a chattel mortgage with Schultz, so the paper could continue publication. In May 1877, Mr. and Mrs. Barber and Richard Paul signed articles of agreement and entered into co-partnership in the operation of the Winnipeg Ice Company. In 1880, Barber joined E. G. Conklin in the operation of the Manitoba Soap Candle and Oil Works Company, which proved to be a short-lived venture. The following year, Barber again entered the real estate business and continued in this field until his death. After 1890, he supplemented his income by being appointed an “issuer of marriages of licenses.”
At the time of his death at Winnipeg on 24 April 1909, his daughter Lillie was active in managing his interests and continued to do so for several years. His home at 99 Euclid Avenue in the Point Douglas area still stands, and is one of the few remaining examples of early Red River Settlement architecture. He is commemorated by Barber Street in Winnipeg. His extensive business and personal papers, including textual records, photographs, and paintings, are held at the Archives of Manitoba (MG14 C66) from which the above biographical sketch was obtained.
Pioneers and Early Citizens of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Manitoba Library Association, 1971.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 16 October 2018
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