Memorable Manitobans: Alexander James Belch (1829-1906)
Land agent, municipal official, editor.
Born in St. Mary’s, Ontario on 28 February 1829, he and his wife Elizabeth (c1949-?) had four children: Charles A. Belch (c1869-1903), Mary Elizabeth Belch (c1871-?, wife of Adam Montaguee Ramsey), Edith Belch (c1875-?, wife of Mr. Wallace), and Hebert J. Belch (c1877-?). He worked as the Argus newspaper editor before the family moved to Manitoba in 1876. A Free Mason, he joined the St. John’s Lodge on 6 September 1876, served as Worshipful Master (one term), and Past Grand Junior Master (1879).
Having settled in Winnipeg, he took employment with the Dominion Lands Branch, shortly thereafter becoming an Assistant Agent (1878). During this time, and under the charge of Donald Codd, he was responsible for the allocation of 1.4 million acres designated for half-breeds [Metis] and compiled a report which lead to the increasing of grant sizes from 90 acres of 240 acres each. Within a year, and following the defeat of the federal Mackenzie government, he went to Birtle, opened the Dominion Lands Office there, and remained for three years, overseeing sales of at least $750,000 worth of land. During this time, he was also a Trustee (1877-1880) and Chair (1879-1880) of the Winnipeg School Board. He next worked successively as the Land Commissioner for the Portage, Westbourne & North-Western Railway Company (1882-?), became a Commissioner (1884) with Dominion Lands Branch, and was the Lands Commissioner for the Manitoba & North West Railway Company (succeeded by A. F. Eden). Needing a respite on account of his health, in May 1890 he departed for the American Pacific coast, living mostly in Portland, Oregon but also temporarily elsewhere in the region.
He returned to Winnipeg in September 1891, working in the Winnipeg Land Titles Office until resigning in favour of a new position, succeeding Henry S. Sherwood as Chamber Clerk of the Winnipeg Court of Queen’s Bench (1892-1906). He stepped down in early 1906 and was succeeded by William W. St. J. Wain. He further worked for the Manitoba Free Press, Northwest Farmer, and other Winnipeg newspapers.
During his later years, he took to wintering at Berkeley, California, and following his last resignation, again returned to the Pacific coast, settling at Alameda, California. Suffering from nervous strain, his case worsened following structural and property damage to his residence during an earthquake around April 1906. He died at Alameda on 29 May 1906 and was buried in the Mountain View Cemetery at Oakland, California.
1891 & 1901 Canada census, Library and Archives Canada.
Marriage registrations, Manitoba Vital Statistics.
“City and provincial news [Mr. A. J. Belch],” Manitoba Free Press, 26 January 1878, page 1.
“City and Provincial,” Manitoba Free Press, 15 September 1882, page 8.
“Fall Assizes [Belch v. Manitoba & N.W. Railway Company],” Manitoba Free Press, 5 December 1885, page 4.
“Returned from the coast,” Manitoba Free Press, 3 September 1891, page 4.
“Court House changes,” Manitoba Free Press, 1 November 1891, page 6.
“People we talk about [Mrs. A. M. Ramsey],” Winnipeg Tribune, 4 February 1895, page 5.
“Ex-Winnipegger likely drowned,” Manitoba Free Press, 23 May 1903, page 1.
“C. A. Belch drowned,” Winnipeg Tribune, 26 May 1903, page 10.
“From Winnipeggers [Mr. A. J. Belch],” Manitoba Free Press, 30 April 1906, page 2.
Obituary, Manitoba Free Press, 30 May 1906, page 3.
“Decease of a well known old timer,” Manitoba Free Press, 30 May 1906, page 9.
“Freemasons in session,” Winnipeg Tribune, 14 June 1906, page 5.
“Appointments gazetted,” Winnipeg Tribune, 21 May 1906, page 10.
Mountain View Cemetery [Alexander James Belch], FindAGrave.
This page was prepared by Nathan Kramer.
Page revised: 18 October 2015