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Memorable Manitobans: Hartwell Walter Lewis Bowsfield (1922-2008)

Click to enlargeHistorian, archivist.

Born in Toronto on 7 July 1922, son of Walter and Mary Bowsfield, he was educated at the University of Manitoba (BA Honours), and did PhD work at McGill University (Montreal) and Lehigh University (Bethlehem, Pennsylvania). The topic of his doctoral thesis was Manitoba-Minnesota relations between 1812 and 1870. He was the Manitoba provincial archivist from 1952 to 1967. Many searchers into all phases of Manitoba history are deeply indebted to him for patient pursuit of answers to their queries. Of him, one of our most distinguished historians remarked that he always went the second mile, not only finding what they sought but adding material they did not know existed.

A contributor to five encyclopedias, editor for the Manitoba Record Society of the letters of Consul James Wickes Taylor, entitled The James Wickes Taylor Correspondence, 1859-1870, he also produced talks and scripts for CBC productions in radio and television. He was secretary of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Manitoba, on the council of the Champlain Society, chairman of the archives and local history sections of the Canadian Historical Association. He was closely associated with the Manitoba Historical Society, serving as a judge of the Margaret McWilliams Medal competitions, member of the Council, and editor of its magazine Manitoba Pageant. In 1970, the Society awarded him its Manitoba Centennial Medal for his contributions to the preserving and promoting the history of Manitoba. During World War 2, he served as a gunner with the RCAF.

He left the Manitoba archives to pursue his doctorate, which he received from the University of Toronto in 1977. His studies were interrupted in 1970, when he was recruited to become the first archivist of York University (Toronto), as well as lecturer (1970 to 1973) and later associate professor (1973 to 1978) with its Department of History. He continued to make significant contributions to the history of Western Canada. He edited Louis Riel, Rebel of the Western Frontier or Victim of Politics and Prejudice? (1969), wrote Louis Riel, The Rebel and the Hero (1971), and compiled Selkirk (1968), a collection of facsimile documents pertaining to Lord Selkirk. He compiled three volumes for the Hudson’s Bay Record Society: Letters of Charles John Brydges 1879-1882 (1977), Fort Victoria Letters 1846-1851 (1979), and Letters of Charles John Brydges 1883-1889 (1981). He also served as the first Canadian general editor of the Hudson’s Bay Record Society, starting in 1975. He was an active member of the Toronto Area Archivists Group. He retired from York University in 1988, and was inducted into its Founders Society in November 1999.

He died at Toronto on 10 August 2008, and was buried in Manitoba.

His book and papers were donated in 2003 to the York University Archives and Special Collections.

His articles for the Manitoba Historical Society:

How Manitoba Got Its Name
Manitoba Pageant, April 1956

A Manitoba Ghost Town
Manitoba Pageant, September 1956

Meet John Tanner
Manitoba Pageant, January 1957

Early Days in Brandon
Manitoba Pageant, Volume 3, Number 1, September 1957

The Historical Sites Advisory Board
Manitoba Pageant, Volume 4, Number 2, January 1959

Grey Owl's Christmas Story
Manitoba Pageant, Volume 4, Number 3, April 1959

Pioneer Politicking
Manitoba Pageant, Volume 4, Number, April 1959

The Boy Who Lived in a Badger Hole
Manitoba Pageant, Volume 5, Number 2, January 1960

The Winnipeg Wolf
Manitoba Pageant, Volume 5, Number 2, January 1960

Place Names
Manitoba Pageant, Volume 6, Number 1, September 1960

Immigration
Manitoba Pageant, Volume 6, Number 3, April 1961

The Republic of Manitobah
Manitoba Pageant, Volume 7, Number 1, September 1961

Mukwa Ininni - The Bear Man
Manitoba Pageant, Volume 10, Number 1, Autumn 1964

Indian Tales
Manitoba Pageant, Volume 10, Number 3, Spring 1965

The Buffalo
Manitoba Pageant, Volume 10, Number 3, Spring 1965

Radisson in Hudson Bay
Manitoba Pageant, Volume 11, Number 2, Spring 1966

St. Andrews Locks
Manitoba Pageant, Volume 11, Number 3, Spring 1966

The United States and the Red River Settlement
MHS Transactions, Series 3, Number 23, 1966-67 Season

Canadian-American Relations: The Background
MHS Transactions , Series 3, Number 24, 1967-68 Season

Page revised: 14 June 2009

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

This is a collection of noteworthy Manitobans from the past, compiled by the Manitoba Historical Society.

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