Memorable Manitobans: Edward Webster Brydges (1863-1948)
Born at Hamilton, Ontario on 21 May 1863, son of William Brydges, he worked in a number of occupations and was according to his obituary, was a “famous Western Canadian pioneer.” He moved with his parents to Petrolia, Ontario at the age of 15 where he was employed on an oil well drilling crew, which he eventually took charge of at age 19. In 1883 he moved to Winnipeg and ended up homesteading in Shoal Lake for one year and operating sawmills at Strathclair and Rapid City.
After working on the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway, he left Winnipeg in 1884 to become a teamster during the Riel Rebellion where he transported supplies from Qu’Appelle to Salt Plains. In 1886, he moved to Rat Portage (later renamed Kenora) and purchased a steam ferry to run on the Rainy River. Over the next 16 years he assembled a fleet but then left Rat Portage in 1903 when he moved to Selkirk to manage passenger and fish freighting boats and lumber barges. He later moved to the north end of Lake Manitoba to become a superintendant for the Manitoba Gypsum Company (1907). The extension of railway lines to this area in 1908 persuaded him to start freighting out of Selkirk again. He ended up selling his interests here upon enlisting in 1914.
In order to get into the Armed Forces, Brydges lied about his age saying he was ten years younger. During his time overseas, he saw action in major European battles including Vimy Ridge and Passchendaele. After returning to Manitoba in 1918, he moved to The Pas to operate the Opasquia Hotel and during this time also operated a bakery. After working on the construction of a railway to Flin Flon, he purchased another freight boat in 1929 and moved to Cranberry Portage where he spent three years moving goods between these two settlements.
On 25 November 1886, he married Kennina McKenzie Leitch (1869-1959) at Winnipeg. The couple had five children: Edna Catherine Brydges (1893-1957, wife of Robert Graham), Ethel Brydges (1896-?), Webster Earl Brydges (1908-?), Edwin Kenneth Brydges (1911-?), and Evelyn Brydges (?-?). Their diamond wedding anniversary was the first on record in northern Manitoba.
He died at The Pas on 4 March 1948 and was buried in The Pas Lakeside Cemetery.
1901 Canada census, Automated Genealogy.
Birth registrations, Manitoba Vital Statistics.
“Capt. E. W. Brydges and wife mark diamond wedding,” Winnipeg Free Press, 28 November 1946, page 14.
“Webster Brydges, Riel Vet, Dies at The Pas,” Winnipeg Tribune, 5 March 1948. [Manitoba Legislative Library, Biographical Scrapbook B10, page 11]
“North country pioneer dies; was Reil Rebellion veteran,” Winnipeg Free Press, 5 March 1948. [Manitoba Legislative Library, Biographical Scrapbook B10, page 12]
Obituary [Kennina McKenzie Brydges], Winnipeg Free Press, 25 May 1905, page 25.
Marriage registrations, Manitoba Vital Statistics.
Attestation papers, Canadian Expeditionary Force, Library and Archives Canada.
Obituaries and burial transcriptions, Manitoba Genealogical Society.
We thank Ralph McLean for providing additional information used here.
This page was prepared by Sarah Ramsden and Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 9 July 2017