Memorable Manitobans: James Colcleugh (1841-1918)
Born at West Flamborough, near Dundas, Upper Canada, on 12 May 1841, the son of George Colcleugh and Flora McInnis, cousin to Frederick W. Colcleugh. He received his early education at Dundas, and took training in pharmacy in Hamilton and Buffalo, New York. In 1861 he went to Buffalo, New York, but returned in 1865 to go into business at Mount Forest, Ontario. He took part in the Fenian Raid of 1866, and held a commission as Lieutenant in the 10th Wellington Rifles. In 1875 he came to Manitoba with the first telegraph construction party for work on the Canadian Pacific Railway. He was the first superintendent of the telegraph line from Selkirk to Edmonton, and himself despatched the first message to cross the Prairies. He became involved in lake and river transportation, railway construction and general merchandising. In 1883 he opened the Selkirk Drug Store and established a telephone exchange between Selkirk and Winnipeg in 1885. He was postmaster of Selkirk (1876-1889).
In 1886 he married Flora Bruce Craik (1846-1926) of Sorel, Quebec. They had five children, including Islay Mary Sinclair and Murray Chisholm Colcleugh. He served as the first Mayor of Selkirk from 1882 to 1885. He was one of the founders of Lisgar Lodge of AF & AM of Selkirk, serving as its Master for three terms, and was first bursar of the Selkirk Asylum. He went to San Francisco in 1890 but returned to Winnipeg in 1892, where he operated a pharmacy until 1912. After his retirement from active business, although over 70, he made a canoe trip to Hudson Bay and an extended journey through the Peace River country.
He died at Vancouver, British Columbia on 23 August 1918, and was buried there. His papers and diaries are in the Archives of Manitoba.
Pioneers and Early Citizens of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Manitoba Library Association, 1971.
We thank Nathan Kramer for providing additional information used here.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 9 April 2023