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Memorable Manitobans: Almon James Cotton (1858-1942)

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Almon James Cotton
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Farmer, community activist.

Born at Port Hope, Ontario on 29 September 1858, he moved to Treherne in 1888, growing such successful wheat crops on rented land that he became known as the “Wheat King of Manitoba.” One year he shipped over 17,000 bushels of number one hard wheat. Concerned about inheritances for his sons, he began acquiring land in the Swan River Valley in 1898 and moved there in 1901. Cotton wrote hundreds of letters to immigrants over the years, answering their questions and boosting both Manitoba and the Swan River Valley.

On 2 June 1880, he married Esther Louise Ford (1858-1952) at Victoria, Ontario. They had five children: John Nelson Cotton (1881-1971), Wellington Herschel Cotton (1883-1969), Frances Lillian Cotton (1886-?), Almon William Cotton (1893-?), and Allan Burnaby Cotton (1898-?). In 1903, he ran for a seat in the Manitoba Legislature as a prohibitionist candidate but was defeated by J. W. Robson. He served on the Harlington School Board and was Sunday School Superintendent for the Kenville Methodist Church. He was also a member of the Board of Governors of the University of Manitoba from 1917 to 1934.

He died at Swan River on 23 January 1942 and was buried in the Harlington Riverside Cemetery. An ardent amateur photographer, he took many photographs that survive in family hands, as do most of his records and letter books. A selection of all these was published in 1985 as The Wheat King, edited by Wendy Owen. He was inducted posthumously into the Manitoba Agricultural Hall of Fame.

See also:

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Cotton Barn (Municipality of Swan Valley West)

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Cotton Granary (Municipality of Swan Valley West)

The Wheat King by Wendy Owen (Manitoba Record Society, 1985).


Ontario marriage registration, Ancestry.

1901 Canada census, Automated Genealogy.

Birth and death registrations, Manitoba Vital Statistics.

“Pioneer citizen dies at Kenville,” Winnipeg Free Press, 6 August 1952, page 16.

80 Years in Swan River Valley by Swan River Valley History Book Committee, 1978.

Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 24 September 2018

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

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

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