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Memorable Manitobans: Donald Gunn (1797-1878)

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Donald Gunn
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Farmer, schoolmaster, author.

Born at Halkirk, Caithness, Scotland in September 1797, he entered the employ of the Hudson's Bay Company in 1813, serving at York Factory, Fort Severn, and Oxford House. Gunn criticized both the Company and Lord Selkirk, later writing as if he had been a Selkirk settler. In 1823 he settled at Red River in “Little Britain” (St. Andrew’s Parish) as a farmer. He also served for years as a justice of the petty court, and he was foreman of the jury in the Sayer trial of 1849.

A prominent Presbyterian, he taught for 18 years in the Church Missionary Society parish school before the establishment of a Presbyterian church in Red River, and served as the settlement’s librarian for years. He became a member of the Council of the Institute of Rupert’s Land in 1862, and he was a meteorological correspondent of the Smithsonian Institution, later collecting specimens for its museum.

Gunn was chosen as a delegate to the November 1869 council from St. Andrew’s, and English delegate to the 1870 Convention of Forty from the same community. Defeated in the 1870 general election, he was later appointed to the Legislative Council of Manitoba, serving from 1871 to 1876. He supported the council’s abolition. His History of Manitoba was completed by his nephew Charles Tuttle and published in 1880. It displays an anti-Selkirk and anti-HBC, as well as an anti-clerical, bias.

Father of John Gunn.

He died at his home at St. Andrews on 30 November 1878.

See also:

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Gunn’s Mill Monument (RM of St. Clements)

Donald Gunn, Dictionary of Canadian Biography X, 324-25.


A Political Manual of the Province of Manitoba and the North-West Territories by J. P. Robertson, Winnipeg: Call Printing Company, 1887.

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

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 14 October 2018

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

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