Farmer, industrialist, building contractor.
Born at Dunning, Perthshire, Scotland on 15 April 1850, he came to Canada at the age of 21, working on the Inter-Colonial Railway in New Brunswick and, in 1871, at Ottawa where he helped to build the original parliament buildings. Around 1878, he married Christina Brown Watson (1849-1928) and they subsequently had ten children: William Gunn (1876-1921), John Alexander Gunn, Robert Robertson Gunn (1880-1943), Ewart Stewart Gunn (1881-?), James Brown Gunn (1884-1945), Clyde Lione Gunn (1886-?), Grace Robertson Gunn (1888-1950), Evelyn Gunn (1890-?, wife of John Alexander McGillivray), Constance Gunn (1892-1968), and Cecil Herbert Gunn.
In 1878, Gunn and his family moved to Manitoba via Fishers Landing, Minnesota, where they rode aboard the SS International down the Red River, arriving in Winnipeg on his 28th birthday. The family settled in Stonewall where he began a large-scale farming operation. Local stone deposits attracted his attention, and he developed and managed quarries at Stonewall (1888), Stony Mountain, Garson, and Gunton and founded the family business of John Gunn and Sons Limited, which became one of the largest contracting firms in Western Canada. He sold the Stony Mountain quarry to the City of Winnipeg in 1905. Projects of note included the masonry of the old Maryland Bridge and old Broadway Bridge; bridges over the Columbia River at Nelson, British Columbia as well as railway bridges in Alberta at Lethbridge, Edmonton, and Hardisty; the Calgary aquaduct; and the Winnipeg Hydro plant at Pointe du Bois.
He was a founding member and Director of the Rockwood Dairy Association (1885), Postmaster of the Stony Mountain Post Office (1897-1906), and President of the Rockwood Liberal Association for several years. He helped found the Stonewall School District and constructed the original Stonewall schoolhouse at the corner of Young Street and Balmoral Road, and donated land for the site of Gunton School. He and his family later relocated to Winnipeg.
He died at his Winnipeg home, 511 Raglan Road (known as Riverview Mansion), on 29 July 1936 and was buried in the Elmwood Cemetery.
Manitoba Business: John Gunn and Sons
Historic Sites of Manitoba: Gunton Monument / Gunton School No. 1507 (Gunton, RM of Rockwood)
Historic Sites of Manitoba: Garson Limestone Quarries and Kilns (Garson, RM of Brokenhead)
Birth, marriage, and death registrations, Manitoba Vital Statistics.
“Liberals of Rockwood,” Manitoba Morning Free Press, 28 June 1894, page 2.
“Deaths [Christina Brown Gunn],” Manitoba Free Press, 21 August 1928, page 19.
“Mrs. John Gunn, wife of contractor, dies,” Manitoba Free Press, 18 August 1928, page 3.
“Fifty years ago - March 20, 1885,” Winnipeg Free Press, 21 March 1935, page 1.
“John Gunn,” Winnipeg Free Press, 16 April 1935, page 5.
“Last rites for John Gunn held at Elim Chapel,” Winnipeg Free Press, 1 August 1936, page 40.
“John Gunn, noted city contractor died Wednesday,” Winnipeg Free Press, 30 July 1936, page 8.
“Robert R. Gunn dies at residence Sunday,” Winnipeg Free Press, 12 April 1943, page 4.
“James B. Gunn dies in Toronto, age 61,” Winnipeg Free Press, 24 September 1945, page 4.
“Miss G.R. Gunn dies native of Stonewall,” Winnipeg Free Press, 10 November 1950, page 13.
Obituary [Constance Gunn], Winnipeg Free Press, 23 August 1968, page 25.
100 Years of History, Rockwood Municipality by the Rockwood Municipality History, 1982.
Post Offices and Postmasters, Library and Archives Canada.
We thank Jordan Makichuk for providing additional information used here.
This page was prepared by Nathan Kramer and Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 23 July 2023
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