Memorable Manitobans: Finlay Cook J. McLeod (c1833-1913)
Born on the Island of Lewis, The Hebrides, Scotland around 1833, as a young man he came with his parents and several brothers and sisters by sailing ship to Canada, among the many victims of The Clearances of that time (1863). He continued his education in Canada, graduating from McGill University in Montreal and Knox Presbyterian College in Toronto.
He joined the gangs of men constructing the Canadian Pacific Railway, living in the boxcars with them and doing his best to make life better for them as their theological leader and minister. He wintered with them at the end of steel in Oak Lake during the winter of 1881-1882. From a manuscript in his handwriting found in his home after his death, it appears he left Oak Lake (Flat Creek) in March 1882 and went to live for short periods, at least, on the banks of Gopher Creek just east of the present site of Virden where the advance gang spent the winter near a bridge they were preparing to build over Gopher Creek ahead of the steel-laying gang.
He stayed with the CPR track-laying gang as far as Moose Jaw, then left them to labor as a missionary to the aboriginal peoples of British Columbia for 25 years on behalf of the Presbyterian church. Then he retired from active ministry and took a homestead at NW20-10-25W in the Assiniboine River valley east of Virden. While living on his homestead and starting the necessary improvements to obtain title to same, he travelled about the surrounding country, visiting the early settlers, sometimes selling books to eke out his living expenses, frequently walking the five miles to Virden to conduct church services and weddings, etc.
He died on 10 August 1913 at the back door of Virden Presbyterian Church where he was to have conducted a wedding service that afternoon, having walked there from his valley home. His gravestone in the Virden Cemetery relates that he conducted the first church service held in Virden, in 1882.
Death registration [Finley Cook McLeod], Manitoba Vital Statistics.
Biographical note by his grandniece, Miss Ruth E. Welch, Rivers, Manitoba (Secretary, River Valley Historical Society), Manitoba Pageant, Volume 22, No. 1, Autumn 1976.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 15 September 2023