Memorable Manitobans: George Frederick Newcomb (1840-1907)
Pioneer land agent.
He was born at Kentville, Nova Scotia on 19 June 1840. He moved with his first wife to the Red River Settlement in 1869 where he built a home on what is now William Avenue. He was active in the Masons and, in 1877-1878, served as Grand Master of the newly formed Grand Lodge of Manitoba. Newcomb worked as a Dominion Land Surveyor in the area between Lake Winnipeg and Lake Winnipegosis. Little is known of his wife except that she died in 1878 or 1879, leaving him with three children: daughters Lillian and Annie, and son John.
In October 1879, A. R. Valmore Gauvreau wrote to Prime Minister John A. Macdonald, requesting that a Land Titles Office be established in the Turtle Mountain area, beyond the western border of Manitoba, in the region near the present Manitoba towns of Boissevain and Deloraine. Gauvreau asked to operate the office, and he accompanied his letter of request with references from his father P. L. Gauvreau and federal Minister of Public Works Sir Hector Langevin. On 13 April 1880, Macdonald agreed to open an office for the Turtle Mountain Land District but he put Newcomb, an experienced land officer, in charge with Gauvreau as his assistant. Newcomb was to receive anannual salary of $1,200.
Newcomb arrived at the Whitewater Creek [now Turtlehead Creek], in the vicinity of the Turtle Mountain in late July with his second wife, Emma Kinsman. They found a number of settlers waiting impatiently. Building his home and office on the creek bank, Newcomb set the stage for rapid development. The tiny settlement was the administrative centre for more than 2,700 square miles of territory – five rows of townships lying north of the international boundary, extending from a mile west of the village of Cartwright to the range line located thirty miles west of the present Manitoba-Saskatchewan boundary. Newcomers had to come to Newcomb’s office to make application for land. From 1 November 1880 to 31 October 1881, he received applications and fees for 328 homesteads and 301 preemptions. These numbers increased to 1,641 homesteads and 1,404 preemptions in the ‘boom’ year of 1882. Businesses began to collect around the Land Office so that, within six months of Newcomb’s arrival, the settlement was described as being “better supplied with stores than any part of the Northwest.”
In 1881, the western boundary of Manitoba was extended westward to include ranges 50 and 29 West, with the added territory divided into three municipalities. On 1 March 1882, James Cavers opened a post office and named it Deloraine, after his home in Scotland.
The community became known as Old Deloraine when it was bypassed by the Canadian Pacific Railway. Most town buildings were moved to the new town site northwest of the old site, with only the old town hall and a fieldstone bank vault left behind.
In 1883, Newcomb was the Dominion Land Agent at Brandon.
Newcomb died at Winnipeg on 9 December 1907, at the age of 67 years.
We thank Stan Barclay for providing additional information used here.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 24 October 2020