Manitoba Historical Society
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Memorable Manitobans: John “Jack” Simpson (1856-1953)

Furniture merchant, undertaker.

Born near Milton, Ontario on 16 June 1856, son of Robert Simpson and Anne Hughes, he farmed until the age of 21 when he came to Manitoba with his mother and two brothers (his father having died in 1865). He worked as carpenter for the next five years then went into the furniture business with R. P. Campbell of Portage la Prairie. The partnership dissolved in 1895 when he moved to Neepawa and engaged in the furniture and undertaking business. He owned a considerable amount of real estate in Neepawa and was partly responsible for the construction of several blocks in town. In partnership with William H. Guinn, he founded the business of Guinn & Simpson.

On 1 December 1886, he married Jane Bailey (1858-1936) of High Bluff. They had seven children: Stewart Gordon Simpson (1887-?), Ruby May Simpson (1888), Maggie Campbell Simpson (1890-?), Roderick Earle Simpson (1891-?), John O. Simpson (1893-?), Verna Jean Simpson (1896-1930, wife of Robert Harrison Wemyss, mother of Margaret Laurence), and Velma Bailey Simpson (1901-?). He was a member of the Masons, IOOF, Ancient Order of United Workmen, Watchmen of the World, Independent Order of Foresters, and Loyal Orange Lodge. He served on the Neepawa town council.

He died at Neepawa in April 1953 and was buried in Riverside Cemetery. It is believed he was the basis for the character Hagar Shipley in the novel The Stone Angel by his granddaughter Margaret Laurence.

See also:

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Simpson House / Margaret Laurence House (312 First Avenue, Neepawa)

MHS Centennial Business: Guinn & Simpson


1901 Canada census, Automated Genealogy.

Birth and marriage registrations, Manitoba Vital Statistics.

A History of Manitoba: Its Resources and People by Prof. George Bryce, Toronto: The Canadian History Company, 1906.

The Story of Manitoba by F. H. Schofield, Winnipeg: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1913.

“John Simpson, Neepawa pioneer, has 94th birthday,” Winnipeg Tribune, 19 June 1950. [Manitoba Legislative Library, Biographical Scrapbook B10, page 146]

“Manitoba pioneer dies in 97th year,” Winnipeg Free Press, 4 May 1953, page 32.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 26 February 2019

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

This is a collection of noteworthy Manitobans from the past, compiled by the Manitoba Historical Society. We acknowledge that the collection contains both reputable and disreputable people. All are worth remembering as a lesson to future generations.

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