Memorable Manitobans: Robert Tait (1830-1912)
Born in the Red River settlement on 24 April 1830, the third son of William Tait and Mary Auld, he received very little schooling and at the age of eleven was hired as a chore boy at the Hudson’s Bay Company model farm at the junction of the Red and Assiniboine rivers.
In 1843 he was apprenticed to the blacksmith at Lower Fort Garry but after a year and a half left the Colony with Mr. Ayr, a missionary from the Red Lake country, Minnesota, and eventually settled at St. Paul. He returned to the Red River Settlement about 1850, bringing with him the first reaping machine. The following year he introduced the first threshing machine to the Colony. In 1867 he purchased property in St. James near Deer Lodge. He opened a store for fur trading and operated a large farm. In 1869 he built the first steam grist mill in St. James. In 1878 he owned and operated a steam ferry between Winnipeg and St. Boniface. With his son he also maintained a cattle ranch about six miles south of Oakville station for a number of years.
On 16 December 1858, he married Jane Inkster (1839-1926, daughter of John Inkster) and they had five children. He represented St. James in the 1870 Convention of Forty. He was one of the founders of the Winnipeg Board of Trade, in 1873, and was a candidate for the St. James constituency in the 1874 provincial general election.
At the time of his death on 1 March 1912, Tait was Winnipeg’s oldest pioneer and his funeral was witnessed by the largest gathering at the St. James church to that date. He was buried in the St. James Cemetery.
“Two pioneers buried,” Manitoba Free Press, 5 March 1912, page 14.
Pioneers and Early Citizens of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Manitoba Library Association, 1971.
John Inkster (L7X5-5TT), FamilySearch.
We thank Linda Dietrick for providing additional information used here.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 7 July 2023