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Memorable Manitobans: Joseph Whitehead (1814-1894)

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Joseph Whitehead
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Railroad contractor, politician.

Born in Yorkshire, England in 1814, he worked on the railroad and fired “The Rocket,” the steam engine invented by George Stephenson, running from Darlington to Stockton in Yorkshire (1825). After some years of experience in railroad building in Scotland he emigrated to Canada in 1850, settling in Huron County, Ontario.

His first railroad construction was for the Buffalo-Goderich road of the Grand Trunk. He was later awarded a contract for work on the Canadian Pacific Railway to the Pacific Coast. While in Manitoba he was responsible for the purchase of the first locomotive, the Countess of Dufferin, which was transported from the United States by barge on the Red River, arriving in October 1877. The following year, a second engine and numerous flat cars were placed in service. He was elected Member of Parliament for North Huron in 1867.

He was father of physician Charlotte Whitehead Ross and lumberman Charles Whitehead.

Whitehead died at Clinton, Ontario on 12 March 1894. He is commemorated by the Rural Municipality of Whitehead.


Pioneers and Early Citizens of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Manitoba Library Association, 1971.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 29 December 2018

Memorable Manitobans

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