Manitoba Historical Society
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Death of a Savant

Manitoba Pageant, Autumn 1972, Volume 18, Number 1

This article was published originally in Manitoba Pageant by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make this online version available as a free, public service. As an historical document, the article may contain language and views that are no longer in common use and may be culturally sensitive in nature.

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From The Morning Call, Winnipeg, 22 August 1887:

Sudden Death of Mr. MacArthur on Sunday

It was with feelings of profoundest regret that the news was everywhere received on Sunday of the death, early that morning, of Mr. Alexander MacArthur. To him belonged the honor of founding an institution of incalculable scientific and historical benefit, not only to this city or province, but to the whole of Northwestern Canada, and well may he be termed the father of scientific research in this country.

Added to a retentive memory, great abilities and vast powers of research and minute investigation, was an eventful and checkered life, every day of which may almost be said to have contributed fresh stores to his wide accumulation of knowledge. This he devoted to promoting the best interests of the institution, with which his name will ever be inseparably connected. Possessed also of a singularly energetic temperament, in his death the historical society sustains an irretrievable loss.

Mr. MacArthur was forty-three years of age, and came to Winnipeg in 1869, where he engaged in the lumber business until 1878, when he assumed the management of the Manitoba Investment Association. This position he held until two years ago. Before coming to this country he was employed in the Hudson's Bay company's service at Montreal, and also made a couple of trips between that city and Winnipeg by dog train.

He was a great student of natural history and compiled a large amount of manuscripts relative to events connected with the Hudson's Bay Company's career. He wrote a paper on "Birds in Manitoba," which appeared in the Manitoban in the spring. In the matter of history he was wonderfully well informed on all topics relating to the present and past of this country as well as on all other subjects of learning and culture. Last winter he made a trip north for the purpose of studying the habits of the musk ox, reindeer and other animals inhabiting the extreme north of the continent, but had to return owing to the failure of his travelling arrangements.

He took a prominent part in the Red River rebellion, on the loyalists side. At one time he was very wealthy but lost a great deal of money in the boom. He expired at the Grand Union hotel on the 21st inst. The funeral will take place on Tuesday, 23rd inst. at 3 p.m., to St. John's Cemetery, from the residence of his brother, Mr. Duncan MacArthur, president of the Commercial Bank of Manitoba.

The Manitoba Daily Free Press, Friday, January 15, 1886, had carried this obituary notice:


MacArthur — On the 13th instant, Ian Alastair, only surviving child of Alexander and May MacArthur, aged three years and six months.

Funeral will leave Mr. MacArthur's residence, Kildonan, today at 11 a.m., for St. John's Cathedral Cemetery.

(Ed. Note: It is understood Mrs. MacArthur's death occurred between the two services.)

Alexander MacArthur, Esq. From a painting formerly in possession of the Manitoba Historical Society. For many years the portrait hung in the old Winnipeg City Hall, but its whereabouts are no longer known. Any information from members of the MHS leading to its recovery would be appreciated.

Page revised: 20 July 2009

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