Memorable Manitobans: Charles John Brydges (1827-1889)
Railwayman, land commissioner.
Born at London, England on 23 February 1827, into a middle-class family, he served his apprenticeship in railway management with the London and South Western Railway. In 1852 he came to Canada as the general manager of the Great Western Railway of Canada. Here he ran roughshod over an inexperienced board of directors, nearly bankrupting the line and precipitating an investigation into his management, which exonerated him in 1861. A year later, he left the Great Western to become general manager of the Grand Trunk Railway, where he remained until 1874. He then became one of the Commissioners of the Intercolonial Railway, and in later years was Land Commissioner for the Hudson’s Bay Company in Winnipeg.
Brydges was responsible for a local rejuvenation of the fur-trading company and for moving its Canadian administrative offices to Winnipeg in 1880. He became associated with an aggressive HBC and with the expanding town of Winnipeg, which he successfully championed as the location for the Canadian Pacific Railway crossing of the Red River. Although greatly constrained by his opponents, including Donald Smith, Brydges did succeed in making the land administration of the Company important and profitable.
He and wife Letitia Grace Henderson (1825-1912) had three children: Charles Chandos Brydges (?-?), Frederick Henderson Brydges, and Margaret Sophia Susan Brydges (1864-?). He served as a President of the Manitoba Club and Winnipeg Board of Trade.
He died at Winnipeg on 16 February 1889 and was buried in the St. John’s Cathedral Cemetery.
Pioneers and Early Citizens of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Manitoba Library Association, 1971.
Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 10 November 2021