Memorable Manitobans: Hjortur Jonas Leo (1875-1931)
Born in Iceland on 6 June 1875, son of Jonas Leo (1844-1919) and Saum Leo (1830-1907), he immigrated with his family to Canada during his childhood and took up residence in Manitoba. He taught in rural school districts, including at Arnes School (1893-1894), Gimli School (1895-1896), Nordur Stjarna School (?-?), and Selkirk School (1899-1900), and returned to Gimli School as Principal (1900-1903), all while saving for his education at Wesley College, from which he graduated in 1906 (MA) and received a silver medal in Mathematics from the University of Manitoba. While at Gimli, he also served as the founding President (1902) of the Educational Association of Lake Winnipeg.
In 1909, he completed studies at Lutheran Theological Seminary at Chicago, Illinois and was ordained a Minister of the Icelandic Lutheran Church that same year at a ceremony lead by Rev. Bjorn B. Johnsson at Minneota, Minnesota. Throughout the rest of his life, he traded tenures between leading congregations and returning to his teaching career, serving congregations at Churchbridge (Saskatchewan, c1904-1910), and Blaine (Washington, ?-?), before returning to Manitoba as Minister of the Icelandic Lutheran Church at Lundar (?-1931). Interspersed between these positions, he was a classroom instructor at Jon Bjarnason Academy (1914-1915, 1917-1919, & 1922-1926; Principal 1925-1926) at Winnipeg and Principal of Lundar School (1920-1922).
He married fellow Icelander Stefania J. Leo (1883-1962) and they had a son, Hjortur Bjorn Jonas “Byron” Leo (1926-2000). While in Winnipeg, he was a member of the Icelandic Chess Club (Winnipeg Champion, 1919-1920) and a leading force behind the founding of the Icelandic National League (1919).
He died at Lundar on 5 May 1931 and was buried in the Selkirk Lutheran Cemetery.
Death registrations [Jonas Leo, Saum Leo, & Hjortur J. Leo], Manitoba Vital Statistics.
1901 Canada census, Automated Genealogy.
1926 Canada census, Library and Archives Canada.
“Manitoba university examination results,” Manitoba Free Press, 11 May 1906, page 12.
“Local notes [Hjortur J. Leo],” Manitoba Free Press, 17 May 1909, page 2.
Winnipeg estate files (ATG 0025A), #11000 Jonas Leo, GR0170, Archives of Manitoba.
“Sera Hjortur J. Leo dainn,” Heimskringla, 6 May 1931, page 1.
“Rev. H. J. Leo, Lundar Minister, succumbs,” Manitoba Free Press, 6 May 1931, page 9.
A History of Education of the Icelanders in Manitoba by Roy Herbert Ruth, MEd thesis, University of Manitoba, 1960.
Gimli Saga, The History of Gimli, Manitoba by the Gimli Women’s Institute, 1975.
“Churchbridge settlement,” Lögberg Heimskringla, 15 July 1888, page 7.
Selkirk Lutheran Cemetery burial transcriptions, FindAGrave.
This page was prepared by Nathan Kramer.
Page revised: 1 January 2023