Memorable Manitobans: David Young (1848-1887)

Merchant, sportsman.

Born north of Glasgow, Scotland on 14 January 1848, son  of Mary Young (1813-1852) and grandson of John Young (1778-1855), his parents died when he was very young and he was adopted by his uncle, John Coke. His uncle brought him to Canada when he was ten years of age. They arrived in Quebec and proceeded to Georgetown, some distance west of Toronto, where he was placed in charge of another uncle, Robert Young. He was sent to a private school but ran away from home when he was between thirteen and fourteen years of age, and worked as an errand boy in a grocery store on Church Street, Toronto. Next year he went to sea, sailing from Oakville, Canada West (now Ontario), in the ship Coquette, commanded by Captain G. B. Chisholm. Two years later he was shipwrecked, and then joined the American army as a private. Although very young, he remained in the service for nearly three years. When he obtained his discharge he returned to Georgetown and became a dry goods clerk.

In 1870 he became a member of Company #3, Ontario Rifles, and came to Red River with the Expeditionary Force commanded by Sir Garnet Wolseley. In June 1871, he took his discharge and became a successful house painter, and in August he was engaged by John Higgins to take charge of his grocery and dry goods business. Higgins soon admitted him to partnership.

He was a member of the Winnipeg City Council for one year in 1880, and one of the original promoters and secretary of the Manitoba Southwestern Colonization Railway Company. He took an active part in politics and was chiefly instrumental in unseating Donald A. Smith in the Selkirk bye-election of 1880. He was a Conservative, but disagreed with some of his party’s policies. He was the founder, and for a number of years the President, of the Garry Lacrosse Club. He was one of the promoters and President of the Dufferin Park Association, which built Winnipeg’s first stadium, and also the founder of the Manitoba Turf Club and the Granite Curling Club. It was chiefly through his efforts in connection with the Manitoba Turf Club that horse racing in Winnipeg was put on a legitimate and respectable basis. He was President of the Turf Club until May 1887, when he resigned and was elected honorary president. He was an active promoter of baseball and cricket. He was associated with many cultural organizations such as the Winnipeg Dramatic and Literary Society. He was a prominent Mason. He was also active in politics, though never elected to office.

Ill health led him to Florida in 1881, and he left Manitoba permanently in 1885. Young died at Saratoga, New York on 6 August 1887 and was interred in the St. John’s Cathedral Cemetery. His wife predeceased him in 1884.

See also:

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Young House (40 West Gate, Winnipeg)

David Young, Dictionary of Canadian Biography XI, 941-42.


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.

We thank Sharon Young for providing additional information used here.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 20 May 2019

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

This is a collection of noteworthy Manitobans from the past, compiled by the Manitoba Historical Society. We acknowledge that the collection contains both reputable and disreputable people. All are worth remembering as a lesson to future generations.

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