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An Early Manitoba Diary: Extracts from J. W. Harris’s Private Account of Events and Personalities Mainly in Winnipeg - From 1869 to 1922

by Percy Eaton

MHS Transactions, Series 3, 1946-47 Season, read November 1946

This article was published originally in MHS Transactions 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 As an historical document, the article may contain language and views that are no longer in common use and may be culturally sensitive in nature.

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The author of the diary whose pages we are to turn over this evening was John Walter Harris who was born at Kemptville, Ont. on February 26, 1845, and who died at Winnipeg on March 20, 1926. He came to Winnipeg in 1873, where he practiced the profession of land surveying and was one of the founders of the Association of Manitoba Land Surveyors. He was appointed Assessor to the City of Winnipeg in 1879, and in 1882 Assessment Commissioner and City Surveyor, a dual position which he held until his retirement in 1916. He was a member of several professional organizations and prominent in Masonic and sporting circles. The diaries, which cover the years 1869 to 1922, are small, and deal almost entirely with the author's personal affairs; however they may give us some interesting glimpses of life in Manitoba three-quarters of a century ago.


Very early on the morning of July 16, 1873, he went down to Ottawa from Kemptville and called on Col. "Denison" (Dennis?) who gave him instructions for surveying parts of Manitoba and also a cheque for $200. Three days later he sailed on the Frances Smith from Owen Sound for Thunder Bay, paying $13 for his ticket. With satisfaction he noted: "Some pleasant young ladies on the steamer, also a fair brass band."

They arrived at Prince Arthur's Landing - now Port Arthur - during the night of the 22nd-23rd, after a voyage during which they "had dancing every night and a very pleasant time all the way." He had to wait until the 29th for a boat to Duluth, which he reached next day, the fare being $7.

On August 1st he embarked at Moorhead on the Dakota for Winnipeg - fare $11 plus $6 for meals and on the 3rd they stopped at Grand Forks to put off and take on freight and passengers. He arrived at Fort Garry at 3 a.m., and after breakfast "went off up to Winnipeg and engaged board and lodging at a temperance hotel kept by Mr. Brouse from Prescott, Ont., brother to Dr. Brouse, M.P." where he paid $7 a week for board. He also saw Lindsay Russell, superintendent of surveys, who wanted him to survey an Indian reserve.

On the 9th he "Took a walk uptown and met Mr. Park who is to accompany me on my survey as a chainman or picketman or some other capacity." He also bought a hide for making leather pants, at $7.

They left Winnipeg on the 18th, being towed down the Red River by the tug Maggie and arrived at McCarthy's mill on the Brokenhead River on the 20th. He instituted a fine of 10 cents for the whole party for swearing or blaspheming, the proceeds to go to the General Hospital; but the party must have reformed its vocabulary, as there is no record of any fines being imposed or collected and it is doubtful if the funds of the hospital benefited greatly from this source.

On August 30 we read, "Mr. Park got completely used up" on the way back to camp and does not seem to have fully recovered on September 3 when it is noted, "Mr. Park does not appear inclined to work very much," and a few days later, "Park has played off again on the pretense of being sick." On September 13 he borrowed several hundred feet of rope from the mill to measure the breadth of the river which proved the survey to be correct, "closing to within 30 links to the north of the starting point."

On September 15 they arrived at Mapleton and two days later started the survey of another Indian Reserve. On the 21st he records: "Sometimes the cook is not steady in his mind and is scarcely capable of attending to his duties as cook." He hired a man, two oxen and carts at $2.50 per day, but on going to get the oxen "found them very wild."

On October 3 they moved camp. "Alex., the cook and I move camp north, ward, but while moving we heard some halloahing ahead which we afterwards found to be Mr. Park who was trying to find us in order not to do any work today which is his usual custom all the time." Three days later Mr. Park decided to quit.

On October 9 two men were sent to destroy posts of former surveys inside the new reserve and the next day there is this entry: "Alex and I go north to see stores of ammunition that he discovered in his travels yesterday. Saw said ammunition in a wood and examined it thoroughly." There is no mention of his reporting this discovery to the authorities.

They returned to Winnipeg on October 11, and three days later Mr. McConville, one of the men on his party, is reported as having a glorious spree. The next day he was "not yet sober, quite drunk" but on the 18th he was "getting sobered off."

On October 22 Harris started down the Red River to survey an Indian Reserve at Fort Alexander, shipping his supplies on the steamer Alpha. The next day he wrote: "Shipped last night my supplies, camp equipage, etc., from steamer Alpha to Hudson's Bay Co. boat which Mr. Provencher is taking to Fort Alexander, but his men, many of them being quite drunk, were unable to handle my supplies and consequently flour and my supplies in general received much damage." They reached Fort Alexander near the end of October and some time was spent looking into the claims of various parties to land in the projected reserve. During this time they experienced some very cold weather and it is not until December 10 that he notes, "Our cook has finally succeeded in making some bread suitable for the table."

At the end of the diary for 1873 he gives a list of prices paid for various articles, among which we find: Tobacco 50¢ per lb.; Socks, 70¢ per pair; Pork, 25¢ per lb.; Tea, 80¢ per lb.; Flour, 6¢ per lb.; Shirts, 50¢ each; Pea Jackets, $10 each; Leather Pants, $10 per pair; Bacon, 14¢ per lb. and 4 "irmin" skins 75¢.


On January 15 of the new year he wrote: "After working on line for a short time I was badly injured on the head by the falling of a large tree. I was knocked quite insensible for a time." They returned to Winnipeg on February 4, and on the 7th he "Heard speaking at nomination which was certainly amusing." On the 12th we read, "Man frozen last night. Reported to be drunk at the time. (Likely)."

"Election day in Manitoba," reads the entry for February 13, "and great is the excitement that prevails. Afternoon, myself and others went down to Kildonan where I made the acquaintance of Hon. D. A. Smith." The next day, "A most delightful morning again greets our senses and D. A. Smith is elected, Dr. Schultz is also in."

The cold weather continued, making it necessary to take emergency measures, and on February 21 we read: "Very cold last night. Mr. Tait slept in my bed in consequence of which I was not very cold myself. Met Mr. McConville at the Lands Office. He is sober again. Long article in Manitoban over signature of Louis Riel." Next day he wrote: "Great row last night at the Gerald House, liquor being the main cause. We were much disturbed in consequence." The cold weather continued. "Very cold weather at Winnipeg now and we cannot well work in our rooms at the Lands Office during this cold snap." Things were a little warmer in the office on March 17 when he says, "We are visited at the Lands Office by a couple of persons called by some illiterate people, ladies, selling what they called tickets for a tableaux or something of that sort."

On March 1 he changed $150 in greenbacks for $132, or 88¢ on the dollar. On April 30 the first boat arrived down the river from Pembina, and on May 4 "The Cheyenne, a new sidewheel steamer, arrived here last night. Mr. Baillie and I went down to see her this morning before I came to the office."

On June 15 he moved out to camp at Sturgeon Creek to conduct a survey. On the 19th he recorded: "I. A. Brown murdered in Winnipeg last night." "The soldier and another man" he wrote on the 28th, "have been sentenced to be hanged on August 26 next. Amen." He must have made a note of this date, for on that day he says: "Saw Michaud hanged at 8 o'clock in Court Yard."

Dietary matters occupy a large part of his attention in the month of August. On Saturday the 8th he writes: "No porridge this morning and in consequence I made a poor breakfast." The next day: "Had no porridge this morning either for some unaccountable reason and I mentioned the matter to the proprietor, Mr. Stewart, who immediately spoke about the matter to the cook." Two days later he was rewarded: "Have good porridge this morning for a change, but learn it was made by Ella, our old cook who has left the Exchange for some reason unknown to most of us." But the porridge situation rapidly deteriorated again, for on Sunday, August 23 he writes: "Great noise and confusion nearly all night long in bar room. Some loud talk in the kitchen in the morning by the cook," and the next day, "No porridge this morning," with apparently no action taken.

In September he was working on the survey of the Outer Two Miles of the Parish of St. James, and on the 16th he writes: "Our new camp is in full view of Winnipeg." From the notes he made of work done this camp was probably located somewhere between Keewatin Street and Brookside Cemetery.

The remainder of the diary for 1874 consists mainly of notes on various surveys on which he was engaged.

At the end of 1874 he gives the following cure for rheumatism: "Copper and zinc slip soles, copper uppermost under one foot and zinc uppermost under the other. Place a woolen cloth saturated with sulphuric acid between the copper and zinc soles."


"Lepine not yet hanged," reads the entry for January 29. "An indignation meeting was held." Lepine was convicted of the murder of Thomas Scott at Fort Garry on March 4, 1870. The date set for the execution had passed without any official commutation of sentence having been received from Ottawa. Sentence was eventually commuted to two years imprisonment and permanent loss of political rights.

On February 16 he noted that Wm. Luxton of the Free Press had been fined $200 in court for contempt. Two days later he wrote: "Court is yet in session here, Luxton is not hauled up again although he continues to expose the conduct of the Court the same as before." (See pages 17-18)

On May 18 he left for Emerson on the International to commence the survey of the townsite there. The fare was $3 and the meals $2. June 6 he records that the steamer Manitoba was sunk by International. In June he surveyed the site of the present Legislative Building for the military and in August he went to Selkirk to lay out a town site on the east side of the river which took him until the end of November. There must have been some local financial stringency for on October 7 he writes, "My accounts have been accepted at Ottawa, but as there is no money here in the bank now I will have to wait over a day or so."

An entry for December 25 reads: "Engine house burned and engine destroyed entirely." This refers to the fire which broke out in the engine house at about 5 o'clock on Christmas morning. When the fire extinguished the engine, instead of vice versa, Winnipeg was left without any fire fighting apparatus. The City Council held a special meeting at noon to arrange for the purchase of a new engine, after which the members went home to be a little more careful with the decorations on the Christmas tree.


January 3 was election day in Winnipeg and in those days elections were taken seriously. "Great excitement prevails all day in consequence of election for mayor and aldermen," he wrote, "Polling books stolen at East Ward. A big row during the night. Cornish and Thibadeau in jail," and the next day, "Election is being held again today in East Ward. Burrows is getting no support today."

From the Daily Free Press we glean a few additional details: "At about five minutes before the closing of the poll, on Mr. Macaulay's voting for Mr. Jarvis, Mr. Dugald Sinclair and others raised a disturbance during which the lamp was blown out, stove pipes knocked down and the poll book stolen. On order being restored the poll was declared closed" - which would seem to have been a reasonable proceeding. The arrest of Cornish and Thibadeau, appears to have been made in connection with an unsuccessful attempt to steal the poll book in the West Ward, during which the lamp was blown out and the stove knocked over, evidently standard procedure with these electoral commandos. When we remember that Winnipeg at this time was without a fire engine these election tactics can only be considered as drastic.

In January Harris left for the south on a vacation. February 16 he "Read in work on the Physical Constitution of Woman most part of the day." Evidently satisfied with what he learned in this work he became engaged on February 24.

The wedding was expected soon, for on March 28 he writes: "I have my white shirts all washed, also a white vest to be ready for any emergency that may transpire," and on April 4, still emergency-conscious, he bought a pair of braces, $1.75; dress coat and gloves, $35; tie, $1.25; cigars, $2; ring, $3. All these expenditures were justified by the entry on April 12: "This is the day set for the marriage of Miss S. E. Smith and myself. Everything passed off very pleasantly indeed."

Returning to Winnipeg, in July he bought a house and lot on Rorie Street, near the Post Office, for $810, one-third cash, and one-third in one and two years. August 21 he says: "Proceed to have various articles of goods taken to house, viz., stove, bed and dishes, all of which were carefully selected at stores," and the next day: "No more boarding please." In the future he would have a little more control over the porridge.

In October, Mrs. Harris left for the South, and two days later he writes: "Swept out the bedroom and arranged all the articles therein to suit my ideas of order."


In July he moved from Rorie Street, to a house on Market Square. "The great interest of today in the City", he wrote on August 6, "is the arrival of Lord and Lady Dufferin who appeared at the City Hall at noon precisely," and on August 15: "Lots of headaches about town today after the citizens ball last night."

On September 11 he left for Lake Manitoba to survey another Indian Reserve. On the 20th a conference was held with the Indian Chief and Councillors "but their claims of the extent of the Reserve is far more than we can give." The next day he wrote: "The meeting with the Indians was resumed again this morning at 3.30 when they still held to their former argument that the Reserve should extend from Elm Creek to Big Horn Creek on the lake and extend back from the lake to include Dog Lake where they get fish all year round. No agreement could be arrived at with them." On the morrow he left for home "as it is impossible to effect a satisfactory agreement with Sosonse [?] tribe of Indians at this place."

In November he got the house ready for winter and on the 7th recorded: "I am working all day at my privy securing it from intrusions and interruptions." A few days later he was elected vice-president of the "Lit. and Dram. Association", and in the entry for December 20 we possibly get a glimpse of the Association's activities. "Attend meeting of the L. and D. Association", he wrote "Saw John Higgins home drunk".

A glimpse of muddy Winnipeg is given in the entry for December 23: "Mud, mud, mud, nothing but mud. Raining all day." The next day he notes: "Turkey for Christmas $1.00." On Christmas Day, "Mud everywhere about the country. No snow. Present Mother Smith with a small tie and Mrs. H. a pair of slippers." The next day, "I return slippers and get smaller ones."


On April 9 the steamer Manitoba arrived with 250 passengers, and 300 more arrived on the 21st.

In June he sold a cow and a calf for $55 to be paid for in milk at 8 cents per quart, or the going rate. Perhaps the rate went up, for in July he took a cow and a calf in part payment for a survey he made.

On June 23 he writes: "Heavy rain last evening. I pump upwards of 100 pails of water from the cellar last night." On August 12 it was all hands to the pumps again: "Undertake to pump our cellar which we did but it kept up all day steady at work."

The trying nature of this constant pumping out of the cellar may be the cause of the entry for the 22nd which reads: "Had some arrangements enforced for the government of the house, which caused quite a talk."

In October he made a survey at St. Peters for a Mr. McIvor and "Had big fuss with chief who committed assault on McIvor when a clinch ensued."


On February 8 he put in an application for assessorship which was recommended to the Committee, and saw several aldermen on business. We may judge the nature of the business from the fact that he was appointed Assessor on the 10th.

On April 14 he writes: "Work up to 10 o'clock at night upstairs in the Market Hall." The next day: "Conclude not to work in the evening and allow the band to have their usual practice in our room." But one week later: "The band want to practice, but I am too much hurried to give way for them." On May 19 he had to move to the Council Chamber to make way for the McDowell Troupe "which required the whole upper flat of the building for their performance."

On June 4 he writes: "Am quite ill today. Go out to Buffalo Park and act as judge in all the races which kept us till late in the evening. Attend theatre and had some fun ousting Miss Taylor from her seat."

His early interest in mining is shown on October 19: "Gave note to McLane re survey of mining claims," and on the 22nd: "Saw Dr. Bell at Canadian Pacific Hotel and gave him specimens to take with him for an assay."


January 4: "Write up cash balance to date from which it appears our living expenses for the past year have been upwards of $1,000, being one half greater than last year."

On July 7 he reports General Sherman as being in the Judge's stand at the race track.

1880 is mainly given over to details of drainage surveys he made.


In January he visited Ottawa where he had introductions to Sir John MacDonald and Sir Charles Tupper and saw the latter on some business matters. On February 21 he is "at House in evening and at the request of Allison had seat on floor of House." Two days later: "Saw Dr. Ferguson in the smoking room in the evening. McDonald still drunk, Tupper still sick."

On March 1 he wrote part of a lecture on clairvoyance for one Jones, who appears to have been an uncle and is frequently mentioned about this time as not being very sober; of course this may have been his method of entering the clairvoyant state.

He also wrote some lectures on astronomy, and in April bought a lantern and slides and engaged a hall in Toronto for two nights. This venture does not seem to have been very successful, for he lists the expenses as $433.55 and as far as can be discovered from the diary receipts amounted to $19.50.

On August 13, back in Winnipeg, he "Gave points on Main Street center from R.R. north to Magnus St. to Ruttan for Street Railway."

On December 28 he notes: "D. McArthur has bought Lots A and B on Rorie St. at $150 per foot frontage making $10,000 from Harris."


In January he started the survey of Lots 43.6 "Winnipeg South", and on the 16th he paid $8,255.50 for a one tenth interest in the Winnipeg South Syndicate.

On February 11 he writes "Select spot for bridge opposite Boundary St." This would be the old Maryland St. bridge. Plans of these surveys were registered as Nos. 307 and 308. Plan 307 covers Cambridge, Oxford, Waverley and Fergusson Streets. Fergusson Ave. is now Montrose St. and the plan has been changed in other respects. Plan 308 covered the Crescentwood district with most of the lots being 25 feet. It has been largely superseded.

On Sunday, April 23 he records a "flood throughout the west part of the city down to Main Street."

On June 29 there was "Great commotion in Council re proposal to make McPhillips City Surveyor."

On July 2 he had trouble at home: "Took a trip after the cow and had big time getting her home." On September 18 he was cowpunching again: "Getting cow home till noon when I sold her to Penrose for $35."

This year there are some interesting details on the first electric light company. Among his expenditures on September 23 he notes: "Cash Cr. Jas. Austin $500, 10 shares in Electric Light Co. at 100 = $1,000," and the next day: "Gave note 3 mos. Jas. Austin." On October 10 he "Saw electric light machine at depot (H. B. mill)." This first attempt to supply Winnipeg with electricity seems to have fallen through, for on April 24 next year he writes: "Saw Austin who says we will all get our money out of the electric light business before long."

On December 6 he "called to see C. P. Brown re my appointment to position in City," and on the 11th "Election Day in City and I am quite active in the West Ward, securing Cameron's election over Chalbishart who wants to be taught a lesson for his cheek." On the 16th he "Met Bathgate who says my appointment is sure," and on the 19th we see the culmination of these activities: "Am appointed Assessment Commissioner and City Surveyor."


On October 20 of the previous year he had rented his house on Market Square for $40 per month "temporarily". The exact meaning of the word temporarily was not disclosed until January 7: "Find my house on Market Square empty and party gone."

The diary for the years following his appointment as Assessment Commissioner and City Surveyor is largely taken up with details of office routine, and however eloquently it may testify to the efficiency with which the work was done it is not of great interest to present-day readers. It was sometimes necessary to get some outside help, and there is frequent mention of Mrs. Harris being pressed into service and working at the office, sometimes to 10.30 at night.

Some light may be thrown on the social habits of the time by the entry for February 24, which reads in part: "Bath at 2.30 in kitchen, full change of underclothing," and on April 8: "Had good rest last night. Slept in separate beds."

On August 3 we get a glimpse of the internal economy of the Harris household: "Agree to furnish Mrs. H. $15 per week and $10 per month besides for all expenditures in connection with the house, paying girl, etc."

On December 11: "Strike on C.P.R., engineers off duty today."


On March 27: "Make survey of Market Square to place site of new City Offices for contractor." On April 10 there was a "Big time because I was late home at noon. The North Star Mills are burned down in the evening. Nothing saved. Town very quiet these times."

July 19, "Laying corner stone of new City Hall at 11 a.m. Large attendance and speeches. At theatre. Woman's Revenge. Good play."

July 28: "Met D. Smith, Dom. Archt. at 10.30 at new Post Office and give him street line for building."

September 9: "Making valuations of properties in Lots 31-5 (St. Bon.) mostly portable houses."

October 7: "Ran the first block in the Main St. block pavement."


In this year we get a few echoes of the Riel Rebellion. On March 24 he writes: "Volunteers are called out at 10.15," and on the 26th, "Boys still under orders and held in readiness. Excitement re war news." Three days later: "Volunteers start at four. Got powers of attorney from Young and Thompson." On April 4: "Soldiers arrive from the East for the frontier wars," and on the 7th: "More soldiers arriving and going west." On the 23rd: "The 7th, 9th and other Companies go west."

April 25: "War news this morning and great is the excitement. Telegram from Young. O.K." Next day: "More war news and more favorable on the whole." On May 10: "Extras out from paper office containing some news of the fight in progress at Batoche Crossing." On July 10: "Town is preparing for the return of troops." Next day: "Big stir in town. as result of battalions arriving," and on the 16th, "Town demoralized thoroughly."

On August 28 there was trouble at the races: "At race course during the afternoon. Expelled S. Burns from the course for using bad language and making a sad nuisance of himself. Lots of fun at the pool box kicking at the Lottie G. race, etc."

On December 12 he "Went to St. Boniface. Riel buried there."


Very cold weather was experienced in January and February and he mentions buying two tons of coal on January 6, $20, two tons on February 2, $21, and two tons on March 1, $22.

On June 27 he notes: "The 24 hour time system goes into effect throughout this region of country today."

The first three days of July were given up to a celebration. On Dominion Day he wrote: "The celebration commences. Baseball in the morning, races in the afternoon." There were more sports the next day, followed by a "grand display on Red River after boat races." The celebration concluded with a fireworks display in front of the City Hall.

September 28 was a Civic Holiday and he attended the unveiling of the monument at City Hall Square. October 5: "Big interest in H. B. Ry. matters in city."

On October 11 he "Saw Penrose, Moore and Campbell re location of offices in new building with view to checking Mr. Auditor's ambitions for distinction and accomplish same." On Thanksgiving Day, November 18 he moved into his new office in the new City Hall.

About this time the night life of Winnipeg began to tell on him, for he writes on November 26: "Am tired out after the ball and have sore corns."

On December 3: "My corns are very sore today after applying beef soaked in vinegar," and on the 11th: "I am not very brisk after the 90th ball last night." (This, of course, refers to the regiment, not to the number of dances.)


January 9: "Clean horse and have drive from 14.30 to 16.00. Several fast drivers out speeding up and down Main Street."

On Sunday, August 21 he drove out to Prairie Park and dispersed a gang of dog fighters. "There was a great flurry over the dog fights yesterday," he recorded the next day.

On December 10 he wrote: "I answer the telephone intuitively for the first time." Five days later, "The gasworks were destroyed by fire last night and Newell and Thompson have to quit rather early for want of sufficient light."


On January 8 there was such a heavy snowfall that the street cars were put on runners.

On September 29 he notes: "The railway from the South is now nearly completed and the terminus at the corner of Water and Main Streets looks like business." On October 18 there was "Some excitement about C.P.R. placing engine on track of N. P. Ry."


On October 3 he left for a trip to Washington, D.C., apparently a Masonic affair, and notes "expenses are averaging $5 per day for meals." On the 7th they reached Pittsburgh where they were charged $1 each for "a miserable snide breakfast", the next day they reached Washington and another poor breakfast. On the 8th he writes: "Joined in the Grand Parade Procession from 11.00 to 11.30. Big day throughout." On the 10th there was a "Big crush last night at the White House."

Back in Winnipeg he encountered some difficulty in making assessments in Fort Rouge, for on November 9 he writes: "I go early to Fort Rouge on assessment of Ward One. Lost my notes after leaving the brewery property." Two days later he is working in St. James and "completed the assessment of that ward before night with the exception of Egypt, the residents of that clustre not being up when I called at 11 o'clock."


On April 29 he served on a special jury on a case between J. H. Ashdown and the Free Press, the case was settled on May 1st when, he says: "We return a mongrel sort of verdict contrary to the facts."

On July 31 he went to see the first monument of the Special Survey of the City placed at the corner of Notre Dame Ave. and McPhillips Street.


March 7: "The past has been a week of excitement throughout the Dominion of Canada, more than is the case even at most general elections. Sir John A. has again succeeded."

April 5: "Busy at the office all day with assessments. Hicks and other cranks were in during the morning."


On October 13 he "Made a list of stocks for the Mayor to criticise at Committee as I expected he would have the cheek to do." On November 30 he notes: "The earth seems to be under the shadow of the tail of the passing comet."


In the spring of this year a cloud, no larger than a man's hand, appeared briefly on the horizon. On March 6 he writes: "Bankers are down to the House this morning on the Income Tax scheme." The next day, "Members still chewing over the Income clauses," but on the 9th "The Legislation has gone through O.K. minus the Income fad."

On July 7 there was a meeting of the Directors of the Race Course at which there was "lots of fun over the beer question." The next day there was more fun at the Race Course for he says: "The race meeting just closed is simply a disgrace. 'Rank' is no name for it. The decisions were vile in the extreme and E. J. Conklin got what he richly deserved, a black eye from Pat O'Connor."


On December 19 he comments: "The result of the election of McMicken for Mayor of the City seems to have paralysed nearly everyone down town."


January 1: "Driving during evening. All fast horses out on Fort St. exercising lively."

On January 27 he was present at the "New St. Andrews Church dedication," and on February 6 writes: "At St. Andrews in evening. Pew squabbles."


Fort Rouge was evidently very thinly populated at that time for on July 31 he writes: "I go during the afternoon to mark out some blocks in D.G.S. 31-5 for Murray Miller. He gets lost with my rig and we have to find him."

On August 19 there was "General disorganization round City Hall as result of the recent senseless work of the Special Committee on 'Economy'."

November 10: "Smith had a row this morning with Mayor McCreary and Smith has been suspended by His Worship." On the 20th: "McCreary objected to allowing Smith's pay while he was under suspension, and more exposures of McCreary's nefarious conduct and criminal propositions to him (Smith) will now be in order."


These propositions must have been too nefarious to be mentioned in the diary, for the last we read of the matter is on January 3. "I am busy all day looking about having Smith retained for while in Assessment Office. Big time at Council meeting over his retention. McCreary wild and furious."

1898 was the year of the Klondyke gold rush and Mr. Harris was early, albeit vicariously, on the trail, for on January 15 he writes: "Discussed with Archie McLaren matter of grubstaking a party for the Klondyke country. Saw White also upon same subject," and on the 20th: "Saw Hutchins re party going over Edmonton route." On the 25th he "Saw Turnbull and also McManus re Klondyke venture," and on the 27th "Saw Hastings re Klondyke project." On February 14, "Turnbull and McManus don't want to go now," but on the 16th, "McClelland was in and wants to join the Klondyke party." The next day "I go down with Johnston to see I. W. Drewry as to contract. We meet at 16 in Phippen's office and arrange for terms of the agreement to be signed." On February 21 the contract was signed by Schneider, Johnston and Lewis, Harris himself signing the next day.

On March 9, "Schneider got started on last night's train west, I gave him $200 for a starter." On the 16th: "Had telegram from Schneider which I answer, also Johnston. Walter and McClelland start at 9.30. Big crowd at depot." Walter was the Lewis who signed the agreement and a nephew of Harris. On May 18, "Telegram from McLellan that Schneider acting strangely and wants instructions re matter." On May 28, "Had Chief McRae write to Chief of Police at Stockton about J. F. Schneider. Saw Drewry during evening re the Vancouver party." On June 11th there is the brief note, "W. A. Lewis came" and on the 13th, "Saw Adams of H. B.Co. who will take back W.A.L.'s outfit." Capt. Adams was manager of the Company's store on Main Street.


However, he appears to have kept on the trail of the elusive Mr. Schneider, for on January 10 he "Saw Chief McRae re detective at Frisco", and on the 21st, "Wrote Mr. McDiarmid, Stockton re finding Schneider for me." But no mention is made of finding him.

May 13: "The City Clerk has started his men at work on the Voter's Lists. They are busy with pipes smoking earnestly all the time." On the 26th: "The City Clerk is trying to get in some of his dirty work with the Chairman of the Parks Board as usual." The next day he received letter from the Clerk of the Parks Board telling him to lay out Dufferin Park. "This shows how ignorant he is of what is going on," writes the diarist," as this has already been done twice."

In August of this year he succeeded in recovering $2,000 stolen from the Molson's Bank. On the 29th he wrote, "Went in evening to place where the Molson's Bank money was hid and found $2,000." The next day he "Saw Howell before 10 o'c. re amt. willing to give for bal. of missing money. He saw me again at 2.40. Saw Archibald and McKosh in Howell's office and deliver pkg. to Mgr. Drove out and saw place all plowed over. Took measures." On October 29 he "Drove out to dump where Molson's Bank money was found. Howell, Perdue and Elliot also there. Called to seethe money on the way home." The next day: "Replace the $2,000 parcel in Molson's Bank at 10.30." On November 4th he is "Making sketch of locality where Molson's Bank money was found till 11 o'c. very much hurried but got fairly good representation of spot. Was called as witness at 2.30 and produced the package containing the $2,000. Big sensation in Court when pkg. was produced. The bulletin boards had the report of finding the $2,000 posted right away which caused a flurry of surprise about the streets. The jury drove out last evening to view the locality where the money was found." *

* The total amount that had been stolen from the bank was $65,000, and all but $2,000 had been recovered from the place where it had been buried, somewhere in Elmwood near the railway. The discovery of the $2,000 does not seem to have affected the result of the trial - the acquittal of the accused.


In the entry for February 5 we read: "Go at night to see Pillsbury play chess and checkers. Wonderful exhibition," and on the 7th: "Saw Pillsbury play 10 games of chess and 4 of checkers last night blindfolded."

On May 31 there was a civic half holiday to celebrate the taking of Pretoria and Johannesburg.

June 6: "Winnipeg has gone to Fargo in great force"; next day: "Excursionists have returned from Fargo a used-up looking lot."

June 22: "The hearing of arguments re City Legislation was finally heard at 11 o'clock. The Mayor again making an exhibition of his ignorance. No vote taken."


On September 24 there was a "Quick meeting of Council last ngiht. $500 voted for a portrait of Edward VII by casting vote of the Mayor."


In January they moved into the new house at 26 Edmonton St. and on the 21st he writes: "Slept in new house last night on floor of sewing room."

On December 3 he is "Busy refuting slanders re Voter's Lists published by Telegram."


On May 6 he got some advice on real estate matters: "Anna Eva Fay had a wonderful performance in Auditorium answering questions written by persons in audience. Told me could realise on land this fall but better in spring of '06."

June 27: "The estimates were not taken up last night. Fry is again attempting his low English caddish tricks. He has proven himself to be a bold liar."

On December 13 there were "Lots of sore heads as result of Civic Election. Cox is blurting out and whining about the Voter's Lists in his usual offensive and erratic manner."


The Street Railway men were on strike in the early part of 1906 and on March 29 he writes: "I take car round by River Ave. to get up town. Strike is on in earnest. Cars are blockaded and destroyed. Great mob on streets all day," and the next day, "Military force called out during afternoon to quell Street car strike risk."

Cars were still scarce in Winnipeg in 1906, so he notes with some pride on June 24: "Cousin Edward Jones called at 11 with Dangerfield and Howell for spin in automobile round city."

On June 29 he notes: "Real Estate has taken a slump lately and I fear much money will be lost by outside holders." Let us hope he took Miss Fay's advice.


Amendments to the City Charter were being considered in January and on the 10th he writes: "During afternoon from 3 to 6 at Legislative Comm. Great farce it is. Childish in the extreme."

On February 1st "Am getting out estimation of loss of revenue by the adoption of Manning's contemptible and diabolical scheme to ruin the finances of the City and find it will make a deficit of $150,000."

February 5: "Had special Council meeting last night at which the much discussed business tax changes were dealt with and defeated on close vote by casting vote of the Mayor."

On May 4th he "Saw Bryce's autos at 5.30" and on the 23rd he "saw Ashdown re getting use of automobile for running about."

September 28: "Several in to examine Voter's Lists. Great desire to be on. Must expect to make money by being on. Rotten state of affairs evidently."

September 29: "Council Meeting last night but only 3 or 4 in gallery so no waste of oratory was noticeable."

November 14: "The Civic Elections are now drawing close to hand - 10 candidates for Mayor and lots of aldermen out and it is to be hoped will stay out."


March 17: "The town seems quiet for St. Patrick's Day. No extra amount of drunkenness on the streets."

October 13: "At Canadian Club luncheon and heard Earl Gray [Grey] speak. He was feeble in utterance and nervous with his papers."


On April 12 he called on the Board of Control about getting an auto and "had quite a nice chat re same." During the next few days he looked over the Warner, Hudson, Kissel and Chalmers cars, finally selecting the Chalmers 30 H.P.

July 12: "At Exhibition and saw Byplane fly gracefully over the stands."


June 12 "Was elected Honorary Grand Master by unanimous standing vote of about 200 members of Gd. Lodge. Wonderful mark of respect and distinction."


April 18: "Discover that several of the men in Assessment Dep. have signed the petition for Krafchenko [Krakchenko?] and I have started an investigation re same. Looks as if some of them will have to go." Two days later: "Had 11 of staff sign an unqualified apology for having signed a petition last week."


On March 6 the City Council granted him a pension of $4,320 and on April 30 he notes, "Pension starts tomorrow."

Being retired from public life he was able to give a little closer attention to the running of the house and on July 16 he notes that the washerwoman put in all day fooling away time in a bold manner."


April 4: "Finish my Lightning Arithmetic at page 147 of MSS."

July 1: "Dominion Day, 50th birthday. 1867 was day the Dominion of Canada came into existence. I started that day for the West to seek my fortune when Canada seemed to offer no opportunity for a young man."


Tragedy struck the Harris household shortly before Christmas, but there is only the briefest mention of it in the diary. On December 19 he wrote: "Mrs. H. had bad turn at noon but went up town at 2. Had not got home at night. Notified the police at once but unable to find her at all." Next day he simply noted: "No word yet re Mrs. H. by City Police. Go to Assessment Office and telephone to Elliott of the Provincial Force who has word of death of woman on St. Car line at Middle Ch. which proves to be Mrs. H."


He later made the acquaintance of Mrs. Millions and on May 25 wrote: "Mrs. M. looking over suite for use." On June 15 they were married by Dr. Duval and returned to Suite 506 Devon Court. No time seems to have been lost in introducing the new Mrs. Harris to her duties, for two days later he wrote: "Mrs. H. trims corns."


In 1922 he visited Cuba and on March 22 writes: "The Spaniards grafted $8.00 for last night's lodgings, some goul. Trunk not up to Harding Hotel yet. More humbugging which seems the main stock in trade of these people."

He later visited California where he encountered some sales resistance in Los Angeles when pushing the sale of his Lightning Arithmetic. On May 8 he wrote: "I also go to 8th Street and see Willis, but his teacher being a female did not want any up to date new methods."

The last entry is dated January 3, 1923 and I feel I cannot end these rambling notes better than by quoting the entry for July 11, 1920. "I am looking over my diary records from 1873 onwards. Tedious work it is indeed."

Page revised: 22 May 2010

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