This Week in Western Canadian History
December 19 - January 1
December
29
1807

Called to the sickbed of one of his employees, the agent for the North West Company's Pembina post was amazed to find that "he" was actually in the midst of giving birth to a child. Isabelle Gunn, a young woman from Scotland's Orkney Islands, had joined the Hudson's Bay Company under the name of John Fubister and worked as a skilled labourer at various northwest posts for both fur-trading companies. With the support of her fellow Orcadians she was able to keep her secret for more than two years. After the birth of her son, Isabelle was sent to the Albany post on James Bay where she was put to work in the laundry-room -- a position she resented greatly. After an unhappy year in domestic duties at Albany, she returned to Orkney to raise her child.

December
28
1859

The Nor'-wester newspaper The inaugural issue of The Nor'Wester, the first newspaper in the Canadian west, was published at the Red River Settlement on December 28, 1859. The editors and publishers, William Coldwell and William Buckingham, were reporters on the Toronto Globe when they decided to launch their new venture. They acquired a hand-printing press in St. Paul, Minnesota, which they transported into the settlement on an oxen-drawn cart. As they prepared to go to press with their first issue, Coldwell and Buckingham wetted down their newsprint the night before. By the morning, the entire ream of paper was frozen into a solid block of ice. Despite the setback, the four-page newspaper made its debut on schedule.

December
29
1884

Painting of Steinhauer In 1828, a young Ojibwa, Shahwahnegezhik, was adopted by a wealthy Philadelphia businessman and took his family name, becoming Henry Bird Steinhauer. The young Steinhauer was educated at schools in New York State and Ontario before becoming a teacher and Wesleyan Methodist missionary. He worked with James Evans at Norway House, studying Cree and assisting Evans in the translation of the Bible into a syllabic system Steinhauer later worked at and established several other missions in the Canadian west, including Whitefish Lake in northern Alberta, and Pigeon Lake southwest of Edmonton, Alberta. He was a strong advocate of using aboriginal workers in the mission field because of the traditional native distrust of foreigners, noting that the "native has been so long downtrodden by the white man." In his later years, Steinhauer spent most of his time farming near Whitefish Lake and encouraged other native people to take up agriculture instead of following the buffalo. In 1884, an influenza epidemic swept across the prairies and Steinhauer fell seriously ill. He died at Whitefish Lake on December 29, 1884. His great grandson, Ralph Steinhauer, later became Lieutenant-Governor of Alberta.

January
1
1886

The Chinese Immigration Act, passed in July of 1885, came into effect on January 1, 1886. Under this federal legislation, each person of Chinese origin coming into Canada was required to pay $50 at the point of entry. As well, in an attempt to restrict the number of immigrants who could come into Canada on a single ship, vessels from China carrying prospective immigrants were restricted to one immigrant per 50 tons of tonnage.

December
21
1910

Mounted Police search party As a part of their duties in the north, a Mounted Police patrol regularly made a mid-winter trip from Fort McPherson, in the Northwest Territories, to Dawson, in the Yukon Territory. The trip was made to deliver mail and to confirm the presence of the police and the Canadian government in the region. The journey was long and difficult: 800 km each way through wide and treeless snow-covered valleys. There was little game in the area, and few other travelers. On December 21, 1910, a four-man patrol under the command of Inspector Francis J. Fitzgerald left Fort McPherson for Dawson. The weather had already been severe that winter, and there was an unusually heavy cover of snow on the ground. Search party returns to Dawson According to Fitzgerald's diary, travel was slow, and by January 2, the party had gone barely one- third of the way, but had eaten half their food. The weather worsened, with temperatures averaging - 46 C with a bitterly cold wind. By January 18, the party realised they were hopelessly lost, and turned back for Fort McPherson, but the never-ending snow covered their tracks. By February 1, the men had killed and eaten eight of their 15 dogs. The last entry in Fitzgerald's diary, that of February 5, notes that they still had over 100 kilometres to go. By the middle of the month, all of the men were dead. Their bodies were recovered in the spring, and the members of the Lost Patrol were buried in Fort McPherson on March 28, 1911.

January
1
1922

Effective January 1, 1922, drivers in British Columbia stopped driving on the left side of the road and switched to driving on the right. It was hoped that this would decrease the number of accidents involving drivers from other parts of Canada and the United States who clearly experienced difficulty driving on the left.

December
22
1936

In response to a number of complaints from listeners, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation announced a ban on "religious wars" over the airwaves. The CBC had aired several debates on religious topics that had descended into acrimony and childish insult. According to the new policy, representatives of various religious beliefs could give sermons and talks on their own religion, but were required to avoid attacks on others.

December
21
1942

The common teacup became the latest victim of war when the Prices Board issued an order to potteries to manufacture cups without handles. It was estimated that a plant could make three handleless cups to every one with a handle because each handle had to be attached individually. The coordinator of sundry items, who was responsible for the edict, couldn't predict how long the order would remain in force. The mortality of cups was apparently four to five times that of other pieces of dinnerware, so if every Canadian was a bit more careful the order could be rescinded and cups might once again have handles.

December
28
1950

A Calgary resident was given the option of a stiff fine or jail time after pleading guilty to selling lottery tickets. Lotteries were illegal and the sale and purchase of tickets was liable to prosecution. The man sold several tickets in the Irish Sweepstakes to an undercover member of the morality squad who then searched the man's home and discovered several books of tickets and receipts hidden behind a false wall in his basement.

December
29
1950

The driver of Calgary's first streetcar in 1909 was given the honour of driving the city's last streetcar. Municipal officials, long-time transit employees and commuters joined in singing "Auld Lang Syne" to mark the official end of the streetcar era in the city.

December
23
1976

The president of the College of Family Physicians, who was a doctor in a small Manitoba community, gave credit to the publishers of the family and general interest magazines who kept his patients informed. He acknowledged that doctors were no longer placed on the pedestal they once were but, in return, patients were better-read and more able to ask questions about the diagnosis and treatment of their illnesses.



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