Three of Brandon’s most prominent early citizens hailed from the East End. The first could be called the original resident of Brandon. The second was a senator when he died 100 years ago. The third was the most influential Brandonite ever.
Joseph E. Woodworth could claim to be Brandon’s very first resident. Born in Nova Scotia in 1837, Woodworth worked as a ship builder. In the spring of 1881, Woodworth established a homestead in western Manitoba, on Section 24-10-19 WPM. Just a few months later, this turned out to be the very spot that Gen. Thomas L. Rosser selected as a Canadian Pacific Railway divisional point. Woodworth sold some of his property to the CPR, instantly becoming a developer and businessman in the new settlement.
In the early days of Brandon, the property east of First Street was known as the “Woodworth Estate.” Woodworth operated one of Brandon’s first general stores, at the corner of First Stree and Pacific Avenue. He built the first First Street bridge across the Assiniboine River, charging a toll for its use. He later sold the bridge to the city.
Woodworth was a leading citizen. He was elected to the first school board and served on the first hospital board. He was elected as a member of the second city council. He represented Brandon in the Manitoba legislature as its second member, from 1883-86.
He later sold his property in Brandon and moved to the U.S. In 1889, at the age of 52, Woodworth drowned off the coast of Georgia.
An early publication, “Brandon and Her Industries,” praised the “enterprise, public spirit, and liberality” of Woodworth. “In years to come, when Brandon has assumed her destined place as a great industrial centre, the name of Mr. Woodworth will be mentioned as one of those who stood by her in her early struggles, and laid the foundation of her greatness.”
The second pioneer was John Nesbitt Kirchhoffer. Born in Ireland in 1848, he came to Canada at the age of 16. He settled in Ontario and became a lawyer. A keen cricketer, he was president of the Ontario Cricket Club. He also was the captain of international cricket teams from Canada that played against the U.S.
Kirchhoffer linked up with an Ontario group including “Squire” Sowden who formed a land colonization company. In 1881, the settlers moved to Manitoba, founding the town of Souris. Kirchhoffer was elected as the mayor of Souris and also the reeve of the municipality of Glenwood. Kirchhoffer later moved to Brandon, where he engaged in business and continued to practise law and the art of politics. His office was in the Kirchhoffer Block at 1102 Rosser Ave. He was the president of both the Glenwood and Brandon agricultural societies as well as of the Brandon Cricket League. Kirchhoffer was elected to the provincial legislature and served there as a Conservative from 1886-88. In 1892, he was appointed to the Senate.
Kirchhoffer and his wife Clara owned an elegant house and grounds at 247 Russell St. There they entertained such dignitaries as Earl Grey, the governor general. (The earls Grey had an affinity for naming cups: his grandfather the cup of tea; he the cup of football.) At Kirchhoffer’s hunting lodge at Delta Marsh, Kirchhoffer once hosted the Duke of Cornwall (who later became King George V). Kirchhoffer took the duke duck hunting; they shot hundreds.
“Death of Senator Kirchhoffer came as great surprise,” read the headline in the Brandon Daily Sun in December 1914 when Kirchhoffer, 66, died in Ottawa. The Sun applauded Kirchhoffer as a statesman, businessman and sportsman; “a highly respected and esteemed pioneer.”
Next week, I’ll look at the third of these pioneers from the East End, the individual who was the most influential Brandonite ever. I’ll also look at how we remember these pioneers today.
If you would like to explore more of our heritage, check out “Doors Open Brandon” on the July 19-20 weekend. (Information: Municipal Heritage Advisory Committee, 204-761-6745 or heritagebrandon.ca.) As part of this year’s event, I’ll host a walking tour of the historic North End: “Brandon’s Ghetto.”
» David McConkey is an active citizen. Contact him and read previous columns at davidmcconkey.com.