Kenora 1881

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Rat Portage 1881

The first day of the decade is January 1 1881 (See calendar below). During the past year the first newspaper in Rat Portage is printed. It is called The North Star.

Hudson Bay

In 1881 Chief Trader Alexander Matheson is at the helm of the Hudson Bay Post located on Main St. Early the next year the Company will move into another building alongside and then in 1886 will build a stone building after this building is damaged by a fire which burns down the Rideout House.

On February 15, 1881 the contract to built the Canadian Pacific Pacific finally received royal assent. The next day the canadian Pacific Railway was incorporated.

The Western line of the CPR between Rat Portage and Winnipeg was completed by 1882. The First railway station had been built in Rat Portage. The First Roman Catholic Church had been built in Rat Portage. The Eastern line of CPR from Thunder Bay completed in 1883.

On July 22, 1882, as a result of a petition to the Manitoba Government, the town of Rat Portage was incorporated under the laws of Manitoba. The incorporation of the town gave the municipality the power to raise money, through the sale of business licences, to make local improvements and hire town officials. On September 25, 1882, the Manitoba Government approved a request from the new Mayor and Town Council of Rat Portage, requesting that the provisions of the Manitoba Intoxicating Liquor Act, regarding the sale of liquor licenses, be extended to their town.

In 1883 polling took place in Rat Portage to elect members to the Provincial Legislatures of both Manitoba and Ontario.

First municipal government is formed in Rat Portage and W.L. Baker is the first mayor.

In September 1883, the first school in Rat Portage opens in a 50th foot log school house on Hennepen Lane behind what in 2013 was the Salvation Army Citadel, the playground where the children played, presently in 2013 is occupied by Italian Restaurante. The School teacher was Janet Clarissa Crooks "Miss Crooks" to the students, until she marries Mr. Pirrie Thompson in April 1886. She is joined in the spring of 1886 by the second teacher Melvin Seegmiller who teach a total of 70 students.

The Boundary Dispute

National Dream:

The situation got more complicated when Manitoba’s boundaries extended in 1881 and a dispute arose between that province and Ontario over the jurisdiction in which Rat Portage lay. Both Provinces built jails and appointed magistrates and constables; so did the federal government. For a time it was more dangerous to be a policeman than a law breaker. Since there were several sets of liquor laws, the policemen began arresting each other until both jails were full of opposing lawmen. Ontario constables were kidnapped and shipped to Winnipeg. The Manitoba jail was set on fire. Anyone who wished could become a constable, and free whisky and special pay were offered to those who dared to take the job. For a time Rat Portage witnessed the spectacle of some of its toughest characters- men who bore such nicknames as Black Jim Reddy of Montana, Charlie Bull-Pup, Boston O’Brien the Slugger, Mulligan the Hardest case- actually acting as upholders of the law, or their version of the law. The situation came to a head in 1883 when both provinces called elections on the same day and two premiers campaigned in Rat Portage with such persistence that the Premier of Manitoba actually got more votes than were registered voters. The confusion did not end until 1884 when Rat portage was officially declared to be part of Ontario.

In 1884 the Manitoba Ontario Boundary Case decided in favour of Ontario. Ottawa rules in favour of Manitoba in the Ontario Manitoba Boundaries dispute. This however would not be the last word.

Plaque Text

When the Province of Ontario was established in 1867, no defined boundary separated it from the Hudson's Bay Company lands to the north and west. Canada's acquisition of these lands in 1869 raised the issue of provincial and federal jurisdictions and the ensuing dispute was submitted to arbitration. In 1878 a decision favourable to Ontario placed the western boundary at its present location and the northern at the English and Albany Rivers. The federal government rejected the award and in 1881 involved Manitoba by ruling that its eastern limit would be Ontario's still undetermined western boundary. The dispute was settled in 1884 when the Privy Council in Britain upheld the 1878 award.

Excerpt from Manitoba Historical Society:

While this settlement was largely brought about in a friendly manner there were some lively disputes over the problem as to whether Rat Portage, now Kenora, was situated in Manitoba or in Ontario. Each of the provinces proclaimed its laws in force in the district and each built a court house and a jail and appointed magistrates and constables. Rat Portage, because of the hundreds of men in the district constructing the main line of the Canadian Pacific Railway, was a wild and wide-open town. Prisoners committed to jail by one province were released by the other; constables who made arrests were themselves arrested by constables of the other province; the Manitoba jail was stormed and burned and Manitoba's Premier Norquay, along with a force of police, travelled by special train to arrest those responsible and to bring them back to jail in Winnipeg; and when each province held an election on the same day Manitoba sent a militia force to Rat Portage to protect its polls. Before the disputed district was given by order of the Canadian Government to Ontario in 1884, Rat Portage had the most, but undoubtedly the worst, government ever known in Canada.

The first Presbyterian Church in Kenora was Knox Presbyterian Church was on the North side of First St. North, just east of Matherson St. in 1884.

In 1886, the first ocean to ocean train came through Rat Portage. in 1887 Norman threatened to withdraw from the municipality of Rat Portage, citing taxation without adequate return as the reason. Rollerway Dam built at the western outlet to the Winnipeg River.
Norman's first school was built.

In 1888, Lake of the Woods Milling Company began production of flour.
Keewatin lots were surveyed by the Keewatin Lumber and Manufacturing Company. In 1889, Kenora officially became part of the province of Ontario in 1889. In 1889 the Rat Portage Curling Club is formed. In 1890, Rat Portage Rowing Club formed.


Sources may be found at Kenora Bibliography

1881 Calendar

1881 Calendar