John D. McArthur,

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Aug. 23, 1997 AWF
From the Glengarry News, Alexandria, Ontario, Friday, January 14, 1927, fp col. 3 top
John D. McArthur, pioneer railway contractor of Western Canada, and one of Glengarry's prominent sons, died abroad his special car at a railway station at Winnipeg, Monday morning, 10th inst., He was 73 years old: Mr. McArthur arrived at the Manitoba Capital that morning from Battle Creek, Mich., where he had been undergoing special treatment for acute anaemia but his condition was so serious that he could not be removed to a hospital.
Mr. McArthur had expressed a desire to return home form Battle Creek when physicians held out no hope for his recovery. His condition became worse on the train journey, and despite efforts of a physician and nurses he died just as the train was pulling into the station, two and a half hours late.
John D. McArthur, who was perhaps western Canada's greatest railway builder, covering a period of fifty years, was born June 25, 1854 in Glengarry County. When he secured the big contract for building the section of the Grand Trunk Pacific between Winnipeg and Thunder Bay it was commented that his native town in Glengarry, Lancaster, was famous as a birthplace of great railway contractors, as well as of explorers discoverers and men of genius in other lines.
After passing through the district schools of his native place, he spent several years on a farm. When the big rush to Manitoba began in the seventies of the past century, he joined it, arriving at Winnipeg in 1879, the year after the first railroad came, and the year before the boom.
He had come west to be a railroader, and joined a `flying gang" to look after repairs on the newly - constructed Pembina branch of the C.P.R., then Winnipeg's sole railway link to the world.
He next took up small construction contracts on the C.P.R. west of Portage and he became experienced in railway building in every part of the western county. In 1889 he was awarded the contract to build the Manitoba Government railway from Emerson, Man., to Winnipeg.
His contract on the Canadian Northern main line to Edmonton was completed in 1905.
No sooner had he finished this than another important task awaited him -- building of 245 miles of railway through the tremendously difficult rock - ribbed territory of the Superior Junction section of the Grand Trunk Railway. The tender was $13,010,392. and was below the estimates of Government engineers. Besides his work on the Canadian Northern and the Grand Trunk Pacific, Mr. McArthur built 500 miles for the Canadian Pacific, and was also prominent in building the Hudson's Bay Railway, in connection with which he stated in 1916 that only the war prevented its completion in that year.
During the next decade his chief interest was the development of the Peace River country and he had large railway interests in Alberta, being president of the Edmonton - Dunvegan, Alberta and Great Waterways and Central Canada Lines. The last two months he had been busy in Ottawa trying to establish a paper mill at Prince George, B.C.
Aug. 22, 1997 AWF
From the Glengarry News, Alexandria, Ontario, Friday, January 21, 1927, fp col. 1-3 top
Pioneer Citizen of The Manitoba Capital Laid to Rest Following Public Service -- Former Pastor Delivers Address. Sketch of an Active And Busy Life

Many Clergymen Aid At McArthur Funeral
Pioneer Citizen of The Manitoba Capital Laid to Rest Following Public Service-Former Pastor Delivers Address. Sketch of an Active and Busy Life.

Winnipeg "Free Press" Jan. 13.
In the presence of hundreds of his fellow-citizens, many of whom had been like him pioneers on the development of Winnipeg and the great west beyond, John D. McArthur was laid to rest yesterday afternoon in the historic burial ground of St. John's Cemetery.

Service was held in Augustine church, of which Mr.McArthur was a member, at 2.30 o'clock, following a short service for the relatives and friends at the family home, 159 Mayfair avenue, Rev. R. B. Cochrane, D. D., minister, was in charge, and assisting were Prof. Guthrie Perry, D.D., who said the prayers; Canon Heeney, of St. Luke's who read the Scripture lesson, and Rev. Gilbert Wilson, D.D., of Chicago, who came to the city to attend the service and gave the address. a brilliant tribute to the life, disposition and achievements of Mr. McArthur.

Floral Tributes

Many floral tributes of beauty and color rested beside the handsome casket, one very conspicuous one being a cross of orchids and lilies, white and valley, six feet in height, from the Winnipeg Electric company's directors and officers.

There were lovely remembrances of red roses and chrysantemuns from the McArthur employees, both in Winnipeg and Edmonton: from Carter-Hallis-Aldinger company; Northwest Lumber Company; D. R. Dingwall company; W. W. Cory, Deputy minister of the interior, Ottawa; and one from Chris. Snider and Fred P. Martin, two of the oldest employees of the McArthur company, who arrived over the Dawson trail with Mr. McArthur, when he first came west, in 1877.

The auditorium of Augustine Church was filled when the service opened, Mr. Coulson, the organist, playing a number of beautiful hymns and voluntaries at the beginning. The choir was also present to lead the singing. Dr. Baird in his prayer referred to the deep religious faith of Mr. McArthur and to his sterling, upright character.

Dr. Wilson's Address
Dr. Wilson, of Chicago, who knew the family well, and particularly Mr.McArthur, during his long residence in Winnipeg, as minister at Augustine, said;

"I came to Winnipeg on hearing of my friend's death, in my private capacity , as a mourner. I knew Mr. McArthur as one who was a noble, faithful worker in all the enterprises he had on hand. He was one who could not shirk duty. His wedded life was beautiful in its affection and hospitality, Whether with him on the way to his camps, on private cars, or over rough roads, you never could forget his kindly hospitable personality, He possessed the Christian virtues.,"given to hospitality." He had a high appreciation of the beauty, the tender- seldom suspected in a railroad builder, who drained muskegs, drove through granites and levelled forests. He never forgot to send floral tributes in times of distress to friends he loved far and near. He was truly loyal to his friends. he had beneath his rugged front the tenderness of a women, the heart, the sympathy of a child. He loved to give. His private characteristic was his constant kindness, so many no earthly scroll could record. He would take the suggestion, the judgment of the humblest of his men and give to it consideration. His determined, princely character was reflected in all his achievements. While he employed at times thousands of men he was always gentle in his relationship with them. He combined the virtue of humility with a rugged front, so that many did not fully realize his greatness. He always strived to lift men to his level. When he met crookedness in politics or in finance he stood four square. The tenderness and sweetness of his is nature gave him the strength to meet adversity with a smile. But his was a productive mind which moved forward to achievement. He was above money-making, in that he wanted to do things for Canada first, and he died one of the greatest of the nation's builders, whose work will be better appreciated 50 years from now than it probably is today. He felt for years he was not worthy of joining the church; then one day without solicitation from his minister he came forward and joined. He had close to his heart the mission work of the church and each year gave $4,000 to home missions. because he knew that in far off posts of civilization in the west people needed the comfort of the Christian church. I leave his memory with you that you may keep it green."

Many File Past Casket

At the close of the service for half an hour people filed past the front of the church to get a last view of Mr.McArthur. It was one of the greatest gatherings of old time citizens ever seen in Winnipeg. The mayor and city council were present; President McLimont and officers of the Winnipeg Electric company; lumber men and railway men by the score and many of the leaders in the church, the law and medicine.

Cortege a Lengthy One

A long line of autos followed the cortege to the cemetery of St. John's where service was read by Archbishop Matheson, after which burial was made in the family plot. Among the chief mourners were Mrs. McArthur, the widow, to whom he had been married 38 years Jan. 9 of this year; Mrs. Kenzie Wentz, a niece, from Battle Creek. Mich., Duncan McArthur, a brother; Mr. and Mrs. Alex. McIntosh, of Great Falls, Man.., niece and nephew; and Dr. Malcolm McDonnell, of Young. Sask., a nephew. Among those present at the funeral was Alexander Calder,who had been associated with Mr. McArthur's railway work since 1877.

The pallbearers were: Frank Fowler, John W. Dafoe, Judge H. A. Robson, R. J. Gourlay, C. A. Adamson and T. L. Waldon.

Born in Ontario

John Duncan McArthur, western Canada's greatest railway-builder, covering a period of 50 years, was born June 25, 1854, in the county of Glengarry, Ont. In 1905, when he secured the huge contract for building the section of the Grand Trunk Pacific - now the Canadian National - between Winnipeg and Thunder Bay, it was commented that his native town in Glengarry, Lancaster, was famous as a birth place of great railing contractors, as well as of explorers, discovers, and men of genius in other lines.

After passing through the district schools of his native place, he spent several years on a farm. When the big rush to Manitoba began in the seventies of last century, he joined it, arriving in Winnipeg in 1879, the year after the first railroad came, and the year before the boom. He landed at St. Boniface on an early spring day and as he afterwards jokingly put it, "crossed the Red rive(r) on foot."

Joined "Flying Gang"

The 1879 papers were full of railroading. young McArthur had not come west to be a settler; he had come west to be a railroader. There had been organized what was known as the"flying gang" to look after repairs on the newly-constructed Pembina branch of the C.P.R., then Winnipeg's sole railway link with the world. J. D. McArthur, when a young man of 25, joined this gang; whose duties included the mending of breaks in the road, clearing the line of wrecks, and keeping the permanent way in shape generally. It was a fine school for a future railway contractor, and the lad McArthur made the best use of it.

Learning the "Ropes"

After about a year with the "flying gang" he resolved to continue his primary education as a contractor by getting on the ground where the heavy rock-cutting was being done on section "B" of the C.P.R., under Contractors Manning & Macdonald. He accordingly went east to Rat Portage (now Kenora), secured the position he wanted,and continued in it until 1882. In that year, he returned to Manitoba and commenced the third stage of self-education for larger enterprises by taking small construction contracts under Brackett & Schutt on the C.P.R., west of Portage La Prairie.

He next went on to Langham & Shephard's contract on the C. P. R. which reached to Calgary, and fulfilled numerous sub-contracts for them. He did not stop at the Rockies, but continued in construction in the mountain section, under James Ross, who was building the eastern mountain section to connect with the Onderdonk section on the west side of the mountains.

Returns to Prairies

In 1885, when the mountain sections had been connected and the last spike of the Canadian Pacific railway driven, Mr. McArthur returned to Winnipeg, a full-fledged railway contractor, ready to handle anything that came along. Assisting in the tremendous work of driving Canada's first great transcontinental line across rock-ridge, muskeg, prairie, alkali, mountain range and timber belt,he had become experienced in railway building over any kind of country. In the prairie section, where he had been among the 300 sub-contractors on the portion of the line crossing the plains, he had seen a record established in rapid railway building, and had helped to establish that record. In the Kicking Horse and Rogers passes he had helped build difficult gradients of 116 feet to the mile. In the section east of Winnipeg he had helped in tremendous rock-blasting in what was to be 20 years later one of his own familiar construction fields.

Breaks C.P.R. Monopoly

Mr. McArthur was awarded the contract to build the Manitoba government railway line in from Emerson, Man., in 1889, which broke the Canadian Pacific railway monopoly on the province. The plan was vigorously pushed by Hon. Joseph Martin, then attorney-general, and Premier Greenway, head of the Liberal government of the province at the time Mr. McArthur built the line from Emerson,through Morris and into the city, the scene on the completion of the railway being of the greatest witnessed in this city. He was awarded the contract to build the road into Portage la Prairie that fall, and started to carry out the project, but his work was stopped by the Canadian Pacific Railway company dumping locomotives and other obstructions at the point where the line was to cross their south western branch,three miles out of the city, which is now Tuxedo, but in those days was named "Fort Whyte," the superintendent of the C. P. R., at the time being William Whyte. The following year the line was allowed to across,but the C.P.R. hauled all of the wheat out of the country that fall and winter, some of which might have gone over the new line if it had not been blocked. It was one of the most stirring in Mr. McArthur's career.

Marries in Home Town

The year 1889 began pleasantly for J. D. McArthur. He had taken long enough of from his multiplying interests in the west to go east to his home town, Lancaster, and marry Mary McIntosh, daughter of fellow townsman, Alex. McIntosh. The wedding took place in January, 1889. Mrs. McArthur went to Mont Clements, Mich., with Mr. McArthur early in December of last year, and remained with him to the end.

In 1901, the lease of the Manitoba government lines to the Northern Pacific ceased, and they came under Canadian management, and took a Canadian name - The Canadian Northern. These two familiar magnates of railway building which was in the nineties confined to Manitoba, but afterwards became transcontinental -William MacKenzie and Donald D. Mann - took over the former Northern Pacific depot and shops at Winnipeg, with the railway lines and made of Manitoba a base from which to develop their enterprises east and west.

Huge C. N. R. Contract.

When, shortly after the beginning of the present century, they found themselves with a long stretch of road to build into Edmonton, the man they signed up to build it was John Duncan McArthur. Large sections of this, the main line of the Canadian Northern westward, ran through muskeg country like that ground which had been familiar to Mr. McArthur in his early railroad experience. In the Canadian Pacific section north of Lake Superior he had seen, in one muskeg area, seven layers of Canadian Pacific rails buried, one below the other, Experiences like this had shown Mr. McArthur what not to do, as well as helping him in an affirmative way. His contract on the Canadian Northern main line to Edmonton was completed triumphantly in 1905

Building Portion of N.T.R.

No sooner was Mr. McArthur through with it than a more important task awaited him. In 1904 a government commission had been appointed to supervise the construction of the national portion of the Grand Trunk Pacific railway, or as it was officially called, the National Transcontinental railway, from Moncton to Winnipeg. Surveys had gone on energetically during the fall and winter of 1904-05, an in due course came the letting of contracts for the various portions of the route. On April 12, 1906, it was announced that J. D. McArthur, of Winnipeg, had tendered for the Winnipeg Superior Junction section for the sum of $13,010,392. The bid was below the estimates of the government engineers and it was immediately accepted. This meant that Mr. McArthur had received the contract to build 245 miles of railway through the tremendously difficult rock-ribbed territory where he had received his first experience in rock-cutting a quarter of a century before under the old C.P.R. contractors, Manning and Macdonald.

Besides his work for the Canadian Northern and Grand Trunk Pacific, Mr. McArthur built about 500 miles for the Canadian Pacific. He was also prominent in building the Hudson' Bay Railway, in connection with which Mr. McArthur started in 1916 that only the labor shortage due to the Great war prevented its completion in that year. He was given the contract by the Laurier government.

In Canada's Last West

It was in 1910-11 that Mr. McArthur became active on his own account in the Peace River country. In 1911 he and his associates acquired a charter for railway extension from Edmonton to Fort George, B.C., where they proposed to connect with the Grand Trunk Pacific, At that time the Alberta government promised to build or aid a line to the north, and the Canadian Northern railway wanted to do so, and was in fact already construction in that direction.

During the next decade Mr. McArthur's chief interest was the development of the Peace River country.

During the energetic prosecution of railway construction by the Sifton government in Alberta, Mr. McArthur built his lines. He had large railway interests in that province, being president of the Edmonton-Dunvegan, Alberta and Great Waterways and Central Canada lines. His interest in the Canadian west and northwest, commencing in the early eighties, when as a young sub-contractor he followed the Canadian Pacific through to the Coast, and heightened when in 1905 he built the long stretch of the Canadian Northern into Edmonton, led to the acquirement of these vast personal transportation connections in the last west of Canada. Mr. McArthur lost control of these lines owing to the stress of war affecting his financial arrangements. and they reverted to the Royal Bank, and later to the Alberta government.

In addition to his prominence in railway matters, Mr. McArthur was the head of the general contracting firm of J. D. McArthur company, had large lumber and milling properties in Birtle, Man., Moyle, British Columbia, and Lac du Bonnet, Man., and had extensive real estate connections and properties in Winnipeg and vicinity, including timber interests on the Winnipeg river.

He was connected with numerous charitable organizations, including the Children's hospital, Winnipeg General hospital, of whose boards he was for years a member. In religion he was a Presbyterian, a member of the congregation of Augustine church, Winnipeg. Mr. McArthur was always favorably known for his liberal treatment of his employees, who are various times numbered more that the standing army of a small European kingdom.

Active in Paper Mill

The past two years Mr. McArthur was very active in his efforts to secure a pulp and paper mill in the Winnipeg district, and finally succeeding in organizing the Manitoba Pulp and Paper company, and in interesting the Spanish River paper mill interests in it. The result is the establishment of Manitoba's greatest individual industry at Pine Falls, Man., where a 250 ton mill will soon be in operation.

Mr. McArthur had large timber limits and these he turned over to the company. The past two months he has been busy at Ottawa endeavoring to establish a paper mill at Prince George, B.C., where he has large timber interests, and securing for the Manitoba Paper company additional areas of pulp wood, and it was while engaged at Ottawa on these enterprises he was stricken with the malady which proved fatal.

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