David McConkey - Columnist, Consultant, Citizen
Columnist. Consultant. Citizen.

Tales of Two Brandon Pioneers

Brandon Sun, July 15, 2013 - David McConkey

Imagine what Brandon was like in its first decade – the 1880s. Imagine the pioneers who chose to come and live here and create a new city.

Two of those early citizens had an especially big impact on Brandon. One of them is known today by the landmarks he designed. The other is remembered by a park named after him.

I became intrigued with these two Brandonites while preparing for a bicycle history tour this weekend. More on the tour later. Now, though, who are those two pioneers?

One was Walter Shillinglaw. He was born in Ontario in 1864. He came to Brandon with his parents in 1882, only a year after the city’s founding. His father James was a builder, and together father and son built a house at 302 Russell St. That house was Shillinglaw’s home for the next three-quarters of a century.  

Shillinglaw worked as an engineer and architect. As City Engineer from 1896 to 1909, he shaped the developing city, including early bridges at First and 18th streets.

He was also a City Councillor for a few years. And, although he was by then in his 50s, he served in the First World War.

Shillinglaw’s architecture is a lasting legacy. His designs still grace the Brandon landscape including 706 Lorne Ave., 458 - 12th St., Villa Louise, Casa Maley, Fleming School, the federal building, and First Presbyterian Church.

He also designed schools in Westman communities, like Alexander, Carberry, Griswold, Melita, Oak Lake, Pipestone, and Souris.

We just celebrated the centennial of perhaps Shillinglaw’s most famous work. Dominion Exhibition Display Building No. II – the “Dome Building” –  was built for the Dominion Fair of 1913.
Shillinglaw died in 1957 at age 93 and was buried in the Brandon Cemetery.

The other pioneer was Stanley McInnis. McInnis was born in New Brunswick in 1865, moving to Winnipeg with his parents in the 1870s. He apprenticed as a dentist, later graduating from dentistry in Philadelphia. McInnis moved to Brandon and set up a dental practice in 1889 – the first college-educated dentist in Manitoba.
McInnis was a community leader, serving as president of organizations from the Canadian Dental Association to the Brandon Horticultural Society. He also was a real character, well known as an avid outdoorsman, a political cartoonist, and a singer at the Brandon Opera House.
Running as a Conservative in the 1899 provincial election, McInnis scored an upset victory. He won subsequent elections and became Minister of Education in 1907.

While duck hunting at Oak Lake, however, McInnis came down with appendicitis and then blood poisoning. Taken to Brandon, McInnis survived in hospital for just a few days.

Though he knew he was dying, he was able to keep up his spirits, chatting with his wife, friends and relatives. Premier Roblin and other cabinet ministers visited him and discussed government matters.

The day before McInnis died, he penned a statement to his fellow citizens. “Good people of Brandon,” he wrote, “I take this last opportunity, on my deathbed, of addressing a few farewell words to you.”
McInnis then outlined some thoughts for continuing improvements to the city. These included ideas about the education of Ruthenian (Ukrainian) young people, a street car system, and “more money to devote to parks and works of art.”

Stanley McInnis died on Nov. 4, 1907. He lay in state at Brandon City Hall and was buried in Winnipeg’s Brookside Cemetery. He was only 42.

To honour McInnis, the City of Brandon changed the name of West End Park to Stanley Park.

Stanley Park will be a feature of a bicycle tour of historic Brandon parks, which I will host this weekend. It is part of “Doors Open Brandon,” sponsored by the Municipal Heritage Advisory Committee. The bicycle tour will be a leisurely one-hour, four-kilometre jaunt that will use the Downtown Greenway along Lorne and Louise avenues.

Don’t have a bike? The folks at A & L Get Active will be on hand with a free loan of bicycles and helmets. (For those, you must register in advance).

For more information about the events this weekend (all free of charge) or for the loan of a bike: 204-720-1432 or Heritage Brandon.

On the bicycle tour, we will remember Brandon pioneers. At Stanley Park, we will recall the life and death of Stanley McInnis. At both Stanley and Rideau parks, we will note the handiwork of their designer – Walter Shillinglaw. We will also cycle by the former Shillinglaw house, one of the oldest in the city. 

* * * *
See also:  

Get to Know The Brandon Cemetery

Take a Brandon Ghost Walking Tour

Driving Tour of Brandon Finds Historic Places

Discovering Historic Downtown Brandon

Manitoba History – A Citizen Appreciation



David McConkey,
Brandon, Manitoba
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