“A gentleman who, we believe, had no an enemy in the world, warm-hearted and genial, whose smile of kindness was extended to everybody. Pleasant and accommodating in his public capacities. The loss is sustained by his departure is inherently felt.” – Excerpt from the Thomas Sinclair Jr’s Obituary, Selkirk Record March 16, 1888.

Thomas Sinclair Jr. was born on April 9, 1841, in St. Andrews and was the son of Hannah Cummings and Thomas Sinclair Sr. Thomas Sinclair Sr. worked as a boat brigade captain that operated as an independent freighter and trader out of St. Andrews. Sinclair Sr. also operated a gristmill on the Red River near the rapids at the St. Andrews Parish. His final occupation, most notably, was as a member of the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia.

Transfer of Land

Under the British North American Act, the British colonies in North America were brought together on July 1, 1867, creating the Dominion of Canada. Anxious to claim the Northwest of the continent before Americans could do so, William McDougall, the Canadian Minister of Public Works started talks with the Hudson’s Bay Company to buy Rupert’s Land.

Before an agreement was completed with the Hudson’s Bay Company, he dispatched surveyors to Red River. They were to lay out townships and roadways for the anticipated inflow of settlers from Canada.

Without legal authority from anyone in Red River, they trespassed on the farmlands of the Métis. A party of surveyors was intercepted on October 11, 1869, by Louis Riel and told that they were not allowed to survey land that didn’t belong to them (or to their country). This marked the beginning of the historic Red River Resistance.

Métis Resistance

A committee was established to keep William McDougall, the designated lieutenant governor, out of the settlement until the Canadian government had guaranteed to uphold the inhabitants’ rights.
In an effort to convince English-speaking mixed bloods to oppose McDougall’s entry, Louis Riel and John Bruce attended a gathering at the residence of magistrate Thomas Sinclair Sr. in St. Andrews.
The opposition made it impossible for the Canadian government to take over the area on December 1, 1869 as anticipated. A provisional government was formed by the resistance soon after, and Riel assumed leadership. It would discuss terms of entry into Confederation with the Canadian government.

The Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia

The Legislatively Assembly of Assiniboia was established March 9, 1870.
Thomas Sinclair Jr. succeeded his father as an English-speaking member of the Assembly after Sinclair Sr. passed away on March 23, 1870. His goodwill and amiable personality helped him succeed in his new role. Thomas Sinclair Jr. later continued his position as an appointed Magistrate, the first registrar of land titles, and Councillor of Assiniboia Province of Manitoba. On July 15, 1870 the resistance ended when the Provisional Government accepted the terms of the Manitoba Act and Manitoba became the fifth province of Canada.

Mayor of Selkirk

In 1883, Thomas Sinclair Jr. moved to Selkirk on account of the registry office being built. He was later elected Mayor in 1887 and was re-elected as Mayor in 1888. Sinclair Jr. was also elected Worshipful Master of Lisgar Lodge No. 2 A.F.& A.M.

Thomas Sinclair Jr. passed away on March 8, 1888. Sinclair Avenue was named in his honour for the contributions he made to the community.

Brief from Mayor Sinclair Selkirk Record March 9, 1888:

 “It is with profound regret that we have to announce the death of the Mayor of Selkirk, Thomas Sinclair, which took place yesterday about two o’clock p.m. at his residence. The news will be received with regret by all who knew him, as he was a general favorite with all classes. He was born at St. Andrews in the year 1841, and was the son of deceased Thomas Sinclair, who was a long time one of the councilors of the Council of Assiniboia. Mr. Sinclair was a man of intelligence and culture, and on the annexation of Manitoba to the Dominion was made Registrar for the County of Lisgar. He moved to Selkirk in 1883 on account of the registry office being placed here. He was elected Mayor of Selkirk for 1887, and again re-elected for 1888. He was elected Worshipful Master of Lisgar Lodge No. 2. A. F. & A. M. at the last election of officers. He was married to a daughter of Thomas Truthwaite of St. Andrews, who survives to mourn his departure. He leaves one child. The funeral will leave his late residence tomorrow afternoon at 2 p.m. for St. Andrews cemetery. Friends and acquaintances are invited to attend.”

Brief from Mayor Sinclair Selkirk Record March 16, 1888:

 “The unexpected death of the late worthy Mayor of Selkirk and Registrar of the County of Lisgar, Thomas Sinclair, has cast a gloom over our little community in Selkirk, as well as in the vicinity around, which is not surprising when we consider the esteem in which he was held. A gentleman who, we believe, had no an enemy in the world, warm-hearted and genial, whose smile of kindness was extended to everybody. Pleasant and accommodating in his public capacities. The loss is sustained by his departure is inherently felt. We have not the slightest doubt that our loss is his gain, and that he is now enjoying that rest which is promised to the good and the true; a rest which we in this world have no distinct preconception of, and we rejoice in the assurance that our friend is now participating in that peaceful quiet where the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest. But to us who had the pleasure of his genial companionship the loss is acutely felt. Friend after friend leaves us and we feel on looking around us that the majority of those who were endeared to us by the ties of friendship and social intercourse have crossed to the other side and left us alone to mourn their departure and inspires us with a desire to be with them. The past year has seen many of the old time residents of this place called away; and it will take but a little time to complete the list of all those who figured in the good old tranquil times of the Hudson’s Bay Company regime. And we feel assured that, in these days of hurry and hustle in striving perishable things of this earth. None will be so much missed as our old friend, Mr. Thomas Sinclair.”

The Thomas Sinclair Jr. Collection

A black and white photo of Thomas Sinclair Jr.
Thomas Sinclair Jr, Date Unknown, Archives of Manitoba, William and Harriet McMurray Family Funds


The People of Scottish Ancestry Who Brought Manitoba into Confederation, Lawrence Barkwell

Mothers of Resistance

Selkirk Record, 1888

Beyond the Gates of Lower Fort Garry