In the late 1800s town physicians would often combine their profession with that of pharmacy. Many physicians would open and operate the first pharmacies in town. This was certainly true for Selkirk, as James Colcleugh opened Selkirk’s first pharmacy in 1876. R. H. Gilhuly operated the pharmacy for almost a century.
Walter Henry Gabriel Gibbs, known as Harry, trained as a pharmacist in 1894 and apprenticed under Mr. Gilhuly. Using the experience he garnered from his apprenticeship, Harry built Gibbs Drug Store Limited in 1897 at 216 Manitoba Avenue. He ran the store for fourteen years until 1911 when he passed the responsibility to his half-brother, Frederick Hugh Gibbs. Fred had recently completed an education in pharmacy and when he took over the store, it allowed Harry to leave to pursue a medical degree to become a doctor.
While Harry completed his medical degree and joined the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps in World War I, Fred remained in Selkirk and operated Gibbs’ Drugs until his retirement in 1952. Fred Gibbs worked long hours serving the people of Selkirk. He would often receive calls from one of the town doctors to fill prescriptions after hours for ill patients. By 1956, just under two hundred thousand prescriptions had been filled.
Aside from medical needs, the store was also a stopping spot for tourists aboard the S.S. Keenora as they cruised to Lake Winnipeg. Passengers would visit Gibbs’ Drug Store for postcards, souvenirs, and other last-minute items.
After Fred’s retirement in 1952, William Indridson and Gordon Wright took over the business but kept the Gibb’s name. The name remained for a decade until 1961, when it underwent a slight change to Gibbs’ Drugs Limited. In the 1980s the ‘boomtown’ façade was added to the building. Tom Gawne, the manager at the time in 1987, reported to the Selkirk Enterprise that he was negotiating moving the business into the Town Centre Mall. Two years later they did just that. By 2005, the last couple to operate the store retired and the 110-year business came to a close.
The Gibbs family is one of the oldest families in Selkirk and Gibbs’ Drugs, one of the more remembered businesses, having served Selkirk for over a century.
Gibbs' Drug Store Collection
Manitoba Historical Society – The History of Pharmacy in Manitoba
Manitoba Historical Society – Walter Henry Gabriel Gibbs
Stories of Selkirk’s Pioneers and Their Heritage, Kenneth G. Howard
A Magical Place 1930-1948, Hugh H. Gibbs