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Friday, 20 January 2023

And then there were none: Downtown Winnipeg loses its last cinema

© 2023, Christian Cassidy

Very sad news that the Towne Cinema 8, the last in downtown Winnipeg, will not reopen.

My teen years were in the 1980s which meant I was spoiled for choice when it came to watching a film downtown. The Towne was such a unique venue that it was hard for a kid not to love it.

It was underground, it sported a bold 1970s colour scheme of reds and oranges, and it had an arcade so you could arrive early and play pinball or video games until the show started. The other downtown theatres didn't have any of that!

That love carried over into adulthood. I still liked the underground maze feeling, admission was cheaper than any other cinema for first-run movies, the shows were rarely packed, and it was the closest cinema to where I lived.

The last film I saw there was 007's No Time To Die in October 2021. It was my "coming out" after nearly two years in lockdown.

Here's a look back at the downtown cinema scene and what made the 1980s so special.

Until the 1970s, most downtown cinemas were in retrofitted live theatres, such as the Metropolitan, Capitol, and Odeon (formerly the Walker Theatre). The Gaiety, which became the Colony theatre in 1975, was built in 1912 as a "picture theatre". There were two modern, custom-built outliers: the two-screen Garrick Cinema that opened in May 1968 and the two-screen Northstar Cinemas that opened in March 1970. 

The Capitol Theatre reopened in July 1979 after being converted into a two-screen venue. This was followed by the addition of two more screens at the Garrick that opened in December 1979. Both the seven-screen Eaton Place Cinema 7 and eight-screen Towne Cinema 8 opened in 1981. Later in the decade, another three screens were added when the Portage Place Cinemas came online in September 1987.

Downtown Winnipeg appears to have been at "peak cinema" when Famous Players’ Metropolitan Theatre and Portage Place Cinemas overlapped from September 17, 1987 to November 26, 1987. There were a total of 29 screens in operation.


The 1990s saw the number of downtown screens decline.

It started in 1990 with the closure of three cinemas - the old Capitol and Odeon theatres and Odeon's single-screen Convention Centre Cinema, (the latter would carry on for a time later in the decade as an independent movie house).

The city's first modern-era cinemas were next to go with the Northstar Cinemas in 1999, though they reopened briefly in 2000 – 2001. The Garrick Cinema was put up for sale in 1999 and when a buyer could not be found was demoted by Cineplex Odeon in February 2001 to a second-run, discount price cinema. It closed in March 2002. 

By the 2000s there were only two downtown cinemas left.

Portage Place Cinemas, which Landmark Cinemas took over from Famous Players after ti closed in June 2001 in 2002 and rebranded the Globe Cinema, closed in 2014. The last holdout, Towne Cinema 8, also owned by Landmark Cinemas, closed in July 2022.

According to this Free Press article from January 2023, the building and land are for sale with a "no cinema" stipulation. This means the end of the road for downtown cinemas.

Related:
- Read my blog posts about the history of these downtown cinemas: Towne Cinema 8, Garrick Cinema, Northstar Hotel and Cinemas, Walker Theatre/Odeon Cinema, Metropolitan Theatre.

Thursday, 12 January 2023

Brandon's mysterious Clara Beckworth McInnis

© 2023, Christian Cassidy


Clara M. McInnis, November 7, 1907, Brandon Sun

To most who knew her, Clara M. Beckwith was a British-born swimming ace who went to Boston, Massachusetts to perform and travelled extensively with vaudeville-type shows. She settled in Brandon, Manitoba in 1898 after marrying local dentist and soon-to-be M.L.A. Stanley McInnis.

While researching the previous post about Stanley McInnis, I dug into her background to find where she ended up after his death and stumbled across a fascinating story about her true identity.

More on that later. First, the official story.

Miss Clara M. Beckwith


Boston Globe November 13, 1892


Clara Beckwith appeared on the American swimming circuit at a swim club in Boston in the 1880s and by the 1890s was featured as a solo act taking on swim challenges or performing in an enormous glass tank. Her ability to hold her breath for long periods thrilled audiences as she did acrobatics or more mundane things like eat a banana under water.

The Natatorium at the Grand Museum in Boston was her regular year-round venue and in the summers she toured around the region in travelling shows. Over time, these tours brought her further afield.

From In the Swim, 1893. (Source: Archive.org)

As part of the self-promotion for her performing career, Beckwith published a booklet in 1893 entitled "In the Swim: Autobiography of Miss Clara Beckwith, The World's Champion Lady Swimmer". It was a combination biography and how to swim guide.

Beckwith claimed that she was born in Lambeth, England, on October 26, 1867 into the Beckwith family of champion swimmers before coming to America around 1882 to take on new challenges. Four pages of the booklet describe her growing up in England and an equal number are dedicated to stories about the lives she saved in the water.

She wrote: "My first public appearance occurred in England when I was but 13 years of age. My father was present and witnessed my exhibition. It was then he predicted that some day I would be recognized as  Champion Lady Swimmer of the World". That is the tag line she used to describe herself throughout her professional career.

Beckwith wire stories in the Winnipeg Tribune, 1893

To coincide with the release of her autobiography, a series of promotional pieces about Beckwith were sent out over the wire services in 1893 for member newspapers to use as filler. The articles more often spoke of her “perfect beauty” and athletic form, complete with detailed measurements of every part of her body, than her swimming feats. (She was 5'4", weighed 156 pounds, her feet were 9 1/2 inches in length, her neck was 13 1/2 inches around and her thighs were 14  1/2 inches around.)

Even the Winnipeg Tribune picked up two of these wire stories and ran them in February and August  1893.

Beckwith did interviews in some of the cities she visited and was happy to talk about her English childhood and swimming feats as part of the Beckwith family. She also strongly encouraged women and girls to take up the sport of swimming.

How did she end up in Brandon?


Beckwith's career took her to Manitoba in the summer of 1897 as part of a travelling show that included trick bicycle riders, trapeze artists and a dog circus. She performed at the Winnipeg Industrial Exhibition from July 19 to 24. The calendar of events published in the Daily Nor'Wester newspaper referred to her as the "great London sensational aquatic performer" and noted that the troupe performed twice a day for the week.

The Winnipeg Free Press described her show in its July 20, 1897 edition this way: "Clara Beckwith followed in her mermaid act, which was graceful. She appeared to relish a banana with much gusto and drank ginger ale with relish while immersed in her tank of water." It noted that her tank weighed four tons and took an entire morning to fill.

The troupe then travelled to Brandon by rail to perform at the summer fair which took place the first week of August. The Daily Nor’Wester reported that the cast returned to Winnipeg on August 7 and would then head back east the following day.

 October 13, 1897, Winnipeg Tribune

It is most likely that Beckwith met McInnis during her time at the fair. He had lived in Brandon since 1890 when he set up his dental practice and was involved in several community organizations.

Another sign that they met at the fair was that Beckwith returned to Brandon in October 1897 for a "season of shooting". McInnis was an avid outdoorsman and president of the Brandon Gun Club. He no doubt invited her back for an extended stay as she also enjoyed hunting and shooting as a pastime.

Beckwith left Brandon for her home in the state of Maryland on November 5, 1897.

June 27, 1907 Brandon Weekly Sun

Beckwith made quite an impression on McInnis and he wanted to marry her.

The Cincinnati Commercial Tribune of February 24, 1898 noted that a marriage license was issued to "Stanley W. McInnis, Grand Hotel and Clara M. Beckwith, Grand Hotel" in that city but the marriage did not take place.

The Brandon Western Sun reported that on June 2, 1898, "Dr. McInnis left on yesterday's local for Winnipeg. He will leave to-day for Baltimore where he will wed Miss Clara Beckwith." The couple would then return to Brandon and a house on Victoria Avenue that McInnis had recently purchased.

Obituaries of McInnis note that the wedding took place on June 8, 1898, which can also be confirmed in the pages of the Baltimore Daily Record of that day.

February 3, 1889, Boston Globe

The couple returned to Brandon and it appears that Beckwith gave up her life of performing to be a doctor's wife with one exception.

An ad taken out by the Natatorium in the February 3, 1889 edition of the Boston Globe states that Beckwith had performed there the previous week and starting February 4th would be appear for another week of swimming feats and “The management are ready to match her for a one or six-day swim for from one to five thousand dollars.”

Perhaps Beckwith was fulfilling a contractual duty to her old venue or maybe she wanted one last payday and chance to be in the limelight. it does not appear that she performed again after this.

In September 1889, the Boston Globe reported that it had been contacted by Valeska Nelson, a German swimmer whom Beckwith had competed against in past shows. She handed a down payment of  $500 to a reporter as part of a $1,000 purse to have one more race against Beckwith. The Globe printed the challenge but nothing about Beckwith's whereabouts or why she disappeared from the local swimming scene. Perhaps nobody knew where she had gone?

It does not appear that Nelson's challenge was accepted.


McInnis residence (Source: Illustrated Souvenir of Brandon)

Beckwith is rarely mentioned in Brandon or Winnipeg newspapers during her time in Manitoba. She co-presided over a spring tea for residents of Victoria Avenue in 1905, her garden got an honourable mention in a summer 1907 Sun article, and she received at her home in October 1907. That's about it.

There are no reports of her chairing committees or playing a major role in church or fundraising events as one might expect from a prominent prairie doctor's wife.

As a performer, Beckwith was the centre of attention and a constant self-promoter but those traits don't seem to have carried over into her married life. Newspapers also don't seem to make a connection between the performer and Manitoba's newest socialite, or if they did they did not print it.

It could be that Beckwith spent her time as a behind the scenes partner in McInnis' career.

As can be seen in the previous post, aside from being a dentist, McInnis was the MLA for Brandon from 1900 to 1907. During this time he also held senior positions with the Canadian, Manitoba and Western Canadian dental associations and was the head of many community organizations, including the city's rugby team, the horticultural club and the gun club. For good measure, in 1906 he partnered in a real estate firm.

It is hard to imagine that McInnis had the time to pack all of this activity into his day and surely could not have done it without assitance to manage his schedule, plan his travel and take care of some personal affairs. It makes sense that his wife would be that partner. If this is the case, Beckwith also made a great contribution to Brandon's social and cultural history in the early 1900s.


November 7, 1907, Brandon Weekly Sun

Stanley McInnis died unexpectedly on November 4, 1907 after his appendix burst while on a shooting trip at Oak Lake, Manitoba. Clara was at home and rushed to be at his bedside when he reached Brandon Hospital. She, of course, attended both funeral services in Brandon and Winnipeg.

It appears that Beckwith did not make any public statements nor were any interviews with her published in newspapers.

It is likely that Beckwith was left financially well off and the estate was liquidated over a long period.

Twenty horses were auctioned off at the Winter Fair in March 1908 and the house was sold not long after that. McInnis also owned land, the last parcel was made up of a half dozen lots of valuable city land on or around Victoria Avenue that were sold by the estate in May 1912 - more than four years after his death.

After Brandon


June 25, 1908, Brandon Sun

Beckwith, who had no children and was in her mid-thirties when her husband died, did not stay in Brandon long enough to see the remainder of the McInnis property sold.

The last Manitoba newspaper mention of "Mrs. S. W. McInnis" is in the social column of the June 25, 1908 edition of the Brandon Sun which reported that she left to visit Winnipeg. She likely never returned from that trip.

According to David Day, a modern-day biographer of Clara Beckwith, she moved back to Boston and married musician Clement G. Miller on November 25, 1908. The 1912 Boston street directory shows they lived at 217 Warren Street.

It is unclear when Clara died.

Clara's true identity

1883 poster for the Beckwith Family (The British Library)

Nearly a century after Clara left Brandon, British researchers David Day and Margaret Roberts were researching Lambeth, England's famous swimming family, and discovered articles about Clara's exploits in U.S. newspapers.

The Beckwith family consisted of father Frederick and his children Agnes, Lizzie, Willie and Charles - but no Clara!

So who was this imposter?


1901 Census of Canada for Brnadon, Library and Archives Canada

In her biography, "Clara Beckwith" claimed she was born in Lambeth, England on October 26, 1867, yet Day and Roberts found that on the application for her marriage license to McInnis she wrote that she was Clara Marie Sabean born in Annapolis, Nova Scotia in November 1870. Census records confirm her existence there.

Day notes that Clara "was recruited as a performer in the Boston Swimming Pool around 1887 before being promoted around America as Clara 'Beckwith'".

Interestingly, for the 1901 census of Canada, Clara gave her birthplace as England and said she was born on October 26, 1873. This shaved five years off the age provided in her biography and three years off the age on the marriage certificate.

It is unclear why Clara 'came clean' on her marriage certificate.

Perhaps she knew that marriage meant the end of her performing career and she didn't want to settle in Brandon as "The Champion Lady Swimmer of the World" with, presumably, a fake English accent and the need to talk about her fake immediate family and upbringing.

This could also explain why she shunned the spotlight in her new home town. The more attention she attracted, the more likely it is that someone would dig into her past and make the connection between Clara McInnis and Clara Beckwith. (Though this doesn't explain why she reverted back to England as her birthplace in the census.)


Agnes Beckworth, ca. 1885 (Source: The British Library)

It is not unusual for a performer to take on a persona and embellish their past. In fact, Clara wasn't the only woman to claim to be a Beckwith daughter. Around the same time, there was also a "Cora Beckwith" making the aquatic rounds who was really Cora MacFarland born in the state of Maine in 1869.

In this case, though, there was a real Beckwith swimming family that Clara and Cora used to further their careers. As Day notes, "Both women not only appropriated the Beckwith name but they also annexed the Beckwith routines, including endurance floating and ornamental swimming..."

The person who was most impacted by the impersonations was Agnes Beckwith. She was the most accomplished daughter of Fred Beckwith and a "lady champion swimmer" in her own right who was born on August 24, 1861.

Agnes toured Europe and North America, including a stop in Toronto in 1883. She returned to North America in 1887 but, "unfortunately for Agnes she was unable to convert her social capital into financial capital and she continued to work into the twentieth century", writes Day.

A factor in her lack of success could be due to the fact that the North American aquatic swimming market was already saturated with "Beckwith" daughters doing the rounds. Clara's tag line, "Champion Lady Swimmer of the World" was almost identical to Agnes Beckwith's "The Greatest Lady Swimmer in the World" which must have caused confusion to those booking shows.

Agnes Beckwith moved with her husband to South Africa in 1948 where she died on July 10, 1951.


Cora Beckwith, the other Beckwith imposter, in Winnipeg
January 9, 1917, Winnipeg Tribune


Further reading:

- David Day and Margaret Roberts' research into the Beckwith family, including the imposter Beckwiths, appears in various books and journals. The most complete version available online is From Lambeth to Niagara: Imitation and Innovation among Female Natationists from the book Sport’s Relationship with Other Leisure Industries.

- Another biography of Agnes Beckwith by Day and Roberts featuring many period photos is Agnes Beckwith Different Modes of Expression Published.

Thanks to Prof. Day for taking the time to clarify some of the questions I had about Clara.

Tuesday, 10 January 2023

Brandon's Stanley McInnis

© 2022, Christian Cassidy


Stanley W. McInnis ca. 1906 (Daly House Museum)

Stanley McInnis is one of my favourite figures from Brandon history. He packed so much community service into what was sadly a very short life. My interest in him was rekindled on a recent visit to the Daly House Museum where staff took time to show me a number of items related to him.

I also found out a fascinating back story about his wife Clara. That will come later in part two!

For now, here's a look back at the life of Stanley McInnis.


1881 Census of Canada, Library and Archives Canada
 

Stanley William McInnis was born October 8, 1965, in Saint John, New Brunswick. His family moved to Manitoba when he was a child and his father worked as a teacher and customs officer. The 1881 census entry above shows the McInnis' in Selkirk with the 16-year-old Stanley listed by his middle name.

This would have been around the same time that McInnis attended Manitoba College. His Dictionary of Canadian Biography entry notes that he went to the college in 1880 and later graduated with a  B.A.. This would have made him around 15 years of age when he entered which suggests the year may be off or that he was a brilliant student.

December 26, 1882, Winnipeg Free Press

There is only one street directory entry for McInnis in Winnipeg in the 1880s which could mean he lived in residence while at school. The 1883 directory finds him in a rooming house at 27 Rupert Street working as a customs officer. According to obituaries he once worked for a time at James Ashdown Hardware, likely at his new hardware store on Main Street at Bannatyne.

McInnis' attention would soon turn to dentistry.

J. L. Benson, whom the Manitoba Dental Association credits as being Manitoba's first dentist, established his practice in Winnipeg in 1877 and by the early 1880s was among a handful of dentists in the city. He worked from a small office building at 419 Main Street near McDermot Avenue which was just a block south of Ashdown's store.

McInnis took a job with Benson and began learning the basics of dentistry. He went on to attend the Philadelphia Dental College and graduated class of 1888.


May 22, 1890, Brandon Sun

McInnis returned to Manitoba the following year and set up practice in Brandon at the corner of 9th Street and Rosser Avenue, (eventually to an upper floor office in the Zink Block after it opened in 1902.) He advertised in both the Brandon Daily Sun and its sister paper, The Western Sun, which gave him regional reach. Strangely, McInnis' name is misspelled in the Brandon Sun ads which ran regularly from 1889 to at least mid-1893.

Some sources claim that McInnis was the "first dentist in Manitoba" or the Westman region. This is not the case as evidenced by Dr. Benson in Winnipeg and there were two dentists practising in Brandon by 1884: F. E. Doering and J. Barker Vosburgh

This Canadian Dental Association entry notes that McInnis was the first "college educated" dentist in Manitoba, presumably with a D.D.S. - Doctor of Dental Surgery. (It should be noted that the article claims he attended the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery, when most other sources, including McInnis' own ads and Brandon street directory entries state he attended the rival Philadelphia Dental College.)


Clara McInnis, November 7, 1907, Brandon Sun


McInnis spent long enough in Brandon to secure an office on Rosser Avenue and a place to live. The large house at 610 Victoria Avenue at 6th Street was the former residence of Judge Thomas Cumberland and contained enough land for a large stable of horses.

The Brandon Weekly Sun notes that McInnis left Brandon for Baltimore, Maryland on June 1, 1898 to wed Miss Clara Beckwith in that city. The wedding took place on June 8. This was his second attempt to marry her as the Cincinnati Commercial Tribune of February 24, 1898 statess that a marriage license was issued to "Stanley W. McInnis, Grand Hotel and Clara M. Beckwith, Grand Hotel" in that city

Beckworth was a Canadian who had lived in the U.S. for many years and worked as an aquatic performer. Her troupe performed at Winnipeg's Industrial Exhibition in July 1897 and then went on to Brandon for its summer fair. If the two did not meet during that week-long Brandon visit, she returned to Brandon in November for a month-long hunting and shooting vacation.

It turns out that Clara has an interesting and somewhat mysterious past that has its own blog post!


1905 Henderson Street Directory, City of Brandon

Stanley and Clara returned to their new home and a new life in the Wheat City in late June 1898.

There's a brief mention in a March 1899 edition of the Winnipeg Free Press that Stanley's younger brother, Arthur McInnis, was passing through town on his way to Brandon where he would join his brother in practice.

Arthur was also a graduate of the Philadelphia Dental College but chose initially to work in Brooklyn, New York.

Despite being new to the industry and from a small urban centre, McInnis got involved in provincial and national dentistry associations.

The Manitoba Dental Association (MDA) was established in 1883. Its first president was McInnis' mentor, J. L. Benson, who served in that capacity from 1884 to 1891 and again from 1894 to 1896. McInnis was elected to the board of the MDA at its 1891 annual meeting and was its secretary in 1894 and 1895. He would go on to serve as president from 1896 to 1899 and again from 1906 to 1907.

The Canadian Dental Association (CDA) was established in Montreal in September 1902. McInnis was one of 344 dentists who travelled to the founding meeting. There, he was elected to serve as the CDA's first registrar and made the motion to approve the organization's first code of ethics which passed unanimously.

McInnis spoke at length at the CDA's founding meeting about the difficulty of having a national profession when the licensing of those who work in it is done provincially: "...it is apparent to any reasonable man that a dentist who is fit to practice under license in one part of Canada is, morally speaking, fit to practice in any part of Canada." This led to the passage of several motions aimed at having provincial bodies, like the MDA, standardize many rules about who is a dentist and what one must go through to become one.

McInnis was the CDA's president from 1906 - 1907 and served as an associate editor of the Dominion Dental Journal from 1895 to 1907.


December 8, 1904, Winnipeg Tribune


In addition to what was an incredibly busy career as a dentist, McInnis also found time to represent Brandon in the Legislature. He was elected three times as a member of the Rodmond Roblin's Conservative government - from 1900 to1903, 1903 to1907, and 1907 to 1910.

It is unclear if politics was something McInnis actively pursued. He did not seek the nomination for his first campaign. He was a member of the Conservative constituency association and became a last-minute replacement when their candidate withdrew two weeks before polling day.

In that first contest, which took place in December 1899, he beat Charles Adams, a prominent merchant, former mayor, and two-time incumbent MLA, by nine votes.

McInnis was re-elected in July 1903 over former Mayor A. C. Fraser by 45 votes and again in March 1907 over former alderman and mayor  J. W. Fleming by 129 votes.


June 14, 1907, Brandon Sun


W. Leland Clark in Brandon's Politics and Politicians refers to McInnis as "an unimpressive provincial member" noting that near the end of his second term as a member of the ruling party several political decisions were made that did not favour the city.

For one, the province's Agricultural College was established in the Municipality of Tuxedo just outside of Winnipeg in 1906. When the city's Normal School was on the chopping block in 1906, some, including Clark, felt it was the outrage expressed by city council and the Brandon Sun, not McInnis, that prevented it from closing. Also in 1906, there was a big push to have Brandon College obtain a university charter after a large delegation from the city appeared before cabinet but it never materialized.

It wasn't until eight years into his political career that McInnis was appointed to the provincial cabinet, only the second Brandonite to hold such a position after James A. Smart under Thomas Greenway. He was sworn in as Provincial Secretary and Minister of Education in late June 1907 but would never stand in the house.

March 7, 1907, Brandon Weekly Sun

It is hard to say how much disdain there was for McInnis and how much of it was really aimed at the policies of the federal Tory party and the increasingly corrupt Roblin provincial Conservative government, (which had to resign in 1915 over the Legislative building construction scandal with Roblin being spared criminal charges due to ill health.)

The Brandon Sun was a Liberal paper and there was little that McInnis could have done to please its editorial board. This, in turn, means that the legacy of local news coverage about his time in politics is very negative.

McInnis did some good things for the region during his time in office, such as securing a large grant to build a two-storey addition to the Brandon General Hospital in 1904.

When the Sanatorium Board of Manitoba was established in 1904 McInnis pushed for the creation of a large provincial TB sanatorium. When money wasn't forthcoming from his government he vowed to raise $50,000, about half the cost, himself by hitting up business and community leaders across the province.

By mid-November 1906 he had raised $11,759 and in August 1907 visited a site at Ninette, Manitoba, where the province's main TB Sanatorium would eventually be built in 1909.

When Brandon faced a fuel crisis in December 1906 McInnis contacted the federal government and secured a promise that emergency permits to cut spruce wood would be provided free to families and that the hospital could borrow coal from the post office's supply.


Brandon Rugby Club, 1906 (Daly House Museum)

It could have been that McInnis was distracted from political duties - and maybe didn't even want a cabinet position - given his dental practice and the time and travel required by the provincial and federal dental associations. He also had a remarkable number of community organizations that he was heavily involved in after 1900.

McInnis was a founding patron of the Brandon Operatic Society in 1905, president of the Brandon Rugby team (at least in 1906), a citizen member of Brandon's parks board (1906), and president of the Brandon Horticultural Society (from at least 1900 to 1907).

McInnis partnered with F. J. Clark around 1906 to create the real estate firm McInnis and Clark with an office in the Bank of Commerce building. It dealt mainly in farmland and other rural properties.

According to McInnis' entry in Manitoba its Resources and People published in 1906, McInnis was also a director of the Western Agricultural and Arts Association and at times was the president of the Manitoba Provincial Game Protective Association, the Brandon Athletic Club, the Brandon Turf Club and the Brandon Gun Club (for at least ten years). His Dictionary of Canadian Biography entry also notes he was a director of the Brandon Board of Trade and a founding board member of the Brandon Fire Assurance Company.

What drove McInnis to pack so much community service into a city he had moved to less than a decade earlier? Perhaps, subconsciously, he knew that his life would be a short one.


November 4, 1907, Winnipeg Tribune

McInnis was part of a hunting party with the Oak Lake Shooting Club in the fall of 1908 when he was struck down with appendicitis. A local doctor diagnosed him but due to the remote location it took days to get him back to Brandon where renowned Winnipeg doctor Henry H. Chown was waiting to operate along with local doctors Macdonald and Anderson.

The surgery took place on Saturday, November 2, around 5:00 pm and doctors found that the appendix had already ruptured and nothing could be done. They broke the news to McInnis after he awoke that he had just hours before he would be poisoned to death.

McInnis had numerous visitors on Sunday including the premier and senior cabinet ministers. That evening he summoned his business partner F. J. Clark (who by this time was also Brandon's mayor), his lawyer and a stenographer. With his wife at his side, he dictated some letters and put his affairs in order. A few hours later, McInnis was paralyzed from the waist down and could not hold down food or water.

A ten-page article about McInnis in the Dominion Dental Journal recounted that shortly after 5:30 pm on Monday, November 4, 1907, he said "Good-bye everybody; I hear a ringing in my ears. I feel something is going to happen". He then "folded his hands, turned on his side, and breathing softly for a minute or two, he died, peacefully, and with no failing of the courage and sanity that enabled him to meet death as bravely as man ever did."

Stanley McInnis was 42-years-old.


November 7, 1907, Brandon Weekly Sun

 
Brandonites were stunned to find that a man who played such a big role in their political and community lives had died.

The Brandon Sun called McInnis a "friend to all" and wrote, "All Brandon has been thrown under a gloom by the death of the Hon. S. W. McInnis. All day long the flags have been flying from the leading buildings at half-mast. In business it has caused a lull such has never before been experienced."

The paper also noted that Brandon city council passed a motion expressing their condolences to his widow and "passed an informal resolution requesting that the body of the departed minister be conveyed to the city hall and there be allowed to lie in state in order that the Brandon citizens may look for the last time on the face of their departed...."

McInnis did lie in state at city hall on the afternoon of Wednesday, November 6th. The body was then returned to his Victoria Avenue home.

The death was also felt around the province and internationally through his professional dealings.

The British Dental Journal in their obituary of McInnis quoted the editor of the Dental Review of Chicago who wrote, "Dentistry has seldom developed a man of such talent as Dr. McInnis, or one who brought its needs so vividly before the people. At the time of his death he had under way many philanthropic plans for the betterment of the people of his Province, and his death is a distinct loss to the community as well as the profession."


Cortege in Brandon (Daly House Museum)

Brandon's city bell in the Central Fire Hall rang out at 9:00 a.m. Thursday morning which signalled the funeral cortege to leave the McInnis house and proceed to St. Matthews Church. The procession consisted of around 1,000 people, including the St. Matthews Church choir, the Salvation Army band, the premier and many MLAs, the mayor and city council, Brandon's fire brigade, members of the board of trade, Brandon College teachers and students, and hundreds of school children. Hundreds more lined the route.

Rev. A. U. de Pencier conducted the funeral service at the church. From there, the minister, coffin and about 200 mourners boarded a special train for Winnipeg.

The train was met in Winnipeg by Archbishop Matheson and "many hundreds including practically all the representative men of the city in all branches of commercial and professional life", according to the Free Press. It did not mention if his former employer James Ashdown, was among them.

Citizens and companies donated the use of their carriages to bring the mourners from the train station to Brookside Cemetery where the burial would take place. The Free Press noted that the procession was so long that de Pencier had no choice but to begin the graveside service before they had all arrived. They were still coming as the ceremony finished.


The Legacy


Copy of McInnis' letter (Daly House Museum)
 
One of the items McInnis dictated while dying in his hospital bed was an open letter to the people of Brandon that was published in the Brandon Sun on November 5, 1907.

In it, he said the community work he had done brought him pleasure and that "I love Brandon and all its streets and all its people." He then provided advice on the management of hospitals, the need for a Ruthenian (Ukraine region) ESL school in Brandon and the hope that the city would spend more on parks and public art.

The letter concluded, "That heaven prosper the fair city of Brandon, and all kind friends in it, is my parting wish."


Stanley Park ca. 1914 (Rob McInnis Postcard Collection)

As for a tribute to McInnis, a group of more than 20 citizens came together on November 18th at the city hall chambers under the chairmanship of Mr. F. Nation to discuss a fitting memorial.

A motion to name an institution for him was voted down but an idea for naming a park, such as West Park or the city hall grounds, got a better reception and was taken under consideration. It was also decided to start a collection so that a bust or statue could be erected in his honour.

A meeting one month later found that people were still working on their lists to get donations and that "subscriptions have been coming in slowly but steadily". As the committee had no idea how much money had been raised to date, discussions were put off until January. The McInnis memorial committee is not mentioned in newspapers again.

West Park, one of the city's oldest and largest at the time, was renamed for McInnis but not shortly after his death as many sources indicate.

The first mention of the new name comes in a Brandon Sun story about the April 19, 1913 Brandon parks board meeting. The matter of erecting signage at all of the city's parks, especially Stanley Park, was discussed. The chair "pointed out if press announcements as to the giving of concerts referred to Stanley Park many of the citizens might be at a loss." (A May 1913 Sun article mentions West Park, "or as it is now known, Stanley Park".)

It does not appear that there was a formal dedication ceremony and it is unclear why the committee chose to use McInnis' first name.


The Dental Practice


December 22, 1908, Brandon Sun 

Stanley McInnis was so busy in the years leading up to his death that he likely did not spend a lot of time in the clinic. The 1906 and 1907 Brandon street directories list him as "S. W. McInnis of McInnis and Clark" rather than dentist and show his brother was holding down the fort on Rosser Avenue.

Arthur McInnis continued to work in Brandon until late December 1908 when he sold the practice to Dr. Sanders and left for an extended winter vacation. A farewell dinner was held for him at Aagard's Cafe and he was feted for his community work, particularly in relation to the local sports scene.

The following year, he reappeared in Winnipeg and opened an office in the Somerset Block.


The Estate



McInnis residence (Source: Illustrated Souvenir of Brandon)
 
McInnis' assets were sold off over time. Twenty horses were auctioned at the Winter Fair in March 1908. As for his impressive real estate portfolio, the last to be sold were a handful of valuable city lots along Victoria Avenue in May 1912.

Clara McInnis did not keep the house for long. It was sold in 1908 to the Cornell family who stayed there until 1918. It was taken over the following year by the city as a convalescent home for those stricken with influenza. At one point it housed as many as fourteen patients.

After renting it out briefly to operate as a boarding house, the city gave the house to the Salvation Army in late 1920. It reopened after renovations in February 1921 as the Salvation Army Children's Home with room for up to 25 children who were orphaned, abused, or from families could no longer look after them. 


Eventide Home after 1954 (Salvation Army)

 
The house was renovated in 1937 and reopened in September as Eventide Home, a seniors residence for men, with a capacity of about a dozen residents. The house was expended twice, most notably in 1954 with an adjoining two-storey extension that brought its capacity to 64.

The aging building was not well suited for seniors with no elevator and little room for recreational activities. Through the 1960s it was often at half capacity and by 1968 the Salvation Army stated that it hoped to one day build a new, modern seniors block to replace the two seniors homes it operated in Brandon.

Eventide Home was demolished in 1984 to make way for the 60-bed Dinsdale Personal Care Home.


The Missus


Clara McInnis, November 7, 1907, Brandon Sun
 
It is likely that Stanley left a substantial financial estate behind for Clara and the couple did not have any children to divide it with.

Clara claimed in the 1901 census that she was 27-years-old, eight years younger than Stanley, which made her around 33 when he died. This made her much too young to live out the rest of her life as a widow. (Her exact age is disputed as you will see in the next blog post.)

The last Manitoba newspaper mention of Clara McInnis can be found in the June 25, 1908 Brandon Sun which noted that she left to visit Winnipeg. Not long after, she moved back to Boston and married musician Clement G. Miller on November 25, 1908. It is unclear when she died.

Next: The Mysterious Mrs. McInnis

Biographies of Stanley McInnis
Dictionary of Canadian Biography
Dominion Dental Journal (page 415)
A history of Manitoba: Its resources and its people (page 533)

Thanks to Aly at Daly House Museum for taking the time to show me their items related to Dr. McInnis.