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Business startups fast-paced in 1881 Brandon

Coombs Stewart 1881 Heritage Brandon

The first store erected in Brandon, May 1881. photo: Brandon A Prospect of a City.

In the spring of 1881, Major-General Thomas L. Rosser, Chief Engineer for the Canadian Pacific Railway, chose the six year old settlement of Grand Valley as the railroad’s first divisional point west of Winnipeg.

But an argument over a money settlement with the town’s major landowner, Dougald McVicar, and the site’s susceptibility to flooding, forced Rosser to choose an alternative location.

At the end of May 1881, he directed the Dominion Land Surveyor, J.W. Vaughan, to a point two miles further up the Assiniboine River. – Brandon: An Architectural Walking Tour

The presence of surveyors indicated that the creation of a townsite was just a matter of days.

Lots began to be sold and merchants began to arrive:


The first grocery store in Brandon, Coombs and Stewart, was built at the northeast corner of Sixth Street and Pacific Avenue.

Managed by Mr. Stewart, its wares were first housed in a tent.

It was replaced by rough boards when on May 28, 1881 the steamer North West arrived from Winnipeg with a load of lumber for Whitehead and Myer, the first lumber merchants.

This store was replaced by a larger building fifty feet south of the original site in November.

Owen Carson opened his grocery store at the west side of Sixth Street between Pacific and Rosser Avenues in June.

He was quickly followed by G. H. Munroe, grocer, who opened beside Carson.

William Sinkbell, Brandon’s premier shoe merchant opened his store in June.

It was located on Ninth Street between Pacific and Rosser Avenues.

A. Fisher, A. Kelly, W. M. Alexander and R. Sutherland united under the name of Fisher Company in June.

They founded the Brandon Flouring Mill on the north side of the C.P.R. track, on the river bank near the dam.

Dr. Fleming was the first medical doctor to arrive.

Apothecary Hall 1881 Daly House Museum

He opened an apothecary in May, first in a tent, then in a wooden shanty.

He built the two-storey Apothecaries Hall at the corner of Eight Street and Rosser Avenue in 1882.

In June, P. E. Durst and Company opened Brandon’s pioneer jewellery store.

It was built on the north side of Rosser Avenue between Eighth and Ninth Streets.

Ezekiel Evans was the first dealer and importer of horses, in a day when a good horse was a prime necessity.

Charles Pilling opened the first hotel, The Royal, in the early summer.

It was located on the south side of Rosser Avenue between Twelfth and Thirteenth Streets.

The Brandon Hotel at the northwest corner of Sixth Street and Pacific Avenue, under the proprietorship of Paulin and Louis Bergeron and Company, was opened soon afterwards.

The third hostelry, The Queens, opened in October on the south side of Rosser Avenue between Ninth and Tenth Streets.

Brandon’s population at the end of June 1881, was not great, possibly about 100 persons, including business people.

New arrivals continued to come.

The  Bower, Blackburn, Mundel and Porter grocery store opened in July at the east corner of Tenth Street and Pacific Avenue.

McDougall and McPherson, building contractors, came at the same time.

Brandon’s first lawyer, Thomas Mayne Daly, arrived early in July.

He soon added realtor to his titles of barrister, solicitor, notary public and commissioner in B.R.

In August, Thomas Lee and Company opened a saddlery on the west side of   Sixth Street between Rosser and Princess Avenues.

Munroe and Warwick, a pioneer hardware concern opened on the north side of Rosser Avenue between Sixth and Seventh Streets.

James A. Smart opened a month later. His hardware was on the west side of Sixth Street between Rosser and Pacific Avenues.

The firm of D. M. McMillan and Company, real estate agents, hung out their sign in August.

A pioneer surveying and civil engineering firm, Poudrier and Brownlee, the banking firm of Manning and Company represented by Mr. E. Hughes, the Brandon Saw Mills represented by J. N. Shields and Company, all arrived in August.

This flood of newcomers was due to the building of the track and the fast approach of the railway.

The station was on Pacific Avenue, north of Fifth Street.

The Brandon Planing Mills was founded by Messrs. Fisher and Company.

Wright and Wright, tinsmiths, Vivian and Hellyar, real estate company came in October.

[A few months later, on May 30, 1882, these startups became the founders of the business district in the newly established city of Brandon]

The Assiniboine Basin by Martin Kavanagh



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