Robert TAIT (1830-1912)
Born in the Red River settlement on 24 April 1830, the third son of William Tait (1793-1872) and Mary Auld, he received very little schooling and at the age of eleven was hired as a chore boy at the Hudson’s Bay Company model farm at the junction of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers.
On 16 December 1858, he married Janet Inkster (1838-1926, daughter of John Inkster) and they had seven children: Thomas Herbert Tait (1860-1894), Timoleon John Tait (1861-1940), Colin Tait (1861-?), Ellen Harriet Tait (1866-?, wife of George Cumming), Alexander Charles Tait (1867-?), Mary Tait (1867-?), and Adelaide Tait (1872-1901).
In 1843, he was apprenticed to the blacksmith at Lower Fort Garry but after a year and a half left the Colony with Mr. Ayr, a missionary from the Red Lake country, Minnesota, and eventually settled at St. Paul. He returned to the Red River Settlement about 1850, bringing with him the first reaping machine. The following year he introduced the first threshing machine to the Colony. In 1867, he purchased a property in St. James near Deer Lodge. He opened a store for fur trading and operated a large farm. In 1869, he built the first steam grist mill in St. James. In 1878, he owned and operated a steam ferry between Winnipeg and St. Boniface. With his son, he also maintained a cattle ranch about six miles south of Oakville station for several years. He was one of the founders of the Winnipeg Board of Trade, in 1873, and was a candidate for the St. James constituency in the 1874 provincial general election.
At the time of his death on 01 March 1912, Tait was Winnipeg’s oldest pioneer and his funeral was witnessed by the largest gathering at the St. James church to that date. He was buried in the St. James Cemetery.
- Reprinted with permission from Manitoba Historical Society and updated.
- Obituary [T.H. Tait], Winnipeg Tribune, 02 April 1894, page 4.
- Obituary [Timoleon John Tait], Times Colonist [Victoria, BC], 03 May 1940, page 13.
- Obituary [Adelaide Tait], Manitoba Free Press, 02 December 1901, page 5.
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