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Upper Fort Garry Court House

Upper Fort Garry Court House

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This court House was the venue for meetings of the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia when they brought Manitoba into Confederation in 1870.
This court House was the venue for meetings of the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia when they brought Manitoba into Confederation in 1870.

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Published by: Lawrence J. Barkwell on Jul 31, 2013
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Upper Fort Garry Court House: Venue for the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia
Court House History:
On December 8, 1866, Thomas Spence, loyalist, toper, and man of many parts, called a public meeting for 10:30 a.m. at the Court House, Upper Fort Garry, for the purpose of  passing a resolution in favour of the establishment of a Crown Colony at Red River.However, Spence and four cronies, it seems, knowing there would be strong oppositionfrom American sympathizers in the settlement, met by design at 9:30 a.m. - one hour ahead of the appointed time for the public meeting. They started the proceedingsinformally, strengthening their convictions by quaffing several snorts of Jamaica rum,and then passed a resolution and drafted a petition to Queen Victoria, "on behalf of certain worthy citizens," praying Her Majesty to hasten the establishment of a CrownColony at Red River. Then, having thwarted the opposition, they closed their unorthodoxassembly. As their loyal huzzahs were fading away, the supporters of annexation to theUnited States appeared en masse on the Court House steps, prompt, ready, and well primed for the 10:30 meeting. They had come from a preliminary meeting of their own in"Dutch George" Emmerling's hotel, where the proprietor, a leading exponent of annexation, had strengthened his hold on their loyalty by dispensing liberal doses of hisown "potent persuasive potion," known throughout the settlement as "Oh Be Joyful."On 8 April 1867 some of the residents of the small hamlet at the confluence of the Redand Assiniboine Rivers met in the Court House to organize a parish, and a buildingcommittee was appointed. At first, religious services were held in the Court House, justoutside the enclosure of Fort Garry, and afterwards in the upper level of Red River Hallnear the corner of what are now Portage Avenue and Main Streets.On March 17
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, 1870, in the morning church services were held, and in the eveningeveryone gathered at 8 o’clock at the Court House, Upper Fort Garry, to join in acelebration. The Legislative Chamber was gaily decorated, the flag of the ProvisionalGovernment being used along with many other flags. Father Dugas’ band from St.Boniface mingled Irish and French airs. The Honourable William B. O’Donoghue waschairman, and on his right sat the President of the Provisional Government. There werespeeches - the Chairman, the President, the Chief Justice, Father Lestanc, Father Dugas,and Father McCarthy all spoke - so did Messrs.Bannatyne, Bunn, Bird and Scott -followed by Dr. O’Donnell, John Henry McTavish
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, William Coldwell, J. C. Kennedy, J.Kennedy - and others.The celebrations lasted into the wee small hours, fortified as the revellers were withsherry and champagne— probably liberated from the Hudson’s Bay Stores.
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McTavish was an accountant at Fort Garry in 1869-70, he was unrelated to HBC Governor McTavish. Hewas a Roman Catholic and spoke French fluently. He was rumoured to be a sympathizer of the Métis. Hewas in charge of Upper Fort Garry after the departure of Governor McTavish in 1870. He was elected as aconservative representing Ste. Anne to the first legislature of Manitoba.
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The President of the Provisional Government, Louis Riel, who sat at the right of theChairman, was the then occupant of “Government Rouse.” He had seized the residence of Dr. Cowan inside the walls of Fort Garry and was using it as the headquarters of theProvisional Government and he called it “Government House.”2
 
John Balsillie's plan of Upper Fort Garry and adjacent structures, c. 1868. Provincial Archive of Manitoba.
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