Filing Cabinet: Notes on Colin Inkster

Transcript. edited excerpt from an interview with Graham Walley (1996), about the years c. 1919 in Riverview district, Winnipeg.

I always remember, somewhere or another, Mom and Dad had been in touch with Sheriff Inkster. And he came out to visit us one time. He used to ride the buses down to the foot of Morley Avenue right before the hospitals, and he walked across the prairie to visit us, on Florence Avenue. And I always remember that he was a tall man walking across the prairie with this black coat, coming across the field. So that was Sheriff Inkster.

And so these, they were — I don’t remember anything else except — but I know they were in touch with him. And then of course, they must have talked a lot … when we were on the farm with the Inksters themselves, see?

And so I’m sure Mom and Dad must have talked a lot about their connections, whatever they were, but I was never privy to any of that or if I was I don’t remember.

Except I knew, I am very conscious of the fact that we did have a Sheriff Inkster who was our great-uncle or something, like that see?

I forget what we called him other than — I don’t know what his first name was. We didn’t call him ‘Uncle Inkster.’

And I always — but those memories are kind of blended in, I have no specific — that’s the only, the one specific incident, memory, I do have though: I remember him coming to visit one day in the middle of winter. It was cold and snow on the ground.

Transcript, note, from Colin Inkster to Mrs. Cecil Walley, 17 February 1927, from the autograph album of Nina Cameron Graham.

Febry 17th 1927

Mrs Cecil Walley

Dear Kinswoman,

I thank you sincerely for your very kind and complimentary letters.

The Eleven Court of Appeal and King’s Bench Judges conferred a great honor on me a poor old man in his 84th year. The honour was far more than I deserved. They did it of their own accord I couldnt stop them.

I sent a copy of the Free Press, which contains the Souvenir — so she shall have two copies (you sent me)

Yes your neighbor Wm Inkster is a nephew. I let him know what a wonderfully capable woman you were. he will find that out for himself very shortly.

A farmers life on a farm in this country is a hard one. and is especially hard on the farmers wife. The winters are so long and cold and food costs so much. it may be all right for a woman that is brought up on a farm, but a city bred woman like you that was brought up with and amidst kindly surroundings it takes a good deal of pluck to fight the battle successfully. however I think you are made of the stuff that will overcome many difficulties.

I hope your family are all well. There is a great deal of sickness in and around Winnipeg

On Monday morning Free Press there were 30 death notices in its columns. We are all well at Bleak House.

With kindest regards and best wishes to yourself, husband and family I remain yrs affectionately

Colin Inkster

Transcript, newspaper clipping [assumed to be from a Winnipeg newspaper, dated by hand as “Feb 8’/27”] from the autograph album of Nina Cameron Graham.

“Sheriff is Honored by Judges”

[photo of plaque or certificate with text:]


In commemoration of fifty-one years of continuous and faithful service rendered to his native Province of Manitoba by Colin Inkster High Sheriff first of the Province, and subsequently of the Eastern Judicial District, at dinner was this date rendered him at the Manitoba Club with expression of esteem, by his friends the Justices of the Court of Appeal and of the Court of King’s Bench, February 4th 1927 [with signatures]


Above is a reproduction of the souvenir signed by all the justices of the court of appeal and king’s bench presented Friday to Colin Inkster, at the Manitoba Club, where dinner was given in his honor on the occasion of the 1st anniversary of his appointment as high sheriff, and attended by all judges of the higher court.

Transcript, newspaper clipping [assumed to be from a Winnipeg newspaper, no date] from the autograph album of Nina Cameron Graham.

“The ‘Sheriff ‘ Was Great Sportsman and Athlete: Another in the series on Winnipeg street names by Harry Shave”

The name Inkster for the very attractive and well kept boulevard near the north city limit, was so named in honor of the late Hon. Colin Inkster. The “Sheriff” was one of Winnipeg’s best known and most highly respected citizens. Born in Kildonan august 3, 1843, he spent his boyhood days in the attractive log home which is now maintained as an historic site in West Kildonan.

John Inkster, Colin’s father, came to Canada from the Orkney Islands in 1821. He married Mary Sinclair, whose father, also from the Orkneys, had been in Manitoba since 1805. John Inkster started life here as a stone mason, with an income of fifteen English pounds a year. In due course he became justice of the peace, magistrate, and councillor of Assiniboia, as well as a successful merchant and farmer.

Colin Inkster was educated at St. John;s College. The early years of his career were spent on his father’s farm. The years 1870-71 were epoch making years for him.

In 1870 he succeeded his father as minister’s warden of St. John’s Cathedral. At the same time, his friend George Tait succeeded his father William Tait as people’s warden.

On March 18, 1871, Colin married Annie Tait, his friend’s sister.

In the same year he became one of the first legislative councillors of Manitoba. He served in that capacity until 1876. After serving as speaker of the house for two years, he cast the deciding vote, in 1876, to abolish the Upper House.

In the same year he was appointed sheriff and served in that capacity for 52 years. His services as cathedral warden were exceeded by no man in the history of the Canadian church — sixty-four years.

In his younger years ‘the Sheriff,’ as he was known with affection by thousands of western Canadian citizens, was an enthusiastic sportsman. For many years he had a shooting lodge on the shore of Lake Manitoba. where each fall he spent a couple of weeks at duck shooting time.

He was fleet of foot and won many prizes for his prowess in the athletic field. As a young man he began making it a regular practice to use a skipping rope for 15 minutes every morning before breakfast. This he continued to do for over 50 years.

One of the Sheriff’s most vivid recollections in his later life was the refusal by Louis Riel to receive him as as one of a delegation in 1859 [sic]. Riel’s refusal was based on his claim that Inkster was a dangerous man.

On an occasion prior to that episode, Inkster had grabbed Riel by the coat collar and made him listen to what Inkster had to say. After a lot of parley, Riel agreed to allow Inkster to see him, as one of  a delegation of two. But Riel made sure he was well guarded.

It was at his shooting lodge in September 1934 that an accident occurred which resulted in his death on September 28. The building was on fire when he was rescued, but his age (91 years) was against the possibility of recovery. His burial place is in St. John’s Cathedral cemetery, close by the church he had served so faithfully. On the inside west wall of the cathedral, a bronze plaque commemorates the memory of the man who “was an exemplerary [sic] member of the congregation throughout his entire life.”

The foregoing is a brief synopsis of the life of Hon. Colin Inkster. Now, what has been the history of Inkster Boulevard?

When it was first laid out July 15, 1903, its expanse was from Main Street to the Red River, and it was named Inkster Avenue. West of Main Street was prairie land. East of Main were a few small cottages. The street was, and is, 66 feet wide. Four years were to pass before a 90=foot wide avenue was laid out west of Main Street. This was widened to 120 feet by a by-law July 3, 1911.

It was not until September 22, 1913 that a by-law was passed changing the name to Inkster Boulevard. The Boulevard now became a two-way street with boulevards in the centre and on both sides, beautifully treed with shrubs at the entrance west of Main Street.

At this time some authorities expressed the opinion that the boulevard should be extended to the west city limit and south to the Assiniboine, and the name changed to Sharpe Boulevard. The boulevard does extend west to within two or three blocks of the city limit, where it becomes Kitchener Avenue and continues on to the municipality of Rosser, under that name. The name was never changed, for which, I am sure, all old timers are thankful.

Transcript, newspaper clipping [assumed to be from the Free Press] from the autograph album of Nina Cameron Graham, with handwritten notation, “Sheriff Inkster ‘gave me away’ when I was married on Oct 12th 1912 He was my Grandmother Slater’s first cousin on Mother’s side of the family.”

Yarns of Early Winnipeg, No. 35

“The Sheriff was an Encyclopedia,” by W.E. Ingersoll

In the Yarns of May 19, I accidentally listed the name Inkster among the men who had left luxury and civilization to answer the call, Go North Young Priest. I meant to refer, not to Inkster but to Stringer — Archbishop Isaac O. Stringer, who was the successor to Archbishop S.P. Matheson. I had been looking up something about Sheriff Colin Inkster, and his name slipped into the typewriter where I meant to write Stringer.

But I definitely mean to write Inkster this time. Sheriff Colin Inkster always considered his proudest duty that of sidesman and chief laymen of St. John’s Cathedral, which he fulfilled for sixty odd years. He was High Sheriff of Manitoba for over fifty years, but that was only a side-line, in the Sheriff’s estimate. Hobnobbing with Red River churchmen and furthering the work of the Anglican Church — in those days the Church of England in Canada — was Sheriff Inkster’s chosen job. Besides assiduously serving in St. John’s Cathedral, he thought nothing of driving in a light wagon the 700 odd miles from Red River to the Twin Cities and back — greeting high-stalking Sioux warriors on the unprotected Minnesota prairie with a disarming salute of the peaceful red-willow gad which was his bronco-whip.

For Years, Sheriff Inkster was a walking encyclopedia of Red River history. One of the Sheriff’s closest friends was the late W.J. Healy, who left the Free Press, where he had been associate editor, to become provincial librarian. Whenever Librarian Healy wanted to check Red River history, he went not to a book but over to the office of Sheriff Inkster, and the sheriff business stopped dead till W.J. and the Sheriff had duly checked their historical reference. Sometimes, if the matter was important enough, Healy dated the Sheriff for a speech soon at some central rostrum down-town, and the hall was always filled.

The writer of this article, who had begun his interest in local history when he was cutting his teeth, was another who was always dogging the sheriff’s footsteps. Once, when he was a youngster and the sheriff was over 90, the writer had the luxury of spending a whole day with Sheriff Inkster. The day began in the sheriff’s house near the Seven Oaks monument, off Main Street, and continued in the old Inkster house half-way down to the Red river. The way was blocked with deep drifts, through which the sheriff, in spite of the fact that he would be 100 in a few years, strode like a boy, only condescending to lean on my shoulder where the drifts were up to his chest. It was on that walk that he admitted, for probably the first time in his life, that he was getting to be an old man. That was when I asked him why a man who was paying $3,000 a year in taxes had not yet bought a car.

“Oh, I guess I’m — ” he stopped and glanced at me cautiously — “I guess I’m getting too old and nervous … Say, don’t put that in the paper!”

The Sheriff died as nobly and as thriftily as he had lived. He was out with a hunting party, at a beach cottage. The rest of the party, young and middle-aged, got up early and went out to hunt, leaving the sheriff in bed alone to finish his sleep.

The cottage caught fire. The fire was yet small when the sheriff woke up. He could have run out the doors quite unharmed; but, though the cottage was not his, he stayed to put the fire out — and he put it out. But when the rest got back, the veteran was sitting in a bunk, gasping.

Sheriff Inkster died of pneumonia, induced by smoke swallowed in saving another man’s house.


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