DONALD ALEXANDER SMITH
In 1820 Lord Strathcona was
born on August 6, in a small cottage next to the old Castle Bridge over the Mosset Burn in Forres. After attending
school at Anderson's Institute in Forres ( now Anderson's Primary School ) he worked in the Town Clerk's Office until
1838. His Uncle, John Stuart, a Canadian pioneer and fur trader who worked for the Hudson's Bay Company, was a great
influence in his life and it was he who persuaded the young Lord Strathcona to go to Canada to take up employment as
a clerk for the Hudson's Bay Company at Hamilton Inlet, Labrador.
In 1869, now a "Special Commissioner"
appointed by the Canadian Government, Lord Strathcona was despatched to the Red River area
to quell the uprising of Louis Riel and his provisional government rebels. This had been
caused by the transfer of rights to "Rupert's Land" for £300,000 by the
Hudson's Bay Company to Canada. Lord Strathcona was imprisoned by Riel at Fort Garry until
February 1870 but it was not until 1872 that Lord Strathcona was officially thanked for
helping to avert bloodshed in the area.
In 1870 as a member of the North-West Council he passed
the "Smith Act" prohibiting intoxicating liquors because of Indian problems.
In 1871, the year when the Manitoba Act was passed
bringing the province into the Dominion, Lord Strathcona was elected member for Selkirk,
Manitoba, in the Dominion House of Commons. The same year he was also appointed Chief
Commissioner for Hudson's Bay Company affairs in the North West.
In 1874 Lord Strathcona was determined to complete the
bankrupt "St. Paul and Pacific Company" railway to the Canadian border, and he
hoped the Dominion Government would pay for its completion to Winnipeg.
In 1877 he persuaded his cousin, George Stephen, later
to become Lord Mountstephen, to join his railway group.
In 1879 the "St. Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba
Railway Company" was incorporated with George Stephen as President and Lord
Strathcona - Donald Smith - as Principal Director.
In 1880 a syndicate was formed with the aim of
completing a Canadian transcontinental railway. On December 10th the Canadian Pacific
railway Company's contract was laid before the House of Commons, with George Stephen as
one of the eight signatories. Lord Strathcona was not one, at his own request, but was
still deeply involved.
In 1881 building commenced on May 2nd at an average
of 2.6 miles per day.
In 1885 the railway was completed at 9:30 a.m. on
November 7th when Lord Strathcona drove the last spike at Craigellachie, British Columbia.
In 1886 Queen Victoria bestowed Donald Smith with a
Knighthood of the Order of St. Michael and St. George.
In 1887 Lord Strathcona returned to politics as well
as continuing his charitable and beneficial works. He lobbied for the protection of the
bison, and at one point owned the last herd. In the same year he and his cousin Lord
Mountstephen set aside $1,000,000 to erect a free hospital in Montreal commemorating Queen
Victoria's Jubilee. Situated on the flanks of Mount Royal, the Royal Victoria Hospital was
completed in 1893, and both men endowed it with a further $800,000.
In 1897 Lord Strathcona was created a peer of the
realm in June, taking the title "Baron Strathcona and Mount Royal of Glencoe,
Argyllshire and Montreal, Canada" ( Lord Strathcona ).
In 1890 being concerned about Britain's efforts in the
Boer War, he created the "Strathcona Horse" - a mobile force of 600 Canadian
rough riders led by Colonel Steele. Lord Strathcona never forgot his home in Forres.
Amongst his many good deeds was a contribution of some £8,238 towards the Leanchoil
Hospital in Forres which admitted its first patient on 24 Apr 1892 and was named after
his mother's birthplace.
In 1900 he was given the Freedom of the Royal Burgh of
In 1902 he laid the foundation stone of the Forres
United Free Church and also the stone of the new St. Lawrence Church.
In 1914 January 21st he died at 28 Grosvenor Square in
Chris Bridgeford - Scotland, United Kingdom.