CPR Telegraph Ledger - Introduction

Introduction:

The Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan is proud to share an important piece of history which recently made its way back to Canada. This ledger book is filled with approximately one thousand handwritten transcribed telegrams sent and received during the final months of the North-West Resistance, from April 18th until June 26th, 1885. (PAS_TR_107_0001_Cover_1)

The ledger appears to have been created and later kept by John Myers Egan (1848-1923), who was the General Superintendent of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) Western Division from 1882-1886. It is likely that most of the telegrams in the ledger were sent through the Winnipeg headquarters of the CPR. The Canadian Pacific Railway Company had offered its train and telegraph services to the Government of Canada to move supplies and troops and facilitate communication during the Resistance. Many of the telegrams relate to battles around Batoche and Battleford, and were sent to or from the Clark’s Crossing telegraph station near Batoche. Other telegrams were sent to or from areas including Fort Pitt, Qu’Appelle, Walsh, Fish Creek, Saskatchewan Landing, and Swift Current.

Besides John Myers Egan, other individuals sending and/or receiving telegrams, and names referenced throughout the telegram collection include Major-General Frederick D. Middleton, Mrs. Middleton, Edgar Dewdney, Honourable A. P. Caron, William Bell, Major-General Thomas Bland Strange, Chiefs Pasqua,  Big Bear, and Poundmaker, Sir John A. MacDonald, and Louis Riel. The telegrams make reference to attack strategies, casualties at various battles, supply requests, and the capture of Riel. There are also numerous long dispatches to newspaper offices providing updates on the battles.

The story of the ledger book after its creation is very interesting. When John Myers Egan left the Canadian Pacific Railway Company in 1886, he moved to the United States. Evidently, he took the ledger with him. At some point after this, the ledger was possibly passed on to his son, John Myers Egan Jr., and then from his son to his granddaughters, Sue (Helen Suzanne) and Jane Egan. When Sue Egan died in Clearwater, Florida in 2002, a portion of her estate was bequeathed to her friends, Charlie and Edie Brown. They had leased a space in the Egan sisters’ antique shop, The Bellringer, in Dunedin, Florida. The ledger was included in this bequest. After her husband Charlie died, Edie Brown passed the ledger on to Garry Rollins, the husband of Charlie’s niece. Rollins recognized the possible significance of the ledger, contacted the Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan, and donated the record in 2015. 

 

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