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Wilson, James Robert (1866–1941)

James Robert Wilson.
Saskatchewan Archives Board R-B3046

Born September 16, 1866, near Almonte, Ontario, James Wilson moved west with his parents in 1883, being among the first to settle in the Dundurn district. Wilson served in the medical corps during the 1885 Resistance. He tried various enterprises from farming to railroad contracting before starting a successful general store in Saskatoon in 1899. In 1902 he opened a flour mill in Saskatoon and later expanded into a grain company, both of which he eventually sold to Quaker Oats.

Elected overseer for the village of Saskatoon in 1903, Wilson guided the community through the growth that would lead to the community’s incorporation as a city in 1907. Saskatoon’s first mayor from 1907 to 1908, Wilson used his personal wealth to guarantee loans for the city to build its basic sewer infrastructure. He unsuccessfully contested the provincial election for the Conservatives in Saskatoon in 1908. Wilson was elected to Saskatoon city council in 1914 and remained there until 1919.

Wilson was elected in the riding of Saskatoon as a Unionist in 1917. Upon the appointment of James Calder to the Senate, Wilson was brought into the Cabinet in 1921 as Minister without portfolio. A few months later he was defeated in the Progressive sweep of the province. He remained involved in many community causes, including being a proponent of the Hudson Bay railroad. Wilson served as chair of the Dominion Farm Loans Board before his death on April 3, 1941.

Brett Quiring

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