Bird’s Hill was named for James Bird, who received a sizable land grant in the area upon retirement from the Company. He and his son Curtis both served in high positions in early Manitoba politics.
James Curtis Bird was one of Western Canada’s early “rulers in the wilderness”. Bird left London in 1788 on a four-year apprenticeship with the Hudson’s Bay Company and York Factory.
After completing this term in 1792, he transferred to the Saskatchewan country. He went on to command and establish numerous inland HBC posts.
The company was so impressed with his efforts that they put this essential man in charge of the entire Saskatchewan region, from Cumberland House to the Rockies, in 1803. Bird even served as acting governor for all of Rupertsland from 1816-1818. In his final years with the company, he was chief factor for the Lower Red River area.
When Bird retired in 1824, he was given a sizeable land grant in the Red River colony. His property on Bird’s Hill became an important refuge for colonists fleeing flood waters. He became an important upper class colonist, and sat on the council of Assiniboia for 17 years.
His experience was unquestioned, even if his reputation as a self-important, harsh, and even violent man was not respected.
Bird’s son, Curtis James, studied at St. John’s College in Winnipeg and Guy’s Hospital in London to become a doctor. In 1861, he became the coroner for the council of Assiniboia, after Dr. Bunn. Curtis James was also a politician.
Before Manitoba entered confederation, he sat on the council of Assiniboia. He was also a delegate at Louis Riel’s Convention of Forty, which drafted Riel’s Bill of Rights. In Manitoba’s first election, he became an MLA.
In one unsavoury incident as the speaker of the house, Curtis James Bird was lured from his home, pulled from his sleigh, and drenched with hot oil. He survived the event, and passed away in London two years later.