Members of the Gunn family were important figures in early Manitoba. Donald and his son John played important roles in religion, politics, education, science, and enterprise.
At this picturesque creek in the woods of Little Britain, a cultured and enterprising Scotsman made his home in the early 19th century.
In his youth, Donald Gunn left the treeless lands of Caithness, in the north of Scotland, to work for the Hudson’s Bay Company. He spent ten years with the company at posts in the far north of modern Manitoba and Ontario.
In 1823, Gunn settled onto a farm in the Red River colony. There, he became a pillar for Manitoba’s early Presbyterians.
He taught school, and helped set up a building for organized church activity. He also dabbled in scientific pursuits, acting as a correspondent with, and collector for the Smithsonian Institute in Washington.
Donald’s son, John, set up the mill along the creek that bears their clan name. They built almost the entirety of it with local mechanical skill and supplies. A few parts came from Missouri, and the millstone itself was cut from granite on Lake Winnipeg’s east side.
The mill operated in the 1850s, 60s, and 70s.
In his later years, Donald Gunn served in prominent political positions. During the Red River Rebellion, he became a delegate for St. Andrews to the Convention of Forty.
After confederation, he served on the legislative council of the province for five years. The legislative council was the now-abolished upper house of the Manitoba legislature, equivalent to the federal senate.
Gunn’s most lasting contribution to Manitoba history was quite literally history. His name was numbered among those of Manitoba’s first historians, with the posthumous publication of his History of Manitoba.