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Picture of Portage 1873 Courtesy of the Manitoba Archives


It was during the ox-cart days that a colorful character by the name of Thomas Spence breezed into the country. He had been a British army officer and made it known that he was a political worker and that his aim was to see to the transfer of Rupert's Land to Canada. He and his wife arrived in Fort Garry in 1866.

There were a few ambitious men who had come from the east previous to that time, settled along the Red River and formed a party which they called "The Canadian Party". The aim of this party was to terminate the Hudson's Bay Company monopoly in order that the North-West could be opened to settlement. Thomas Spence became a willing worker in the "Canadian Party".

The only newspaper in the colony was the Nor' Wester with Dr. John C. Schultz as its editor. Dr. Schultz was a member of the party and Spence went to work for him soliciting subscriptions. After gaining the confidence of the settlers he claimed he had the author­ ity to draw up legal documents and arbitrate upon and adjust disputed accounts.

No one knows why he left Fort Garry and came to Portage la Prairie. Obviously a good talker, he took the village by storm upon his arrival here and had no difficulty in convincing the local council to set up a Republic, in 1867, and have himself elected President.

The Republic became known by anyone of three names: Republic of Portage la Prairie, Republic of Mani toba Of Republic of Caledonia.

Spence was on shakey ground, but communications in those days were not of the instant variety and it took awhile for the Govern-