The most recent inductee into the WinnipegREALTORS® Citizens Hall of Fame was described by Mayor Sam Katz as a man who helped “lay the foundation for what would become a great city.”
Sir Augustus Nanton (1860- 1925) is the 41st inductee into the hall of fame, which was established in 1986 to honour Winnipeggers who have made an outstanding contribution to the community.
The bronze medallion signifying his induction into the hall of fame was presented by WinnipegREALTORS® president David Powell to Nanton’s great-grandson, Geoff Nanton, during a special ceremony on September 11 at Fort Whyte Alive. The next day, his bronze portraiture was placed in the Formal Garden of Assiniboine Park.
“When reading about the early history of Winnipeg,” said Ted Ransby, who nominated Nanton for the hall of fame, “it struck me how often his name was mentioned ... His achievements were legendary.”
The decision in 1883 to invest in Western Canada by Toronto-based Osler & Hammond required an office in Winnipeg and the firm of Osler, Hammond & Nanton was formed with Nanton the Winnipeg resident partner.
“He really took to heart his assignment when he was relocated from Toronto to Winnipeg,” said Rick Preston, the chair of the hall of fame selection committee. “With considerable assets to invest in developing Winnipeg and opening up the Canadian West, it was a mission he absolutely relished. And with great pride and integrity, Nanton’s insatiable drive and indelible footprint on Winnipeg’s commerce benefited the city immensely.”
The firm Nanton represented became “the largest and best mortgage business in the West.”
In 1902, Nanton successfully finalized the sale of 800,000 acres of land in Saskatchewan, a deal which was worth several million dollars.
By the early-20th century, Nanton was a director with 30 corporations and associations, including high profile companies such as the Canadian Pacific Railway, the Hudson’s Bay Company, Great West Life, the Dominion Bank, the Winnipeg Electric Company and Manitoba Cartage.
He was also the founder and first president of the Winnipeg Stock Exchange and was a president of the Winnipeg Board of Trade (today’s chamber of commerce).
“Far from being on these boards in name only, Nanton was front and centre as an important shareholder in many cases and very influential in the role he played at the boardroom table,” said Preston. “He was one of a small group of Winnipeg businessmen who directed the financing and servicing of the huge influx of new settlers to the Canadian West.”
At one time, Ransbe said that Nanton’s companies employed 10 per cent of the Winnipeg’s population.
“I can’t think of anyone in the private sector who had such an impact,” he added.
“I think you hit this right out of the ballpark,” said Katz of Nanton’s induction into the hall of fame.
Nanton donated half of his considerable wealth — in 1911, he was named as one of the city’s 19 millionaires — to the Manitoba Patriotic Fund and Victory Loan Campaign during the First World War. Under his leadership, the campaigns in Manitoba raised $120 million (over $1 billion in today’s dollars).
For his tireless fund-raising efforts in the Prairie Provinces, he was knighted by King George V in 1917.
Nanton left Winnipeg for Toronto in 1924 to become the president of the Toronto Dominion Bank.
Before his departure, Nanton said during a dinner in his honour: “I have lived in Winnipeg some forty years. My wife came here as a child. All our children were born here. Although I am leaving at the call of duty, we will always feel that our best love, our real home is Winnipeg.”
A year later, he died in Toronto. Ransby said Nanton had simply become too worn out from giving up so much of his time and energy to so many enterprises and public causes.
His body was brought back to Winnipeg and he was laid to rest in St. John’s Cemetery.
“The Citizens Hall of Fame is something special to me and my family,” said Katz. “Having Nanton join it is important. Look at everything he did and accomplished — it’s humbling. It is important that young people know that this individual had phenomenal passion to make Winnipeg a great place to work and live.”