William (Will) Frederick Scarth, was born to Henry Scarth in 1851 on July 1, near Stratford, Ontario.
Will, his two brothers, the Blakeman family, and a variety of other Stratford settlers came to Manitoba in the early 1880s. Before coming to Virden, which was then known as Gopher Creek, Will lived in Winnipeg and owned a liquor store on Main Street.
Finally moving to Gopher Creek in 1882, Will worked as postmaster at the post office. After the settlement of Gopher Creek moved a mile west of the original location, Will moved with it and became the post master at the Virden post office.
Thomas Blakeman and his wife, Rebecca, were also part of the group of Stratford settlers who moved west. Their daughter Nellie (Ellen Elizabeth) was born in 1864, and had been “sweethearts” with Will Scarth back in Ontario. However, due to her beliefs as a Methodist, she was not fond of Will’s liquor business which led him to open a general store on Nelson St. and Seventh Ave. in the Scarth Block.
Nellie and Will were married in 1886. Their stone house stood, and still stands beside St.
Mary’s Church. The pair had four children including Lillian Erie, Harold St. Clair, Aileen
Blanche, and William Blakeman.
Will and Nellie’s first child, Lillian, born in 1888, went on to work for the Winnipeg Free Press as a staff writer and music critic.
Harold moved to Winnipeg to practise law at Phillips, Rogers & Scarth. Later, he acted as the President of the Law Society of Manitoba and President of the Manitoba Bar Association.
Aileen married her Icelandic husband, Joseph Thorarinn Thorson in Winnipeg in 1916. (He
was named as a Rhodes Scholar for Manitoba in 1910.) The couple had three children; they moved to Ottawa where Joseph was appointed to the Cabinet of Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie
William received the Military Cross in World War One and was also a lawyer throughout northern Manitoba and Winnipeg. In the 1950s, he moved back to Virden in order to join the oil industry and was then elected into the Manitoba Legislature in 1958.
For a time, much like his brother, William Blakeman Scarth also served as President of the Manitoba Bar
Will and Nellie moved back to Winnipeg in 1913 and although Will passed away in 1927,
the Scarth family legacy still lives on in Virden. Scarth block, at Seventh Avenue and
Nelson Street was built in 1898. At that time, it was known as the “busy corner.”
The village of Scarth, which dates back to 1907 and sat on Will Scarth’s land, now has no residents, but
is still home to a community center and baseball diamond.
If you are interested in learning more about Virden in the 1800 and 1900s,
come visit the museum for a guided tour. The Virden Pioneer Museum is
open to the public for walk-ins.
- Submitted By Madeline Peters, Pioneer Home Museum staff