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A Part of Manitoba's Controversial History - The Thomas Scott Memorial Orange Hall

William of Orange was a Dutch prince, crowned King William III of Great Britain on April 21, 1689. As a Protestant, he was a hero in the eyes of the English commoners who were unhappy with the Roman Catholic King, James II. William went on to become the King of England, Scotland and Ireland, ruling until his death in March of 1702. Over 90 years after his death, Roman Catholics of Ireland who were tried of discrimination and harassment, demanded Catholic Emancipation, which escalated tensions with the Protestants. This led to a major clash between the two religious groups in 1795; known as the Battle of the Diamond, resulting in the formation of the Orange Order.

The Orange Order was a secret society that took its name from their Protestant champion, William of Orange. The Order was a unifying force, bringing the Protestant community together to defend Protestant ascendancy. They believed in “allegiance to the British monarchy, Protestantism and conservative values such as respect for the laws and traditions of Great Britain” (Historica Canada). The first official meeting was held on July 12, 1796 in Portadown, Ireland, the start of rapidly spreading organization.

William of Orange, also known as William III, the namesake for the Orange Order.
Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica
Although records are scarce, it is generally agreed that the Orange Order reached Canada prior to 1812 by way of Irish immigrants. The membership expanded to include English, Scottish, German and Indigenous people, numbering about 14,000 in 1834 and growing to about 60,000 in 1900, spreading to every province. The Order met at lodges, which generally hosted 25 to 40 members, representing every socioeconomic background and found everywhere from small towns to big cities. At the peak of the Orange Order’s popularity in 1920, there were about 100,000 members in Canada, which was more than anywhere else in the world, including Ireland.

The Orange Order in Canada provided its members with financial aid during hard times, social gathering, networking and comradery. Members joined the Order through initiations ceremonies, then learning secret passwords, taking part in rituals, wearing orange sashes and marching parades. They were deeply embedded in the Canadian political system, with Sir John A. Macdonald, three additional prime ministers, ten premiers and numerous mayors all being members of the Order. The members were exceptionally loyal to the colonial government in Canada, strongly anti-Catholic and willing to engage in violence to defend their beliefs.

The Orange Order Parade in Toronto on July 12, 1932.
Source: Historica Canada and City of Toronto Archives
One of these passionate and willing members of the Orange Order was Thomas Scott, who arrived in Canada from Ireland around 1863. Six years after his arrival, Scott moved to the Red River Settlement (Winnipeg) where he quickly found trouble, being convicted of aggravated assault a few months after arriving. Scott then befriended John Christian Schultz, the leader of the Canadian Party, an English speaking group who believed the Red River Settlement should be a part of Canada.

Thomas Scott, an Orangeman and protagonist of Louis Riel.
Source: Dictionary of Canadian Biography
Unfortunately for Scott, the people of the Red River Settlement were more inclined to follow Metis leader Louis Riel, who was the leader of the provisional government for the area. Scott’s resistance to the Riel government led to him being captured on December 7, 1969 and held as a prisoner at Upper Fort Garry. Undeterred, Scott and several others escaped on January 9, 1870, using pocket knives to break though a barred window. Scott fled to Portage la Prairie where he began plotting to free his still jailed compatriots. By mid February, a group including Scott had retuned to the Red River Settlement to put this plan into action, but found no support from the settlers. Disheartened, Scott’s group decided to rebelliously pass though Upper Fort Garry, a final bold act of dissent.

Not surprisingly, Riel and his followers captured Scott and the group on February 18, 1870. Scott was an unruly prisoner, eager to voice his distaste for the Metis and threatening to kill Riel. Not wanting to be seen as weak, the Metis decided to court martial Scott on the charge of insubordination. Scott was convicted and sentenced to death. A firing squad executed Scott the next day, March 4, 1870. This angered the people of Ontario, particularly the members of the Orange Order, and made Scott into a martyr for the anti-French and anti-Catholic resistance.

A depiction of the execution of Thomas Scott
at Upper Fort Garry by the Riel Government on March 4, 1870.
Source: Dictionary of Canadian Biography and Library and Archives of Canada
Several months after the death of Scott, the Orange Order officially spread west of Ontario, holding its first meeting in Winnipeg on September 18, 1870. The Winnipeg lodge grew quickly, with a membership of 110 by February of 1871 in a city of only 600 people. Winnipeg’s Orangemen included Members of Parliament, the Manitoba Legislative Council and eventually four of the city’s mayors. By 1899 it was decided to build an Orange Hall in Winnipeg, to be named in memory of Scott.

The Thomas Scott Memorial Hall was built at 216 Princess Street for a cost of $21,00. Construction commenced on July 12, 1900 with the hall officially opening in March of 1903. Successful contractor and self taught architect James McDiarmid drafted the original plans for the building, based on the Neo-Classical style, featuring four stories and a corner tower. McDiarmid’s design for the façade was then altered by Samuel Hooper, an English trained architect who went on to become the first Provincial Architect of Manitoba. Hooper’s revisions included shortening the building to only three stories and removing the tower.

James McDiarmid's original design for the Thomas Scott Memorial Hall,
as published on July 13, 1900.
Source: City of Winnipeg and the Manitoba Free Press

The Thomas Scott Memorial Hall shortly after opening in 1903.
Source: Virtual Heritage Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba Archives and Special Collections
The finished façade of the Memorial Hall was a symmetrical design made of rough cut limestone. An arched entrance is located at each end of the façade with a collection of squared off and arched windows on the three floors. The second floor is clearly divided from the first and third with stone cornices and ornamental brackets at each end, embellished with acanthus leaves and semi circular elements. The third floor is embellished with four large Ionic columns, flaking circular element inscribed with “AD” and “1902” and a central arched window flanked by small Corinthian columns, capped with an acanthus leaf keystone. The central portion of the second and third floors projects slightly, with the projection capped by a carved stone panel proclaiming “SCOTT MEMORIAL HALL”, large pediment with a semi circular window and a flagpole.  Raised leaf details on the front corners of the roof complete the façade.

The top story of the Thomas Scott Memorial Hall is the most embellished section of the facade, as seen in 2015.
Source: City of Winnipeg and M. Peterson
The Memorial Hall is 15.3 meters wide and 27.5 meters deep. It sits atop a stone foundation, with a full basement and a mezzanine in addition to the three stories. Although it was originally a free standing building, it later shared a party wall with the McLaughlin Carriage Company that was built south of the Memorial Hall. The north and back facades were plain buff brick, with windows and a fire escape on the back. The basement and ground floor were used as rented out warehouse and showroom space, the Orange Order had meeting rooms one the second floor and the third floor was a dance hall.

In 1943 a major fire destroyed most of the interior elements of the Memorial Hall leaving a few remnants such as the tin ceiling and mural on the second floor. Afterwards, the dance hall was moved to the first floor, meeting rooms remained on the second floor and the third floor was left unfinished. A caretaker suit was eventually added to the third floor in 1957. Although other groups used the building starting in the 1980s, the Orange Order owned the building until it was sold in the 1990s. Since then the building has been used as both commercial and storage space. The building was designated by the City of Winnipeg as a historical resource on July 19, 2017, protecting it from demolition.

A fire devastated the interior the Thomas Scott Memorial Hall in 1943.
Source: City of Winnipeg and the Winnipeg Free Press

An Orange Order painting still visible in a meeting room on the second floor in 2015.
Source: City of Winnipeg and M. Peterson
The original tin ceiling in the Thomas Scott Memorial Hall.
Source: Virtual Heritage Winnipeg

Blog by Cheryl Mann, on behalf of Heritage Winnipeg


Canada: A Country by Consent

Canadian Inventory of Historic Building – Historical Building Report
Thomas Scott Memorial Orange Hall

City of Winnipeg

BBC News

Biographical Dictionary of Architects in Canada

Dictionary of Canadian Biography

Encyclopaedia Britannica

Grand Orange Lodge of Canada

Historica Canada

Manitoba Historical Society

The Orange Order

Virtual Heritage Winnipeg


  1. "Unfortunately for Scott, the people of the Red River Settlement were more inclined to follow Metis leader Louis Riel, who was the leader of the provisional government for the area. Scott’s resistance to the Riel government led to him being captured on December 7, 1969 and held as a prisoner at Upper Fort Garry. Undeterred, Scott and several others escaped on January 9, 1870"

  2. But this, like so many other accounts, miss details.

    For some reason, Norbert Parisien was arrested, and imprisoned in my great, great grandfather's church. He was seen as a spy, despite being on Canada side, it's all so hard to follow.

    He escaped, and shot Hugh Sutherland, who happened to be passing by, and later died, the first casualty of the "Rebellion". When Norbert Parisien was recaptured, he was badly beaten, some accounts say he was lynched. My great, great grandfather stopped that, but not in time to save him. Thus the second casualty. Accounts say Thomas Scott either encouraged others in the beating or outright participated.

    Hugh Sutherland was my great grandmother's brother, my grandfather had a brother named Hugh, who must have been named for the deceased.

    My great, great grandmother on that side, and others apparently, went to Louis Riel to ask tat nobody else die, which may be why Thomas Scott was the last casualty.

    The three deaths seem connected, a reflection of what was going on, but not any "battle".

    Louis Riel formed a real government, and got people to work with him who had differences. It was a small place, with large families, so there was a lot of connection, which tempered the outcome. The main division was recent people from Canada versus the longer term residents of Red River.

    Once the expeditionary force got out there, with Sam Steele, there was a viciousness. My great great grandmother's brother had been chief justice in the provisional government, and he vacated out of fear. Someone set his house on fire. Someone else was beaten, lured out on the premise that my great, great grandmother was ill. I saw a home list, a lot of retaliation once the expeditionary force was there to protect the more recent settlers.

    People have been called traitors, but many had little ties to "Canada". Red River was a place to pull back to for the fur traders with native wives, it's not clear how welcomed they'd have been "back east". They spent a long time "in the wilderness" and had ties to the people who'd always been here. My great, great, great grandmother Sarah saw drastic change in her 86 or so years, but the only reason she became "Canadian" was because Manitoba came into Confederation, the terms of which were partly written by one of her sons.

    This is family history, and I've only found it by looking, in the past decade. It's a shock to find they were participants, but also a shock to discover that popular history leaves them out.



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