OUR HISTORY: May Day parade, 1912

In 1912, approximately 6,200 horses still travelled the streets of Winnipeg. While they were quickly being replaced by automobiles and trucks (chiefly built by McGlaughlin or Ford), they were still used for fire engines, milk delivery, beer delivery and mostly for short hauling of freight to and from the rail yards. The picture shows the winning team for best decorated horses in the 1912 May Day parade.

The three men on the float are John, Alex and William Daun my grandfather, his brother and their cousin respectively. They arrived in Canada from Scotland in 1909 and immediately went south to the Montana goldfields to make their fortune. They found work as labourers in the reduction works at Deer Pointe Montana. As family lore has it, at the end of the first month the foreman refused to pay them.

Alex Daun was a former champion wrestler in Scotland and a big man. He picked up the foreman and held him over his head, threatening to throw him into the reduction works unless they were paid. He acquiesced. Knowing that their reputation was now made in Montana, the three returned to Winnipeg where they set up as teamsters. My Aunt Ruby, who was a young child at the time, said that she remembers her father going out every morning to feed and brush the horses. Each day he would painstakingly braid their manes and tail.

What happened to the three men on the float? Alex Daun had joined the 79th Cameron Highlanders and in 1916 he went overseas to fight. When the war was over he emigrated to California where he established a successful dairy.

John Daun worked as a teamster until 1818 when he had enough money to try farming with his wife and five children on a farm near Snowflake, Manitoba. After being hailed out for three years in a row, he asked his wife if they should try to make a go of it again on her egg money as the mortgage was due.

She said don’t pay them this time and we’ll see. A week later the bank foreclosed and they were on their way back to Winnipeg where John set up a successful cartage business that was eventually taken over by his two boys as Daun Brothers Carton Exchange. Unfortunately, we don’t know what happened to William as he falls out of sight after this picture.

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