Saturday, June 12, 2010

555 Main Street - The Little Black Devils Volunteer Monument

Little Black Devils Memorial

Title: Little Black Devils Volunteer Monument
Address: 555 Main Street
Unveiled: September 28, 1886

Samuel Hooper

Sculptor: Robert Reid


Minto Armouries

The Little Black Devils monument has been a fixture on Main Street since 1886.

It commemorates the volunteers of the 90th Winnipeg Battalion of Rifles who died in the 1885 Northwest Rebellion at Fish Creek and Batoche, Saskatchewan. Little Black Devils is a nickname still used by proudly by the regiment as it was given to them by the enemy. During one of the rebellion's battles, a M├ętis military leader is reported to have said: "The red coats we know, but who are these little black devils ?" (Source)

Over time, the name was shortened to 90th Winnipeg Rifles then, in 1935, King George granted them permission to use the prefix Royal. The Rifles went on to serve in both World Wars and are based at the Minto Armouries in St. Mathews Avenue. (For more about their history.)

 Little Black Devils Monument

In 1885 a private fund raising committee chaired by James Ashdown raised just over $5,000 for this monument which would stand on the front lawn of city hall. The design chosen was by architect Samuel Hooper. It stands 50-feet tall, most of which is a fluted stone column that is 2.5-feet in circumference. The column is set into a marble base and is topped by a 9-foot tall rifleman weighing over 3,000 pounds.

In February 1886 the work was tendered. The stone for the project was quarried at Selkirk and the statue was carved by sculptor Robert Reid of Montreal.

The committee's intention was to unveil it on Dominion Day, but the “ponderous form of a rifleman” didn't  arrive in the city until August. A Free Press reporter who got a sneak peek when the crate was opened noted that “The work has been very well done and the statue presents a very handsome appearance.”

The following week it was place atop the waiting column covered in a white sheet, as was the marble base, so that the public could not catch a glimpse.

Top: September 28, 1886, Manitoba Free Press
Bottom ca. 1886, (Winnipeg Tribune Archives)

Lieutenant Governor Aikins unveiled the monument on the front lawn of city hall on September 28, 1886 in a ceremony that included music and military marches.

Inscribed into a marble tablet on one side of the base are the words: “Erected by the citizens of Winnipeg – 1886. In Memoriam. Fish Creek, Batoche” and on another are the names of  those who fell: Swinford, Code, Ennis, Ferguson, Frazier, Hutchison, Hardisty, Wheeler and Watson.,_Winnipeg,_MB,_1887.jpg
Emailing: Centennial Concert 
Top: ca. 1887 (Wikipedia / McCord Museum)
Bottom: ca. 1964, monument at left, (Winnipeg Tribune Archives)

When the old city hall was demolished the monument was removed and incorporated into the site of the Centennial Centre, between what would be the Manitoba Museum and Centennial Concert Hall. When replaced, it was turned so that the rifleman is facing Batoche.

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