Wednesday, September 11, 2019

541 Agnes Street - Private Dwelling

© 2019, Christian Cassidy
Google Street View, 2015
Place: Residence
Address: 541 Agnes Street (Map)
Constructed: 1905

This home was constructed in 1905 for Mr. and Mrs George Brooks. He was a barber at the Union Barber Shop in the Union Bank building on Main Street. The large shop, owned by Frederick Butson, employed around five barbers and a couple of shoe shiners.

The Brooks' happiness at the home was short-lived as in September 1905 their youngest son, Sherman, died at the age of one year and one month. They stayed here until 1908 before moving on to 496 Toronto Street.

The house then went through long series of short-term owners, including policeman Frederick White in 1909 and carpenter Alex Corrigan in 1913.

The next long-term owners were the Dunsheath family. Nathaniel and Elizabeth (nee Kane) came from Scotland around 1912 with their two young daughters.

In 1928, they moved here from their apartment at suite 1 of  the Glen Avon Apartments, 464 Spence Street. At the time, Nathaniel, known as "Nat", was a packer at the Marshall Wells factory and Elizabeth, 21, and Isabel, 20, were both machine operators at Monarch Overall.

Dunsheath circa 1896, (see below for source)

If you asked Nat what his occupation was he would have said soldier.

In 1900, back in Scotland, the nineteeen-year-old enlisted with the third Renfrew Volunteer Battalion. Two years later he was transferred to the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and served in the Boer War.

When the First World War began, despite living in Winnipeg for nearly two years, he returned to Scotland to rejoin his old regiment. As a private he saw action on the front lines at the Somme and Vimy Ridge and was awarded the Military Medal for "devotion to duty and gallantry in the field" in 1918.

Nat returned to Winnipeg in 1921 and became prominent in a number of veterans organizations, most notably the Old Contemptibles. He also joined the Queens Own Cameron Highlanders and in 1923 reached the rank of Company Sergeant-Major (CSM), a position he held for over 20 years.

When the Second World War began he became the Garrison Sergeant-Major of Fort Osborne. By 1943, Dunsheath was 61 and one of Canada's oldest serving soldiers. In November of that year he was awarded the second clasp to the Canadian Efficiency medal for long service. On June 16, 1945, he became a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).

Nat died at Deer Lodge Hospital on June 30, 1945 at the age of 63. This was just two weeks after receiving his MBE and two months before the end of the war. He is buried in Brookside Cemetery.
Nat Dunsheath visits Elizabeth at the CWAC quarters in Fort Osborne Barracks
March 10, 1943, Winnipeg Free Press

Both of the Dunsheath daughters also served in the armed forces in the Second World War. Elizabeth was a corporal in the Canadian Women's Army Corps. In march 1943 she went to Kitchener Ontario to the CWAC Training Centre and then was posted to Fredericton, New Brunswick.

Isabel was in the Women's Division, Royal Canadian Air Force. In the summer of 1943, she had reached the rank of Leading Airmwoman and was posted to No 3 Bombing and Gunnery School in Macdonald, Manitoba. One of her jobs was mending targets used for plane mounted machine guns.

She joked to a Miniota Herald reporter that the family all wanted to be posted overseas "... for we feel that with all our relatives over there we could practically field a Dunsheath regiment."

Mrs. Dunsheath was a long-time executive member of the
Ladies’ Orange Benevolent Association, often serving as president and hosting meetings of various lodges at the family home. She was also active in the Red Cross during wartime.

She remained at the home until 1953 and died on December 1, 1967.

541 Agnes after the fire

The next family to call 514 Agnes Street home were the Hoods: Adam, wife Margaret and daughters Margaret and Linda.

Adam Hood was born and raised in Winnipeg and got a job with the post office soon after leaving school. The family moved out to Fort Garry in the late 1960s.

In more recent years, the house was sold in 2009 and again in 2018. In May 2019, the owner received permission to demolish the house and build a tri-plex in its place. The home was boarded up and awaiting demolition when on the morning of September 9, 2019 its garage was set on fire damaging the home and a number of other homes and garages around it.

Nathaniel Dunsheath Canadian Virtual War Memorial
Fire on Agnes Street causes $70 k damage CTV Winnipeg
West End fire sends thick smoke through air Global

The ca. 1890s image of Dunsheath can be found in the Parks Canada document, Drab Serge and Khaki Drill.

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