Back in Time: Looking back at Flin Flon's first mayor

Born as Ernest Edward Foster on Feb. 26, 1882 in England, Foster spent his early years working as a proprietor of a public house for several years.

At the age of 23, he married his wife, Frances Harper, there. Four years later, the couple made their way out to Canada – the place they would call home for the rest of their lives.

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First settling in Winnipeg, then moving on to Regina and Indian Head in Saskatchewan, the couple would make their way back towards Manitoba when they settled in The Pas in 1924. Working as a representative for the creamery in town, it did not take long for Foster to establish himself as someone who cared about the community. Laura, the couple’s daughter, was born in The Pas as well. While in The Pas, Foster served as a councillor, giving him his first taste of helping manage a community.

A few years later, he was living in Flin Flon and built the Corona Hotel with his partner A. Alfred. In 1929, he took over complete ownership of the hotel and both his wife and Laura moved to the community and lived at 58 Church Street for the next decade.

Taking his love of civic matters, he continued to join committees and groups in Flin Flon. In November of 1933, he was chosen as the first chairman of the Social Welfare Commission. He was also the vice president of the Ratepayers Association in 1933, before he took over as the chair. He served for 15 months and helped to revitalize the association.

His community involvement culminated on Sept. 29, 1933, when Foster was chosen as the new mayor for Flin Flon, becoming the community’s first mayor. He served in several capacities to help the new community. He did this while dealing with the after-effects of a ruptured appendix in June of 1934. He worked hard as mayor to ensure that the community would prosper. Thanks to Foster purchasing wood, covering it with building paper and putting it on wooden horses, council was able to meet at a table to discuss the affairs of the community.

Also, Mayor Foster would deal with the Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting Co. Limited employees going on strike. He was sympathetic to the workmen, but did not want to see any violence.

On Dec. 31, 1934, his time as mayor ended, but his impact on Flin Flon would continue. In 1935, he served as the first president of the Flin Flon Rotary Club and joined the Legion and the Masonic Lodge. In 1939, he was elected the first president of the Eastern Star Lodge and became the Worshipful Master of the Masonic Lodge while his wife was the Worthy matron of the Eastern Star Lodge.

The impact of both Foster and his wife was evident when a large swamp area next to the Ross Park Cemetery was drained and Foster Park was built. The process took several years, but on Sept. 4, 1939, the park was ready to have its official opening. Unfortunately, that news was overshadowed by the sudden outbreak of the Second World War.

In 1941, Foster sold his hotel to Drewery’s of Winnipeg and was able to move to Victoria, B.C. In March of 1955, he celebrated his golden wedding anniversary with his wife, but he sadly died only a few months later on Oct. 30 of that year. His wife Frances would die on Dec. 19, 1972.

Suggestions for columns or questions? E-mail Craig at Listen to his podcast by searching for “Canadian History Ehx” on your podcast platform. Find his show on YouTube by searching for “Canadian History Ehx”. Information for this column comes from the history book Flin Flon.

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