7 November

Donald A. Smith driving the last spike of the C.P.R.

Last Spike of C.P.R. Driven at Craigellachie

The third company with the name of Canadian Pacific Railway Company was headed by George Stephen of Montreal who, with Donald A. Smith, had already made a fortune in railway building. The new C.P.R. did not include Smith on its board of directors at first, however, because he had brought about defeat of Sir John A. Macdonald's government in 1873 (see November 5). 

The contract to complete the building of the transcontinental was signed on October 21, 1880. In the meantime, work had already started in British Columbia under the direction of an American engineer, Andrew Onderdonk. He completed his work in October, 1885, after bringing in thousands of labourers from China.

The tracks from east to west had been laid at a prodigious rate, thanks to the organizing ability of another American, William Van Home, al though he was never quite sure whether he would be able to complete his task. Time and again the C.P.R. ran out of money, and was several times on the verge of bankruptcy. On one occasion the situation was so desperate that George Stephen went to Britain to raise money. When he succeeded he sent his colleagues a cable reading: "Stand fast, Craigellachie." This was the battle cry of the Grant clan to which he and his cousin Donald Smith belonged, and it brought hope that the railway could go forward under their direction. The Northwest Rebellion of 1885 really saved the situation. The transport by rail of a military expedition from Ottawa to Winnipeg in six days, in contrast to the two months this journey normally took, was a spectacular demonstration of the railway’s value. The Government readily lent the company enough money to finish the work.

On November 7, 1885, in the Gold Range of the Rockies, the tracks from the East met the tracks from the West. A special train had brought out a group of C.P.R. executives in frock coats and top hats. A railway worker held an iron spike; Donald Smith picked up a hammer and drove it home. Canada's first transcontinental railway had been completed. The place where Donald Smith (later Lord Strathcona) drove the last spike was named Craigellachie.


7 November

-1816    A police constable and twelve men tried to arrest Lord Selkirk at Fort William but Selkirk arrested the constable!

-1850    The Upper Canada School of Medicine was affiliated with the University of Toronto.

-1873    The first session of government under Alexander Mackenzie began after the defeat of the Macdonald- government owing to C.P.R. bribery charges.

-1900    The Liberals under Sir Wilfrid Laurier were sustained in a general election, which led to the retirement of Sir Charles Tupper as Conservative leader. Sir Robert Borden succeeded him.

-1950    The first contingent of Canadian troops for the Korean war landed at Pusan.