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Denoon, John "Jack" W.,


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Denoon (Dalhousie)
Location: N/A

Courtesy Library & Archives Canada, E004665633

#297 #297
(l to r) Dr. Bradwin, F.O. Wishart, Jack Denoon, Gordon Richardson. H.B.R. July 1928
Location: Unknown

Courtesy Library & Archives Canada, E004665597
#304 #304
Jack Denoon, season 1928, Mile 327, H.B. Ry.
Location: Gillam, Manitoba

Courtesy Library & Archives Canada, E004665620
#305 #305
December 22, 1927 on top of water tank, Gillam Post, Mile 327 H.B.R. 48 degrees below zero. Jack Denoon 1927-28
Location: Gillam, Manitoba

Courtesy Library & Archives Canada, E004665622
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John "Jack" W. Denoon, a fourth-year medical student at the University of Toronto in 1927 (Dalhousie University in 1929), spent several years as a labourer-teacher for Frontier College. His name first appears in that organization's registers in 1923 where he is listed as working for the C.N.R. in Nipigon, Ontario as an extra gang worker (railroad work). Denoon continued his placement with the C.N.R. in Ontario part way into 1927 when he was reassigned to the Hudson Bay Railway at Mile 327 (Gillam, Manitoba).[1]

As a labourer-teacher, Denoon's days were filled with hard physical labour working for the railway and his evenings were busy with teaching duties for Frontier College. For example, in November 1927, he worked as a "Navvy"[2] during the day at the H.B.R. camp in Gillam and spent his evenings and weekends teaching. At that time, 10 men (aged 19 through 35), all fellow H.B.R. labourers, were enrolled in Denoon's courses that ranged from basic primary-level education to high school. More than half of the students were European immigrants, some of whom spoke little English.[3]

In a report to Frontier College on his season's work in Churchill in 1929, Denoon wrote,

During the season from May 25 - Aug 23 1929 the efforts of your instructors brought the following results -
Class attendance - 466
Books Read - 1180
No of Readers - 30 - 40

The total hours worked average out to about 13 on a weekday and 10 on a Sunday for June & July. In August we worked every minute of daylight.

The magazines from Toronto reached me regularly and every week the Winnipeg Daily Tribune came to hand.

Mr. Campbell's extreme kindness is noteworthy. He supplied and erected my tent. He gave me every opportunity for advancement in the days work of which I achieved a little. His own personal kindness was one of the bright factors in my season's work.

This I consider one of my most pleasant years at F.C. work. Churchill has many opportunities of historic study and many points of interest. These I enjoyed to the full & I trust the men derived some little benefit from my stay amongst them.

Respectfully submitted,
Jack Denoon

Denoon concluded his report with a hand drawn sketch of the camp at Churchill, which is interesting to compare with photographs from that time period.[4]

For more information on Frontier College, visit their website.


[1] Library & Archives Canada, Frontier College Fonds MG28, I 124, Finding Aid No. 736, Instructors Registers, 1920-1971, p. 382 - 395

[2] The term "Navvy" referred to railway labourers who did some of the hardest physical work with shovels and wheelbarrows. For an interesting history of what the life of a railway labourer was like in Canada in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, see the Atlas of Alberta Railways.

[3] Library & Archives Canada, Frontier College Fonds MG28, I 124, 122, Box #1000086771, Registers (Instructors Reports), Denoon, Book No. I.

[4] Library & Archives Canada Frontier College Fonds, MG28, I 124, 124, Box #1000086779, folder: Registers (Instructors Reports), Denoon, Daily Memo June/29.