William Antrobus Griesbach

Major General William Antrobus Griesbach, CB, CMG, DSO & Bar, VD, KC (January 3, 1878 – January 21, 1945) was a Canadian politician, decorated soldier, mayor of Edmonton, and member of the House of Commons and of the Senate.

Major General the Honourable
William Antrobus Griesbach
CB, CMG, DSO & Bar, VD, KC
Member of the Senate for Alberta
In office
September 15, 1921 – January 21, 1945
Preceded byPeter Talbot
Succeeded byFrederick William Gershaw
Member of the House of Commons for Edmonton West
In office
December 17, 1917 – September 15, 1921
Preceded byNew district
Succeeded byDonald MacBeth Kennedy
9th Mayor of Edmonton
In office
December 10, 1906 – December 9, 1907
Preceded byCharles May
Succeeded byJohn Alexander McDougall
Alderman on the Edmonton City Council
In office
December 12, 1904 – December 10, 1906
Personal details
Born(1878-01-03)January 3, 1878
Fort Qu'Appelle, North-West Territories, Canada
DiedJanuary 21, 1945(1945-01-21) (aged 67)
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Political partyConservative Party of Canada
Other political
affiliations
Unionist Party of Canada, Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta
SpouseJanet Scott McDonald Lauder
ProfessionLawyer, soldier
Signature
Military service
AllegianceCanada
Branch/serviceCanadian Army
Years of service1899–1901
1906–1918
1940–1943
RankMajor general
UnitCanadian Mounted Rifles
19th Alberta Dragoons
Commands1st Canadian Brigade
49th Battalion (Edmonton Regiment), CEF
Battles/warsWorld War I
World War II
AwardsCompanion of the Order of the Bath
Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George
Distinguished Service Order & Bar
Volunteer Officers' Decoration

Early life

edit

Griesbach was born in Fort Qu'Appelle, North-West Territories, the son of Henry Arthur Griesbach, a North-West Mounted Police officer. Henry was on the NWMP's famous 1874 March West, finishing the march in Edmonton. In 1883, Henry was transferred to command Fort Saskatchewan; the family travelled on the Canadian Pacific Railway to Calgary and then by wagon train to Edmonton and Fort Saskatchewan, on occasion having to build or repair bridges in order to cross rivers.

William Griesbach left the rest of the family in 1891 in order to attend St. John's College in Winnipeg, from which he graduated in 1895. Upon graduating, he returned to Edmonton and worked in a law firm for two years and in the Imperial Bank of Canada for one year, before returning to Fort Saskatchewan to work in a milling business for six months. He returned to Edmonton to study law.

edit

Griesbach enlisted with the Canadian Mounted Rifles in 1899 to fight in the Second Boer War. He knew from being weighed in at boxing tournaments that he fell short of the minimum 140-pound (64 kg) weight to enlist, so on his way to being weighed he surreptitiously grabbed a large piece of coal from the enlistment centre's coal box and held it behind his back while he stood on the scales. During his service, he was awarded the Queen's South Africa Medal and received four bars.

 
Griesbach as a member of the 19th Alberta Dragoons

Upon his return in 1901, he opened a law office of his own. An Edmonton Bulletin article in 1927 quoted him as saying of these early years

My rent was $12 a month. The first month I didn't make anything; the second I made exactly $12, and the third I went up to $17. Most of my callers in those days were people who wanted to sell me books.

Pre-war political career

edit
 
Griesbach in his earlier days

Griesbach's first bid for political office took place in the 1903 Edmonton election, when he made an unsuccessful bid for election to Edmonton Town Council, placing fourth of nine candidates in an election in which the top three were elected. He was more successful in the 1904 election when he was elected to a one-year term as an alderman to Edmonton's first city council placing eighth of seventeen candidates (in that first election as a city, Edmonton elected four aldermen to two year terms and four to one year terms, with the idea that four of the city's eight aldermen would be elected to two year terms each year). He was re-elected to a two-year term in 1905, finishing first of ten candidates.

Previously that same year, he had run as a Conservative in the constituency of Edmonton in Alberta's first provincial election. He was defeated by Liberal Charles Cross, and continued his service on city council.

Griesbach resigned as alderman one year into his term in order to run for mayor in the 1906 election. He was victorious, collecting more than sixty percent of the vote in a three-person race and becoming, at twenty-eight years old, the youngest mayor in the city's history, before or since. He served a one-year term, but did not seek re-election and stayed out of municipal politics thereafter.

He ran as a Conservative in the 1911 federal election, finishing second of three candidates in the riding of Edmonton (the victorious candidate was Liberal Frank Oliver).

Griesbach's final involvement in provincial politics came during the 1913 election, when he ran as a Conservative in Edmonton. He finished fourth of five candidates, missing out on either of the city's two seats.

World War I

edit

In 1906, Griesbach was commissioned as a lieutenant in the 19th Alberta Dragoons. He was promoted to captain in 1907

When World War I broke out, the Dragoons volunteered as a unit. In December of that year, Griesbach was promoted to major assigned to command the 49th Battalion. He was able to recruit 1000 men in eight days in January 1915. The unit served in various engagements, including the Battle of Vimy Ridge, the Battle of Arras, the Battle of Passchendaele, and the liberation of Mons. In 1917, Griesbach was promoted to Brigadier-General and assigned command of the 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade of the 1st Canadian Division.

He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order twice and the Victorian Decoration for long service. He was appointed Companion of the Order of the Bath and Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George.[1] The citation for his DSO appeared in The London Gazette in June 1916 and reads as follows:

For conspicuous gallantry and skill in the handling of his battalion during a heavy bombardment and subsequent attack by the enemy. On another occasion by his prompt action and fine example he was largely responsible for the rescue of several men who had been buried by shell fire.[2]

During World War II, he was made Inspector General of the Canadian Army for Western Canada and was promoted to the rank of major-general. He retired from that position in 1943.

 
Griesbach in full dress as Inspector-General

Federal Parliament

edit

William Griesbach was elected to the House of Commons as a Government member for the riding of Edmonton West in the 1917 election, defeating incumbent Laurier Liberal Frank Oliver. He served until September 15, 1921 (less than three months before the 1921 election), when he was appointed to the Senate, in which he served until his death.

Personal life, death, and legacy

edit

Griesbach was an accomplished cyclist and played ice hockey and soccer for Edmonton teams. He was a member of the Masonic Order, the Oddfellows, the Edmonton Veteran Association, the Canadian Club, and the Northern Alberta Pioneer and Old Timers' Association.

In 1906, he married Janet Scott McDonald Lauder.

William Antrobus Griesbach died in Edmonton on January 21, 1945, of a sudden heart attack.

CFB Griesbach, the Griesbach Garrison (part of CFB Edmonton), Griesbach Masonic Lodge,[3] and Edmonton's Griesbach neighbourhood are named in his honour. Mount Griesbach in the Victoria Cross Ranges of Jasper National Park is also named in his honour.

References

edit
  1. ^ "No. 30450". The London Gazette (Supplement). December 28, 1917. p. 6.
  2. ^ "No. 29637". The London Gazette (Supplement). June 23, 1916. p. 6295.
  3. ^ "Griesbach Lodge #191 – Highlands Masonic Hall 5526 118 Ave NW". Retrieved July 7, 2022.
edit
Political offices
Preceded by Mayor of Edmonton
1907
Succeeded by
Parliament of Canada
Preceded by
New district
Member of Parliament Edmonton West
1917–1921
Succeeded by
Preceded by Senator Alberta
1921–1945
Succeeded by