DCB/DBC Mobile beta


New Biographies

Minor Corrections

Biography of the Day


Responsible Government

Sir John A. Macdonald

From the Red River Settlement to Manitoba (1812–70)

Sir Wilfrid Laurier

Sir George-Étienne Cartier


The Fenians

Women in the DCB/DBC

The Charlottetown and Quebec Conferences of 1864

Introductory Essays of the DCB/DBC

The Acadians

For Educators

The War of 1812 

Canada’s Wartime Prime Ministers

The First World War

CODD, DONALD, land surveyor, office holder, and author; b. c. 1845 in Norfolk, England, son of the Reverend Charles Edward Codd, a Church of England minister: d. 9 Dec. 1896 in Winnipeg.

Donald Codd’s parents immigrated to the Canadas before 1850 and settled at Ottawa. He probably received his preliminary education at home and his secondary instruction in local schools. Later he studied land surveying under John Allan Snow* and may have acquired some military training. In mid 1869 he obtained a post under Snow, who was supervising the construction of a road from Lake of the Woods to Upper Fort Garry (Winnipeg). After completing his work there he was appointed to the survey team sent to the Red River settlement under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel John Stoughton Dennis*. He soon won the confidence of Dennis, who gave him the assignment of copying maps and records of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s grants to settlers.

Codd noted that the Métis, dissatisfied with the proposed transfer of the northwest from the HBC to the Canadian government, “had . . . taken active steps to enforce their view, by forcibly stopping the Canadian surveys.” Dennis had prepared for just such a development. According to his account, all the personnel under his command – “without a single exception” – had military training as well as skills in surveying. Dennis hoped that his surveyors would be able to organize local loyalists “to endeavour to restore order in the settlement.” Surveyor Charles Arkoll Boulton was sent to the various communities in the settlement to enrol volunteers and Codd acted as Dennis’s aide-de-camp. The surveyor-soldiers failed to rouse the settlers and, probably fearing imprisonment by Louis Riel* and his followers, some of them, including Codd and Dennis, fled the colony in mid December 1869. The bond that had been formed between Dennis and Codd would continue.

Codd returned to Ottawa and joined the dominion lands branch of the secretary of state’s office, formed early in 1871 and headed by Dennis. He soon rose to the position of Dennis’s most trusted clerk. By September 1873 surveyors had mapped the settled parts of Manitoba and Dennis then began to accept claims to river lots, apparently in accordance with the assurances contained in section 32 of the Manitoba Act, which recognized claims to land held before the province’s entry into the dominion. He sent Codd to Winnipeg as land agent to process the claims of the Métis and of those newcomers who had settled on vacant land in advance of the surveys. Codd refused the request of any occupant whose holding had not been recognized by the HBC or whose improvements had not been noted by land surveyors, perhaps because of the low level of the improvements. Conscientiously, he asked Dennis to obtain ministerial approval of his actions, explaining that the problem was knowing “where to draw the line.” Dennis agreed that there could be no recognition of occupation unless there had been valuable improvements to the properties claimed and referred the matter to the Department of Justice for a legal opinion. Apparently Zebulon Aiton Lash*, the deputy minister of justice, believed that the Manitoba Act left room for doubt. The act was amended in 1874 and Codd obtained wider discretion in refusing claims.

Most of the land in the old settlement belt of Manitoba was therefore deemed to be vacant dominion land even though many Métis continued to occupy it as they had in the past, thinking that their patents were only delayed. In 1876 Archbishop Alexandre-Antonin Taché took up their cause and persuaded the minister of the interior, David Mills*, to reopen the consideration of their claims to titles; but Codd was instructed by Dennis to limit the acceptance of claims as he had done earlier. After several more years of little evident progress, Taché accused Codd of deliberate delay and suppression of evidence. Codd’s heated defence of his administration prompted a flurry of correspondence that reached Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald in November 1880. In a letter to Macdonald, Manitoba politician Joseph Royal* claimed that the unresolved “squatters claims . . . are confined exclusively to the french speaking old & new settlers.” To Royal, the situation was clear evidence of prejudice by officials who could never forget “the treatment that [they] . . . received at the hands of the poor french speak. half breeds” in 1869.

Macdonald responded by reopening the consideration of the “squatters’ claims” and by changing personnel in the Department of the Interior. No great backlog of outstanding claims was dealt with, but the changes in staff seemed to indicate that Macdonald thought Codd had outlived his usefulness. In October 1881 Codd, who had been described the previous year by Dennis as the “most experienced” dominion lands agent in the country and who had begun to function as a travelling inspector of dominion lands agencies, was dismissed without finesse or generosity when an official inspector of the agencies was named.

After 1882 Codd found work as a draftsman for a small Manitoba railway, the Great North West Railway, and spent his spare time inventing various mechanical devices, none of which was patented. He received a gratuity of an unspecified amount in 1886 for earlier duty, not described, as dominion lands agent. Shortly thereafter he wrote the story of his participation in the dramatic events of the Red River rebellion, but it was not published until 1899, three years after his death. He had died of heart disease at age 51, and was survived by his wife, Sarah, a son, Alfred Arthur, and his brother Dr Alfred Codd.

D. N. Sprague

Donald Codd is the author of “Some reminiscences of Fort Garry in 1869–70,” Great West Magazine (Winnipeg), 13 (1899): 294–99.

NA, MG 26, A. PAM, GR 170, file 2182; MG 12, A, 9; B. Can., Parl., Sessional papers, 1882, no.2. Manitoba Morning Free Press, 3 Jan. 1874, 10 Dec. 1896. The genealogy of the first Métis nation; the development and dispersal of the Red River settlement, 1820–1900, comp. D. N. Sprague and R. P. Frye (Winnipeg, 1983).

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

D. N. Sprague, “CODD, DONALD,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 12, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed November 29, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/codd_donald_12E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/codd_donald_12E.html
Author of Article:   D. N. Sprague
Title of Article:   CODD, DONALD
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 12
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1990
Year of revision:   1990
Access Date:   November 29, 2023