Entrepreneur: John Duncan McArthur was born on the family farm in Lancaster, Glengarry County, Canada West,(Ontario after 1867), where he grew up, was educated and married Mary McIntosh. At age 25 he came west and around 1880 was cutting logs in, what is today, the Riding Mountain National Park for his sawmill near Birtle, Manitoba, on the Birdtail River. He worked repairing the rail line of the Pembina branch of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) and gained further experience working on other railways in western Canada. By 1889 he received his own contract to build the Red River Valley Railway from Emerson to Winnipeg.
On February 24, 1898, The Lac du Bonnet Mining, Developing and Manufacturing Co. was incorporated and had commenced harvesting the local resources. In 1901 McArthur purchased the company and its holdings of 810 hectares (2,000 acres) of land and a brick manufacturing plant. He built a sawmill just north of what is now the Town of Lac du Bonnet and, in the following year, opened a logging camp near Old Pinawa.
Between 1898 -1901 McArthur had assisted in the building of the CPR branch line from Molson to Lac du Bonnet which would enable bricks, lumber and fuelwood to be shipped to Winnipeg and beyond. He built the first commercial “High Rise” building in Winnipeg, near Portage and Main, named the McArthur Building, later renamed the Childs Building, as well as other large structures in the city.
In 1905 McArthur contracted to build the Transcontinental Railway line 402 kilometres (250 miles) east from Winnipeg, then west to Edmonton, Alberta and thence to the Peace River country. By 1910 he contracted to build, and later to operate, the Edmonton, Dunvegan and British Columbia Railway from Edmonton to Grand Prairie and also the Alberta Great Waterways Railway from Edmonton to Fort McMurray on the Athabaska River. When several companies declared bankruptcy, McArthur lost $30 million dollars outstanding on his contracts.
In 1911 McArthur contracted to build the first 290 kilometres (180 miles) of the Hudson Bay Railway from The Pas to Thicket Portage in Manitoba.
In 1920 McArthur secured Pulpwood Birth #1 from the Dominion Government and a permit for the Pine Falls power site (Great Falls) on the Winnipeg River. By 1924, with the Canadian National Railway line being built to Pine Falls, he succeeded in buying the land to be occupied by the new paper mill. He then formed the Manitoba Pulp and Paper Co. and became its first president.
At the time of his death, age 72, McArthur was president of the J.D.McArthur Co., the Northwest Lumber Co., the McArthur Land Co. and the McArthur Lumber and Fuel Co., vice-president of the Manitoba Pulp and Paper Co., and a director of the Western Trust and the Beaver Lumber Companies. He served as Post Master of Lac du Bonnet from October 1, 1906 to September 6, 1923. Considered as one of Canada’s leading business men, John Duncan McArthur built more miles of railroad than any other Canadian contractor.
McArthur Falls, on the Winnipeg River, and McArthur Street, in the Town of Lac du Bonnet, are named in his memory.