President Ontario & Minnesota Power Company
The first capitalist to show faith in the industrial future of Fort Frances by putting up his money and every dollar he could get from outside sources to develop our water-power was Mr. Edward Wellington Backus, of Minneapolis, the modern Napoleon of finance, diplomacy and astuteness.
Fourteen years ago, Mr. Backus visited Fort Frances and as he viewed the great power of Couchiching Falls going to waste, he planned to have it harnessed and turned to industrial use. For thirteen years he has been working away at the project of his dreams and now we see the realization of part of what was conceived.
Some five years ago work was commenced on the big power dam, millions of dollars have been expended and in a short time one of the finest paper mills on the continent will soon be completed and the product shipped to the markets of the worlds.
Mr. Backus… cities are fighting to enlist. He is not afraid…/Like Clergue of the “Soo” he sees great opportunities and is not afraid to venture. This is the kind of men Fort Frances needs and when we get him we should assist him as far as possible to build up our town.
Courtesy of the Fort Frances Museum
Edward Wellington Backus
Married Elizabeth Horr Backus Died October 29th, 1934
Mr. Edward Wellington Backus, of Minneapolis was noted as a modern Napoleon of finance, diplomacy and astuteness. Backus was among the leaders in the newsprint and timber industry. An empire builder he envisioned the possibilities of power, timber and natural resources. He was the first capitalist to show his faith in the industrial future of Fort Frances by putting up his money and every dollar he could get from outside resources to develop water power.
In 1882 Backus began his lumbering career at the age of 21 with the Lee and McCullock company, buying out the interest of the junior partner the following year. The firm of Lee and Backus was succeeded in 1885 and in 1899 changed to the Backus-Brooks Company.
In 1892, with a timber cruiser, Backus walked 200 miles through deep snow to arrive shortly after midnight at a Hudson’s Bay company Post, now Fort Frances. In the crisp clear moonlight he viewed the majestic Falls and envisioned the future of power developments, paper mills and sawmills, staff support in the existence of two large towns, with footpaths being supplanted with railroads.
Mr. Backus was noted as “a man of splendid physique… he had the head of statesman and shoulders of a gladiator. His beaming eyes denoted his keen intellect and his retentive memory… Or commanding appearance, he was a man of note whether in village circles or in the financial centres of the east… He devoted his time and energies to the development of his industrial enterprise.”
Mr. Backus, like many other financiers over-extended his activities during the prosperous period following World War I. Suffering severe losses, his endeavours to recoup his losses and advanced aged were factors in his death in 1934 when he succumbed to a heart attack in New York.