Abel Seneca Weekes

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Abel Seneca Weekes, ALS
ALSA President (1918)
Known for Honorary Life Member (1932)

Abel Seneca Weekes was born in Glencoe, Ontario on February 17, 1866, one of thirteen children.

He attended Wardsville High School during each winter from 1879 until 1886, working on the farm during each summer and in 1885 passed his 2nd Class Non-Professional Teachers' exam. In the winter of 1886-87, he entered the offices of Coad and Robertson, Surveyors and Engineers of Glencoe and, on passing the preliminary examination in April 1887, served three years apprenticeship to the land surveying profession. He received his commission as an Ontario Land Surveyor in April 1890.

During this time he went north on government surveys with Mr. Richard Coad in 1887 and again in 1889. On these surveys, he made his first acquaintance with the big woods and took to the frontier life like a duck to water. In the summer of 1890, he went as an assistant to the late James Tiernan of Tilbury Centre on a township survey in the Spanish River District. In the fall of the same year, he opened an office in Clinton, Ontario.

There he was engineer for several townships. Business was very slack in those days so, in 1891, he again went to Algoma for Mr. Tiernan, going into Webbwood and across the big bend of the Spanish River.

In February 1892, he wrote his DLS exam at Ottawa and received his commission. In the summer of that year, he was assistant, along with Mr James Hutchin, to Mr. Elihu Stewart of Collingwood on the survey of Falconbridge and McLellan on Lake Wahnapitae. (In those days, assistants were paid from $40 to $60 per month.) At the end of that year, giving up the hope of building up a business in Clinton, he gave up his office there and returned to Glencoe.

In the spring of 1893 he moved to Alberta where he acted as assistant to the late J.L. Foster of Toronto on subdivision surveys of several townships southeast of Wetaskiwin. When that work was finished he joined the party of Joseph Doupe at Buffalo Lake near where Stettler now stands remaining in Alberta after this party finished, he found things very quiet in the surveying line as did most of the surveyors of that time. So, for the next four or five years he lived on the frontier, trapping and placer mining on the North Saskatchewan River. The Yukon Gold Rush starting in 1897 he joined the vanguard of the rush via the MacKenzie River, along with his trapping partner Albert E. Shaefer and two brothers named Jenner who had been operating a trading steamer on the Saskatchewan.

Arriving in the Yukon via the Porcupine River in July '98. For the next 5 years he worked at nearly everything except surveying, being two summers on the Alaska Commercial Steamboat "Victoria" as 2nd Engineer, and was in the Fort Yukon store of the North American Transportation and Trading Company for some time.

Freighting, both with boats and dogs to various mining camps, trapping, sawing lumber, wood cutting, mining made up a busy and fairly adventurous life until the fall of 1902, when he told his partners, "if I don't go soon I won't be wanting to go." So he caught the last up-river boat and came outside. The White Pass and Yukon Railway being in operation, it was a pleasure trip coming out.

In the spring of 1903, he applied to the Department of the Interior for work and was appointed assistant to Mr. Thomas Turnbull who was helping with the location of the Barr Colony and afterwards inspecting surveys, having charge of all the work not lying between the North and South Saskatchewan rivers. That between the rivers was being done by Mr. William Pearce of Calgary. The following winter he got a contract for the survey of a township south of Whitemouth in Manitoba and, on completing it in April 1904, received another for 14 townships south of Tramping Lake in Saskatchewan. Supplies for this work had to be freighted from Saskatoon then a town of about 300 inhabitants. On returning to Winnipeg on the completion of this work, he met Mr. Turnbull who was then assistant chief engineer for the Canadian Northern Railways, and was offered a job on the right-of-way and township surveys. The first work was the survey of the town of Humbolt. Although it was only expected to be a temporary job, after 25 years it was still going strong.

A.S. Weekes continued in the service of the Canadian Northern Railway until it's amalgamation with the Grand Trunk Pacific to form the Canadian National Railways in 1921.

At that time, a land survey department was organized and he received the appointment of Chief Land Surveyor for the Western Region.

He was president of the Alberta Land Surveyors’ Association in 1918.

In the fall of 1929, Mr. Weekes contracted an illness from which he never completely regained the physical vigour which had characterized his earlier years.

He retired from active service in 1931. He passed away at his home in Winnipeg on April 25, 1936 in his 71st year.

In December 1906, he married Miriam Millicent Smith of Bothwell, Ontario by whom he had one son and five daughters. She passed away in April 1925 and he married Anna Whiteford in 1926.

In addition to his qualifications as an Alberta Land Surveyor, Dominion Land Surveyor, Ontario Land Surveyor and Saskatchewan Land Surveyor, he was a member of the Engineering Institute of Canada and attended Young United Church.

Many thanks to Larry Sutton, A.S. Weekes’ grandson, who provided the picture and the biography written by Mr. Weekes, circa 1930. The biography was supplemented by information in his obituary published in the Winnipeg Tribune.