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REMEMBER THIS: A story about Barrie's storyteller

Not satisfied to tell his tales in mere factual form, Fred Grant liberally peppered them with true and fascinating anecdotes

The Storyteller: Part One

Fred Grant was a storyteller’s storyteller. Not satisfied to tell his tales of old Barrie in mere factual form, Grant liberally peppered them with true but fascinating anecdotes about how things really were from his own personal experiences.

As this is my 300th story piece for this local history column, I thought I would tell you about this passionate historian who set the bar high. Very, very high.

Fred Grant, son of lumberman John Gregory Grant, was born in Barrie in 1868. From childhood, he was a gifted athlete and the sort of person who wanted to try, see and do everything. He set out to pack as much living into his years as he could.

In Fred Grant’s youth, lacrosse was huge in Barrie and, in fact, a team from our town were declared world champions of the game in the 1880s. It was to this sport that the young athlete gravitated and ultimately excelled.

Lacrosse allowed the young man to realize some of his dreams of seeing the world. Grant turned professional and played on teams based in Toronto, New York and California.

Lacrosse paid well enough, but it would appear that Fred Grant realized that a man cannot always rely on professional athleticism as his sole source of income. He became involved in the printing trade and found that a good pressman was much sought after everywhere, so he used his printing skills to move around and fund his next trip.

Fred Grant learned his trade first with the Barrie Gazette beginning about 1885. He soon left and joined the Barrie Examiner where he remained for 4 years. Grant saved up much of his earnings and, with them, he migrated to Toronto to work for the Daily Globe.

By 1892, Fred Grant was both working and playing lacrosse in Toronto. That year, he was reportedly offered the wild sum of $100 a game if he would travel to Victoria, BC and play for a lacrosse team there. He went.

He did a short stint at Victoria’s Daily Colonist & Times before taking his press skills to Juneau, Alaska. A year after arriving on the west coast, Fred Grant hopped on a steamer bound for San Francisco. When not at his work station, Fred Grant was playing for the Pacific Athletic Club lacrosse team which was made up entirely of Canadians.

One day, Grant learned of an irresistible opportunity. The brand new and luxurious S.S. Australia was looking for a ship’s printer. San Francisco was left behind as Fred Grant headed out on the Pacific to explore that part of the planet.

Before too long, Grant was back on North American soil and once again with the Daily Colonist & Times in Victoria, BC where he remained for over 30 years. He was not done with adventuring though.

Other stops included Chicago, Salt Lake City, Utah and Kansas where the train he was riding in was held up by bandits.

In 1907, Fred Grant married Annie Chapman. The couple had no children but obviously kept quite busy. Their little house on Princess Avenue in Victoria was renowned for its sumptuous flower gardens. As Fred Grant’s printing career neared its end, he took up a project that would occupy him the rest of his life – the compilation of a massive collection of photographs and stories about Barrie’s past.

Each week, the Barrie Historical Archive provides BarrieToday readers with a glimpse of the city’s past. This unique column features photos and stories from years gone by and is sure to appeal to the historian in each of us.


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Mary Harris

About the Author: Mary Harris

Mary Harris is the Director of History and Research at the Barrie Historical Archive. The Barrie Historical Archive is a free, online archive that centralizes Barrie's historical content.
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