Major General the Honourable
William Antrobus Griesbach
|Member of the Senate for Alberta|
September 15, 1921 – January 21, 1945
|Preceded by||Peter Talbot|
|Succeeded by||Frederick William Gershaw|
|Member of the House of Commons for Edmonton West|
December 17, 1917 – September 15, 1921
|Preceded by||New district|
|Succeeded by||Donald MacBeth Kennedy|
|9th Mayor of Edmonton|
December 10, 1906 – December 9, 1907
|Preceded by||Charles May|
|Succeeded by||John Alexander McDougall|
|Alderman on the Edmonton City Council|
December 12, 1904 – December 10, 1906
|Born||January 3, 1878|
Fort Qu'Appelle, North-West Territories, Canada
|Died||January 21, 1945 (aged 67)|
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
|Political party||Conservative Party of Canada|
|Unionist Party of Canada, Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta|
|Spouse||Janet Scott McDonald Lauder|
|Years of service||1899–1901|
|Unit||Canadian Mounted Rifles|
19th Alberta Dragoons
|Commands||1st Canadian Brigade|
49th Battalion (Edmonton Regiment), CEF
|Battles/wars||World War I|
World War II
|Awards||Companion of the Order of the Bath|
Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George
Distinguished Service Order & Bar
Volunteer Officers' Decoration
Griesbach was born in Fort Qu'Appelle, North-West Territories, the son of Henry Arthur Griesbach, a North-West Mounted Police officer. Henry was on the NWMP's famous 1874 March West, finishing the march in Edmonton. In 1883, Henry was transferred to command Fort Saskatchewan; the family travelled on the Canadian Pacific Railway to Calgary and then by wagon train to Edmonton and Fort Saskatchewan, on occasion having to build or repair bridges in order to cross rivers.
William Griesbach left the rest of the family in 1891 in order to attend St. John's College in Winnipeg, from which he graduated in 1895. Upon graduating, he returned to Edmonton and worked in a law firm for two years and in the Imperial Bank of Canada for one year, before returning to Fort Saskatchewan to work in a milling business for six months. He returned to Edmonton to study law.
Boer War and legal career
Griesbach enlisted with the Canadian Mounted Rifles in 1899 to fight in the Second Boer War. He knew from being weighed in at boxing tournaments that he fell short of the minimum 140-pound (64 kg) weight to enlist, so on his way to being weighed he surreptitiously grabbed a large piece of coal from the enlistment centre's coal box and held it behind his back while he stood on the scales. During his service, he was awarded the Queen's South Africa Medal and received four bars.
Upon his return in 1901, he opened a law office of his own. An Edmonton Bulletin article in 1927 quoted him as saying of these early years
My rent was $12 a month. The first month I didn't make anything; the second I made exactly $12, and the third I went up to $17. Most of my callers in those days were people who wanted to sell me books.
Pre-war political career
Griesbach's first bid for political office took place in the 1903 Edmonton election, when he made an unsuccessful bid for election to Edmonton Town Council, placing fourth of nine candidates in an election in which the top three were elected. He was more successful in the 1904 election when he was elected to a one-year term as an alderman to Edmonton's first city council placing eighth of seventeen candidates (in that first election as a city, Edmonton elected four aldermen to two year terms and four to one year terms, with the idea that four of the city's eight aldermen would be elected to two year terms each year). He was re-elected to a two-year term in 1905, finishing first of ten candidates.
Previously that same year, he had run as a Conservative in the constituency of Edmonton in Alberta's first provincial election. He was defeated by Liberal Charles Cross, and continued his service on city council.
Griesbach resigned as alderman one year into his term in order to run for mayor in the 1906 election. He was victorious, collecting more than sixty percent of the vote in a three-person race and becoming, at twenty-eight years old, the youngest mayor in the city's history, before or since. He served a one-year term, but did not seek re-election and stayed out of municipal politics thereafter.
Griesbach's final involvement in provincial politics came during the 1913 election, when he ran as a Conservative in Edmonton. He finished fourth of five candidates, missing out on either of the city's two seats.
World War I
In 1906, Griesbach was commissioned as a lieutenant in the 19th Alberta Dragoons. He was promoted to captain in 1907
When World War I broke out, the Dragoons volunteered as a unit. In December of that year, Griesbach was promoted to major assigned to command the 49th Battalion. He was able to recruit 1000 men in eight days in January 1915. The unit served in various engagements, including the Battle of Vimy Ridge, the Battle of Arras, the Battle of Passchendaele, and the liberation of Mons. In 1917, Griesbach was promoted to Brigadier-General and assigned command of the 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade of the 1st Canadian Division.
He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order twice and the Victorian Decoration for long service. He was appointed Companion of the Order of the Bath and Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George.
William Griesbach was elected to the House of Commons as a Government member for the riding of Edmonton West in the 1917 election, defeating incumbent Laurier Liberal Frank Oliver. He served until September 15, 1921 (less than three months before the 1921 election), when he was appointed to the Senate, in which he served until his death.
Personal life, death, and legacy
Griesbach was an accomplished cyclist and played ice hockey and soccer for Edmonton teams. He was a member of the Masonic Order, the Oddfellows, the Edmonton Veteran Association, the Canadian Club, and the Northern Alberta Pioneer and Old Timers' Association.
In 1906, he married Janet Scott McDonald Lauder.
William Antrobus Griesbach died in Edmonton on January 21, 1945, of a sudden heart attack.
CFB Griesbach, the Griesbach Garrison (part of CFB Edmonton), Griesbach Masonic Lodge, and Edmonton's Griesbach neighbourhood are named in his honour. Mount Griesbach in the Victoria Cross Ranges of Jasper National Park is also named in his honour.
- "Griesbach Lodge #191 – Highlands Masonic Hall 5526 118 Ave NW". Retrieved July 7, 2022.
- William Antrobus Griesbach – Parliament of Canada biography
- Edmonton Public Library biography of William Griesbach
- City of Edmonton biography of William Griesbach
- Real Estate Weekly biography of William Griesbach
- William Antrobus Griesbach fonds at Library and Archives Canada
- Report to the Edmonton City Council Executive Committee including a list of aldermen who have been honoured in the names of Edmonton's features[permanent dead link]
- Generals of World War II