Our Story:

Champ Family History

Wesley Warren Champ (1886-1943) was a prominent Regina businessman in the early years of the Saskatchewan’s history. Originally from Galt, Ontario, Wesley moved to Regina in summer of 1911 to take a position as accountant at Cushing’s Mill, a company that did millwork, manufacturing doors and windows. In 1913, Wesley is listed in the Regina directory as the co-proprietor (with Melzar O. Nobles) of Nobles and Champ, a real estate company and colonization service in the Dominion Trust Building. By that year, his brothers David John Champ (1892-1985) and Stewart F. Champ (1888-1972) had also moved to Regina from Galt. David first worked in Regina as a waiter, and Stewart was employed by the Waddell Brothers in a restaurant, confectionery and billiards room at 1909 South Railway Street.

In 1914 and 1915, the three Champ brothers took over the old Waddell café and remodeled it into Champ’s Café and Hotel at 1819 South Railway. In the beginning, all three resided in the hotel premises. The motto of their business was “Quality, Courtesy, and Service.” In the years that followed the establishment of the Champ Hotel, Wesley Champ became one of the largest property owners in the city. He was the owner and manager of the Champlain Hotel at Eleventh Avenue and Rose Street which he sold in about 1936 when it became the Drake Hotel. He was president of Champlain Drugs Ltd., and served as president of the Regina Development Co. Ltd., owners of the Broder building. He was the secretary-treasurer for Picardy’s in Saskatchewan, and a director of Fairview Florists, Concrete Products, and the Claire apartments in Regina.

The George Champ Family Year: c. 1905 Place Name: Galt, ON L to R: Stewart, Henry, David, Wesley Sitting: George, Severa and Christina

The George Champ Family
Year: c. 1905
Place Name: Galt, ON
L to R: Stewart, Henry, David, Wesley
Sitting: George, Severa and Christina

Wesley’s future wife, Myrtle Irene Chisholm (1889-1970) arrived in Regina from Grafton, Ontario in 1912, one week before the cyclone disaster hit the city. It is believed that Wesley and Myrtle met at their mutual workplace, likely Cushing’s Mill. They married in about 1918, and started a family. Their children included: William Alexander (1920-1995), Robert Stewart (1923 – ), Warren Chisholm (1927 – ), George Barry (1932-) and Barbara Joan (1932-1976). Wesley and Myrtle Champ owned one of the most beautiful homes in Regina on Leopold Crescent. They took great pride in their flower gardens, and won many horticultural trophies over the years.

Hotel Champlain Year: c. 1930 Place Name: Regina, SK Located at the corner of 11th Avenue and Rose Street, the Hotel Champlain was built in 1926. It later became the Drake Hotel and then a Holiday Inn Express hotel.

Hotel Champlain
Year: c. 1930
Place Name: Regina, SK
Located at the corner of 11th Avenue and Rose Street, the Hotel Champlain was built in 1926. It later became the Drake Hotel and then a Holiday Inn Express hotel.

Wesley Champ is probably best known for his passionate involvement in Saskatchewan hockey. He owned the Regina Capitals hockey team, part of the Western Canadian Hockey League, from 1921 to 1925. The majority of the players on the Caps team moved to permanent berths with the top professional teams of Canada and the United States. The franchise relocated before the 1925-26 season and the Capitals became the Portland Rosebuds. Wesley Champ operated many other hockey teams in Regina, among them the Vics and Caps, both amateur teams, and was responsible for the development of some fine hockey talent. In his possession was Eddie Shore’s first professional contract with the old Caps. Dick Irvin and George Hay used to play for Champ. As part of his commitment to hockey, Wesley served as an official with the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association.

Wesley Champ Year: c. 1940 Place Name: Regina, SK

Wesley Champ
Year: c. 1940
Place Name: Regina, SK

When Wes Champ passed away in August 1943, Dave Dryburgh wrote the following article in the Regina Leader Post entitled, “‘The Little Man’ Wes Champ:”

The little man is dead, but his name will forever be linked with the most sparkling hockey the prairies have ever seen.

Wes Champ was content to be a fan until a fall day in 1921 when Gordon “The Duke” Keats dropped into his hotel [the Champlain]. The Duke was bent on forming a professional league, had tried to interest Dick Irvin and Al Ritchie, and was enroute home to Edmonton with a discouraging report from Regina when a lucky chat with Wes in the hotel lobby changed the picture. The fan who never missed an amateur game decided in a jiffy that he would have a whirl as manager of a professional club.

Thus the star-studded Western league was born and for four years Wes Champ rode to fame and public acclaim with his Caps. He signed puck wizards like Gordie Hay and Dick Irvin to contracts; he imported colourful personalities like Amby Moran and Rabbit McVeigh and Spunk Sparrow to cause a stampede at the box office; he snared the cream of the local crop and sent out athletes like Bill Laird, Puss Traub, and Laudus Dutkowski to bring about a hockey boom.

To the day he died, Wes spoke with pride of these puckists, the boys who won at title for him the first year and those who came later. Among his possessions is the first contract Eddie “Mr. Hockey” Shore ever signed. He [Shore] jumped from the Melville Millionaires to the Caps and played for Champ for $1,500 – a respectable figure in those times.

But soon came the day that the all-star circus outgrew the cities on the prairies. There was bigger money elsewhere for the Keats, the Ganes, the Simpsons, the Winklers, the McCuskers, the Hays, and the Irvins. The writing was on the wall, and Champ sold everything to the Portland Rosebuds for a reported $25,000. Imagine what Hay or Irvin alone would be worth on the market today!

The original Caps later became the Chicago Black Hawks.

… [Champ] was the president of the title-winning Regina Vics in 1929. He was there to watch Johnny Clark pile up that never-equaled shut-out record in the Vic nets. Came another lull, but an inveterate hockey booster, Champ was back with a club named the Caps that introduced players like Butch MacDonald, Lloyd Ailsby, Luke Waring, and Tony Desmarais to senior company and started them on the road to stardom.

In recent years, Champ, content to be a fan, possibly saw every player who ever drew on a pair of skates in the National league or any of the senior circuits. He was as a good judge of ice talent as the next one.

He witnessed his last game of his favorite sport in California last spring. Dick Irvin’s Canadiens were performing and Dick remarks: “There was Wes sitting in back of the players’ bench just as he had done 23 years before and I’ll swear he was as keen and excited as he was the first time I met him.”

Wes loved his hockey. The athletes who pulled on Cap and Vic uniforms for him never regretted meeting up with the Little Man, and Irvin declares, “He was one of the best losers I ever saw.”

What finer tribute can be paid to any man?

Wesley Champ’s deep sense of civic responsibility led to his volunteer involvement in many organizations at both the municipal and provincial level. He served: as President of the local YMCA; President of the Saskatchewan and Dominion Hotel Association and Restaurant Association; Director of the Regina Exhibition Board; member of the Board of Directors of Regina College; member of the Regina Board of Trade; and as a member of the Board of Metropolitan United Church. In 1928, Wesley served as an Alderman on Regina City Council. During his term as Chairman of the Regina General Hospital the nurses’ home and the power house were built. In 1931, Wesley Champ organized the Saskatchewan Voluntary Relief Association and served as its chairman. This organization collected food and clothing for rural residents of the province during the Depression.

Genealogical note: According to Champ family genealogists, all the Champs from Ireland come from the same line. These Champs all originally came from Fenestrelle, Savoy (now NW Italy). The Irish Champs were Huguenots–Protestants who fled France after 1685 when King Louis XIV made Protestantism illegal in France. More than 400,000 fled the country. By 1700, the 500 Huguenots who fought alongside William of Orange against the Jacobites were settled, as a reward for their service, in Portarlington, Queen’s County (later County Laois), Ireland. In about 1850, Wesley Champ’s grandparents, John Champ (1813-1870) and Anne [Fletcher] Champ (1820-1911) immigrated to Canada from Ireland and settled in Flambourough Twp., Wentworth County. They had eight children, including Wesley’s father, George Champ (1859-1928).

Warren C. Champ became a businessman like his father Wesley, both in Regina and in Saskatoon. He married Kathleen Beatrice Gray in Regina on August 5, 1950. They had four children: Diane, Robert, Thomas and Margaret. In 1968, the family moved from Regina to Saskatoon, where Warren established, and served as president of, Mine Supply Company Limited. This company supplies equipment, large and small, to potash mines, uranium mines, and other types of mines.

Warren Champ with his mother, Myrtle Champ Year: c. 1945

Warren Champ with his mother, Myrtle Champ
Year: c. 1945

Kathleen Beatrice [Gray] Champ was born in Maidstone, Saskatchewan, the daughter of Norah Beatrice [English] Gray (1900-1992) and Arthur William Gray (1893-1965). She had a sister Margaret and a brother William. Kathleen’s father worked as a bank manager for the Standard Bank and then the Canadian Bank of Commerce, first in Maidstone and then in Regina.

Kathleen’s mother, Norah Beatrice [English] Gray, was a Barr Colonist. She arrived in Saskatoon in the spring of 1903 with her parents, William Henry English (1864-1956) and Helen Anne [Warren] English (1866-1948), and three siblings. Norah was three years old. In 1984, Norah wrote an account of the lives of her parents, which is provided below in its entirety.

The Rev. Canon and Mrs. William H. English:

 Barr Colonists

By Norah B. Gray (1900-1992)

[Written in 1984]

My father, William Henry English, was born in Redditch, Worcestershire, England on June 3, 1864, one of three sons born to George, a needle manufacturer, and Mary Ann English.

After completing his education at the University of London, Father became a school master in a private boys’ school in Hitchin, Hertforshire. Later he was principal of the Hitchin Commercial School. He was identified with the athletic life of the town; he played football and cricket for Hitchin. He was President and Chairman of the Hertfordshire Football Association.

Rev. and Mrs. William English with their children Year: 1904 Place Name: Battleford, SK L to R: George, Norah, Helen, Richard (on mother\\\'s knee), and Winifred (Peggy, on father's knee)

Rev. and Mrs. William English with their children
Year: 1904
Place Name: Battleford, SK
L to R: George, Norah, Helen, Richard (on mother’s knee), and Winifred (Peggy, on father’s knee)

In 1895 my father married Helen Anne Warren of Hitchin. Our mother was the eldest of ten children — six sisters and three brothers.

In 1902 the Rev. Isaac M. Barr was organizing a colony to come to Canada — to the North West Territories — where the Dominion Government had set aside some land on the 4th Meridian for colonization. At the same time Bishop Newnham, then of Moosonee (later Saskatchewan), was asking for men for the ministry in Western Canada. As Father had received education in Theology, he decided to answer the Bishop’s call for men for the ministry and he and Mother prepared to join the Colony being organized by Mr. Barr for the colony on the 4th Meridian. This decision meant leaving relatives and friends in England and starting a new life in a new country.

In March 1903 the English family sailed from Liverpool on the ship “The Lake Manitoba” with the Barr Colony. The Rev. George Exton Lloyd was the chaplain of the colony and later became the leader. Lloydminster is named after him.

Our family at that time were six in number – Mother, Father, George William, 7 years; Helen Mary, 5 years; Norah Beatrice, 3 years; and Winifred, 1 year. (Three brothers were born later in Canada: Edward Richard, in 1903; John Francis, in 1905; and Thomas Henry, in 1908). We arrived in St. John, New Brunswick on Good Friday, April 10, 1903, after a somewhat uncomfortable voyage in a heavily overcrowded ship, though we did travel ‘cabin.’ Our ticket for the voyage and an order for the rail tickets from St. John to Saskatoon came to 45.1.3. or in our money about $220.35.

There were about 2000 people on the “Lake Manitoba” and they filled the colonist trains for the long trip to Saskatoon, which was the end of the railway. At that time, Saskatoon was a small prairie town where tents and weary travelers searched for their luggage, which had come on a separate train.

In Saskatoon the colonists were to buy wagons, horses or oxen for their transportation to the Colony headquarters on the 4th Meridian. My father bought a wagon and a team of strong horses – a black and a brown. Into this wagon our worldly goods were piled and the family with them! For in early May we started with the rest of the Colony for our drive to Battleford. The road was a two-wheel track across the prairie. It took eight days to drive from Saskatoon to Battleford. The nights were spent in tents near the marquees set up every 18 miles by the Dominion Government. Mother [who was expecting her fifth child] slept in a deck chair. A late snow storm experienced on the trip slowed up the colonists and made traveling uncomfortable.

The family stayed in Battleford, where we lived in part of a rented house until after our brother Dick was born on July 1, 1903. Father did go to the headquarters of the Colony on the 4th Meridian, be we never moved there.

Father, having come to Canada to enter the ministry of the Anglican church, was accepted by Bishop Cyprian Pinkham of the Diocese of Calgary and Saskatchewan as a student for Holy Orders and was appointed ‘lay reader’ in September 1903 in the Bresaylor settlement under the direction of the Rev. J. F.D. Parker, incumbent of St. George’s Parish, Battleford. Bresaylor was about 35 miles west of Battleford and one of the oldest settlements, getting its name from three old timer’s families – Bremner, Sayers and Taylor. When Father was ordained Deacon in 1904 in St. George’s Church, Battleford, and ordained priest in 1905 in the old log school house, Bresaylor, by Bishop Newham, he was made the driving clergyman of a huge parish. More on this later!

On moving to the Bresaylor district in1903, as we had no house, we lived in a granary on the farm of a neighbour, Mr. Joseph Lambert, until November. We slept on the floor of the granary on feather beds our parents had brought from England, and our cooking was done on an outside stove. That fall, Father had filed on a homestead adjoining the Lambert farm. Before Christmas a house was found for us just west of Delmas, a small village. The house was near the roadbed of the Canadian Northern Railway and work had begun on the preparation for laying the tracks. We spent the winter of 1903-04 in this house known as the Gordon house. There was one room downstairs and one room upstairs. The house was built of logs and was very cold. My father had started his ministerial duties in the Bresaylor settlement. He had a team of ponies and a sleigh for transportation. Evidently Mother and Father and we five children came through the winter safely, none the worse for the cold house.

In 1904 a house was built on our own homestead. It was of logs and was one large room, curtained off for bedrooms and kitchen. A cellar was dug under the house for storage of food – cool in summer and frost-free in winter. In 1905 we had an addition built of lumber, making four bedrooms, and later a kitchen was added.

In 1906 the congregation of Bresaylor built their church – St. Anne’s – named by the women of the Parish. This church was dedicated December 16, 1906 by Bishop Newnham. Father helped to build this church – it was described as having “a distinctly ecclesiastical appearance” which effect has been produced by the high Norman windows, that on the east having stained glass and a small Norman tower (as yet incomplete). As Bresaylor was the oldest settlement in this part of the country, it was fitting that it led the way in the erection of a church.

In 1904 Father was occupied in opening new missions – that spring the first Anglican services were held in Paynton in the store of William Stone. The following year services were held in the home of the Saunders. And when the first school was built, services were held every two weeks in the school until the parishioners built Christ Church in 1907. This church was formally opened and dedicated on the fourth Sunday in Advent 1907 by the Right Rev. J.H. Newnham. Subscriptions and collections and a grant from the Church Associations in England provided the money. The building was done by willing workers of the congregation. Father was now the first incumbent of the Parish of Christ Church, Paynton.

And now my father became the driving clergyman over his huge parish of about 2000 square miles with 10 or 12 centres under his care. A fellow clergyman described a driving clergyman the following way: “Winter and summer alike they drive, drive, drive and all this on prairie trails. On Sunday they average between 30 and 40 miles of driving and take three services in miniature churches, school houses or shacks.” Father often drove 75 miles over the weekend with his team. Once, his transportation went missing! It happened April 22, 1906, the first Sunday after Easter. Our brother Jack (John Francis) was to be christened at Bresaylor during the morning service. As usual, Father was up at ‘the crack of dawn’ to feed oats to his horses, Sally and Polly, when he discovered that they had broken out of the pasture and disappeared. Although he walked for miles looking for them, there was no sign of the missing team. Help was obtained when our good neighbour Jim Lambert hitched up his team to his wagon and drove us all into Bresaylor for the service.

The horses were missing for a week or so – Father walked for services and for his visits to his parishioners. Finally the missing horses were found by Jimmy Bird (a scout during the Resistance of 1885) headed for Spy Hill, the former home of Polly.

Prairie fires were a menace in those early days. My father was away a great deal of the time on his ministerial duties, and our mother was left on the Homestead with a family of seven small children. I remember one time when a prairie fire came close to our home, when Mother and my brother George beat the fire with wet gunny sacks dipped into a nearby slough. Another time a fire swept across the prairie and came as near as our yard where we kept our wood pile. All the neighbours were out fighting the fire. We frightened children were calmed by our mother who, as always, had a lot of courage.

During these early days, in spite of the lost horses, prairie fires, very cold or very hot drives, and mosquitoes, Father kept up his ministerial work, faithfully visiting his huge parish and aiding the catechists [students] under his charge. One item in his notebook tells of one cold journey. “February 7, 1908 – Evensong and Holy Communion at Christ Church, Paynton – 30 present – Drove home with George. Very cold – 40° below zero – 55° below next morning.” This was a drive of nine miles in an open cutter.

In the summer of 1909 our mother was very ill for 14 weeks with typhoid fever. This was a bad time for all of us. But the kind parishioners were wonderful, helping to nurse Mother and looking after us children. There was certainly a guardian angel watching over us all.

In October 1909 Bishop Newnham placed Father in Lashburn as an incumbent of the Parish of All Saints – a church newly opened and dedicated. The church, rectory and a cottage hospital had been built by a settler, Mr. James Morrison Bruce, who had inherited a fortune from an aunt. Father was the first incumbent, and we were the first family to live in the new Rectory. This was a new life for all of us. We children were able to attend school. All Saints Church was consecrated in 1909 and at the time of this writing (1984) is preparing to celebrate its 75th anniversary. My father was still the driving clergyman. He had missions in Waseca, Maidstone, Battle Vale, Battle Valley, Wirral, Marsden, and Nielburg. So again much of his time was spent driving.

Four years passed swiftly at Lashburn. My brother Dick and I were both patients in the cottage hospital with typhoid fever late in 1909.

Our mother was president of the Women’s Auxiliary of All Saints. Meetings were held in the Rectory mostly. Mother was made a life member of the W.A. by the Lashburn W.A. in 1912.

One great event to us children was to watch the tandem of hackneys from the Tign Duin Farm – owned by Mr. Bruce – come into Lashburn with a driver in uniform sitting up high guiding the spirited and high-stepping hackneys. They had to pass quite close to the Rectory so we had the opportunity for a great thrill.

In 1913 Father was placed on the Little Pine Indian Reserve and had charge of the church work and of the newly opened Day School there. He also was in charge of Christ Church at Paynton. So again he did a lot of driving as Paynton was 14 miles by the bridge over the Battle River or 9 miles in winter crossing on the ice. Mother was appointed Field Matron; consequently, she was kept excessively busy. Every school day she cooked a hot meal at noon for the Indian children attending. The meal consisted of good rich soup, which Mother made from soup bones, beans, rice, and split peas supplied by the Indian Department of the Government – also hard biscuits and tea. Milk was supplied from our own source – our cow. Mother baked bread for the Indian children. After dinner the older girls washed the dishes.

The Field Matron’s duties included the giving out of simple remedies to those Indians who came for them And many visits were made to sick people in their own houses in winter or teepees in the summer. We three daughters helped when we could during our holidays from school. Our brothers attended the Indian Day School.

Mother’s work was never done. She gave care to many needy Indians far beyond the call of duty. She made custards for sick, old women, provided milk for sick babies, and she accompanied Father on his visits about the Reserve. A great many Indian people came to the Mission House for quilts and clothes. Many of them brought berries they had picked in exchange for these goods.

Many Indian people were suffering from tuberculosis. Their summers spent outside and in tents helped many sufferers, and the food obtained from the Mission House helped others. The doctor for the Reserve lived in Battleford.

In school, children were taught to speak English, to read and write, and the rudiments of arithmetic. And the necessity of cleanliness was taught them, too. Services were held regularly in the school. It was not until several years later that St. Johns, the Archdeacon Mackay memorial church, was built.

When I look back on those four years of life on Little Pine Reserve, I realize that a great deal of dedication on Mother’s and Father’s part was made to the work there. We looked upon the Indian people as our friends and they regarded the Mission House and its occupants as their friends. My father conducted the services in Cree. Sometimes the service would be held outside and Father would take his portable organ outside and play and sing hymns (in Cree) with his congregation.

While we were on the Reserve, war broke out on August 4, 1914 and our eldest brother George, only 18, joined up immediately, and after some training at Saskatoon and Valcartier, he went overseas with the First Canadian Contingent before Christmas that year. He trained on Salisbury Plain in England and finally arrived in Belgium on March 1915. George was in the first gas attack at Langemark, second Battle of Ypres, and was killed April 24, 1915 – just 19 years old. This was a sad blow to all of us, but especially to Father and Mother. However, they bravely kept on in the work they had undertaken to do. It was not easy, and now looking back in 1984 I think they were particularly courageous. Father had to conduct several memorial services for members of his congregation who had made the supreme sacrifice. “Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

We left the Reserve in August 1917 and Father returned as incumbent of the Bresaylor and Paynton parishes, and we again lived among Father’s early parishioners.

Our homestead had been sold when we went to Lashburn in 1909. But in 1917 we were able to return to it, as Father was able to buy it back. It had changed owners several times in the intervening eight years. Again, The Old Homestead became the centre of the church work in the area.

When working again in his parishes, Father had many cold drives in the winter and hot ones in the summer – but he faithfully worked with the people of Bresaylor and Paynton, Grand Cheviot, and Stony Creek, which entailed a lot of driving. Mother was president of the W.A. in Paynton and of the Bresaylor W.A. The W.A.s in those days were indeed the ‘hand maidens’ of the church. Father has often remarked that without his Auxiliary the churches could not have functioned. And we children received help in our education from bursary funds of the Dominion W.A. for sons and daughters of the clergy.

In 1924 at the Synod held on June 16, Father presented a paper, “The Last Twenty-Five Years.” Father was then Rural Dean of Battleford. This paper traced the growth of the church in both Indian and white work since 1900: the arrival of the Barr Colonists; the 60 catechists brought from England by Archdeacon Lloyd in 1907; the effect the war had upon the number of clergy as so many joined the army; and then work again after the war. (A copy of this paper is in the Provincial Archives.) It touched upon the work of the W.A. Mention was also made of the help given so freely from the lay people of the Diocese. The paper ended with these words: ‘As we all look back upon the last 25 years we are conscious that we have sometimes done that which we ought not, we have sometimes neglected that which we ought to have done. Let us remember that our insufficiency is of the world, that our sufficiency is of God who will grant us success if we faint not.”

After nearly 30 years of work in the Diocese of Saskatchewan, Father retired in 1933. In 1932 he was made Canon of the Cathedral of St. John’s. That year the Diocese of Saskatoon was formed from part of the Diocese of Saskatchewan.

But although he was “retired,” Father kept up a lot of ministerial work. In the 1940s he was still helping with services in North Battleford, Paynton, or Bresaylor at different times and when he was needed. He spent over forty years in the ministry. In the 1950s he assisted at the weddings of five of his grandchildren.

And what of Mother during this time? She was a tower of strength in all Father’s work. And she looked after a family of seven children. A tribute paid to her memory by Bishop Hallam at her funeral in 1948 ably expressed her part in these years of ministry. “Through the long years since first Mrs. English came to Saskatchewan she has been esteemed by all who had the privilege of knowing her. Her house was a home by the roadside, particularly with the newcomers, years ago, who found themselves strangers in a land of their adoption, gave her a place in their affectionate memory. By her advice and experience she smoothed the rough places of their pioneer life and her welcome showed that kind hearts can make a real home in a simple prairie house. Her wise judgment and her calm spirit greatly helped her husband, Canon English, in his work and her example of Christian living gave added strength to his ministry. God granted her a full life, and by His help her graciousness adorned her years.” My sister Helen recalls getting up in the morning and finding Mother feeding strangers, whom she and Father had taken in when they stopped and asked for shelter.

Father died at 92 years, in July 1956 in Regina. I accompanied him on his last journey up north to that part of Saskatchewan that he loved so well. We buried him beside Mother in the cemetery at Paynton whose memorial gates he had dedicated the year before (1955). At his funeral service in Christ Church, Bishop Steer paid tribute to his ministry in those early days. Members of the Masonic Lodge of Lashburn attended the service, and comrades of the Paynton Legion held their service at his graveside, for Father had been their padre for 32 years.

The many contributions made by Father, the Reverend William H. English and by Mother, Helen Anne English, to the lives and happiness of the early settlers in a part of the North-West Territories (later the province of Saskatchewan); and also the World War service 1914-1915 of our brother George, are commemorated by the naming of a lake in their honor, English Lake, in northern Saskatchewan.