BROKOVSKI (Brokouski), EDWIN (Edward) FREDERICK THOMAS, teacher, militia officer, engineer, newspaper proprietor, and office holder; b. 1 Oct. 1838 in London, England, son of Augustus D. Brokovski and Hannah Sarah Hayne; m. first 28 Feb. 1865 Elizabeth Craig (d. 1868), and they had two children, one of whom survived infancy; m. secondly 15 May 1876 Helen Cameron Scott in Toronto, and they had two sons and a daughter; d. 23 Dec. 1916 in Battleford, Sask.
Edwin Brokovski’s father had participated in the Polish insurrection of 1831 and found exile in London, where he married Hannah Sarah Hayne. Both had studied piano with Franz Schubert in Vienna. Edwin was educated in London and, to become an engineer, he entered a five-year apprenticeship program at the Elswick engine works in Newcastle upon Tyne. His departure after four years was “due to circumstances beyond his control,” possibly related to the death of his father. In 1857 he immigrated to Upper Canada and settled in Toronto with his widowed mother, his brother, his two sisters, and a niece.
On 20 Feb. 1858 he applied for a third-class teaching certificate and by 1865 he was teaching in Craighurst with a second-class certificate. Sometime that year, when he married, he moved to Coldwater; his wife would die three years later. In religion, he belonged to the Church of England; in politics, he was a Conservative, described in 1868 as “an energetic and warm supporter of the British connection.”
While in Toronto Brokovski had joined a volunteer rifle company and served from 1858 to 1860. During the Trent affair [see Sir Charles Hastings Doyle*] he helped to organize the 10th Battalion Volunteer Militia Rifles and served as a drill instructor. He became a member of the Barrie Volunteer Militia Rifle Company (later the 35th (Simcoe) Battalion of Infantry) in November 1864 and he served with it as a lance corporal during the Fenian raids of 1866. On 11 Aug. 1868 he sent a report to Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald* on suspected Fenian activities in the Lake Simcoe region. A strong supporter of the military cadet movement, he was a founder of the North Simcoe Teachers Drill Association and its president from 1867 to 1870. He had attended the School of Military Instruction in Toronto regularly, and obtained certificates as a drill instructor in 1864 and 1868. He received his lieutenant’s commission on 25 June 1869.
In the fall and winter of 1869–70 Brokovski was employed as an assistant engineer with the Canada Southern Railway Company at Fort Erie. On 17 June he moved to Winnipeg, where he worked as a surveyor. In 1871–72 he was an assistant in charge of federal survey parties in and around Winnipeg. He succeeded Alexander Begg* as owner of the Manitoba Gazette and Trade Review (Winnipeg) in September 1872. During riots on election day later that month, the offices of newspapers which had supported Donald Alexander Smith were sacked. The Gazette was obliged to import new equipment. The paper reappeared on 15 November at about the time Brokovski entered into a partnership with George Frederick Carruthers for its publication. The Gazette ceased to exist in September 1874 and Brokovski and Carruthers was dissolved in October. Later in October Brokovski became a reporter for the trial of Ambroise-Dydime Lépine*. He and George Babington Elliott co-published the proceedings.
Brokovski was an active member of the community. He was a member of the hook and ladder company of the volunteer fire brigade. An organizer of the Manitoba Rifle Association, he acted as its range officer from 1872 to 1874. In 1873 he was among the citizens who met to establish a board of trade. He remarried in 1876 and both he and his wife were involved in the artistic life of Winnipeg as musicians, actors, and members of various cultural organizations.
During the summers Brokovski worked in Toronto as a land and real estate agent, promoting immigration to Manitoba. By 1881 he and his family had moved to Oakville, Ont. Brokovski and Company, based in Toronto, carried on his agency business. In 1882 Brokovski was assistant bridge inspector on the Pembina branch of the Canadian Pacific Railway and later that year, on 23 September, he was promoted bridge inspector. He was appointed a justice of the peace and notary public for the North-West Territories on 31 July 1884. By then he was also an agent of the dominion lands branch of the Department of the Interior in the area of Moosomin (Sask.). Two guides worked with him, taking charge of incoming settlers and driving them to the lands open for homesteading. Brokovski was considered to be “a good soul, helpful in every possible way.”
Brokovski was promoted dominion lands agent in Battleford in 1887. He continued to work in the post until 1896 when the Liberal government of Wilfrid Laurier came to power and he fell “victim to the political axe.” Brokovski became an insurance agent and independent land agent, helping settlers find land and file for homesteads. He reportedly claimed that “he gladly assisted intending homesteaders but land-buyers and speculators were expected to pay him for such information as he furnished them.” In 1910 he filed for a homestead in the Prongua district. He continued as a notary and justice of the peace and maintained his interest in military activities, leading the veterans’ church parade in 1913. He died three years later and was buried in the Battleford cemetery. He was survived by his widow and three sons, one of whom was serving overseas. At the time of his death he was Battleford’s “oldest and most esteemed resident.”
Brokovski has been described by some Polish-Canadian historians as one of the most eminent Polish figures in Canada and he instilled in his eldest son, John Craig, an enduring sense of Polish identity. But he was perhaps even more typical of the educated British immigrant whose allegiance remained with England. Throughout his life he was a strong Conservative and his career was closely linked to the political fortunes of the federal Conservative party.
Edwin Frederick Thomas Brokovski is the compiler, with G. B. Elliott, of Preliminary investigation and trial of Ambroise D. Lepine for the murder of Thomas Scott . . . (Montreal, 1874).
AO, RG 80-27-2, 63: 240. NA, MG 26, A: 106864–67; RG 9, II, A5, 4; RG 31, C1, 1881, Oakville, Ont.; 1891, Battleford, [Sask.]. PAM, MG 14, C13. Manitoba Free Press, 29 May 1876. Northern Advance (Barrie, Ont.), 8 March 1865. Saskatchewan Herald (Battleford), 28 Dec. 1916. Alexander Begg and W. R. Nursey, Ten years in Winnipeg: a narration of the principal events in the history of the city of Winnipeg from the year A.D. 1870 to the year A.D. 1879, inclusive (Winnipeg, 1879). John Blue, Alberta past and present, historical and biographical (3v., Chicago, 1924), 2. J. C. Brokovski, “I’m proud of my name,” Poles in Canada (Toronto), 1940: 26–27. G. B. Elliott, Winnipeg as it is in 1874; and as it was in 1860 (Winnipeg, ). John Hawkes, The story of Saskatchewan and its people (3v., Chicago, 1924), 2. Victor Turek, Poles in Manitoba, ed. Benedict Heydenkorn (Toronto, 1967).