Blog #18 Education of Girls in Red River Settlement: Part Two (Reverends Jones and Cochran)

Tags: Red River Settlement education; education of girls; George and Elizabeth Harbidge; Hudson’s Bay Company and  education; Church Missionary Society; Manitoba Education; Reverend David Jones and Mary Lloyd Jones; Reverend William Cochran and Ann Cochran;

 At the end of my last Blog, you may remember that Reverend West was fired from his position as Hudson’s Bay Company chaplain after he arrived in England on furlough in 1823. The HBC wanted West to concentrate on educating the children in the Red River area, whereas West and the Church Missionary Society believed they should attempt to educate and Christianize the Indians and Métis in the whole North West.

David Jones (ca 1796-1844) was a Welshman who left for the Red River immediately after his ordination in 1823. There, he was to relieve West for a year while the latter was on furlough. Soon after Jones arrived, however, Governor Simpson wrote to HBC director Andrew Colvile opposing West’s return and praising Jones. As a result, West’s contract was terminated and Jones succeeded him.

After Jones’ arrival the day school increased in importance while the Indian school declined. A problem with finances remained. Many settlers did not pay their share of money needed to pay teachers.  When West departed on furlough it appeared that the Aboriginal children were progressing well in the school which he had established in efforts to evangelize them.  Jones continued West’s program at the school. By 1826, however, the school was judged only a qualified success. The deaths of some students—cause of deaths not stated—led some parents to question the treatment of their children and not wish to send them to school. There was also the issue of what graduating students would do. The CMS had hoped to train these students as missionaries, but in most cases they were neither suitable for such a role nor interested in it.  The school continued, but with a reduced number of students.

In 1825, Reverend William Cochran and his wife Ann arrived as a teaching couple with their infant son. About the same time as the Cochrans’ arrival, Jones fired the teacher George Harbidge “ostensibly for drunkenness.”  Harbidge was also accused of being unable to keep order or teach arithmetic. He was replaced by a retired HBC officer named William Garrioch and Mrs. Harbidge was replaced by Mrs. Cochran. Jones oversaw the school and taught grammar; Garrioch taught the other academic subjects; Cochran taught practical subjects such as gardening; and Ann Cochran taught the girls practical subjects.


William Cochran

In January 1827, Jones wrote to the Church Missionary Society describing a planned “female school” to be directed by Mrs. Cochran.

We are to receive ten girls next summer…I consider this an important step gained….Experience has taught the society the influence which female education is calculated to produce in an uncivilized country…In the course of time… [these girls] will be disposed of in marriage to persons of the country and may we not hope that thus we shall have female missionaries by and bye throughout the Indian  territories?” [Foster,  p. 68]

By 1828 there were four day schools and about 30 Indian children were boarding. Jones hoped that the Church Missionary Society would be more sympathetic to the education of non-Aboriginal children. The HBC officers supported the Anglican efforts at education; however they would not consider having their children educated with either Indian or common settler children.

In 1828, Jones went on leave. His experiences on his furlough were much happier than West’s had been. Instead of being fired, Jones returned from his furlough with a bride named Mary Lloyd.

Mrs. Jones was impressed with the need for a boarding school for the girls of the settlement and daughters of HBC factors living elsewhere. She taught the girls with the assistance of an English governess.

In 1833, the minutes of the meeting of the Council of the HBC highly praised the educational and religious work of Reverend Jones. The Council also voted the sum of ₤100 per annum to Jones for the school “in aid of this highly promising establishment.” Another resolution was passed stating:

That a vote of thanks be presented to Mr. and Mrs. Jones for the readiness with which they entered into the views and wishes of the gentlemen of the country when requested to undertake the formation of such an establishment, for the deep and lively interest they take in the improvement, and for the unremitting attention they pay to the health and comfort of the young folk entrusted to their care. [quoted in Shave article p. 7]

William and Ann Cochran

Cochran was a Scot raised in England on a farm and his wife had been a maid servant, so they were both lower class, practical people.  Shortly after their arrival, the Church Missionary Society wrote to Cochran:

Your account of Mrs. Cochran’s attention to the females is particularly pleasing.  She is a true missionary’s wife…and as important in her sphere to the spiritual good of the mission as you in yours. [Jaenen article p.  26]

Soon after that, Jones reported to the Church Missionary Society:

Experience has taught the Society, the influence which female education is calculated to produce in an uncivilized country…The females in question [mixed-race daughters of HBC officers] are never likely to see any country but this.  In the course of time, they will be disposed of in marriage to persons of the country; and may we not hope, that thus we shall have female missionaries by and bye throughout the Indian Territories?

 Not surprisingly, Governor Simpson disapproved of Mrs. Cochran whom he described as a “dolly mop” who “ever prays and cooks and looks demure.”  He further charged that her “assumed Puritanism but ill conceals the vixen, shines only when talking of elbow grease and the scouring of pots and pans.” Simpson’s comments appear to be sheer prejudice against Mrs. Cochran because of her servant background.

George Simpson final
Governor George Simpson 1857, an engraving from a portrait by Stephen Pearce. (HBCA, AM,  P 296 Neg. N5394) )

Cochran began construction at St. Andrews of a combination church and school house in 1831.  The next year it was completed and “Mrs. Cochran taught the girls five days in the week and the boys were taught by a young gentleman of fine education.”

In 1832, the Indian school founded by West was transferred to Cochran’s care, He established a school of industry which trained boys in weaving, carpentry and husbandry and the girls in spinning and other domestic tasks.

Church and Mission School
Church and Mission School at the Upper Settlement, (from The Rainbow of the North by Sarah Tucker, 1851)

Jones and Cochran agreed that they should establish a boarding school for fee-paying girls.  In 1827, they had persuaded some local “gentlemen” to send their girls to such as school run by Ann Cochran; however Mrs. Cochran did not have the qualities these families wanted for their daughters.  They were not interested in having them taught only domestic skills; they wished them to learn “ornamental” skills such as music and to acquire the manners of ladies.   When Mary Jones arrived from England, she took over the school from Mrs. Cochran.

In 1832, encouraged by Simpson, Jones proposed a boarding school at the Upper Church “for the moral improvement, religious instruction, and general education of boys; the sons of gentlemen   belonging to the fur trade.”  This school, which became known as the Red River Academy, was the first English-speaking high school at the Red River. It opened in 1833 with a female academy within the school.

My next Blog will describe the formation of the Red River Academy and its history.


Foster, John E., “Program for the Red River Mission: the Anglican Clergy, 1820-1826”, University of Alberta, M.A. thesis, 1966

Shave, Harry, “Pioneer Protestant Ministers”, MHS Transactions, Series 3, No. 6, 1949-50 season

Jaenen, Dr. C.J., “Foundations of dual Education at Red River, 1811-34”, MHS Transactions, Series 3, 1964-65 season


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