Blog #22 Saskatchewan Museums and Bear Encounters

Tags: Saskatchewan travel; Saskatchewan museums;  Batoche; Duck Lake; 1885 Northwest Resistance;  1885 Riel Rebellion; Fort Battleford National Historic Site;  Frenchman Butte; Maple Creek; Val Marie; Willow Bunch;  black bears 

As mentioned at the end of Blog #21, I still have one more Blog left to complete my series on the education of girls during the Red River Settlement era (ca 1812-1870).  This week, however, I want to talk about some of the interesting places and museums my husband and I visited during our recent trip to Saskatchewan. If you live in Saskatchewan or plan to visit there this summer, you   might like to check some of them out.

The Saskatchewan trip was a multipurpose one.  We went to visit family and friends and at the same time we made a circuit to visit a dozen museums and gift shops across the province. I have found that museum gift shops are one of the best sources to sell the kind of history books that I write. Thus, the purpose of the circuit, in addition to seeing the country and visiting the museums, was   a mini book tour. We visited Rosthern, Batoche, Duck Lake, the Battlefords, Frenchman Butte, Maple Creek, Val Marie, Willow Bunch, Regina and Fort Qu’Appelle before returning home to Manitoba.  If you are not a resident of Saskatchewan, you may not be familiar with some of these places because they are very small or off the beaten track.  Although I will only discuss half of the places listed, that does not mean the remainder aren’t worth visiting. Actually I recommend all of them.

I had not realized until I started writing this Blog that four of the museums I visited mark the sites of events connected with the 1885 Northwest Resistance — otherwise known as the Riel Rebellion. You may know about the Batoche National Historic Site. It marks the location of the major battle between the Métis and the Canadian Government forces that took place between May 9 and 12, 1885, in which the Métis were soundly defeated. Batoche is certainly off the beaten path. There is no longer even a village there. It is located about half way between Saskatoon and Prince Albert, and few would be able to find it without a good map or GPS since it is not on a major highway.  The scenery is beautiful. The original church, rectory and cemetery are still there to visit. The rectory served as a combination residence for the priest, chapel, school and local post office. Now there is also a large new museum and interpretive centre on the site.

Batoche Cemetery

Batoche Cemetery overlooking the South Saskatchewan River

(Taken by Irene Ternier Gordon in 1996)

The nearby community of Duck Lake is also worth visiting for its museum and to view the murals painted on many of the buildings along the main street. The North-West Mounted Police were defeated there in a skirmish with the Métis led by Gabriel Dumont on March 26, 1885.


 “ A Métis family”, one of the many murals on the main street of Duck Lake.

(Taken by Irene Ternier Gordon in 1996)

The Battlefords — the city of North Battleford and its smaller neighbour Battleford – have several museums worth a visit, including Fort Battleford National Historic Site.   Women and children took refuge in the fort on March 30, 1885, when several First Nation bands arrived and looted the town.  Three weeks later Lieutenant-colonel William Otter arrived to relieve the siege with no fighting taking place.


Fort Battleford National Historic Site (Wikipedia)

Another interesting museum (and tea house) connected with the Northwest Resistance is at Frenchman Butte off Highway #3, northeast of Lloydminster and about 40 km from the Saskatchewan-Alberta border.  We had an excellent tour there, guided by a university student whose family has lived in the area for three generations. In addition to the museum, you can tour the rifle pits overlooking the scenic valley of the North Saskatchewan River where a clash took place between the military and a First Nations band led by Mistahimaskwa  on May 28, 1885.   Also worth a visit is the nearby site of the Fort Pitt fur trade post that was captured by Mistahimaskwa on April 17. He finally surrendered to the North-West Mounted Police on July 2.

Leaving central Saskatchewan, we next headed to Maple Creek in the southwest corner of the province just south of the Trans-Canada Highway. It is an attractive small town that is advertised as being in “Genuine Cowboy Country” where the “spirit of the Old West is alive and well.” Here are located two museums – the S.W. Saskatchewan Oldtimers’ Museum and the Jasper Cultural and Historical Centre. The Jasper is well worth visiting; however the Oldtimers is undergoing renovations this summer so we did not see it.  Unfortunately, we did not have time to visit the nearby Fort Walsh National Historic Site commemorating the North-West Mounted Police; however we had visited it on a previous trip and highly recommend it.


An pronghorn antelope near Maple Creek (Taken by Irene Ternier Gordon)

Next stop on our trip was the little town of Val Marie at the junction of Highways #4 and #18.  It is home of Prairie Wind and Silver Sage, which is an excellent combined eco-museum,   book store and gift shop with a coffee bar. The town is also a gateway to the Grasslands National Park, which is well worth visiting.


A view of Grasslands National Park (Taken by Irene Ternier Gordon)

The last of the museums I want to mention is in the town of Willow Bunch.  The museum is located in a former convent built in 1914. The chief claim to fame for Willow Bunch is the giant Edouard Beaupré who was born there in 1881.  He grew to be 8 ft. 3 in. tall and weighed 374 pounds before he died of tuberculosis in 1904.

Edouard Beaupre

Edouard Beaupré and his father (Wikipedia)

I don’t plan to talk about the personal part of my trip except for one event. In recent years, it seems that we are hearing of more and more encounters with bears, further and further south in both Saskatchewan and Manitoba. I grew up in the Battlefords area, and you very rarely would hear of a local bear sighting when I was a child.  If you did, it was not likely to be legitimate.  Now bears seem to be a regular occurrence. While visiting my sisters, we saw two bears in a single afternoon. First, a small bear walked in front of my sister Betty’s house, stopping long enough to attempt to knock down a bird feeder. Shortly afterwards,  at my sister Judy’s house nearby, we saw a larger bear running across her front yard on its hind legs, waving its front legs in the air like a monster in a horror movie.  My nephew Johnny raises bees, so he  rushed out of the front door with his rifle hoping to protect his hives by shooting into the air and scaring away the bear. That plan did not work because he realized that he had grabbed the wrong clip of bullets. Johnny was followed by his parents, who stood on the step yelling at the bear.   Johnny rushed back into the house for the right bullets. In his hurry, however, he slammed the door so hard that the window glass smashed all over the step. The yelling, the sound of breaking glass, or a combination thereof scared the bear away.

While that bear encounter ended OK and was even rather humorous, some neighbours had a sad experience when a bear attacked and killed a miniature horse belonging to their eight-year-old daughter. One shudders to think that the bear could have attacked the girl had she been present at the time.

Print copies of all my books and an e-book (e-pub version) of Letitia Hargrave: Mistress of York Factory may be purchased through my website at


or by e-mailing me at

Most of my books are also available as Kindle e-books from Amazon.




Blog #21 Education of Girls in Red River Settlement: Part Five (Later English Education)

Tags: Red River Settlement education of girls; Bishop David Anderson; Mrs. Mills and daughters Harriet and Mary Louisa; Red River Flood of 1852; St. Cross Ladies’ School; Matilda Davis Ladies’ School;

Bishop Anderson

Reverend John MacCallum, head of the Red River Academy, died in 1849 just before the arrival of Reverend David Anderson, who had been named the first Anglican Bishop of Rupert’s Land – the name given to the Anglican diocese in the area which included the Red River. Bishop Anderson had been offered the Red River Academy in MacCallum’s will under certain terms. Anderson agreed, paying ₤430 for school buildings, livestock, books and furnishings.  He spent another ₤700 to improve the school building and enlarge the library to 800 books.  He initially renamed the school St. John’s Collegiate School and in 1855 changed its name St. John’s College. Anderson’s ambitious new plans proved too ambitious and the college closed in 1859. It was reopened in 1866 by Anderson’s successor Bishop Robert Machray.

In 1850, Recorder Adam Thom attributed the problems which would ultimately close the school to Bishop Anderson and his sister. Thom wrote to Governor Simpson as follows:

 Through the uncongenial combination of his disinterestedness, which amounts to apathy, and her parsimony, which amounts to cruelty, their whole establishment has fallen into a sad condition. Palpable dirt in every apartment…itch uncared for among two-thirds of the school boys—lice…want of water unless in the river…insufficiency of food, both as to quantity and quality…fuel to be found…only by chopping it…and lastly their two girls, both of whom had long been with Mr. MacCallum, in the family-way before the end of six months.

[Note: The two girls referred to likely were working as servants at the school. Neither of the   Andersons had daughters so the girls could not have literally been “their” girls.]  [Bredin, pp. 15-6]

Anderson described the flood of 1852 in his book. At the time of the flood, there was the need to support 60 households –including his own home, the St. John’s Collegiate School and St. Cross Ladies’ School. The only part of Andersons’ house that was habitable was a large store-loft over the kitchen.  On May 6, Anderson wrote that a boat had come to evacuate Mrs. Mills, teacher in charge at St. Cross, and   her students, plus a few boys from his school.

In late May, Anderson and Mrs. Mills met with Governor Simpson to   discuss the schools. Anderson thought they should reduce the number of students in case of scarcity during the upcoming winter as a result of the flood  The governor “anxious that the female school should continue, as so great a benefit to the country” offered that the HBC would supply provisions for the next winter at the usual price.  [Anderson, pp. 64-5]

The following two paragraphs should ideally have appeared in Blog # 19 about the Red River Academy; however I didn’t have this information to hand when I wrote that Blog.

A former student of the Academy described it in an interview as an elderly woman.  She said that it was in a pretty ravine formed by a creek near the Red River. The building had two wings – one for the boys and another for the girls – joined by a dining room. There were separate gardens surrounded by large trees for boys’ and girls’ recreation.

The promoters of education at the Red River were said to be discouraged at the difficulty in keeping the female teachers which they had gone to the trouble and expense of bringing out from England.  The women seemed to marry retired HBC officers almost as soon as they arrived. One joke making the rounds at the time was that the educational promoters – in desperation – finally decided to offer a position to a woman of 85. However when they asked her for a guarantee that she would not marry, she said that she could not promise. “If a rich Hudson’s Bay magnate” should propose, she admitted that she might accept. Negotiations were broken off.      [Marion Bryce article, pp. 16-8]

St. Cross Ladies’ School

The female half of the Red River Academy finally closed due to lack of a governess. Bishop Anderson then appealed to the Church Missionary Society for help. As a result,  in 1851 Mrs. Ann Mills and her two daughters Mary Louisa and Harriet came from England to take over the girls’ school as a continuation of the Red River Academy. It was established in the Cochrans’ former house [See Blog #18] and became known as St. Cross Ladies’ School.

Mrs. Mills taught French, German, music and drawing and social etiquette. Although she remained at St. Cross until 1857, she had made no secret of her dislike of the Red River and believed it was futile to try to make local girls into proper English ladies.  She returned to England with her daughter Harriet, while Mary Louisa married and remained in Canada. Mrs. Mills took a position at Queen’s College in London and Harriet continued her education there.


Harriet Mills following her marriage to Reverend Michael Boomer in 1878

 Anderson wrote, following Mrs. Mills’ departure, “She expected too much and looked for the refinement and manners and society of London in this very remote corner of the world. In this way she rather disliked the place and did not conceal her dislike, which is always unfortunate for successful labour.” [Bredin, p. 17]

At least some of Mrs. Mills’ former students did not agree with Anderson. An elderly woman named Jane Tait (née Inkster) recalled her student days at St. Cross.  “We used to get up at 7 o’clock winter and summer and all go for a walk in charge of Miss Harriet Mills. Mrs. Mills was clever and kind, and we were all very fond of her.” The students had a very simple diet including bread and butter with meat once a day. There were about 30 students at the school at that time.  [Healy, p. 90]

Matilda Davis’ School

Following the closure of St. Cross and the St. John’s Collegiate School, English secondary education at the Red River was available only at Matilda Davis’ School in St. Andrews Parish and at a school run by Samuel Pritchard in St. Paul’s Parish. Miss Davis was born ca 1820 at St. Andrews Parish.  Her father was an HBC officer. After being educated in England, she set up a school in the family home with an English woman named Emma Lane as assistant. Around 1858 Miss Davis built a large stone residence for both students and staff to live in. The classroom was in a wooden building behind the stone house. The HBC offered Miss Davis a grant of 100 pounds sterling for her school for three years.




Matilda Davis and Miss Davis’ School, ca late 1850s or early 1860s,

Archives of Manitoba

Another teacher at the Davis School was an English woman named Eleanor Cripps (who later became wife of Captain William Kennedy). She was a good singer and taught music at Miss Davis’ School, as well as playing the organ at St. Andrews’ Church and training the choir.

Eleanor Cripps

Eleanor Cripps,

Libraries and Archives Canada, MIKAN 3451275

Matilda’s sister Nancy, assisted by a woman named Sarah Atkinson, was the housekeeper. Their work included rising at 4 a.m. to light the stove, hauling water and milking the cows. Food was scarce. A student named Mary Kennedy said they ate mashed potatoes with milk, bread and butter, and tea with milk for breakfast. At other meals they ate pemmican made into stew or fish if there was no fresh or frozen meat,

Another student, Jane Mary Truthwaite, described attending the Davis School when she was 10. “I remember our early breakfasts and our stately walks, and how Miss Emma Lane assisted Miss Davis in the work of the school,” The school had about 30 students, all boarders, from ages 10 to 18. “Miss Davis was extremely particular about the accuracy of our spelling, and even more particular about the propriety of our behaviour and our manner of walking and sitting.” People said that “you could pick out Miss Davis’ pupils anywhere.”  A girl sat down “as though she had a basket of eggs balanced on her head.”  They also read the scriptures daily and attended St. Andrew’s Church twice on Sundays. [Healy, p. 135]

In addition to the training mentioned above by Miss Truthwaite, students studied geography, music, French, history, drawing and dancing. They also learned needlework, which included making shirts for the boys (presumably students at the nearby boys’ school).

 Janet Muckle (née Gunn), yet another student, began attending Miss Davis’ School when she was 12. She often heard Miss Davis say that her ambition was to help the women of her native country by education. The classroom contained a long table, with one class sitting on each side and Miss Davis at the head. She “was an accomplished woman and an excellent teacher” who spoke fluent French. As a result of her education, Janet Gunn was appointed teacher at the nearby community of Little Britain when she left school.

 Miss Davis’ School closed some time after 1870 and she died in 1875.

St. Andrew's Church

St. Andrew’s Church, 1860,

sketch by Nanton Marble, Archives of Manitoba


Bredin, Thomas F., “The Red River Academy”,  The Beaver, Winter 1974, Outfit 305:3

Anderson, David, Notes of the Flood at the Red River, London: Hatchard, 1852

Bryce, Marion, “Early Red River Culture”, Manitoba Historical Society Transactions, Series 1, No. 57, 1901

Healy, W. J., Women of the Red River, Winnipeg: Women’s Canadian Club, 1923

Upcoming Blogs

In my July 12 Blog I will leave the topic of education and talk about some of the excellent museums which I recently visited in Saskatchewan – including those in Batoche, Duck Lake, Frenchman’s Butte and Willow Bunch.

Then on July 26, I will complete my series of Blogs on education by talking about the education of the Ross family and the arrival of the first Presbyterian clergyman at the Red River in 1851.


Print copies of all my books and an e-book (e-pub version) of Letitia Hargrave: Mistress of York Factory may be purchased through my website   at


or by e-mailing me at

Most of my books are also available as Kindle e-books from Amazon.



Bog # 20 Education of Girls in Red River Settlement: Part Four: French Catholic Education

Tags: Bishop Provencher; Lord Selkirk; Angélique and Marguerite Nolin; Grey Nuns; St. Boniface; Rosalie Gauthier; St. Mary’s Academy in Winnipeg; Manitoba French education;

 Lord Selkirk and the HBC Support Education

 The Bishop of Quebec sent the first three Catholic missionaries, led by Joseph Norbert Provencher, to the North West in 1818. In his instructions to them he wrote:

Missionaries will take particular care of Christian education among children, and for this they will establish schools and catechisms in all the localities they may have occasion to visit…The missionaries will establish their home near Fort Douglas on the Red River [and] will build there a church, a house and a school. For their support they will take the most advantageous way to utilize the lands that will be given to them.  [Tache, p. 1]

At this time, Lord Selkirk gave Catholic authorities in Quebec two tracts of land “the whole to help the work of the Catholic missionaries in Red River country”.  The mission was named St. Boniface. Immediately upon their arrival in July 1818, the missionaries constructed a building which became the first Catholic school at the Red River. Beginning in September 1818 the children were taught reading, writing and catechism for a few hours each day.  It is unclear whether both boys and girls were taught because Provencher wrote to the bishop in Quebec six months later, “If we had some nuns for the instruction of the girls, they would already find work to do.”  [Jaenen, pp. 8-10]

At a meeting of Hudson’s Bay Company council in July 1825 it was decided to make an annual grant of ₤50 to support the St. Boniface mission. The HBC also offered free passage to missionaries coming from Quebec as long as they were listed as teachers rather than priests. By 1830, the HBC council voted to increase their annual grant to ₤150. Equal grants were made to support Catholic and Protestant education and both were granted land on which to build schools.

A seminarian named Jean Harper arrived in St. Boniface in 1822 and was put in charge of teaching junior students. In 1827 he was sent to St. François-Xavier where he built a chapel and began instructing some girls and young women who couldn’t travel to St. Boniface. During the winter, the wife of the mission’s farm manager began to teach the girls to work in flax and wool. [Jaenen, pp. 13-4]

 The Nolin Sisters, Angélique and Marguerite

 A prominent family named Nolin arrived at the Red River from Sault Ste. Marie in 1819 on the invitation of Lord Selkirk. Jean-Baptiste Nolin was a French-Canadian and his wife Marie-Angélique Couvret was Métis-Ojibwa.  Their daughters had been well educated in Montreal, so Bishop Provencher asked one of them (Angélique) to teach the girls in St. Boniface. Her father, however, would not let her go.  He was elderly and wanted his daughters to stay home and look after him. In a letter to a Quebec Archbishop Provencher explained that J-B. Nolin “has all sorts of petty excuses, but above all he does not wish that his daughter be a servant. It is certainly not the status that I wish to give her.”   [Boyd thesis, p. 51]

 Following J-B Nolin’s death in 1826, Provencher again approached Angélique about teaching school. Finally in  1829 she and her sister Marguerite opened a school which they operated until 1834. That year, they left for Baie St. Paul near present-day St.  Francois Xavier west of St. Boniface where they continued teaching for the next ten years and also helped a priest named Belcourt in translating an Ojibwa dictionary.

 School for Weaving

 A school to teach girls how to do weaving and other domestic arts was established by Bishop Provencher in 1838. Governor Simpson agreed to pay the salaries of two women instructors for three years if the St. Boniface mission provided them with board and lodging. The school began well, but it burnt down the following year and all of the equipment was destroyed.  It was not rebuilt. One of the instructors was Ursule Grenier, the bishop’s housekeeper, who had come from Lower Canada.

 Bishop Provencher

Bishop Joseph-Norbert Provencher


Sisters of Charity (Grey Nuns)

 Provencher visited the Grey Nuns in Montreal to request some sisters to come to the St. Boniface Mission at the Red River to provide education for the daughters of the French-speaking people of the area. The first four sisters arrived on June 21, 1844. They were Marie Louise Valade, Marie Marguerite Eulalie Lagrave (trained nurse and musician), Gertrude Coutlée, and Marie Hedwidge La France.  By July 11, they had organized a class for girls, and soon after a class for boys was begun. The nuns continued to teach both boys and girls until the Brothers of the Christian School of Montreal arrived in 1854. After that time the nuns only taught girls. Sister Lagrave soon realized that there was as much or more need for nursing care than for education.  In 1871 the Grey Nuns opened the first hospital in the North West.

Marie Louise Valade was chosen as superior-foundress of the convent at St. Boniface for several reasons. She had vast experience as a treasurer and good leadership skills. Another important qualification was that she was Métis and it was felt that she “would have an instinctive understanding of the young girls and women she could expect to be in charge of.”   [Mitchell, p. 11] At her death at the age of 53 in 1861, Mother Valade left a well-organized convent, three schools, and a staff of 21 nuns.

Sister La France began as the girls’ teacher, with 27 students “whose docility and intelligence were really remarkable” according to her. The parents paid tuition of 20 sols plus one cord of wood per student each year.  [Mitchell, pp.  29, 31] In 1846, Sister Ouimet and Sister Marguerite Connolly (a young Métis woman who entered the Grey Nuns order at the Red River) were also assigned as teachers. Sister Lagrave soon formed an excellent choir.

Sister Ste. Therese, who became known as Soeur le Docteur because of her medical skill, spent most of her time treating the sick; however she was also a teacher and was one of the founders of Ėcole Sainte-Marie which evolved into St. Mary’s Academy to serve the English speaking Catholics across the Red River from St. Boniface. St. Mary’s Academy continues to operate today as an all-girls high school in the city of Winnipeg. Classes began in 1869 with the assistance of Red River Governor William McTavish and his wife. Because the Grey Nuns’ primary mandate was as nurses rather than teachers, they soon requested that the bishop find someone else to take over this new school.  Bishop Taché was successful in recruiting some Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary for this task. They arrived in 1874. Initially both boys and girls attended the school until three Christian Brothers arrived the following year to set up a school for boys.

Sister Laurent (born in Montreal in 1832) was one of the Grey Nuns who arrived at the Red River in 1850. She was interviewed for the book Women of Red River when she was 92. She recounted how she had dreamed of serving in a far-off mission field from her childhood, so she volunteered to   come to the Red River. She was initially asked to teach school; however, because she was a very small woman, she declined when she saw some of the boys she would have as students.  She said, “I do not want to teach school. Those boys are too big, and they will not mind me, I am sure.” Instead, she visited the local people in their homes and spent many years as a housekeeper at the St. Boniface convent. She later helped to establish a convent at the nearby community of St. Norbert.  [Healy, p. 113]

 Grey Nuns

Sister Ste-Therese                                             Sister Margaret Connolly

Archives Grey Nuns of Manitoba

 In 1862, a local priest wrote in praise of the education offered by the Grey Nuns:

As to the pupils of the boarding school, I dare say their examinations results could honour our fine convents in Lower Canada. The program of studies is exactly the same: French, English, history, mathematics, drawing and music…They also teach spinning, weaving and knitting besides sewing. [McGuire, p. 5]

In the early 1860s classes began at St. Charles along the Assiniboine River at the western edge of the modern city of Winnipeg. About 40 children were taught by two former students of the Grey Nuns, Adeline Dauphinas and Marie Riel (sister of Louis).

Rosalie Gauthier (née Germain)

In addition to the Nolin sisters and the Grey Nuns, another French teacher was a married woman at a time when most female teachers would have been either single or widowed.  Rosalie Germain married Jean-Baptiste Gauthier when she was 16 and became mother of 14 children.  She was born and educated in Quebec and came to the Red River in 1853. She and her husband took up a farm at Lorette south of St. Boniface where—despite her rapidly expanding family—she began teaching   children in the daytime and adults at night.  She continued teaching there and later at nearby Ste. Anne when the family moved there. “When my babies came, the women of the settlement used to help me with them, until my older girls grew up, so that I might be able to continue teaching,”  she said. During her first years at Ste. Anne she taught in her own home—she in the afternoon and the priest in the morning.  School did not operate during harvest time because everyone had to help with it.  [Healy, pp. 117-18]

The first cathedral was  destroyed by fire in 1860. Sara Riel wrote a description of the fire to her brother Louis. It is likely that the girls she refers to were students:

The girls were busy melting tallow for candles to beautify the altar for Christmas. The girls had put too much tallow into the vessel when it boiled over and caught fire. They passed water on it but the flames spread more and more and it a second the kitchen floor was ablaze.[McGuire, p. 11]

 St. Boniface Cathedral

St. Boniface Cathedral 1858

Archives of Manitoba


Healy, W.J. Women of the Red River, Winnipeg: Women’s Canadian Club, 1923

Jaenen, C.J. “Foundation of Dual Education at Red River, 1811-34”, MHS (online)

McGuire, Rita SGM, “The Grey Nuns in the Red River settlement, 1844-70” (online)

Mitchell, Estelle, The Grey Nuns of  Montreal and the Red River Settlement 1844-1948


Print copies of all my books and an e-book (e-pub version) of Letitia Hargrave: Mistress of York Factory may be purchased through my website   at http/ or by e-mailing me at

Most of my books are also available as Kindle e-books from Amazon.





Blog #19 Education of Girls in the Red River Settlement: Part Three

Tags: Red River Academy; Red River Settlement education; education of girls;  Hudson’s Bay Company and  education; Church Missionary Society; Manitoba Education; Reverend David Jones and Mary Lloyd Jones; John MacCallum; Jane McKenzie; Mary Lowman


The Red River Academy

At the end of my last Blog I said that  this week I would describe the formation of the Red River Academy, the first high school at the Red River Settlement.  Anglican clergyman Reverend David Jones wrote to Hudson’s Bay Company Governor George Simpson outlining plans for a “respectable seminary…for the moral improvement, religious instruction, and general education of boys, the sons of gentlemen belonging to the fur trade.” Simpson approved and suggested educating the girls as well. He also agreed that the HBC could pay the salary of an assistant while the Church Missionary Society agreed to provide a tutor and a governess. As a result, the Red River Academy was founded.

Jones argued that the school would inculcate British values in the children of mixed parentage and–shockingly—the boarding school would separate children from their non-English parents “and thus prevent them from sliding back into barbarism.” [Guest article, pp. 107-9]

Jones asked the CMS to find a governess for the girls who would attend the Red River Academy. He said that she “should be upwards of thirty, of matured Christian experience.” Simpson added that she should be qualified in both ornamental and useful branches of education and preferably not interested in marriage.

In the fall of 1833 John MacCallum and Mary Lowman arrived to take charge of the Red River Academy. Simpson described Mrs. Lowman as “a clever unsurpassed woman.” There were 40 children enrolled initially. Though Mrs. Lowman was highly regarded by Governor Simpson, she did not meet his final criteria, leaving her teaching post two years later to marry retired HBC Chief Factor James Bird.

Mary Lowman

Mary Lowman

Man. Prov. Archives

Thomas Simpson (Governor Simpson’s cousin) wrote about the new school to Donald Ross, HBC factor at Norway House.

When all the young ladies don their new leg-horns, [a style of straw hat that was fashionable at the time] they cut a dash that would captivate a whole troop of dragoons. Their improvement in manner and appearance is really amazing. I cannot speak too highly of that seminary and the recent acquisitions. Mrs. Lowman and Mr. MacCallum seem admirably qualified to teach the twenty lads and twenty lasses. The establishment will accelerate the progress of morality throughout Rupert’s Land.”  [Shave article p. 7]

Ross and his wife Mary sent some of their numerous children to the Red River Academy. They were very anxious that their daughters should marry well and obviously believed that education would assist to that end. Their two oldest daughters Jane (Jean) and Jessie both graduated from the Red River Academy and then were sent to England to complete their education at a “finishing” school. Donald Ross described Jane’s two and a half years in London. He said that the principal reason for sending her to school there was for her to learn to play the piano, but evidently she had little musical ability. Not only did she not learn the piano, she also unsuccessfully tried to learn to play the guitar and to sing.

Despite her lack of musical ability, Jane made what her parents considered a good marriage. She wed an Anglican missionary named James Hunter less than a year after the death of his first wife. Mrs. Ross, rather defensively remarked, “People would wonder at the haste, but we were not going to let such a good catch slip.” [Quoted in Gordon book, p. 71] Hunter was beginning to translate religious literature into Cree when he married Jane. Jane, who had lived all her life at Norway House, was fluent in Cree and played a major role in doing these translations—some of which are still in use.

Jane’s younger sister Jessie also made what appeared to be a good marriage to an employee of the HBC, but tragically she became serious ill of tuberculosis and died within a year of the wedding.

John MacCallum

A graduate of King’s College in Aberdeen, John MacCallum became head master of the Red River Academy. Feelings about him were mixed. He was a scholarly man, and some parents approved of the high standards he set for the school.  Others believed he was too strict with his students and his punishments too severe.

Despite the auspicious beginnings for the Academy, some white parents objected to their children being taught with Indian children. After the daughter of an HBC officer became pregnant by an Aboriginal boy who worked in the school kitchen, Simpson ordered that the school for First Nations children be moved to Grand Rapids.

After Mrs. Lowman left to marry in 1835, MacCallum taught the girls as well as the boys. Some parents were pleased that he taught their daughters something other than sewing and cooking. In addition to the Ross daughters, another female graduate of the Academy who did well was Jane McKenzie. She was daughter of Roderick McKenzie, a Scottish fur trader, and a Nipigon woman named Angelique. Jane taught at the Academy beginning in 1846 when she was 21. It is not known how long she taught there, but she did not marry until 1854. Two of her sons would become a lawyer and a doctor respectively.

Harriet Sinclair (born in 1832) began attending the Red River Academy when she was 14, the same year as Jane McKenzie began teaching there.   As an elderly woman in the early 1920s, she told an interviewer about her life. She said that she was sent as little girl to a boarding school begun by a woman named Mrs. Ingham who had arrived from England in 1833 as a companion to Mrs. Lowman.   Mrs. Lowman became Harriet’s step-grandmother when she married James Bird who was Harriet’s grandfather. Harriet completed her education at a college in Illinois which she attended for two years (1848-1850).  In 1852 Harriet married a doctor named William Cowan, who had come from England [Healy, pp. 17-28]

Harriet Cowan (née Sinclair)

Man. Prov. Archives

In October 1836, Mrs. Jones died in child birth, leaving her husband Reverend Jones with five young children.  When he returned to England in 1838, the HBC purchased the school for ₤500. They arranged a five-year lease with MacCallum, who was to remain in charge, maintain the buildings in good repair and pay 10% of the purchase price each year as rent.  In 1841, he purchased the school outright.  When the Anglican bishop visited from Montreal in 1844, he praised the school as well as ordaining MacCallum. The sketch below is from the book the bishop wrote about his trip.

Indian Settlemet

The year after the bishop’s visit, however, problems arose at the school and the number of students dropped sharply. Letitia Hargrave, wife of the HBC factor at York Factory, never visited the Red River; but she took an avid interest in the gossip she learned about the Red River Academy from various correspondents. Some of them wrote  about how badly headmaster MacCallum conducted the school.  He was accused of punishing children with severe floggings and confinement and by making them miss meals. Children were supposedly fainting due to the missed meals. MacCallum made the girls exchange their Indian leggings for English footwear.  They had to go out walking every day in winter and without proper footwear, their feet got wet and they got ill.


Lititia2 4.5X5.62 268.3 ppi.

Letitia Hargrave

Also MacCallum did not allow mothers who were not legally married to visit their children. Letitia was very critical of this policy. As she said, “it is fearfully cruel… [because] the poor unfortunate mothers did not know that there was any distinction and it is only within the last few years that any one was so married.”

MacCallum finally quarreled with the governess Miss Allen, who had come from England to teach at the Academy in 1840. MacCallum blamed her because the school was falling on hard times. He said she was “careless and lazy, had extraordinary peculiarities of manner which made her the laugh of her school girls and was not sufficiently accomplished to carry on the education of young ladies”. Miss Allen, in turn, said MacCallum was so despotic and overbearing that the children were terrified of him and their parents were taking them out of school as a result. MacCallum fired Miss Allen in 1845.  [Gordon, pp. 120-21]

Red River Academy

Red River Academy sketch by Peter Jacobs while he was a student at the Academy

Metropolitan Toronto Library Board

MacCallum died in October 1849, at the same time that Bishop David Anderson arrived as the first Anglican Bishop of Rupert’s Land.  MacCallum left the school to the bishop in his will. Soon afterwards Bishop Anderson renamed the school St. John’s Collegiate School.

My next Blog on June 14 will describe the development of French language education at the Red River.


Gordon, Irene Ternier. Letitia Hargrave: Mistress of York Factory

Healy, W.J. Women of the Red River, Winnipeg: Canadian Women’s Club, 1923

Shave, Harry, “Pioneer Protestant Ministers at Red River” (1), Manitoba Historical

Society Transactions, 1949-50


Print copies of all my books and an e-book (e-pub version) of Letitia Hargrave: Mistress of York Factory may be purchased through my website  at http/ or by e-mailing me at

Most of my books are also available as Kindle e-books from Amazon.

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


Print copies of all my books and an e-book (e-pub version) of Letitia Hargrave: Mistress of York Factory may be purchased through my website   at


or by e-mailing me at

Most of my books are also available as Kindle e-books from Amazon.


Blog #17 Education of Girls in Red River Settlement: Part One

Tags: Thomas Douglas, 5th Earl of Selkirk; Reverend John West; Red River Settlement education; education of girls; George and Elizabeth Harbidge; Hudson’s Bay Company education; Church Missionary Society; The Battle of Seven Oaks and the Violent Birth of the Red River Settlement  by Irene Ternier Gordon; Manitoba education

Today’s Blog is the first of a series  describing the efforts to provide  education for girls in the Red River Settlement between the arrival of the first Selkirk settlers in 1812 and the formation of the province of Manitoba in 1870. Some readers who live outside of Manitoba may not know that the first agricultural settlement in Manitoba was formed in 1812 in what is now the city of Winnipeg. The founder of this settlement was a Scottish Lord named Selkirk.

For more information about the formation of the Red River Settlement, you may want to read my book The Battle of Seven Oaks and the Violent Birth of the Red River Settlement.

Cover Seven Oaks

Although my focus will be on the education of girls, boys and girls were educated together in the earliest schools. I do not intend to discuss the issue of residential schools and the harmful legacy of such schools in any detail; however the first schools also had a mixture of white, Métis and First Nations students. All of the schools were operated by either Catholic or Anglican missionaries and thus were segregated according to language and religion—being either English and Anglican or Catholic and French.

Education pre-1820

The captain of the ship bringing a group of Red River settlers to North America in 1815 reported that the children aboard his ship attended school between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. using English bibles as their only texts. In 1813, Selkirk had appointed an educational supervisor for the Red River Settlement. Selkirk wrote to Miles MacDonnell, whom he had named governor of the settlement, about this appointment and said further,

Get a young man of cool temper to assist him as master. Teach them [students] to read and write in their native tongue. I care not how little they learn of the language of the Yankees. In the girls’ school, needlework and women’s accomplishments should be taught with reading. [Schofield, F. H.,The Story of Manitoba, 1913, p. 433]

 The native tongue Selkirk referred to was Gaelic. Others of Selkirk’s letters indicate that he aimed at forming a Gaelic community because he believed that this would counteract any tendency of the settlers to join the Americans.

3 Selkirk

Thomas Douglas, 5th Earl of Selkirk

In January 1815, Governor MacDonnell appointed “a steady young man” named John Matheson, Jr. as school master for the Red River Settlement, with a yearly salary of ₤25.  MacDonnell soon reported that “people in general sent their children and appeared well satisfied in this respect.”  Six months later, however, the settlement lost their teacher when the North West Company attacked the settlement and Matheson left for Upper Canada. [Lang, S. E. “History of Education in Manitoba”, pp. 422-23].

Governor Semple, who took over control of the Red River Settlement from Governor MacDonnell,   received a letter in 1816 about the role of the Hudson’s Bay Company in education. It said:

As the Company wish to allow about ₤30 per annum for the instruction and amusement of the officers and servants of the Company…We shall be anxious for your report as to the books or tracts you would wish to be sent for the purpose of religious instruction and we are desirous for your opinion as to the prospects of success in civilization and converting to Christianity  the children of native Indians. [Jaenen,  C. J., “Foundations of Dual Education at Red River, 1811-1834”, p.5.]

 Nothing further happened in the way of formal education until Selkirk arrived in 1817. Selkirk then set apart two parcels of land for a school and a church respectively and provided some money to help in paying for a teacher.

Reverend John West

John West was appointed HBC chaplain in 1819. The understanding of the HBC was that West would “establish and superintend schools at the settlement for the education of the youth of both sexes”.  [Jaenen, pp. 15-6]  West and a teacher named George Harbidge arrived at the Red River in the summer of 1820. West immediately set up a school for both Aboriginal and Red River settler children. Girls were to learn domestic skills and boys horticultural skills; both were to receive religious education.


The Rev. John West

West  reported in his journal that there were no facilities when he arrived, but shortly afterwards “I got us a log-house repaired about three miles below the Fort, among the Scotch population, where the school  master took up his abode, and began teaching from twenty to twenty-five of the children.”

By 1822 the house contained an apartment for the teacher, lodging for Aboriginal students and facilities for day students. On Sundays it served as a church. A settler was hired to take care of the milk, provide hay for the cows, and provide fire wood and fish.  At that time, there were six boys and two girls boarding at the school with a woman hired to take care of them. The illustration below was likely made after West left the Red River since it shows the church and school as being in separate buildings.

Church and Mission SchoolChurch and Mission School at the Upper Settlement, built by the Rev. John West

(from The Rainbow of the North by Sarah Tucker, 1851)

West also established a Sunday school to provide religious education and basic English literacy for the older settler children and for illiterate women. By 1823 there were about 50 Sunday school “scholars” receiving instruction from a variety of men and women from the community. It is not clear whether these teachers were volunteers or if they were paid a small amount.

The HBC and West soon came to a parting of the ways, however. West’s goal was to Christianize the Aboriginals of the whole of HBC territory rather than to concentrate on educating the children in the Red River area alone. When the HBC officers asked the very real question about how West would finance a permanent mission in the interior, West believed they were merely being obstructionist. He found “a cold indifference on the part of the chief officers resident in the country…[They] cannot conceal their fears lest the plans which we have in view to civilize and evangelize the  poor Indian will be the means of lessening the quantum for fur and consequently gain.”  [Foster, John E., “Program for the Red River Mission: the Anglican Clergy, 1820-1826″ Thesis, U. of Alberta, 1966”,  p.  71]

The Church Missionary Society had assumed charge of the Anglican mission in 1822. The HBC Council recorded in its minutes that the CMS had “voted large sums for the provision of two clergymen and a schoolmaster and mistress for the instruction of Indian children, and allow other children to be educated in the school on payment of a moderate fee.” [Jaenen, p. 19]

To facilitate the education of girls, the CMS educated a young English woman named Elizabeth Bowden, who was Harbidge’s fiancée, as a teacher.  Soon after she completed her education, she joined Harbidge at the Red River and the couple was married a few months later in October 1822.

HBC Governor Simpson, who frequently made harsh judgments of people and did not hesitate to voice his disapproval, wrote that Harbidge was

ignorant, self-conceited and moreover under the entire control of his wife; and she is above her situation, assuming more of the lady than is necessary, short tempered, paying little or no attention to her charge and treating the children under her care as menial servants without regard to their instruction or comfort.  [Foster, pp.64-5]

In June 1823 West left on a furlough to England; however he did not return to the Red River the following year as planned because the London Committee of the Hudson’s Bay Company terminated his employment early in 1824.

I will post Part Two of the history of girls’ education at the Red River on May 17. Then you will learn about the two clergymen who replaced Reverend West and what happened to the newly-wed teachers George and Elizabeth Harbidge.

Print copies of all my books and an e-book (e-pub version) of Letitia Hargrave: Mistress of York Factory may be purchased through my website   at


or by e-mailing me at

Most of my books are also available as Kindle e-books from Amazon.




Blog #16 William McGillivray and the North West Company

Tags: McGillivray, William; North West Company; North American fur trade; The Laird of Fort William: William McGillivray and the North West Company by Irene Ternier Gordon; Montreal and the fur trade; Montreal social life ca. 1783

Anyone with an interest in the fur trade will be familiar with the name of the North West Company, which was a major fur trade company along with the Hudson’s Bay Company before the two joined together in 1821 under the HBC name. William McGillivray, head of the NWC from 1804 to 1821, was arguably the most powerful and wealthiest businessman in Canada in the early nineteenth century.

1 McG color

I wrote a biography of William entitled The Laird of Fort William: William McGillivray and the North West Company. He is a direct ancestor of my grandson Felix.  In today’s Blog I describe Montreal at the time of William’s first arrival there in 1783 to become an apprentice with the North West Company, under the patronage of his Uncle Simon McTavish who was one of the founders of the NWC.

The city of Montreal, which had a population of less than 9000 people in 1783, occupied only the south side of the island of Montreal. The lower level of Mont Royal, not yet part of Montreal, rose gently and was planted in gardens and orchards; the steeper upper part was still wooded. Both the houses and warehouses of principal merchants were spacious and covered with sheet iron or tin to protect them from fire. While most houses were of timber, there also were a few stone mansions.

Houses commonly had benches on either side of the front door facing the street. There families spent many fine summer evenings visiting with passers-by. William found the young women attractive and very well dressed – especially on Sundays — however he was likely too shy to do more than politely tip his hat to them. The young women, in their turn, undoubtedly took a great interest in William because an early painting shows him as a handsome, well-built young man with thick, curly red hair.

The arrival of the first canoes of the season at Lachine in late August was the most exciting event of the year for most Montreal residents. The fur trade brigades had been gone since the ice went out of the rivers in late spring, and everyone anxiously awaited their return home. People could talk of nothing else. William found that he had to learn a whole new vocabulary in order to understand the conversations going on around him. Because he knew how to speak French, he knew the literal meanings of most of the expressions he heard. What he had to learn was what these expressions meant to Montrealers. For instance, “les mangeurs de lard” (pork eaters) were voyageurs who only travelled between Montreal and Grand Portage on Lake Superior. While their arrival back in Montreal was a cause for celebration, much more exciting would be the return of “les hommes du nord” or “hivernants”. These men of the north or “winterers” would spend at least three years away from home, travelling beyond the Great Lakes to the North West. This was the country also known as “le pays d’en haut” or high country. Les hommes du nord felt themselves much superior to the men who returned to their Quebec homes each winter.


Many people rushed to travel the nine miles of rough trail separating Lachine from Montreal so as to be first to greet the returning brigades. The Lachine Falls prevented loaded canoes from travelling all the way to Montreal, so the goods had to be unloaded and transferred to carts to bring them to the warehouses. The quiet summertime Montreal that William had got used to burst into life with the arrival of the brigades. The townspeople welcomed home husbands, fathers, sons, sweethearts and friends. Church bells rang and flags waved. The voyageurs swarmed the narrow streets like school boys just let out of school – shouting and singing, greeting friends, telling tall tales, drinking too much, recklessly spending money. Single men rekindled romances with the young women they had left behind or tried to impress new girls with tales of their daring do. McTavish, now a successful merchant, would not likely join the throngs celebrating on the streets; but William, almost certainly did.

William’s time of leisure was over. His first job was to tally the packs of furs as they arrived at the McTavish warehouse along the waterfront…After all the furs were tallied, William had to help   repack them and transport them to the wharf where they were loaded on ships for London. Finally, he helped his uncle pay off the voyageurs.


6 McG color









Social life became livelier in December because travel was easier once there was enough snow on the ground for sleighs and the rivers were frozen over. Now it seemed that people were constantly on the move and there were parties almost every day with music, dancing, or card-playing – and always with lavish food and drink, and much conversation.

The wealthier citizens travelled about in carioles in winter. These were light   sleighs pulled by one or two horses that could carry two passengers and a driver… All the men seemed to be in competition to have the handsomest outfit. Most carioles were open because the great pleasure of going for a cariole ride seemed to consist in seeing and being seen. The ladies always went out dressed in the most superb furs and almost everyone looked as if they were really enjoying themselves. Because carioles glided along so quietly, bells were attached to the horse’s harness and many drivers also had horns which they frequently sounded to guard against accidents. 

While William may not have been aware of it, not everyone was enjoying winter parties in December 1783. On Christmas Eve, some 550 officers and men of the King’s Royal Regiment of New York learned that their regiment was disbanded since the British had lost the revolutionary war. These men were not only unemployed but also had permanently lost their homes and lands in New York. They, along with their [families, a total of about 1,460 people,]…were crammed into a newly-built barracks…To make matters even worse; most of the women and children were down with measles or small pox.

4 McG color
North View of Montreal showing the old fortifications ca. 1793. Painting by George Elliot. Library and Archives Canada.

Print copies of all of my books and an e-book (e-pub version) of  Letitia Hargrave: Mistress of York Factory may be purchased through my website  at http/

Or by emailing me at

Most of my books are also available as Kindle e-books from Amazon