In this blog post I’m going to share the transcript from a letter written by Thomas Bear (1801 or 1810-1892) to one of his daughters named Isabella.
I first mentioned this letter in my post about his son, Jacob Bear (1839-1925), and would like to do a full post on Thomas one day as he is the furtherest I can trace in the Bear family beyond mention of his father Wapask in the 1870 Manitoba Census.
I first learned of this letter’s existence while researching the Bear family from St. Peters. In my search for this line of Bears, I came across Angela Jeske’s 1990 Thesis entitled, St. Peter’s Indian Settlement: A House Indian Community at Red River, 1833-1856.
This thesis really helped flesh out what St. Peter’s was like and who lived there during the early and mid-1800s which I previously had been unable to find information. Much of the published materials I have looked at focused on the later 1800s and early 1900s which is too far ahead for what I’ve been focused on.
As well, it is possible to associate specific family names with either “Cree” or “Saulteaux”. Names common to those identified as Cree were Bear, Badger, Cockrane, Johnstone, Stevenson, Thomas, Sutherland, Isham, Whitford, Sinclair, Sandison, Williams, Turner, Kennedy, Garioch and Halco.
Jeske, 1990, p. 68.
The census of 1835 records three separate heads of families with this name [Bear]: Jacob, John, David. It is likely, however, that Thomas Bear “an Indian from Cumberland House” was the brother of the previously mentioned family heads, and was connected to Robert Stranger through both place (Cumberland House) and marriage.
Jeske, 1990, p. 79.
Based on this information I suspect the family hails from northern Manitoba or Saskatchewan as I’ve seen references to both Norway House (Kinosao Sipi – ᑭᓄᓭᐏ ᓰᐱᐩ) and Cumberland House.
This next part just goes to show I need to write down where and how I come across some of my references. In my general search regarding the Bears, I came across another book entitled, The Shady Side of Fifty: Age and Old Age in Late Victorian Canada and the United States by Lisa Dillon.
The economic status of indigenous elderly wives, whose family economies were typically resource based, was undoubtedly less certain than that of their white counterparts. The insecurity of Isabella Beardy old age is evident in a letter written by her husband, Thomas Bear, a Cree born in Rupert’s Land, to his daughter in 1883. A broken gun and lack of a boat impeded Bear’s abilities to hunt for himself and his wife. Their son, Peter, planted wheat and barley, which Isabella was left to reap. A granddaughter, Maggie, arrived unannounced; she helped dig up potatoes but left her grandparents mystified by her sudden departure from their daughter’s home. With Peter away hunting ducks, Isabella and Thomas made their own efforts to repair their house. When Isabella and Thomas attempted to cope with their problems by praying, Peter interrupted them drunk; it was Isabella’s role to pacify their drunken son. Although Isabella had borne nine children, her security and peace in old age was far from guaranteed.
Dillon, 2008, p. 45.
Intrigued by the content of the letter, I was able to have it retrieved from the Manitoba Provincial Archives during my visit in October 2021. A copy of the original letter had been made and then donated by an individual from Thunder Bay in October of 1992.
Ann Morton, Head of Research and Reference at the HBC Archives, wrote in her reply that there was only one Thomas Bear that could be found in the 1870 Census. Based on his age, place of residence, and connection to a daughter named Isabel, it was very likely the Thomas in the census was the same one who wrote the letter.
She also provided additional information from the 1870 Census and Anglican Parish Registers and mentioned that she checked the HBC employment records but could not find any information prior to his marriage in 1835. She suggests that he was either not employed by the HBC or was an undocumented seasonal worker.
A second page was included with some genealogy information related to Thomas and his family. Thomas Bear married Isabella Beardy on December 3rd, 1835 in St. Peters. The pair had the following children recorded in St. Peter’s registers: Thomas (1836), Robert (1837), Jacob (1839), Isabella (1842), Elizabeth (1844), Sophia (1846), George (1848), Joseph (1851) and Mary Joan (1859). The couple also had a son named Peter but he was not included in the parish register. The researcher wondered whether Joseph (1851) could be Peter or if his name was life off altogether.
The letter was 9 pages in length and hand-written so I had some trouble deciphering some of the text. I always think of younger generations who are not being taught cursive and the extra work archivists and researchers will have to do in order to familiarize themselves with it before even looking at some of the extra peculiarities with style that come and go.
In any case, I have kept most original spelling and have added my educated guesses within brackets.
St. Peters October 23rd 1883 Mrs. Esibella Hopeboam
I was very glad to receive [your] letter. to learn that you are all still alive. and about what you wish from me [I do it] for you. I could not do it for you. know I am [getting] blind I only killed one duck this summer, and the same time you know that I broke my gun last spring before you went away.
[since] I have no gun nor a boat to hunt with even I have no boat to set my net with. am that hard up having no flour or tea. I sold 10 bushels of potatoes [and past] only [come] being after my pay. but they are very cheap this year. they are only 25 cts per bushel but I put 35 cts per bushel myself and about the house fixing.
I see plainly Peter can’t do it for he has lots of work to do this fall to fix the [biars] and his after ducks all this time. So we are trying to fix the house ourselves after your sister heard about that you was wanting me to hunt ducks for you, she said that Abram would hunt for you in place of that [money] you sent to take him out to Rat Portage.
Abram [he’s] always after ducks but they generally take them up to Winnipeg. but we always [set] a share every time he [arrives]. they went down one week already with his family. they [plan] to stay for two weeks. after that [he’s gone] to fix his house and stable for the winter.
I always known that it was very hard for an old man to make his living. for the little wheat + barley that Peter put down for us. when it got ripe it was only your mother had it cut it down. sometimes I would try and help her. you don’t know how much I pitied your mother at last I had to go to work and cut it with a scythe. and about the digging of potatoes while your mother and me was digging, Maggie came and I was very thankful when she came for it was a great help to us.
I [feel] a great deal harder to live than usual for Peter and [Isauc] [doesn’t] leave off drinking, actually your brother came in while having prayers being drunk your mother had to get up to try and pacify him and me praying. but mind that I didn’t tell this to anyone excepting you. I [feel] very lonesome a many a time in my soul, not in the outward body, for I know very well that am old man that has known many [his] got to be in need a many a time.
and after I had your letter read to me. I think a great deal concerning what you [gone] to do before hand this is the third time now I hear a person saying that this summer. very likely you will not see the day and that’s why I think a great deal. it [is] very hard for me which to believe you say in your letter that you didn’t know that Maggie was lonesome if you were that- you would let her come [home] for the time you sent for Sophie if she would go that you would let Maggie come home for you said [there] that she was lonesome and that’s why I said it is very hard for me which to believe different stories.
I was very much thankful when you had [elloss] relations you out. Betsy my own [sister] and your brother’s daughter when you was gone to meet we may say near death. after you went through. then to give them such bad name. I thought you would have [more] thankful to those who kept you dear daughter. I know that am very wicked and the same to my sister Betsy your aunt am know that that she kept a many a [cree] and I never hear ever [to set] after keeping somebody a bad name not as same as what you do.
it is very good to [deny] yourself sometimes after thinking bad for you know very well dear daughter the God’s holy scripture says to forgive your brother that offend you. for if you don’t forgive, your Heavenly father will also not forgive your sins. for wickedness as many a time is chastised. therefore try and love your dear little ones. therefore dear daughter try and forget all the bad thoughts what you have thinking. St John tell us to believe and repent of our evil doings and we shall have everlasting life.
I think you brother Robert [he’s] very much troubled all the time. he’s living with a woman but not lawfully married. he only writes to [Snyder] he never writes to us. and by him we hear. that’s why am telling you that I [feel] very lonesome in my [soul].
am very much thankful to your husband when [he’s] keeping you right-therefore be good to your husband dear daughter, and about your brother Jacob I never hear from him. last spring last he was seen [at] Qu’Appelle and he was gone farther west I hear that by mouth he never send a letter to us since last winter.
Edward Thomas was far west this summer and I ask him [whether] he ever heard or any thing about him he said no. I send a letter [to] him to tell me [whether] [he’s] alive or not, but the letter went astray. the letter came to me again and I sent it off again, since I didn’t hear.
I have lots of news that I could tell you lots of sickness for children very hard sickness and whooping cough, and about Maggie running off from [you]. I didn’t ask her one question so I don’t know anything, why she did, that’s all. Kisses to you children, husband, may the Lord bless you and keep you and lead you to everlasting life, good night.
Your father Thos Bear
Letter from Thomas Bear to Mrs Esibella Hopeboram, St Peters, 23 October 1883, Thomas Bear Collection, P 5098 f.8, Manitoba Provincial Archives.
There is so much interesting information contained in this letter that I’ve used to support ongoing research. Due to the difficulties I’d had in transcribing the content, I have also uploaded copies of my photos of the letter for anyone who might want to take a stab at some of the peculiar words that don’t fit.
Dillon, Lisa. The Shady Side of Fifty: Age and Old Age in Late Victorian Canada and the United States. McGill-Queen’s University Press. 2008.
Jeske, Angela. 1990. St. Peter’s Indian Settlement: A House Indian Community at Red River, 1833-1856. Master of Arts Thesis. University of Alberta.
Letter from Thomas Bear to Mrs Esibella Hopeboram, St Peters, 23 October 1883, Thomas Bear Collection, P 5098 f.8, Manitoba Provincial Archives.
Robert Bohdan Klymasz (1936 – ) was born in Toronto in 1936 and is a Ukrainian-Canadian folklorist. He was the executive director of the Ukrainian Cultural and Educational Centre, an Adjunct Professor at the Centre for Ukrainian Canadian Studies, and a curator at the Museum of Civilization.
I highly recommend reading the following article, A Visit to the Ukrainian Museum and Library, by Thomas Prymak about his visit to the Oseredok in Winnipeg. His article talks about the treasured texts found there as well as his visits and chats with Ukrainian-Canadian scholars including Robert Klymasz.
The reason I’m sharing this information is because one of my cousins stumbled on to the Bohdan Medwidsky Ukrainian Folklore Archives where our great-grandmother Anastasia Masiowski nee Kotlarchuk (1891-1976) has 32 songs and stories recorded when Robert Klymasz visited Fork River on July 20th, 1964. The archive indicates there are 36 songs and stories but 4 of them have been mislabeled as they are sung by Walter Pasternak.
I’ve organized the 32 items alphabetically in the Cyrillic alphabet and linked each one separately.
I was curious as to whether any of the recordings were used in Robert Klymasz’ publications and I found 2 songs from my great-grandmother in his books which I pulled from the University of Manitoba’s Slavic Collection at the Elizabeth Dafoe Library. I’ve marked them in the chart for easy identification and included the musical notation and lyrics from the books in both English and Ukrainian.
It’s so interesting to hear my ancestor’s voice from beyond the grave!
There are additional records from the Robert Klymasz collection at the University of Manitoba’s archives that I’d like to pull in the future. I hope there are more translations of her songs and stories that just didn’t make it into a publication.
Bohdan Medwidsky Ukrainian Folklore Archives – Kule Folklore Centre, Faculty of Arts, University of Alberta.
1 Published in Ukrainian Folksongs from the Prairies. Complied under the direction of the collector with the participation of Andrij Hornjatkevyč, Bohdan Medwidsky, and Paula Prociuk. Collected by Robert B. Klymasz. Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies Press. University of Alberta. 1992.
2 Published in The Ukrainian Winter Folksong Cycle in Canada. Robert B. Klymasz. Ottawa. 1970.
Old Country Songs
Nastja Masiowsky – Fork River, Manitoba – 20 July 1964
«На день добрий Штефанова, Ой чи є твiй Штефан дома?»
«Ой нема Штефана вдома, Ще вечеря не готова.»
«Ой чи вийдеш вiдтворяти, Чи скажеш ся добувати?»
«Ой не вийду я втворяти, Не скажу ся добувати.
В мене дсверi тисовiï, В мене замки стальовiï.»
«Як пiдложу праве плече, Не поможуть эамки твоï, Не поможуть дверi твоï.»
Як пiдложив праве плече, Його куля в саме серце.
«Ой ви хлопцi бай молодцi, Вiэьмiть мене на топорцi.
Эамесiть м’я в Буковину, Де-м ся вродив, най там эгину.
Було ходити та и буяти, Суцi правди не скаэати.»
By the small green grove Goes the young Dovbuš.
He limps on [one] foot He rests on his ace as on a cane.
“Quickly, men, quickly, quickly, Soon snow will fall and cover our path.
“Let’s make our way to Dzvinka, To the wife of Štefan.
“Greetings, o wife of Štefan, Is Štefan, your husband, home?”
“Štefan is not home yet, The supper is not ready.”
“Will you open up willingly, Or am I to force my way in?”
“I shall not open up, Nor will I let you force yourself in.
“I have doors made of yew, I have locks made of steel.”
“When I brace my shoulder against the door, Your locks will not help, Your doors will not help.”
When he braced his shoulder to the door, A bullet hit him straight in the heart.
“O my men, you young stalwarts, Take me up on on your axe [handles],
And take me to Bukovyna, Let me die where I was born.
I should have gone roaming Instead of telling that bitch the truth.”
Old Country Songs. Song 12. Ukrainian Folksongs from the Prairies. 1992. p. 29.
NOTE: Singers often grope for the pitch and metre at the beginning of songs. If this song had had more verses, the singer would probably have established a triple metre throughout. The bar 4/8 time would then be sung in 38. [Kenneth Peacock.]
Там на горбочку там вогонь горе Там дiвчина пироги варит. А з стрiхи тиче на ïï пличе, А з носа каптит, пироги мастит!
There on a hillhock burns a fire, And a maiden’s there cooking dumplings. The thatched roof is leaking onto her shoulder And from her nose it’s dripping and buttering the dumplings.
III. 3. The Ukrainian Winter Folksong Cycle in Canada. 1970. p. 139.
This is a typical ditty sung by the mummers to underscore Malanka’s abilities as a housekeeper and cook.
Over the past year, my attention has returned to research on my mother’s family and I’ve been lucky enough to make some progress during the last several months. I’d like to share the research I have complied about Jacob Bear (1839-1925) who was my maternal 2nd great-grandfather.
I have been working on this post over the course of the fall and winter and realized I just have to post what I have rather than continue to dig without reporting on my progress given how much material I have collected. This is the largest file I have on any relative, I can’t believe how much wonderful information was out there just waiting to be found!
After exchanging emails with family and a visit to Saskatchewan in the later summer, I learned of my connection to Jacob Bear, a Swampy Cree interpreter from the St. Peter’s settlement. I am still gathering information about St. Peter’s but unfortunately much of what I have read is about the community after Jacob and his family left the area which will is still useful but more for the work I am doing on Jacob’s parents and siblings.
I secured copies of these postcards from the Hudson’s Bay Company’s Isaac Cowie fonds. There was a handwritten note beside the postcard above which I haven’t fully figured out even after fiddling with the note in Photoshop. If anyone can figure out the rest of the message, let me know, it would be much appreciated!
The protestant church and mission school at the Red River Colony. 1823. From Rev. John West’s Journal, 1820/23. Afterwards St. John’s Cathedral and College.
I was able to locate Jacob in census records from 1906 to 1921 although these records only account for the years closer to the end of his life. With my increasing familiarity with the treaty annuity lists, I also found Jacob and his family in records related to Cowessess and Ochapowace from 1874 to 1909.
With the assistance from my cousin’s book, Pimatisiwin Wawiyekamaw: A History of Jacob Bear and the Round Lake Mission, by Melissa Antony and Sharon Bear, I learned of Jacob’s connection to the Hudson’s Bay Company and the Round Lake Mission.
Furthermore, I have just begun diving into records from Indian Affairs. I have paid several visits the Hudson’s Bay Archive to obtain copies of records based upon his Hudson’s Bay Company biography sheet. These were so helpful in creating a timeline for Jacob and his family.
Jacob Bear originally came from the St. Peter’s settlement in Manitoba (Anthony and Bear, 2019, p. 56). He was born in or around 1839, a fact I have tentatively confirmed after I visited the HBC Archives to access the Extracts from registers of baptisms, marriages and burials in Rupert’s Land sent to the Governor and Committee. I was provided access to a digital version of a baptism from October 13th, 1839, for Jacob Bear who was born to Thomas Bear (1801 or 1810-1892) and Isabel Beardy (1820-abt 1899) from the Red River Settlement.
Child’s Christian Name
Parents’ Christian Names
Trade or Profession
By whom the ceremony was performed
October 13th. 1676.
Jacob son of
Thomas and Isabel
Red River Settlement
HBCA E-4-1a fo-163. Manitoba Archives. 1839.
I have reviewed Census returns for the Red River Settlement but of course these only record the name of the head of household which was Thomas Bear. In the 1838 Red River Census, Thomas Bear is living in the Indian Village with an unnamed wife and son. Additionally, the document states they are living with George Beardy who I believe is Isabel’s father.
I am hesitant to confirm the census records for the fact that there should be 2 sons listed in Under 16 Sons and not just 1, but the time, location, and name are all there. The pattern carries over to the following census records for 1838, 1840, and 1843.
Under 16 Sons
Bear, Thomas. 1838 Red River Census.Manitoba Archives.
In 1840, Thomas Bear was living in the Swampy village with an unnamed wife and 2 sons under the age of 16. He also was recorded as having a canoe at the time.
Under 16 Sons
Bear, Thomas. 1840 Red River Census. Manitoba Archives.
In 1843, Thomas Bear and family were living in the Swampy village with 419 other persons. He has 1 house which housed an unnamed wife, 2 sons under the age of 16, and 1 daughter under the age of 15. There were also 2 stables, 1 cow, and 2 calves.
Under 16 Sons
Under 15 Daughters
Bear, Thomas. 1843 Red River Census. Manitoba Archives.
When I visited the archives, I was able to collect information about Thomas Bear and family for 1847 and 1849, but that is as far as I was able to collect Red River Census records.
Under 16 Sons
Under 15 Daughters
Bear, Thomas. 1847 Red River Census. Manitoba Archives.
Under 16 Sons
Under 15 Daughters
Bear, Thomas. 1849 Red River Census. Manitoba Archives.
I would like to do a separate entry on Thomas Bear (1801 or 1810-1892) as I found a very interesting letter written in 1883 by him to one of his daughters, Isabella, that was also in the Manitoba Archives. It was donated by a relative who was living in Thunder Bay in the early 1990s.
Jacob had at least nine other siblings confirmed in a letter from the Manitoba Archives–Thomas (1836-???), Robert (1837-???), Isabella (1842-???), Elizabeth (1844-???), Sophia (1846-???), George (1848-???), Joseph (1851-???), and Mary Joan (1859-???). There is also mention of a son named Peter (1853-1943) but the Archives does not report on a baptismal date for him.
Jacob’s wife was Nancy Thomas (1839-???) who was recorded as an English-speaking Swampy Cree in Isaac Cowie’s book which I speak more of below, and whose baptism record is also tentatively found in the same Extracts from registers of baptisms as mentioned above. If this is the correct Nancy, she was born to Thomas and Frances Thomas and baptized on July 24th, 1839.
Child’s Christian Name
Parents’ Christian Names
Trade or Profession
By whom the ceremony was performed
July 24th. 1654.
Nancy daughter of
Thomas and Frances
HBCA E-4-1a fo-162. Manitoba Archives. 1839.
Since the digitized collection ends in 1851, I was unable to confirm a record for their marriage though I did not have the chance to access whether I could gain access to records after 1851 when I visited the archives.
Jacob and Nancy’s oldest daughter, Sophie Bear (1858-1888) was born in 1858 in Manitoba, and based on their age and the birth year of their daughter, I imagine the couple likely married in or around 1857.
Jacob entered the service of the Hudson’s Bay Company at Fort Garry on March 15th, 1860. He would have been around twenty-one years old and started in an unskilled position as a middleman that worked the middle of the boat as per the Hudson’s Bay Company glossary.
He was in the service of the Hudson’s Bay Company from March 15th, 1860 to June 1st, 1871. Positions he held included middleman; trader and labourer; trader and runner; trader and c.; interpreter, and a freeman. A list of his service can be found on page 31 in B239-U-2, a document available through the HBC archives, known as the Engagement Register.
Where engaged and date.
Terms of years engaged for service.
Date contract expires.
Deserted, dead, or home.
Amount for extra services.
Mar 15 1860
Trader and labourer
Apr 24 1863
Trader and runner
Jul 1 1865
p tea and sugar.
Apr 2 1867
Apr 17 1869
Engagement Register. B239-U-2. HBC Archives.
In addition to the record from the Engagement Register, I’ve also located Jacob in more HBC records than what is listed on his biography sheet. I have found him in the Servants Accounts, District Statements, List of Servants, and Minutes of the Council. There are too many documents to include in this post but I will share a copy of a few.
The posts where Jacob served were Fort Qu’Appelle, Fort Pelly, Old Wife’s Creek, and Woody Hills which were all within the Swan River district. I have pulled some information about Fort Qu’Appelle that I think would be of interest from Isaac Cowie’s book which was published in 1913 called, The Company of Adventurers: A Narrative of Seven Years in the Service of the Hudson’s Bay Company during 1867-1874.
The fort was an enclosure of about one hundred and fifty feet square, the stockades were framed of squared poplar logs, serving as foundations and plating, supported by posts every fifteen feet. These posts were grooved on each side, and into these grooves were inserted thick slabs and planks, with the sawn surface outside. The height of the stockade was about twelve feet. The fort faced north; and in the middle was a gate amply wide for laden carts to enter between its double doors. The stockade was well whitewashed, as were all the buildings within it.
At the rear of the square, facing the front gate, was the master’s house, forty by thirty feet, one story, with light high loft above, built like the stockade, but with squared logs instead of slabs, and thickly thatched with beautiful yellow straw—the best roof to keep in heat as well as to keep it out that I have ever lived under. This and the interpreter’s house were the only buildings in the place which had glass windows, which consisted each of an upper and lower sash, with six panes of eight and one-half by seven and one-half inch glass, all the other windows in the establishment being of buffalo parchment.
The west end of this building was used as the office and hall for the reception of Indians transacting business and making speeches. My bedroom opened off this. The east end contained the messroom and the master’s apartments. Behind and connected by a short passage with “the big house” was another building, divided by log partitions into a kitchen and cook’s bedroom, and into a nursery for Mr. McDonald’s children and their nurse.
The rooms were all floored, lined and ceiled with white poplar, tongued and grooved and planed plank and boards—all hand-work. The furniture was also all made on the spot out of white poplar, which is a fine wood for inside work, and makes beautifully white flooring. The Company only supplied a few one-pound tins of paint to adorn the head of a dogsled or carriole, or perhaps to cover the folding board used by grandees in camp in place of a dining table, or maybe the wooden frame for the beaded mossbag, which so beneficially served the purpose of the rocking cradle of civilization. So, Mr. McDonald had painted his own quarters at his own expense, and the rest of the house, which represented in the eyes of nearly all the Indians who visited it the last word in European architectural art, was left in the unadorned beauty of the native wood.
On the west side of the square there was a long and connected row of dwelling houses of the same construction as the master’s, divided into five houses by log walls carried up to the ridge pole, and each with an open chimney of its own for cooking and heating. In the officers’ quarters only where there any iron stoves. The Company had provided a large sheet-iron one, made at Fort Pelly, for the office, and Mr. McDonald had bought a small Carron stove for his apartments, while Mrs. McDonald owned the American cook stove, imported from St. Paul, Minnesota, in the kitchen. The immense open fireplaces and chimneys were all made of mud. They provided a splendid system of ventilation and made a cheerful blaze. In fact, the blaze was required for lighting purposes, for tallow was too much in demand in the making of pemmican to permit of its being used luxuriously in making candles merely to light “the men’s houses.”
Each of these five houses in the row was about thirty by thirty feet. The floors were of planed tongued and grooved plank; the walls were smoothly plastered with clay and whitewashed, and except in the interpreter’s house, which was ceiled and had two bedrooms partitioned off with boards, the means were open or covered by poles, on which rested buffalo parchments or dry rawhides to form a ceiling. The doors were sometimes of parchment, stretched on a wooden frame, but those of the interpreter’s house and the workshop, at each end of the row, were of wood, and had big iron latches and locks, the others having only long, heavy wooden latches which opened by a thong through a hole in the door. The door was in the middle of the wall with a window on each side of it facing the square; there was none in the rear of the buildings. Although the parchment, if a good one, afforded a fair enough light, it hid from the inquisitive eyes of the women of the establishment what was going on in the middle of the fort, so that the peepholes in the parchment, left by the bullets which brought down the buffalo, were the coigns of vantage where, unseen themselves, the gossips of the post could observe everything going on in the square.
Directly opposite the row of men’s houses, on the other side of the square, was a row of similar construction and size, used as trading, fur and provision stores, with, at the south end, a room for the dairy, and at the north end a large one for dog, horse and ox harness and the equipments—called agrets—required for sleds and carts on the voyage. All these buildings had, of course, strong doors and locks, but none had a chimney, for the fear of fire in a fort where gunpowder was the chief article kept for trade was too great to permit of even the trading shop being heated in the coldest day in winter. This was the rule all over the country, and the men who defied the intense cold when travelling in the open used to dread the more intense cold which seemed to accumulate in the trading store, where one had to spend hours at a stretch writing down each item as the band of Indians brought in their credit slips from the master’s office.
To the right of the front gate stood the flagstaff, on which the British red ensign, with the white letters H.B.C. on its fly, was hoisted on Sundays and holidays, and in honor of the arrival and departure of visitors of importance and the brigades; and in the middle of the square was the fur-packing press with its long beam lever and huge slotted post into which it was inserted.
The duty of scrubbing their own and the big house and keeping the square clean, making a certain number of tracking shoes for the voyageurs, and of planting and harvesting potatoes, was all that was required of the women of the fort in exchange for the board and lodging furnished by the Company. At least once a week they turned out with rooms and raked the stuff or snow up in heaps, which were hauled outside by an ox hitched to a rawhide instead of a cart or sled, and which served the purpose better. The place was the abode of the numerous train-dogs, which wandered about loose; the square served as a corral in which to round up the horses and oxen required for a brigade; in it the sleds and carts were laden and unloaded, and big snowdrifts were often formed during the winter, so the women of the place where sometimes kept quite busy and furnished with plenty of good exercise. After a snowfall it was a pleasant sight to see them all, arrayed in bright colors, with cheerful faces and active limbs, enjoying themselves, assisted by their children, large and small, sweeping up the snow in piles for half-witted Geordie Gills to draw out, if some one did not, while his back was turned to another teasing him, tip Geordie’s load over to have the fun of hearing him denounce the perpetrator in phrases peculiar to himself.
Behind the stockades was a kitchen garden of the same size as the fort, protected by pointed pickets set in the ground and about ten feet high. Again, behind the garden was a field, fenced with rails, about ten acres in area, one-half of which was used for potatoes and the other half for barley.
To the west of the garden there was the hay-yard, and, facing the yard, a row of old log buildings on a ridge of a few feet elevation, which had first been used as store and dwellings, but had been converted into a stable and cattle byres.
Outside, within a few feet of the north-east corner of the stockade, stood a long ice-house, with a deep cellar, in which were preserved fresh meat and fish in summer, and where frozen fish was stored in winter.
The People of the Fort.
The regular complement of engaged servants of the company in the winter of 1867-68 were: Archibald McDonald, clerk (of thirteen years’ service). Isaac Cowie, apprentice clerk. John McNab Ballanden McKay, interpreter. William Kennedy, apprentice interpreter. Nepapeness (Night Bird) Steersman, a Saulteau. Jacob Bear, bowsman. (A Swampy Cree.) George Sandison, watchman. George Sandison, jun., middleman. William Sandison, carpenter, at Wood Mountain. George Thorne, cattlekeeper, at Wood Mountain. Oliver Flemmand, voyageur. (All these, except Mr. McDonald and myself were natives.) Gowdie Harper, laborer, from Shetland, in 1864. John Dryer, laborer, from Orkney, in 1866. Alexander McAuley, laborer, from Lews Island, in 1867. Alaister McLean, laborer, from Lews Island, in 1867.
The monthly employees were: Alexander Fisher, horse guard, at the east end of the lakes. Joseph Robillard, cartwright and carpenter. Charles Bird, Cree, voyageur. Henry Jordan, laborer. Charles Davis, laborer. The two latter were deserters from the American troops at Fort Buford, Missouri River.
Besides these there were a number of natives hired as “temporary servants” and others occasionally by the trip or by the day, as the occasion required.
The families of those having rations and quarters from the Company were, as far as I can remember: Mrs. Archibald McDonald, and sons. John A. and Donald H., with their nursemaid, Mary Adams. Mrs. McKay, with children Sarah, George and Archie. Nepapeness’ wife, Necanapeek (the leading woman), with son, Kenowas, and a baby daughter. Jacob Bear’s wife, Nancy (an English-speaking Swampy like himself), and two children. G. Sandison’s wife, Mary Whitford, with daughter, Mary Jane, and son, William. W. Sandison’s wife, Nancy Finlayson (no children). G. Thorne’s three children—Julie and two boys. O. Flemmand’s wife, Helen Brule, and two sons. J. Robillard’s wife, LaLouise (no children). C. Bird’s wife, Caroline Sandison, and child. Cree widow, “Curly Head,” with three children. Alexander Fisher’s allowance, two rations. Thirty train dogs, each two-thirds of a man’s rations.
At the fort the daily allowance for each child was one-quarter and for a woman one-half that for a man, which was twelve pounds fresh buffalo meat, or six pounds dried buffalo meat, or three pounds pemmican, or six rabbits, or six prairie chickens, or three large white fish, or three large or six small ducks, besides potatoes and some milk for the children, and occasionally dried berries, with a weekly allowance of tallow or fat. Rough barley was also given to those who cared to prepare it for themselves.
Daily to feed the establishment required, in the form of fresh buffalo meat, the tongues, bosses, ribs and fore and hind quarters of three animals, for the head, neck, shanks and inside were not considered worth freighting from the plains to the fort. The product of three buffalo in the concentrated form of pemmican was equivalent to the daily issues of fresh meat.
Cowie, 1913, p. 211-216.
The following text was type-written just beneath the image of Fort Qu’Appelle in a scrapbook that is part of the Cowie fonds.
In 1877 Mr Archibald McDonald of Fort Ellice, requested Mr George Mowat, of the H.B.Store at White Mud River, to send up a man to paint Fort Ellice, which was being renovated. Mr Mowat engaged on the spot a remittance man named Nelson, who had the local reputation of being a painter. On his arrival at Fort Ellice it was discovered that he knew nothing of the trade of a house painter, but was an artist in water colours. So Mr Nelson painted Fort Ellice and Fort Qu’Appelle-but on paper in water colours, and the photograph on page 22 is a copy of his picture of Fort Qu’Appelle in 1877. The upright pickets are those put up by Cowie in 1873, the building in the left hand corner is one brought from Touchwood Hills and put up by Cowie about the same time as a shop. The thatched roofed building -logs- in the right hand corner is the remains of the row of men’s dwellings seen in the picture on page 23 as in 1867.
Isaac Cowie fonds. Manitoba Archives.
The Hudson’s Bay Company biography sheet references Isaac Cowie’s book and states that Jacob is mentioned in several places. Isaac Cowie joined the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1867 and served as a clerk at Fort Qu’Appelle where Jacob was also stationed. There are a number of stories, in fact, too many for me to include in this post so I will create another as they speak to Jacob’s character.
“Jacob Bear and his wife were well instructed Christians from St. Peters, both speaking, reading and writing English, also syllabic,” (Cowie, 1913, p. 222).
The book also states that Jacob wintered in the lodge of Ookemah, Chief of Qu’Appelle Saulteaux, from 1867 to 1868. Furthermore, Isaac wrote that Jacob was a “bowsman” at Fort Qu’Appelle during the same time as he was a trader and c.
In Pimatisiwin Wawiyekamaw, Melissa and Sharon wrote that Jacob first went to Winnipeg to learn English in a program being offered to train First Nations peoples to work for the Hudson’s Bay Company (Anthony and Bear, 2019, p. 56). After concluding his contract for the Hudon’s Bay Company in 1871, Jacob acted as an interpreter for the Indian Agent at Okanese. I have been unable to locate any mention of Jacob in records related to Okanese but this is entirely possible given he was a free agent at the time and last acted as an interpreter.
Also written in Pimatisiwin Wawiyekamaw, Jacob and family had been around the Cowessess Band around the signing of Treaty 4 (September 15th, 1874) and consequently became band members at Cowessess First Nation. This is an interesting note as based on the Treaty annuity records, Jacob Bear was a member of the Kakishcheway (Kakisiwew) Band from 1874 to 1885.
Although I don’t find Jacob by name in the 1874 or 1875 accounts, I found in the 1876 record he was paid $181 for the years 1874-1876. I’m not sure why he was paid an extra $56 when each person was to receive $5 respectively. Based on the account below, Jacob received $40 for 1874 for 8 persons (himself, a wife, and 7 children), $40 for 1875 for 8 persons (himself, a wife, and 7 children), and $45 for 9 persons (himself, a wife, and 8 children) but that only accounts for $125.
What could the extra $56 be given for–services to Indian Affairs? If anyone has an idea what this could be for please leave a comment.
Kakishiway’s Band. Indian Affairs, Annuity Paylists: C-7145. Image 97.
It wasn’t until later that Jacob Bear became a member of the Cowessess Band, and then switched back to the Kakishcheway Band in 1893 which had been renamed the Ochapowace Band. The switching back and forth between bands is very interesting and I have a letter by the Indian Agent which talks about the switch in 1893 though no letter to account for the first switch to Cowessess in the 1880s.
Supposedly, his first role on Cowessess was as an interpreter for the Marieval Residential School, however, he was pushed out by the Catholic priest because Jacob had strong protestant beliefs (Antony and Bear, 2019 p. 56).
In addition of his work as an interpreter and missionary and with the Round Lake Mission, Jacob was also a farmer like many of those who lived in the Crooked Lake Agency. He is mentioned by name in Indian Affairs Reports for the years 1883, 1884, 1886, 1891, 1892, 1893, 1894, 1895, 1896, 1898, 1899, 1900, 1901, 1902, and 1903. There are too many files for me to post so once again I will pick a few records to share in this post.
Jacob Bear has commenced at Yellow Calf’s old place, and has broken up more land.
Dominion of Canada Annual Report of the Department of Indian Affairs for the Year Ended 31st December 1883. p. 27-28.
The band had made great progress in farming since my visit last year. They lad a large area of land in potatoes and wheat, the former promised very good crops; the best I have seen this season; the wheat was short and much choked by wild buckwheat; the turnips had been destroyed by the fly. Their land is well fenced, but their houses are the poorest description of huts. Jacob Bear, an educated and intelligent Indian, was in charge, as acting sub-instructor, and was doing very well.
Dominion of Canada Annual Report of the Department of Indian Affairs for the Year Ended 31st December 1884. p. 27-28.
Round Lake Boarding-school. I inspected this school on the 9th and 10th February. The staff consists as follows: Rev. Hugh McKay, principal; Mrs. McKay, matron; N. McKenzie, teacher; Jacob Bear, farmer; Helen Gaddie, cook; Hilda Sahlmark, housemaid; Eliza Bear, laundress; Peter Elkinson; fireman, in winter attending to furnaces.
Dominion of Canada Annual Report of the Department of Indian Affairs for the Year Ended 30th June 1893. p. 446.
Jacob Bear, No. 116 – House and stables in the valley, near Rev. Mr. McKay’s boarding-school. The house is 20 x 20, rough-cast walls and shingled roof, up-stair rooms, good floors and doors, no open chimney; house well furnished and clean. Has wagon, mower, rake, and a good supply of smaller implements and tools, all private property. Store-house, hen-house, creamery, new lean-to kitchen; his daughter was busy knitting. Horse stable, 18 x 18, room for sixteen horses; cattle stable No. 1, 18 x 18, eleven stanchions; cattle stable No. 2, 18 x 18, the last one for younger cattle; has twenty head in all. Some good pigs were noticed. A thrifty-looking, homestead, and all had the appearance of plenty.
Dominion of Canada Annual Report of the Department of Indian Affairs for the Year Ended 30th June 1896. p. 359.
Jacob Bear, Casokoowinan and Pierre Belanger have the best houses, neatly kept and furnished.
Dominion of Canada Annual Report of the Department of Indian Affairs for the Year Ended 30th June 1903. p. 381.
Name of Indian
Area of land utilized
Indian Affairs. RG 10, Volume 3759, File 32025-2. 1886.
So far, I have identified the following children of Jacob and Nancy: Sophie Bear (1858-1888) married Michel Lavallée (1855-1941) Isabelle Elizabeth Bear (1869-???) married Sam Cyr (1865-1932) Sara Marie Alphonsine Bear (1871-???) married Louis Henry Allary (1873-1913) Henry Bear (1872-1910) married Mary Ann McKinnon (1879-1978) Andre Bear (1874-???) *may be one of the unknown boys who died in 1884 and 1900 Marguerite Bear (???-???) married Joseph Lavallée (1884-???) Unknown girl (???-1898) married Pookaysacase/William Petwawenin Unknown girl married unknown man Unknown boy (???-1884) Unknown boy (???-1900)
I found mention in the Treaty annuity records the marriage of an unnamed daughter in 1884, marriage of another unnamed daughter in 1897 to Pookaysacase/William Petwawenin, and later the unnamed daughter’s death in 1898. I haven’t been able to identify her name, however, I know there are tentatively records related to her out there–most likely in the Round Lake protestant church records. Once I get my hands on these records I am confident it will solve a good handful of mysteries.
The imminent death of his unnamed daughter is mentioned in a letter to Rev. Professor Beard on March 21st, 1898. “I lost my grandson aged 18 years two weeks ago and my daughter has been very ill and she shall not live long. Every night, we are afraid she shall not see the morning. We feel much when we have to put our children in the grave.” (Antony and Bear, 2020, p. 91)
Based on the date, I believe the grandson Jacob is referring to in this letter is Jeremie Lavallée (1878-1898) who was buried on March 14th, 1898. He was the son of their eldest daughter, Sophie Bear (1858-1888) who married Michel Lavallée (1855-1941).
Jacob and Nancy also suffered the death of two unnamed sons, one in 1884 and another in 1900. It’s possible one of these deaths could be that of Andre (1874-???) A third son, Henry, died sometime in 1910.
The comment Jacob makes about feeling the death of children is more keenly felt with the deaths of the children of their daughter, my great-grandmother, Sarah Bear (1871-???). She married Louis Henry Allary (1873-1913) and I have documented fifteen children while the couple lost at least eight in childhood or young adulthood: Albert James Allary (1894-1914) Sara Virginie Allary (1895-1918) Louisa Ann Allary (1897-1918) Louis Maurice Allary (1900-1918) Christine Allary (1902-1916) Marie Marguerite Allary (1905-1921) Marie Josephine Allary (1907-1907) Valentine Allary (1908-1908)
While I do not have the death records for these great aunts and uncles, I imagine their deaths were due to influenza and tuberculosis. There is mention in the 1919 Indian Affairs Report that there were very heavy mortality in Saskatchewan communities due to the influenza epidemic. The illness left victims in a delicate state of health and in some locations, the illness was accompanied by virulent bronchial pneumonia.
In his later years, Jacob and his wife Nancy lived near Broadview, Saskatchewan with their adopted grand-daughter Lena Petwawenin (1905-???). Lena was the daughter of William Petwawenin (???-???) who had married the widow of No 75 Pasqua Band (???-1906) in 1901 after the death of his previous wife, the unnamed daughter of Jacob and Nancy Thomas. After the unnamed wife died in 1906, it looks like Jacob and Nancy took Lena in.
In 1911 there was no change to the living situation, Jacob and Nancy still had Lena under their roof. She had spent 10 months at school, most likely the Round Lake Residential School. Interestingly enough, the record states neither Jacob nor Nancy could read or write but this is incorrect.
By 1916, Jacob and Nancy were once again living alone on the Ochapowace Reserve. Lena was most likely at the Round Lake Residential School though her name is not included in the 1916 Census record of the school. Jacob’s profession is listed as missionary on Indian Reserves.
Nothing had changed by 1921, Jacob and Nancy were living alone on the Ochapowace Reserve. His occupation was listed as farmer.
Jacob Bear died in July 30, 1925, in Broadview, Saskatchewan. I have been unable to find a death date for his wife Nancy (1839-???) but I assume it occurred in or around the Crooked Lake Agency.
Edited January 23, 2022, with updated information provided to me by a Lerat cousin.
Conducting research on my Indigenous ancestors has always posed a challenge for me. Limits to records—their availability, ease of access, and even their existence has made research much slower.
I’ve had very little success with Saskatchewan’s vital statistics records and hit or miss success with census records which have aided me the most in my research. Knowing very little about my Indigenous ancestors at the start of my genealogy journey meant I had to rely on what I could find but that means there are inaccuracies and mysteries abound.
This past year I decided to try searching Treaty annuity records to see if I can find more information on this part of my family. What a treasure trove! Although limited in their capacity, I discovered so much which hadn’t known before 2019.
Only a portion of Treaty annuity records have been digitized, from 1974 to 1909, and there is still leg-work required to go through the microfilm to locate the right reserve. As of January 23rd, 2022, I have created indexes to make less work for researchers.
It was by browsing through these records that I discovered Marie Adele Lerat (1888-1918) was not my grandfather’s biological mother, but his step-mother.
I’ve had a suspicion that this was the case but had no proof to confirm. It does account for the name changes in census records as well as for the gap between my grandfather Napoleon Pelletier (1905-1985) and his brother Robert Louis Pelletier (1915-2001).
In the 1895, band member #46 of Cowessess, Hyacinth Pelletier (1849-1906) had a son who married the daughter of band member #13. At this time, Hyacinth and his wife drew an annuity payment. It also states that one grandson died sometime after the previous year’s payment.
The newly married couple would draw from #157. Here we see Joseph Pelletier (1876-1943) and an ‘unnamed’ wife. It’s unfortunate that many of the records at this time only record the name of the person collecting annuity on behalf of their family. The unnamed wife was Marie Caroline Aisaican (1878-1909).
Caroline’s (1878-1909) father was Aisaican (English=Clarified Maple Sugar) (1830-???) and her mother was Julie Sparvier (1848-???). In the 1905 census records I found the Aisaican family listed as Sparvier as well. Sparvier is also the surname used for Caroline in some of the Baptisms records.
In 1895, Aisaican (1830-???) had a wife, a son, and two daughters living on reserve with him. One of his sons, William Aisaican (1876-???), married the daughter of #126 and he also had one son who was living at Turtle Mountain. There were also a number of Pelletiers who traveled back and forth to Turtle Mountain.
In the 1901 census, Joseph (1876-1943) and Caroline (1878-1909) can be found living with two daughters: Marie Sarah (1897-???) and Marie Josephine (1899-1984). The family had already suffered the loss of two children, an unnamed boy who was born and died in 1896 and Mary Jane who was born and died in 1901.
It’s interesting to note that Caroline (1878-1909) is listed as Saulteaux while Joseph (1876-1843) is listed as French. In other records he’s listed as a ‘French-Breed’ and ‘Cree’. Further research informed me he is a descendent of a Red River Métis family, but that is a post for another day.
The family is found again in the 1906 records. This is the first record my grandfather is recorded in. It also lists his sisters Marie Sarah (1897-???), Marie Josephine (1899-1984), and Marie Louise (1903-1980). Too bad there is not much else recorded in this census.
Caroline’s death is recorded in the 1909 Treaty annuity list and in further research I found she died on January 25th, 1909. In this record, we see Joseph has one son and three daughters living on reserve with him. Additionally, there is a mark at the opposite end of the document which shows one woman died between the last annuity payment and this one.
Interestingly enough, Joseph (1876-1943) married Philomène Daniel (1888-1911) on July 20th, 1909, less than six months after Caroline’s death. There were four children who needed looking after, I imagine this played a part in the hasty marriage.
I learned the pair had a son on August 23rd, 1910, named J. Albert who died before his first birthday, on January 10th, 1911. Sadly, Philomène died only a few months later on June 28th, 1911. She lived long enough to be recorded in the 1911 census but I don’t have much information Philomène and must conduct more research.
The family can be found in the 1911 census records. All of Joseph’s children from his previous marriage can be found: Marie Sarah, Marie Josephine, Marie Louise, and Napoleon. Additionally, although the document states Hyacinth (1949-1906) is living with them, this is incorrect. Hyacinth died in 1906, this is recorded in the 1906 Treaty annuity payment list. Thus it is Julienne LaVallee (1853-???), his mother!
On April 22nd, 1912, after Philomène’s death, Joseph (1876-1911) married Marie Adele Lerat (1888-1918). I’ve identified four children by Adele: John (1913-1913), Robert Louis (1915-2001), Theresa Elizabeth (1916-2005), and J. Silvestre (1918-1918).
Adele (1888-1918) and family can be found in the 1916 census where only Robert (1915-2001) is listed with his mother and father. The other children are either at residential school or have married.
In 1918, Joseph lost both his son and his third wife on November 7th and November 10th, 1918, respectively. There are quite a number of individuals within my family living on Cowessess and Ochapowace who died during the height of the influenza pandemic. In fact, there are Indian Affairs reports which talk about the high number of deaths in the Crooked Lake Agency.
In the 1921 census, Joseph Pelletier (1876-1943) is listed with his children Marie Josephine (1899-1984), Marie Louise (1903-1980), Napoleon (1905-1985), Robert (1915-2001), and a new child born after the death of Adele (1888-1918). Her name was Marie Anne (1920-1999) and it appears she was the daughter of Marie Josephine (1899-1894) and James Atcikate (???-???). I must do further research on Marie’s father James as I have only found him in one document provided to me recently.
In the 1926 census, Joseph (1876-1942) and his new wife, Ernestina Chaboyer (1880-???) whom he married on December 16th, 1925, are living together. Also living with them is Napoleon (1905-1985) and Joseph’s mother, Julienne LaVallee (1853-???). The other children Robert (1915-2001) and Theresa (1916-2005) can be found at the Cowessess residential school. There is no mention of Marie Anne (1920-1999) who must also be at the residential school but as of January 2022 I have not found yet.
In a recent document that was provided to me, it appears Joseph (1876-1943) and Ernestina (1880-???) adopted a girl named Eva Patricia Ward (1930-???) who married Andrew Sparvier (???-???). This is new information as of January 2022 and which requires further research.
Joseph (1876-1943) passed away on September 23rd, 1943, in Broadview, Saskatchewan, and that is where my research ends for now.
In any case, this is just some of the information I have been able to unearth in the last year alone thanks to the Treaty annuity list as well as most recently with communications with other family members.
Although a few months late, as I originally started this post in November of last year, I decided to finally post the work I’ve done related to one of my first cousins. I have collected the files of every WWI serviceman in my family that I have so far identified and this is but one of those stories.
Robert P. Johnston was born on December 15th, 1885 to parents William John Johnston (1861-) and Martha Ann Johnston (1854-1933) in Renfrew, Ontario, Canada. The medical history sheet from his war file reveals he was born in Forester Falls which makes perfect sense as this is where the Johnston clan settled in the area.
Robert can be found in the 1891 census living in the township of Ross with his parents and four siblings, James P. (1884-), John Samuel (1887-1978), William Andrew (1889-1971), and Noah Thomas (1890-). Interestingly enough, I believe his brother James was named after his maternal grandfather, James Patrick Johnston (1827-1905) and who is the first of the Johnston line to immigrate to Canada.
Another interesting tid-bit is that Robert’s middle initial is listed as ‘P’ in one census record while the other is listed as ‘B.’
I found the family in the 1901 census where they’ve made a substantial move west now living in Westbourne, Manitoba. This was a distance of over 1,600km. I’m curious as to whether or not the move was made so that Robert’s father could work and own a farm of his own rather than work as a labourer in Ontario. I was able to find a Western Land Grant for William Johnston Jr. which may be Robert’s brother but I am unable to confirm at this time.
There are some inaccuracies when it comes to birth years of the children between the census records and they are as follows:
1884 vs. 1882
1885 vs. 1883
1887 vs. 1885
1889 vs. 1888
1890 vs. 1889
The children’s birthdates are a few years off, but I’m more inclined to believe the dates themselves are correct as Robert’s birthdate December 15th matches what is found on his attestation paper.
I’ve been stalling on writing this piece because I’ve had difficulty locating certain family member’s records. For instance, I don’t have James’ birth record; the same can be said of his younger brother John. This frustrates me as I’ve found the birth records for Robert, William, and Noah.
Furthermore, I’m unable to find the family in any census records for 1911 or 1916. I’ve located a few family members in the 1921 census, but a lot has happened in that 20 year period. For now, I will continue to focus on Robert, before I touch on some of the other family members.
Sometime between the 1901 census and the birth of his daughter, Grace Loretta Johnston (1915-2014), Robert married Eleanore Loretta Schneider (1895-1991).
Eleanore, also known as Ella, lived with her family in Edrans, where she is found with her parents and her six siblings in the 1911 census.
The date of their marriage can be narrowed to sometime between 1911 and 1915 yet I have not been able to locate it. The distance between the two communities is 40km, so I imagine the Johnstons might have moved closer to Edrans or the Schneiders towards Westbourne. I am leaning a bit more towards the latter since I found Eleanore’s parents and siblings living in Westbourne in the 1916 census.
I would like to search the census records a little closer to Edrans based on some other locations mentioned in other documents including Keyes, Wellwood, and Austin. These locations are mentioned as later residences for Robert’s wife and mother. All of these locations are further west than Westbourne.
On September 11th, 1915, Robert travelled south-west to Hughes Camp, previously known as Sewell Camp, and attested. He enlisted as a private and his regimental number was 623165. Robert is described as thirty years and nine months old, 5 foot 9 1/2 inches with brown hair and eyes. Some 48 days later, Robert arrived in England on October 30th, 1915, after travelling on the SS Lapland from Halifax.
The next of kin listed is Robert’s wife under a PO Box in Wellwood, Manitoba. There are some additional notations on the attestation paper which appear as though Robert original next-of-kin listed was going to be his mother but he apparently changed his mind. An “A” was originally written but was crossed out and replaced with an “R.” There is also the start of what I believe to be the word “mother” but was replaced with the word “wife.”
From Robert’s pay book, signed March 30th, 1916, he indicates in his Will that everything should go to his wife, Ella, living in Edrans. The time between when Robert attested and when he signed his Will was 6 months while it was some 15 days before he was sent to France.
Another address lists Robert’s wife living in Keyes dated August 12th, 1918. Additionally, Robert’s mother, Martha Ann, is listed as living in Keyes as well.
Yet another document list’s Ella as living in Austin with a stamp on the reverse dated October 25th, 1922. This same address is found on a second card.
After Robert landed in Europe in October, he contracted influenza which he sought treatment for on November 18th, 1915. He was treated at the Bramshott Military Hospital and discharged on November 30th, 1915. This would not be the last time Robert would seek treatment at a medical centre.
Robert was originally assigned to the 61st Battalion but was transferred to the 44th Battalion on October 16th, 1915. This information can be found on Robert’s casualty form which also states Robert embarked and arrived overseas with the 27th Battalion on April 15th, 1916. He left the Canadian Base Depot (CBD) with his unit on May 4th and arrived in the field on May 6th, 1916.
A month later, on the 6th of June, Robert was wounded in action at the battle of St. Eloi. He was thrown onto a stake hurting his ribs on the right pectoral region. Below are excerpts from the 27th Battalion war diaries.
F CAMP. JUNE 6, 1916.
Battalion in Brigade reserve at F Camp. Weather, heavy rain in early morning clearing towards noon. Wind fresh westerly. At 3:50PM received message to fall in and move at once to the Asylum past west of Ypres H12d central.
A CAMP. JUNE 6, 1916.
4:15PM. Battalion moved as ordered. [Diving] to shelling of road battalion moved by platoons at 100 yard intervals. Met by guides and proceeded at once to the Ramparts in Ypres at I14b24 ref sheet 28.
6:30PM. Arrived at Ramparts where Battalion headquarters were established along with Brigade headquarters. Brigade front was held by 28th Battalion in left sub-sector and 31st Battalion in right sub-sector. After an intense bombardment lasting some hours the enemy blew up four mines at Hooge covering a frontage of 200 yards and then attacked and made some ground. Sent “C” Company and 100 men of “D” boy to occupy Zillebeke Switch in I16 in support of 31st Battalion. Furnished carrying parties of 150 men for front line at night. Men not in trenches were quartered in Infantry Barracks in Ypres.
On June 23rd, 1916, Robert was transferred to the Canadian Casualty Assembly Centre (CCAC) via the HS Newhaven and was admitted to the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in London. He was transferred to the Canadian Convalescent Hospital at Bromley on July 5th, 1916, and later to the Canadian Convalescent Hospital at Epsom (also known as Woodcote Park) on July 7th, 1916.
It was during an exam on July 5th that the doctor recounts how Robert was injured and the severity of those injuries. Robert’s ribs had healed but with some irregularity on the third rib in addition to pain on coughing and breathing.
On August 21st, 1916, Robert was transferred from the CCAC to the 11th Reserve Battalion in Shroncliffe. He was taken on strength by the Battalion on August 22nd, 1916, where he remained until a little after 1917. In September 1916, Robert sought treatment for an ailment at the Military Hospital in Shorncliffe and was transferred to the special Canadian Hospital in Etchinghill.
Robert was transferred to the 27th Battalion overseas on March 6th, 1917. He landed and was taken on strength in France where he fought with his unit. Seven months later, on September 11th, 1917, Robert was awarded a good conduct badge during training exercises. Below is a copy of the training schedule from the war diaries.
ESTREE CAUCHIE. SEPTEMBER 11, 1917.
Battalion in rest ESTREE CAUCHIE. Weather fair. Wind S.W. Remainder of Battalion bathed. Training as per Syllabus.
9:10AM to 10:00AM
Physical Training Section and Platoon Drill.
Bayonet Fighting. Rifle exercises.
10:00AM to 10:30AM
10:30AM to 12:30PM
Musketry. Company in Attack.
Rifle Grenades. Bombing, Lewis Gun. Musketry.
Communication Section and Company Signallers 9:10AM to 10:00AM instructed by Bomb Officer. 10:30AM to 12:30PM – Signalling.
Company Scouts and Snipers will report to Scout Sgt. after C.Os. parade on days in which their Companies have Bombing.
Sixteen men per Coy. will report to wiring instructor during Bombing period.
All Companies will practice attack as well as Bombing and musketry with Gas Respirators on.
“A” and “B” Companies will follow Schedule 1, “C” and “D” Coys. will follow Schedule 2 September 11th and will alternate following days.
Company Officers will spend one hour each afternoon on map reading and Compass work. Opportunity should be given Senior N.C.Os. to take advantage of this work.
Nearly two months later, Robert is reported missing on Nov 6th, 1917. This date is particularly interesting as it appears he was likely killed by a shell during the Battalion’s assault on the village of Passchendaele.
I have transcribed the following page from the Battalion’s war diaries.
PASSCHENDAELE. NOVEMBER 6, 1917.
Battalion in front line in front of PASSCHENDAELE. Weather dull. Wind N.E. Battalion assembled for the assault and all in position at 4AM. Zero hour was at 6AM. Battalion attacked the village of PASSCHENDAELE with the 31st Battalion on the left and the 26th Battalion on the right. All objectives captured at 7:40AM.
Day spent in consolidating position. 9 Machine Guns and 76 prisoners were captured. Approximate casualties were: 13 Officers and 240 O.Rs. Operation Orders No. 197 for move from HILL 37 to Assembly Position attached.
There were two Victoria Cross recipients for this date and their participation in the fighting on Nov 6th, 1917. One of the recipients was James Peter Robertson who was part of the 27th Battalion and was awarded the cross posthumously. I wonder whether the two men knew each other, and how many of their friends died alongside them that day.
On June 28th, 1918, Robert is reported as having been killed in action and his name can be found on the Ypres Memorial. He was 31 years old.
An interesting remark on one of the forms in his file indicates that Robert’s wife married his brother, William, only 32 days after he was declared dead.
War Service Gratuity Form.
On July 30th, 1918, Ella married William Andrew and on September 26th, 1918, Robert William Johnston (1918-2018) was born. Based on his date of birth, Robert William was likely conceived sometime in December 1917 or January 1918 only a few months after Robert went missing in France. I wonder then, whether anything was going on between Ella and William before Robert’s disappearance or if their relationship developed suddenly when it appeared Robert would not return.
Both explanations are plausible, but with a piece of information I received from two researchers in Ontario who work with WWI records I’m leaning more to the first scenario. If a soldier required treatment or hospitalization for venereal disease their pay home would be stopped for that period. In turn, this would lead to family questioning why pay was stopped which might serve as a catalyst for a new relationship. Robert was in hospital receiving treatment from October 11th to December 18th, 1016 which meant his pay would have been stopped for two months – a substantial amount of time.
Two more children would be born to Ella and William, Anne Louise Johnston (1920-2004) and Vernon Andrew Johnston (1923-1944).
Ella and her three children, Grace, Robert, and Anne can be found living with Ella’s brother, Albert Schneider in the 1921 census. I don’t know where William is, though I suspect he is working somewhere on another farm. The full family of William, Ella, Grace, Robert, Anne, and Vernon can be found in the 1926 census split between two pages.
Both Robert and Vernon served in the second world war although only one would return home. Vernon rose to the rank of Corporal with the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) and was killed September 13, 1944. He was buried at the Calais Canadian Military Cemetery in St. Inglevert, France.
Robert was injured in 1942 and 1944, with the second injury being severe enough to have him sent back to Canada where he convalesced at Deer Lodge Hospital in Winnipeg.
Based on the information above, I believe the only child born to Robert and Ella was their daughter, Grace. Grace married Norman George Bowden Hay (1898-1958), who was 17 years her senior, on October 19, 1940. She had met him while working on the Hay family farm. They would have 7 children before Norman passed away on March 19, 1958.
Grace passed away in 2014 while her brother, Robert, passed away in 2018.
One of the reasons why I wanted to do a write-up of Robert is not because of anything specific to him, but because of the following doodle I found in his file. It amused me to see this little smiling pumpkin and I bet you the person who drew it likely never thought it would see the light of day.
I am going to write about my maternal 2nd cousin 3x removed, Robert Colin Wood (1898-1918).
Robert Colin Wood was born 8 Dec 1898 in a place called Jackfish, Ontario, some 244km east of Thunder Bay. The place is now a ghost town but was once a port of commercial fishing and to receive coal for steam trains travelling on the CPR.
Canadian Pacific Railway Station Building at JackFish 7 Sep 1900
His parents were William Samuel Wood (1868–1901) and Martha Ritchie (1871–1906) and he was an only child.
Robert’s parents were married 18 Nov 1891 in Ross, Renfrew North, Ontario in the place where his mother lived and grew up.
In the 1901 census, the Wood family lived in the CPR community of Schreiber, Ontario, which was about 40km west of where Robert was born.
The census data was collected on May 28th, however, only five months later, William would be dead.
At the age of 33, William, who worked on the railroad as an engineer, was killed in an accident on 6 Oct 1901 in Port Arthur, Ontario. It appeared he survived the accident itself but succumbed to exhaustion following train injury, fracture spine, chest, and head.
I have yet to find any mention of an accident around this date.
The next time I find Robert he is living with his paternal aunt and uncle, Martha Wood (1874-) and Richard Groggin (1871-) in the 1911 census in York. The pair had married in 1894, a few years after William and Martha, in Port Arthur. In this record, Richard is documented as working as a conductor and his wife, a housekeeper.
Martha and Richard can also be found living in Schreiber, Ontario in the 1901 census. They had staying in their home at the time, Martha’s mother Melissa (1845-1924), and her two sisters, Christina (1880-) and Clara (1887-) who were working as domestics.
The reason why Robert was now living with his aunt and uncle in 1911 was for the fact that his mother, Martha, had died of heart failure on 31 Jan 1906. His mother’s death came only three months after she’d remarried Alex McFarlone in Port Arthur.
The last census record that Robert is documented in is the 1916 census of the prairies where he’s living with his aunt and uncle in Rocanville, Saskatchewan. In addition to his adoptive parents, also living in this household is Martha (1903-) his adopted sister and well as his grandmother Melissa. It seems Richard changed occupations and was now a farmer.
On 20 Mar 1917, Robert ventured to Regina where he signed his attestation papers and joined the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force. His regimental number was: 1069577. Robert was a private of the 249th Battalion who was transferred to the 15th Canadian Res. Battalion on 4 Mar 1918 in Bramshott and then to the 28th Battalion (Saskatchewan Regiment) on 10 May 1918.
Robert entered the battlefield on 22 May 1918 in France. About a month and a half later, on 12 Aug 1918, Robert received a gunshot wound to the head which he later died of on the same day.
Robert is one of 332 Canadian WWI soldiers buried in the St Sever Cemetery Extension. His grave is number 5379, inscribed on the stone it reads, “Gone but not forgotten.”
The Battalion moved into Reserve Position on the Blue Line (AMIENS Defence Line) with Brigade Headquarters at CAIX. Battalion now in trench system in front of CAIX. Estimated that Battalion captured 80 Machine Guns in the attack.
Well, it’s been another couple of months since my previous post in May. I was successful in finding my grand uncle’s grave within ‘St. Michael’s Cemetery’ at SW-14-29-18-W1.
Unfortunately, the cemetery was overgrown and I don’t know how many other graves were suppose to be in there. Where I thought the graves would be located was just grass, unless the headstones have been buried, while the rest of the graves were found in the trees/brush.
There were a handful of other headstones that I was able to take pictures of but I was unable to get all sides.
A surprising find was the grave of Peter Demczyszyn (1909-1930) who was murdered in a case of mistaken identity. You can read more in the previous blog post here.
Another interesting find was this mysterious grave at the crossroads of Road 170 North and Road 105 West.
This is what I have been able to decipher from the headstone.
славу най Сь
триць з рок 1921
From what I can understand it is related to the Chornoboy family, specifically, Anna Chornoboy (1904-). If this is correct then Anna was only 17 years old when she died. Historically, burial at a crossroads was the method for persons who have committed suicide. Was this the case for poor Anna? I am going to do some more investigation in this case.
It has been a very busy few weeks at my job and so I haven’t had much time to devote to my blog recently.
In order to let off some steam I decided to take a trip up north to Mowat to stay at the family farm.
My primary goal during this trip is an attempt to find my grand uncle’s grave and get a photograph of his headstone.
Anton Masiowski was born to my great-grandparents John Masiowski and Anastasia Kotlarchuk on Oct 10, 1906. He was their second born child in Canada. Anton was described as a sickly child and died on Oct 11, 1925 at the tender age of 19. I have it in my mind that he drowned in the river however I might be mixing up the cause of death with someone else.
I dug up somewhere, my memory alludes me exactly where from, that Anton was buried north of North Lake School No. 1431 (NW-11-29-18-W1), at SW-14-29-18-W1. I always thought he was buried by his lonesome, however recent research would indicate that his grave is likely in the Fork River Roman Catholic Cemetery. In all honestly I’m not sure why they named it after ‘Fork River’ as the cemetery’s location is actually closer to Oak Brae but I suppose Oak Brae might have already established a Roman Catholic cemetery.
Previously, I was under the belief that the Fork River Roman Catholic Cemetery was located across the river of the Fork River Cemetery, just before Fork River on Route 20, as this is where a number of my family members are buried who were Roman Catholics. I stand corrected. I suppose this is simply the burial spot for Roman Catholics within the Fork River Cemetery at SW-25-29-19-W1.
Now that I’ve hopefully located the correct coordinates of the Fork River Roman Catholic Cemetery I will be able to take photographs of not just Anton’s grave but of other family members who were buried there as well.
My only concern is whether vandals or time might have destroyed the graves at this cemetery such as what occurred at the Fork River Cemetery. I have better hopes as it’s on a quieter roadway and is away from the river where it’s less likely to flood or be damaged by ice.
One of my ancestors who serves as my genealogical inspiration is my great aunt Ruth. Like myself she was a genealogist and wrote a number of personal essays that contain her memories of living at ‘Riverside Farm‘ as well as information she gathered on the Johnston and Basham family. The information she documented has been a great help in my own research and without her essay’s I would have had a much more difficult time. Furthermore, it seems her uncle, George Basham (1878-1954) was also interested in genealogy. He had recorded a number of musings his his diary, which I have yet to locate, he was also a photographer, postal worker, and was the first teacher of Mowat School from 1904-1905.
Ruth Elizabeth White was born on 27 Jan 1908 in the Fork River district of Manitoba, Canada. Her parents Thomas White (1880-1909) and Sophia Harriet Basham (1880-1959) were both born in Hackney, London, England and immigrated to Canada on the S.S. Canada arriving at the port of Montréal on 15 May 1904. They most likely chose the community of Fork River as it was the home of Sophia’s parents and siblings who had immigrated to the area in 1903.
Thomas White was a cabinet maker in London who met his bride (most likely) while he boarded with Sophia’s sister, Amy and her husband Joseph Charles, at 23 Ballance Road in Hackney. Thomas opened a lathing, plastering, and brick laying business soon after he arrived to the community of Fork River. On 1 Nov 1905 he bought 160 arces at the North-East portion of 1-29-19-W1 and built a two-room farm house for himself and his bride. Ruth wrote a brief passage on a painting of this farm house in her 1990 essay entitled “Treasures.”
The OLD PAINTING of the house in which Ruth and her half-brother, Ernie, were born…Ruth on January 27, 1908. This oil was done by a friend of Ruth’s father, as a gift for Ruth’s mother Sophie, from her husband Tom, on their second anniversary. The painting shows the house that Tom built in the “wilderness”. It contained two rooms and was made of lumber and painted yellow. It was one of the few pioneer homes which had a brick chimney. It stood on the bank of the Fishing River. At the foot of the bank, a little yellow boat floated at anchor. Beyond the small clearing, trees formed a border. A low fence added to the charm of the scene. The painting served as a bittersweet reminder of the hard work Tom had done to make a pretty home for his bride. Ruth’s half brothers grew up in the little house. Tom had added a third room before he died. The painting hangs in the sunroom, and is willed to Ernie and his descendants.
A tragedy that greatly affected my great aunt was the death of her father on 22 Oct 1909 to typhoid fever. Thomas was a member of the “Literary Society” of the district and would play the organ when the society met at Mowat School. He was buried in Riverside Cemetery, Dauphin. A visit to his grave in 2012 could not provide his precise burial location as his headstone was missing. A copy of his death certificate did provide some valuable information including the name of his brother. After Thomas’s premature death, Sophia spent time teaching at a school in Weiden in order to maintain payments on the farm while Ruth lived with her maternal grandparents and uncle George across the Fishing River. Ruth wrote of her mother’s hardships in her 1983 essay entitled “The James Washington Johnston Place.”
Here, we pay great tribute to the “girl from London” who braved the loneliness of her grief and the remote district in which she taught, in order to keep up the payments on the farm, which she and Thomas had so dearly loved. Each weekend saw her walking home ten miles over a trail-like road on the shore of Lake Dauphin, and along the edge of a meadow, where the bull of the Glendenning head came closer to look at her. During her teaching week she slept on the floor of the school. But the kindly Ukrainian and Polish people of the district never once caused her any alarm. Many years later, Jennie Janowski Situlski, who was a pupil in Sophie’s class in the Oak Brae school, wrote her memories of pioneer days. She said that Sophie was the first English speaking person the children had ever seen. She seemed like a doll to them, dressed as she was in her pretty clothes, the like of which they had never seen (Parkland Enterprise, August 1980).
On 26 Mar 1912 Sophia married James Washington Johnston (1876-1967) and would have three sons: James Henderson Johnston (1913-1981), Ernest John Johnston (1915-2001), and William George Washington Johnston (1917-1944). Ruth called James Washington Johnston her “Pa” or “Pop” and he taught her how to dance all of the steps of the day. She never lacked partners at house parties or the “balls” in the Orange Hall, in the Fork River Village. James Washington became the chief engineer of the government fish hatchery on Snake Island on Lake Winnipegosis and the family moved to the island for several seasons before returning to Riverside to farm in earnest.
Ruth and her half-brothers James, Ernie, and Bill attended Mowat School No. 1232. The school was located fairly close to the homestead and the children would have been able to walk to class each day. Ruth wrote in one of her essays that she had always wanted to be a teacher and since the tuition was only $50 at the Dauphin Normal School she took her chance and borrowed the money from her cousin Fred Storrar Jr. Ruth graduated from Dauphin Normal in Apr 1927 and taught at various schools across Manitoba including (but not exclusive): Glenlyon School (her first school), Roseisle School (1929), Bradwardine School (1934), Mowat School (1943-1944), King Edward School, Lord Selkirk School, and Principal Sparling School (1973). Ruth was the only former student of Mowat to return to teach at the school.
Ruth married Ellis Blake Galbraith (1912-1976) on 6 Aug 1938 in Dauphin, Manitoba in St. Paul’s Anglican Church. The couple then traveled to visit Ellis’ family in Roseisle before going on their honeymoon.
15 Aug 1938 (Winnipeg Free Press)
1938 Aug 28 (Winnipeg Free Press)
They moved to Winnipeg in 1944 allowing Ellis to work in the city CPR yards. Through the years they took various trips together across the USA and Canada. Once her husband had passed away in 1978 Ruth also took a trip to England and Ireland, the homeland of our ancestors. Ruth passed away on 17 Feb 1999 at the Grace Hospital in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.