A trial in Red River

Recently the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre presented the play Sarah Ballenden by local playwright Maureen Hunter.  The play is rooted in the historical trial of Foss vs. Pelly that took place in July 1850 in the Red River Settlement.

Sarah Mcleod Ballenden was a Metis woman married to a Hudson Bay Company Chief Factor, John Ballenden. Rumors were circulating that she was having an inappropriate relationship with a soldier, Captain Christopher Foss. In order to clear her name, Foss brought charges of defamation against four members of the community who were the source of the allegations: A.E. Pelly, accountant for HBC; his wife Anne Pelly; John Davidson, the mess cook; his English wife, a servant.

Much has been written about the trial and the issues of class and racism in the settlement.  It is not my intent to analyze this historical event. Readers who wish to know more can read Sylvia Van Kirk’s article “The Reputation of a Lady”: Sarah Ballenden and the Foss-Pelly Scandal at http://www.mhs.mb.ca/docs/mb_history/11/fosspellyscandal.shtml#24

Dale Gibson’s has an account of the trial in his book Law, Life, and Government at Red River: General Quarterly Court of Assiniboia, Annotated Records, 1844-1872, excerpts of which you can read on Google Books.

What piqued my interest was the fact that I have Hogue, McMillan and Dease ancestors living in Red River during this time frame. During the play there were references to Governor Simpson having abandoned his country wife years earlier.  Of course, the country wife was Margaret Taylor, my great-great grandmother, whom I’ve written about here.

I wondered if any of my ancestors were on the jury. Thanks to the digitization of records on the Archives of Manitoba website, I was able to see the list of jurors.

Jury

District of Assiniboia General Quarterly Court District of Assiniboia General Quarterly Court, 1844-1851, Digital Image Number: PR16-002638.jpg Location Code: P7538/1

 

At first glance I thought, no ancestors there.  Then a couple of days later I took a second look.  One name stood out…Thomas Logan. Checking back through my files there he was… the brother-in-law of my great-great grandmother, Margaret Dease.  Thomas Logan was married to Margaret’s sister, Mary Anne.

Naturally I wondered what his opinions on the trial would have been, given that he was married to a Metis woman.  As I delved further into his background I discovered he was the son of Robert Logan and Mary, a Saulteaux Indian, so he was also Metis.

Thomas Logan scrip

Scrip affidavit for Logan, Thomas, from Library and Archives Canada, MIKAN NO. 1502263

Further research revealed that after Thomas’s mother died,  his father, Robert Logan, married Sarah Ingham, a white European widow, who was a schoolteacher.  Sylvia Van Kirk in her book Many Tender Ties, states that:

“The family of retired Chief Factor Robert Logan had particularly opposed their father’s marriage to Mrs. Ingham”.

Reading the transcript of the trial, Mrs. Logan’s name comes up several times.

Mrs. John Black (Margaret Christie, a Metis woman married to a HBC officer) said:

“I have heard Mrs. Logan state that Mrs. Ballenden was a woman that must always have a sweetheart as well as a husband.” and

“Mrs. Logan told me they were very intimate.”

Mrs. Cockran (wife of the Anglican Rev. William Cockran) testified:

‘I have heard reports, and questions has [sic] been put to me.  Mrs. Logan told me, & informed me that she had spoken to Mrs. Ballenden about it.”

The testimony of most of the witnesses for the defendants was hearsay.  There was a definite undertone of “white” superiority and racism.  So what would it have been like for Thomas Logan, a Metis, with a Metis mother and wife to hear his stepmother’s opinions? We can only guess.

I also noticed that one of the witnesses for the plaintiff was a Mr. Nathaniel Logan, a clerk for Mr. John Ballenden. Thomas had a brother Nathaniel who worked for HBC, and this could have been him.

In the end Foss won his case and damages were assessed against the defendants. However the rumors did not go away and Sarah Ballenden found herself shunned by many of the elites of the community.  She died three years later at the age of thirty-five.

So, what is the point of this post?  Obviously none of my direct ancestors were involved.  However, five of my direct ancestors (Margaret Taylor, Amable Hogue, William McMillan, Margaret Dease, and Genevieve Beignet) were adults living in the Red River Settlement at this time.  All of them, except for Amable, who was French-Canadian, were Metis. This is the social climate they lived in. These are the prejudices they experienced.

The pursuit of genealogy research for me is not just finding the names and dates for my ancestors, but placing them in the historical, social milieu in which they lived. And THAT is the reason for today’s post.

 

 

Joseph Noel Taillefer, part 2

I’m continuing the story of Joseph Noel Taillefer, first cousin of my great-great grandmother Marie Louise Bernardin.

Drolet’s Zouaviana, about the Papal Zouaves, does not give a date for Taillefer’s joining the Red River Expeditionary Force that came to Manitoba. However at least two sources state that he came in 1870. The MHS Memorable Manitobans site states:

“Coming to the Red River Settlement with the Wolseley Expedition, he stayed behind at the conclusion of the engagement, took up farming, and married Mary Jane McDermot, daughter of merchant Andrew McDermot.

The second source was the Dictionnaire historique des Canadiens et des métis français de l’Ouest

Now I was confused! The Wolseley Expedition was sent to Red River to keep the peace after the Riel Resistance.  It was headed by Colonel Garnet Wolseley  who led a force of 1200 men across the Dawson trail, some 600 miles, arriving at Fort Garry on August 24, 1870. However, if the Zouaves didn’t return until November of 1870, how could Taillefer have been part of a force that arrived in Red River in August of that same year?

Also, why would he join the Wolseley Expedition?  It was, by most accounts, quite a virulent anti-Catholic, anti-French contingent, with many Ontario members seeking revenge for the murder of Thomas Scott.  The Papal Zouaves were staunchly conservative Catholics.  Why would Joseph join this?

So, I set out to learn more about the Wolseley Expedition.  On Google Books I found an excerpt to the book Toil & Trouble: Military Expeditions to Red River by George F.G. Stanley.  The Winnipeg Public Library has the book, so I borrowed it.  It had two references to Ensign Joseph Taillefer  “a former Papal Zouave”.

It turns out that the Red River Expeditionary Force was made up of more than just the contingent commanded by Wolseley in 1870.  Joseph Noel Taillefer was one of the officers in charge of  the Provisional Battalion of Rifles that came in 1872, the third contingent to come to Red River.

Footnotes in Toil & Trouble led me to search out two specific sources.  One was an article entitled “Dawson Route Military Expedition”, published in the Manitoban in 1872.  Luckily I found it online at the OurRoots website.

It includes a humorous incident involving Taillefer.  He had forbidden the men to race their boats, but having his boat “passed” by a boat made up of Ontario men, he

hurls a diminutive Frenchman from the oar and taking his seat at it –a Hercules in strength and size – gave one tremendous stroke and breaking the thwart pin, went on his back with heels in the air with the momentum of a battering ram.”

The second reference was to “The Journal of the Provisional Battalion of Rifles at Fort Garry” (PAM, MG6, B5) in the Province of Manitoba Archives.  A visit to the Archives allowed me to read this for myself.

Further research on the Red River Expeditionary Force led me to the website The Canadian Military Heritage Project  where I learned that Fred J. Shore had written a PhD Thesis at the University of Manitoba in 1991  entitled “The Canadians and the Metis: The Re-Creation of Manitoba, 1858-1872.” I was able to access this thesis online through the University of Manitoba Libraries.  This, in turn, led me to Library and Archives Canada documents from the Department of Militia and Defence: Register of service, Red River Rebellion, 1870–1877. I found Taillefer here.

All of the above confirmed that Joseph Leon Taillefer did not arrive in Fort Garry until October of 1872, and that he resigned on the 24th of July 1874. His joining the militia in 1872 makes more sense to me, as by that point it may have seemed just a career choice, or a chance to homestead, or perhaps just an adventure.

Just for good measure I looked to see if I could find him in the 1871 Census.  Not only did I find him in Ste Martine, Châteauguay, Quebec, where he was an “avocet” (lawyer) and living with his widowed mother and his brother Alfred, but I discovered he was the enumerator for the census which was taken in April 1871!

Taillefer 1871

1871 Census, Ste Martine, Châteauguay, Quebec; Roll: C-10055; Page: 29

Enumerator

On the 3rd of September 1871 his mother Angelique died, and Joseph signed the burial record.

Desormiers Angelique death

Québec, registres paroissiaux catholiques, 1621-1979,” FamilySearch Sainte-Martine > Sainte-Martine > Baptêmes, mariages, sépultures 1860-1876 > image 295 of 442

So far, I’ve confirmed that Joseph Noel Taillefer was related to our family, that he was a Papal Zouave, and that he came west with the Red River Expeditionary Force in 1872.

I’ll continue Joseph’s story in my next post.

 

 

John Francis Grant, part 2

I’m continuing the story of the relationship between John Francis Grant and the Hogue, Bernardin, and Girardin families.

On page 285 of A Son of The Fur Trade, Johnny says:

“In the spring of 1881 my son Richard got married to a Miss Hogue and took his wife to the Ranch.”

This refers to Rosalie Hogue, daughter of Joseph Hogue and Pelagie Turcotte.

Hogue Rosalie

Picture posted with permission of Anita Steele from her website at http://william-grant-of-trois-rivieres-genealogy.ca/photos-grant.html

Rosalie was Pépère’s first cousin as shown below.

Rosalie to Pepere

Richard Grant was the son of Johnny and Louise Serpante, a Shoshone woman. He was born in Montana in 1857, and was the brother of Mary Agnes Grant whom I profiled in a previous post.

Richard Grant and Rosalie Hogue were married in 1881, and had 10 children. They lived first in Manitoba, where three of their young daughters died. By the 1901 Census they were in Edmonton. In the 1916 Census, Richard’s occupation was listed as foreman with HBC. I can track Richard until 1944 in Henderson’s Edmonton Directories, and Rosalie until 1940 in the federal Voters Lists. I have not been able to determine when they died, or where they are buried.

One of their sons “Buck” Grant, was a professional hockey player. You can read about him here.

The fourth, and last connection, is with Angelique Welsh, who gave birth to a daughter, Cecile, with John Francis Grant. From Anita Steele’s website we learn:

“Cecile’s mother was Angelique  Welsh, the daughter of half-breed parents, Francois Xavier Welsh and Charlotte Suvin or Sauve. Angelique was born May 27, 1841, at St. Boniface. Angelique met John F. Grant when he visited Manitoba looking for a better place to move his large family to from Montana. … In 1881 … John F. Grant, made a sworn statement before the Metis Infant Lands Commissioner in Manitoba confirming he was Cecile’s father.”

Here’s the connection. Marguerite Hogue (sister to Rosalie mentioned above, and first cousin of Pépère) was the second wife of Angelique’s brother, Norbert Welsh. Norbert’s story is told in The Last Buffalo Hunter.

It’s not a strong connection to our family, but nonetheless an interesting one, and it illustrates once again how interconnected the families of the Red River Settlement were.

 

John Francis Grant, part 1

A few years ago I picked up the book A Son of the fur trade: The Memoirs of Johnny Grant, edited by Gerhard J. Ens, with genealogical charts by Anita Steele.

I read the book simply because I am interested in fur trade history, but was delighted to find four family connections! The book is an oral history, dictated to his wife before he died in Edmonton, Alberta in 1907. You can read a review of the book here.

John Francis Grant was a very colourful character. He was born at Fort Edmonton to HBC clerk Richard Grant (later to become a Chief Trader) and Marie Anne Breland, but raised in Trois-Rivières by his paternal grandmother after the death of his mother. As Anita Steele explains on her excellent website William Grant of Trois Rivieres:

Johnny Grant -as he was known in the U.S.- remained in the U.S. for twenty years. During that time, he was one of Montana’s earliest settlers, a trader, a cattle and horse rancher, owner of a store, a saloon, a dance hall, a grist mill and a blacksmith shop. His enterprises took him west and south as far as Fort Vancouver, WA,, and Sacrament, CA; and as far east, south and north as St. Louis, MO, Trois Rivieres, PQ, and the Red River Settlement of MB, and to many locations between.

Johnny’s Montana ranch is now a National Historic Site. You can read more about the ranch here.

John F. Grant had several wives and many children. After selling his Montana ranch in 1866 he brought his family to Red River. He established a ranch near present day Carman, Manitoba, as well as a home on the banks of Sturgeon Creek. There is a historical mural in Carman that includes Johnny Grant and his wife Clotilde Bruneau. You can see it here.

So what is our connection to John Francis Grant? It’s that three of John’s children married into the Hogue, Dease and Bernardin families.

In A Son of the fur trade there are references to these marriages. On page 234, Johnny reminisces about having a party in 1870:

As usual, we sent invitations to all the elites of Winnipeg and nearly every one of the two parishes that were fit to invite and some outsiders. We had sixty-two couples besides the family and that was twelve counting my son-in-law, William Dease. That was quite a few for a country dance, but they were all welcome and everyone enjoyed themselves thoroughly. We had a jolly good time. We dance[d] in three rooms, three and more violins going at the same time, all the liquor they wanted of different kinds. But I am proud to say not one was worst of liquor and the table, well you can imagine. I had plenty of money those days and we were not stingy.”

The William Dease referred to is William Dease Jr., son of William Dease, Sr. whom I wrote about here. William Dease Jr. married John’s daughter, Mary Agnes Grant, whose mother was Louise Serpante, a Shoshone woman. Mary Agnes was born in 1851 and she married William in 1869.

Here’s a chart showing the relationship to Pépère.

Dease chart
William and Mary Agnes did not have any children, but they appear to have led an adventurous life! They lived in Red River, Dakota, Montana, Oregon, and California. From the Montana Historical Society I obtained a biographical sketch, and copies of two letters William wrote to his father.

 

Biographical sketch by A.E. Dease, William Dease papers, 1876-1886, SC 612, Folder 1, Montana Historical Society Research Center, Archives

Biographical sketch by A.E. Dease, William Dease papers, 1876-1886, SC 612, Folder 1, Montana Historical Society Research Center, Archives

 

Transcript of letter, December 4, 1876, William Dease papers, 1876-1886, SC 612, Folder 1, Montana Historical Society Research Center, Archives

Transcript of letter, December 4, 1876, William Dease papers, 1876-1886, SC 612, Folder 1, Montana Historical Society Research Center, Archives

 

Transcript of letter, June 19, 1886, William Dease papers, 1876-1886, SC 612, Folder 1, Montana Historical Society Research Center, Archives

Transcript of letter, June 19, 1886, William Dease papers, 1876-1886, SC 612, Folder 1, Montana Historical Society Research Center, Archives

I have been unable to find out exactly when or where William and Mary Agnes died.

As I mentioned, John Francis Grant had a ranch near present day Carman, Manitoba, the same time the Girardin and Bernardin families were homesteading there. This leads to our second family connection. On page 274 of the book we learn:

Among the French families that had come from the states, there was one who had rather a grown up family: 3 sons, big enough to work, and three daughters. My son Billy was often at the Ranch that winter. There was attraction out there [between him and] the oldest of the girls. The consequence was that in June of 1878 their Wedding was coming on.
She was a good girl. If he had searched the country over he could not have found a better person better suited to him. She was so patient.’

The family he is talking about is that of Joseph Bernardin and his wife Marie Peloquin. The daughter is Oxilia. And Billy is William Grant, born in 1856 to John Francis Grant and Quarra, another Shoshone woman. Here’s a chart showing the relationship between Oxilia and Mémère:

Bernardin chart

On Anita Steele’s website there is this photograph.

Grant pic

Labels on the back of this tintype were not totally clear, but have been analyzed as:
(R) Billy Grant, son of John F. Grant
(C) First name: Louis. Surname looks like Bernasdene. Perhaps Bernardin(e)
(L) First name: Napolian. Surname looks like Geradine. Perhaps Germain(e)

It seems quite likely that the Louis in the picture is Oxilia’s brother Louis Bernardin, making him brother-in-law to William Grant.

And it also seems likely that the Napoleon is Oxilia’s cousin Napoleon Girardin, Mémère’s father.

Here’s a side by side comparison of Napoleon’s wedding picture from 1873 with the picture above.

Napoleon 1

Napoleon 2

 

 

 

And here’s a comparison of a picture of a picture of Louis Bernardin taken from the book Treasures of Time: The Rural Municipality of Cartier 1914-1984, with the picture above.

Louis 1

Louis 2

 

 

 

 

Tragically, William and Oxilia’s marriage was a short one, as William died in 1886. They had at least two daughters, and perhaps one son. The only child I’ve been able to track is Anna Grant, who married Edouard Roy. Co-incidentally, Edouard was the widower of Eva Rheault, whose mother was Marie Rouleau whose second marriage was to Napoleon Girardin.  Are we confused yet?

I don’t know where William Grant is buried, but Oxilia is buried in Holy Sacrament Cemetery in Elie, Manitoba, near her father Joseph.

Grant Oxilia obit

Oxiliagrave

 

I’ll continue writing about the Grant connections in my next post.

More obituaries

Did I mention how much I enjoy finding newspaper articles and old obituaries?  I recently subscribed to Newspapers.com, which includes, among other publications, The Winnipeg Tribune.  Turns out that some obits I couldn’t find in The Winnipeg Free Press, are in the Trib!

I have found four more obituaries for Philomene’s siblings.

For Marguerite, who married Baptiste Beauchemin, this obituary was published in The Winnipeg Tribune, Tuesday, December 14, 1926, on the front page:

Marguerite McMillan obituary

Marguerite McMillan obituary

For Philomene’s sister Marie Anne who married Salomon Carriere, this obituary was published in The Winnipeg Tribune on June 16, 1922, page 6:

Obituary of Mary Ann McMillan

Obituary of Mary Ann McMillan

For Philomene’s sister Virginie, who married Daniel Carriere, this obituary was published in The Winnipeg Tribune September 5, 1993, page 13:

Obituary of Virginie McMillan

Obituary of Virginie McMillan

For Philomene’s sister Elizabeth, who married Pierre Bruce, this obituary was published in The Winnipeg Tribune, Wednesday, May 18, 1938, page 6

Elizabeth McMillan obituary

Elizabeth McMillan obituary

Sadly, still no obituaries for Philomene, or her sister Sara.

The McMillan/Dease Family

Today I’m going to write about the children of our Hogue ancestors, William McMillan and Margaret Dease. They had nine children who survived to adulthood.  Gaps in the birth order would suggest there were other infants born who did not survive. I’ve already written about Philomene McMillan, who married Thomas Hogue, Sr. here.

Thomas and Philomene

Thomas and Philomene

When examining the families of these siblings, we see, once again,  how interconnected the people of the Red River Settlement were.

Philomene’s sister, Marguerite McMillan (1840 – 1926) was born in St. Boniface. She married Baptiste Beauchemin and they lived next door to Philomene and Thomas on the banks of the Assiniboine River in St. Charles. Baptiste Beauchemin was a member of Louis Riel’s Provisional Government.

A very interesting article appeared in The Winnipeg Tribune, April 10, 1946, when Marguerite and Baptiste’s son William died.

The Winnipeg Tribune, April 10, 1946

The Winnipeg Tribune, April 10, 1946

Wow!  Actually saw the shooting of Thomas Scott, a pivotal event in Manitoba history.

Marie Anne McMillan(1842-1922) married Salomon Carriere. They eventually settled in St. Laurent, Manitoba.

Joseph McMillan (1849-1923) married Pauline Bruce. I love finding obituaries!  Even though they often contain slightly inaccurate information, they do give us a glimpse into the lives and times of our relatives. I was able to find an obituary for Joseph. (Philomene died the day before her brother, but I’ve never found an obiturary for her.)

MANITOBA FREE PRESS, WINNIPEG, SATURDAY, OCTOBER 6, 1923
JOSEPH M’MILLAN WAS PIONEER IN FARMING
St. James Resident Who Died Yesterday Was Prominent in Assiniboia
Western Canada lost another pioneer farmer in the death of Joseph McMillan, a native of St. Boniface, who died yesterday morning at his residence, 241 Maddock street, St. James, at the age of 73 years. Born in the Cathedral city, Dec. 4, 1849, Mr. McMillan crossed the river 60 years ago, and settled in St. James on what is now known as the Strathmillan estate, where he farmed for a number of years and had lived ever since.
After several years of active life in the municipality of Assiniboia, where he was elected to the council the first year of its existence and later presided over its deliberations as reeve, Mr. McMillan retired from the public life of the district in 1912.
Mrs. McMillan pre-deceased him, having died in September, 1922. He leaves two sons and four daughters, being W.F. McMillan of Poplar Point; J.E. McMillan, 240 Maddock street; Mrs. L.T. Hogue, Murray Park; Mrs. D. Lagasee, of St. Adolphe; Mrs. Charles Sayer, of Delmas, Sask., and Miss Catherine McMillan, at home.
In addition to being a pioneer of the west, Mr. McMillan had the further distinction of being the son of a native of western Canada, his father having been born in Edmonton, of Scottish descent. In the early days of his settling in St. James he taught school at Sturgeon Creek.
Up to Thursday afternoon, this pioneer was talking to his sons of the olden days, with their buffalo hunts and other exciting adventures, though he had been bedridden for the past eight months following a paralytic stroke.
The funeral will be held Monday, at 9:30 a.m., from the family residence, interment taking place at St. Charles cemetery.

Buffalo hunts!  Those certainly would qualify as “exciting adventures”!

Virginie McMillan (1851-1933) married Daniel Carriere, a cousin of Salomon’s. (Both Daniel and Salomon were also cousins of Damase Carriere who was involved with the Riel Rebellion of 1885, and died at Batoche, Saskatchewan.) Virginie and Daniel lived in St. Eustache, Manitoba.

Sarah McMillan, (1852-1943), was married three times. She married Joseph Turcotte, was widowed, married Pierre Jobin, was widowed, and then married Antoine Vandal. Sarah is buried in St. Jean Baptiste, Manitoba. (Pierre Jobin’s brother Ambroise died in 1885 from wounds suffered at the Battle of Batoche.)

Patrice “Patrick” McMillan, (1854-1929) married Elizabeth “Betsy” Caplette. I also found an obituary for him.

Manitoba Free Press, Winnipeg, Friday, December 13, 1929
PIONEER RESIDENT OF WINNIPEG DIES
Patrick McMillan Succumbs at St. Giles, Man., Aged 74 Years
Patrick McMillan, aged 74 years, and pioneer resident of Winnipeg, died Tuesday at his home at St. Giles, Man. He was born in St. Boniface, and resided on Davidson street, St. James until a few months ago, when he moved to St. Giles. In addition to his widow, Mr. McMillan is survived by two sons, W.J. of St. Charles, and Peter, of St. James; also three daughters, Mrs. N. Lane, of Deerhorn, Man.; Mrs. H. Breland of St. Francis, Man., and Mrs. A. Turcotte, of Charleswood, Man.
Funeral service for Mr. McMillan will be held this morning at 10 o’clock at St. Charles church, and burial will be made in St. Charles cemetery. The Clark-Leatherdale funeral home is in charge of arrangements.

John McMillan (1858-1908) married Virginie Bruce, sister to Pauline. John also has an obituary.

MANITOBA FREE PRESS, WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 5, 1908
John McMillan, of St. Charles, died at the family residence on Monday night, after a protracted illness. He was born at St. Boniface in 1860, removing to St. Charles when a young lad. He was a son of the late Joseph McMillan, [this is an error and should read William]an official in the service of the Hudson’s Bay company, who lived to be over 100 years old, his death taking place five years ago. John McMillan was well known, and highly respected by all with whom he came in contact, and was always ready to take an active interest in matters of general benefit to the community where he lived. He leaves a widow and five children: Alan, Josephine and Virginia, at home; Mrs. Alexander Smith, of St. James, and Mrs. Lacceet, of St. Vital. He was a keen sportsmen, having formed one of a party of five, consisting of A. Smith, H. Roberts, W. Pruden, G. Kerr, and the deceased, who went on an annual hunting expedition together for the last thirteen years. The funeral will take place this morning at 8:30 from the family residence to St. Charles cemetery, where interment will take place.

St. Charles Cemetery Winnipeg, Manitoba

St. Charles Cemetery
Winnipeg, Manitoba

Elizabeth McMillan (1859-1938) married Pierre Bruce, brother of Pauline and Virginie.  They lived in St. Laurent, Manitoba.  I’ve found an obituary for Pierre.

MANITOBA FREE PRESS, WINNIPEG, TUESDAY, APRIL 19, 1927, page 5
TWO AGED RESIDENTS OF ST. LAURENT DIE
Pierre Bruce, Aged 78 Years, and Pierre Lavelle, Aged 70 Called By Death

St. Laurent, Man., April 18.—Pierre Bruce, aged 78 years, died yesterday morning at the family ranch at Harperville, after a protracted illness. He was a native of St. Norbert, and resided in the neighborhood of Winnipeg for the first fifty years of his life. Mr. Bruce was an artist with the violin, and only a few years ago gave a demonstration of his skill, playing reels and jigs at the then “Pantages theatre.”
He is survived by his widow, two daughters and four sons.
The funeral will be held at St. Laurent on Tuesday.

All three Bruce in laws were nieces/nephews of John Bruce, who was President of the Métis National Council in 1869.

The family name “McMillan” was sometimes spelt “McMullen”. In 1878, Joseph McMillan must have petitioned HBC for acknowledgment of the correct spelling. In the HBC Archives, MG8 B53, we find this letter:

“Fort Garry 24th Dec 1878
I hereby certify an examination of old Hudson’s Bay Company record, that the family name of McMillan (say Father of William McMillan and Grandfather of Joseph McMillan) is spelt McMillan not McMullan.
J.H. McTavish
Chief Factor H.B.C.”

William McMillan, free trader

William McMillan and Margaret Dease Photo source: Ontario Archives

William McMillan and Margaret Dease
Photo source: Ontario Archives

This picture is of William McMillan and Margaret Dease. William is the son of James McMillan and Josephte Belisle, whom I wrote about here. Margaret is the daughter of John Warren Dease and Genevieve Beignet, whom I wrote about here. The picture was taken around 1902 when they were both very elderly. If you look closely at William’s left hand, you will note it is damaged. According to Heather Devine’s Informativel article The Indian-Metis Connection: James McMillan and His Descendants (which is available online, just google it):

“Like his father, William had bad luck with firearms. Apparently while on a buffalo hunt, he surprised an Indian trying to steal one of his horses. The Indian attempted to shoot McMillan, who grabbed the barrel of the gun in his hand. The gun went off, burning the flesh off his hand and leaving it permanently withered.”

They are in front of their house, which, although I am not a student of architecture, I’m quite sure was built in a style known as Red River frame construction. That’s the same style as  the Barber House, Riel House, and the William Brown house, which are all still standing in Winnipeg today. William and Margaret’s house was on lot 16 in the Parish of St. James.

Cadastral: Parish Plan of St. John’s, St. James, and St. Boniface, Archives of Manitoba

Cadastral: Parish Plan of St. John’s, St. James, and St. Boniface, Archives of Manitoba

This image, showing his name as William McMullen, is an excerpt from Cadastral: Parish Plan of St. John’s, St. James, and St. Boniface in the holdings of the Archives of Manitoba. This copy is from the website of St. James Anglican Church. For those familiar with the Winnipeg suburb of St. James, the Anglican church is circled bottom right. The lot bearing the name James Bruce is today’s Bruce Park. William’s lot is in the upper left. It would be roughly where Vernon Street and Whytewold Road are today. Strathmillan Street got its name from the fact that it was the dividing line between William McMillan’s property and that of Donald Smith aka Lord Strathcona (you know him as the man hammering in the last spike of the CPR). The river shown at the bottom of the map is the Assiniboine, and the dotted lines mark the Portage Trail which became Portage Avenue.

William was born around 1806 in the North West Territories. I say this despite the fact that when he died, his family said he was 103! Here’s a picture of his gravestone in St. Charles Cemetery, Winnipeg.

William McMillan St. Charles Cemetery Winnipeg, Manitoba

William McMillan
St. Charles Cemetery
Winnipeg, Manitoba

William was raised by his mother and her family near today’s Edmonton. Governor Simpson wrote in 1825 that William at 18 “was the boy of Mr. James MacMillan Chief Trader and [was] under no agreement with the company but never the less [would] …do anything the company require [d] of him”. (Hudson’s Bay Company Archives B60 2/3)

William claimed to be born in 1806 when he applied for scrip.

Library and Archives Canada RG 15 v. 1322

Library and Archives Canada RG 15 v. 1322

According to Heather Devine, William was a contract employee of HBC by 1826 “as a middleman on the York boats. He retired as a bowsman in 1835.”

Margaret Dease was born between 1813 and 1820, either in the Rainy Lake area (Fort Frances, Ontario) where her father, John Warren Dease was in charge of the NWC post, or in Fort Alexander. Here’s her scrip application.

Library and Archives Canada RG 15 v. 1322

Library and Archives Canada RG 15 v. 1322

William and Margaret married in 1832. The Red River Settlement Censuses allow us to track their life to some extent. In the 1838 census they have 4 horses and 5 mares. By 1843 they now have 1 house, 2 stables, 1 barn, 5 horses, 1 mare, 7 oxen, 4 cows, 2 calves, 9 pigs, 1 plough, 1 harrow, 6 carts(these are the famous Red River carts) and 6 acres of cultivated land. By 1846, they also own a canoe and have 8 acres of land cultivated.

When researching at the Archives of Manitoba, I was thrilled to find the notation in that 1846 census that William is “to the plains” meaning that he is away hunting buffalo! In 1849 they have 2 houses, 2 stables, 1 barn, 7 horses, 4 mares, 7 oxen, 1 bull, 4 cows, 1 calf, 5 pigs, 1 plough, 1 harrow, 7 carts 1 canoe, and a “shop of merchandise”.

The number of Red River carts is indicative of the fact that William was a “free trader”, that is, someone who traded in buffalo robes and other merchandise in defiance of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s regulations. He would have traveled south to Pembina and St. Paul. In the book Homeland to Hinterland: The Changing Worlds of the Red River Metis in the Nineteenth Century, Gerhard J. Ens states:

“By the late 1860s, there were literally dozens of robe traders making $1,000 or more per year.”

He then lists the names of  several traders including William McMillan and Margaret’s brothers William and John Dease.

William played a  role in the fight against HBC’s monopoly of the fur trade, and advocated for Metis representation in the governing of the settlement. His name is on several petitions in 1845, 1849, and 1850 made to the governor of Red River Settlement and to HBC. He most likely would have been amongst the several hundred armed Metis who surrounded the courthouse during the famous Sayer Trial of 1849.

In the book The Lochaber Emigrants to Glengarry, Hugh McMillan tells of interviewing a grandson of William’s and learning this:

“The family spoke Cree in the home as well as French intermixed with Gaelic and English. Journeys took him as far afield as Kentucky to buy horses in order to improve his buffalo runners. At age 70 he went to the newly-opened Mayo Clinic at Rochester, Minnesota for eye surgery but came back nearly blind.”

When William died the Manitoba Free Press published a lengthy article on October 1, 1903 entitled “Death of The First Free Fur Trader” with many interesting, though likely embellished, details:

 

Death of the first free fur trader

 

“In those days the chief occupation of the few people who lived in the Red River Colony was trading and buffalo hunting; and, it was natural that young McMillan should fall in with the customs of the times.
He became a hunter at first, but the instinct of his Scotch blood asserted itself and he began trading on his own account; and was the first free trader in the vicinity – though, his scope of business was confined to the position of “middleman” between his hunting companions and the Hudson’s Bay Company. He was noted on the plains for his horsemanship and for his skill as a hunter; and, was always chosen as a leader or captain of the hunts.
In those days, the Indians knew no law but that of the Hudson’s Bay Company and were ever watching for a chance to raid the camps of the traders. The Sioux were the chief aggressors and Mr. McMillan often told of the fights the buffalo hunters had with these bold and warlike aborigines in the Souris and Qu’Appelle districts. These encounters were frequently of a revolutionary nature and scouts, and traders, had to constantly be on guard against surprise or ambush. His experience in this wild life on the prairies qualified McMillan as a guide; and, he had the distinction of being chosen on several occasions to escort titled gentlemen from the Old Country who came to hunt buffalo, half a century ago.
Forty years ago Mr. McMillan purchased a couple of hundred acres of land in St. James, just beyond Lord Strathcona’s Silver Heights farm, and made that his home up to the time of his death. He taught his children farming, but continued himself in the fur trade business until late in the seventies when the business ceased to be profitable.”

Doesn’t William’s life sound exciting?

Of Margaret Dease, I have no details, except that she bore 12 children, of whom 9 survived to adulthood.  Margaret died in 1905. Here is her gravestone in St. Charles Cemetery.

Margaret Dease gravestone St. Charles Cemetery Winnipeg, Manitoba

Margaret Dease gravestone
St. Charles Cemetery
Winnipeg, Manitoba

Here is the descent from William and Margaret to Pépère:

1-William MCMILLAN (1806-1903)
+Margaret DEASE (1818-1905)
2-Philomene MCMILLAN (1848-1923)
+Thomas HOGUE (1840-1924)
3-Thomas Joseph HOGUE (1879-1955)