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.

 

 

For all the Fathers and Grandfathers

I had many lovely comments on my Mother’s Day post of pictures, so I thought I would do the same thing for Father’s Day.

My maternal grandfather was George Vaillancourt.  He was born in Trois-Rivières, Quebec. He was married twice. His first wife died leaving him with a one-year old son.  He then married my grandmother, Marie Anne Girard.  They lived in Trois-Rivières, in Trochu, Alberta, and in Regina, Saskatchewan, before settling in Manitoba. He died long before my brothers and I were born, at the age of 65, and is supposedly buried in St. Anne’s, Manitoba, although I haven’t yet found a grave.

Vailancourt George

George Vaillancourt 1869-1935

 

On my paternal side, the oldest picture I have is of Allan “Glenpean” McMillan, my fourth great grandfather.  Born in Scotland, he was instrumental in bringing settlers to Ontario, in what was know as the Lochaber Emigration. I wrote about him here.  He died at the age of  71 and is buried in St. Andrews United Church Cemetery in Williamstown, Ontario.

McMillan Allan

Allan “Glenpean” McMillan 1752-1823

 

My third great grandfather was James McMillan, also born in Scotland, who came to Canada with his family. I wrote about him here.  His country wife was Josephte Belisle, my ancestor. He died back in Glasgow, Scotland at the age of 75.  I don’t have a picture of him, but I do have this picture of his statue at Fort Langley, British Columbia, courtesy of Joan Sanderson.

McMillan James b1782

James McMillan 1782-1858

 

My second great grandfather was William McMillan.  He was born near present day Edmonton and  eventually moved to the Red River Settlement where he married Margaret Dease.  He was a  very interesting man whom I wrote about here.  His obituary claimed he was 103, but I’m sure that’s not true.  He is buried in St. Charles Cemetery, Winnipeg.

McMillan William

William McMillan 1806-1903

 

My great grandfather was Thomas Hogue. He was the son of Amable Hogue, whom I wrote about here. (Sadly I don’t have a picture.)  He married Philomene McMillan and lived in St. Charles before moving to La Salle, Manitoba around 1893.  I wrote about him here. He died at the age of 83, and is buried in the St. Hyacinthe Cemetery in La Salle.

Hogue Thomas Sr.

Thomas Hogue Sr. 1840-1924

 

My other great grandfather was Napoleon Girardin. Napoleon was born in Kingsey, Quebec and emigrated to Worcester, Massachusetts, where he married Onesime Allard.  They eventually emigrated to Manitoba, and Napoleon settled in La Salle, after the untimely death of Onesime. At the age of 71 he married again.  I wrote about him here. He died, aged 78 and is buried in an unmarked grave in La Salle.

Girardin Napoleon

Napoleon Girardin 1851-1929

 

My grandfather was Thomas Joseph Hogue. He was born in St. Charles, moved to La Salle with his parents, and was the first constable of the village. He was married to Emma Girardin.  They are, of course, the Pépère and Mémère of my blog posts! I wrote about him here. He died at the age of 75 and is buried in Assumption Cemetery, Winnipeg.

Hogue Thomas Jr.

Thomas Joseph Hogue 1879-1955

 

And then my father, Joseph Thomas Hogue. He was born in La Salle, but eventually moved to Winnipeg.  A welder by trade, he died much too soon after retirement. He died just before his 63rd birthday, and is buried in Assumption Cemetery, Winnipeg.

Hogue Thomas b1909

Joseph Thomas Hogue 1909-1972

 

Still miss you Dad!

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)