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Manitoba History: Faces of Old Red River

by the Editors of Manitoba History

Number 64, Fall 2010

People in the Red River Settlement around the time that Manitoba became a province are, for many of us, merely names in history books. Seeing their faces personalizes them, makes them somehow more real and the events they witnessed more immediate. Their photographs were taken during visits to the East or the “Old Country”. Starting in the 1860s, however, it became possible to have one’s picture taken at home, as several photographers began operating in Rupert’s Land. A sampling of the small Carte-de-Visite photographs popular in the period are reproduced on the covers of this issue. How many do you recognize?

1. Alexandre-Antonin Taché (1823-1894), Catholic Archbishop of St. Boniface from 1871 to 1894. (A)

2. Sarah Anne Ross (1846-1865), daughter of William and Jemima Ross, whose home served as the first post office in Western Canada. (B)

3. George F. Munroe (1849-1912) was a boatman for the 1870 Wolseley Expedition, later a brother-in-law to photographer Penrose. (C)

4. Robert Machray (1831-1904) arrived at Upper Fort Garry in 1865, as Anglican Bishop of Rupert’s Land. (D)

5. Joseph-Alfred-Norbert Provencher (1843-1887), a lawyer and nephew of the former Catholic Bishop of St. Boniface. (A)

6. Hugh Polson (1806-1887) came from Scotland to farm at Red River, and left a street named for him and many descendants. (E)

7. “Opposition” MLAs in Manitoba’s first government included (L-R): John Sutherland (1837-1922), Frederick Adolphus Bird (1823-1884), Edward Henry George Gunter Hay (1840-1918), David Spence (?-?), and Edwin Bourke (1836-1915). (A)

8. William Coldwell (1834-1907) came to Red River in 1859 to found its first newspaper, The Nor’Wester, with William Buckingham. (B)

9. James Henry Ashdown (1844-1924) came to Red River from London, England and founded a hardware company empire. (E)

10. Miss B. Bunn (?-?) was a Red River school teacher. (F)

11. Alexander Hunter Murray (1818-1874), with wife Anne Campbell, was a retired fur trader when this photograph was taken. (B)

12. James & Glenlyon Campbell were among three children born to Robert Campbell (#18). Glenlyon would later serve as an MLA. (B)

13. John Christian Schultz (1840-1896) was a Red River businessman, protagonist to Louis Riel, and later Lieutenant-Governor. (B)

14. The “Matheson sisters” looked and dressed alike, but little else is known about them. (E)

15. Louis Riel (1844-1885) had put his life at Red River behind him by the time of this 1878 photo taken in the United States. (G)

16. Jemima Coldwell (?-?), daughter of historian Alexander Ross and wife of journalist William Coldwell (#8), had four children. (B)

17. George M. McDougall (c1820-1876) was a Methodist cleric who died in a snowstorm. (B)

18. Robert Campbell (1808-1894) retired from fur trading in 1870 and and turned to farming. (B)

19. Norbert Gay (?-?) was a mysterious arrival at Red River in early 1870, who claimed to be French newspaper correspondent. (B)

20. Marion Penrose (1861-1934) was a daughter of farmer Robert Munroe, sister of G. F. Munroe (#3), and wife of photographer Penrose. (C)

21. James McKay (1828-1879), with his wife and two children, was a trader, MLA, and prominent resident of Red River. (F)


A. Private collection, L. G. Goldsborough.

B. Mrs. John Black Fond C44/2, Archives of Manitoba.

C. Elizabeth Green Fond C44/5, Archives of Manitoba.

D. Harriet Inkster McMurray Fond C44/1, Archives of Manitoba.

E. Polson Family Fond, Archives of Manitoba.

F. Private collection, D. Dudgeon.

G. Louis Riel photograph collection PC107, University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections.

Page revised: 11 November 2010

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