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Selections from the Unpublished Recollections of Mrs. W. C. Pinkham, Part 3

by Jean Anne Drever Pinkham

Manitoba Pageant, Volume 20, Number 1, Autumn 1974

This article was published originally in Manitoba Pageant by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make this online version available as a free, public service. As an historical document, the article may contain language and views that are no longer in common use and may be culturally sensitive in nature.

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In 1864 my father built quite a pretentious house on his property on Main Street, and that year my sister Margaret, who was only seventeen, married the Rev. J. A. Mackay, then stationed at Stanley Mission, and who afterwards became Archdeacon of Saskatchewan. She wore a very beautiful silver gray brocaded moire which my mother got from England, a white embroidered Chinese crepe shawl, with a deep fringe, and a white poke bonnet, much more like the dress of an elderly Duchess than a young girl.

In October 1868, the Rev. W. C. Pinkham appeared on the scene, coming direct from St. Augustine’s College, Canterbury, to take charge of the Parish of St. James. He was young, energetic and impetuous and felt the care of his small Parish quite inadequate. He was constantly asking the Bishop for more work, and eventually he had more than he could do. The first time I met him was at the opening of the first Holy Trinity Church in Winnipeg, a small wooden structure. The church was not far from my father’s house, and we had an American Melodian, which was carried over to the church every Saturday. It was used at the opening service, and I had the honour of playing the hymns and the chants for that day, very simple ones I assure you. Soon after the Archdeacon gave a dinner for Mr. Pinkham and I was also invited, also another gentleman, who had just come to the country. When the Archdeacon came in just before the dinner, he found this man asleep on the drawing room sofa, he aroused him and asked him to go for a little stroll before dinner, and led him to the main road and calmly said good-bye to him. He had taken too much Hudson’s Bay rum!! The next time I met Mr. Pinkham, we became engaged, the impetuous young man did not believe in losing any time, and we were married on the 29th day of December, two months after we first met. I was then in my nineteenth year. We were married on a bitterly cold day, the Bishop and Archdeacon McLean performing the ceremony. Mr. Pinkham was unable to purchase a gold wedding ring in the Settlement, so he had one made by an old tinsmith, from an American five dollar gold piece. It has worn very well and has never been off my finger. My wedding dress was a soft white material called llama. It was the best thing to be bought in the place, and my wedding was so hurried that I had no time to send for anything. I also wore a Burnous cloak and a small white bonnet.

After the wedding breakfast, we drove in a Cariel to St. Andrew’s Parsonage, a distance of sixteen miles, north of Winnipeg, and there we spent our short honeymoon. We were obliged to spend the winter with my father, as the Parsonage had been rented. It was a great joy when the Spring came to be able to move to the adorable little Bungalow, situated on the Assiniboine River. There was a little rapid, opposite the house, which we loved. There was quite a bit of land and a very nice grove of trees and we soon made it a very charming home. Our income at that time was seven hundred and fifty dollars a year; so we could not do much in the way of furnishing; nearly everything we had was home-made, and we lived very simply. I remember how delighted the Bishop was, when he first visited us to see how much we had improved the place. I knew very little of the duties of a clergyman’s wife, but I put on a brave front. I taught Sunday School at nine in the morning and then again at three o’clock in the afternoon (this latter my husband started to keep the children out of mischief). I had Mother’s meetings and a sewing class for girls. The father of one of my girls—a leading Parishioner—came to me one day, and said he could not allow his daughter to come to the meetings any more. When I asked the reason—as she was one of my best girls—“Oh!!” he said, “I hear that Mr. Pinkham is going to vote for a certain man for Parliament, and I do not approve of him,” so I said, “Oh! well, I am very sorry to lose your daughter, but of course my husband has just as good a right as you have to vote for the man he thinks is best.” So that was that! During the summer we had an Annual Parish gathering on the nice little lawn; for this I had to give and do all the cooking; our Parishioners danced and played games. The Bishop usually came and always enjoyed it. There were a number of very nice and very kind people in the Parish, the Robert Taits, the Burks, the Bruces, the MacKenzies, and many others, who were always ready to assist us in any way. Our work was very varied. We did a tremendous lot of visiting. My husband was a great believer in that part of his Parish work. With no nurses and few doctors we had to do a lot of nursing, sitting up night after night with a patient. On one occasion when sitting up with a dear little boy, who was very ill, it kept us busy one on each side of the bed, keeping the bed bugs off him. They were all over the place, even dropping from the ceiling.

Silver Heights, the home of the Hon. James MacKay, was situated in St. James’ Parish. Mrs. James MacKay was a sister of Mr. John Rowand who had also moved from the village and built a fine house near Silver Heights. Mr. MacKay’s home, called Deer Lodge, was usually put at the disposal of the Governor General, when he paid a visit to the Settlement, and during the summer months was often occupied by the Lieutenant Governor. Our first Governor, Sir Adam Archibald, was the first to spend a summer in it, and this made quite a stir in our quiet little community. They were always at Morning Service on Sundays. They were very hospitable and entertained very delightfully. Then when Lord Dufferin was Governor General of Canada and paid his first visit to the Settlement he lodged at Silver Heights, with Lady Dufferin and his staff, who included Major Middleton and his delightful wife. They also attended our little Church, and our Parishioners were very much struck with their behaviour. Lord Dufferin always walked up the aisle with his head a little bowed in reverence. He won all their hearts and was very delightful. I believe he had been requested to attend one of the finer Churches in the town, but like most English gentlemen, felt it was his duty to attend the Parish Church.

In 1870 the Riel Rebellion broke out and we had a very anxious and trying time. My father and brother were well known Loyalists, and they were constantly under supervision. At any hour of the day or night Riel would search my father’s house. With fixed bayonets the rebels would go from room to room looking for refugees, knowing that our home was the principal haven for them, and before they left they would take anything they wanted. On one occasion they pointed their cannon at his house, threatening to blow it to pieces. My father was very ill at the time, and my sister Mary (Mrs. Macleod) would not leave him. Practically everyone else had left the village, and it was fortunate that Riel changed his mind. A number of our friends were taken prisoner, and my sister Mary and Miss McVicar did a great deal for the prisoners and their families. I remember that my sister made six plum puddings for them at Christmas. My brother William helped a number of them to escape including Mr. Charles Mair, whose life he probably saved at a critical time. He was very brave and usually got through safely. One poor fellow had his feet badly frozen when he was trying to get away; he was a Mr. Lyman of Montreal. We took him in and kept him until his feet were better. It was certainly a reign of terror. The French half-breeds were beside themselves with rage and as they were in a drunken condition most of the time, it was hardly safe for a woman to be alone on the roads. On one occasion when my husband was ill, I was obliged to drive into the village for something, a distance of three miles. On my way home, in passing the house of an Irishman, a rebel, part of my harness gave way. The Irishman fixed it for me. A number of half drunken men came out of his house and one said he was going to get in the buggy with me. and tried it, but I think the Irishman saw I was frightened and stopped him. They, however, rode after me and threatened me and I reached home in a state of collapse.

My brother William, who was always in the thick of any excitement, happened to be on board the steamer which was bringing Captain Butler (afterwards, Sir William Butler) to the Settlement. I think he was a sort of fore-runner of the Wolseley Expedition. My brother was able to get him off the boat in safety and he escaped Riel’s clutches. I quote the following from Butler’s book, “The Great Lone Land,” which is full of interest: “There happened to be on board the same boat as a passenger, a gentleman whose English proclivities had marked him during the late disturbances at Red River, as a dangerous opponent to M. Riel. and who consequently had forfeited no small portion of his liberty and his chattels. The last two days had made me acquainted with his history and opinions, and, knowing that he could supply the want I was most in need of—a horse—I told him the plan I had formed for evading Mr. Riel in case his minions should attempt my capture. This was to pass quickly from the steamboat on its reaching the landing-place, and to hold my way across the country in the direction of the Lower Fort, which I hoped to reach before daylight. If stopped, there was but one course to pursue—to announce name and profession, and trust to my Colt and sixteen-shooter for the rest. My new acquaintance advised a change of programme, suggested by his knowledge of the locality.”

William F. Butler

“At the point of junction of the Assiniboine and Red Rivers, the steamer, he said, would touch the north shore. The spot was only a couple of hundred yards distant from Fort Garry, but it was sufficient in the darkness to conceal any movement at that point; we would both leave the boat, and, passing by the flank of the Fort, gain the village of Winnipeg, before the steamer would reach her landing-place; he would seek his home, and if possible, send a horse to meet me at the first wooden bridge upon the road to the Lower Fort. All of this was simple enough, and supplied me with that knowledge of the ground which I required.”

“It was now eleven o’clock P.M., dark but fine. With my carbine concealed under a large coat, I took my station near the bows of the boat, watching my companion’s movements. Suddenly the steam was shut off, and the boat began to round from the Red River into the narrow Assiniboine. A short distance in front appeared lights and figures moving to and fro along the shore—the lights were those of Fort Garry, the figures those of Riel, O’Donoghue and Lepine, with a strong body of guards.”

“A second more and the boat gently touched the soft mud of the north shore. My friend jumped off to the beach; dragging the pointer by chain and collar after me, I, too sprang to the shore just as the boat began to recede from it. As I did so, I saw my companion rushing up a very steep and lofty bank. Much impeded by the arms and the dog, I followed him up the ascent and reached the top. Around stretched a dead black level plain, on the left the Fort, and figures were dimly visible about two hundred yards away. There was not much time to take in all this, for my companion, whispering me to follow him closely commenced to move quickly along an irregular path which led from the river bank. In a short time we had reached the vicinity of a few straggling houses whose white walls showed distinctly through the darkness; this, he told me was Winnipeg. Here was his residence, and here we were to separate. Giving me a few hurried directions for further guidance, he pointed to the road before me as a starting point, and then vanished into the gloom.”

“... All sorts of persons were made prisoners [by Riel’s men]. My poor companion [William Drever] was seized in his house twenty minutes after he had reached it, and, being hurried to the boat was threatened with instant hanging ...”

Butler reached the Lower Fort. Riel finally tried to treat with him, but he sent word that as Mr. Drever had been arrested and threatened with instant death he would have nothing to say to him. The message came back promptly to say that Mr. Dreyer had been set at liberty and Butler’s luggage given up and eventually Wolseley arrived. The excitement was terrific after the struggle to keep brave hearts; the reaction was trying and I do not think there were many dry eyes on that wonderful day of release.

Colonel Steele told me just before he left here of a trip he had with my brother when he was carrying important dispatches to Ottawa. He said he did not believe any other man could have accomplished the trip at a time when the country was in great disorder. I think the Government might have given some of the Loyalists recognition for what they did and suffered at that time, but it seems to me in order to get recognition at any time you must be able to blow your own trumpet, and the sturdy men of early days were not given to that sort of thing.

One very cold morning Riel sent some of his men to arrest my father. They hurried him away from the breakfast table, in his ordinary clothes and with only slippers on his feet. They kept him in the Guard room for some time, answering to the charge of sheltering prisoners and helping them to escape. They finally let him off but he suffered so much from the cold in his feet and legs that he never recovered from the effects of it, and was obliged to walk with two sticks for the rest of his life.

James F. McLeod

In 1876, my sister Mary was married to Colonel Macleod in our little church at St. James, by Bishop Machray. He was the third son of Captain Martin Donald Macleod of the 25th Regiment, and was born in the Isle of Skye in 1836. The family is that branch of the Macleod Clan called the Macleods of Drynoch, and traces descent from John Borb VI of Macleod and Margaret, Granddaughter of the Earl of Douglas. Colonel Macleod came to the Red River in 1870 as a Major on Colonel Wolseley’s Staff. His name is woven into the history of Western Canada. It was his lot to have a ruling hand in bringing the North West through the critical stages from savagery to civilization and one of his friends, the late Doctor G. A. Kennedy of Macleod, in writing of him says: “That this was done quietly, efficiently, without blare of trumpets or shedding of blood or treasure, may have detracted in a way from Macleod’s fame—the fame of the moment, when one is in the public eye and one’s name in the mouths of all men—but in accomplishing his task solely by the exercise of tactful judgment, of the courage that knows not fear, of the knowledge of the man of the world, and the resource of the man of affairs, he earned a better deserved fame than if he had been the hero of a bloody and protracted Indian war. He performed his duties on Colonel Wolseley’s staff on that lone and toilsome march which terminated at Fort Garry, so well and gallantly that he was mentioned in dispatches and rewarded by the decoration of St. Michael and St. George. In 1873, when it became necessary to organize the permanent corps of the Mounted Police for service in the North West, he was appointed Inspector, or Captain, third in seniority, and the next year was promoted to the rank of Assistant Commissioner, or second in command of the whole force. On the celebrated march of 1874, the history of which has still to be written, the march of three hundred men over nine hundred miles of trackless prairie to occupy an unknown and presumable hostile country, Colonel Macleod was ever to the front, ever ready in resource, hopeful under difficulties and defiant in the face of danger. It is from this date that his services to the country assumed really National importance, and I trust that some day a history of those wonderful days will be written. He won the confidence of the Indians, who called his Stamixotokan (Bull’s Head) and instinctively recognized in Colonel Macleod a man whom they could trust, whose knowledge they admired and whose power they respected.” The Town of Macleod was named after him, and he named Calgary, the meaning of which is clear running water, after a place near his old home in the Isle of Skye. In 1887 he and Governor Laird were appointed Commissioners to make a treaty with the Blackfoot nation and the Treaty was signed when some seven or eight hundred Indians met the two Commissioners in the valley of the Bow at Black-foot Crossing. In 1880 Colonel Macleod resigned from the Command of the Mounted Police and became a Stipendary Magistrate with full jurisdiction over all civil and criminal cases in the North West Territories, and a few years afterwards, when the Bench was fully organized, he was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court. He and Mrs. Macleod kept open house and his home first at Pincher Creek and after at Macleod, was a centre, a rallying point for all that was best in the social and intellectual life of the country. They were wonderful hosts and the government took advantage of this and never failed to consign to him travellers of all degrees. Hospitality which was almost forced on him, though pleasant personally, could not fail to make large demands on a salary never adequate to the position and Colonel Macleod died essentially a poor man. The Calgary Tribune in writing of him immediately after his death said:

“A Warren Hastings with his opportunities would have lived in proconsular splendour and have died in opulence. It is to his credit in a sordid age, that he never was rich and has departed leaving only the legacy of an illustrious name to his family.”

In 1871, on the passing of the first School Act for the Province of Manitoba, my husband was appointed a member of the Board of Education, a position he held until 1887. From 1871 to 1883, he was Superintendent of Education for Manitoba, he was an active member of the Council of the University of Manitoba.

In 1881 he also became Secretary of Synod of the Diocese, and in 1882 Canon of St. John’s, and Archdeacon of Manitoba, and so we left St. James’ Rectory, our first dear little home, and went out, as it seemed to me, into the world and resided at St. John’s. My father and two sisters were living with us and he built a home for us there which we called ‘Rothnie Cottage’, after my mother. Here my youngest daughter was born in 1884. I was interested in a number of organizations, the Womans’ Auxiliary was organized at that time; I used to have a class of girls from St. John’s Ladies College, on Saturdays, to sew for the Children’s Home. At one time I was President of the Womens’ Hospital Aid Society to the General Hospital and Dr. Hamilton Mewburn was House Surgeon at that time. In 1886 my husband received from Archbishop Benson, the offer of the Bishopric of Saskatchewan and was consecrated Bishop on the seventh day of August 1887.

We came to live in Calgary, arriving on May 4th, 1889. It being impossible to get a house until then, large enough to accommodate our family of two boys and four girls.

Page revised: 20 July 2009

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