Memorable Manitobans: John Matheson (1797-1878)
Born at Corrag of Kildonan, Sutherlandshire, Scotland on 18 June 1797 to tenants Alexander and Ann Matheson, he joined the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) as a labourer assigned to Ruperts Land. In July 1815, he emigrated to Rupert’s Land on the Hadlow as part of a convoy during which time he also served as schoolmaster for the children onboard. He arrived at York Factory in August 1815 and the Red River Colony in November 1815 along with the third party of settlers under the command of the colony’s new Governor, Robert Semple.
Matheson worked at HBC posts in Beaver Creek, Brandon House, and Red River until 1821. He was granted land by Lord Selkirk in August 1817 and began farming once he retired from HBC service. In 1823, he successfully facilitated the emigration of his remaining family from Scotland. These family members included his father and stepmother, Alexander and Jean; and five of his siblings: Hugh Matheson, Ann Matheson, James Matheson, George Matheson, and Angus Matheson.
On 5 June 1823, he married Ann Polson (1808-1873) at Mission House in the Red River Settlement, Rupert’s Land. They had ten children: Alexander Matheson, Anne Matheson (1831-1899), Catherine Matheson (1833-1917), William Matheson (1835-1910) a councillor of Springfield, Jane Matheson (1838-1901), Georgina Matheson (1840-), John Matheson (1842-1909) a councillor of Kildonan, Janet Matheson (1845-1919), Margaret Matheson (1838-1915), and Christiana Matheson (1852-1906). For many years, John was an elder of Kildonan Presbyterian Church, lived an upright life, and was respected by many.
He died on 20 March 1878 and was buried in Kildonan Cemetery.
Bryce, George. The Romantic Settlement Of Lord Selkirk’s Colonists. The Musson Book Company. Toronto, 1909, page 328.
Campey, Lucille. The Silver Chief: Lord Selkirk and the Scottish of Belfast, Baldoon, and Red River. Natural Heritage Inc. Toronto. 2003, page 100.
HBC Archives, York Factory Servants’ Ledger HBCA A.16/38 fo. 273 p.110.
Lord Selkirk Association of Ruperts Land. The Selkirk Settlers of Red River and their Descendents, 1812-1997. Lord Selkirk Association of Ruperts Land, Winnipeg, 1997.
“Kildonan pioneer passes away”, Manitoba Free Press, 21 March 1878, page 3.
Morin, G. Censuses of the Red River Settlement. Quintin Publications. Florida. 1998.
Schofield, F., The Story of Manitoba. S. J. Clarke Publishing. Winnipeg. Volume 1, page 127.
Selkirk, Thomas Douglas, Earl of. The Collected Writings of Lord Selkirk, 1810-1820, edited and introduced by J. M. Bumsted. Winnipeg: Manitoba Record Society, pages 7807-7813. 1988.
Sprague D. and R. Frye. The Genealogy of the First Métis Nation: The Development and Dispersal of the Red River Settlement, 1820-1900. 1983.
This page was prepared by Sam Matheson.
Page revised: 7 May 2023