Personal Memoirs: The Bruces of St. James

by Sandra Bruce

Peter Bruce was born on 2 April 1834 in the North West Territories, the son of James Bruce of the Kildonan Parish and his wife the former Mary McNab. Peter married Catherine Hallet on 1 March 1865 at the St. James Anglican Church. They settled on River Lot 27 in St. James, which is now the present-day Bruce Park. (The gates to Bruce Park are located on the land of James Bruce who was Peter Bruce’s brother. Lilac bushes at the gates, planted by James Bruce, still bloom every spring.) They had ten children:

  1. Ann Bruce was born on 21 March 1866. She married but never had children.
  2. Benjiman Bruce was born on 16 September 1867. He never married and was committed to an asylum where he lived until his death in 1943.
  3. Alice Bruce was born on 26 September 1869. She never married.
  4. William Bruce was born on 17 September 1871 was married Hazel McKinnon.
  5. Edwin Bruce was born on 22 October 1873 and was married to Mary McCormic. They had five children.
  6. Louisa Bruce was born on 26 November 1878 and married W. J. Clark. They had two children and moved to British Columbia.
  7. James Bruce was born on 8 April 1881 and died on 11 July 1889.
  8. Emma Bruce was born on 25 June 1883. She married to William Preston and they had one daughter.
  9. Ellen Bruce was born on 8 October 1885. She married Ted Wallen and they had had one child. The family moved to Alberta.
  10. Mabel Bruce was born on 4 April 1888. She married Charles Logan and moved to California. They had one child.

Peter and Catherine were both issued script on 20 September 1876. Peter was a carpenter and built many houses in St. James, Charleswood, and Headingley. He also had a market garden near the Red River. He was quite successful in his business ventures but suffered a financial setback in the 1920s. He died on 28 June 1928 and was interred at the St. James Anglican Church.

There is several stories in our family surrounding Peter Bruce and Bruce Park. One story that is not widely known is that during the late 1800s, as best we can tell, there was an altercation between Cree Indians, several of whom were killed in the fight. Uncle Jimmy and Peter buried them in Bruce Park.

Peter’s son Edwin died on 4 January 1914. He froze to death about 10 miles northeast of Winnipeg. He left home at Lilyfield to go to Winnipeg to get nails to build horse stalls. He was able to make it to Winnipeg and was told to stay overnight. He ignored the warning and his horses returned home without him. He was found the following morning frozen to death. Edwin was survived by his wife and five children under ten years of age. (Edwin is my great grandfather.) I had several conversations with his wife, my great grandmother. She considered her father-in-law Peter to be the most miserable man she had ever meet. She lived to be a 102 and died on 3 July 1980. Edwin and Mary had five children: Russell Bruce born on 23 September 1903 and never married; Evelyn Bruce was born on 7 March 1906 and had two children; Peter Bruce born on 23 July 1907 and had two children; Katherine Bruce was born on 30 September 1909 and did not have children; and William Bruce was born on 22 April 1912 and had four children.

Catherine Hallett was born on 7 January 1845 and died in the Winnipeg General Hospital on 19 February 1907 at the age of 62. Catherine’s father was a prominent citizen of the Red River settlement and clashed with Louis Riel who kept notations in his dairy about William Hallett. Riel did not like the fact that William was older, self-assured, popular, and highly respected. Riel envied his status in both the French and English communities. The troubles began with Riel when William served Colonel Dennis as a guide in evading Riel’s men between Fort Garry and Pembina. William was also hired as a guide by William McDougall when he was trying to cross the border into Manitoba from the United States, so he could take up his duties at Red River. McDougall and his party were stopped by Metis after crossing the border from the United States. William was taken prisoner and taken back to La Riviere Salle where he was held in custody for a while then released. The history of the Halletts is very much a part of Manitoba history, as they played a role in shaping Manitoba as we know it today.

See also:

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Bruce Park (1966 Portage Avenue, Winnipeg)

Page revised: 31 May 2015