Memorable Manitobans: John Christian Schultz (1840-1896)
Born in Amherstburg, Essex County, Ontario, on 1 January 1840, the son of William Schultz and Elizabeth Riley. He claimed to have attended Oberlin College, as well as Victoria University, Cobourg, and to have graduated from Queen’s University, Kingston. Oberlin has no record of his attendance. He attended one term at Victoria, and two terms at Queen’s, but received no degree. Thus, there is no evidence of his having received a medical degree or having been licensed by Victoria University, as he later claimed. In 1861 he went to Fort Garry to visit his half-brother, Henry McKenney. Soon after his arrival, he advertised in the Nor’Wester as “Physician and Surgeon.” According to Archbishop Matheson, Schultz was the first doctor in the community to undertake major surgery in his attempt to save the life of John H. Sutherland.
He helped McKenney manage the Royal Hotel, and assisted Governor William Mactavish and the Rt. Rev. Bishop Anderson in forming the Institute of Rupert’s Land, of which he became secretary, taking an active part in the formation of its museum and contributing papers on numerous subjects (claiming to be a Fellow of the Botanical Society of Canada). From 1864 to 1868, he became proprietor of the Nor’Wester newspaper and published fiery articles against the Hudson’s Bay Company’s desire for monopoly and its lack of initiative in developing the country. After 1867 he advocated the union of Rupert’s Land with Canada. He was the leader of the pro-Canadian party in Red River, and one of the founders of the Masonic Lodge in Winnipeg. In 1867 he was found unacceptable as a councillor of Assiniboia.
On 7 January 1868 he was jailed for resisting a sheriff. Eleven days later, with the help of a party led by his wife, he escaped from gaol. Renowed for his prodigious strength, A. C. Garrioch once saw him singlehandedly move an oxcart weighing 900 pounds. In 1870 he marched over 450 miles of prairie on snowshoes. A. W. Graham described him in December 1869 as a “genial, powerfully built man, over six feet, red, sandy complexion.”
When Louis Riel formed his Provisional government in 1869 Schultz played a leading role in opposing it. In December 1869 he and a party defending his house were captured by the Métis and imprisoned at Upper Fort Garry. Schultz escaped with his wife’s assistance, attempted to organize an opposition to Riel, and eventually left the settlement via an overland route through Minnesota for eastern Canada, where he helped organize Ontario agitation against the Métis for the murder of Thomas Scott. He returned to Manitoba in September 1870, and received a substantial claim for rebellion losses.
He then turned to politics. In the provincial election of December 1870, he was defeated by Donald A. Smith in the constituency of Winnipeg—St. John’s. He was elected as a Conservative to represent Lisgar in the House of Commons in 1871, 1872, 1874, and 1878. In 1877, he was a member of the First Convocation of the University of Manitoba.
From 1871 to 1874 he was Captain of a volunteer rifle company in Manitoba. In 1872 he was appointed a member of the executive council of the North-West Territories, the Dominion Board of Health for Manitoba and the North-West Territories and the Board of Governors of the Manitoba Medical Board. In addition, he was a patron of many Manitoba associations.
After his defeat in the 1882 general election by A. W. Ross, he was called to the Canadian Senate on 23 September 1882. He took an active part in the House of Commons and Senate discussions on Indian lands and prohibition, and was chairman of the Senate Committee on North-West Food Products and of the Committee upon the Resources of the Mackenzie Basin.
He was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba on 1 July 1888, and resigned 1 September1895, because of poor health. In 1894 he was knighted as Knight Commander of St. Michael and St. George. Through his real estate holdings, the North-West Trading Company, and his interest in the South Western Railway Company and the Great North-West Telegraph Company he gained considerable wealth. He died at Monterey, Mexico, on 13 April 1896, where he had gone for his health. In his will he made provision that “In the event of my wife’s death before mine I give all my personal and real estate... to my executors ... to be applied ... one third to the advancement of Christ’s Kingdom upon earth, one third for the technical education of the children of half-breeds in Manitoba and one third for hospital purposes principally for the half-breeds and old resident population of this province.” He was buried in the St. John's Cathedral Cemetery.
John Schultz is a fascinating and contradictory character, who played a central role in the founding of Manitoba and had great influence in shaping the young province. Lady Aberdeen, the wife of the Governor General, recorded during a visit to Winnipeg in 1895 that Schultz and his wife had been “intensely unpopular,” and Sheriff Colin Inkster, on reading the complimentary description on Schultz’s tombstone, remarked, “What a pity we knew him.” The source of this bad feeling can be found in Schultz’s attitudes and actions during his early days in Red River when he was the aggressive and single-minded leader of those who advocated the acquisition of the Northwest by Canada. His antagonism toward and opposition to Riel’s government are well known to anyone familiar with the Resistance of 1869-1870. What is not so generally known about him is the gradual softening of his attitudes later in life.
He is commemorated by Schultz Street in Winnipeg.
There is no full-length biography, but there are extensive papers at the Archives of Manitoba.
His articles for the Manitoba Historical Society:
Lovell C. Clark. A History of the Conservative Administration 1891-96, PhD thesis, University of Toronto, 1968, p. 953.
A Thousand Miles of Prairie: The Manitoba Historical Society and the History of Western Canada, edited by Jim Blanchard, University of Manitoba Press, 2002.
Pioneers and Early Citizens of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Manitoba Library Association, 1971.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 28 June 2019