The Month That Was – November 1869

All articles originally appeared in the Oshawa Vindicator

November 3, 1869, page 2

Heavy frost– the extraordinary weather of the season culminated on Tuesday night with one of the severest frosts known to have occurred in the month of October for years. The three days before, snow fell to a considerable depth north of the ridges, making good sleighing on Wednesday. Scugog Lake was frozen over the first time in the memory of the oldest inhabitant. The whole apple crop remaining on the trees in this and neighboring townships is destroyed. The Tallmin Sweet is the only apple that at all withstood the frost, and these are injured. At least 2/3 of the apples were on the trees, and are now useless, unfit even for cider. Some are experimenting in the way of making vinegar, but without full success. The value of the crop destroyed cannot now be estimated. There are instances where the loss is as high as from 400 to 1000 bushels per orchard, and some farmers have not an apple left eat. In a few cases, the potatoes were also damaged, but only to a slight extent.

3 Nov. 1869, p1.

Sheep.- Mr. Joseph Gould has, during September and October, purchased 871 sheep and lambs. On the 5th of October, he shipped 371 blooded sheep. These were bought in East and West Whitby, at from 5 to $30 each. They were sold to an American, and by him resold in the state of Maine. Mr. Gould has now on hand 500, purchased in East Whitby, at from 3 1/2 to $5. They will be shipped in December for the Montreal markets.

False alarm– an alarm of fire was given on Monday evening, and the fire brigade was soon out searching for the conflagration. It did not succeed in finding it, and returned with the apparatus. It proved that some zealous person had seen the flames rising from the burning of some rubbish in the garden of Mr. WH Gibbs, and ran at once for the bell.

Fifth November– LOL 686 intends to celebrate the anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot by a supper at Pringles’ Hotel on Friday evening. The supper will not begin until 9:00 o’clock, in order to give those who desire time to attend the Sons’ demonstration. The supper is not limited to the members of the order.

3 Nov. 1869, p3.

Halloween– the youngsters celebrated Halloween on Monday night with the usual fooleries. Some of them went farther than pounding doors with cabbage stumps, and in the back streets pulled up sidewalks and tore down weak fences. Such mischief ought to be stopped.

November 10, 1869, Page 2

Thanksgiving– Friday last was observed by the Canada Presbyterian and Wesleyan Methodist churches, by sermons in the former by the Rev. Dr. Thornton in the afternoon, and in the latter by Rev. Dr. Jeffers in the evening. The sermons were practical, appropriate and eloquent, but the congregations were not as large in either case as they should have been.

10 Nov. 1869, p1.

Early on Saturday morning someone started a big bonfire near the commercial hotel and then went and rang the fire bell. This has been charged upon those who were at the Orange supper, but we understand that not a single person had at that time left the room.

Died.
At his residence, on Church St, Oshawa, after an illness of eight days. November 3rd, 1868, James Barclay, aged 54 years and five days.

He was a native of Cupar, Fifeshire, Scotland. He came to Canada with his parents in the year 1817 who were among the first settlers in the Township of Pickering. His remains were followed on Sunday last to the Union Burial Ground by a large number of his friends and acquaintances. He leaves a widow, six sons, and four daughters to mourn the loss of a husband and father.

10 Nov. 1869, p3.

November 17, 1869, page 2

The Chief Constable was terribly bothered the other day, because some extra windows in the old Town Hall had mysteriously disappeared. He at once conceived that some evil disposed persons had formed the design of making away with the building piece meal. – After some hours search for the miserable offenders, he discovered that the missing property had been loaned to some carpenter in town for a day or two. We are sorry there is no prospect of getting rid of the venerable ruin even by the process of stealing.

17 Nov. 1869, p3.

Accident- yesterday, Mr William H Thomas was about to drive a commercial traveller to Brooklin, but stopped outside of Craig’s blacksmith shop. As he was getting in the person who held the horses let them go before he had the lines. The horses backed up into the ditch. Seeing that the wagon must go over he and the traveller sprang out, the former falling on his face, getting it very badly cut. The wagon was ripped over and badly smashed.

A heavy snow is raging as we go to press (Tuesday evening)

Page 3

CA Mallory
Lives in Enniskillen still, and there is a little timber in the Pine Ridge is left. During the last three years I have worked up over $9000 worth, a good evidence of my success in my business I am now prepared to take contracts for the construction of all kinds of buildings, and furnish either at the stump or delivered, terms cash or credit to suit customers.

Buildings moved and raised to order. All the necessary tools for the purpose kept on hand. Remember the name in place.
CAMallory
Enniskillen, November 12, 1869.

November 24, 1869, Page 2

The storm.– the storm of Tuesday night and Wednesday of last week has been declared to be the worst remembered to have taken place in any November. Fortunately, the damage has not been a tithe of that anticipated. All of the vessels belonging to this port got into some harbor without suffering damage. The Wharf was somewhat shattered, but the cost of repairs will not be great. On Lake Ontario, a few vessels have been driven ashore, but no loss of life is yet certainly reported, although it is feared that the entire crew of a Kingston schooner, picked up abandoned, or last. The storm seems to have spread over the continent. At Colorado, it was pronounced the worst windstorm that ever passed over the country, and the Telegraph reports serious damage on Wednesday and Thursday all the way to the Atlantic.

First skating of the season, on Monday. First skating last year, on 2nd December. Snow fell heavily on Monday night, making good sleighing yesterday morning. Sleighs and cutters made their appearance in town from the north last week to find only mud in the streets. It is feared that the large quantity of turnips yet out of the fields are buried for the season.

Wanted, a stout boy as an apprentice at the office of this paper. Oshawa, November 16th, 1869.

24 Nov. 1869, p3.

The Science of Homemaking

By Grace A., Summer Student

In May of 1930, The Oshawa Daily Times cut the metaphorical ribbon on Oshawa Collegiate’s new technical wing with a thirty-page special edition paper. The headline read “What Technical Education Means to the Youth of Oshawa,” implying, of course, that the opening of a vocational school meant opportunity. Industry-based learning was intended to prepare students who wouldn’t be attending university for direct entry into the trades. For boys, this meant taking courses in Motor Mechanics, Drafting, Woodworking, Electricity and Blue Print Reading. The curriculum was designed by the city’s most prominent industry men. With their vast knowledge and resources, the program was state-of-the-art. Across the hall, the young girls of Oshawa were also thinking about their future. That is, as Miss V. I. Lidkea, Head of Household Science, put it – “their life work of matrimony.”

“Some of the Special Vocational Department Classrooms,” Oshawa Daily Times (Oshawa, ON), May 7, 1930.

Lidkea’s program was one of many educational opportunities which emerged in the early twentieth century that was specifically designed for girls. Home Economics was a response to the question of how women’s work might be able to adapt to industrial society. Through technical training, young girls would learn the science behind sewing, cooking, laundry, home nursing, and the management of household appliances- and it was a science. At Iowa State College, women could receive a degree in homemaking after completing rigorous courses in physics and math, as well as instructions on electric circuits and household equipment. The ideal 1930s housewife could not only use an oven, but she could take it apart and put it back together again too. Despite their proficiencies in a multitude of technical subjects, it was clear that female students would be directed towards homemaking. Perhaps the question that economists actually meant to ask was, “how can we industrialize women’s labour while maintaining the idea of separate spheres?”

In the one-page feature, “Oshawa Girls Will Take Courses in Home-Making Arts,” Lidkea specified what technical education meant for the girls of Oshawa. Like the boy’s program, Oshawa Collegiate’s Homemaking Arts courses were created for girls who would not be pursuing further education. In a rather progressive effort, Lidkea assured readers that the girls would also be given the skills to meet the needs of industry. If a student decided to contribute to the family income through waitressing or nursing, she would be considered a competitive candidate. She would be able to earn a wage, regardless of whether she was single or married. (Lidkea explained that statistics showed both single and married women were working those days.) Above all, girls could use their education to improve the standard of living in their household. She would be a more efficient cleaner, launderer, cook, and dressmaker. She would run her home like a factory. Thus, the opening of Oshawa Collegiate’s technical wing seemed to walk the line between women’s work and economic activity. Was she a wife or a worker- or both?


Sources

Bix, Amy Sue. “Equipped for Life: Gendered Technical Training and Consumerism in Home Economics, 1920-1980.” Technology and Culture 43, no. 4 (2002): 728-754.

Leonard Turner, Katherine. “A Woman’s Work Is Never Done: Cooking, Class and Women’s Work.” In How the Other Half Ate: A History of Working Class Meals at the Turn of the Century, 121-140. Oakland: University of California Press, 2014.

“Oshawa Girls Will Take Course in Home-Making Arts,” Oshawa Daily Times (Oshawa, ON), May 7, 1930.

“Some of the Special Vocational Department Classrooms,” Oshawa Daily Times (Oshawa, ON), May 7, 1930.

“What Technical Education Means to The Youth of Oshawa,” Oshawa Daily Times (Oshawa, ON), May 7, 1930.

The Month That Was – April 1862

All articles originally appeared in the Oshawa Vindicator

April 2, 1862, page 2

County exhibition grounds.
At the last annual meeting of the South Ontario Agricultural Society, it will be recollected, a committee was appointed to make inquiry and report upon the subject of a permanent site for the holding of the County exhibitions. We observed that the council of the town of Whitby, agreeably to the resolution passed at a public meeting of the ratepayers is taking steps to supply the want. add a special meeting held on the 24th inst., by the council comma it was resolved that tenders for a plot of from 3 to 10 acres of ground be of advertised for, that the most suitable be purchased and fenced, and that it be leased for a term of years to the County Agricultural Society. By this step, the town will secure a good site for a part, as well as exhibition grounds, if a suitable piece of land is offered.

Phrenology – Rev. Mr. Smith’s third lecture in demolition of the science of Phrenology, is to be given in the Mechanic’s Institute, in Whitby, on Monday Evening, April 15th, commencing at 8 o’clock. Admission free.

April 9, 1862, page 2

The Nonquon Road purchase
The draft of a Bye-law (sic) for the purchase of the Nonquon Road, by the Township, in conjunction with the Village, has been rejected by the people of the Township. At the conclusion of the voting, at Columbus, on Saturday evening last, the result was

Against the Bye-law, 69
In favor of it, 55
Majority against the By-law 14

The storm of Saturday and the wretched conditions of the road, account for the lightness of the vote. As a consequence of the defeat of the proposed Bye-law for the Township, that the village will not be pressed to a vote.

We shall have something farther to say in reference to the whole subject next week.

Stoves, &c. – We need hardly call attention to Mr. H. Pedlar’s announcement in today’s issue. It speaks for itself. All persons in want of Stoves, Tinware, Lamps, Oil, &c., will do well to give the Nonquon Block a call.

April 16, 1862, page 2

Emancipation
Slavery in the United States is swiftly and surely drawing to a close. The people have got the monster by the throat, and despite the remonstrances of its interested defenders, now powerless, are determined not to release their hold until they have atoned for past reticence by doing all which they can constitutionally do to wipe out the odium which has always accompanied the mention of the name of America, on account of African Slavery.

On Friday last—we recorded with no ordinary degree of pleasure – the bill for the emancipation of slaves in the District of Columbia, including, of course the city of Washington, passed the United States House of Representatives by the gratifying and decisive vote of 93 against 39. It passed precisely as it came from the Senate, and will immediately become law. The bill provides for the appointment of the commissioners to appraise the “property” held to service, and allows the payment of no more than an average of $300 to the owners of coloured property, for each chattel emancipated. It also permits coloured persons to be witnesses in the process, as well as white people.

Spring Goods
Our readers throughout the County will see from our advertising columns this week, that the merchants of Oshawa are prepared to submit to their inspection an unusually choice, abundant and attractive assortment of new spring goods, this season, and at prices which, we venture to say, cannot be approached for cheapness, in many cases, in any other town or village between Toronto and Port Hope. We possess very good facilities for knowing how goods sell in other places, east, west and north, as well as in our own village, and we are confident that parties living in the back country will find it pay them well to come to Oshawa to make their purchases of Spring and Summer Goods, Hardware, Crockery and Groceries, to say nothing of Ready-made Clothing, Boots and Shoes, and Threshing Machines, Plows, Scythes, Hoes, Forks, Wagons, Harrows, Brushes, Furniture, Saddlery, &c., &c., all of which are manufactured here, and if brought elsewhere are very often procured at second or third hand, instead of from the manufacturer himself. Oshawa is the best place within thirty miles at least, at which to trade; because, saying nothing of the price of goods even, the greater portion of the articles to be procured here are manufactured on the spot by first class working men, from the best material of native or foreign produce, or else are imported direct from the manufacturers abroad, in Europe and the United States.

April 23, 1862, p2

At Bath, last week, a pedestrian ran six miles in 43 minutes

New Store Opened – Mr JW Fowke has removed his store from Harmony to his new building at the west end of Gibbs Block, King street, Oshawa, where his customers will hereafter find him, better prepared than ever to attend to their wants.

Petitions for Prohibition
The friends of Temperance in Oshawa in East Whitby have [       ] themselves in a praiseworthy manner in the circulation of petitions for  a prohibitory liquor law, which were prepared at the last session of the Grand Division of Sons of Temperance. Two of the rolls from the Township have been sent in bearing 1070 names, and the one sent from Oshawa is signed by 650 persons. When the other list is completed, the number of petitioners from East Whitby and Oshawa will be over two thousand. Each name is signed three times – one petition being for presentation to the Assembly, another to the Legislative Council, and the third to the Governor General. We have not yet learned what steps have been taken in other parts of the County in the matter of petitioning. A large number of petitions for prohibition, from various parts of Canada, have already been presented to the legislature.

Petty Larceny – Quite a daring theft was committed in Oshawa on Wednesday last. Mr. George Gurley, Merchant Tailor, having received some splendid vest patterns, &c., for the ensuing season, had a number of rolls or bolts of the same displayed in his shop window for the inspection of passersby. While at dinner in a room to the rear of the shop, some person or persons would seem to have fallen in love with a bolt of beautiful silk velvet, and entered at the front door and abstracted from the shop window the whole bolt, valued at $20. Immediately on his return to the shop, Mr. Gurley missed the velvet, and forthwith instituted a constabulary search of the same, but thus without avail. The audacious thief eluded their detection, and is probably ere this far from the scene of his evil deed and the enjoyment of his illgotten (sic) velvet, or the money he may have realized therefor. This instance will serve as a warning to all shopkeepers and others to lock their doors while at dinner, even though, as in this instance, the dining room may be but a few feet from the shop and its contents with only a glass door between them.

The Grammar School – The Oshawa Grammar School has been reopened, and will be held for the present, in the Town Hall.  The scales of fees will be very moderate.

April 30, 1862, page 2

Almost a Fatal Accident
Yesterday forenoon, as Mr. James Connolly, of Oshawa, was driving a load of hay up to the window of a barn at Mrs. Woon’s, the horses’ heads into the doorway, the team refused to stop at the proper place, the result of which was that Mr. Connolly was most severely crushed against the top of the doorway – his breast and spine receiving the greatest injury. He lies in critical condition, though it is thought that he will recover.

The Month That Was – February 1872

All articles originally appeared in the Ontario Reformer

February 2, 1872
Page 2
The Prosperity of Oshawa.
On every side we are seeing our town advancing. Really costly, sightly and substantial buildings of brick are being erected. The new brick hotel of Mr. Hobbs will compare favourably with almost any hotel in the Province, as to size, appearance and thoroughness. Mr. Quigley is preparing to erect a large hotel, early in the spring, on the Fuller lot, which is to be surmounted by an ornamental French roof. Let us hope that as good entertainment for travellers may be found within their walls as their exterior would seem to indicate.

In stores we have the [tasty] and commodious ones lately erected by Messrs. Cowan and Fowke. Mr. John Wilson is preparing to erect a number of stores on the ground of the late fire on King Street, which, as viewed from the drawings thereof, promises to be excelled by a few such structures in our cities. Mr. James B. Keddie, also, proposes to continue the block to the east by a structure similar in style for his own use.

Passing down Simcoe Street, we observe the compact and well-built new brick residences of Messrs. Dickie, and Thornton – both of which have ornamental roofs covered with slate. The palatial residence of TN Gibbs, Esq., is said to rivals that of the Lieutenant Governor at Toronto; and is one of which our town may be justly proud. Mr. Chas. A Mallory is already preparing to erect, early in the spring, the first-class brick dwelling upon a portion of the McGregor property. This property is thought some of the best sites for residences now available. We hope to see many residences erected during the summer on this property, as we understand the present owner, (Thomas Conant,) is about to put the whole of it on the market. This will afford sites for buildings according to the means of purchasers, as to front or back lots relatively.

Centre Street will then be opened out nearly all the way to South Oshawa, and will make one of our prettiest streets, especially for driving.

Many other residences have been erected and are in process of erection north and west of the cabinet factory.

One is almost constrained to say, that in order to keep pace with the improvements in the various parts of our town we should frequently pass through its various wards as new streets are being opened up, and new houses are being erected; we almost lose our reckoning after a few months absence. It is estimated that at least one hundred houses were erected in Oshawa last season. This is probably within the mark. Let us hope for a similar result in 1872.

Prosperity to our various manufactories, and a healthful, steady growth to Oshawa.

There is one thing we might observe, this: that as a rule houses erected are paid for by the proprietors, without incurring and incubus of debt. This fact argues volumes for a steady growth, without any such sudden inflation and corresponding depression as we have seen exemplified in some of our neighbouring towns.

One more word as we close. We have many public spirited men of means in our midst who are intimately concerned with the welfare of Oshawa, and whom, we feel sure, gladly assist new industries, which would add to the growth and wealth of the place.

Let manufacturers come along, and let us make Oshawa doubly noted throughout our Dominion for the excellence of its manufactured articles. In manufacturers alone we look for our continued prosperity.

Feb 2, 1872, p3

February 9, 1872
Page 2
The assembly in Mr. Cowan’s new store on Wednesday evening was a decided success. About seventy couples, from Toronto, Whitby, Bowmanville, Oshawa, and other places, were present, Dancing commenced at about nine o’clock and continued till between three and four in the morning.  The arrangements were complete, and all enjoyed themselves thoro’ly. The music of Davis’ quadrillo band, from  Toronto, was pronounced the best ever heard in the place. The supper was first-class; furnished by Mr. Cullen of Whitby.

The Town Hall Question – A public meeting to consider the above question will be held on Tuesday evening next, 13th inst., and not Monday, as previously announced. A full attendance of ratepayers is requested.

Feb 9, 1872, p3

February 16, 1872
Page 2
Fire – about 3:00 o’clock, on Sunday morning last, the Boot and Shoe store of H. Wilkinson was discovered to be on fire. The alarm was given, and the fire brigade soon on the spot; but, owing to the engine being frozen, it could render but little assistance. The fire quickly spread to adjoining buildings, and was only arrested in its course by the exertions of the Hook and Ladder Company, who worked well. After a little exertion on the part of the fireman, the engine was got to work, and soon all danger of the fire spreading to the Commercial Hotel, which was thought it would at one time, was past . The losses by the fire are Messrs. Wilkinson, Brennan, and Hobbs, on stock and furniture, partly covered by insurance; And Mrs. Woon and Mr. Cherry, owners of buildings.

Mr. Thomas Conant believes in encouraging manufacturers to come amongst us. He has given an acre of land to the hat manufacturing company, and yesterday instructed Mr. English to draw up a deed for the same. We believe the above company intend building a large factory, where they will give employment to 200 hands, men and women. We like to see these things going on, it is healthy for the town. Do it some more somebody else.

Page 3
For Sale
On Colborne St East, two lots and orchard, with one and one-half story frame building. Also two lots and two houses with orchard, on Brock St East, the whole contained in one block. Terms- $500 cash. Balance in yearly installments. Present rental, $250
William Deans
Oshawa, Feb 9, 1872

Feb 16, 1872, p4

February 23, 1872
Page 2
Opening of the new Baptist Church
The church was opened for divine service on Sunday last. Three sermons were preached; In the morning by the Rev. Dr. Fyfe, afternoon by the Rev. W. Stewart, and in the evening by the Rev. Dr. Davidson. At each of those services the church was filled to its utmost capacity.

On Monday evening a team meeting was held in the church, which was again crowded. After tea, TN Gibbs , Esquire, was called to the chair; And after a few introductory remarks, called on the Rev. Mr. Patterson, pastor of the church, to read the report of the building committee. …

Short speeches were then made by the chairman, the Rev. Messrs. Myers, Scott, Stewart and Davidson, each of the speakers congratulating the pastor and members of the church on the beautiful building which they had erected; and hoped that the balance yet required to pay off the debt on the church would be subscribed before the meeting closed. …

The church is a very handsome [edifice]- inside and out, built of white brick, and is of the Romanesque style of architecture, 36 x 30. The tower on the east corner of the building is not yet finished; but when completed will add greatly to the appearance of the building. The entrance is on King Street, by to doors, one on each corner; and from the one on the east corner access to the gallery is obtained, which runs across the front of the church. The pulpit is American style- a platform with a small movable desk, and is fitted up very neatly. Mr. Langley, was the architect; May brothers, masons; Gay, & J. & R.B. Dickie, carpenters ; and J. Brewer, painter and glazier.

Feb 23, 1872, p3

Historical Context, Modern Narratives, and Louis Riel

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

One of our popular Blog Series is ‘The Month That Was,’ which looks at a month of newspapers from the past, highlighting interesting stories, images, advertisements, and anything else eye catching. Often, the stories are quaint, humourful, or sometimes, they can give an insight into the happenings and/or politics at the time.  Newspapers leading up to elections are always interesting, especially those from the mid 1800s as the newspapers had very evident political biases. 

Sometimes, a simple annotation to the historical article can enhance a modern reader’s understanding of the event. For example, the August 9, 1872 edition of the Ontario Reformer reported:

Grace Marks received her pardon on condition that she would leave this country never to return.  She left Kingston on Tuesday, for the United States.

With this, an annotation was added, explaining that Grace was the subject of the popular Margaret Atwood book, later turned miniseries, Alias Grace.

When the trivia is short and simple, it makes annotating easy without taking away from the purpose of the article, highlighting stories from decades past.

However, while reading the newspapers in October 1873, news stories gave pause and left questions as to whether to present the articles as written, to annotate, or to exclude the stories because the additional context needed was greater than the blog post allowed. We opted for the latter, allowing another post, this one, to give the needed context.

Many articles in the October 24,1873 edition of the Ontario Reformer were discussing the results of a by-election in Manitoba which saw Louis Riel elected as a Member of Parliament.

The editors of the Reformer published their own editorials, slanted with their Liberal bias:

The Riel Difficulty
Riel, the murderer of Scott, is in Ottawa to-day claiming his seat as one of the People’s representatives, sheltering himself from just punishment behind a pardon granted by Sir John Macdonald… The question will then arise, however, how far that amnesty can be made to stretch.  While granting immunity to subjects in rebellion to Her Majesty’s laws, can it be also held to shelter the wilful, deliberate, unprovoked brutal murder of one of Her Majesty’s loyal subjects – not while in arms against the so-called Provisional Government, but while a helpless prisoner, utterly incapable of either resistance or disturbance. We believe very many of the member’s from Ontario maintain that the amnesty cannot be held to cover this foul crime, and we trust that bad as the character which the second Parliament has earned it, it will not be further sullied by association with a convicted murderer.

There was also the following inclusion:

An Opinion of Riel
We have been requested to publish the following resolution, passed last evening, and we commend it to the attention of the Hon. Mr. Gibbs:

Oshawa, Oct 23rd, 1873

An Emergency Meeting of the LO [Loyal Orange] Lodge, No 686, held at Oshawa, it was unanimously resolved that we regret to learn, that Louis Riel has been elected as a Representative to the House of Commons, of the Dominion of Canada, and , that we, as a Body, feel that his presence as a Representative in your Honorable House, would be a scandal and disgrace to our country, and utterly distasteful to the Members of our Loyal Orange Association, as well as to a large portion of the inhabitants of our Country, and we humbly trust that measures will be taken as will prevent him from taking a seat in the Parliament of the Dominion, and to bring him speedily to account for the murder of Thomas Scott in Manitoba, and that a copy of this resolution be sent to the Secretary of State and the Governor General of the Dominion of Canada.

The words being used by the various authors are strong: “murderer,” “utterly distasteful,” “foul crime,” and “disgrace to our country.” According to the Reformer, the local Orange Society was one of many around the country holding such meetings, wanting to see justice against Riel “if he attempts to enter the Province.”

Without providing additional historical and contemporary context to Riel, presenting these articles, as written, are not giving the full picture of the happenings of the Red River Rebellion or of Riel himself, whom we know today to be a complex historical figure, far more complex than the villain he is painted to be by many of his colonial contemporaries.

According to his Dictionary of Canadian Biography entry, Louis Riel is “one of the most controversial figures in Canadian history,” with the Métis  people regarding him a hero, the French Canadians sympathizing with this “victim of Ontario religious and racial bigotry,” and while those in the mid-1800s in the Canadian east painted him the villain, many today regard him as one of the Father of Confederation, a founder of the province of Manitoba.

Carte-de-Visite Portrait of Louis Riel
Notman Studio. Library and Archives Canada, e003895129
Carte-de-visite portrait of Louis Riel taken in Ottawa after his election as MP for Provencher, Manitoba, 1873.
Image from the Canadian Encyclopedia

Riel was born on October 22, 1844 in Saint-Boniface, Red River Settlement (modern Manitoba).  He was regarded as very well spoken, and he gained notoriety in the late 1860s, standing up for Métis culture, way of life, and rights.

A purchase of land by the government from the Hudson’s Bay Company and subsequent land surveys resulted in the organization the Métis National Committee. They denied the surveyor entrance to the lands, Upper Fort Garry was seized from the HBC, and the Red River Colony, under the leadership of Riel, was formed.  In December 1869, the “Declaration of the People of Rupert’s Land and the North-West,” was issued, rejecting “Canada’s authority to govern the Northwest and propos[ing] a negotiated settlement between Canada and the new provisional government” (Canadian Encyclopedia). Canadian delegates were sent, and negotiations resulted in the Manitoba Act, creating the fifth province to enter Confederation.  It was agreed that 1.4 million acres were to be reserved for Métis descendants, and it was also promised that Manitoba would officially be bilingual.

Meanwhile, a small group of Canadians appeared unpleased with the provisional Métis government.  They proceeded to Portage la Prairie, armed, and surprising the Métis who in turn imprisoned them.  A young Orangeman, Thomas Scott, was sentenced to death by a court martial convened by the Métis, a sentence that was not commuted by Riel; Scott was executed on March 4, 1870.  Protestants and Orange Lodge members in Ontario placed the blame for Scott’s death (or murder, as described later in Oshawa papers) upon Riel, who fled into exile after the Rebellion.

Clearly, the situation surrounding the death of Thomas Scott is layered and cannot be simplified into the black and white. It fits well into the modern narratives of land rights, reconciliation, colonization, and repatriation. The Métis peoples appeared to be defending the lands where they had lived for decades and upon which their Indigenous ancestors had lived for millennia. Riel, representing the Red River Colony, was defending his people and their culture.  To simply present the 1873 ‘English/Orange’ narrative of Riel as murderer without the additional context, is an unfair representation, furthering the mistakes of history and repeating the 19th century detrimental biases.  The editors of the Ontario Reformer, in their wording of ‘so-called Provisional Government,’ made it clear how they felt about Riel’s and the Métis’ actions in late 1869/early 1870.

After his election in 1873, Riel took the oath but never took his seat in the House of Commons, fearing assassination or arrest. In the 1880s, Riel led a second, unsuccessful, rebellion for which he was sentenced to death, which was carried out on November 16, 1885 in Regina.

It is difficult to fully present the Red River Rebellion and founding of Manitoba in a blog post.  In writing this post, content from the Metis Nation of Ontario, the Canadian Encyclopedia, and Dictionary of Canadian Biography was used, and it is highly encouraged that they are examined for further reading.

http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/riel_louis_1844_85_11E.html

https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/louis-riel

http://www.metisnation.org/culture-heritage/louis-riel/