By Sam McBride

One of the memorable older relatives of my youth was great-aunt Gladys Moir, always known by friends and family as “Glad”. 

She was born in Perth, Ontario, an agriculture-based community about 100 km south of Ottawa, on September 7, 1893 as the third child (all daughters) of John James “Jim” Foote (1861-1921) and Wilhelmine Edith James (1865-1941), who was known to all by her middle name Edith.  Jim was born in Morristown, New York on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River, son of Private John Foote who served in a New York regiment on the union side in the U.S. Civil War, and Elizabeth Graham.  Edith was born in Perth to Thomas G. James and Sarah Best, who were both descendants of Lanark County pioneers who arrived from Ireland shortly after the War of 1812. 

Glad in Nelson, BC in about 1903

Jim Foote ventured north into Canada in about 1885 to Perth where he met Edith.  They married against the wishes of her parents who thought she could have had a better match.

When Glad was six in the summer of 1900 she moved with the family to the West Kootenay region of southeastern British Columbia, which was in the waning years of a mining boom.  Her father Jim had arrived a year earlier to start a job as blacksmith with the Silver King Mine.  The family went to live in a townsite right next to the mine buildings, about five kilometres from Nelson, which had incorporated as a city in 1897. 

Glad was the middle child of a family of five daughters.  The eldest was my paternal grandmother Winnifred “Winnie” Mae Foote (1889-1960), and next was Lillian “Lil” Maud Foote (1891-1962).  After Glad came Isobel Bessie Foote (1897-1988).  The youngest sister, Marion Louise Foote (1902-1923) was the only sister to be born in Nelson.  There were never any sons in the family.  Marion died from tuberculosis in 1923, two years after her father died of the same disease.  Winnie married Roland Leigh McBride (1881-1959) in 1914, Lil married Wilfrid Laurier Allan (1891-1938) in 1915, Glad married Colin Argyle Moir (1894-1971) in 1920 and Isabel married Arthur Edward “Eddie” Murphy (1893-1950) in 1921.

At the Silver King townsite, Glad and her sisters attended a makeshift school.  In 1902 Jim got a job as carpenter with the City of Nelson construction department, and the family moved to a rented house near the intersection of Hall Mines Road and Cottonwood Creek in the Uphill part of Nelson. 

The girls were pleased to be in a vibrant community with numerous children their age to play with and experience school together.  They attended elementary schools and then Nelson High School.  Lil went on to do teacher training, while Glad took secretarial courses in Nelson.  The three other girls worked in Nelson shops in their teen years, and later Winnie was a clerk at the post office.

The Foote sisters in about 1907: top, from left: Win, Glad and Lil. Bottom: Marion and Isobel.

I remember hearing that Aunt Glad was an excellent ice skater in her youth, but until recently I had no idea that in her late teens she played ladies ice hockey in Nelson against other ladies teams in the city, as well as in competition with teams from Rossland and other communities in the isolated, mountainous, mining region where ladies ice hockey competition was ahead of its time in the early 1900s.  The mining boom towns of Sandon and Rossland had an advantage over Nelson teams in that era because their natural ice would stay well-frozen through almost all of the winter, while Nelson’s ice would be subject to bouts of melting due to warm winter trends which were otherwise welcomed by 1930s.  Residents were so happy to have the capability for artificial ice despite the weather outside that they established the Nelson Midsummer Curling Bonspiel which was a popular annual tradition for the rest of the 20th century.

Glad as a young girl, about 1906, with her image cut in shape of a heart, in sister Win’s 1908 scrapbook.

Glad (see arrow) with Nelson hockey teammates in white, and Rossland opponents in dark sweaters. Abt. January 1911, likely taken by sister Win.
January 1911 article in Nelson Daily News. The other “Miss Foote” mentioned was Glad’s older sister Winnie, my grandmother. Quite a distinction for them to be coached by Hockey Hall of Famer Lester Patrick, who had sisters on the team.

The 1956 Mountaineer special high school yearbook focused on Nelson’s history noted that Gladys Foote was a member of the Nelson High School’s first Mock Parliament in 1912, serving as a member of the Opposition.   This is notable, as it was eight years before women achieved the right to vote in Canada. 

The online B.C. civic directory of 1920 shows that Gladys Moir worked as a stenographer for the Brackmen-Ker Milling Company in Nelson.  It is likely that she met her future husband Colin Moir there, as he was in the flour milling business. Born in Glendinning, Manitoba, Colin had served with the 76th Battery of the Canadian Expeditionary Force in the trenches in the First World War.   In the early 1920s the couple moved from Nelson to Winnipeg before settling in Medicine Hat in southern Alberta, where they lived for the rest of their lives.  For many years, Colin was manager of the Lake of the Woods Milling Company in Medicine Hat that produced Five Roses flour.  Medicine Hat was a relatively prosperous Alberta community, as it sat on a field of natural gas that was used for heating local homes and industrial operations as well as sales to other communities and businesses.

Daily News ad about the company Glad worked for as a steno.

Glad and Colin’s great regret in life was not being able to have children.   As a youngster, our family made car visits to visit them in Medicine Hat, which was about an eight-hour drive, not counting the time for the Kootenay Lake Ferry in the years before the Salmo-Creston Highway opened for traffic in 1962.  In some years, my older brother Ken would stay on a couple of weeks longer with the Moirs, and then be picked up later for return to Nelson.  When I was older I did that too for a couple of summer. My dad Leigh explained to me that Glad and Colin were lonely because they did not have children of their own, and really liked having us kids around.  They introduced me to other kids my age, and entered me in a Soap Box Derby driving a gravity-based car built for me by a neighbour, which I really enjoyed.

Glad and Colin were always enjoyable to spend time with.  I saw in Glad’s obituary in the Medicine Hat newspaper in 1966 that she had died at age 72 from a lengthy illness, which is sad in reflection because I do not recall her not being well.   After her husband Colin died in 1971 at age 76, there was a dispute about the administration of the estate that led to the executor being tried in court, and eventually found not guilty, in a trial covered extensively in the local Medicine Hat newspaper.  I saw that through a newspaper clipping service and thought how unfortunate it was that they did not have children to administer the estate according to their wishes, rather than counting on personnel outside the family. 

Keen West Kootenay hikers, about 1912, from left: unidentified, Glad Foote, Lil Foote, and, possibly, Bessie Lillie.

Both Glad and Colin were part of the Foote family story, and of the story of Canada.  The old saying for folks who passed away was “rest in peace” but I prefer to say they served their country well and did their family proud.

Glad and Colin Moir, about 1920
Glad, about 1920

Glad with her aunt Maud
Colin and Glad
Glad in 1920s
Glad snowshoeing
Glad with sister Win, dated 1937
Glad and Colin skating
Four sisters, about 1948. From left: Glad, Lil, Win and Isobel
Glad and Colin with great-nephew Ken McBride, about 1951