by Sam McBride

Snowbound and virus-wary in January 2022, this seems like a good time to update and share family history info on great-grandparents John James “Jim” Foote and Wilhelmine Edith James (always known by her middle name Edith). Here are some stories and pics of Jim and Edith and their five daughters (never had a son), as well as Nelson Daily News clippings that describe their lives in the young City of Nelson.

Jim Foote was born in 1861 in Morristown in northwest New York state, on the south bank of the St. Lawrence River. The land the farming family saw in the distance across the river was Canada. Jim was an eight-month-old baby when his father John Morris Foote left home to serve as a dispatch rider in the New York 142nd regiment in the U.S. Civil War. After Corporal Foote suffered disabling injuries in the last battle of the war at Appomattox, Virginia in 1865, his children had to step up to work the family farm in the years ahead. The Foote ancestors have been traced back to the early 1800s in New York, and the original Footes are thought to have left England for America in the 1600s.In the mid-1880s Jim ventured into Canada in pursuit of new opportunities.

John James “Jim” Foote (1865-1921)

In Perth (about 100 km south of Ottawa) Jim met Edith James (1865-1941), whose great-grandparents Edward James and Jane Godkin left County Wexford in Ireland after their farm was destroyed by rioters in the Irish Rebellion of 1798. With some compensation from the Crown, Edward and Jane and their children settled several years later in Upper Canada farmland near Perth. Jim and Edith married in 1888, against the wishes of her parents who thought she could do better than the wandering American.

At some point Jim gained experience in building trades that served him well years later when he worked in Nelson. At age 38 in 1899 he came west to southeastern British Columbia to take on a job as mine blacksmith at the Silver King Mine near Nelson. At the time, there was strong demand for tradesmen and miners in West Kootenay mines to replace staff who quit their jobs to join the frenetic Klondike Gold Rush to the Yukon. A year later, in July 1900, wife Edith and daughters Winnifred (age 11) Lillian (9), Gladys (6) and Isobel (3) joined Jim in a rented cabin in the townsite next to the mine, where the three older girls attended classes in a one-room schoolhouse along with about 10 other children of mineworkers.

Wilhelmine Edith James (1865-1941) in photo taken in about 1890 in Perth, Ontario

In 1902, after the birth of a fifth daughter, Marion, Jim got a job as carpenter with the City of Nelson’s construction department, and the family moved to a rented house in Nelson on Hall Mines Road near Cottonwood Creek, not far from where the Alpine Inn is today. According to a civic directory, Jim was in charge of Nelson sidewalks in 1910. At the time of his death from tuberculosis in 1921 he was Nelson’s superintendent of construction. Daughter Marion, who worked as a clerk at Nelson’s Hudson Bay Store along with sister Isobel, caught TB about the same time as her father, and died from the lingering illness in 1923.

Winnifred “Winnie” Foote (right) and her mother Edith

Before marrying my grandfather Roland Leigh McBride in 1914, Winnie worked as a clerk in the Nelson Post Office, which was an opportunity to get to know everyone in town. After attending Normal (teaching) school in Vancouver, Lillian taught in the small, relatively remote communities of Shoreacres, Renata, Ainsworth and Harrop before teaching at Central School in Nelson until marrying Wood Vallance employee Wilfrid Allan in 1915. Gladys was a stenographer with the Brackmen-Ker Milling Company in Nelson where she met Colin Moir, and they settled in Medicine Hat, Alberta after marrying in 1920. Isobel married Eddie Murphy, the sports-minded son of a pioneer Nelson family, in 1921 and subsequently worked with him and his brother Howard at the Murphy Brothers Painting and home decoration business on Baker Street. The only daughters to have living children were Winnie McBride (boys Leigh and Kenneth) and Lil Allan (boys Blake, Jimmy and Alex, as well as daughter Margot who died at age 12).

Edith Foote in about 1910

Edith continued to reside in Nelson until her death at age 76 in 1941. In the 1930s she was a founding member of the Nelson Old-timers Association headed by longtime family friend J. Fred Hume, with membership restricted to residents who had lived in Nelson since the 1890s (which included the year 1900 when she and her children arrived). According to family history notes of her grandson, Judge Blake Allan (1916-2009), “Nana Foote worked hard every day of her life. When she had time to relax, she would play hymns softly on the piano”.

Jim Foote beside construction project, in about 1910 in Nelson, BC
Edith Foote, in about 1925 in Nelson,
Robert Lillie (left, sitting on chair) and Mrs. Lillie (righ;t, above) with the Foote family in about 1908. The Footes and Lillies were friends in Perth, Ontario before both families came west to Nelson, BC. The Lillies were first, arriving in early 1890s.
Death of Jim Foote announced in Nelson Daily News April 25, 1921. Typo in headline, should read “Foote”
Funeral report for Jim Foote in April 1921 Nelson Daily News
Obituary for W. Edith Foote in December 1941 Nelson Daily News