Public-spirited Banker Ted Dewdney was Popular and Respected Throughout the West Kootenay Region

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by Sam McBride

My grandfather Edgar Edwin Lawrence “Ted” Dewdney overcame a traumatic childhood to become a solid family man, a loyal long-term employee and an energetic supporter and builder of communities throughout southern British Columbia.

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Ted`s mother Carrie Leigh Dewdney.  Family photo

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Ted`s father, Walter Dewdney from Devonshire c. 1875. BC Archives photo G-08993

He died in 1952 when I was a baby so I never knew him, but I have many positive memories of my grandmother Helen who came to live with our family after her husband’s death and was a popular presence in my parents’ house until she died in 1976.  She often talked of Ted as a good man and reliable husband, but rarely mentioned details of his childhood.  His children could not recall Ted ever talking to them about his parents.  Fortunately, Ted and Helen left a good collection of photographs, letters and memorabilia that are an impressive record of their lives.  To supplement that with information on Ted’s parents and his childhood, I have consulted public records, web sites, newspaper articles from the time and other people’s diaries and letters.

Ted’s mother Matilda Caroline “Carrie” Leigh died of childbirth-related causes in Victoria in 1885 when he was four, and then shortly after his 11th birthday Ted was first on the scene after his father, government agent and gold commissioner Walter Dewdney, committed suicide in his office at the family home in Vernon by shooting himself in the head.  Walter was in despair from severe pain due to a kidney disorder and lingering pain from injuries from falling off a horse that could not be treated by doctors of the time.  Pranksters had put tacks under his horse`s saddle that caused the horse to buck in pain as soon as Walter mounted.  His kidneys were affected by the cholera he contracted while serving in the British cavalry in the Crimean War.  He also had just received bad news from England, and thought he was losing his mind.

Ted was fortunate to have the support until adulthood of family friends and his famous uncle Edgar Dewdney.  He was even more fortunate in June 1912 to wed Helen Peters, a supportive partner through 40 years of marriage.

Edgar Edwin Lawrence Dewdney was born December 26, 1880 in Victoria.  His first name was a tribute to his uncle Edgar, who was also his godfather.  It is likely that his middle names were given in honour of his mother’s brother Edwin Leigh, and John Lawrence who married his father’s sister Fanny.  He was known as Ted or Teddy in the family to distinguish him from his uncle Edgar, who was known in the family as Ned.

Ted Dewdney (right) in 1891 with his sister Rose and brother Walter.

Ted Dewdney (right) in September 1891 with his sister Rose and brother Walter.  Family photo.

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Ted`s maternal grandfather William Leigh from Warwickshire, who was city clerk in Victoria, B.C. from 1864 to 1884.

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Ted`s father Walter Dewdney with second wife Clara Chipp, after their marriage in 1888.

Ted had a brother three years old named Walter Robert Dewdney – known by family and friends as “W.R.” – and a sister one year older Rose Valentine Dewdney.  Their mother Carrie was a daughter of Matilda Sarah Capron and William Leigh, who came to Victoria from England in the 1850s as an employee of the Hudson’s Bay Company and was Victoria’s city clerk for 20 years before his death in 1884.  In his reminiscences in later years, the Hon. Edgar Dewdney said he had a job for a short period of time cutting hay with a fellow named Lee who he had known in London before they both came to British Columbia.  It may well have been William Leigh, who had been in the construction business in London and was managing the Uplands Farm in Victoria when Edgar arrived in 1859.  Born in Devonshire, Ted’s father Walter was encouraged to come to British Columbia by his brother Edgar who had made a name for himself soon after arriving in B.C. as builder of the Dewdney Trail.

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One of Ted Dewdney`s most treasured possessions in his later years was this autographed photograph of his famous uncle, Edgar Dewdney, taken in 1883. Family photo.

Walter came to B.C. from India after retiring in 1866 with 12 years of service in the British Army with the elite cavalry regiment, the 17th Lancers, including the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny, where he earned the India Mutiny Medal.  The cholera he contracted in Turkey en route to the Crimean War may have actually saved Walter`s life, because his unit was in the famous, extraordinarily reckless Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaklava which resulted in horrific casualties among the British forces.  Walter had a roller-coaster army career, joining at age 16 (perhaps using his older brother Edgar`s identification), then rising surprisingly quickly to Troop Sergeant Major before being knocked back down to private, the rank he held upon leaving the army.   His offences included allowing himself to get sunburned.  Three years after Carrie’s death, Walter in April 1888 married Clara Chipp, who is often mentioned along with the Dewdneys in the diaries of her friend Alice Barrett Parke.

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Ted`s uncle and guardian, the Hon. Edgar Dewdney, and aunt Jane (known as Jeannie) in their retirement years, along with an itchy dog. Family photio.

Ted had four periods of residence in the Vernon area.  First, as a boy between 1885 and 1892; then for short periods in the early 1900s when he was seconded from his position with the Bank of Montreal at Rossland to fill in for a few months at the branches in Vernon and Kelowna, then for a year as clerk at the branch in nearby Armstrong in 1907-08, and then from 1912 to 1915 in the first three years of his marriage when he was an accountant with the bank’s Vernon office.

After Walter Dewdney`s death on January 25, 1892, there was confusion over autopsy requirements which resulted in the body remaining in place for two days before removal, causing further stress for the family.  The three Dewdney children went to nearby Spallumcheen to live for a while with the Rev. Alfred Shildrick and his wife, who was a sister of the wife of Rev. Henry Irwin – famous in frontier B.C. as “Father Pat”. Both reverends were friends of the Dewdney family.  Then, after Ted’s uncle Edgar began his term as Lieutenant Governor of B.C. in November 1892, the three children went to reside with Edgar and Jane “Jeanie” Dewdney (who had no children of their own) in the spacious, but poorly designed, vice regal residence, Cary Castle.  The children maintained contact with their stepmother Clara, who genuinely cared for them and hosted them in visits back to Vernon.

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Ted, left, with book, and his cousin Louisa Allison and one of her brothers, on a break in the Dewdney family`s visit to Rossland in 1896. Touchstone Archives photo.

The Hon. Edgar Dewdney became the legal guardian of Walter`s children in 1893.  Edgar was generally kind and cared for Walter’s children, as well as the 14 children of Jeanie’s sister Susan Allison.  Several of Susan’s children stayed with the Dewdneys while studying in Victoria.  Jeannie also cared for her nephews and nieces but was very strict with them.  She was thrilled to be hostess of Cary Castle for social functions and made that her priority. Ted’s sister Rose in particular found Aunt Jeannie oppressive compared to her stepmother Clara who allowed her considerable liberty and was good to her in Vernon.  “Rosie”, as she was called in the family and in the Parke diaries, married Charles S. Keating April 30, 1898 in a quick and quiet wedding and they settled in Seattle, where their only child Harriet (always known in the family as Hattie) was born October 24, 1898.  According to the Parke diaries, Ted’s brother W.R. Dewdney had an affliction that caused him to spend 18 months in the provincial asylum starting in mid-1897 when he was 20.  He miraculously recovered and went on to a full life in generally good health, but the crisis of his institutionalization at the time would have been another source of stress for his younger brother Ted.  Then Clara, who had married William Fraser Cameron in 1894, came to a sad end.  Suffering horribly from cancer, she committed suicide on December 17, 1900 by drinking carbolic acid.

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Diaries of Alice Peake of Vernon, a good friend of Ted`s stepmother Clara Chipp Dewdney, are a good source of information on Ted`s life as a boy in Vernon, B.C.

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Ted at right, in another photo of the Dewdney travelling party who visited Rossland in 1896.  The lady beside Ted is Jeannie Dewdney.  then Frank Beard, personal secretary to the Lt.-Governor, and a lady named Puss.   Touchstones photo.

Ted was an avid reader of history, novels and poetry and wanted to enroll in college like his brother Walter, but his uncle Edgar insisted that Ted “go to the bank” to get an early start in the business world with a leading Canadian company.  Aside from being forced into banking against his will, Ted had no complaints about his uncle Edgar.  In fact, Ted admired his famous uncle and guardian for his achievements as an engineer and in politics.   Edgar had a special regard for Ted as the youngest child, and one who shared his interest in history and literature.  In addition to being his namesake, Edgar was Ted`s godfather.

Ted began with the bank in New Westminster as a trainee teller at age 16 on November 1, 1897.  Three years later he was transferred to the mining boomtown of Rossland to work as a clerk at the local branch of the Bank of Montreal under well-known manager J.S.C. Fraser.  One of Ted’s duties with the bank was to transport the payroll by horseback to the smelter workers at Northport.  A talented tennis player, Ted won the West Kootenay championship three years in a row 1904-1906 and a variety of trophies that were custom-made using locally-produced copper and silver.

Mary Helen Peters – known by family and friends as Helen — was born in Charlottetown in 1887 and moved to Victoria at age 10 with her family.  Her father, Charlottetown lawyer Fred Peters, entered provincial politics in 1890 and the following year became Prince Edward Island’s first Liberal premier.  In 1897 he abruptly resigned as premier and moved his family across the continent where he established a law firm in Victoria in partnership with Sir Charles Hibbert Tupper of Halifax.  Peters and Tupper built complementary homes next door to each other in Victoria’s Oak Bay district, where their neighbours included the Hon. Edgar Dewdney.  Helen’s mother Bertha Gray was the youngest of five daughters of Prince Edward Island’s Father of Confederation John Hamilton Gray and his wife Susan Bartley Pennefather.

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The form above and two forms below were filled out by Ted when he became eligible for Canada`s Old Age Pension. To qualify for the pension, he had to specify in the forms where he lived throughout his life. He submitted the form and kept a copy for his records. In telling the story of his life, this information is very valuable, as it shows where he was living and working year by year, and the numerous moves he was required to make in his career with the bank.

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Edgar Dewdney, looking distinguished at age 76, beside Helen and in front of Ted at their wedding in 1912. This is the only photo in the family collection that shows Edgar with Ted or Helen.

The eldest of six children, Helen experienced the loss of each of her siblings in tragic circumstances.  Her six-year-old sister Violet Avis Peters died in 1905 in a fireplace accident at the family’s home in Victoria.  Her brother Private John Francklyn Peters died at age 22 on April 24, 1915 in the Second Battle of Ypres and brother Lieutenant Gerald Hamilton Peters died at 21 on June 3, 1916 in the Battle of Mount Sorrell. In both cases, the brothers were serving with the 7th British Columbia battalion when they died.

Both Jack and Gerald Peters worked before the war as bank clerks in Prince Rupert, following the example of their brother-in-law Ted in the banking business. Gerald’s non-identical twin, Noel Quintan Peters, had a learning disability or psychological condition which made his life miserable.  After numerous transfers in the army because he was rejected by fellow soldiers Noel was accepted for the Forestry Corps in 1917.  After World War One he became estranged from his family, lived in poor circumstances and died at Shaughnessy Veterans Hospital in Vancouver in 1964.  Helen’s eldest brother, Capt. Frederic Thornton “Fritz” Peters, won numerous medals for bravery in both world wars, including the Victoria Cross for leading the attack on Oran Harbour in the Allied invasion of North Africa on November 8, 1942.  He miraculously survived the Oran action against point blank fire, but died five days later when the plane returning him to England crashed in bad weather in Plymouth Sound.

Ted and Helen’s first child, Evelyn Mary Lawrence Dewdney, was born December 6, 1913 in Vernon.  When Helen’s parents and brothers came to Vernon to see the new addition, it was the last time Helen would see Jack and Gerald.

Son Frederic Hamilton Bruce (known throughout his life as Peter) Dewdney was born May 2, 1917 in New Denver and daughter Rose Pamela (known as Dee Dee) was born June 29, 1924 in Rossland.

Ted Dewdney (left) and a Bank of Montreal colleague in about 1900.

Ted Dewdney (left) and a Bank of Montreal colleague in about 1900.  Family photo.

When war broke out in August 1914 Ted at 33 was past ideal military age and had family responsibilities.  As a married man, his enlistment required the written approval of his wife Helen, who felt the family had contributed enough to the war with her four younger brothers enlisted, or trying to enlist. Had the war come a decade earlier he would have been first in line as he was single and serving in the Rocky Mountain Rangers militia in Rossland, where he rose to the rank of lieutenant.  Ironically, William Hart-McHarg, who was Ted`s commanding officer in the first years that he served with the Rocky Mountain Rangers in Rossland, 13 years later was the colonel in command of 7th British Columbia battalion in which Jack Peters died at the 2nd Battle of Ypres.  Hart McHarg, who had left Rossland for Vancouver in November 1902 along with his  law partner J.L.G. Abbott, died shortly before Jack Peters, as he was spotted by German soldiers when reconnoitering the battlefield on April 23, 1915, following the desperate action the day before when the Germans used poison gas for the first time in battle.  Hart-McHarg, a lawyer in Rossland and later in Vancouver who had served in the Boer War, also knew Helen`s father Fred Peters from legal work they did together in the Alaska Boundary Dispute in the early 1900s.


Lieutenant William F.R. Hart-McHarg, champion marksman and author of From Quebec to Pretoria with the Royal Canadian Regiment, was Ted`s commanding officer when he joined the RMR Rossland militia in 1901. .

There were several other interesting links between the Dewdney family and the Peters family long before Ted and Helen married in 1912.  In the early 1890s Helen`s father, lawyer Frederick Peters, was premier of Prince Edward Island but he could not make ends meet on the modest premier salary of $1,000 per year, so he took on separate legal work to support his family.  The largest, and most prominent, of these side jobs was serving as counsel for the British and Canadian side in the Bering Sea Sealing Dispute with the United States.  The other lead counsel on the British/Canadian side was Nova Scotian Charles Hibbert Tupper, who was son of the Father of Confederation Tupper, and a past federal cabinet minister in his own right with Conservative governments of Sir John A. Macdonald.  When the British/Canadian team won the international arbitration to settle the dispute in 1893, Tupper was knighted and Peters expected similar honours but did not receive them, because he was a strong Liberal, and the federal Conservatives were in power at the time.

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Fred Peters in about 1889 with daughter Helen in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.  Family photo.

Fred Peters` work on the sealing dispute required him to make at least two trips from his home in Charlottetown to Victoria, B.C.  It was during one of those trips west that Tupper introduced Peters to his former federal cabinet colleague, Edgar Dewdney, who was in his first years of service as lieutenant governor of B.C.  The three men found they had a common interest in mining, which they saw as s source of wealth for the country, and hopefully themselves as well if they picked the right prospects to invest in, and serve on promising mining companies as directors and officers.  This involvement was small-scale until gold was discovered in Klondike Creek in the Yukon, setting off the spectacular Klondike Gold Rush, which attracted would-be miners and investors from around the world to the Yukon, and also to Pacific Northwest centres like Victoria that were booming as supply points to the Klondike gold creeks.  Peters and Tupper struck a bond to move to Victoria with their families, build wide-by-side homes in the new subdivision of Oak Bay, and set up a law partnership known as Tupper and Peters.  They wold use the same architect, J.R. Tiarks, who had recently built the home in the same neighborhood that Edgar and Jane Dewdney moved to when his term as lieutenant governor expired.  So it is likely that Helen first met the Dewdneys soon after arriving as a 10-year-old in 1898, and Ted may have met Fred Peters several years earlier at Cary Castle.


Colonel James Peters, when he was a captain in the Northwest Rebellion of 1885.

The only relative in Victoria when the Peters family from PEI arrived in 1898 was Fred`s cousin Col. James Peters (1853-1927), who was born in New Brunswick, joined the forces at age 13 as a bugler and was a career soldier and officer with Canadian forces, including as a captain in charge of an artillery battery in the Northwest Rebellion of 1885.   In 1887, Peters, now a Major, commanded a 100-man company that travelled from Quebec to Victoria to establish the first permanent defense force on the West Coast of Canada.  A cousin of Helen`s mother Bertha Gray, Major Edward W. Jarvis (1846-1894) of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, also served with the Canadian government forces in the Northwest Rebellion.  So, including top government official Edgar Dewdney, both Ted and Helen had relatives closely involved in the 1885 action.

As District Officer Commanding for B.C., Col. James Peters in 1898 established Rocky Mountain Rangers militia companies in Rossland, Nelson and Kaslo to defend the rich Kootenay mines from potential  American invaders.  Col. Peters was transferred to central Canada a year later, but was back in Victoria in 1908 to finish his military career and settle in retirement.

When Fred Peters was unable to make it to his daughter Helen`s wedding in 1912, his cousin Col. James Peters fulfilled the father`s role in the ceremony of giving away the bride.

Ted`s career with the Bank of Montreal took him to an array of B.C. communities.  After working in the New Westminster, Greenwood, Rossland, Vernon and Kelowna branches he worked at Armstrong in 1907-1908, Victoria 1908-1911, back to Rossland 1911-1912, and at Vernon 1912-1915.  An important breakthrough was his first appointment as manager in Greenwood in 1915.  A year later he transferred to New Denver to manage the bank’s office in the heart of the famous Silvery Slocan region.  From 1920 to 1927 Ted managed the bank’s Rossland branch, moving to Trail for two years until 1929 when he moved to the Nelson branch which he managed until his retirement in 1940 after 43 years with the Bank of Montreal.

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Note in the Touchstone Archives with handwriting of Edgar Dewdney saying to leave a photo album of a Vancouver Island camping trip “at my death to Teddy Dewdney”.

Among the heirlooms treasured by Ted’s descendants are impressive plaques of appreciation presented to him by his friends and colleagues in Rossland in 1907, and to Ted and Helen from New Denver residents in 1920.  The Rosslanders wrote: “We have observed and appreciated your kindly nature, your high sense of honor, your sterling integrity, and other manly and admirable traits of character.  Quiet and unobtrusive in your communication and association with your fellow men, you have nevertheless made a host of friends who will ever watch with keenest interest your future career.”  His farewell party at the Rossland Club was announced in two front page stories, as well as a full inside page of the Rossland Miner newspaper reporting his Farewell Party at the Rossland Club. The umbrella embossed in bronze with best wishes from fellow members of the Rocky Mountain Rangers militia exists today as a family heirloom.

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Ted in early 1900s

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Badge of the Rocky Mountain Rangers militia

According to the Rossland Miner, Ted`s farewell event in 1907 was organized by his boss, J.S.C. Fraser, considered the dean of the pioneer Kootenay bankers, who was the first president of the Rossland Club a decade earlier.  Based on the comments and gifts, it appears Ted’s closest friends were his comrades in the Rocky Mountain Rangers (RMR) militia, which he joined as a private upon arriving in Rossland at age 19 in 1900, and rose to lieutenant over seven years “by close attention to duty and by a diligent study of military tactics“, according to the Miner.    The RMR wrote and produced the plaque – which was referred to as an “address” in the newspaper report — and also gave Ted an umbrella with an inscribed brass handle, which exists today as a family heirloom.  His presents from other groups included a saddle and bridle which Ted, an accomplished horseman, said he would enjoy using in the good riding country around Armstrong.  As a boy, Ted was taught how to ride by his father Walter, a British Army cavalry veteran with extensive knowledge of horses and riding, including dramatic cavalry charges.

Among the attendees at his farewell party W.S. Rugh of the Northport Smelting and Refining Company, who knew Ted well from his payroll delivery rides.

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Rocky Mountain Rangers militia record showing Lieutenant E.E.L. Dewdney earned $24 RMR pay in 1906-07

Rev. Cleland thanked Ted for his extraordinary contributions to the Anglican Church as a volunteer, and members of the Rossland Tennis Club noted that Ted had recently won the West Kootenay Tennis Championship for the third year in a row, beating, among others, a young Selwyn G. Blaylock who would be one of Ted’s lifelong friends.

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This photo, 10 inches high and 14 inches wide, which Ted kept as a souvenir of his Rossland years, is of the Rocky Mountain Rangers militia where he served for seven years, rising from private to lieutenant. The man holding the dog has a Boer War medal. The group is posing with their Maxim Gun, bugles, Lee Enfield .303 rifles, and slouched hats that style those used in the recent Boer War.   Photo taken and printed by Thomas H. Gowman, who had a photo studio on Columbia Avenue in Rossland. Family photo, circa 1906

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Detail of the Rocky Mountain Rangers photo (10th in from the right side) of a militia private who resembles Ted Dewdney of the early 1900s.

There was no byline on the Miner article, but it was likely written by the editor/publisher, W.K. “Billy” Esling, who was a member of the Rossland Club and would later represent West Kootenay in parliament for almost 20 years.

In making his presentation, Capt. A.B. Mackenzie of the RMR said: “Whether in private, social or business life, your kind and affable manner and genial good nature will long be missed.  …We honor and respect you as a loyal Canadian and as one of Rossland’s most estimable pioneers.”


Tennis trophies Ted won in Rossland between 1902 and 1907. Author photo.

Rossland was referred to at the gathering as “the dear old camp”, reflecting the affection those present had for their community.  After Ted thanked the dewdny 001gathering for their kindness and hospitality, Dr. Kenning interjected the applause with a comment “I can see your finish, Mr. Dewdney; you’ll soon be a manager!”

The farewell celebrations began at the all-male, white-collar Rossland Club on the west end of Columbia Avenue at 9 pm. The Miner reported that Ted received an oxidized copper cigar box as a gift from the ladies of Rossland at a reception later in the evening at the residence of Mrs. William Martin.

A common refrain at the farewell events was the wish that Ted keep in touch with them and some day return to the city.

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Ted Dewdney’s memorabilia includes this postcard of the famous Father Pat (Rev. Henry Irwin) and his church in Rossland. Ted was a good friend of Father Pat (1859-1902) and his sister-in-law,  Family collection.

By 1907, the numbers of men in the Rossland company of the RMR were declining, just as the overall economy of Rossland had declined due to lower metal prices and depleted mines after the boom years.  In 1908, the RMR groups in Rossland, Kaslo and Nelson were consolidated into the 102nd Regiment based in Nelson.  An RMR company formed in Armstrong in 1908, but there is no record indicating Ted was ever in it.

As it turned out, the bank would bring Ted back to Rossland twice.  After a year in Armstrong he was transferred to Victoria, where he began courting his future wife Helen Peters who was living with her parents and brothers on Lampson Street in Esquimalt.  The bank transferred him back to Rossland as accountant in 1911.  After marrying Helen in June 1912 the couple moved to his new appointment in Vernon, where Ted had lived for several years as a boy.

Dr. Kenning’s prediction came true in 1915 when Ted accepted his first appointment as manager, initially with the Greenwood branch.   A year later the bank transferred him to manage the New Denver branch.  In late 1916 Helen’s mother Bertha Gray Peters came for an extended stay with her daughter’s family as she was grieving the deaths of two sons early in the war.  After her husband Fred Peters’ death in 1919 in Prince Rupert, Bertha came to live permanently with the Dewdneys until she died in Nelson in 1946.

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Ted and Helen at the doorstep of their Vernon, B.C. home with their first child, Eve, born Dec. 6, 1913. Family photo.

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Ted in December 1913 at home in Vernon with baby Eve. Family photo.


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The former Bank of Montreal building in New Denver — which today houses the Silvery Slocan Museum — had rooms upstairs for Ted Dewdney and his family 1916-1920 while he was branch manager. Author photo.

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Letter from General Manager of the Bank of Montreal advising Ted that he was transferred to manage the New Denver branch.

Son Peter Dewdney was born in 1917, and then in 1920 Ted was transferred once again back to Rossland.  As manager, he and the family lived in the Bank House on Columbia Avenue.  In 1927 the family, now including daughter Dee Dee born in 1924, moved to Trail and lived in quarters above the bank office managed by Ted.

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Ted circa 1940. Family photo

His final move was to Nelson where his service as branch manager began in October 1929 just as the Depression was beginning.  The family lived at the Bank House on Carbonate Street until Ted retired from the bank in 1940, and the family moved to a Victorian era house on Stanley Street.  After Ted’s death from a heart attack at 71 in July 1952, Helen resided on a permanent basis with daughter Dee Dee and the McBride family in Nelson.  Helen brought Ted’s memorabilia with her when the family moved to Trail in 1969 when her son-in-law Leigh McBride began a job in Cominco’s law department.

The New Denver plaque included a cheque for $225 raised as a present from amongst the community. In 2011 Ted`s descendants donated the plaque to the Silvery Slocan Museum in New Denver, which was the Bank of Montreal manager house when Ted and his family lived there.  Today the plaque and a framed 1925 photograph of the Dewdney family are featured in the bank display section of the museum.

As manager Ted faced the challenge of increasing the bank’s business in communities that were often in decline due to depleted mines and low metal prices.  Ted and family arrived for his final appointment in Nelson in October 1929 just as the Great Depression began.

The Bank of Montreal provided a “bank house” for its managers to live in, but was skimpy in paying for business-related expenses.  The letter from head office advising of his appointment to New Denver stated annual salary of $1,600 and $300 for expenses.  As hostess of numerous social and business functions at the bank houses, Helen was almost as much an employee of the bank as her husband.

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This framed statement, called an “address“, 19 inches wide and 24 inches high, was presented to Ted by well-wishers at The Rossland Club on August 2, 1907, as one of his farewell gifts, as the Bank of Montreal was transferring him to Armstrong, B.C. after seven years in Rossland.  He obviously valued the gift because he kept it for the rest of his life, including a dozen moves to new communities and houses. Author photo.

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Engraved golden handle of the umbrella presented by “A“ Company, Rocky Mountain Rangers (RMR) to Lieut. Ted Dewdney at his farewell party on August 2, 1907.  Author photo.

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Ted Dewdney memorabilia existing today includes the gold-headed umbrella and address he received as gifts upon leaving Rossland in 1907, a framed plaque with cheque received in 1920 when the Dewdney family left New Denver, and a couple of Ted`s tennis trophies. Author photo.


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Ted and Helen with the best man and bridesmaids at their wedding in 1912. Family photo.

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Victoria newspaper report of Ted and Helen`s wedding

Helen had a special interest and expertise in resolving disputes.  If two people among her acquaintances were feuding she would invite them both to tea and somehow their differences would be ironed out.  Her mother Bertha, who lived with the Dewdneys after her husband died in 1919, looked after the cooking until she accidentally fell down stairs in the mid-1930s which left her bedridden for the rest of her life.

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ABOVE: Ted with Helen and his mother-in-law Bertha Gray Peters, known in the family as “Dally“.  The photo was staged with a Victoria background. Actually, Ted never owned or drove a car.  BELOW: Ted and Helen as a young couple.  Family photos.

In the Depression years in Nelson, word spread among the unemployed men traveling through Nelson looking for work that one of the places in town where they could get a meal was at the Dewdney house.  Some wood was left in the yard for the men to chop for the fireplace.  Helen was often hard pressed to come up with extra food virtually every night.  There was some concern about having strange men – many of whom couldn’t speak English – wandering through the house, but nothing was ever stolen.

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Ted and Helen. Family photo.

Ted was known as a serious but fair businessmen and a good listener.  A common story in the family quoted a man saying “I’d rather be turned down for a loan by Ted Dewdney than by anyone else.”

In each community Ted and Helen established a strong presence.  Ted was always active in the Anglican Church, service clubs (particularly Rotary), commerce associations and sports clubs.  Helen was an ardent bridge player who joined or formed bridge clubs everywhere she went.  An accomplished pianist, Helen trained in her youth at the Royal Conservatory of Music in London, England.  Ted and Helen were both keen on community theatre, including Gilbert and Sullivan musicals.  Ted would be producer, Helen director and the whole family would perform on stage along with other amateur actors and musicians from the community.

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This plaque, presented to Ted and Helen upon his transfer by the Bank of Montreal to Rossland in 1920, is on display in the Silvery Slocan Museum in New Denver, in the same building where the Dewdneys lived between 1916 and 1920. Author photo.

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Advertisement in the Ledge newspaper in New Denver in 1919 on services provided by the Bank of Montreal, including branch manager Ted Dewdney.

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Ted and Helen with children Eve, Peter and baby Dee Dee in about 1925 in Rossland.  Family photo.

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Helen in costume for a community production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado, in about 1925. Helen often directed and performed in plays and musicals, while Ted helped out backstage. Family photo.

Ted and Helen generally got along well as a couple, but they were destined to disagree regarding politics.  After women became eligible to vote in B.C. and federal elections in 1917-18, Ted and Helen would travel together by horse-drawn carriage to the voting station.  On these trips Ted would sometimes mutter that they were wasting their time because their votes would cancel each other out.

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Ted`s carbon copy of a letter he sent to his egotistical boss, Sir Frederick Williams-Taylor, acknowledging his transfer to manage the branch of the Bank of Montreal in New Denver, B.C. Family collection.

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Letter from Ted to GM of Bank of Montreal acknowledging his transfer to the Trail branch.

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Ted at work in his Nelson office. Family photo.

sir frederick williams taylor

Ted`s boss at the Bank of Montreal for many years was Sir Frederick Williams-Taylor, who fit the stereotype of the stuffy, pompous bank executive.

They were both heavily influenced in their loyalties by their upbringing — Ted as a Conservative like his uncle Edgar Dewdney who served in senior ministries of Prime Minister John A. Macdonald, and Helen as a Liberal like her father Fred.  Helen often told of her memories of cheering “Up with Sir Wilfred, Down with Sir John!” as a four-year-old in the 1891 federal election campaign, as her father was a strong ally of federal Liberal leader Sir Wilfrid Laurier.

During his career Ted had to deal with some difficult bosses at the bank, most notably Sir Frederick Williams-Taylor (1863-1945), who was rated Most Egotistical in the history of Canadian businessmen in the Globe and Mail`s Hall of Shame poll in 2003.  Everywhere he went Sir Frederick brought along several staff members to set up a changing tent so he could change into a new freshly-pressed pinstripe suit three or four times a day.  In The Canadian Establishment, Peter Newman notes that Sir Frederick also had his toadies sweep the sidewalk ahead of him with brooms as he walked down a street.  And he had a standard banter with the maître d` of his favorite restaurant, where he would arrive and say  “Anyone notable or distinguished here tonight, Chris?” The scripted response: “Well, you are here, Sir Frederick.”

Unlike his Uncle Edgar, Ted never had any hint of a scandal or impropriety associated with him.  He was someone that others could confide in, and trust that he would work in their interest and not share any personal information given to him for whatever reason.  Over the years he worked as a volunteer for dozens of community organizations as treasurer, because others knew he could manage accounts and be completely trusted.

dewdney forbes roberts group on boat

Ted (right) in his launch at the Blaylock dock on Kootenay Lake near Nelson, B.C. in about 1946. At left are his daughter-in-law Maxine and her parents Herbert and Melissa Forbes-Roberts. Son Lieut. Peter Dewdney married Maxine in Nova Scotia in 1944 while he was serving with the Royal Canadian Navy in anti-submarine operations.   Family photo.

ted hmes

Dewdney homes, clockwise from bottom left: Trail bank house (second floor of bank), Rossland bank house on Kootenay Avenue, Nelson bank house on Carbonate Street, and their Nelson home for retirement years on Stanley Street (circa 1940). Family and author photos.

memorial for Edgar D at St Saviors church in Nelson 001

Ted donated this window in memory of his uncle Edgar Dewdney to the St. Savior`s Anglican Church in Nelson.

Helen was remarkably even-tempered, an avid reader and keenly interested in current events.  About the only subject that upset her was memories of the world wars where she lost three brothers.  Like many who lost loved ones, she felt generals were reckless and uncaring about the lives of those who served under them.

ted and baby

Ted with grandson Sam in Nelson in late 1951. Family photo.

Daughter Eve married mining engineer Jack Fingland in 1933; they moved to California in the early 1950’s and she died in Moraga in 2002.

Peter graduated in law from the University of Alberta.  In 1944 he married Maxine Forbes-Roberts of St. John’s, Newfoundland who he met while serving in Royal Canadian Navy anti-submarine patrols off the east coast of Canada in World War Two.  Peter retired in 1982 after 36 years with the Cominco law department, and died in 2008.  Like any war bride, Maxine was apprehensive ab0ut meeting her in-laws for the first time when Peter brought her back to B.C. after the war.   She later said that Ted and Helen could not have been more friendly and welcoming than they were to her.  “Ted Dewdney was a wonderful man,“ Maxine said when I asked her about him a couple of years before she died in 2010.

Dee Dee earned a bachelor’s degree at UBC and librarian’s certificate at University of Toronto and worked as a librarian in Calgary and Nelson.  She married Nelson lawyer and veteran of the Italian campaign Major Leigh McBride in 1948, and died in 2012.

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Announcement in the July 2, 1924 Rossland Miner newspaper of the birth of Ted and Helen`s third child, Rose Pamela (Dee Dee) Dewdney at the Rossland hospital.


In retirement Ted continued to be active in the community, serving as a volunteer in wide range of community organization, as noted in the obituary below.

outside of ted funeral program 001

inside ted funeral program 001

After Ted’s death in 1952 Helen began living with her daughter Dee Dee McBride’s family in Nelson, helping with the house, hosting bridge parties and teaching the children piano.  In 1956 Helen went to England to represent her late brother Fritz at a series of functions celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Victoria Cross, where she was introduced to the Queen and the Churchills.  While she had distaste for war and the military, she was always proud of her brother’s extraordinary bravery.  As a hobby in her senior years she studied Spanish and had two extended Greyhound bus trips to Mexico on her own.  An expert conversationalist, she had moderate hearing loss in her old age which bothered her greatly because she wasn’t able to participate fully in conversations.  She moved to Trail with the McBride family in 1969 and died there at age 89 on Nov. 25, 1976.

Ted and Helen Dewdney are buried together in Nelson Memorial Cemetery along with Helen’s mother Bertha Peters.  As a couple, Ted and Helen were able to successfully move on from the family tragedies of their youth to be leaders and contributors to the many communities where they resided.


  • December 26, 1880 – Ted was born in Victoria, B.C., third and last child of Walter Dewdney and Matilda Caroline Leigh to live to adulthood.
  • 1882-1885 – Ted was residing with this family in Yale, B.C., where his father was Assistant Commissioner of Lands and Works, and later Justice of the Peace, government agent and church registrar.
  • February 6, 1885 – mother Carrie Leigh dies in Victoria at age 31.
  • 1885-1892 – residing with his family in Vernon, B.C.
  • September 19, 1888 — his father Walter marries Clara Matilda Chipp in Kamloops.
  • August 31, 1887 – his future wife Mary Helen Peters is born in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.
  • January 25, 1892 – Suffering from extreme physical pain and depression, his father dies at age 55 at home in Vernon from self-inflicted gun wound.
  • 1892-1897 – Ted lives mainly in Victoria at Cary Castle, where his uncle Edgar Dewdney is Lieutenant Governor, with regular visits to stepmother Clara in Vernon.
  • November 1, 1897 – starts employment with the Bank of Montreal in New Westminster as a teller.
  • April 30, 1898 — sister Rose Valentine Dewdney marries Charles Sedley Keating in Vernon.
  • December 17, 1900 – Suffering extreme pain from cancer, Ted’s stepmother Clara, who had married William Cameron in 1894, commits suicide by drinking carbolic acid.
  • 1900-1907 – after a short stint working with the bank at Greenwood, Ted moves to the bank’s Rossland, B.C. branch, where he resides except for short periods when seconded to work at Kelowna and Vernon. Serves as a private and rises to lieutenant in the Rocky Mountain Rangers militia.
  • 1904-1906 – Ted wins West Kootenay Tennis Men’s Singles Championship three years in a row.
  • August 2, 1907 – a large farewell party is held for Ted at The Rossland Club.
  • 1907-1908 – Ted transferred to work as accountant with the bank at Armstrong, B.C.
  • The_Winnipeg_Tribune_Sat__Aug_18__1928_pic of hattie in 1928

    Ted`s cousin Hattie Keating (1898-1975) was the only child of Ted`s aunt Rose Dewdney and husband Charles Keating. Hattie, an accomplished painter, lived with the Dewdney family in Nelson, B.C. in the early 1940s. She later married Charlie Worsley. Winnipeg Tribune Aug. 18, 1928.

    1908-1911 – working for the bank and residing in Victoria, B.C. In September 1911 he gets engaged to marry Mary Helen Peters, whose father, former Prince Edward Island Premier Fred Peters, is a friend and business associate of the Hon. Edgar Dewdney

  • 1911-1912 – working for the bank and residing in Rossland, B.C.
  • June 19, 1912 – marries Mary Helen Peters, daughter of Frederick Peters and Bertha Hamilton Susan Gray at Paul’s Anglican Church, Esquimalt, B.C.
  • 1912-1915 – residing in Vernon, B.C.
  • August 13, 1913 — brother Walter Robert Dewdney marries Kathleen Stuart Ferguson at Midway.
  • December 6, 1913 – birth of daughter Evelyn Mary Lawrence Dewdney
  • 1915-1916 – residing in Greenwood, B.C. First appointment as branch manager with the Bank of Montreal.  His older brother Walter Robert Dewdney was provincial government agent in Greenwood at the time
  • April 24, 1915 — death of his brother-in-law, Private John Francklyn Peters, in 7th Battaltion in the Second Battle of Ypres.
  • 1916-1920 – bank manager and residing in New Denver, B.C. Farewell party held for Ted and Helen Nov. 21, 1920.
  • June 3, 1916 – death of his brother-in-law Lieut. Gerald Hamilton Peters of 7th Battalion in the Battle of Mount Sorrel.
  • August 1916 – attends funeral of his uncle Edgar Dewdney in Victoria
  • May 2, 1917 – birth of son Frederic Hamilton Bruce Dewdney (later changed to Frederic Hamilton Peter Dewdney, known as “Peter”)
  • Ted%20Dewdney%20in%20about%201920

    Ted Dewdney, c. 1935. Family photo.

    summer 1919 – mother-in-law Bertha (Gray) Peters comes to live permanently with the Dewdney family after death of her husband Fred in July

  • 1929-1952 – residing in Nelson, B.C.
  • 1929-1940 – bank manager in Nelson, B.C.
  • October 21, 1933 – daughter Eve marries John Archibald “Jack” Fingland
  • June 19, 1937 — Ted and Helen invite about 40 friends and relations to their bank house known as Hochelaga for a party celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary.
  • 1920-1927 – bank manager and residing in Rossland, B.C.
  • June 29, 1924 – birth of daughter Rose Pamela “Dee Dee” Dewdney
  • 1927-1929 – bank manager and residing in Trail, B.C.
  • 1940 – retires from Bank of Montreal after 43 years of service. Moves from Bank House “Hochelaga” to 1895-built house at 820 Stanley Street purchased from Burns family
  • 1941 – sister Rose Valentine Keating dies at age 62
  • 1942 – son Peter graduates in law from University of Alberta and enlists in Royal Canadian Navy; takes officer training at Royal Roads.
  • November 13, 1942 – death of his brother-in-law Capt. Frederic Thornton Peters, VC, DSO, DSC and bar, DSC (U.S.), RN in a flying boat crash near Plymouth England, five days after the attack on Oran Harbour for which he received the Victoria Cross and the U.S. Distinguished Service Cross.
  • walter robert dewdney pic in okanagan historical publication

    Ted`s older brother, Walter Robert Dewdney (1877-1956)

    February 2, 1944 – Col. Dusenbury of the U.S. Army in Edmonton representing General Eisenhower leads a delegation that comes to the Dewdney house in Nelson to present the U.S. Distinguished Service Cross won at Oran by Capt. F.T. Peters posthumously to his next-of-kin, mother Bertha Peters.

  • September 14, 1944 – son Peter Dewdney marries Maxine Forbes-Roberts of St. John’s, Newfoundland while serving in the navy. They settle in Trail in 1946 where he works as a lawyer for Cominco for 36 years until retirement.
  • September 11, 1948 – daughter Dee Dee, who has graduated in arts from UBC and earned professional librarian certification, marries Leigh Morgan McBride of Nelson, B.C. and they settle in Nelson where he has a law practice.
  • 1950 – daughter Eve Fingland and her family move to California where Jack builds a contract paving business.
  • July 29, 1952 – Ted dies from heart attack at Kootenay Lake General Hospital in Nelson at age 71.
  • February 26, 1956 – brother Walter Robert Dewdney dies at Penticton at age 79.
  • June 1956 – Helen Dewdney travels to England for ceremonies commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Victoria Cross, representing her late brother Fritz Peters.
  • September 1969 – McBride family and Ted’s widow Helen move from Nelson to Trail.
  • rose keating dewdney 001

    Ted`s sister Rose Valentine Keating. Family photo.

    November 25, 1976 – widow Helen Peters Dewdney dies at Trail at age 89.

  • February 7, 1985 — sister-in-law Kathleen Ferguson Dewdney, past president of the Okanagan Historical Society, dies in Penticton
  • December 3, 2002 – daughter Eve Fingland dies in Moraga, California
  • November 28, 2008 – son Peter Dewdney dies in Trail, B.C.
  • January 14, 2012 – daughter Dee Dee McBride dies in Trail, B.C.

Descendants of P.E.I. Fathers of Confederation will gather in September in P.E.I. in commemoration of 150th anniversary of the historic Charlottetown Conference

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This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown Conference of 1864, a gathering of delegates of British colonies north of the U.S. border which got the ball rolling towards the birth of Canada as a self-governing country in 1867.

Throughout his life, Fritz Peters was proud of the central role his grandfather, Col. John Hamilton Gray, had as a Father of Confederation. Gray died two years before Fritz was born so he never met him, but Fritz often heard of his famous grandfather from his mother Bertha Gray Peters and her sisters Margaret Gray Lord and Florence Gray Poole. Bertha was a toddler at the time of the founding conference, but Margaret and Florence were teen-agers who served as hostesses when their father brought John A. Macdonald and the other Fathers of Confederation home to the family estate known as Inkerman House for an after-dinner party on Saturday, Sept. 3, 1864. As their mother Susan Bartley Pennefather Gray was seriously ill at the time, the elder sisters took her place as hostesses. At the suggestion of fellow Maritime delegate Sir Charles Tupper, Col. Gray`s daughter Margaret accompanied Gray to the Quebec Conference in October 1864.

Col. Gray was an enthusiastic supporter of Canadian Confederation from the beginning. He resigned from politics in 1865 when his fellow P.E.I. leaders turned against it. No one was happier than Gray when P.E.I. entered Confederation as a Canadian province in 1873.

As part of the commemoration of the sesquicentennial of the Charlottetown Conference, the stories of the seven P.E.I. Fathers of Confederation and their descendants are being told through a series of features in the Charlottetown Guardian newspaper.

The first feature looked at Col. Gray and his descendants, including his grandson Capt. Frederic Thornton “Fritz“ Peters, and comments by two of Gray`s descendants of today, Sandra Hurry and Sam McBride.

J.H. Gray

J.H. Gray

The second feature focused on Edward Whelan


Edward Whelan

Writer Louise Campbell explained the series on P.E.I. Fathers of Confederation and their descendants at


The seven P.E.I. Fathers of Confederation are described on the P.E.I. Genealogical Society`s web site at

The PEIGS web site has a tentative schedule for a reunion of descendants of the P.E.I. Fathers of Confederation over the Sept. 11-14, 2014 weekend.
Tentative Schedule of Events for Fathers of Confederation Descendants Gathering
Sept 11, 2014 Welcome Descendants
Meet and Greet reception, for descendants of all 7 PEI Fathers of Confederation, time and location to be determined. This kick-off event will be your chance to meet the descendants of the Prince Edward Island Fathers of Confederation – maybe even some of your own relatives! View the family trees, meet the Genealogists, get your welcome kit. And get ready for a great weekend!
Bus Tours A customized tour will be created for each Father’s family. Get to know your famous ancestor by following in his footsteps. Where did the Father and his family live? Where did he work? What church, if any, did he go to? What Island buildings are part of his legacy? Where is he buried? Offered on a cost-recovery basis, based on demand, these tours will be three to four hours in duration.
Family Circles: These engaging events will provide you with an opportunity to share stories, showcase memorabilia, and delve into your family history with the Genealogist who has done the research for this project. Each Family Circle will focus specifically on one of the families; however, if space is available, participants are more than welcome to attend Family Circles beyond your own.
Sep 12, 2014 Bus Tours
9:00 AM Free Time
1:00 PM Free Time
4:30 PM Bus Tour A. A. MacDonald Descendants
Sep 12, 2014 Family Circles
10:00 AM Family Circle, John Hamilton Gray Descendants
2:00 PM Family Circle, A. A. MacDonald Descendants
7:00 PM Family Circle as necessary
Sep 13, 2014 Bus Tours
09:00 AM Bus Tour John Hamilton Gray Descendants
01:00 PM Bus Tour James Palmer/Edward Whelan Descendants
04:30 PM Bus Tour Thomas Heath Haviland Descendants
Sep 13, 2014 Family Circles
10:00 AM Family Circle, James Palmer/Edward Whelan Descendants
02:00 PM Family Circle, William Henry Pope Descendants
07:00 PM Family Circle as necessary
Sep 14, 2014 Bus Tours
10:00 AM Bus Tour, George Coles Descendants
01:00 PM Bus Tour William Henry Pope Descendants
04:30 PM Bus Tour Other Descendants as necessary
Sep 14, 2014 Family Circles
10:00 AM Family Circle, Thomas Heath Haviland Descendants
02:00 PM Family Circle, George Coles Descendants
07:00 PM Family Circle as necessary

For more information on this gathering of descendants, contact The Prince Edward Island Genealogical Society Inc., P.O. Box 2744, Charlottetown, PEI C1A 8C4, or email

“Tracing Your Family Tree“ Genealogy Workshop in Castlegar May 3, 2014

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“Tracing Your Family Tree”

Genealogy Workshop

Saturday, May 3, 2014 in Castlegar


In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the founding of the West Kootenay Family Historians Society, the society and Selkirk College are sponsoring a genealogy workshop on Saturday, May 3, 2014 designed to meet the needs and interests of family tree beginners as well as experienced researchers.

selkirk poster for may 3 event 001The “Tracing Your Family Tree“ workshop will go from 10 am to 4 pm at Selkirk College. The workshop fee of $30 plus GST includes lunch. Register through Selkirk College Registration 250 365-1208 or email



Did you glean all there was from the Census record? – Donna Fraser     10am-11:25am, Sentinel Room 220

Census records are one of the most useful sources for family history research.  They show the family living together on a given date with names, relationships, age, occupation and place of birth.  Those are the main topics that researchers are interested in but there is often much more if we dig a little deeper.  In this talk Donna will show the additional information that you can learn about your family.


Local history as viewed through historic West Kootenay postcards                         – Greg Nesteroff                                                         noon–12:45 pm, Room 220

Greg will present a show of historic Slocan Valley postcards from his collection.


Effective use of the universal genealogy web site           — Richard Wolff                                                           OPTION A   1pm–2:20pm, Room 222

The old way of doing things at Family History Centres involved Personal Ancestry File (PAF), an early genealogical program going back to the 1980s; the International Genealogical Index (IGI) with 187 million names (including 58 million from England and Wales), Ancestral File, integrated Latter Day Saints (LDS) member-submitted genealogies; and Pedigree Research File (PRF) of stand alone submitted genealogies. These have been succeeded by , encompassing:

Search – billions of names across hundreds of collections;

WIKI – Get research advice or learn where to find record collections;

Forums – Ask and answer questions;

Catalogue – Search the catalogue of books, online materials, microfilm, microfiche, and publications;

Learning Centre – Hundreds of online genealogy courses;

Family Tree – The family of man starting with you; and

Indexing – Volunteers create digital indexes for scanned images of historical documents.


Aboriginal issues in genealogy

  Jackie Cole                                        OPTION B     1pm-2:20pm, Gathering Place

Jackie will share the “Four R`s of Indigenous Story Work“ as laid out by Joanne Archibald of UBC. She will use her family and the topic of genealogy to explore how we learn value for our current lives by exploring our personal stories from our ancestors. The 7-generation perspective will be part of this.


Planning a successful family history research trip

Donna Fraser                                                                                 2:30pm–4pm, Room 220

This talk is based on Donna’s experience in the last dozen years with travel across Canada, trips to Salt Lake City and annual trips to Britain to do family history research.  She’ll demonstrate the preparation you should do before you leave home, explain the types of record repositories that you’ll use,  and give tips for planning your visit, mapping a strategy and how to spend your time wisely once at your destination.  This presentation will help you plan a research trip to the nearest LDS Family History Centre, a library or archives, or a trip to your ancestral country of origin.


Plus exhibits, displays, prize draws and demonstrations

For more information, contact Sam at 250 365-9860 or Inge at 250 367-0076, email to, Twitter @wkfhs, or

four presenters for may 3 014 workshop

clockwise, from top left: Donna Fraser, Richard Wolff, Jackie Cole and Greg Nesteroff



Donna Fraser is Director of Education for one of the largest family history societies on Vancouver Island.

Donna has been doing family history research for over 25 years and is passionate about the subject.  She has given presentations to various family history societies within British Columbia and Britain and looks forward to her return visit to Selkirk College.

Richard Wolff is a lifelong genealogist and Director of the Family History Centre in Trail.

Richard and his wife Nina were among the founding members of the West Kootenay Family Historians Society, and continue as active members of the society today.


Greg Nesteroff , writer and historian, is renowned in the West Kootenay and beyond as a skilled reporter who keeps on top of the issues of the day, and as an enthusiastic and rigorous researcher uncovering remarkable stories of the region`s past.

Jackie Cole is a Metis woman whose family have been moving slowly west across Turtle Island for the last 500 years. She has lived in the West Kootenays for most of her life and finds inspiration and peace in the territory of the SINIXT people.   As a Music Therapist and Aboriginal Educator she is constantly interweaving story, culture and history into her interactions both professionally and personally.

She is a descendant of fur-traders, slaves, farmers, European aristocrats, slave owners, and peasants spanning 12 cultures. Jackie lives in the Slocan Valley with a partner who is of Doukhobor heritage, and says her two sons are the only people she knows who have more cultural diversity than her.


Thank you:

The West Kootenay Family Historians Society gratefully acknowledges the financial support of this workshop by Teck Trail Operations and the Kootenay Savings Credit Union.


Peters, Dewdney and Cunard memorabilia displayed in Family Historians interview

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by Sam McBride

I was recently interviewed for the Go Kootenays community TV show about family history in general, and the West Kootenay Family Historians Society in particular.

The reporter came to my home in Castlegar, and got video shots of some of the paintings, photos, letters and other memorabilia that was safely stored for many years by my grandmother and then my mother, and has been passed on to me.  The show can be viewed at or

Most of the material shown came from two great-uncles: the Hon. Edgar Dewdney, who was a major figure in Western Canada political history in the 19th century (and is best known in the Kootenay region as the builder in the 1860s of the Dewdney Trail from Hope across several mountain ranges to Wild Horse Creek near the current site of Cranbrook); and Frederic Thornton Peters, the subject of my book “The Bravest Canadian — Fritz Peters VC: The Making of a Hero of Two World Wars”.   The file of original letters shown in the footage is part of the collection of letters home that were of central importance in telling Fritz’s story.   The Christmas card with the image of the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Meteor was sent home by Fritz in Christmas 1914 while he was serving as first officer on Meteor.   Just a month later, on January 24, 1915, Fritz earned a Distinguished Service Order medal for heroism in saving lives after the engine room of Meteor was hit by a German shell.  The photograph under glass in an antique frame of a lady in the video is of Mary Cunard, who was eldest daughter of the Cunard Steamship Lines founder Sir Samuel Cunard, and mother of Frederick Peters, Fritz’s father.


The top hat displayed in the TV report, along with its customized leather bucket that has enabled the hat to remain in good condition for more than a century. The story in the family was that the hat was owned and worn by the Hon. Edgar Dewdney, while he served as Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia in the 1890s

edgar painting 2

Original portrait of Edgar Dewdney, painted in about 1884 when he was Lieutenant Governor of the Northwest Territories, based in Regina.  He was uncle and legal guardian of Ted Dewdney, who married Fritz’s sister Helen Peters in 1912.

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Envelope used for letter Fritz Peters sent to his mother Bertha in 1916 when she was staying with her sister Florence Gray Poole In Guildford, England

page 1 and 4 of 1916 letter from Fritz

The first and fourth panels of 1916 letter from Fritz to his mother.

front of 1914 Christmas card

front of 1914 Christmas card shown in the video

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inside of 1914 Christmas card with image of HMS Meteor. It is signed by Fritz, but with a joke nickname “Mangle Jangle”

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Photo of Fritz’s paternal grandmother Mary Cunard in original frame, featured in the Go Kootenays TV show. Below, close-up of Mary Cunard.

mary cunard jpg

Genealogy exhibition in Castlegar on Family Day Monday, Feb. 10, 2014 from 1-4pm at Castlegar Community Forum

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The West Kootenay Family Historians Society (WKFHS) offers a free genealogy exhibition on Feb. 10th from 1 pm to 4 pm at the Community Forum next to city hall in Castlegar. The event will include displays, exhibits, demonstrations and one-on-one assistance from WKFHS members. It is a drop-in event of interest for those beginning to work on their family tree as well as experienced researchers. More further details, check the WKFHS blog at

fam day poster feb 8 14 001

How Canadian was Frederic Thornton Peters?

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by Sam McBride

F.T. “Fritz“ Peters is excluded from some lists of Canadian Victoria Cross heroes because 1) he spent his adult years based in either Gold Coast colony in West Africa, or England; 2) he served in the Royal Navy and with the British Secret Intelligence Service; or at sea with the Royal Navy; and 3) he rarely mentioned Canada as his nation of birth and boyhood.

A long-time friend and naval colleague, Commander David Joel, wrote in unpublished memoirs that he had heard that Peters returned to Canada for a time in the inter-war period, but he had no details.

The last record of Fritz in Canada was his father Frederick Peters` funeral in Victoria, British Columbia in August 1919, which Fritz organized and attended. His mother Bertha Gray Peters later wrote that her son Fritz would have joined the Royal Canadian Navy if there was one, but when Fritz enlisted at age 15 in 1905 the only navy to sign up with was the Royal Navy, which had a large profile in the Victoria region where Fritz resided due to its Pacific Station base in Esquimalt. The Royal Canadian Navy was still five years away from existence.
The latest publicly available censuses Fritz is on are the 1901 and 1911 censuses. Interestingly, he and his family are included in both the Canada census and the England census for 1901, when the family continued to be based in Oak Bay, B.C. but spent considerable time at Bertha`s stepmother Sarah Caroline Cambridge Gray`s community of Bedford north of London, where the children attended private school. Fritz was also counted twice in 1911, as his family included him as a resident of Esquimalt where they lived, and, as a sub-lieutenant on HMS Otter, Fritz was also included in the 1911 England census. He listed his nationality as Canadian, with “British subject“ in parentheses. Fritz listed his ethnic background as Scottish, as did all of his siblings except elder sister Helen, who said she was of English heritage.

Fritz`s Canadian origins are clearly stated in his Royal Navy file, and his best friends Swain Saxton, Cromwell Varley and David Joel were aware that he was Canadian. While it is true that Fritz did not mention being Canadian in his dealings with Americans in the Second World War, but tended to keep his personal life and background to himself as a matter of principle, and in sync with the top secret work he was involved in. Fritz`s letters home show that he detested self-promotion. Even if he were not involved in secret projects, he would not be showing off a c.v. or talking about his achievements because he thought such bragging was unseemly.

It is true that Fritz would have travelled on a British passport, because there were no Canadian passports until 1949 – seven years after his death. It is only in recent years that the concept of all Canadians being British subjects has faded away.

There are two other measures in which Fritz`s Canadianness stands out. Firstly, his ancestry goes back to an original proprietor of P.E.I., and three of his four grandparents (Peters, Gray and Cunard) were direct descendants of United Empire Loyalists who came to the Canadian Maritimes after the American Revolutionary War. If Canadian roots could be measured in loyalty and length of residence, Fritz was about as Canadian as you could get.

Secondly, Fritz deserves recognition as a Canadian because two of his brothers, Private John Francklyn Peters and Lieut. Gerald Hamilton Peters, died early in the First World War fighting with the 7th British Columbia Battalion. Another brother, Noel Quintan Peters, served with the Canadian Forestry Corps.

And Fritz was always proud to be a grandson of a Father of Confederation, Col. John Hamilton Gray. Fritz’s letters show that he spent time in London researching his grandfather and other Fathers of Confederation.

Also, the name of Fritz Peters is not found in British lists of Victoria Cross recipients from England, so if he is also not on Canadian lists he is overlooked in the overall picture.

If you talk to people in Charlottetown, they will tell you they are proud of him as a Canadian hero, particularly as he is the only P.E.I.-born recipient of the Victoria Cross.

So the answer is that yes, Fritz Peters was most definitely a Canadian!

final front tbc oct 2012 001

back tbc final 001

New images in Fritz Peters ancestry


by Sam McBride

During my recent visit to Prince Edward Island I had an opportunity to see, and copy, information and photographs gathering over the years by my relative (second cousin, once removed) Hugh “Pete“ Paton of Charlottetown. Pete is a grandson of Arthur Peters (premier of P.E.I. 1901-1907), who was the younger brother of Frederick Peters (premier of P.E.I. 1891-1897), who was Fritz Peters` father and my great-grandfather.

Several years ago Pete came across paintings of Thomas Horsfield Peters and his wife Mary Sharmen at a gallery in New Brunswick and photographed them. I was thrilled to see them, as they are the first of the pair that I have come across. For many years large framed photographs of their son, Judge James Horsfield Peters, and his wife Mary Cunard hung on a wall in my mother`s house. About a dozen years ago through internet forums I acquired images of Thomas Horsfield Peters` parents, the United Empire Loyalists James Peters and Margaret Lester.

The new images of Thomas Horsfield Peters and Mary Sharman fill empty spaces in the pictorial Fritz Peters family tree going back three generations. You can see that the only ones with blank spaces in the tree are Susan Duffus (wife of Sir Samuel Cunard, and mother of Mary Cunard); Lieut. William Bartley (first husband of Lady Pennefather, and mother of Susan Gray, wife of Col. John Hamilton Gray, P.E.I. premier and Father of Confederation); and Mary Burns (daughter of original proprietor Capt. George Burns and mother of Col. John Hamilton Gray). I do not have an image of the United Empire Loyalist Robert Gray (father of John Hamilton Gray), but I do have his signature featured in his box on the tree. I have photographs of Lady Pennefather`s second husband, General Sir John Lysaght Pennefather, who became young Susan`s stepfather.

One would think that there would be paintings of Susan Duffus Cunard because of the prominence of her husband as a steam travel magnate, but to date I have not been able to locate any images of her. She died at age 33 after having nine children with Sir Samuel. As a prominent Loyalist who formed an led a regiment in the American Revolution, there should be paintings or sketches of Robert Gray, but I have not come across any.

Click on the family tree image below, and it will be much bigger on your screen and easy to read.

Fritz family tree updated june 2013

Estate of Fritz Peters Valued at £254

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by Sam McBride

I recently was notified by that they had an image of the probate record of Capt. Frederic Thornton Peters.

Fritz left an estate of 254 pounds, most of which probably went to pay off loans and debts. The record says the probate went to Rosalind Varley (wife of Cromwell Hanford Varley), which confirms that she was executor (or executrix, as she described herself in a letter to Fritz`s mother) of Fritz`s will. Rosalind Varley said in her letter that she would forward Fritz`s personal effects to his family in Canada when the war was over and sea transport was safe. I recent had an enjoyable phone chat with Rosalind`s daughter Juliet who had many happy memories of Fritz`s regular visits to the Varley home.

The probate went through on Feb. 1, 1943 and was registered at the Llandudno registry in north Wales. They listed the Peters address as: care of the United Service Club, Pall Mall, London, which was the address he noted in his March 1942 letter to his sister Helen Dewdney, the last correspondence the relatives received from him. That same address was also on passenger lists for several voyages Fritz took in the years between the wars.

The date of death in the record was November 13, 1942, further confirming information from the Admiralty Office of Fritz`s date of death in a flying boat crash in Plymouth Sound

P.E.I. Heritage Award and Book Signings in Charlottetown

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Letter announcing the Heritage Award.

Letter announcing the Heritage Award.

By Sam McBride

I was very pleased last week to receive notification from the Prince Edward Island Museum and Heritage Foundation that they are giving me a Heritage Award in recognition of my book The Bravest Canadian – Fritz Peters, VC: The Making of a Hero of Two World Wars. I will receive the award at the Annual Heritage Awards Ceremony at the Carriage House at Beaconsfield in Charlottetown on Feb. 19, 2013.

If all goes as planned, I will be in Charlottetown from Sunday, Feb. 17 until Sunday, Feb. 24. I have arranged to do book signings in Charlottetown at the Bookmark Store on Queen Street on Friday, Feb. 22nd at noon, and then at the Indigo Store at 465 University Avenue on Saturday, Feb. 23rd from 1-3 pm. In addition to book promotion activities, I plan to do further research on the Peters and Gray ancestors.

As part of the cross-Canada trip, I will be in Cranbrook Feb. 13-14, Ottawa Feb. 14-17, Ottawa again Feb. 24-26, and Cranbrook again Feb. 26-27. In Ottawa I plan to visit, and conduct research, in the Canadian War Museum and the National Archives, and visit bookstores and Ottawa-based veterans’ associations.

Once again, many thanks to the Prince Edward Island Museum and Heritage Foundation for the prestigious Heritage Award.

Biog readers with suggestions for book promotion events should contact me either through this blog, or by emailing sammcbridebc(AT)

Family of Frederic Thornton Peters — Part Five: brother Gerald Hamilton Peters

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clockwise, from top left: Gerald at right with Helen, Bertha, Jack and unidentified man; Gerald at top left beside Jack, with Noel and Helen in front; and Gerald top left, beside Jack, and Noel bottom right. (McBride Collection)clippings in Prince Rupert Empire newspaper and (bottom right) Victoria Colonist

By Sam McBride

Gerald Hamilton Peters and fraternal twin Noel Quintan Peters were born in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island on November 8, 1894 – exactly 48 years before the Oran harbour battle where their elder brother Frederic Thornton “Fritz” Peters won the Victoria Cross and the U.S. Distinguished Service Cross.

Their parents were Premier Frederick Peters and Bertha Gray, daughter of the P.E.I. Father of Confederation John Hamilton Gray.   Other children in the family included sister Helen, born in 1887, and brother Jack, born in 1892.  A younger sister Violet Avis Peters was born in 1899 after the family moved to Victoria, B.C. where their father established a law partnership with Sir Charles Hibbert Tupper.

clockwise, from top left: Gerald with his mother Bertha; Gerald (right) with Bertha, sister Helen, brother Noel and the family dog; Gerald as a recently-commissioned lieutenant in 1916; and Gerald and Helen in the backyard of their Oak Bay home. (McBride Collection)

Gerald was the intellectual among the children, preferring to read poetry and watch plays rather than participate in marching and rifle practice. Noel was handicapped with a moderate — though noticeable — mental disability that made his life miserable in an era when there was little understanding of or allowance for such handicaps. Bertha felt no qualms in openly treating Gerald as her favourite child and Noel, her least favourite.

At 6’1½”, Gerald was thin and gangly, and his expanded chest did not meet the standard. Gerald was sensitive, intellectual and, quite literally, a mama’s boy who would not choose army service in normal times but felt compelled to do his part in the war emergency. Perhaps to avoid the same examiners who assessed him in B.C., Gerald traveled to Montreal for a second try at enlisting. This time, he passed and was admitted as a private to the Royal Victoria Rifles 24th Battalion.

Gerald — who had told his sister Helen that he hated serving in the trenches of “Blasted Bloody Belgium” as a private with the Royal Victoria Rifles 24th Battalion through the winter of 1915–16 — got some good news in early 1916 when he was accepted into officer training. In April, he began as a lieutenant with the same 7th Battalion Jack served in, although few remembered Jack because of the almost complete turnover after the horrific casualties in the spring of 1915. Articles in the Prince Rupert Empire reported that Lieut. Gerald Peters was training to expertly analyze captured German documents. The information was mailed by Bertha to her husband Fred. He took it to the newspaper editor, who was eager to run stories about a local boy fighting in the Great War.

His mother Bertha had been in England since the summer of 1915 because she wanted to be close to her boys fighting in the war, particularly Gerald, with whom she was extremely close.  She rented a cottage at Hythe on England`s southeast coast, near where the Channel Tunnel of today goes underground, so she could meet with Gerald on his leaves from service.

TOP: Gerald`s attestation for service in First World War; BELOW, army file.

On June 2, 1916, Germans surprised the Allies with an attack that captured Mount Sorrel east of Ypres from Canadian forces. Success like this was unusual in the Great War because defenders usually had the advantage in any attack. The new commander of Canadian forces, General Julian Byng — later to be a hero in the great Canadian victory at Vimy Ridge and serve as Governor General of Canada — felt Canadians must immediately launch a counterattack to get the high ground back from the Germans before they could establish strong defences.

According to the orders in place for British generals, Byng likely would have lost his command if he had not attacked. As a result, Gerald’s unit was part of a hastily-planned advance on June 3rd which never had any real chance of success. As happened so often in the war to troops on both sides, Gerald went over the top of his trench towards the enemy expecting to die, and he did. As Fritz noted later, without coordinated artillery support the offensive was doomed.

Below is the transcript of one of 22  letters from Gerald in the Peters Family Papers.

Gerald to his father Frederic Peters       November 30, 1915

Dear Father,

I have now been in and out of the trenches several times.  Things are very slack, and I have seen very little excitement.  However, we shall no doubt get plenty of it later on.  The life seems to be doing me good, at least everyone tells me I am getting fat on it.  Of course, everything is made easy for the second contingent, we have no hardships to endure as did the first.  So far I have witnessed one fairly good artillery bombardment, which we began and the Germans answered, and occasionally we have been under fire while on working parties etc.  But as a rule there is little danger or excitement.

TOP: letter from Sgt. Major who witnessed Gerald`s fatal charge; memorial in B.C.; Prince Rupert Empire article based on the letter.

I went down to the place where Jack’s company is billeted about a week ago.  It is some distance from here.  Unfortunately most of the men were away.  I saw one fellow who had known Jack at Salisbury.  But he wasn’t near him at Langemarke.  However, he promised to make enquiries and I left my address with him.  At least so far we have not heard of anyone who actually saw him killed.  I think there is a strong possibility of his being wounded and a prisoner in Belgium.

Well, it isn’t much use my wishing you the usual Christmas wishes this year.  We can only hope that next year we will be a less scattered family again.  I would like to see old Prince Rupert again.  The muskeg would be a welcome change from the appalling mud here.  Please give my respects to Mr. Broderick and my best wishes to the other fellows there.

You certainly were a prophet when you said that the war was far from finished.

Your affectionate son


plaque in St. Peter`s Anglican Church in Charlottetown (McBride Collection)

Gerald`s army files

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