Dating an Old Family Photo Yields Some Surprises

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by Sam McBride

A Facebook group I regularly participate in is a forum for discussion and analysis of the content of old family photographs. Participants include people with knowledge of clothes, hairstyles and other clues to help identify the approximate year the photo was taken.

I have long been curious about a photo that was in my grandfather E.E.L. “Ted” Dewdney’s memorabilia with no identification except information on the back of the print saying it was taken at a Victoria, B.C. studio. I checked online and saw that the studio was in operation periodically between the 1860s and 1890s.

\above: unidentified lady in two copies of this photo that are among Ted Dewdney’s memorabilia. Below: back side of print shows the name and address of photographer

There were actually two copies of the printed photograph in Ted’s material, which led me to suspect the lady was of substantial importance to Ted. As his mother, Caroline Leigh Dewdney (1851-1885) died when Ted was just four years old, I thought the lady in the photo may have been her. I have no identified image of my great-grandmother Caroline, who was often referred to in family papers as “Carrie”. Her father William Leigh (1815-1884) was born in Warwickshire, England, and arrived in Victoria as an employee of the Hudson Bay Company in about 1855. His wife Matilida Capron accompanied him in the long journey from England to Panama, across to the Pacific, and sailing from there north to Victoria. Their four children with them included toddler Carrie. William worked as a builder and farm manager before working for the City of Victoria as city clerk for 20 years until his death in 1884.

After I submitted the photo for consideration by the Facebook group, the first comment was that the image looks more like a painting than a photograph. It was probably painted in full colour and photographed by the studio. Several other respondent expressed agreement that it is an image from a painting. Estimates of the year of the painting, based on clothes and hair, were in the 1840s, before Carrie was born. That led someone to suggest that perhaps the lady was Carrie’s mother Matilida, who I also have no identified images for. An intriguing thought. The lesson is to be careful not to go too far in assuming things in family history.

One of the Facebook commenters took the time to colourize the photo I posted. I have been hesitant to colourize or otherwise Photoshop my old family black and white photos because of concerns with authenticity, but I must admit this looks pretty good.

I was in Victoria for a vacation recently, and happened to be staying at a hotel on James Bay, close to Dallas Road where the Leigh and Dewdney families lived in the pioneer years of the city. I imagined the lady in the photo being on the same beaches and pathways you see there still today. And perhaps residing in, or visiting, one of the heritage houses that go back well into the 1800s.

This is my great-great-grandfather William Leigh (1815-1884). My suspicion now is that the lady in my unidentified photos may be his wife Matilda Capron Leigh. Based on analysis of clothes and appearance, it is NOT his daughter Carrie Leigh Dewdney.

I Was Amazed to Learn that NHL Legend Lester Patrick Coached My Grandmother’s Hockey Team in Nelson, B.C. in 1910-11

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by Sam McBride

In more than 30 years of exploring my family history I have made some fascinating discoveries, but nothing tops finding out my grandmother Winnifred Mae McBride (1889-1960) was a pioneer in ladies ice hockey as a young lady in Nelson, British Columbia. I was even more surprised to learn that she alternately played forward and goalie positions on the 1911 Nelson Ladies Hockey Team coached by Lester Patrick, who, with his brother Frank, had a huge role in establishing professional hockey and the National Hockey League.

Known then as Winnie Foote, she also served as secretary-treasurer of the team, where her work included liaising with her counterpart in Rossland in organizing home-and-away hockey matches and social events between the Nelson and Rossland ladies hockey teams.

I don’t recall hearing my dad Leigh ever saying that his mother, who he referred to as “Win”, played hockey in her youth. These matches, often combined with games between men’s and junior teams, attracted hundreds of spectator and were a big winter event in the two communities. Two Patrick sisters, Dora and Cynda, were also on the Nelson team, with Cynda being team captain.

1910 Nelson Ladies Hockey team, coached by NHL legend Lester Patrick. Winnie Foote, 20, is second from right. Courtesy Nelson Archives

The Patricks came to Nelson in 1907 when their father Joe Patrick acquired a sawmill at South Slocan, near the junction of the Slocan River and Kootenay River, about half-way between Nelson and Castlegar. When not playing hockey in Nelson or elsewhere, Lester and Frank helped out at their father’s business called Patrick Lumber. Conveniently located next to rail service that took the products to market, Patrick Lumber proved to be a very profitable operation, despite a near disaster in June 1909 when spring flooding on the Slocan River broke a boom containing logs before processing, with a large number of logs floating away down the Kootenay and Columbia rivers. Lester and Frank were able to retrieve many of the loose logs, but quite a few were claimed by “finders-keepers” or went across the border into the U.S.

When the Patricks arrived in 1907 Nelson’s hockey arena located high uphill at Stanley and Houston streets had poor facilities for players as well as spectators. They became a leading part of a civic drive to build a new arena near the intersection of Hall Mines Road and Cottonwood Creek. Joe, Lester and Frank Patrick all served on the fund-raising committee, along with prominent local businessmen like J. Fred Hume, Wood Vallance Hardware manager Walter McBride and his nephew Roland Leigh McBride (1881-1959), who would marry Winnie in December 1914. The first Nelson Daily News report of the organization of the fund-raising committee said R.L. McBride was elected president of the committee, but a couple of days later the newspaper ran a correction notice saying Walter McBride was elected president, not his nephew. My guess is that the uncle thought it would be more appropriate for the higher-up Wood Vallance man to hold the position.

In any event, my grandfather R.L. McBride did most of the work and established a reputation for successful fund-raising for community projects, which later included local hospitals, the Nelson Golf Club and the Nelson Civic Centre, as well as bond sale drives in both world wars, particularly World War Two when his two sons Leigh and Ken served as officers with the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada regiment in the Italian campaign.

Roland Leigh McBride 1881-1959
Winnifred “Winnie” Foote, c 1910

Originally from Perth, Ontario, the Foote family moved west to the Nelson area in 1900 when Win’s father Jim Foote began a job as blacksmith at the Silver King Mine. After living in the townsite next to the mine for two years, the family moved into Nelson in 1902 when Jim got a job with the City of Nelson construction department. Their home was a rented house also described as being near the the intersection of Hall Mines Road and Cottonwood Creek. While the terrain changed substantially due to the highway interchange work in the 1970s, the location today of the long-gone 1909 arena and Foote house is around the area where the Alpine Inn is located.

Nelson Daily News article January 9, 1911.

A great source of information on early men’s and ladies hockey in Nelson is the book “Knights of Winter: the History of Ice Hockey in B.C. Between 1895 and 1911” by Craig Bowlsby, which is based on information in local archives and newspapers of the time. He notes that Winnie Foote had also played for the Nelson Ladies Team in 1910, when the group photo of the team was taken in a Nelson studio. Her younger sister Gladys Edith Foote (1894-1965) also tried out for the Nelson team in 1911, but did not make the team. I remember hearing that “Glad”, as she was known, was an excellent ice skater.

A valuable part of Bowlsby’s book is an index of the names of everyone who was ever played hockey in B.C. up to 1911. The listings include R.L. McBride playing a couple of years for the Wood Vallance team in a Nelson industrial league. His cousin Chester McBride (son of Walter) is listed as being captain of several Rossland rep teams in the late 1890s. My other grandfather, E.E.L. “Ted” Dewdney is listed as playing several years in the early 1900s for the Bank of Montreal team in a league of teams of the banks in Rossland. While Ted was quite athletic, his sport was tennis, not hockey.

The newspaper reports of games between Nelson and Rossland ladies usually ended up with Rossland winning by one goal. The Daily News noted that Rossland with its higher elevation had an advantage over Nelson in hockey because their rinks were much less likely to get mushy due to periods of warm temperatures in the winter months.

Nelson Daily News article January 1911

I remember Win in her final years being in poor health. Rather than talking with her grandchildren about the past, she always wanted to play bingo with us. She never got over the shock of her younger son Kenneth Gilbert McBride (1920-1944) being killed in action in Italy. Her obituary in June 1960 mentioned several service organizations she belonged to, but, sadly, nothing about the her fun days with the Nelson Ladies Hockey Team.

This photo in family files was likely taken by Winnie. It appears to be the “spares” of a Nelson-Rossland game together in the stands. The player in the middle of the photo with white toque is Winnie’s sister Glad Foote.
Nelson Daily News article, early January 1911.
Winnie Foote in about 1910. One of her hobbies was photography, and she often experimented with poses with friends who were also camera buffs.
This wall projection in the Trail Riverfront Centre Museum of the 1910 Nelson Ladies Hockey Team shows Winnie Mae Foote (second from right) more closely.
Longer view of pic and n Trail Museum
Winnie Foote with Dr. Wilmot Steed, c 1910. I don’t think they were ever a couple, but were part of a group of close friends in Nelson in the early 1900s who became lifelong friends. Something the Footes, Steeds and Lillies (the family of Wilmot’s future wife Elizabeth) all had in common was coming west from Perth, Ontario. His children Graeme Steed, Jack Steed and Edna Whiteley were good friends of the McBrides for many years.
This book, based on information from archives and newspapers of the time, is a , so rce of information on early hockey in the West Kootenay region as well as B.C. as a whole.
Winnie in a playful pose with friend Wilmott Steed. She loved to take photographs, and goof around with scenes like this.
Lester Patrick when playing for Victoria, B.C. team, from Wikipedia

1920s Gala Raises Nearly $13,000 for new Kaslo Library

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On Saturday, November 5th the Kaslo Legion was transformed into an enchanted space for a Roaring `20s Gala that raised almost $13,000 towards a new library in Kaslo.

According to Library Board Chair Anne Heard, proceeds from the event exceeded all expectations. The

land for the new library in downtown Kaslo has been purchased and architectural designs have been

developed. The proceeds from this event will greatly help the project going forward, as strong

community support and contributions are critical for securing large government and foundation grants.

Celebrants, most of whom were costumed 1920`s style, were residents of Kaslo and Nelson areas. A

total of 89 of 90 tickets were sold.

As they arrived and settled at their elegantly-decorated tables, guests were treated to charming

background music by harpist Diemm (above). Lucas Myers then provided lots of laughs with a unique telling of

Kaslo history, followed by a Kaslovian skit. After gourmet dinners, dessert featured a memorable

experience for the senses, as music by violinist Natasha Hall and pianist Yoomi Kim was paired with

exquisite chocolates prepared by Aurelian Sudan of Nelson Chocofellar.

Success would not have been achieved without amazing community support. Local businesses, services

and individuals donated 24 products and services towards a silent auction. Activity at the tables was

extensive, with winning bids totalling $5,335.

Heard thanked her fellow Gala Committee members Sabrina Edward, Mayor Suzan Hewat, Eva Kelemen,

Lynn van Deursen, and Margaret Wanke for excellent teamwork in organizing the Gala. The Langham

Cultural Centre, Jazz fest, Kaslo Concert Society, North Kootenay Lake Community Services Society, ACE

Hardware, and Front St. Market supplied the equipment and supplies needed to create ambiance and

reduce costs. Diemm and Lucas Myers donated their performances to the event, as did Cloé Bayeur-

Holland who managed the cash bar. Barb Ryason and her team created a delicious multi-course dinner,

efficiently served by five energetic JV Humphries student volunteers. Mountain Man Mike’s volunteered

as designated driver to ensure guests arrived home safely. Lynn van Deursen, as emcee, kept the

evening running smoothly. Grant sponsorship to cover some expenses was gratefully received through

RDCK’s Community Initiatives Program and the Village of Kaslo.

A special thank you is extended to the attendees who rose to the occasion by purchasing tickets and

responding to the spirit of the event. Guests left the venue with smiling faces and many expressions of

appreciation such as “so happy after such a delightful evening; thanks for everything!” and “sure hope

you do it again!”

Re-built Pioneer-era McBride Hardware Store featured in the Fort Steele Heritage Town near Cranbrook, B.C.

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I had not been to the Fort Steele Heritage Town near Cranbrook, B.C. for many years. On a visit earlier this month to Cranbrook I was very pleased to see the McBride Hardware Store (as in the year 1900) had been added to the re-created pioneer heritage park since I was last there.

Fun to see the store, as the store owners James D. McBride (1866-1941) and his brother Frank A. McBride (1856-1910) were definitely relatives of ours. My great-great-grandfather Samuel McBride (1819-1905) and Jim and Frank’s father Alexander McBride (1833-1912) were brothers who had a tinsmithing and wood stove business in London, Ontario. In the mid-1880s Alex moved west and established Calgary’s first hardware store on Stephen Avenue in Calgary. Known as A. McBride and Company, the store did a roaring business.

In the 1890s Alex McBride expanded with hardware stores in Edmonton and Red Deer in Alberta, as well as Rossland, Fort Steele and Cranbrook in British Columnia. All of the stores were manned by Alex’s sons, except for Rossland where Samuel’s son G. Walter McBride managed the store and soon bought it from Uncle Alex in about 1897. While all this business expansion was happening Alex served as Mayor of Calgary in 1896. The Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) decision in 1898 to bypass the well-established town of Fort Steele in its new Crowsnest Railway route resulted in Fort Steele becoming a ghost town, and the small community of Cranbrook housing a key station for the new railway. For a time, the McBride brothers had stores in both Fort Steele and Cranbrook, but soon shut the Fort Steele store down and moved its stock to the Cranbrook store.

My second cousin Bruce McBride Jennejohn (left) and I outside the McBride Hardware Store at Fort Steele in September 2022. He and I are both first cousins, three times removed of Jim and Frank McBride who had the pioneer store.

Frank moved on to another store business in Red Deer, but Jim became a fixture of Cranbrook’s retail scene until moving to the U.S. in 1920. In 1935 he returned to Cranbrook, bought back his store, and ran it until his death in a car crash near Spokane in 1941.  According to the book “Tales of the Kootenays”, James Duncan “Jim” McBride had the distinction in 1905 of owning Cranbrook’s first automobile.

The B.C. government established the heritage town of Fort Steele as a tourist attraction and educational park in the 1960s. Some buildings were moved from the original site of Fort Steele, across the highway to the current location, but the McBride Hardware Store is one of many structures there to be completely re-built on site.

Newspaper ad

Display and sign in McBride Hardware Store in Fort Steele, B.C.

My grandfather R.L. McBride (1881-1959) had worked for three years as a CPR ticket agent in London, Ontario when he decided in 1900 to leave London (where several McBride families had settled after emmigrating from County Down in Northern Ireland in 1831) in 1900 to get experience in the hardware store business in great-uncle Alex’s Calgary store and then at the Rossland store owned and manager by his uncle Walter and then during the winter of 1903-04 at the Byers Hardware store at Sandon in the Silvery Slocan region. In April 1904 he moved to Nelson to be part of the new Wood Vallance Hardware Company, where he worked for the next 46 years before retiring as President and Manager. Wood Vallance in Nelson would grow to have a huge service and distribution area, an annual printed catalogue, and more than 40 employees until fading out of business in the 1980s.  Our family’s hardware store bent ended with R.L. McBride because son Kenneth Gilbert McBride died in action in World War Two, and the other son, my dad Leigh Morgan McBride, knew from an early age that he wanted to be a lawyer rather than in retail business.

Advertisement in Cranbrook newspaper for J.D. McBride Hardware

Gala Dinner on Nov. 5th in Support of New Kaslo Library

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A century after the vibrant 1920s, the exciting spirit of that era will return with a Roaring 20s Gala of great food and entertainment at the Kaslo Legion on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022 beginning at 6 pm.

Participants are encouraged to dress as fancy as they want, joining in the spirit of the night in 1920s style or 2020s style.

There will be enchanting background harp music by Diemm as delectable appetizers are served and guests check out a silent auction of imaginative items. Other entertainment includes a short set by humourist and multi-talented performer Lucas Myers as well as a special dessert feature with violinist Natasha Hall, pianist Yoomi Kim and Aureilean Sudan of Nelson’s Chocofellar. The evening will be emceed by Kaslo’s own Lynn van Deursen.

The multi-course dinner will be a festive seasonal feast with meat, vegetarian and gluten free options.

Tickets at $125 per person are on sale at the library or by email at or phoning 250 353-2942. All proceeds go to the new Kaslo and District Library. More information on the library project, including architectural design illustrations, is on the library website ( and at the billboard in the future site of the library at Front and Fifth streets in Kaslo.

Online Auction in support of new Kaslo Library surpasses fundraising goal

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by Sam McBride

The Online Auction in April 2022 in support of the New Library Project in Kaslo, British Columbia raised a total of $22,396 – more than 10% above its fund-raising target.

Anne Heard, chair of the Kaslo and District Library Board, said she was thrilled with the response to the auction, as it once again exceeded all expectations.  Special thanks go to a long list of donors who provided an appealing variety of Kootenay-style experiences, services and products to bid on.

Bids came in from many parts of B.C., and from as far away as Quebec, California and Texas.  Items up for bid included adventures like ziplining and historic tours; places to stay or visit in Kaslo and Ainsworth; beautiful art work including prints, paintings, quilts, and stained glass; services from massage to yardwork to ancestry research; and music, including lessons, entertainment, and Kaslo Jazz Fest tickets.  The auction ended with a lively bidding war to win a priceless BC Totem Pole created by Godfrey Hunt – Kwakiutl, of the Thunderbird, Whale, and Chief Women.

The auction was part of an ongoing effort to raise funds to build a new library in Kaslo.  Last year an accessible downtown location at the corner of 5th St and Front Street was acquired via Village of Kaslo support, grants from Columbia Basin Trust and Community Fund of North Kootenay Lake Society (CFNKLS), several donations, and the first online auction in 2021. Since then, an additional $308,000 has been raised to go directly towards planning and constructing a new library.   

Currently the Planning team is working with Carscadden Stokes McDonald Architects to update the design, incorporate energy efficiencies and carbon neutral materials, and acquire more accurate class B costing to prepare for a federal grant application.  Stay tuned!  Updated plans will be presented in an open house this summer. Visit the Kaslo library website for details.

In her comments on the auction, Kaslo Mayor Suzan Hewat said “Congratulations on exceeding your fundraising goal”.  Comments from bidders included “What a wonderful selection of unique items in your fundraising auction,” “Go Kaslo library!”, “I celebrate the new library plans & the board as well as all the community members whose participation will bring it about,” “Happy to support this very exciting project! “, “Good luck with your fund raising!  I love Libraries!”.

Fun Online Auction is Raising Funds for Building the New Kaslo and District Public Library

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by Sam McBride

The Online Auction to raise funds to build the new Kaslo and District Public Library continues this weekend, with bids closing at 7 pm on Sunday, April 10, 2022.

The auction features more than 120 one-of-a-kind experiences, services and products. Check out the auction site at

Among the offerings donated for the auction by local residents and businesses are waterfront accommodation, boat trips, ziplining, and original artwork, as well as botanical, garden and historical tours. I am pleased to be offering 10 hours of family tree research as one of the auction offerings.

The great response to the 2021 Online Auction enabled the completion of purchase of land for the new library at the corner of Front and Fifth streets in downtown Kaslo, B.C. (pictured below). A key goal of the project is for the new building to be carbon emission free.

Proceeds from the 2022 auction will help build the much-needed new library. Donations are also greatly appreciated!

Renowned Nelson, B.C. boys choir director Dr. Amy Ferguson remembered on 50th anniversary of her death on February 20, 1972

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by Sam McBride

On the the 50th anniversary of the passing of Mrs. T.J.S. (Amy) Ferguson on February 20, 1972, many of her singers, colleagues and friends are reflecting on her amazing life and incredible contribution to the music scene in Nelson, British Columbia.

She was born in London, England on November 6, 1884, daughter of Daniel Spencer and Elizabeth Luce. Amy came to Nelson in 1917 with her husband, Rev. T.J.S. “Joe” Ferguson. Soon after Joe became reverend at St. Paul’s United Church in 1930 Amy established the Nelson Boys Choir which would be prominent in the Nelson and around the province and further afield for the next 41 years.

the story of the Nelson Boys Choir in 1964

I joined the choir shortly after Joe’s death in 1960. As a widow with her children grown up and on their own, she may have had more time to devote to the choir than previously. She certainly kept us boy sopranos busy with rehearsals, concerts and tours. I was amazed at how well she controlled the behaviour of choir members. If there was even a hint of talking or goofing around, one glaring stare by Amy would set the offenders straight.

While she was best known for her work with the award-winning Nelson Boys Choir, she also led other choirs of both sexes, and taught piano from her home on Mill Street for many years. Her name lives on today with the Amy Ferguson Institute (

The motto of the Nelson Boys Choir, meaning Always Faithful
Mrs. Ferguson grieved at the deaths of 7 of her Nelson Boys Choir “boys” in World War Two. A fund-raising campaign resulted in a new organ for St. Paul’s United Church in their honour.

In the 1960s and into the 70s she received numerous awards and honours for her work with the choir, including Nelson Citizen of the Year and an honourary doctorate in music from Notre Dame University. She never retired from the choir, as it was still going strong when she died, and it had recently done an Okanagan tour. A key to the success of the tours was the help of choir alumni in various cities who organized the concerts as well as billets for the choir members. They were among an estimated 800 participants in the choir over the years.

Here is a news clippings about her and the choir, as well as a variety of memorabilia courtesy of the Shawn Lamb Archives at Touchstones Museum in Nelson, and my collection.

Review in Nelson Daily News of 1934 performance,
Mrs. Ferguson receiving her honourary doctorate in music from Notre Dame University in 1970.
Nelson Boys Choir in 1961, photo taken on Mrs. Ferguson’s lawn on Mill Street in Nelson.
Note from Mrs. Ferguson she sent me with the “Boys. Music and Mrs. F” book

Mystery of Youngest Son of Prince Edward Island Father of Confederation John Hamilton Gray Solved

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by Sam McBride

As a genealogy buff and a great-great-grandson of the PEI Father of Confederation Col. John Hamilton Gray, I have long been curious about what happened to his youngest son, Hamilton Edward Jarvis Gray, who was born Jan. 7, 1880, and his baptism/christening under that name can be viewed among the online PEI records. The mother was the colonel’s third wife, Sarah Caroline Cambridge, who would have been 38 when Hamilton was born, while the colonel was much older, at 69!

Col. Gray, who died in 1887, listed Hamilton in his will as a child to receive a third portion of his estate, along with his mother and older brother Arthur Cavendish Bentinck Gray, born in 1876. I have never been able to find out when or where Hamilton died, or anything else about his life. His mother Sarah’s obituary after her death in Bedford (north London) in 1906 did not mention him at all. Through an Ancestry search, I recently came across online the estate information of Edward Hamilton Gray of Bedford, who died May 12, 1900 at the Royal Albert Asylum. His estate of 56 pounds and change went to Sarah Caroline Gray, listed as his “widow”.

Colonel John Hamilton Gray of Prince Edward Island, Canada

It looks like Sarah moved to England, partly for a facility that could accommodate her son with mental disability, but also to keep his story “swept under the rug” to avoid damaging the general reputation of the Gray family in that era when things like that were felt to be important.

It is likely that Col. Gray decided on the middle names of “Edward Jarvis” for his youngest son in light of his admiration for his nephew Edward Worrell Jarvis (1846-1894), who had a dramatic career in Western Canada as a CPR surveyor, expedition leader, engineer and Royal Northwest Police superintendent.

As family historian, I am pleased to discover this information because it answers a lot of questions, but sad to think of the situation at the time. I know from family letters that my great-grandmother Bertha Gray Peters (1862-1946) took her five Charlottetown-born children (including my maternal grandmother Helen Peters Dewdney 1887-1976) to England some time in 1900 to live in Bedford for about a year and a half, where Helen and her four brothers (including Frederic Thornton Peters VC) went to private school. I think Bertha, who was a staunch Anglophile, thought the schools in England were far better than Canadian schools, so wanted to try them out at least. Ultimately, the cost was too much, so the family returned to Victoria, BC where father Hon. Frederick Peters had a law practice. So I suspect Bertha may have taken advantage of an invitation from her step-mother Sarah to stay at her Bedford house for an extended period. Attached are some images from my research, Sarah’s obituary in 1906, and pics of Col. Gray, Arthur Gray and Edward Jarvis. I have never seen pics of Sarah or Hamilton.

from British estate record 1900

Sarah’s other son, Arthur Gray, was a career soldier, including service in WW1 as an officer with the Royal Canadian Regiment. While stationed in Halifax, Arthur was seriously injured in the Halifax Explosion of December 1916, and went to England for treatment, marriage, and died there in 1924.

Arthur Gray is top right photo
Western Canada adventurer Edward Worrall Jarvis

John James Foote and Wilhelmine Edith James and Four Daughters Moved from Perth, Ontario to a New Life in Nelson, B.C. in 1899-1900

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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

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