Captain F.T. “Fritz“ Peters, VC is Among Six Former CPR Employees to be Honoured in a new Memorial at Canadian Pacific site in Calgary


by Sam McBride

On Remembrance Day 2021 I was very pleased to participate in the dedication of a new CPR memorial in Calgary, Alberta in honour of six former CPR employees who won the Victoria Cross in either World War One or World War Two.

At the ceremony I represented my great-uncle Capt. Frederic Thornton Peters, VC, DSO, DSC and bar, US DSC, RN, who had been a third engineer with CP Ships off the coast of British Columbia before earning the VC for his valour in leading the naval attack on the port of Oran, Algeria in the Allied invasion of North Africa in November 1942.

The ceremony followed strict Covid protection protocols which limited the number of attendees, but the event was live-streamed for TV viewing, and later made available on the CP web site.

I was interested to see that one of the other heroes honoured in the CP memorial was Captain Ronald Neil Stuart, VC, DSO, RD, who, like Fritz, was an officer with the Royal Navy. It is likely that the two knew each other, particularly in association with Q Ships in World War One. Q ships were Allied ships with hidden weaponry. They would appear to be helpless transport ships that would be an easy target for German u-boats. As soon as the u-boats above the surface of the water were in range, the gunnery would come out and start firing on the vulnerable enemy subs. Stuart`s service on Q ships was recognized in his decorations, while Fritz was captain of a ship that did a dramatic rescue at sea of Royal Navy crewmen whose Q ship had sunk. Stuart served under Capt. Gordon Campbell on a Q ship where he won the Victoria Cross in 1916. A year later, Fritz Peters led the rescue of Campbell and crewmen whose Q ship was sunk by a U-boat.

Fritz Peters in 1942. Family photo.

BACKGROUND and CITATION: “Frederick Thornton Peters was born in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, on 17 September 1889, son of the Attorney General and the first Liberal Premier of that province. He was educated at St. Peter’s Private School, later went to school in Victoria, British Columbia, and from there to Naval School in England.

He graduated as a midshipman and three years later he received his commission as a sub-lieutenant.

Peters’ military career encompassed three stints of service. After cadet training in 1905, he went to sea as a midshipman with the Channel Fleet, and then service on gunboats and destroyers in the China Station of Weihai before retirement as a lieutenant in 1913.

One of the jobs Fritz had after his first retirement from the Royal Navy in 1913 was as third engineer with Canadian Pacific Railway ships in the interior of British Columbia, including service on the Kootenay Lake sternwheelers.

He left that position when he rejoined the Royal Navy in August 1914 at the outbreak of the First World War.

During the First World War he was decorated with the Distinguished Service Order, the first ever given to a Canadian, and the Distinguished Service Cross for gallantry in action.

VC Action:

Frederick Thornton “Fritz” Peters was 53 years old, and a captain in the Royal Navy during the Second World War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC:

Operation Reservist (part of Operation Torch, the Allied landings in French North Africa) was an attempt to capture Oran Harbour, Algeria and prevent it from being sabotaged by its French garrison. The two sloops HMS Walney and HMS Hartland were packed with British Commandos, soldiers of the 6th US Armored Infantry Division and a small detachment of US Marines.

On 8 November 1942 Captain Peters, commanding in Walney, led his force through the boom towards the jetty in the face of point-blank fire from shore batteries, the sloop La Surprise, and the destroyer Epervier. Blinded in one eye, he alone of 11 officers and men on the bridge survived. Besides him, 13 ratings survived Walney sinking. The destroyer reached the jetty disabled and ablaze and went down with her colours flying. Captain Peters and a handful of men managed to reach the shore, where they

were taken prisoner. Hartland came under fire from the French destroyer Typhon and blew up with the loss of half her crew. The survivors, like those of Walney, were taken prisoner as they reached shore.

Captain Peters was also awarded the U.S. Army Distinguished Service Cross for the same actions.

Citation: “Captain Peters was in the ‘suicide charge’ by two little cutters at Oran. Walney and Hartland were two ex-American coastguard cutters which were lost in a gallant attempt to force the boom defences in the harbour of Oran during the landings on the North African coast. Captain Peters led his force through the boom in the face of point-blank fire from shore batteries, destroyer and a cruiser – a feat which was described as one of the great episodes of naval history. The Walney reached the jetty disabled and ablaze, and went down with her colours flying. Blinded in one eye, Captain Peters was the only survivor of the seventeen men on the bridge of the Walney. He was taken prisoner but was later released when Oran was captured. On being liberated from the gaol, he was carried through the streets where the citizens hailed him with flowers. He won the D.S.O. and D.S.C. in the last war. He was born in 1889.” – The London Gazette, 18th May 1943

Four other VC recipients who previously worked for CPR

In addition to Capt. Peters and Capt. Stuart, the other four Victoria Cross recipients who formerly worked for the Canadian Pacific Railway and are honoured at the new memorial are Sergeant Major John Robert Osborn VC, Private Michael James O’Rourke VC, Sergeant William Merrifield, VC, MM, and Private James Peter Robertson VC.

New CP memorial in Calgary in honour of Victoria Cross winners who formerly worked for the CPR. Dedicated Nov. 11, 2021

Six Leitch Family Victims of the 1903 Frank Slide Rest in Old Cranbrook Cemetery

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by Sam McBride

On a recent trip to Cranbrook, British Columbia I took the opportunity to visit the Leitch family graves in the Old Cranbrook Cemetery for the first time.

The infamous Frank Slide in the Crowsnest Pass in the early morning of Wednesday, April 29, 1903 smashed into the Leitch home, immediately killing the parents Alexander and Rosemary Leitch, and their sons John Alexander Leitch (born in 1890), Allan Roy Leitch (born in 1894), Athol Osbourne Leitch (born in 1896) and Wilfred Jamieson Leitch (born in 1898). The three daughters — Jessie, May and Marion — were all extremely fortunate to survive the slide.

The story of two-year-old Marion, who had been sleeping in her parents’ bedroom, miraculously ending up outside the house unhurt on a pile of hay caught the imagination of people throughout the world, including some who distorted and sensationalized her story claiming there was no identification associated with her, “so they called her Frankie Slide”. In truth, most Frank residents survived the slide, including Marion’s sisters. There was never any doubt about Marion’s identity — except among people who believed the myths associated with the slide, most notably the Frankie Slide distortion. Marion was raised by her uncle Archibald Leitch and his family in Cranbrook in the East Kootenay region of BC, then pursued music studies in Vancouver and settled in Nelson in the West Kootenay. She taught piano in Nelson for almost 50 years, and I remember her well as one of her students. In 2015 I recorded my memories of Marion in a story for the Nelson Star newspaper which won a provincial history writing award.

Seeing the gravestones of Marion’s relatives who died in the slide was a moving experience for me. There are three gravestones: one for the Leitch parents, one for the two older boys and one for the two younger boys. The graves are in the Leitch family section of the cemetery that includes their cousin Emma Leitch, who had died from tuberculosis at age 21 on April 15, 1903, just two weeks before the Frank Slide, and her father Archibald Leitch, who was prominent on the Cranbrook logging industry, and died in 1911. Marion (1900-1977) and her husband Larry McPhail are buried in Nelson Memorial Park.

Here are pics I took of the Leitch gravestones, as well as a poignant report in the Cranbrook Herald of the funeral at the Cranbrook Presbyterian Church on Sunday, May 3, 1903. Today, Frank in southwest Alberta is about a two-hour drive from Cranbrook, but in 1903 the only way to travel in that area was by rail. and the Frank Slide crossed and covered the CPR line. In retrospect, it is remarkable that all of the funeral, casket and burial arrangements could be completed in just a few days. Train arrangements were greatly hindered by the slide which crossed and covered the rail line. The bodies of the parents and two older boys were quickly found, but it took the team of rescuers several hours to recover the bodies of the two younger boys.

The gravestone for the parents is in the middle, with the two older boys buried together on the right, and the two younger boys buried on the left.

Moss is getting onto the gravestones.
. Stone for the two older boys buried together. Note the words “killed at Frank”
Gravestone for two younger boys Athol and Wilfred Leitch

Report in the Cranbrook Herald, May 7, 1903, of the Leitch family funeral on Sunday, May 4. 1903.

these three photos are from the tourist display at the Leitch Collieries provincial historic site in the Crowsnest Pass, named after Alexander’s brother Malcolm Leitch..
The best-preserved and most stylish gravestone in the Leitch plot at the Old Cranbrook Cemetery is the one for Alex Leitch`s brother Archibald Leitch and his wife Louisa Leitch. They raised their niece Marion Moore Leitch (1900-1977) at their home in Cranbrook after her family was decimated by the Frank Slide. Archibald was prominent in the community in lumber and railways. Sadly, Marion was teased as a young girl growing up in Cranbrook because of the Frankie Slide myth and song. The notoriety bothered her for the rest of her life. By the 1960s when I knew her as a piano student she was still bitter about the Frankie Slide nonsense.

The gravestone of Marion and Larry McPhail in Nelson Memorial Park. Marion was always proud of her Leitch ancestry, as is made clear on this memorial.

Marion Leitch as a young girl. By this age, she may have moved from Cranbrook to Vancouver where she received advance training in piano and music generally. Provincial Archives of Alberta photo

Editor note: For reference, here is the text of the article I wrote in 2015 for the Nelson Star about my long-ago piano teacher Marion Leitch McPhail, titled `The Nelson Woman Who Hated Being Famous`

`Don`t ever ask Mrs. McPhail about the Frank Slide!“

That was the warning my mother Dee Dee gave me as I left home to walk a half mile to Marion McPhail`s house at 808 Carbonate Street for my first piano lesson with her. Earlier that day my father Leigh and grandmother Helen separately told me not to mention the Frank Slide in the presence of Marion McPhail. It was September of 1960 and I was an eight-year-old apprehensive about what was going on.

I remember finding it hard to imagine the large, red-haired lady with horn-rimmed glasses in her sixties as the baby who miraculously survived unhurt after Turtle Mountain crashed down on the coal-mining town of Frank in 1903. The story I heard from family and friends was that everyone in Frank except Baby Marion died in the Frank Slide. The topic would inevitably come up in our annual drives from Nelson through the Crowsnest Pass to visit relatives in Alberta. Someone would always comment on the enormous boulders on each side of the road, and that bodies of victims of the slide – perhaps Mrs. McPhail`s relatives — were entombed directly below us.

I learned later that Marion`s older sisters Jessie and May Leitch also survived the slide, as did about 90 per cent of the residents of Frank, as their homes were safely away from the slide path. The Baby-Marion-As-Sole-Survivor story was one of several myths about the Frank Slide that would bother Marion for the rest of her life.

For her, the most annoying nonsense was “The Ballad of Frankie Slide“, a simple rhyme of unknown origin that told of the little baby discovered alone on a pile of straw with no identification, “so they called her Frankie Slide“. The line about calling the baby Frankie Slide was used again in the Stompin` Tom Connors 1968 song “How the Mountain Came Down“.

As it turned out, I managed to get through four years of weekly piano lessons with Marion without ever mentioning the Frank Slide. However, it instilled a curiosity in me that continues to this day, almost 40 years after she died in Victoria at age 76 in 1977.

In recent years, I have visited the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre several times and corresponded with their staff and fellow researchers. Most of their information on Marion and the extended Leitch family came from Marion`s daughter Sheilah, who was driving by in September 2003 and decided to visit the Interpretive Centre. She provided a wealth of information on the Leitch family, and what really happened to them in the Frank Slide, and after.

Marion`s parents Alexander and Rosemary Leitch were born in Quebec and settled in the late 1880s in Manitoba where Alex joined his three brothers in flour milling at Oak Lake. By 1899 Alex had moved to Killarney, Manitoba where he operated a grain elevator. Government records show that Marion Moore Leitch was born December 29, 1900 in Killarney in the sub-district of Turtle Mountain – ironically the same name as the mountain in the southwest corner of the future province of Alberta that would collapse into the Frank Slide at 4:10 am on April 29, 1903.

Marion Leitch McPhail and daughter Sheilah in Nelson, BC in about 1940. Provincial Archives of Alberta photo.

In 1901, after the Killarney grain elevator burned down, Alex bought a general store in Blairmore. A year later, after bringing his family from Manitoba, he saw that the new town of Frank just a few miles away was booming, so they moved there and established the Leitch General Store. He bought a cabin and renovated it for his large family. They were a musical family who regularly gathered around the piano to sing songs. “We had brought a great many books with us, and were a happy, congenial family,“ Jessie Bryan wrote in a 1950 Winnipeg Free Press article on the Frank Slide.

Jessie, age 15 in 1903, wrote: “Falling asleep on that quiet, moonlit night, I awoke to the sound of a rumbling roar transcending description. “ She and sister May, 10, were unhurt because the iron frame of their bed shielded them from the weight of debris from above. Ironically, one of the first rescuers on the scene was Rev. Andrew MacPhail, the same name (though with different spelling) as Larry McPhail who Marion married in Nelson 24 years later.

“Someone heard a baby crying nearby, and found the infant daughter of the family lying in a pile of debris, partly sheltered by the angle of a broken roof,“ according to Jessie. Marion was 27 months old and definitely not a newborn baby as depicted in the Frank Slide myths.

The three girls were taken to an undamaged home and given other children`s clothes to wear. A stranger told them their parents and four brothers were dead, and their uncle Archibald Leitch was coming from Cranbrook to take them back with him. Archie Leitch had moved west in 1897 to establish Cranbrook`s first sawmill, and in 1903 was president and managing director of the East Kootenay Lumber Company.

The funeral at the Cranbook Presbyterian Church for the six members of the Leitch family on May 3, 1903 was packed to overflowing with mourners, according to the Cranbrook Herald. The six bodies were laid to rest in the Cranbrook cemetery.

The extended family decided that Marion would remain in Cranbrook to be raised with Archie`s family, and Jessie and May would go to Manitoba to be raised by uncles Angus and Malcolm. In 1907 Malcolm Leitch moved to Passburg, Alberta, on the east side of the Crowsnest Pass, to start the coal-mining venture that became known as Leitch Collieries, which today is a provincial historic site.

Today, the Frank Slide is a tourist attraction with an excellent interpretive centre.

Marion grew up in Cranbrook, and later went to stay with other relations in Vancouver where she attended high school , UBC, and received advanced piano training before settling in Nelson to make a living teaching piano and, to a lesser extent, French. The 1924 Wrigley`s B.C. Directory lists her as a music teacher residing at the Strathcona Hotel in Nelson. She married Lawrence Alexander McPhail, son of a pioneer Nelson family, in Nelson on January 11, 1927. Larry became Registrar of Titles at the Land Registry Office and was active in many Nelson charities and civic organizations, including the Nelson Little Theatre where he was stage manager for a number of shows. Marion was much less involved in community groups, aside from the local branch of the Registered Music Teachers of B.C. and the Soroptomist Club. Marion and Larry enjoyed going to parties and entertaining friends at the house.

My mother told me that she and other longtime friends of Marion were often apprehensive about what new acquaintances would say when they met Marion. She was offended when people would jokingly say “Oh, I know how old you are!“, counting back the years to the Frank Slide. Marion lost her temper when people argued with her about the Baby Marion/Frankie Slide stories they had heard and believed to be true.

In an interview with Vancouver News Herald writer (and future Member of Parliament) Barry Mather in 1949, Marion said “I was found outside near where our house had stood. No, I don`t know how I got there. The stuff they write every now and then about the Frank Baby makes me so angry. And there was no mystery about what happened to me after the slide. My uncle, Archie Leitch, looked after me. I was brought up in Cranbrook. And later in Vancouver. And my two sisters who lived were looked after by an uncle in Manitoba.“

A few years later Marion arrived home from an outing and found writer William Worden waiting beside her front door with questions on the Frank Slide. “That thing again! Won`t it ever stop? All my life people have been looking at me as if I belonged in a zoo, just because of what happened to our family,“ she said in Worden`s four-page feature story in the January 1, 1955 issue of the popular Saturday Evening Post magazine.

Marion continued: “Have you ever heard the song? It’s a mountain ballad of the worst sort – and about whom? About ‘Frankie Slide,’ the poor little baby who never knew her own name. Leitch is a good Scottish name, and I’ve known it was mine all my life. But every year, on the anniversary at least, they put that horrid thing on the radio again – and people start ringing my telephone.”

“That isn’t all. There was a radio play written, all about Frankie Slide again – and they’ve repeated it two or three times. People keep talking about me being the only survivor – but nobody seems to know how that story started. Of course, I don’t know anything about the slide or remember anything. I was a baby then – and I’m not a hundred years old now, although most people seem to expect me to be. Come inside now. I want to put on my shoes. I can’t get mad properly with my shoes off,“ she told Worden, who described Marion as a “charming matron“. According to Sheilah, her mother regarded the Worden article as the most accurate telling of the Frank Slide story.

The 1979 book “Crowsnest and Its People“ by the Crowsnest Pass Historical Society describes Marion in her Nelson years as “very crusty“. I chuckled when I read that because that was how I remembered her. As a piano teacher, she was a tough, no-nonsense taskmaster who had strong opinions and was blunt in letting you know about them. My sister Eve remembers Marion rapping her knuckles with a pointer during her piano lessons. I don`t remember that happening to me, but she often looked as if she was about to explode at me in anger, usually for not practicing as much as I was supposed to. She could tell very soon in each session how much I had practiced since she last saw me. Her displeasure was communicated by the loudest sighs I ever heard, and the most extreme eye-rolls.

She took the piano training extremely seriously and expected her students to as well. Her most effective tactic in getting students to work hard was to schedule them to perform in public recitals and

in the annual West Kootenay Music Festivals, where the fear of making a fool of yourself and losing to Trail competitors was a powerful motivator.

I never saw Marion play the piano in a public performance, but often towards the end of my lessons she would play for a few minutes beside me on the piano bench in hope that I might benefit from seeing how she did it. She would close her eyes and flawlessly play by heart some complex classical music (usually Bach, her favourite composer) that used just about every key on the keyboard. As a pianist, she had the great advantage of long fingers, made strong and supple through many thousands of hours of piano scale exercises (which I neglected to do because they were so boring). I could sense how much she loved the music, and thought perhaps it eased the pain of being falsely known as Baby Marion and Frankie Slide all her life.

I never knew how good a piano teacher Marion was because she was the only one I encountered. I recently talked to Tom Shorthouse of Vancouver who was a student of Marion`s in Nelson in the 1940s, and he had nothing but the highest praise for her as a person, musician and teacher.

My other music involvement at the time was the Nelson Boys Choir led by Amy Ferguson, whose career as a music teacher in Nelson largely coincided with Marion`s. Choir practices and performances were extremely relaxed and enjoyable compared to piano ones.

Sheilah Lawrence McPhail was a medal-winning skater with the Nelson Figure Skating Club and graduated from the new L.V. Rogers High School in 1956. She married Peter Yorke in 1966 and settled in Victoria, where daughters Jenny Lynn and Melinda Leitch were born.

Larry McPhail had a heart attack and died in 1965. In 1971 Marion retired after nearly half a century of teaching piano and moved to Victoria, where she died November 11, 1977.

Marion is buried alongside Larry in Nelson Memorial Cemetery. The name on her side of the tombstone is Marion Moore (Leitch) McPhail – one last reminder that she knew her name and was proud of it.

Copy of application for Canadian Old Age Pension was a great source of information about grandfather E.E.L. “Ted“ Dewdney


by Sam McBride

A document that has been very valuable to me as family historian is my maternal grandfather Ted Dewdney`s application for Old Age Pension in 1951, with payments to begin in 1952.

This was well before the age of photocopying, so he just filled out the application with signatures twice, and kept one copy as reference in case there were problems in receiving pension payments. Also perhaps as a model for his wife Helen subsequently applying for her OAP.

first page of Ted Dewdney pension application
insert in OAP application including details of Ted Dewdney`s transfers by his employer Bank of Montreal
final page of Dewdney OAP application

As a history-minded fellow, he may also have thought his descendants might be interested to see where he lived and worked over the years. He moved several times as a boy, as his father Walter received appointments as provincial agent and gold commissioner in the Fraser Valley and Okanagan regions of B.C. He began a 43-year career with the Bank of Montreal in Victoria a month before his 17th birthday in 1897, and retired as BMO branch manager in Nelson in the West Kootenay region of southeastern B.C. in 1940.

Pics here are of him as a young bank clerk, and more than half a century later holding me as a baby, a few months before his death in Nelson in July 1952.

I doubt that application forms of other Canadians in that era would have been kept by the government after the person died, but perhaps they were, and could be a valuable source of information on ancestors for other family historians.

If nothing else, the design and content of the OAP application form reflect the deep concern the government had that someone might claim the pension who did not meet the residence criteria. Also interesting to see the line in French in very small print at the end of the document — a far cry from the fully bilingual government forms of the current era.

Ted Dewdney holding baby grandson Sam McBride in late 1951, about the time he applied for Old Age Pension

Here are some other photos of Ted and his relatives over the years.

Ted with his family in about 1925 in Rossland. From left: son Peter, wife Helen Peters, daughter Dee Dee, and daughter Eve.
Ted (right) with older sister Rose and older brother Walter, September 1891, Vernon, BC
Ted with daughter Dee Dee in front of 820 Stanley Street house in Nelson, BC, 1942.
Ted in his office at the bank in Nelson, in about 1938.

Ted with a bank colleague, in about 1898.

Looking forward to a new Kaslo Library!

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By Sam McBride

I am a big fan of libraries, and also a big fan of the small, but vigorous and amazingly scenic, community of Kaslo, on the west coast of Kootenay Lake in southeastern British Columbia.  That is why I am a strong supporter of the campaign to build a new Kaslo Library in downtown Kaslo to better serve the needs of the community for years to come.

In my ongoing research into my family tree, as well as my continuing interest in general stories of West Kootenay history, I often visit the existing Kaslo Library, which has a Local History section second to none in the region.   But it is obvious that they are cramped for space in aging quarters, which restrict the library’s ability to put on programs and special events in response to community needs.

Downtown Kaslo site currently reserved for a new Kaslo Library. Hard to beat the magnificent setting, and handy location across from the Kaslo Hotel, and between Front Street Park and the Post Office. The kiosk has a selection of books, as well as information on the library proposal.

The project has secured a terrific site for the new library.  It is right where the action is on Front Street, in land next to the Post Office, and across from the Kaslo Hotel and Front Street Park.  Details of the new Kaslo Library are at

I am looking forward to participating in the big fund-raising Auction coming up in the last week of April.  I will be offering 10 hours of my service as a genealogist and family historian, as one of the items up for bidding in the auction.  I offer expertise from 30 years of experience of family history writing and research, as well as full subscription access to the records of,, ancestryDNA,  and other sources.  As a fourth-generation resident of the West Kootenay region, I regularly make postings in Facebook groups devoted to nostalgia and history.  For information on the auction —

Here are other photos I took recently of the site for the new library, which now has a kiosk with books as well as illustrations and details of the new library.

View of the site looking back to the historic Langham Hotel

I started this blog in 2011 to help in communications associated with my book “The Bravest Canadian: Fritz Peters, VC, DSO, DSC and bar, RN — the Making of a Hero of Two World Wars” that was published in 2012 by Granville Island Press. After the marketing campaign for the book concluded, I have continued to do postings in the blog on family history and local history, which in my case tend to intersect over time.

The Finglands of California related to Dewdneys of West Kootenay are likely also related to the pioneer miner the Fingland Cabin in Silverton is named after

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By Sam McBride

I have long been curious about a possible family connection between my uncle John Archibald “Jack” Fingland (1907-1997) and the historic Fingland Cabin in Silverton, which is just south of New Denver, and about 20km from the mining ghost town of Sandon where Jack was born. 

The information I have from family files is that Jack’s father John James Fingland (who was also known as Jack, as well as JJ, born in Hawick, Roxburgh, Scotland  in 1878 and died in Trail, BC in 1945) came from Scotland with wife Ethel Andrew (1880-1962) and young daughter Dorothy (born in Spain where her father was working in July 1902) to Sandon in 1906, where he established an assaying business.  The family was in Sandon for a short while before moving to Kaslo, and then to Trail in 1917 where JJ Fingland worked for the Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company (abbreviated as CM&S, later known as Cominco and now Teck), rising in the company to be superintendent of refineries. 

In the early 1920s, the father John Fingland built a house for his family at 102 Ritchie Avenue in Tadanac, which was later the home for many years of Eve’s brother Peter Dewdney and his wife Maxine and family.

obituary in the Trail Times newspaper of February 5, 1945

In the 1920s son Jack studied mining engineering at the University of California at Berkeley, where he was captain of the Bears hockey team.  After returning to the Kootenays for mining work Jack met my mother’s older sister Evelyn Mary Lawrence “Eve“  Dewdney (1913-2002).  They married in Nelson in 1933, and settled in Kimberley where Jack worked for CM&S.

Eve was born in Vernon in 1913, and moved with her family to Greenwood, New Denver, Rossland, Trail and then Nelson as her father E.E.L. “Ted” Dewdney (nephew of the trail-builder Edgar Dewdney) was transferred by his employer, the Bank of Montreal.  Her mother was Mary Helen Peters (born in Charlottetown, PEI in 1887 and died in Trail, BC in 1976) who was a daughter of Frederick Peters (1852-1919) and Bertha Hamilton Susan Gray (1862-1946).  The family lived in quarters above the BMO bank in New Denver when Ted was branch manager there between 1916 and 1920.  In May, 1917 son Frederic Hamilton Bruce “Peter“ Dewdney was born in New Denver.  Then in Rossland in June 1924 the third and last child, my mother Rose Pamela “Dee Dee“ Dewdney was born. 

John James Fingland, assayer in Sandon and Kaslo and later Cominco executive in Trail. Family photo.

After retiring from CM&S JJ Fingland moved to Victoria, where he died at age 67 in 1945.  In the early 1950s my uncle Jack, aunt Eve and their children Suzanne, Jim and Diane moved to California where Jack established a construction contracting business. 

In the 1980s Suzanne and husband Buzz Feldman bought a summer cottage at Woodbury.  Among their guests over the years was her father Jack, who remembered growing up in nearby Kaslo, where photos were taken of he and sister Dorothy tobogganing.  He did not know of any family connection to the pioneer Fingland Cabin in Silverton, but enjoyed at least one visit to it and was quite interested in the story described in signs at the cabin and in tourist literature.

JJ Fingland and wife Ethel, about 1925. Family photo

From my own visits to the Fingland Cabin as well as online searches, the cabin got its name from longtime resident Alfred “Fred” Raymond Fingland, who was born in Ontario in 1865 and died in Vancouver in 1952.  Fred Fingland’s father William Fingland (1832-1906) was born in Ontario, son of George Fingland, who was born in the small community of Dumfries in southwest Scotland in about 1800. 

Jack and Eve Fingland on California coast, about 1980. Family photo
Eve and Jack Fingland beside their longtime home in Moraga, California

JJ Fingland’s father Samuel Fingland and grandfather Walter Fingland are also listed as being born in Dumfries, Scotland, which suggests there was likely a family connection between the two Fingland families years ago. Hopefully, a genealogist with expertise in Scottish ancestry will someday investigate this question. 

Fingland Cabin at Silverton is a tourist attraction.
Fingland cabin at Silverton
A.R,. Fingland obituary in Vancouver Province, October 24, 1952

Publicizing a Touring Performance at Nelson, BC in 1902 by Hanging a Banner on a Streetcar Failed to Attract Enough Customers

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Most of the photos in my grandmother Winnie Foote McBride’s collection lack specific identification, but this one of a scene at Ward and Vernon intersection dates itself with a banner on a streetcar promoting a July 11, 1902 performance at the Nelson opera house by visiting entertainers Marietta Ladell and Teresa Flanigan.

Intersection of Ward and Vernon streets in Nelson, BC. Date is identified by banner on streetcar publicizing a show at the Nelson Opera House on July 11, 1902 featuring performers Mariette Ladell and Teresa Flanigan. Winnie Foote Collection

It looks like construction work is happening on the heritage building that today houses Touchstones.I did a search on the BC Historical Newspapers web site, and saw a write-up in the Nelson Daily News of July 12, 1902, which is posted here.

Article in July 12, 1902 Nelson Daily News

The Daily News writer suggests that the performers made a big mistake in not advertising their event in the paper, resulting in the event being cancelled due to lack of attendance. In another search, I found an ad promoting the pair in a concert with others in the Winnipeg Tribune of May 8, 1902, posted here.

Perhaps they missed the deadline for ads in the Nelson paper, or just could not afford it, and thought they could attract enough people by putting a banner on a streetcar that many would see and spread word to others. Online searching shows that Ladell was an elocutionist and impersonator, while Flanigan was a soprano singer. Based on news articles, Ladell was on the road with different partners for many years, performing in small towns in Canada and the U.S.

From Perth to Nelson to Medicine Hat: the Story of Gladys Edith Foote (1893-1966)

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By Sam McBride

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

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

Glad in Nelson, BC in about 1903

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Glad and Colin Moir, about 1920
Glad, about 1920

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

Framed Photos of Bering Sea Claims Commission Members in December 1896 in Victoria, British Columbia

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By Sam McBride

A while ago I inherited an interesting, but cumbersome, family history artifact. It features studio portraits of five men, under glass, in a heavy wood frame.  There is no information on the artifact, except for the signatures below photos of four of the men, one of whom noted the date Dec. 17, 1896.  

As family historian, I knew the man on the left was my great-grandfather, the Hon. Frederick Peters (1852-1919), who was a lawyer and premier of Prince Edward Island from 1891 until 1897, when he resigned and moved his family from Charlottetown to Victoria, BC where he set up a law partnership with another man in the photo group, Sir Charles Hibbert Tupper (second from the right) from Nova Scotia, whose service earlier in the Bering Sea seal-harvesting international dispute while he was federal minister of marine and fisheries earned him a knighthood.  Both Peters and Tupper (1855-1927) were elected as vice presidents at the initial meeting of the Canadian Bar Association in September 1896. 

Bering Sea Claims Commission 1896

With some searching I learned that the 5 men in the frame were members of the Bering Sea Claims Commission which had hearings and other meetings in Victoria during the winter of 1896-1897.  Others in the display are Victoria lawyer Ernest Victor Bodwell (far right) and U.S. representatives Charles Beecher Warren (second from left) and Robert Lansing (middle).  Lansing (1864-1928) would serve as U.S. Secretary of State under President Woodrow Wilson in WW1.  Warren (1870-1936) would serve as U.S. Ambassador to Mexico and later Ambassador to Japan. 

Bodwell (1856-1918) represented the government of British Columbia in the Claims Commission.  He had been a founding member and president of the Victoria Board of Trade, and as an immigration lawyer.  Fred Peters was the only one of the group not to sign his photo in this display, probably because it was his copy and he saw no need to sign it.  He did the Bering Sea work on the side, supplementing the modest salary of $1,400 a year he received as PEI premier.

Hon. Frederick Peters

To get good scans of the photos I took them out of the frame, and was pleased to find them in excellent shape. After checking online, I found the same photo group and frame is in the archives of Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.  The sealing dispute was important historically because it examined issues that would become part of international fishing disputes.  The British/Canadian side came out victorious in the sealing dispute, which left a sour taste with the Americans.  They got the last laugh in 1903, when they won the Alaska Panhandle in the Alaska Boundary Dispute. 

Peters and Tupper were excited by the prospects of an economic boom on the West Coast, particularly with the oncoming Klondike Gold Rush.  They were also impressed by the mild Victoria winter weather compared to their home provinces in the Maritimes.

Charles Warren
Robert Lansing
Sir Charles Hibbert Tuppeer
Ernest Bodwell

Tupper and Peters stayed at the Mount Baker Hotel while their adjacent homes designed by architect J.G. Tiarks were built in Oak Bay, known as Annandale and Garrison House.   Their families, including my maternal grandmother Mary Helen Peters (1887-1976, known to all as “Helen”), joined them in the summer of 1898.  The men parted ways in about 1902, with Peters continuing in Victoria and Tupper in Vancouver.  The move west never panned out financially for Peters as he hoped.  The family moved to Esquimalt in about 1909, and then in 1911 to Prince Rupert, where Fred once again hoped to get in early on a boomtown, and again found disappointment.  Helen, who was the eldest child, remained in Victoria, where she married E.E.L. “Ted” Dewdney in 1912, and they moved to Vernon where he had been transferred by his employer, the Bank of Montreal.   Fred Peters worked as city solicitor for Prince Rupert and later also as city clerk, helping the city through difficult financial times.  Grief-stricken after the death of sons Jack and Gerald Peters in WW1, Fred died in 1919 and was buried at Ross Bay Cemetery in Victoria, next to daughter Violet Avis Peters, who died at age six in 1905 when her nightdress caught fire due to her being too close to one of the fireplaces at Garrision House.  A third son, Capt. Frederic Thornton Peters, would die in WW2 in 1942 after winning the Victoria Cross in the Allied invasion of North Africa.  Another son, Noel Quintan Peters (1894-1964) had a moderate, but noticeable, mental disability that led to him being bullied and rejected for military service in the First World War, which resulted in more extensive bullying for not serving in the war.  In 1917, Noel was finally accepted into the Canadian Forestry Corps.  Helen Dewdney was the only one of six Peters children to have children. 

Violet Avis Peters (1899-1905)

Fred’s widow, Bertha Hamilton Gray (1862-1946) was the youngest daughter of the PEI Father of Confederation Colonel John Hamilton Gray and Susan Bartley Pennefather.  In 1915 she travelled to England to be close to her sons who were there for war service.  She was devastated by the deaths of sons Jack and Gerald, particularly Gerald who was her favourite child.  Desperate to contact Gerald in the afterlife, she became keen on spiritualism and seances with mediums, which her son Fritz and daughter Helen strongly disapproved.  After returning to Canada in December 1916 she said she could not bear to return to Prince Rupert with so many memories of Jack and Gerald, so she moved in with Helen’s family in New Denver in the West Kootenay region of southeastern British Columbia, where Ted Dewdney was posted as branch manager.  She would continue living with the Dewdney family in Rossland after Ted was transferred there by the bank in 1920, then in nearby Trail 1927-29, and then in Nelson in 1929 where Ted retired in 1940.  Bertha stayed with them and their children in Nelson until her death in 1946 at age 84.  Through each of these moves, Bertha took the framed group of photos of the Bering Sea Claims Commission.  Daughter Helen looked after it for some time, and then for many years it was in her son Peter Dewdney’s basement in Trail, B.C.  Knowing my interest in the family history, it was passed on to me a couple of years ago, and I have enjoyed investigating its origins and content. 

Hallowe’en “tricks” helped in 1952 campaign for new school construction in Nelson, British Columbia

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by Sam McBride

On Saturday, November 1, 1952 a group of more than a dozen high school students in Nelson, British Columbia, Canada spent the morning washing windows of stores on the main drag known as Baker Street, as they promised in notes they left under the store doors after they wrote the words “Vote Yes on the School Bylaw” in soap on the windows on Hallowe’en night. 

The backstory is that school district #7 that primarily contains Nelson had been stymied in its efforts to get funding for construction of new schools and facilities needed in the Baby Boom era.  At the time, the provincial government required local voters to approve a bylaw for the local share of the cost of new school construction.  Previous attempts at such a bylaw had been rejected by voters in low-turnout elections.  In the fall of 1952 the district trustees reached out to local businesses, students and others in the community in an all-out effort to gain support for a $2 million school construction program. 

On the morning after Hallowe’en 1952 a team Nelson High School students washes the outside windows of Wait’s News after soaping the windows on Hallowe’en night with messages encouraging residents to vote yes on the school construction program.  This photo from the 1956 Mountaineer historical yearbook shows Dorothy Foster, Mary Ann Swanson, Maureen Patterson and Doug Ife among the student wash crew.

Another “trick” of students on Hallowe’en night 1952 was to deliver 2,000 flyers to businesses and houses with the rhyming phrase “We have left your property unmolested, Please vote for the bylaw as suggested”.

As reported in the Nelson Daily News, on Nov. 5, 1952 the bylaw passed by a wide margin, enabling, among other things, construction of a new high school which opened for classes in March 1956, named in honour of longtime principal L.V. Rogers.

Remembering enthusiastic B.C. family historian, Judge R. Blake Allan

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By Sam McBride

Tomorrow, May 18, 2020, will be the 11th anniversary of death of my first cousin (once removed) Robert Blake Allan (1916-2009) in his 93rd year.  He was named after his uncle Robert Blake Allan who was killed in action in 1915 in World War One.   He was known through his life to one and all by his middle name “Blake”.

thumbnail_blake article called to the bar

Blake graduated from University of Alberta law in 1942

He excelled as a law student at the University of Alberta, then as a soldier in England in World War Two, then as a lawyer in partnership with my dad (his first cousin) Leigh Morgan McBride in Nelson, B.C. for 20 years in the firm of McBride and Allan, and then as a provincial court judge in Nelson and later in Victoria, before concluding  his career as Deputy Judge of the Tax Court of Canada.   But I think his greatest passion was for genealogy.

I have known quite a few “keeners” in my own experience in genealogy since the early 1990s, but nobody as energized and enthusiastic as Blake.

I had long had a casual interest in my family history, as it includes some famous historical names like Cunard and Dewdney, but I don’t think I would have ever become a genealogy buff without the example and inspiration of Blake.

rba named judge

1970 announcement in Nelson Daily News of appointment as provincial judge

Blake was born in Nelson, BC Oct. 7, 1916, son of Wilfrid Laurier Allan and Lillian Maud Foote.  A year later the family moved to Staveley, Alberta where the Allan family ran a general store.  The family grew there to include brother James Henry Grant Allan (1919-2010), sister Margot Francis Allan (1922-1932) and Alexander Arthur Allan (1925-2010).

The family returned to Nelson in 1931 when Wilfrid was appointed secretary-treasurer of the Wood Vallance Hardware Company, succeeding Alex Leith, who died just a few days before his scheduled retirement.  Blake went to the new Trafalgar Junior Secondary School and then Nelson High School.  From there he went to the University of Alberta in Edmonton, along with several friends from Nelson, including Graeme Steed, Leigh McBride and Peter Dewdney.    After three years of war service overseas (primarily in England) he worked as a lawyer in Vancouver for a couple of years before returning to his native Nelson to join his cousin Leigh in the law partnership known as McBride and Allan, with offices at 415 Baker Street on the second floor above where Ted Allen’s Jewellery is today.  After his judicial appointment, Blake served as a judge based in Nelson for several years before transferring to Victoria, BC, where he lived the rest of his life.

He caught the genealogy bug in the late 1970s.  After moving to Victoria he joined the Victoria Genealogical Society, and was a member for about 30 years, including a decade or so as VGS Secretary.

I remember in about 1991 my dad Leigh passed on to me letters he received from Blake about the family tree.  As a history buff, Leigh was interested, but somewhat confused by Blake’s information and inquiries.   Others in the extended family made a joke about Blake’s obsession with family history, but I found it fascinating.  It got me going in family tree work and local history, which continues to be my overriding pastime in retirement years in the West Kootenay region of southeastern B.C.

Earlier in Blake’s life he tried coin collecting and stamp collecting as hobbies, but found them unfulfilling and overly competitive. Later, when he dipped his toe into genealogy while residing in Victoria, he found he really got a kick out of it, as there was always something new to learn, and another generation to pursue. He particularly liked the spirit of mutual support and collaboration with other family historians – much different from his previous hobbies.  His wife Ruth Alm was totally supportive of his genealogy obsession, saying once in amazement “he’s found relatives all over creation!”  Ruth was born in Kaslo, just a couple of sternwheeler stops on Kootenay Lake from Nelson where Blake was born.

What I found particularly remarkable about Blake was that he was as interested and helpful with sides of my ancestry that had no connection to him, as he was with the Foote line of our mutual ancestry. I was also impressed with his determination to learn computer word processing and the internet in his seventies in the early 1990s when they were much less user-friendly than they are today. Most folks in my dad’s generation did not even try, as it was so daunting.

As a former lawyer and judge, Blake knew his way around government offices.  He did not hesitate to complain if he received poor service from archives, libraries and various government authorities.  I recall him making a big stink when he viewed microfilm which was unreadable, even though the originals were quite clear.

from left, Blake Allan, cousin Ken G. McBride and Blake`s brother Alex Allan

The pic at right shows Blake, left, in 1942 in uniform in Nelson beside his cousin (and my uncle) Kenneth G. McBride (1920-1944), and his younger brother Alex Allan at right. Blake would serve in the Canadian Army in England for four years until returning home in 1946 to work as a lawyer until his judicial appointment in 1968.

The pic below is of Blake in about 1995 in Scotland, where he did extensive research on his Allan ancestors in the Orkneys who came to Canada with the Hudson’s Bay Company.


I was impressed with Blake’s determination to discover his roots, to the point that he rented cars in Britain well into his eighties, and drove in and out of the large cities, as well as on the scary one-lane roads in the outback.  He also drove fearlessly around Italy, which was his special love even though no family connections were there.

Perhaps the highlight of his research efforts was when he phoned a library in Ogdensburg in upstate New York asking about his great-grandfather Private John Foote who served in the Civil War, and the clerk who answered his call proved to be a second cousin with the same great-grandfather, and lots of documents about him seeking compensation for his war injuries year by year until his death in 1904.

Blake outlived just about everyone else in his extended family, and was as sharp as ever when I stayed with him at his Amblewood house en route to the funeral of our mutual friend Bruce Pelmore at the Royal Colwood Golf Club.  I am quite convinced that Blake’s enthusiasm for genealogy had a large part in extending his life, and still at the top of his game.

I remember Blake as wonderful source of information on our mutual family history, as well as sides of my ancestry not related to him.  I took a different approach to research and came up with other types of sources than his more traditional approach, but it worked well for both of us.


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