R.L. McBride (1881-1959) of Nelson BC was head of the Wood Vallance Hardware business and a tireless volunteer at the Nelson Golf Course and in many charities

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By Sam McBride

My grandfather Roland Leigh McBride (1881-1959) was an interesting fellow who had a large role in the business and sports scene in Nelson, BC  in the first half of the 20th century.  Born in London, Ontario, he worked for three years as a CPR ticket agent, and then his hopes and ambition led him to move west in 1900 to Calgary and then on to southeastern British Columbia and the gold-mining boom-town Rossland, where he worked as a hardware store clerk.

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R.L. McBride, on right, was known by middle name Leigh from early years

He moved to Sandon in 1903 to work for Byers Hardware, and ended up a year later in Nelson at the start-up of the new Wood Vallance Hardware operation which would dominate the region`s hardware store business for several generations.  He rose to manager in 1924 and then president of Wood Vallance, and retired in 1950 after 46 years with the company.

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R.L. McBride in Rossland, c. 1902

In local directories in the early 1900s, R.L. McBride was listed as a “traveller“, as he had a commercial travellers license and was often on the road meeting with potential and continuing suppliers and customers, as far west as Victoria and east to Montreal.

rl with collar jpgHis roster of personal contacts amounted to thousands across the country.  He used the opportunity of extensive travelling time on sternwheelers and trains to get to know fellow passengers and discuss their hardware needs with them – feedback he used in making decisions on what items to stock and pricing.

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Second from right, enjoying tea party on Nelson beach

His nephew Judge Blake Allan told me once that R.L. had an ebullient personality and was extraordinarily popular in the community.  “If he was in politics, nobody could have beaten him,“ Blake said.  I was just seven years old when he died in 1959, but I well remember his gentle friendliness and sense of humour.

During his years in charge of Wood Vallance, the company had an ongoing contract with the Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company of Canada Limited (Cominco — now Teck) to manage its purchasing function.  In this regard, R.L. worked closely with Cominco CEO S.G. Blaylock for more than a decade, often taking his sons with him on visits to Blaylock at the Trail smelter, which grew dramatically in the 1920s to become the largest lead-zinc production complex in the world.


R.L. McBride in Ward Street in Nelson, B.C., c. 1920s

As a businessman, McBride was ahead of his time in emphasizing customer service, marketing the Wood Vallance brand, and corporate sponsorship of local sports and charities.

In his early years in Nelson McBride was a keen curler, and played hockey with the Wood Vallance team in the local commercial league.  In 1908 he was elected president of the Nelson Hockey Club.  This was an exciting time for hockey in Nelson, as the superstar players of that era, Lester and Frank Patrick, were living in Nelson, and hopes were high that  Nelson might actually win the Stanley Cup.  Unfortunately, for various reasons – including a dispute about refereeing — that never happened.  While he apparently did not participate further in management of the hockey club, he was an avid Nelson Maple Leafs fan for the rest of his life.

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R.L. McBride was a proud member of the all-male Nelson Masonic Lodge, and the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite.  It is noteworthy that many of his friends, business colleagues and customers were also Masons, including Roy Sharp, Wilmott Steed, J. Fred Hume, and J.D. McBride.  His wife Winnifred Foote belonged to an affiliated organization, the Order of the Easter Star

rl freemasn 1 001On Sept 7, 1911 my grandfather married Eva Mackay Hume, daughter of prominent hotelier and politician J. Fred Hume and wife Lydia, in an elaborate wedding at the Hume summer home across the lake from Nelson known as Killarney-on-the-Lake.  Tragically, Eva and premature baby daughter Marjorie Dawn McBride died a year later from childbirth complications.

In December 1914 R.L. McBride married Eva`s best friend Winnifred May Foote (1889-1960), and their two children were my dad Leigh Morgan McBride (1917-1995) and brother Kenneth Gilbert McBride (1920-1944).  The story in my family was that on her deathbed Eva encouraged Win to get together with R.L. after her death.  I recently heard from a niece of Eva’s that her mother Freeda Hume Bolton told her that Eva whispered in R.L.’s ear “marry Winnifred”.  Through the ensuing years, the McBrides and Humes continued their friendship.

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R.L. as a young father

R.L. McBride`s friends called him by his middle name Leigh, but within the family we called him R.L. to distinguish him from my dad Leigh.

In the spring of 1919 he was a driving force behind purchase of farmland in the hilly Rosemont section of Nelson, and construction of the nine-hole Nelson Golf Course, financed by the sale of shares and memberships.  He served on the club executive almost continuously for the rest of his life.

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R.L. hitting a drive on the Nelson Golf and Country Club, c. 1930

Through his support, Wood Vallance was a regular sponsor of golf tournaments and trophies, and he personally paid for the McBride Cup presented to the winners of tournaments for senior-aged members.  His sons shared his passion for the game, and were top rate players, particularly Ken, who won numerous Kootenay tournaments, as well as provincial championships and inter-university events as captain of the UBC golf team, prior to enlisting in the army in 1942.

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With older son Leigh and his brother Ken

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with Ken in 1932

As reported in Sylvia Crooks` book “Homefront and Battlefront:  Nelson BC in World War Two“, Ken`s death in action in Italy in 1944 was a tremendous shock to the community, particularly his  parents, who were never the same as a result.

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Both Leigh (left) and Ken were officers in the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada regiment.  Ken died in action, and Leigh was seriously wounded, taken prisoner and to hospital by the Germans, and returned to Nelson in a prisoner exchange in February 1945.

Funds were raised within the golf club for a silver shield known as the Ken McBride Memorial Trophy, presented to winners of the Nelson Labour Day tournament starting immediately after the war ended in September 1945.

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Daily News report of retirement of R.L. McBride and Roy Sharp in 1950

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from Nelson Daily News, August 1950


from Nelson Daily News, August 1950

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invitation to retirement reception in honour of R. Leigh McBride and Roy Sharp in 1950.  The Whimster signature is of the printer, Bert Whimster, father of Lois Arnesen and Muriel Griffiths.  McBride Family  Collection.


R.L.`s community involvement over the years included serving on the hospital board, as well as the Red Cross, the Civic Centre project board, wartime bond drives, and with the United Church and the Association of Canadian Travellers.  He was particularly active during the world war years, in charge of bond drives, Red Cross support and events that welcomed soldiers back home from battle and responded to their needs.

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R.L. and Win with a friend, and SS Moyie in background.  C. 1951

He was in good health until his sudden death from a stroke in March 1959.  Though she was 8 years younger, his wife Win was in poor health in her later years, so everyone assumed she would die before husband R.L.   As it turned out, she lingered in care facilities for 15 months after his passing, before dying in July 1960.

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R.L. and Win McBride are buried in the Mason section of Nelson Memorial Park, next to the memorial stone for Eva Hume McBride and the premature baby who died a half century earlier.

sept 11 2014 006Also right beside the McBride gravesite is the grave of Roy Sharp and his family members.  Roy and R.L. were among the first five staff members when the Wood Vallance Hardware business began in Nelson in 1904.  Roy was always R.L.’s reliable second-in-command in the company, and the pair retired together in 1950.  Sharp was as active in the curling scene as McBride was in golf.  He served as president of the B.C. Curling Association in the 1930s, and led efforts to establish Nelson’s famous Midsummer Bonspiel.


Winnifred May Foote, born in 1889 in Perth, Ontario; came to Nelson, BC in 1900 at age 11; married R.L McBride in Nelson in 1914; died in Nelson in 1960

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My paternal grandmother Winnifred Mae Foote (1889-1960) was born in Perth, Ontario and came across Canada to Nelson, B.C. with her mother and sisters in 1900 to join her father Jim Foote who was working as a blacksmith at the Silver King Mine.  They lived in a rented cabin in the mine townsite before moving into Nelson in 1902 at a house by Cottonwood Creek and Hall Mines Road when Jim began working in construction with the City of Nelson.  Years later she recalled riding on the the mine’s spectacular tramway.

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Win with camera beside Kootenay Lake c. 1907


She was in a camera club where members took turns posing and practising photography techniques, and she learned how to make her own prints.  Many of these photos have been safely kept over the years in family albums.  Based on the pics, she had a happy time growing up in Nelson.  She worked as a Post Office clerk before marrying R.L. McBride in December 1914.

She died when I was 8, and was in poor health when I knew her, though she retained a playful disposition.  The big tragedy of her life was the death in action of younger son Capt. Kenneth Gilbert McBride in Italy in September 1944.

Edna Steed Whiteley, a neighbor who knew Win well, told me in 2006 that Win was never the same after Ken’s death.  These pics of her were taken either in Nelson or on Prebyterian or Methodist church outings at Proctor.  The pic of her welcoming son Leigh in Vancouver in February 1945 on his way home in a prisoner exchange ran in the Vancouver Sun newspaper.

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Win with male friend (perhaps Wilmot Steed) in c. 1907

Win was active for many years in the Nelson IODE, the Order of the Eastern Star, the Nelson Golf Club and the Nelson Curling Club.

I recently discovered that Win played ladies ice hockey between 1910 and 1912.  She was a forward in 1910, and then moved to the goalie position.  She played on teams that competed within Nelson, and also for the team of the best Nelson players that played against ladies teams of other cities.  I was amazed to learn that she was a member of the Nelson team in 1910 that was coached by Hockey Hall of Fame player Lester Patrick, who, along with brother Frank Patrick, was among the best players of the era.  Lester may well have become involved with the team at the urging of his sister Dora Patrick, who was a player and manager of the team.


Here are some more pics of her, from her youth until later years, including the local Daily News write-up of her marriage in 1914 and her obituary (written by her son Leigh) in 1960.

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Win with Nelson as backdrop c. 1907


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Win c. 1907



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Roy Sharpe in front, with Win Foote next from left c. 1907

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Win (top) with friends in a fun pose.

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Win on horseback c. 1907

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Win with friend Wilmot Steed c. 1907


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Win at left with her sisters and parents and Mr. and Mrs. Lilly (parents of Mrs. Steed, grandparents of Edna Whiteley


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pic from Craig Bowlsby book “Knights of Winter, the History of Hockey in BC 1895-1911” has my grandmother Win Foote second from the right




Win Foote, in middle of ice hockey teamates 1910




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Win c. 1910



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Win at far right with friends in Nelson








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The Foote sisters c. 1908.  From left, Win, Marion, Gladys, Isabel and Lillian.



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Win with baby Leigh 1918


R.L. and Win McBride c. 1915 in Nelson

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Win with son Leigh and baby Ken 1920






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Win with elder son Leigh and younger son Ken in Nelson c. 1923



From left, Ken, RL, Win and Leigh




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Win and.L. McBride with grandson Sam McBride and R.L.’s sister Edith Monroe c. 1953



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First Nelson Streetcar Head Frank Peters Had Fateful Golf Game with a U.S. President

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by Sam McBride

It was Friday, June 1, 1900, a day before the official public opening of the new eastern line of the fledgling streetcar system in Nelson, British  Columbia.

To publicize the event and build support for the new service, Francis White “Frank” Peters, founding president of the Nelson Electric Tramway Company, organized and led an advance tour of the new line and its stops for a group of Nelson businessmen, including Nelson Daily Miner newspaper editor Donald J. Beaton.  They knew Peters well from his day job in Nelson as assistant freight agent, Kootenay district, for the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR).


F.W. Peters, c. 1916, City of Vancouver Archives

According to Beaton`s report in the next day’s paper, the businessmen greatly enjoyed the tour, and were impressed by improvements the streetcar company made to the park facilities so as to increase passenger numbers and generate much-needed revenue for the fledgling company.

During a break in the tour, Peters playfully pushed a couple of the men on children`s swings to relive their youth, while the rest of the group enjoyed relaxing in a shady spot with a cool breeze.  Upon Peters’ return, a spokesman of the group announced they decided to name the park Petersville in his honor.  While the naming was essentially in jest, they stipulated that the beach area known as Lake Park would retain its name.

As it turned out, the beach and green space would become solidly, and affectionately, known as Lakeside Park.


Nelson’s streetcars were replaced by buses in the late 1940s, but today Streetcar 23 on a section out of Lakeside Park operates seasonally for tourists and locals.  I took this photo July 1, 2017 when the streetcar was free as part of the Canada 150 celebrations.

But the unauthorized Petersville naming reflected the high regard they had for Peters.  Two books on the history of Nelson streetcars – “Streetcars in the Kootenays” by Douglas Parker and “Hanging Fire and Heavy Horses” by Art Joyce – both note that F.W. Peters was popular and well-respected in the community.

His railway connection was valuable in getting the new service off the ground, as British investors, wary of investing in Nelson because its population of less than 7,000 was much less than that of other communities with streetcar systems, admired the CPR as a company and approved of a long-term CPR man being president of the local operating company.

The previous December Frank Peters was among the dignitaries who dutifully deposited a dime in the fare box to commemorate the official launch of the first stage of the new streetcar service, which would be a big part of life in the city until the aging system was replaced by buses in 1949.  But the romance and nostalgia of Nelson streetcars did not end there.  Thanks to the work of local volunteers in the Nelson Electric Tramway Society, a section of the streetcar line from Lakeside Park to the Prestige Inn has operated Streetcar 23 seasonally as a popular tourist attraction since 1992.

In the late 1890s Peters and fellow Nelson boosters pushed for a streetcar service as something Nelson as a booming mining town deserved, and particularly needed because of its steep streets.

In late 1900 Frank Peters faded away from Nelson histories when his employer transferred him to Vancouver with a promotion.  He had lived in Nelson since 1896 when the CPR transferred him in from Winnipeg.  Though just 36 years old when he arrived in Nelson, he had 23 years of experience in railroading.

One of Peters’ jobs with the CPR while in Nelson was to organize and lead a three-day excursion of West Kootenay VIPs (council and board of trade reps) commemorating the start-up in December 1898 of the company’s new Crowsnest Line that connected the Kootenays with southern Alberta and points east for the first time.

On December 7, 1898 about 100 representatives of West Kootenay councils and boards of trade – including well-known names in the region’s history such as J. Fred Hume, Colonel E.S. Topping, John Kirkup and J.S.C. Fraser — boarded the brand new sternwheeler S.S. Moyie at Nelson and steamed up the West Arm and down Kootenay Lake to Kootenay Landing (near Creston).


The S.S. Moyie, safely preserved in Kaslo, B.C. in October 2017. Almost 120 years ago Frank Peters organized a special excursion of the new Moyie sternwheeler to transport local dignitaries toward a rail excursion to commemorate the CPR`s new Crowsnest Railway.

From there the group boarded rail cars east to receptions and tours in Cranbrook and then Fernie, where they witnessed the first shipment of coke to the Trail smelter (which the CPR purchased along with mines and rail rights earlier that year from mining magnate F. Augustus Heinze).  Next stop was a banquet at Wild Horse Creek, and then return voyage on the Moyie from Kootenay Landing to Nelson, arriving on December 9th.

In his four years in Nelson Peters made many friends and business contacts – particularly fellow members in the Nelson Club — who kept in touch with him in years ahead when he rose to executive rank in the CPR.   He was a talented raconteur, with many stories and jokes to tell from the historic construction of the CPR main line across Canada. The Daily Miner would publish some of them, prefaced by the phrase “Here`s another one from Frank Peters…“.

His goal in his CPR work in Nelson was to increase freight tonnage – and resulting revenues — for the company. He met regularly with boards of trade, as well as companies and individuals in industries like mining and fruit ranching to see how they could work together for mutual benefit in getting their products to markets.

Peters was born March 25, 1860 in Saint John, New Brunswick, the same port where his great-grandfather James Peters arrived in 1783 leading a group of United Empire Loyalists who fled their homes in Long Island, New York after the American rebels won the Revolutionary War.


Frank Peters`ancestor James Peters (1746-1820), United Empire Loyalist from New York

The Peters family in the 19th century was prominent in the Maritimes as lawyers, judges and government administrators, but young Frank was fixated instead on the exciting new industry of trains and railways.

In 1873 at 13 he started work as a telegraph operator with the Intercolonial Railway in his native province.  From there he went to the U.S. where he worked for the Chicago and Grand Trunk Railway in Michigan before joining the CPR in Winnipeg as a billing clerk in 1881, the year of CPR’s incorporation.  For his part in the history of Manitoba, the Manitoba Historical Society includes Peters in its online gallery of Memorable Manitobans. http://www.mhs.mb.ca/docs/people/peters_fw.shtml

After Nelson, Peters became general freight agent and then assistant to CPR vice president William Whyte.  On behalf of his company, he responded to questions the Nelson Board of Trade and the Nelson Daily News had regarding construction of the CPR`s Kootenay Lake Hotel at Balfour, which opened in 1911.  It was in line with the CPR vision in the early 1900s of building tourist resorts in the Kootenays along the new “southern line” through B.C. in similar fashion to resorts near the CPR main line that included world famous destinations such as the Banff Springs Hotel and Chateau Lake Louise.

In 1912 Peters received his biggest and last promotion, becoming CPR`s general superintendent, B.C. division.

In 1916 the Canadian government, worried about shortage of facilities to care for the injured and sick soldiers returning from Europe, established a national Military Hospitals Commission, with Frank Peters one of two B.C. businessmen appointed as directors.  Peters, who lived with his wife Gertrude Hurd in the prestigious Shaughnessy neighborhood in Vancouver, was a driving force behind the construction of the Shaughnessy Veterans Hospital which opened in 1917 and served as a care facility for veterans until the 1990s.  At the same time, the CPR offered its luxury hotel in Balfour – virtually dormant due to lack of tourism in wartime — to the Commission, and it was used as a sanatorium for soldiers recovering from tuberculosis until 1920.  Unfortunately, the hotel had little appeal for tourists after serving as a sanatorium, and it was dormant for several years before torn down for building materials in 1929.

As the top CPR man residing in Vancouver, Peters was active in local and provincial business groups, serving as president of the Vancouver Club as well as the Canadian Club.  A keen golfer, he was president of the Shaughnessy Heights Golf Club in 1921.  His involvement with sports administration began in 1896 when he was president of the Manitoba Curling Association.  Three years later while in Nelson he was president of the B.C. Curling Association.


CPR B.C. superintendent Frank Peters (with handlebar moustache) greets President Warren Harding and wife Florence in Vancouver on July 26, 1923. Photo courtesy of City of Vancouver Archives

As a loquacious CPR executive, Peters was often approached by newspaper reporters for comments on CPR operations and the economy in general, particularly during and after his periodic inspection tours of the interior of the province.   In interviews in the 1920s he often commented on the success of the subsidiary company Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company Canada Limited (future Cominco and now Teck) having the world’s largest lead-zinc mine (the Sullivan) in Kimberley and the world largest smelter of its kind in Trail, while generating huge amounts of traffic between them on CPR lines in the Kootenays.

Peters had a memorable brush with U.S. presidential history in 1923.  President Warren G. Harding was in Alaska as part of a West Coast tour, and decided to stop at Vancouver, B.C. for a quick visit on July 26, 1923 on his way to Seattle.  Vancouver residents were proud their city was chosen as the site for the first visit to Canada of a sitting American president.

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U.S. President Warren Harding returning from golf game hosted by former Nelsonite Frank Peters at Shaughnessy Golf Course in Vancouver on July 26, 1923.  City of Vancouver Archives

Like many U.S. presidents, Harding enjoyed golfing.  Authorities decided that Frank Peters would be a good host for Harding, particularly in organizing a golf game at the Shaughnessy Club, renowned as one of the best 18-hole courses in North America.  Arrangements were made for a golf foursome including Harding, Peters, a Vancouver judge, and the club pro to play in the afternoon, accompanied by caddies and presidential security staff.  This followed a speech by Harding to a crowd estimated at 50,000 in Stanley Park.

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President Harding prepares for a tee shot at Shaughnessy Golf Club, hosted by Frank Peters, on July 26, 1923. City of Vancouver Archives.

After just six holes, Harding, 57, told his golf companions he was extremely exhausted and could not continue playing.   However, knowing that reporters and cheering fans would be beside the 18th green to greet him and he did not want to be questioned about his health, he suggested they rest for a while and then walk over to play the 17th and 18th holes, and his health problem would not be mentioned.


news story in Ottawa Journal with comments by F.W. Peters on the late president Harding caption

It would be Harding’s last round of golf.  Exactly a week later the world was shocked to hear of the president’s death from a stroke in San Francisco, with vice president Calvin Coolidge succeeding him as president.

As the Vancouverite who spent the most time with Harding during the visit, Peters was contacted by reporters for comments on his passing.   In an August 3, 1923 article in the Vancouver Daily World (as well as other newspapers across the country through wire services), Peters praised Harding as a determined golfer and good fellow who was courteous to spectators, including a one-legged veteran who he invited within the security ropes, assisted in setting up his camera equipment, and posed for a photograph.  “Kindness and consideration for other people — that was the keynote of the president`s personality,” Peters said.

After the death of Harding’s wife Florence in 1924 there was speculation she may have poisoned him in revenge for his affairs with mistresses.  She was with him when he died, and insisted he be immediately embalmed, not allowing for an autopsy.  In 2014 Harding’s end was the subject of a PBS documentary “The Strange Death of Warren G. Harding”.

Peters retired from CPR in 1926, but stayed on as a member of advisory groups and as a director of the CPR subsidiary Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railroad.  One speaker at his retirement event said Peters could not possibly retire completely because he was the only person in the county who understood Canada’s incredibly complex freight rates.

In 1927 his older brother Col. James Peters, who had been District Officer Commanding, British Columbia in the early 1900s , died in Victoria.  As a major in November 1887, James Peters was in command of a contingent of 100 men, accompanied by wives and children, who travelled on the new CPR line across Canada from Montreal to Vancouver, and then by ship to Victoria, where they served as Canada’s first West Coast defence force.

The death of Frank Peters in Vancouver after a short illness at age 73 on May 13, 1933 was front page news across Canada, including the Nelson Daily News, which mentioned his freight work in Nelson but not his long-overlooked role in getting streetcar service off the ground.    Noting his 60-year connection with trains, he was dubbed “The Grand Old Man of the CPR” and “The Grand Old Man of Canadian Railroading”.

In a tribute to Peters, CPR vice president D.C. Coleman said “Genial, kindly and approachable, he knew how, without loss of dignity, to gain the confidence and affection of the western people.  He played the game of life to the end with boyish zest, but always with an honorable respect for the rules“.

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Gertrude Wynyard Peters (1863-1937)

There are some interesting connections between Frank Peters and his famous CPR boss, Sir William Cornelius Van Horne (1843-1915).  Van Horne also began in the railroad business as a telegraph operator, starting at age 14 in 1857.  Van Horne and Peters both joined the CPR in 1881 after working for Chicago-based railroad companies.  Their wives had the same surname of Hurd.  Van Horne married Lucy Adeline Hurd in 1867 in Joliet, Illinois and Peters married Gertrude Wynyard Hurd in 1884 in Winnipeg.  Census data shows they were not sisters, but could have been cousins.  Widow Gertrude died Oct. 10, 1937 in New Westminster, BC.


Memorable Manitobans (http://www.mhs.mb.ca/docs/people/peters_fw.shtml)

City of Vancouver Archives

“Streetcars in the Kootenays” by Douglas Parker, 1992.

“Hanging Fire and Heavy Horses” by Art Joyce, 2000.

Shaughnessy Golf Course web site – history

Newspapers.com (Vancouver Daily World, Ottawa Journal and others)

Nelson Daily Miner

Nelson Daily News

Warren G. Harding & Stanley Park – History of Metropolitan Vancouver

A Peters Lineage, 1896


Knowles, Valeries, William C. Van Horne: Railway Titan, Toronto: Dundurn Press, 2010

Keep the West terminal of the Kootenay Lake Ferry in Balfour

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by Sam McBride

A reguular topic of discussion this summer in the West Kootenay region is the future of the Kootenay Lake Ferry.

Consulting company SNC Lavalin concluded in a study for the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) that the West terminal for the ferry service at Balfour be abandoned, and replaced by a new terminal to be constructed at a greenfield site at north Queens Bay, approx. 4 kilometers north of Balfour.

The government commenced public consultation on the issue at an open house in Harrop on June 15, 2016.  The original deadline for public feedback was July 6, 2016, and this was later extended to October 6, 2016.  The government has said that no final decision on the issue has been made, but the options have been narrowed down to either stay in Balfour and make improvements there, or build a new ferry terminal at north Queens Bay.

An online poll by the Nelson Daily showed that 85% of respondents chose the Balfour option over construction of a new terminal at a greenfield site.

For the record, here is my submission to the minister, and his response.  Also below are images that illustrate the situation.


July 6, 2016

TO: the Hon. Todd Stone,

Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure

Government of British Columbia


Cc:  MichelleMungallMLA@leg.bc.ca


RE: proposal to move the Kootenay Lake Ferry west terminal from Balfour to Queens Bay

Dear Minister Stone:

Please include me among West Kootenay residents who are against moving the ferry from Balfour in the West Arm to a previously undisturbed site at Queens Bay.

The West Kootenay is unusual in B.C. because its population today is actually less than it was 120 years ago, when Nelson, Rossland and the Slocan Valley were beehives of mining and mineral exploration.  While the rest of the province has grown and prospered in the last couple of decades, our region has generally stagnated.  Many of our problems are transportation-related, most notably our regional airport at Castlegar which has earned the nickname Cancelgar because of the extreme unreliability of service in winter months, which is a huge barrier to economic development.

While, on one hand, we admit with embarrassment to having the country`s worst regional airport, on the other hand we take pride in the Kootenay Lake Ferry cruise – known far and wide as The Longest Free Ferry Ride in the World.    It is the jewel in the crown of our region`s tourism industry.   I have taken the ferries (Anscomb, Balfour and Osprey) hundreds of time, and never once thought the trip took too much time.   I often take the opportunity of the voyage across the breadth of the lake to point out to guests and tourists the historical landmarks such as the Pilot Bay Smelter chimney and the Pilot Bay Lighthouse.

Sorry, but a shuttle service directly across the lake to a new terminal at Queens Bay would take all of the magic out of the journey.   It would be the hum-drum equivalent of the Fauquier-Needles ferry.   One less tourist attraction for a region with an endemically fragile economy.    No place would suffer more from a ferry terminal move that the town of Balfour, which stands to lose 60 jobs.   I think we have enough ghost towns already in the West Kootenay without adding Balfour to the list.  Jobs in the north end of Kootenay Lake are few and far between as it is, which has been a key factor in the threatened closure of schools in the region due to fewer student numbers.

Something missing in the studies that have been done on the ferry issue is detailed analysis of the freakish storms experienced on the Main Lake as opposed to the much calmer West Arm.  And the West side of the lake – particularly Queens Bay which is directly exposed to lake storms – has worse storms that the East Shore.   That is why you see boathouses on the West Arm and the East Shore, but not on the West Shore.

Many people assume that a lake is a lake, but Kootenay Lake is a mountain lake very different from prairie lakes or even the Okanagan lakes.    I recently did some research at the Touchstone Archives to see why Balfour was chosen to be the west side terminal for the ferry service.  In the summer of 1944 when plans for the new ferry service were being discussed, the Nelson Daily News reported a commercial group urging Queens Bay as site for the west  ferry terminal, but some old-time residents who knew the lake intimately from sternwheeler days came forward and said weather at Queens Bay was too hazardous.  They recommended Balfour as the proverbial safe port in a storm.

With 62 years of service, the MV Balfour has lasted longer than both the Moyie and the Anscomb.   I think everyone would agree that the Balfour is on its last legs.  But I think the response to this situation is to upgrade facilities at Balfour and buy a new energy efficient second ferry to replace the Balfour, rather than a high-risk, high-consequence move to a greenfield site.

At the open house at Harrop I asked engineers about back-up to the Osprey after the Balfour is de-commissioned.  One said they were looking at getting a motorized barge at the cost of about $11 million.  Another said that they would likely use a barge used elsewhere in the province which can be disassembled and transported to Kootenay Lake for re-assembly as a barge to be pushed across the lake when the Osprey was down for maintenance.

The idea of barge service replacing the magnificent and distinctive Kootenay Lake Ferry cruise is quite worrisome.  Friends of mine in Proctor say they dread it when the Harrop ferry is down for maintenance, because the motorized barge is extremely slow and problematic.    And that is for a relatively short distance across the West Arm.   Barge trips across Kootenay Lake would be a scary proposition, as bad weather can come up very quickly.

I have kayaked extensively between Balfour and Airnsworth, and had several close calls with stormy weather, including a terrifying experience when our two-man kayak was almost swept into the rocks at McEwan Point by heavy winds and strong current from the south.   And last August I watched in amazement as our 80-pound canoe parked upside down on a beach at Queens Bay was picked up by a squall and sent about 30 metres in the air down the beach about 100 metres and about 10 metres out into the lake.   If a person or open boat had been where the canoe was, who knows what would have happened to them.

According to the booklet “Historical Shipwrecks of the West Kootenay District“ by the Underwater Archaeological Society of British Columbia, a total of 48 wreck sights have been reported or located on the lake.  They say the largest category of wrecks involves barges.  Five have been located and eight more are rumoured.   The next largest category of wrecks is barges with rail cars.

I expect MOTI will always put safety first, and not send the Osprey, or, especially, a flimsy pre-fabricated barge, if there is any threat at all of bad weather.   One consequence of this would be a dramatic reduction in reliability of service in the Main Lake ferry.   I fear we would become known for bad ferry service year-round just as we are the laughing stock of the province for bad air service at Cancelgar in the winter!

The West Kootenay has contributed greatly to the economic development of B.C. through its mines, metal  processing, forestry operations, and hydro-electric operations through the years.   We don`t deserve to be thrown under the bus due to a highly speculative and risky ferry terminal move.  Please do the required dredging of the West Arm channel, upgrade the docks in Balfour, and obtain a new second ferry we can be proud of.   A new small-scale ferry could replace the Osprey through much of the year when there are less than 25 cars in line for ferry service, and thus extend the operating life of the Osprey and reduce operating costs at the same time.

Yours truly.

Sam E. McBride

202 – 719 11 Avenue

Castlegar, B.C.  V1N 1J7



257989 – Balfour Ferry Terminal

Thank you for your correspondence concerning the ministry’s work to address challenges at the Balfour Ferry Terminal.

Our inland ferry system is an integral part of the transportation network for the region and a vital asset for Kootenay communities, and we recognize its importance to local tourism and economic interests. The safety and reliability of ferries and terminals are also key considerations in our long-term transportation strategy. There are a number of issues that impact the operation of the ferry service at the existing terminal that led the ministry to initiate a study in 2015 to assess the technical feasibility of relocating the Balfour ferry terminal to an alternate location. The feasibility study is now complete.

The ministry recently released a discussion guide and held a public information session in Nelson. The discussion guide, the information presented at the open house and an online survey are available online at http://www.gov.bc.ca/balfourterminal.

The ministry has presented two options to address the challenges. The first option involves undertaking work at the current terminal, dredging of the west arm and replacing the MV Balfour. The second option involves relocating the terminal to Queens Bay. The ministry has not made a decision and will continue to engage with the community, interested First Nations and other parties on the proposed options.

As you may be aware, the ministry has extended the deadline for public comment by three months, giving Balfour and area residents until October 6, 2016 to provide input.Once the public consultation process is complete, the results will be shared online and a report will be presented to government to help inform its decision making process.

I have relayed your feedback to the project team.

Thank you for taking the time to write.



Todd G. Stone


Copy to:          Balfour Ferry Terminal Project Team



part of the north Queens Bay site under consideration for a new ferry terminal and parking lot.


The proposed new ferry terminal would be built on a greenfield site about 4 km north of Balfour. In this scenario, the current terminal and associated facilities in Balfour would be abandoned.


Launched in 1954 as the second ferry to the main ferry Anscomb and later the Osprey 2000, the MV Balfour is on its last legs of operation and needs to be replaced. One option under consideration by the provincial government is to move the ferry terminal to a more direct location across Kootenay Lake which supposedly would make it possible for the Osprey to provide ferry service by itself, thus avoiding the cost of buying a new second ferry.


Sign at the north end of the proposed site of a new ferry terminal at Queens Bay.


Site of the south end of the 500-meter section of north Queens Bay that would be severely impacted if a decision is made to move the terminal from its current site in Balfour.


Some of the signs in Balfour protesting a potential move of the ferry away from Balfour, location of the West terminal of the Kootenay Lake Ferry since 1946.

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The Osprey 2000 ferry on a run across scenic Kootenay Lake.


poster for a Swim-In to be held on Sunday, August 21, 2016




Dewdney Trail timeline since completion in 1865

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Here is a timeline of significant events and circumstances with the Dewdney Trail since its completion in the fall of 1865.

1865-1898 – Dewdney Trail was the main east-west link between Kettle Valley and Columbia Valley.

nov11 2015 0301905 – West Kootenay Power and Light built a transmission line west of Rossland, using parts of the Dewdney Trail for their access road and right-of-way.

Early 1920s – Cascade Highway built between Christina Lake and Rossland.  The new road crossed the Dewdney Trail many times, but did not follow it for any distance.  Dewdney Trail continued to be used by local ranchers and farmers for moving their cattle and as a horse trail, while the Cascade Highway became important for larger conveyances.

1949 – Completion of Hope-Princeton Highway

1962 – Highway between Christina Lake and Castlegar completed.

Oct. 13, 1963—Ribbon-cutting for Salmo-Creston Highway.

1972 – B.C. Parks Branch did a reconnaissance of the Christina Lake to Patterson portion of the trail and found that 70% of the original trail was still intact.

1972-1975 – Parks Branch in cooperation with the Forest Service works to restore Dewdney Trail section between Christina Lake and Paterson, including interviews with old-timers.

Mid-1970s – archaeological study done on portion of the Dewdney Trail between Grand Forks and Christina Lake by M. Friesinger.

Late 1970s – B.C. Highway installed lines parallel to the West Kootenay Power line, but on a grander scale.

96plan00011985 – A forest fire burned over the 2 km section of the Dewdney Trail along the Wild Horse River, which was the best-preserved section of the trail in the East Kootenays.

1989 – Corridor Plan for the Dewdney Trail produced under the Recreation Corridors program.

April 10, 1991 – Portions of the Dewdney Trail were designated as a Historic Site by provincial Order-In-Council.  Designated portions on Crown Land along the Wild Horse River; near the headwaters of Summit Creek and down to the Kootenay River; and from the Rossland Summit (Record Ridge – Mount Sophia Pass) to Christina Creek.

May 24, 1995 – Memorandum of Agreement on Heritage Trail was signed by the Ministry of Forests and the Ministry of Small Business, Tourism and Culture.  The trail has also been designated as a forest recreation trail under the Forest Practices Code of B.C., and as an Archealogical Site under the Heritage Conservation Act.

March 1996 – Dewdney Trail Management Plan for Trail Portions on Public Forest Lands in the Nelson Forest Region published and distributed.  The Dewdney Trail Corridor is considered to be 100 meters on either side of the trail centerline.

October 1996 – In line with the Management Plan, the Ministry of Forests commences a procedure of Alteration Permits established under the Heritage Conservation Act, including rehabilitation measures for disturbed parts of the trail.

September 1998 – Mapping and assessment conducted by Champion Contracting for the Forest Service on sections of the Dewdney Trail, including the Santa Rosa Summit, Santa Rosa Creek, Big Sheep Creek to Corral Creek, Corral Creek to Cascade Summit, Cascade Highway Summit, Lost Creek,

closeup of installing dew trail sign1999 – Location of the trail is plotted using a GPS unit.  The GPS plot corresponds to the location found by B.C. Parks in 1972.

September 2015 – incorporation of the Dewdney Trail Heritage Society, focusing on protection and preservation of the section of the Dewdney Trail between Christina Lake and Rossland.

150 Years Since Edgar Dewdney Blazed A Trail Through the Kootenays




The Honourable Edgar Dewdney (1835-1916)

By Sam McBride I have felt the presence of Edgar Dewdney for as long as I can remember.   Paintings and photographs of him lined the walls of our home in Nelson, and many of the books in our family library were inherited from him. His namesake (and my grandfather), Edgar Edwin Lawrence “Ted“ Dewdney (1880-1952), knew him intimately as uncle, godfather, and legal guardian after Ted became an orphan at age 11.  I never got to know Ted because he died when I was a baby, but his wife, my grandmother Helen Peters Dewdney (1887-1976), lived in our home as a widow and often talked about Ted and Uncle Edgar.


Cary Castle, the viceregal residence of British Columbia, where Edgar and Jane Dewdney resided between 1892 and 1897 when he was Lieutenant Governor.

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Edgar as a young engineer

She referred to Uncle Edgar as a great man who was also an affable and courteous gentleman.  She said Edgar and his wife Jane Moir (who were called Ned and Jeannie within the family and among close friends), who had no children of their own, were fond of – and kind to — their many nephews and nieces.  In addition to Ted, Edgar`s brother Walter Dewdney (1836-1892) had a daughter Rose Valentine Dewdney (1879-1941) and son Walter Robert Dewdney (1877-1956).  And Jane`s sister Susan Louisa Moir Allison (1846-1937) in the Similkameen Valley of southern B.C. had 14 children, several of whom lived with the Dewdneys in the 1890s while attending school in Victoria. Ted`s only complaint about Uncle Edgar was that he insisted that Ted begin a career with the Bank of Montreal when he was just 16 years old.  Ted was keen on history and literature, wanted to attend university, and had no interest in banking, but he respected his uncle greatly and did what he was told, commencing service with the Bank of Montreal as a teller in Victoria in 1897, rising to branch manager at Greenwood in 1915, and retiring in Nelson in 1940 after 43 years with the bank. Helen said there was a special relationship between Uncle Edgar and Ted, as Ted was the youngest of his late brother`s children and lived with Edgar and Jeannie for the longest time.  Ted also shared Uncle Edgar`s interest in history and literature, though not to the extent that he would allow Ted to go to university as he longed to. In the end, Edgar left most of his historical memorabilia to Ted in his will, including substantial correspondence between Edgar and Sir John A. Macdonald when Edgar held the federal government`s senior positions impacting Western Canada from the mid-1870s to the early 1890s.  Since the 1960s the historically valuable letters have been held by the Glenbow Archives in Calgary as The Dewdney Papers.  The Glenbow Archives in Calgary acquired the letters from the Dewdney family in the 1960s, and organized them in a collection known as the Dewdney Family Papers that has been used extensively by researchers.

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Edgar`s wife Jane Shaw Moir  (1843-1906)

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Sketch by Edgar Dewdney, among his drawings while building the Dewdney Trail.

At the same time, the family donated Edgar`s ceremonial Lieutenant-Governor`s uniform and several scrapbooks of photographs taken by Edgar to the Nelson Museum.  Today the uniform is featured in the Touchstones Museum in Nelson and the scrapbooks are preserved in the Touchstones Archives.  One of the scrapbooks has an interesting note attached in Edgar`s handwriting that says: “Give this to Teddy when I die“.

I have often thought Edgar Dewdney had the type of life that someone could write a novel around.    His life reminds me a bit of the lead character the Forrest Gump movie – he ends up in the middle of history happening around him, whether he likes it or not.   He knew all of the colourful characters of British Columbia, from Governor James Douglas to Premier Richard McBride, including colourful Pacific Province characters like his close longtime friend Judge Matthew Begbie and his political enemy Willam A. Smith, who famously changed his name to Amor de Cosmos.   As premier of B.C., de Cosmo insisted that the CPR line be built via Bute Inlet over a series of bridges to the north part of Vancouver Island and terminate in Victoria, but Edgar was just as adamant that the best route was down the Fraser Valley to terminate at the future site of Vancouver, which is what happened.  He doubted that the other option was even possible, no matter what the cost amounted to.

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There was friendship and mutual respect between Edgar Dewdney and Chief Crowfoot.

Edgar was also part of the Canadian federal government, either as or an MP and cabinet minister or senior appointed official, for more than 20 years, and knew every prime minister from Sir John A. Macdonald to Sir Robert Borden, and including the Metis rebel Louis Riel, and all of the key players in the greatest project ever undertaken in Canada, the Canadian Pacific Railway.  He has the distinction of being the only person to serve as Lieutenant Governor for two jurisdictions — the Northwest Territories (1881-1888) and British Columbia (1892-1897). Compared to his contemporaries, particularly in the U.S., Edgar got along with the native peoples exceptionally well, beginning with the first leg of the Dewdney Trail between Hope and the Similkameen in 1861.  He was amazed at the work done by his Indian crews, particularly an older woman who carried a 120-pound bag of sugar up and down the steep slopes  of the trail, which largely followed  walking trails established over many generations by the First Nations people.  He was frustrated when trail workers refused to go beyond the borders of their tribe, but adapted and hired members of the next tribe along, as well as crews of white and Chinese workers.   There was mutual respect between Edgar and the two most famous chiefs of that era, Sioux Chief Sitting Bull (who met with Edgar after escaping with his warriors to Canada after defeating General Custer at the Battle of Little Big Horn) and Blackfoot Chief Crowfoot.

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Edgar`s sister Charlotte Cave-Brown-Cave (1829-1909) was one of three Dewdney siblings in Devon to emigrate to B.C. after hearing enthusiastic descriptions from Edgar. Family photo.

The extinction of the buffalo on the prairies by the 1880s was catastrophic for the native peoples, as it disrupted their way of life and caused mass starvation.  As Lieutenant Governor of the Northwest Territories and Minister of Indian Affairs in the John A. Macdonald government, Edgar Dewdney encouraged the chiefs to move their tribes from hunting to agriculture.  This initiative fell far short of its objective, as numerous difficulties were encountered, including corruption and poor performance by the agricultural trainers the government hired to work with the tribes.  The government`s efforts to distribute food to the starving tribes were often much too little, much too late.  As resentment from this crisis contributed to the Riel Rebellion of 1885, some observers have said that Edgar Dewdney deserved some of the blame for the rebellion breaking out.  However, it is generally agreed that there would have been many more casualties in the rebellion if Crowfoot had not met with Edgar and agreed to remain neutral.  After the rebellion`s Metis leader Louis Riel was convicted of treason in a Regina trial, the federal cabinet, led by PM Macdonald, decided that Riel must hang.  It fell to Edgar Dewdney to sign the death warrant.  He was subsequently derided the rest of his life by French-Canadians and other political opponents as The Man Who Signed Riel`s Death Warrant.   In his initiatives as senior federal minister for the Northwest Territories — which, in his era, included the jurisdictions that would later be the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba — Edgar meant well, but, from a modern perspective, was certainly colonialist and patronizing, and had scant regard for the value of native culture.   Western Canada historian Hugh Dempsey, author of “Crowfoot: Chief of the Blackfeet“, commented on Edgar Dewdney:  “Although much of his career was marked with controversy, his relations with the Indians were good.“

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Edgar at the opening ceremony for the Qu’Appelle and Long Lake Railroad in Saskatchewan in 1886. BELOW: detail of the photo shows how Edgar (wearing white top hat at right) stood out in a crowd with his height of six feet, four inches. Jane, who was five feet, three inches in height, is to his right with a shovel. BOTTOM: Another view of the railroad commencement ceremony. Family photos.

deaildewd 002 another scene of long lake ceremony There is mystery associated with Edgar`s ancestry.   Some researchers say his parents were Charles Dewdney and Fanny Hollingshead, and others say they were John Dewdney and Elizabeth Parsons.  There were a number of Dewdneys with similar first names in the coastal communities of the English county of Devonshire in the 1830s, which has led to confusion.  Edgar`s birth day of November 8, 1835 is solid, but potential birth years for Walter range from 1833 to 1839.  I go with the date of July 16, 1836 which was used in a family history produced in the 1940s by Walter`s granddaughter Harriet Keating.   Neither Edgar nor his siblings ever commented on their parents.   The most likely parents are missing from the 1841 census, so they may have died.   In the 1851 census Edgar and Walter are listed as students at the Templeton School in Exeter, Devon.

edgar and jane dewdney

Edgar and Jeannie with dogs at their Regina residence, 1885.

Edgar studied engineering in Cardiff, Wales and then moved to London to work as private secretary to John Lorry Rickards, who had been in Indian at the time of the India Mutiny of 1857.  Before deciding to go to British Columbia, Edgar originally planned to go to India.   In 2009 a researcher published a report in B.C. History magazine that determined that Edgar`s father was a lowly boatman, so Edgar was pretending to be from a higher class after he arrived in B.C.   Personally, I do not think that it was that big a deal.  Once Edgar had built the Dewdney Trail, he was known as the trail-builder from Devon, with no specifics mentioned about his ancestry.  Somewhere along the line, someone provided the means with which he acquired a good education as well as engineering training that stood him in good stead with the projects he took on in B.C.

jane dewdney letter from john a macdonald

Letter from Sir John A. Macdonald to Jane Dewdney on Macdonald`s 74th birthday in 1889. Family Collection.

Upon arriving in Victoria at age 23 in May of 1859, he stood out among other pioneers for two reasons: first, at six foot four and a muscular 200 pounds, he was literally head and shoulders above just about everyone else; and, secondly, he was a capable civil engineer at a time when such skills were in great demand in a colony burgeoning with gold discoveries, including some areas that could only be accessed by travelling through the United States and up river valleys.  This was a threat to the colony`s sovereignty at a time when many Americans subscribed to the Manifest Destiny concept of the U.S. eventually taking over all of North America.  The American interest in the north part of the continent was demonstrated when Alaska was purchased from Russia for $7.2 million in 1867.  Linking Alaska with the U.S. mainland by acquiring British Columbia — either by purchase or military conquest — seemed the logical next step for some Americans in that expansionist era. Edgar`s first substantial job after arriving in Victoria was to head a team of Royal Engineers to lay out New Westminster, the new capital of the mainland colony of British Columbia.   His success at this venture led to other contracts, most notably a mule trail from the frontier community of Hope to the future site of Princeton.  It was the first stage of what would become known as the Dewdney Trail, crossing a multitude of mountain ranges, waterways and heavily-forested areas.

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Reflections of Edgar`s sister-in-law Susan Moir Allison

In August 1860, travelling on a river streamer between New Westminster and Hope, Edgar met Thomas Glennie, a Scot who planned to homestead near Hope.  Accompanying Glennie was his wife Susan Louisa Moir Glennie, and her two daughters from a previous marriage Jane, 17, and Susan, 15.   The girls were born and raised in the colony of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) in a genteel English colonial environment, but with hardly any money in the family.  Edgar, 25, was enraptured by Jane and took every opportunity to get together with her in subsequent years, culminating in their wedding at the Anglican Christ Church in Hope in March 1864.  Today, as the province`s oldest and longest operating church, Christ Church is a national historic site. Jane`s sister Susan married John Fall Allison in 1868 and became an enthusiastic outdoorswoman in a remote dwelling near the current site of Princeton.   Her story is colourfully told in the 1976 “A Pioneer Gentlewoman in British Columbia: The Recollections of Susan Allison“, edited by B.C. historian Margaret Ormsby, who described Edgar Dewdney thus: “A kindly man who had no children of his own, he was generous to his own and to Jane`s nieces and nephews.“

Unlike Susan, Jane in later years preferred city life to frontier abodes.  Jane thrived in the invigorating political scene in Ottawa, but her favorite home was in Oak Bay, immediately east of Victoria, where she enjoyed the mild climate, was close to many friends and relatives, and had wonderful gardens.  Through his career Edgar`s favourite job was in the 1890s as Lieutenant-Governor of B.C., where he and Jane held court in the vice-regal residence Cary Castle.

Susan Allison was in good health until close to her death in 1937 at 91.  She learned the Chinook language and had many friends among her native neighbours.  As her husband was often away from home prospecting or engaged in other business ventures, Susan relied on assistance from her Chinook women friends to deliver her babies.  Her diaries include a number of stories about Edgar and Jane that show them interacting as close relatives in everyday life.  One autumn day Edgar and Jane were visiting when Susan purchased a huge number of salmon from a native fisherman.   Edgar and Jane rolled up their sleeves and joined Susan and some friends in a work bee assembly line where they cleaned all the salmon and preserved the meat with salt and spices, so that Susan and her children were well-fed with fish through the winter months.

edgar digging

Hon. Edgar Dewdney turns first sod for railroad from Calgary to Edmonton in 1891. At age 55, he was still an imposing figure of physical vigour in Western Canada.

The discovery of gold in the East Kootenay region in 1865 led the colonial governor, Frederick Seymour to offer Edgar a contract to extend the trail to Wild Horse Creek, near the site of today`s Cranbrook.  Edgar knew nothing of the country beyond the Similkameen Valley, but accepted the job, as long as he could choose his own men and be assured that they would be paid.   This would bring the total length of the Dewdney Trail to 450 miles across some of the most rugged and scenic terrain on the continent.  In a letter to Edgar dated April 10, 1865, Gov. Seymour said that, in addition to building the mule trail, “you will make accurate sketches of the different lines examined, with full notes of the nature of the soil and timber, the course and size of the different streams and rivers, the quantity and probable extent of prairie and grazing land, the nature of the different rock, and, where found, the heights of as many different points above the level of the sea as can be obtained, and if possible the latitudes and longitudes of all important points and such other general information as may be useful in preparing a map of the country through which you pass“

Dewdney, Chief Piapot and his warriors, and the Montreal Garrison Artillery, Regina, Saskatchewan, 1885

Edgar Dewdney bottom left, with Chief Piapot and his warriors, and the Montreal Garrison Artillery in Regina in 1885.

edgar painting 2

Painting of Edgar Dewdney c. 1875.  Frame is 22 inches wide and 26 inches high. Family collection.

The timing of the trail work in the spring of 1865 was significant, because the U.S. Civil War essentially ended on April 9, 1865 with the surrender of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee to Union Gen. U.S. Grant at Appomattox Court House in Virginia.  With the war over, Britain and Canada faced the dire prospect of hundreds of thousands of trained soldiers of the victorious North invading and taking control of lands north of the 49th parallel, as Britain had sided with the South in several controversial incidents.   The fact that much of the planning of the conspiracy to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln occurred in Montreal was another reason to worry about American retaliation against Canada.  As it turned out, the only incursions from the U.S. were the small, poorly-organized Fenian Raids in Ontario and New Brunswick of groups of Irish-American soldiers aiming to strike at Britain – who they saw as oppressing their native Ireland – by attacking Canada.  The fear of invasion from the United States was a key reason that British North American colonies agreed to unite in the self-governing dominion of Canada in 1867.


The existing Edgar Dewdney memorabilia includes a bible (sideways, lower shelf) presented to Edgar and Jane after their wedding ceremony at the Anglican Christ Church in March 1864.  Family collection

writing on inside of bible

Inside page of 1864 bible with inscription from Rev. Alexander David Pringle.  Author photo

So, in addition to building the trail, Edgar was on a mission of discovery and reconnaissance for a governor extremely curious about economic prospects for the land they were about to access through a west-east route – without having to approach it from the United States — for the first time. In 1998 the Boundary Museum Society based in Grand Forks, B.C. transcribed and published Edgar`s notes and letters as the trail was being built in 1865, in a binder called Edgar Dewdney: Diary Notes Written on the Trail.   As someone who grew up in Nelson, my favourite part of Edgar`s correspondence was letters associated with a sidetrip he took with an Indian companion in a birchbark canoe from the current site of Castlegar, up the churning Kootenay River (doing 14 portages to get through the rapids) to the current site of Nelson, and up the West Arm and then toward the North end of Kootenay Lake.  The purpose was to check out possible routes for the trail on the east side of Kootenay Lake.  They went to Crawford Bay and partly up the valley to the St. Mary`s River in the East Kootenay, but Edgar decided it wasn`t worth it because travelling miners would not want to pay to be ferried across the lake. In a letter to the governor dated June 29, 1865, Edgar said: “I did not reach the north end (of Kootenay Lake), thinking I should only be wasting my time, but I traveled up sufficiently near to take its bearing.   The scenery on both sides of the Lake is very bold and grand.  The greater part of the rock around the Lake is granite of the coarsest description with large quantities of quartz running in veins of different thickness north and south.  I explored several but could find no trace of gold.“

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Biography of Edgar Dewdney by Brian Titley.

“The Lake abounds in minerals, iron and large quantities of galena with which I fell satisfied there is silver but I had no means of testing it and unfortunately left my specimens behind,“ he wrote, demonstrating a keen eye for future industry in the region.   Returning to the project staging headquarters at Fort Sheppard (near the current site of Trail), Edgar and his companion Peter shot the spectacular Kootenay rapids in their canoe, and Edgar noted that Bonnington Falls was the most beautiful waterfall he had ever seen.  Years later he said in an interview that his favourite mode of transport in rivers and lakes was the birchbark canoe, which kept paddlers dry and could be easily repaired.

While they were better off than most pioneer couples, Edgar and Jane were never affluent.  In that era before pensions, Edgar was always worried about he and Jane running out of money in their retirement years.   His eager involvement in land speculation and investments in mining companies were almost like a gambling addiction.   He tended to lose much more often than gain from such speculation, but the fact that he was involved got him into trouble during his political career.   Opponents accused him of conflicts of interest, particularly when he influenced the location of the city of Regina to encompass land which partially owned through investment in a syndicate.   Everything was in the open and his boss John A. Macdonald had no problem with it, but the situation looked bad and was a stain on Edgar`s reputation for the rest of his life.  His response to accusers was to say he would have gained more money if the other option for locating Regina was chosen, because he had a larger stake in that ownership syndicate! One of the criticisms of Edgar as a politician and administrator was that he was “overly loyal“ to John A. Macdonald.   Like many Canadians, Edgar was a great admirer of the charismatic Macdonald, and proud of his loyalty to his Prime Minister and party leader.   But he was also a very close personal friend of Macdonald and his wife Agnes.  And Jane in turn was a good friend of Agnes and Sir John.   Macdonald`s high opinion of Edgar was shown when he named Edgar co-executor of his will (along with his son Hugh), and arranged with Edgar to be trustee of a fund to support Macdonald`s handicapped daughter Mary.   When Macdonald died in June 1891, Edgar was at his bedside along with members of Macdonald`s family.  A couple of years later, Lady Macdonald and Mary stayed at Cary Castle for several months as guests of the Dewdneys. Edgar owned and loved many dogs over the years and spoiled them.   Jeannie was not so keen on the dogs, and was particularly put out when one of the dogs insisted in sleeping under the bed when he was away. In 1897, Edgar took great pleasure in providing his assent as lieutenant-governor to legislation that established Nelson, Rossland and Grand Forks as municipalities.   He could remember going through those sites when they were just part of the wilderness.  In his retirement years Edgar travelled to the Kootenays several times to visit friends and check out investment prospects.   Reporters from the local newspapers would come to his hotel and enjoy  hearing his stories of the old days in the region.  He also had pleasant visits with his nephew and ward Ted Dewdney who was working as a bank clerk in Rossland.

edgar's locket of john a macd and wife

Existing Edgar Dewdney memorabilia includes this pendant with images of Sir John A. Macdonald and Jane Dewdney, who were Edgar`s two favourite people in the world.  Family collection.

After a long string of provincial and federal electoral victories, Edgar was defeated in the Nov. 7, 1900, losing to his Liberal opponent 1,772 to 1,627.  Ironically, he was defeated just two days after his 65th birthday while running in the New Westminster riding for the first time – the same community he laid out as a young engineer four decades earlier. Edgar would then experience déjà vu in another respect as a contractor.  The province of B.C. was in the midst of railway fever.   With the southern interior proving to be a land of great mineral wealth and logging prospects, the government and the CPR were worried that the dynamic Great Northern Railway led by James Jerome Hill would capture the freight and wealth of that region through branch lines off its main line near the Canadian border.  There was also great pressure on Premier James Dunsmuir from businesses in the Kootenays and the Lower Mainland for the construction of a Coast To Kootenay railway.  In July of 1901 Edgar Dewdney was commissioned to take charge of a government survey to determine the viability of a rail line through the Hope Mountains.  It was almost exactly 40 years since he faced the task of building a mule trail through the same terrain.  A big difference was that rail lines had to keep within an acceptable grade, or the trains could not pull their loads going uphill, or safely brake going downhill.

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Book on the Kettle Valley Railway includes Edgar Dewdney`s 1901 feasibility study for a railway through the Hope Mountains — 40 years after he built a trail through the same terrains.

In the book McCulloch`s Wonder: The Story of the Kettle Valley Railway, Barry Sanford notes that the government could hardly have picked an older man for the task, “but Dewdney`s long experience more than compensated for his lack of youthful agility.  He accepted the assignment with the vigor and enthusiasm he had shown for his assignment in the early 1860s, and promptly hired two of the most competent engineers in the country, Frank Moberly and Henry Carry, to assist him.“  An expedition of 30 men for the study left Victoria for Hope on August 1, 1901.  In March 1902 Edgar delivered his report to the provincial legislature.   He reported that three possible routes from Hope to Princeton were evaluated, but each option involved long stretches of severely adverse grades.  “The survey shows that the Hope Mountains cannot be crossed without encountering serious engineering difficulties which would necessitate a  very large expenditure of money, and I know of nothing so pressing, either in the way of development or along any line which might be determined on to warrant its construction.“ Many in B.C. were shocked that the growth-minded, ever optimistic pioneer Edgar Dewdney would recommend against building the rail line.  Despite his report, the project proceeded, and the Coquihalla Rail Line officially opened on July 31, 1916 – eight days before Edgar died.  He was proven to be correct in his conclusions, as the cost per mile of building the line through the Hope mountains was five times as expensive as the cost per mile of building the main line CPR through B.C., and it was a money-loser due to extraordinarily high operating costs, largely due to avalanches in winter, washouts in spring and forest fires in summer.   The railway eventually closed for good in 1959, and today parts of the line are a tourist attraction for biking and hiking.

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Edgar Dewdney memorabilia includes this souvenir card from Westminster Abbey from his visit to his native England in 1890. Family collection.

In January 1906 the Dewdney family experienced two deaths within three days, as Jane`s mother Susan, who was living with the Dewdneys in her early 90s, died on Jan. 27th and then Jane died on Jan. 30th.  Three years later Edgar travelled to England and married Blanche Plantagenet Kemeys-Tynte in Somerset, England.  In his earlier writings and interviews, Edgar said his intention when he left England for Victoria in 1859 was to stay for 10 years, earn the fortune he needed to live comfortably, and then return to his sweetheart who was waiting for him in England.  This led to a false story that Blanche was the sweetheart, and was still waiting for Edgar 50 years later in 1909!  A reason to think they are connected is that Blanche`s father, Charles Kemeys-Tynte, provided Edgar in 1859 with a letter of introduction to Colonial Secretary Edward Bulwer Lytton, who in turn provided Edgar with a letter of introduction to Governor James Douglas which he presented upon arrival in Victoria.  However, British census records indicate that Blanche was born in about 1854, so she would only have been about five years of age when Edgar left England, so she surely could not have been the sweetheart he left behind. Today Edgar Dewdney is remembered mainly in Western Canada, and particularly in British Columbia, his province of first residence and retirement.   He stood out among other men partly because of his height, but also because of his energy, optimism and confidence, his genuine love of outdoor frontier life, and his skills and vision as an engineer.

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Edgar as Lieutenant Governor of B.C. in 1893.   Family photo

He was the type of leader that people chose to name things after, like the municipality of Dewdney, Mount Dewdney, Dewdney Peak, Dewdney Creek, the Dewdney Trunk Road, Dewdney electoral constituency, Dewdney Schools, Dewdney Avenue in Regina and, most importantly, the Dewdney Trail.   And the City of Trail is named after Trail Creek, which in turn was named after the Dewdney Trail.  The City of Fernie is named after William Fernie, who was a foreman of Edgar`s in building the trail through the Kootenays.   Allison Pass at the top of the Hope-Princeton highway is named after Edgar`s brother-in-law John Fall Allison.

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Edgar`s official diary for 1894 exists in the family memorabilia. ABOVE: This Feb. 25, 1894 entry mentions a serious fire in Kaslo.  It is interesting that a brother of his future wife Blanche Kemeys-Tynte visited the Dewdney`s at the lieutenant governor residence Cary Castle on Feb. 26, 1894.  BELOW: Diary notes from Jan. 8-9, 1894, including William Cornelius Van Horne of the CPR, and Col. James Peters, who was a cousin of Edgar`s ward Ted Dewdney`s future wife Helen Peters, who at the time was still a young girl residing in Charlottetown.  Family collection.

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Postcard-style photographs of the Royal Family in Edgar`s personal scrapbook. At left is Queen Victoria with one of her daughters. At right is Carrie Trutch O`Reilly, who, with her husband Peter, was a long-time friend of the Dewdneys. Family collection.

Some observers have said the Dewdney Trail was of little consequence because it fell into disuse after a few years, which is true but a large part of Highway 3 of today follows the trail that Edgar blazed through the wilderness.   When the Salmo-Creston Highway was under construction in the early 1960s, it was proposed to call it the Dewdney Highway because it generally followed the Dewdney Trail, but officials decided instead to call it the Kootenay Skyway (locals just call it the Salmo-Creston).  In retrospect, the most valuable thing about the Dewdney Trail in its early years was a symbol of British and later Canadian determination to keep the Okanagan, Kootenays and other parts of southern B.C. free from control by the giant nation to the south.  And sections of the trail were used in several discoveries, including the Red Mountain find in 1890.

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Invitation the Dewdneys received for dinner in 1912. Family collection.

Edgar died in August 1916 during one of the bleakest periods of the First World War.  The lists of Canadian casualties in newspapers went on and on, but the publishers still felt that the end of the life of one of the province`s greatest pioneers deserved extensive coverage on front pages and in editorials. In an editorial the day after he died, the Victoria Times said: “He was an exceedingly loveable person.  He impressed everyone he came in contact with his geniality and fine open-heartedness.   He ever had a kindly word for all who sought his advice.“ Over the years there have been numerous magazine and newspaper articles about Edgar Dewdney, as well as a 1999 UBC Press book The Frontier World of Edgar Dewdney by Brian Titley, a professor of education at the University of Lethbridge.   Titley also wrote the Edgar Dewdney entry in the Canadian Dictionary of Biographies http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/dewdney_edgar_14E.html, which concludes that Edgar “was an accomplished engineer, an indifferent businessman, an adequate administrator, and an undistinguished politician.  His greatest fault, perhaps, was his partisan loyalty to John A. Macdonald, which clouded his judgement at critical moments. He deserves some of the blame for the North-West rebellion and the repressive policies that followed it.  The roads he surveyed in British Columbia were his greatest achievement.“  An interesting review of the Titley book by J. William Brennan is at http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3188&context=greatplainsquarterly

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Signed photo of Uncle Edgar, 1912, as a gift to nephew Ted Dewdney on his marriage to Helen Peters. Family photo.

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ABOVE: Photo of Edgar`s gravesite at Ross Bay Cemetery in Victoria shortly after the funeral in August 1916. BELOW: the gravesite today, including BOTTOM: name plate. Family photos.

edgar tombstone close up of edgar plaque Edgar Dewdney Chronology November 5, 1835 – born in Bideford, Devon on the southwest coast of England, son of Charles Dewdney and Fanny Hollingshead*

1851 – Edgar and younger brother Walter were boarders at Templeton Mansion School in Exeter, Devon. April 1854 – brother Walter Dewdney joins the 17th Lancers as a private, rising quickly to Troop Sergeant Major January 1858 – death of sister Rose Johnstone Dewdney at 29 in Devon. March 5, 1859 – Edgar left England on the Hamurg mail line steamer, arriving in New York after a stormy passage. May 18, 1859 – arrived in Victoria after sailing to Panama, crossing to the Pacific side by land, and sailing north via San Francisco to his destination. 1860 – Hired by Governor James Douglas to build a pack trail from Hope to the mining camps in the Similkameen Valley

March 25, 1864 – marries Jane Shaw Moir at the Anglican Christ Church in Hope, B.C. Mid-September 1865 – Miners began travelling from Hope to the Kootenay gold fields on the new four-foot wide, all-Canadian Dewdney Trail June 1866 – Private Walter Dewdney retires from 17th Lancers of the British Army after 12 years of service and moves to British Columbia. July 1, 1867 – Canada becomes a self-governing nation under the British North America Act. Dec. 5, 1867 — sister Charlotte Dewdney marries Rev. Jordayne Cave-Brown-Cave in Sappeton, B.C. December 1868 – elected to represent Kootenay in the colony`s Legislative Council March 4, 1870 – Louis Riel`s Metis provisional government executes Orangeman Thomas Scott. July 20, 1871 – British Columbia becomes a  Canadian province, largely based on the federal promise to build a railway across Canada. July 20, 1872 – elected  to represent Yale district in the federal parliament Jan. 22, 1872 – elected again to represent Yale district in the federal parliament July 27, 1876 — sister Fanny Dewdney Lethbridge marries John Lawrence in Victoria, B.C. Sept. 17, 1878 – re-elected to parliament for Yale by acclamation December 3, 1881-June 30, 1888 – took on the additional responsibilities of Lieutenant-Governor of the Northwest Territories May 30. 1879 – becomes federal  Indian Commissioner, appointed by PM Sir John A. Macdonald. May 1880 – meets with  Sioux Chief Sitting Bull (defeater of U.S. Gen. Custer at Little Big Horn)

March 26-June 3, 1885 – The North-West Rebellion (also known as the Riel Rebellion). May 9-12, 1885 – Canadian forces under Major General Middleton decisively defeat Metis forces May 15, 1885 – Louis Riel surrenders and is taken to Regina November 7, 1885 – Pounding of the last spike marks the completion of the transcontinental Canadian Pacific Railway. November 16, 1885 – Louis Riel is hanged in Regina.  Edgar Dewdney signed his death warrant, which made him persona non grata among French-Canadians for the rest of his life. Sept. 12, 1888 – elected MP in a federal by-election for Assiniboia East district Sept. 25, 1888 – June 6, 1892 – serves as Minister of the Interior and Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs under Prime Minister Macdonald. Sept. 25, 1888 – made a member of the Queen`s Privy Council, and thus holds the title of the Honourable Edgar Dewdney. April 25, 1890 — Chief Crowfoot dies.  Edgar writes: “He was beloved by his people, feared by his foes, esteemed by all.“ Sept. 9, 1890 – Edgar leaves for England on a mission to encourage emigration to Canada, and investment in Canadian business. March 5, 1891 – elected MP to represent Assiniboia East district June 6,  1891 – death of Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald.  Edgar Dewdney was among the relatives and close friends at his bedside when he passed away. June 16, 1891 – Oct. 16, 1892 – serves as Minister of the Interior and Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs under Prime Minister Abbott Jan. 25, 1892 – death of Edgar`s brother Walter Dewdney in Vernon Nov. 1, 1892 – became Lieutenant-Governor of British Columba and moved to Cary Castle, the viceregal estate of Lieutenant Governors.  He succeeds Hugh Nelson, after whom the City of Nelson, B.C. is named. August 16, 1896 – gold discovered in Klondike River in the Yukon, leading to the Klondike Gold Rush March 4, 1897 – As Lt-Governor, he assents to the incorporation of Rossland, Nelson and Grand Forks as municipalities, under the Speedy Incorporation of Towns Act.

Oct. 28, 1897 – death of brother-in-law John Fall Allison at age 70. Dec. 1, 1897 – retires as Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia and moves to home on Rockland Avenue in Oak Bay, B.C. Nov. 7, 1900 – defeated by Liberal opponent in the federal election in the New Westminster riding 1,772 to 1,627 July 1, 1901 – commissioned to report on potential routes for a rail line through the Hope Mountains for the Coast-to-Kootenay Railway. March 1902 – presented his report to the B.C. legislature, concluding that none of the potential routes for a railway through the Hope Mountains was feasible. January 27, 1906 – Jane`s mother Susan Glennie, who lived with Edgar and Jane in Oak Bay, dies at age 95l January 30, 1906 – wife Jane dies three days after her mother, at 62. August 5, 1909 – death of sister Charlotte Wright, 80, in Victoria September 1909 – married Blanche Plantagenet Kemeys-Tynte in Somerset, England August 31, 1914 – death of sister Fanny Lethbridge Lawrence, 81, in Victoria August 8, 1916 – died of heart failure at age 80 August 12, 1916 – his funeral, followed by burial at Ross Bay Cemetery in the Anglican section. March 27, 1936 – widow Blanche Dewdney dies at Leycroft, Salterton Road, Exmouth, Devon. February 1, 1937 – death of sister-in-law Susan Louisa Moir Allison in Vancouver at 91.

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In a separate area of Ross Bay Cemetery, about 50 feet from Edgar`s memorial,  are the gravesites of, from left to right: Edgar`s wife Jane Moir Dewdney, his sister Fanny Lawrence, and his mother-in-law Susan Glennie. Author photo.

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Edgar Dewdney death certificate.

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

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by Sam McBride

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

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Ted`s mother Carrie Leigh Dewdney.  Family photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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6 Edgar Dewdney at wedding of Ted and Helen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

note from edgar in touchstones re teddy

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

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

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Ted in early 1900s

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Badge of the Rocky Mountain Rangers militia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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Ted circa 1940. Family photo

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

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

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

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

ted dewdney rossland scroll

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

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

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


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

Victoria newspaper report of her wedding

Victoria newspaper report of Ted and Helen`s wedding

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

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

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

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Ted and Helen. Family photo.

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

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

plaque on ted and helen leaving new denver in 1920

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ted at work in his Nelson office. Family photo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

  • 1911-1912 – working for the bank and residing in Rossland, B.C.
  • June 19, 1912 – marries Mary Helen Peters, daughter of Frederick Peters and Bertha Hamilton Susan Gray at Paul’s Anglican Church, Esquimalt, B.C.
  • 1912-1915 – residing in Vernon, B.C.
  • August 13, 1913 — brother Walter Robert Dewdney marries Kathleen Stuart Ferguson at Midway.
  • December 6, 1913 – birth of daughter Evelyn Mary Lawrence Dewdney
  • 1915-1916 – residing in Greenwood, B.C. First appointment as branch manager with the Bank of Montreal.  His older brother Walter Robert Dewdney was provincial government agent in Greenwood at the time
  • April 24, 1915 — death of his brother-in-law, Private John Francklyn Peters, in 7th Battaltion in the Second Battle of Ypres.
  • 1916-1920 – bank manager and residing in New Denver, B.C. Farewell party held for Ted and Helen Nov. 21, 1920.
  • June 3, 1916 – death of his brother-in-law Lieut. Gerald Hamilton Peters of 7th Battalion in the Battle of Mount Sorrel.
  • August 1916 – attends funeral of his uncle Edgar Dewdney in Victoria
  • May 2, 1917 – birth of son Frederic Hamilton Bruce Dewdney (later changed to Frederic Hamilton Peter Dewdney, known as “Peter”)
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    Ted Dewdney, c. 1935. Family photo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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