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

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by Sam McBride

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

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Ted`s mother Carrie Leigh Dewdney.  Family photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ted in early 1900s

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Badge of the Rocky Mountain Rangers militia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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Ted circa 1940. Family photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Victoria newspaper report of Ted and Helen`s wedding

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

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

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

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Ted and Helen. Family photo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ted at work in his Nelson office. Family photo.

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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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inside ted funeral program 001

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

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


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

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

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

  • 1911-1912 – working for the bank and residing in Rossland, B.C.
  • June 19, 1912 – marries Mary Helen Peters, daughter of Frederick Peters and Bertha Hamilton Susan Gray at Paul’s Anglican Church, Esquimalt, B.C.
  • 1912-1915 – residing in Vernon, B.C.
  • August 13, 1913 — brother Walter Robert Dewdney marries Kathleen Stuart Ferguson at Midway.
  • December 6, 1913 – birth of daughter Evelyn Mary Lawrence Dewdney
  • 1915-1916 – residing in Greenwood, B.C. First appointment as branch manager with the Bank of Montreal.  His older brother Walter Robert Dewdney was provincial government agent in Greenwood at the time
  • April 24, 1915 — death of his brother-in-law, Private John Francklyn Peters, in 7th Battaltion in the Second Battle of Ypres.
  • 1916-1920 – bank manager and residing in New Denver, B.C. Farewell party held for Ted and Helen Nov. 21, 1920.
  • June 3, 1916 – death of his brother-in-law Lieut. Gerald Hamilton Peters of 7th Battalion in the Battle of Mount Sorrel.
  • August 1916 – attends funeral of his uncle Edgar Dewdney in Victoria
  • May 2, 1917 – birth of son Frederic Hamilton Bruce Dewdney (later changed to Frederic Hamilton Peter Dewdney, known as “Peter”)
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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.
  • rose keating dewdney 001

    Ted`s sister Rose Valentine Keating. Family photo.

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

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

A Tale of Two Identical Fathers of Confederation

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by Sam McBride

One of the great coincidences of Canadian history is that there were two unrelated Fathers of Confederation named John Hamilton Gray  — one in Prince Edward Island (born in Charlottetown in 1811 and died in Charlottetown in 1887) and the other in New Brunswick (born in Bermuda in 1814 and died in Victoria, B.C. in 1889).

The P.E.I. Gray was Fritz Peters` grandfather and my great-great-grandfather.  He had the more prominent role among the J.H. Gray`s at the Charlottetown Conference of September 1864 because, as head of the P.E.I. government at the time, he was the official host of the conference and was elected by delegates to be chairman of the conference.   Both J.H. Grays were fervent supporters of Confederation at a time when many of the men also known as Fathers of Confederation were lukewarm or actively opposing it.   The two men were also alike in qualifying for the title of Colonel Gray — the P.E.I. Gray as a career officer in the British cavalry, and the New Brunswick Gray as an Lieutenant-Colonel in his colony`s militia.

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ABOVE: Col. John Hamilton Gray of Prince Edward Island shown about the time of the Charlottetown Conference he hosted in 1864. BELOW: The P.E.I. Gray in later years.

jh gray older

col gray high school

The high school in Charlottetown is named after John Hamilton Gray of P.E.I.

In 2014, as part of the commemoration of the 150th anniversary (sesquicentennial) of the Charlottetown Conference, a sculpture has been commissioned which will depict the two John Hamilton Grays interacting at the 1864 conference.   The artist doing the bronze work is Nathan Scott from Vancouver Island.   See the recent CBC report on the project and information on the artist

The fact that the artist is from Vancouver Island is interesting because Victoria, B.C. is part of the story of the two John Hamilton Grays and their descendants­.    In 1872 the New Brunswick Gray moved to Victoria to serve as a judge on the Supreme Court of B.C.   He died in Victoria in 1889 and was buried in Victoria`s historic Ross Bay Cemetery, which has the graves of most of the famous B.C. names of the 19th century.   The people who lead tours of the Ross Bay cemetery point out that this Gray was the only Father of Confederation buried west of Ontario.

other jh gray

ABOVE: The New Brunswick John Hamilton Gray shown around the time of the 1864 Charlottetown Conference. BELOW: The New Brunswick John Hamilton Gray is later years when he was a judge in British Columbia.

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I think it is ironic that the burial site and tombstone of the New Brunswick Gray in Ross Bay is in the Anglican section of the cemetery just a few yards from the grave and tombstone of former P.E.I. premier Frederick Peters, who was a son-in-law of the P.E.I. Gray.   The person who organized Frederick Peters` funeral and burial at Ross Bay in August 1919 was his son Lt. Frederic Thornton “Fritz“ Peters, DSO, DSC, RN, who took leave from Royal Navy service to travel to Victoria to look after arrangements on behalf of his widowed mother Bertha Gray Peters.  It is quite possible that Fritz — who later received the Victoria Cross and the U.S. Distinguished Service Cross for valour in the invasion of North Africa in 1942 — chose the gravesite because of its proximity to the “other“ Father of Confederation John Hamilton Gray.  While they were not related, there was a bond between Fritz`s grandfather and the other John Hamilton Gray as builders of Canada.

Last October while in Charlottetown for a book tour I visited the gravesite of my great-great-grandfather J.H. Gray at Sherwood Cemetery for the first time.   I had visited the Ross Bay Cemetery on the other coast of Canada several times in recent years, but I paid closer attention to the Gray tombstone when I visited a couple of weeks ago while in Victoria.   The Gray tombstone at Sherwood is much bigger than the one at Ross Bay, but is quite faded from the effects of weather and time, while the Ross Bay one is in good shape.  Something they have in common is a small accompanying plaque installed years ago by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada for deceased Fathers of Confederation.   As can be seen on the accompanying images, the wording on the federal plaques is exactly the same, as both men attended the Confederation gatherings at Charlottetown and Quebec City, but not the one in London: “A delegate to the Intercolonial Conferences of 1864 (Charlottetown and Quebec) at which the basis was laid for the federal union of the British North America provinces in a new nation.  This grave is marked by the Government of Canada.“

The PEI Gray was long-retired and died of a lingering illness in bed at his home Inkerman House on August 13, 1887.  It must have been a difficult time for his daughter Bertha, who was about to give birth to her first child, Helen (my maternal grandmother), who was born August 31, 1887.   At age 75, the New Brunswick Gray was still serving as a judge in B.C. when he collapsed on June 6, 1889 while walking down a street in Victoria, according to a report the following day in the Colonist newspaper.   He was looking forward to a visit from his old friend (and fellow New Brunswick Father of Confederation) Samuel Leonard Tilley, who held the post of Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick at the time.  Tilley arrived to find that Gray had died while he was en route.   Tilley served as a pallbearer at Gray`s funeral, along with several Victoria judges, including the most famous of B.C.`s pioneer judges, Sir Matthew Baillie Begbie, also known as “The Hanging Judge“, who would die five years later on June 11, 1894 and be buried at Ross Bay Cemetery just a few yards from the New Brunswick John Hamilton Gray.   Interestingly, Frederick Peters` father James Horsfield Peters was also an actively-serving judge when he died in Charlottetown on June 20, 1891 — in fact, at 80 years of age he had the distinction of being the oldest serving judge in Canada in the year he died.

Ancestry-wise, no one has ever established a family connection between the two John Hamilton Grays.  The New Brunswick Gray had roots in England, while the PEI Gray was the son of Robert Gray, a United Empire Loyalist from Virginia who was born near Glasgow, Scotland.  The PEI Gray`s mother, Mary Burns, was a descendant of the Burns family in Scotland, and the Stukeley and Browne families in England.   Robert Gray was a penniless young man with no prospects in Scotland when he was hired as an agent in Colonial America by the Hamilton family of tobacco traders.  He expressed his appreciation to his benefactors by naming his youngest son John Hamilton Gray.  I do not have equivalent information regarding the naming of the New Brunswick John Hamilton Gray.


The P.E.I. Gray tombstone at Sherwood in Charlottetown reads “John Hamilton Gray entered into rest Aug. 13, 1887.  Erected as a loving trbute to his most beloved memory by his wife and children.  Looking unto Jesus the auther (sic) and finisher of our faith.“  The wife who decided on the tombstone inscription was his third wife, Sarah Caroline Cambridge.   His first wife, Fanny Sewell Chamier, died in her first childbirth.   The second wife, Susan Ellen Bartley Pennefather, was mother to five daughters: Harriet Gray Stokes, Margaret Gray Lord, Florence Gray Poole, Mary Gray Abbott and Bertha Hamilton Gray Peters.  Sarah Cambridge Gray was mother to daughter Rosie Gray, son Arthur Cavendish Bentinck Hamilton Gray and son Hamilton Edward Jarvis Gray (born in 1880 when his father was age 69).   Of Sarah`s children, only Arthur survived to adulthood.

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The author Sam McBride beside the tombstone of his great-great-grandfather John Hamilton Gray of P.E.I. in October 2013


Father of Confederation plaque beside the J.H. Gray tombstone in Sherwood Cemetery in Charlottetown.


close-up of text on Gray tombstone at Sherwood

rosie gray stone

Buried next to the P.E.I. Gray at Sherwood Cemetery in Charlottetown is his daughter Rosie Gray, who died at age three in 1874.


The tombstone of the New Brunswick Father of Confederation Gray says “John Hamilton Gray, D.C.L.  17 years a Judge of the Supreme Court of B.C.  Eldest son of Wm Gray H.M. Vice Consul for Virginia U.S.A.  Died June 5, 1889.   Also, Eliza, his wife, daughter of Lt. Col. Ormondo H.M. 30th Regt Died Dec. 3, 1895.  Aged 75.“

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the tombstone and Father of Confederation plaque for J.H. Gray of New Brunswick at Ross Bay cemetery in Victoria, B.C.  One of the crosses behind the tombstone is for former P.E.I. premier Frederick Peters, son-in-law of the “other“ Father of Confederation named John Hamilton Gray.

close up of stone for the nb jh gray

Close-up of text on the Ross Bay tombstone.  The D.C.L. refers to the law degree Gray earned in New Brunswick.

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Father of Confederation plaque at Ross Bay

fred peters grave with jh gray in back

The grave of Frederick Peters at Ross Bay, with the tombstone of John Hamilton Gray near the trees behind it.

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The number 26 at top side of the map is the location at Ross Bay Cemetery of the grave of John Hamilton Gray of New Brunswick. The X beside it on the right is the location of the Frederick Peters grave.

fred peters at about age 40

Frederick Peters, born in 1852 in Charlottetown, married Bertha Gray in 1886, died 1919 in Prince Rupert, B.C., buried in Ross Bay Cemetery in Victoria B.C., served as premier of P.E.I. 1891-1897. He was a lawyer with the Tupper and Peters firm in Victoria and later was city solicitor and city clerk in Prince Rupert. His son F.T. “Fritz“ Peters won the Victoria Cross.

side stone for gerald

Text on a side of the base of the Frederick Peters tombstone in honour of his son Gerald who died in WW1.   The other side of the stone has a tribute to son Jack Peters who also died in action in WW1.  Both boys were among the dead at Ypres with no graves and no identified remains.

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Photo of the Frederick Peters gravesite and memorials soon after they were put in place at Ross Bay Cemetery after his funeral in August 1919. The small flat cross stone was in memory of daughter Violet who died at age 6 in 1905 due to a fireplace accident. Today that cross stone has disappeared — it either sank into the soft ground over time, or was stolen.

edgar tombstone

The other Gray/Peters family connection at Ross Bay Cemetery is the burial site of the Hon. Edgar Dewdney (1835-1916), senior Western Canada minister in Sir John. A. Macdonald governments and Lieut. Governor of B.C. in the 1890s. Dewdney was uncle and legal guardian of Edgar Edwin Lawrence “Ted“ Dewdney, who married Helen Peters (daughter of Frederick Peters and Bertha Gray) in Victoria in 1912.   As a widow, Bertha came to live full-time in the West Kootenay region of southeastern B.C. with her daughter Helen`s family, which grew to include son Peter Dewdney and daughters Eve Fingland and Dee Dee McBride.  The Edgar Dewdney grave is near the Frederick Peters grave in the Anglican section of the Ross Bay cemetery.

close up of edgar plaque

Fritz Peters’ Future Nephew Landed in Sicily 70 Years Ago

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By Sam McBride
While this blog generally focuses on my mother’s uncle, Capt. Frederic Thornton “Fritz” Peters, VC, DSO, DSC and bar, DSC (U.S.), RN, my thoughts today are on heroes on my father’s side of the family — specifically, my dad Leigh Morgan McBride and his brother Kenneth Gilbert McBride, who both grew up in Nelson, British Columbia and served as officers with the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada regiment in the thick of much of the heaviest fighting of the Italian Campaign of 1943-44 .


Leigh McBride, 25, in 1942.

Exactly seventy years ago, on July 10, 1943, Leigh hit the beach at Pachino on the southern tip of Sicily as part of the massive Allied invasion of Sicily. A year earlier he had enlisted immediately after graduation in law at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant at the Gordon Head Military Camp in Victoria, and then went to Currie Barracks in Calgary where he was commissioned as a lieutenant in November 1942.

In mid-November1942 Leigh returned to Nelson for a short period before heading overseas for further training in Britain. While in Nelson he met up with his friend, fellow law student and fraternity brother Frederic Hamilton “Peter” Dewdney, who signed up with the Royal Canadian Navy along with his close friends Hammy Gray (future recipient of the Victoria Cross) and Jack Diamond at about the same time that Leigh enlisted in the army. Peter’s decision to opt for the navy was largely influenced by the family tradition established by his uncle, godfather and namesake Fritz Peters. Peter never met Fritz, but often heard stories of him from his mother Helen, who was Fritz’s older sister, and a very close friend during their childhood in Charlottetown and Victoria. In the summer of 1942 Fritz was already famous for his heroic exploits in the First World War, as well as earning a bar to his British Distinguished Service Cross for anti-U-boat action on modified trawlers early in the Second World War.

uncle ken

Kenneth Gilbert McBride (1920-1944)

As it turned out, Peter trained at Royal Roads in Victoria at the same time that Leigh was training at Gordon Head. Peter served through the war on motor launches in anti-U-boat service off Canada’s east coast. Peter also knew Leigh’s brother Ken, but was closer with Leigh because they were the same age, and Ken was three years younger.

In 1948 Leigh would marry Peter’s younger sister Dee Dee. In 1952, after the death of her husband Ted Dewdney, Helen came to live with her daughter Dee Dee McBride’s family. As a result, when I was growing up in Nelson the walls were filled with framed photographs under glass of Helen’s brothers Fritz Peters, Jack Peters and Gerald Peters, as well as Leigh’s brother Ken McBride – all of whom died in the two world wars.
Leigh also never met Fritz Peters, though he trained in Scotland near where Fritz had trained a few months earlier, and he was in North Africa en route to the invasion of Scotland just a few months after Fritz’s memorable bravery in Oran, Algeria.

Ken was in the midst of studies at the University of British Columbia when he enlisted, following in his older brother’s footsteps as an officer with the Seaforths. Ken was not in Sicily, but joined the fight in mainland Italy and was immediately in heavy action against top quality German forces who used Italy’s rugged terrain to full effect in holding g off the Allied invaders.

The story of Leigh and Ken McBride’s unforgettable exploits in Italy – and Ken’s tragic death in action – is told through scanned images of photographs, letters, news clippings and army documents that can be viewed either through the Seaforth link at or my personal blog in May 2013 at


Book launch event December 15th at Touchstones in Nelson, B.C.


Sam McBride, author of “The Bravest Canadian – Fritz Peters, VC: The Making of a Hero of Two World Wars” will launch the book in Nelson, British Columbia on Saturday, December 15th

He will be in the lobby of the Touchstones Nelson – Museum of Art and History at 502 Vernon Street in Nelson from 1 pm to 3 pm.

While Capt. Frederic Thornton “Fritz” Peters never lived in Nelson himself, his mother Bertha Gray Peters and his sister Helen Dewdney and her family resided in Nelson from 1929 to 1969.  Previously, they lived in the nearby West Kootenay communities of New Denver, Rossland and Trail as Helen’s husband Ted Dewdney was transferred around the region to manage branches of the Bank of Montreal.  

After Capt. Peters’ death in an air crash near Plymouth, England in November 1942, a delegation from President Roosevelt and General Eisenhower came to Nelson in February 1944 to officially present the U.S. Distinguished Service Cross medal he earned for action in the harbour of Oran, Algeria to his mother Bertha Gray Peters as next-of-kin. 

In 1946, a mountain on the west edge of Nelson was named Mount Peters in his honour.  Since then, Helen Dewdney’s children and descendants have donated a number of artifacts and photographs to the museum and archives in Nelson, mostly related to the Hon. Edgar Dewdney, builder of the Dewdney Trail, who was Ted Dewdney’s uncle and legal guardian after Ted’s parents died when he was 11. 


Family of Frederic Thornton Peters — Part Four: brother John Francklyn “Jack” Peters

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by Sam McBride

John Francklyn “Jack” Peters was born October 19. 1892, the middle child of Frederick Peters and Bertha Gray of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.  Sister Helen Peters was five years older and brother Frederic Thornton “Fritz” Peters was three when Jack was born at the Peters family home known as Sidmount House.  At the time of Jack`s arrival, his father was the Hon. Frederick Peters, premier and attorney general of Prince Edward Island for more than a year.

Clockwise, from bottom left: baby Jack with sister Helen and brother Fritz, 1892; Jack as a toddler; Helen with Gerald (left) and Jack; Jack at about age 15 (McBride Collection)

Two years later in 1894, fraternal twin brothers Gerald Hamilton Peters and Noel Quintan Peters were born.  In 1899, after the family had moved across the continent to Victoria, British Columbia, sister Violet Avis Peters was born, seven years younger than Jack.  His father had resigned as premier in October 1897, and moved his family to Victoria where he established a law practice with another well-known departing Maritimer, Sir Charles Hibbert Tupper.

Jack attended school in Victoria, and then in 1900 he went to England with other family members.  They resided at Bedford, north of London, where his mother Bertha`s stepmother moved after the death of her husband John Hamilton Gray in 1887.  Jack and brother Fritz were students at the Bedford Grammar School in the 1900-01 school year, and sister Helen attended the Bedford School for Girls.  The following year Fritz transferred to Cordwalles School in Maidenhead, known as a preparatory school for future Royal Navy officers, in line with Fritz`s dream of a naval career.  Jack continued at Bedford Grammar school for another two years.  We do not have details of his further schooling, but it appears from his letters that he returned to Victoria where he attended school and participated in militia training.  In January 1905 brother Fritz enlisted in the Royal Navy, and in November 1905 younger sister Violet died in a fireplace accident in the family home in Oak Bay, immediately east of Victoria.

In 1911 Jack moved with the family to the north coastal town of Prince Rupert where his father took the family when he accepted the position of Solicitor (lawyer) for the City of Prince Rupert.   At the time, it appeared Prince Rupert was going to be a boom town, and a port to rival Vancouver.   The following year sister Helen married Edgar Edwin Lawrence “Ted” Dewdney in Esquimalt, and the couple moved to Vernon where Ted was an accountant with the Bank of Montreal, with whom he had worked since 1897.  Perhaps assisted – or at least inspired – by brother-in-law Ted Dewdney, Jack went to work as a clerk at the Bank of Montreal branch in Prince Rupert.  About the same time, brother Gerald was employed as a clerk with the Union Bank in Prince Rupert.  Jack, Gerald and Noel all served in the Earl Grey`s Own  Rifles militia in Prince Rupert.

At the outbreak of the Great War in 1914 he and brothers Gerald and Noel rushed to enlist, but only Jack was accepted for war service.   Like Jack, Gerald was tall at 6 foot, one and a half inches, but Gerald`s chest measurement was below the army standard, so he was rejected.  Gerald later travelled to Montreal to enlist there, and this time passed the physical exam.   Noel was rejected because of a slight, but noticeable, mental disability, and was not accepted for military service until he was allowed to join the Canadian Forestry Corps in Britain in May 1917.

Jack was in the First Contingent of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, serving with the 7th British Columbia/Duke of Connaught battalion.   He trained at the Valcartier base in Quebec and then went overseas to England where he trained in Salisbury Plain with other Empire troops in the wettest winter weather on record.   He arrived in France in late February and was in minor trench action for the next couple of months, including the Battle of Neuve Chapelle.

In a letter home to his mother in January 1915 he said “You needn’t worry about me because I don’t intend to put my head up above the trench to shoot the Germans.  Me for where the earth is thickest and highest.” He was happy to let his brother Fritz be the war hero of the family.

However, Jack would be the first of three Peters brothers to die in the world wars of the 20th century.  He was killed on Saturday, April 24, 1915 in the 2nd Battle of Ypres when Canadian troops made a courageous stand against a massive German attack that used poison gas for the first time on the Western Front.

The use of poison gas in artillery shells was forbidden by the Hague Conventions which both sides had agreed to in 1899 and 1906, but the German commander at Ypres thought he could get away with spreading the gas directly from canisters and piping from their own trenches, depending on the wind to take it to the enemy.  The completely surprised French colonial troops on the Canadians’ left panicked and ran away from their positions upon experiencing the greenish-yellow cloud of chlorine gas late in the afternoon of April 22nd, which left the inexperienced Canadians to fill a four-mile gap in the Allied line protecting the headquarters at Ypres and the coastal ports.

from bottom left: Jack at Bedford, England; Jack in Prince Rupert; as a teen; with his bicycle (McBride Collection)

Reinforcements promised by the French never arrived.  The Germans did not expect the gas to have such a dramatic impact – wind conditions and temperature were ideal for distribution of the heavier-than-air gas, unlike a previous attempt to use poison gas on the Russian front — and were not prepared with reserves to immediately take advantage of the break in the line.  They were ready by the early morning of Saturday, April 24th, launching a full-scale offensive with gas directly against the Canadians.

Jack in the 7th battalion would have been right in the middle of the vicious battle.  The Canadians found they could function somewhat under the gas by holding urine-soaked handkerchiefs against their faces and partially neutralizing the chlorine.  Records show that relatively few soldiers died from just the poison gas; they would be hit by bullets and shells when drawn away from their trenches by the gas and unable to defend themselves.  Flame-throwers were also introduced for the first time in the offensive, making a horrific situation even worse for the defenders.

If the Canadians had not held the new battle line, the enemy could have easily encircled 50,000 Allied troops and marched to the North Sea to capture ports (as happened at Dunkirk in May 1940 in the Second World War), which would have been a devastating blow to the Allies.  British General Sir John French gave the Canadians credit for extraordinary bravery and said they “saved the situation”.  The Germans began respecting Canadians as adversaries after this battle.

While we don’t know exactly what happened to Jack in the battle (witnesses died too), it is noteworthy that he was a part of what was arguably the most important defensive stand in Canadian history.

There were hundreds of Canadian prisoners taken in the shifting front that day, and for a period the military authorities thought Jack might be among prisoners in Belgium or Germany.  Dozens of soldiers of the 7th Battalion were taken prisoner after the Germans surrounded and captured the small village of St. Julien.  The Peters family felt 100% sure that Jack was safe as a prisoner, largely because Fred`s cousin Helen Francklyn in Bristol said a friend of hers in Switzerland found out that Jack was at the Celle Lager prison in Hanover.   However, the Red Cross found that the prisoner in question in Hanover was in fact someone else, so on May 29, 1916 Jack was officially presumed to have died “on or after April 24, 1915”.  Of 900 men and 24 officers in Jack’s battalion, 580 men and 18 officers were casualties in the 100 hours of frantic action that followed the first gas attack.  Four Victoria Crosses were awarded to Canadians in the battle, including Lieutenant Edward Bellew of Jack’s 7th battalion.  John McCrae, a surgeon in charge of a field hospital, wrote his famous poem “In Flanders Fields” on May 3, 1915, inspired by the death of a close friend in the same battle in which Jack died.

After being assured for so long that Jack was safe, his mother Bertha refused to believe he had died.   She did not accept his death until the war was over, and no further information on Jack had emerged.  She grieved much more for son Gerald, who died in the Battle of Mount Sorrel in June 1916.  Gerald was her favourite child, and they were exceptionally close.   A memorial plaque (image below) with the names of Jack Peters, Gerald Peters, their cousin Arthur Gordon Peters, and seven other Charlottetown boys who died in the war was installed at St. Paul`s Anglican Church in Charlottetown.  The names of Jack and Gerald Peters are also listed on the Menin Gate memorial in Ypres that includes the names of thousands of Allied soldiers who died at Ypres with no identified remains.

The letter below was the first of six letters from Jack in the Peters Family Papers that have been kept safe over the years, first by his mother Bertha, then by his sister Helen Dewdney, and most recently by his niece Dee Dee McBride.  His last letter, dated April 13, 1915, was mailed to his cousin Evelyn Poole in Guildford, Surrey, southeast of London, who passed it on to his family in British Columbia.   The letters were handwritten in pencil, often with smudges of dirt from the trenches.

from bottom left: Jack; Jack second from top left in a group that includes Gerald (to his left), Noel (bottom right) and two unidentified boys; and Jack on a log (McBride Collection)

Private Jack Peters to his family in Prince Rupert, dated December 18, 1914

{sent from England}

Just received yours of Nov. 23rd.  As it is pouring with rain we can’t go out on parade so I’ve got a chance to answer it.

Capt. Harvey1 gave us a lecture on attacking a fortified position between 9 and 10 this morning.  About which he doesn’t know much.  All the old soldiers are busy imitating him now.  They, of course, know what a real attack is like.  Although, as a rule, they don’t say much about the Boer War. 

I was very glad it rained today as I was feeling tired after a day’s work digging on the railway about five miles away from here.  The pick and shovel work caused many casualties amongst the company.  Mostly, the “lurking fever”.  They all claimed it was vaccination, but the hard-hearted doctor sent them all back to work.  Except one to whom he gave some medicine.  The others all agree that it is lucky that he took it first before they tried it.  My arm hasn’t bothered me at all.  I hope to escape inoculation.

It’s awful to be ill at camp.  “Sick Parade” sounds at 7:15and you have to parade at the doctor’s tent then await his pleasure.  Needless to say, it prevents anyone from going sick when they aren’t.  The ones who really are ill, generally die.  I believe I’m feeling quite well, so far.  Eric Poole2 is in hospital as a result of trench digging on a wet night.  Ray3 is a major now.  We are all a bit excited owing to the bombardment of the East Coast.  One fellow in the next hut whose house is inScarborough had his home destroyed, and feels that his people may have been killed.  The general nervousness in camp is not owing to anything like that, but whether Christmas leave will be stopped.  All the old soldiers live for the huge bust that they go on when on leave.

I am down for leave from Dec. 30 to Jan. 4. I expect I’ll go up to Hodsocks4 and have a cheap holiday. London is a little expensive.  I arrived in camp with 1/35.  If I hadn’t been taken I would have had to work with pick and shovel to enable me to get back toLondon.

I feel sure that we will be in Franceby the time you get this.  Of course, we will be at least eight weeks at the base or on the lines of communication.  The 1st B.C. regiment are the cracks of the Contingent.  Some of the Eastern men are awful looking mutts quite on a par with Kitchener’s rather scraggy army.

I’ll send you a photograph as soon as I can.  My uniform will soon be all messed up.  They provide us with slacks and a khaki shirt which I generally wear.

(continued Sunday)

We had parade on Friday afternoon.  I saw the biggest aeroplane that I have ever seen.  The plains are alive with them.  They have a Union Jack painted on the bottom of the planes.  I’ve seen as many as 5 in the air at once.

Saturday morning was the hardest on record.  We paraded at 8:30 but had to go on fatigue instead and help the engineers build a heavy truck road.  I had the job of carrying ties about 8 feet long weighing a terrific amount.  It was pouring with coldsleet and rain as well.  We labored for 3 hours.  The hardest in my life.  I was over to see Harris on Friday evening.  The 72nd are about a mile away from here.  I got lost coming back in the dark.  Hundreds of huts all looking the same.

Jack`s attestation papers. Note the signatures of Captain Harvey and Colonel Hart-McHarg, both of whom were men of distinction who died in the Second Battle of Ypres along with Jack.

I had a two hour job finding my own hut.  Harris goes on his holiday this week.  So I can’t go to Yorkshire with him.  Gus Lyons of Victoria fame is in the 50th Highlanders right near us.  I haven’t found Willie Abbott6 yet. 

We had a church parade this morning for the first time since my arrival.  Mr. Barton I believe is our chaplain.  It was cold out in the open air.  I didn’t envy him in his thin surplice.

Fritz has written to me several times since I came.  He can’t give any news.

The war in the opinion of most people will last for 18 months at least.  The Russians have just been badly beaten by Von Hindenburg.  The Germans again threaten Warsaw.  So it is up to Kitchener to finish the war as neither France or Russia can.  I expect you don’t hear anything about the Russian defeat in Rupert.

Kitchener rules…

1 Captain Rupert (aka Robert) Valentine Harvey (1872-1915) was born in Liverpool and taught school there before moving to Canada in 1899 to teach at Queen’s School in Vancouver.  In 1901 he took over as headmaster and then in 1908 merged his school with UniversitySchoolin Victoriathat had been founded two years before by Rev. W.W. Bolton (who had taught Fritz Peters at his school on Belcher   Avenuein Victoriabefore Fritz went to Englandfor preparatory school in 1900) and J.C. Barnicle.  Harveybecame Warden of the UniversitySchool(now known as St. Michael’s UniversitySchool, the largest residential school in B.C.).  In a 1917 letter to his father, Fritz Peters mentioned meeting Harvey several years earlier and discussing schoolmastering with him, which Fritz was considering as a career at the time.  Harvey was a strong believer in cadet corps and scouting, but he didn’t serve in the Boer War.  In 1914 he left with his regiment, the 7th Battalion, as Captain for overseas duty.  On April 24, 1915 in the Second Battle of Ypres he and the No. 3 Company he commanded were surrounded by Germans in their full-scale assault on Canadian forces.  Harvey was seriously wounded but refused medical treatment until injured men in his company were taken care of.  He was taken prisoner, and died in a prison hospital in Germany on May 8, 1915.[i]   Captain Harvey’s signature is on Jack Peters’ attestation papers.

2 – Jack’s cousin Eric Skeffington Poole was a son of Bertha’s sister Florence Gray Poole.  He was born inNova Scotiaand lived inEnglandafter the family moved there in 1905.  He was a Second Lieutenant with the West Yorkshire Regiment in July 1916 when he suffered from shell shock during theBattleof theSomme.  He had recurring periods of confusion after returning from medical treatment, and then onOctober 5, 1916he wandered away from his platoon at the front.  He was arrested by military police and faced a court martial for desertion.  Despite evidence that he was still suffering from the shell shock (or what today could be referred to as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) which made him anxious and confused, he was found guilty and sentenced to death by firing squad.  British Field Marshall Douglas Haig could have commuted the sentence, but chose to make an example of him to demonstrate that officers were subject to the same basic military rules as their men.  In his diary entry ofDec. 6, 1916Haig wrote “it is highly important that all ranks should realize that the laws is the same for an officer as a private.”  Eric was shot at dawn on December 10, 1916 at Poperinghe, Belgium, about 10 km west of where his cousins Jack and Gerald Peters had died earlier in battles near Ypres.  He was the first British officer to be executed for desertion.  The trial and execution were not publicized in the press at the time, apparently in deference to Eric’s father Henry Skeffington Poole who had aristocratic connections and was ill at the time of the court martial and would die in March 1917.  It is possible that the family agreed to not contest the verdict if authorities kept it secret.  The fact that Jack would comment on Eric being in hospital in a 1914 letter – two years before the “desertion” incident – is interesting because it shows that Eric had longstanding health problems.

3 – Major Henry Raynauld (Ray)Poole was Eric’s older brother.  The obituary published after the funeral of his mother, Florence Poole, in 1923 listed a surviving son Major H. R. Poole, DSO, MBE, indicating he won the Distinguished Service Order medal and was accepted as a Member of the British Empire.

4 – Hodsock Priory, a stately manor and estate in Nottinghamshire, was the residence of Col. Henry Mellish, a bachelor who was an expert sharpshooter and enthusiastic amateur meteorologist.  Mellish’s mother was Margaret Cunard, a daughter of Sir Samuel Cunard and sister of Fred’s mother Mary, so he and Fred Peters were cousins.  One of the envelopes of letters that Fritz sent to Bertha in 1916 was addressed to her at Hodsock Priory, which was one of several addresses Bertha had while inEnglandwhen she was there for about a year during the First World War.  From these letters, the Peters family members appear to have had an open invitation to stay at the huge Hodsock estate virtually whenever they desired.

5 – The standard for stating British currency at the time (pounds/shillings).

6 – William Hamilton “Willie” Abbott was Jack`s cousin.  His mother was Mary Stukeley Hamilton Gray, sister of Jack`s mother Bertha Gray.  His father was William Abbott, son of the Canadian Prime Minister John Abbott.  The Abbott home in Montreal was a regular stop for members of the Peters family travelling by rail to or from England.  Willie, a civil engineer, survived the war.  He was interviewed by the  Montreal Gazette in 1943 after his cousin Fritz Peters received the Victoria Cross.  Willie was a greatuncle of the Canadian actor Christopher Plummer.

Map of Ypres battle area. Top cross is approximately where Jack died; cross at right is where Gerald died; and cross at left is on the road to Poperinghe, Belgium where their cousin Eric Poole was buried after execution for desertion.

Family of Frederic Thornton Peters — Part Three: his sister Helen Dewdney

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by Sam McBride

clockwise, from top left: baby Helen, 1887; with her father Fred and a cat, 1889; and four images of her as a young girl in Charlottetown (McBride Collection)

Mary Helen Peters was born in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island on August 31, 1887.  She was always known as Helen by friends and in the family, and in later years was known as Gran to her three children and ten grandchildren and many of her younger friends.  The first of six children, she outlived all of them, including a younger sister who died in a fireplace accident, three brothers who died in the world wars, and another brother who had a mental disability.

At age eight in early 1898 she moved with her family across Canada by boat, trains and boat again to Victoria on Vancouver Island.  The sea was a constant in her youth, as she went from an Atlantic island to a Pacific island.

She went to schools in Charlottetown and Victoria, and then in 1900 went to Bedford in north London, England where she attended the Bedford School for Girls.  At the same time, her brothers Fritz and Jack attended the Bedford Grammar School.  It is likely they all stayed at the home of their mother Bertha`s stepmother, Sarah Caroline Cambridge Gray, who moved there after the death of her husband, John Hamilton Gray in 1887.  One of Helen`s memories from her time at Bedford was watching with her brothers on a London street in January 1901 as the funeral procession for Queen Victoria solemnly passed by.

clockwise, from bottom left: three images of Helen as a young lady in Victoria; with her brother Gerald in the yard of their Oak Bay home; seen with tennis friends (McBride Collection)

Helen studied piano and music at the Royal Conservatory of Music in London, and became an accomplished pianist.

One of her father`s partners in business ventures in Victoria was the Hon. Edgar Dewdney, the former trail-builder, federal cabinet minister and B.C. lieutenant governor.  Dewdney was uncle and guardian of Edgar Edwin Lawrence “Ted” Dewdney, born December 26, 1880 in Victoria.  Ted`s mother Caroline Leigh died when Ted was four and his father Walter Dewdney died when Ted was 11.  Ted lived with his uncle Edgar and aunt Jane between 1892 and 1897 at Cary Castle in Victoria when it was the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor.

Victoria newspaper report of her wedding

A  keen student of history and literature, Ted wanted to go to university, but his uncle insisted he enter the banking world at an early age.  Ted began as a clerk for the Bank of Montreal in Victoria in December 1897, and was subsequently transferred to the bank branches in New Westminster, Greenwood, Rossland and Armstrong before returning to Victoria in 1908.

Ted was athletic and an outstanding tennis player, winning the West Kootenay Tennis Championship three times in the early 1900s while residing in Rossland.  Helen was also a keen tennis player and participant in tennis-related social events in Victoria.  It is likely that the pair got to know each other in tennis activities or through the Anglican Church.

Ted and Helen married June 19, 1912 at St. Paul`s Anglican Church in Esquimalt, adjacent  to Victoria.  Her father Frederick Peters could not attend because he was tied up with his work in Prince Rupert.  He asked his cousin, Colonel James Peters, to fill in for him in “giving the bride away”.  Col. Peters had retired recently after an eventful 42-year career with the Canadian military, including many years in charge of West Coast defence.  When he arrived in Victoria in command of the first battery to defend Victoria and the Esquimalt Naval Base he was the first of the Peters clan to settle in B.C.  The wedding reception may have been something of a reunion for Col. Peters and another prominent guest, the Hon. Edgar Dewdney.  Twenty-five years earlier Dewdney was Lieutenant Governor of the Northwest Territories and Minister of Indian Affairs during the Riel Northwest Rebellion, in which Col. Peters (then a captain) was in charge of an artillery battery and was honoured with a Mention in Dispatches.  For further information on Col. Peters, see

from bottom left: cutting the cake; the wedding party; Helen beside Ted`s uncle, Edgar Dewdney; Helen (fourth from right) as a bridesmaid for a friend`s wedding (McBride Collection)

Ted and Helen moved to Vernon in the Okanagan region of central B.C., where Ted worked as an accountant with the Bank of Montreal.   On Dec. 6, 1913, their first child, Evelyn Mary “Eve” Dewdney was born.

They were in Vernon at the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914.

from bottom left: Helen and Ted with children Eve, Peter and Dee Dee, 1925; four images of Helen, including her costumes for local productions of Gilbert and Sullivan`s Mikado (McBride Collection)

Her brother Fritz had left the Royal Navy in 1913 after eight years of service.  With war declared, he caught a ride on a steamer going to Britain to rejoin the navy.  Her other brothers Jack, Gerald and Noel had all taken militia training in Victoria and later in Prince Rupert with the Earl Grey Rifles.  Each of them went to enlist in the army but only Jack was accepted.  Tall and thin, Gerald`s chest measurement was below army standards so he failed the physical examination.  Noel was rejected because of his mental disability, which was actually not as bad as it seemed in his appearance.  Gerald went to Montreal to try to enlist, and this time he was accepted.  Noel wasn`t accepted for service until May 1917 when he joined the Canadian Forestry Corps in Britain.  At 33, Ted Dewdney was past ideal age for enlistment, and he was supporting a wife and child, so he did enlist.  If the war had come while he was still a bachelor, he would have rushed to enlist, as he had been extremely active in the Rocky Mountain Rangers militia when he was working as a bank clerk in Rossland in the early 1900s.

In 1915 Ted the Bank of Montreal  transferred Ted to its branch in Greenwood, a small mining community near the U.S. border and on the west edge of the West Kootenay region.  This was his first appointment as branch manager.  A year later he was transferred to manage the New Denver branch in the famous Silvery Slocan district.  Housing for the manager and his family was provided in quarters above the bank, which today serves as the community`s museum.

The period from late May 1916 to late July 1916 was a time of anxiety and sorrow for the Dewdney family.  First they heard that Helen`s brother Jack was not a prisoner of war as previously reported, and was now assumed to have died in April 1915 in the Second Battle of Ypres.  A couple of weeks later they heard that Gerald was missing, and by early July it was confirmed that he had died in the Battle of Mount Sorrel.  Helen`s mother Bertha, who had been residing in England since the late spring of 1915 so as to be close to her boys, was devastated by the deaths of two sons, particularly Gerald, with whom she was particularly close.  She felt she could not return to the house in Prince Rupert with so many memories of Gerald, so she went to live with Helen`s family in New Denver.  This arrangement would continue for 30 years until Bertha`s death at age 84 in 1946.

Their first and only son, Frederic Hamilton Bruce Dewdney, was born May 2, 1917 in New Denver.  He was named after his uncle Fritz, and Fritz was his godfather.  At an early age the boy picked up the nickname “Peter”, and he was known by that name the rest of his life.  As an adult he had his name officially changed to “Frederic Hamilton Peter Dewdney”.  He went by the name “F.H. Peter Dewdney” when he was the Progressive Conservative candidate in three federal elections in the Diefenbaker era.  Each time he was defeated by the popular NDP incumbent MP, Bert Herridge.

The Dewdney family moved to Rossland in 1920 when Ted was transferred to manage the Rossland branch.  A second daughter, Rose Pamela Dewdney, was born in Rossland June 29, 1924.  She acquired the nickname “Dee Dee” and was known by that name as a teenager and throughout her adult life.

The family moved to Trail in 1927 in line with Ted`s appointment there, and then to Nelson in 1929, where Ted retired from the bank in 1940 after 42 years of service.

In each community Helen was active in organizing musical and theatrical productions using local talent.  She would direct, act and play piano; Ted would be stage manager and treasurer for the productions; and they would enlist the help of people throughout the community to participate on stage or behind the scenes.

Throughout her life Helen was an ardent bridge player.  She and her mother rated each community in the West Kootenay region by the quality of its bridge players.

from top left: with Leigh McBride at Banff Springs Hotel; with Herbert Forbes-Roberts, father of Peter`s wife Maxine; with Peter; and in California (McBride Collection)

When Ted retired, the family had to leave the Bank House in Nelson, so he purchased a house at 820 Stanley Street in Nelson.  Eve had left home in 1933 when she married Sandon, B.C.-born mining engineer Jack Fingland and moved with him to Kimberley.  In 1935 Peter began studies at the University of Alberta, where he earned a bachelor’s degree and then a law degree in 1942.

from top left: Dee Dee, Ted and Helen; Ted and Helen; Helen with baby; Helen on visit to Mexico in 1950s; Helen and Eve in the Stanley Street home in Nelson. (McBride Collection)

After graduation he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Navy and trained at HMS Royal Roads on Vancouver Island.  In the war Lieut. Peter Dewdney served as an officer and commander of Fairmile motor launches in anti-U-Boat operations off Canada`s east coast.

Helen with Dee Dee, granddaughter Eve and a visitor at the McBride cabin and beach at Queen`s Bay, near Balfour (McBride Collection)

Dee Dee earned a bachelor of arts degree at UBC and then a professional librarian certificate at the University of Toronto.   In 1944 Peter married Maxine Forbes-Roberts of St. John`s, Newfoundland, and in 1948 Dee Dee married Nelson lawyer Leigh McBride, who had served as a major in the Seaforth Highlander regiment of the Canadian Army in the Allied invasions of Sicily and Italy.

After Ted Dewdney`s death in 1952, Helen came to live with her daughter Dee Dee McBride`s family.  Helen moved with the McBrides to nearby Trail in 1969 when Leigh began working in the law department of Cominco Ltd.

Helen with Leigh and Sam at University of Oregon graduation, 1973; Helen; Eve, Maxine, Helen and Dee Dee; Helen and Leigh with Sam and Eve; Helen in Las Vegas in early 1970s (McBride Collection)

Helen had several bouts with cancer in her last decade, and died in Trail November 27, 1976.

Souvenirs from the Victoria Cross centennial of 1956

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A schedule of special events in June 1956 marked one hundred years since the Victoria Cross was established by Queen Victoria in 1856 to honour the greatest acts of valour in the face of an enemy.

Living recipients throughout the Empire and Commonwealth were invited to attend the ceremonies.  In addition, next-of-kin of deceased VC recipients were invited.

Helen Dewdney in 1968 with great-grandaughter Michele Fingland

It was in the latter capacity that my grandmother, Mary Helen Peters Dewdney (known as “Helen” by her friends and “Gran” by her family) travelled from her home in Nelson, British Columbia to England to represent her late brother, Capt. Frederic Thornton “Fritz” Peters, VC, DSO,. DSC and bar, DSC (U.S.), RN at the centennial celebrations.  It was the first time she visited Britain since studying piano as a girl at the Royal Conservatory of Music in London.

As an Anglophile and a keen student of history, she enjoyed visiting historic venues such as Windsor Castle during the centennial program, but she disliked the marches and music that reminded her of losing not just Fritz in the Second World War, but also brothers Gerald and Jack in the First World War.  She also lost several close cousins and friends in the world wars­.

Images of some of the memorabilia Helen brought home from England are shown here.

Below are the cover and inside spread of a cabaret and tea for the VC centennial participants, including British entertainers such as Benny Hill.