Manitoba Historical Society
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My Love Affair with Louis Riel: Nonsense now, but not back in 1870

by Lillian Gibbons

Winnipeg Tribune, 20 March 1965

Is Thomas Scott a hero without a cause?

The man whose death condemned Riel to the gallows has no memorial in Scott Memorial Hall. The whole building is his memorial, counters Orange Lodge secretary C. G. Perry. But there is no plaque to him in the front hall of the old stone building at 216 Princess St.

It was 95 years ago this 4 March that Thomas Scott was led blindfolded from Fort Garry to face the rifles of a firing squad carrying out the verdict of the court martial held the day before. Only four Metis soldiers fired but Scott slumped into the snow which was soon red with his blood. He did not die immediately. A pistol, now in St. Boniface museum, was used by somebody to bestow the coup de grace.

Johnston F. Cooper has a polished brass plaque in Scott Hall. He was the young soldier who carried in his knapsack the first Orange warrant, No. 1307, that came to Manitoba and the North West, Aug. 23, 1870. That would mean he came with the Wolseley expedition.

The Hall itself, erected “in the cause of Protestantism,” 1903, has a brass plaque.
Orangemen who fell in both wars have memorial plaques.

“Some people come in here and think it’s the home of some Scottish organization,” said the caretaker.

It was the presence Of so many Orangemen in the British Expeditionary force led by Col. Garnet Wolseley that caused Riel to take to his horse and escape from Fort Garry Aug. 24. He had planned to hand over his Provisional Government with a handshake to the newly appointed lieutenant governor, Adams G. Archibald.

His scouts warned him he had no chance now to do that. Some men in the plodding militia were rabidly out to get him. Dr. John Schultz had inflamed the Orangemen in Toronto when he addressed a mob of 6,000 April 7. Thomas Scott was a lodge brother. So was his blood brother Hugh Scott. French Canadian vs. English Canadians meant Catholic against Protestant.

“All that’s nonsense now,” said a Belfast businessman. But it wasn’t in 1870.

“We had a lot of pictures and documents saved,” said Mr. Perry, “but we lost it all in the $30,000 fire of 1943.”

There’s a brass plaque to the fire too.

Page revised: 10 June 2021

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