Manitoba History: Reminiscences of an Old Timer, Part 2

by Jean A. Drever (Mrs. W. Cyprian Pinkham)

Number 21, Spring 1991

This article was published originally in Manitoba History by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make this online version available as a free, public service. As an historical document, the article may contain language and views that are no longer in common use and may be culturally sensitive in nature.

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This is the second and last installment of the edited memoirs of Jean A. Drever, later Mrs. W. Cyprian Pinkham, who was born at Lower Fort Garry in 1849. In the first installment, published in the last issue of Manitoba History, Jean Pinkham described the arrival at York Factory of her father William Drever, a Hudson’s Bay Company carpenter who later opened a retail store in Winnipeg. Jean’s mother, Helen Rothnie, emigrated from Scotland in 1839 and worked as a maid for Chief Recorder Adam Thom, whom she successfully sued in 1843 for non-payment of wages. In the last installment, which took us up to 1864, Jean Pinkham described her memories of growing up in Red River. In 1889 she and her husband, Bishop Cyprian Pinkham, moved to Calgary. Mrs. Pinkham wrote these reminiscences in the 1920s and they are reprinted here with the kind permission of the Glenbow Archives.

In 1864 my father [William Drever] built quite a pretentious house on his property on Main Street, and that year my eldest sister Margaret, who was only seventeen, married the Rev. J. Mackay, then stationed at Stanley Mission, and who afterwards became Archdeacon of Saskatchewan. She wore a very beautiful brocaded silver grey moire which my mother got from England, a white embroidered Chinese crepe shawl, with its deep fringe, and a white poke bonnet, much more like the dress of an elderly duchess than a young girl. Archdeacon Mackay died last year, having been in the Ministry for sixty years. My sister died some years before him.

Rev. William C. Pinkham, husband of Jean Drever, circa 1890.
Source: Archives of Manitoba

In 1865 Bishop Machray came to the Settlement, dear old Bishop Anderson having resigned and returned to England with his sister who had kept house for him. The Bishop was a very tall handsome man exceedingly shy with ladies; he had arranged with the Rev. W. H. Taylor and his wife, who had charge of the Parish of St. James, and who were about to return to England, to stay with him for a year. He was always very kind to me and invited me to stay at Bishop’s Court. Naturally I felt very flattered, and on one occasion he asked me and my friend, Harriet Inkster (afterwards Mrs. McMurray), to go to his house and cover books for a library he hoped to start. He was very shy about it and so were we, but he was very kind and gave us an excellent tea. I remember another time he invited me and my guest Mrs. H. George, wife of the clergyman at Portage La Prairie, to have lunch with him. We went in our best with our veils down, and kept wondering when he would ask us to “take off our things.” He never did, and we went into the dining room feeling very uncomfortable and uncertain, however, we managed very well (the fashion of lunching in one’s hat or bonnet had not then reached the Settlement). The Bishop and my mother became great friends. I think their both coming from Scotland was a bond between them. She was always doing him little kindnesses; he consulted her in many ways and when he was compiling a book of Family Prayers, he asked her help. He was our Parish Priest, as well as our Bishop, and prepared me for confirmation and confirmed me. He gave me a book as a memento, “The Pathway of Safety” with an inscription. I alas! lent it to a friend and it was never returned to me. Archdeacon Maclean joined the Bishop, I think, the following year. He came with his wife and family, and a Miss Still, daughter of Major Still of Strathroy, as governess. Later she married my brother.

In 1866 my mother died, there was a great deal of sickness in the village that year. Her death was a terrible loss to us all; she was a splendid mother, and had gone through many privations with a strong heart. She took the greatest care of us, bringing us up very strictly, for which we have all had great reason to be thankful; she was always ready to help those in need and I remember dear old Judge Black another Recorder of the Hudson’s Bay Co., saying to me after her death, “Your mother was a wonderful woman, and the country could ill afford to lose her.” I was seventeen years old and had to assume the care of my father, brother and two youngest sisters.

St. James church, Red River, circa 1860.
Source: Archives of Manitoba

In October 1868, the Rev. W. C. Pinkham appeared on the scene, coming direct from St. Augustine’s College, Canterbury, to take charge of the Parish of St. James. He was a young energetic and impetuous young man and felt the care of his small Parish quite inadequate. He was constantly asking the Bishop for more work, and eventually he had more than he could do. The first time I met him was at the opening of the first Holy Trinity Church in Winnipeg, a small wooden structure. The church was not far from my father’s house, and we had an American Melodian which was carried over to the church every Saturday. It was used at the opening service and I had the honour of playing the hymns and the chants for that day, very simple ones I assure you. Soon after the Archdeacon gave a dinner for Mr. Pinkham and I was also invited; also, another gentleman who had just come to the country. When the Archdeacon came in just before dinner he found this man asleep on the drawing room sofa; he aroused him and asked him to go for a little stroll before dinner, and led him to the main road and calmly said good-bye to him. He had taken too much Hudson’s Bay rum! The next time I met Mr. Pinkham, we became engaged, the impetuous young man did not believe in losing any time, and we were married on the twenty-ninth of December, two months after we first met,—rather a short engagement but nothing very serious has happened in consequence. I always thought St. James’ Parsonage, about three miles west of Winnipeg, the most beautiful spot on earth and used to hope that some day I might have just such a home, and so it came to me. I was then in my nineteenth year. We were married on a bitterly cold day, the Bishop and Archdeacon McLean performing the ceremony. Mr. Pinkham was unable to purchase a gold wedding ring in the Settlement, so he had one made by an old tinsmith, from an American five dollar gold piece; it has worn very well and has never been off my finger. My wedding dress was a soft white material called llama, it was the best thing to be bought in the place, and my wedding was so hurried that I had no time to send for anything. I also wore a Burnous cloak and a small white bonnet. The Bishop proposed our health and that of my dear old father. He never trusted himself to make a speech without first writing it out and then committing it to memory. Some years after his death, his nephew Mr. John Machray, K.C., of Winnipeg, found copies of these speeches among his papers, and he kindly sent them to me.

After the wedding breakfast, we drove in a Cariol to St. Andrew’s Parsonage, a distance of sixteen miles, north of Winnipeg, and there we spent our short honeymoon. We were obliged to spend the winter with my father, as the Parsonage had been rented. It was a great joy when the Spring came to be able to move to the adorable little Bungalow, situated on the Assiniboine River. There was a little rapid, opposite the house which we loved, there was quite a bit of land and a very nice grove of trees and we soon made it a very charming home. Our income at that time was seven hundred and fifty dollars a year, so we could not do much in the way of furnishing, nearly everything we had was home-made and we lived very simply. I remember how delighted the Bishop was, when he first visited us to see how much we had improved the place. I knew very little of the duties of a clergyman’s wife, but I put on a brave front. I taught Sunday School at nine in the morning and then again at three o’clock in the afternoon. I had mothers’ meetings and a sewing class for girls, the father of one of my girls—a leading Parishoner—came to me one day and said he could not allow his daughter to come to the meetings any more, so then I asked the reason—as she was one of my best girls—”Oh!” he said, “I hear that Mr. Pinkham is going to vote for a certain man for Parliament, and I do not approve of him.” So I said, “Oh! well I am very sorry to lose your daughter, but of course my husband has just as good a right as you to vote for the man he thinks is best.” and so that was that. During the summer we had an Annual Parish gathering on the nice little lawn, for this I had to give and do all the cooking, our Parishoners danced and played games. The Bishop usually came and always enjoyed it. There was a number of very nice and very kind people in the Parish, the Robert Taits, the Burks, the Bruces, the MacKenzies, and many others, who were always ready to assist us in any way. Our work was varied, we did a tremendous lot of visiting, my husband was a great believer in that part of his Parish work, with no nurses and few doctors we had to do a lot of nursing, sitting up night after night with a patient. On one occasion when sitting up with a dear little boy who was very ill, it kept us busy, one on each side of the bed, keeping the bed bugs off him, they were all over the place, even dropping from the ceiling.

My husband had charge of many missions after a time and I used to drive with him in our little buggy on his visitations, and sometimes we spent the night in strange places, often the house only contained one room for all.

I had eight children, six of whom were born at St. James. I only had a half-breed woman to nurse me, but she was very competent. When my first baby was born, I was very ill indeed, of course there was no telegraph offices, and no telephone, and very few doctors in the whole settlement, my husband had to send an old half-breed off on horseback to locate the doctor we wanted, he managed to get him in a fairly short time, but my life was dispared of, however, I recovered, but my baby only lived six weeks.

In 1870 the Riel Rebellion broke out and we had a very anxious and trying time. My father and brother were well known Loyalists, and they were constantly under supervision. At any hour of the day or night Riel would search my father’s house, with fixed bayonets, the rebels would go from room to room looking for refugees, knowing that our home was the principal haven for them, and before they left they would take anything they wanted. On one occasion they pointed their cannon at his house, threatening to blow it to pieces. My father was very ill at the time, and my sister Mary (Mrs. MacLeod) would not leave him. Practically everyone else had left the village, and it was fortunate that Riel changed his mind. A number of our friends were taken prisoner, and my sister Mary and Miss McVicar did a great deal for the prisoners and their families. I remember that my sister made six plum puddings for them at Christmas. My brother William helped a number of them to escape including Mr. Charles Mair, whose life he probably saved at a critical time. He was very brave and usually got through safely. One poor fellow had his feet badly frozen when he was trying to get away, he was a Mr. Lyman of Montreal, we took him in and kept him until his feet were better. One very cold morning Riel sent some of his men to arrest my father, they hurried him away from the breakfast table, in his ordinary clothes and with only slippers on his feet, they kept him in the guard room for some time, answering to the charge of sheltering prisoners and helping them to escape, they finally let him off.

An amusing story was told of the time when Macdougall was attempting to enter the Settlement and take his position as Lieutenant Governor, the half-breeds had put up a barricade at Pembina to prevent their crossing the border. A Captain Cameron on seeing the barricade, kicked it, and asked the half-breeds to remove that “blasted fence,” (pronouncing blasted in a very exaggerated English way). Macdougall did not succeed in crossing the barrier.

My brother William, who was always in the thick of any excitement, happened to be on board the steamer which was bringing Captain Butler (afterwards, Sir William Butler) to the Settlement. I think he was a sort of forerunner of the Wolseley Expedition. My brother was able to get him off the boat in safety and he escaped Riel. Butler reached the Lower Fort. Riel finally tried to treat with him, but he sent word that as Mr. Drever had been arrested and threatened with instant death, he would have nothing to say to him. The message came back promptly to say that Mr. Drever had been set at liberty, and Butler’s luggage given up, and eventually Wolseley arrived; the excitement was trying and I do not think there were many dry eyes on that wonderful day of release, when Wolseley’s army marched into the village in knee deep mud, found the Fort deserted, ran up our Flag, and sat down to the comfortable breakfast Riel and his followers had fled from. There was naturally a great feeling of bitterness against the Rebels which would have disappeared more quickly had it not been for the murder of Thomas Scott.

William Francis Butler
Source: Archives of Manitoba, Personalities - Butler, W. F. 1, N10492.

I think the Government might have given some of the Loyalists recognition for what they did and suffered at that time, but it seems to me, in order to get recognition at any time, you must be able to blow your own trumpet, and the sturdy men of early days were not given to that sort of thing.

Silver Heights, the home of Mr. John Rowand, was situated in our Parish, both Mr. Rowand and the Hon. James Mackay having moved from the village and built fine substantial houses in St. James. Mr. Rowand’s house was put at the disposal of the Lieutenant Governor for the summer months, and also of the Governor-General when he paid the Settlement a visit. Our first Lieutenant Governor, Sir Adams Archibald, occupied it and this made quite a stir in our little community, they were always at morning services on Sundays, they were very hospitable and entertained very delightfully.

John Rowand
Source: Archives of Manitoba, John Rowand 1.
(Cropped from original, which shows Rowand to his ankles)

It was pretty difficult in those days to get a cook who was much good, however, Mrs. Archibald managed to secure a fairly fine one, an Irish woman, a little over middle age, and I shall never forget Mrs. Archibald’s consternation when one day we were seated at a large luncheon party at Government House, this Irish cook appeared at the dining room door and called out to the maid, “Mary, will ye’s come and hold the turkey while I shew it up.” The said turkey was being prepared for a dinner party that evening.

When Lord Dufferin was Governor-General of Canada and paid his first visit to the Settlement he lodged at Silver Heights, with Lady Dufferin and his staff, they also attended our church and our Parishioners were very struck with his behaviour, he always walked up the aisle with his head a little bowed in reverence. He won all their hearts and was very delightful. I believe he had been requested to attend one of the finer churches in town, but like most English gentlemen, felt it was his duty to attend the Parish Church.

In 1876, my sister Mary was married to Colonel MacLeod in our little church at St. James, by Bishop Machray, he was the third son of Captain Martin Donald MacLeod of the 25th Regiment, and was born in the Isle of Skye in 1856. The family is that branch of the MacLeod Clan called the MacLeods of Drynoch, and traces descent from John Borb VI of MacLeod and Margaret, granddaughter of the Earl of Douglas. Colonel MacLeod came to the Red River in 1870 as a Major on Colonel Wolseley’s Staff. His name is woven into the history of Western Canada.

In 1871, on the passing of the first School Act for the Province of Manitoba, my husband was appointed a member of the Board of Education, a position he held until 1887. From 1871 to 1883, he was Superintendent of Education for Manitoba, he was an active member of the Council of the University of Manitoba.

In 1881 he also became Secretary of Synod of the Diocese, and in 1882, Cannon of St. John’s and Archdeacon of Manitoba, and so we left St. James’ Rectory, our first dear little home, and went out as it seemed to me, into the world, and resided at St. John’s. My father and two sisters were living with us, he built a home for us there which we called ‘Rothnie Cottage’, after my mother. Here my youngest daughter was born. I was interested in a number of organizations, the Women’s Auxiliary was organised at that time; I used to have a class of girls from St. John’s Ladies College. On Saturdays, to sew for the Childrens’ Home; at one time I was President of the Womens’ Hospital Aid Society to the General Hospital, and Dr. Hamilton Newborn was house surgeon at that time. In 1866 my husband received from Archbishop Benson, the offer of the Bishopric of Saskatchewan, and was consecrated Bishop on the seventh day of August 1887, by Bishop Machray and six other Bishops, including Bishop Thorold of Rochester, dear old Bishop Whipple of Minnesota,—(the Apostle of the Sioux Indians)—the Bishop of Dakota, Bishop Baldwin, and other celebrities. I shall never forget Bishop Whipple holding my two hands that day and saying, “Mrs. Pinkham, you will have many congratulations today, but you have my sincere sympathy.” I have had occasion many times, to remember his kind words. My husband was presented with many kind and valuable gifts, among other things, a very beautiful gold watch, which was stolen from him on one of his visits to England.

That year [1887] my dear old father died in his eighty-fourth year, he always hoped to come to Calgary with us, he had never taken a railway journey in all his life in the West, except on one occasion when I took him as far as Pembina just to let him see what it was like.

In 1884 my youngest sister, Christian, was married to John P. J. Jephson, a young Englishman, who came out intending to farm. As he did not meet with much success in that direction he eventually took up law, and finally came to Calgary where he practised his profession until his death in 1923.

We came to live in Calgary, arriving on May 4th, 1889, it being impossible to get a house until then, large enough to accommodate our family of two boys and four girls, and so I began pioneering for the second time.

Page revised: 23 November 2016