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John Christian Schultz, M.D. - 1840-1896

by Dr. Ross Mitchell

Manitoba Pageant, January 1960, Volume 5, Number 2

This article was published originally in Manitoba Pageant by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make it available here as a free, public service.

Please direct inquiries to webmaster@mhs.mb.ca.

Although nearly one hundred years have passed since John Christian Schultz first visited Winnipeg, the very mention of his name leads to controversy. Though he was still in his twenties he fought the venerable Hudson's Bay Company and the young Louis Riel, head of the Provisional Government of the Red River Settlement. His enemies struck back and his supporters rallied round him. Twice he was imprisoned in Fort Garry and twice he was rescued, once by his friends, once with the help of his wife. After this second escape he was kept hidden in Kildonan, then made his way by dog cariole and snowshoes to Duluth, thence to Eastern Canada.

John Christian Schultz
Source: Archives of Manitoba

During the 1860s when the Hudson's Bay Company had the monopoly of trade, Schultz traded independently and wrote bitter tirades against the Company in his newspaper, the Nor'Wester. He opposed Riel, the leader of the French Metis, by setting up the "Canada" party composed of young men from Ontario. The train of events put him on the triumphant side. He was barely thirty in 1870 when the authority of the Hudson's Bay Company was superseded by the Province of Manitoba and Riel, President of the Provisional Government, fled his native land.

From that point on fortune smiled on Schultz. The losses he had sustained in the troubles of 1870 were recompensed, his dealings in lands, railroads and telegraph stock prospered, he became successively Member of Parliament, Senator, Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba and Knight-Commander of the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George.

What were the forces that impelled him? He was born in Amherstburg, Ontario, of Danish and Irish stock, on January 1, 1840. His father who had received some education for the Lutheran ministry, married Elizabeth Reily McKinney, a widow with children. Their one child was John. From his father he received his second name, the Viking frame, red hair and a restless spirit. From his mother came his love of a fight. Oberlin College, Ohio, and Victoria College, Toronto, gave him a sound education. In 1860, being then twenty, he came to the Red River to visit his half-brother, Henry McKinney, who had a trading store at the corner of Portage Avenue and Main Street. Returning to Toronto he obtained a medical degree from Victoria College, and in 1861 came back to the Red River Settlement whose possibilities he had clearly foreseen. With him was a classmate, Dr. Robert Bown, a dentist, who remained a close friend for many years.

Although the young man's main occupation was trade, he did practise medicine and was generally known as Dr. Schultz. My friend William Douglas, an authority on early Manitoba history, has kindly sent me a copy of an advertisement appearing in the Nor'Wester, August 25, 1866:

"MEDICAL"

"Those wishing to consult Dr. Schultz will be most likely to find him at home after 2 p.m. The poor will be furnished with advice and medicine gratis on Wednesdays and Saturdays by showing a certificate from the Priest or Minister of their Parish declaring them unable to pay."

This was also printed in French in the same issue of the newspaper.

As Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba, Dr. Schultz visited the old Carlton School in Winnipeg. At that time the writer was in Grade VII, taught by Miss Agnes Laut, afterwards a distinguished writer and historian. Memory's eye calls up the vision of a man of gigantic frame, with red hair and beard but with a lemon-yellow countenance betraying the illness which led to his death four years later. He is buried in the churchyard of St. John's Cathedral, Winnipeg.

He was a polished orator and keenly interested in the history of the Canadian West. He was secretary of the first literary society in the Red River Settlement and later read several papers before the newly-formed Manitoba Historical Society which are of great interest. At a critical period in the history of our province he was a most colourful character. Perhaps only at such a time could he have flourished.

Page revised: 17 July 2011

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