Memorable Manitobans: James White (c1789-1816)
He studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh and for a time was an assistant apothecary in that city. From 25 November 1809 to 17 September 1811, he was acting assistant surgeon on HMS Beagle.
He came to the Red River Settlement in 1814 as surgeon for the colony, said to be the first physician known to practice there. He was then twenty-five years of age. The terms of his engagement to Selkirk are given in the Selkirk Papers. He was appointed at a salary of 50 pounds per year, to commence from the date of embarkation, lodging and subsistence for the first two years after his arrival, and 500 acres of land.
Selkirk, who discerned in him excellent judgment, had him appointed a member of Miles Macdonell’s Council in July 1814. He was second in command and had charge during Macdonell’s absence in 1814. After the surrender of Macdonell, White presided at the meeting of the Council of Assiniboia, 24 June 1815, and on the following day concluded Articles of Agreement with the Metis. Semple’s criticism of him was severe. He characterized White as “unfit to command” and a “slave to liquor.”
White was killed with Semple on 19 June 1816 during the Battle of Seven Oaks.
E. H. Oliver (editor), The Canadian North-West, Its Early Development and Legislative Records, 2 volumes. Publications of the Canadian Archives, No. 9, 1914.
Manitoba Medicine: A Brief History by Ian Carr and Robert E. Beamish, University of Manitoba Press, 1999, page 12.
We thank Anne Lindsay for providing additional information used here.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 26 October 2017