Dr. J. C. Schultz

by Dr. Murray Campbell

MHS Transactions, Series 3, 1963-64 season

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The following paper was first read to the Winnipeg Medical Society at its Annual Meeting on 19 April 1963 as the author’s Presidential Address, and it was subsequently published in the Manitoba Medical Review in May 1963. It is reproduced here with permission.

At the time I was deciding what the topic should be for tonight’s remarks, Nathan Cohen wrote his famous or notorious column about Winnipeg, in which he remarked that “our mercantile element would like to forget its pioneer past.” I am not sure what he meant, but I intend to tell you a story about our pioneer past.

Dr. J. Christian Schultz

On the night of 23 January 1870, during what has been called the Red River Insurrection, a prisoner escaped from the clutches of Louis Riel and Upper Fort Garry. Although injured, he made his way along Main Road (Figure 1) to what is known as the Barber House (Figure 2) in the Point Douglas area and then to Kildonan, where he hid successfully from his pursuers. This man was a physician, Dr. John Schultz (Figure 3). The Barber House is still inhabited; for those who don’t make house calls, Euclid Street is at the first traffic light north of the Main Street underpass on the east side. It was so called because it was the only straight street in the area. I shall refer again to the Barber House.

Map of the Red River Settlement, circa 1872, reconstructed in 1922.
Source: Archives of Manitoba, Maps - Winnipeg - 1872, #1. (Manitoba Free Press, 9 November 1922)

How did a physician get into this predicament? As a matter of fact, he was one of four physicians imprisoned by Riel. Schultz came to Red River in the fall of 1860 at age 20 to see a half-brother, named McKenney, who was doing well in business. He liked things, so he returned permanently in 1861 and set up his office and store with his half-brother at the corner of Portage Road and Main Road. No one questioned his medical qualifications until Dr. Ross Mitchell (1934) wrote to Queen’s University where Schultz had attended, to enquire about his degree. He was advised Schultz had taken no examinations. However, it was later ascertained he had graduated as an MD at Victoria University in 1861. Schultz began to trade in furs immediately, and being from Canada, he became politically active against the Hudson’s Bay Company, which he considered an obstacle to the annexation of the West to Canada. Schultz bought a half-interest in the only newspaper at Red River, the Nor’Wester, in 1864, and he became the leader of what was called the Canada Party. Three years later he became the sole owner of the Nor’Wester, and his influence increased to such an extent that when he was arrested for refusing to pay a bill in 1868, his friends took him out of jail by force and nothing was done. It should be said, however, that he had contracted this bill when he was a partner of his half-brother (the partnership having been dissolved), and there was some doubt as to who was legally responsible for it.

In 1869 when the transfer of the Red River settlement and the North West generally was being arranged between the Hudson’s Bay Company and the Government of Canada, the settlement was like a patient with three doctors: the Hudson’s Bay Company (the local governor of which was physically sick), the Imperial government, which was too far away, and the Canadian government, in effect, Sir John A. Macdonald, who proved to be a very poor clinician. Macdonald called in a consultant, Donald Smith, later Lord Strathcona, but when he arrived at Red River it was too late to do anything. When in December, 1869, Schultz with his fellow Canadians was arrested by Riel, he had in his possession, in his home, goods belonging to the survey party from Canada (the presence of which was the immediate cause of the uprising), and even though the chief surveyor advised him to surrender these goods, he refused to do so. Dr. J. H. O’Donnell, another colorful physician, wrote in his book, Manitoba as I Saw It, that Schultz was at fault. O’Donnell says, “It does not require stretching one’s imagination to see that if the Canadians had remained in their homes away from Dr. Schultz’ residence, the cause for attack on them would have been removed. Should they have marched upon the Schultz house and finding nothing but himself and his family it is unlikely they would have made them prisoners. The wily O’Donohue would have vetoed that. But when they surrounded the Schultz home they found 60 people and some small arms. The segregating of the Canadians was the Schultz blunder.” (Nonetheless, O’Donnell, who came to Red River in 1869, went to jail with Schultz).

Following his escape, Schultz made his way to Canada in a memorable winter journey and there aroused further resentment against Riel and the Hudson’s Bay Company. The execution of Thomas Scott was the Riel blunder. All this paid off for Schultz. He received more than $20,000 compensation for rebellion losses and imprisonment. He became a member of Parliament in 1871; was made a senator in 1882; Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba in 1888, and received his knighthood in 1894. He was a member of the Dominion Board of Health for Manitoba and the Northwest Territories and also a member of the Board of Governors of the Manitoba Medical Board. A gazette of 1887 stated that he was Liberal-Conservative in politics. He made money in furs, land, (Figure 4) telegraph and railway companies. In the 1880s he had his store and office on the corner of Euclid and Main Street, where he advertised himself as “Real Estate Agent and Furs.” His home, on what is now Beaconsfield Street, became the first Children’s Hospital in 1909.

What of Schultz as an individual? Professor Morton, in his History of Manitoba, says he was a “red-blond giant, powerful of body, crafty of eye and mind,” and quotes a contemporary source as saying fate manufactured a scoundrel out of material meant to be a gentleman. [1] Professor Stanley maintains that Dr. Schultz possessed both ambition and an alert mind and quotes another contemporary as saying that “he possessed in large degree the spirit of adventure that has helped make Britain Great Britain.” [2] By temperament he appears to have been born to lead. His political aggressiveness and Masonic affiliations (he brought Masonry to Red River in 1864) were bound to bring him into conflict with the native population, at least with those who spoke French and wished to be left alone. And, regarding his stand against the Hudson’s Bay Company, Stanley comments that, “It should be remembered that Schultz and the Canadian party were not taking an unreasonable stand when they contended that the existing regime had ceased to meet the needs of the settlement.” [3] This is not to say that one should condone the methods Schultz used in his attempt to change the order of things. He certainly misled McDougall, then federal public works minister and later Lieutenant Governor of the Province, and the methods he employed in trying to secure land from the Indians and Métis were not commendable.

On the other hand, as has already been noted, he was instrumental in bringing Masonry to Red River, he founded the first literary society, and he was active in the formation of the Historical and Scientific Society of Manitoba. It would appear he practised good medicine and held the first outdoor (charity) clinic, when he treated the poor free of charge on the presentation of a note from a clergyman. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1894 on the basis of an extensive botanical study he had made in the 1860s. If Schultz had not been a prohibitionist in the days when social drinking was almost a must for respectable men, and if he had not been so penurious, he might have been more highly regarded by his fellows. When I told an elderly patient I was to give an address on Dr. Schultz, she exclaimed, “What ... that rascal,” but after a pause added, “but he was a builder.”

On a trip to Red River during the Sioux massacres in Minnesota in 1862, he and his companions were intercepted by the Indians and he thinks they were left unharmed because of the fascination that his medical instruments held for the marauders. There is a graphic description of an occasion at St. Paul in the same year, when he moved a mired Red River cart with nine hundred pounds of freight when no one else could do it. Illustrated (Figure 5) is a bill of lading signed by him at St. Paul in 1863. Transport by Red River cart was a method by which goods were taken from St. Paul to Winnipeg for many years.

Schultz died at the early age of fifty-six, and Dr. Mitchell who saw him as a schoolboy in 1894 said he had the typical appearance of pernicious anemia. My uncle advised me recently that he delivered papers to him at Government House in the 1890s and he had the appearance of an old man. Like many other people in the pre-vitamin era, Schultz had his disease for a long time. Sir John A. Macdonald was once asked why he made him a Senator and his cynical reply, “Just look at him,” implied he didn’t have long to live. Again, Sir John’s judgment was at fault - Schultz outlived Sir John by five years.

When Schultz made his famous escape to the Barber House in 1870 (it was built in 1864), a young Barber who was in the house told me how frightened she was when the Indians surrounded the house the next day. This girl, later Mrs. Harriet Graham, was an 1889 nursing graduate of the Winnipeg General Hospital, and she died last year, aged ninety-nine. Dr. and Mrs. Schultz lived in a house on Beaconsfield Street in the Point Douglas area. In 1867 or 1868 he had married a Miss Farquharson who had come from British Guiana. She came North because the family had been advised to come on account of a consumptive sister. While they lived in the Point Douglas area Mrs. Schultz became friendly with a younger sister of Mrs. Graham who was born in the Barber House in 1868. In later years, Mrs. Schultz, now Lady Schultz, lived at 113 Eastgate, Armstrong’s Point, and this girl, who became Mrs. Sparrow was known in Winnipeg as the personal advisor to Lady Schultz, and she remained her very close friend until her death. During the First World War and also during the 1920s, my father was physician to Lady Schultz. When Lady Schultz died in 1930 she left her money to Mrs. Sparrow and Mrs. Sparrow was enabled to live in the house in which she was born. She died in 1957.

In February 1958, when I was on the executive of the Manitoba Historical Society, I received a phone call from the present owner of the house to say that he was going to renovate the house and clear out all the old papers and he wished to know if we would be interested. This was an exciting offer for more reasons than one; but the interest here - would the house contain the Schultz papers which had never come to light. A word about E. L. Barber, the builder, will be in order. Barber was born in Connecticut and had come to Minnesota in 1856. He was in business there, and came to Red River in 1860 to collect a bill. Like Schultz, he was much impressed by the business possibilities and remained. Although he and Schultz were very good friends, papers in the house showed that at one time they had a lawsuit. Lawsuits were very common in Red River and seemed to provide just something to do in many instances. Barber brought with him correspondence from Connecticut, from Minnesota, and his family appeared to have thrown nothing away during the 93 years in which they inhabited the house. The Provincial Librarian and I spent 20 hours in the old home, heated as it was by its original Caron stove. One item in the same box with 1940 Christmas cards was an official document appointing Barber Postmaster at Breckenridge, Minnesota, in 1857. Breckenridge is at the junction of the Wood and Ottertail Rivers where they form the Red River, about 75 miles south of Fargo - though the engineers don’t agree. It was on one of the routes taken by Schultz between St. Cloud and Red River. Dr. Neil Kippen, formerly of Winnipeg, practises there. When passing through in 1958 I stopped to find out more about the early Post Office, since this is one of my interests. I was politely informed that there had been no Post Office until 1872; a year or so later, I took the document with me. The explanation is - it became a ghost town in the Sioux Massacre of 1862 - the three people brave enough to stay in the town were killed.

Barber had a girl friend in Connecticut named Stella. She followed him as far as St. Cloud in the early 1860s, where they apparently came to the parting of the ways. Nonetheless, Barber named Stella Avenue (the next avenue north of Euclid on the other side of Main Street) after this young lady.

We discovered many things of interest and some of monetary value in the old home, but no papers of John Schultz.

Schultz was a striking figure who prospered in a pioneer land whose past I don’t think we want to forget. Drive down Euclid Avenue sometime - look at No. 99 with its new paint job, and think of its 99 year old story.


1. William L. Morton, Manitoba: A History (Toronto, 1957), p. 110.

2. Rev. A. C. Garrioch, First Furrows (Winnipeg, 1923), p. 225.

3. G. F. G. Stanley, The Birth of Western Canada (Toronto, 1930), p. 83.

Page revised: 12 October 2011