How Dr. Schultz Escaped From Jail

by Lillian Gibbons

Manitoba Pageant, January 1959, Volume 4, Number 2

This article was published originally in Manitoba Pageant 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 As an historical document, the article may contain language and views that are no longer in common use and may be culturally sensitive in nature.

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In a glass case in the east corridor of the Civic Auditorium in Winnipeg you can gaze at a knife which has a thrilling history. It was smuggled into the jail at Fort Garry during the Red River Disturbances in 1870. How did it get past the guards? It was hidden in a loaf of bread which had been baked by Mrs. John Christian Schultz and carried to her husband on 23 January 1870.

Sir John Schultz

Sir John Schultz
Source: Archives of Manitoba

Dr. Schultz, a big man with red hair and bright blue eyes, had been imprisoned by Louis Riel on 7 December 1869. He was the leader of the Canadian party opposing Riel, and with a number of his followers had taken refuge in the doctor's wooden house on Main Street close to where the Federal Building stands today. The Metis led by Riel surrounded the house, forcing Dr. Schultz and his supporters to surrender. As they were marched down Main Street to the jail at Fort Garry, Doctor Schultz pulled a sled carrying his wife. At the time she was sick but insisted on going along. She wanted to see what was going to happen to her husband, but since no women were imprisoned Mrs. Schultz was taken back to her home. There she laid plans for helping her husband escape. The night he received the loaf of bread from his wife, Dr. Schultz used the knife to cut up the buffalo robe which was his jail bed and bedding. He tied the strips together and used this fur "rope" to slide down the wall to freedom. He hurt his leg when the rope broke but, he was out, and limped his way first to the Barber house on Euclid Street and then to the McBeth house in Kildonan.

Riel's men searched up and down the Settlement but they never found Dr. Schultz for he had many friends who secretly passed him on from house to house. One of them was the Reverend John Black, the minister of Kildonan Church. While he was there, Dr. Schultz had a visitor - his wife.

On her way to see him, Mrs. Schultz was hidden under the fur robes of a cutter driven by William Logan. William's little niece, Harriet Jane Barber, sat up in front. If any of the searchers stopped them, Logan was ready to say, "This is E. L. Barber's daughter." Barber was an American storekeeper. The Metis respected his nationality, and never tried to arrest him during the "rebellion." That little girl of seven who sat with the driver is today Mrs. Charles Graham, now ninety-five years old. She remembers the drive in the snow and the reunion of the doctor and his wife.

At the end of February, 1870, Dr. Schultz, with Joseph Monkman Sr. as a guide, left Kildonan on snowshoes. He reached Duluth twenty-four days later, then finally Toronto and Ottawa where he told what was going on in the tiny settlement on the Red River. When troops under Colonel Garnet Wolseley arrived at Red River Riel fled.

Thus, in a sense, the knife in the loaf of bread might be considered the 'key' to the settlement of the troubles at Red River and Manitoba's entry into Confederation. Later this knife was given to Colonel S. L. Bedson, Governor of Stony Mountain Penitentiary. He gave it to the Manitoba Museum as a memento of the past.

Page revised: 18 June 2020