28 December

Sir John Christian Schultz (1840-1896)

John Christian Schultz Buys the Nor'Wester

Although Louis Riel always holds the spotlight of the Red River drama of 1870, Dr. John Christian Schultz also played a leading role. It is difficult to judge whether he was a villain or a hero. W. G. Hardy in From Sea Unto Sea wrote: "Wherever Schultz strode either the grass withered or the snow melted."

Schultz, like Clifford Sifton and John McDougall, was a student at Victoria College, Cobourg, Ontario. He went to Fort Garry in 1860 and bought the first newspaper, the Nor'Wester, which had first appeared on December 28 the previous year. It had been founded by two young Englishmen who had worked on newspapers in Toronto. They transported their printing press to Fort Garry in an oxcart with their wives sitting on top!

Schultz used the Nor' Wester to support his "Canadian Party" which opposed the Hudson's Bay Company control over the West, and favoured annexation to Canada. He supplemented his income as a doctor by dealing in furs and land, and prospecting for gold along the North Saskatchewan River.

Dr. Schultz was largely responsible for Canada's sending surveyors to Red River before the official takeover from the Hudson's Bay Company. This action partly provoked the Red River uprising (see October 11). Later, Riel rounded up Dr. Schultz and other members of the Canadian Party and put them in jail in Fort Garry. The doctor's wife came to the rescue. She smuggled a knife to him in a plum pudding, and he pried his way through the window. Then he dropped to the ground by cutting his buffalo robe blanket into strips and making it into a rope.

When Riel finally fled from Red River, Dr. Schultz sought revenge on some of his followers. Elzear Goulet, who had taken part in the court-martial of Thomas Scott, was stoned to death as he tried to swim across a river. François Guilmette, who had fired the final shot into Scott's head, was killed. André Nault, on whose farm the survey had been stopped, was bayoneted and left for dead.

Yet Dr. Schultz went on to become a member of the House of Commons, then a senator, Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba, and finally Sir John Schultz.


28 December

-1720    The British Lords of Trade proposed the removal of the Acadians.

-1835    Britain withdrew assent to the New Brunswick-Maine border arbitration awarded by the King of the Netherlands. America had already rejected the award.

-1858    Governor Douglas of British Columbia issued an edict that all gold found along the Fraser and Thompson Rivers belonged to the Crown. This meant that prospectors needed licences.