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McBeth House Centre Inc: Tracing Back to the Selkirk Settlers

Article by Laura McKay and Roshanie Balkaran, on behalf of Heritage Winnipeg Corp.
To follow up on this or any other articles on the blog, contact Heritage Winnipeg's Executive Director.

McBeth House-32

WHO: Summer Students, Laura McKay & Roshanie Balkaran; HW Executive Director Cindy Tugwell

WHAT: Attended the opening of the new sun room at McBeth House and toured the house and property

WHEN: July 10, 2014

WHERE: 31 McBeth Street  

COST: Regular tours are not available but the house and property are available for private events of various sizes. Call 204-334-0432 for more information

McBeth House Centre President, Edna Krosney, cuts the ribbon to officially open the new sun room.

The McBeth Family 

McBeth House-9

Alexander McBeath, his wife Christie, and their young family were among the Scottish colonists recruited by Lord Selkirk to settle the area around the Red River. The property claimed by the McBeath's (alternate spelling of "McBeth") was down the river from Fort Douglas, the settlement's centre of defence and trade. The property was narrow, starting at the Red River and leading back into hay land on the prairie. This method of settlement was both useful and necessary, making it easier for the settlers to communicate with one another in case of attack. Members of the North West Trading company, as well as the local Metis and First Nations populations frequently attacked the settlement to discourage the colonists from staying.

McBeth House-18
Alexander and Christie McBeath
The property at 31 McBeth Street was settled by Alexander McBeath and deeded to him by the Crown in 1815. The first home on the property was a log cabin, from which Robert McBeth Senior (Alexander's son) would eventually run a store. Robert also continued the family tradition of farming with his wife Mary and built a new home for his growing family in 1851, pictured below. The couple had many children, one of whom was also named Robert. 

The McBeth Family home from the 1850s - Photo Taken from the City of Winnipeg Historical Report
Family home in the 1850s - evidence of this log structure can be found near the current house (Photo from Historical Report)
McBeth House-31
The cairn at the front of the property was created using bricks from the old family home (above)

A Family Legend

During the rebellion of 1869-70 lead by Louis Riel, many of his more vocal opposition was imprisoned at Upper Fort Garry. John Schultz was one of these men who managed to escape and headed out on foot to report the situation to the government in Eastern Canada. There is a story that says that he hurt his ankle in his escape and managed to hobble to the home of the McBeths, where he stayed to rest and gather supplies for his journey. The rebels were said to have traced Schultz to the home, but didn't attack out of respect for the McBeths and he managed to slip away the next day. The story was told by the sons of Robert McBeth Senior as well as others, so there is some basis in fact. John Schultz made it to Ottawa and was later made Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba in 1889.

This link tells the story of John Schultz's escape and mentions a stop at the McBeth House. 

The Construction of McBeth House

Robert McBeth Junior; commissioned the building of McBeth House in 1912 - photo taken from the City of Winnipeg Historical Report
Robert McBeth Jr. (Photo from Historical Report)
It is Robert McBeth Junior, grandson to Alexander and pictured above, that built the home we now know as McBeth House. He inherited the property from his father and also purchased land neighbouring the property. William W. Cross was commissioned to build the house in 1912, constructed of solid red pressed brick. Despite the fact that it was two miles north of Winnipeg at the time of its construction, the house was outfitted with full plumbing and a sewer outlet. Water was pumped by an electric motor from a well into tanks in the basement. From there, water could be pumped into the kitchen and bathrooms using two small hand pumps which are still in use today. A water heating system and telephone were also installed.

McBeth House has deep roots - click for article PDF
Click to read a PDF of this news article
Robert Junior died suddenly in 1915, but the house remained in the family for 60 years as a home for his widow, Helen, and their four children. The eldest son, Robert J., had a career with the railway, working first for the Canadian Northern Company and staying when the company switched over to the CNR. 

House commemorates three Winnipeg Teachers - click for article PDF
Click to read a PDF of this news article
All three daughters - Margaret, Mary Janett (Jenny), and Helen Isabel (Isabel) became teachers in the area and contributed a great deal to the community, both through the education system and the church. Because of their chosen professions, none of the children continued the family tradition of farming and much of the land was gradually sold off. What remained was willed to the city by Isabel, the last surviving daughter, to be used as a senior centre. The adjacent land was developed into a park for children to play in.  

Stately McBeth House now cared for by seniors - click for article PDF
Click to read a PDF of this news article

Sources & Links

The Selkirk Settlers:
Information on the Selkirk Settlers
MHS Article - Thomas Douglas, Lord Selkirk

McBeth Family:
MHS Article - Alexander McBeth
MHS Article - Robert McBeth (Alexander's son)
MHS Article - Roderick G. McBeth (Robert Sr's son)
MHS Article - John McBeth (Robert Sr's son)
MHS Article - Robert McBeth (Robert Sr's son) 

McBeth House: 
City of Winnipeg Historical Report (Long) - McBeth House
Doors Open Winnipeg - McBeth House
Historic Places - McBeth House
Manitoba Historical Society article - McBeth House
McBeth House treasured by seniors - Winnipeg Free Press article

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