Hon. George Gunn, St. Ann’s

Link to Existing Biography:

Preliminary Biographical Notes:

Born 11 December 1833, George Gunn was baptised 28 January 1834, at Red River Settlement. His father, Donald Gunn (of Caithness, Scotland), had been a Hudson’s Bay Company Assistant Trader to 1822. His mother, Margaret Swain (Métis), was the daughter of HBC Trader and Writer, James Swain (of London, England), and an unknown Aboriginal woman of the York Factory district. George Gunn’s parents are recorded as having married 17 January 1826.[1]

Although his parents farmed at St. Andrew’s parish on the Red River, George Gunn settled at St. Ann’s parish, located at Poplar Point along the Assiniboine. In 1869 both George Gunn and his father were among the English members who attended the Convention of Twenty-four held in the Court House, adjoining Fort Garry, on 16 November. The younger Gunn participated as elected representative for St. Ann’s, the elder for St. Andrew’s. George Gunn Jr. was also present, in the same capacity, at the Convention of Forty. On 23 February 1870, the people of his parish declared him their choice for representation in the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia. Gunn, however, objected to the informality of this proceeding and insisted on another election. On 28 February, therefore, after receiving the ‘majority of votes’ taken at the schoolhouse, St. Ann’s, he was re-elected and the parishioners formally acceded to the rule of the Provisional Government.[2]

After the creation of Manitoba, Gunn ran as candidate for Poplar Point in the first general election for the province on 27 Dec. 1870. He lost however, receiving 14 votes, while runner-up M. Cook had 18, and the winner, D. Spence, had 26.[3] At the time, Gunn appears to have aligned himself with a group of individuals who had not been particularly accepting of the Provisional Government – including John C. Schultz (formerly of the ‘Canadian Party’), Pascal Breland (Métis, formerly of the HBC Council of Assiniboia), and Colin Inkster (Métis, opposed to Riel’s presidency).[4] Gunn’s loss in the provincial election did not spell the end of his public service. Lieutenant Governor Archibald appointed him as one of the Justices of the Peace for the County Marquette in 1871. The same year he was elected school trustee for Poplar Point.[5] Gunn had also placed a notice in the Manitoban and Northwest Herald newspaper advising that as of 21 July 1871 the “Half-breeds of Poplar Point” had claimed a reserve of land.

Land appears to have been a preoccupation for Gunn in 1871. He attempted to consolidate his own holdings as well. He waged a public disagreement in the newspaper with David Comptois, over the extent of his property at Poplar Point. He also gave notice of newly purchased property, including: ‘Nine (9) Chains of Land from John Kirkness, in the St. Anne’s or Poplar Point Parish,’ and ‘Six (6) Chains of Land from George Flett,’ both on the north bank of the Assiniboine; as well as ‘the Lots of Land on the south side of the Assiniboine River, opposite my Land on the north side of the Assiniboine.’[6]

This was undoubtedly the George Gunn who applied for patent to lot 86, Poplar Point in 1873,[7] and who was re-appointed Justice of the Peace in 1874.[8] The Manitoban and Northwest Herald reported that as of 22 October 1874 George Gunn was slated to run in an election for a representative of Baie St. Paul, where the Two Mile Hay Privilege was a pressing issue.[9]

This was likely also the George Gunn who was present at the Poplar Point district election for school trustees in 1874 and, as secretary treasurer of the school board for the parish advertised for a new school teacher that year.[10]

After 1874, however, with the influx of new settlers, it becomes difficult to establish exactly what Gunn was doing, and where, because several George Gunn’s, of the same age, appear to have been resident in the West and engaging in activities in keeping with what one might assume George Gunn, formerly of the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia would have been doing. The most likely/ intreguing matches are not for a George Gunn who stayed in Manitoba — perhaps out of frustration over the land issue, he decided to leave?

  • There was a George Gunn at Battleford, Saskatchewan, in 1878;
  • a George Gunn on the Little Saskatchewan River, Manitoba, in 1881;
  • a George Gunn who moved through Cypress River to homestead in the Mantario municipality of Saskatchewan by 1882;
  • a George Gunn farming at Dugald, Manitoba, to 1889;
  • and another George Gunn settled near Edmonton, Alberta from the mid 1870s. [11]
  • there are also brief references to a George Gunn of Red River who left the settlement to participate in the gold rush of 1863 much advertised in the settlement’s Nor’-Wester newspaper.[12] Aside from a comment that he “left the miners” to farm for awhile, there is nothing more that would indicate which Red River George Gunn this would be.[13] There is reason to suspect this was the George Gunn of interest, because his father, Donald Gunn, was interested in geology.[14]

To date, attempting to distinguish among these Georges Gunns is largely an exercise in speculation — I have yet to find clear documentary links that would confirm or eliminate various anecdotes about a George Gunn to form a reliable biography of the George Gunn of interest.

By family tradition, George Gunn of Red River sold up his property at Poplar Point and relocated to the Swift Current district. Apparently, in 1874 he married Eliza/ Julia/ Lissa Winchild/ Winechild/ Otterskin (Métis), originally of the Fort Qu’Appelle District.[15] Reportedly, he died in 1901 at Swift Current, while his wife died in 1917 at Shaunovan, Saskatchewan.

The story of one of the George Gunns of Saskatchewan can be pieced together as follows:  There is a report from George Gunn, who has been identified as “formerly of the Cypress Hills,” and who “became the first homesteader in what became the Mantario municipality, as the owner of the East half of Section 6, Township 23, Range 28, West of the Third Meridian,” in 1882 [16].

By some accounts this George Gunn was the same individual who was contracted to supply Middleton’s troops’ horses with feed in 1885:

Cavalry horses needed oats, and a Metis trader from the Red Deer River forks, George Gunn, had contracted to take a scow-load of feed downriver to Middleton’s camp.  … [He engaged one Maloney to take charge of the cargo but his barges] didn’t get 15 miles when [they] … ran aground in rapids at the mouth of Swift Current Creek.[17]

Gunn subsequently filed for ‘rebellion losses’ for the loss of his cargo.[18] Given that the George Gunn of Red River aligned with an ‘anti-Riel’ faction after the formation of Manitoba, it is reasonable to wonder if this is the same individual.

In a letter written in 1886, the George Gunn of Red Deer Forks avers a familiarity with agricultural conditions in Manitoba and attests to having first arrived at the junction of the Red Deer and Saskatchewan Rivers in 1878. He describes wintering there that year with 200 other families who lived by hunting buffalo. The families would have made up the party of Métis hunters from St. Laurent [SK] who followed the Fort Walsh-Battleford Trail with Father Jean-Marie Lestanc, missionary priest. They established a community known as Red Deer Forks or Riviére La Biche,  in a district that was later designated Mantario municipality. Lestanc built a church and school  during the winter of 1878-1879. Big Bear and his Plains Cree were camped at the settlement that same winter. The settlement survived until 1886.

In a letter, George Gunn described those years as follows:

Junction of the Red Deer and South Saskatchewan, 29 December, 1886

Dear Sir, — In answer to your enquiry as to the climate, soil, and general capabilities of this part of the country, I would say that I believe it to be very good.

I wintered here seven years ago; there were no less than 200 families that wintered here at that time. They lived by hunting buffalo; and although working their horses all winter, they kept in good condition. We had no snow until the 28th November, about 2 inches in depth fell at this time. This snow melted in a few days and about the 24th December we had another fall of snow, about equal in quantity to the first; this melted away about the middle of January, and about the latter part of January, and the first part of February, we had some more snow, which only lasted a few days. The ice in the river broke up on the 26th March, 1879.

I took up my place in October, 1882, and the late Pierre Levieller had that summer raised a small quantity of barley, oats and potatoes. The yield was very satisfactory, and the sample good. He informed me that his cattle did well the previous winter without any care.

In May, 1883, I sowed some barley and oats. This produced an excellent crop, although sown on the sod. I also had a small quantity of Indian corn, beans, beets, melons, onions, and carrots, which did well. On the 10th June I planted about 100 pounds of early rose potatoes, and had a yield of 900 pounds of good sized potatoes. In the first week in May, 1884, I sowed some wheat, barley, oats, beans, onions, potatoes, turnips, carrots and corn. The yield this year was very large, fully equal to anything that I ever saw in the Province of Manitoba. This was a rainy summer in this part.

In the summer of 1885, I did not sow anything, on account of the unsettled state of the country; yet, I had a volunteer crop of oats that was ripe in the early part of July, giving unmistakable proof of the richness of the soil, and mildness of climate. This was a dry summer; ponds of water dried up in many places that had been full for years.

About the middle of May, 1886, I put in a small quantity of wheat, barley, oats, potatoes, and some small seeds. This crop was the poorest I had; wheat, barley, oats and beans were a failure. My sugar corn, beets, turnips, potatoes, peas, melons and squash were splendid. This was an unusually dry summer, after a winter of less snow than any winter since 1877 and 1878.

I have thus far given you an account of the several crops that I raised since I came here.

In the summer of 1883 the land was divided into quarter sections, but the inspector of surveys condemned twelve townships, and on that account we have not been able to get a homestead entry last summer. These twelve townships were resurveyed, and I have no doubt before spring we can get entered for the land we are settled on. So far there have not been enough of us settled here to entitle us to a post office, but that will be remedied in the spring, as quite a number are coming here in time to put in a crop.

During the summer several parties came in with cattle. They had no trouble in getting hay for winter use, and are well pleased with the place. In the summers of 1882, 1883 and 1884 the Indians gave us trouble by stealing our horses, but we have no fear that this evil will last, as under the able management of our Indian Commissioner and his able experiences assistant, backed by an ever vigilent [sic] police force, our Indians are gradually being weaned from their former war-like and nomadic life, and taught a life, if not as exciting, at least more peaceful and humanizing in its effect.

Trusting this feeble effort to answer your enquiries [sic] will meet your wishes, I remain,

Yours very truly,

George Gunn.[19]


Member of the Provisional Government of Assiniboia; Position in the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia:

  • Honourable Member for St. Ann’s/Anne’s (Poplar Point).

Other Political Positions:

  • Among the ‘English Members’ to 16 November 1869 ‘Convention of Twenty-four’ held in the Court House, adjoining Fort Garry, as representative for Parish of St. Ann’s.

[1] La Socièté historique de Saint-Boniface, ‘George Gunn,’ Family Group Sheet (2 September 2010).

[2] Canada, Report of the Select Committee on the Causes of the Difficulties in the North-West, certificate 76, 120; Begg, Creation of Manitoba, 64, 65, 248.

[3] John Palmerston Robertson, A political manual of the province of Manitoba and the North-West Territories (Winnipeg: Printed by the Call Printing Co, 1887), 85.

[4] ‘Dinner to the Volunteers,’ Manitoba News-Letter (11 October 1870), 4.

[5] ‘Gazette,’ Manitoban and Northwest Herald (1 July 1871), 2; Manitoba Liberal (26 July 1871), 2.

[6] ‘Land Notice,’ Manitoban and Northwest Herald (2 September 1871), 3; ‘Notice’ Manitoban and Northwest Herald (4 February 1871), 3.

[7] LAC, Application for patent, ‘Lot 86, Parish of Poplar Point – Gunn, George, 1873.’

[8] Manitoban and Northwest Herald (31 January 1874), 1.

[9]Baie St. Paul, Oct. 22, 1874,” Manitoban and Northwest Herald (24 October 1874): 3.

[10]Teacher Wanted,” Manitoba Free Press (15 August 1874; and 5 December 1874): 8 and 3 respectively.

[11] See William C. Wonders, ‘The Nor-Waast,’ Alberta History 41, no. 1 (Winter 1993): 3; J.C. DeGear, ed., Stories of the old times from the ‘Saskatchewan Herald’ files (Battleford, SK: Saskatchewan Herald, 1951), 23, for 16 Dec. 1878; Canada, Parliament, Sessional papers of the Parliament of the Dominion of Canada, vol 8, First Session of the Sixth Parliament of the Dominion of Canada (Ottawa: MacLean, Roger and Company, 1887), 30; LAC, Canada, 1881 Census; ‘A Shocking Accident,’ Portage la Prairie Weekly Review (15 October 1896), 2; Obituary, George Gunn, Morning Telegram (16 May 1899), 1.

[12]The Gold Fields of this Country,” Nor’-Wester (15 July 1863): 2. [click the link ‘View full page‘ for the remainder of the article.

[13] (see Bumsted, also http://books.google.ca/books?ei=IBkUTbSmB8aenAfgwv3QDg&ct=result&id=GBvyAAAAMAAJ&dq=George+Gunn+red+river&q=Gunn#search_anchor — both of which appear to be referring to a Nor’-Wester account in1863]

[14] see the remarks of Janet? Gunn, in Healy, Women of Red River

[15] LAC, scrip claim, ‘Gunn, George.’

[16] Saskatchewan Western Development Museum Our Story: A History of the Rural Municipality of Chesterfield http://www.wdmprairiegamble.com/story/display_story.php?long_story=yes&mode=&search_keyword=&story_types=1,1,1,1,1,1,1&story_topics=1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1&story_time_frames=1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1&story_id=70

[17] http://books.google.ca/books?id=dOx0vxlvtvQC&lpg=PA166&ots=cDdIzbMKhe&dq=george%20Gunn%20red%20deer%20river&pg=PA166#v=onepage&q=george%20Gunn%20red%20deer%20river&f=false

[18] Canada, Parliament, Sessional papers of the Parliament of the Dominion of Canada, vol 8, First Session of the Sixth Parliament of the Dominion of Canada (Ottawa: MacLean, Roger and Company, 1887), 30, http://books.google.ca/books?id=yTZUiN6I6KYC&pg=RA5-PA30&dq=george+gunn+sessional+papers&hl=en&ei=ywQUTceQGsaTnQey-fHWDQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CCUQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

[19] George Gunn, letter, 29 December 1886, in Sessional Papers, vol. 10. Google Books http://books.google.ca/books?id=FOv62uMFzl0C&lpg=PA233&ots=GXkiluCTNL&dq=George%20Gunn%20cypress%20hills&pg=PA233%23v=onepage&q&f=false#v=onepage&q&f=false


Family Ties:

1. GUNN, Donald. Born 1797, at Halkirk, Caithness-shire, Scotland to William GUNN; Hudson’s Bay Company Assistant Trader to 1822;  church sanctioned marriage 17 January 1826 at Image Plains; active in community and political life of Red River Settlement, and later Manitoba; died 1878.

— sp. SWAIN, Margaret. Born 2 April 1802 to HBC Trader and Writer, James SWAIN (of London, England), and an unknown Aboriginal woman of the York Factory district; died 28 November 1870.

Scrip affidavit for Gunn, Margaret Deceased wife of Donald Gunn; born: April 2, 1802; father: James Swain (English); mother: Indian; died: November 28, 1870; heirs: her children: James; John; Alexander; George, Donald; William, who died: May 1842; Matilda, wife of John Atkinson; Margaret, wife of John Drane; Janet, wife of A.M. Mickle; grandchildren of her son William through his daughter who married Frank Hunt; said grandchildren being Wm. Hunt Winnifred Hunt; claim no: 3039; date of issue: =

2. GUNN, James. Born 6 January 1824; baptised 12 July 1825, Red River Settlement.

Scrip affidavit for Gunn, James; born: January 6, 1824; father: Donald Gunn (Scot); mother: Margaret Gunn (Métis); claim no: 107; date of issue: May 1, 1876 =

— sp. DONALD [?], Mary. Born 12 January 1818/1828 [?].

Scrip affidavit for Gunn, Mary, wife of James Gunn; born: January 12, 1818; father: Wm. Donald (Métis); mother: Ann Donald (Métis); claim no: 108; date of issue: May 1, 1876 =

2. GUNN, John. Born 8 August 1826, Red River; baptized 25 September 1827.

Scrip affidavit for Gunn, John; born: August 8, 1836; father: Donald Gunn (Scot); mother: Margaret Gunn (Métis); claim no: 105; date of issue: May 1, 1876 =

— sp. GARRIOCH, Emma. Born 20 July 1824/1825; married February 1855.

Scrip affidavit for Gunn, Emma, wife of John Gunn; born: July 20, 1824; father: Wm. Garrick (Scot); mother: Nancy Garrick (Métis); claim no: 106; date of issue: May 1, 1876 = [see page for Hon. William Garrioch of the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia]

3. GUNN, Margaret Jane. Born c. 24 November 1855/1856.

Scrip affidavit for Gunn, Margaret J.; born: November 24, 1855; father: John Gunn (Métis); mother: Emma Gunn (Métis) =

3. GUNN, William R. Born c. 1858.

3. GUNN, Donald. Born c. 1860.

3. GUNN, John James. Born 1861.

3. GUNN, Emma Ann. Born 1863.

3. GUNN, Mary. Born c. 1865.

3. GUNN, Henry George. Born c. 1866.

3. GUNN, Gilbert Garrioch. Born 1868.

3. GUNN, Margaret. Born c, 1877.

2. GUNN, Alexander. Baptized 7 April 1829; married 1854; died 1902.

— sp. McKENZIE/MACKENZIE, Angelique. Daughter of Benjamin McKENZIE Sr. [son of Roderick McKENZIE Sr. (1772-1859; HBC Chief Factor at Ile-a-la-Crosse) and Angelique MALLOTTE; Chief Accountant for the Hudson’s Bay Company; died 1837 Hawaii] and Catherine  CAMPBELL.

2. GUNN, George [Garrioch?]. Born11 December 1833; baptized 28 January 1834, at Red River Settlement; [married c. 1874?]; [1901 Canadian Census (31 March) list the George Gunn who married Eliza and had the children named below at Eagle Quill Lake, but with a brother named William Gunn (born 1848) — who should have died in 1842?]; by some accounts died 13 December 1901 near Swift Current?.

[— sp. WINCHILD/WINECHILD/OTTERSKIN, Eliza/Julia/Lissa. Born 15 October 1853; died 1917 Shaunovan, Saskatchewan?][a.k.a McKinley?

Lavallée, Nancy, née McKinley; address: Gull Lake; claim no. 918; born: 9 March, 1873 at Eagle Quill Lake; father: George McKinley (Whiteman); mother: Eliza Winchild (Métis).]

[3. GUNN, Eliza Margaret. Born 1 April 1879, Dark Sand Hills; died August 1883, Red Deer River.

Gunn, George; heir to his deceased daughter, Eliza MargareGunn; claim no. 957; born: 1 April, 1879 at Dark Sand Hills; died: Aug., 1883 at Red Deer River; address: Swift Current; father: George Gunn (Métis deponent); mother: Eliza Winchild (Métis); scrip cert.: form D, no. 936

GUNN, Donald.

Gunn, Donald; address: Swift Curren; claim no. 983; born: 24 May, 1877 at Mire Creek; father: George Gunn (Métis); mother: Elise Winchild (Métis); scrip cert.: form E, no. 666

GUNN, Catherine Janet.

Gunn, Catherine Janet; address: Swift Curren; claim no. 915; born: 26 Aug., 1882 at Parkbeg; father: George Gunn (Métis); mother: Eliza Winchild (Métis); scrip cert.: form E, no. 656 ?]

2. GUNN, Donald. Born 27 May 1840; baptized 30 June 1840; died 1927.

— sp. BALLENDINE, Caroline. Born 7 August 1846 to James Ballendine and Frances Lewis/Lewes.

Scrip affidavit for Gunn, Caroline, wife of Donald Gunn Jr.; born: August 7, 1846; father: James Ballendine (Métis); mother: Frances (nee Lewis, Métis); claim no: 107; date of issue: May 1, 1876 =

2. GUNN, William. Born 31 August 1818/1820, Badger River district, North-West Territory; baptized 27 August 1822, York Factory; buried 10 May 1842, St John’s Parish, Red River.

— sp. ROSS, Isabella. Born c. 1820/1824 to  Alexander ROSS and Sarah/’Sally’ (an Okanogan woman}; baptized 4 December 1824 at St John’s parish; married 4 February 1841, St John’s, Red River Settlement; died 18 February 1860/1865 at Kildonan, Red River Settlement. [See page for William Coldwell, Clerk of the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia]

3. GUNN,

— sp. HUNT, Frank.

4. HUNT, William.

4. HUNT, Winifred.

2. GUNN, Matilda.

— sp. ATKINSON, John.

2. GUNN, Margaret.

— sp. DRANE, John.

2. GUNN, Janet. Born 9 March 1846; baptized 27 May 1846; married 6 February 1874.

Scrip affidavit for Muckle, Janet (nee Gunn); wife of Alexander Muckle; born: 9 March 1846; father: Donald Gunn; mother: Margaret Swain =

— sp. MUCKLE, Alexander Montgomery.

2. GUNN, Jane. Baptized 2 January 1836; buried 7 November 1843.


Swain Family Ties:

1. SWAIN, James Sr. Born c. 1775, St. Andrew’s Parish, London, England; died 1829, London, England.

— sp. Unnamed Aboriginal woman.

2. SWAIN, James Jr.


[Credit: The original research on which this page is based was commissioned for the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia Project, by Aboriginal and Northern Affairs Manitoba. The current page is presented gratis — I have no funding from any agency.]


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