Lovisa McDougall – May 7, 1884

Letters From History


Welcome back to our monthly series, mis-delivering Edmonton’s mail since January 2012.

Hopefully our gracious readers will not mind a shorter letter today, as our erstwhile “postal workers” are busy training a new crop of interpreters for the upcoming 2012 season!

Unlike the busy hive of Fort Edmonton Park in May 2012, Edmonton in May 1884 was rather quiet. Settlers continued to trickle in, but without a railway success seemed far off (or at least as far as Calgary). Businesses struggled, crops were poor and the local Métis and Cree were hard hit by a depressed economy and ill-fated government policy.

John and Lovisa McDougall had a new home and a new daughter to keep them busy, and one can hardly blame Lovisa for asking her brother to send a new toy to brighten up a bleak and cold spring.



May 7th, 1884

My Dear Brother I thought I would not let this mail go without sending you a few lines. We are living in our new house, and it is a lovely place. We have been very buisy [all sic] fixing it up since we came here. The weather keeps very cold, we have not our garden in yet. How are you getting along?

Johnnie is talking of going to Jasper House in about 2 weeks, he has a trading post their. He will have to ride on horseback all the way, it is in the mountains¦

Mr. Baird told me sometime ago a friend of his had gone to Cannington to keep staor. I forgot his name¦

I wish, if you ever have a chance, you would buy Alice a wax doll if you are in Toronto or any place. She has an old rubber one, with the nose wore off, she sleeps with every night. The rubber ones are so ugly & china breaks up so.

Please write soon & tell me all the new’s. I have no to tell you everything is very quiet here.

Hoping you are well, I remain your loving sister


Toronto in 1884 must have seemed a different world. Edmonton was still nearly a decade away from ‘town’ status and supplies came in by Métis freighters and steamships. Lovisa had lived in the west for five years but still must have longed for the comforts of Cannington, Ontario and the nearness of a metropolis.

As mentioned in the notes for Lovisa’s previous letter, she had recently become involved with Edmonton’s nascent Presbyterian Church and must have been close to it’s Reverend Andrew Baird, a young Scottish-Canadian student also from Ontario.

Lovisa had returned home to Cannington to bear her first daughter Alice in 1880, returning to Edmonton the next Spring by Red River Cart. Along the way, so the family story goes, Alice fell off the cart unnoticed! Only by retracing the path did the poor mother find her infant in a mud puddle!

But the loneliness and hardship paid off for the McDougalls and many other families. By the 1900s they were living in a marvelous brick mansion and would later take several world tours!

Only another two weeks until you can visit Fort Edmonton Park and stop at the McDougall General Store on 1885 Street and browse both the historic and the modern displays of goods for sale!