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(Last Updated: May 02, 2015)


William ASHAM, a Treaty Indian, was born around 1853, son of Elizabeth BEAR & James ASHAM (1823-1901).



William was born in what I like to jokingly refer to the ‘Stone Age of Red River’ (and St Peters), for the following reasons: On May 23, 1853 Bishop David ANDERSON (1814-1885) placed the cornerstone for a new stone church, assigning it the name St Peters Church. During 1854-55 Reverend Abraham COWLEY (1816-1887) is indicated as the clergyman at St Peters. The old stone house on the west side of the River, into which Reverend COWLEY moved on August 19th, 1865, is still with us and now forms part of Dynevor Hospital. This house was quite probably the work of Duncan McRAE (1818-1898), the Stornoway mason who came out in 1838 to work on the walls and other buildings at Lower Fort Garry.


St Peters ChurchDynevor Church Rectory

St Peters Church and Dynevor Anglican Church Rectory


A Quote from MHS: Chief William ASHAM, head of St. Peter's reserve, said at the annual meeting in 1899:  "Nearly forty years ago (around 1859) Dynevor was erected for a missionary's residence. When only a boy I had the pleasure of having the advantage of seeing the building frequently while under construction. I remember standing; looking at the men working, and never imagined it would one day be a hospital for my people. Truly the Lord has done great things for us," said the old chief who could quote the Bible with the best of ecclesiastics though he got a bit mixed in his English.


In 1864 William was about 11 years old when Chief PEGUIS (1774-1864) died and was succeeded by his son Chief Henry PRINCE or RED EAGLE (1819-1902).


1867, the year of Canadian Confederation, William was about 14 years old; about 15-16 years old when the First Red River Riel Rebellion began in 1869 and ended in 1870 when Manitoba became a Province. William was recorded that year with his parents in the St Peters Reserve as age 16. In 1871 when Indian Treaties One and Two were signed he would have been about 17 or 18 years old.


Treaty Time in St Peters 1872

First treaty payment being made in 1872 at St Peters Reserve north of Selkirk
Courtesy Public Archives of Canada


William marries Jane Mary THOMAS


Around 1875 William’s wife was Jane Mary THOMAS


St Peters Settlement – 1876 Treaty Census/ Payments: List of Treaty Payments include: William ASHAM: One man, one woman and one child. Amount paid for three persons: $15 ($5 each). The child was James William, just a baby.


In 1880 Rev Benjamin McKENZIE (1837-1928) was transferred to St Peters Reserve to replace Rev Gilbert COOK (1840-1929) who was moved to Saskatchewan that year. ** MORE ABOUT REVEREND BENJAMIN McKENZIE


The Census of 1881 recorded William as a 30 year old Labourer; wife Mary as age 26 and children as William (age 5), Mary (age 1) and baby Nathaniel. His parents (Elizabeth & James ASHAM SR.) and siblings were living next-door.

In 1881 Alexander MUCKLE (1844-1908) became the Indian Agent for St Peters Indians, including Fort Alexander and Brokenhead Bands. ** MORE ABOUT ALEXANDER MUCKLE


On June 15, 1882 the Town of Selkirk was incorporated with James COLCLEUGH (1841-1918) as the first Mayor. At that time it was still believed that the new CPR mainline from the east would pass through Selkirk. There were already branch lines on both sides of the river, from Winnipeg to Selkirk and East Selkirk, with Selkirk at the crossroads. In that belief, the town was booming, a veritable land rush and COLCLEUGH was at the forefront of the land speculators. He circulated a petition which called on the Federal Government to put the St. Peter’s reserve up for sale, as it was a “drawback to our growth and prosperity.” Such feelings were shared by other land-grabbers, touching off an Indian Land Claim Dispute that would last for well over a century. It should be noted that very soon afterwards the Government chose Winnipeg for the main east-west rail route, and Selkirk was no longer a boom-town.


In 1882 Henry PRINCE was followed as Chief by his son, William Henry PRINCE (b-1830). Councillors were John “Long Jake” PRINCE (1858-1910), MATWAKAKEKOOT, John FLETT (1826-1888) and Thomas SMITH (1830-).


William PRINCE soon felt the power and prestige of his new chieftainship, and he developed a strong dislike for Agent MUCKLE whose influence in Band affairs seemed to dominate his own. PRINCE became so incensed with MUCKLE that he tried to have him removed from his position by writing derogatory letters and a long list of grievances and demands to his superiors, including Sir John A MACDONALD himself.


On Mar 26, 1884 a meeting was convened at Clandeboye to investigate the grievances put forth by William PRINCE and his councilors against MUCKLE. Several hundreds of Indians, half-breeds and white settlers living within the limits of the Reserve were present. Several tribal elders, including Councilor John “Long Jake” PRINCE did not support the actions of their chief, who, when forced to defend his complaints, stomped out of the meeting in a rage They sent letters to Ottawa asking that Chief William PRINCE be dismissed from his position.


William becomes a Chief of the St Peters Band


Chief PeguisJohn "Long Jake" PrinceChief Henry Prince

Some famous leaders of the St Peters Band who preceded William ASHAM
Chief Peguis “Cut Nose” (1774-1864), Life-time Councillor John “Long Jake” Prince (1858-1910)
and Chief Henry “Red Eagle” Prince (1819-1902)


In 1891 William ASHAM was elected as Chief, replacing Chief Henry “Red Eagle” PRINCE. Councillors that year were John (Long Jake) PRINCE, Alexander FIDLER, William HARPER, and William SINCLAIR.


On Jan 29, 1892, son Thomas Charles was born. That year William was re-elected as Chief, serving until 1897. Councillors during that period were John PRINCE, William HARPER, William SINCLAIR and William GREYEYES.


In 1897 (for the next two years) Henry PRINCE replaced William as Chief; councillors were John PRINCE, William HARPER, William SINCLAIR and John FLETT.


In 1898 eldest son James married Caroline STEVENSON, daughter of Margaret BALLENDINE and Peter STEVENSON (1830-1918). ** MORE ABOUT PETER STEVENSON

On Nov 17, the same year eldest daughter Mary Elizabeth married Luke CLEMONS, son of Margaret BEAR & John CLEMONS (1830-1917).


On Nov 19, 1900, daughter Violet Monica was born (she died less than two months later). William and Jane would have no more children.


In 1901 James’ father (James Sr.) died and in 1906 his mother (Elizabeth) died.


On Sep 2, 1902, son Thomas Charles died at the age 10.


In the Census of 1906 William was recorded as age 53; Jane, age 50. Children at home: Nathaniel (age 23), Edith (21), Beatrice (19), Ebenezer (16), Ronald (14), McClure (12) and Dorothy (age 7).


On Sep 19, 1906 daughter Edith married William Jacob WEEK.


On Mar 21, 1907 son Nathaniel married Harriet Jane SPENCE


The Historic Controversial Surrender of the St Peters Reserve


ICC: On September 20, 1907, after extensive previous negotiation, Government officials met with the Chief and councillors of the Peguis Band. Opposition to the surrender was voiced by ex-Chief William ASHAM. He was later to state that the entire surrender document was never read to the band members assembled at the meeting. Some band members, including ASHAM, sensed that there was significant opposition to the surrender and requested that the surrender vote be held at the end of the first day. At the insistence of PEDLEY, supported by the Chief and Council, however, the meeting was adjourned until the next day. When the meeting resumed on the second day, ASHAM discovered that the tide had turned and that much of the previous day’s support for his position had evaporated. Discussion resumed on many of the same issues that had been heard the day before, until PEDLEY suggested that a vote be held after the lunch hour. ASHAM later related that attempts were made during the noon break to enlist his support for the surrender by means of the suggestion that he receive the same quantity of patented land as a councillor would receive, which was significantly greater than what an ordinary band member would get. ASHAM refused the offer. - -


On the afternoon of September 24, 1907, the vote was held after a speech by Chief William PRINCE in favor of the surrender. - - In addition, at the suggestion of PRINCE, a clause was added giving ex-Chief William ASHAM, 120 acres of land as his personal allotment, thereby placing him in the same position as a band councillor.


By Order in Council dated October 14, 1907, the surrender was accepted. The same month, the Band and representatives of the department selected the site of the new reserve, near Fisher River, Manitoba.


When the Census was taken in 1911, William (age 55) and his family were still on the St Peters Reserve. Children at home were Ronald Fleming (age 18), Kenneth McClure (age 14) and Dorothy Janet (age 12).


St Peters and Fisher River Indian Reserves


The St Peters Reserve is Gone Forever


Subsequent events, in particular a 1911 Manitoba Royal Commission investigating the titles to the river lots and the surrendered land, were to vindicate those who had opposed the surrender’s validity. In the meantime, however, a significant proportion of the Band had relocated to Fisher River, patented lots had been sold, a sale of the remaining surrendered reserve land had taken place, and proceeds had been distributed to band members. The dominion government was unwilling to turn back the clock and reopen the St Peter’s land question. It was perhaps inevitable that the surrender would ultimately be validated by special legislation: the St. Peter’s Reserve Act. Under its provisions, purchasers would be required to pay an extra $1 per acre (to be added to the St Peter’s Band fund) to obtain a secure title to their land. The legislation had the effect of increasing the balance in the Band’s trust account by $40,000, but the St Peter’s Reserve was gone forever.


In 1912 daughter Beatrice married Colin COOK.


Fisher River Reserves


Census 1916: Fisher River Agency (Peguis Reserve): Cree family of William ASHAM, age 63; wife Jane Mary, age 58. Children: Ronald Fleming (age 23); Kenneth McClure (age 20); Dorothy Janet (age 17). Nephew: Norman THOMAS, age 21 (born c1895; soldier, Sewell).


In 1932 William gave his address as Hodgson, Manitoba. He would have been about 80 years old and  still living in the Peguis Reserve.


Please post comments & queries at this link: FORUM DISCUSSING WILLIAM ASHAM & FAMILY


=========================== Family Details ===========================

1. 1876 JAMES WILLIAM ASHAM (m. Caroline "Carrie" STEVENSON)

3. 1883 NATHANIEL ASHAM (m. Harriet Jane SPENCE)
4. 1885 EDITH ASHAM (m. William Jacob WEEK)
6. 1890 EBENEZER ASHAM (m. Emma Jane)
7. Jan 29, 1892 THOMAS CHARLES ASHAM (Died age 10)
8. May 5, 1894 RONALD FLEMING ASHAM (?m. Maude)
9. May 6, 1896 KENNETH McCLURE ASHAM (m. Louise UNKNOWN)
10. Dec 19, 1898 DOROTHY JANET ASHAM (m. Stanley Swinburn OLSON)
11. Nov 9, 1900 VIOLET MONICA ASHAM (Died in infancy, age 1)