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JOHN ROWAND (1787-1854)

(Last Updated: April 16, 2015)


John ROWAND was born in 1787 in Montreal, son of an Edinburgh-educated Irish Physician (1762-1818). 


The main purpose of this narrative is to provide a brief timeline of events as a basis for tracing and discussing the descendants of John ROWAND and his relationships with other families of general interest. My (Gary Still) main sources of information were as follows:


The book ‘John Rowand, Czar of the Prairies’ by JG MacGregor - denoted as Czar.
The book ‘Many Tender Ties’ by Sylvia Van Kirk - denoted as VanKirk.
The book’ Strangers in Blood’ by Jennifer S.H. Brown - denoted as Brown

** Much credit is due to Beth Balsillie who has done a lot of excellent research on this and many other related families, and who frequently sets me straight when I make blunders. I very often refer to her work- Many, many thanks Beth!


Recent input on the Forum by EdmontonTom (Tom Long) is greatly appreciated and is revealing a lot of information previously unknown to me. Tom is the Public Interpretive Coordinator for Edmonton Park.





John Rowand - Czar of the Praires (Book cover)


John’s future wife, Louise UMFREVILLE aka HUMPHREYVILLE was born around 1783 at York Factory on Hudson Bay, the second child, and eldest daughter of a Cree woman and Edward UMFREVILLE aka HUMPHREYVILLE who was born around 1755 in England and came to York in 1771 as a ‘writer’ (accountant) for the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC). Louise’s only brother, Thomas HUMPHREYVILLE was about four years older than her (born around 1779).


In 1783, the same year that Louise was born, her father, Edward HUMPHREYVILLE was engaged by the North West Company (NWC) in Quebec, fierce rivals of his previous employers, the HBC. The NWC sent HUMPHREYVILLE and his family to a post near today’s Frenchman Butte, near Fort Pitt on the map below. Note: Fort Pitt however wasn’t built until 1830, interestingly by John ROWAND, Louise’s future husband who by that time was an HBC employee. Frenchman Butte also didn’t exist as such until many years later. It later became the site of the historic Battle of Frenchman’s Butte during the North West Rebellion of 1885.


Edmonton - Battleford


In 1788 Edward HUMPHREYVILLE left the service of the NWC. From his wintering ground in Saskatchewan he travelled back east via Grand Portage to Montreal, then south to New York where he sailed for England. He never returned to the Northwest. It is said that he tried to get re-hired by the HBC but was refused. By that time Louise was only about five years old; her brother Thomas was about 9 years old, and she had two younger sisters, Sarah (age 2) and Susanne Marie, a baby. It seems unlikely that Edward’s wife and very young family would have left their home on the Saskatchewan to make a long arduous trip such as that, but we have little information regarding their whereabouts for many years thereafter.


DCBO: John ROWAND’s boyhood was spent in Montreal. Although his father was a surgeon there, John had acquired only a rudimentary education when he became an apprentice clerk for McTavish, Frobisher and Company, partners in the North West Company (NWC), at age 16 (1803).




Most of the sources I have referred to generally agree that Louise HUMPHREYVILLE gave birth to at least five children with Pierre BRELAND (1764-129) before she was united with John ROWAND.


Tom Long (EdmontonTom) posted this: Prior to John ROWAND, Louise UMPHERVILLE was allied with Pierre BOSHUE dit BRELAND. This country-marriage produced a number of children at least some of whom were adopted by John around 1810, including Marie-Anne BRELAND. Marie-Anne, who called John 'father', married a clerk named Richard GRANT at Fort Edmonton. The BRELAND-UMPHREVILLE country-marriage is attested in Grant, Johnny A Son of the Fur Trade: The Memoirs of Johnny Grant Ed. Gerhard Ens (University of Alberta Press, 2008).


John becomes a North West Company Employee
Fort Augustus (Edmonton)


In May of 1803 John – undoubtedly aided by his father’s influence – found himself enrolled as an apprentice with the North West Company (NWC). He was posted to Fort Augustus (Edmonton).



White Earth Post



In the summer of 1810 John ROWAND left Fort Edmonton with Alexander HENRY the Younger (1765-1814) to begin construction of the White Earth Post downriver (SE of Smoky Lake on map above).
It was there that John began a lifelong relationship with the aforementioned Louise (Lisette) HUMPHREYVILLE.


Czar pg 20: John and Nicholas MONTOUR (1790-1846) shared the same tent, which also harbored two women and six children. The women, of course, were Louise UMFRIEVILLE and her sister Marie Anne, who was later to marry MONTOUR. It is unlikely that any of the children were the fruit of John’s recent union with Louise but probable that when he had taken her to live with him she had brought along some children of a former union.


In 1812 John and Louise had their first child, John ROWAND Jr.  Their next child, Sophia was born in 1814 at Fort Edmonton.


Red River Rebellion


On Jan 8, 1814 HBC Acting Governor Miles MACDONELL (1767-1828) issued his historic Pemmican Proclamation at Red River. ** MORE ABOUT MILES MACDONELL in DCBO

ElectronicScotland: One can easily imagine the indignation of the Nor'Westers at the big meeting at Fort William that summer of 1814. "It is the first time the Nor'Westers have permitted themselves to be insulted," said William McGILLIVRAY (1764-1825), and insult to the proud "Lords of the Lakes and Forests" was more galling than financial loss. From that day there was civil war in the North-West.

Czar pg 29: Feeling certain that Miles MACDONELL would take steps to stop them doing so, the NWC began gathering additional men who were to be on hand to safeguard its passage through Red River Settlement. One of the leading men so gathered was John ROWAND who apparently was in so much hurry that, instead of waiting for the ice to go out and then leading his brigade down the Saskatchewan River to Lake Winnipeg as usual, he assembled a small aggressive force and set out on horseback, for the Red River Settlement.

On May 29, 1815 ROWAND arrived at Red River. The Red River Rebellion followed, led by Metis leader Cuthbert GRANT (1793-1854). ** MORE ABOUT CUTHBERT GRANT and the RED RIVER REBELLION in DCBO

On June 19, 1816 the Rebellion culminated with the Massacre at Seven Oaks when Governor Robert SEMPLE and some 20 settlers were killed.
Czar pg 30: No one can tell now what part John ROWAND played in the destruction of the Red River Colony, but undoubtedly, like his associates, he sat back and let the Métis do the dirty work. Like his friends, of course, he had ample reason to hate the HBC and Lord SELKIRK whose colony threatened to put his company out of business. It is likely that he went there as one of the escorts guarding Miles MACDONELL while his colonists were being paddled away towards Upper Canada and he was being taken east as a prisoner.


On Dec 13, 1816 son Alexander was born. By this time John had returned to Fort Augustus. In 1818 daughter Nancy was born.


Czar pg 62: Presumably their fifth child was Henry, who may have been born about 1820. When she came to live with John ROWAND, Louise had borne at least one child whom undoubtedly she brought with her. ** My comment: This statement doesn’t seem to agree with a previous statement regarding her children that were born before she met ROWAND in 1810.


Czar pg 35: From the spring of 1817 till the fall of 1819, John ROWAND’s nominal station was Fort Augustus. On Sep 1, 1818 his father, the surgeon died at the age of 56.


John Rowand (1787-1854)Louise Umfreville - Rowand

John Rowand (From Czar of the Prairies – Glenbow Archives)
Louise Rowand – Provincial Archives of Alberta (Thanks to Clay Balsillie via Beth Balsillie)

(See Beth’s Forum posting for details)


HBC – NWC Union


In 1821 union of the North West Company (NWC) and the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) occurred, ending years of bitter rivalry for dominance of the fur trade in Western Canada. After the merger, almost 1,300 employees lost their jobs since the single HBC organization that emerged had no need for most of the voyageurs and retired fur traders. George SIMPSON (1786-1860) became the Governor of Rupert’s Land. ** MORE ABOUT GOVERNOR GEORGE SIMPSON


In the spring of 1821 James SUTHERLAND (1777-1844) was appointed as the Chief Factor of the Saskatchewan District, and Chief Traders J.P. PRUDEN and John ROWAND were to serve under him.


Czar pg 62: In the spring of 1824 someone took a census of those resident at Edmonton House. It showed that there were five children in the ROWAND household. At that time, those recorded as resulting from the union of John and Louise UMFRIEVILLE were John Jr.(age 12), Sophia (age 10), Alexander (age 7) and Nancy.(age 6) Presumably the fifth child was Henry (age 4).** Age estimates are mine.

Czar pg 80: October of 1828: By this time the ROWAND children were teenagers; young John was nearly 16, Sophia 14, Alexander possibly 12, Nancy 10, and the youngest a mere toddler of three (Margaret).


In 1830 son Alexander was sent to school in Montreal where he became a friend of Governor SIMPSON and later became a Doctor in Quebec City. 


York Factory to Fort Vancouver

Early River Route from York Factory to Fort Vancouver travelled by George Simpson


Brown pg 145: They had at least seven children in the years 1808-32 and remained together until Lisette’s death in 1849. Like Warren DEASE (1797-1830), ROWAND did not characterize Lisette as his wife, although they remained mutually loyal. - - In 1838 four of these children were baptized at Fort Edmonton when ROWAND played host to Roman Catholic priests BLANCHET and DEMERS on their trip to the Columbia that year. This would be Francois-Norbert BLANCHET and Modeste DEMERS (1809-1871). ** MORE ABOUT MODESTE DEMERS in DCBO

In October of 1840 Reverend Robert RUNDLE (1811-1896) arrived at Fort Edmonton. RUNDLE soon established a rigorous itinerary that he would maintain for much of the next seven years. The winter months were usually spent at Fort Edmonton with the ROWAND family. The HBC pressed for an Indian mission school and agricultural station near Fort Edmonton. Although RUNDLE did begin to educate ROWAND’s daughters at the fort, he never set up the proposed school.

DCBO: During the early years of his mission RUNDLE was usually accompanied in his travels by a guide, or he travelled with HBC officers such as John Edward HARRIOTT or John ROWAND. As he grew more confident in the Cree language, he and his mixed-blood translator William ROWLAND travelled alone with Indian friends including Benjamin, son of MASKPETOON. This would be the elder John Edward HARRIOTT and William ROWLAND (1799-1873), an HBC voyageur from the Orkneys.


Beth Balsillie: On Dec 25, 1843 son Alexander ROWLAND MD married Margaret KINCAID in Edinburgh, Scotland.


In 1848 son John ROWAND JR married Margaret HARRIOTT at Fort Pitt, the daughter of Elizabeth PRUDEN and John Edward HARRIOTT (1797-1866). ** MORE ABOUT JOHN EDWARD HARRIOTT


On July 27,1849 John’s wife, Louise (Lisette) HUMPHREYVILLE died
Brown pg 145/ VanKirk: In writing of her death, he (John ROWAND) deplored  the loss of “my old friend the Mother of my children”.  And in making his Will in 1853, he described his children as “reputed” (HBCA), a term used often by traders (and clergy) to acknowledge that church marriage had not occurred.


Czar pg 148: Edward DUFRESNE’s wife bore John a son who, although he was named Francois DUFRESNE, appears to have been considered one of John ROWAND’s family.
My Notes: This statement refers to Francois DUFRESNE born around 1850-51, John’s illegitimate child with Marguerite MOIGNON aka MONDION who was born around 1830, daughter of Marie Suzanne NADEAU aka NADON and Joseph MONDION, a French Canadian. At that time Marguerite was married to Edouard DUFRESNE (1806-1855) who worked as a cook for the HBC. At the beginning of the 1885 Northwest Rebellion, Edward DUFRESNE worked for Thomas QUINN (1845-1885) who died in the Frog Lake Massacre.


John ROWAND dies


JR Sr died in 1856, initially buried at Ft Pitt.  SIMPSON, knowing that JR wanted to be buried in Montreal, had the body disinterred and the bones taken to Norway House - conveying them in his own canoe the following summer to RRS.  He changed his mind, re-packed the bones and had them sent to York Factory for transmission to England, from which it would be forwarded to Lachine.  Finally, in 1858, they were buried in Montreal's Mt Royal Cemetery.


In 1859 daughter Margaret married James McKAY, son of Marguerite GLADU and James McKAY SR, an HBC voyageur who was born around 1797 in Scotland. ** MORE ABOUT JAMES McKAY SR


Comments and queries at this link: FORUM DISCUSSING the JOHN ROWAND FAMILY

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


Children by Louise HUMPHREYVILLE:
1. 1803 MARIE ANNE BRELAND (m. Richard GRANT)


2. Feb 8, 1812 JOHN ROWAND JR (m. Margaret HARRIOTT)


3. Aug 30, 1814 SOPHIA ROWAND
4. Dec 13, 1816 ALEXANDER ROWAND (m. Margaret KINCAID)
5. Oct 29, 1818 NANCY ROWAND (m. John Edward HARRIOTT)
7. Sep 5, 1825 MARGARET ROWAND (James McKAY)

Child by John with Edward DUFRESNE's Wife: