Chapter 16: Famous-Infamous McCutcheons:

1.         SERGEANT  ROBERT McCUTCHEON (1853-1944):

In March of 1877, word reached Superintendent James Walsh that Sitting Bull (the mighty Lakota warrior) and his people were crossing the border from the US to escape the American Army.  [Sitting Bull and his people remained in Canadian territory for almost 3 years.]  Walsh had previously dealt with other Sioux and determined that they no longer wanted war, but wasted no time in arranging an interview with Sitting Bull to assure that the Chief and his people respect the Queen’s peace.  Walsh headed out for Sitting Bull’s camp and took with him 3 constables, 2 scouts and Sgt. Robert McCutcheon.

After arriving at the camp, the detail dismounted and approached Sitting Bull and his advisors in a group.  McCutcheon happened to be slightly ahead of the rest of the detail. Sitting Bull walked forward and greeted, first McCutcheon, and then Walsh.  Robert McCutcheon thus became the first Canadian official to greet Sitting Bull on Canadian soil.

Walsh explained the Queen’s law to Sitting Bull and asked if he was willing to keep the Queen’s peace.  Sitting Bull replied that his people were tired of fighting.  Sitting Bull had another reason for coming to Canada; during the American Revolution, his ancestors had fought on the side of King George.  The King had presented his people with medals honouring their loyalty to the crown.  Sitting bull thus considered himself and his people British subjects as they had never supported the Americans following the revolution.

According to another constable who was stationed at Fort Walsh at the time, Walsh asked if Sitting Bull (as a gesture of good faith) would turn over any items taken in battle from the soldiers of the Seventh Cavalry who had been defeated at Little Big Horn.  Sitting Bull complied and Walsh eventually saw that the items were returned to the soldier’s families.

The detail stayed in camp with the Sioux that night, but in the morning, when three riders came into camp trailing 5 extra horses, McCutcheon recognized three of these horses as belonging to a priest who had recently been in the Cypress Hills.  Walsh issued orders to Sgt. McCutcheon to make arrests accordingly.  After some tense moments, McCutcheon disarmed the three suspects and had them in custody.  Walsh questioned them, ascertained that the horses had been found wandering, and released the men from custody;  all in front of the watchful eyes of Sitting Bull and his advisors.  Sitting Bull not only saw that Walsh was a man of his word and could be trusted but also that the Mounties were not afraid, even though they were small in number.  This was also the beginning of a strong, but often rocky, friendship between Walsh and Sitting Bull.

McCutcheon was born in Cornwall, Ontario and was one of the original members of the force and was stationed first at Fort MacLeod.  He was transferred to, and helped build, Fort Walsh.  He was always proud that he was one of the few “Canadians” in the Force (most of the men being from Britain).

He also had a couple of other singular achievements;  He was in the party that went searching for Constable [Marmaduke] Graburn (the first Mountie murdered on the  17th November 1879 in the line of duty), [Robert McCutcheon actually discovered the body];  the last person to shoot a buffalo in the Cypress Hills, and after leaving the force, one of the first white settlers in the Medicine Hat area (so the story goes at any rate).

McCutcheon died in 1943 at the age of 90.  In a picture taken at Col. Walker’s funeral, in 1936, he is shown walking with a cane.  This was due to the fact that the previous summer his leg had been broken when a horse kicked him at the Calgary Stampede.

McCutcheon always credited his longevity and good health to what he had learned from the Indians.  In 1940 he told a story to a reporter about a man in Fort Walsh whose leg had become badly infected.  The Surgeon wanted to amputate, but the man visited an old native woman at a nearby camp.  McCutcheon ends the story by saying ,”…..and he’s still walking on it today!”.

Robert was born in 1852 in Cornwall, Ontario.  He joined the N.W.M.P. at Cornwall and came with them via Fort Benton to Fort MacLeod.  He was stationed at Fort Walsh and Medicine Hat  during 1882 – 1893.  He married Angeline Gaddy at Fort Walsh.  They had six daughters and two sons.  While in Medicine Hat he was with the city’s maintenance department for 10 years before his retirement in 1932 when he moved to Calgary.  He died in 1944 at Calgary, Alberta.

  1. Angelique Gaddy:,2064391,2064125,2064118,2067602,1310552,1512423,1512422,1512421,1512420

  1. Robert McCutcheon:,1470793,1510657,1367245,1321821,883636,288002,2882214,3342830,3340533

Here is another link:



Peter McGILL was born Peter McCutcheon in August 1789 in Creebridge, Wigtownshire, (now Dumfries and Galloway) Scotland and he died on the 28th September 1860 in Montreal, Quebec.  He was born to parents of modest means, John McCutcheon and his second wife, Mary McGill.  Peter married Sarah Elizabeth Shuter WILKENS in London England and they had 3 sons.  Two of their sons survived infancy.  Upon his death, each son received a modest legacy of $36,174, which was paltry compared his vast business empire.  Peter left more debts than assets.

He arrived in Canada in 1809.  His education level was grammar school.

There is quite a large biography of Peter available for readers to access for an in-depth detailing of Peter’s career.

For purposes of this history, I am going to touch on highlights only.

Why the name change?  When he arrived in Montreal, his Uncle John McGill, his mother Mary’s brother, was already in Canada.  It seems that Uncle John found him work at the Montreal office of a mercantile firm “Parker, Gerrard, Ogilvey and Company”.  Uncle John rose to a prominent position in the government of Upper Canada in the establishment of the colony through his association with John Simcoe, lieutenant governor of Upper Canada.  John’s wife died in 1819 leaving no issue. John willed his entire estate to his nephew, Peter McCUTCHEON, on the condition that McCutcheon change his last name to McGill.

As time progressed, Peter rose to prominence.  Besides business ventures, he became involved in many institutions.

  1. BUSINESS:  his business ventures began with him working as a clerk in the aforementioned company, he became a junior partner.  By 1820 he became full partner with a company called McCutcheon and Dowie, brokering timber.  By 1823, his company realigned to be called Peter McGill and Company.  He began supplying local merchants, commodity producers, mercantile firms, spirit dealers and grocers, acting as an importer / exporter.  They exported wood products, potash; importing British manufactured goods and East and West Indian produce.  In turn, they purchased seven vessels, one of them the 226 ton “Brig William Parker”.   His company also purchased some real estate. Reference to his company can be found in some of the ships logs, such as the one dated;  the “Brig William Parker” set sail from London, England on the 1st April arriving in Quebec on the 1st June 1821 with general cargo consigned to McKutcheon and Co.
  2. BANK OF MONTREAL;  McCutcheon became a member of the board of directors of the Bank of Montreal in 1819, when he was known as Peter McCutcheon.  He became vice-president in 1830 and finally he replaced John Molson as president in 1835.  He remained as “chairman of the board” until his death in 1860.  It was on his trip to London, England in 1830 to try and secure a royal charter for the Bank of Montreal, that he married Elizabeth Wilkins.  Her dowry was £10,000 in real estate, to be managed by McGill.
  3. MEMBER OF THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY:  in January 1832 he became the “Honourable Peter McGill”.  One of the transactions the he was responsible for was securing a loan from the estate of George Stanfield to purchase and revamp the Montreal waterworks.  He also participated in securing Lower Canada’s largest land deal – 1 million acres in the Eastern Townships.  He was member from January 1832 – March 1838.  President of the Constitution of Montreal 1836-1839; member of Legislative Assembly from 1841 – 1869; Justice of the Peace for the district Montreal 1827 – 1860.
  4. ST LAWRENCE RAILROAD:  He became the first chairman of the Board of Directors of the Champlain and St Lawrence Railroad, British North America’s first railway, forerunner of the trans-continental railways.
  5. CHURCH:  Peter was a religious man.  He owned St Peter’s Church in Montreal.  He was a long-time president of the Montreal Auxiliary Bible Society (1834-1843); the Lay Association of Montreal (1845-1860); Elder of St. Paul’s Church 1845.
  6. COMMUNITY:    First president of the St. Andrew’s Society (1832-1842); provincial grand superintendent of the Royal Arch Masonry for the Province of Canada; President of the Montreal Board of Trade 1848.
  7. MAYOR OF MONTREAL:  He was appointed as the city`s first Mayor in 1840. He declined to seek office when the first mayoralty campaign took place in 1842.
  8.  McGILL STREET:    in the Vieux-Montreal (Old Montreal) is named after him.  His image is also in the stained glass collage in the McGill Station of the Montreal Metro.
  9. However, he was heavily in debt by the time of his death.  He was very successful in his civic and church life, but a dismal failure as a capitalist.  Once his vast estate was settled, there was not very much left as a legacy to his heirs, considering that his wife brought into the relationship a substantial amount of money.  He requested that his funeral be of a “plain and inexpensive and un-ostentatious manner.”

If one could consider being buried at Montreal’s Mount Royal Cemetery as “un-ostentatious.”



On the 15th April 1846, the ill-fated “Donner party” left Springfield, Illinois for California in a wagon train.  The journey west normally took 4-6 months, which would have placed them in California before September 1846.

However, they encountered a series of mishaps, that kept them snow-bound in the Sierra Nevada Mountians for the winter 1846-1847.  Before reaching the mountains, they lost most of their cattle.  They ran out of food and starvaton quickly set in.  They became trapped by heavy snowfall near Truckee (now Donner) Lake, high up in the mountains.

As members of the group began dying, the survivors resorted to cannabalism to survive.  This has been described as one of the most devestating tragedies of the western migration.

William McCutchen, his wife Amanda and a baby girl joined the Donner’s wagon train at Fort Bridger.  The McCutchens had been travelling with another wagon train when they made the ill-fated decision to join the larger one going west.

Wiliam was a farmer from Jackson County, Missouri.  He was a statuesque man standing 6 feet six inches tall and had a fondness for Shakespeare.

After they crossed the Great Salt Dessert, the Donner Paty realized that they were short on supplies for the rest of the journey. 2 men volunteered to walk out and bring back supplies; little Charles Stanton (5’5”) and Big Bill McCutchen (6’6”).  When they reached Sutter’s Fort, Bill became sick.  Stanton returned with the supplies.

By November, the Donner party was now snow bound and out of food.   McCutchen along with James Reed made an abortive attempt to rescue their families.  Because of the deep snow, they were forced to turn back.  Two guides deserted Reed and McCutchen with some of their horses, but they pressed on to Yuba Bottoms, walking the last mile on foot. On possibly the same day that the Breens attempted to lead one last effort to crest the pass, Reed and McCutchen stood looking at the other side only 12 miles (19 km) from the top, blocked by snow. Despondent, they turned back to Sutter’s Fort.   However, the 2 fathers made another attempt in February, suceeding this time.

By now 43 of the 89 pioneers were dead. 48 people survived.  One of them was William’s daughter, Harriett, who died on the 2nd of February 1847.  She was one of the nursing infants who died. Help finally arrived on the 19th February 1847.  The rescuers found the grim evidence of cannibalism at the lake camp and at Alder Creek.  21 of the deceased were cannibalized.

His wife Amanda died in childbirth in California in 1857.  They had 3 surviving children.  Big Bill remarried in 1860.  He died of a stroke in 1895 at the age of 79 years and was buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in San Jose, California.  He is mentioned many times in the early history of Santa Clara County.  He was elected sherifff in September 1853.  He was fined once for riding a race on the Sabbath in San Jose.

McCutcheon and Reed were criticized by the press in their part of the disaster. However, was William McCutcheon a villain or more accurately, an unsung hero?



Jack McQuesten started life named Leroy Napoleon McQuesten and at the end of his life was called Captain Jack; Father of the Yukon.

A plaque was dedicated to Jack McQuesten on the 11th August 2007 in Dawson City, Yukon.  The plaque was the idea of local Yukon Historians of whom Ed and Star Jones are two.  There were 7 of his family members there to witness the un-veiling of the plaque, including the writer of the book “Captain Jack McQuesten”, Jim McQuiston.

The plaque reads:  Father of the Yukon

Born Litchfield, New Hampshire, July 9 1836.

Yukon Years: 1873-1898

Leroy Napoleon “Jack” McQuesten arrived in the Yukon in 1873.  On August 20th 1874 he established Fort Reliance near Dawson to trade with the local Han.  Through his steamboats and stores Jack supplied prospectors for nearly 25 years, setting the stage for the Klondike Gold Rush.  His courage, generous credit policy and concern for his fellow man earned him the title “Golden Rule McQuesten, Father of Alaska and Father of the Yukon.

In 1875 Jack partnered with Arthur Harper and Alfred Mayo as agents for the Alaska Commercial company.  Jack captained the company steamer “Yukon” the first on the upper Yukon River and his own steamer “New Racket”.  He established posts at Fort Nelson, Forty Mile and Circle City.  He has been honoured in the Yukon with the names:  McQuesten River, McQuesten Lake, McQuesten Airstrip, McQuesten Mineral Belt, McQuesten Lodge, and roads in Faro, Mayo and Whitehorse.

On December 1st 1894 at Forty Mile, he was elected first president of the “Yukon Order of Pioneers”, a fraternal organization.  Lodges remain active in Dawson City and Whitehorse.

On July 20th 1878, Jack married Satejdenaino whom he called Kate.  They were first wed in a native ceremony and later by an Anglican missionary.  Eleven children were born to them.

Jack died in Berkley, California September 2nd 1909.  Kate followed July 20th 1918. At the bottom of the plaque is the list of names who dedicated it.

CONCLUSION:  His wife Kate, some say, is the real “Klondike Kate” of Yukon legend.  Without a doubt, it was his lifelong partnership with an indigenous female who knew the ways of the north that contributed to Jack’s success and myth.


Those on the fringes of society or long forgotten:

  1. Margaret McCutcheon born 1838 inmate in the Home district jail.
  2. Elizabeth McCutcheon born in 1860, aged 14 years, inmate in the Kitchener jail.
  3. Robert McCutcheon born in 1860, aged 11 years, inmate in the Kitchener jail.
  4. James McCutcheon born 1880, inmate in 1911, in Weyburn, Saskatchewan.  Occupation listed as bricklayer.  He is listed in the 1911 census.
  5. Margaret McCutcheon born 1851 and died in April 1912.   Margaret was spent the last 6 years of her life in a hospital in Orilla, ON in a “hospital for the feeble minded.”
  6. 1894, May 22:  Ex-Winnipeger dead:  John McCutcheon was yesterday found dead in bed at O’Neils Hotel where he has been staying since Sunday night.   No inquest will be held, death being pronounced to be due to heart disease.  The deceased was aged 52 years and formerly kept a hotel in Winnipeg.  From the Manitoba morning Free Press.


        7.  James McClutcheon ? born 1826, inmate Guelph Jail in 1858.

8.  David McClutchey ? born 1839, inmate Stratford Jail in 1866.


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