William Joseph Christie.

William Joseph was the Metis son of Alexander Christie Sr. and Ann Thomas the Metis daughter of HBC officer Thomas Thomas (Sr.). William Joseph was educated at Marischal College, University of Aberdeen, Scotland and graduated in 1838. On his return to Rupert’s Land he entered the service of the HBC. Christie was a Metis who spoke French and English and Cree. In 1862 Father Émile Petitot met Christie at Portage la Loche. He quotes William Joseph Christie then the Chief Factor at Fort Edmonton as saying in perfect French "I am myself a Metis. By George! We are almost all Métis in the Company. Among the chief factors there is not a single Englishman, and maybe not ten Scots with pure blood."(translation). He was first posted to Lake Superior, then Rocky Mountain House, York Factory and in 1848 he was placed in charge of Fort Churchill. He married Mary Sinclair, the Metis daughter of William Sinclair II and Mary McKay Sinclair in 1849 at York Factory. He was so highly thought of, that the company put him in charge of the Swan River District in 1852, even though he was only a clerk. However, in 1854 he was promoted to Chief Trader and served at Fort Pelly until 1858. In 1860, after being two years at Fort Edmonton, he was made Chief Factor of the Saskatchewan District. He spent 14 years at Edmonton. He became inspecting chief factor, second in command to Donald Smith in 1872, however he fell out of favour when the winter packet failed to arrive and subsequently retired to Brockville, Ontario. Christie had been appointed to the Provisional Council of the North-West Territories in 1872 and had pressed for treaty settlements with the Indians of the Saskatchewan district. After retirement he served as a Commissioner for the Treaty Four and Treaty Six negotiations in 1876. Children of William Christie and Mary Sinclair: • • • Margaret, born March 14, 1851 at St. Andrews, married Malcolm Alexander Groat. Lydia Catherine, born 1853 at St. John’s, married Donald G. McTavish. James Grant, born circa 1855. 1

• • • • •

John George, born June 20, 1857 at Fort Edmonton. Mary, born 1859 and died in 1865 at St. Andrews. Charles Thomas, born 1866. William Joseph Christie Jr. was hired as a doctor and clerk for three years in a contract dated 7 April 1886. At the time he was residing in Brockville, Ontario, as was his father, William Joseph Christie Senior, who signed his contract (HBC Archives a.32/23,fo.374).

Mary Sinclair Christie was born about 1830 in the Rainy Lake region of northern Ontario, most likely at the Dalles where her father, William Sinclair II, was in charge of the Hudson's Bay Company post. Her mother, Mary McKay Sinclair, was a Métis woman of Anishnaabe descent and it was here, in Anishnaabe country, that Mary Sinclair spent most of her childhood.


Mary Christie is believed to have given the Earl of Southesk and elegantly beaded firebag (with initials WJC) during his visit to Edmonton. This artifact is presently in the Southesk Collection at the royal albeta Museum. Most Métis girls began to sew at an early age, and Mary Sinclair's earliest needlework lessons likely came from her mother or another female relative. From them, she would have absorbed design ideas and techniques consistent with Métis and Anishnaabe aesthetic traditions. While we cannot know for certain how Mary Sinclair acquired sewing skills, purchases of silk thread, seed beads, and printed cottons recorded against William Christie's account in the Fort Edmonton account books show that she was an experienced needleworker.

By the time she was a teen-ager, Mary Sinclair would have been a member of Red River's social scene. Her uncles, James and Thomas Sinclair, were prominent merchants in the community, and her father's promotion to Chief Trader in 1844 would have secured her entrée into the upper echelons of Red River society. Family ties would have eased her introduction to the round of social activities—dinner parties, balls, and dances—enjoyed by the local élite. Mary Sinclair became engaged to William Christie during a visit to York Factory. The young man offered excellent family fur trade connections—his father, Alexander 3

Christie, served both as Chief Factor in charge at Fort Garry and Governor of Assiniboia - and promising career prospects. Indeed, he would reach the status of chief trader in charge of the Saskatchewan district within ten years' time. The Christies seem to have enjoyed a whirlwind courtship. Letitia Hargrave, the York Factory factor's wife, wrote to her mother in August 1848 that, "[Mrs. Sinclair] with the other members of the family came here a month ago ... They arrived on a Thursday and on the following Sunday Mr. Wm Christie asked the eldest unmarried daughter to marry him and she and her mother consented." The couple was married a year later at York Factory. The newly-appointed Anglican Bishop of Rupert's Land presided over the ceremony, and champagne was served amidst "rare merrymakings." The Christies served at Fort Edmonton for fifteen years, from 1858 until Christie's retirement in 1873. By that time, he had reached the rank of Chief Inspecting Factor. The couple moved to Brockville, Ontario, home to a number of retired fur trade officers and their families, before settling in Seeley's Bay, Ontario, where their son William J. Christie II had a medical practice. Mary Christie died in Seeley's Bay in February 1900.1 Mary was also a consummate hostess. The Christies entertained visitors to Fort Edmonton in great style. On Christmas 1858, Mary Christie co-hosted a ball with John Palliser. "The room was splendidly decorated," Palliser wrote, “with swords, bayonets, flags ... [and] a splendid wooden Lustre to hang from the ceiling [that] lighted the whole place up with candles and reflectors it was a brilliant sight”.2 Metis Scrip: Scrip affidavit for Christie, John George; born: 27 June, 1857; father: Hon. William Joseph Christie, Scot; mother: Mary Sinclair. Groat, Marguerite - Concerning his claim as a child - Address, Edmonton - Born, March 14, 1851 at St. Andrews - Father, William J. Christie, (Scot) - Mother, Mary Sinclair, (Métis) - Married, June 26, 1871 at Edmonton to Malcolm Groat - Children living, seven (names on declaration) - Scrip for $240 - Claim 431. Groat, Malcolm; heir to his deceased son, William Charles; claim no. 2998; Groat; born: 4 Jan., 1876 at Edmonton; died: 25 April, 1897 at Golden, B.C; address: Edmonton; father: Malcolm Groat (Whiteman & deponent); mother: Margaret Christie (Métis) scrip cert.: form F, no. 1118.
Reference Spry, Irene M. “William Joseph Christie.” Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Vol. XII. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990: 194-195. Photograph from the Saskatchewan Archives Board R-A9854.

Royal Alberta Museum; http://www.royalalbertamuseum.ca/virtualExhibit/southesk/fortEdmonton_hospitality.cfm 2 Op. cit. http://www.royalalbertamuseum.ca/virtualExhibit/southesk/fortEdmonton_hospitality.cfm


Compiled by Lawrence Barkwell Coordinator of Metis Heritage and History Research Louis Riel Institute


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