By Sam McBride
My great-grandfather John James “Jim” Foote of Perth, Ontario (about 50 miles southwest of Ottawa) arrived in Nelson , B.C. in 1899 at age 38 to work as a blacksmith at the Silver King Mine. A year later, in 1900, his family came from Perth to join him, including 35-year-old wife Wilhelmine Edith (known to all as Edith) James and daughters Winnifred Mae Foote, 11; Lillian Maud Foote, 9; Gladys Edith Foote, 7, and Isobel Bessie Foote, 3.
The family lived in a rented cabin on the Silver King Townsite, and the girls attended a makeshift school there. In 1902 the family moved to a house at Cottonwood Creek and Hall Mines Road, about a mile from downtown Nelson. The move may have coincided with Jim Foote moving from employment at the mine to a job with the City of Nelson. Another big event for the family that year was the birth on Feb. 9, 1902 of a fifth daughter Marion Louise Foote (there were never any sons in the family).
Jim Foote was born Sept. 18, 1861 in Morristown, New York (near Ogdensburg) in a family farm on the south bank of the St. Lawrence River. The land he saw on the other side of the river was Canada. A couple of months before his first birthday, his father, John Foot (who tended to spell his name without the “e” at the end more often than not), went off to fight in the Civil War as a private in the 142nd New York Regiment of the Union Army. Private John Foot contracted malaria while in army service, and was wounded in the Battle of Appomatox in April 1865 – one of the last North casualties in the war, prior to the surrender of South General Robert E. Lee at Appomatox Courthouse. Foot’s injuries would cause him to live in pain for the rest of his life, and his many written requests for financial compensation went unheeded. John Foot (1825-1903), who married Elizabeth Graham (1828-1871), a son of John Foot (1802-?) and Isobel Bovie (1805-?) who lived in upstate New York. While their ancestry is not known, many of the Foote population in New York is known to descend from Nathaniel Foote who came to America from England in the 1600s.
When he was about 24 in the mid-1880s, Jim Foote ventured into Canada in search of better prospects for his life ahead. He arrived in Perth (about 70 miles northwest of Morristown) and met Edith James (1865-1941). Her parents, Thomas G. James (1829-1902), and Sarah Best (1836-1888), both children of Protestant families who emigrated to Canada from Ireland soon after the end of the War of 1812, were among the most prosperous farming families of Lanark County in North Elmsley, a small community outside of Perth. Jim Foote and Edith James fell in love and married, despite the opposition of her parents, who only gradually came to accept the itinerant Yankee Jim Foote as a son-in-law and father of their granddaughters.
Jim Foote is listed in the 1913 city directory as Sidewalks Foreman with the city of Nelson. The obituary in the Daily News after he died April 24, 1921 in Nelson said he was “for a number of years in charge of construction work of the city”. My first cousin, once removed, R. Blake Allan (who was my dad’s law partner in Nelson for 20 years before his appointment as a judge in 1968, and was an enthusiastic genealogist in retirement years before his death at age 92 in Victoria in 2009) remembered his grandfather Jim Foote well, and that he held the title of superintendent of construction with the city when he died.
The eldest of the daughters, Winnifred married Roland Leigh McBride in Nelson on Dec. 21, 1914. It was his second marriage, as he married Eva Hume (daughter of J. Fred and Lydia Hume) on Sept. 6, 1911 at the Hume property known as Killarney-on-the-lake across the lake from where the Chahka Mika Mall is today. She died of childbirth complications on Nov. 23, 1912, and the baby daughter died a few days later. Winnifred Foote and Eva Hume were close friends, and the story in the family is that Eva on her deathbed encouraged Win to get together with R.L.
In the community, the couple was known as Win and Leigh (he was never known by his first name Roland.
After son Leigh Morgan McBride was born on Oct. 31, 1917, the family always called the father “R.L.” to avoid confusion with the son. Their only other child was son Kenneth Gilbert McBride born Jan. 20, 1920, and died in action in Italy on Sept. 16, 1944. Win and R.L. moved into a house at 708 Hoover Street soon after their marriage, and remained there until R.L.’s death at 78 on May 14, 1959. Win died at 71 on July 10, 1960. I talked to Edna Steed Whiteley recently, and she agreed that Win never recovered from the shock and despair of loving son Ken in WW2. My childhood memories of my paternal grandparents is that they were both in bad condition in the late 1950s, particularly Win, who had great difficulty speaking, and only wanted to play bingo with her grandchildren.
R.L. McBride was born and raised in London, Ontario, where he worked as a ticket agent for the CPR for two years after finishing school at age 16. His grandfather Samuel McBride (1819-1905) had come to Canada on a crowded emigrant ship from Northern Ireland at age 12 in 1831. As a teen-ager in Brantford, upper Canada, he learned the tinsmithing trade, and joined his much younger brother Alexander McBride (1833-1912) in a retail business selling wood stoves and other metal items. Alexander moved west to Calgary in the mid-1880s in search of cleaner air for his wife Lucy’s asthma, and established Calgary’s first hardware store under the name A. McBride and Company in the late 1880s. By 1896 he was mayor of Calgary, and had branched out from Calgary with other hardware stores, including one in the gold-mining boom town of Rossland, which he hired his nephew G. Walter McBride to manage.
Within a couple of years, Walter McBride was successful enough with the store to pay off his uncle and take ownership of the Rossland store under his own name as G.W. McBride Hardware. In 1900, 19-year-old R.L. McBride came west from Ontario to work for a few months for his great-uncle Alexander in Calgary, and then further west to work for his uncle Walter in Rossland. He moved on to Sandon in 1903, where he worked for a year for the Hamilton Byers Hardware store, which was one of three Byers stores in the West Kootenay. A year later, Byers had sold out to the Wood Vallance company, and the Nelson operation was managed by G.W. McBride, assisted by his nephew R.L. McBride, who succeeded to head the Nelson operation in 1924 when his uncle retired and moved to the coast.
Lil Foote married Wilfred Laurier Allan (1891-1938) in Nelson on Dec. 22, 1915. For a couple of years Wilfrid had been working at Wood Vallance Hardware in Nelson under manager George Walter McBride, who was an uncle of R.L. McBride, who would succeed his uncle Walter at top Wood Vallance man in Nelson after Walter retired in 1924. Lil and Wilfrid’s first child, Robert Blake Allan, was born in Nelson in 1916. A year or so later, the Allans moved to Stavely, Alberta, where the Allan family had a general store. Son James Henry Grant Allan was born in 1919 in Stavely, daughter Margot Francis Allan was born in 1922 in Stavely, and son Alexander Arthur Allan was born in 1925 in Stavely. In 1931 Wilfrid moved his family back to Nelson as he took on the position of secretary-treasurer with Wood Vallance. After he died in Chicago at age 47 his brother Alexander Hamilton Allan came from Stavely to Nelson to succeed Wilfrid as secretary treasurer of Wood Vallance. In 1950 A.H. Allan would succeed the retiring R.L. McBride as Manager of Wood Vallance, continuing to lead the operation until his own retirement in the 1970s.
After schooling in Nelson, Lil attended normal school in Vancouver and became a teacher. She taught at Shoreacres, Renata and Harrop before joining the Central School staff in 1912 until her marriage in 1915. During World War Two she returned to teaching at the Lardeau district, Argenta, Kaslo, Central School in Nelson, and finally at Renata where she retired in 1953. Daughter Margot died at age 19 in 1932.
Gladys (known as Glad in the family) Foote married Colin Argyle Moir, originally from Manitoba, in Nelson on Sept. 29, 1920. They moved to Medicine Hat, Alberta where he worked in the farm supplies distribution business. She died in Medicine Hat in 1966 at age 72.
The four Foote sisters remained close through the years, and there were many trips back and forth between B.C. and Medicine Hat. While they had no children of their own, they were keen aunt and uncle to five nephews.
Isobel Foote married Arthur Edward “Eddie” Murphy (1893-1950) on Nov. 16, 1921 in Nelson. They built a home across the lake from where the Prestige Inn is today. Through the years there were many extended family gatherings on the beach and dock of the Murphy residence across the lake. Both Isobel and Eddie were expert rowers who won rowing competitions on Kootenay Lake. Even though she was the shortest of the four sisters (less than 5 feet), she was one of the best basketball players at her school. Isobel and Eddie had several successful businesses in Nelson, including contracting, interior decorating and signage. They did not have children. Like her mother Edith (who died in Nelson at age 76 in 1941), Isobel was a longtime member of the Nelson Pioneers group which was for Nelson residents who had been in the city since the 1890s. I recall her once saying she felt a bit guilty because she arrived in 1900 rather than the 1800s. She lived until 1988 (when virtually all of the 1890s pioneers would have died), but after 1974 she had serious dementia and resided at Mount St. Francis care home.
Jim and Edith Foote’s fifth daughter – and final child – Marion Louise Foote, was born in Nelson in 1902. A popular young lady in Nelson, Marion died of tuberculosis in 1921. Nelson’s city directory of 1919 has Marion listed as a clerk employed by the Hudson Bay Company.
Gladys (known always as Glad in the family) married Colin Argyle Moir on Sept. 20, 1920, and moved with him to Medicine Hat, Alberta, where she died in 1966. Stenographer for businesses in Nelson. Before her marriage, Glad worked as a When I was growing up in Nelson, our family made annual car trips to Medicine Hat to visit Glad and Colin, who had no children of their own. Colin died in 1971, and they are both buried in Medicine Hat cemetery.