Agnes Campbell Farquharson Schultz

Existing Biographies:

Manitoba Historical Society,


Agnes, c. 1869.

Agnes is one of Manitoba’s historical enigmas. Details of her life prior to arriving at Red River, sometime between 1862 and 1867 are decidedly sketchy. Her father, reputedly, was James Farquharson. He, however, was a shady character, whose stories about himself suggest that a career as some sort of charlatan/confidence man was a possibility:

• at different times, he claimed to have been born at Aberdeen, Balmoral, Edinburgh, and Glasgow.

 • he claimed to be a Shakespearean actor, but had basic skills more in keeping with a painter of theatrical sets.

• he claimed to some extent to be a seafarer: reputedly having lived at St. John’s in Newfoundland, and Georgetown in Demerara, British Guiana; and having taken passage to British Columbia. It is possible that he was born in British Guiana (there were a number of Farquharson there, some of whom had been involved in the slave trade or plantations; most of whom were not particularly well off, either before or after the abolition of slavery), but it is equally possible that he had been born just about anywhere — including mainland America (in which case he might never have gone to sea).

• he avowedly had friends in Iowa, where he claimed to have sent a wife and two daughters to live (from Scotland), while he tried his hand at the gold rush in British Columbia. He never in fact found any gold, but he did manage to secure a wagon load of trade goods from backers of his enterprise who were never reimbursed for their investment.

[The ‘Wild West’ was a place to which imposters of all sorts migrated. For another example (with a connection to Agnes’ future husband, John C. Schultz, through his associate Walter Robert Bown), see Lord Gordon Gordon‘s biography in Dictionary of Canadian Biography. See also “Traveling Medicine Show,” Dead Media Archive, NYU Dept. of Media, Culture and Communication.]

Stories about the origins of Agnes Campbell Farquharson (if that was her real name) are likewise inconsistent. Her year of birth is generally understood to have been 1840. By some accounts she was born at Georgetown, British Guiana; by others, at Aberdeen, in Scotland. There is, however, no readily apparent record of her birth in either place. Why Agnes (a relatively mature spinster, in her late 20s) left a mother and sister in Iowa (neither of whom, apparently, were identified by name in any of Agnes’ records), while she travelled to join her father at Red River is not clear.

[One story held that the sister was ‘consumptive,’ a circumstance that was supposed somehow to explain Agnes’ departure from Iowa. Personally, I suspect Agnes was an ‘actress’ (read: savvy survivor, down on her luck, or intent of making her own luck), who at some time or another had joined forces with Farquharson.]

Once at Red River, Agnes found accommodation at the convent in St. Boniface. She might have been Catholic, or she might have had other reasons for seeking charitable refuge [or presenting herself as Catholic — the ‘first lady’ of Upper Fort Garry, Sarah McDermot Mactavish, was Catholic, as were wives in other wealthy settlement families]. The expense of Agnes’ stay was perhaps partly covered by her working for the convent, or perhaps by a barter arrangement — James Farquharson decorated the interior of the new Roman Catholic cathedral at St. Boniface and painted faux finishes on the furniture.

Either before, or during, her stay at the convent, Agnes’ marriage was arranged to ‘Dr.’ John Christian Schultz. This affair, too, looks odd in retrospect. Although she was wed to Schultz in September of 1867, Agnes expressed a desire to remain living at the convent. The Mother Superior and Father Lestanc, however, disapproved of the plan. Presumably Schultz did as well — though it is possible that he preferred the company of male friends such as bachelor Walter Robert Bown over that of his new bride (Schultz and Bown had a very close relationship that lasted three decades).

• It seems as though J.C. Schultz had paid a rather hefty (and borrowed) ‘dowry’ of sorts to the father of his bride — supplying Farquharson and his associate, Georges ‘Shaman’ Racette, with a season’s trade outfit. Apparently the two left for the plains, but returned ‘destitute’ with a story that  their wagon loads of goods had been stolen by Assiniboine. Schultz was therefore left holding an unpaid debt to his half-brother, Henry McKenney — the merchant from whom the trade outfit had originally been obtained. [For an account of Georges Racette claiming to have been similarly robbed on an earlier occasion see “Who Owns the Settlement?” Nor’-Wester (14 May 1860), 2.]

• Schultz, it is worth noting, was something of a charlatan in his own right:

· Shortly after arriving in Red River Settlement, Schultz had begun presenting himself as a certified medical practitioner. He had attached the prefix “Dr.” to his name in a series of advertisements printed in the Nor’-Wester,  immediately after the death, on 31 May 1861, of Red River’s resident surgeon and coroner, Dr. John Bunn. [See “The Late Dr. Bunn,” Nor’-Wester (1 June 1861), 2; and advertisements, “Dr. Schultz, Physician and Surgeon, Residence, Royal Hotel, Upper Fort Garry,” Nor’-Wester (15 July 1861), 2; (1 August 1861), 2;  (14 September 1861), 4; (1 October 1861) 4; and (15 October 1861), 4.]

The advertisements had ceased after Dr. Curtis James Bird arrived in the settlement (1861), taking over Dr. Bunn’s practice and the position as coroner (1862).

Schultz had nevertheless expanded his own practice, setting up shop to dispense pharmaceutical concoctions from his drugstore at the Town of Winnipeg. By 1866 he was advertising anew, in English and French, that “Those wishing to consult Dr. Schultz will be most likely to find him at home after 2 p.m., The poor will be furnished with advice and medicine gratis on Wednesdays and Saturdays by showing a certificate from the Priest or Minister of their Parish declaring them unable to pay.” [See advertisement printed in the Nor’-Wester (25 August 1866), 2.]

It can only be hoped that Schultz was not poisoning the poor (or anyone else) on a weekly basis.

· Throughout his life, Schultz continued to maintain his medical masquerade.

In fact, he was a quack at best and a conscious fraud at worst. His claims of having an appropriate education do not bear scrutiny:  Oberlin College, a collegiate (not a college) in Ohio, “has no record of his attendance.” He did not graduate from Victoria University, Coburg, having registered for only one term. He was not granted a degree by Queen’s University, Kingston, where he registered for two terms. No regular medical institution awarded him a degree, nor granted him a medical license. It is doubtful that Schultz simply “purchased a degree, as it was legal to do at the time,” (as is suggested in one biography) unless from an ‘irregular’ school, because, after 1850, the Licensing Board of Canada West had ensured that tighter regulation than that was in place. To qualify for certification, Schultz would have had to attend an accredited university for three years’ worth of lectures in the Arts and Sciences before attending lectures in the Medical Department of a qualifying university for an additional year.

At any rate, shortly after Agnes wed Schultz, and was evicted from the convent, her husband was taken to court by his merchant half-brother, Henry McKenney, for bad debts. Schultz was subsequently convicted, sentenced, and incarcerated, on 17 January 1868, for refusing to pay up.

Agnes proved to be a loyal wife — or a least a determined one.

She wasted little time in setting about organizing her husband’s first Red River jail-break (18 January 1868). [The Schultzs, through editor Walter Robert Bown (who was given the position when John Schultz was jailed), had their own account of the event printed in the Nor’-Wester. The article was reprinted as an “Appendix G,” in Joseph James Hargrave, Red River (1871), 504. ]

Throughout 1869 – 1870 Agnes continued to support Schultz’s activities as Canadian agent/ provocateur, including organizing his second successful jail-break of 23 January 1870. [See Lillian Gibbons, “How Dr. Schultz Escaped From Jail,” Manitoba Pageant 4, no. 2 (January 1959). One source alleged that Agnes, though supportive, was not faithful, having carried on an affair with the ill-fated Canadian militiaman, Thomas Scott.]

After the creation of Manitoba, Agnes apparently strove dutifully in the role of ‘woman behind the man’ (the couple did not have children). Her efforts were rewarded.

· By March 1871, she was the wife of a Member of Parliament.

· In 1874, her father — who had lived in his married daughter’s home while developing a thoroughly unsavory reputation (including being responsible for instigating the stoning and drowning death of Elzear Goulet) — conveniently died. Agnes could cease worrying about explaining his bumptious presence in the home of the illustrious ‘Dr.’ John C. Schultz, Conservative Party member for Lisgar in the Canadian House of Commons. [See “Sudden Death,” Manitoba Free Press (7 November 1874), 7, which strangely dwells more on the plight of William Hallet in the hands of the Provisional Government than on Farquharson’s death.]

· By 1882, she was wife to a Senator of Manitoba.

· In 1888 she began a stint as the official hostess at Government House in Winnipeg — Schultz having been appointed Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba (a position he held to September 1895).

 · In 1894 she became ‘Lady’ Agnes Campbell Farquharson Schultz. Queen Victoria having approved the appointment of Schultz as a “Knight Commander of St. Michael and St. George.”

Lady Agnes outlived her husband. He had developed a mysterious illness by the late 1870s. His symptoms apparently included “trouble with his voice, with walking, and even with writing; he was also subject to frequent colds.” In 1879 he sought medical advice in New York. By 1882, he was so sick that he was expected to die before long.  His complexion was compared to that of a corpse, being of a “lemon-white colour.” One contemporary averred that Schultz suffered from pernicious anemia and observed he subject to “constant hemorrhages” (coughing up blood).

[I suspect that Schultz suffered principally from the effects of imbibing some of his own, or his wife’s, ‘medicinal’ mixtures — in particular laudanum, because it was common in patent medicines (especially cough suppressants), and because  the New Nation (11 February 1870) referred to his having carried “opium cura digitalis” with him when he escaped from gaol on 23 January and went into hiding (laudanum was also known as ‘tincture of opium’; digitalis was a poison used to regulate the heart). As 19th-century toxicologist, Alfred Swain Taylor, observed: “A poison in a small dose is a medicine, a medicine in a large dose is a poison.” Long-term opioid use, especially if combined with digitalis, would produce the symptoms Schultz exhibited.]

Schultz died 13 April 1896 in Monterrey, Mexico, where he had gone with his wife on the advice of Dr. Alfred Codd, his personal physician, to seek a healthier climate and possibly a cure. Agnes had his body transported back to Winnipeg in a specially draped funeral train. She saw to it that her husband was accorded a state funeral, held 20 April.

Though she did not raise children herself, Agnes proffered advice on their eduction, published as:

Agnes Campbell Farquharson Schultz, How to Provide Good Reading for Children (Toronto: Bryant Press, 1895).

The cover  notes that her  advice was priced at 10 cents per copy. Inside she advises parents to keep all imaginative tales and fantasy reading away from children under 10 years of age. In her view, during infancy and early childhood, readings from the Bible, or biographies of Queen Victoria, will suffice — and will help them when ready to enter college: “The tastes formed aright will guard them in the future.”

Given that Agnes apparently was a writer as well as an avid reader, it is possible that she contributed to the production of the Nor’-Wester and later the Manitoba News-Letter while they were owned by her husband. [See “Red River Newspaper Chronology and the men who ‘made’ the news,” this site.] She may have done much of the other writing attributed to him as well, seeing as his illness supposedly made such work difficult — including:

“The Greatness of Our Heritage,” Dominion day, 1891 : Winnipeg public schools (1891);

The old Crow Wing Trail ; Some very old inhabitants ; The king’s highway (1894); and

The Innuits [sic] of our Arctic coast (1894).

Agnes  died in 1929 at her house, 113 Eastgate, Armstrong Point, Winnipeg. Ishbel Maria Marjoribanks Gordon, Marchioness of Aberdeen, had once remarked that the Schultzs  had been “intensely unpopular.” [See Lovell Clark, “Schultz, Sir John Christian,” Dictionary of Canadian Biography, who also notes that Sheriff Colin Inkster, “after reading the fulsome inscription on Schultz’s tombstone in St John cemetery, was moved to remark: ‘What a pity we knew him’.”] Agnes nevertheless apparently managed to retain some loyal friends.[1] She is credited in one story, for example, with leaving a generous behest to ‘Mrs. Sparrow,’ a long-time personal advisor. The story identifies Agnes’ friend as née Graham. The account, however, seems to have conflated the identities of two sisters — Lily Barber Sparrow (died 1959, age 87) and Harriet Barber Graham/ Mrs. Charles Graham. Both were the daughters of Red River merchant, Edmund Lorenzo Barber (of Hamden, Connecticut), and Barbara Logan (daughter of Robert Logan and his second wife, widow Sarah Anne Smith Ingham, of England). The sisters did not speak ill of Lady Agnes Schultz.


[1] The Archives of Manitoba, Matilda Davis Family Fonds, P2343/4, accession no. 1985-88, pages 1288-1298, includes “Agnes Schultz correspondence,” that might supply additional insight into her social life.


Published: 28 October 2012



  1. I really enjoyed this account. I’ve been trying to find out about her and you did a great job of pulling together the various bits of information!

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