Katherine Jane Glen Macaulay Rae Hamilton Begg

Katherine was born in 1844, at Stromness, Orkney, into a seafaring family with historical connections to the Hudson’s Bay Company and the North-West. Notably, she was a niece of Dr. John Rae who discovered the fate of Sir John Franklin’s arctic expedition. Two of her sisters-in-law were daughters of Peter Skene Ogden Jr., Chief Trader, Hudson’s Bay Company.

In 1868 , at Hamilton Ontario, Katherine married Alexander Begg, business partner of Andrew G.B. Bannatyne, merchant at Red River.

Among the Women at Red River and the Resistance, 1869-1870, Katherine’s family ties to the Hudson’s Bay Company officer class might go some way to explaining the opinions expressed by her husband in his journal, kept during 1869 – 1870, and modifications to those opinions in his later books (in some instances, almost to the point of reversal). As an independent merchant, Begg in his writing seems, at times, to be surprisingly loyal to the Company — for example in voicing distaste for its critics, including J.C. Schultz, W.R. Bown, and James Ross. Over the winter of 1869 -1870, however, Begg seems to have aligned himself to some extent with the objectives of Canadian Party, given that he had a fair degree of knowledge about their activities, and that, overall, his support for the plan to institute a locally mustered provisional government was lukewarm, at best. Although his partner Bannatyne was appointed postmaster under the Provisional Government of Assiniboia, and was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia, Bannatyne seems not to have confided in Begg — as the latter’s journal is often, and obviously, mistaken about points of Provisional Government business.

Katherine resided in St. John’s Parish, near the Town of Winnipeg during the resistance over the winter of 1869 – 1870. Her brother, Colin Hamilton, apparently lived in or near Winnipeg as well and might have acted in support of the Canadian Party (if he is the man identified in some accounts as Arthur Hamilton). In the spring however, both Alexander Begg (5 May) and the New Nation (6 May 1870), recorded that Katherine and her infant daughter left the settlement with her brother to go to Hamilton, Canada, where she would be visiting friends until the next spring.

Katherine and ‘Minnie’ apparently returned to Winnipeg and to Alexander, living there to 1884. In that year the family move to London, England, where Alexander had secured employment as a migration promoter for the Canadian Pacific Railroad. A son had been added to the family at some point, but seems to have died while very young.

what women say

Once again, it is tempting to speculate on the Katherine’s influence on her husband’s thinking. As a migration promoter, Alexander’s first contribution was a pamphlet based on a survey taken of male farmers newly arrived in the Canadian West (1884). A subsequent project (1885), however, was directed at women:

“Begg and the Department of Agriculture … sent out specially designed questionnaires for the women of the West. Women were asked for their opinions on the climate, on local schools, and whether they experienced “any dread of Indians.” As well, respondents were asked to “kindly give any advice that may be of service to incoming mothers, wives, daughters, sisters and any practical information or any household receipt that may be of service to them.” The completed questionnaires were arranged in the same way as those sent to male homesteaders and were used to compile another attractive, agreeable, popular pamphlet entitled What Women Say of the Canadian North- West. These pamphlets did much to dispel the image of the West as being a forbidding wilderness. In fact, so successful were the pamphlets that the Immigration Branch subsequently published several other brochures aimed specifically at women.” [Source: Patrick A. Dunae, “Promoting the Dominion: Records and the Canadian Immigration Campaign, 1872-1915,” Archiaveria 19 (Winter 1984-1985), 86.

Given Katherine’s prior experience in the West, which included ‘Indian scares’ that proved to be false, she was perfectly positioned to contribute a woman’s perspective to the pamphlet’s production as it addressed points raised by, and assessed answers given in, the preceding survey. [See Perceptions and First Nations, this site.]

In 1888 Katherine relocated with her husband and daughter to Seattle, Washington. The family subsequently resided at Victoria BC, beginning 1892. Katherine was widowed when Alexander died at their home on Jesse Street in 1897. She had her husband’s body transported to Winnipeg, Manitoba, to be interred at St. John’s cemetery.

alex begg burialBuried at Winnipeg,” Victoria Daily Colonist (14 September 1897), 1.

Katherine presumably attended the funeral, while Minnie was left in charge of the family home. Katherine then appears to have continued journeying eastward for an extended vacation to Ontario, “for the benefit of her health.” The plan did not succeed. She died of “pleuro-pneumonia” (pneumonia aggravated by pleurisy) on 21 November 1899 at Dundas, Wentworth County — possibly at the home of her sister, Helen ‘Nellie’ Begue.

obituary Katherine Begg

Death of Mrs. Alex. Begg,” Victoria Daily Columnist (3 December 1899), 3.

Rae Family Ties: [tentative, in progress]

1. RAE, John Rae [Sr.]. Born 1772, Lanarkshire, Scotland (possibly to James RAE and Marion SIBBALD); married 15 April 1804/1809, Edinburgh; moved to Orphir, Orkney, where he was factor of the Hall of Clestrain, Orphir, which was the estate of Sir William HONEYMAN; later in charge of the HBC agency in Stromness, Orkney; died 1834.

— sp. GLEN, Margaret Campbell. Born 1781, Argyll, to William GLEN and Janet LOVE; died 1855.

2. RAE, James. “died somewhat young.”

— sp. [? BALLANTINE, Helen Mcpherson?]

3. RAE, Helen. Appeared in census as child living with grandmother; married 19 March 1846.

— sp. JOBSON, George Wilson.

4. [7 children]

2. RAE, Janet ‘Jess’/ ‘Jesse’ Love Glen. Born 18 September 1806, Orphir, Orkney.

— sp. MUNROE, Hector. Born 28 November 1796, fourth son to  John MUNROE of Kirkton, Captain in the Sutherland Militia; entered the army in 1811, as an Ensign in the 89th Regiment; 1813 promoted to Lieutenant in the 49th Regiment and “carried the colours at Chrysler’s Farm — for which he received a medal — and was wounded. He was also present at Plattsburg and Lundy’s Lane. He was placed on half-pay on the 25th of March, 1817, from the 103rd Regiment, but on the 25th of December, 1838, was again placed on full pay as Lieutenant in the Royal Newfoundland Veterans, and when the Royal Canadian Rifles were formed he obtained a company in 1846. He soon after exchanged into the 2nd Regiment of Foot, or Queen’s, and retired by sale of his commission in 1848. In 1859 he was appointed Surveyor of Customs at Galt, Ontario, an office which he held for the remainder of his life. He was for several years President of the Galt and Hamilton Highland Societies, and it was largely owing to his patriotic exertions that the fine and striking monument, on which his name appears as hon. secretary, was erected at Queenston to the memory of Sir Isaac Brock”; 1st marriage to  Marjory GEDDES, (2 children); 3d marriage to Margaret RAMSAY (daughter of John CROOKS, Niagara, Canada) (no children); died at Galt, Ontario, 12 February, 1868, aged 71 years, “where his widow, now deceased, survived him for several years.”

3. MUNROE, George Granville Gower. Born 12 February 1827, Stromness, Orkney; served in the Royal Canadian Rifles, subsequently as Major in the 87th and 20th Regiments, and received the Indian Mutiny medal.

— sp. Annie HAMILTON. Born to Captain HAMILTON, Royal Canadian Rifles

4. MUNROE, George Granville Gower.

— sp. JENKINS. Born to Dr. JENKINS; died without children.

4. MUNROE, Georgina. 1st marriage 15 June 1870; 2d marriage 17 April 1880.

— sp. BRUCE, John. Barrister-at-law.

5. BRUCE, Hector Milne. Born 22 October, 1872.

5. BRUCE, Alexander Stuart. Born 29 January, 1875.

5. BRUCE, Maggie Glen.

5. BRUCE, Isabella Kate.

— sp. HUNT, George. Inspector, Standard Life Insurance Company.

5. HUNT, George Allen Devere. Born November, 1881.

5. HUNT, William Henry. Born 14 September 1883.

5. HUNT, Ella Devere.

5. HUNT, Anna Pennafather.

5. HUNT, Constance Hamilton.

4.  MUNROE, Anna E. Jane.

4. MUNROE, Jessie.

4. MUNROE, Gower.

4. MUNROE, Emma.

— sp. GREY, Emily. Born to Alexander GREY, Trinidad, West Indies (Sweet Briar Cottage, Port of Spain).

4. MUNROE, Emily Brenda.

— sp. KING, Gerrard.

5. KING [son and daughter].

3. MUNROE, John Rae. Born 1826; Banker, Hamilton, Ontario, and first pensioner of the Merchant Bank of Canada; unmarried; died 13 April 1886.

3. MUNROE, Hugh Andrew Johnstone. Drowned at Stromness, 3 years old.

3. MUNROE, Hugh Andrew Johnstone (2d of the name). Drowned at Stromness, approx. 3 years old.

3. MUNROE, George Traill. Born 1837. “appointed to an Ensignacy in the 67th Regiment, and afterwards transferred with the rank of Lieutenant to the Royal Canadian Rifles. When the latter regiment was disbanded in 1869, he was placed on half-pay with the rank of Captain”; 8 September 1870 sailed with wife, recently born child, and sister Jesse; died at sea.

— sp. SMYTH, Mary. “third daughter of George Smyth, Belfast; died at sea on route to Britain 1870.

4. MUNROE, [infant]. Died at sea.

3. MUNROE, Richard Honeyman Rae. Born 1840; barrister-at-law, Toronto; married c. 1881; no children.

— sp. BARNUM, Edith. Born to James Barnum, The Poplars, Grafton, Ontario.

3. MUNROE, Margaret Glen Rae.

— sp. GROME, Frederick C.

3. MUNROE, Love Jean C. Glen. Died in infancy.

3. MUNROE, Eloise W. G. Rae.

— sp. WALTERS, William B. V.S. Royal Artillery; afterwards Lieutenant-Colonel Veterinary Surgeon, C.B., retired.

4. WALTERS, Ellen Elizabeth.

4. WALTERS, Jessie Rae Munro.

3. MUNROE, Jesse Love Glen Rae. Embarked at Montreal for Liverpool with brother George, his wife, and their recently born child, aboard the “magnificent A1 iron clipper ship W. H. HAZELDEN, 897 tons register; ship was spoken to on 18th of September by an eastward bound vessel in latitude 47 N., longitude 47 W.; ship never made port; died at sea 1870.

— sp. MACKENZIE, Alexander William Webster. Born to Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander William Webster MACKENZIE, of the Lochend family; Lieutenant in the 100th Regiment; 16 October 1867 “A few months after their marriage he died in Canada of an aneurism of the Aorta.”

2. RAE, Marion Sibbald. Born 1808; married 2 June 1831; reputed to have entertained Sir John FRANKLIN at her home during his ship`s final outfitting at Stromness; by way of lore passed on by Letitia Mactavish HARGRAVE, Marion and her sister Janet were Sir Walter SCOTT‘s inspiration for the sisters Brenda and Minna in The Pirate [See the “Letters of Letitia Hargrave”], although Marion would have been only 12 to 13 years old when Scott was writing, and younger still on the occasion he visited the Orkneys, in 1814 [see http://www.walterscott.lib.ed.ac.uk/works/novels/pirate.html] — however, in 1725 the actual pirate John Gow, who was the inspiration for the fictional pirate, Captain Cleveland, in Scott’s story, had plundered the Hall of Clestrain, which was where the Rae family lived; Marion moved to Hamilton, Ontario, in the 1850s; died 1890.

— sp. HAMILTON, John Macaulay [Dr./ Ships’ Surgeon, Royal Navy]. Born 1799, Orphir, Orkney, to Rev. Gavin HAMILTON and Penelope MACAULAY (a “near relative [aunt] of Lord MACAULAY/ Thomas Babington MACAULAY” — her brother, Zachary being Thomas’ father); died 1872.

3. HAMILTON, Marion Johanna. Born 1 May 1833, Chatham, England; married 30 May 1861.

— sp. BAKER, Godfrey Phipps. Born 25 August 1822, Shooter’s Hill, Woolwich, England; baptized Plumstead, Kent, England; previous marriage 25 May 1852, Ottawa, to Elizabeth Julia CLEMENTS; died 16 March 1882 Ottawa.

4. BAKER, [8 children]

3. HAMILTON, Gavin. Born 1 January, 1835, Stromness, Orkney; HBC career; sailed 1852 aboard Norman Morrison for Pacific slope, arrived at Victoria 1853; married c. 1862; retired from HBC; moved to 150 Mile House in 1870s so children could attend St. Joseph’s Mission school, Williams Lake; purchased 150 Mile Ranch and roadhouse in 1878; beset by fire, flood, and death of 2 year old daughter Christine Mary HAMILTON; signed petition 1887; sold out and moved to Lac La Hache area c. 1888; died 30 July 1909.

— sp. OGDEN, Margaret Julia. Born to Peter Skene OGDEN Jr. (born 18 January 1817 to Peter OGDEN Sr. and and Julia RIVET, a Spokane First Nation woman) and Euphrosini/ Phrisine BREBANT (daughter of Augustine BRABANT, of Quebec and Angelique LUCIER of Fort Edmonton).

4. HAMILTON. [16 children, 2 died in infancy]

3. HAMILTON, John Rae. Born 24 August 1838, Stromness, Orkney.

3. HAMILTON, Helen ‘Nellie’ Babington Macaulay. 15 August 1841, Stromness, Orkney.

— sp. BEGUE, Thomas/ Theodore Henry Alfio [?].

3. HAMILTON, Margaret Glen Rae. Born 14 February 1842, Stromness, Orkney.

— sp. LOCKE, Charles F.A.

3. HAMILTON, Katherine/ Catherine Jane Glenn Rae. Born 9 November 1844, Stromness, Orkney; married in 1868 at Hamilton ON; lived with husband at Red River for part of the resistance, but left on a year-long visit to friends and family in Hamilton, Ontario, in the spring of 1870 according to the New Nation (6 May 1870), which reported that Katherine had left Red River with her brother, identified only as “Mr. Hamilton”; mentioned in the will of Dr. John Rae, though was not left a behest; lived in London, England 1884 – 1888; moved to Seattle WA 1888; resided at Victoria BC from 1892; died 21 November 1899 at Wentworth ON.

— sp. BEGG, Alexander. Born 19 July 1839, Quebec City, to Alexander BEGG and Mary B. URQUHART [Note: there was another Alexander BEGG, who is easily confused with Catherine Hamilton’s husband. See Madge Wolfenden, “Alexander Begg versus Alexander Begg,” B.C. Historical Quarterly 1 (1937): 133 – 139]; agent for merchants of Hamilton and Toronto, 1867; introduced Canadian goods to Red River; January 1868 had orders for about $90,000.00 to send from Canada to Red River; partner of Andrew G.B. Bannatyne to 1871; author of journal, published in Alexander Begg’s Red River Journal: and other papers relative to the Resistance, 1869 – 1860 (1956), recording events at Red River, 1869-1870; [was possibly sending reports to John A. Macdonald at Ottawa during the Resistance?]; kept up correspondence with Macdonald, for example, wrote letter to same, 30 September 1878, letter to same, 6 March 1879, letter to same, 23 June 1880, letter to same 7 December 1880, letter to same 18 January 1881, requesting review of content of proposed text for publication, letter to same, 13 April 1881, other correspondence, to 1896, is available online via Library and Archives Canada; lived in London, England 1884 – 1888; moved to Seattle WA 1888; resided at Victoria BC from 1892; died 6 September 1897, Victoria, BC.

alex begg deathAlexander Begg Dead,” Victoria Daily Colonist (7 September 1897), 2.

4. BEGG, Marion ‘Minnie’/ ‘Minna’. Born c. 1869, Red River.

4. BEGG, [son]. “died in childhood.”

3. HAMILTON, Colin Macaulay. Born 1847.

3. HAMILTON, Jessie Stewart Franklin. Born 1849; married 27 April 1869, Hamilton.

— sp. SCARTH, William Bain.

3. HAMILTON, Thomas Macaulay. HBC career, Pacific Coast; 1st marriage 1875; 2d marriage 1881; settled in British Columbia.

— sp. BOUCHIE, P.

— sp. OGDEN, Christine. Born to Peter Skene OGDEN Jr. (born 18 January 1817 to Peter OGDEN Sr. and and Julia RIVET, a Spokane First Nation woman) and Euphrosini/ Phrisine BREBANT (daughter of Augustine BRABANT, of Quebec and Angelique LUCIER of Fort Edmonton).

2. RAE, William Glen. Born 1809; HBC career from 1827;  sailor; married February 1838, Fort Vancouver, Washington Territory; “In 1840, Dr. John McLoughlin sent his son-in-law, daughter, and son to Ft. Stikine, to establish a new post. The following year he sent the same son-in-law, William Glen Rae, to Yerba Buena, to establish a post there town later developed into San Francisco.” The original fort buildings and the Rae home were the foundation for the city; “Rae was much respected. He was liberal to those less favored by circumstances than himself, frequently giving little presents to persons who came to his store of things most needed by them. His table was always finely supplied with the best of everything, and he had a generous sideboard and entertained a great deal of company. He and Spear were the chief entertainers. There being no hotels at that time, the hospitalities of the town devolved mostly upon these two gentlemen. The captains, supercargoes and other strangers were always welcome at Rae’s house, and it was a pleasure to him to entertain them. He had the true California nature and feeling in this respect”; in January 1845, “it was discovered that Rae was unfaithful to his wife, having succumbed to the fascinations of a California lady. Upon this becoming public, Rae, who was a sensitive man, was so overcome with mortification and disgrace that he shot himself. After his death the British vice-consul, James Alexander Forbes, took possession of the post, and was instructed by the managers of the general post on the Columbia River to close out the business of the company at Yerba Buena as soon as practicable. This was done in the course of a few months, and the land and house sold to Mellus & Howard for $5,000. They afterward opened a commercial establishment there, using the building as a store, and in the winter of 1849-50 this building was converted into the United States Hotel, which became a popular resort.” [quotations from http://www.robertwhitton.eu/person.php?pat=Rae&id=8027&fam=1]

— sp. McLOUGHLIN, Eloisa Maria. Born 1817 to Dr. John McLOUGHLIN and Marguerite WADDEN/ WADDIN/ WADDENS McKAY (daughter of Jean-Étienne WADDENs/ VAUDENS and a First Nations woman; previously married to Alexander McKAY); remarried to Daniel HARVEY; died 1884.

3. RAE, John. Born 3 February 1839, Fort Vancouver, Washington Territory.

3. RAE, Margaret Glen. Born 21 March aboard SS Beaver, near Fort Stikine, British Columbia.

— sp. WYGANT, Theodore. Merchant, travelled overland to Oregon City 1850.

4. WYGANT, Alice.

— sp. WHIDDEN, William. Architect, Portland, Oregon.

4. WYGANT, Nellie Amelia. Born Oregon City 1859; married 1882; died 1940.

— sp. WINCH, Martin.

5. WINCH, Simeon Reed. Born 1888; graduated Princeton University, 1911; took a European tour with his mother; attended Harvard Law School 1912-1913; during the Great War, served as Assistant Food Administrator for Oregon and later entered officer’s training school, though did not serve overseas; work at the Oregon Journal, becoming business manager 1921-1946; died 1946.

— sp. FAILING, Olivia. Descendant of Josiah FAILING; died 1942.

6. WINCH, Nella.

— sp. McELROY.

6. WINCH, Emily.

— sp. BAINES.

— sp. TOBIN, Margaret Elizabeth ‘Mary’/’Toots’. Died 2003.

6. WINCH, Martin. Born 1944.

3. RAE, Maria Louisa. Born 13 November 1842 [Yerba Buens, San Francisco?]

3. RAE, William. Born 1845, California.

 2. RAE, Richard Bempde Johnstone Honyman. Born 17 September 1811 at the Hall of Clestrain, Orphir, Orkney; HBC career 1830-1837;  1851 census at St Andrew, Hamilton, living “with brother and his family”, occupation Corn Merchant; 1871 census at St Georges, Hamilton, Ontario, occupation Emigration Agent; died 1874.

2. RAE, Dr. John. Born 30 September 1813 at the Hall of Clestrain, Orphir, Orkney; HBC career; 1848 was on a search for the lost Franklin expedition (headed by Sir John Richardson); discovered the fate of Sir John FRANKLIN; was a controversial figure in the UK for many years, because of his assertions of cannibalism in the Franklin expedition; contributed to understanding Canadian ethnology; He retired in 1856; married January 1860; no children; spent the last of his days in London, England; died 1893. [See also: http://www.orkneyjar.com/history/historicalfigures/johnrae/ ]

— sp. THOMPSON, Catherine Jane Alicia. Born 1838; died 1919.

2. RAE, Thomas. Born 1815; died in infancy.

2. RAE, Thomas. Born 1817; left Scotland for Canada as a boy; lived in New Brunswick, then Kingston, where he married 5 January 1842/ 1843; moved to Hamilton, Ontario, 1843; partner with his brother Richard in shipping and built 4 sailing vessels; was about to build a propeller when he died 28 September 1868.

— sp. McPHERSON, Helen. Born 1812; remarried Rev. Thomas BURNETT; died 1897.

[? 3. RAE, Helen. Born c. 1830; died 1895.

— sp. GAVIN, John.]

3. RAE, John MacPherson. Born c. 1848, Hamilton, Ontario; HBC career 1867-1872;  [Indian Agent in the North Saskatchewan River area (Battleford?) in 1888?]

— sp.

?[4. RAE, Thomas.

— sp. MILLER, Elizabeth.

5. RAE, Thomas Miller.

— sp. SIMPSON, Helene.

6. RAE, Stewart.]

3. RAE, Glen.


Published: 17 June 2012



  1. Just in passing . . . Penelope MacAulay was the aunt of Thomas Babington,MacAulay; her brother Zachary was his father. So John Hamilton was his cousin and Catherine his first cousin once removed.

  2. Looking for info on James Rae that married Edith Dennis (late 1800s, early 1900?) Welland, Ontario

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