Matrilineal Monday – Mary Jane Hassan

Mary Jane Hassan was my third-great-grandmother, born around 1843 in Ontario to an Irish father and Canadian-born mother. She married Joseph Myers around 1861, and they had 10 children:

Mary Jane Myers (b. 1862 – d. ????)
Joseph F. Myers (b. 1865 – d. ????)
John Robert Myers (b. 1867 – d. 1905)
James Myers (b. 1869 – d. 1922)
George Ignatius Myers (b. 1871 – d. ????)
Charles Myers (b. 1873 – d. ????)
Wilhelmine/Wilhelmina Myers (b. 1879 – d. ????)
Ellen Elisabeth Barbara Myers (b. 1880 – d. ????)
Annie M. Myers (b. 1883 – d. ????)
Rosa C. Myers (b. 1889 – d. ????)

By 1901, Mary Jane was widowed, and lived in Toronto with three of her daughters. Wilhelmine worked as a dry goods clerk, and Ellen and Annie were dressmakers. Mary Jane died in Ottawa in 1911,

The Myerses are hard to trace, because they have relatively common first names and records variously list them as Meyers, Meyer, Mayer, Mayers, Myer, and Moyer. I admit to neglecting research on this line because of it. (I go with the Myers variation, because both my great-grandmother, and her father used that spelling.)


Carry The Kettle Land Surrender, 1905

There may have been more to James Hassan’s placement as the farm instructor on the Assiniboine/Carry the Kettle reserve than I originally read in the Indian Affairs report.

In 1988 an inquiry was brought to the Department of Indian Affairs, regarding a section of IR 76 (Indian Reserve 76) that was sold by the Carry the Kettle people to the Crown in 1905. The claim was rejected in 1994, and then the Indian Claims commission agreed to open a new inquiry, which was held up until 2004 at the request of the band until another inquiry was completed. Finally, Indian Claims Commission, Carry the Kettle First Nation Inquiry: 1905 Surrender Inquiry (Ottawa, December 2008) was released.

In a nutshell, in December 1904 the band approached Agent Thomas Aspdin (who had also stood in as a farming instructor) about surrendering about 5760 acres of land to the Crown. The conditions of the surrender included that the proceeds be used first to pay the debts owing to the department. The rest was to be used to buy lumber to build a shed to house their wheat thresher, replace the engine of the wheat thresher, and to compensate the band members who had invested their labour in the land.

The reason for the inquiry was that the band believed that the Agency had acted against the Indian Act of 1886 by accepting and carrying out the conditions of the surrender even though they were not expressly provided for in the sections of the Act outlining the Governor in Council’s power and authority. In addition they believed that the land had been sold without giving proper notice for the meeting or having quorum of male band members over 21 at the meeting. (At the time, a majority would have been around 20 men.) Canada cites other inquiries and examples where things that were not expressly mentioned in the Act were granted (Section 70 mentions the allowance for purchase of cattle by the Governor in Council, but other bands used funds for other farm animals and implements). Essentially, Canada says that the band’s conditions were satisfactorily met and since the band didn’t cede decision making power to the Crown, that there was no outstanding lawful obligation to the Carry the Kettle. The full inquiry report can be read in pdf form from the University of Saskatchewan Indigenous Studies Portal.

The part I found interesting about the farming instructor position is this:

The First Nation argues that Indian Agent Aspdin exerted pressure and undue influence on the Band to agree to the surrender. They assert that Aspdin was either inexperienced or negligent in his duties, as both Indian Agent and Farming Instructor, and points to records which, it argues, illustrate Aspdin’s incompetence. In particular, the First Nation refers to a 1904 letter from Graham in which he allegedly reproached Aspdin for poor crops and suggested that a “practical farming instructor” be brought in to manage the Band’s farming endeavours. This plan, the First Nation asserts, was frustrated by Aspdin’s inability to purchase a suitable thresher. Aspdin, it is argued, was concerned for his own well-being and exerted pressure on the Band to agree to surrender conditions which favoured both the Crown and himself.

– Indian Claims Commission, Carry the Kettle First Nation Inquiry: 1905
Surrender Inquiry
(Ottawa, December 2008), page 44

Thomas Aspdin is listed in the report as having been the Indian Agent for the Assiniboine Reserve from 1901-1905. Did he get transferred to another reserve because of unrest after the sale? Did Inspector Graham recommend that since there was a new farmer, they should get a new agent, too? No, the answer is simpler than that. According to the Indian Affairs report for that year, he took ill in December of 1905 and died in February 1906.

City Battery Service, Regina, Saskatchewan

Though he went by Irvin, James and Lucy Hassan’s youngest son’s full name was George Robert Irvin Hassan. Here he is in the 1919 Regina Henderson Guide, using his initials in a rather grand way. He and J.C. Wilson must have been business partners to have merited billing next to their business name in the city directory.

Until the 1930s, telephones did not draw power directly from the line and were powered by a battery stored in an enclosure on the wall. The phone was already very popular by 1919, so Irvin and J.C. probably had a lot of business from people who needed their phone battery serviced.

(Portions of the Regina Henderson Directory for 1919 as well as many other directories for other prairie cities are available at Peel’s Prairie Provinces.)

Wednesday Women’s Work: Lucy Hudson Hassan and her girls

After James Hassan died and his family no longer had his income from his employment as a farm instructor, what did his widow Lucy Hudson Hassan do?

According to the 1916 census, Lucy moved the family to Regina and she took in roomers.

Unfortunately, this digitized image is too blurry at the end to see what the enumerator took down as Lucy’s occupation, but a few of the others are pretty clear:

Lucy’s job begins with an H. Perhaps it is Housekeeper?

Ellen was a stenographer. Correspondence courses in shorthand were popular in the early twentieth century, and Ellen may have taught herself during her time on the reserve.

It looks like Elvira and Irwin both worked in stores. Elvira’s occupation is illegible to me, and Irvin was a shipping clerk.

Rounding out the house with the roomers, Phyllis was a student, and I can’t make out what Peter was (English teacher? Engine something?)

White People on The Reserve

My fourth-great-grandparents, James Hassan and Margaret Chapman, were both of Irish descent. They had been farming near Guelph, Ontario for many years and had raised at least nine children there. So why was their son James living with his equally white wife and children on the Assiniboine Indian Reserve in Saskatchewan?

Chief Carry the Kettle, farm instructor Hassan, Agent W.S. Grant, Bob Grant, Band Councillor Ryder
(Photo from “Indian Head A History of Indian Head and District”, page 779)

In 1877, the Assiniboine Reserve had been created under Treaty 4, moving a Nakota group (who would later become the Carry-The-Kettle band) from western Saskatchewan to south-eastern Saskatchewan. Each reserve was overseen by an Agency, and the Agency employed white people to go about monitoring and “civilizing” the First Nations there. Part of this included teaching the Carry-the-Kettle people to farm. Before 1905, they had a white farm labourer to help them, but the Indian Agency decided to hire a farmer as a farming instructor. That person was James Hassan, and he was paid $480 yearly (and was making $720 by 1912) to encourage mixed farming practices and help the residents grow grain, oats, and carrots and raise livestock.

Other employees of the Agency during James’ time there included a schoolteacher named Gertrude Lawrence, and W.S. Grant, who was the Agent. Mr. Grant’s son Bob was his assistant, and later his daughter Lillian was a clerk.

James likely died around October 1914 as that is when he received his last pay and was replaced by the Agency, and Lucy is widowed by the 1916 census.

(Indian Affairs Annual Reports, 1864-1990 are available on the Library and Archives Canada website)