From McGill to Metis
Over the Years

By Kathleen Miller

If you live in Metis or, if you spend your summers there, it is almost certain that at one point or another you will hear about McGill University [1]. If you live in the area year-round, you may have applied for a McGill bursary. Even if you are just visiting Metis, you may notice names like Dawson, Harrington, and Molson posted outside various cottages along Metis’s main road – if you are somewhat familiar with the history of Montreal, or if you have ever studied at McGill, some of these names might stand out to you. Today, if you so much as take a step onto the McGill campus, you will see all three of these names affixed to various buildings. Usually, they are carved onto the facades of imposing structures.

Regardless of what your relationship to Metis is, it is likely that you will have heard something about the historic connection between McGill University and Metis as a summer community. What many do not know, however, is just how deep and wide that connection really is… or how far back it stretches. And so, we must ask ourselves, ‘Who were these people who walked the halls of McGill in the winter, but in the summer, found themselves forming a unique community along the shoreline of Metis?’

Introducing “The McGill Contingent”


Sir William Dawson

As early as the 1870s, a group known to some as “the McGill Contingent” made its way to Metis for the very first time, following in the path of McGill’s then principal (John) William Dawson, later Sir William Dawson [2]. Dawson’s dedication to researching a new species of fossil sponges, discovered along the south shore of the St. Lawrence River, coincided with his hunt for the perfect spot to set up his summer abode.[i]

While conducting a geological survey across different areas along the St. Lawrence, Dawson and his colleague, Professor Bernard Harrington, found that the air in Metis contained a larger percentage of ozone (believed to be healthful, especially at a time when hot summer conditions meant disease ran rampant in Montreal) than in other places in Quebec.  Dawson decided once and for all that Metis would be the perfect place to build a summer cottage.[ii] Conveniently for Dawson, Metis was also the half-way point between Montreal and his birthplace of Pictou, Nova Scotia, where he began his studies and occasionally returned to hunt for geological specimens.

From the mid-1870s onwards, Dawson spent many of his summer vacations in Metis dredging the beaches in search of specimens from deposits of the Palaeozoic (which lasted from 570 million to 245 million years ago) and Pleistocene (an epoch which lasted from 1,640, 000 to about 10,000 years ago) periods.[iii]  He wrote:

“… I had first intended, in the long vacation to make my headquarters in Montreal, and to do my field work from it as a centre. We found that this was incompatible with the health of our children, and that it would be necessary to go, for a couple of months at least, to some cooler place. I endeavoured, however, to make this work in with such geological investigations as I might be carrying on and to places on the lower St. Lawrence River.

For several years, in connection with the work on the Pleistocene, it became expedient for me to spend much of my summer in the last-named locality, and finally in 1875 we had a small summer cottage built at Little Metis. This place is in itself a healthy and desirable one. Here, in perfect quiet, and with such members of our family as could join us, we have spent many happy and profitable summers.

Here too, I have found time and opportunity to write most of my books and scientific papers. Our little cottage of “Birkenshaw”, embowered in trees and overlooking the St. Lawrence estuary, here practically an open sea – is thus associated with some of the happiest and I believe also the most useful days of our married life.”[iv]

  • Did you know… ?  One of Dawson’s discoveries – what he believed to be a petrified tree trunk – was finally identified as a “humungous fungus” [3]. In an article about Dawson’s discovery, published on April 24, 2007 by The Montreal Gazette, Dawson is described as “Canada’s first internationally known scientist and founder of the Royal Society of Canada”. A new biography records that he also was the only person to hold the presidency of both the American Association for the Advancement of Science and its British equivalent.

Professor Bernard James Harrington (and Anna Lois Dawson)

Among the first professors to join “the McGill Contingent” and follow Dawson to Metis was his own son-in-law, Professor Bernard James Harrington, sometimes known as B.J., who graduated from McGill with a B.A in Natural Science in 1869 and a doctorate in mineralogy from Yale University in 1871. After earning his degree from Yale, B.J. began his 36-year career as a McGill professor where he lectured in chemistry, mineralogy, and assaying (the testing of metal or ore to determine its ingredients and quality).[v] In 1876, Professor Harrington married Dawson’s daughter, Anna Lois Dawson, who was herself directly involved in her father’s geological work in Metis, taking on the role of artist to sketch many of Dawson’s geological discoveries [4].

In 1883, Dawson bought his daughter and son-in-law a cottage that was next door to his own residence. Today, descendants of the Dawson-Harrington family still spend their summers at ‘Birkenshaw’ and ‘Harrington Cottage’ [5, 6, 7].

Professor Pierre-Jacques Darey

Professor Pierre-Jacques Darey (1828-1898) [8] was the original owner of ‘Harrington Cottage’, built in 1869. He was a Professor of French Language and Literature at McGill, also teaching ancient languages and theology at McGill’s Presbyterian College. He authored many texts, including the (yes, popular) 1871 Montreal publication of The Dominion Phrase Book: The Students Companion for practically acquiring the French and English Languages, which was reprinted in 1876, 1877, 1884, 1888 and 1889.

  • Listen to Jill Harrington speak of the Dawson, Harrington and other homes related to McGill.
  • What did others think of Metis at this time?  Less than a decade after the Dawsons arrived, Metis had already developed a reputation for being the university’s main summer settlement. In 1882, George Monro Grant [9] – who was a Canadian church minister, writer, political activist and principal of Queen’s University from 1877 to 1902 – wrote in his illustrated guidebook Picturesque Canada that “Metis is the resort of the scientist, the blue-stocking and the newly married.” (Could this be a mocking tone we hear from Mr. Grant? Perhaps, just a hint of the long-standing Queen’s-McGill academics and athletics rivalry…?)

“Blue-stocking”, if you don’t recognize the word, means an intellectual or literary woman, and these (some quite opinionated indeed!) were abundant in Metis society. This is apparent from the correspondence of Anna Lois Dawson-Harrington who recorded in her diary on July 9, 1878: “Some of the people here have got up [to] reading twice a week– subject Tennyson, I was asked to go and trotted up to Mrs. Redpath’s this afternoon, work in hand. About 10 were there.”[vi]

The relationship between the Dawson-Harrington and Redpath families in Metis was a close one. In another one of her letters, Anna also described the flowers in the woods beyond Mrs. Redpath’s house as “carpets of pigeon berry blossoms, clumps of veronicas, wild lilies, linaea, and little wild white violets” (June 1880). While pigeon berries may not sound very attractive, in actual fact, they are a beautiful plant and still remain part of the local flora.

Professor Henry Taylor Bovey (and mother-in-law Jane Drummond Redpath)

Another McGill professor whose descendants still spend their summers in Metis was Professor Henry Taylor Bovey (1852-1912) [10]. In the 1870s, Mrs. Redpath – the second wife of John Redpath, owner of the Redpath Sugar Company among other enterprises – bought farmland (what is now 310 to 330 Beach Road) on which she had her first house built in 1876.[vii]  Shortly after, in 1877, Professor Henry Taylor Bovey [10] arrived in Montreal to take up work at McGill. In 1880, he married Emily Jane Bonar Redpath, daughter of Jane Redpath… and so, his connection to Metis began.

Did you know… ?  Jane Drummond Redpath was just one of several women summering in Metis who had a very good mind, was fluently bilingual, and had not only a passionate interest in social issues and good works, but the willingness and energy to take action.  In 1875, “… she presided over the Montreal Ladies’ Educational Association, established in 1871 by McGill Principal William Dawson.  Her leadership pushed the latter until women were admitted to McGill in 1885.” Lucille Marr, Colleges and Missions, 2017

Professor Bovey was McGill’s first Dean of the Faculty of Applied Science from 1878 until 1908. Born in Devonshire, England and educated at Cambridge University, Professor Bovey came to Montreal to work as a professor of civil engineering and applied mechanics at McGill. In addition to teaching, Bovey also did consulting work in connection with bridge design and structure, as well as hydraulics engineering in Montreal.[viii]

In 1883, Professor Bovey hired the architect Sir Andrew Taylor (1850-1937) to design his family cottage ‘Sassaguiminel’ [11], just across from the Dawson’s cottage and to the west beside his mother-in-law’s house in Metis. Sassaguiminel is a transliteration of the First Nations word for bunchberries or pigeon berries, otherwise known as Cornus canadensis, which were (and are) plentiful on the property.

Back in Montreal, Andrew Taylor was known for designing McGill’s Redpath Library (1893) and co-designing McGill’s Macdonald Campus Physics Building (1893), its School of Architecture’s Macdonald-Harrington Building (1896), and the Macdonald Engineering Building (1907).[ix] Taylor’s connections to the Drummond and Redpath families (who were well-known both in Montreal and Metis) led him, over the course of his career, to do many commissions for relatives. Professor Bovey was not only married to Taylor’s first cousin, Emily Jane Bonar Redpath, but his maternal aunt (and later mother-in-law) was Jane Drummond Redpath, the widow of John Redpath. As a further connection, his maternal uncle was George Alexander Drummond, one of Canada’s most notable industrialists and financiers.

In addition to the Bovey’s cottage, Taylor designed, between 1888 and 1889, a house called Reka Dom [12] for the Reford family (whose old family farm is now the land on which the farm belonging to McGill’s agricultural college stands). Robert Reford was involved with McGill as both a Governor and donor. Sadly, the Reford house, just to the east of the earliest professors’, burned down in 1974.

  • Did you know …?  By the 1880s, Metis was known across Canada as the picturesque resort town where bigwig academics and financiers from McGill (and their friends) built summer cottages overlooking the glorious St. Lawrence River. Later, many others from McGill decided to make the grueling trek from Montreal to Metis – made possible by the newly built Intercolonial Railway – also establishing handsome summer cottages along Beach Road and elsewhere. Around this time many of Metis residents referred to the village’s main street as ‘Professors’ Row’ [13] and ‘McGill College Avenue’, because of the number of professors who built cottages or spent summers there. These nicknames were particularly apt for the stretch from what is now 309 to 330 Beach Road[x] (see Metis East Trail).

Professor John Clark Murray

Another McGill professor who followed Dawson to Metis in these earlier years was Professor John Clark Murray (1836-1917), a preacher and philosopher from Paisley, Scotland, whose career was focused on transmitting the philosophical viewpoints of the Scottish Enlightenment into the Canadian context.

From 1871 to 1903, Professor Clark Murray [14] held the position of Frothingham Professor of Mental and Moral Philosophy at McGill, where he became close friends with Dawson. In 1886, he wrote a letter [15] to Dawson from Metis addressing him as “my dear Principal”.

Two years after this letter was sent, Professor Clark Murray and Principal Dawson had a falling out over the issue of co-education and the status of women on the McGill campus – this, we can assume, led to some awkward encounters between neighbours in the summer months!  And it’s all the more unusual given that Dawson’s own daughter, and his Redpath neighbours were highly educated.

Professor Dr. Norman William Trenholme

Professor Trenholme’s descendants, the Allans, still come to Metis every year. Professor (Dr.) Norman William Trenholme (1837-1919) [16] was McGill’s Dean of the Faculty of Law between 1888 and 1896. In 1865, he had been the first winner of McGill’s Elizabeth Torrance Gold Medal for highest standing, awarded upon graduation to a law student. In 1889, Dr. Trenholme also became a federal judge, and, between 1904 and 1918, he served as a judge on the Quebec Court of Appeal.[xi]


While it isn’t possible to say when the next McGill wave began – or if the first ever ended – because many began by visiting as guests, staying in one of Metis’s large hotels (yes large! – the population of the popular Metis watering hole went from around 600 to 1,800 or more in the summer) or renting cottages – for example, at a time when families were big, or perhaps older relations preferred the amenities of a nearby hotel, it was not unusual to find, say, a Dawson on the guest register).[xii]  However, one thing that separates the first wave from the second is where the visitors ended up – on the east or west side of the Little Metis River.  While McGill College Avenue was firmly on the east, this next batch all bought or stayed at places to the west of the Little Metis River on Patton Road or Lighthouse Point.

Professor Henry F. Armstrong

Professor Henry F. Armstrong (dates unknown) was one of two full-time faculty of McGill’s School of Architecture in the 1890s. A lecturer, Armstrong taught Descriptive Geometry, Freehand Drawing, as well as a course on Lettering and Modelling.[xiii] He took the unusual (for the time)  step of buying a place out on Lighthouse Point – a cottage that had been built in 1870 and which is now 29 Lighthouse Road. In Metis, Armstrong was and still is widely known as the McGill professor who lost his eye due to an accident at Lighthouse Point golf links (in fact, it was on adjacent Patton Road). In a newspaper article of the time (yes, tales of the goings-on in – and visitors to – Metis were frequently to be found in the Montreal press of the day):

“Prof. Armstrong Injured at Golf”

Struck in the right eye by a ‘sliced’ ball while playing golf on the Lighthouse Point links at Metis Beach on Tuesday evening, Professor Henry F. Armstrong of the Faculty of Applied Science, McGill University, was brought to Montreal yesterday and taken to the Ross Memorial Pavilion of the Royal Victoria Hospital, where an operation for the removal of the eye was performed. It was reported last evening that Professor Armstrong was doing as well as could expected.

 Professor Armstrong, who with Mrs. Armstrong and their family, had been spending the summer at their cottage, ‘The Grove,’ was playing with a friend after supper when the accident happened…”[xiv]

 Dr. Henri Amédée Lafleur

Related by marriage to Metis’s Grier family (see Metis West Trail) and a good friend of Sir William Osler, Dr. Henri Amédée Lafleur (1862-1939) [17] was the president of the Medical Council of Canada and a member of the McGill University medical staff for 27 years, holding the position of Professor Emeritus of Medicine. In 1882, he graduated from McGill with a B.A. in natural science, receiving a gold medal for his outstanding academic achievements. After earning his M.D., C.M., he quickly became friends with Osler (also related to a longstanding summer Metis family) and went with him to the Johns Hopkins Medical School in Baltimore, where he became the first resident physician. Several years later, Dr. Lafleur returned to McGill to become an assistant professor of medicine and clinical medicine. In March of 1907, he married Olive Masson Grier – the daughter of Montreal businessman, George Grier, of G. A. Grier and Sons Ltd., a lumber and forestry industry company. The Grier and Lafleur families have been coming to Metis ever since.

 Rev. Walter Melville Patton

Related to the Mathewson and Patton summer families in Metis, Rev. Walter Melville Patton (1863-1928) was a Methodist minister, Professor of Theology, and distinguished scholar who taught at McGill from 1911 to 1913. A graduate of both McGill and Montreal’s Wesleyan Theological College, Patton spent many years of his career lecturing on Semitic languages, including Arabic and Ethiopic, as well as teaching the history of religion. Some of his works include Ahmed ibu Hanabal and the Mihna (1897) and Israel’s Account of the Beginnings, Contained in Genesis I-XI (1916).


Professors were not the only ones from the McGill community to embark on a boat or long train ride every summer to Metis. Families like the Redpaths, the Molsons, the Fleets, the Hagues, and the Refords, who settled just across the street or down the road from the shoreline cottages owned by the professors, are known on the McGill campus for their life-long patronage and generous contributions to the university over the decades.

The Redpath Family

The Redpath family’s presence in Metis dates back almost as long as the advent of the McGill Contingent. As we’ve seen, Mrs. Redpath – the second wife of John Redpath, owner of the Redpath Sugar Company among other enterprises – began coming in the 1870s after having tried Cacouna, another summer resort on the Lower St. Lawrence, closer to Montreal. In Metis, she had her own house built (Staquan Lodge [18])  and then three adjacent cottages.

Mrs. Redpath’s stepson Peter Redpath (1821-1894) and his wife Grace Wood also were well known in Montreal for donating the funds to build the Redpath Museum.[xv] As well, Peter Redpath donated money for McGill’s very own Redpath Library, built to house the university’s main library collection – it opened in 1893.

  • Did you know…? The Redpath Museum [19] is the oldest building in Canada built for the purpose of being a museum. While the museum was originally erected to house the geological collections of Sir William Dawson, today its collections contain objects in the fields of palaeontology, zoology, mineralogy, and world cultures.[xvi]

The Molson Family

Pioneers in steamships, banking, and brewing, the Molsons are one of the best-known families in Montreal’s history. While the Molsons are widely known for their Montreal brewery, their prominent role as patrons of the arts and education at McGill leave them with a unique reputation, which continues to be recognized on the university’s campus today.

One of the Molson family’s earliest contributions to McGill was in 1857, when the three sons of John Molson (1763-1836) – William, Thomas and John Molson Jr. – gifted an endowment fund of £15,000 to the university, £5,000 of which was used to provide McGill with its first endowed chair, the Molson Chair in English Language and Literature.

  • Want to know more…?  In 1855, when John William Dawson first arrived at McGill, the campus was both unfinished and severely unkept. Realizing the university’s urgent need for funding, Dawson reached out to Montreal’s English community in the hopes that one of the city’s more affluent families would be generous enough to help support McGill in its time of need. As Dawson later noted, the Molson family accepted the task presented “in a spirit of ready and unrestrained generosity.”[xvii] Several years after their first contribution, William Molson (1793-1875) donated money to build Molson Hall [20], which was erected next to the university’s Arts Building in 1862.
  • Did you know…?  McGill’s football stadium is named after a Metis Molson! Built on land that was donated to McGill in 1911, the place that students now call “Percival Molson Stadium” was named in honour of Percy Molson [21] who was killed on the outskirts of Avion, France, on July 5, 1917, while fighting in the First World War.[xviii] After graduating from McGill, Percy – who was one of the graduate students responsible for erecting the stadium in 1913 –  became the youngest member to serve on the McGill Board of Governors, chairing its Finance and Stadium committees until the outbreak of the First World War. When Percy died in 1917, McGill was informed that in his will he had bequeathed $75,000 to balance out the costs associated with the project. In 1919, the stadium was renamed Percival Molson Memorial Stadium.[xix]

In later years, members of the Molson family continued to serve as prominent figureheads on McGill’s various boards and committees. Hartland Molson (1907-2002), a Quebec statesman, Canadian Senator, military aviator, and owner of the Montreal Canadiens hockey team, was named Governor of McGill University in 1948.

Shortly after the McGill Contingent arrived in Metis, members of the Molson family, including Walter Molson and F. W. Molson – the latter was a director of the Molson Bank, which merged with the Bank of Montreal in 1925 – decided that it was only fit that they too made the seasonal trek alongside these university elites.

The Fleet Family

Related to the Redpath family by marriage, the Fleets also were well known in Metis for their close ties to McGill. At the head of the Fleet family in Metis was the Montreal lawyer and McGill graduate, Charles James Fleet (1852-1927) [22], who served as president of the Graduates’ Society and as a governor of McGill from 1893 until his death in 1927. He also inherited Jane Drummond Redpath’s house, Staquan Lodge.

Take a look at this excerpt from the Quebec Morning Chronicle, published on 18 May 1896:

Prof. [Charles] Ashley Car[us]-Wilson and family, who will spend the summer at Metis, where McGill University is represented yearly by the families of Sir William Dawson; Professor Bovey, Dean of the Faculty of Applied Science; Professor B.J. Harrington and Mr. C.J. Fleet, one of the Governors of the University, have taken the cottage of Miss Miller at that favourite resort.

While many members of the McGill community came to Metis yearly, there were also a number of McGillians who only made the occasional visit. These professors, financiers and governors would often rent a cottage with their family or spend a weekend or two with one of their McGill colleagues. Mentioned in the article above is Professor Charles Ashley Carus-Wilson, a British electrical engineer who held the position of McDonald Chair of Electrical Engineering at McGill from 1890 to 1898. It is presumed that Professor Carus-Wilson was one of these ‘occasional visitors’.

The Hague Family

One of the first McGill financiers to join the summer settlement in Metis was George Hague (1825-1915) – a banker and member of the McGill Board of Governors.

In 1877, George Hague built Rotherwood Cottage [23, 24, 25], which he named after the family’s Montreal residence. While the original Rotherwood Cottage burnt down in 1969, many descendants of the Hague family today remember what the old cottage used to look like. George’s great-granddaughter, Nora Hague, recalls the original home as being a three-story Victorian “cottage” built in a nice pine.

The Reford Family

 On the McGill Campus today, the Refords are best known for their contribution to the university’s agricultural school, Macdonald College, which is located in St. Anne de Bellevue, Quebec.

In 1891, Robert Reford (1831-1913) – a businessman and philanthropist known for establishing the Robert Reford shipping company in 1866 – came up with the idea of developing a model farm [26] on one of the properties he purchased, just north of Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue. Reford Farms, as it is sometimes still called, housed a herd of Ayrshire dairy cattle [27], imported straight from Scotland, which were exhibited and sold across North America. After the farm was built, Robert Reford realized that its purpose (as an experimental farm) would be better served if it was given to the university; in this way, McGill could further its efforts to promote modern agriculture and rural education – something that was desperately needed.[xx] In 1904, he convinced Sir William Macdonald – the founder of Macdonald College – to purchase Reford Farms, which Macdonald then bequeathed to McGill to form the basis of an agricultural college. Without Robert Reford’s original plan to build this farm, McGill’s Macdonald Campus would likely never have been formed.[xxi]

As the years went on, Robert Reford continued to act as a donor to McGill University. He was a governor of McGill from 1906 to 1913, and in 1911 he donated $100,000, used to fund the Robert Reford Chair of Anatomy. In 1920, Mrs. R.W. (Elsie) Reford established two scholarships for the departments of English and Philosophy – today, students know these as the Elsie Stephen Reford Scholarships.


Throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, McGillians have continued coming to Metis in the summer, maintaining close ties between the university in Montreal and the Lower St. Lawrence summer settlement. From senior McGill management, we have several examples:

  • Albert F. Winn, was appointed the first Curator of the Lyman Entomological Collection and Library of the Redpath Museum at McGill University. Founded in 1914 with a bequest from the noted lepidopterist Henry Herbert Lyman, the Museum included Lyman’s collection of 20,000 butterflies and moths.  Other collections from insect enthusiasts were added, including his own – he had collected some of his examples on sojourns to Metis.  Articles referring to his collecting in Metis were published in 1891 and 1898 entomological publications. From Entomological News:

“Much credit is due Mr. Winn for keeping active and alive the old-time collecting spirit around Montreal. Too often do entomological centres die because one never sees new faces and there seems no one capable of looking into the future in the interest of the local group or of themselves. Mr. Winn has published much in the Canadian Entomologist, beginning about 1891, and also a number of his papers have appeared in the News. He has sent over 50 new species for description to specialists, never caring to write them up himself, but allowing others to take that responsibility.”[xxii]

Mr. Winn’s descendants and their relations still go to summer cottages on Lighthouse Point.

  • Hugh A. Peck, a McGill graduate, was the son of Mary Alice Skelton Peck (1855-1943) – one of the founders of the Canadian Handicrafts Guild and a leading figure in Montreal’s arts and crafts scene – and James Henry Peck (1851-1903), a Montreal business owner.[xxiii] After graduating from McGill University with a BA in architecture in 1911, Hugh Peck worked as a photographer, engineer and architect for most of his life. An amateur painter as well, Peck was also the president of the Montreal Arts Club in 1927. After his family’s summer home in Metis burnt down in 1922, Peck re-designed a residence that is still used by the family today.
  • Wilfrid Bovey, a McGill graduate, was McGill’s first Director of Extramural Relations and Extension (covering what we now call continuing education, lectures, etc.), He held the post from 1923 to 1948, during which time he also served in other adult-education-related positions, notably chairman of the Canadian Legion Educational Services from 1939-1946 and president of the Canadian Handicrafts Guild from 1930-1936. Wilfrid Bovey was a member of the Quebec Legislative Council (1942-1948), a governor of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (1938-1951), and a prolific author, including on the subject of French Canada where he promoted mutual understanding. One of his books on the topic was well-received by Georges-Émile Marquis, head of the Quebec government’s Bureau of Statistics and later librarian of the Quebec Legislative Library.
  • Conrad F. Harrington, a McGill graduate, was Chancellor of McGill University from 1976 to 1983. He also established scholarships with contributions from McGill staff, family and friends wanting to honour and recognize his service, supplemented by gifts from himself and his wife Joan Harrington. These are given to students with outstanding academic merit entering a full-time undergraduate degree program in the Faculty of Agriculture, Engineering, Law, Management or Medicine.

Conrad Harrington, great-grandson of William Dawson, described Metis in a way that only true Metisians can really appreciate:

“… the climate is invigorating; there’s swimming, if you can stand the cold; golf, tennis, bridge, and we’ve got a little painting group.  We may be in a rut, but we enjoy it.”


Some notable McGill alumni include:

  • George Mercer Dawson
  • Harold Lea Fetherstonhaugh
  • Hugh Matthewson Patton
  • George Richard Hamilton Peck.

Other Metis alumni have become McGill professors: for example, Professor Timothy Howard Merrett, a McGill professor whose main research work is in “databases and the unification of database and programming language concepts such as relations, functions and objects,” wrote of his Metis memories.

We know there are many dual Metis/McGill alumni, however, the total number have yet to be counted.  Several families have multiple links and, at least one Metis family claims six generations of McGill ties.


For some time, Heritage Lower Saint Lawrence, which began in the Metis region to support the English-speaking community, has done outreach for the retention project, a Government-of-Canada-funded initiative that operates through McGill. The program’s goal is to provide better health services in communities with English-speaking needs by encouraging those who are going into medical careers to come back and work in the regions of their birth. Heritage Lower Saint Lawrence has been a connector, publicizing McGill’s funding opportunity to the area’s English- or French-speaking young people, whether they’re nurses or people studying in various health care fields.  A recent bursary winner was the granddaughter of longtime Metis resident, June Smith, who was a graduate of the Metis Beach School and a long-serving municipal councilor.  There are a number of young adults who have benefited from this bursary and are studying at the University of Sherbrooke or in other institutional settings.

Heritage’s more formal institutional relations with McGill began in 2018, when Heritage Chair Alexander Reford invited McGill to share the university’s new chair in Scottish Canadian Studies, Professor Donald Bruce Nerbas. He came to give a talk as part of Heritage’s multi-faceted 2018 celebration of 200 years of Scottish settler history. Fortunately, ever since, McGill has provided smart and engaged students to work on subjects relating to the Scottish roots of Métis-sur-Mer. And this, of course, includes going back as far as William Dawson and continues in various ways, be it architecture, or landscape, history, medicine, or art.

Do you know of any other Metis-related McGill professors, staff. or alumni?  Please email with information and photos.


About the Author:

Kathleen Miller (Katie) is a McGill undergraduate student who is soon to receive her B.A in Honours History. Over the summer of 2021, Katie was involved in a research project initiated by the Jardins de Metis titled “Artists of the Lower St. Lawrence,” which aimed to document the presence of artists in the region from the 18th to the 21st century. In 2022, Katie hopes to pursue a master’s degree in history with a special focus on the history of art, culture and identity in Britain and Canada.

Thanks to:

Barb Amsden, Editor and project director
Pamela Andersson, HLSL Archives
Ian H.D. Bovey
Su Garin
Norah Hague
Jill Harrington
Stuart Iversen
Rod Mathewson
Carolyn Murphy
Valerie Peck
Alexander Reford, Chair, HLSL
Margaret Winn



[i]        Samuel Mathewson Baylis, Enchanting Metis. Montreal, 1928.

[ii]       W. S Wallace, “The Early History of Metis”, Queen’s Quarterly (January 1, 1947), 68-69.

[iii]      S. Sheets-Pyenson, John William Dawson: Faith, Hope, and Science. (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2014), 149.

[iv]       Fifty years of work in Canada, scientific and educational: being autobiographical notes; 1901, Ballantyne, Hanson

[v]       McGill University Archives. “Archival Collections Catalogue.” Harrington, Bernard J. (Bernard James), 1848-1907. Accessed October 25, 2021.

[vi]      Anna Dawson Harrington’s Landscape Drawings and Letters: Interweaving the Visual and Textual Spaces of an Autobiography, Loren Lerner, Érudit Volume 86, 2017

[vii]      Metis Beach Architectural Preservation Guide, 1991.

[viii]     McGill University Archives. “Archival Collections Catalogue.” Bovey, Henry T. (Henry Taylor), 1852-1912. Accessed October 25, 2021.

[ix]      McGill University Archives. “Archival Collections Catalogue.” Taylor, Andrew T. (Andrew Thomas), 1850-1937. Accessed October 25, 2021.

[x]       309 Beach – Hague (Rotherwood Cottage) – McGill governor; 310 Beach – Mrs. Redpath then Mr. Fleet (Staquan Lodge) – McGill financier and governor; 317 Beach – Professor J.W. Dawson (Birkenshaw); 318 Beach – Professor H.T. Bovey (Sassaguiminel); 321 Beach – Professor Darey and then Professor Harrington (Harrington Cottage); 322 Beach – W. Bovey (The Red House) –McGill Director of Extramural Relations; 330 Beach –Mrs. Redpath – McGill financier

[xi]      See footnote 46: A.J. Hobbins, “No Longer ‘Naked and Shivering Outside Her Gates’”: Establishing Law As a Full-Time On-Campus Academic Discipline at McGill University in the Nineteenth Century.” Dalhousie Law Journal 34, no. 2 (2011).

[xii]      Bernard and Anna Harrington had eight children; a Dawson family member is recorded on the Seaside House guest register for 1894.

[xiii]     History by Norbert Schoenauer

[xiv]      Vancouver Daily World, September 1, 1921

[xv]      Johnson, David. Redpath Hall & Library. Accessed October 25, 2021.

[xvi]     “Mandate and History.” Redpath Museum. April 27, 2021. Accessed October 26, 2021.

[xvii]    Maggie Kilgour, Molson Professor of English Language and Literature. “Opinion: Why Students Persist in Studying English Lit in a Tech World.” December 03, 2019. Accessed October 25, 2021.

[xviii]    “Happy 100th Molson Stadium!” McGill Reporter. October 22, 2015. Accessed October 25, 2021.

[xix]     Ibid.

[xx]      Pauline Girard. “Home.” Société Historique Beaurepaire-Beaconsfield – Accueil. Accessed October 26, 2021.

[xxi]     Alexander Reford, “Reford, Robert Wilson,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 14, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed October 25, 2021,

[xxii]    J.D. Guxder, Entomological News, July 1930, Vol. XLI, No. 7,

[xxiii]    McCord Museum. “Hugh A. Peck Fonds (P416).” Peck, Hugh A (P416) | Fonds | Musée McCord Museum. Accessed August 29, 2021. Lang=1&tableid=18&elementid=212__true.