James Bruce was born in Rupert’s Land in 1801. His father, Benjamin Bruce (1771-1823), was an HBC steersman on the boats in Saskatchewan District according to his biographical sheet in the HBCA. James’s mother was Mathilda, a Native woman, born ca 1778. James married Mary McNab, daughter of John McNab of the HBC, at Red River on 8 January 1828. According to the 1828 census at Red River, James and his wife were living on lot #231, which corresponds roughly to lot #17 of Peter Fidler’s original survey, now partly in Kildonan Park. This lot was shared with William Bruce, his wife, and their five children. The census shows that William and his family had also occupied this lot in 1827. William was possibly the brother of James.
James and Mary had sixteen children. About 1850 the family relocated to property on the Assiniboine River in present-day St. James. James died in June 1878 and Mary in September 1897. Both are buried in St. John’s churchyard, Winnipeg.
Thirteen acres of land on the Assiniboine, property of Peter Bruce, were donated to the municipality of St. James in 1933 to be preserved as a public park. A plaque near the Portage Avenue entrance to Bruce Park commemorates the contribution of the Bruce family to the area.