William Robert Smith was born in London about 1796. The HBCA biographical sheet gives the information that he was a Christ’s Hospital boy (1). He entered the service of the HBC in 1813 as a writer and sailed to Churchill on the Prince of Wales, the same ship which carried the 1813 colonists and experienced an outbreak of typhus. He was employed by the HBC for the next ten years at various posts in the Northwest, then retired to the Colony in 1824.
William came to Red River with his ‘country wife’, Mary Ann Swain (2), and their two young children. They settled in the area now known as Little Britain. William and Mary Ann were formally married at Red River in 1825 and would have ten more children. They later moved to St. John’s Parish and then St. Paul’s (Middlechurch) where William was schoolmaster. In 1848, he was appointed Clerk of Court and Council of Assiniboia.
Mary Ann died about 1850 and in 1852 James married Ann Omand with whom he would have eight children. He died at Headingley in 1869 and was buried at St. Paul’s. Ann died about 1912.
(1) Christ’s Hospital opened in 1552, its aim being to provide board and education for children from poor families.
(2) Mary Ann was the daughter of James Swain and a First Nations woman, sister to Elizabeth (wife of John McLeod) and Margaret (wife of Donald Gunn).