Loyal Orange Lodge History in Western Canada

Thomas Scott, murdered March 4th, 1870, Fort Garry, Manitoba

 The portrait above, hung in the Thomas Scott Memorial Orange Hall, Princess Street, Winnipeg, from 1900 until the Hall was sold in 1994.  It was painted by Victor A. Long. Victor A. Long   Victor Long  Sir Charles Tupper Prime Minister  The portrait is now privately owned.

 [the following is extracted from the book Louis Riel v. Canada: The Making of a Rebel by J.M. Bumstead]

Thomas Scott, Irish born adventurer and Canadian loyalist was murdered by Louis Riel and his accomplices on March 4th, 1870, Red River, Manitoba.

    Thomas Scott had been born in Clandeboyne, County Down, around 1844. Lord Dufferin, Governor-General of Canada in 1874, wrote that Scott “came of very decent people - his parents are at this moment tenant farmers on my estate in the neighbourhood of Clandeboye.”

    One of the few surviving records of Scott’s Ontario sojourn is a testimonial from one Captain Rowe, of Madoc, Ontario, of the Hastings Battalion of Rifles at Sterling.  In a letter to the commanding officer after Scott’s death, Rowe wrote: “I have to inform you that the unfortunate man, Scott, who has been murdered by that scoundrel, Riel, was for a time a member of my company, and did duty with the battalion at Sterling in 1868.  He was a splendid fellow, whom you may possibly remember as the right-hand man of No. 4, and I have no hesitation in saying, the finest-looking man in the battalion.  He was about six feet two inches in height, and twenty-five years of age.  He was an Orangeman, loyal to the backbone, and a well-bred gentlemanly Irishman.”  The Reverend George Young, who attended Scott in his last hours, reprinted this testimonial in his 1897 memoir, noting that after the execution he had forwarded Scott’s papers to his brother Hugh.  These papers included “many commendatory letters of introduction, with certificates of good character, from Sabbath-school teachers and the Presbyterian minister with whose church he had been connected in Ireland, as well as from employers whom he had served faithfully.”
    Among the material forwarded to Hugh Scott were savings of $103.50...The presence of substantial savings do not suggest a riotous lifestyle.

    …Donald Smith observed that the insurrection had to this point had been bloodless, and that bloodshed might make the negations with Canada more difficult.  To this Riel replied, “We must make Canada respect us.”  …According to McLeod, Scott had shouted, “Boys, you can do what you like, but I won’t consent.” He was thereupon “ironed with irons which had been taken off Boulton.”  In any event, Riel closed the discussion with Smith by observing, “I have done three good things since I have commenced. I have spared Boulton’s life at your instance, and I do not regret it, for he is a fine fellow; I pardoned  Gaddy, and he showed his gratitude by escaping out of the bastion - but I do not grudge him his miserable life; and now I shall shoot Scott.”

    …As we have already seen, Louis Riel was apparently prepared to shoot Major Boulton (or William Gaddy) without any trial at all.  With Thomas Scott there was a legal procedure followed.  It observed none of the normal rules of justice of either English or French non-military law, and was not even entirely recognizable as a summary court martial.  Joseph Nolin was quite clear that Scott was not present for a most important part of the proceedings, the presentation of the evidence supporting the charges against him.  Those charges and the evidence for them (emanating partly from Louis Riel) were subsequently summarized to Scott in English by Louis Riel.  Scott was not condemned without being heard.  He was offered an opportunity to respond to the charges , although not to examine the witnesses on whose testimony they were based.  According to the Reverend Young in 1874, Scott said afterwards he had “objected to the trial as it was conducted in a language he did not understand, but was told it made no difference; he was a bad man and had to die.”  Scott’s objection was only partially correct.  While he was present before the tribunal, Scott was dealt with in English.  But he was not present the entire time, and especially had not heard any of the testimony against him, much of which  was in French.  Scott certainly had no legal advice at any point and, according to subsequent reports, was quite stunned by the entire proceedings.  He evidently was not present for the vote on his case, which was not unanimous….

The Execution of Thomas Scott

    Thomas Scott was executed by a Metis firing squad on 4 March 1870 at about one o’clock in the afternoon.  The execution had been set for noon, but was almost an hour late because of last minute attempts by Donald A. Smith to plead for Scott’s life…

    …According to most accounts, six men showing visible signs of intoxication then shot Scott with ordinary hunting weapons.  The guns were presumably muskets, which were what the Metis usually used for hunting.  They certainly were not sharp-shooting rifles.  Reports of the number of shots fired varied.  Several observers, including Young, agreed that the young man did not die after the initial volley.  A number of witnesses claimed that Scott was dispatched on the spot by one of the firing squad who fired a revolver into his head.  No medical authority pronounced him dead at the time, however.  His body was then placed into a hastily carpentered box, described by one witness as “a large box made of rough boards,” which was nailed shut and carried inside the fort.

    …Young continued to plead with Riel after the bishop had departed.  He argued that Scott’s mother was entitled to the comfort of knowing her son had received a Christian internment.  He recalled that Riel seemed “much displeased with the remark that he [Scott] had a mother left to mourn over him.”

[ Bumstead investigates Scott’s murder more closely in his book Thomas Scott’s Body where it appears as though Scott was still alive, moaning in agony hours after having been nailed into the box and left out in the cold.  Thomas Scott’s body was later hidden and desecrated. (possibly sunk in the river)  Riel never did confess as to what they did to it.LINK to BOOK


The Trial of Ambroise Lepine

    …MacDonald concentrated on the arguments relating to the absence of the body.  He insisted that Scott had to be dead, that his body was secreted by the guilty parties, and that Scott had been condemned to death by an illegitimate and uncivilized court in a mock trial.  MacDonald was particularly eloquent on the nature of the process that had found Scott guilty.  As he put it:
Riel was the accuser, the chief witness, the prosecutor and the judge, and it was at his request that poor Scott was sentenced whilst he was denied the right of presence at the tribunal which ordered his death in twelve short hours.  Of whom did this so-called Court Martial consist?  Why, gentlemen, it was composed of seven men who had been duped by Riel to imagine themselves a court of justice, and of this would-be court the prisoner at the bar was the leading spirit.  Was it civilized justice when Scott was refused the evidence against him made known to him in his own language before he was sentenced?  Was it the acts of righteous judges to refuse his petition in this respect, or was it the act of men who had coolly and deliberately planned the death of a man of whose fearless character they stood in awe?

[The recognition of the Thomas Scott Memorial Day, March 4th, is not intended to reopen old wounds, but rather it is in response to those who choose to ignore or revise history while at the same time trying to make a hero of sorts of Louis Riel and his accomplices.  Namely the Manitoba Government that has recently created a holiday in February named ‘Louis Riel Day’ and other governments such as that in Saskatchewan that have named a highway after him.  Some also want Louis Riel proclaimed a posthumous “Father of Confederation.”


The Thomas Scott Memorial Orange Hall (1902), 216 Princess Street, Winnipeg was so named in his memory.  LINK

Books, essays...

Online book - Thomas Scott's Body and other essays on early Manitoba  (including "Why Shoot Thomas Scott?" LINK

The Execution of Thomas Scott, by R.W.W. Robertson (available through abebooks.com) 

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