His story is told in the sparse but rich material deposited in the Queen’s University Archives under the title of the
George Holmes Young fonds, Location# 2159.
Captain G. H. Young was a brigade major on General Middleton’s staff at the time of the 1885 North-West Rebellion. He was given responsibility for escorting Louis Riel after his capture to Regina for trial.
The Family of George H. Young
The papers in the fonds show that in 1780, a young soldier of the King’s Royal Regiment of New York, Henry Young by name, was reputed to be the first loyalist to step ashore at Dead Man’s Bay in the area then called “Cataraque” but destined to be called Kingston. Three years later, Henry was given a land grant and settled his family at East Lake in Prince Edward County.
His great grandson, George Young, also a staunch Loyalist, became a Methodist minister who ventured west in 1868, and set up the first Methodist mission serving the needs of the early settlers in the Red River Settlement. Times were turbulent at Red River and matters coming to a head when, in the following year, the English speaking officials from the Canadian Government attempted to survey the settler’s land and build a road to open up the territory to immigrants. Métis settlers resisted these moves and formed a provisional government. Into this mix arose a group of fiery and vocal characters that called themselves the “Canada First Party”. They included a medical man by the name of John Schultz, the bureaucrat and poet Charles Mair and the most turbulent of all Thomas Scott an Orangeman. In spite of (and perhaps because of) the strong resistance that the group put up against the Métis provisional government at Upper Fort Garry (Winnipeg), its leader, the Louis Riel, arrested and incarcerated the group. Reverend George Young took it upon himself to minister to the prisoners including Thomas Scott who was eventually executed by firing squad.
When he retired from the ministry in 1897, George Young published his memoirs; “Manitoba Memories: leaves from my life in the prairie province. 1868-1884.” was to influence the view of the history of the nascent province for many decades.
The Life of George Holmes Young
George Holmes was the only son of the Reverend George Young. Born in Niagara in 1851, he grew up in the Red River Settlement. As a young man, George was one of the first few men to volunteer to serve with the militia of Colonel John Stoughton Dennis in 1869. He served with the troop that fought off the Pembina Fenian Raid of 1871, and was in command of the state funeral of Madame Cauchon, wife of the Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba.
In 1885 he served in the Red River Rebellion at the battles of Fish Creek and Batoche. He was tasked with escorting Louis Riel after his capture to Regina for trial.
His field notebook is a most fascinating document with a map of the battlefield drawn by Young, and several pages of notes in the handwriting of Riel himself. These latter pages contain an explanation of Riel’s use of the term “exovede” and an elucidation of his “mission”.
Also among the material in this fonds is a notebook in which Young recorded claims made after the Rebellion by the Métis followers of Riel. These include individuals implicated in the incident relating to the furs misappropriated from the Métis Charles Bremner by Sir Frederick Middleton.