Fonds 157 Robert & Jessie Holmes fonds


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[1876-1925]. — 2 cm of textual records. — 38 photographs.

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Biographical Sketch

On August 7, 1902, Robert and Jessie Holmes and their eighteen month old son George left Liverpool, England to travel to the Peace River Country in Canada’s Northwest Territories. They traveled on the SS Tunisian of the Allan line to Montreal, arriving about mid August, and then continued by train to Edmonton. At Edmonton, they purchased furniture for their home in the north, provisions enough to last six months and a shooting outfit (guns). Then they traveled over the Athabasca Trail by rented wagon and driver and down the Athabasca and Slave Rivers and across Lesser Slave Lake by York Boat. They arrived at the English mission on the shores of Slave Lake on September 18, 1902, 42 days after leaving England.

The Holmes lived in the old log mission house in the compound and Robert was in charge of the farm and gardens while Jessie assisted with activities at the school. Here their daughter Eunice was born and they learned the Cree language. In 1904 they moved to Christ Church Mission on the Shaftesbury Trail 18 miles from Peace River, where there were farms and a boarding school also. Their stay at Shaftesbury was marked by measles and whooping cough epidemics as well as many experiences with the local Indigenous peoples.

In 1907 the Holmes returned to England for a furlough and brought back with them Knott Haversoll, Jessie’s father. Settlers were starting to file on land in the area and more church services were added to their responsibilities: Peace River Landing, Griffin Creek and Waterhole as well as Shaftesbury Trail. Three more children were born during years they remained at Shaftesbury after the furlough.

In 1914 the family moved to Peace River Crossing and in 1915 they became the senior missionary at Lake Saskatoon. By then they had been joined by Jessie’s sister May who came to help take care of Mr. Hothersal as he had suffered from a stroke. He passed away in the spring of 1916 and was followed three months later by Robert Holmes, who died of a massive heart attack in July of 1916.

Jessie took out a homestead near Lake Saskatoon, and with the help of kind neighbours, family and church bursaries raised and educated her children.

Custodial History

The memoirs were preserved by the descendants of Robert & Jessie Holmes. Copies of the memoirs, letters and photographs were donated to Grande Prairie Regional Archives by their grandson Aubrey Harrold in 2004.

Scope and Content

The fonds consists of a copy of Robert Holmes’ memoirs concerning the trip made from Liverpool to the mission on the shores of Lesser Slave Lake in 1902; a copy of Jessie Holmes’ memoirs of the same trip, of their work and experiences at Slave Lake, Shaftesbury Trail, and Lake Saskatoon; 8 letters written by Jessie, Robert, Lizzie and George, dated 1902 to 1912; and 38 photographs of the family and scenes at their homes and missions.


Title based on the contents of the fonds.
Photographs are low resolution copies on a CD.

This fonds has been identified as having Indigenous related content. Researchers may encounter language that is outdated and offensive. To learn more about Indigenous records at the South Peace Regional Archives please see our guide.

Knott and Mary Hothersal, 1876
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“My dear Father and precious Mother and their first baby (Jessie!)”
Location: 0157.01

Knott Hothersal, 1880 ca.
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Knott Hothersal, carpenter, contractor and church lay reader. Born March 30, 1841 in Lancaster, England. Died Feb. 18, 1916 in Lake Saskatoon, Alberta, Canada.
Location: 0157.02

Mary Cheetham Hothersal, 1880 ca.
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Mary Cheetham, wife of Knott Hothersal born May 24, 1837, died of appendicitis December 21, 1899.
Location: 0157.03

Robert Holmes, Missionary, 1900 ca.
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Robert Holmes of Harrow was a missionary. He was born around 1855, died July 20, 1916, and was buried in St. Luke’s Cemetery, Lake Saskatoon, Alberta.
Location: 0157.04

Jessie & Mary Hothersal, 1885 ca.
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Jessie and May Hothersal, children of Knott and Mary Hothersal. Jessie was born in Manchester, England May 14, 1875 and died in Edmonton, Alberta May 28, 1971. Jessie and her husband Robert Holmes, immigrated to Saskatoon Lake, Alberta in the early 1900s where they worked as missionaries. Mary (May) Alice Cheetham Hothersal Smith was born June 15, 1878 and died June 6, 1968.
Location: 0157.05

Mary & Jessie Hothersal, 1890 ca.
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May and Jessie Hothersal, children of Knott and Mary Hothersal. Mary (May) Alice Cheetham Hothersal Smith (on the left) was born June 15, 1878 and died June 6, 1968. Jessie (on the right) was born in Manchester, England May 14, 1875 and died in Edmonton, Alberta May 28, 1971. Jessie and her husband Robert Holmes, immigrated to Saskatoon Lake, Alberta in the early 1900s where they worked as missionaries.
Location: 0157.06

Hothersal Family, 1895 ca.
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Knott and Mary Hothersal with their children May and Jessie.
Location: 0157.07

Hothersal Family, 1899 ca.
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Knott Hothersal with his daughters Jessie and May after the death of his wife Mary in 1899.
Location: 0157.08

Jessie Hothersal, 1900
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Jessie Hothersal on February 20, 1900.
Location: 0157.09

Hothersal & Holmes Families, 1907
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Extended Hothersal family during Robert & Jessie’s furlough in England in 1907. Robert and Jessie immigrated to Canada and worked as missionaries at Saskatoon Lake, Alberta.
Location: 0157.10

Hothersal & Holmes Families, 1902
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Knott Hothersal, Baby George Holmes, Jessie and Robert Holmes, May Hothersal and Annie Holmes before Robert & Jessie leave for Canada. Robert and Jessie worked as missionaries at Saskatoon Lake, Alberta.
Location: 0157.11

George & Elizabeth Smith, 1900 ca.
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George M. and Elizabeth Smith in Ontario in the early 1900s.
Location: 0157.12

George and Eunice Holmes, 1904
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George and Eunice Holmes, children of Robert and Jessie Holmes, at St. Peter’s Mission on Lesser Slave Lake in 1904. Eunice is in a traditional Indigenous moss bag.
Location: 0157.13

A Christening, 1904 ca.
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Present at the christening of an Indigenous child are Robert Holmes, Archdeacon Robins, Bishop George Holmes and Canon Smith. Jessie Holmes, the child, and a relative are in the front row. The picture is taken beside a Hudson Bay boat.
Location: 0157.14

Northland Call Riverboat, 1906
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The Northland Call on the Peace River in 1906.
Location: 0157.16

Holmes Family at Christchurch Mission, 1908 ca.
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Holmes family while living at the mission, front from the left: Robert, George, Jessie, Eunice. Rear: farm supervisor and teacher. Robert and Jessie Holmes emigrated from England in the early 1900s to work as missionaries at Saskatoon Lake.
Location: 0157.17

Jessie Holmes and Children, 1910
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Jessie Holmes with Nowel (standing on chair), Eunice and baby Olive in an Indigenous cradleboard.
Location: 0157.18

Eunice, Nowel and Olive Holmes, 1912 ca.
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Eunice, Nowel and Olive Holmes beside the log house where Nowel, Olive and Aubrey were born.
Location: 0157.19

Christ Church Mission, 1906
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A wintery walk on the road past Christ Church Mission at Shaftsbury near Peace River. Back of picture reads: Old Nookom would walk every Sunday to Church 5 miles. Many years ago when going to church she was met by a bear. Nookom climbed up a tree and the bear climbed up after her as far as he could and chewed her heel off. I have seen her foot. Ever after she always carried a knife in her belt.
Location: 0157.20

Christ Church Mission, 1905 ca.
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Peace River Christ Church Mission house and outbuildings. Through the trees is the church.
Location: 0157.21

Christ Church Mission, 1905 ca.
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Christ Church Mission on Shaftsbury Trail, with hills behind it and rail fences surrounding it.
Location: 0157.22

Inside the Mission Church, 1905 ca.
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Interior of Christ Church Mission church at Shaftsbury, showing the pulpit, lectern, stoves and window.
Location: 0157.23
Putting Out a Grass Fire, 1910 ca.
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Robert Holmes and Knott Hothersal after putting out a grass fire.
Location: 0157.24

Hothersal & Holmes Families, 1910 ca.
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May Hothersal, Olive Holmes, John Weatherup, Knott Hothersal, Mrs. Lorne, Aubrey Holmes, Jessie Holmes and Eunice Holmes.
Location: 0157.25

Robert Holmes Funeral, 1915
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The funeral of Robert Holmes, July 30, 1915, at St. Andrews Church at Lake Saskatoon. Robert immigrated to Canada from England with his wife Jessie in the early 1900s. The Mission house is in the background.
Location: 0157.26

Robert Holmes Funeral, 1915
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The Funeral procession from the mission house to the church on July 30, 1915. Robert Holmes and his wife Jessie immigrated to Canada from England in the early 1900s and worked as missionaries at Lake Saskatoon.
Location: 0157.27

Holmes Family, 1915 ca.
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George, Eunice, May Hothersal and Jessie with Aubrey, Nowel and Olive in front.
Location: 0157.28

Holmes Family, 1916
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John Weatherup, Olive, Eunice, Aubrey, Auntie May and Nowel.
Location: 0157.29

Holmes Children, 1916
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From top to bottom: George, Eunice, Nowel, Olive and Aubrey Holmes.
Location: 0157.30

Lake Saskatoon School, 1916 ca.
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Student body in front of the log school at Lake Saskatoon around 1916.
Location: 0157.31

Holmes Homestead, 1916 ca.
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Olive Holmes in front of the house built on their Lake Saskatoon homestead, taken out after her father Robert Holmes passed away.
Location: 0157.32

Holmes Family, 1920 ca.
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Top row: George Holmes, Fred Smith, unknown, Front row: Olive, Jessie and Aubrey Holmes, Jessamy and May Smith. The dog’s name is Sport.
Location: 0157.33

Nowel Leaves for Boarding School, 1925 ca.
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Family photograph with Nowel before he leaves for Boarding School.
Location: 0157.34

George at Ridley College, 1915 c.
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Portrait of George Holmes while he attended Ridley College boarding school in Ontario.
Location: 0157.35

George on His Own, 1925 c.
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George Holmes as a young adult, after he had left Lake Saskatoon.
Location: 0157.36

Lake Saskatoon Fair, 1918 ca.
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George Holmes is in the crowd at Lake Saskatoon Fair around 1918.
Location: 0157.37

Dress-up Affair, 1918 ca.
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Mrs. Frewer, Mr. Yeates, Mrs. Burness, George Holmes, Miss Fishborne, Mr. Burness, Mrs. Yeates, Dr. Carlisle dressed up for a fun event.
Location: 0157.38

Hudson Bay Company Steam Boat, 1905
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First trip of the Hudson Bay Company steam boat to Fort St. John July 1905. The steam boat ran from Fort Vermilion and stopped at Shaftsbury mission. The river was so low that it took four and a half days traveling to Fort St. John. One day was all the return trip to Shaftsbury Mission took.
Location: 0157.4.15

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