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Bruce Peel Special Collections Life, Events, and Players in the North-West Saltcoats, SK
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T. A. Patrick Letters & Correspondence

An archive of 52 interesting and significant letters by Thomas “Alf” Patrick and his wife Marion (1889-1904). Almost all letters come with their original stamped mailing envelopes (49 envelopes in total). 44 letters are by Thomas and 8 by Marion.
Most of the letters are handwritten and signed, ranging from a single page up to five pages, often closely written. 3 are typed and signed.
In the case of letters by Thomas Patrick, many of the letters to his wife are almost in diary form recording events as they happened [often mailed from Regina]. Some letters are written when Patrick was physically sitting in the Legislative Chambers waiting for events to unfold there. These are usually on embossed North West Territory Legislative stationery.
Three themes run through the archive:

  • Significant political matters and events surrounding the period when Patrick served in the North West Territories Legislature
  • Historical events on the Prairies
  • Issues relating to a lack of infrastructure and a changing societal and political landscape due to heavy immigration into the
    Prairies.
  • Life on the Prairies in the late 19th and early 20th centuries
  • The close personal relationship and related family matters between two early pioneers in Saskatchewan
    Topics covered include: medical, legislative matters, Indians and half-breeds, railway events, life in Saltcoats and Regina, Saskatchewan, land investments, illnesses on the prairies, people (Clifford Sifton and Frederick Haultain) and related topics, immigration, Mennonites, Hungarians, Doukhobors, infrastructure, visiting patients, and much more.

Patrick, Thomas Alfred

1890, Jan 31 – Letter to Alf

Place: Byron, Ontario

From: Marion [Griffith]

To: Alf / T.A. Patrick M.D., Saltcoats, Assiniboia, N.W.T.

Delivery: Canada Post, postmarked

Details: 8 pp + envelope, banded in black; note on envelope “No. 240;” obituary newspaper clipping for Mr. John Stephens.

Notes: Marion writes to her fiance, Alf [Dr. T.A. Patrick]. Marion describes the funeral arrangements for her grandfather, John Stephens. She repeatedly mentions how tired she feels and how she is suffering from headaches. Marion and her sister, Annie, continue their preparations for moving to Saltcoats, with the encouragement and support of their family.

She mentions that Annie will purchase the wedding ring for Alf and discusses the different shoes that she purchased. She plans to add the moccasins Alf had bought for her to her supply.

Patrick, Marion Griffith

1889, Sep 14 - Letter to Marion

Place: Saltcoats, Assiniboia

From: Alf, T.A.P. [Thomas A. Patrick]

To: Miss Marion Griffith, Byron, Ontario, Canada

Delivery: registered Canadian Post, via London, postmarks

Details: 11pp + envelope, note on envelope “240” and “246”

Notes: Alf tells of a party he attended, an abscessed knee he treated, his good opinion of Bishop Anson of Qu’ Appelle, and an eyebrow he sutured. Alf enjoys teaching and is pleased to also be paid for it. He is unhappy at the unexpectedly high taxidermy bill for the mounting of a pelican. Alf had news of the death by consumption of his cousin, Mary Ann Hobbs, and it is expected that her father and sister will also pass soon. Alf has arranged to rent a house owned by Mr. Fisher, with plans to live in one bedroom while sub-renting part to Mr. and Mrs. Lauder and part to Mr. Cumming. A suit Marion selected for him arrived and Alf is very pleased with it. Writing again later, on returning from Crescent Lake to treat Mr. Kent, Alf believes the man to die soon and will not be charging the family as they are in financial straits.

Patrick, Thomas Alfred

1890, Jan 10 – Letter to Alf

Place: Byron [Ontario]

From: Marion [Griffith]

To: Alf / T.A. Patrick, M.D., Saltcoats, Assiniboia, N.W.T.

Delivery: Canada Post, postmarked

Details: 10 pp + envelope, note on envelope “No. 236”

Notes: Marion writes to her fiance, Alf [Dr. Thomas A. Patrick]. Her Grandpa is doing poorly. He surprised Marion by giving her and her sister Annie a gift of $175.00 the morning after speaking with his doctor. She finishes writing the letter while in Strathroy. She received Alf's photograph and is surprised that he grew a moustache. Marion and Annie continue to make plans to move to Saltcoats in the near future.

Patrick, Marion Griffith

1889, May 20 - Letter to Marion

Place: Saltcoats, Assiniboia

From: Alf, T.A.P [Thomas A. Patrick]

To: Miss Marion Grittith, Byron, Ontario, Canada

Delivery: registered Canadian Post, via London, postmarks

Details: 18 pp + envelope

Notes: Alf writes to his fiance about a "cheeky" visiting doctor in Saltcoats who attempted to upstage Alf as he was checking on patients. This annoyed Alf greatly and he writes "I saw the fellow was trying to bluff me and to impress me with his wonderful self so I said - 'Well since you're here and a married man and have means, and a horse and rig, you'd better conclude to stay right here in this great country. There are much better openings here than in crowded Ontario. It will hardly pay you to stay six months in a place as a married man can not flit about very well. Bring your wife and your horse and your means up here and settle down. It will pay you even to leave your paying practice in Ontario." He continues that he is "getting an ad eumdem gradum from the University of Manitoba in June." Then, he writes that he has patients too poor to pay him work on his homestead, ploughing the land to help Alf with his settlement duties. He states "this little discourse enabled my friend to see that I have taken deep root in Saltcoats."

Alf, then, informs Marion that he is "laying a good solid foundation for future success here and if we are only married I would have no fear of any rival M.D. but as it is I feel incomplete." He informs her of his plans on paying off some debts, getting his diploma of the C. P. S. of Ontario, renting a house, and paying her fare down to Saltcoats so that they could be wed. Part of these plans, Alf informs her, is to register following the Medical Act that will come in force in October with his Manitoba degree and his Western University degree. Though he also has to finish his Ontario qualifications.

1889, August 25 - Letter to Alf

Place: Byron, Ontario

From: Miss Marion Griffith

To: Alf/ T.A. Patrick, M. D. Saltcoats, Assiniboia, N. W. T

Delivery: Canada Post, postmarked

Details: 8 pp + envelope, note on envelope "214," red wax seal

Notes: Marion writes to her fiance about her worry regarding her church choir's singing, which she though "did not sound well." She writes, "I really hope it did not sound as badly to the congregation as it did to me." She then tells Alf that she would be happy to pick out clothes for him and she hopes that she will "choose material to suit [him]." Marion encourages Alf in his efforts in Saltcoats, telling him that "do not even think of getting discourage Alf." She continues, "you can keep house almost as cheaply as you can board" but she warns him, "you know I am to assist furnishing our house." She then agrees that Alf must take the exam that he mentioned in his last letter although it "will be quite an expense, but a necessary one."

1889, Nov 22 – Letter to Marion

Place: Saltcoats, Assa. N.W.T.

From: Alf [Thomas A. Patrick]

To: Miss Marion Griffith, Byron, Ontario, Canada – Middlesex Co.

Delivery: Canada Post, via London, postmarks

Details: 6 pp + envelope, note on envelope “No. 250,” red wax seal with stamped initials “TAP”

Notes: In one of his regular letters to Marion, Alf details the purchases, which were largely of second hand items, that he made to furnish his rented house. He also apologizes to Marion and refers to someone who “means well and does not doubt you but feared you might be disappointed” with what Alf can provide as a home. He also tells of a heated argument he had with Mr. Lockhart over the man’s outstanding bill. Alf has waited six months and only received one quarter of the amount due. He also mentions writing a letter to Rick on his announcement of conversion to God.

Patrick, Thomas Alfred

1889, Dec 14 – Letter to Alf

Place: Byron [Ontario]

From: Marion [Griffith]

To: Alf / T.A. Patrick, M.D., Saltcoats, Assiniboia, N.W.T.

Delivery: Canada Post, postmarked

Details: 12 pp + envelope, note on envelope “No. 232,” green wax seal

Notes: Marion writes her weekly letter to her fiance, Alf [Dr. Thomas A. Patrick]. Marion shares the progress she and her sister Annie are making in preparing for Marion's marriage to Alf and both sisters moving to Saltcoats. Marion's family does not know that Annie plans on accompanying her. Annie ran into Alf's brother Rick at the drugstore in London, ON where he works. Financial matters take up a large part of the letter, with Marion sharing Alf's worry over financial security, while also offering him encouragement. Annie and Marion are pleased with their growing herd of sheep, but Marion worries that she will have to sell them soon for the cash. Marion tells of trouble in the church parish, which distresses her especially as her father is one of the causes. She is also dismayed that her father appears to make no effort to repay a loan to her Grandpa. She closes the letter wondering when she should tell her Grandpa that she is leaving, and she wishes Alf a Merry Xmas. In a postscript, she worries about both her and Annie leaving their mother when their Grandpa's health is so poor.

Patrick, Marion Griffith

1889, Dec 20 – Letter to Alf

Place: Byron, Ontario

From: Marion [Griffith]

To: Alf / T.A. Patrick, M.D., Saltcoats, Assiniboia, N.W.T.

Delivery: Canada Post, postmarked

Details: 8 pp + envelope, note on envelope “No. 233”

Notes: Marion writes to her fiance, Alf [Dr. Thomas A. Patrick]. She has been busy in preparations for Christmas. Alf's parents invited her and her sister Annie to spend Xmas [Christmas] evening with them and a few friends. She is pleased and surprised to be invited, although she worries that they will be an imposition as they are unable to arrange a ride home for themselves. Marion anticipates talking with Alf's brother Rick, as they get along well. Marion tells of how pleased Annie was to receive her own letter from Alf, which also pleases Marion. Writing later, Marion tells of how she stayed at home with her Grandpa rather than attending evening church service. He is very lonely and she is glad to play for him and read aloud to him.

Marion received an early Christmas gift from Annie: a cup and saucer for her and a moustache cup for Alf. Marion "was surprised when I saw the cups as it was decided we would do without presents ourselves in order to have a family photograph during the holidays." Marion wishes Alf a belated birthday, a Merry Xmas, and Happy New Year. In a postscript she writes that she has no objections to Alf's cousin travelling to Birtle [Manitoba] to be a witness at their wedding.

Patrick, Marion Griffith

1890, Jan 8 – Letter to Marion

Place: Saltcoats

From: Alf [Thomas A. Patrick]

To: Marion / Miss Griffith, Byron, Ontario, Canada

Delivery: Canada Post, postmarked

Details: 5 pp + envelope, note on envelope “No. 257”

Notes: In his weekly letter to his fiancé, Marion Griffith, Alf comments that many people in the community are sick with a cold. Twelve “half-breeds” and some “Indians” from Fort Pelly are in Saltcoats to stock up on provisions. Alf made a deal with Chief Cotè to have his two deer hides tanned with the hair on. Alf plans on using the tanned hides for bedroom rugs.

“It’s ‘again the law’ to sell Pain Killer Price’s Extracts and several other things of this kind to Indians or halfbreeds. Those here to-day took advantage of ignorance of that fact. They got a pound of sweet mitre from me and ginger and Price’s Flavoring Extracts from Mr. Hallett clerk at Buchanan & Co.’s. I expect they are having a great old drunk tonight on these delicious beverages. Hallett and I are both liable to a fine if our ignorance of the law does not excuse us.”

Writing later, Alf tells of a busy few days of sick calls. Two people were stricken with convulsions and one with influenza. The shipment of drugs he ordered from Detroit did not arrive and is stuck in Customs at Portage La Prairie. “They have been ordered and paid for since Nov. 11th and so will be a long time coming indeed.”

Again writing later, Alf’s handwriting deteriorates as he is exhausted from a day of travelling between sick patients and now has influenza himself. He tells Marion that her travel plan suggestion, which apparently involves her taking the train to Portage La Prairie, is unwise. He wants to meet her in Birtle and be married on a Tuesday.

He ends the letter “[w]ith headache and weeping, sneezing nose and backache and sickness and just haste, I am. Yourownloving Alf.”

Patrick, Thomas Alfred

1890, Jan 27 – Letter to Alf

Place: Byron [Ontario]

From: Marion [Griffith]

To: Alf / T. A. Patrick, M.D., Saltcoats, Assiniboia, N.W.T.

Delivery: Canada Post, postmarked

Details: 4 pp + envelope; note on envelope “No. 239,” envelope is bordered in black

Notes: Marion writes to her fiance, Alf. Her Grandpa died at 3 p.m. She describes it as a relief as he suffered so much.

As Alf asked to set their wedding date as Saturday, February 22 in his letter, Marion explains that it is too soon for her to be ready to travel to Birtle and Saltcoats. She asks Alf if February 28th would work as a compromise.

Patrick, Marion Griffith

1890, Feb 8 – Letter to Alf

Place: Byron, Ontario

From: Marion [Griffith] and M.J. Griffith

To: Alf / T.A. Patrick M.D., Saltcoats, Assiniboia, N.W.T.

Delivery: Canada Post, postmarked

Details: 8 pp + envelope banded in black; note on envelope “No. 241;” and a page banded in black

Notes: Marion writes to her fiance, Alf [Dr. T.A. Patrick]. She is recovering after being ill for several days. She is otherwise making progress on the packing to move to Saltcoats and marry Alf.

A second item in the envelope is a sheet of lined paper, folded in half, first page banded in black. It is a letter from Marion's mother, Mrs. M.J. Griffith, to her soon-to-be son-in-law. She and her husband, James, give their blessing to the upcoming marriage.

Patrick, Marion Griffith

1889, Nov 30 - Letter to Marion

Place: Saltcoats, Assa.

From: Alf [Thomas A. Patrick]

To: Miss Marion Griffith, Byron, Ontario, Canada – Middlesex C.

Delivery: Canada Post, postmarked

Details: 8 pp + receipt + envelope, note on envelope “No. 252,” red wax seal with stamped initials “TAP”

Notes: "My dear Marion – Four years ago to-night we “plighted our troth” to each other. How I wish I were with you tonight that we might rejoice together. The intervening four years have been a long time in rolling by – and must have been trying indeed to your patience. My dear faithful Marion. When Nov. 30th 1890 is here I trust it will find us a faithful, loving, staid happy married pair – man and wife. Certainly much that we desired four years ago has been transferred from desire to realization. What we both now so particularly desire will, I trust, soon be ours to enjoy. God has truly been good to us during the four years past, Marion. May we be much more deserving of his goodness hereafter."

Alf believes he and Marion can finally marry. He makes detailed plans for Marion to travel to Birtle, Manitoba on Saturday, January 15 where he will meet her.

Included with the letter is a receipt for T.A. Patrick's payment to the High Court of Canada, Canadian Order of Foresters.

Patrick, Thomas Alfred

1889, Dec 9 – Letter to Marion

Place: Saltcoats

From: Alf [Thomas A. Patrick]

To: Miss Marion Griffith, Byron, Ontario, Canada

Delivery: Canada Post, postmarked

Details: 8 pp + envelope, note on envelope “No. 253”

Notes: Alf writes his weekly letter to Marion, with many details of his cash flow as he continues to build a stock of drugs and other items for his medical practice. He names a number of clients who owe him money for medical services but are “never likely to pay me.” He hired “Young McGrath of Crescent Lake” to stuff his deer’s head. He mentions news from his mother and his brother, Richard. Alf tells Marion he intends to write his parents with news of their marriage plans [as discussed in his letter of November 30, 1889]. He continues to be in disagreement with his father and believes the roots of the conflict lie in his talk of marriage. Alf coaches Marion to act “non-committed and oblige” when she visits them. “Re Xmas presents – I concur with you. Would like you to get photographed before you leave home for home here.”

Regarding their plans for a wedding, Alf writes that he is unsure exactly when the marriage could happen. He writes "don't know where the money is to come from in the meantime. As soon as I get this stock on the shelf I'll be in better position to know when we can get married Marion. For after all we can not marry without money." He later states "I expect very little professional work between now and April."

Patrick, Thomas Alfred

1890, Jan 15 – Letter to Marion

Place: Saltcoats [North West Territories]

From: Alf [Thomas A. Patrick]

To: Miss Marion Griffith, Byron, Ontario, Canada – Middlesex Co.

Delivery: Canada Post, postmarked

Details: 7 pp + envelope; note on envelope “No. 258;” broken, black matchstick- size substance seals envelope

Notes: Alf writes his weekly letter to his fiance, Marion. "Am not at all well yet. Though better than yesterday. Practising medicine and being sick are not very compatible with each other. This influenza epidemic has been hard on medical practitioners. Dr. Faford of St. Boniface near Winnipeg died last week and Saturday’s Free Press (Manitoba) tells us that old Dr. Ferguson of Winnipeg is, dying, or at least near unto death."

He has been asking around to estimate the cost of the marriage and lists prices for the ring, license, Parson's fee, and fare to Birtle. After detailing financial concerns, Alf asks, "Can we not then be married in Birtle on Saturday February 22nd – five weeks from to-day?" He writes that "this will be cheapest and if mean to be married as February we must consider what is cheapest."

He writes that he is "in a bad fix for need of bottles. He had ordered some from Detroit, but they were delayed at Portage La Prairie. He writes "the last medicine I stuck in a Worcestershire sauce bottle and the medicine before that in a shoe-blacking bottle."

He further writes of receiving two papers called "Farm and Storm" and the Regina Leader.

Alf comments on the kindness of Marion's grandfather for gifting money to her and her sister, Annie. As to her surprise that he grew a moustache, he comments, "My moustache was not worth mentioning.." He then asks what bedding she needed him to purchase for her and states that he "will get dishes from Buchanan and Co. so that we can begin housekeeping at once." But he ensures her that he "will borrow them and not buy any till you come."

Patrick, Thomas Alfred

1890, Jan 18 – Letter to Alf

Place: Byron, Ont.

From: Marion [Griffith]

To: Alf / T. A. Patrick, M.D., Saltcoats, Assiniboia, N.W.T.

Delivery: Canada Post, postmarked

Details: 4 pp + envelope; note on envelope “No. 237”

Notes: In her weekly letter to her fiance, Alf, Marion gives an account of her grandfather's rapid decline in health. Numerous family members come and go to take shifts and sit with him as he suffers through worsening "bad spells." Dr. Woodruff can do nothing more for his patient. Reverend Evans Davis is sent for. Marion writes, "I understand now Alf why it is best that we did not go to Saltcoats sooner. All is for the best, but we cannot think so sometimes." She finishes the letter, "Yours in sorrow, Marion."

Patrick, Marion Griffith

1890, Jan 29 – Letter to Marion

Place: Saltcoats, N.W.T.

From: Alf [Thomas A. Patrick]

To: Miss Marion Griffith, Byron, Middlesex, Ont[ario]

Delivery: Canada Post, postmarked

Details: 8 pp + envelope; note on envelope “No. 260”

Notes: In a letter to his fiance, Marion Griffith, Alf [Dr. T.A. Patrick] describes traveling across open prairie in winter to reach sick patients. Alf, Mr. Paulger, and Mr. Boake (liveryman) traveled more than eight hours to reach the ill Mrs. Paulger. Upon returning to Saltcoats, Alf found a telegram calling him to Kinbrae to treat the wife of Mr. William Rowland. After spending a mere six hours in Saltcoats, Alf and Mr. Boake set out at midnight to reach Mrs. Rowland. After more than seven hours they reached Churchbridge, where they rested their team of horses and ate breakfast. They finally reached Mrs. Rowland at 4 p.m. to find her suffering from typhoid fever. Returning to Saltcoats took less time as Mr. Rowland was able to set the men on a more direct route to Churchbridge. Alf chose to take the Friday freight train from Churchbridge back to Saltcoats. Along the way, the train stopped and waited as Alf treated the child of the section foreman at Bredenbury.

Much of the rest of the letter concerns financial matters, including an explanation of fines applied to wood cut illegally from government lands.

Writing at a later time, Alf acknowledges receiving Marion's letter in which she describes her grandfather's worsening health.

Writing a day later, Alf is in receipt of the mourning envelope containing news of Marion's grandfather's death. He expresses his condolences before approving of Marion's suggestion that she and her sister Annie begin their journey to Saltcoats on February 28. Alf then worries further about financial matters, "For I feel sorry that in asking you to marry me I ask you to marry a man whose future is mortgaged." But he looks forward to their marriage, writing, "Do not hope or expect any near approach to perfection in this future husband of yours, Marion. He has many faults but it can truthfully be said that he is always very much better when his Marion influences him."

Patrick, Thomas Alfred