Alexander Stuart Barnston (1839 – 1891) was born at “Martin Falls” a HBC trading post, Ontario, Canada. He was a son of George Barnston (c.1800 – 14 March 1883), a well known HBC chief fur trader, and Métis Ellen Mathews (1815 – ?).
Unfortunately not much is known about him.
His father George was friends with Archibald MacDonald, also a well known HBC chief fur trader and father of Ranald MacDonald. George’s eldest son James married Archibald’s only daughter (and Ranald MacDonald’s half-sister) Maria Anne MacDonald in 1857.
Alexander Barnston matriculated from McGill University, Montreal, in 1854 and received degrees in Arts in 1857 and Applied Science in 1859.
Barnston’s father George was also befriended with (later Vancouver Island Governor) James Douglas in the 1840s which might have helped him to obtain a position within the VIEE.
In his application letter of 25 May he wrote; “… am well habituated to the hardships & dangers of life in the woods. I may mention that although I have never practiced my profession, I was educated as a surveyor and am a graduate from McGill College, Montreal.”
On 1 June, at the age of 24 or 25, he was formally appointed as “pioneer” of the VIEE.
In 1871 Barnston had moved back to the east and lived in Montreal. He was one of the assistants to Dr. Robert Bell of the Geological Survey of Canada in 1872 when “Barnston Lake“ was named after him. In 1875, in Trois-Rivières, he married Josephine-Domithilde Hart. In 1876 he lived in Montreal; then later he moved to Manitoba in 1881.
Alexander Barnston died in Trois-Rivières, Quebec, in 1891.
Copyright © July 2014, Bart van den Berk.
[Annotated and edited from the following main sources, in order of usage.]
Brown, Robert, MS-0794, Robert Brown Papers, British Columbia Archives, Victoria, Canada. Vol.3, file 4, Vancouver Island Exploration Committee: applications for positions on exploring expedition, 1864; 80 pages.
Jennifer S. H. Brown and Sylvia M. Van Kirk, “BARNSTON, GEORGE,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 11, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed 17 April 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/barnston_george_11E.html.
Suzanne E. Zeller and John H. Noble, “BARNSTON, JAMES,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed 17 April 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/barnston_james_8E.html.
Jean Murray Cole, “McDONALD, ARCHIBALD,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed 17 April 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/mcdonald_archibald_8E.html.
Maclachlan, Morag and Suttles, Wayne P., The Fort Langley Journals, 1827-30, UBC Press, Mar 1, 1999; 288 pages.
Roe, Jo Ann, Ranald MacDonald – Pacific Rim Adventurer, Washington State University Press, 1997; 256 pages.
—-, Alexander Stuart Barnston, accessed 17 April 2014, http://www.ancestry.ca/
McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Note 26: Matriculation Register, Record Group 7, c. 117 (McGill University, Directory of Graduates). http://www.mcgill.ca/
Brown, Robert, MS-0794, Robert Brown Papers, British Columbia Archives, Victoria, Canada. Vol.1, file 4, Contract for monthly stipend of members of the expedition for five months, 1 June 1864; 2 pages.
(Keyword) biography Alexander Barnston