Rhodes, Col. William and Ann (Dunn)
Lieutenant Colonel the Honourable William Rhodes 1821 – 1892
Anne Catherine Dunn 1823 - 1911
William Rhodes was born on November 29th in 1821, at Bramhope Hall near Leeds, in England. His father, also named William Rhodes, was a wealthy farmer and a soldier who fought for the British in the War of 1812 in Canada. The older William was a Captain in the 19th Lancers, the former 19th Light Dragoons, and married to a woman named Ann Smith.
Young William was educated in France, and as a second son, knew that he was not going to inherit, so his father bought him a commission in the army. He entered the British army in May 1838 as an ensign in the 68th Foot (Durham Light Infantry).
It was in August of 1841 that 20-year-old William Rhodes came to Quebec from England as part of a military posting, and served in Quebec from October 1842, to May of 1844. Quebec would have been an exciting place for English Canadians in those days, with plenty of balls and dinners. Although William Rhodes was only expected to stay for a few years, he fell in love with the land, the river, the people, and eventually with a young lady from Trois Rivieres named Anne Dunn whom he planned to marry.
This did not sit well with his father back in England. The older William did not want his son to marry a colonial and pulled strings in the military to have him recalled. It became a rather long engagement because William Rhodes returned to England, but he insisted on coming back to the colony in 1847. He married Anne Dunn, after a 7-year engagement as promised, in the Anglican Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, Quebec City, on June 16, 1847 and left the army with the rank of captain.
Anne Dunn was from a family that had been in Canada for 80 years. Her grandfather was Thomas Dunn who had arrived in 1760, a year after Major General James Wolfe’s invasion. He was administrator of Lower Canada from 1805 to 1807, and again in 1811. Anne Catherine Dunn was the daughter of Robert Dunn, who had been assistant to the Office of Civil Secretary, and his wife, Margaret Bell. Her maternal grandfather was a man named Matthew Bell.
In 1848, Captain Rhodes and Anne Dunn purchased the estate of Benmore on Chemin St. Louis in Sillery, where they settled and engaged in horticulture. The house remained in the Rhodes family for 100 years and still stands, although today it is part of a condo development after being added on to a few times. A farmer at heart, William Rhodes decided to become a “gentleman farmer” at Benmore. He soon was known for his experimental agricultural in that very fertile area, learning about what crops and cattle would best tolerate the Quebec environment.
He raised pigs for a while, which was not a success. Then he built greenhouses and grew flowers, and that was an improvement. His roses and strawberries became famous. He was also known for introducing swallows from England, although this was not appreciated by many fellow farmers. In 1851 he co-founded the Association of Quebec Music.
During the 1860s he got into business where he associated with Evan John Price and others, and engaged with them in exploration and mining in the counties of Wolfe and Mégantic. He was one of the founders and a director of the Union Bank of Lower Canada and of the Grand Trunk Railway. He was President of Company Warehouse Quebec and the Quebec Bridge Company which eventually built the first Quebec Bridge. In fact, he led a delegation on April 12th, 1888, that met with Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir Charles Tupper to lobby for federal government funds to build the bridge. He helped to establish the Quebec and Richmond Railway and the North Shore Line, which later merged with the CPR.
During this time, William and Anne produced 5 sons and 4 daughters over a twenty-year period and they were very eager that all of their children be educated and guided into a successful future. Rhodes was an avid hunter and outdoorsman and the boys were taken on lengthy camping trips in the winter with friends, often returning to Quebec City with sleds loaded with enough game to provision the household for two months. They would go hunting in the winter, north of Baie St Paul, living in tents, partly because Rhodes felt strongly that his boys should experience the lives of people who had very little. He wanted them to experience sleeping on the ground and living in harsh conditions for many days at a time, to help them appreciate how well off they were. One of his friends on these adventures was the famous Canadian artist, Cornelius Krieghoff, and Rhodes actually appears in one of his paintings, putting on snowshoes in a hunt camp. One year he brought home a bear cub to live at Benmore, which may not have impressed Anne very much. They had to release it when it got too big and frightening.
The daughters in the family were not neglected in their education either. In one of his many letters to the family in England he wrote: “I appear to have a host of people teaching them, as the little girls have now music, dancing and French masters, to say nothing of sewing machines, pudding making and English writing. In fact, tuition and all its branches are the order of the day.”
It was through his friendship with the lumber merchant Price family that William Rhodes first discovered Tadoussac. While the Prices were here on business, William Rhodes came to relax. Although a business man and politician at heart (he had been elected MP for Mégantic in 1854) it wasn't long before he was taking leadership here too. He built the anglophone community's first summer cottage and his friends in the Russell family, also of Quebec City, bought some of his land and built an exact copy right next door which still stands - the white cottage with the green roof, two houses past the schoolyard – now still in the Russell family and descended down to Susie Scott Bruemmer. William Rhodes's cottage would have looked exactly like that at first, but then he extended it to accommodate his growing family, and finally it burned down in 1932. It was replaced by the cottage that is there now, called Brynhyfryd (which means Summerhill in Welsh.)
Robert Hale Powel was another friend who decided to build a summer cottage in Tadoussac. He bought the next lot, currently the Baileys, which in those days probably extended right through the school yard. Robert Powel came to Tadoussac from Philadelphia where he was an executive in the developing rail industry. It is said the three friends, Rhodes, Russell and Powel, frequently played whist together. Perhaps it was in the relaxed atmosphere of such a game that the opportunity was either offered or asked for that William’s sons, Armitage and Godfrey, move to Philadelphia to work in one of Powel’s rolling mills. The boys got experience like any other worker on the machine shop floors where the manual labour was hot and hard. They gradually moved up the ranks by learning every aspect of the trade until they became executives in their own right, as leaders in the rail business.
William Rhodes was a man who worked hard and played hard. He and Mr. Russell were part of a group that built the original Hotel Tadoussac in 1864, and it was in a meeting in that new hotel that they committed themselves to build the Protestant Chapel in 1866. At the same time his son, Godfrey, kept a diary which records camping trips when they would row locally built Nor'shore Canoes up to Baie St. Etienne to camp and fish. Once, upon arrival, they realized they'd forgotten their food, so rowed all the way home to get it, and back again on the same day! The number of sea trout they caught in those days was measured in the dozens.
But for all the forays out into the wilds, William remained devoted to his first and only love. He wrote of Anne that: “My wife takes a great interest in the settlement of the mankind about her and I find her a valuable assistant, in interpreting to me the characters of the young men I have to deal with. (…) Few women have performed all their duties to their children so well and so unceasingly as my wife”.
William’s older brother, James, the inheritor of the estate in England, suffered from alcoholism and their father put all his money in trust to protect it from James’s misuse when he inherited. Late in life, the senior William asked his son to bring James to Canada and look after him, which he did until he died.
In politics, Rhodes was the MP for Megantic from 1854 – 1857. Later, he joined the Mercier cabinet (December 7, 1888) as Minister of Agriculture and Colonization, and was elected Liberal MP for Mégantic in the Legislative Assembly in a by-election on December 27, 1888. He was defeated in 1890, however; it is thought partly because of his support for Mercier’s position which was that he vehemently opposed the execution of Louis Riel.
William Rhodes was president in 1883 and 1884 of the Geographical Society of Quebec, and in that position, he advocated strongly for ice breakers in Quebec City to keep the waterways navigable during the winter. He was one of the promoters of Agricultural Merit, an organization created in 1890, also a Justice of the Peace, president of the Horticultural Society, and a Lieutenant-Colonel in the militia, although he was always known as Colonel Rhodes.
For all his work in business and politics, it is clear that William Rhodes was a devoted father and, judging by photographs that have survived, he and Anne were lovers of their time with family in Tadoussac. One summer he wrote to a family member: “My family are all down at the seaside at Tadoussac. We are all together which is a great comfort, far preferable to having sons away in India or floating about the ocean on His Majesty’s ships.”
The Rhodes had 9 children and over 30 grandchildren, all of whom spent significant time in Tadoussac, so it is worthwhile recording some of the descendants here.
William’s wife Anne (Dunn) Rhodes outlived the Colonel by 20 years, and it is said that she was a sweet lady; however, with so many grandchildren she became a bit vague as to which child was which. Just imagine the struggle she would have keeping her descendants straight today!
The oldest son was Armitage, and his daughter Dorothy (Dorsh) married Trevor Evans and their children are Phoebe, Ainslie, Trevor and Tim, producing 9 more Evans’, Skutezkys, and Stevens.
Next was Godfrey, who bought the estate Cataraquai in Quebec. He had two daughters: Gertrude who died in infancy; and Catherine, who married Percival Tudor-Hart, and lived at the estate until her death in 1972. Godfrey built the Tudor-Hart cottage in Languedoc Park, here in Tadoussac. There are no descendants.
The third son was William. His daughter Carrie would marry her first cousin, Frank. William and Godfrey had been sent to the United States to work in the railway business, so they lived in the US and William also travelled around the world.
The fourth son, Francis, married a Quebec girl, Totie Le Moine, from Spencer Grange, another old house that’s still standing in Quebec – now the residence of the Lieutenant-Governor. Their two surviving daughters (of four) were Lily Bell and Frances, whom many of us remember fondly.
The fifth son was Robert Dunn Rhodes who settled in the United States and had eight children who led to Rhodes, Johnson and Robes descendants who settled in the Boston area.
The sixth child, and first girl, was Minnie Rhodes. She married Harry Morewood, an American, and they had five children including Frank Morewood who married his first cousin, William’s daughter, Carrie, above. It was Frank and Carrie who built Windward cottage in 1936. Their other children were Isobel, known as Billy, John, and Nancy as well as Bobby who had two sons, Frank and Harry Morewood.
Finally, there was Nan who married Lennox Williams. Their children were: James, who was killed in World War 1; Mary, matriarch of the Wallace and Leggat families; Gertrude, who led to the Alexander and Aylan-Parker families; and Sydney, whose descendants include the Williams, Ballantynes, Websters, and Campbells.
At this point there are many descendants of William Rhodes and Anne Dunn, and the remarkable thing is that no matter where they went to live, all over North America and beyond, most of them have come back year after year to the place that their ancestors loved: Tadoussac. Of course.
Lt Colonel Willam Rhodes died at his home in Benmore, Sillery, on February 17, 1892, at the age of 70 years and 2 months. His death was quite unexpected. He had been well but took sick with la Grippe, and although under a doctor’s care, he died. After the funeral, celebrated in the Anglican Church of St. Michael, he was buried in Mount Hermon Cemetery, February 19, 1892.
Quebec National Assembly Website
Army’s Scrapbook (Transcribed by Frank Morewood) Alan Evans