by George Siamandas


Captain William Kennedy is the man behind Kennedy house on River Road. William Kennedy was born in 1814 at Cumberland house the son of Chief Factor Alexander Kennedy and a Cree woman named Aggathas. Young Kennedy was schooled in Scotland at his dad's Orkney island home town. One of his subjects included French.


In 1833 he joined the Hudson Bay Company spending five years in the Ottawa Valley and in Labrador. But by 1846 he left the HBC because as a teetotaller he did not approve of the HBC's selling liquor to the Indians. After this Kennedy became a critic of the HBC and its monopoly in the north west.


In 1851 Captain William Kennedy was placed in charge of the second Franklin Expedition (whom Kennedy had met in 1819 at Cumberland House). He Had a frenchman as his second in command and was well prepared for the voyage. They got further than the earlier expedition but did not succeed in finding Franklin. Kennedy led another expedition but the crew mutinied in Chile.


A third expedition did not materialize and Kennedy returned to Canada in 1856 and became a proponent of western expansion. He wrote articles and circulated a petition at Red River encouraging union with Canada receiving very little support outside the Scottish settler at Kildonan. Kennedy also carried the first mail using a Canadian route.


In 1860 Kennedy settled down permanently at Red River taking over his mother's log cabin near ST Andrews church. He built a large stone home from limestone quarried just down river and called it Maple Grove. He opened up a store that supplied high end goodies. that did not succeed. He became active in community affairs on the board of Education and he gave the first lecture to the Manitoba Historical and Scientific Society in 1879. Kennedy was a proponent of the Hudson Bay railway and saw a future for Hudson Bay as a sea port.


Life was comfortable at Maple grove. Kennedy had married Eleanor Crips and had two children: William and Mary. Mary had the benefit of one of the few pianos in Red River. Mrs Kennedy was a busy lady operating the family store, teaching piano and playing organ at ST Andrew's church. Kennedy was always proud of his Indian heritage. Kennedy did not receive the success or recognition that his work deserved.


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