Visitor Stories: By Judy Tipple

The adventurous life of Catherine O’Hare, Judy Tipple’s great-grandmother, whose journey took her from Co Down to the farmsteads of British Columbia in Canada, with many stops along the way. The story is an extract from part two our special four-part magazine series, available with Friday’s edition of the Irish Independent.

SIXTEEN-YEAR-OLD Catherine O’Hare left her parents and eight older siblings in Rathfriland, Co Down to take a crowded ship across the stormy Atlantic in 1851. In Springfield, Massachusetts she became a servant in a wealthy home and taught herself to read from the many books in the home. She married German immigrant carpenter Augustus Schubert and they settled in the thriving town.

He was a restless individual and was attracted by the opportunities of the then-frontier town of St Louis so they moved west and established a store there. However the boom ended, local banks went broke, and unemployment rose.

That, and the unrest of the Native American population, prompted the Schuberts to depart for the Red River settlement in Canada. They arrived at an outpost of Fort Garry after a 900km trip through bitter winter weather across the trackless prairie.

The settlement was a farming community of native Métis, fur trappers and officers and servants of the Hudson’s Bay Company. Here the Schuberts again built a house, developed a productive farm and ran a liquor store in the front room of their home.

News of gold discoveries along the rivers of the frontier west of the Rocky Mountains prompted prospectors to travel to Fort Garry from the east and prepare to trek west as a group to seek their fortune. Augustus wanted to go with them but Catherine was determined to keep her family together and implored the leader of the 150-man expedition to allow her and her children to join the group.