MACALLUM, JOHN, teacher, Church of England minister, office holder, and politician; b. 1806 in Fortrose, Scotland; m. February 1836 Elizabeth Charles in the Red River settlement (Man.), and they had two daughters; d. there 3 Oct. 1849.
John Macallum attended King’s College, Aberdeen, from 1820 to 1824 and received an ma from this institution in April 1832. In September 1833, at the age of 27 and with some experience as a schoolmaster, he arrived at Red River. Hired at a salary of £100 per annum, he was to teach at the academy established by the Reverend David Thomas Jones for “the sons of Gentlemen belonging to the Fur Trade.” He was initially unimpressed with the calibre of his students. Soon after his arrival he noted in a letter to James Hargrave*, the Hudson’s Bay Company’s chief officer at York Factory, that “the juvenile mind here is in a melancholy state of vacancy . . . with none of that mass of general information which an English child, properly educated, has accumulated by the time he has reached the fourth year.” Macallum was determined to make improvements in the education of these youngsters.
In 1835 the governess of the Red River Academy, Mrs Mary Lowman, retired to marry Chief Factor James Bird*, and Macallum assumed responsibility for both female and male students. He apparently achieved some positive results with the girls, for many parents, including John Dugald Cameron*, were pleased that their daughters were finally learning something other than sewing and cooking. In 1836 he married one of his students, a mixed-blood daughter of Chief Factor John Charles. Two years later Macallum’s sister, Margaret, married his wife’s father; the resulting relationships of Charles and Macallum caused a stir among the refined ladies of the settlement.
Macallum succeeded Jones as headmaster of the academy in 1837. Initially he leased the buildings from the HBC, which owned the property, but in 1841 he purchased the school for £350. Throughout his tenure he enjoyed the support of the HBC’s governor, George Simpson*, and the Council of the Northern Department, which granted him £100 annually to keep the academy running efficiently.
Under Macallum’s guidance it maintained a high level of excellence. During his tenure courses were offered in Greek, Latin, geography, Bible study, history, algebra, writing, and elocution. In 1840 he happily assured Hargrave that “the schools are well supported, & supply us with as much work as we can all execute.” Two years later he noted that his students’ “progress is pleasing, their deportment correct, and their docility, attention, & application highly commendable.” One of them, the Reverend Benjamin McKenzie, grandson of Roderick McKenzie*, recalled in 1928 that Macallum “prepared a goodly number of postmasters, clerks and future chief traders and chief factors” for the HBC and was a “conscientious and faithful worker” who “perhaps over-estimated the use of the rod.” The letters of Letitia Hargrave [Mactavish*] also suggest that he was a strict disciplinarian, with a strong sense of morality. Indeed, she observed critically in 1843, if Indian or mixed-blood mothers were not formally married he refused to allow them to visit their children, a policy she viewed as “fearfully cruel for the poor unfortunate mothers did not know that there was any distinction.” Macallum, however, was unaffected by criticism and the HBC’s executive did not seem much concerned.
In June 1844 he was ordained priest by Bishop George Jehoshaphat Mountain*, who was visiting the settlement. He was assigned to St John’s parish there, and in March 1845 was made assistant chaplain to the HBC. Macallum nevertheless continued to devote himself to the students at the academy. “He thought the Academy his work, for that he lived,” David Anderson*, the first bishop of Rupert’s Land, reported in 1850. As a leading resident of the region, Macallum had been appointed in March 1836 to the colony’s pioneer government, the Council of Assiniboia. He served as its clerk in 1839, was a member of its committee of economy in 1845, and acted as Red River’s coroner from 1839 to 1849.
Macallum suffered an attack of jaundice during the summer of 1849 and never recovered, dying on 3 October. His wife and daughters left Red River the following year to live with her father, who had settled in Edinburgh in 1845. She was so distraught over the death of her husband that she attempted suicide in 1852 and was placed in an asylum for a year. In his will, John Macallum had stipulated that Bishop Anderson should be offered the Red River Academy. He accepted and paid £300 for it. Excellence in education was thus to continue at Red River.
PABC, Add. mss 635, folder 93, Ross to Macallum, 15 March 1848 (photocopy). PAC, MG 19, A21, ser.l, 3, 5–6, 8–9, 11, 15–16, 22, 24. PAM, HBCA, B.135/c/2: f.96; B.239/k/2: ff.158, 169, 173, 184, 189d, 196, 199, 207, 210, 219d, 225, 232d, 233, 236; D.4/23: ff.60d–61; D.4/58: f.162; D.5/4: ff.370–71; D.5/23: ff.357–57d; D.5/26: ff.160, 558–58d, 698–98d; MG 2, C23, no.96. Canadian north-west (Oliver), 1: 63, 85, 275–78, 283–84, 317–27, 355. Hargrave, Hargrave corr. (Glazebrook). Letitia [Mactavish] Hargrave, The letters of Letitia Hargrave, ed. Margaret Arnett MacLeod (Toronto, 1947). Boon, Anglican Church. T. F. Bredin, “The Red River Academy,” Beaver, outfit 305 (winter 1974): 10–17. “Living pupil of 92 recalls Red River academy of 40’s: Rev. Benjamin McKenzie . . . describes Red River settlement school attended by H.B. officers’ sons 85 years ago,” Manitoba Free Press (Winnipeg), 3 March 1928: 9.