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MORTON, CATHARINE (McLellan), temperance advocate and church worker; b. 1837 in Penobsquis, N.B., daughter of George Augustus Morton and Mary Sipperal; m. Alexander James McLellan of Prince Edward Island; they had no children; d. 18 Aug. 1892 in Victoria, B.C.

Catharine Morton’s father came from a family of New England planters who had settled in Cornwallis, N.S., around 1760. Her paternal grandfather moved to New Brunswick in the 1790s, and her father served as a justice of the peace in Kings County. Catharine moved to Victoria, Vancouver Island, in 1865 with her husband.

Like many other early immigrants to the colony, Alexander McLellan came in search of business opportunities. As a contractor he participated in a variety of projects both on Vancouver Island and on the mainland. He was a member of the Pacific railway survey in 1871, and throughout the 1870s and 1880s he worked as a superintendent of trail, railroad, and bridge building. In 1885 he was awarded the contract to build the southern sections of the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway [see Robert Dunsmuir*]. Among his other business ventures was the McLellan Salmon Cannery, which he established in the Nass River valley in the 1880s.

Catharine McLellan’s activities during the 1870s while her husband worked and travelled are largely undocumented. She may have remained at their residence in Victoria, but occasional newspaper announcements imply that she accompanied her husband on his journeys. According to the Victoria Daily Standard of 3 Dec. 1877, “saddle horses were required by the Road Superintendent and his family” and “a trunk, weighing 130 pounds, belonging to the Superintendent’s family” was transported. The paper also accused McLellan of having “a standing bedstead constructed at every stopping place.” Certainly by the last half of the 1880s Catharine was no stranger to travel, having visited eastern Canada, the British Columbia interior, and southern California, initially with her husband but later in connection with her own interests. Her mobility indicates that social mores did not confine her to the home and the church.

In the last decade of her life Catharine McLellan was on the executives of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union [see Letitia Creighton] and the Woman’s Missionary Society, the major women’s organization of the Methodist Church of Canada. As a result of a visit by Frances Elizabeth Caroline Willard, president of the American WCTU, to Victoria in July 1883, a provincial and a local branch were established there. Catharine McLellan was a member of the British Columbia group’s committee on declaration of principle and plan of work, and she served on the first executive of the Victoria union as corresponding secretary. On 18 November she was elected its president. In 1886–87 she served as provincial superintendent of the organization’s department for young women’s work. Although she undoubtedly signed the annual WCTU petitions to the provincial government for the female franchise, her interest was primarily in moral education, the dominant theme in the WCTU during the 1880s. At the third annual convention of the British Columbia WCTU in New Westminster (23–25 Aug. 1886) she presented a paper entitled “Social purity,” advocating prohibition of the use of alcohol as a beverage as well as a single standard of sexual conduct for women and men: marital fidelity.

Catharine McLellan also served as president of the Woman’s Missionary Society at the Gorge Road (from 1891 Centennial) Methodist Church. Although she had been raised a Baptist, she and her husband, a Methodist, had been founding members of the Gorge Road church in 1885 and contributed to its growth both financially and in an administrative capacity. During her term of office the local WMS was interested in missions and service both in Canada and abroad, and provided financial support for institutions such as the Crosby Girls’ Home in Port Simpson, the Oriental Rescue Home in Victoria, and several hospitals. Her presidency might have been significant had it not been severely affected by the illness which led to her death in August 1892.

An obituary in the Victoria Daily Colonist celebrated her Christian piety and exemplary character. Tributes paid to her at her funeral by Maria Grant [Pollard*] and Emma Spencer (Lazenby) indicate that she had been an ally and friend of the Victoria women who were to dominate the province’s political reform movement in the 1890s and into the new century.

Eileen Daoust and Barbara K. Latham

Kings County Hist. Soc. Museum & Arch. (Hampton, N.B.), Notes on the Morton family. PABC, Add. mss 2227; GR 1052, box 3, no.71. UCC, British Columbia Conference Arch. (Vancouver), Centennial Methodist/United Church (Victoria) records, esp. Woman’s Missionary Soc., minutes, 1891–92. Woman’s Christian Temperance Union of British Columbia, Yearbook and proc. of the annual convention (New Westminster), 1886–91, 1893–94, 1896–97. Daily Colonist (Victoria), 19–21 Aug. 1892. Victoria Daily Standard, 3–4 Dec. 1877. New Brunswick loyalists: a bicentennial tribute, comp. Sharon Dubeau (Agincourt [Toronto], 1983). H. T. Allen, Forty years’ journey: the temperance movement in British Columbia to 1900 (Victoria, 1981). M. H. Cramer, “Public and political: documents of the woman’s suffrage campaign in British Columbia, 1871–1917: the view from Victoria,” In her own right: selected essays on women’s history in B.C., ed. Barbara Latham and Cathy Kess (Victoria, 1980), 79–100. Eaton, Hist. of Kings County. [M. L. Gordon et al.], 1887–1947; diamond jubilee of the Woman’s Missionary Society in British Columbia (Vancouver, [1947]). Lyn Gough, As wise as serpents; 1883–1939: five women & an organization that changed British Columbia (Victoria, 1988), 1–7. [L. E. Macpherson], Historical sketch of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union of British Columbia, commemorating [seventy] years of service, 1883–1953 ([Vancouver, 1953]). R. D. Turner, Vancouver Island railroads (San Marino, Calif., 1973). Kings County Record (Sussex, N.B.), 8 Jan. 1926.

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Cite This Article

Eileen Daoust and Barbara K. Latham, “MORTON, CATHARINE,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 12, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed February 22, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/morton_catharine_12E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/morton_catharine_12E.html
Author of Article:   Eileen Daoust and Barbara K. Latham
Title of Article:   MORTON, CATHARINE
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 12
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1990
Year of revision:   1990
Access Date:   February 22, 2024