I would like to thank Neil Brown for providing this written account of Samuel William and Helen Marie Shaw.
Samuel William Shaw ("William") was born in the Town of Wandsworth, Surrey, England, in 1840.
Helen Maria York ("Helen"), was born in London, Middlesex, England in 1846. She was a small, somewhat delicate, woman, who had light hair in her youth.
They had a long and somewhat difficult courtship, due to the Helen's father's concern with her tender age. Although they were almost never alone together, they carried on an active correspondence and some of S.W.'s love letters have survived to this day. Both spoke French as a second language, which was seen as a social advantage in that age.
Both belonged to the Established Church and from relatively well to do families.
They made secret plans to elope and, by having the marriage bans read on three successive Sundays in a small village church (not their home parish), in accordance with Canon Law, they were able to marry without parental consent. They married in 1862, when Helen was only 15 years old.
The 1881 British census shows them living at Eastgate House, in Rochester St. Nicholas, Kent, a short distance east of London. The home is a large three level home which derived its name from its location next to the east gate of the old wall of the City of Rochester. This was to be their last home in England, before leaving for Canada.
At the time of the census, they had eight children and two domestic servants living in the house; William's occupation was shown on the census as a "Coal Factor" (coal merchant). He was also skilled as a chemist (what we would now call a pharmacist) and in the young science of photography. He read scientific journals voraciously and maintained this habit after his relocation to Canada. Some of his reference books remain. I will give more on his personality later.
At the time they left for Canada, they were accompanied by eight children, one child Edward William Oliver having died in infancy. Another, Irene would be born in the New World. (They had ten children in all: Helen, Louise, Edward, Evelyn, Hugh, Maltman, Elphie, Kinnaird, York and Irene.)
During their time at Eastgate House, they made plans to emigrate to Canada. The family made extensive preparations for their new life, some of the children learning skills, such as cobblery (shoemaking), garment making, shooting, and trade skills like weaving which were part of the woollen mill industry. They gathered many provisions in preparation for the sea voyage to Canada, including apparatus and machinery for a complete woollen mill and many personal effects, including furniture, clothing, medicine, food, photography supplies, a large supply of chemicals and medicines, cobblers tools and leather, chess boards, 16 guns, and kegs of gunpowder.
They departed in early Spring of 1883, the family of 10 being accompanied by a hired man, Dick Lloyd and a cousin Les Turner. After crossing the North Atlantic by ship in 14 days, their first land fall in Canada was Gros Isle in the St. Lawrence River near Quebec City, where they were required to stay in a quarantine, reportedly due to the fact that William was opposed to the practice of vaccination, for diseases like Smallpox. The journey continued on to Montreal, where they boarded the train for Western Canada. As the transcontinental Canadian Pacific Railway still had not completed the route around the north of Lake Superior (it later would run a steam ship along Superior connecting the eastern part of the rail line with the western), they travelled through Chicago, Illinois and on to Winnipeg, the Canadian gateway to the West.
In Winnipeg, they remained about 10 days and took on many of the provisions for the journey and to establish their lives in the vast, largely unsettled frontier of Canada's North West Territories. They purchased four teams of oxen, four wagons and carts, harnesses, several milk cows, chickens and geese, grain, farm implements, a wood stove and food sufficient to last for the next two years.
They boarded the west bound train, together with all of their baggage and journeyed to the end of the C.P.R. line, which was Siding #11, near present day Swift Current , Saskatchewan. The woollen mill machinery was left in Winnipeg, to be shipped later, when the rail line was completed.
Here they packed the wagons and carts and set off westward on a rough, unimproved and dusty trail across the prairie. They all must have wondered about their decision to leave the lush green Garden County of Kent in England for the desert (and largely deserted) landscape of the short grass prairie.
After about a month on the trail, the family arrived in the small settlement of Fort Calgary, where a North West Mounted Police Post was located along with a small but rapidly growing community, consisting of a few log cabins, and numerous tents and teepees, all of whose residents were anxiously awaiting the arrival in a few months of the railway line.
At this juncture, William discussed his plans with the Sergeant of the Mounted Police, who suggested that he take a day to walk south to Fish Creek, where an Irish settler, John Glenn had settled and worked up a farming operation on the banks of the creek, from which he diverted irrigation water. William walked the 10 miles or so to Fish Creek, which was much larger in those days (the watershed not having been destroyed) and which was then in full flood. He managed to wade across the stream and found a warm greeting from Mr. Glenn who was raising abundant crops of cabbages and root vegetables such as potatoes, carrots and turnips. Mr. Glenn told him that the soil was good, and that there was "plenty of land" and an abundant supply of water for the woollen mill and he would be glad of having neighbours.
Thus the decision was made to settle on the banks of Fish Creek, south of Calgary. In a few years, the place would come to be named "Midnapore" by William, who would be its first Postmaster.