ISABELLA MAINVILLE ROSS First Female Métis Pioneer of Victoria

There have been many memorable Métis women in the history of British Columbia. A little known but remarkable one is Isabella Mainville Ross. Her memory is enshrined in the cemetery in Victoria named after her – the Ross Bay Cemetery, as well as in Ross Bay, both overlooking the beautiful Pacific Ocean.

Isabella was born on January 10, 1808. She was the daughter of Joseph Mainville (a French engagé boatman) who worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) and Josette, an Ojibwa woman.
In 1822 the teen-age Isabella and Charles Ross, a fur-trading clerk with the HBC, were married at Lac La Pluie House (an HBC Fort subsequently renamed Fort Frances in what is now Ontario). Ross was a Scotsman born in Kincraig, Inverness Shire Scotland in 1794. Their marriage was a country marriage (that is without benefit of clergy) since there were no priests or ministers in the fur-trading country in those early days.

During his career with the HBC Ross was transferred to a number of locations in what is now Western Canada. Isabella and their children accompanied him. Two years after their marriage, Isabella and Charles moved to HBC’s Fort Kilmaurs in the New Caledonia District in what today is British Columbia.

Isabella and Charles had nine children (some sources say 10) five boys and four girls. According to HBC Archives, the children were only baptized in 1837 and 1838. The marriage of Isabella and Charles was solemnized in an Anglican Church ceremony at Fort Vancouver in the Oregon Country in 1838.

Isabella Mainville Ross Profile

13 Responses to ISABELLA MAINVILLE ROSS First Female Métis Pioneer of Victoria

  1. Catherine Goulet July 11, 2014 at 12:23 am #

    So well researched and written. Thank you for sharing this information!

  2. fern perkins February 23, 2016 at 11:14 pm #

    Thank you for the detailed and accurate account of my great great great grandparents, Charles and Isabella Ross. I went on an ancestor’s journey to Isabella’s homeland at Lac la Pluie and discovered that the Chief Factor there in 1822 was Dr. John McLoughlin. I assume he would have officiated at their marriage å la façons du pays. They did in fact have 10 children, six boys and four girls: John, Walter, Elizabeth, Charles Jr, Catherine, Alexander (my great great grandfather), Francis, Mary, Flora and William, the first child born in Fort Victoria in 1844, after Charles died. All ten children survived to be adults. My Métis great grandmother, Flora Ross, Isabella’s granddaughter, was the last surviving Ross child born on Fowl Bay Farm in 1875. She is also buried there in the southwest corner with her husband, William Ottaway. Her Métis brother, Francis Ross, my great grand uncle, is also buried at Ross Bay with his father, Alexander Ross, and Salish mother, Mary Bastien. I met him in 1952 before he died. Alexander and Mary were the last owners of Fowl Bay farm and are my great great grandparents. Their children were Métis-Ojibway from Alexander and Métis-Salish from Mary Bastien, whose father was Henri Isaac Bastien of the Sinclair expedition. He married Buois-he’blo of the Muck Creek people near Fort Nisqually. After Buois-he’blo died, Mary was brought to Victoria in 1855 to be a ward of the Reverend Cridge and his wife. In addition, Flora Ross, Alexander’s Métis sister, (my great great aunt) was the owner of Harling Point from 1863-1870. She purchased it from Isabella. She was likely the 2nd woman landowner in BC. She is in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography online. There is one mistake however in the article. She did not marry the senior Mr. Hubbs, 40 years older. She married his son, Paul Hubbs Jr., the customs officer on San Juan Island. If I can assist with further information about the Ross family, please do contact me.

    • Stacia Reyna December 28, 2016 at 9:10 pm #

      Hello Fern, we are related then. Charles and Isabella Ross are my great, great, great, great grandparents.
      This is thru their daughter Elizabeth Ross Wren (my great, great, great grandmother) married to Charles Wren.
      Thru their daughter Annie Wren Dougherty(my great, great grandmother) and George James Dougherty
      Thru their daughter Lillian Dougherty (my great grandmother) and George F Bond
      Thru their daughter Clariece Bond (my grandmother) and Dale Miller
      Thru their daughter Gail Miller (my mother) and Dave Feldmann.

  3. Brian Brammer May 22, 2017 at 8:37 am #

    Hello, I belive I am a decendent as well. My family is from Charles’ and Isabella’s daughter Catherine Ross. We have several photos from that time.

  4. Catherine Allen September 18, 2017 at 11:45 pm #

    Hi all, Charles and Isabelle are my great,great,great,great grandparents as well. I am related through Catherine Ross and James Marsh. Would love to hear from you all .

  5. Catherine Allen September 19, 2017 at 6:50 am #

    Good morning . After continuing to gather info last night I have hit a block regarding James Marsh. We have limited information to go on from my end just her name and the oral history . Now I am wondering if I am in the right place again. I’ll keep looking but if anyone has any info that would help such as birth and marriage dates I would welcome any info to either confirm or help me to continue my search. Thanks so much

  6. Glenn Blanchfield October 24, 2017 at 10:05 am #

    I first moved to Victoria in 1971 and was always interested in its local history, I did read recently that Isabella Ross had a canon that was used to scare off some people. Some locals there mentioned that they think the canon is mounted at St Charles and Dallas rd. since 1949. my wife and I drove by and found the canon which looked very weathered and wondered if anyone else knew the history of it. I do have a picture of it if anyone is interested

  7. George and Terry Goulet June 20, 2018 at 10:11 pm #

    Isabella Mainville Ross, as noted in our above article written in2014, was one of many remarkable “country wives” of explorers and HBC fur traders. To name a few in addition to Isabella in early BC history: Charlotte Small Thompson, Josette Legace Work and Amelia Connolly Douglas. They all subsequently had their marriages solemnized when the clergy came to BC.

    We profiled each of them in articles in our books. They and Isabella contributed so much to the early history and development of British Columbia. They have not received the recognition they deserve. Information on all of them can be found on the Internet.

    • Fern August 31, 2018 at 3:53 pm #

      Phrisine Brabant Ogden and her daughter, Sarah Julia Ogden Alexander, are the Metis matriarchs of the Alexanders in Tsimshian territory. They are highly regarded by the current descendants of hereditary Chief Kwah and other family members.

  8. Shanon Sinn August 30, 2018 at 12:32 pm #

    People have claimed to see Isabella Ross’ apparition in the cemetery, so I researched her life for The Haunting of Vancouver Island. When her husband Charles passed away in 1844 she left with the children to farm in Washington State, but returned around 1853 & bought land. She sold portions over the years including the one to the City of Victoria in 1872 that was for the cemetery. The current wooden marker on her gravesite is a replica that replaced the original. It was put there in 2015.

  9. Fern August 31, 2018 at 3:45 pm #

    It was good to meet Stacia Rayna in the spring. We gave her a tour of Ross Bay Cemetery. I do ghost tours in October for schools and teachers. Contact me at for historic and ghost tour information. Brian Bramner and Catherine Allen, please contact me at that email if you wish to share info.

  10. Stephanie (nee: Ross) Robinson October 25, 2018 at 9:12 am #

    I am also related to Isabella Ross. My grandfather, Francis Ross is the last member of the family to be buried in the family plot in the Ross Cemetery. I remember as a girl coming and visiting the Cemetery with him and walking along the beach beside it. This past year I brought my daughters and nieces to visit it. It was so nice to see how excited they were to learn something about their family history.

  11. Lois Mainville April 14, 2019 at 3:16 pm #

    I am of the Mainville descent. This is very special to me.

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