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.