Thomas Richard Tomlinson (1878 – 1954)
Thomas Richard Tomlinson, or Richard as he was called, was born in Kincolith, British Columbia on 18 February 18781. At that time, his parents Robert Tomlinson and Alice Mary Woods were missionaries in northern British Columbia. He joined his older brother Robert and two older sisters Alice and Lilly (Elizabeth)3, an older sister Sophia had lived only a day.
He was perhaps not the easiest baby, as his mother missed going to Sunday services on more than one occasion because “Dick wouldn’t sleep”17. When she did take the four children to the service, she had to take Lillie and Dick out because they tried to “join in the singing and deliver the sermon themselves”.
In 1879, at just over a year, he travelled with his family, by foot and canoe, from Kincolith to establish a new mission in the Kispiox valley. It was not an easy trip for him. In her log17his mother mentions that Lillie and Dick looked “perfect frights” with all the mosquito bites and that Dick also had a sunburned face.
In 1881, when he was only three, Richard travelled with his aunt Kate and her brother Richard on their return to Victoria2,11. At that time he was staying in the house with his grandmother, Anne Woods, as well as his aunts, uncle and his uncle’s betrothed, Alice Percival2. One can only speculate why he was staying there rather than home with his family. It is known that Kate and Richard had travelled up to the north the previous year to visit Alice and Robert11. As his father had just returned from a trip to Ireland and England to attempt to secure funds for the mission around that time12,13, and his mother was looking after the three older children, baby Annie (Anna Lucretia)3and pregnant with Edward Sterling, as well as carrying on Robert’s work while he was away, it is likely that Kate and Richard were attempting to alleviate some of his mother Alice’s responsibilities by taking Richard with them on their return to Victoria.
Sadly, Richard’s brother Edward did not live long as he died in a tragic accident when only a few months old14,19. Richard had one more sister in 1883, Kathleen Elanor (Nellie)4.
At the time he was 13, Richard was living with his family at the newly established mission of Cedervale, or Meanskinisht3. This mission was established by his father Robert in 1888.
In 1901, at the age of 23, Richard’s whole family, with the exception of the oldest daughter Alice who was working in Vancouver as a nurse, were living in Cedervale with their parents. None were yet married4.
In 1908, his father and mother went to Metlakatla to take over from Duncan and Richard was left in charge of the Meanskinisht mission14,18. In 1911, Richard, Annie and Robert Jr. were at Meanskinisht as missionaries there5. However, Robert Jr. was likely visiting as he was at Metlakatla with his parents in the 1910 US census15.
Family story has it that a mutual friend introduced Richard and his wife Agnes by mail. They sent each other pictures and corresponded, but Richard did not meet his wife Agnes in person until he arrived in Calgary to marry her. Agnes was a Salvation Army nurse, and they married in the Salvation Army Citadel in Calgary, Alberta on 3 November 19176,7.
Richard converted to the Salvation Army in 1918 and he and Agnes continued the missionary work in Cedervale as Salvationists. He also cleared land and farmed the property7.
Richard and Agnes had their first child, Agnes Kathleen (Kathy) in 1919. Walter Richard was born in 1921 and Mary Florence in 19248,16.
Richard continued to live and farm in Cedervale for the remainder of his life. Richard died on 6 August 19549,10. He died of advanced skin cancer of the face and advanced age (although he was only 76)9. Family information indicates that he may have had dementia as well.
While there are several books written that detail his father’s missionary work, little is written about Richard. His daughter Kathy intended to write a book, but sadly never found the time. A future goal will be to explore the BC Archives and attempt to detail more about his life, perhaps completing my grandmother’s idea of writing a book.
1Baptisms. Canada. Church of England, Diocese of Caledonia. Kincolith, British Columbia. TOMLINSON, Thomas Richard. 17 March 1878.
2Census. 1881. Canada. Victoria, British Columbia. https://www.ancestry.ca: accessed 2018.
3Census. 1891. Canada. Skeena Cassiar, New Westminster, British Columbia. https://www.ancestry.ca: accessed 2018.
4Census. 1901. Canada. Lorne Creek, Burrard, British Columbia. https://www.ancestry.ca: accessed 2018.
5Census. 1911. Canada. Skeena River, Comox-Atlin, British Columbia. https://www.ancestry.ca: accessed 2018.
6Marriages (CR) Canada. Calgary, Alberta. 5 November 1917. TOMLINSON, Thomas Richard and GLOVER (Parr), Agnes.
7The War Cry, Official Gazette of the Salvation Army. 1951. A Native Indian Work Poineer, Mrs. Sr. Field Captain R. Tomlinson Promoted to Glory. Saturday October 15. No. 3490, Page 13 (plus picture on page 12). in The War Cry, Official Gazette of the Salvation Army, http://salvationarmy.soutronglobal.net/Catalogues/Search.aspx: accessed 2017.
8Census. 1921. Canada. Skeena, British Columbia. https://www.ancestry.ca: accessed 2018.
9Deaths (CR) Canada. 6 August 1954. TOMLINSON, Thomas Richard. http://search-collections.royalbcmuseum.bc.ca/Image/Genealogy/41910da9-0981-4827-a4ff-1c0bd57b5a54: accessed July 2018.
10Monumental Inscriptions. Canada. Meanskinisht Cemetery, Cedarvale, Kitimat-Stikine Regional District, British Columbia. 1954. TOMLINSON, Thomas Richard. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/141577529/thomas-richard-tomlinson: accessed July 2018.
11Bridge, Kathryn. (1998) By snowshoe, buckboard and steamer: women of the frontier. Victoria, British Columbia: SONO NIS Press.
12Daily Colonist. (1881) Home again. 25 February.
13Tomlinson, Robert. (1881) Letter to the Church Mission Society describing his work since his return from Europe.
14Tomlinson, George with Young, Judith. (1991) Challenge the wilderness: a family saga of Robert and Alice Tomlinson pioneer medical missionaries. Anchorage, Alaska: Great Northwest Publishing and Distributing Company, Inc.
15Census. 1910. United States. Metlakatla, Ketchikan, Alaska. https://www.ancestry.ca: accessed 2018.
16A branch of Tomlinson Family. 1982. TOMLINSON, Thomas Richard.
17Tomlinson, Alice Mary. 1879. Way Side Log.
18Omenica Herald. (1908) No title. Omenica Herald. 31 October. http://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0082661: accessed 2018.
19Lee, Eldon. (1997) Scapels & Buggywhips: Medical Pioneers of Central BC. Surrey, British Columbia: Heritage House Publishing Company Ltd.