Alice Mary Woods was born on 27 March 1851 in Parsonstown (now Birr), Kings County (now Offaly), Ireland1. She was the second daughter of Richard and Anne Woods. Her older sister Elizabeth (Lily) was two at the time. Her father was a gentleman working as a register of marriages2and a commissioner of deeds by married women3, her mother was listed as a lady.
Over the four years, Alice would gain two more sisters, Emily and Kate, and a brother Edward (Ned). Life in Ireland was a comfortable life with servants and the latest fashions and parties4and the family was one of most respectable families in town5. In June of 1861, when Alice was 10, the family decided to join her uncle in the pioneer town of Victoria, on the Vancouver Island, which at that time was a British Colony. They left the two youngest girls in Ireland to be looked after by their aunts4and travelled with Alice, Lily and Ned to the new world.
Victoria was not yet a city when they arrived, although its population had grown over that last couple of years to more than 6,000 settlers due to the 1858 Gold Rush. During their first couple of years living there, Victoria developed from its origins as a fur trade outpost to a city6. Her family took up residence at Woods Point and called their home Garbally4,7,8.
Alice attended the church school on Courtney Street in Victoria and later attended the Ladies College for Girls (Angela College)9. In 1865, Alice can be seen collecting for the Women’s Infirmary in Victoria, she collected from her parents as well as several other people. She and her cousin Sarah collected $69.50 between the two of them.35 The colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia amalgamated in 1866, and by 1867 Alice was teaching at Angela College and attended the distribution of prizes to the students10.
It was in 1867 that she met the man she was to marry, Robert Tomlinson, who had just arrived from Ireland to start his mission on the north west coast of the British Columbia. It is said her gorgeous blue eyes that was the leading factor in his love at first sight7. Although Alice had several suitors at the age of 16, it was perhaps his accent from home, they were born in the same county in Ireland, that led to her love for him7.
Alice and Robert were asked by her parents to wait a year before being married to allow Robert time to go north and establish his mission and make it ready for her7. After that year, Robert arrived in Victoria on 18 April 1868 with a crew of 5 men, 2 boys and one woman in a first nations canoe11. They were married less than a week later on 24 April12,13,14 and they left Victoria on the 28 April. Robert had chosen to bring Alice back to the north by canoe rather than by steamship as on the steamship even though the expenses would be double the cost. He felt the steamship was not an option as the seventh commandment was openly violated and he did not want his new wife travelling in that kind of atmosphere. He paid for the excess costs of the difference in travel from his own pocket11.
Alice’s life as a missionary’s wife was not an easy one. She often accompanied him on his visits to the first nations, and often the bands were fighting. She is credited with providing a calming influence and disarming the combatants just with her presence15.
She is also said to have zeal and intrepidness15and was a tower of strength for her husband17. When not travelling, her daily life was often spent cleaning, mending, sewing, cooking and teaching the children16, assisting Robert with his surgery and providing bible study7.
Their first child, Robert, was born in Kincolith in 1870, Alice’s mother travelled north by canoe in order to be with Alice at the birth7. Alice contracted typhoid fever and was ill when she was only days away from her confinement, their second child Sophia lived only a few hours at Kincolith11. They remained at Kincolith over the next several years. While there, two daughters, Alice (1872) and Lily (1876) were born, as was their second son Richard (1878). Alice often spent time alone with the children and local first nations while Robert travelled both as a doctor and as a missionary7.
Robert was given orders by the Church Mission Society (CMS) to create a new mission along the upper Skeena, he and the first nations chose an area called Ankitlast. During the next winter, the family went down to Victoria to gather supplies and purchase livestock, giving Alice an opportunity to reunite with family for a short time. When they returned to Kincolith two weeks later, they left Robert Jr. in Victoria to gain some more formal schooling with plans that he return in the spring with Ned bringing the livestock and supplies7.
With the youngest just over a year, Alice travelled with her husband over the Grease Trail to the interior of British Columbia. Alice was very sick with typhoid fever during the trek16,19. She did recover and assisted her husband in setting up Ankitlast. Alice became pregnant again and Annie arrived in January of 1880 in a freezing cold winter. That spring Alice’s sister Kate travelled with Ned up to visit her and her family in the north18. Kate and Ned remained with Alice while Robert travelled to England to speak to the CMS. When Kate and Ned returned to Victoria, they brought Richard with them20.
In February 1882, Edward was born in Ankitlast. Unfortunately, in September of that year, the rope that was holding his cradle to the ceiling broke and Edward died. His grave is beside the Kispiox River7. In 1883, amid disagreements with the CMS, Robert and Alice decided to assist Duncan in Metlakatla7,21and Robert went to build a house there. Alice took the children down to Victoria to visit with her mother and sisters. While she was there, her mother passed away22and within a few weeks, their youngest daughter Nellie was born7. Robert left the CMS and he worked in Metlakatla as a doctor for about four years.
In 1887, Robert and Alice determined that they should establish their own mission village back on the banks of the Skeena. They wintered in Kitwanga7, and in 1888 established Meanskinisht7,21. In 1891, they were living there with their six children23among mostly first nations. In 1897, Robert received a land grant from British Columbia (see more about this on Robert’s story) and by 1901, there were several other white families living in the area24. Robert and Alice still had five of their children living at home. The oldest daughter Alice was living in Vancouver working as a nurse25.
During 1901, there were twins born to May Cook, who died the same day26,27,28. Robert and Alice adopted Harold and Hazel-Mary Cook and brought them into the family29. It is not known how two twins from Golden ended up being adopted by Robert and Alice, but
In 1908, Robert, Alice, Robert Jr. and the Cook twins went to Metlakatla, Alaska to join Duncan at his request7,30,31. They were not destined to stay there long. In 1911, Robert and Alice were visiting with here sisters in Victoria32. Then, in 1912, they returned to the Skeena and Meanskinisht7breaking with Duncan. Robert died a year later.
Alice was to live the remainder of her life on their farm in Cedervale, as Meanskinisht was now named. She died 07 November 1933 at the age of 8233. She is buried in the Meanskinisht graveyard next to her husband.
1Birth Announcements. (1851) The Kings Chronicle and General Provincial Intelligencer. 02 April.https://findmypast.co.uk: accessed September 2018.
2Directories. Ireland. 1851. Thom’s Irish Almanac 1851. P. 316. http://findmypast.co.uk: accessed 3 September 2018.
3Directories. Ireland. 1851. Thom’s Irish Almanac 1851. P. 465. http://findmypast.co.uk: accessed 3 September 2018.
4Kirkpatrick-Crockett, Winnifred Anne. (1962-05) Interview by Imbert Orchard. Track 1. Canadian Broadcasting Company.
5King’s County Chronicle and General Provincial Intelligencer. (1861) Departure of Mr. Richard Woods for British Columbia. King’s County Chronicle and General Provincial Intelligencer. 15 June. http://www.findmypast.co.uk: accessed 11 September 2018.
6Historical Banckground of Victoria http://web.uvic.ca/vv/student/wharfstreet/HistoricalBackground.htm : accessed October 2018.
7Tomlinson, 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.
8Province of British Columbia. (1981) Now you are my brother: missionaries in British Columbia. Victoria, British Columbia: Provincial Archives of British Columbia.
9Forbes, Elizabeth and the British Columbia Centennial ’71 Committee. (1971) Wild Roses at their feet.Vancouver, British Columbia: Evergreen Press Limited.
10The Daily Colonist. (1867) Angela College. The Daily Colonist. 24 June. https://archive.org/details/dailycolonist18670624uvic/page/n0: accessed 14 October 2018.
11Tomlinson, Robert (1868). Diary. Church Missionary Society Papers Archive. Section V Americas, Part 4 British Columbia.
12Marriages. Canada. TOMLINSON, Robert and WOODS, Alice Mary. 24 April 1868. St. John’s Victoria, British Columbia.
13Marriage Announcements. (1868) The Kings Chronicle and General Provincial Intelligencer. 24 June. TOMLINSON, Robert and WOODS, Alice Mary. https://findmypast.co.uk: accessed September 2018.
14Marriage Announcements. (1868) The Daily Colonist. 27 April. TOMLINSON, Robert and WOODS, Alice Mary. https://archive.org/stream/dailycolonist18680427uvic/18680427#page/n0/mode/1up: accessed October 2018.
15Stock, Eugene. (1881) Metlakahtla and the North Pacific Mission of the Church Missionary Society. With a map.http://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0222392 : accessed October 2018.
16Tomlinson, Alice Mary. 1879. Way Side Log.
17Lee, Eldon. (1997) Scapels & buggywhips: Medical pioneers of central BC. Surrey, British Columbia: Heritage House Publishing Company Ltd.
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21Whitehead, Margaret. (1981) ‘Now you are my brother: Missionaries in British Columbia’.In Reimer, Derek. Sound Heritage Series. Victoria, British Columbia: Provincial Archive of British Columbia.
22Deaths (CR) Canada. Victoria, British Columbia. 7 July 1883. TOMLINSON, Anne.
23Census. 1891. Canada. Skeena Cassiar, New Westminster, British Columbia. https://www.ancestry.ca: accessed 2018.
24Census. 1901. Canada. Lorne Creek, Burrard, British Columbia. https://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 2018.
25Census. 1901. Canada. Vancouver City, Burrard, British Columbia. https://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 2018.
26Births (CR) Canada. Golden, British Columbia. 04 April 1901. COOK, Hazel Mary.
27Births (CR) Canada. Golden, British Columbia. 04 April 1901. COOK, Harold.
28Deaths (CR) Canada. Golden, British Columbia. 04 April 1901. Cook, May.
29Testamentary Records. Canada. 1911 (date of writing). TOMLINSON, Robert. Will. British Columbia Archives.
30Omenica Herald. (1908) No title. Omenica Herald. 31 October. http://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0082661: accessed 2018.
31Census. 1910. United States. Metlakatla, Ketchikan, Alaska. https://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 2018.
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33Deaths (CR) Canada. Cedarvale, British Columbia. 7 November 1933. TOMLINSON, Alice Mary.
34Monumental Inscriptions. Canada. Meanskinisht Cemetery, Cedarvale, Kitimat-Stikine Regional District, British Columbia. 1933. TOMLINSON, Alice Mary. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/141576984/robert-tomlinson: accessed October 2018.
35The Daily Colonist. (1865) Female Aid Association report. 04 July. p 1d. https://archive.org/details/dailycolonist18650704uvic/mode/2up?view=theater : accessed 11 February 2022.