William Nassau Kennedy and Family Fonds F255

A O2

Date of the items: 2009 [originals 1850 to 1879]

Physical description: 0.5 cm

Title: William Nassau Kennedy and Family Fonds

Creator: Kennedy Family

Repository: Trent Valley Archives

Reference number: TVA Fonds 255

Scope and contents: The fonds consists of documents related to the Peterborough militia, 1850-1868, and to the Orange Order, 1867-1879.

Access Conditions: No Restrictions

Finding aid: None, see document listing below

Accruals: No further accruals are expected

Custodial history: The originals are in Archives of Manitoba, P2/26 S/S4/A/file 8. The copies were made at the request of Elwood Jones for the Trent Valley Archives on July 9 2009.

Biographical sketch: The Kennedy family, which included John Kennedy, his wife Catherine Lambert, and their six children, lived in Peterborough in a small house at 65 McDonnel Street. John was a house painter, but also had an active career in the Peterborough Militia. He was the adjutant (later promoted to Lieutenant) of the Peterborough Rifle Company No. 1, and the Captain of the Peterborough Infantry Company No. 1, beginning in 1863.

Of John’s six children, William Nassau Kennedy was the second, and perhaps the most well-known. John’s other two sons, James and John Jr., were also active members of the Peterborough Rifle Company and the Peterborough Infantry Company, but it was William who would seek out a leadership role. Initially working as a law student in David Dumble’s law office, William would give it up for a life of military service. In 1865, William obtained a first class certificate from the Military School in Toronto.

William was involved in several military expeditions. In 1866, John Kennedy’s Peterborough Infantry Company was one of the three companies from Peterborough and Ashburnham sent to address the Fenian raids. In 1870, he was recruited, along with 11 other Peterborough men, to join the Red River Expedition in Manitoba as part of the 1st Ontario Rifles. The expedition would change his life, as he decided to settle in Winnipeg when it was over. The rest of the Kennedy family joined him in 1876. While in Winnipeg, he was very active in local organizations, commanding the Winnipeg Field Battery, serving as mayor of the city for two years, and joining the local Orange Order and freemasons.

Kennedy’s last expedition would occur in 1884, when he joined the expedition up the Nile to relieve Major General Charles G. Gordon in Khartoum, leading a team of Canadian voyageurs at the request of Major-General Garnet Joseph Wolsley. When nursing a soldier on the return from Khartoum, William caught smallpox and passed away at the age of 45. He was buried with full military honours in London’s Highgate Cemetery. He was survived by his wife Mary Chambers and his five children.

Related fonds at TVA: F351 Peterborough Military contains histories of the Peterborough Militia.

Access Points:
Thomas Chambers
Robert Sherlock Tate
John Kennedy
William Nassau Kennedy
Peterborough Militia
Orange Order

List of Documents:

  1. Appointment, 28 May 1857, Ensign John Kennedy to be Adjutant, 1st Volunteer Rifle Company of Peterborough; signed by Sir Edmund Walker Head
  2. Appointment, 15 July 1850, Thomas Chambers, Esquire, to be Captain, 1st Battalion of Peterboro Militia; By command, D. Macdonell, Lt Col; Lord Elgin
  3. Appointment, 16 January 1863, John Kennedy, Esq, Captain, One Volunteer Militia Company of Infantry at Peterborough; by command of Walker Powell, Lt Colonel, Adjt Genl Militia Canada; Charles Stanley Viscount Monck &c
  4. Appointment, 10 February 1868, Captain John Kennedy to be Major, fifty-seventh Peterborough Battalion of Infantry. By command of xxx MacDougall, Colonel, Adjt Genl Militia Canada; Monck
  5. Appointment, 19 June 1860, Ensign John Kennedy to be Lt, 1st Battalion of Peterboro Militia; D. Macdonell, Lt Col, Deputy Adjt Genl Militia; Sir Edmund Walker Head
  6. Orange Order; Grand Lodge of Ireland, certificate of initiation for Robert Sherlock Tate of Lodge 20, 29 November 1864; endorsed on back, 15 February 1867
  7. Masonic document, William Nassau Kennedy, 27 May 1870, Royal Arch Chapter No. 36 C. R. Meeting in Peterborough, called the Corinthian Chapter, Grand and Royal Conclave of Masonic Knights Templar; Signed by … Colquhoun Grand Chancellor and Joseph Lavender, Grand Registrar
  8. The Masonic Difficulty in Manitoba, broadsheet based on reports in the Daily Free Press, 2, 23, 24 January 1879