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Elsie Reford

Elsie Reford was a woman who left her mark on Montreal and Metis. Born in Perth, Ontario, in 1872, and baptised Mary Elsie Stephen Meighen, she grew up in Montreal where her father was a successful businessman.

Elsie Meighen was educated in Montreal and then attended finishing school in Paris and Dresden, Germany. With an ear for languages, she mastered both French and German and spoke both languages fluently.

Silver print showing Elsie Reford standing in a canoe at the river's edge. She is wearing a mid-length skirt, a white blouse, and a large elegant hat. She appears to be pulling on a large fishing pole. A man at the front of the canoe is lifting a large fish from the river with a long pole and hook.

Elsie Reford fishing on the Metis River

She was one of the many nieces of George Stephen. In Montreal and later in England, she saw her uncle often and shared his interest in politics, the British Empire and salmon fishing. Several years before his death, Stephen gifted Estevan Lodge and his fishing rights on the Metis River to her.

Extract of a letter from Elsie Reford to her husband Robert Wilson Reford about her success fishing on the Metis River.

Letter from Elsie Reford to her husband Robert Wilson Reford about her success fishing on the Metis River

In 1926, she began to improve the fishing camp. She built an addition to Estevan Lodge to accommodate her guests and staff. She also began the transformation of the fields and forest into a garden. Over the next three decades her property developed into one of the great ornamental gardens of Canada. Today the gardens are known as Les Jardins de Métis and the Reford Gardens, referencing both the river that gave birth to this National Historic Site and the woman who made them famous.

Elsie Reford's fishing book, open at a page showing handwritten salmon fishing records, black and white portraits of a man and woman, and a watercolour of the Métis at either sunset or dawn.

Elsie Reford’s fishing book