Uncovering Georgina McDougall Luxton’s Story through the Luxton Foundation Collection
By Kate Skelton, Processing Archivist
Since its creation in 1995, the Eleanor Luxton Historical Foundation, also referred to as the Luxton Foundation, has placed approximately 47 meters of archival materials under the care of the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies. Recently, I have been working closely with materials from the Luxton collection; specifically, I have been digitizing, preserving and recording information on the museum’s archival database to make these materials accessible to the public. Sifting through boxes of scrapbooks, postcards, photographs, letters and other items which once belonged to the Luxton family has encouraged me to look further into the fascinating lives of Norman and Georgina Luxton.
Norman Luxton posing by the Bow River in Banff, ca. 1910, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Eleanor Luxton Historical Foundation, Luxton family fonds (LUX/II/C/PD-3/6/2)
Norman Luxton’s legacy can be seen and felt throughout Banff. During his six decades here, Norman owned and managed the Crag and Canyon newspaper, the Sign of the Goat Curio Shop (later renamed the Indian Trading Post), the King Edward Hotel, the Lux Theatre, and the Luxton Museum (later renamed the Buffalo Nations Luxton Museum). Norman was also involved with many long-standing community events, including the Banff Winter Carnival and Banff Indian Days celebrations, and the Calgary Stampede.
[Luxton curio and taxidermy shop. Norman Luxton feeding a chained bear outside his shop], ca. 1905, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Eleanor Luxton Historical Foundation, Luxton family fonds (LUX/I/D3E/PA-11)
Georgina Elizabeth McDougall (1872-1965) was born in the Stoney Nakoda community of Morley, and was the child of settlers and traders David and Annie McDougall. Georgina attended school with the local children, and became fluent in the Stoney Nakoda and Cree languages. Georgina was known for her calm presence, and developed close bonds with many of the people living in Morley. She was adopted into the community and given the name Rainbow Woman, since “she always brought peace after the storm” (“Pioneer Woman,” The Albertan, March 29, 1965). Georgina continued her education at the Wesleyan Ladies’ College in Hamilton, Ontario before returning to Alberta around 1895.
Georgina’s collection presents some incredible snapshots of the past while also revealing her personal identity, one clue at a time. Georgina was a mother and wife, but she was also a musician, an academic, and a leader in her community.
Georgina Luxton and her daughter Eleanor, ca. 1910, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Eleanor Luxton Historical Foundation, Luxton family fonds (LUX/II/C/PD-3/23/3)
One item from the Luxton collection which I was drawn to, an 1886 edition of the King James Bible signed “G.E. [Georgina Elizabeth] McDougall W.L. [Wesleyan Ladies’] College”, was owned by Georgina during her time as a student in Ontario. While taking a closer look at the bible, I noticed a small slip of paper tucked between its pages – this turned out to be a handwritten poem, with no mention of its author or age. I began to carefully flip through the rest of the pages and discovered several items tucked away, including a small, frail business card for “Thwaites Sadler, Whip & Harness Maker” in London, England. After doing some digging, I was able to date the business card between 1840-1850. Near the back of the bible, I found a tiny newspaper article, only a few lines long, marking the beginning of a famous seafaring adventure made by Norman in 1901.
[King James Holy Bible], 1886, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Eleanor Luxton Historical Foundation, Luxton family fonds (LUX/III/B4/36)
Thwaites business card, ca. 1840-1850, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Eleanor Luxton Historical Foundation, Luxton family fonds (LUX/III/B4/36/51/insert)
[Canoeing Across the Ocean], May 21, 1901, Manchester Evening News, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Eleanor Luxton Historical Foundation, Luxton family fonds (LUX/II/B4/36/199/insert)
In 1901, Norman Luxton (1876-1962) set off on a trip across the world aboard a dugout canoe called “the Tilikum” with Captain John Voss. Norman sailed from Vancouver to Fiji before reportedly falling ill, after which he returned to Canada and settled in Banff. Here, he met Georgina McDougall. The couple married in 1904, and had their first and only child, Eleanor, in 1908.
Since Norman’s trip took place before he and Georgina met, I was surprised to find the small newspaper clipping where it was. Did Georgina go searching for the article months or years after it was published? If so, why did she keep it tucked between the pages of a bible?
Captain John Voss [left] and Norman Luxton standing beside the Tilikum, ca. 1901, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Eleanor Luxton Historical Foundation, Luxton family fonds (LUX/I/B1/12/B/1)
Following her education in Ontario, Georgina was an active member in the communities of Banff and Morley. Georgina was a talented musician, and she used her skills to perform as a church organist at the McDougall Memorial Church in Morley every Sunday for eighteen years. From 1905 onwards, Georgina carefully tended to what may have been Banff’s first flower garden located outside of the Luxton family home on Beaver Street. The garden is still maintained today and is open to the public. Georgina was also a loyal member of the Women’s Southern Alberta Pioneers and Old Timers’ Association following its inception in 1922, serving as President of the association in 1946.
In her spare time, Georgina compiled a large collection of scrapbooks and kept meticulous notes on the articles she encountered. Looking at her scrapbook collection, which mostly consists of newspaper articles and notes on global events, politics and Canadian industries, it seems that Georgina had a genuine passion for knowledge which began at a young age and spanned across her lifetime. In particular, Georgina was an ardent fan of England’s monarchs – out of 31 scrapbooks which I have digitized recently, 22 were compiled by Georgina and 6 of these are exclusively dedicated to the Royal Family.
Leading up to World War II, Georgina’s scrapbook collection began to focus more heavily on political events, and how Canada measured up to European nations in terms of its industrial and military power. A scrapbook detailing current events between September and December 1939 includes an interesting blend of articles about the German invasion of Poland, overseas battles, Canada’s global economy, and predicted outcomes of the war.
[Current Events September - December 1939], compiled by Georgina Luxton, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Eleanor Luxton Historical Foundation, Luxton family fonds (LUX/III/B4/24/44)
[Current Events September - December 1939], compiled by Georgina Luxton, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Eleanor Luxton Historical Foundation, Luxton family fonds (LUX/III/B4/24/48)
The sheer volume of articles, all methodically collected and organized by date, was not particularly surprising to me after seeing some of the other items in Georgina’s collection. The early wartime scrapbook accurately reflects how I believe Georgina interacted with the world – in a planned and deliberate way.
Items from the Luxton family fonds can be accessed in person during regular hours and by appointment at the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies Archives and Special Collections Library, or online through our website. Albums and scrapbooks from the collection are also available to view digitally through the online archival database.
I would like to extend my thanks to the Luxton Foundation for passing on the stories of the Luxton family through their incredible archival collection.