BUTLER, William Francis (1838-1910)




Author Tags: 1850-1900, Early B.C., Local History

Originally published in 1872, William Francis Butler's The Great Lone Land is one of the global soldier-adventurer's best-known books. A distinguished member of the British Army who had fought in Africa, Butler served in Canada and was part of the Red River Expedition in 1870. Recommendations in his book for the establishment of a rule of law in the North West Territories and the prairies led to the foundation of the North West Mounted Police. Taking extended leave in 1872, he also trekked from Fort Garry, over the Rockies, to the coast. His adventure resulted in the book. It recounts his visit to the Peace River country and entrance into British Columbia in 1873, along the Peace and Omineca Rivers, until he reached the West Coast.

In 1898 Butler was appointed Commander-in-Chief of British forces in South Africa but he was forced to resign prior to the Boer War after he was accused of pro-Boer sympathies. He was later vindicated by an enquiry. "Intellectually," concluded Viscount Esher, "he stands (as he does physically) head and shoulders above the majority of his comrades." The novelist Edward McCourt described Butler as "an impulsive humanitarian, a passionate individualist." Butler died in Ireland in 1910. His remarkable travels across Canada and into British Columbia comprise only a tiny portion of his biography that recounts military service and travels throughout the world, extensively in Africa. Knighted, he also wrote military biographies of Sir Charles Napier (1890) and Sir George Colley (1899).

BOOKS:

The Great Lone Land: An Account of the Red River Expedition and other travels and adventures in Western Canada (1872)(Charles E. Tuttle, 1968, 1970)

The Wild North Land: Being the Story of a Winter Journey, with Dogsl, Across Northern North America (Montreal: Dawson, 1874).

William Butler, An Autobiography (London: Constable & Co., 1911, 1913)

[BCBW 2010]