Adventurous Spirit

Ottawa newlyweds arrive on the shore of Great Slave Lake before a summer in the Northwest Territories.

Submitted by Gillian O’Reilly

Posted September 15, 2020

In 1930, Ottawa newlyweds Do (Dorothy) and Evan Gill spent the summer at Pine Point on the south shore of Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories.

Evan, a mining engineer, went ahead and wrote to Do about her travel itinerary: train trip to Edmonton and then to Waterways (now a neighbourhood of Fort McMurray, Alberta), where she would catch a boat down the Athabasca and Slave rivers to Fitzgerald, then continue by car to Fort Smith, just on the N.W.T. side of the Alberta border.

“Ask for Mrs. McDougall at Fort Smith,” Evan wrote to Do. “She is the wife of the resident governor of the N.W.T. and will be informed of your approach by me. I may be able to meet you at Smith. If not proceed by another Hudson Bay boat to Resolution where I will meet you.”

He provided a suggested list of “Kamp Klothing” but added, in his usual deadpan way: “It is very hard for me to advise in this because I have never really taken a wife to the bush before.” Among the clothes she packed, the twenty-two-year-old Do sensibly brought overalls (which were not on Evan’s list).

Evan and Do are at the left of this photograph of a group of people standing beside an airplane at Pine Point. The couple left the North in the fall, Do already pregnant with her first child.

Evan left the mining business because of the Depression and, after a series of jobs and wartime service, ended up in the diplomatic corps. In coping with the challenges of multiple moves and overseas postings, Do brought the same intrepid spirit that took her to the North.

Gillian O’Reilly, of Toronto, Ontario, is the granddaughter of Do and Evan Gill.

This article originally appeared in the October-November 2020 issue of Canada’s History.

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