Site 19: Rowley House

Though trained to be a lawyer in London, A. B. Rowley spent his life as a pillar of the community just east of Selkirk in St. Clements.


Alexander Butler Rowley was born in Penryth, Cumberland in 1855. The family farm was in the lake district, an area that inspired the lake poets William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Robert Southey. The author Beatrix Potter and the painter John Ruskin were also associated with the area.


Rowley’s father was killed in a train accident when he was only 16. As the oldest son, he took charge of the family’s livelihood.


He had a sharp memory and inquisitive mind, and went on to become a lawyer in London. This life, however, was not to be.


His talents would be put to use in a far, distant corner of the empire. In 1885, Rowley went to Canada. As a volunteer, he led a party of men from Montreal to Red River, over Lake Winnipeg, and up the Saskatchewan River in York boats to Batoche, to help put down the North-West Rebellion.


Two years later, he followed his brothers and left England for good. In East Selkirk, he met and married Mary McIvor and started a family with 13 children.


Though they lost three houses to fire, they prospered nonetheless. Rowley became a respected figure in the area on many accounts. He was an active, capable man with varied pursuits.


His daughter Haley wrote that he had a long list of achievements including a law degree, service as municipal auditor, certificates to practice veterinary medicine, training in the expert art of boxing, practice as a cartoonist, time spent as an accountant, work as a legal advisor, and as having assisted in incorporating schools and local government.


Rowley died in May of 1943 at the age of 87, his life a commendable story of Canadian success.