Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Hugh O'Lone & The Red Saloon

Hugh O'Lone, 1870
Kootenai Brown,1895

John George "Kootenai" Brown's reference to “Bob O'Lone” in his memoir, "I Remember" ... is interesting, for in the famous portrait of Louis Riel and his Council of 1869-70, early descriptions of the photo identified Bob O’Lone as the man seated in the front row to Riel’s right. This version of the photo was incorporated into the works of many of the early Red River historians such as R. G. MacBeth. This figure was later correctly identified by G. F. G. Stanley as Hugh Francis "Bob" O’Lone. He was in the whisky business; he was “the American who ran a saloon in Winnipeg.” This was apparently the Red Saloon, recalled by A. C. Garrioch: “Three years later when the writer moved to St. John’s he found the Red Saloon contributing very considerably to the business of the little village.” Bob O’Lone had continued in the liquor business and was the proprietor: “No spot in Winnipeg was so often the scene of a drunken row as that occupied by the Red Saloon.”




A common misconception about Hugh Francis O'Lone is that he was the brother of a saloon keeper named Robert O‘Lone. In fact Hugh WAS the saloon keeper - his nickname was "Bob", and he did not have a brother named Robert.

Early Winnipeg; O'Lone's saloon, aka the Red Saloon, in center...

During this time, Brown lived the kind of dangerous life that tended to be his trademark. He was captured by Sitting Bull and only his wits and luck removed him from this delicate situation. He finished his contract with the U.S. Army in the spring of 1869, and then moved to Fort Burfurd, further to the west, in response to the quickly consolidating American frontier. His task was to maintain communications between Fort Burford, Fort Stevenson, and Fort Totten near Devil’s Lake. It was during the course of a parallel scouting assignment for the U.S. Army, headed by Major General W. S. Hancock, that Brown found himself in Pembina on the Red River in the fall of 1869.

Customers in front of the Red Saloon owned by Bob O’Lone, Red River, 1869.
Source: Archives of Manitoba
O'Lone participated in the 16 November 1869 Convention of Twenty-four. He enlisted as a 2nd Lieut. in the Settlement guard under Ambroise-Dydime Lépine. He was an Honourable Member of the Legislative Assembly of Assiniobia in the same capacity. In February of 1871 a notice of Hugh‘s impending demise appeared in the Manitoba News-letter, owned by John C. Schultz, a declared enemy of everything to do with the Provisional Government:

Badly Hurt.Hugh O‘Lone (better known here as Bob), a General in the rebel force of last winter, got into an altercation with some American half-breeds at Pembina, about a fort-night ago, and got so severely hurt on the head that the U.S. Post-Surgeon at Pembina, declined to perform the Surgical operation necessary to ensure recovery without assistance. There being no medical man nearer than Fort Garry, assistance was sought here, and Dr. Turver went on Monday evening and gave the patient the benefit of his professional skill. 
On 7 March 1871 the Saint Paul Daily Pioneer reported that Hugh F.  "Bob" Olone had been killed by a blow to the head from a revolver in early January. In the opinion of historians such as A.H. de Trémaudan and Ruth Swan, O'Lone‘s death was one of several assassinations meted out not by Métis, but by Canadian troops after their arrival in August of 1870, as retribution for the execution of Thomas Scott.
Bibliography:

 - “Kootenai” Brown in the Red River Valley" by Graham A. MacDonald, Manitoba History, Number 30, Autumn 1995) 
 - Hon. Hugh Francis Olone, Town of Winnipeg; Do Canadian History blog, 7 March 2011.