Born in Creemore, Ontario, Matilda Madill was the third of nine children born to Richard and Mary Ann Madill, both of Irish descent. She married a carpenter, James Langtry, Jr., in May 1861, and they produced four children. James died around age 40, in 1874, which left Matilda to raise the children herself. Soon thereafter she was running a boarding house in Barrie, Ontario. Her first two children, Mary and Jane (aka “Jennie”), joined the Salvation Army in Ontario and, after her son Richard moved out to Virden, Manitoba to take up farming, Matilda joined the Army, too. She was universally loved by the men and women of the Army for the tender loving care she lavished on convalescing officers while she was the Matron of the Army’s Home of Rest in Toronto, from 1886 to 1893. After a short stint assisting at the Army’s Rescue Home in Montreal, she was posted to Helena, Montana and then Spokane, Washington from 1896 to 1899, acting as superintendent of the Women’s Rescue Homes in those cities. The “wild west” was then in its last throes and she was part of it. In this capacity, she was particularly attentive to the plight of homeless women, deserted wives, neglected children, prostitutes, young unsupported mothers-to-be, battered women, and women addicted to alcohol and heroine. She led a hard, selfless life.
Langtry relatives have done well in Manitoba, with businesses including a hardware chain, real estate, fur farming, animal feed supply, and automobile dealerships, as well as politics.
Adjutant Matilda Langtry passed away—in Salvation Army parlance she “was promoted to glory”—at the age of 59 from the effects of extreme physical exhaustion complicated by pneumonia. Her funeral was a well-attended event, witnessed by many of the city’s well-to-do citizens.
After memorial services at the Rescue Home and at the Citadel on Rupert St., Mrs. Langtry’s flag-draped coffin was transported on a horse-drawn gun carriage, in slow procession down Main Street and across Portage Avenue, to St. James Cemetery where she was interred during a solemn ceremony.
Her headstone, which lies north of the geographic centre of the cemetery, belies nothing of her fifteen years in Salvation Army service. The SA was not an organization to call attention to itself, or to glory in its good works.
The attractive, east-facing grave marker depicts the road to glory, through a gate at the top of the world. The sculptor seems to have employed the natural
banding in the stone purposely, perhaps as sunbeams to represent the Heavenly Maker’s influence on Matilda Langtry’s life of devoted service, or, at the very least, to light her way.
“Her works do follow her”, notes the inscription on the headstone. Indeed, they have done so, and will continue to do so “until the day dawns . . . ” (a familiar Biblical benediction used by the Salvation Army).
James A. Burns
Great-great-grandson of Matilda Langtry
Winnipeg: 17 January 2012