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 health was failing by late 1899, whereupon she was posted to Winnipeg, to be near her daughter Jennie and her husband, Major (later Lieut.-Colonel) John F. Southall. Stationed in Winnipeg from 1899 to 1902, John and Jennie were the commanding officers of the Salvation Army’s vast province of western Canada, from Fort William/Port Arthur, Ontario, west to the Rocky Mountains, and north to Yukon and Alaska. Having recovered somewhat from her physical exhaustion under the care of the Southalls, Matilda assumed the matronship of the Salvation Army’s Winnipeg Rescue Home later in 1900, and was also an early member of the Army’s League of Mercy that ministered to hospital patients and shut-ins. She and the Southalls became well known in the city for their unstinting work for the poor and sick. They provided the first free Christmas dinners for nearly 1200 of the city’s poor in 1899. The Southalls were in command of the SA’s “North West Province” when the Army’s Citadel was built, on Rupert St. just west of Main St., in 1900. Jennie was a founding member of the first Board of Management of the original Grace Hospital, on Arlington St. at Preston, which opened on 15 May 1906.
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