Sarah Mary Blake Lynch-Staunton 


Her Paintbrush Captured History 

By Tim Lasiuta

Sarah Mary Blakes’ contribution to Pincher Creek (Little Spitzee) from the 1890s was unmistakable. 

She married Alfred Hardwick Lynch- Staunton in 1890 and became an integral part of the history of the fledgling settlement with deep NWMP ties, in addition to being recognized as Alberta’s first female painter. 

She was born February 14, 1864, in Galway, Ireland and was an astute observer of her surroundings. While attending a convent school at St-Leonards-on-Sea in Sussex, England, Sarah took art classes and exhibited great promise along with her regular studies. She also lived in other homes in England and Nice, France, with her widowed mother and sisters while her brother Frank went to school. 

In 1887, Frank immigrated to Pincher Creek, settling in the North Fork District, where he acquired ranching property east of the North Fork of the Oldman River. 

Her future husband, Alfred, was a respected NWMP veteran who joined the Force in 1877 in Fort McLeod. A year later, he was reassigned to establish a remount station (horse breeding ranch) at Pincher Creek along with eight other officers. After his retirement in 1880, he started the first Pincher Creek Ranch (later the Baker Ranch) with James Bruneau and Isaac May. He also ranched with his brother Richard Lynch-Staunton at Kyleberg until his retirement in 1926. 

In Range Men, by L.V. Kelly, it is written that his holdings included more than 8,000 head of cattle in the late 1880s. After retirement, Alfred joined the Pincher Creek Home Guard #3 Troop in 1885 (Riel Rebellion). He was a founding member of the Masonic Lodge in Fort Macleod #3 (pre-1890) and was a long-time member of the Pincher Creek Polo Club. 

The original, Lundbreck Falls, hangs in the Glenbow Museum 

Sarah arrived in Pincher Creek in 1888 to keep house for her brother Frank. She married Hardwick on June 3, 1890, at the ranch. Father Lacombe had agreed to marry them, but a flood kept him from officiating, so a local priest performed the ceremony. 

Daughter Dolly wrote in an interview in 1967, “Despite a busy life, Sarah still managed to read, trail ride and paint the Pincher Creek area passionately.” 

The couple had nine children, three of whom died young. 

Farley Wruth, director of the Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village in Pincher Creek, noted that her art brought a little of the ‘Old World’ into pioneer Pincher Creek. 

“She has two paintings at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, Deer Horn Ranch and Lundbeck Falls”, said granddaughter Elizabeth McKenzie. “A relative, Blake Lynch-Staunton, made copies of the watercolours and gifted them to family members a few years ago. A granddaughter still has an original painted door from their first home in her basement.” 

“Dick Hardy, the widower of one of Sarah’s granddaughters, has an original sketch in his house of the cabin,” said Hugh Lynch-Staunton. 

Alfred was instrumental in building the first hospital in Pincher Creek in the early 1900s. 

During WWI, Sarah also served as the President of the Pincher Creek branch of the Canadian Red Cross, for which she won many accolades for her efforts. 

Post-retirement, Sarah and Alfred were active in Pincher Creek affairs. Alfred was on town council and kept up with ranching in the area and kept riding as long as he could. 

The print, Deer Horn Ranch, hangs in the homes of each relative. The original hangs in the Glenbow. 

The Blake legacy, tied to the Lynch- Staunton’s, extends to this day. The original ranch, the Deer Horn, is still in the family and operated by Jim Lynch-Staunton, great-great-nephew of Alfred and Sarah Lynch-Staunton. 

Alfred’s brother George was a senator in the Federal government in the early 1900s. Their nephew, Frank Lynch-Staunton, became Lieutenant Governor of Alberta in 1979. Their great-grandnephew Tom works with Nature Conservatory Alberta to help ranchers protect and preserve their ranch lands. 

Alfred passed away in 1932, and Sarah died in 1933 after a fall. She is buried in Pincher Creek. 

While Sarah did not pursue a professional career in art in the late 1800s, her talent with a brush captured pioneer Pincher Creek for future generations and has been included in Glenbow Museum Pioneer Women Art exhibits