Considering the heavy demands of Steele’s career, it is perhaps surprising that he found time for romance. Yet when Marie Elizabeth de Lotbinière Harwood (1859–1951) came to NWMP headquarters at Fort Macleod to visit her aunt, she captivated Steele and they fell deeply in love. Steele’s command at Fort Macleod afforded him little leisure, but, during a romantic courtship over the summer of 1889, they discovered many shared interests, including their affection for horses.
When he proposed to Marie, she readily accepted; to please her family they were wed in Quebec on 15 January 1890. Her francophone, Roman Catholic background was in stark contrast to Steele’s upbringing in an Anglican family on a rural Ontario homestead. Marie was the eldest daughter of Robert William Harwood (1826–1897), a seigneur of the county and Member of Parliament from Vaudreuil. Thus Steele gained both a wife and an influential political connection. After their wedding, the couple travelled to New York and toured the United States, where his celebrity elicited warm hospitality. In his autobiography Steele recalled that the New York Fire Department greeted them with a parade of 60 engines; numerous police departments also received them with enthusiasm.
Sam and Marie exchanged hundreds of affectionate letters throughout their 29-year marriage. A significant portion of the Steele archive, their correspondence touches on both personal affairs and historical events, and reveals a fascinating, if largely unexplored, area of Steele’s life.