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Archival description
North West Company Collection
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Earl of Selkirk Collection

  • CA RBD MSG 403
  • Collection
  • 1816-1818

The thirteen documents are depositions taken by Lord Selkirk concerning the conflict with the North West Company at the Red River Settlement in Manitoba and at Fort William. On 11 June 1815, representatives of the North West Company attacked and fired upon the colonists, and demanded the surrender of Governor MacDonell, who, to avoid the loss of blood, gave himself up voluntarily. He was taken to Montreal as a prisoner, and charges were laid against him by his enemies, but his case was not tried. These depositions concern this case.

Red River Settlement Collection

  • CA RBD MSG 808
  • Collection
  • 1816, 1818, [1819]

The Red River Settlement was a colonization project set up in 1811 by Thomas Douglas, 5th Earl of Selkirk (1771-1820) who was granted 300,000 square kilometres (120,000 sq mi) of land the Hudson's Bay Company. Upon inheriting his father's title in 1799, Selkirk focused the majority of his time and resources on establishing a Scottish colony in North America. Selkirk was influenced by humanitarian luminaries such as William Wilberforce and, following the forced displacement of Scottish farmers that took place during the Highland Clearances, decided that emigration was the only viable option to improve the livelihood of the Scottish people. In July 1811 Miles MacDonell sailed from Yarmouth, England to the Hudson's Bay post at York Factory with 36 primarily Irish and Scottish settlers. Due to persuasive efforts of the North West Company only 18 settlers actually arrived at Red River in August 1812. Dogged by poor harvests and a growing population, MacDonell, now governor of Red River, issued the Pemmican Proclamation in January 1814 to prevent the export of pemmican from the colony. In doing so, MacDonell undermined the security of Red River and plunged the colony into a conflict with the North West Company that would not end until 1821.

On 11 June 1815, representatives of the North West Company attacked and fired upon the colonists, and demanded the surrender of Governor MacDonell, who, to avoid the loss of blood, gave himself up voluntarily. He was taken to Montreal as a prisoner, and charges were laid against him by his enemies, but his case was not tried. These depositions concern this case.

Items include:
Deposition of John Pritchard before A.N. McLeod, 4 June 1816, concerning the attack by Alexander MacDonell of the Hudson’s Bay Company on the tool house of the North West Company at Pimbina River, and the theft of property. Copy dated 30 December 1819.

Letter from John Pritchard to A. Norman McLeod, 28 June 1816, from the “Entrance of the Red River”, describing events at the Red River including a raid by a group led by a Canadian named Bushé, and the capture of Pritchard and his men by them.

Letter from John Johnston at Fort William, 9 Sept 1816, to A. Norman McLeod, describing his duties as acting manager there for the North West Company and the terms of the negotiations between himself and Lord Selkirk. He states that he intends to travel to Montreal.

Affidavit by the Earl of Selkirk, Montreal, 18 March 1818, concerning the dispute between himself and the North West Company, and the inability to attend the upcoming Quarter Sessions at Sandwich.

Coppenrath Collection of Voyageur Contracts

  • CA RBD MSG 1108
  • Collection
  • approximately 1732-1821

The Coppenrath Collection of Voyageurs Contracts for the North West Company partners contains 52 contracts for the period from approximately 1800 to 1821. These document the terms of engagement for men going into the North West . Voyageur contracts are of particular interest for study of the fur trade, Canada's first major industry, because they document the conditions of employment for many of the journeymen ("engagés") involved in the trade, both those who worked on the Ottawa River and those who "wintered" in the North West. The contracts are dated from 1800 to 1821 with printed forms from before 1800 being used in some cases. A significant number of outfitters are included namely the firm of McTavish, McGillivrays & Co. with various partners including John Ogilvy and Thomas Thain, Pierre de Rocheblave and earlier partnership – McTavish, Frobisher & Co. As well, there are contracts with lesser known outfitters. These contracts provide not only the names of the "engagés" but usually their place of residence and the conditions and terms of their employment.

Joseph Frobisher Collection

  • CA RBD MSG 433
  • Collection
  • 1787-1834

Frobisher's papers comprise a letterbook of the North-West Co. containing copies of letters written by Frobisher from April 1787 to October 1788, two original letters to Simon McTavish, 1796, and one from him, 1787, business and legal documents, largely concerning the estate of James McGill, 1810-1834, and a diary, 1806-1810, mostly a record of where he dined.

Frobisher, Joseph, 1748-1810

Masson Collection

  • CA RBD MSG 472
  • Collection
  • 1757, 1778-1845

The collection consists of documents amassed by Roderick Mackenzie. Among the Masson manuscripts there are other series of letters; as well as journals kept by North-Westers and various business documents. Some of this material exists as originals; others are contemporary copies - the George Keith letters for example are contemporary copies on paper watermarked 1827. The collection also includes some duplicate texts - contemporary copies or later nineteenth-century copies that in some cases represent edited versions of the texts. Samuel Wilcocke's account of the death of Benjamin Frobisher exists in a draft original (or contemporary copy) and in a late nineteenth-century clean copy. Of course Benjamin Frobisher did not die in the dramatic circumstances as recorded by Wilcocke, but peacefully in Quebec City in 1821.

Mackenzie, Roderick, approximately 1761-1844

Simon McTavish Papers

  • CA RBD MSG 431
  • Collection
  • 1792-1880; 1804-1806

There is business correspondence, 1792-1800, with letters from among others Alexander Mackenzie, Joseph Frobisher, Alexander Henry, Simon Fraser and Roderick Mackenzie. There are also minutes and resolutions of the Executors of McTavish in a bound volume; and a contemporary copy of the minutes of the executors of his will, 1805.

McTavish, Simon, 1750-1804.

W. Raymond Wood Collection

  • CA RBD MSG 917
  • Collection
  • 1793-1805; July 1979

Contains copies of fur trade documents bearing on the Mandan-Hidatsa trade with North West Company posts in central Canada, 1793-1805. Includes the journals of John Macdonell (McGill), David Thompson (Archives of Ontario), François-Antoine Larocque (LAC & Université de Montréal, Baby Collection. Draft before publication of: Early fur trade on the Northern Plains: Canadian traders among the Mandan and Hidatsa Indians, 1738-1818 : the narratives of John Macdonell, David Thompson, Franc̦ois-Antoine Larocque, and Charles McKenzie / edited and with an introduction by W. Raymond Wood and Thomas D. Thiessen. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, c1985.

Wood, W. Raymond

Thomas D. Thiessen Collection

  • CA RBD MSG 319
  • Collection
  • 1980

Typed transcriptions of Charles McKenzie’s narratives of the “Missouri Indians”, draft and revised draft before publication; Alexander Henry’s “Account of a visit to the Mandan and Hidatsa Indians in 1806”; and John Macdonell’s “The Red River”. Drafts for: Early fur trade on the Northern Plains : Canadian traders among the Mandan and Hidatsa Indians, 1738-1818 : the narratives of John Macdonell, David Thompson, Franc̦ois-Antoine Larocque, and Charles McKenzie / edited and with an introduction by W. Raymond Wood and Thomas D. Thiessen. Norman : University of Oklahoma Press, c1985.

Thiessen, Thomas D. (Thomas David), 1947-