Fonds - John Macdonell Fonds

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John Macdonell Fonds

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1 cm of textual records

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Biographical history

John Macdonell (spelled McDonell prior to 1830s) was born on November 30, 1768, in Scotland, and died on April 17, 1850, in Pointe-Fortune, Upper Canada. He was the son of John McDonell of Scothouse. Macdonell, his family, and six-hundred members of the Macdonell clan of Glengarry immigrated to the Mohawk Valley of New York in 1773. In May of 1788 Macdonell entered the service of the North West Company as a clerk and was sent to Qu’Appelle valley (Saskatchewan) to work. Here, he earned the name Le Prêtre, for his piety and his insistence that his men observe the feasts of the Roman Catholic Church. Around 1797, Macdonell married a Metis woman named Magdeleine Poitras, “a la façon du pays,” and they had four sons and two daughters. Despite signing a marriage contract in 1813, they were never seen as legally married, and Magdeleine went through an act of posthumous marriage in 1853 to ensure that she and her children would be seen as Macdonell’s legal heirs. Later in 1788, Macdonell moved to Quebec and settled in present-day Cornwall, and was ensigned in the Cornwall and Osnabruck battalion of militia. In 1796, he became a wintering partner in the North West Company, and three years later, oversaw the Upper Red River department. Macdonell retired from the North West Company in 1812, and after hearing news of the war in the United States, he became commissioned captain in the Corps of Canadian Voyageurs where he was taken prisoner at the battle of Saint-Regis three weeks later. In 1813, Macdonell established himself in the lower Ottawa valley and purchased one-thousand acres of land in the Hawkesbury Township near Pointe-Fortune. Four years later, he was established in the Upper Canadian side of Pointe-Fortune where he became a businessman. Macdonell was appointed a judge of the Ottawa District Court in 1816 and held this post for nine years while serving as a district roads commissioner. From 1817 to 1820, Macdonell represented Prescott in the Upper Canadian House of Assembly and in 1822, was made a colonel in the Prescott Reserve Militia. Macdonell’s diary of his time as a fur trader can be found in the book titled Five Fur Traders of the Northwest: Being the Narrative of Peter Pond and the Diaries of John Macdonell, Archibald N. McLeod, Hugh Faries, and Thomas Connor.

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Macdonell's papers comprise a journal for 1793-1795, which L.R. Masson entitled "Assinoboines-Rivière Qu'appelle", and an account of the Red River, approximately 1797.

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CH179.S161, CH183.S164

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