Fonds MSG 406 - John McDonald of Garth

Correspondence and papers, 1791-1818 Correspondence and papers, 1825-1839 Correspondence, 1840-1848 Correspondence and paper, 1850-1859 Correspondence and papers, 1860-1866 Duncan McDonald, correspondence and papers Correspondence and typed transcritps Autobiographical notes, volume I Autobiographical notes, volume II Autobiographical notes and typed extracts

Title and statement of responsibility area

Title proper

John McDonald of Garth

General material designation

Parallel title

Other title information

Title statements of responsibility

Title notes

  • Source of title proper: Title based on creator of the collection.

Level of description


Reference code


Edition area

Edition statement

Edition statement of responsibility

Class of material specific details area

Statement of scale (cartographic)

Statement of projection (cartographic)

Statement of coordinates (cartographic)

Statement of scale (architectural)

Issuing jurisdiction and denomination (philatelic)

Dates of creation area


Physical description area

Physical description

11 cm including three albums.

Publisher's series area

Title proper of publisher's series

Parallel titles of publisher's series

Other title information of publisher's series

Statement of responsibility relating to publisher's series

Numbering within publisher's series

Note on publisher's series

Archival description area

Name of creator

(1771 or 1772-1866)

Biographical history

John McDonald, known as John McDonald of Garth, was born around 1771 in Perthshire, Scotland, and died in 1866 in Gray’s Creek near Cornwall (Ontario). He was the son of John McDonald, an army captain of the 8th King’s Regiment, and Magdalen Small. In 1799, McDonald married his cousin Nancy Small, who was a mixed Indigenous woman, and they had five children. In 1823, McDonald deserted Nancy and their home together to marry Amelia McGillis, the daughter of Duncan McGillis and heiress of Hugh McGillis, a partner in the North West Company. They had six children. McDonald worked for the North West Company as a clerk after he moved to Canada in 1791. He served as a clerk in Moose Lake (Manitoba), Fort George (Alberta), and Fort des Prairies. McDonald oversaw the building of Fort Augustus (later called Fort Edmonton) in 1795 and the Rocky Mountain House (Alberta) in 1799. After completing a furlough in 1804, McDonald wintered at Île-à-la-Crosse (Saskatchewan), but returned to the Fort des Prairies Department, where he established New Chesterfield House. In 1805, McDonald returned inland to share the charge of the Red River Department with John Wills and likely helped establish Fort Gibraltar (Winnipeg). He then went to England to participate in his company’s assault by the sea on Fort Astoria (Astoria, Oregon) and in February 1813, he sailed from London on the Isaac Todd. In Portsmouth (New Hampshire), he signed a contract with Jane Barnes, to pay her to sail with him to the Columbia River. She was the first white woman brought to the North Pacific Coast. McDonald took charge of Fort Astoria in November 1813.

Custodial history

This material was acquired from Archibald Chaussegros de Léry Macdonald in 1922 at the cost of $150.00 (Order 5888). See: De Léry Macdonald Papers / MSG 439 for the letter to Dr. Lomer describing his collecting of historical documents.

The third volume of autobiographical notes (file MSG 406-11) was purchased March 2014 from Greenfield Booksellers 217 Academy Road, Winnipeg, Manitoba R3M 0E3.

Scope and content

McDonald's correspondence, 1791-1860, mostly concerns business and property matters, but also includes personal correspondence. There are statements of account with McTavish, Frobisher & Co., 1799; with McTavish, Fraser & Co., 1803-1804; with McTavish, McGillivray & Co., 1808-1809. There are two volumes of autobiographical notes assembled in 1859 and covering the period 1791-1816.

There is a second copy of the autobiography, probably transcribed in the late 19th century. Written on the front fly leaf is the name: A.E. MacDonald. It has 63 leaves, and there are minor textual variants.

Notes area

Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition


Language of material

Script of material

Language and script note


Location of originals

Availability of other formats

Restrictions on access

Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

Finding aids


Associated materials


Alternative identifier(s)

Wikidata Q identifier

Standard number area

Standard number

Access points

Subject access points

Place access points

Name access points

Control area

Description record identifier

Institution identifier

Rules or conventions


Level of detail

Dates of creation, revision and deletion

Language of description

Script of description


Accession area

Related subjects

Related people and organizations

Related places