James McMillan

I’m continuing the story of our McMillan ancestors. James McMillan, was born in Glen Pean, Loch Arkaig, Scotland around 1783. Having come to Canada with his family in 1802 (which I wrote about here), he quickly struck out on his own. In 1803 or 1804 he joined the North West Company, a rival fur trade company to HBC. He was employed at first as a clerk, and spent some time in the Fort des Prairies department (now Edmonton).

In many ways, James McMillan is one of our most interesting ancestors. Should you google his name with the words “fur trade” you will see that he is written about in many essays, books and websites. He had an eventful career in the fur trade.

In 1807 James  accompanied the famous explorer and map-maker David Thompson on Thompson’s first expedition across the Rocky Mountains to the upper Columbia River. He spent time at Kootenae House, near Invermere, in present day British Columbia.

At Saleesh House in present day Montana, James had a shooting accident. In the book Sources of the River: Tracking David Thompson Across Western North America by Jack Nisbet, the author quotes David Thompson’s journal and tell us that:

“By the accidental going off of his Gun Mr. McMillan had both the forefingers of his hands shot through by a Ball & much lacerated with the Powder, both of his Fingers are broke & seemingly will with difficulty be kept from falling off – I dressed them the best I could.

Several days later, another entry in Thompson’s journal tells us:
“Mr. McMillan’s forefinger of the left hand having a bad appearance & no hopes of its joining with the stump I separated it.”

In 1821, when HBC and NWC amalgamated, James rose to the position of Chief Trader in the Columbia district (as did our ancestor John Warren Dease). In Governor Simpson’s Character Book (HBC Archives A.34/2) he says of McMillan:

“A very steady plain blunt man, shrewd & Sensible of correct conduct and good character, but who has gone through a vast deal of severe duty and is fit for any Service requiring physical strength firmness of mind and good Management provided he has no occasion to meddle with Pen & Ink in the use of which he is deficient his Education having been neglected. An excellent Trader, speaks several Indian languages and is very regular and Economical in all his arrangements: a good practical Man, better adapted for the executive than the legislative departments of the business. His plain blunt manner however cannot conceal a vast deal of little highland pride, and his prejudices are exceedingly strong, but upon the whole he is among the most respectable of his class and a generally useful Man.”

In 1824 McMillan accompanied Governor Simpson on his journey from York Factory to Fort George (Columbia). Coincidentally, Amable Hogue was part of the crew. Amable would later marry Simpson’s former country wife Marguerite Taylor, and McMillan’s granddaughter Philomene would marry Amable’s son Thomas. Also on that trip was Tom Taylor who was Marguerite’s brother. On the trip, Simpson met up with John Warren Dease. McMillan’s son William would marry Dease’s daughter Margaret).
Confused yet?

In 1827 McMillan was promoted to Chief Factor and soon established Fort Langley at a site he had chosen on another trip in 1824. There is a statue of him and Chief Wattlekainen of the Kwantlen First Nation in the city of Langley at Inne’s Corner. The wooden statues were commissioned by HBC in 2002 to commemorate the 175th anniversary. You can view the statue here.

The Fort is now a National Historic Site. You can watch a video here. And of course, we have another plaque! See it here.

McMillan Island, opposite Fort Langley, is named after James. Interestingly, in his journal records for HBC, James sometimes spelled his name McMillan, and sometimes MacMillan!

As for his personal life, sometime before 1806 James married “according to the custom of the country” Josephte Belisle. They had 2 children, William (my great-great grandfather), another James, and Evan. Definitive information about James Jr. and Evan is lacking. McMillan would go on to have two more “country wives”, Marie Letendre and Kilakotah, and numerous children.

When Governor Simpson went to England to find a wife (abandoning our ancestor Marguerite Taylor), James accompanied him, and found himself a Scottish bride, Eleanor McKinley. Heather Devine in her essay “The Indian-Metis connection: James McMillan and his descendants”, which is in the book The Lochaber Emigrants to Glengarry notes:

“Today the values of a fur-trade society that promoted liaisons with native women, then encouraged and condoned the custom of abandoning country wives, seem alien. James McMillan, however, was responding to the rigorous demands of his profession. Furthermore, by marrying his country wives and daughters to responsible partners and by ensuring that his sons were offered opportunities in the fur trade, McMillan obeyed the customs of the country.”

In 1830 James was appointed to run an experimental farm at Red River. He was there until 1834, but it was not a successful endeavour. He then went to the Montreal district, and retired from the fur trade in June 1839. He returned to Scotland, and died there in 1858.

Here is a summary of James McMillan’s HBC career.

HBC Archives

HBC Archives

And what of McMillan’s country wife, Josephte Belisle? She was born in the North West Territories to Belisle, a French Canadian and Josephte, a native woman. Sometime around 1815, having been “turned off” by James, she became the country wife of Amable Fafard dit Delorme. Josephte and Amable had 5 children, who thus became half-siblings to my great great-grandfather William.

This Delorme family had several interesting connections. Pierre Delorme was an important political figure in Manitoba. He was part of the Provisional Government headed by Louis Riel during the Red River Resistance. He was also the first member to represent Provencher in the federal House of Commons, from 1870 to 1872. The original Delorme house, an example of Red River frame construction, is on display at St. Norbert Provincial Park. See it  here.

Genevieve Delorme (also William’s half sister) married Andre Beauchemin, who was also a member of the Provisional Government.

Amable Fafard dit Delorme must have died before 1835, when we find Josephte listed as the ‘Widow Delorme” in the Red River Census of 1835. In 1838 and 1840 her son William and his wife Marguerite Dease are living with her. In the 1870 census Josephte is living near William. She died after 1876. Despite being married to Delorme, she called herself McMillan when she applied for scrip.

Library and Archives Canada RG 15 v. 1322

Library and Archives Canada RG 15 v. 1322

You can read more about James McMillan in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography.

And here’s our descent to Pépère:

1-James MCMILLAN (1783-1858)
+Josephte BELISLE (1785-?)
2-William MCMILLAN (1806-1903)
+Margaret DEASE (1818-1905)
3-Philomene MCMILLAN (1848-1923)
+Thomas HOGUE (1840-1924)
4-Thomas Joseph HOGUE (1879-1955)

Our Scottish Roots

Our Scottish connection begins with Allan “Glenpean” McMillan (see a picture of him here) and his wife Margaret Cameron. Allan was born in the highlands of Lochaber in Scotland around 1752.

Earlier, many Scottish settlers had been brought over by Sir William Johnson (whom you may remember was the brother of our ancestor Ann Johnson) to settle in the Mohawk Valley. These settlers, being Loyalists, moved to Upper Canada in 1783 after the American Revolution. Allan’s brother, Alexander McMillan, had organized an emigration to the Glengarry area of Upper Canada (now Ontario) in 1792.

In 1802, Allan and his cousin Archibald McMillan organized a mass emigration known as the Lochaber Emigration to Glengarry . Kenneth J. McKenna, writing in the  The Lochaber Emigrants to Glengarry, edited by Rae Fleming says:

“Although economic considerations were the chief causes of emigration for the Lochaber people (rents were increasing two to fivefold), the erosion of their distinctive way of life, the reduction of their chief to a common and avaricious landlord, the arrival of great flocks of sheep and their Lowland shepherds and the devaluation of the clan, all tended to the destruction of their Highland pride. The ‘gentlemen of the clan,’ the tacksmen, foresaw what would eventually happen. They felt that they must leave before it was too late. Their foresight was uncannily correct. After the Napoleonic Wars when men were no longer needed to save Britain, the clearance of the Highland Scot began in earnest. But the Lochaber people were long gone.”

Over 400 people traveled on three ships, the Helen, the Jane, and the Friends. Allan and Margaret came with their 8 children, Ewan, John, Alex, James, Donald, Archibald, Helen, and Janet. (As an interesting aside…two of Allan’s brothers ended up in Trinidad, sigh).

Travel by ship at this time was not a luxurious affair, but these three ships were outfitted in such a way that fresh air was supplied to the hold. One assumes that was an appreciated luxury!

There is an historical plaque in Williamstown, Ontario that commemorates the emigration.

Photo by Alan L. Brown ontarioplaques.com

Photo by Alan L. Brown ontarioplaques.com

Allan McMillan obtained land in Finch township and settled there with some other families. 37 other settlers are named in his petition for land, each receiving 200 acres.


Finch settlers
Allan built the first mill in the township. Margaret did not get to live long in her new country, as she died in 1806. Allan died in 1823.

Here’s our descent from Allan McMillan to Pépère:

1-Allan “Glenpean” MCMILLAN (1752-1823)
+Margaret CAMERON (?-1806)
2-James MCMILLAN (1783-1858)
+Josephte BELISLE (1785-?)
3-William MCMILLAN (1806-1903)
+Margaret DEASE (1818-1905)
4-Philomene MCMILLAN (1848-1923)
+Thomas HOGUE (1840-1924)
5-Thomas Joseph HOGUE (1879-1955)

The Dease connection, part 3

As I mentioned previously, John Warren Dease, Sr. and Genevieve Beignoit had 5 children. These children were brought up in the Red River Settlement and, through marriage, had many interesting family ties.

Their second child was Mary Anne Dease (1820-1861) who married Thomas Logan, whose half-brother Alexander was mayor of Winnipeg.

Their third child was John Warren Dease, Jr. (1823-1885) who married Angelique McMillan (a half-sister of William McMillan).  John was involved in the buffalo robe trade between Red River and St. Paul.

Their fourth child was Nancy Dease (1825-1903) who married Pierre Gladu (Pierre was a partner with Louis Riel, Sr. in a mill). Nancy and Pierre’s son, William Gladu, married Eulalie Riel, sister of Louis Riel.

In 1857 when Henry Hind, the geologist, took part inan expedition which would assess the agricultural and mineral potential of the northwest” he wrote this about Pierre and Nancy:

“We arrived at Mr. Pierre Gladieux’s house an hour after sunset on the evening of September the 29th. We were soon provided with an excellent supper, and our horses, seven in number, well supplied with hay in the yard. Before starting next morning an almost sumptuous breakfast was given to us.”

In Hind’s report, published as Narrative of the Canadian Red River exploring expedition of 1857, and of the Assiniboine and Saskatchewan exploring expedition of 1858, there is a sketch done by John Arnot Fleming showing the view from their property.


The Red River at Pierre Gladieux’s

John and Genevieve’s youngest child was William Dease, Sr. (1827-1913), who married Marguerite Genthon. William was a well-known person in Red River. Gerhard J. Ens, in his essay “Prologue to the Red River Resistance: Preliminal Politics and the Triumph of Riel” published in the Journal of the Canadian Historical Association, Vol. 5, No. 1, 1994, notes:

“The couple and their large family lived and farmed in both St. Vital and St. Norbert. By 1869 Dease was a prominent French-Métis trader and farmer, and member of the Council of Assiniboia. An indication of Dease’s close connection to the various native communities around Red River was his fluency in French, English, Ojibwa, and Sioux.”

Ens argues in his essay that, in the weeks leading up to the Red River Resistance, Dease advocated an approach that focused on aboriginal/Metis rights, rather than Riel’s approach that, supported by Catholic clergy, was more about maintaining French and Catholic rights.

Riel ended up assuming leadership of the Resistance. It is interesting to note that William’s brothers-in-law, Thomas Logan and Pierre Gladu, also opposed Riel.

William eventually, moved to North Dakota, but on a visit back to Winnipeg an interview was published in The Manitoba Free Press on June 20, 1908. Here’s the headline:

Dease headline 1908

Despite some inaccuracies (his grandfather married Jane French, but she wasn’t from France!), it is an interesting read. Here’s an excerpt:

“It is difficult to get Mr. Dease to speak about himself and the part he took in the troublesome times of 1869 and 1870. The old native of Rupert’s Land is very unassuming and modest, and Mr. Dease is no exception. Without my own forty years experience in the country, it would have been impossible to extract from him what follows which I may preface by saying that like all the Anglo-French of his day and generation he is a man of physical perfection and great stature. The name of his uncle Chief Factor Peter Warren Dease is well-known as an Arctic explorer. His grandfather owned estates in Ireland and there married a French lady. On his way from what is now British Columbia and Oregon to take charge at Fort Garry his father, John Warren Dease died, leaving his wife, Jeanie Benoit, a young family of five who were brought up in the Red River settlement.”

Our direct ancestor is John and Genevieve’s first child, Margaret Dease, born 1820, or perhaps 1818.

Library and Archives Canada MIKAN no. 1502741

Library and Archives Canada MIKAN no. 1502741

Margaret married William McMillan, and it is the McMillan connection I’ll explore in my next post.

For the record, here is Pépère’s descent from Richard Dease:

1-Richard DEASE (?-?)
+Ann JOHNSON (?-?)
2-Dr. John DEASE (1745- 1801)
+Jane FRENCH (ca 1754- 1802)
3-John Warren DEASE Sr. (1783-1830)
+Genevieve BEIGNET/BEIGNOIT (1796-1860)
4-Margaret DEASE (1818-1905)
+William MCMILLAN (1806- 1903)
5-Philomene MCMILLAN (1848-1923)
+Thomas HOGUE (1840-1924)
6-Thomas Joseph HOGUE (1879-1955)

The Dease connection, part 2

I’m continuing the story of our Dease ancestors.

In Loyalists and the Fur Trade: the Impact of the American Revolution on Western Canadian History,  Michael Payne says:

“The Dease family probably represents the most distinguished group of Loyalist brothers who served in the fur trade. John Warren, Francis Michael, Peter Warren and Charles Johnson Watt Dease together amassed about 70 years of service with different fur trade companies. All were sons of Dr. John Dease, who in addition to being related to Sir William Johnson acted as his personal physician. Dease was a Loyalist of course, and like most other family retainers he resettled in Upper Canada (initially it seems near Niagara and later Fort Mackinac) after the American Revolution.”

Our direct ancestor is John Warren Dease, Sr., son of Dr. John Dease and Jane French, who was born 9 Jun 1783 in Niagara, New York. He joined the North West Company in 1801 and by 1816 he was in charge of the post at Rainy Lake (near Fort Frances). This was a crucial post that supplied the canoe brigades on their way to Fort William.

Here’s a picture of the plaque where the fort used to be.

Photo courtesy Sharlene Gilbert

Photo courtesy Sharlene Gilbert

When the NWC and Hudson’s Bay Company amalgamated in 1821, John became a Chief Trader at the same time as his brother Peter Warren Dease did. Peter Warren was also an Arctic explorer (see here ).

In 1822 John Warren Dease, Sr. was transferred to the Columbia district and put in charge of Fort Walla Walla in what is now Washington state. In 1825 he was transferred to Spokane House. In 1826 that post was abandoned and Dease was put in charge of the Fort Colvile district, which also included the Flathead and Kootenay posts. He spent most of his time at the Flathead post in Montana.

His second country wife was Genevieve “Jenny” Beignoit. She was born around 1796 in what is now Green Lake, Saskatchewan. John and Genevieve had 5 children, and John provided for Genevieve, their children, his children by another country wife, Mary Cadotte, and Genevieve’s son by a previous union in his will. There was a stipulation however:

“Let it be clearly understood that if the said Jenny Beignoit Mother of my adopted children…marry or cohabit with any man during my lifetime, she then forfeits the provision made for her in the foregoing will” (HBC Archives)

Tragically John became ill in 1829 and died January 11, 1830 at the Dalles, Columbia River. His death left Genevieve with 5 children ages three to 12, the oldest being our direct ancestor Margaret Dease. Genevieve did not marry again and relocated to the Red River Settlement with her children. Looking at the Red River Settlement Censuses for 1831 to 1843, I have a theory that her brother-in-law Francis Dease, who never married, helped her raise the children.

The Red River Settlement Censuses only identify the male head of household by name, and then list the other members by age bracket and marital status, i.e. sons over 16, sons under 16, etc. In the case of Genevieve, although she is the household head, BECAUSE SHE IS A WOMAN, she is only identified as the “widow Dease”. Grrrr!

Census returns for Red River Settlement and Grantown Digital Image Number: HB13-002681.JPG  Location Code: E.5/5

Census returns for Red River Settlement and Grantown
Digital Image Number: HB13-002681.JPG Location Code: E.5/5

However Francis M. Dease is in the household of the “widow Dease” in 1832.  Genevieve died at St. Boniface, Manitoba on 18 November 1860. Francis died in either 1864 or 1865.

Those of us who trace our ancestors back to the early days of the Red River Settlement (such an interesting time from a historical viewpoint) invariably find that our ancestors have very strong, and sometimes very confusing, interconnecting ties.

Genevieve had previously been the country wife of a Jacques Goulet, who was a voyageur for both NWC and HBC. They had one son, Alexis Goulet. That means Alexis was a half-brother to  Margaret Dease. Genevieve’s grandchildren from this line had many interesting connections.

Roger Goulet was  a member of the Council of Assiniboia. Lionel Dorge in his article The Métis and Canadien Councillors of Assiniboia (The Beaver, Winter 1974) says:

“He was the grandson of a Métisse and a Canadien (whose ancestors had come from Lorraine in 1645) and the son of a hunter and Josephte Severet (daughter of Chief Factor John Siveright of Edinburg). Bishop Provencher, as his godfather, had overseen his education at the Collège de St-Boniface – a training which stood warranty to Goulet’s word and honesty. Finally his service to the public as Surveyor since 1856 and as Collector of Customs since 1861 gave promise of someone in Council whose contacts with the people had been, and were likely to be, frequent and on a familiar basis.”

Elzear Goulet was a member of the court martial which condemned Thomas Scott during the Riel resistance in 1870. Soldiers from the Wolseley regiment, who had been sent to Red River by the Canadian government, recognized him on the street one day and pursued him, until he dove into the Red River to escape. The soldiers threw rocks at him. He was hit and drowned. Just recently the City of Winnipeg has designated a park in his honour.

Source: Heritage Resource Image from City of Winnipeg http://now.winnipeg.ca/images/images

Source: Heritage Resource Image from City of Winnipeg

Maxime Goulet was the St. Vital member of the Manitoba Legislature in 1878, and the provincial Minister of Agriculture in 1880. Goulet Street in St. Boniface is named after him. Maxime also took part in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show at the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris! He was one of a group of men who portrayed French Canadian settlers “saved” by Buffalo Bill. When he died in 1932, the front page of the Winnipeg Free Press had this headline:

Goulet Maxime obit1932
Guillemine Goulet married Miles McDermot, son of Andrew McDermot, an important name in Manitoba history.

Sara Goulet married Elzear Lagimodiere, a cousin of Louis Riel, and their son William Lagimodiere was a MLA.

Leonide Goulet was a member of the 49th Rangers, the Metis Scouts of the 1873-74 Boundary Commission who helped survey the Canada-U.S. border.

“One of the best known families” indeed!

Louis Riel Day

Louis Riel

Louis Riel Image courtesy Duffin and Co. / Library and Archives Canada / C-052177

In honour of Louis Riel Day (the 3rd Monday of February here in Manitoba), I thought I’d post a tribute to my Metis ancestors in the Hogue line. I know so little about the Metis women in my heritage. The first one, of course, is Marguerite Taylor, whom I’ve written about here. Country wife of Sir George Simpson of Hudson Bay Company, mother to two of his children, then married off to Amable Hogue.

Scrip application for Marguerite Hogue Library Archives Canada LAC RG 15 v. 1321

Scrip application for Marguerite Hogue
Library Archives Canada
LAC RG 15 v. 1321

Next is Genevieve or “Jenny” Beignet. Country wife of John Warren Dease, Sr. I haven’t written about them yet. Genevieve was born about 1796 in what is now Green Lake, Saskatchewan and died 10 Nov 1860 in St. Boniface. When John died in 1830 she was left with very young children which she raised in the Red River Settlement, possibly with the help of her brother-in-law Francis Dease.

Lastly, is Josephte Belisle, country wife of James McMillan. I’ll be getting to their story soon. Josephte was born around 1785. She was still alive in 1875, but I don’t know exactly when she died.

Scrip application for Josephte McMillan Library Archives Canada LAC RG 15 v. 1322

Scrip application for Josephte McMillan
Library Archives Canada
LAC RG 15 v. 1322

The only Metis artifact I have is the beautiful beadwork which I wrote about here.

My Dad used to make “jiggers”. Wish I had one of them now, but I have to be content with one I bought last year at Festival du Voyageur.

To this day I get tears in my eyes when I hear the “Red River Jig” being played on a fiddle. Reminds me of my Dad.

Happy Louis Riel Day!

The Dease connection, part 1

Back from vacation and ready to continue the story of Philomene McMillan’s ancestors. Philomene is Pépère’s mother. Previously, I wrote about Christopher Johnson and Ann Warren here. Their daughter, our direct ancestor Anne Johnson, was married to Richard Dease.

I haven’t discovered much about Richard Dease. One assumes that the Dease family was also landed gentry, since Richard married into the well-connected Johnson family. I do know that Richard had a brother who was a doctor, Dr. Francis Dease. According to The Report and Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin for the years 1880, 1881 and 1882:

“…Richard Dease’s brother, Francis Dease, an eminent physician, engaged in the employ of Catharine II, of Russia, and dying unmarried, about 1739, left his fortune to his brother Richard, whose match with Miss Johnson he had been instrumental in forming. But through the dishonesty of an agent in St. Petersburg, Richard Dease never received one penny of the large estate devised him by his brother.”

I’m not certain that the above information is completely accurate, since I’ve found other sources that say Dr. Francis Dease died in Russia in 1741. One source is a 1997 book called ‘By the Banks of the Neva': Chapters from the Lives and Careers of the British in Eighteenth-Century Russia by Anthony Glenn Cross found on Google Books:

“Of the two Irish doctors Francis Dease was with the army during the Russo-Turkish war from 1738 until his death in 1741.”

Another source is the book Ireland and Medicine in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, which has a chapter entitled Medicine, Religion and Social Mobility in Eighteenth-and Early Nineteenth-Century Ireland, by Laurence Brockliss , in which he notes:

“Francis Dease from county Westmeath, who graduated at Reims in 1735, joined the Russian military after studying philosophy at Leuven and medicine at Leiden, only to die six years later at the young age of 32.”

Anne and Richard had at least two sons, both of whom became doctors like their uncle. The youngest son was Dr. William Dease, a noted Irish physician who was one of the founders of the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin. The Dictionary of Ulster Biography notes that:

William Dease was one of the leading surgeons in Dublin (and therefore Ireland) in the last two decades of the eighteenth century, whose principal contribution to Irish medicine was probably the establishment of the profession of surgery as an independent entity, properly regulated by a professional body, and to reform and improve medical education in Ireland.”

William’s death by suicide, was the subject of controversy. He may have killed himself because he blamed himself for a patient’s death, or because he was warned that he was about to be arrested for being a member of The Society of United Irishmen. This was an organization working for Catholic emancipation and parliamentary reform. You can read about it here.

You can also see a statue of William here .

As interesting a person as William is, he is not our direct ancestor. That would be his brother, Dr. John Dease, born in County Cavan, Ireland around 1744. The Warren, Johnson, and Dease families appear to have had very strong family ties, evidenced by the fact that, just as Peter Warren had taken William Johnson “under his wing” and brought him to New York to manage his affairs, so Sir William Johnson brought Dr. John Dease to New York in 1771 to serve as his personal physician. Upon Sir William’s death in 1774, he received some money and land.

By 1775 Dr. John Dease became Deputy Agent of Indian Affairs for the Cataraqui District. In the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, it says:

“Late in the summer of 1783 Dease accompanied Joseph Brant [Thayendanegea] and other Six Nations deputies when they left for Detroit to talk about unity with the western Indians, Creeks, and Cherokees. In September Dease made his first trip to Michilimackinac, bearing the official word of the cessation of hostilities between the British and the Americans. Following his return to Niagara he was involved in sensitive conferences with the Six Nations, whose lands had in effect been turned over to the Americans by the British in the Treaty of Paris (1783). Meanwhile, beyond the upper Great Lakes, intertribal Indian wars were seriously disrupting the western fur trade.”

In 1786 Dr. John Dease was appointed the deputy agent at Michilimackinac to try and settle the troubles. Unfortunately, Dease encountered problems with the merchants and the commandant at the fort, and by October of 1789 found himself recalled back to Montreal.

On a vacation a few years ago I was able to visit the fort on Mackinac Island.

Fort Mackinac

Dr. Dease married Jane French, a Caughnawaga Mohawk and they had 8 children. Dr. Dease died in 1801 and Jane in 1802.
I’ll continue the story in my next post.

George Taylor

I am very pleased to present a guest post from a fellow Hogue researcher and distant cousin, Maurice Hogue.  I mentioned Maurice here.  He has extensive information about George Taylor, whom I wrote about here.

George Taylor’s roots

Tracking a Taylor in England or Scotland is no picnic. A genealogist dug up this information.

George was listed as age 28 on his fist contract with HBC, signed May 17, 1787, so that would put his birth date as either 1758 or 59. His residence was listed as Berwick (Berwick-Upon-Tweed) in Northumberland, England.

That led the genealogist to search the Berwick records, but nothing turned up so he move to nearby towns and villages. Records from Bamburgh (or Balmbrough probably), a half hour drive south of Berwick on the North Sea Coast showed a baptism of a George Taylor there on Aug. 19, 1759, with the father, George Taylor of “Balmbrough”.

Next step was to check marriage records and what turned up in Berwick was the marriage banns issued between George Taylor of Balmbrough and Margaret Grieve. The marriage took place on June, 21 1757. They were both shown as 30 years of age. The marriage license showed George Taylor’s residence of Fleetham, Bamburgh.

Then things get a bit hazy. The burial of George Taylor of Fleatham was recorded as Nov. 11, 1758. So it would lead one to conclude that if he was baptised in August 1759, and taking the usual nine-months pregnancy period, it seems unlikely he was baptised as a new born. The most likely scenario would be that he was born in 1758 before his father died. Perhaps that date of baptism marked his first birthday.

And an aside re Berwick-Upon-Tweed: it lies on the Tweed River, the boundary between England and Scotland. It was once neither part of England or Scotland. It often had to be mentioned specifically in various Acts of Parliament right until the 1740s. There’s also speculation that it was not specifically noted on the treaty document to end the Crimean War with Russia in 1854-56, so was technically still at war with Russia.

George Taylor would seem to be English, but a wee bit of brogue might have been understandable. Whatever, he definitely was not part of the Orkney Taylors who came here. The Taylor name seems well-entrenched in the area of Bamburgh, which by all accounts, is a beautiful seaside village.

A Sea-going man
An episode in George Taylor’s seagoing life was particularly interesting, noted in HBC records as the Brig Beaver, Voyage of Discovery 1791-92. George was the ship’s master and as such kept the Beaver’s log. The detail in this document is fascinating.

The captain was one Charles Duncan. The Beaver arrived late in the sailing “year”, encountering early ice in Hudson Strait, and as such were unable to proceed to Rankin Inlet until August, and not allowing any exploration. Why were they going to Rankin Inlet? The esteemed Captain Duncan believed that north of Rankin and westward from there, was the entrance to the fabled and long-sought northwest passage. He had read this in a journal kept by someone named William Norton and became convinced that was the route.

Because they were late, they only explored Marble Island, and because it was so late (ships normally sailed back to England in late June), they sailed back to Churchill and wintered there. In July of 1792 they headed back to the area.

They sailed into the Chesterfield River (Chesterfield Inlet) about ten miles, then Duncan decided to leave the brig there and he and George and four crew took the long boat up the river. Eight days later (August 12) they were in Baker Lake but could not find deep water that would accommodate a larger ship. Plus there was still ice. No passage there.

They rowed back to the Beaver and returned to Churchill on August 30th. A few days later, Captain Duncan returned to the ship, “a little indisposed” according to George. They set sail for England (really quite late in the season) accompanied by another brig, the Nimble.

Soon Duncan became somewhat delirious, then he gave command of the ship to George, and attempted suicide. Officers from the Nimble came on board. “The Capt. appears to be insane”, wrote George. Duncan wanted a razor. George refused to give him one and then put him under watch. Soon he had to resort to putting Duncan in irons, as he was now raving about the devil.

George was concerned about keeping his captain under restraints, the typical way of dealing with the insane back then. Another suicide attempt followed that. Remember too that George was also trying to keep the ship on course, and it appears, a crew that was disturbed by all of this.

George seemed to be a compassionate man; he did not like using restraints on Duncan and even writes that if it was against the law to keep a man from killing himself “I’d rather be an Indian or an Esquamault”.

On September 28, the Nimble left the Beaver behind, around Cape Resolution at the entrance to Hudson Straits. About a week later, the Sea Horse came into the picture, and Duncan was transferred to that ship, leaving George to sail the Beaver back to England, arriving in London October 22.

I was unable to find anything further regarding Captain Duncan. We are left to presume his frustration and disappointment at not finding the magic “passage” contributed to his condition. George Taylor was up to the task. Obviously a competent sailor – who knows how much sailing he had done before he joined HBC – and a man with a heart. And a love for the Beaver as well. It returned to Severn district and York Factory in 1793, reconverted to a single-masted sloop, and became George Taylor’s baby for several years.


Comings and Goings

Jane, the woman with whom George created nine children, was apparently the daughter of a chief. She was Cree, and most likely Swampy Cree, or Lowland or Homeguard Cree. George appears to have learned the way of the land, and I found a reference somewhere that he was considered a fine hunter. When at York Factory, it appears that he lived along Ten Shilling Creek which is south of the Hayes River and sort of parallels the Hayes, joining where all those islands are located at the mouth of the Hayes.

It should also be stated that George spent much of his time here in Fort Severn as well. It is now Severn, Ontario. It was an extremely destitute and hard-luck location for HBC and the residents there. In looking through those logs I found mention of the death of John Taylor, son of George Taylor, September 5, 1809. George was not there at the time as he was off on one of his trips with the Beaver. That was the first reference I had ever seen to a son named John, so though I was a little sad that someone had died, I was also pretty excited to find that information. Sometimes you do find nuggets if you look hard enough.

The reference to the Britannia is another of great George’s sailing adventures. I think he had at last decided to leave his family at York Factory when he sailed away in September of 1815 on the Prince of Wales. He was listed as a passenger, arriving in Yarmouth in November. I searched other journals and ships logs for the ensuing years but found no record of him returning until…

The Britannia episode

With great avariciousness, the HBC decided to commission a ship designed to carry only one commodity: furs. They dispatched the Britannia to York Factory in 1817. The ship’s pilot was none other than George Taylor, a man who knew much about the area and the movement of goods. At that point he was almost 60 years of age, pretty old by working standards then.
Unfortunately, George could not steer the Britannia clear of bad weather. The ship left York Factory for England on October 1, 1817 in the midst of an early storm. Gale winds and early ice prevented any headway, and on the 19th they changed course to Churchill, but without success. The ship was in trouble. Then they tried to head to the Charlton Islands (in James Bay, talk about optimism). But ice stopped their progress, and in danger of sinking or breaking up, turned to the west to make it to shore. This proved unsuccessful as well and the ship and its valuable cargo ran aground on ice on November 12, .75 of a mile off shore at a point somewhere between York and Fort Severn, likely close to the small East and West Pen Islands.

George Taylor would certainly have great knowledge of that area. How many times had he sailed the Beaver from Severn to York Factory? The crew left the ship and trudged inland to make a camp, a prospect that was not too promising, given the weather. Some men were sent to Severn for supplies and tents, others trekked to York Factory. Then ensued a few months of scurvy, ill health and near-starvation for Captain John Edman and his crew.

Edman was considered a hero by the HBC brass at York Factory. They continued to send him communications with survival tips and instructions by runners from York and on one of those communications one of the signees was George Taylor (and his signature is the same as on his contract or journals.) There was no mention of George Taylor being at that camp.

Unfortunately Edman turned from hero to near-criminal. At some point in April, he was advised to send his crews to remove the furs from the Britannia which was doomed to destruction when the ice began to break up. Two weeks after the first attempt at bringing out furs, the next crew found the ship (and mostly all of its valuable cargo) totally destroyed by fire, attributed to some fire lanterns that had been left on. You might wonder if someone not exactly keen on walking five or some miles on ice with a load of fur pelts, might have decided to tip one of those lanterns deliberately.

Thus it was that Captain Edman returned in September 18, 1818 on the Prince of Wales to England. George Taylor was also listed in the passenger list and when he reached London a month later, he must have said “enough”.


The mystery continues

So where did he go? When and where did he die? I had little luck in determining anything official. In one of the HBC documents I found a reference to the baptism of Anne Taylor Cox, in February 1838, daughter of Captain Taylor deceased. Aha. But then who was Anne? Was this perhaps Nancy, George’s daughter, who married John Cox, and had to get baptised for the marriage? That would make sense, more so than assuming this was a daughter of George Taylor Jr. who, at that time, was very much alive.

(Any such news of George’s passing would have been received at the earliest, on the yearly ship from England in 1837.)

Also, George Jr. requested that he be granted passage for Europe in a letter to the chief factor at York dated August 5, 1833. Why? Had he received word that his father was ill, deceased? I found no reply from the Chief Factor, nor could I find George Jr listed as a passenger on any ship leaving that year or the next.

Then in another reference to Fur Trade Servants (Discharged or Deceased) Ledger I found reference to a George Taylor “A”, Sept 3 1839 payment paid to him, but the note below was indecipherable. Then a payment to George Taylor “B”, for travel expenses, which I would think was a payment to George Jr. So perhaps that first payment was to George Sr’s estate?

The reference to Robert, the son in England, is the last mystery. All of George Sr.’s sons seem to have had some schooling in England or Scotland, except likely the deceased John. I saw some place a comment that Robert was working on a “coaler” out of Newcastle. That’s in Northumberland. So is Bamburgh. So is Berwick. It would seem logical that George would have returned to the area where he grew up. His son was there. Perhaps that genealogist in Berwick should have been checking deaths in the 1830’s for our George Taylor, but we didn’t have the little snippets of information that we do now.

What an adventurous life!  I have not read George Taylor’s logs at the Hudson Bay Archives, but must put that on my “to do” list.

Thanks to Maurice for this informative post.  For some interesting reading about Berwick-upon-Tweed, look here.