The Taylor Family

Now that I’ve introduced Margaret Taylor, I’ll talk about her parents. Her father, George Taylor, was born around 1759 in Berwick-on-Tweed, the most northerly town in England, just south of Scotland. He is one of our few European ancestors who is not from France! He joined the HBC in 1786 and spent his career as a sloopmate and sloopmaster of several of the Company’s vessels. A sloop was a wooden sailing vessel used during the fur trade. The HBC Archives have several of his journals which he kept of his voyages.

Here’s his HBC record.

Sloop Cove, near Churchill, Manitoba, is a National Historic Site. It was a sheltered, safe harbour for Hudson’s Bay Company sloops during the 18th century. Rocks at the cove bear the signatures of HBC men including Samuel Hearne. In 1787 George Taylor carved his name on the rocks.

Here’s a picture of another of George’s descendants at the rock.

Picture posted with the kind permission of Ellen Paul.

Picture posted with the kind permission of Ellen Paul.

At some point George married “in the custom of the country” a woman named Jane. Sadly, we know very little about her. She was probably Cree. In a letter from Chief Factor John Stuart to Governor George Simpson, February 1, 1830, Stuart praised Jane:

“Indeed I think great credit is due to Mrs. Taylor herself for the cleanly habits in which she has reared the whole of her children – it now comes naturally to them and her grandchildren feel the benefit of it…she is the quietest and ? natural creature I ever met”

Together George and Jane had nine children. George appears to have taken a fair degree of responsibility for them when he was here. One son, John, died as a youth. Another son, Robert, is recorded as having “been in England since childhood” and never returned. Presumably he would have been sent to family there, perhaps for an education. Another son George was apparently also sent to Scotland for schooling. All three sons who stayed in Canada joined HBC.

The children are:

1. George, Jr….who joined HBC in 1819. He married Jane Prince and died at Red River in 1844. From the book A Country So Interesting: The Hudson’s Bay Company and Two Centuries of Mapping, 1670-1870 by Richard I. Ruggles,
we learn:

“…he entered the marine service like his father and spent most of his early career as master of sloops or schooners at Severn Fort and between that post and York Factory. In addition to the training he had received in the use of navigational instruments and charts, he had been sent to Scotland by his father for several years of schooling. It would seem that he had received some education there in surveying and drafting.”

HBC Archives has his Plan of Red River Colony Surveyed in 1836, 37 & 38 . It was the basis for the HBC land grants and became the foundation for how the city of Winnipeg was laid out.  This picture of the map is from the website of the St. James Anglican Church

George Taylor's Plan of the Red River Colony

George Taylor’s Plan of the Red River Colony

2. John, who died in 1809

3. Thomas …who joined the HBC in 1815 and became a personal servant to Sir George Simpson from 1822 – 1830. Thomas later became a postmaster and then a “clerk in charge” at various posts. He married Mary Keith and died in 1879 in Pembroke, Ontario. George Simpson kept a “Character Book” in which he notes his assessments of many of the HBC employees. Of Thomas he says:

“Taylor, Thomas a half-breed about 35 years of Age. Was a Labouring apprentice for 7 years was my own body servant for 10 years, and has for the past 3 years been one of the most effective Postmasters in the County. Speaks several of the Native Languages, is a great favorite with Indians is a “Jack of all Trades” and altogether a very useful man in his line.”

4. Mary who was the “country wife” of Chief Factor John Stuart. At one point Stuart took Mary to England, but refused to marry her, and Mary refused to stay with him unless he did so. Stuart did provide for her in his will.

5. Peter …who worked for HBC and died during the Arctic Discovery Expedition of Peter Warren Dease and Thomas Simpson (cousin of the governor). You can read an account of his death in Peter Dease’s journal, From Barrow to Boothia, found on Google books here. (As a side note, Peter Dease is the brother of another director Hogue ancestor!)

6. Nancy who married William Harper, and later John Cox

7. Jane Taylor who married a McDougall

8. Robert Taylor who “has been in England since childhood”.

9. our Margaret who later married Amable Hogue

George Taylor made his last trip as pilot of the “Britannia” on a voyage to York Factory in 1817. According to researcher Maurice Hogue, who worked with Christine Welch on the documentary film Women in the Shadows, the ship never sailed back to England because it was frozen in Hudson Bay and then destroyed by fire. George went back to England in 1818, abandoning Jane and the children.

Jane  died 9 Oct 1844, as noted in Extracts from registers of baptisms, marriages and burials in Rupert’s Land E4/2 in the Manitoba Archives.

Here’s our descent from George and Jane to Pépère:
1-George TAYLOR (1759-?)
+Jane (?-1844)
2-Margaret TAYLOR (1805- 1885)
+Louis Amable HOGUE (1796-1858)
3-Thomas HOGUE (1840-1924)
+Philomene MCMILLAN (1848-1923)
4-Thomas Joseph HOGUE (1879-1955)

 

Margaret Taylor

So who was Margaret Taylor, and why is her name in so many history books? The answer is that she was the “country wife” of Sir George Simpson, governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company. This was the fact I discovered when I found her name in the book in the gift shop. It was common practice for men in the fur trade to take a native or Metis woman as a “country wife” or marry “à la facon du pays” (in the custom of the country). Sometimes these relationships were long-lasting, with provisions made for any children of the union. Sometimes, if a man was transferred to another post, he made provisions to “turn off” his partner, meaning he would arrange a marriage for her to someone else, and perhaps make some financial provisions.Although “love” may or may not have been a consideration, the relationship was often  beneficial to both parties.

As Sylvia Van Kirk says in her book Many Tender Ties:

“The Indian viewed marriage in an integrated social and economic context; a marital alliance created a reciprocal social bond which served to consolidate his economic relationship with a stranger. Thus, through marriage, the trader was drawn into the Indian’s kinship circle. And in return for giving the traders sexual and domestic rights to their women, the Indians expected reciprocal privileges such as free access to the posts and provisions.”

From the point of view of the fur trader, he gained not only companionship and important social ties to trading partners, but a wife who was skilled in the many practical skills necessary to his occupation, such as making snowshoes, moccasins and pemmican.

Margaret  Taylor was born around 1805 at the Polar Sea (York Factory) to George Taylor, an English sloopmaster and Jane, a native woman. Simpson apparently had many liaisons with Metis women, and around 1825 began a relationship with Margaret.   Simpson was known to have acknowledged Margaret’s brother Tom, who was his personal servant, as his “brother-in-law”. One of Margaret’s descendants, Christine Welsh, has a National Film Board movie called “Women in the Shadows” which explores her Metis roots.

Margaret bore Governor Simpson two sons. Their first son, George Stewart Simpson, was born February 11, 1827. (He would join HBC as a 13-year-old apprentice and eventually become a Chief Trader.) In July, 1828 Margaret accompanied Simpson on a canoe trip from York Factory to New Caledonia (what is now British Columbia).   Amable Hogue was part of the crew of this trip. During this voyage, Margaret became pregnant again with Simpson’s child.   James Raffan states in Emperor of the North:

“In fact, she had re-crossed through the April snows of the treacherous Athabasca Pass when well into her second trimester. Ninety miles on foot or on horseback slogging over her beloved governor’s muddy winter road between Fort Assiniboine and the North Saskatchewan likely did nothing to improve her feeling of well-being.”

Simpson left her at Fort Edmonton with instructions to Chief Factor John Rowand to arrange for her to go to Fort Alexander. This was done and Simpson’s second son, John Mckenzie Simpson, was born August 29, 1829. (John stayed in Manitoba.) Chief Factor John Stuart’s letter to Simpson, of February 1, 1830, praised Margaret :

“…it is but common justice to remark that in her comportment she is both decent and modest far beyond anything I could expect or ever witnessed in any of her country women. She appears to be as content as is possible for one of her sex to be in the absence of their lord and natural protector and as a mother she is most kind and attentive to her children whom she keeps very clean.”

There was a great deal of surprise then, when in May of 1830 Sir Simpson returned from a trip to England with a new wife in tow, his cousin Frances! Colleagues were shocked at Simpson’s cruel and dismissive treatment of Margaret. Simpson’s marriage to Frances is considered by historians to be a turning point in the social customs of the fur trade. Whereas native and Metis wives were at one time considered invaluable for their skills and connections, only European women were now  “civilized” enough for the expanding settlement. Years later, one of Margaret and Amable’s sons would refer to his mother as a “sturdy Scotswoman”. The denial of Metis roots had begun.

Governor Simpson belatedly arranged to have Margaret married off to Amable Hogue. They were married March 24, 1831 by Rev. David Jones at the Red River church, witnessed by Pierre Leblanc and William Bruce. Amable worked as a mason on the building of Lower Fort Garry, where Simpson and Frances were going to live…how ironic!