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Encyclopedia > North West Company

For the grocery chain, see The North West Company For the fur trading company, see North West Company. ...

The North West Company a fur trading business headquartered in the city of Montreal in British North America from 1779 to 1821. The "Nor'Westers" competed, with increasing success, with the Hudson's Bay Company in what was to become the Canadian West. Tensions between the companies increased to the point where several minor skirmishes broke out and threatened to grow worse. The solution was a forced merger of the two companies. This article needs cleanup. ... British North America was an informal term first used in 1783, but uncommon before the Report on the Affairs of British North America (1839), called the Durham Report. ... Hudsons Bay Company (HBC; Compagnie de la Baie dHudson in French) is the oldest commercial corporation in North America and is one of the oldest in the world. ...



Although there are historical references to a North West Company as early as 1770, the first recorded involvement was a 16-share organization formed in 1779 that, for the next four years, was little more than a loose association of a few Montreal merchants who discussed how they might break the stranglehold the Hudson's Bay Company held on the North American fur trade. In 1783, the North West Company was officially created, with its corporate offices on Vaudreuil Street in Montreal and led by businessmen Benjamin Frobisher, his brother Joseph, and Simon McTavish, along with investor-partners who included Robert Grant, Nicholas Montour, Patrick Small, William Holmes and George McBeath. Hudsons Bay Company (HBC; Compagnie de la Baie dHudson in French) is the oldest commercial corporation in North America and is one of the oldest in the world. ... North America North America is a continent[1] in the Earths northern hemisphere and (chiefly) western hemisphere. ... Benjamin Frobisher, (b 1742, – d April 14, 1787) was born in England, the son of Joseph Frobisher and Rachel Hargrave and immigrated to Canada about 1763. ... Joseph Frobisher (April 15, 1740 – September 12, 1810) was a fur trader and political figure in Lower Canada. ... Simon McTavish (born c. ... Nicholas Montour (1756 – August 6, 1808) was a fur trader, seigneur and political figure in Lower Canada. ... George McBeath (ca 1740 – December 3, 1812) was a fur trader, businessman and political figure in Lower Canada. ...

Simon McTavish
Simon McTavish

In 1787 the North West Company merged with Gregory, McLeod and Co. following which Roderick Mackenzie joined the expanded organization, as did his cousin Alexander Mackenzie who would oversee the exploration of the western territories by the part of the group dubbed the "wintering partners" who did the actual trading for fur with the native trappers. Grand Portage, Minnesota, on Lake Superior, became the key exchange point for the North West Company where its western members met the supply canoes that came out from Montreal. This exchange point was relocated in 1803 to Fort William, also on the shore of Lake Superior, north of the American border. The business expanded to the country around Lake Athabasca that saw major explorations westward led by Simon Fraser, as well as Alexander Mackenzie and David Thompson. These men pushed into the wilderness territories of the Rocky Mountains and all the way to the Gulf of Georgia on the Pacific Coast. Image File history File links SimonMctavish. ... Image File history File links SimonMctavish. ... Alexander MacKenzie painted by Thomas Lawrence (c. ... Aboriginal people in Canada are Indigenous Peoples recognized in the Canadian Constitution Act, 1982, sections 25 and 35, respectively, as Indians (First Nations), Métis, and Inuit. ... Grand Portage is an unorganized territory located in Cook County, Minnesota, on Lake Superior, at the northeast corner of the state near the Ontario border. ... For the the Quebec municipality, see Lac-Supérieur. ... Fort William was a city in Northern Ontario, located on the Kaministiquia River, at its entrance to Lake Superior. ... For the the Quebec municipality, see Lac-Supérieur. ... Lake Athabasca, Canada Lake Athabasca is located in the Northwest corner of Saskatchewan and the Northeast corner of Alberta between the 58° and 60° latitudes. ... An undated drawing of Simon Fraser Simon Fraser (1776–18 August 1862) was a fur trader and an explorer who charted much of what is now the Canadian province of British Columbia. ... For other people with this name see David Thompson David Thompson (April 30, 1770 – February 10, 1857), was an English-Canadian fur trader, surveyor, and map-maker, known to some native peoples as the Stargazer. Over his career he mapped over 3. ... For individual mountains named Rocky Mountain, see Rocky Mountain (disambiguation). ... area between vancouver island and british columbia ... The Pacific Coast is any coast fronting the Pacific Ocean. ...

Frobisher-MacTavish deal

The death of Benjamin Frobisher opened the door to a takeover of the North West Company by Simon McTavish, who made a deal with Frobisher's surviving brother Joseph. The firm of McTavish, Frobisher and Company, founded in November 1787, effectively controlled eleven of the company‚Äôs twenty outstanding shares. In addition to Alexander Mackenzie, this group included Americans, Peter Pond and Alexander Henry. Further reorganizations of the partnership occurred in 1795 and 1802, the shares being subdivided each time to provide for more and more wintering partners. Vertical integration of the business was completed in 1792, when Simon McTavish and John Fraser formed a London house to supply trade goods and market the furs, McTavish, Fraser and Company. While the organization and capitalization of the North West Company came from Anglo-Quebecers, both Simon McTavish and Joseph Frobisher married French-Canadians, and a great many French-Canadians played key roles in the operations both in the building, management, and shareholding of the various trading posts scattered throughout the country, as well numbering among the voyageurs involved in the actual trading with natives. Copy of a Map Presented to Congress of the United States and to the Lt. ... Alexander Henry (born August 1739 - died April 4, 1824) was a fur trader and entrepreneur. ... Anglo-Quebecers (also Anglo-Quebeckers) are English-speaking (anglophone) residents of the primarily French-speaking Canadian province of Quebec. ... This is a disambiguation page — a navigational aid which lists other pages that might otherwise share the same title. ...

In the Northwest, the Company expanded its operations as far north as Great Bear Lake, and westwards beyond the Rocky Mountains. Efforts were made for several years to sell furs directly to China, using American ships to avoid the British East India Company's monopoly, but little profit was made there. The company also expanded into the American Northwest Territory, where in 1795 Jacques Vieau established a trading post in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with outposts at Kewaunee, Manitowoc and Sheboygan. In 1796, in order to better position themselves in the increasingly global market, where politics played a major role, the North West Company briefly established an agency in New York City. However, the North West Company was at a distinct disadvantage in trying to compete for furs with the Hudson's Bay Company, whose charter gave it a virtual monopoly in the northwest of Canada, where the best furs came from. Attempts were made to have the British Parliament change things, in particular to at least obtain transit rights for the company to ship the goods needed for trading for furs to the West. These efforts included a personal petition by Simon McTavish to Prime Minister William Pitt but all requests were refused. The Northwest Territory, also known as the Old Northwest and the Territory North West of the Ohio, was a governmental region within the early United States. ... Monument in Mitchell Park Jacques Vieau (May 5, 1757 – July 1, 1852) was a French-Canadian fur trader and first permanent white settler in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. ... For other places with the same name, see Milwaukee (disambiguation). ... Kewaunee is a city located in Kewaunee County, Wisconsin. ... Nickname: Location of Manitowoc in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin County Government  - Mayor Kevin M. Crawford(D) Area  - City 44. ... There are several places with the name Sheboygan in the U.S. state of Wisconsin: Sheboygan, Wisconsin, city Sheboygan (town), Wisconsin, town Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, county Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin, city Sheboygan Falls (town), Wisconsin, town There is also Sheboygan Lake in northeast Sheboygan County Sheboygan Bay on Elkhart Lake in... New York, New York and NYC redirect here. ... The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the supreme legislative institution in the United Kingdom and British overseas territories (it alone has parliamentary sovereignty). ... William Pitt the Younger (28 May 1759 – 23 January 1806) was a British politician of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. ...

A few years later, with still no resolution to the Hudson's Bay Company's stranglehold, McTavish and his group decided to gamble. They organized an overland expedition from Montreal to James Bay and a second expedition by sea. In September of 1803, the overland party met the company's ship at Charlton Island in what is now Nunavut. There, they lay claim to the territory in the name of the North West Company. This bold move caught the Hudson's Bay Company off guard, and retaliation came in the ensuing years rather than the reasonable compromise McTavish had hoped might be negotiated. James Bay in summer 2000 James Bay (French, Baie James) is a large body of water on the southern end of Hudson Bay in Canada. ... Charlton Island, Nunavut. ... Motto: Nunavut Sannginivut (Inuktitut: Nunavut our strength or Our land our strength) Capital Iqaluit Largest city Iqaluit Official languages Inuktitut, Inuinnaqtun, English, French Government - Commissioner Ann Meekitjuk Hanson - Premier Paul Okalik (Consensus government) Federal representation in Canadian Parliament - House seats 1 (Nancy Karetak-Lindell) - Senate seats 1 (Willie Adams) Confederation...

Late 18th/early 19th century

Simon McTavish brought several members of his family into the company, but for McTavish, nepotism took a back seat to ability. His brother-in-law, Charles Chaboillez, oversaw the Lower Red River trading post. McTavish also hired several cousins, and his nephews William McGillivray and Duncan McGillivray to learn the business. Over several years, William McGillivray demonstrated considerable business acumen, and in 1788 he acquired the share owned by Peter Pond when Pond chose to retire. Soon after, he replaced his uncle as the Montreal agents' representative at the annual meetings at Grand Portage. Simon McTavish was an aggressive businessman who understood that powerful forces in the business world were always ready to pounce on any weakness. As such, his ambition and forceful positions caused disagreements between him and some of the shareholders, several of whom eventually left the North West Company during the 1790s. Some of these dissidents formed their own company, known unofficially as the "XY Company" because of the mark they used on their bales of furs. In 1799 this rival group started to trade in some of the same areas as the North West Company. The XY Company was greatly strengthened when Alexander Mackenzie joined it in 1801. William McGillivray (1764 – October 16, 1825) was a Scotland-born fur trader and political figure in Lower Canada. ... Duncan McGillivray (1770-April 9, 1808), born in Inverness-shire, Scotland[1], was an explorer and fur trader who accompanied David Thompson on explorations of the North-West Territory and the Canadian Rockies. ... Copy of a Map Presented to Congress of the United States and to the Lt. ...

There was intense competition between the rivals, and when Simon McTavish died on July 6, 1804, the new head of the company, William McGillivray, immediately set out to put an end to the five years of rivalry, which had escalated to a point where the master of the North West Company post at Great Bear Lake had been shot by an XY Company employee during a quarrel. McGillivray was successful in putting together an agreement with the XY Company in November of that year, wherein the old North West Company partners held 75 per cent of the shares, and the former Xy Company partners the remaining 25 per cent. Alexander Mackenzie was excluded from the new joint partnership. Great Bear Lake, NWT, Canada Mackenzie River drainage basin showing Great Bear Lakes position in the Western Canadian Arctic Great Bear Lake (Slavey: Sahtu, French: Grand lac de lOurs) is the largest lake in the Northwest Territories of Canada, the fourth largest in North America, and the eight...

Under William McGillivray, more success came during the first decade of the 19th century as the North West Company expanded its operating territory. Competition with the Hudson's Bay Company was intense, however, and profit margins were squeezed. The North West Company branch in New York City had allowed the Canadians to get around the British East India Company's monopoly and ship furs to the Chinese market. Cargo ships owned by the North West Company conveniently sailed under the American flag, and doing so meant continued collaboration with John Jacob Astor. However, Astor was as aggressive as Simon McTavish had been, and an intense rivalry soon developed between him and William McGillivray over the Oriental market and westerly expansion to unclaimed territory in what is now the Columbia River area in Oregon. The British East India Company, sometimes referred to as John Company, was the first joint-stock company (the Dutch East India Company was the first to issue public stock). ... John Jacob Astor, detail of an oil painting by Gilbert Stuart, 1794 John Jacob (originally either Johann Jakob or Johann Jacob) Astor (July 17, 1763 - March 29, 1848) was the first of the Astor family dynasty and the first millionaire in the United States, the creator of the first Trust... The Columbia River (French: fleuve Columbia) is a river in the Pacific Northwest region of North America. ... Official language(s) (none)[1] Capital Salem Largest city Portland Area  Ranked 9th  - Total 98,466 sq mi (255,026 km²)  - Width 260 miles (420 km)  - Length 360 miles (580 km)  - % water 2. ...

The Canadian fur trade began to change in 1806, after Napoleon Bonaparte ordered the blockade of the Baltic Sea as part of the ongoing struggle between France and Britain for world dominance. Britain was dependent for almost all of its timber on the Baltic countries and on New Hampshire and Massachusetts. By then, however, tensions had also begun to escalate again between Britain and America, and in 1809 the American Government passed the Non-Intercourse Act, which effectively brought about an almost complete cessation of trade between the two countries. Britain then found itself totally dependent on her Canadian colony for its timber needs, especially the great white pine used for ships' masts. Almost overnight, timber and wood products replaced fur as Canada's number one export. Fur remained profitable, however, as it had a high value-to-bulk ratio, and in an economy short of ready money was routinely used by Canadian merchants to remit value to their London creditors. Bonaparte as general Napoleon Bonaparte ( 15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821) was a general of the French Revolution and was the ruler of France as First Consul (Premier Consul) of the French Republic from November 11, 1799 to May 18, 1804, then as Emperor of the French (Empereur des... The Baltic Sea is located in Northern Europe, from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from 20°E to 26°E longitude. ...

Forced merger

By 1810 another crisis hit the fur industry, brought on by the over-harvesting of animals, the beaver in particular. The destruction of the North West Company post at Sault Sainte Marie by the Americans during the War of 1812 was a serious blow during an already difficult time. All these events only intensified competition, and when Thomas Douglas convinced his fellow shareholders in the Hudson's Bay Company to grant him the Selkirk Concession it marked another in a series of events that would lead to the demise of the North West Company. The Pemmican Proclamation, the ensuing Battle of Seven Oaks in 1816, and its violence, resulted in Lord Selkirk arresting William McGillivray and several North West Company proprietors, seizing their outpost property in Fort William and charging them with responsibility for the deaths of twenty-one people at Seven Oaks. Although this matter was resolved by the authorities in Montreal, over the next few years some of the wealthiest and most capable partners began to leave the company, fearful of its future viability. The form of nepotism within the company too had changed, from the strict values of Simon McTavish to something that now was harming the business in both its costs and morale of others. Species C. canadensis C. fiber Beavers are semi-aquatic rodents native to North America and Europe. ... Sault Ste. ... This article is about the U.S. – U.K. war. ... Thomas Douglas, 5th Earl of Selkirk Thomas Douglas (June 20, 1771 - April 8, 1820) was the 5th Earl of Selkirk, born at Saint Marys Isle, Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland. ... The Selkirk Concession was a land grant issued by the Hudson Bay Company to Thomas Douglas, 5th Earl of Selkirk in 1811. ... Pemmican is a concentrated food consisting of dried bison, moose, elk, or deer meat, pounded into a powder, and mixed with dried berries and rendered fat. ... The Battle of Seven Oaks (known to the Métis as la Victoire de la Grenouillière, or the Victory of Frog Plain) took place on June 19th 1816 during the long dispute between the Hudsons Bay Company and the North West Company, rival fur-trading companies in western... Fort William was a city in Northern Ontario, located on the Kaministiquia River, at its entrance to Lake Superior. ...

By 1820, the company was issuing coinage, each coin representing the value of one beaver pelt. However, the continued existence of the North West Company was in great doubt, and shareholders had no choice but to agree to a merger with their hated rival after Henry Bathurst, the Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, ordered the companies to cease hostilities. In July of 1821, under more pressure from the British government, which passed new regulations governing the fur trade in British North America, a merger agreement was signed with the Hudson's Bay Company, whereby the North West Company name disappeared after more than forty years in existence. At the time of the merger, the amalgamated company consisted of 97 trading posts that had belonged to the North West Company and 76 that belonged to the Hudson's Bay Company. George Simpson (1787-1860), the Hudson's Bay Company Governor-in-Chief of Rupert's Land who became the Canadian head of the northern division of the greatly enlarged business, made his headquarters in the Montreal suburb of Lachine. Henry Bathurst, 3rd Earl Bathurst (22 May 1762 - 27 July 1834), the elder son of the second earl. ... The Secretary of State for War and the Colonies was a British cabinet level position responsible for the army and the British colonies (other than India). ... George Simpson (Manitoba Museum) Sir George Simpson (1787 – 7 September 1860) was a Scots-Quebecer and employee of the Hudsons Bay Company (HBC). ... Ruperts Land Ruperts Land was a territory in British North America, consisting of the Hudson Bay drainage basin, most of it now part of modern Canada. ... Lachine is a former city on the Island of Montreal in southwestern Quebec, Canada. ...


Beyond the non-operating investors, these were some of the post proprietors, clerks, interpreters, explorers and others of the nearly 2,500 employed by the North West Company in 1799:


  • John Finlay (proprietor), Simon Fraser, James MacKenzie, Duncan Livingston, John Stewart, James Porter, John Thompson, James MacDougall, G. F. Wintzel, John Heinbrucks;

Upper English River: An undated drawing of Simon Fraser Simon Fraser (1776–18 August 1862) was a fur trader and an explorer who charted much of what is now the Canadian province of British Columbia. ...

  • Angus Shaw (proprietor), Donald MacTavish (proprietor), Alexander MacKay, Antoine Tourangeau, Joseph Cartier, Simon Reaume;

Lower English River:

  • Alexander Fraser (proprietor), John MacGillivray, Robert Henry, Louis Versailles, Charles Messier, Pierre Hurteau;

Fort Dauphin:

  • A. N. McLeod (proprietor), Hugh McGillis, Michel Allary, Alexander Farguson, Edward Harrison, Joseph Grenon, Francois Nolin, Nicholas Montour;

Upper Fort des Prairies and Rocky Mountains:

  • Daniel Mackenzie (proprietor), John MacDonald (proprietor), James Hughes, Louis Chatellain, James King, Francois Decoigne, Pierre Charette, Pierre Jerome, Baptiste Bruno, David Thompson, J. Duncan Campbell, Alexander Stewart, Jacques Raphael, Francois Deschamps;

Lower Fort des Prairies:

  • Pierre Belleau, Baptiste Roy, J. B. Filande, Baptiste Larose;

Upper Red River:

  • John Macdonell (proprietor), George MacKay, J. Macdonell, Jr., Joseph Auger, Pierre Falcon, Francois Mallette, William Munro, Andre Poitvin;

Lower Red River:

  • Charles Chaboillez (proprietor), Alexander Henry, J. B. Desmarais, Francois Coleret, Antoine Dejarlet, Louis Giboche;

Lac Winipic:

  • William MacKay (proprietor), John Cameron, Donald MacIntosh, Benjamin Frobisher, Jacques Dupont, Joseph Laurent, Gabriel Attina, Francois Amoit;


  • Duncan Cameron (proprietor), Ronald Cameron, Dugald Cameron, Jacques Adhemar, Jean-Baptiste Chevalier, Allen MacFarlane, Jean-Baptiste Pominville, Frederick Shults;


  • J. B. Perrault, Augustin Roy;

Michipicoten and the Bay:

  • Lemaire St-Germain, Baptiste St-Germain, Leon Chnier

Sault and Sloop "Otter":

  • John Burns, John Bennet;

South of Lake Superior:

  • Michel Cadotte (partner), Simeon Charrette, Charles Gauthier, Pierre Baillarge;

Fonds du Lac: Michel Cadotte 1764-1837 (also spelled Michael, Cadott, Cadeau, and other variations) or (Ojibwe: Kechemeshane (or Gichi-miishen in the contemporary spelling) Great Michel) was a Métis fur trader whose post at La Pointe on Madeline Island was a critical center for trade between the Lake Superior Ojibwe and...

  • John Sayer (proprietor), J. B. Cadotte, Charles Bousquet, Jean Coton, Ignace Chenier, Joseph Reaume, Eustache Roussin, Vincent Roy;

Lac La Pluie:

  • Peter Grant (proprietor), Arch. MacLellan, Charles Latour, Michel Machard;

Grand Portage:

  • Doctor Munro, Charles Hesse, Zacharie Clouthier, Antoine Colin, Jacques Vandreil, Francois Boileau, Mr. Bruce.

Recommended reading

For further information on the North West Company, see author Marjorie Wilkins Campbell's 1957 book of that name, as well as her 1962 biography of William McGillivray titled McGillivray, Lord of the North West. Campbell served as a consultant to the government of Ontario for the restoration of the North West Company trading post in Fort William, Ontario, Fort William Historical Park. Campbell also wrote a book for young adults titled "The Nor'westers", which won the 1954 Governor General's Awards. Year 1957 (MCMLVII) was a common year starting on Tuesday (link displays the 1957 Gregorian calendar). ... Year 1962 (MCMLXII) was a common year starting on Monday (the link is to a full 1962 calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ... Motto: Ut Incepit Fidelis Sic Permanet (Latin: Loyal she began, loyal she remains) Capital Toronto Largest city Toronto Official languages English (de facto) Government - Lieutenant-Governor David C. Onley - Premier Dalton McGuinty (Liberal) Federal representation in Canadian Parliament - House seats 106 - Senate seats 24 Confederation July 1, 1867 (1st) Area... Fort William was a city in Northern Ontario, located on the Kaministiquia River, at its entrance to Lake Superior. ... Fort William Historical Park (formerly known as Old Fort William) is a Canadian historical site located in Thunder Bay, Ontario that contains a reconstruction of the Fort William fur trading post as it existed in 1815. ... The 1954 Governor Generals Awards for Literary Merit were the eighteenth such awards. ...

  Results from FactBites:
northwestcompany (665 words)
At an early date signs of concentration among the fur-traders in the far North West were apparent; and in 1775 Alexander Henry describes a pool or merger of interests on the Saskatchewan.
After a severe contest, the XY Company was in 1804 absorbed in the North West Company, and was given a quarter interest in the new concern, which was reorganized on the basis of one hundred shares.
The Hudson's Bay Company invaded areas, such as the Athabaska country, which they had hitherto left to the Nor'Westers; and the Nor' Westers devoted all their energies to the prosecution of the struggle with the Hudson's Bay men, instead of to the prosecution of the fur-trade.
North West Company. The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001-05 (766 words)
The younger company, meanwhile, was split by dissension, brought on chiefly by the hostility between two important figures in the company, McTavish and Sir Alexander Mackenzie.
The Southwest Company, established in 1811, was practically, although not actually, a combination of Astor and North West Company interests; this association was disrupted by the War of 1812.
In the united company, however, the personnel was predominantly of the Northwestern stamp, and the spirit of the company was that of the vigorous North West Company.
  More results at FactBites »



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