‘Before’ continues (1800 – 1826)

[Note: developments in governance that affected Red River Settlement — or rather might have inspired the political stance of the people in the settlement who undertook the Resistance during 1869 – 1870 — are highlighted in blue.]


In the North-West:

Alexander Henry ‘the younger’ of the North West Company [NWC] meets 40 Saulteux at the Forks of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers and trades liquor for dried buffalo meat.  The French had once had a missionary and a church in that location, but Henry doubts much in the way of “civilizing the nations” took place. He reports the people were decimated by smallpox in 1781 – 1782. The Saulteux fear an attack by Sioux from the south and have  trenches dug in which to shelter. [See Alexander Henry, The journal of Alexander Henry the Younger, 1799-1814, vol. I, ed. Barry Gough (Toronto: Champlain Society, 1988-1992), 20, 26,


In England:

Parliament grants of Upper and Lower Canada jurisdiction over criminal matters in the North-West.


In the North-West:

Henry Rowe Schoolcraft reports Ojibway are growing corn and potatoes at Netley Creek/ Rivière aux Morts. [See Catherine Flynn, Parks Canada and E. Leigh Syms, Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature, “Manitoba’s First Farmers,” Manitoba History 31 (Spring 1996); and Martin Kavanagh, “The Assiniboine Basin: A Social History of Discovery, Exploration and Settlement” (Winnipeg: Manitoba Historical Society, 2007), 15.


Métis settlers are engaged in farming at the forks of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers. For example, members of Jean-Baptiste Roy’s family act as independent suppliers of agricultural produce to NWC Fort Gibraltar, newly begun at the Forks, [See Barry Kaye. “Some aspects of the historical geography of the Red River Settlement from 1812 to 1870,” M.A. thesis (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba, 1967), 21-22] and HBC posts (as of 1812 including Red River House/ Fort William, located at the mouth of the Red River delta at Lake Winnipeg, near present day St. Andrew’s, MB).

In Upper Canada:

Tecumseh arrives at Amherstburg, to promote unification among First Nations for the building of a confederacy to defend Aboriginal lands against settlement encroachment in the U.S.

In the U.S.:

New Yorker John Jacob Astor and wife Sarah Todd (whose “frugal mind and business judgment [Astor] declared better than that of most merchants,” and who “assisted him in the practical details” of the business), establish the American Fur Company to aggressively expand west from the southern Great Lakes to the Pacific coast.


In Lower Canada:

Archibald Norman McLeod is named Justice of the Peace for the North-West (9 Mar.)


Archibald Norman McLeod is named Justice of the Peace, District of Montreal (2 Oct.)

In the North-West:

The NWC finishes construction of Fort Gibraltar at the Forks. [See William Douglas, “New Light on the Old Forts of Winnipeg,” MHS Transactions ser. 3 (1954 – 1955 season).]


In Britain:

On 12 June, the HBC awards ‘Assiniboia‘ to Thomas Douglas, 5th Earl of Selkirk/ Lord Selkirk (he has ‘purchased’ 116,000 square miles of territory for ten shillings [per square mile?—the total amount paid appears to have been £84,000]). He is to institute a colony that will serve as an agricultural settlement for the company. [See James Taylor, “Lord Selkirk’s Deed from the Hudson’s Bay Company,” MHS Transactions ser. 1, no 36 (read 25 April 1889).]

Alexander Mackenzie of the NWC is opposed to Selkirk’s project, as the land grant cuts across NWC routes and supply lines in the North-West. [See W. Kaye Lamb,  The Journals and letters of Sir Alexander Mackenzie (Toronto: Macmillan, 1970), 41 -43]

The first contingent of Selkirk Settlers sail for Hudson Bay.

In the U.S.:

Astor enters a cooperative agreement with the NWC — his company becoming the South West Company [SWC].


War is declared against Britain: in response to Britain’s attempts to prevent neutral countries from trading with France; over disagreement on westward expansion in North America; and over the rights of neutral ships at sea.

In Britain:

The Canadas are viewed as vulnerable to developing anti-British sentiment.

The second contingent of Selkirk Settlers sail for Hudson Bay.

In the Canadas:

Governor General, Georges Prévost, tries to conciliate elected French political leaders who are disgruntled by their lack of effective power; he worries about a rise in the number of Upper Canadians, who are former Usonians (they outnumber Loyalists 10-1), and who seem as disgruntled as Lower Canada’s Canadiens about the political system.

In the U.S.:

Americans at Michilimackinac seek First Nations support in the fur trade, warning: “Ignore the post at St. Joseph, because we Americans will seize it before the end of the summer.”

In the Canadas:

British Major-General Isaac Brock, newly appointed “president” and administrator of Upper Canada, states  possession of Detroit and Michilimackinac is critical: “without them ‘not only Amherstburg but most probably the whole country must be evacuated as far as Kingston.”

William McGillivray is made Lieutenant-Colonel of the Canadian Voyageurs, “a corps of three regiments, each with between eight hundred and one thousand men.” NWC officers include: Majors Angus Shaw and Archibald Norman McLeod; Surgeon Henry Munro; Captains Alexander McKenzie, William McKay, John McDonell, Jean Pierre Rastel de Rocheblave, James Hughes, and Kenneth MacKenzie.

The SWC alerts the NWC of American  designs on St. Joseph; 400 Anishinaabe, Odowa, Menominee, Winnebago, and Dakota are recruited under Robert Dickson/ Mescotopah, John Askin/ Erskine Jr. (Odawa), Amable Chevalier, Tomah Pierre, and Big Canoe/ One-Eyed Decorah.

British Captain Charles Roberts, stationed at St. Joseph Island with a volunteer force of 180 Canadian fur traders (including John Johnston, John Askin Jr. and Robert Dickson), in company with the 400-strong First Nations force, takes Fort Michilimackinac, Mackinac Island. The NWC trade route to the West is secure.

Upper Canadian Legislative Assembly refuses Isaac Brock’s request to suspend habeus corpus for  the second time.

Martial Law is passed by the Legislative Assembly in Lower Canada.

In the U.S.:

Tecumseh, Stayeghtha/ Roundhead, Myeerah, Souneh-hooway/ Thomas Splitlog/ To-oo-troontora, Billy Caldwell/ Sagaunash and their forces, along with William McGillivray and NWC engagés, enable Isaac Brock to take Detroit.

In Assiniboia/ The North-West:

Selkirk Settlers arrive at Red River from Hudson Bay under the leadership (and governance) of Lord Selkirk’s agent, Miles Macdonell. a former captain of the Royal Canadian Volunteer Regiment, and current farmer in Osnabruck Township, Upper Canada.

Miles’s brother-in-law as well as cousin, Alexander Macdonell (of Greenfield), is in command of NWC Fort Gibraltar.

The new HBC Fort Douglas is under construction while the Selkirk Settlers travel south to winter near NWC Fort Pembina. There they construct a makeshift shelter dubbed Fort Daer.


In the Canadas:

William McGillivray is appointed to the Legislative Council of Lower Canada.

Canadian Voyageurs force is disbanded.

Usonians capture the entire Provincial Marine, including requisitioned NWC schooners, sloops, and canoes. NWC lines of communication are disrupted.

NWC uses an arduous northern route (partly overland to Lake Simcoe then Lake Huron) to circumvent hostile Americans, but shortages of goods result in the interior.

In the U.S.:

A Baltimore newspaper correspondent describes the U.S. naval victory as spelling “the end of both the North West Company and the demise of many of their native allies: ‘All the places of deposit for Indian supplies will be broken up, and the business of the British during the summer and cut off at this critical season from their accustomed resources must perish by the thousands for want of food and clothing. The trade of the North West Company, a mighty mercantile establishment of vital importance to Canada and of great importance to the Mother Country is done’.”

In The North-West:

NWC Red River Department reports lack of goods brings “contempt in the Eyes of the natives.”

The Selkirk Settlers’ crops fail. Miles Macdonell again sends them to winter at Pembina.


In England:

NWC petitions British parliament for access to Hudson Bay; winning their case to take goods in, but conflict arises with HBC over transporting furs out.

In the U.S.:

Robert Dickson, “with about Six hundred Warriors [including Santee Sioux] and One hundred White People of every description” join NWC voyageurs from Michilimackinac [now styled the Michigan Fencibles] under retired trader William McKay to take Fort Shelby/ Prairie du Chien and to secure points along the Mississippi in Wisconsin. [See Paul Stuart ed., “History of the Flandreau Santee Sioux,” (1971), 15.]

In the Canadas:

Usonians burn Fort St. Joseph and the NWC post at Sault Ste. Marie, seizing the schooner Mink (the NWC pre-empt the taking of their vessel, Perseverance, by setting it ablaze).

NWC partners decide: “‘On account of the war’ … it was unlikely that supplies sent from Montreal would arrive at many posts in the interior. Faced with looming [financial] disaster, they ordered substantial staff cuts, eliminating 150 engagés, clerks, interpreters, and canoe makers. All departments were persuaded to reserve a quarter of all supplies to protect themselves from ‘Misfortune’ should [Usonians overrun Canada] … Posts were instructed to preserve ‘such a quantity of Tobacco & High Wines as would afford a moderate supply for the Country without any aid from Canada’.”

In Assiniboia:

Selkirk Settlers from Kildonan, Scotland, arrive (depending on source consulted, usually described as two groups, one of from 41-51 people, the other of 15-32 people). Miles Macdonell estimates “that the colonists, numbering about 200 individuals, could count an equal number of multi-person Métis households in the immediate vicinity as their  neighbours.”

Macdonell fully ignites the Fur Trade War between the HBC and NWC with his ‘Pemmican Proclamation,’ which forbids pemmican exportation from the Red River area without his permission, endangering NWC trade (and threatening the survival of employees).


In Europe:

The Napoleonic Wars end.

In North America:

The War of 1812 ends.

In Assiniboia:

Over 40 Selkirk Settlers are induced by Duncan Cameron, in command of the NWC Red River District, to leave the Settlement for Upper Canada. Macdonnel is arrested (along with his Sheriff, John Spencer), on a warrant issued by Archibald Norman McLeod, Justice of the Peace for the North-West under the Canada Jurisdiction Act, on the charge of ‘illegal confiscation of pemmican,’ and transported to Montreal (although a trial never takes place). Peter Fidler, HBC surveyor and interim commander of the Selkirk Colony, vacates Fort Douglas and removes the settlers to HBC post, Jack River House (Norway House).

The final group of Selkirk Settler migrants heading to Red River with the newly appointed governor of the HBC territories, Robert Semple, opt to join Colin Robertson (formerly of the NWC) in seizing Fort Gibraltar, obtaining a promise of peace from Cameron (upon which Gibraltar is returned), and re-occupying the colony.


A violent confrontation at Seven Oaks results in the deaths of 22 people—on one side of the conflict, 21 men associated with the Selkirk Settlement and HBC; on the other side, 1 of Cuthbert Grant Jr.‘s New Nation Métis associated with the NWC.

[The avowed nation identity is not readily accepted by officialdom. See Great Britain, Colonial Office, Papers relating to the Red River Settlement, 130, which recounts, “The half-breeds, who before that time had always been classed along with the Canadian engagés of the North-West company, and had never been heard of as a separate body of men, were now brought forward and tutored to call themselves a nation of Indians”; and Thomas Douglas, The Memorial of Thomas Earl of Selkirk to His Grace Charles Duke of Richmond, Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, Captain General and Governor in Chief in and over the Province of Lower Canada, Upper Canada, Nova Scotia, New-Brunswick and their several Dependencies…(Montreal: Nahum Mower, 1819), 5.]

In the Canadas:

Lord Selkirk raises a contingent of mercenaries from among recently disbanded de Meuron and de Watteville regiments (Swiss and Polish soldiers who had fought for the British in the War of 1812), and, on hearing of the Seven Oaks incident, takes NWC Fort William.

John Johnston confronts Lord Selkirk at Fort William, but is unsuccessful in demanding its return to the NWC.


In England:

George III/ The Prince Regent calls for a cessation of HBC–NWC hostilities and a restitution of property

In Lower Canada:

A commission of inquiry into the events in the North-West is called.

In Assiniboia:

Lord Selkirk with the de Meuron and de Watteville soldier/ settlers reestablish Fort Douglas.

Selkirk makes a treaty with First Nations at Red River.

Selkirk sets up a governing Council at the colony to keep order in the face of “lawless” Nor’Westers and others deemed threatening to settlement peace. [See Nelly Laudicina, “The Rules of Red River: The Council of Assiniboia and Its Impact on the Colony, 1820 – 1869,” University of Ottawa and Université de Paris IV, la Sorbonne.]


The ‘Fur  Trade War’ ends.

Roman Catholic missionaries, Father Joseph-Norbert Provencher, Father Sévère Dumoulin, and seminarian Guillaume Etienne Edge, arrive to establish a church at St. Boniface, founding the parish. [See http://iportal.usask.ca/docs/Prairie%20Forum/Early%20Efforts%20%28v4no1_1979_pg1-25%29.pdf]; see also Douglas Kemp, “The Red River Parish,” Manitoba Pageant 8, no. 1 (1962).

Grasshoppers infest the settlement.

In the Canadas:

Commissioner William Bacheler Coltman, after investigating the Seven Oaks incident, recommends establishing a Crown colony at Red River.

[See Library and Archives Canada [LAC], William Coltman, “A General statement and report relative to the disturbances in the Indian territories of British North America [textual record]. For inquiring into the offences committed in the said Indian territories and the circumstances attending the same,” 1818; printed transcription in Great Britain, Colonial Office, Papers relating to the Red River Settlement [microform] : viz. return to an address from the Honourable House of Commons to His Royal Highness The Prince Regent, dated 24th June, 1819 (1819). See also Amos Andrew, Report of trials in the courts of Canada, relative to the destruction of the Earl of Selkirk’s Settlement on the Red River [microform] : with observations]


In Assiniboia:

Grasshoppers infest the settlement.

In Britain:

September – Lord Selkirk leaves with his family for the healthier climate of Europe.


Anglican missionary Rev. John West arrives.

Selkirk authorizes an HBC council to facilitate peaceable development in the settlement. This Selkirk Council of Assiniboia does not answer directly to the HBC, although there is overlap—given Lord Selkirk’s close relationship to the HBC and the fact that some councillors are HBC officers. Law, by way of custom, is present throughout Rupert’s Land, though there is a lack of European-style legal machinery or rules extending beyond the servants of fur trade companies. Nevertheless, while overseen by Selkirk (and later his heirs, the Douglas family), once corporate rivalry over territorial jurisdiction is resolved, the settlement at Red River runs in a remarkably orderly fashion; a circumstance that has been credited to the “good sense and good nature” displayed by the inhabitants in adhering to “a known pattern of life.”

[See H. Robert Baker, “Creating Order in the Wilderness: Transplanting the English Law to Rupert’s Land, 1835-1851,” Law and History Review, 17, no. 2 (summer 1999): 207-246; and Nelly Laudicina, “The Rules of Red River: The Council of Assiniboia and Its Impact on the Colony, 1820 – 1869,” University of Ottawa and Université de Paris IV, la Sorbonne.]

In France:

Lord Selkirk dies, age 48.


The HBC and NWC merge to form one company.

Imperial Parliament extends jurisdiction of Upper and Lower Canadian courts to cover civil matters in the Northwestern Territory and Rupert’s Land.

In Assiniboia:

Swiss settlers arrive (perhaps 170–180 people, including artist Peter Rindisbacher), led by Rudolph von May (former de Meuron regiment captain).


In England:

HBC London Committee confers legislative and judicial authority to Gov. Andrew Bulger in Rupert’s Land.

In Assiniboia:

Fort Gibraltar is renamed Fort Garry honoring Nicholas Garry who supervises the reorganization of the new company.

Rev. John West builds St. John’s Church Mission House, establishing the parish.


Fort Douglas is removed to a new location alongside Fort Garry.

“Some 50 families” relocate from Pembina to the White Horse Plain west of Red River, as well as to the settlement proper.

HBC London Gov. John Henry Pelly authorizes a police force for the Settlement.

Rev. David Thomas Jones arrives at Red River and builds the first St. Paul’s Anglican Church, establishing the parish (aka Middlechurch).


St. John’s Anglican Church is built.

Approximately 100 families arrive from Pembina. [See Ruth Swan, “The crucible: Pembina and the origins of the Red River Valley Metis,” Ph.D. diss. (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba, 2003).

Cuthbert Grant Jr. founds Grantown on the White Horse Plains.


Severe spring flooding virtually destroys the Selkirk Settlement. After a mass departure of first Selkirk, then Swiss, de Meuron, and de Watteville settlers, fewer than 50 families of the relatively recently arrived migrants from Europe remain.

The settlement population from this year onward remains overwhelmingly Métis. Many non-Aboriginal settlers are absorbed into the wider community through either their own, or their children’s, marriages.

George Simpson is appointed acting Governor-in-Chief of Rupert’s Land.


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