3 March

Sir George Simpson (1792-1860)

Simpson Circles World

Philanthropy is not the object of our visits to these Northern Indians.

                                                                          George Simpson, 1821

One of the most colourful characters in Canadian history was Sir George Simpson, Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company. On March 3, 1841, he began a trip around the world that took twenty months.

Scottish-born, he was only thirty-three when the Hudson's Bay Company sent him in 1821 to govern what is now western Canada. The Hudson's Bay Company had just taken over its bitter rival, the Northwest Company, and a strong, wise leader was needed to blend the two together. Simpson virtually ruled western Canada for forty years.

Simpson was a fur-trader, not a farmer, but he tried to help the settlers in the Red River area by buying their surplus products. He even organized an experimental farm on the Assiniboine River and imported the best thoroughbred cattle and horses from Britain. Even so, late in his career, he told a special committee of the House of Commons in London that the soil in western Canada was useless for farming. He wanted to protect the area for fur trading.

Simpson made his trips across Canada by canoe. Traveling would begin every day at 3 a.m., after Simpson had had a swim, and continue almost without pause until dark. Colin Fraser, Simpson's piper, was always a member of his party. On approaching a settlement, Fraser would stand in the stern and play his bagpipes, while Simpson, wearing top hat, cloak, and gaiters, would stand erect in the bow.

On one trip in 1828, Simpson traveled from Hudson Bay to the mouth of the Fraser River in ninety days. This included paddling down the Fraser River itself, which Simon Fraser had done only twenty years before. It was one of the most dangerous journeys ever undertaken by man.

Simpson was not a Pacific coast fan. He thought that living in what is now British Columbia was unhealthy and would only allow his traders to stay there for two years, after which they had to go to Fort Garry (Winnipeg) to "recuperate."


3 March

-1722    France divided Canada into "parishes." 1838 Five hundred American sympathizers of the Canadian "rebellion" were repelled at Point Pelee, Lake Erie.

-1870    Thomas Scott was condemned to death after his trial at Fort Garry.

-1887    The United States passed the Fisheries Retaliation Act against Canada.

-1945    Canadian and American troops linked in Germany as Nazis retreated along the Rhine.

-1962    The death of Cairine Wilson, the first woman senator in Canada, was announced.