12 June

Selkirk grant defined by black lines

Selkirk Granted Land

A great Scottish name, Selkirk, is commemorated in many place names in Canada, as it should be. There is the town of Selkirk, Manitoba, and the Selkirk range of mountains in British Columbia, among others. The Earl of Selkirk was the first large-scale colonizer of Canada. His enterprise cost him most of his fortune and eventually his life.

Selkirk was born in 1771, the seventh son of the laird of St. Mary's Isle on the southwest coast of Scotland. One by one his older brothers died until he inherited the title. As he grew up he became the friend of Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott. He was perhaps a dreamer, as they were, and he wanted to help the needy Scottish people.

The Earl established settlements in Prince Edward Island and Baldoon. Neither worked out well, because the land was said to be poor. This is hard to understand today because Baldoon is an area of thriving corn fields. People weren't eating corn flakes and popcorn in those days!

Like Napoleon, Selkirk had been impressed by Alexander Mackenzie's account of his journey across Canada from the Atlantic to the Pacific. He felt that the Red River area, where Winnipeg now stands, offered the best opportunities because it could be reached from Hudson Bay. This would avoid the costly trip from Quebec. So, Lord Selkirk bought a controlling interest in the Hudson's Bay Company!

It was then that Selkirk made one of the most amazing deals in Canadian, and perhaps any, history. Using his position in the Hudson's Bay Company, on June 12, 1811, he obtained a grant of 116,000 square miles of territory for colonization purposes. It included half of what is now Manitoba, Minnesota and North Dakota! It was an area five times bigger than Scotland, and he received it for a rental of 10 shillings ($2.50) a year on the understanding that he would supply the Hudson's Bay Company with 200 servants a year and develop an agricultural colony.


12 June

-1631    King Charles I agreed to return Quebec and Port Royal to France on receiving the remainder of the dowry of his wife, Queen Henrietta Maria.

-1690    Henry Kelsey left York Factory, Hudson Bay, to explore the west.

-1710    The Hudson's Bay Company gave the widow of Pierre Radisson six English pounds as charity on his death.

-1714    The French settlement at Placentia, Newfoundland, surrendered to Colonel Moody.

-1958    Prime Minister Macmillan of Britain addressed a joint session of Parliament in Ottawa.