Manitoba Historical Society
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Memorable Manitobans: John Ballenden (1811-1856)

Fur trader.

Born in Stromness, Scotland on 26 May 1811, son of John Ballenden, he joined the Hudson’s Bay Company as apprentice clerk in 1829. He rose to accountant at Upper Fort Garry by 1836, the year he married Sarah McLeod. Ballenden spent several years after 1840 in the Company’s service in Upper Canada. In 1848 he was promoted to Chief Factor and placed in command of Lower Fort Garry, suffering a paralytic stroke on his way to take up his post. Ballenden was unable to staunch the growing free trade movement. He was also unable to keep his wife away from the company of Captain Christopher Foss, who in the summer of 1850 sued several local residents for defamatory conspiracy for spreading stories of his adultery with Mrs. Ballenden. Ballenden’s health went downhill steadily, despite a transfer to Fort Vancouver in 1851. He returned to Red River in 1854 but soon retired to Edinburgh, where he died on 7 December 1856.

Brother-in-law of John Richards McKay.

See also:

“The Reputation of a Lady”: Sarah Ballenden and the Foss-Pelly Scandal by Sylvia Van Kirk, Manitoba History, Number 11, Spring 1986.

John Ballenden, Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online


Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.

We thank Craig Sefton, a descendant of J. Ballenden, for additional information used here.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 17 August 2013

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

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