Manitoba Historical Society
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Memorable Manitobans: John Clarke (1781-1852)

Fur trader.

Born in Montreal, Clarke joined the North West Company in 1800. He quickly ended up in Athabasca, where by 1810 his conduct was regarded as “rather reprehensible.” After a sojourn in Montreal, Clarke joined John Jacob Astor’s Pacific Fur Company. He was in charge of the party that left New York in 1811 and arrived at Fort Astoria in May 1812. After the American traders sold out to the NWC in October 1813, Clarke rejoined the NWC. Then in 1815 he signed on with the Hudson's Bay Company to head a new expedition to the Athabasca country. The HBC had enormous trouble in Athabasca, where Clarke was imprisoned early in 1817. Critics complained that his conduct left much to be desired and that his vanity was “inordinate.” Clarke ended up as chief factor at Fort Garry in 1823, making himself much disliked by the colonists, for which he was criticized by the HBC’s London Committee. Most of his last years in service were spent trying to gain recognition for his past contributions, but without much success. George Simpson described him as wanting “of every principle or feeling allied to fair dealing, honour & integrity.”

See also:

John Clarke, Dictionary of Canadian Biography VIII, 158-59.


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

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 21 September 2013

Memorable Manitobans

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