Manitoba Historical Society
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Memorable Manitobans: Edward Ellice (1783-1863)

Merchant, politician.

Born in London, England, to a Scottish merchant family that was active in the Quebec trade, he attended Winchester and graduated from Marischal College, Aberdeen, in 1800. He became head of the family business, which was international but based in North America, upon his father’s death in 1805. He was known as “Bear” or “The Bear.”

Since one of his firms (Phyn, Ellice and Company) was a principal London agent and supplier of the North West Company, Ellice tried in 1804 to buy out the Hudson's Bay Company. When he was unsuccessful he pressed for the amalgamation of the two great fur companies, which was finally achieved in 1821. He was the lone major figure of the NWC who remained active in the affairs of the new HBC.

Ellice had connections in high corners of the government -- his first wife was Lady Hannah Althea Grey, sister of Earl Grey -- which he used to benefit the HBC over the years in a variety of ways. It was his interest that helped protect the HBC in the parliamentary inquiry of 1857. He sold out with the transfer of the Company to Edward Watkin’s people in 1863. Ellice was the author of The Communications of Mercator, upon the Contest between the Earl of Selkirk, and the Hudson’s Bay Company, on One Side, and the North West Company, on the Other (1817) and Continuation of the Communications of Mercator (1817). Letters from Prosper Mérimée to him (1857-63) were published as Lettres à Edward Ellice, ed. Marianne Carmalhan (1963).

He is commemorated by Ellice Avenue in Winnipeg and the Rural Municipality of Ellice in Manitoba.

More information:

Edward Ellice, Dictionary of Canadian Biography IX, 233-39.


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

Page revised: 6 March 2008

Memorable Manitobans

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