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Memorable Manitobans: Joseph Isbister (c1710-1771)

Fur trader.

Probably from Stromness, Orkney Islands, he was apprenticed to Christopher Middleton of the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1726. By 1740 he was master of a sloop, and soon he became head of Albany Fort. Isbister defied the London Committee of the HBC and established a trading post inland from Hudson Bay (Henley House) in 1743. He retired from Albany because of ill health in 1747 but soon became head of Fort Prince of Wales at Churchill. In 1752 he returned to Albany. While at Albany in the 1740s he had attempted to enforce committee instructions about drinking and Native women, often using brute force in the process. His prohibition against all Native women except his own was decidedly unpopular. In 1755 he executed several Natives for the destruction of Fort Henley, and he was recalled soon after. He settled with his family in Quebec City in 1760.

See also:

Joseph Isbister, Dictionary of Canadian Biography IV, 380-81.


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

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 12 August 2012

Memorable Manitobans

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