Manitoba Historical Society
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Memorable Manitobans: Alexander Macdonell (1774-1840)

Colonial official, Governor of Red River Settlement (1815-1822).

Born in Invernesshire, Scotland, he became a protege of Lord Selkirk in 1813. He was sent with Robert Semple to bring settlers to Red River in 1815, and was appointed by Semple as second-in-command to Colin Robertson and later to himself. He was known for his position as sheriff of the settlement in 1815-16. He assumed charge of the colony after Semple’s death, and re-established it in 1817. For several years he seemed to be successful, although there were always rumours of veniality and partiality that Selkirk refused to believe. He became agent for Selkirk in 1820 and resumed his governorship of the settlement in June 1820. His later administration was replete with controversy and charges of favouritism, corruption, and immorality. He was dismissed by George Simpson in 1822, having become known as the “grasshopper governor” because, said Alexander Ross later, “he proved as great a destroyer within doors as the grasshoppers in the fields.” He remained in the colony and attempted to undermine the authority of his successors while acquiring large amounts of land. He eventually returned to Upper Canada in 1828 and disappeared from view.

See also:

Alexander Macdonell, Dictionary of Canadian Biography VI, 437-39.


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

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 29 December 2015

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

This is a collection of noteworthy Manitobans from the past, compiled by the Manitoba Historical Society. We acknowledge that the collection contains both reputable and disreputable people. All are worth remembering as a lesson to future generations.

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