Manitoba Historical Society
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Memorable Manitobans: Roderick Ross MacFarlane (1833-1920)

Click to enlargeFur trader.

Click to enlargeBorn in Stornoway on 1 November 1833, he was educated in that town’s Free Church Academy and clerked at law before joining the Hudson's Bay Company in 1852. A year later he was placed in charge of Fort Rae on Great Slave Lake, and worked at a number of posts in the far north before becoming Chief Trader in 1868.

After a leave at home, he became head of Fort Chippewyan in the Athabasca in 1870, serving there for fourteen years and rising to become chief factor in 1875. He later served in New Caledonia and on the Lower Saskatchewan. MacFarlane spent many years in scientific investigation in the North and was a major contributor of specimens to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. He was an intrepid northern traveller on foot, by dogsled, and on horseback. In 1908 he wrote, with Charles Mair, a volume entitled Through the Mackenzie Basin.

He died at his Winnipeg home, 251 Colony Street, on 12 April 1920 and was buried in St. John’s Cemetery.

His articles for the Manitoba Historical Society:

Land and Sea Birds Nesting Within the Arctic Circle in the Lower Mackenzie River District
MHS Transactions Series 1, No. 39, read 25 June 1889, Winnipeg.


The Story of Manitoba by F. H. Schofield, Winnipeg: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1913.

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

Death registration, Manitoba Vital Statistics.

“Ex-Chief Factor MacFarlane of Hudson’s Bay Company is dead”, Manitoba Free Press, 13 April 1920, page 6.

“Late Roderick MacFarlane will be buried Thursday”, Manitoba Free Press, 14 April 1920, page 9.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 27 November 2011

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