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Memorable Manitobans: John McDonald of Garth (1771-1866)

Fur trader.

Born in Perthshire, Scotland, he could not follow the family military tradition because of a withered right arm (he was later called “Le Bras Croche”). So he joined the North West Company, and played an important role in the western fur-trade war with the Hudson's Bay Company. In 1809 he was in charge of the Red River Department with John Wills, went west to command Fort Astoria (arriving just after its sale to the NWC by the American Fur Company), and returned to Red River via a canoe brigade. He negotiated a peace between the settlers and the NWC in 1814, but his agreement was disavowed by the NWC annual meeting. He thereupon retired from the company and moved back east, ultimately purchasing a farm near Cornwall.

More information:

His autobiography appears in Les bourgeois de la Compagnie du Nord-Ouest, II, 1-59 edited by L.-F.-R. Masson (1890). The original is at McGill University Libraries.

John McDonald, Dictionary of Canadian Biography IX, 481-83.


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

Page revised: 10 April 2008

Memorable Manitobans

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