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Memorable Manitobans: George Nelson (1783-1859)

Fur trader.

Born in Montreal, he became a clerk apprentice to Parker, Gerrard, and Ogilvy, a firm associated with the XY Company. He was first posted to what is now Wisconsin, and in 1804 became a clerk in the North West Company, serving at various posts around Lake Winnipeg and the Dauphin River. He survived the explosion of a keg of gunpowder in 1807 with little ill effect. He later moved to Manitonamingan Lake north of Lake Superior, where competition with the Hudson's Bay Company (for which he had little stomach) was severe.

He retired briefly, but at the time of the amalgamation of the NWC and HBC was at Moose Lake, nursing a grievance against his treatment. He was made redundant in 1823, and he retired to Lower Canada, where he experienced continual family disaster. He was critical of his brother Wolfred for involvement in the Rebellion of 1837 in Lower Canada. Throughout his life Nelson wrote extensively of his experiences and observations. One journal was published as A Winter in the St. Croix Valley: George Nelson’s Reminiscences, edited by Richard Bardon and G. L. Nute (1948), and another as “The Orders of the Dreamed”: George Nelson on Cree and Northern Ojibwa Religion and Myth, 1823, edited by Jennifer Brown and Robert Brightman (1988).

See also:

“George Nelson’s ‘Wretched’ Career, 1802-1823” by Sylvia Van Kirk, in Rendezvous: Selected Papers of the Fourth North American Fur Trade Conference, 1981.

George Nelson, Dictionary of Canadian Biography VIII, 652-54.


Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by J. M. Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 26 December 2016

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

This is a collection of noteworthy Manitobans from the past, compiled by the Manitoba Historical Society.

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