Saturday, August 25, 2012

Montrose McGillivray

I have a little news for the McGillivray descendants I have talked to in the past -- I have discovered the records of Montrose McGillivray death in the Fort St. James post journals.
Monrose McGillivray was one of the men who accompanied Alexander Caulfield Anderson on his second exploration down and up the Fraser River, in 1847.

First, here is his story from Bruce Watson's Lives Lived West of the Divide:
McGillivray, Montrose, 1822-1850, Mixed Descent
Birth: British North America, 1822. Born to Simon McGillivray and a Native woman
(I can add that he was grandson of William McGillivray of the North West Company)
Death: probably Fort St. James, January 22, 1850
Montrose McGillivray was baptised late at the age of thirteen at Red River on April 19, 1835, and, after being hired by the HBC in 1838 as a native apprentice, was attached to the Columbia District. His family status held him in good stead for, in 1841 at Fort Vancouver, he travelled with Sir George Simpson's round the world expedition for a short time. He worked at the HBC California post until he was dismissed by William Glen Rae in California for excessive drinking. McGillivray, who by this time had spent his father's legacy, felt this unfair as Rae was an even heavier drinker. The twenty-two year old then ran up a large debt and left the Company to go to Red River in 1846, but rejoined in 1847. That year he was a member of Alexander Caulfield Anderson's party searching for a north-of-49 parallel route from New Caledonia to the coast. In January 1849 in the New Caledonia area (near Quesnel, BC) McGillivray headed a punitive group of fifteen men on a search for Tlhelh, who, to avenge the death of Tlhelh's wife, had shot a "white man," Alexis Bellanger, who may or may not have had anything to do with her death. When McGillivrary arrived at Tlhelh's Quesnel village, Donald McLean shot dead Tlhelh's uncle, Nadetnoerh, as well as Nadetnoerh's son-in-law and the son-in-law's child. The mother, possibly a daughter of Simon Plomondon, was injured in the should. Both McGillivray and McLeod were exonerated for this unnecessary carnage of three innocent people. Later Tlhelh was killed by another uncle, Neztel, who no doubt trying to stop the carnage and restore peace, very much regretted doing it.
Montrose McGillivray died January 22, 1850 of an inflammation of the lungs, likely tuberculosis. Members of a McGillivray family have not been traced.

Firstly, I am fascinated on reading this to find that Montrose McGillivray was a part of that slaughter of three innocent persons in New Caledonia -- I always heard the story was attributed to Donald McLean, with no mention of other persons present. So, Montrose's part in the story is news to me. Just so you know I have checked it out, and this happened after Alexander Caulfield Anderson left Fort Alexandria -- it was not he who forgave these men for their behaviour.

Secondly, in Fort Vancouver letters I have found the letter that Montrose McGillivray carried north to Fort Alexandria, to AC Anderson. It reads, in part:
"Vancouver, January 12th 1847 to A.C.Anderson,
"Dear sir; We have to acknowledge the receipt of your different communications from Langley and Alexandria with your report and Sketch of the different routes you examined, and we have now to convey to you our approbation of the zeal manifested by you in the performance of your arduous duty and the success that attended it.
"Recent information received by chief Factor Douglas a short time since induces us to hope that a route can be opened from Langley to Thompson's River even more favourable than the one you returned by. A great objection to it appears solely to arise from the depth of snow that the Brigade might be liable to meet with and while there is a prospect of another route being found preferable we feel most anxious to ascertain if it be so ere we decide on commencing operations.
"We consider it highly expedient that it should be explored and we see none more fit or suitable for the Expedition than yourself and we have therefore to request you will take the necessary measures to carry the same into effect. The enclose instructions and Sketch will [fully] explain to you the route and every particular connected with it......
"Montrose McGillivray and Michael Ogden are appointed to accompany you and as they do not form any part of the interior Brigade their loss will not be felt.... Peter Skene Ogden and James Douglas."

Now, from the Fort St. James post journals, 1846-1851, in HBCA:
"Monday, 20th January 1850.... in the evening an Indian arrived from Fraser's Lake and gave me information of the melancholy intelligence of the death of Mr. Montrose McGillivray. This [poor] young man has been considered dangerously ill some time ago and Mr. McKenzie was sent to remain with him. He then recovered much and was considered by Mr. McK as [per not in danger]."
The words is square brackets were hard to read and may not be correct.
"Wednesday, February 20... Mr. McKenzie returned to Fraser's Lake accompanied by James Boucher, who has been sent to bring hither the widow & family of the late Mr. McGillivray....
"Thursday, May 18th ... in the morning the property of the late Mr. Montrose McGillivray was disposed of by auction & sold very high indeed, several of the articles notwithstanding their having been much worn, fetched three times the original price."


  1. Montrose McGillivray - one posting dated May 23 2010 states he died in 1848 in a measles epidemic. Can you clarify either of these postings? Thank you.

  2. This posting contains information from a primary source -- that is, an original document written by someone who was there at the time of the occurrence. If the Fraser Lake journals actually existed and his illness and death was noted in them, that would be an even better primary source. Historians who have not accessed this primary source have presumed he died in the measles epidemic (and they have said it was a presumption); their writings are secondary sources, that is, NOT written at the time of the occurrence by someone who was actually present (in this case, written 150 years after the event). This posting corrects information in the previous posting because I have information from primary sources that I did not have when I wrote the previous posting. By the way, we don't actually know he died of tuberculosis; but he did fall sick on the 1847 expedition downriver with AC Anderson and in this primary source you can see that his illness was long term. But it might be true in a way; I have been told that a measles infection can kick off tuberculosis (they are somehow connected), and one of the Birnie girls died of that exact cause. Thanks for reading this, and commenting. N

  3. This blog-post has been updated and is found at