Journal of Occurrences in the Athabasca Department by George Simpson, 1820 and 1821, and Report

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Author: George Simpson (c1792-1860) edited by E E "Edwin Ernest" Rich

Year: 1938

Publisher: The Champlain Society for the Hudson's Bay Record

Place: Toronto


lix+498+xiii pages with frontispiece, tables, appendixes 4 folding maps in rear pocket and index. Royal octavo (9 ½" x 6") bound in original publisher's red cloth with gilt lettering to spine. Publications of the Champlain Society, Hudson Bay Company Series Number 1. Number 294 of 550 copies. First Edition.

The first volume of the Hudson’s Bay Company Series is a verbatim transcription of the complete text of Simpson’s “Report and Journal,” supported by notes and appendices. It documents a “golden age” of the company under this indomitable governor, who had left Montreal by canoe in 1820 to reach the Athabasca Department. In 1821, the Hudson’s Bay Company and the North West Company amalgamated under the HBC charter. Writes Chester Martin in his introduction: “This remarkable journal of a very remarkable man was written at a juncture in the fortunes of the Hudson’s Bay Company which gives it an historical interest out of all proportion to its intrinsic value as a chapter in the technique of the fur trade.” It is also significant for “the light which it throws upon the deadly rivalry, then at its worst, between the Hudson’s Bay and North West Companies.”

George Simpson  was a Scottish explorer and colonial governor of the Hudson's Bay Company during the period of its greatest power. From 1820 to 1860, he was in practice, if not in law, the British viceroy for the whole of Rupert's Land, an enormous territory in northern North America. 

He went by ship to New York, by boat and cart to Montreal and left by the usual route for York Factory on Hudson Bay. He met Williams at Rock Depot on the Hayes River. Since Williams had not been arrested he was William's subordinate and was sent west to Fort Wedderburn on Lake Athabaska. There he spent the winter learning about, and reorganizing, the fur trade. On his return journey in 1821, he learned that the two companies had merged. This put an end to a ruinous and sometimes violent competition and converted the HBC monopoly into an informal government for western Canada. He escorted that year's furs to Rock Depot and returned upriver to Norway House for the first meeting of the merged companies. There he learned that he had been made governor of the Northern—that is, western—Department and Williams had been made his equal in the Southern Department south of Hudson Bay. In December 1821, the HBC monopoly was extended to the Pacific coast. 

After the meeting he returned downstream to take up his duties at York Factory. In December 1821, he set out on snowshoes for Cumberland House and then the Red River Colony. By July 1822, he was back at York Factory for the second meeting of the Northern Council, the first that he chaired. After the meeting he went by water to Lac Île-à-la-Crosse and then by dog sled to Fort Chipewyan and Fort Resolution on the Great Slave Lake. He then went south to Fort Dunvegan on the Peace River and then Fort Edmonton and after the thaw, back to York Factory. 


Touches of wear to cloth, slight sunning to spine; tender hinges, faint age-toning to pages, clean internally else very good.

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