Manitoba Historical Society
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Memorable Manitobans: John Palmer Bourke (1791-1851)


Born at Lightford, Ireland, he accompanied the 1812 party of Selkirk settlers, wintered at York Factory, and arrived in the Red River Settlement to become a storekeeper in 1813. He came with cannon to Seven Oaks in 1816 after the skirmish was over, but was wounded in the retreat. He subsequently was captured by the North West Company and was tried in Montreal in 1818 for his part in the conflict. He returned to Red River in 1819, served as a clerk for the Hudson’s Bay Company for several years, and retired to the settlement in 1822.

George Simpson described him as sober but untalented, with “a quarrelsome irritable temper.” He was part of the 1833 expedition to the United States to procure sheep, and in 1835 he purchased the HBC experimental farm in present-day St. James. In 1845 he became head of the HBC’s newly established post at Pembina.

He married Nancy Campbell (1792-1887, daughter of Archibold Campbell and “Ninse,” a Dakota Sioux Indian) on 11 June 1821 at St. Mary’s Falls, Minnesota. Among their children were Andrew Bourke and Edwin Bourke.

He died in 1851 and is buried in the St. James Cemetery along with his wife.


We thank Ray Chapman and Charlotte Proctor for providing additional information used here.

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

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 18 December 2020

Memorable Manitobans

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