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Memorable Manitobans: Nicholas Garry (c1782-1856)

Click to enlargeFur trade governor.

Born about 1782 in England, probably the illegitimate son of a wealthy London merchant who financed his upbringing. He learned to speak German, French, and Russian well, and apparently was active in the Baltic trade before joining the Hudson's Bay Company London Committee in 1817. After the merger of the HBC and the North West Company in 1821, Garry volunteered to travel to British North America to explain the agreement to the wintering partners. Appointed president of the Council of the Northern Department, he left London on 29 March 1821 and kept a detailed diary of his journey. He wrote more about the people he contacted than about the business he conducted, however.

In the West he travelled with Simon and William McGillivray, who appear to have dominated affairs much of the time. But it was Garry who placed George Simpson at the head of the Northern Department. In 1822 he became deputy governor of the HBC, serving until 1835, when he was declared of unsound mind. For his diary, see Francis N. A. Garry, ed., “Diary of Nicholas Garry, Deputy-Governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company from 1822-1835,” Royal Society of Canada Transactions, 2nd series, 6 (1900), sect. II: 73-204.

He is commemorated by Garry Street in Winnipeg.

More information:

Nicholas Garry, Dictionary of Canadian Biography VIII, 314-15.

Sources:

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

Page revised: 18 June 2010

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