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Memorable Manitobans: James Allan Graham (1825-1905)

HBC employee.

Born in Edinburgh, Scotland on 22 December 1825. He was educated at the Edinburgh Academy then, in 1843, was apprenticed to the Hudson's Bay Company as a junior clerk. After a year of training at York Factory and Fort Garry, he was transferred to the Columbia district where, in 1854, he was elevated to the position of Chief Trader, and head of the Oregon Department in 1858. He was in charge of the company's post at Fort Vancouver in territory that would become the American state of Oregon in 1859. In June 1860, Graham and his staff withdrew from Fort Vancouver, he was promoted to Chief Factor and placed in charge of Fort Victoria on Vancouver Island. He served as head of Lower Fort Garry in 1861-62 and of Norway House from 1862 until 1867, when he was returned to the Western Department.

In 1870 he and Roderick Finlayson became heads of the department; he was responsible for the coastal operations, and he took over sole command in 1872. That same year he became subcommissioner of the HBC, serving in that post until 1874, when he succeeded Donald A. Smith as chief commissioner of the Company in North America. Grahame led the HBC into transportation and retailing but without much enthusiasm, and he was criticized in the early 1880s for being “much behind the times.” His letter of resignation of 1883 was accepted on 31 May 1884. After retirement he moved first to Montreal and then, in 1887, to a large home in Victoria that he built, where his wife’s relatives were part of the British Columbia elite.

He died in Victoria in 1905. He is commemorated by Graham Avenue in Winnipeg.

More information:

James Allan Graham, Dictionary of Canadian Biography XIII, 398-400.


This profile is prepared from information compiled by historian Harry Shave.

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

Page revised: 10 March 2008

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

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

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