Memorable Manitobans: James Hargrave (1798-1865)
Born in Hawick, Scotland, he attended Fysshe’s Academy in Galashiels before persuading his family to immigrate to Canada. Hargrave joined the North West Company, serving as apprentice clerk at Sault Ste. Marie. He continued with the company after its union with the Hudson’s Bay Company, and after several years on the lower Red River he was posted permanently to York Factory, which he operated with singular efficiency. He was appointed Chief Trader in 1833.
Promotion was held back by his failure to learn Native languages and by his general reputation for being ill-tempered. His marriage to Letitia MacTavish in 1840 brought a major improvement to his life. She was sister of William McTavish, Governor of Rupert’s Land (18641870) and a niece of John George McTavish of the North West Company. They had five children, including Joseph James Hargrave. In 1844 he was finally promoted to Chief Factor. After a year in Scotland, he returned to York Factory until 1851, when he was posted to the Sault. After his wife died of cholera there in 1854 he married Margaret Allcock in1859.
In ill health through most of his years in British North America, he retired in 1859, eventually settling on a property in Brockville, Canada. He died at Burnside House, Brockville, Upper Canada, in May 1865.
Hargrave was a prolific letter writer whose correspondence reveals much about life in the fur-trade region in the period. A selection of his letters, edited by George Glazebrook, was published as The Hargrave Correspondence 1821-1843 by the Champlain Society in 1938.
Pioneers and Early Citizens of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Manitoba Library Association, 1971.
Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 3 October 2022