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Memorable Manitobans: James Knight (1640-c1720)

Fur trader.

Born in England in 1640, he joined the Hudson's Bay Company in 1676 as a carpenter. He was appointed Chief Factor at Albany Fort in 1682 and subsequently deputy governor. He was energetic if unpolished, and it was rumoured that he was too friendly with the New England traders in the Bay. He was charged with private trading in 1685 and released from service in 1687 after a hearing.

A few years later, in 1692, a Captain James Knight of London, “Merchant,” was given royal letters patent naming him governor and commander-in-chief at the Bay. Given French depredations, it is not surprising that he was to act militantly and recover any territory lost to the French. He sailed with four ships. Knight tilted to a standoff with Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville in the mid-1690s. He returned to London in 1700, remaining there on the HBC’s governing committee until 1714, when he was sent back to the Bay with Henry Kelsey to receive the French surrender of forts agreed to at the Treaty of Utrecht.

Knight remained to guide the HBC into the post-war era, opening a post on the Churchill River and sending out several exploration parties. He himself led one voyage north of 64° in 1719, from which he never returned; the ships were apparently wrecked in a cove on Marble Island. Some of the survivors -- according to later Eskimo testimony -- lived until 1721. A journal kept by Knight in 1717 has been edited by J. F. Kenney and published as The Founding of Churchill (1932).

See also:

James Knight, Dictionary of Canadian Biography II, 319-20.


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

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 17 October 2008

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