Memorable Manitobans: Walter John Strickland Traill (1847-1932)
Fur trader, grain merchant, memoirist.
Born in Canada in 1847, youngest son of Catherine Parr Traill, he came west to Rupert’s Land in 1866 as a clerk with the Hudson's Bay Company. He was briefly imprisoned by Louis Riel in 1870 before being sent out of Red River. Later that year, he was appointed as postmaster of Fort Ellice although he was only an apprentice clerk. By 1874 he was in charge of five HBC posts in the United States, including one at Grand Forks. From 1874 to 1876 he liquidated the HBC’s holdings in North Dakota, and then, exhausted by the effort, he took a leave of absence and travelled in the southern United States for a year. He resigned from the HBC in 1877 and took charge of a St. Paul elevator company. Through the late 1870s, he bought and sold grain in the Red River Valley and built a grain-handling warehouse at Morris.
He married Mary Gilbert in 1881. They lived at Pembina, then St. Paul, and from 1890 to 1910 at Kalispell, Montana where he ran a ranch. He then moved to Grand Forks, British Columbia where he built a fruit farm but was not successful. He subsequently headed south to the American Okanogan Valley, returning to British Columbia in 1927.
He died in 1932 and is commemorated by Traill County in North Dakota. A memoir of his adventures in the West from 1866 to 1870 was compiled by Mae Atwood from his letters and journals and published as In Rupert’s Land: Memoirs of Walter Traill (1970).
“Boundary Bounces,” Manitoba Free Press, 1 November 1879, page 4.
“How counties got names,” Bismarck Tribune, 8 July 1914, page 5.
Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 16 November 2018