Simpson Circles World

03 Mar
George Simpson, a particularly vehement critic...

George Simpson (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


One of the most colourful characters in Canadian history was Sir George Simpson, Governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company.  On March 3, 1841, he began a trip around the world that took twenty months.

Scottish-born, he was only thirty-three when the Hudson’s Bay Company sent him in 1821 to govern what is now western Canada.  The Hudson’s Bay Company had just taken over its bitter rival, the Northwest Company, and a strong, wise leader was needed to blend the two together.  Simpson virtually ruled western Canada for forty years.

Simpson was a fur-trader, not a farmer, but he tried to help the settlers in the Red River area by buying their surplus products.  He even organized an experimental farm on the Assiniboine River and imported the best thoroughbred cattle and horses from Britain.  Even so, late in his career, he told a special committee of the House of Commons in London that the soil in western Canada was useless for farming.  He wanted to protect the area for fur trading.

Simpson made his trips across Canada by canoe.  Travelling would begin every day at 3 a.m., after Simpson had had a swim, and continue almost without pause until dark.  Colin Fraser, Simpson’s piper, was always a member of his party.  On approaching a settlement, Fraser would stand in the stern and play his his bagpipes, while Simpson, wearing top had, cloak, and gaiters, would stand erect in the bow.

On one trip in 1828, Simpson travelled from Hudson Bay to the mouth of the Fraser River in ninety days.  This included paddling down the Fraser River itself, which Simon Fraser had done only twenty years before.  It was one of the most dangerous journeys ever undertaken by man.

Simpson was no a Pacific coast fan.  He thought that living in what is now British Columbia was unhealthy and would only allow his traders to stay there for two years, after which they had to go to Fort Garry (Winnipeg) to “recuperate.”

Of course, all this is just the tip of the iceberg, as the saying goes.  To read more about Sir George Simpson, some sites to visit are

Electric Scotland, Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, Hudson’s Bay Company, and lastly, you should really visit Canadian Transport Sourcebook.

There are also two books, The Little Emperor. Governor Simpson of the Hudson’s Bay Company. and George Simpson: Blaze of Glory (Quest Biography) that might be of interest, and available at Amazon.


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6 responses to “Simpson Circles World

  1. seeker

    March 9, 2013 at 10:43 am

    Simpson was wrong. I guess he would never imagined that we now called Beautiful British Columbia. The Bay has returned to its roots “Hudson’s Bay”.

    • tkmorin

      March 9, 2013 at 12:15 pm

      Yes, and I have not heard of anyone reall having to “recuperate” from time in B.C.! 🙂

  2. dtkcopywriting

    March 3, 2013 at 11:46 am

    This is a truly enjoyable blog. Great stuff.

    • tkmorin

      March 3, 2013 at 11:47 am

      Thank you so much for the encouraging words!! 🙂

  3. mamacormier

    March 3, 2013 at 11:38 am

    Thanks for the history lesson. I’m going to go back and read some of your previous posts. I’m in a history mood today. It’s funny how as I get older history has become more interesting for me. When I was a kid I hated the subject. I started teaching ancient civilizations and medieval history to my grade 4 and 5 students about 10 years ago and I try to make it interesting. It helps that I’m enjoying it now.

    • tkmorin

      March 3, 2013 at 11:41 am

      Thank you, mamacormier. I hope you find a few more as interesting … and I understand what you mean about history being more interesting as we get older … 🙂


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