This is an opportunity to describe something of Pierre Radisson‘s career, because it was on August 28, 1661, that he and his brother-in-law Chourart des Groseilliers began their great partnership that led to the founding of the Hudson’s Bay Company.
Pierre Radisson’s adventures began as a young boy at Trois Rivières, Quebec. He was captured by a band of Iroquois while hunting ducks and taken to their village in the State of New York. Somehow he managed to attract the attention of an Indian woman who had lost a son of about the same age and she adopted him. Radisson gained some knowledge of the language and customs of the Iroquois which helped him save a Jesuit mission after he escaped (see my March 19 – After Dinner We Escaped post).
Radisson and Groseilliers formed a fur-trading partnership. They went as far west as Lake Superior, where they were very successful. There is some possibility that they were the first white men to see the Mississippi River.
Soon after, Radisson and Groseilliers were fined for fur-trading infractions and decided to offer their services to the British. They met Sir George Carteret, a good friend of King Charles II. Carteret took Radisson and Groseilliers to England to tell their stories to Charles. The king, and especially his cousin, Prince Rupert, were greatly impressed by Radisson and Groseilliers, although they could not pronounce their names. They were usually called “Radishes and Gooseberry.”
They fitted out an expedition to Hudson Bay to bring back furs. Groseilliers so impressed King Charles with his fur-laden cargo that Charles formed the Governor and Company of Adventurers of England Trading into Hudson’s Bay on May 2, 1670.
Even so, Radisson and Groseilliers were displeased because King Charles only gave them a “gold chain and medal.” They returned to Canada and, working for both the French and Dutch, later led an expedition to drive the English out of Hudson’s Bay. The story of Radisson’s life becomes complicated and is difficult to follow, especially as most of it was written by Radisson himself. In any event, he returned to England in 1684, and was given shares in the Hudson’s Bay Company. When he died the company gave his widow £6 in recognition of his work!
To learn more about this, I highly recommend Micheline’s Blog – a place where Micheline tackles so many history topics! If you have the time, I also suggest reading The Discovery of Lake Superior – you can read it online, or download for later reading.