Tag Archives: Hudson’s Bay Company

Canadian Cuisine Timeline 1497-1793

Canadian Food Graphic

A lot of the food and dishes that are “Canadian,” are in fact a result of the early years’ immigrations.  As such, before I go on to the Canadian food inventions and innovations, I think it’s important to list a broad stroke of our timeline.  Because of the length, I am breaking up the timeline into three posts.

1497: Giovanni Caboto (better known as John Cabot) sailed from Bristol, England, in search of a trade route to the Orient. Three months later, he returned home to tell of finding a whole New World of tall trees and waters so thick with fish that could be hauled aboard in buckets. This secured him a five-ship voyage to return. It was disastrous for him as he died on the voyage, but his ships returned and corroborated his fishy tales.

1534: Jacques Cartier sailed into the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Chaleur Bay, where he met a group of Iroquois. He was invited to a feast of seal, cod and sturgeon, maple sugar-glazed moose loin, corn soup and cakes.

1580: New varieties of food were discovered on a regular basis: avocados, chili peppers, corn, peanuts, potatoes, tomatoes, pineapples, just to name a few.

1606: Samuel de Champlain, cartographer and explorer, established Port Royal. He created the Order of Good Cheer (L’Ordre de Bon Temps). Prominent members of the settlement took turns hosting special meals. The benefits were a healthy competition within the group, better nutrition and, it made it easier to wait for the spring. You can view my earlier post about this at

1670: England’s King Charles II granted the lands to the Hudson’s Bay Company. They, in turn, built trading posts and kept them supplied with trade goods and food. Every post was well stocked with butter, tea, biscuits, coffee, cane sugar, salt beef, and other necessities from home.

1755: The deportation of the Acadians from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and New England began. Many were transported back to France but most dispersed to southern areas such as Louisiana where they became known as Cajuns. Years later, almost half the Acadians returned to Canada, bringing not only their old Acadian cuisine but also their new Cajun style of cooking.

1759: Immigration to Canada increased. Consequently, ships were loaded with settlers arriving almost daily, and the Canadian food experience switched from a pork, fish, wine and sauce-based cuisine to one built upon mutton, beef, peas and beer. Taverns became popular with beer and roast beef with mushy peas.

1769: The Experienced English Housekeeper, written by Elizabeth Raffald, was published in London, England, and became essential reading for those headed for Canada.

1775: The American Revolution began. Staples such as salt, molasses, spices, citrus, tea and coffee become unavailable.

Because of losing the Seven Years’ War (1756 – 1763), France ceded Canada to Britain, which precipitated a mass migration, especially from Ireland and northern Scotland. Britain offered emigrants free passage along with some provisions – such as tools, salt, food rations, and armaments. Big meat ruled, but it was all tough as nails. Luckily, the English had learned the trick of tenderizing meat from the Romans, and after a few weeks of hanging and a bit of mould scraping, there was your Sunday dinner. It was a bit ripe, but a good long roasting fixed that, and from this habit of culinary utilitarianism came the British reputation for overcooking food.

Late 1700s, potatoes became as ever-present as corn and apples. Potatoes did very well in the Maritimes because the soil was suited to growing them. In addition, just like grain and apples, the excess could be easily distilled into alcohol.

1783: United Empire Loyalists fleeing the American Revolution arrived in all parts of Upper Canada and the Maritimes. They brought both their cuisine and their slaves, with each having an impact on the evolution of Canadian cuisine – roast duck laced with cayenne pepper was a culinary eye-opener for Canadian settlers.

1786: John Molson bought a small brewery in Montreal and began creating a financial, nation-expanding empire that would include banks, lumber, steamships, a railway and larger breweries. Called the nation’s greatest entrepreneur, John Molson and his business endeavours created a demand for timber and grains.

1790: A salt boiling operation was established at Twelve Mile Creek (now St. Catharines, Ontario) by William Merritt, an immigrant from Liverpool, England, a city with a long history of salt production. The British government in Upper Canada discontinued the practice of supplying each settler family with a barrel of imported salt.

1793: Slavery was abolished in what is now Ontario. Therefore, villages opened inns and taverns whose kitchens offered employment to displaced cooks, escaped U.S. slaves and returning Acadians. Some of them were famous for their dinners that were usually Southern-inspired dishes like slow-baked Virginia-style ham and biscuits, crayfish pie, fried fish, frog legs, cornbread, yams, tomato salad, corn on the cob and syrupy dessert pies, along with traditional roasts of beef, mutton, and wild game. A treat for travellers, Southern-style foods found approval in home kitchens, a fact that led to the design of Canadian cooking stoves with tops that facilitated iron frypans and boiling pans.

Some of my earlier related posts:

Tomorrow’s post will cover the years of 1816 to 1890.


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No More in Canada

Stores that have left Canada


Posted by on February 2, 2015 in Canadian-related Links, Infographics, Trivia


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“Remove that blawsted Fence!”

English: Charles Tupper.

English: Charles Tupper. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1869, the Métis stopped the surveyors who had been sent from Canada to mark out the land that was being taken over from the Hudson’s Bay Company (see my October 11 post:  You Go No Further!).  The next act of the drama followed on October 31.

William McDougall, Minister of Public Works in the Macdonald government, had been appointed the first lieutenant-governor of the territory.  Although Canada was not entitled to take over the territory until December 1, McDougall left Ottawa by train early in October.  On the day that Riel stopped the survey party, McDougall was at St. Cloud, in Minnesota, preparing to complete the journey to Fort Garry by Red River cart.  He was traveling like a king with his family, four assistants, and enough goods and chattels to fill sixty carts.

McDougall’s progress towards the border was being reported to Riel by agents along the way.  He reached Pembina on October 30 and was in the United States’ Customs house when a Métis handed him a note.  it was written in French and said that the National committee of Métis of Red River ordered him not to enter the Northwest Territories without special permission of the committee.

McDougall was furious!  Who were these upstarts ordering him not to enter the territory of which he had been appointed governor!  The next day he sent his secretary, J. A. N. Provencher, into the territory to investigate.  Provencher was traveling just ahead of Captain D. R. Cameron, who had recently married a daughter of Sir Charles Tupper.   He found that the Métis had erected a barrier at the Rivière Sale.  However, he made an effort to be friendly and attended mass.  Then Captain Cameron came long with his bride and two servants.  On reaching the barrier, he put a monocle in one eye, gazed coldly at the Métis, and roared, “remove that blawsted fence!”

Provencher and Cameron were escorted back to Pembina, and Sir Charles Tupper himself had to intervene to regain his son-in-law’s baggage.  McDougall had to stay at Pembina until December 1, when he crossed the border and read a proclamation that he had forged, announcing that Canada had taken over the territory.

For more about today’s post, I suggest the Manitoba Historical Society.

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Posted by on October 31, 2013 in Longer Entries, October, On This Day, postaday


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You Go No Further!

English: Councillors of the Provisional Govern...

English: Councillors of the Provisional Government of the Métis Nation. Front row, L-R: Robert O’Lone, Paul Proulx. Centre row, L-R: Pierre Poitras, John Bruce, Louis Riel, John O’Donoghue, François Dauphinais. Back row, L-R: Bonnet Tromage, Pierre de Lorme, Thomas Bunn, Xavier Page, Baptiste Beauchemin, Baptiste Tournond, Joseph (Thomas?) Spence Français : Conseillers du gouvernement provisoire de la nation métisse (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the most dramatic scenes in Canadian history took place in Manitoba on October 11, 1869.  Canada was in the process of taking over the huge Northwest Territory.  The mixed heritage settlers, known as Métis, who had lived and hunted there for many years, were greatly disturbed because they did not know what would happen to their lands.  They had no legal papers showing that they owned anything.  They simply had “squatters rights.”

The Métis were led by twenty-five year old Louis Riel.  His grandmother had been the first white child born in the Red River settlement, and his father had played a leading part in breaking the Hudson’s Bay Company monopoly.  Young Riel had been educated in Montreal, and was known to be brilliant, but vain and unstable.

When Sir John A. Macdonald‘s government decided to take over the territory, it moved quickly, for a number of reasons.  Ottawa had received secret information that the United States was planning to take over the area and had agents working there (see my Sept. 28 post: They Will Become So American!).  Although a number of local organizations had been formed to provide some control, the sooner Canada could take over, the better it would be.

The greatest difficulty was that the Métis and other settlers were badly informed.  Practically no official information was given to the few newspapers.  The Canadian Government had no intention of depriving the Métis of their holdings, but it was necessary to survey the area, so that fair shares could be allocated to all claimants.  Public Works Minister William McDougall sent out survey parties to do the preparatory work, without explaining their purpose to the settlers.

On October 11, one of the survey crews began working on land claimed by André Nault, a cousin of Louis Riel.  Nault tried to stop them, but they waved him away, so he saddled a horse and rode for help.  In a short time he came back with sixteen Métis whose leader put a moccasined foot on the surveyors’ chain and said “You go no further.”

So, Louis Riel appeared on the stage of national affairs, and the part he played has not been forgotten, even today.  It was the beginning of the Red River uprising, which still influences the political life of Canada.

To learn more about this, I highly suggest going to the Centre du patrimoine. And if you want to read even more, I would also recommend the Métis Nation of Ontario, and the Manitoba Historical Society, and finally the CBC – a People’s History.

“Whereas, it is admitted by all men, as a fundamental principle, that the public authority commands the obedience and respect of its subjects.  It is also admitted that a people, when it has no Government in preference to another, to give or to refuse allegiance to that which is to refuse allegiance to that which is proposed.”

Proclamation of the Provincial Government of the Northwest, Dec. 8, 1869, signed by John Bruce and Louis Riel

“If ever, in time to come, we should have the misfortune to become divided — as foreigners have sought before — that will be the signal for all disasters which we have until now so happily avoided.  But let us hope that the lessons of the past will guide us in the future!

Louis Riel, 1870


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They Will Become So American!

William McDougall, from Archives Canada http:/...

William McDougall, from Archives Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Although John A. Macdonald said in 1865 that he did not think the Prairies were of any use to Canada, he changed his mind quickly after Confederation.  The United States bought Alaska from Russia in 1867 for $7,200,000.  In those days some people called the deal “Seward’s folly,” because American Secretary of State Seward had negotiated it.  They had to eat their words later on.  The United States took about $100 million worth of gold out of Alaska, not to mention other assets.  The U.S. was now looking at the Northwest.  If Alaska could be picked up for $7.2 million, why not get the territory in between?  Prime Minister Macdonald decided Canada should get there first.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee reported:   “The opening by us of a North Pacific railroad seals the destiny of the British possessions west of Longitude 90 (the head of Lake Superior).  They will become so American in interest and feeling … the question of annexation will be but a matter of time.”

James W. Taylor, American Treasury agent in St. Paul, wrote to the Hudson’s Bay Company offering $5 million for Rupert’s Land.  He said, “I know that President Grant is anxious to make a treaty with England which transfers the country between Minnesota and Alaska to the United States in settlement of the Alabama controversy and as consideration for the establishment of reciprocal trade with Canada.”

Ottawa obtained secret copies of those documents, and immediately informed the Hudson’s Bay Company that it would have to sell its territory to Canada.  The Government then created the Northwest Territories out of Rupert’s Land, to be administered by a lieutenant-governor and council.  William H. McDougall was appointed lieutenant-governor on September 28, 1869, and left immediately for Fort Garry.  The consequences of the hurried arrangements were severe and will be the subject of future stories.

The British Government put pressure on the Hudson’s Bay Company to surrender its territory to Canada, and the price was set at £300,000, equivalent then to $1.5 million.  The money was supposed to be paid on October 1, but Canada was unable to raise a loan in London and the deal was delayed until December 1, 1869.

If you would like to read more about today’s post, I would suggest the Library and Archives Canada, and then I would suggest visiting Sarah StAngelo who has put together an interesting presentation. I also suggest the Dictionary of Canadian Biography to learn more about William McDougall.

“The opening of the prairie lands would drain away our youth and strength.  I am perfectly willing personally to leave the whole country a wilderness for the next half century, but I fear if the English do not go in, the Yankees will, and with that apprehension, I would gladly see a crown colony established there.” – Sir John A. Macdoanld, 1865


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Through Kicking Horse Pass

Painting of the Kicking Horse Pass in British ...

Painting of the Kicking Horse Pass in British Columbia, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

British Columbia has contributed some of the most unusual stories to Canadian history.  How Victoria became the capital was recounted on April 2 (Now Where Was I … ?), the use of camels on the Cariboo Trail, on May 29 (Two Wild Beasts With Humps On Their Backs!).  In 1859 George Barston was elected member of the legislature for Nanaimo, but only one vote was cast.  Guess who voted?  The story of Topping’s buying one of the world’s richest gold mines for $12.50 was told on July 21 (Gold Mine Sold For Just $12.50!).  The Hudson’s Bay Company’s purchase of Vancouver Island for seven shillings a year was related on January 13 (Vancouver Island Leased).  Here is yet another remarkable story from beyond the Rockies.

On September 20, 1882, Governor-General the Marquis of Lorne arrived in Victoria to attempt to solve the serious railway problem.  There was not only the delay in getting the C.P.R. through to the Pacific, but also the question of who would build a railway on  Vancouver Island.  There was great unhappiness in British Columbia as suggestions were received that the province should secede from Canada and join the States.

The Governor-General’s visit was almost too successful.  The vice-regal tour was supposed to last two weeks, but the Marquis and his wife, Princess Louise, daughter of Queen Victoria, stayed three months.  While her husband was touring the interior of British Columbia, watching André Onderdonk build the railway through Fraser Canyon, Princess Louise remained in Victoria.  She would walk along the streets visiting bazaars, examining needlework displays, and shopping.  On one occasion, a baker, not knowing who she was, ordered her to come out from behind a counter where she was looking at something.

When the Governor-General arrived back in Victoria, he found that a telegram from William Van Horne of the C.P.R., had arrived, stating that a route had been found through Kicking Horse Pass, and that the railway would be completed from Montreal to the Pacific by January 1, 1887.

The announcement was not greeted with as much joy in Victoria as might have been expected.  Instead, Premier Beaven asked it Vancouver Island could become a separate kingdom with Princess Louise as its Queen!

Many people on Vancouver Island were beginning to fear that the completion of the railway would make the mainland too strong, to their disadvantage.  Of course no such step was considered, but Vancouver Island was promised that it could have a railway of its own and a dry-dock at Esquimalt.

As I’ve only written the basics here, I can suggest a few sites to visit to learn more. I suggest the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, and there’s an interesting page at Old Time Trains as good places to start.


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AB & SK Joins Canada!

English: R. B. Bennett (1870–1947), Prim...

R. B. Bennett (1870–1947), Prime Minister of Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Alberta and Saskatchewan were made provinces of Canada on September 1, 1905.   As the official ceremonies took place in Edmonton on September 1 and in Regina on September 3, it should be justifiable to tell the story on September 2.

When the area was bought from the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1869, Alberta and Saskatchewan were included in the Northwest Territories, and became “districts” within them later.  When they became provinces in 1905, they were greatly enlarged.  Alberta now covers more than 255,000 square miles (410,382 sq. km)  is 800 miles long (1,287 km) and averages 300 miles (482 km) in width.  Saskatchewan covers about 252,000 square miles, (410,382 square km) is 700 miles long (1,126 km) and averages 335 miles (539 sq. km) in width.

Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier made his first trip west to open the two new provinces, and attended the ceremonies at Edmonton and Regina with Governor-General Earl Grey.  Photographs of the ceremonies at Edmonton show the Governor-General and the Prime Minister on the speakers’ stand, against a background of scarlet-coated Mounties on horseback, and Indians from the Hebbema Reserve.  Thousands of  people from far and wide went to Edmonton and Regina for the great occasions.

When Alberta and Saskatchewan were made provinces they did not have the power they have today.  The Federal Government retained all public lands, mines, minerals, and resources.  The provinces did not even have complete control of education.  R. B. Bennett, who was Leader of the Opposition in Alberta, and who became Prime Minister of Canada in 1930, strongly attacked the arrangement whereby the provinces did not have control of their own resources.

One of the interesting things about the development of Alberta and Saskatchewan is that they, more than other provinces in Canada, broke away from the old political parties, the Liberals and the Conservatives.  Alberta elected a United Farmers government in 1921.  A Social Credit government elected in 1935 remained in power until 1971.  Saskatchewan elected a Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (Socialist) government in 1944, and it won successive elections in 1952 and 1956.  Both provinces contributed heavily to the Progressive Party which played a big part in the Federal Parliament until 1930, when the Conservatives under R. B. Bennett swept the country.

There are a few sites to visit to learn more about these events. For example there is the Library and Archives Canada, and the Saskatchewan – The Birth of a Nation (I had difficulty loading this page properly, but if you scroll down, you should see the real content).


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