Farquhar Macdonald: A Contract with the Hudson’s Bay Company, 1832

Fearchar (Farquhar) Macdonald, son of Angus, was about born about 1809 at Capadal, roughly on the site of 3 Ardroil. In 1832 he joined the Hudson’s Bay Company, as a “slooper” – a crewman on HBC decked vessels.  According to the Company’s personal records, he boarded the Prince Rupert IV on 23 June 1832 for a passage from London to York Factory, on the west shore of the bay, where he arrived on 24 August.  He worked at York until 1834, travelled overland to Fort Vancouver on the Columbia River (just north of present-day Portland, Oregon) in that year – see the route of the York Factory Express.  He continued as a slooper until 1838 and after a short period as a gardener in 1839, he returned to Scotland again on the Prince Rupert IV.

In the intervening time Ardroil had been cleared and his family evicted; with his brother Kenneth he settled in Geshader. Fearchar was married three times and his further family connections can be found on Hebridean Connections. By all accounts he was a modest man and did not speak much of his exploits in North America, referring to it as an Talamh Fuar (the Cold Country.)

The following is the contract signed by Fearchar shortly before his departure to North America.  A copy of the hand-written document now hangs in the museum. Thanks to Tisty (3 Geshader), who presented the museum with the document from the papers of her brother, the late John Knox, and to Kenneth who mounted it.

An agreement made this twentieth day of June in the Year of Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty two BETWEEN Farquhar Macdonald of Capitol in the Parish of Uig in the County of Ross in Scotland of the one part, and the Governor and Company of Adventurers of England, trading into Hudson’s Bay, by William Roderick Morrison of Stornoway, their Agent of the other part as follow: —

The said Farquhar Macdonald hereby contracts and agrees to enter into the service and employment of the said Company in North America in the capacity of a slooper and that he will embark when thereunto required on board such ship or vessel as shall be appointed by or on behalf of the said company, and proceed to Hudson’s Bay, and for the term of Five Years to be computed from the said embarkation, and for such further time as herinafter mentioned, and faithfully serve the said company as their hired servant in the capacity of a slooper and devote the whole of his time and labour in their service and for their sole benefit, and that he will do his duty as such and perform all such Work and service by day or night for the said Company as he shall be required to do, and obey all orders which he shall receive from the Governors fo the Company in North America, or other their officers or agents for the time being. And that he will with courage and fidelity in his said station in the said service, defend the property of the said company and their Factories and Territories. And will not absent himself from the said service, nor engage or be concerned in any trade or employment whatsoever except for the benefit of the said company and according to their orders. And that all good obtained by Barter with the Indians or otherwise which shall come in to the hands or possession of the said Farquhar Macdonald shall be held by him for the said Company only, and shall duly be delivered up to the said Governors or other officers at their Factory or Trading Post, without any waste, spoil or injury thereto. And in case of any willful neglect or default herein, he shall make good to the said company all such loss or damage as they shall sustain thereby to be deducted out of his wages. And that the said Farquhar Macdonald will faithfully obey all laws, orders and Regulations established or made by the said Company for the good governance of their Settlements and Territories. And at all times during the residence of the said Farquhar Macdonald in North America he will defend the Rights and Privileges of the said Company and aid and support their Officers and Agents to the utmost of his power. And the said Farquhar Macdonald further engages and agrees, that in case he shall omit to give notice to the Governor or officers of the said Company in North America one year or upwards before the expiration of the said term of Five Years of his intention to quite their service and return to Europe, then, that he hereby promises and engages to remain one year longer, and also until the next ship in the service of the said Company shall sail from there to Europe, as their hired Servant in North American upon the like terms, as are contained in this Contract. And the said Farquhar Macdonald also engages and agrees that in case the said Company shall not have any ship which will sail from the Hudson’s Bay for Europe immediately after the expiration of the said term of Five Years, or of such further term as hereinbefore mentioned, that he hereby promises and engages to remain in the service as a hired servant of the said Company in North America until the next ship of the said Company shall sail from their for Europe. And the said William Roderick Morrison on behalf of the said Company hereby engages that upon condition of the due and faithful service of the said Farquhar Macdonald in like manner as aforesaid but not otherwise, the said Farquhar Macdonald shall receive from the said Company after the rate of Eighteen Pounds Sterline per Annum and Five Pounds per Annum in addition for the last two years of his service merit it, to commence on the day of his embarkation for Hudson’s Bay as aforesaid, and up to the day of his embarkation from thence for Europe in one of the ships of the said Company’s service. Provided always and it is hereby expressly agreed between the said Parties thereto, that it shall be lawful for the Governor or Governors or other Officers of the said Company in North America at any time during the said term of the Five Years or such additional Term as aforesaid to dismiss the said Farquhar Macdonald from their service and direct his return from thence to Europe in one fo the Ships in their Employment and in such case his wages are to cease from the day of his Embarkation for Europe. And further that in case the said Farquhar Macdonald shall at any time during this contract desert the service of the said Company or otherwise neglect or refuse duly to discharge his duty as such hired Servant as aforesaid, then he shall forfeit and lose all his wages for the recovery whereof theire shall be no relief either in Law or in Equity.

In witness whereof the said Parties have hereunto set their hands:–

Farquhar Macdonald

William Roderick Morrison

Signed in the presence of Norm. Maciver, Mercht.

16 thoughts on “Farquhar Macdonald: A Contract with the Hudson’s Bay Company, 1832

  1. I’m proud to say that Fearchair was my great great grandfather directly down the paternal line. However I’m not so proud to say that all this information is new to me! Any other info on him or my great grandfather Angus would be greatly appreciated. I look forward to seeing the original contract doc in Uig next time I’m up.

  2. Although it is clear from the various records that this family was associated with Capadal, it is interesting to note that when Farquhar was registering the birth of his son John (b. 19 June 1855, Geshader), he stated that he himself was “45” and that he had been born in Mangersta. That may or may not have been the case. It was quite common for people not to know where they had been born. They might have thought that they were born in the place with which their earliest memories were associated and, unless the subject came up in conversation, there would be no-one to confirm or deny the assumption. However, as the entry for Farquhar’s father, Angus, on the Hebridean Connections site shows, Angus was not on the rent rolls for Capadal in the period 1807 to 1824, so it is quite possible that Mangersta is where the family was around that time and Farquhar was indeed born in there.

    Catherine Mackay, third wife of Farquhar, was born ca. 1819 (“35” at the time her first child was born in 1855 and aged 81 at the time of her death in 1900) and, as Farquhar stated when registering the birth of their son John in 1855, she was born in Valtos. Her death certificate shows her parents as John Mackay and Henrietta Macdonald.

  3. I agree Farquhar was born in Mangersta but not necessarily because he didn’t know where he was born. According to the family tree compiled by my late uncle, Farquhar’s mother was Margaret Macleod (daughter of John Macleod and Kirsty Gillies) from Mangersta. It makes sense that Farquhar was born at his granny’s house in Mangersta. In fact it was quite common even well into the 20th century for folk to be born at their mammy’s mammy’s house.

  4. Farquhar’s father was Angus MacDonald who also worked for the Hudson Bay Company. Angus MacDonald [McDonald] is the name given by John McDonald [Born ca.1790 Timsgary] as being his father. Farquhar’s brother is Kenneth, also worked for H.B.C., With all of these H.B.C. connections in one family I find it hard to believe that John MacDonald is not a brother of Farquar and Kenneth. Also of interest is that of all the fellows who worked for the H.B.C. from Lewis Angus and John would have been among the first if not the first. I therefore wonder if your late uncles family tree includes a John MacDonald [ b. ca. 1790]. It would surprise me if they were not related as they all can be traced to the area around Crowlista,Timsgary and Ardroil. It would also surprise me if Angus MacDonald and Margaret Macleod had only two sons.

    Any insights would be welcome, Thomas

  5. Thanks for that Thomas – This adds more to chew over. Unfortunately I can’t find Angus Macdonald in the HBC online records for that date however.
    Also it would make John 19 years older than Farquhar if they were Angus’s sons. However our family has a long history of older parents including Farquhar himself. Its interesting that John Macdonald is described as ginger in the HBC records (the same as Angus “Aonghas Ruadh”) but I also note that while he got up the ladder to Trader he appears latterly not to have covered himself in glory!
    The family tree only goes as far as Farquhar’s father Angus but another branch goes further back to John Maclean “Iain Dubh” from Mull.
    My own theory about Angus (Aonghas Ruadh) was that he was an Able Seaman in the Royal Navy and served at Trafalgar possibly on HMS Ajax. His age would be about right (27 in 1805) and the gap between his two sons (1801 and 1809) would suggest he could have been away at sea in 1805. Likewise I can’t disprove this theory either. I would need to carry out a deeper search which I don’t have time to do.
    You’re right though the eight year gap between the two sons is a bit strange.

  6. Thank you for your reply Angus. The bit I wrote March 29 is a bit confused as no doubt I was at the time, the reality of trying to sort out 250 years of family history seems to lead naturally to the previously mentioned state of mind. Let me try to clear things up! The reference to Angus MacDonald working for Hudson Bay Company comes from Hebridean Connections not the H.B.C. archive in this way. I looked up Donald Matheson born 1794 [ this fellow traveled to Canada with John McDonald in 1815 ] Now if I follow the line of his wife, Christina McDonald, back I come to her parents Norman McDonald and Catherine MacClean [ could this be the MacClean branch you mentioned ?] Following back one more time with a “click” on Norman McDonald we arrive at the family of Norman and Catherine which includes Angus MacDonald who worked for H.B.C., had a native wife and children. Apart from the obvious H.B.C. connection this Angus would be the right age to have a son [John?] born in 1791. The other striking thing about this family is the frequency of the same names cropping up especially in the females, even on this side of the pond John McDonalds first child is Catherine.

    Your reference to 1805 is also of interest for this reason. The H.B.C. biographical sheets list an Annawiskum McDonald born York Factory 1803. My thought here is that this is the”issue” of Angus McDonald above. Annawiskum has a certain Cree ring to it but McDonald is more Hebridean I am sure you will agree. This also places [if my hunch is correct] Angus McDonald in Hudsons bay when the other Angus is at sea. The thing here is at 27 in 1805 he is probably too young to have had a son in 1791. Although none of this rules out some sort of familial connection I don’t think we are talking about the same Angus MacDonald.

    I Look forward to your comments
    Cheers Thomas

  7. Thomas:

    The Donald Matheson (1794-1869) that you refer to was actually the son of Christina MacDonald. He was married to Ellen MacIver and was my 3x gr grandfather. I have a family genealogy from 1934 which mentions Christina’s brother Angus, or “Old Angus” as he was called. It says that Angus had four sons, two of whom worked for the Hudson Bay Co. Keep in mind that “Old Angus” MacDonald and family had emigrated to Cape Breton. I will quote the entire passage from the genealogy in the event that any of it holds interest for anyone else:
    “Old Angus MacDonald, North Side had 4 sons; Murdock, on old home married Catherine, daughter of Donald Bhan Soldier Matheson. Norman was with Hudson Bay Co., married a woman from the Orkney Islands. Had a large family, no records. John was with Hudson Bay Co., married an Indian girl, 3 sons & 1 daughter (James, Donald, Sandy. This James married Sarah, daughter of John Matheson, North Side.) Angus, Old Angus’ son lived at South Cove married a Smith girl, sister to Donald Smith of West Bay. They had 5 sons; Sandy, Angus, Peter, John and Murdock who had a store at Little Narrows. Also 2 daughters; Catherine, Mrs. ‘Big’ Neil MacIvor and Ann, Mrs. Donald Morrison.”

    I too came across the John MacDonald in the HBC archives born in 1790 or 1791 in Timsgarry. I was trying to determine if he was the John in my tree but the children listed in the archives don’t match the children from my genealogy.

  8. Paul

    Thanks for the reply and yes you are correct about Christina McDonald being Donald Matheson’s mom. According to Hebridean Connections Christina was also married to a Donald Matheson. Christina McDonald is the daughter of Norman McDonald and Catherine McClean and she has a brother named Angus McDonald. This Angus McDonald is the one who I think may be the father of John McDonald born @ 1791. Is there any information you have which indicates that “Old Angus McDonald” worked for H.B.C. as stated in Hebridean Connections. As to the children of John McDonald [ ca. 1791 ] they are Catherine, Flora, Mary, Charlotte, Donald, John J., Sarah and Christina [ or Christianna ]. There is only John McDonalds HBC Biographical Sheet as the source of the fathers name and that has been found in the 1870 census. Although his HBC Bio gives his place of origin as Timisgarry , Uig, Isle of Lewis another source gives a birth date of November 12, 1791 in Orphir Orknay. Not sure what to make of that …………..but there it is.

  9. Thomas:

    My genealogy does not mention that Old Angus MacDonald worked for the HBC. Due to the fact that the genealogy and the HBC bio sheet differ as to the children of John MacDonald (1791), I think we need another source as a cross-reference before considering them to be one and the same.

    FYI: to the extent that it is possible, I have cross referenced the genealogy and to date have only uncovered one slight discrepancy. It has become clear to me that the author was very careful.

  10. Paul

    More on the children of John McDonald: It is certain that none of them were born in Cape Breton or in the Hebrides. They were all born in what was, at that time, known as Rupert,s Land. The family settled in Red River just south of Lower Fort Garry. At the time of the 1827 census John had three daughters under the age of 15 they were, Catherine, Flora and Marry. By 1840 the other 5 children had been born ending with Christina. The only matching name is Donald. Donald McDonald of Red River had 7 children with his wife Caroline Setter. There is a partial match with James in as much as John J. went by the name James, his middle name. John J. married Mary Flett and they had 1 daughter, Mary. Bear in mind that John McDonald of Timisgarry born 1791 is the H.B.C. man who retires to Red River in 1823. I only mention this because according to Hebridean Connections the family of Donald Matheson and Ellen MacIvar emigrate to Cape Breton about 1832, 1 year after the birth of Donald McDonald in Red River and 12 years after the birth of Catherine. Let’s not also loose sight of the fact that Donald Matheson who eventually moves to Cape Breton is a single man working for the H.B.C. in 1820, the year John McDonald.s first daughter is born. Therefore if “Old Angus” son John is born in Cape Breton …………………..?? As far as I know none of the descendents of John McDonald Sr. and his wife Sarah Swain emigrated to Cape Breton prior to 1911, in fact their routes of emigration took them south and west. In any case the only living person who had the surname McDonald was in Vancouver British Columbia, Canada in 1911.

    Therefore I think we can safely say that your John and our John are not the same John. The sources of my information are many and varied, chiefly, the archives of H.B.C., archives of Manitoba, archives of Canada, and archives of British Columbia. To a lesser extent, this web site and the family genealogy from 1725 till present.
    I still have an itch to scratch regarding Angus McDonald son of Norman McDonald and Catherine MacClean…………perhaps the next batch of micro-film will shed some light.

    Cheers Thomas

  11. Thomas:

    According to Hebridean Connections, Christina MacDonald who married Donald Matheson, was the daughter of Norman MacDonald and Catherine MacLean. These (Christina and Donald) are the parents of the Donald Matheson you originally looked up. He went to work for the HBC in 1815 and returned to Lewis in 1821. He married Ellen and emigrated to Cape Breton in 1831-1832. Again, according to Hebridean Connections, Christina had a brother named Angus. He “worked for the HBC; Married an Indian woman with issue”. My genealogy stipulates that this Angus is “Old Angus”.

    We both followed the scent to the same place. If our Johns are not the same, then the Angus you are looking at is not the one you want. The circumstantial evidence –that they are the same–is very compelling and I would like to find something that ties the pieces together. To date, the search has been unsuccessful. Please share with us anything you may find to shed further light.

  12. Thanks for that Paul

    I found Annawiskum McDonald and even though he changed his name to Wiskum he is 1/2 Native and 1/2 Mcdonald born 1803 so I am going to order Micro-Film to see if I can get the name etc. of his father. Wouldn’t it be nice if everything matched Heb Connections as perfectly as the Grave markers of Donald Matheson and Ellen?………….I’ll keep you all posted.

    Again….Many thanks, Thomas

  13. Hi Paul, me again!

    Re John McDonald. Two months latter and I can now report that the John McDonald in your report and the John McDonald born 1791 who’s bio appears in the HBC section of this web site are the same person. The solution to the puzzle came in the form of a copy of the marriage registration for James McDonald and Sarah Matheson, daughter of John Matheson and his wife Mary.

    I have also managed to get in contact with two descendants of John’s brothers’, Angus and Murdock. My E-Mail is tom-gerry@shaw.ca please contact me if you would like more info.


  14. I have been following your comments Thomas and hoped you would post more about your findings on Annawiskum McDonald, He traveled west with the HBC and married Elizabeth Pe’ky Semas, a Native American in the Oregon Territory. I am fairly certain that their daughter Catherine McDonald Riel Laramie is our ggggrandmother. Do you have any more info?

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