Hudson's Bay Company collection, 1690-1970  PDF  XML

Overview of the Collection

Hudson's Bay Company
Hudson's Bay Company collection
1690-1970 (inclusive)
1 cubic foot, (2 document cases, 1 reel of microfilm)
Collection Number
Mss 1502
Collection assembled by the Oregon Historical Society relating to the Hudson's Bay Company, chartered by the British crown in 1670 and a major power in northwestern North America throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. The collection contains original documents and copies, including correspondence, government documents, articles about the company, financial records, inventories, and an anonymous diary. Included are papers of and relating to Cuthbert Cummings, James Douglas, James A. Grahame, George S. McTavish, and Dr. William McKay.
Oregon Historical Society Research Library
1200 SW Park Avenue
Portland, OR
Telephone: 503-306-5240
Fax: 503-219-2040
Access Restrictions

The collection is open to the public.

English, French

Historical NoteReturn to Top

The Hudson's Bay Company was chartered in 1670 by King Charles II of England. Originally concerned with the fur trade throughout the northern North American continent, the company's complete monopoly was challenged in the late 18th century by chartered rivals such as the North West Company. By the early 19th century the Company had established posts in the far west, including the acquisition of Fort George in 1821 and the founding of Fort Vancouver on the lower Columbia River in 1824. Prominent among its officials was Dr. John McLoughlin, the Chief Factor at Fort Vancouver. It held great power in the Pacific Northwest up to the 1840s. After the signing of the 1846 treaty setting the boundary with the U.S. at the 49th parallel, the Company moved its operations to Vancouver Island in British Columbia. In a further treaty of 1863, the U.S. agreed to pay the Company for all rights and titles to its remaining property within the Union.

Sir James Douglas (1803-1877) was a native of Scotland who entered the service of the North West Company in 1819 and worked for the Hudson's Bay Company after 1821. He was stationed first at Fort Henry, and afterwards at various outposts in the Pacific northwest, coming to Fort Vancouver in 1830 and later succeeding Dr. John McLoughlin. From 1841-1849 he sat on the Hudson's Bay Company's Board of Governor's, and he later moved to Vancouver Island, where he served as the Island's second governor from 1849-1858. He was the first governor of the Crown Colony of British Columbia, serving from 1859-1863.

Dr. William Cameron McKay (1824-1893) was born at Astoria Oregon, the son of Thomas McKay, a member of the original 1811 Pacific Fur Company expedition, and McKay's Chinook Indian wife. William McKay was educated at Fort Vancouver under Dr. John McLoughlin, and later attended Fairfield College in New York and Willamette University in Oregon, where he received an M.D. He established a trading post near Umatilla, served as a guide for military expeditions, commanded a company of Warm Springs Indians in 1866, and served as a physician at the Warm Springs and Umatilla reservations in his later years.

George McTavish (1834-1893) was a native of Scotland who entered the service of the Hudson's Bay Company as a clerk, in 1849. He was stationed at various posts at the Ottowa River, the Great Whale River, Rupert's House, Moose Factory, and Fort Garry, and others. He rose to the postion of Inspecting Chief Factor and retired in 1880 to supervise work on the Canadian Pacific Railroad. His second wife was Emma Moore, who died in 1886.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The collection contains materials assembled by the Oregon Historical Society from a variety of sources. Approximately one quarter of the materials are original documents and the rest are photocopies or on microfilm. Included are a number of articles on the history of the Hudson's Bay Company and the North West Company; a plan of Fort George; and copies of printed texts and British government documents from the early 19th century relating to the Company's activities. Among the original documents are: accounts and inventories; letters to Company officials such as Sir James Douglas, Cuthbert Cummings (Chief trader at Wemontachinque), and James A. Grahme; letters from Louis Decerre; papers of George S. McTavish, 1860-1893; and an anonymous diary recording an 1875 trip from Montreal to Esquimaux Point and other locales in Canada. The collection documents a wide range of the Company's activities, from fur trading to the construction and provision of forts to relations with the Native American tribes.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

The Oregon Historical Society is the owner of the materials in the Research Library and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from the Research Library prior to any use of reproductions. The Society does not necessarily hold copyright to all the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use of reproductions may require seeking additional authorization from the copyright holders.

Preferred Citation

Hudson's Bay Company Collection, Mss 1502, Oregon Historical Society Research Library

Administrative InformationReturn to Top


The collection is arranged in the following series:

  • Series A: Articles and other publications about the Hudson's Bay Company, 1840-1970
  • Series B: Letters, general, 1830-1969
  • Series C: Parliamentary papers,1690-1870
  • Series D: George S. McTavish papers, 1860-1893
  • Series E: General papers, 1811-1953

Location of Originals

Originals of portions of the collection in: Metropolitan Toronto Library; Sheffield (U.K.) City Libraries; Scottish Record Office; and U.S. National Archives

Acquisition Information

The collection was acquired from a variety of sources.


Howard McKinley Corning, ed., Dictionary of Oregon History (Portland, Or. : Binford & Mort, c1989)

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

Series A:  Articles and other publications about the Hudson's Bay Company, 1840-1970Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
"Edward Ermatinger's York Factory express journal : being a record of journeys made between Fort Vancouver and Hudson Bay in the years 1827-1828," with introduction by Judge C. O. Ermatinger and notes by Judge C. O. Ermantinger and James White, F.R.S.C., reprint from Transactions of the Royal Society of CanadaVol. VI, Section II
"The fur trade in northwestern development," by F. W. Howay, reprint from The Pacific Ocean in history by H. Morse Stephens and Herbert E. Bolton
"The Hudson's Bay Company in California" (typescript), by Ione B. Harkenss
"Oregon or river of the west" (excerpt, typescript), by John Stuart
circa 1840-1845
"Peter Fidler, trader and surveyor, 1769-1822," by J. B. Tyrrell, reprint from Transactions of the Royal Society of CanadaVol. VII, third series
"The raison d'etre of Forts Yale and Hope," by Judge F. W. Howay, reprint from Transactions of the Royal Society of CanadaVol. XVI, third series
"The role played by the Hudson's Bay Company in the development of North America, and the company today," by Mrs. S. A. Smith (typescript, photocopy)
"Treaty between Her Majesty and the United States of America for the settlement of the claims of the Hudson's Bay and Puget's Sound Agricultural Companies, signed at Washington, July 1, 1863" (2 printed copies, London)
"The two economies of the Hudson's Bay Company," by Abraham Rotstein

Series B:  Letters, general, 1830-1969Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Cummings, Cuthbert--Letters to
Cummings was the chief trader at Wemontachinque
Burni, P. (5 letters)
Concerns corn, cattle, and fur shipments; accidents; personnel misconduct; travel difficulties because of the weather.
1832 May-September
Decerre, Louis (4 letters, in French)
Miscellaneous business, such as trips, trapping, and supplies.
1832 September-October
Keith, James (3 letters)
Accounts and inventory; transporting supplies; Indian misconduct while working.
1832 June-August; 1840 February
LeBlanc, Joseph (2 letters, in French)
Offered to buy horses; supply shipments.
1830 September 18; 1832 July 5
McAulay, Aulay (1 letter)
Asked that his son, James, be re-hired as an Indian interpreter following a misunderstanding concerning his intent to "take the boy away" at a future time.
1830 July 15
McGreen, Alexander (1 letter)
Storage of provisions and liquor.
1832 August 18
McGruin, Alexander (4 letters)
Crops and winter provisions; selling cattle and corn; loneliness.
1832 June-September
McKenrie, Alex (1 letter)
Requested ammunition and supplies; Cummings's upcoming visit; the Indians' spring hunt.
1840 May 23
McKenrin, John (2 letters)
Unclothed Indians complaining of the cold; requests that his parents be notified if an accident happens on his voyage; fur shipments.
1832 June 3-4
Cuthbert Cummings letters to Albert McGruen (2 letters)
Letters of January 22 and September 17, 1832, sending men to get "intelligence of the Iroquois"; supply shipments; accounts.
Decerre, Louis--letters to Joseph LeBlanc and Alexander Mayuere (originals, in French)
Letter to Joseph LeBlanc, 1832 August 6, concerns supply shipment; letter to Alexander Mayuere, 1833 January 8, concerns supply shipment; includes separate itemized list of articles sent.
1832 August 6; 1833 January 8
Douglas, James--Letters to
Barclay, Archibald
Typescript copies of letters concerning Douglas's appointment as agent for Vancouver Island: miscellaneous information concernng appointment of Captain W. C. Grant as Surveyor; new employeees and duties; sale of land to settlers; funds for public purposes; Indian land rights; interest rates; Douglas's salary; arrival of coal miners; Captain W.C. Grant's arrival and credit; settlers; building up Fort Victoria; selling land; school books.
Colvile, Andrew (3 letters, typescript copies)
Letters of November 18, 1853, October 12 and November 13, 1854, concerning a new school master; Douglas's salary; duties.
Forbes, Charles
Photocopy of a letter concerning geologic exploration of Vancouver Island. Original in Metropolitan Toronto Library.
1860 October
Pelly, John Henry, Sir (5 letters, typescript copies)
Letters and notes dated 1848 December 5, 1849 August 4, and 1850 October 25 concerning: sales of land and mines; Douglas's duties; colonization; Douglas's appointment as Governor of Vancouver Island; his duties; revenues; salaries; land sales and titles.
Simpson, George, Sir (2 letters, typescript copies)
Letters of 1850 March 26 and August 30 concerning: company business on Vancouver Island; hiring; coal mines; colonization.
James Douglas letter to George Abernethy (typescript copy)
General Cornelius Gilliam's intention of levying contributions on HBC property to equip troops to attack Indians who had massacred the Whitmans.
1847 December 31
"The Governors" of the HBC, London, letter to (letterpress copy)
Changing fur trade situation because of the Territory transfer to the Dominion of Canada; pay disappointment; asking for reorganization of the business.
1870 July 25
Grahame, James A., correspondence
Letter from James A. Grahame to Archibald McDonald
Hand written copy of a letter concerning boat building and supply shipments
1878 February 26
Letter to Grahame from a group of men, including George McTavish
Hand written copy of a letter concerning guaranteed dividends in light of falling fur trade.
1877 July 17
Letters to Grahame
Hand written copies of letters concerning supply shipments; and reports of trapping, hunting, and provisions at various spots.
1877 November-December
Letters to and from Grahame
Hand written copies dated January 12, 24, 26, February 5, 16, 1878, concerning: shipment of bad pemmican; additional pay for HBC officers; miscellaneous business.
1878 January-February
Letters to Grahame from Laurence Clarke
Extracts of letters concerning supplies; road repairs; horse purchases; changing headquarters locations.
1878 February 27; 1879 August 28
Hardistry, Richard (2 letters, photocopy)
Letter of 1852 February 23 from Hardistry asking for an apprentice clerkship, and family matters; and letter of 1854 April 7 from Hardistry's father concerning family and friends, news of Joseph Hardistry moving to Oreogn, and the Northwest boundary dispute.
1852 February 23; 1854 April 7
Lackhart, James, Chief Trader (letterpress copy)
Appointing Donald Alexander Smith to Montreal to represent him as attorney and agent in Great Britain.
1870 July 25
Murray, Alexander Hunter, letters to Murdock McKenzie (typescript transcription)
Letters concerning Edward McGillivray's mismanagement of Lapieres House; Hunter's suggestons for taking care of it during the summer; news of the "Youcon"; and the Indians trading with Russians.
1847 May 16- June 17
Pelly, John Henry, Sir, letters from (2 letters, photocopy and typed transcription)
Letter of 1825 December 9 to George Canning concerning Northwest boundary dispute and history of possession; and letter of 1826 July 25 to William Huskisson concerning Columbia River posts establishment and American fur interests. Also inlcudes letter excerpts concerning Columbia River and Northwest boundaries.
1825 December 9; 1826 July 25
Smith, Donald Alexander, Baron Strathcona and Mount Royal, letters to (2 letters)
Letter of 1872 September 10 from James S. Clouston, Alexander McDonald, and George S. McTavish requesting pay increases; and extract of letter of 1872 December 4 from William Armit refusing to pay increase for Chief Factors James S. Clouston, George S. McTavish, and Alexander McDonald.
1872 September 10; 1872 December 4
Miscellaneous letters (10 items)
  • Draft letter [Cuthbert Cummings?], Weymontachinque, to James Keith, September 21, no year
  • Letter from Thomas Fraser, undated
  • Letter from "Charles" to P. Burns, Weymontachingue, 1832 January
  • Accounts of Thomas LaFramboise, 1832 June 4
  • Letter of P. Burns, Three Rivers, to John McLeod, Weymontachingue, 1847 February 16
  • Letter, Felicite Vassal, St. Francois, to husband Stanislaus Vassal, Weymontachingue, 1838 July 25
  • Letter, Napier, Indian Office, Canada East, to John McLeod, Three Rivers, 1846 August 12
  • Letter, Guillaume Vassal, Nicolet, to his father, Stanislaus Vassal, Weymontachingue, 1832 July 15 (in French)
  • Letter of 1936 from the Hudson's Bay Company to R. M. Currie concerning HBC buttons, and transmittal letter, 1969.

Series C:  Parliamentary papers, 1690-1870Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
"Hudson's Bay bill : extracts relating to, from the journals of the House of Lords" (photocopies of journal)
Viscount Milton papers (photocopies)
Photocopies from originals in the Sheffield, UK, City Libraries.
circa 1870
"An act confirming to the Governor and Company trading to Hudson's Bay their priviledges and trade" (photocopy)
"List of acts of Parliament relating to the Hudson's Bay Company from the year 1547 to 1870" (photocopy)
circa 1870
Earl Gray letter concerning the HBC charter (photocopy)

Series D:  George S. McTavish papers (originals), 1860-1893Return to Top

Includes correspondence, notes, memoranda, and financial records

Container(s) Description Dates
Correspondence, accounts, judgement of 1868 February 26
Correspondence; accounts with John Wylie, Stromness; notes to accompany a map returned to J.S. Dennis dated Rupert House, 1873 July 18.
Articles of partnership dated 1880 May 28 and with Mr. Webb dated 1881 May 6
Election papers, 1883 November 26; partnership dated Pembina 1884 September 1; quit claim deeds of Emily McTavish, 1884.
Co-partnership of Webb & McTavish, retail dealers, 1885 September 1; list of articles received from Historical Society of Winnipeg, property of G.S. McTavish, for the HBC exhibit for the Colonial and Indian Exhibition in London and to be returned to G.S. McTavish, 1886 April 21
Estate papers of Emily McTavish
Includes hand written copy of a memorandum to Mr. Lockhart concerning how to boil porpoise blubber for oil, and how to net porpoises.

Series E:  General papers, 1811-1953Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Accounts and inventories
Fort Edmonton, North Saskatchewan [sic] (print)
From Dr. Hartwig's Polar and tropical worlds, gift of Eva Emery Dye
Franklin, John, papers regarding
Photocopies from originals in the Scottish Record Office
circa 1826-1827
HMS Columbia--Accounts (photostatic copies)
circa 1853-1854
Hudson's Bay Mill--History (typescript)
Iddesleigh, Lord, "Hudson's Bay Co." report of Sir Stafford Northcote
Journal extracts of Roderick McKenzie on journey from Norway House to Edmonton (hand written copy)
Journal of McLeod's Lake post (typed transcription, photocopy)
McKay, William--Letter to, and biographies
Original letter, ALs, from James Hadley to William Cameron McKay, 1839 October 24, concerning mutual friends, college, and the weather; sworn statement by George Himes regarding the Indian parentage of William McKay, 1913 January 8 (typescript, carbon); and biography of William McKay by Dr. Roger Keane, undated (typescript).
1839 August 15; 1913 January 8; undated
Minutes and memoranda (originals and letterpress copies)
North West Company--Letter and printed history (photocopies)
Photocopy of printed book titled On the origin and progress of the North-West Company of Canada, with a history of the fur trade, as connected with that concern... by Nathaniel Atcheson (London, 1811), from original in the Metropolitan Toronto Library; and photocopy of a letter, 1816 November, regarding the North West Company (original in the Scottish Record Office).
1811; 1816 November
North West Company in Red River settlement--Photocopy of book
Photocopy of Narratives of John Pritchard, Pierre Chrysologue Pambrun, and Frederick Damien Heurter, respecting the agressions of the North-West Company against the Earl of Selkirk's settlement upon Red River, (London, 1819, original in Metropolitan Toronto Library)
Plan of Fort George
Printed correspondence, circulars, and reports
Puget Sound Agricultural Company--Letter, prospectus, and history (typescript transcriptions)
Paper titled "The origin of the Puget Sound Agricultural Company" by A. C. Anderson, 1885; copy of the Company's prospectus, undated; "A.C. Anderson's memo relating to the Cowlitz Farm, &c., 1841"; and copy of letter from A. Barclay regarding agricultural settlements in the Columbia District, 1843 September 2.
Red River Settlement--Historical materials (photocopies)
"Report on the Red River Settlement," 1870 (photocopy of handscript); "The Red River rebellion : fact for the consideration of both houses of Parliament" (photocopy of printed item); and photocopy of article from the Tacoma daily ledger, 1885 February 18.
1870; 1885
Register of persons employed by the Hudson's Bay Company (photostatic copies of handscript)
"Report of a canoe expedition along the east coast of Vancouver Island," by James Douglas (photocopy of printed pages)
Published in the Geographical Society journal XXIV
"Statement of servants, Columbia Department outfit 1845" (photocopy of original in Hundson's Bay Company Archives)
Strathcona, Baron (Donald Alexander Smith), papers (photocopies from Public Archives of Canada)
circa 1840-1865
Unidentified diary (original) of a voyage from Montreal through Quebec, Riviere du Loup, Seven Islands, Mingan, Natashquan, Musquaro, St. Augustine, Esquimaux Point, Mingan, Mount Louis, Seven Islands, and Nachvak, 1875 May-June.
Various documents
  • "List of maps and plats filed by the United States," relating to the Claims Commission for the final settlement of the claims of the Hudson's Bay and Puget's Sound Agricultural Companies under the convention of July 1, 1863 (photostatic copies from the U.S. National Archives)
  • Hand written document relating to steamers on the Fraser River, 1859
  • Hand written document relating to a business venture of Simon and William McGillivray and the engagement of Alexander Comeau (?) as Clerk, 1825 August 2
  • "Coliman's [?] and Governor Sherbrook's confidential report to the Imperial Government on disorder of 1816, transcribed for Agnes C. Laut's Conquest of the great northwest, Public Record Office London 1905" (handscript transcription)
  • "Sermon by Charles Kingsley" (handscript)
  • Summons to Isabelle, widow of the late Nicolas Dufau (?) from the King's Bench at Three Rivers, 1828
circa 1817-1866

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Fur Trade--Northwest, Pacific--History.
  • Fur trade--Canada--History.
  • Indians of North America--Canada.
  • Indians of North America--Northwest, Pacific

Personal Names

  • McKay, W. C. (William Cameron), 1824-1893.

Corporate Names

  • Hudson's Bay Company--Archives. (creator)
  • North West Company.

Geographical Names

  • Canada--History--19th century.
  • Fort George (Alta.)--History.
  • Fort Vancouver (Wash.)--History.
  • Northwest, Pacific--History--19th century.

Form or Genre Terms

  • Diaries
  • Letters (correspondence)
  • Treaties

Other Creators

  • Personal Names
    • Cummings, Cuthbert--Correspondence (creator)
    • Decerre, Louis--Correspondence. (creator)
    • Douglas, James, 1803-1877--Correspondence. (creator)
    • Grahame, James A.--Correspondence. (creator)
    • McTavish, George, 1834-1893--Archives. (creator)