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George Simpson (Manitoba Museum)
Sir George Simpson (1787 – 7 September 1860) was a Scots-Quebecer and employee of the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC). His title was Governor-in-Chief of Rupert's Land and administrator over the Northwestern Territory and Columbia Department in British North America (now Canadamarker) from 1821 to 1860.

Early years

George Simpson was born in Dingwallmarker, Ross-shiremarker, Scotlandmarker, the only son of George Simpson, Sr., a writer in Dingwall. He was raised by his father, assisted by Sir George's grandmother Isobel Mackenzie and her two daughters Jean and Mary, in Dingwallmarker in Ross-shiremarker. He was most likely born in early 1792, as he was a schoolfellow of his "relative," Aemilius Simpson, also born in 1792.


At age sixteen, in 1808, he went to Londonmarker and was trained in business at his uncle Geddes Mackenzie Simpson's sugar company, Graham and Simpson. His skills interested partner Andrew Colville (also known as Andrew Wedderburn Colvile), who was also a high ranking HBC executive. Colvile encouraged Simpson to join the London office of the HBC, and by 1821, Simpson became the Governor of the Northern Department of the Hudson's Bay Company. Simpson oversaw the merging of the HBC and the North West Company in 1821, and sought to streamline the company by closing competing fur trade posts. He was instrumental in establishing Fort Vancouvermarker on the Columbia River, the headquarters of HBC's Columbia District. Not willing to remain in London to oversee operations, he maintained homes during his tenure in Montrealmarker and the Red River Settlement. He was an avid traveler and visited fur trade posts across North America. A stern taskmaster, he pushed his traveling crewmen to extremes in order to travel as quickly as possible from post to post.

In recognition of his tireless work with the HBC, Simpson was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1841. The Simpson River in British Columbia and Simpson Pass in what is now the Sunshine Villagemarker area of Banff National Parkmarker were named in his honour as he was one of the first Europeans to travel through the region on his around the world journey in 1841.

He set off from Londonmarker on May 3, 1841, and was traveling fifty miles a day on horseback and up to one hundred miles a day by canoe. Along the way, in the Red Deer Hills of present day Albertamarker, Simpson caught up with the Sinclair expedition of settlers he had ordered to the Columbia District. Simpson told Sinclair that instructions had been left at Fort Edmontonmarker as to how he was to cross the Rockies. Simpson wrote in his diary, "Each family had two or three carts, together with bands of horses, cattle and dogs. As they marched in single file their cavalcade extended above a mile long. The emigrants were all healthy and happy; living with the greatest abundance and enjoying the journey with great relish."

From Fort Vancouvermarker, his journey across the Pacific led him to the Kingdom of Hawaii. In 1842, Simpson served as an envoy of the Kingdom of Hawaii to Europe, to gain international recognition of the Kingdom. Along with Timoteo Haalilio and William Richards were commissioned as joint Ministers Plenipotentiary on April 8, 1842. Simpson, shortly thereafter, left for Englandmarker, via Alaskamarker and Siberiamarker, while Mr. Ha'alilio and Mr. Richards departed for the United Statesmarker, via Mexicomarker, on July 8, 1842. The Hawaiian delegation, while in the United Statesmarker, secured the assurance of U.S. President John Tyler on December 19, 1842 of its recognition of Hawaiian independence, and then proceeded to meet Simpson in Europe and secure formal recognition by Great Britainmarker and Francemarker. On March 17, 1843, King Louis-Philippe of France recognizes Hawaiian independence at the urging of King Leopold I of Belgium, and on April 1, 1843, Lord Aberdeen on behalf of Her Britannic Majesty Queen Victoria, assured the Hawaiian delegation that:
"Her Majesty's Government was willing and had determined to recognize the independence of the Sandwich Islands under their present sovereign."

Personal life

Simpson married Geddes Mackenzie Simpson's daughter. Frances Ramsay Simpson, in 1830, by whom he had five children: George Geddes 1832, Frances Webster 1833, Augusta D'Este 1841; Margaret Mackenzie 1843, and John Henry Pelly 1850 (named after his friend, Sir John Henry Pelly). By other unions he had seven more children: Maria Louisa 1815, Isabella 1817, Maria 1822, James Keith 1823, George Stewart 1827, and John Mackenzie 1829. Descendants of these children have distinguished themselves in Canada in the fields of the fur trade, agriculture, medicine, politics, and the military.

Simpson died in Montreal in 1860 and is buried at Mount Royal Cemeterymarker.


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