The Scottish born James McMillan was fur trader and explorer who worked for both the North West Company and the Hudson’s Bay Company who led a number of the first surveys completed on the lower Fraser River. It was in his capacity as an employee of the HBC that he founded Fort Langley in 1827 in the role of its first Chief Trader.
Born in 1783, McMillan moved to North America at the age of 20 arriving to work with the North West Company in the position of a clerk in what is now Saskatchewan before joining David Thompson’s 1808 expedition across the Rocky Mountains. Following the merging of the North West Company and the HBC in 1824 James travelled to the lower Columbia River to Fort George where he remained for a mere 10 days before being sent off in command of an expedition to survey the mouth of the Fraser River in order to determine its navigability and the settlement/agricultural capabilities of the region. This particular expedition reached as far up the river as Hatzic Slough before returning to the fort.
The Hudson’s Bay Company’s Fort George. Image from wikipedia.
A short while later, in 1827, James McMillan was again dispatched out from Fort George but this time it was sent north from the Columbia River in order to establish the HBC’s presence on the lower Fraser River. Leading 25 other men, McMillan arrived at the mouth of the Fraser River by boat and, while looking for a suitable location to establish the new fort, completed an in-depth survey of this part of the river which led to the naming of McMillan Island, Barnston Island, and Annacis Island. Slightly more than month after leaving Fort George, at a location just west of the Salmon River’s confluence, on the south side of the Fraser, the first post of Fort Langley was cut and McMillan was established as Chief Factor.
In the time immediately following the construction of the fort, the wilderness conditions of the area made the living conditions less than ideal but James McMillan was able to keep things running successfully. However, after only a year at Fort Langley he was transferred out of the area and it has never been established if he was simply assigned to another location or if McMillan himself requested the transfer.
Following his one year stint at Fort Langley, McMillan went on to become the Chief Factor at the HBC’s Red River Colony and made attempts at managing an experimental farm at St. James. With the failure of this endeavor, he transferred one final time into the Montreal area but, in the end, he returned to Scotland. He married the Scottish Eleanor McKinley and the two had eight children before McMillan died in Perth, Scotland in 1858.
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Historical Book Review for the Week:
A Left Handed History of the World by Ed Wright
If anyone ever needed proof as to why it’s always a great idea to buy gifts for people that you yourself wouldn’t mind having if the situation arises – I bought this book for my dad as a Christmas gift probably almost 10 years ago (seeing as he’s a left-handed history buff) but he never ended up reading it. Sooo…it comes to me!
Through what is essentially a collection of case studies, ‘A Left Handed History of the World’ examines the fact that, despite only around 10% of the world being left handed, an unexpectedly large percentage of the most influential people in history have been lefties including 16% of the presidents of the Unites States
While the case studies themselves are interesting, and cover everyone from Julius Caesar Michelangelo to Newton to Beethoven to Jimmy Hendrix to Bill Gates, it is the descriptions of how lefties have been treated at various times and by various cultures throughout history that was the most intriguing to me. On the flip side, the discussion of various left-handed traits and the differences between left-handed and right-handed people felt more like generalizations and stereotypes disguised as given facts.
All-in-all; it’s an interesting and unique historical examination but it feels a bit rough around the edges at times, like it could have done with a few more goes around the editing room.
Incorporated on March 31, 1913 the city of Armstrong, located in the North Okanagan, is known by many as the originating location of Armstrong cheese but it has many other interesting facts linked to its history:
- The city itself is located in the Spallumcheen Valley, the name of which comes from the Shuswap language and has a variety of very apt meanings including: ‘beautiful valley’, ‘flat meadow’, ‘meeting of the waters’, and ‘prairie-banked river’.
- This region had long been populated by the Okanagan people when the first fur traders arrived in the area in the 1800s.
- The city itself was named after E.C. Heaton Armstrong who was a London banker responsible for the finding of the Shuswap and Okanagan Railway.
- At the time of the completion of the railway, Armstrong consisted of a single box car which served as station and the home of the rail agent.
- George Patchett built the first house in the city in 1891.
- The first mayor of the city was James M Wright who was elected in 1913.
- Traditional economic fields include logging, agriculture and grain farming, and ranching.
- As mentioned above, the city is known for the Armstrong cheese that shares its name; this cheese-making tradition is due in large part to the influence of Dutch immigrants who settled in the area after WWII.
The Armstrong cheese ‘Special Occasions Cheeses’; image from: armstrongcheese.ca
- Another well-known aspect of the city is its Interior Provincial Exhibition and Stampede which has been an annual event since 1899.
- The last surviving member of the 1862 Cariboo Overlander Expedition, Augustus Schubert, died in Armstrong in 1946 at the age of 91.
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Historical Book Review for the Week:
The Uses and Abuses of History by Margaret MacMillan
I don’t expect that either of the two major concepts of this book will be a particularly shocking revelation to anyone, for who has never heard the either of the phrases ‘those who don’t know history are condemned to repeat it’ or ‘power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely’? It is well understood, that an understanding of the events and occurrences of earlier times allows modern society to progress, building on those stepping stones which have come before. Giving us the ability to avoid many of the more spectacular errors, mistakes and horrifying events which were made by our ancestors purely due to our good fortune of having the luck to see what the consequences would most likely be. Sometimes consciously and other times less so, historical facts are used in every facet of today’s world from politics, to science, education, government, medicine, construction, plumbing, environmental preservation, human rights; the list goes on and on, making it clear that history is doubtlessly a useful knowledge base for society as we know it today and the world that will evolve in the future.
The second thesis of this book is that the use of history also has a dark side, which again, is unsurprising. It is frequently used by politicians at all levels of power to solidify support for themselves and their ideals. This is most frequently supported by the example of Hitler, who used selected historical facts in order to gain power and push his ideals of superior and inferior genetics. However, this can also been seen on a smaller, although arguably no less dangerous, level by minor local politicians who parade select information of their own histories, as well as those of their opponents, in order to influence public opinion and help them to achieve power. Either of these selective ways of presenting history, the highlighting of key elements in order to present history in a way that will make it favorable to you and also the abuse of suppressing facts and events which don’t support your projected worldview, is an abuse of the knowledge and decision making information that history allows us. The idea that you can pick and choose which parts of history should be made public knowledge in any capacity is an abuse of that field of information that, unfortunately, is one which is often an option of the powerful rather than the general population.