MCLEAN, John




Author Tags: 1800-1850, Forts and Fur, Law

According to W.S. Stewart, John McLean’s account of his journey across Canada to work for the Hudson’s Bay Company in New Caledonia is “another of those invaluable récits de voyage that enable us to piece together the history of the Canadian Northwest in its earlier days.” Arriving in New Caledonia in 1833, McLean was taken aback to find the route via the Peace River required a 13-mile portage “through swamps and morasses,” and that “the ascending and descending steep hills” took him eight days to complete. “I consider the passage of this portage,” he wrote, “the most laborious duty the Company’s servants have to perform in any part of the territory; and, as the voyageurs say, ‘He that passes it with his share of a canoe’s cargo may call himself a man.’” While he was in New Caledonia for three-and-a-half years, McLean met and later described James Douglas, Peter Skene Ogden and Peter Warren Dease.

Born in Argyleshire, Scotland, McLean was employed by the Hudson’s Bay Company until 1845, mainly in eastern Canada where he became the first white man to traverse the Labrador Peninsula, discovering the Grand Falls of the Northwest River. His Notes of a Twenty-Five Year’s [sic] Service in the Hudson’s Bay Territory is unusual for its overt criticism of the Hudson’s Bay Company in terms of its treatment of Aboriginals. He spent much of his retirement and married years in Guelph, Ontario, but left his wife Elora, to make his way to Victoria, via San Franscisco, in 1883, in order to reside with his daughter, Mrs. O’Brian. He died on September 8, 1890, at age ninety, and was buried in the Presbyterian Plot of the Ross Bay Cemetery in Victoria.

BOOKS:

McLean, John. Notes of a Twenty-Five Year’s [sic] Service in the Hudson's Bay Territory. 2 volumes (London: Richard Bentley, 1849; Toronto: Champlain Society, 1932). W. Stewart Wallace, ed.

[BCBW 2006] "Forts and Fur" "Law"