Heritage Trail: Women In The Fur Trade Part Five: Separation

During the early years of the furtrade, the Hudson’s Bay Company would send it’s retired employees back to Britain. This policy was meant to prevent the men from setting themselves up in competition with the company.

However, as historian Susan Berry explains, if the men had married they had to leave their native families behind.

One example of a man who did break with his family, as far as the record shows, was Edward Umperville. He worked at different times in his life for both the Hudson’s Bay Company and the Northwest Company.

From 1784 to 88 he was in command of the Northwest Company Post on the North Saskatchewan River. Then he retired in 1788 and sailed to England, leaving behind his wife and family of small children, which included his daughter Louise.

There’s no record that he made any provisions for his family, Louise grew up with mother’s Plains Cree Band. And lived the life of a Plains Cree and young woman.

Umperville’s family and the band continued to trade with fur trade company, supplying the posts with provisions and wild game.

That connection probably as something to with the fact that in 1810, Louise married John Rowand, who was a clerk with the Northwest Company at Fort Edmonton. Rowand rose through the ranks, officers ranks, eventually becoming a company partner and a chief trader. And he was in charge of the company, Hudson’s Bay Company’s Saskatchewan district from 1823 to 1854. He had started with the Northwest Company but at the merger in 1821, he became an officer with the Hudson’s Bay Company.

Louise, very interestingly, brought to this marriage her Plains Cree connection, but also quite a bit of wealth.

She had a valuable herd of horses, that over the years, following the marriage, grew to be, have 200 head. Horses were a measure of wealth and prestige to the marriage and enhanced Rowlands’ stature and influence with Cree.

When they left, some men would set up annuities for their wives and children so they could purchase supplies at the posts on their husbands accounts. And many filed wills with the Hudsons Bay Company that are still in their archives.

On the heritage trail, I'm Cheryl Croucher.