Kenora 1836-1871

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Kenora 1836-1871


In 1836 Hudson's Bay Company establishs a post on Old Fort Island, replacing the post at the Dalles. Donald MacKenzie was appointed to take charge of the business. His son James Mackenzie succeeded him possibly around 1850 and remained there until 1858 until George McPherson took over. In the summer of 1861 the post was moved from Old Fort Island to the North East corner of Fort Street later names Fist Street South and Main Street South.

Between 1836 and the 1890’s, the Rat Portage post was managed by several Métis individuals. From the 1890s onward there are references to Métis individuals at Rat Portage, and three more were reported to occupy dwelling houses in Rat Portage. Between 1882 and 1897, at least 11 commercial fishermen in this area were identified as Métis.

Act of Union 1840

The British North America Act, 1840 (3 & 4 Victoria, c.35), commonly known as the Act of Union 1840, is passed in July 1840 , proclaimed 10 February, 1841. It abolished the legislatures of Lower Canada and Upper Canada and established the Province of Canada to replace them.

In 1842, Webster-Ashburton Treaty ratified North West Angle as the most northerly place on the US/Canada boundary and the connection due south to the 49th parallel.

Mr R.J.N. Pither comes to this part of the country in a birch bark canoe .

In 1850 Gold is discovered in the area. In 1857, Henry Youle Hind Expedition, sponsored by the Canadian government, passed through Lake of the Woods, searching out an emigrant route from Lake Superior to the Red River. Samuel J. Dawson was with this expedition.
Palliser Expedition, sponsored by the British government, passed through Lake of the Woods, on a three-year expedition to survey the resources of western Canada to establish the suitability of the general area for settlement.


In 1861, Hudson¹s Bay Company post opened on the mainland on what then was called Fort St. and Main, now the North East corner of Main Street South and 1 St South. Kenora.

Gold and Silver Act Ontario and Mining Act of Canada

In 1866 the government of Upper Canada introduced the Gold and Silver Act and a Statue was passed during the last day of sitting of Upper Canada's last parliament. In the haste of the debate a royalty of 2 to 10% was agreed to for the mining industry. The Mining Act of Canada of 1869 required a 5% royalty by Mill operators. Which act applied depended wether a particular area such as the Lake of the Woods was within the Province of Ontario or outside in the Dominion of Canada.

The Dream - Opening the West

Interest in the west increased through out the 1800s. In 1863, a group calling itself the International Financial Society (IFS) led by Edward Watkin, bought up Hudson Bay stock by offering £300 for every £100 of stock – at a time when the market price was £190. The new owners hoped for a windfall based on selling or leveraging the Company’s vast land holdings. Britain promote it, but fundamentally settlement and the fur trade were at cross-purposes. In 1866, following a shareholders’ revolt the Company embarked on negotiations to sell its territories, first to Britain, and then to the United Province of Canada which had no means to purchase them. Britain began to grow weary of its colonial responsibilities and was prepared to have the lands annexed to the Dominion.

Sir John A McDonald also looked to the West for expansion and settlement. The United States was settling its west and talk from time to time suggested that the states might wish to expand its borders into the North West. The New Country of Canada was interested in acquiring the Rupert's Land and forging a railway or other land corridor that would tie the Young Dominion together. The delegates from British Columbia who came to consider uniting with Canada would have been satisfied with a wagon road from the Rockies to the pacific. The conservative politicians encouraged them to ask for more. Sir John A. McDonald's offered the delegates a railway to be constructed in 10 years.

On July 1 1867 the Dominion of Canada comes into existence as a result of the British North American act 1867. There are four provinces Nova Scotia New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario. Ontario's boundary is believed to be near current day Thunder Bay. Current day Alberta, Saskatchewan, Northern Manitoba, Northern Ontario and Northern Quebec was then known as Rupert's Land until 1869 when it was sold to the Canadian government. After the transfer it is named the Northwestern Territory.

British North America Act 1867

Section 6: The Parts of the Province of Canada (as it exists at the passing of this Act) which formerly constituted respectively the Provinces of Upper Canada and Lower Canada shall be deemed to be severed, and shall form Two separated Provinces. The Part which formerly constituted the Province of Upper Canada shall constitute the Province of Ontario; and the part which formerly constituted the Province of Lower Canada shall constitute the Province of Quebec

In 1867 the British North America Act(B.N.A. Act) of 1867 established Canada as a self-governing country. Section 146 provided:

It shall be lawful for the Queen … on address from the Houses of the Parliament of Canada and from the Houses of the respective Legislatures of the Colonies or Provinces of Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island and British Columbia, to admit those colonies or Provinces … into the Union, and on address from the Houses of the Parliament of Canada to admit Rupert’s Land and the North-western Territory … into the Union, on such Terms and Conditions in each Case as are … expressed and the Queen thinks fit to approve ...

In 1869-70 the Hudson Bay Company relinquished much of the authority it received in its original charter of 1670 to the Canadian Government in return for 3000 pounds and 15 million acres of land which was to be selected in various parts of Canada. 20 acres was selected in the Rat Portage area.

In 1868 the British Parliament passed the Rupert’s Land Act, “An Act for enabling Her Majesty to accept a Surrender upon Terms of the Lands, Privileges and Rights of ‘The Governor and Company of Adventurers of England trading into Hudson’s Bay’ and for admitting the same into the Dominion of Canada.” Rupert's land was surrendered to Great Britain in 1869 and Canada purchased it. By the terms of the Deed of Surrender, Hudson Bay received £300K in cash compensation from Canada, 1/20 of all lands to be surveyed in the Fertile Belt – an area bounded by the 49th parallel, the Rockies, the North Saskatchewan River and the Lake of the Woods/ Winnipeg River waterway and lands – or reserves – around each of its posts. Selling its land was to become its primary source of income for the next 50 years.

The Company signed the Deed of Surrender on Nov. 19, 1869. The Canadian government ratified the deal December 1st. Just days later London received word of the North West Rebellion. Jumping the gun, the Canadian government had sent an advance party of surveyors to Red River to measure up its new territory – without even notifying the Métis inhabitants. Ensuing events delayed the finalization of the Deed until the following summer. Hudson Bay delivered the executed Deed to the Colonial Office on May 7, 1870. On May 11th Canada’s London representative instructed its bankers to pay the compensation to Hudson Bay which had been on deposit since November. Finally, on June 22nd 1870 the Queen accepted the Surrender from HBC. The following day, June 23rd, an Order in Council was passed transferring Rupert’s Land and the North West Territories to Canada, effective July 15th, 1870. The Manitoba Act, which had been negotiated in the winter and spring and passed by the Canadian government in May, came into effect the very same day, July 15, 1870.

To put down the resurrection in the Red River Colony Canada sent an expedition of over 1200 soldiers called the Worseley Expedition. They were denied the right to cross over into the United States and had to cross the Canadian wilderness to do. In arriving in Fort Garry their mere presence ended the conflict. However the fact that they had not been allowed to cross over the US border increased the desire for an all Canadian route to the west.

Manitoba Created

On July 1 1870 the tiny Province of Manitoba is created. It is no bigger than the size of the settlements along the Red River Valley, making it the smallest province in the Confederation.

Rat Portage was regarded as part of the territories. Initially the administration of justice for the Northwestern Territory was placed under the control of the Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba.


In 1870 Wolseley Expedition arrived at northern end of Lake of the Woods.

Colonel Gartnet Wolseley left Toronto in May to put down the Riel rebellion in the west. He was refused permission by the United States government to take troops across the American border and so had to take an all Canadian route. The Dawson Road had been mapped out three years earlier but was far from complete. The expedition included over one thousand with provisions and weapons including cannons.

The expedition travelled to Georgian Bay, then by steamer across Lake Huron to the Sault Canal, across Lake Superior to the Department of Public Works station at what is today known as Thunder Bay. Wolseley named the area Prince Arthur's Landing on May 25, 1870. From Port Arthur, small boats carried the troops to Lake Shebandowan They passed through Fort Frances to Lake of the Woods.

Wolseley Plaque

The Hudson’s Bay Company’s post at Rat Portage is but a small affair, three log houses roofed with bark and enclosed by a wooden palisading. The Company maintained thirteen men at this post, but nine of then are employed at small outlying posts in the vicinity. Mr. MacPherson, the official in charge, was most civil and obliging. He is a Scotch half-breed, a quiet, gentlemanly, elderly man, who has received a good education in Montreal. He had been for thirteen years buried alive at this post! It is not a most extraordinary thing, that men of any education can be found to stand a life like that, utterly cut off from the rest of mankind, receiving news from the outside world only once or twice a year, to all intents or purposes dead or sleeping? … I ventured to question Mr. MacPherson on this subject, and he replied simply that he had long since ceased to feel anything of the kind; he had his little farm and his wife and family, and was quite happy and contented… Mr. MacPherson had a few acres of wheat, barley and potatoes, some pigs and cows, and any number of mangy-looking pariah dogs. These dogs are of all sizes and colours, nasty-looking brutes, but very useful. They do all the winter work, galloping for miles over the frozen snow, dragging small sledges. (Lake of The Woods Museum Newsletter Volume 14 No 2)

They then headed down the Winnipeg River, across the south basin of Lake Winnipeg to Red River and arriving at Fort Gary in late August. Wolseley immediately began his advance on Upper Fort Garry. Riel and his followers abandoned the fort without a fight.

At numerous portages, corduroy roads had to be constructed. As these jobs were being done, the troops had to endure life in the bush for over two months, in summer heat and the inevitable plagues of blackflies and mosquitoes.

Negotiation of Treaties

The Indians in Manitoba in the fall of 1870 applied to the Lieutenant Governor Archibald of Manitoba and the North-West Territories to enter into a treaty with them. They were uneasy owing to the influx of settlers. Treaty 1 & 2 were negotiated and concluded on August 3 1871. Its principle features was the relinquishment of Indian title to Her Majesty and the reserving of lands sufficient to furnish 160 acres of land to each family of five , providing for schools, prohibition of the sale of alcohol and an annuity of $3 00 per head. Treaty 3 after protracted negotiations was signed on October 3 1873. Treaty 3 largely covered the route of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) in North Western Ontario.


Sources may be found at Kenora Bibliography