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Nancy McKenzie and Pierre Le Blanc

Nancy McKenzie and Pierre Le Blanc

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This couples connection to Upper Fort Garry is documented. It illustrates how Governor George Simpson treated staff and Metis women.
This couples connection to Upper Fort Garry is documented. It illustrates how Governor George Simpson treated staff and Metis women.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Lawrence J. Barkwell on Aug 09, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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09/13/2013

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Nancy McKenzie
(1790-1851) and
Pierre Le Blanc.
(1781-1838)The story of Nancy McKenzie and Pierre Le Blanc is illustrative of the ways Governor George Simpson treated both his employees and Metis women.Pierre Le Blanc served both the NWC and the HBC as a jack of all trades (carpenter, painter, glazier, storeman, builder, Indian trader, conductor of work) [HBRS XXX, p.234, HBRS III, p. 444], before meeting a tragic end in the Columbia rapids below theDalles des Morts.Pierre was employed in building the HBC stone fort at Lower Fort Garry in 1831. In1834-35 when the new fort was built at Upper Fort Garry, Le Blanc was brought up fromLower Fort Garry to oversee the stonework.Le Blanc began his career with the NWC in 1803 or 1810 and stayed on with the HBCafter the coalition. He retired in 1827 but rejoined the service in 1828 spending most of his time in the Red River area where, in 1831, he entered an arranged marriage to NancyMcKenzie
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, niece of Chief Factor Donald McKenzie and the former country wife of JohnGeorge McTavish. She had been unceremoniously dumped by McTavish.In 1830, while on furlough in Great Britain, McTavish, with the encouragement of HBCgovernor George Simpson, abruptly defied the norms of country marriage and legallymarried a Scottish woman. After travelling back to North America in company withSimpson and the governor’s new bride, Frances Ramsay Simpson, McTavish did notreturn to York Factory but went directly with his new wife to his posting at MooseFactory, leaving his colleagues to break the news to Nancy. “The first blow was dreadfulto witness,” reported HBC clerk James Hargrave, but “the poor girl is fast acquiringresignation.” Nancy and several of her children were taken in temporarily at the HBC post FortAlexander by Stuart, who, who along with her uncle Chief Factor Donald McKenzie,were particularly vocal in denouncing McTavish for his deception and demandedsubstantial compensation for Nancy. Governor Simpson, however, had decided thatremarriage was the best means of providing for cast-off country wives and he had beendelegated to settle McTavish’s affairs. Despite Nancy’s expressed wish that she not be
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Nancy “Matooskie” McKenzie, born circa 1790, was one of three Metis children fathered by Roderick McKenzie and an unidentified Indian woman, during his service in the Athabasca country between 1789and 1801. As was customary among Nor’Westers, McKenzie did not take his two daughters with him whenhe retired to Lower Canada in 1801, but entrusted them to the guardianship of fellow Nor’Wester JohnStuart. Nancy was with Stuart when he went to New Caledonia (B.C.) to take charge of the department for the North West Company in 1809. In 1813 Stuart joined NWC partner John George McTavish on theColumbia River and it was probably in that year that Nancy was married to McTavish, by the custom of thecountry. After the union of the NWC and the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1821, McTavish was appointedchief factor in charge of York Factory (Man.) and during the 1820s his wife shared his social prominenceas the
bourgeoise
of the fort. During these years they had as many as seven children. (Mary (b. 1817), Flora(bc. 1822), Margaret (bc. 1823), Ann (bc.. 1826), Grace (bc. 1826).

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