Fur Trade Letters of Willie Traill, 1864-1893

By Brown, Alison K. | British Journal of Canadian Studies, May 2008 | Go to article overview

Fur Trade Letters of Willie Traill, 1864-1893


Brown, Alison K., British Journal of Canadian Studies


K. Douglas Munro (ed.), Fur Trade Letters of Willie Traill, 1864-1893 (Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 2006), 339pp. Paper. $34.95. ISBN 0-8886-4460-4.

Willie Traill (1844-1917) devoted some thirty years to the Hudson's Bay Company, working his way up the ranks from his first post as clerk at Fort Ellice to chief trader at Fort St James, before retiring in 1893 to settle on a farm near Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. His period of service coincided with the settlement of western Canada, Confederation and the transfer of Rupert's Land, numbered treaty-making between the Crown and prairie First Nations, and, ultimately, the decline of the fur trade. Traill's letters to his mother (the writer Catherine Parr Traill), his siblings and his friends - available in the Glenbow Archives and the National Archives of Canada, and 177 of which have been brought together in this volume - are thus a tremendous resource for better understanding many aspects of nineteenth century western Canadian history, most especially that of Native-newcomer relationships and the changing economic, political and environmental landscape as viewed from the perspective of an officer of the 'honourable company'. Moreover, as many of the letters were written following Traill's marriage to Harriet McKay (daughter of Chief Factor William McKay) and contain stories about their family life, they are also hugely valuable for understanding social relationships within fur-trade posts and the creation and maintenance of fur-trade family dynasties. …

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