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RODERICK McKENZIE SR (1772-1859)
 ANGELIQUE MALLOTTE (1784-1859)

(Last Updated: July 29, 2017) 

 

Our Roderick “Roddy” McKENZIE was born around 1772 in the Parish of Assynt, Scotland. (The name is also spelled as MacKENZIE by many historians), son of Catherine & Alexander McKENZIE of Ullapool (who died Mar 12, 1802).

** MORE ABOUT RODERICK McKENZIE in DCBO

 

In 1783, the North West Company (NWC) was officially created, with its corporate offices on Vaudreuil Street in Montreal. In 1784, William McGILLIVRAY engaged two young Scot cousins, (Sir) Alexander MacKENZIE (age 21) and his cousin, Roderick McKENZIE of Terrebonne (about 23). Employees of the NWC are often referred to as Nor’Westers.

** MORE ABOUT the McKENZIE COUSINS in the FUR TRADE

 

On Oct 12, 1792, Sir Alexander MacKENZIE departed from Fort Chipewyan on his famous overland trip to the Pacific. He followed the Peace River into the Rockies, crossed the Continental Divide, followed the turbulent Fraser River down the western slopes, and finally reached the coast by way of the Bella Coola River on July 19, 1793.  His cousin Roddy (not our Roddy) was stationed at Fort Chip during Sir Alex’s journey. In 1792-93, our Roderick was only about 20 years and still living in Scotland. Just when he immigrated to Canada is uncertain.

 

On March 12, 1802, Alexander McKENZIE of Ullapool, Scotland (Roddy’s father) died; he was buried in the Lochnivar Cemetery.

1804-1816

 

Lake Superior

 

According to the HBC Archives (online) our Roddy began his fur trade career with the North West Company (NWC) in 1804 in the Nipigon District as a clerk, probably at Fort Nipigon on the north side of Lake Superior. This fort was also known as Fort Duncan, named after the man in charge of the district at that time, Duncan CAMERON (1764-1848), a NWC shareholding partner. This post was not far from Fort William, the main NWC headquarters and supply depot.

 

Another of Roddy’s first acquaintances at Nipigon was Daniel Williams HARMON (1778-1843), the son of a Vermont innkeeper, who joined the NWC in 1800. He kept a Journal during his stay in which he mentions Roddy and Duncan CAMERON on several occasions.

 

HARMON was about six years older than Roddy and was already a veteran of the fur trade. He undoubtedly provided the new recruit with some of his first impressions about life among the Indians by relating his own experiences. Being young bachelors, you can be sure their discussions often focused on the young Indian maidens.

 

HARMON, like Roddy, would soon establish connubial relationships with an Indian woman, and his attitude in that regard is quaintly revealed in this excerpt from his journal: "October 10, (1805) Thursday. This day a Canadians Daughter (a girl of about fourteen years of age) was offered me, and after mature consideration concerning the step I ought to take I finally concluded it would be best to accept of her, as it is customary for all the Gentlemen who come in this Country to remain any length of time to have a fair Partner, with whom they can pass away their time at least more sociably if not more agreeably than to live a lonely, solitary life as they must do if single. In case we can live in harmony together, my intentions are now to keep her as long as I remain in this uncivilized part of the world, but when I return to my native land shall endeavor to place her into the hands of some good honest Man, with whom she can pass the remainder of her Days in this Country much more agreeably, than it would be possible for her to do, were she to be taken down into the civilized world, where she would be a stranger to the People, their manners, customs & Language. Her Mother is of the Tribe of the Snare Indians, whose Country lies about the Rocky Mountain. The Girl is said to be of a mild disposition & even tempered, which are qualities very necessary to make an agreeable Woman and an affectionate Partner."

 

Roddy’s own married life would begin with his attraction to Angelique MALLETTE (MALLOTTE, MALHIOT), said to have been an Ojibwe woman. Angelique was born in the late 1700’s in the Nipigon district. My own research revealed a distinct possibility that Angelique may have been a child of an Indian woman & Francois Victor MALHIOT, a Métis. When Roddy first arrived at Nipigon, MALHIOT was in charge of a post at Lac du Flambeau (a Chippewa settlement located south of Lake Superior; see map above). This post was established in 1792 by the North West Company "for the waters of Wisconsin". Soon after, the XY Company (formed by Sir Alex MacKENZIE) also established a post there. The two companies merged in 1804, and thereafter MALHIOT and his family undoubtedly frequented Fort William, the main NWC depot, as did Roddy. This is the most likely place that Roddy would have met his daughter.

 

It is said that Roddy “abducted” Angelique from her family in the dead of night. Whether she went willingly is not known (from Heather Hallett’s Children of the Rivers). This type of union is often referred to as a “taking a Country Wife”, à la façon du pays (in the custom of the country, or in other words, a common law relationship). Unlike the HBC, the NWC encouraged its employees to take country wives.

 

It was probably around 1805 that Roderick Junior was born, and around 1807 that son Benjamin was born.

Between 1808 and 1814 there is a six year gap in Roddy’s service record as it is presented in the HBC Archives. Daughter Nancy (their first daughter) was born around 1810 and son Samuel around 1813.

 

It was in 1814 that the first of Lord SELKIRK Settlers were arriving in Red River.

 

In 1814-15 Roddy was a clerk (in Charge) at the Attawapiskat Post. This is unlikely the Attawapiskat on James Bay, but more likely was a post near Attawapiskat Lake which is north of Nipigon.

 

Son Benjamin was baptised in Montreal in 1815.  Apparently Roderick Junior and Benjamin began their education there. Roderick Junior, although only around 13 years old was placed on the NWC payroll as an Apprentice Clerk, probably under the supervision of his father.

 

THE BEGINNING OF THE END FOR THE NORTH WEST COMPANY
1816-1821

 

Many years of bitter rivalry between the NWC and the HBC reached a climax on June 19, 1816 with the Battle of Seven Oaks at Frog Plain. Governor SEMPLE and twenty of his men were killed when Cuthbert GRANT and his Métis soldiers took Fort Douglas. The fort was destroyed and the settlers driven from their homes. Much has been written about the complex and controversial events and personalities of this period leading up to the union of the NWC and the HBC. I will only touch upon a few details pertinent to our Roddy’s involvement.

 

Coincidentally in June of 1816, Lord SELKIRK himself was on his way from Montreal to Red River with soldiers. He was proceeding west from Drummond’s Island (near Sault Ste Marie) when he first learned of the complete destruction of his colony at Red River. On August 12 SELKIRK reached Fort William, and the next day he arrested William McGILLIVRAY and eight other NWC partners. The prisoners were sent east for trial.

 

In October (1816), claiming to be writing on behalf of NWC partner Daniel McKENZIE, MacDONELL sent a letter to Roderick McKENZIE of the NWC’s Nipigon department, in which he urged the wintering partners to abandon their ties to Montreal and send their furs out through Hudson Bay. (DCBO re Miles MacDonell)

 

In the spring of 1817 SELKIRK and his soldiers left Fort William for Red River. Soon after, William McGILLIVRAY, having been released, regained the fort for the NWC, strengthening its defences against future attack.

 

In 1817 Roddy continued as the Clerk in Charge at Fort William. Rod Junior, was now on the work-force, employed as an Apprentice Clerk. Daughter Catherine was born around this time.

 

About 1818, a sixth child, Patrick, was born.

 

Over the next few years some of the wealthiest and most capable partners began to leave the NWC, fearful of its future viability.In 1820 they held their last meeting as Fort William.

 

UNION OF THE HUDSON’S BAY COMPANY and the NORTH WEST COMPANY
Lake Superior Region
1821-1830

 

On June 1 1821 the HBC and the NWC were unified ending years of keen competition for Red River's fur trade business. For nearly a century the two companies had operated as two competing organizations, each with their own forts or trading posts.

 

After the union, Roddy became a Chief Trader for the new Hudson’s Bay Company at Nipigon, in their Lake Superior Region. He succeeded Alexander STEWART (1780-1840) in this capacity.

 

On May 20, 1822, George SIMPSON (1786-1860) became the Governor of Rupert’s Land.

 

By 1828 Roddy’s family had increased to 11 with the addition of Mary, Margaret, Ferdinand, Jane and Alexander.

 

Around 1828-29 son Benjamin married Catherine CAMPBELL, the daughter of Liza McGILLIVRAY & Colin CAMPBELL.

 

Under the HBC little changed for the year-round residents at the west end of Lake Superior; their seasonal trading, farming, fishing and upkeep duties continuing as before. What differed from the past was Fort William’s altered status from rendezvous-place to mere way station on the old voyageur canoe route. Men like Roddy were no longer required here. However, good men were required in the Company’s Northern Department, their chartered territories in the Arctic watershed where the fur trade still flourished.

 

TWENTY YEARS A TRADER AT ILE A LA CROSSE
1829-1850

 

Chipewyan Territory

 

In 1829 Roderick was moved to Ila a la Crosse where he would spend the rest of his career as a Chief Trader. He was about 58 years old now and had fathered 11 children.

 

Eldest son, Roderick Junior, would have been about 25 years old then; on his own somewhere in the Lake Superior region. So far, I have very little information about his activities. Benjamin was married now, and may have been working as an Accountant at Fort Vancouver by that time. Eldest daughter, Nancy, was around 20 years old now and apparently stayed behind; perhaps she had found a spouse. Samuel, in his late teens, was now an HBC employee and had been posted to the English River District. The rest of his children went with him to Ile a la Crosse.

 

As early as 1832 Gov George SIMPSON suggested that McKENZIE, whose health was “so broken and worn out that his useful Days are over,” ought to retire. Thomas SIMPSON later described Roddy as a “well-meaning, warm-hearted but passionate and crabbed old Highlander”.

 

In 1834 Roddy had a burial stone erected at his father’s grave (Lochniver Burial Ground). It is uncertain whether he actually went to Scotland himself to do this; it seems more likely that he purchased it and had someone else placed it.

 

On Apr 19, 1835, daughters Mary, Margaret and Jane were baptised at St John’s Church in Red River. They attended Miss DAVIS School for Girls, where the HBC provided some assistance and students paid fees: full board and instruction in English, French and music, $132 per annum; weekly board and instruction, $105; day pupils (who received lunch at the school), $50. The school was first located in a frame house in St Andrews, the property of Mathilda DAVIS’ brother (George), an HBC employee at Lower Fort Garry.

 

Son Benjamin dies near the Hawaiian Islands
1837

 

In the fall of 1837, Roddy's eldest son, Benjamin, an Accountant for the HBC, died of TB near the Hawaiian Islands (Honolulu).  Ben's widow, Roddy's daughter-in-law, Catherine (nee CAMPBELL), gave birth to Ben Jr at Fort Vancouver, only a day after her husband died.  Catherine also had 2 other children at the time; five yr old Angelique and four yr old Colin.  It's not clear exactly when, but soon after, Catherine and her 3 youngsters made their way to Ila a la Crosse where they were taken in by Angelique & Roddy.

 

In 1838 daughter Mary married Adam McBEATH at Fort Simpson, NWT, son of Christiana GUNN and Alexander McBEATH (1760-1848), a Selkirk Settler. ** MORE ABOUT ALEXANDER McBEATH

 

In 1839, son Patrick entered the Company service, and Roddy was appointed to the Council of Assiniboia, formed by the HBC to govern the Red River colony, but he had little interest in such activities. Writing to James HARGRAVE in 1839 he said, “I will not be at the Council in Red River - I can be of more use at my post, in ‘trading a skin’; than at the Council, as Legislator I have no great ambition, to shine as an Orator, that I leave to young Gentlemen, better qualified.”

 

Son Ferdinand apparently went to Edinburgh as an apprentice to a Dr. ELLIOT. When, I do not know.

 

In 1839 daughter Margaret married James ANDERSON in the Nipigon area..

 

In 1841, at the age of 69, Roddy formally married ANGELIQUE MALLOTTE, now 57 yrs old.

 

The good returns McKENZIE was able to maintain during his early years at Île-à-la-Crosse began to fall off in the early 1840s as the Chipewyan Indians who traded in this district moved into the plains region. McKENZIE placed part of the blame for the desertion of his post by the Indians on the machinations of his neighbor in the Saskatchewan district, Chief Factor John ROWLAND, and worried about the growing influence of the Roman Catholic missionaries at Fort Pitt (Sask.). Governor George SIMPSON commented upon the injurious rivalry existing between the two districts and, although his high opinion of ROWLAND was well known, he did not appear to play favorites.

 

In 1841 son Patrick married at Rocky Mountain House (AB) to Nancy FINLAY.

 

Around 1842, limping and nearly blind, Roddy stayed on with the HBC (despite the widespread opinion hat he should retire), worrying about his finances and about finding a place where he could settle with his wife and family. He doted over his grandsons (Colin & Ben), and it was around this time that he brought them and their mother to Red River.

 

By 1843, daughter-in-law (Widow Catherine) became the wife of William CLOUSTON (1818-1877).
** MORE ABOUT WILLIAM CLOUSTON

 

Apparently in 1844 Roderick Junior killed an Indian in a drunken brawl near Lake Nipissing (ref 27). He was acquitted on the murder charge, but his excessive drinking brought about his dismissal from the Company service shortly afterward. He died destitute in a shanty near Mattawa in 1850 (ref 28). He left a Temagai Indian wife widowed with several children. Again, very skimpy information in these regards.

 

In 1845 son Ferd left his apprenticeship with an Edinburgh doctor to join the HBC as an apprentice clerk in the Northern Department.

 

In 1845 Roddy paid for grandsons Colin & Benjamin to become students-in-residence at the St John’s Boarding School.

 

Around 1846 daughter Jane became the last lady teacher under the Rev. John MACALLUM at the old Red River Academy.

 

On Sept 10, 1846, Alexandre-Antonin TACHE (1823-1894) and his colleague Louis-Francois LAFLECHE (1818-1898) arrived at Ile a la Crosse. They had been sent there by Bishop PROVENCHER to establish a Catholic mission there, with the blessing of HBC Governor SIMPSON. Roddy accompanied them from Norway House and gave them lodgings at his post for the winter. He taught them in the Cree and Chipewyan languages during the winter. In the spring of 1847, Roddy had a house measuring 36 by 24 feet built for them which served as both presbytery and chapel; termed the “omnibus-house,” it would be a model for other constructions at the Oblate missions.

 

In October of 1849, Bishop David ANDERSON arrived at Lower Fort Garry. He renamed the Academy, St. John’s Collegiate School. Governor SIMPSON, now Sir George, was still interested in the School and its graduates. He took the trouble to write old Roderick MacKENZIE at Ile-a-la-Crosse, that his grandson (This was actually his great-grandson; son of Harriet FIDLER & Rev Benjamin McKENZIE) was now settled in at St. Peter’s College, Cambridge, and under the charge of Mr. Manly HOPKINS, “brother of my secretary.” Colin Campbell MacKENZIE (1866-1951) would be introduced, he said, to some young men of studious habits “who will be of service to your grandson & prevent his feeling lonely." This young man became the first superintendent of education in British Columbia.

 

Retirement
1850-52

 

Roddy was 78 years old in 1850 when he was then given two successive years of furlough which he spent at Fort Alexander, MB.

 

Finally, in 1852, Roddy retired and reluctantly settled in what he called “the civilized world of Red River”.

 

From the Recollections of Christopher JOHNSTONE (1881-1951): On the lot known as "Cobber Fae" stood a long, low log house, lathed and plastered outside and in, built by an HBC factor named McKENZIE. My earliest recollection of this house was that it was abandoned so it was one of the places we used to "explore." There were several rooms and a fireplace. The finish on the outside was blue and it had a thatched roof.

 

By 1854, son Samuel was listed as an HBC employee at Ile a la Crosse, probably taking over the post after his father's retirement.


Angelique & Roderick McKENZIE Both Die in 1859

 

Roderick McKENZIE Sr. died on Jan 2, 1859 at Caberleigh Cottage, Little Britain, Red River; buried in the United Church Cemetery there. He died at the age of 87, surrounded by symbols of a distant Highland past, but committed to the Indian country he had adopted as his home.

 

All seven of his sons served the HBC, one of them, Samuel, rising to the rank of chief trader; of his five daughters, one died unmarried and the other four married men in the Company service.

 

Roddy’s Will

 

Like other HBC employees, McKENZIE placed his savings, which in 1851 totaled £4,724, in Canadian investments such as the Bank of Montreal, the Montreal and Lachine Rail-road, the Bank of British North America, the Commercial Bank of the Midland District, and private loans. These investments, which provided his only link with the united Canadas, generally paid good returns of from six to eight per cent. He had a sizeable estate.

 

As one or the executors of Roddy’s will, the task of acquainting his heirs of its details fell upon Sir George SIMPSON. Letters to the three sons-in-law informed them of their wives’ considerable legacies, and slight variations in the wording make it clear what SIMPSON considered the social position of each in 1859. ANDERSON ranked highest and McBEATH lowest.

 

In 1859 son Alexander married Christina BELL, daughter of Nancy DEASE and John BELL (1799-1868.

** MORE ABOUT JOHN BELL

 

Angelique died on Nov 17, 1859 (75 yrs old) and was buried in the same cemetery as her husband.

 

Please post comments & queries at this link: FORUM DISCUSSING the RODERICK McKENZIE FAMILY

 

Note: In my own searches, much of the information that I found about Roddy and his family appears to have emanated from an article called “Angelique and Her Children”, Thunder Bay Historical Museum Society, Papers and Records, Vol. VI, 1978. Pages 30 to 40.  Author:  Elizabeth Arthur. I have a copy. This article is frequently quoted in references. Dr M. Elizabeth Arthur was Professor of History at Lakehead University and the Honorary President of the Thunder Bay Historical Museum Society, 1983-1986.

 

========================== Family Details ==========================

 

Children:

1. c1805 RODERICK McKENZIE JR (m. Jane [Temagai Indian])

2. 1807 BENJAMIN McKENZIE SR (m. Catherine CAMPBELL)

** MORE ABOUT BENJAMIN McKENZIE SR

3. c1810 NANCY McKENZIE (m. Antoine DuTREMBLE)

4. c1813 SAMUEL McKENZIE (m. Ann SPENCER)

5. c1817 CATHERINE McKENZIE (m. Thomas COOK)

6. c1818 JOHN PATRICK SPENCER McKENZIE (?m. Nancy FINLEY/FINLAY/ FINLAYSON?)

7. 1822 MARY McKENZIE (m. Adam McBEATH)

8. 1823 MARGARET ANN McKENZIE (m. James ANDERSON)

9. est c1825 FERDINAND McKENZIE (m. Catherine TEPA)

10. 1826 JANE McKENZIE (m. Roderick McKENZIE)

11. Apr 30, 1828 ALEXANDER BLACK McKENZIE (m. Christina BELL)

** MORE ABOUT ALEXANDER BLACK McKENZIE

12. 1832 JAMES McKENZIE (?m. Nancy MILLER)