Mr. James MacDonald, Company Clerk

company clerk, northwest company, fur trade, historical reenactment
James McDonald, company clerk for the Northwest Company Fur Trading Post.

I am  James McDonald, the company clerk for the Northwest Company Fur Trading Post. I was born in 1769 on the Isles of Skye, where my clan Donald and good friends MacLeods ruled for ages. My father fought with Great Britain in the Great American Revolution and never came back. That is when my mother said I had to do better. I started at the school of Edinburgh in 1784. At fifteen years old I was studying accounting, foreign taxes, shipping weights, chemistry, and much more studious subjects.

I had the opportunity to go to the States in 1788 and work with Great Britain like father did. But my job, better money and very exciting as asst. clerk in 1788. I helped measuring blankets,  marking up prices, making ink, cutting quills, and learning from Aiden Macleod my Highland friend what a clerk does. He sent me with voyageurs up the river with my own attendant. voyageurs are strong, working 18 hours a day.

When I became clerk in 1798 of the NWCo. Fur Post my trips became more strenuous. I remember when I got thrown in the river for not giving rum to voyageurs when they climbed the tallest pine tree and carved my initials. It’s the little things that crotchety old fool of a friend didn’t tell me. I figured them out, and knocked him in the tooth, the old Aiden MacLeod.

The Fur Trade’s booming… lots of  beaver coming in and out through the summer months and in the winter. I barter with Indians to keep fresh meat and fruits on the table. They saved my butt more than a couple times. I really love their sewing and colorful garments they bring me.  Anyways, being the clerk here, I  have a lot of stories and a lot of history to show you and teach you. And no! I will not leave out any detail, so that you too can prosper, whether it’d be on the river, in the wilderness, or home at camp. I  James McDonald will be lighting the way.

3 thoughts on “Mr. James MacDonald, Company Clerk

  1. I was born and raised in Ishpeming and also worked in an iron mine for LTV Steel in Hoyt Lakes! I have an M.A. and grad-level training certificate in public history. I have worked for NPS at Grand Portage Nat’l Monument in 2009. I currently work at Heritage Hill State Historical Park in Green Bay. We have a good fur trade area we are always working to improve.

    Please feel free to contact for any discussion/questions about the fur trade, especially the NW Co., XY, Dickson and Co., Southwest Co., etc..

  2. (This was sent to general contact and 2 others.)

    I came upon your fantastic site and place in trying to pin down whether St. Louis MO really did supplant Mackinac I. as the regional fur trading center. Did it?

    PLEASE CALL ME about what’s below. At the least we might have some paragraphs on the spirit of rendezvous and why they are so interesting. (I once wrote about Prairie Du Chien.) And some photos. I’d want to know a little about how you evolved.

    I’m revising my Upper Peninsula guide—”Hunts’ Guide to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula” (See Amazon.) It dawns on me that your center taps into more of the cultures of fur trading, and the fun of rendezvous, than the mass tourism on Mackinac. (NEVER say I said that!) I’d love to talk to one of you about connections with places I profile. I guess you focus on POSTS. This book is only the Eastern U.P. Sault Ste. Marie (both countries, Ontario has the North West recreations, a blockhouse and canoe lock). Oddly, I don’t know where many posts were. Menominee/Marinette for sure. Michilimackinac is all about fur but doesn’t attreact reenactors or rendezvous. I could do earlier eras or more detail for Mackinac. (They interpret the Victorian/tourist era of the fort.) All the St. Mary’s River islands are in the book. St. Ignace I guess….. the story is told without much reference to furs. Escanaba? Manistique?
    You have such a great site and such scholarship! I’m excited about this!!!

    I could also throw in a bit about the Mesabi Range, which is like our Gogebic Range but bigger and newer. And that mining museum in Hibbing…. seems like on a different order from what we have. I’m actually going to the Salolaampi Language Village in Bemidji to learn a little Finnish (Sept) so I will be in your area.

    Naturally, Minnesota sites would get less space. But my philosophy is to emphasize connections. I do both Saults, and Marinette, and Hurley and Peshtigo.

    Not to forget, WAS St. Louis the fur center c. 1840?

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