JOSEPH FROBISHER*
1740-1810

From: "A History of the Scotch Presbyterian Church, St. Gabriel Street, Montreal"
By Rev, Robert Campbell, M.A., 1887


Joseph Frobisher, whose name stands next, subscribing ten guineas, was a member of the distinguished firm of “Benjamin & Joseph Frobisher,” that joined Simon McTavish in forming the “North-west Company” in the the winter of 1783-84. Mr. Frobisher was the first to penetrate the great North-west as far as the Churchill River. Up to 1774, the Indians in that region used to carry their furs to Hudson’s Bay, but Mr. Frobisher met them on the way and induced them to trade with him. He remained two seasons in the country, enduring great hardships, having to depend upon what the woods and waters afforded for subsistence. He returned in 1776, having secured what was in those days counted a competent fortune, in his two years’ transactions with the Indians. His brother, Benjamin Frobisher, who died in 1787, made his way still farther west, being the first to reach Isle a la Croix. 

In 1798, Joseph Frobisher retired from active commercial life. He was an Englishman and a prominent member of the ‘Protestant congregation of Montreal,” being a vestryman in 1789, as James McGill also was. He was a member of the committee for the erection of the first 
Christ Church. With John Richardson as his colleague, he represented the East Ward of the city in the first Parliament of  Lower Canada, in 1792. His son was chosen to represent the St. Laurent district in the year 1804, and Joseph issued a card of thanks to the electors on his behalf. 

Along with John Gray, Daniel Sutherland, and others, he formed the first company, in 1801, for the construction of water works for the city. He received a grant of 11,550 acres in the Township of Ireland from Governor Mimes in 1802; and in the adjoining township of Inverness there is a hill called after him, still known as “Frobisher Hill.” 

His residence “Beaver Hall,” so designated in allusion to the business which its proprietor prosecuted, was burnt in 1847, but it has given its name to one of the classic quarters of the city. Joseph Frobisher was in his day one of “the characters” of the commercial metropolis of Canada. The firm, “McTavish, Frobisher & Co.,” held a pew in the [St. Gabriel Street] church up to 1805.


From: " The (MacMillan) Dictionary of Canadian Biography

2nd Edition, 1945, Compiled by W. Stewart Wallace, MacMillan Co. of Canada, Toronto

Frobisher, Joseph (1740-1810), fur-trader, was born in Halifax, Yorkshire, England, on April 15, 1740. He appears to have followed his brother Benjamin Frobisher to Canada, and to have first gone to the West in 1768. 

It is known that he made an attempt to pass beyond Grand Portage in 1769, but was turned back by the Indians. The statement is made in the McDonell diary, under date of September 4, 1793, that he wintered on the Red river in 1770-71; but this statement is open to doubt. Certainly he reached the Saskatchewan in 1773, with his brother Thomas Frobisher; and spent the winter near the site of what afterwards became Fort Cumberland. 

In 1774-75 he wintered on the Athabaska river, in the hope of cutting off the fur-trade from Fort Churchill, and nearly perished of starvation. He was an original member of the North West Company in 1779; and he became one of its great figures. On the death of his brother Benjamin in 1787, he joined forces with Simon McTavish, to form McTavish, Frobisher and Co., which was for many years the virtual directorate of the North West Company. He retired from business in 1798, and lived at his place, Beaver Hall, in Montreal. He represented the East Ward of Montreal in the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada from 1792 to 1796; and he died in Montreal on September12, 1810. 

In 1779 he married Charlotte Joubert, of Montreal. His letter-book and his “Diary of my dinners” are preserved in the Library of McGill University.

[ F. J. Audet, "Les Depues de Montreal" (Montreal 1942); G. C. Davidson, "The North West Company" (Berkley, Cal., 1919); W.S. Wallace, "The pedlars from Quebec" (Can. hist. rev., 1932); "Can. Arch. report", 1890, note C.]



See also:
His brother Benjamin Frobisher
His brother Thomas Frobisher
His son Benjamin Joseph Frobisher

*Researching Joseph Frobisher................Denny Lowe (1st cousin 7x removed)

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