From: "Montreal History
and Gazeteer to the year 1892"
By Rev. J. Douglas Borthwick, John Lovell & Son, Montreal 1892
This name is an important one in the annals of the Province as well as in its public affairs. We find him in 1806 the head of the large firm of MacTavish, McGillivray & Co. At this time a fierce conflict was being carried on by the Fur Company which they represented and Lord Selkirk, in regard to the possession of the Red River District. At this time Lord Selkirk requested Sir Gordon Drummond, the then Administrator of the Government, to send a small military force to protect the Red River or Selkirk Colonists from the annoyances and persecutions of the North West Company. It was refused, and greatly owing to McGillivray's influence as a member of the Executive Council of the Province.
Fort William, one of the chief posts, was called after him, and it became the headquarters of the North West Company's operations. It is supposed that here the orders emanated which were carried out in 1815 of attacking the Colony of Lord Selkirk. For this brutal and unwarrantable outbreak and attack Mr. McGillivray, Kenneth Mackenzie and Simon Fraser were all put under arrest, August, 18I6, by Lord Selkirk, who had been invested with magisterial powers. They were arraigned as responsible for the death of Governor Semple and the almost total destruction of the Red River Settlement the previous June. As this company was at this time all powerful in Quebec, and the members of it almost completely controlled the acts of the Government and. the Governor in Council, the issue was at last in favor of McGillivray and his colleagues. The well-known Judge Reid had married [Betsy McGillivray], the sister of the subject of our sketch, and this mighty influence had something to do with the final issue. In 1802, he received a grant of 11,550 acres of land in the township of Inverness from. the Governor, Sir R.S.Milnes.
He will ever be remembered
as the Lieut.-Col..of the corps of Voyageurs
who captured Detroit in the War of 1812.
The river in the North West also commemorates his name. After a most romantic
and interesting life he died in Montreal in the year 1825.*
Note: Mary McGillivray, another sister of William McGillivray married Angus Shaw
From: "Journal of Occurences in the Athabasca Department
By George Simpson, 1820 and 1821, and Report"
Edited by E.E. Rich. Pub. by the Champlain Soc. for the Hudson Bay Record Soc.1938
William The Honourable William McGillivray, nephew of Simon
McTavish, was born in Scotland in 1764.
In 1784 he joined the N.W.C. as a clerk. In 1785-86 he was stationed
in the Red River department, and in 1786-88 he was in charge of the post
at Lac des Serpents. In 1790 he became a partner of the N.W.C., and
three years later a member of the firm of
Frobisher & Co. At Simon McTavish's
death in 1804 he succeeded him as Chief Director of the N.W.C., and Fort
William was named after him in 1807. In the War of 1812 he served
as Lieutenant-Colonel of the Canadian Voyageurs and took part in the capture
of Detroit. In 1814 he was created a Legislative Councillor for Lower
Canada. He was responsible for the N.W.C. policy towards Lord Selkirk,
by whom he was arrested in 1816 at Fort William and sent to Canada for
trial. He left Canada for Scotland before the amalgamation between
the H.B.C. and the N.W.C., which he helped to negotiate with his brother
Simon. He retired to Argyllshire but died in St. John's Wood, London, on
16th October, 1825. McGillivray married in 1800
(d. 1810) the sister of John McDonald
*Researching William McGillivray...........Wayne A. Jones gggg grandson
Notes from Wayne:
2. William's sister Mary McGillivray married Angus Shaw 30 November 1802 at Christ Church, Montreal, the witnesses were Rod McKenzie and Alex Mcleod.
3. William's sister Elizabeth (Betsy) McGillivray married Hon Judge James Reid of Three Rivers Wednesday 11 Feb. 1808 at Christ Church, Montreal with witnesses Wm. McGillivray, John Reid, and Angus Shaw.
According to, Documents Relating to the North West Company...
He was educated at his uncle's expense; and in 1784 he came to Canada, and entered the service of the North West Company as a clerk. In 1785-6 he was in the Red River department; and in 1786-7 he was in charge of the post at Lac des Serpents, and with Robert McKenzie was mainly responsible for bringing about the union of the North West Company and the Gregory McLeod Company in 1787. He became a partner in the North West Company in 1790, and a member of the firm McTavish, Frobisher and Co. in 1793; and on the death of his uncle, Simon McTavish in 1804, he became the chief director of the North West Company.
Fort William (Thunder Bay) was named after him in 1807. In 1812 he commanded the "Voyageurs" with Brock at Detroit; and in 1814 he was created, in recognition of his services, a legislative councillor of Lower Canada.
He directed the policy of the North West Company in regard to the Selkirk settlement at the Red River; and in 1816 he was arrested by Lord Selkirk at Fort William and sent down to York (Toronto) for trial in 1817. With his brother Simon [McGillivray] he helped to negotiate the union of the North West Company and the Hudson's Bay Company in 1821; and after the union he became one of the joint board for consulting and advising on the management of the fur-trade.
He bought the estate of Peine-au-Ghael, in the Isle of Mull, Scotland; but he does not appear to have lived there. He died at St John's Wood, London, on October 16, 1825, aged 61.
Direct Descendants of William McGillivray to Wayne Jones
Back to the homepage