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Louis Hennepin

Louis Hennepin, Récollet missionary, explorer (b at Ath, Belgium 12 May 1626; d c 1705). In 1675 Hennepin was sent to Canada with René-Robert Cavelier de LA SALLE, commandant of Fort Frontenac, where Hennepin was chaplain 1676-77.

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Samuel Black

Samuel Black, fur trader, explorer (b at Pitsligo, Scot 3 May 1780; d at Kamloops, New Caledonia [BC] 8 Feb 1841). He joined the XY Co, which was absorbed by the NORTH WEST CO in 1804.

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Mathieu Da Costa

Mathieu Da Costa (depending on the language of the documents that mention his name, also known as “Mateus Da Costa,” “Mathieu de Coste,” “Matheus de Cost” and “een Swart genamd Matheu”), interpreter (dates and places of birth and death unknown). Da Costa is one of the most fascinating and elusive figures in the early history of Canada. Historians consider him the first Black person known to have visited Canada, probably in the company of Pierre Dugua de Mons and Samuel de Champlain. But many aspects of his life remain unclear or unknown.

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Simon Fraser

Simon Fraser, explorer, fur trader (born 20 May 1776 in Mapletown, Hoosick Township, New York; died 18 August 1862 in St Andrews West, Canada West). Simon Fraser is best known for his exploration of the Fraser River.

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Tillson Lever Harrison

Tillson Lever Harrison, physician, surgeon, army officer, adventurer (b at Tillsonburg, Ont 7 January 1881; d near Kaifeng, China, 10 January 1947). Also known as a writer, raconteur and humanitarian, Tillson Harrison has been touted as Canada's second Norman BETHUNE and the model for Indiana Jones.

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Prince Rupert of the Rhine

Prince Rupert of the Rhine, Duke of Cumberland, military commander, privateer, administrator, artist, scientist, first governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company and founding member of the Royal African Company (born 17 December 1619 in Prague, Bohemia [now Czech Republic]; died 29 November 1682 in London, England [now United Kingdom]). A nephew of King Charles I of England, Scotland and Ireland, Rupert was a cavalry general and privateer during the English Civil Wars (1642–51). He was the first close relative of an English monarch to cross the Atlantic Ocean. Following the Restoration of the English monarchy in 1660, Rupert introduced Pierre-Esprit Radisson and Médard Chouart des Grosseilliers to his cousin King Charles II and persuaded the king to grant a royal charter to the Hudson’s Bay Company. Rupert’s Land and Prince Rupert, British Columbia, are named after Prince Rupert of the Rhine.

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Henry Kelsey

Henry Kelsey, explorer, fur trader, sailor (born c. 1667 in East Greenwich near London, England; died 1724 in East Greenwich, England). Kelsey was an explorer and trader who worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) for nearly 40 years. He helped establish the Company’s fur trade operations at York Fort on the west coast of Hudson Bay and at Fort Albany on James Bay. Kelsey is best known for his two-year journey from Hudson Bay to the western interior between 1690 and 1692, making him the first European to see the Prairies. His goal was to encourage Indigenous peoples living inland to travel to York Fort to trade their furs.

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Henry Hudson

Henry Hudson, mariner, explorer (born c. 1570 in England; disappeared 1611). Hudson was among a long list of explorers who searched in vain for a northern passage through Arctic waters from Europe to East Asia. He made four voyages historians are aware of, in 1607, 1608, 1609 and 1610–11. While he never found a route, in Canada, Hudson Bay and Hudson Strait are named for him, as well as the Hudson River in New York state. He disappeared, along with his son and seven companions, after being set adrift in a ship’s boat during a mutiny on James Bay in June 1611. (See also Northwest Passage; Arctic Exploration.)

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John Cabot

John Cabot (a.k.a. Giovanni Caboto), merchant, explorer (born before 1450 in Italy, died at an unknown place and date). In 1496, King Henry VII of England granted Cabot the right to sail in search of a westward trade route to Asia and lands unclaimed by Christian monarchs. Cabot mounted three voyages, the second of which, in 1497, was the most successful. During this journey Cabot coasted the shores of Newfoundland and Labrador, possibly sighted the Beothuk or Innu people of the region, and famously noted that the waters teemed with cod. At the time, the land Cabot saw was thought to be the eastern shore of Asia, the fabled island of Brasil, or the equally fabled Isle of Seven Cities. Cabot and his crew were the second group of Europeans to reach what would become Canada, following Norse explorers around 1000 CE. Despite not yielding the trade route Cabot hoped for, the 1497 voyage provided England with a claim to North America and knowledge of an enormous new fishery.

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Sir Alexander Mackenzie (Explorer)

Sir Alexander Mackenzie, fur trader, explorer (born around 1764 near Stornoway, Scotland; died 12 March 1820 near Dunkeld, Scotland). Mackenzie was one of Canada’s greatest explorers. In two epic journeys for the North West Company in 1789 and 1793, he crossed the dense northern wilderness to reach the Arctic and Pacific Oceans. The first European to cross North America north of Mexico, he inspired later adventurers and traders, such as the famous Lewis and Clark expedition sponsored by the American military (1804–6). The Mackenzie River, named in his honour, symbolizes Mackenzie’s important place as a pioneer and fur trader in Canadian history.

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Alejandro Malaspina

Alejandro Malaspina, explorer (b at Mulazzo, Italy 5 Nov 1754; d at Pontremoli, Italy 9 Apr 1810). Born to an illustrious but impoverished family, Malaspina entered the Spanish naval service. In 1784 he sailed around the world in the frigate Astrea.

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William Grant Stairs

William Grant Stairs, explorer, soldier (b at Halifax 28 Feb 1863; d at Chinde, Mozambique 9 June 1892). He was discoverer of one source of the Nile, the Semliki River, and the first non-African to climb Mount Ruwenzori.

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Peter Warren Dease

Peter Warren Dease, fur trader, arctic explorer (b at Mackinac I, Mich 1 Jan 1788; d at Montréal 17 Jan 1863). From age 13 he was engaged in the FUR TRADE, first with the XY Co, then the NORTH WEST CO and finally the HUDSON'S BAY CO.

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John Bell

John Bell, fur trader, explorer (b on the Isle of Mull, Scot 1799; d at Saugeen, Ont 24 June 1868). John Bell joined the North West Company as a clerk in 1818.

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Tookoolito

Tookoolito, also known as Hannah and Taqulittuq (born in 1838 near Cumberland Sound, NU; died 31 December 1876 in Groton, Connecticut), Inuk translator and guide to American explorer Charles Francis Hall. Tookoolito and her husband, Ebierbing (traditionally spelt Ipiirvik), were well-known Inuit explorers of the 19th century who significantly contributed to non-Inuit’s knowledge of the North. The Government of Canada has recognized Tookoolito and Ebierbing as National Historic Persons.