The fur trade influenced the historical development of Canada in a number of ways including: the development and expansion into western and northern Canada; the significance of Canadian place names; the origin and rise of the Métis Nation; the impact of interaction between the First Peoples and the Europeans-and these connections can be found in personal and commercial stories about the people and events of the fur trade.
Letitia Hargrave nee MacTavish (1813-1854) was the daughter of Sheriff Dugald MacTavish and Letitia Lockhart. In 1840, she married James Hargrave, Chief Trader for the HBC, and left Scotland for York Factory.
The letters Letitia wrote to family and friends provide us with observations of daily life that differ from the typical post journals of that time which were written by men.
Her correspondence is also recognized for its importance as being one of the earliest for pioneer women in the fur trade in Western Canada. Through her letters, we can see her mature from a gawking and sea-sick newcomer to a shrewd and experienced observer of fur trade life.
4 September, 1841. To her sister, Florence MacTavish, describing the arrival of Robert Ballantyne. P99, 1st pgh: “Robert Ballantyne… Stockbridge Academy.”
“Robert Ballantyne a son of the newspaper editor and brother of the artist in Edinburgh came by the ship. He brought me a letter of introduction from Lady Simpson who calls him her cousin. He is barely 15 and a very clever boy. The Governor ordered that he should have a winter here but Hargrave thought the Simpsons would like his being with Mrs Finalyson so he sent him on to Red River with old Mr Charles. Mrs F. will be the better of him as he is smart and very gentlemanlike and diverting, straight from the Stockbridge Academy….”
Read excerpts from Letitia's letters - enter 'Letitia' in the search box to your left.
Read what Ballantyne has to say about Letitia - enter 'Ballantyne' in the search box to your left.