an enterprising merchant, was born in the north of Scotland June 15,
1783. At the age of seventeen he went to Canada, and joined the great
North-west Fur Company, which had been formed at Montreal in the winter
of 1783-84, in opposition to the Hudsons Bay Company, and in their
employment he continued eight years.
On the 23d June 1810,
articles of agreement where entered into between Mr. Astor of New York,
Fr. Donald Mackenzie and other 3 Scots gentlemen, acting for themselves
and for the several parties who had agreed, or might agree, to become
associated under the firm of The Pacific Fur Company.
In July 1810, Mr.
Mackenzie and Mr. Hunt, at the head of a band of adventurers who had
engaged in the undertaking, set out from St. Louis, to make the overland
route, up vast rivers, across trackless plains, and over the rugged
barriers of the Rocky Mountains, to the mouth of the Columbia river. The
distance by the route travelled was upwards of 3,500 miles, though in a
direct line it does not exceed 1,800.
On arriving at their
destination a small fort or trading post was immediately erected on the
south bank of the Columbia river, and called Astoria, after Mr. Astor,
the originator of the settlement. Besides the fort, it consisted
altogether of about half-a-dozen log houses, on the side of a ridge
which rises from the river to an altitude of 500 feet. This ridge was
originally covered with a thick forest of pines, and the part reclaimed
by the first occupants for their settlement does not exceed four acres.
Mr. Mackenzie was placed
in charge of a post on the Shahaptan, in the midst of the Tushepaw
Indians, a powerful and warlike nation divided into many tribes, under
different chiefs. These savages possessed innumerable horses, but, never
having turned their attention to beaver trapping, they had no furs
either for sale of barter. Game being scarce, Mackenzie, for
subsistence, was obliged to rely, for the most part, on horse-flesh, and
the Indians, in consequence, knowing his necessities, raised the price
of their horses to an exorbitant rate. He was, therefore, both disgusted
and disappointed with his situation, and on obtaining information of the
breaking out of the war between Great Britain and the United States in
1812, he resolved upon abandoning his post, and proceeding to Fort
After a long journey, he
suddenly appeared there, with all his people, way-worn and
weather-beaten, January 16, 1813. Mr. Duncan MDougal was then in
charge of the establishment. After consulting with Mr. McDougal and
other officials there, it was determined to abandon the fort in the
course of the following spring, and return across the Rocky mountains.
In the meantime Mackenzie went back to Shahaptan, to remove his goods
from thence, and buy horses and provisions with them for the caravan,
across the mountains. He was accompanied by two of the clerks, Mr. John
Reed, an Irishman, and Mr. Alfred Seton of New York. On their arrival
they found that the post had been rifled by the Indians, and the goods
carried off. Mackenzie was fortunate enough to recover part of the
stolen property. He then returned to Astoria, where he arrived, with the
other partners, on the 12th of June.
consultation, it was resolved, as two of the most influential of the
partners disapproved of the design to break up and depart from Astoria,
that Mr. MDougal should continue to hold it, with forth men, and that
Mr. Mackenzie, with four hunters and eight common men, should winter in
the abundant country of Wollamut, whence he might be enabled to furnish
a constant supply of provisions to Astoria.
On the expected arrival
of the frigate Phoebe and Isaac Tod, British ships, Mr. MDougal, on the
16th October, entered into an agreement with Mr. MTavish, of the
North-west Company, to sell him, on their account, the whole stock of
furs and merchandise of all kinds, in the country, belonging to the
Company of which Mr. Astor was the head. On the morning of the 30th
November, the British sloop of war Racoon, of twenty-six guns and 120
men, anchored in Bakers Bay, near the fort, and its commander, Captain
Black, took possession of the place, on the part of Great Britain, and
changed the name to Fort George. At the close of the war in 1814, in
conformity to the treaty of Ghent, the settlement was restored to the
United States, but the property, business and ports, remained in the
hands of the North-west Company, under the above-mentioned act of sale
by Mr. MDougal. On the 4th April following, Mr. Mackenzie, with two of
the partners and such of the persons employed at Astoria as had not
entered into the service of the North-west Company, set out for New
York, across the Rocky mountains. He had converted everything he could
into available funds, which he conveyed, through an extensive
wilderness, to Mr. Astor, and his friends asserted that to Mr. Mackenzie
alone was that gentleman indebted for all that was saved from the ruin
caused by the agreement entered into by Mr. MDougal with Mr. MTavish.
The trade in peltries was forthwith engrossed by the North-west Company.
subsequently exerted himself to secure for the United States the
exclusive trade of Oregon, but after a long negotiation with Mr. Astor,
and, through him, with Messrs. Madison, Gallatin, and other leading
individuals in and out of office. The matter was abandoned, and on the
merging of the North-west Company in the Hudsons Bay Company in March
1821, Mr. Mackenzie joined the latter. He was immediately appointed one
of the council and chief factor. From that time, says Mr. Irving, the
Hudsons Bay Company enjoyed a monopoly of the Indian trade from the
coast of the Pacific to the rocky mountains, and for a considerable
extent north and south. They removed their emporium from Astoria to Fort
Vancouver, a strong post on the left bank of the Columbia river, about
sixty miles from its mouth; whence they furnished their interior posts,
and sent forth their brigades of trappers.
In August 1825, Mr.
Mackenzie married a lady of the name of Adelegonde Humbert, and shortly
after he was appointed governor of the Company. At this time he resided
at Fort Garry, Red River settlement, where he remained till 1832, in
active and prosperous business. At length, having amassed a large
fortune, in August 1833 he went to reside in Mayville, Chautanque
county, where he spent the remainder of his days. He died January 20,
1851, leaving a widow and fourteen children. One of the latter was by a
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