James Taylor was born in Orkney about 1797. However, many of the early people at Red River were uncertain of the year of their births, so this may not be exact. The biographical sheet created by HBC archivists uses 1794. The HBCA bio also provides the information that he was from Morwick, Birsay, Orkney. He sailed for York Factory on the Emerald in 1816 and entered the service of the company on April 25, 1817.
Taylor was first posted as a labourer to Cumberland House, then Edmonton. In June 1820 he was engaged at Cumberland House by Captain John Franklin to accompany his northern expedition. The company reached Fort Wedderburn on Lake Athabasca about five weeks later, at which time Franklin decided that he had too many men, and James Taylor was released from his service. Taylor was then hired by William Brown, the HBC postmaster at Fort Wedderburn, first as a middleman then as fisherman. William Brown was transferred to New Caledonia in 1821, and James Taylor went with him. Two years later, he was at York Factory, where he served as bowsman on the York boats. In 1826 he became a settler at Red River.
In 1828, Taylor married Mary Inkster, the daughter of James Inkster, formerly of Brandon House, and Mary, an Indian woman. The Taylors lived in the Middlechurch district at Red River where they had a family of ten children. At some point between 1850 and the Manitoba Census of 1870, the family moved to Poplar Point. James Taylor died in 1878 and was buried at Poplar Point.
John Taylor, third son of James and Mary, was elected a member of the First Legislature of Manitoba. He was Minister of Agriculture in the Cabinet of the Hon. John Norquay (1878).