John McVicar, carpenter, and his wife sailed on the Robert Taylor with the first group of colonists for the Selkirk Settlement. (1) McVicar and his wife, Katharine Adair, were from Bowmore, Island of Islay, Scotland. Also on board the Robert Taylor were John’s sister Betty and her husband, Hector McEachern. A third brother, Robert, also came on the ship, although Robert came as an HBC servant and did not go to the settlement.
The McVicars arrived at the colony site in late summer 1812, continued to Pembina for the winter, and returned to the settlement in the spring. Their first child, Archibald, was born at Red River in May 1814. John and his family were among those who remained loyal to Selkirk’s settlement when a large number of settlers and servants departed for Upper Canada in June 1815. The small group of loyalists were soon driven out by the Métis and North West Company men. They made their way to the north end of Lake Winnipeg, where they established a camp known as Winipic Settlement. Colin Robertson, an HBC man, persuaded them to return to Red River under his leadership. The settlers again spent the winter at Pembina, where the McVicars’ second son, Robert, was born on March 1, 1816.
The settlers returned to Red River in the spring, but were driven from the settlement after the confrontation with the Métis at Seven Oaks on June 19, 1816. They once again went to Jack River House and Winipic Settlement at the north end of the lake. At this time, McVicar entered the employ of the HBC. He engaged with Clark to go to the Athabasca country, where his brother Robert was now posted. While it seems unusual for the times, his wife and sons went with him to Athabasca. John served with the HBC for two years and attained the rank of Trader. A third son, John, was born in August 1818.
In 1818 the McVicar family returned to Scotland where four more children were born. John Sr and the three sons born in Rupert’s Land eventually came back to Canada and settled in the east.
(1) LAC, Selkirk Papers, pp. 560-562: Owen Keveny’s list of settlers and servants, 1812