John Smith, from Asbus, Kildalton Parish, Islay, sailed on the Prince of Wales in 1813. (1) He was described as a labourer, 50 years of age, and was accompanied by his wife Mary (age 48) and four children: John (10), Jean (14), Mary (5) and Neil (17). A note was made on the ship’s passenger list that his wife Mary was ill. As a result of an outbreak of typhoid on the ship, the passengers were set ashore at Churchill Fort rather than York Factory. There were no preparations for them at Churchill, and they spent the winter at a makeshift camp known as Colony Creek about 15 miles up the Churchill River.
Two older sons, Alexander and Allan, also emigrated from Scotland in 1813. They had signed on as labourers with the HBC and sailed on the Eddystone in convoy with the Prince. Ordinarily, the HBC men would have been transferred to the Prince in Hudson Strait. However, due to sickness on the Prince, (2) the men were transferred to the Brazen, a ship of war also in the convoy, and taken to Churchill Fort. From there, they went to York Factory either on foot or in company boats, and then were sent to various HBC posts.
In the spring of 1814, Archibald McDonald led the youngest and fittest of the wintering settlers from Churchill to York Factory on snowshoes. Among this group were Neil and Jean Smith. They arrived at Red River in June. The remainder of settlers at Churchill were later picked up by HBC boats and taken to York Factory. They arrived at Red River later in the summer.
The settlers were harassed constantly over the winter of 1814-15 by the North West Company and in June of 1815 the majority of them left for Upper Canada, transported in the NWC canoes. The Smith family were among the group which left. In Miles Macdonell’s list of those who went with the NWC, he includes Alan, Alexander, and Neil Smith as HBC servants. They had apparently all had 3-year contracts which were not fulfilled. The family eventually settled in Nasagiweya (Nassagaweya) Township, Halton County, Ontario.
(1) Hudson’s Bay Co. Archives, C.1/778: Passenger list of the Prince of Wales outward bound 1813.
(2) Hudson’s Bay Co. Archives, C.1/298: Passenger list of the Eddystone outward bound 1813.