Oman Norquay was born about 1773 in South Ronaldshay, Orkney. He joined the HBC and came to York Factory in 1791. (1) He was employed as a labourer at York Factory from September 1791 to 1795, and then went inland as a canoeman until 1802. For the next nine years, he worked in the Cumberland and Edmonton districts as a labourer and bowsman. He served as a middleman on the York boats in the Saskatchewan district 1811-1818. According to the ‘custom of the country’, he married Jean Morwick, the daughter of James Morwick and a native woman named Sarah.
In 1818 Oman retired to the Selkirk Settlement. A list of settlers in that year shows him with a family of six. He was one of the founders of Birsay village on the Assiniboine River at White Horse Plain. “The settlement lasted only seventeen months. After their crops were destroyed by grasshoppers during the summer of 1819 and an epidemic of measles and whooping cough carried off several children, including one of Jean and Oman’s, the Birsay group disbanded. For the most part, they were blended back into the main colony at Red River.” (2) Oman died in 1820. In 1822, his widow married James Spence. Jean died in 1874.
His grandson John Norquay (3670), son of John Norquay (3658) and Isabella Truthwaite, was the first native-born premier of Manitoba, 1878-1887.
(1) HBCA C.1/1054: passenger list of the Seahorse outward bound 1791
(2) Family Connections: The 2005 Red River Descendants Reunion, published by the Lower Fort Garry Volunteer Association, 2009. Norquay/Miller/Scott by John Scott Norquay