John Finlay (fur trader)

John Finlay (Fur Trader)

John Finlay (fur trader)

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John Finlay (1774 – December 19, 1833) was a fur trader and explorer with the North West Company. He is best remembered for establishing the first fur trading post in what is now British Columbia, Canada and for his exploration of the Finlay River, one of the two major rivers forming the Peace River.

Finlay was born in Montreal, the son of James Finlay, who himself was a significant player in the western Canadian fur trade. Finlay was apprenticed as a clerk in the North West Company in 1789 at the age of 15. He accompanied Alexander Mackenzie on his historic trip across the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean in 1792-93 becoming, with him, the first European to traverse North America. He was placed in charge of the North West Company's Athabasca Department in 1794, and the same year established a trading post at present-day Fort St. John, called Rocky Mountain Fort. This was the first European community established in present-day British Columbia, and is the province's oldest continuously inhabited European-founded settlement.

In 1797, Finlay revisited Mackenzie's excursion to the Pacific, with a view to taking the north branch of the Peace rather than the southern branch (the Parsnip River) taken by Mackenzie. This northern branch would come to be known as the Finlay River. Finlay perhaps thought that this route might present a less complicated conduit to the Pacific. No record remains of the expedition except in the writings of Samuel Black, who ascended to the...
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