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Summary Article: Henry, Alexander
from The Columbia Encyclopedia

two fur traders, uncle and nephew, of the Old Northwest, each of whom left a valuable journal of his travels and experiences. Alexander Henry, the elder, 1739–1824, b. New Brunswick, N.J., served under Jeffery Amherst in the last of the French and Indian Wars. As a fur trader he barely escaped massacre (1763) by Native Americans at Michilimackinac in Pontiac's Rebellion. Captured by the Ojibwa, he was later adopted and protected by a family and made his way back to Fort Niagara in time to join Bradstreet's army in lifting the siege of Detroit. He returned to fur trading and in 1775 penetrated the Old Northwest to the region of the Saskatchewan. Competition with the Hudson's Bay Company caused a body of the free traders, among them Henry, Peter Pond, and the Frobishers, to unite as the group that eventually became the powerful North West Company. See his Travels and Adventures in Canada and the Indian Territories (new ed. with biographical notes by James Bain, 1972). The date and place of birth of his nephew, Alexander Henry, the younger, d. 1814, are not known. His journal of 1799–1814, edited by Elliott Coues (together with the journal of David Thompson) as New Light on the Early History of the Greater Northwest (1897), describes his adventures as a trader of the North West Company on the Red, Pembina, Saskatchewan, and Columbia rivers and is particularly valuable for its account of the native tribes of those regions. Henry was drowned near Astoria, Oreg.

  • See O'Meara, W., The Savage Country (1960).
The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2017

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