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Nancy McKenzie (1790-1851) and Pierre Le Blanc.

The story of Nancy McKenzie and Pierre Le Blanc is illustrative of the ways Governor George Simpson treated both his employees and Metis women. Pierre Le Blanc served both the NWC and the HBC as a jack of all trades (carpenter, painter, glazier, storeman, builder, Indian trader, conductor of work) [HBRS XXX, p. 234, HBRS III, p. 444], before meeting a tragic end in the Columbia rapids below the Dalles des Morts. Pierre was employed in building the HBC stone fort at Lower Fort Garry in 1831. In 1834-35 when the new fort was built at Upper Fort Garry, Le Blanc was brought up from Lower Fort Garry to oversee the stonework. Le Blanc began his career with the NWC in 1803 or 1810 and stayed on with the HBC after the coalition. He retired in 1827 but rejoined the service in 1828 spending most of his time in the Red River area where, in 1831, he entered an arranged marriage to Nancy McKenzie1, niece of Chief Factor Donald McKenzie and the former country wife of John George McTavish. She had been unceremoniously dumped by McTavish. In 1830, while on furlough in Great Britain, McTavish, with the encouragement of HBC governor George Simpson, abruptly defied the norms of country marriage and legally married a Scottish woman. After travelling back to North America in company with Simpson and the governors new bride, Frances Ramsay Simpson, McTavish did not return to York Factory but went directly with his new wife to his posting at Moose Factory, leaving his colleagues to break the news to Nancy. The first blow was dreadful to witness, reported HBC clerk James Hargrave, but the poor girl is fast acquiring resignation. Nancy and several of her children were taken in temporarily at the HBC post Fort Alexander by Stuart, who, who along with her uncle Chief Factor Donald McKenzie, were particularly vocal in denouncing McTavish for his deception and demanded substantial compensation for Nancy. Governor Simpson, however, had decided that remarriage was the best means of providing for cast-off country wives and he had been delegated to settle McTavishs affairs. Despite Nancys expressed wish that she not be

Nancy Matooskie McKenzie, born circa 1790, was one of three Metis children fathered by Roderick McKenzie and an unidentified Indian woman, during his service in the Athabasca country between 1789 and 1801. As was customary among NorWesters, McKenzie did not take his two daughters with him when he retired to Lower Canada in 1801, but entrusted them to the guardianship of fellow NorWester John Stuart. Nancy was with Stuart when he went to New Caledonia (B.C.) to take charge of the department for the North West Company in 1809. In 1813 Stuart joined NWC partner John George McTavish on the Columbia River and it was probably in that year that Nancy was married to McTavish, by the custom of the country. After the union of the NWC and the Hudsons Bay Company in 1821, McTavish was appointed chief factor in charge of York Factory (Man.) and during the 1820s his wife shared his social prominence as the bourgeoise of the fort. During these years they had as many as seven children. (Mary (b. 1817), Flora (bc. 1822), Margaret (bc. 1823), Ann (bc.. 1826), Grace (bc. 1826).

forced to marry again, the dowry of 200 offered by McTavish soon enabled Simpson to arrange for her marriage to a respectable company employee, Pierre Le Blanc, then in charge of building Lower Fort Garry. Nancy McKenzie was baptized and the couple were married in the Roman Catholic church at the Red River settlement on February 7, 1831. He was given a week off to go to Bas de la Riviere to meet Nancy McKenzie and they were married at Red River. On October 22, 1838, after being posted as post master disposable in the Columbia district, he and his three children (along with seven other fellow canoeists) drowned in the rapids of the Columbia River. A month before Pierre and Nancys eldest daughter, Henriette, had died and was buried on the bank of the Athabasca River. Pierre Leblanc had one wife, Nancy, niece of Chief Factor Donald McKenzie, and three recorded children. The Leblanc children were Henriette (1832-1838), Pierre (1834-1838), Marie Rose (c.1837-1838) and an unnamed child (?-1838) who disappeared in the river. Following this accident Nancy and her youngest daughter by McTavish, Grace, were given a home at Fort Vancouver (Washington). In 1842 Grace married Charles Dodd, captain of the steamship Beaver, and Nancy McKenzie lived with the Dodds until her death at Fort Victoria in 1851. Reference: Sylvia Van Kirk, Nancy McKenzie, Dictionary of Canadian Biography On-Line.

Compiled by Lawrence Barkwell Coordinator of Metis Heritage and History Research Louis Riel Institute