- May 2017
An Scottish Canadian explorer, Alexander MacKenzie has been called the "first European man to explore the West" or reach the Pacific. He has become a legend, and was one especially in the decades after his journeys. His roots were in Scotland, particularly the Isle of Lewis,which is on the Western end of Scotland in the Hebrides. This area is very Scottish in culture, and one of the few that still speaks some Gaelic. Alexander Mackenzie was born there in 1762. He is recorded to have immigrated from Scotland to Canada in 1774 at the age of twelve. Mackenzie's father had worked hard to give the family a chance at a life, and Mackenzie grew up not poor. MacKenzie's mother's surname was MacIver. MacKenzie was known for his courage and will. These were characteristics that led to his success as an explorer. MacKenzie first arrived in New York. During the outbreak of the Revolution War in the New York area, MacKenzie's father and uncle decided to fight under the crown for England. Alexander found himself in Canada. He joined the fur trade business in the years that followed, around 1789. MacKenzie even had family members come after him to Canada, following in his footsteps. MacKenzie explored the Athabasca. He also explored the further West and North lands that no European had before, reportedly. Many documents show that MacKenzie was quite rude to the Native tribes of the area. Mackenzie's crew included mostly French-Canadians. His voyages were not perfect, and many times he was lost and angry. MacKenzie kept a journal of his adventures, giving us hints at what happened during this legendary quest. MacKenzie trusted another Scot, Alexander MacKay to help him with his quest. However, MacKay ended up being more successful in Pacific trading than MacKenzie did. Today there are many books and histories written on the explorer. In fact, the great river in Canada, MacKenzie River, is named after him.
Gough, Barry M. First Across the Continent: Sir Alexander Mackenzie. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997.
The Fraser's Highlanders, also known as "The Old 78th Regiment" was a British regiment gathered under William Pitt in 1757 for fighting in the French and Indian War. They fought in many influential battles during the war which lasted until 1763, including the engagements at Louisbourg and Quebec. Many of the men in the regiment settled in Canada after 1763. Many men who were in the regiment had descendants who eventually had an active role in Canadian politics and history, including some who were even involved in exploration and the fur trade. Their legacy lives on as they are considered the first influential wave of Scottish immigration to Canada. They intermarried with the French-Canadians already settled in the region, creating what we know as the Scots-Quebec culture.
Wallace, W.S. Some Notes on Fraser's Highlanders. Canadian Historical Review, 1937.