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GEORGE FIDLER (1800-1846)

NANCY BLACK (1810-1890)
(Last Updated: July 12, 2016)

George FIDLER was born Nov 19, 1800 at Chesterfield House, the third child of Mary MACKAGONNE (Cree) and Peter FIDLER SR of Bolsover, surveyor, explorer and trader for the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC).
** MORE ABOUT PETER FIDLER

In the spring of 1801 the family returned to their home base at Cumberland House (SK) for the summer. The next fall they were back at Chesterfield House for another trading season. In the spring they departed once more, only this time they continued on from Cumberland all the way to the Company headquarters at York Factory, arriving there in late June of 1802.

York Factory was his mother’s birthplace, and toddler George would meet his Cree grandparents for the first time. That fall his parents departed to the far northwest to establish a new trading post (Nottingham House) at Fort Chipewyan. George and his two brothers (Tom and Charles) would remain at York with their grandparents.

In the summer of 1803 George and his brothers joined their parents at Cumberland House where they met their new baby sister (Sally). Cumberland became their new summer headquarters while for the next three years the family would endure their winters at Nottingham House, harassed by Samuel BLACK and the Nor’Westers who forced them to abandon that post in the spring of 1806.  On Nov 29, 1806 another new brother (Andrew) was born at Cumberland.

In June of 1807 their father went down alone to York Factory and Churchill and spent that summer surveying and mapping. In 1808 the family probably joined their father as he conducted more surveys along the Red River and along the east side of Lake Winnipeg up to Norway House. From there they went on to York Factory, and on to Reindeer Lake where they would spend the winter of 1808-09. Along the way, yet another brother was born (Alban) was born on June 17, 1809 during a brief stop at Holy Lake.

Dark Days at Ile a la Crosse
1810-1811

On June 9, 1810 the FIDLER family arrived at Ile a la Crosse where their father was to resume his struggle with the Nor’Westers. Bully Samuel BLACK was waiting to pounce, and this time he was joined by Peter Skene OGDEN, the new hired goon.

To make a long story short, by the spring of 1811 the Nor’Westers succeeded in forcing their father to abandon the post, which they burned to the ground. For more details go to the Peter Fidler Page

Their father sailed to England that fall for a year’s furlough.

THE SELKIRK SETTLERS ARRIVE
Brandon House
1812-1824

Dauphin-Brandon-Winnipdg

George was 12 years old in 1812 when his father took charge of Brandon House and began surveying lots for the Selkirk Settlers at Red River. Brandon then was home for George during his teenage years. He was home-schooled, and he would learn to paddle a canoe when he accompanied his father on his many trips to and from the Colony. He would also become very familiar with the people and places along the Assiniboine River flowing eastward across the plains to the Forks.  

There were two rival fur trading posts in the area of Brandon in those days, the HBC had Brandon House and the Nor’Westers had La Souris, across the river. Relationships between the two companies were reasonably amicable however, until in 1814 “The Pemmican War” broke out. Miles MacDONELL, Governor of the Selkirk Colony, stupidly decreed that, because of crop failures, no pemmican could be exported. This would have cut off supplies for the NWC's voyageurs throughout the Northwest. The NWC and its allies, the Métis buffalo hunters, defied the order, and all hell broke loose!

George and his family were caught in the middle an affray that would last until 1817. For more details, again go to the Peter Fidler narrative and Cuthbert GRANT on a Rampage.

In 1819 Peter FIDLER was assigned to take charge of the remote Fort Dauphin district. He was 50 years old now, and illness was creeping in. That winter he was “attacked with Palsy”, and was often confined to bed. Tom and Charles, as well as George were forced to take on more responsibility. His aches and pains made him grouchy at times. The Old Man often quarrelled with his sons who were becoming rebellious young men, striving for independence.

In 1820, as master of the district Peter had to make a report of each of the members of his staff.  His son Thomas was now employed as a Writer, while George was classed as a boatman. He showed no favouritism; the former (Tom), he said was "very handy in the Carpenter way but rather addicted to liquor."The latter is shown as "active, a Moose Hunter; has been with the Indians these 17 years."  Presumably he meant that George, who had a good command of Indian languages, was well liked by his mother's race and therefore, was an asset to the post.

After the HBC NWC union of 1821 the long and bitter rivalry between the two companies came to an end. The HBC began to reduce its staff, and many of the old traders and voyageurs were retired. Settlement increased in the Red River territories.

In December of 1822 his ailing father (Peter FIDLER) died at Dauphin House .That was the year that George had begun his first official HBC assignment as a Labourer.

Fort Gibraltar (of the NWC) was renamed Fort Garry that year and became known as the "Upper Fort”. The HBC replaced the canoe with York boats and therefore the Métis with Orkney men.  Complaints followed but the argument was that the Orkney men were cheaper.  Racism would become completely entrenched in the HBC system this decade, with no opposition, and Governor SIMPSON wrote “even the Half-Breeds of the Country who have been educated in Canada are blackguards of the very worst description”. This systemic discrimination would invade most business and Government Institutions.  The Company policy is not to employ Natural Canadians in any supervisory position.

The First Métis Settlers of St Francois Xavier
1824

From 1824 to 1826 George was a canoe-middleman assigned to the Swan River District. Being a halfbreed with little education, there was little chance that he was going to rise in the ranks of the Company. Whatever influence his esteemed father may have had was gone.

In the spring of 1824 George SIMPSON was concerned about the conflict between the Sioux and the Métis living at Pembina and, knowing that Pembina would be south of the 49th parallel, he asked GRANT for his help to establish a new community 29 km west of Fort Garry on the White Horse Plains. The community of Grantown (later SFX) was formed, with 80 of the displaced Pembina Métis families. The people of Grantown supplied fur traders with pemmican, and being some of the best fighters, they acted as a buffer between the Sioux and the Red River Settlement.

GEORGE FIDLER MARRIES NANCY BLACK
1825-1846

Around 1825, George was "country wed" to Nancy BLACK, daughter of Marguerite (a Saulteaux Indian) and John BLACK (a Métis). A son (Charles) was born around that time in St Boniface (MB).

It seems that soon after George married Nancy he ceased to be an HBC employee, and they settled in St Francois Xavier.  

George was now living among the Métis (predominantly French-Métis) buffalo hunters of the White Horse Plains. The Assiniboine River was the “highway” across these plains, and in those days George knew the territory as well as anyone. He would remain in this land for the rest of his days.

I have not seen any direct evidence that George FIDLER was involved in free trading of pemmican and buffalo hides, but to be quite honest, I would be very surprised if he did not. After all, he grew up in a trading family and he was in an excellent position to do so. Around that time such activity was not yet illegal but it was definitely frowned upon by the HBC. He would have had to be very discrete, not wanting to cast a bad reflection upon his brothers who were still in their employ.

The Métis were increasingly relied upon to supply the fur trade with pemmican even after the rival fur companies united in 1821. Buffalo had become scarce in the area around Red River by this time and the hunters had to go southwest for a considerable distance to find sizeable herds, which meant trespassing on the hunting grounds of the Dakota. For security, the Métis hunters began travelling and hunting in groups, which gave rise to a memorable spectacle.

On Jun 26, 1826 George’s mother (Mary) died.

In July 1828, the HBC passed a resolution appointing Cuthbert GRANT as “Warden of the Plains”.

In 1834 George & Nancy were church-wed. Four children (Charles, William, Marie & Antoine) were now legitimized.

In 1838 son Francois was born.

In 1839 their eldest child (Charles) died. He was only 14 years old.

The buffalo hunt of 1840 included 620 men, 650 women, 360 children, 586 oxen, 655 cart horses, and 403 'buffalo runners' (fast horses). In other words, more than one-third of the Red River Settlement packed up their belongings and set off on a dangerous expedition that would last for months. The carts and most of the people and beasts would return laden with pemmican and buffalo hides. Both of these were sold to the HBC and to American traders on a scale that would support the community for a year. Their hunts brought them into conflict with the Dakota but the military organization and discipline of the Métis helped them overcome their rivals

Two more sons were born in 1840 and 1841 (Joseph & George Jr). Their last child (another Charles) was born in January of 1842 but he died about a month later.

In 1842 their only daughter, Marie, married Charles PELLETIER Jr.

On Dec 7, 1844 an over-zealous Governor Alexander CHRISTIE proclaimed trafficking in furs and pemmican to be illegal. Had the Company not learned anything from the lessons of Miles MacDONELL who had done the same thing back in 1814? Had they forgotten Cuthbert GRANT and the Massacre at Seven Oaks?

If George FIDLER was involved in such activity, which I believe he was, such a proclamation would have profoundly affected his livelihood and brought about much anxiety and stress to him and his family .

George FIDLER died in 1846 and was buried at St Francois Xavier. He was only 46 years old. 

WIDOW NANCY FIDLER
1846-1890

When George died he left a 36 yr old widow with a young family.  Her eldest daughter, Marie, was married now, but Nancy still had 19 yr old William; Antoine, age 14; Francis, age 8; Joseph age 6, and George, age  5.

In 1848 when Father BELCOURT was charged with trafficking in furs, Louis RIEL SR led a band of Métis to free the missionary and they carried him off to St Boniface.

On May 17, 1849, Pierre Guillaume SAYER and three other Métis from the Red River Colony (Angus McGILLIS, LARONE and Alexis GOULET) were brought to trial on the charge of violating the HBC charter by trafficking in furs.  Nothing could be more distressing to Cuthbert GRANT than this outburst of contempt for the law.  As Warden of the Plains, Sheriff and Magistrate, he was bound to suppress it, but these were his own people!  If he did his duty, he might forfeit the affection of his followers.  If he didn't he would lose his offices and his income.

Louis RIEL SR again assumed leadership, urging the Métis to come to Fort Garry, and to bring their arms. The trial and the results are well documented. SAYER was released and the Métis declared a victory. Charges against the other three were dropped. The famous Louis RIEL JR, future leader of the Métis, was only around four years old at the time.

Immigrant settlers moving west from Winnipeg were finding the land around SFX agreeable for homesteading, and in 1850, Sisters LAGRAVE and LAFRANCE founded a convent in the area. The two sisters had previously founded the Grey Nuns convent in St. Boniface, and were the first sisters in SFX. The convent also served as a school for local Métis and native children, housing approximately 25 students in its early days.

On May 20, 1851 in SFX son William married Marguerite McGILLIS in SFX. Marguerite was a daughter of Marguerite BOTTINEAU & Alexander McGILLIS.

The Battle of the Grand Coteau
July 13-14, 1851

Grand Coteau
Grand Coteau is located southeast of Minot, North Dakota
From Velva, ND, go south on Hwy 41 about 20 miles to find Dog Den Butte (maison de chein)

The battle of the Grand Coteau was perhaps the proudest memory of the Métis nation. It symbolized their highest achievement as a people. Nothing more conclusively proved their mastery of the plains by which they lived (William Morton). There are numerous versions of this battle on the web. Following are links to the best ones that I have found so far:

William Morton: The Battle at the Grand Coteau: July 13 and 14, 1851
Michel Lopez: Grant Soldiers of the Buffalo Hunt
Melvin Beaudry:  Eyewitness Account of the Battle of the Grand Coteau

The only participants in the actual main battle appear to have been the hunting party from St Francois Xavier who left from there on June 15, 1851. This group consisted of 67 hunters and their wives and children, led by Jean Baptiste FALCON and accompanied by their missionary, Father Louis Francois Richer LAFLECHE. I don’t know what the population of SFX was in 1851, but we know that Cuthbert GRANT brought 80 Métis families to settle there in 1824. Before that most of the families were those at or near the NWC and HBC posts. In any case it appears that a significant percentage of the entire population of SFX must have been on this hunt. It seems like a very good possibility that George FIDLER’s boys might have been there too and, if not, certainly some of their wives and children had relatives that were involved.

This is an excellent subject for discussion. If you have any comments or queries, here’s the Forum link for this Topic: Personalities in the Battle of the Grand Coteau 1851

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On July 15, 1854 Cuthbert GRANT JR died in SFX.

Around 1858 son Francois married Josephte LAPLANTE

In 1859 son Antoine married in SFX to 20 year old Julie Caroline McGILLIS, daughter of Marguerite BOTTINEAU & Alexander McGILLIS. Interestingly, both Julie and her sister (Marguerite McGILLIS) were nieces of Marie McGILLIS b-1804) who was one of the wives of Cuthbert GRANT JR (making Cuthbert GRANT their uncle).

On Aug 8, 1861 Nancy’s son-in-law (daughter Marie’s husband), Charles PELLETIER, died in SFX

Around 1863 son Joseph married Angelique WELSH

In February of 1864 the Elder Louis RIEL died.

Around 1866 youngest surviving son, George Jr, married Marie LAPLANTE and settled near the Assiniboine River roughly 10 miles east of Portage la Prairie (known as Newton Siding or Baie St Paul).

On Oct 16, 1869 the establishment of the National Committee of the Métis of Red River culminated a summer of growing resistance to surveys being conducted by Canadian government who refused to acknowledge their traditional land rights. Louis RIEL JR would become their leader, and the rest of his story is well documented in the history books.

Many Métis chose to relocate as a result of the events of 1869-70

On July 15, 1870, the Government of Canada created the Province of Manitoba.

In 1875 Nancy (of SFX) applied for Scrip as the widow of George FIDLER.

Census 1881: Widow Nancy FIDLER (age 75) with the family of her son George b-1841 in Baie St Paul Parish.

At some time after 1881, son William and his family moved to Saskatchewan. He died at Batoche in 1895
After 1882 son Francois and his family moved to the Meota area (Jackfish Lake; north of North Battleford).

Nancy died in 1890 at St Eustache.

By 1891 son William was living at Batoche (SK) where he died in 1895.
By 1891 son Francois was living in Red Deer Hill (SK). He died in 1893 at Jack Fish Lake (SK).

Son George Jr remained in Manitoba and died in SFX in 1928.

Comments and queries at this link: FORUM DISCUSSING THE FAMILY OF GEORGE FIDLER

====================== Family Details ======================

1. c1825 CHARLES FIDLER (Died 1839, abt 14 yrs old)
2. Nov, 1827 WILLIAM FIDLER (m. Marguerite McGILLIS) ** MORE ABOUT WILLIAM FIDLER
3. 1831 MARIE FIDLER (m. Charles PELLETIER SR)

4. Aug 8, 1832 ANTOINE (AMBROISE) FIDLER (m. Julie Caroline McGILLIS)
5. 1838 FRANCOIS FIDDLER (m. Josephte "Josephine" LAPLANTE)
6. 1840 JOSEPH FIDLER (m. Angelique WELLS)
7. Oct, 1841 GEORGE FIDLER JR (m. Marie LAPLANTE)
8. Jan 6, 1842 CHARLES FIDLER (Died in infancy, one month)

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