Courtesy of BC Archives collections
Call Number A-01502

Archibald McDonald

The Hudson's Bay Company Archives has put biographical sheets for some of their employees online.  One for   can be found at:

Born at Leeckhentium, on the southern shore of Loch Leven, Glencoe, Appin, in North Argyleshire, Scotland, on February 3rd, 1790, Archibald McDonald took charge of Fort Langley as its second chief in October of 1828.  It is said that he was well educated and studied the rudiments of medicine at the University of Edinburgh.

He also:

  • became a member of Lord Selkirk's Colony at Red River, assuming a considerable share in the management of its affairs.

  • was one of the clerks, in 1824, on the Thompson River district

  • succeeded McLeod at Kamloops in 1826

  • succeeded McMillan at Fort Langley in 1828

  • at Fort Langley, inaugurated the business of salting and curing salmon for the market

  • sent notice to the company that they were raising flocks and herds on a commercial scale on the Pacific Coast, which was the origin of the Puget Sound Agricultural Company.

Archibald remained in charge of Fort Langley until March of 1833, with James Murray Yale as his clerk and ultimate successor.  His next stop was Fort Vancouver, where he selected the site and helped lay the foundation of Nisqually House in June of 1833.  Then he accompanied William Connolly of New Caledonia up the Columbia River in July of the same year.


In 1823, Archibald married a daughter of the famous chief Comcomly, but she died the next year, giving birth to their son Ranald.  Archibald re-married in 1825 to Jane Klyne, daughter of Micheal Klyne who was the postmaster at Jasper's House.  Jane gave Archibald 13 children, two of whom were born at Fort Langley, and outlived him.

  • Alexander, born October 28, 1830; died at Moose Factory, Hudson Bay, July 7th 1875

  • Allen, born May 19, 1832; died in Winnipeg, Manitoba on November 28th, 1891.

When Archibald left Fort Langley, it was with some regret, for he felt it was a snug, comfortable place, but it was high time to get his boys to school, "God bless them -- I have no less than five of them, all in a promising way."

Though Archibald spelled his last name McDonald, his family used the clan form MacDonald.  He retired in 1844 and died at St Andrews, on the Ottawa River, January 15, 1853.  His gravestone reads:

One of the Pioneers of Civilization in Oregon

source: Fort Langley 1827-1927: A century of Settlement, pages 11-13

Archibald MCDONALD (1790-1853), fur trader, was born at Leechkentium Glencoe Appin, Argyllshire, Scotland, on February 3, 1790, and came out to Red River in 1813, in charge of a party of Lord Selkirk's colonists.  He was deputy governor of the Red River Settlement under Miles MACDONELL.  He wrote a "Narrative respecting the destruction of the Earl of Selkirk's settlement upon the Red River in 1815" and a "Reply to the letter recently addressed to the Earl of Selkirk by the Hon. and Rev. J. Strachan".  After the Red River troubles, he entered the service of the H.B.C.; and shortly after the union of the H.B.C. and the N.W.C. in 1821, he was sent to the Columbia.  In 1828 he accompanied Governor Simpson on a journey from York Factory to the Columbia; and his diary of this journey has been published under the title " Peace River".  He was promoted to the rank of chief trader in 1828; and from 1828-33 he was in charge of Fort Langley.  From 1834-44 he was in charge of Fort Colvile; and in 1842 he was made a chief factor.  When he retired from the Company's service; he settled at St. Andrew's, Lower Canada; and here he died on January 15, 1853.  In 1823 he married a daughter of Chief Comcomly, of the Chinook tribe; and by her he had one son, Ranald McDonald, whose reminiscences have been edited by W.S. Lewis and N. Murakami, under the title "Ranald MacDonald" (Spokane, Washington, 1923).

source: The Macmillan Dictionary of Canadian Biographies, edited by W. Stewart Wallace, third edition.

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moved 28 July 2002
updated 21 July 2013