CAMERON, ÆNEAS, fur trader; b. c. 1757 in the parish of Kirkmichael (Grampian), Scotland; d. 8 Sept. 1822 in Montreal.
Æneas Cameron’s father, Alexander, farmed a small holding, Inverchabet, and his mother, Grace Grant, was from nearby Glen Lochy. His mother’s brothers, John and Francis Grant, were wealthy Jamaican planters. Through his maternal grandmother, Æneas was also related to the merchant and fur trader William Grant* “of Three Rivers.”
In December 1786 Cameron, recently arrived in Jamaica from Quebec under the sponsorship of Richard Dobie*, wrote from Kingston to his uncle Francis at Montego Bay concerning his future plans. Whatever they were, Francis did not approve and proposed that Cameron consider “the planting line” in his service. Whether Cameron agreed or not, he was apparently dissatisfied with his situation, for in the spring of 1788 he was back in the province of Quebec and was engaged by Dobie as clerk for Fort Abitibi (near La Sarre, Que.). He probably owed his introduction to the fur trade to his Grant connections. Dobie, a prominent Montreal merchant and fur trader, had acquired the Timiskaming posts the previous year in partnership with James Grant*, who, like William Grant, was originally from Kirkmichael, although there is no evidence of a blood relationship. But William Grant and Dobie, long-time business associates and friends, may have been more closely connected through Dobie’s son-in-law, John Grant, a former Timiskaming partner, who was almost certainly related to Cameron’s uncles, the Jamaican Grants. Such ties, together with Cameron’s superior education and business habits, demonstrated in his surviving letters and papers, would also account for the generosity of Dobie’s terms: if Cameron decided to remain in the fur country and if James Grant were willing, Dobie would offer Cameron part of his own share in the posts.
Cameron remained at Fort Abitibi for several years but his hopes for a share were deferred when, in 1791, Dobie and Grant sold the Timiskaming posts to Grant, Campion and Company, of which William Grant was senior partner. About 1792 Cameron took charge of the post at Grand-Lac (Grand-Lac-Victoria) and in the autumn of 1793 of that at Fort Timiskaming (near Ville-Marie), replacing James Grant whose health would prevent him from spending another winter there. The following summer Cameron secured an interest in the business. In 1795 the posts were again sold, to McTavish, Frobisher and Company, the agents of the North West Company, and in offering Cameron a generous salary to manage them Simon McTavish* also promised him a share in the new agreement (due to take effect in 1799) as soon as an opening occurred. During the next three years, however, apparently because of a misunderstanding, Cameron was in dispute with the agents over both his salary and his expected partnership. He finally signed the agreement in October 1798.
In 1800 the NWC sent an overland expedition, headed by Alexander McDougall, to establish posts on James Bay in order to compete with the Hudson’s Bay Company. As commander of the Timiskaming posts, Cameron was involved in the plans for the venture, but it is clear that he was not enthusiastic. In the summer of 1805 he went overland to the bay to assess the company’s position there. Returning to the area by ship the following summer, he ordered that all the posts be abandoned, apparently because they were not economically viable and had failed in their original strategic mission of forcing the HBC to come to terms with the NWC. He was afterwards reported to have been censured by the NWC partners at Fort William (Thunder Bay, Ont.) for giving up the station at Moose Factory (Ont.) but there is no doubt that his decision was correct.
Although Cameron seems to have left Fort Timiskaming in 1804, he probably did not retire to Montreal until 1806, after his return from the bay. He became a member of the Beaver Club in 1807 and until 1812, although never a partner of McTavish, McGillivrays and Company, he served the firm in a financial capacity, probably in the accounting and supplying of the Timiskaming business. During the War of 1812 he was captain and paymaster of the Corps of Canadian Voyageurs raised by the Nor’Westers and in 1815 he sold his hundredth share as a retired partner and all his interests in the NWC to its agents for £11,000. He had never formally married but he had at least one Indian wife at Fort Timiskaming. Margaret, who became the wife of Chief Factor Allan McDonell*, was apparently his daughter.
During his last years Cameron lived at a boardinghouse kept by Thomas Holmes, father of Benjamin* and Andrew Fernando*. A member of the Presbyterian St Gabriel Street Church, he was buried in its cemetery on 10 Sept. 1822. His will, made on 24 June 1818, left the bulk of his estate, after numerous legacies, to his nephew, Angus Cameron* of Timiskaming, a former partner in the NWC.
Evidence reveals Æneas Cameron to have been a proud and upright Highlander, concerned for his family and esteemed and loved by his Montreal friends. He also proved to be an excellent trader, and an astute and meticulous businessman. Under his command the Timiskaming posts, long a losing venture, were well on their way to becoming one of the Nor’Westers’ most profitable departments, a position they were to retain under the HBC for almost 40 years.
PAM, HBCA, E.41/1–3 (mfm. at AO). Docs. relating to NWC (Wallace). E. A. Mitchell, Fort Timiskaming and the fur trade (Toronto and Buffalo, N.Y., 1977). W. S. Wallace, The pedlars from Quebec and other papers on the Nor’Westers (Toronto, 1954).
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