LONGMOOR, ROBERT, fur trader; b. probably in the parish of West Church, Edinburgh, Scotland, son of William Longmoor; fl. 1771–1812.
Robert Longmoor joined the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1771 as a sailor, and in 1774 he accompanied Samuel Hearne* up the Saskatchewan River and helped him to establish Cumberland House (Sask.). The next year he was sent with Charles Thomas Isham to winter among Indians on the south branch of the Saskatchewan. Regarded by Humphrey Marten*, chief at York Factory (Man.), as the best canoeman in the company’s service, he was assigned to employment “in the outdoor Pedling way.” Going north from Cumberland in June 1776 to the Grass River (Man.) in search of Athapaskan Indians, he was obstructed by Alexander Henry* and Joseph and Thomas Frobisher, independent traders from Canada, but he managed to drive a fair trade and returned to Cumberland before the end of the month.
That year Longmoor was ordered back to England but Marten, impressed by his skills and his animosity towards the Canadian traders, sent him to Cumberland again. During the next two years Longmoor made several trading excursions from Cumberland, staying with Indians as far west as the Eagle Hills (Sask.); in the summers of 1777 and 1778 he went down to York. Encouraged by the HBC to set up a house in the buffalo country, on 27 Sept. 1778 he set out westwards from Cumberland in charge of a party which included Malchom Ross*, Isaac Batt*, and Charles Isham. Poor conditions forced them to stop at a pedlar settlement near present-day Silver Grove, Sask., where Longmoor accepted the offer of a Canadian house for the winter. His post was known at the time as the HBC’s upper settlement. The following March he was joined there by Philip Turnor*, and starting out in late April they travelled down to York together, Longmoor impressing Tumor as “little or none inferior to a good Indian.”
At York, Longmoor volunteered to establish the company’s trade in the Athabasca country; but the emphasis was still on the Saskatchewan and in 1779, with William Tomison*, chief at Cumberland, he set up the first Hudson House (sometimes referred to later as Lower Hudson House) and remained in command there. This post was about 14 miles downstream from the place where he had spent the previous winter, which was later called Upper Hudson House. Although he was short of trade goods Longmoor managed to purchase eight Indian canoes and built two himself. In 1780 he commanded the summer brigade to York, and in September he was again sent to Hudson House with 21 men under his command. It was a hard winter for Longmoor. The Indians had burned the prairie to drive off the buffalo and make the traders totally dependent on them for meat; trade goods were short and discipline was difficult. Fifteen of his men swore in a letter to Tomison never to serve under Longmoor again, while Longmoor himself registered a protest against the indifference and ignorance of his superiors by the bayside. Despite the hardships of the winter of 1780–81 Longmoor got his men safely down to York the following summer.
That fall Longmoor was sent to oppose the pedlars in the area of Lake Athabasca, in preparation for a strong HBC advance in 1782. But this was a winter of great distress, the Indians being ravaged by a catastrophic smallpox epidemic, and Longmoor was ordered to winter in the plains. In the summer of 1782 the inland brigades had already started back for the interior when the French under Jean-François de Galaup*, Comte de Lapérouse, captured and destroyed York on 24 August. The following spring Tomison, now in charge of inland affairs, left Longmoor in command at Hudson House when he went down to York. Finding it “a Ruinous Heap,” Tomison waited as long as he dared for the ship from England and then made his way disconsolately inland without supplies. The posts on the Saskatchewan survived, however, and Longmoor continued to trade from Hudson House. In 1785 the London committee ordered him to explore the Churchill River as a possible approach route to the Athabasca country, but Samuel Hearne, now chief at Churchill (Man.), gave priority to the Saskatchewan and the following year sent Longmoor, with the young David Thompson*, to build Manchester House (near Standard Hill, Sask.) for the purpose of competing with strong Canadian opposition.
From the fall of 1787 until he returned to England in 1792 Longmoor was second in command at Churchill. In 1791 he had been ordered to accompany Captain Charles Duncan* in his attempt to find an overland route to the Pacific; but his opposition to the venture and his difficulties with Duncan prevented the expedition from starting. Nevertheless, he was re-engaged in 1793 as superintendent (an undefined office) at York, becoming shipping officer there the following year. In 1796 he asked to go inland once more and was sent to Red Deer River House (near Red Deer Lake, Man.). But his supplies were inadequate, and he spent the winter at Canton House (near Kamsack, Sask.), trading in rivalry with HBC men from Fort Albany (Ont.) as well as with the Canadians. Although his returns were disappointing, he remained there till 1800, acting as master of the Swan River district (a jurisdiction which included Red Deer River) and building a new post on the Swan River. The obsession of Tomison with the Saskatchewan, however, led to the diversion of goods which were meant to provide for the expansion of Red Deer River.
During this period York was relinquishing to Albany its claims to trade in the area of Lake Winnipeg, and in 1800 Longmoor, who had refused to go inland again before the HBC ship arrived from England, abandoned Swan River House and handed over Carlton House to men from Albany. He then went down to York, only to be sent to the Saskatchewan once more; from 1804 onwards he was assistant master at Island House (near Lake Eliza, Alta). Always more remarkable for his skill with canoes than for his literary or managerial abilities, he remained in comparative obscurity on the upper Saskatchewan until 1807, when he was once more employed for a year at York. He was again at Island House from 1808 to 1810, when he made his last journey down to York with his family. On 18 May Alexander Henry reported him “determined to leave the River and Country instantly, and retire to enjoy the fruits of his labours, he is now worth about £1800 H.Cy the produce of near Forty Years services in this Country for the HBC°.”
Longmoor seems to have taken his family responsibilities seriously. He sent six guineas a year to his father, who was living in Edinburgh as late as 1787. A son (he is known to have had one named Robert) was staying in Britain in 1808 and 1809, perhaps for an education, and Longmoor was paying for his room and board. Longmoor himself went back to Britain in 1810 but soon returned. By February 1812 he had bought a farm near Montreal and stocked it with horses, oxen, and cows. On 5 July 1814 an HBC trader noted in his journal, “Entered the lake of two mountains and passed the House where the late Mr. Longmore’s family dwells. . . .”
PAC, MG 19, A13, 2: 935 (transcript). PAM, HBCA, A.5/2: ff.132, 170; A.16/33: f.130; A.16/34: f.159d; B.3/a/117b: f.17d; B.135/a/102: f.17d; C.1/423; D.13/8: f.122. Cumberland House journals and inland journal, 1775–82, ed. E. E. Rich and A. M. Johnson (2v., London, 1951–52). Docs. relating to NWC (Wallace). Journals of Hearne and Turnor (Tyrrell). Saskatchewan journals and correspondence: Edmonton House, 1795–1800; Chesterfield House, 1800–1802, ed. A. M. Johnson (London, 1967). Rich, Hist. of HBC.