McDOUGALL, ALEXANDER, fur trader; b. 1759 or 1760, probably in Argyllshire, Scotland; d. 20 Nov. 1821 in Lachine, Lower Canada.
Alexander McDougall’s introduction to the fur trade may have come about through his brother Duncan, who married a sister of Nor’Wester Angus Shaw. A lieutenant in the 84th Foot, Duncan was granted lands in Lower Canada after the revolution. Another brother, Donald, apparently settled in Upper Canada. The date on Alexander’s Beaver Club medal, 1780, presumably commemorates his first winter in the Indian country. In 1788 he was a clerk at Fort Abitibi (near La Sarre, Que.) for Richard Dobie* and James Grant*. He remained there when the Timiskaming posts were sold to the firm of Grant, Campion and Company in 1791 and the following year he succeeded Æneas Cameron as master at Fort Abitibi.
In the summer of 1795, dissatisfied with his prospects in the Timiskaming region and preferring the northwest, McDougall was in Montreal, where competition for his services, and perhaps Shaw’s influence, led the North West Company to offer him a share in its new agreement. Until it should come into force in 1799, McDougall would return to Fort Abitibi for a year and go west the following three. In December 1795, however, McTavish, Frobisher and Company, agents for the Nor’Westers, bought the rights to the Timiskaming posts and McDougall spent the rest of his career there. On 26 Aug. 1799 he signed the new NWC agreement in Montreal.
McDougall was an enthusiastic advocate of opposing the Hudson’s Bay Company in James Bay and in 1800 he headed an overland expedition to Moose Factory (Ont.) for the NWC, establishing his base on Hayes Island. When Cameron, head of the Timiskaming department, left Fort Timiskaming (near Ville-Marie, Que.) in 1804, McDougall succeeded him, using Fort Abitibi as his headquarters (except for the winter of 1806–7 which he spent at Fort Timiskaming) until he retired in 1816. Perhaps his decision to establish headquarters at Fort Abitibi was influenced by the strategic role of the fort: as a direct competitor with the HBC post on Lake Abitibi, occupied until 1812; as the Nor’Westers’ key defence in the area against the HBC on the bay to the north; and as a guardian of the route south by the Ottawa River. On the other hand, it may have been a personal preference for remaining at his old station.
McDougall seems to have been typical of the early successful Scottish-Canadian traders, bold and impulsive, arrogant, ruthless, and determined in pushing the trade, yet friendly, hospitable, and helpful to his opponents at other times. After retiring, he settled on his farm at Lachine, where he died at the age of 61. He was buried on the estate, the funeral service being conducted by the Reverend James Somerville* of the Presbyterian St Gabriel Street Church. McDougall made two wills, the first on 23 Nov. 1812 and the second on 29 July 1820, the latter necessitated by the death in October 1818 of his principal heir, his nephew Duncan McDougall*, who had been a partner in John Jacob Astor’s Pacific Fur Company and in the NWC.
McDougall divided his estate among the children of his daughter, Mary Charlotte McDougall, and her husband, Augustin Belisle of Deschambault; his brother Duncan’s surviving children, including two daughters who lived with him; George, a natural son of his nephew Duncan; and the children of his brother Donald and his sister Sarah. Besides his watch and seals, McDougall’s Beaver Club medal went to George, who later had it set in the bowl of a gold toddy ladle. McDougall’s will did not mention his own sons, trappers and traders in Timiskaming, but the Louis McDougall who signed the treaty of 1906 between the Indians of Abitibi and the Canadian government was probably his grandson.
PAM, HBCA, B.135/a, b; E.41 (mfm. at AO). Docs. relating to NWC (Wallace). HBRS, 17 (Rich). R. Campbell, Hist. of Scotch Presbyterian Church. J. A. Macdonell, Sketches illustrating the early settlement and history of Glengarry in Canada, relating principally to the Revolutionary War of 1775–83, the War of 1812–14 and the rebellion of 1837–8 . . . (Montreal, 1893). E. A. Mitchell, Fort Timiskaming and the fur trade (Toronto and Buffalo, N.Y., 1977). H. G. Ryder, “The Beaver Club medal,” Canadian Antiques Collector (Toronto), 3 (1968), no.4: 17–18.