Henry the Elder, Alexander (1739– 1824)

Alexander Henry, the Elder.
Saskatchewan Archives Board R-A9857

. Alexander Henry the Elder spent his long career as a fur trader and merchant in the east, but he did make one trip into the west. In 1775, with Joseph and Thomas Frobisher and forty men, he built the first post north of the Saskatchewan River on Amisk Lake. In January 1776, he walked up the Saskatchewan River to Isaac’s House, a Montrealers’ post above Nipawin. From there, he visited a large Nakota camp across the open plains to the south before returning to Amisk Lake. After spring break-up, the traders traveled up the Churchill River, where they intercepted a large group of Denesuline canoeing downstream to trade with the Hudson’s Bay Company. After obtaining their furs and hearing of the Athabasca district, the traders returned to Montreal. Shortly after, in 1778, Peter Pond, using this and other information, crossed Portage la Loche to open the Athabasca fur trade. Henry made a large map showing his travels, in which only a few features are identified. Much later, in 1809, he published his memoirs, which included an account of his experiences in the west. Although his narrative is sometimes confusing and exaggerated, Henry wrote a sketch of the Denesuline and one of the most detailed descriptions of a Nakota wintering camp.

Dale Russell

Further Reading

Henry the Elder, A. 1969. Travels and Adventures in Canada and the Indian Territories between 1760 and 1776. Edmonton: Hurtig; Marchildon, G. and S. Robinson. 2002. Canoeing the Churchill: A Practical Guide to the Historic Voyageur Highway. Regina: Canadian Plains Research Center.