OTD: Thomas Douglas pays HBC 10 schillings for 74 million acres

On today’s date in 1811, Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) stockholder Thomas Douglas paid HBC 10 shillings for 74 million acres of land in the Red River Valley.

Douglas, who was named lord-lieutenant of Kirkcudbright, Scotland, in 1807 and elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1808, planned to use the land to settle displaced Scottish Highlanders, the first of which arrived in 1812, according to HBC Heritage.

“The Selkirk settlement not only straddled the established NWC route to the Northwest, but also encompassed a number of important NWC forts such as Esperance, Dauphin, Souris, Pembina, Gibraltar and Bas-de-la-Rivière. This immediately caused friction. Adding to this was the issue of settlement itself. At the best of times the farmer and the fur trader are poor neighbours: the success of the former usually depends on clearing the forests that support the animals sought by the latter. But in Red River these tensions were exacerbated by the presence of a unique local population—the Métis.”

Lot 441 sold for $2,400 (plus buyer’s premium) versus a pre-sale estimate of $1,500-$2,200.


Several HBC tokens sold during sales hosted by New Brunswick’s Geoffrey Bell Auctions in 2017.

Bidding was active in the first session of that year’s Toronto Coin Expo Spring Sale, which offered an HBC token struck for a post established circa 1848 in Little Grand Rapids, Man., as Lot 464. It hammered down for $13,500 (plus buyer’s premium).

Another HBC token hammered for $2,400 (plus buyer’s premium) as Lot 441, nearly doubling its low estimate of $1,500.

In September 2017, Geoffrey Bell Auctions offered the final instalment of the Covered Bridge Collection.

Among the items on offer was Lot 1111, a 1690 HBC cheque.

“It is not common to see a cheque over 327 years old,” said auctioneer Brian Bell, who’s also the owner of The Coin Cabinet in Moncton, N.B. “It is certainly not common to see a cheque connected to the Hudson’s Bay Company of that age. And to think, it has a Canadian connection.”

The cheque was written by HBC banker Stephen Evans, who was elected as the company’s governor in 1692. The note was endorsed by its guarantors – all shareholders in the HBC – and payable to William Potter, the company’s accountant.

This centuries-old example brought $4,600.

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