The Simpson/McTavish/Campbell Family

Emily McTavish’s (1847-1932) full name was Mary Emily Isabella McTavish. It is unclear why she went by Emily, but it may be because her elder sister was named Maria, and “Mary” vs. “Maria” may have been too confusing. She appears to have been something of a doyenne of early 20th century Colborne society. According to one source, she was “involved in church, social, and welfare activities in Colborne, where she lived. An active member of Trinity Anglican Church, where she was president of the Ladies’ Aid for many years. She also contributed to St. Peters’ Anglican Church in Lakeport”. She appears in Haldimand Township censuses for 1851 and 1861 and in Cramahe Township censuses from 1881 through 1921. No census record of her has been found for 1871, but Haldimand censuses for that year are not available. She inherited considerable property in Cramahe Township (Figure 1) after the death of her step-father (see below) in 1892, and she kept most of it until her own death from pernicious anemia in 1932. She may also have owned property in Haldimand Township and elsewhere, but those records are not available.

Emily’s mother, Maria Louisa Simpson (1815-1891), was the daughter of Sir George Simpson (1786-1860) who was the Governor-in-Chief of the Hudson Bay Company during the period of its greatest power, following the famous merger with the Northwest Trading Company in 1821. Simpson apparently wasn’t averse to sewing a few wild oats, because he is known to have fathered at least 11 children by at least seven women, only one of whom was his wife. Maria Louisa Simpson (1815-1891) was the first of these children. She was born in London 14 years before Simpson finally got married (not to Maria’s mother). Maria married Donald McTavish (1815-1849) in Scotland in 1833 and moved to Grafton sometime between 1834 and 1836.

McTavish was a prominent name in the histories of both the Hudson Bay Company and the Northwest Trading Company but there is no evidence that Emily’s father had any connection with either institution. He was only about 21 when he emigrated from Scotland to Canada and he was living in Northumberland County, Ontario when his children were born in 1836, 1838, 1844, 1845, and 1847. Donald was apparently involved in farming and milling in Northumberland County; no reference has been found to any involvement with the fur trade. Various accounts confuse Emily’s father with a Hudson’s Bay Company factor named Donald McTavish, associated in some accounts with fur trade executive Simon McTavish (1750-1804). Simon McTavish was a director of the Northwest Trading Company, not the Hudson’s Bay Company, but apparently he did have a cousin named Donald who was also involved with the trade. However, this Donald McTavish was an adult long before 1815, when Emily’s father was born. Argyris (2000) makes reference to a trading post in the Colborne area established by a Donald McTavish (the same cousin of Simon McTavish?) in about 1810, but this Donald McTavish was also too old to have been Emily’s father. I suppose it is possible that there was a father- son relationship, but there is no evidence for this. “Donald McTavish” is not a rare name in Scotland.

Emily’s father died in 1849, age about 34. His wife remarried in 1865, this time to Donald Campbell (ca. 1811-1892). Both bride and groom were in their 50’s. Donald Campbell was the step-father referred to above with regard to the properties inherited by Emily. Campbell was a member of one of two prominent Campbell families in the early history of the area. He and his brother Dugald (ca. 1796-1882) were involved in various businesses in Colborne, and Archibald Campbell, who was prominent in Lakeport and built the first docks there, is thought to have been another brother. There are two Archibald Campbells in early Lakeport history, one who lived from 1792 to 1866 and the other from 1809 to 1833. Either one might have been the brother of Donald and Dugald, but the former seems a bit more likely because the early death of the latter makes it unlikely that he was the builder of the wharves in Lakeport. Perhaps the younger was the son of the elder? Donald’s and Dugald’s father was also named Archibald, so perhaps there was a tradition of naming the eldest son in each generation Archibald?

Emily McTavish had five full siblings: George Simpson McTavish (1834-1895, born in Scotland), Jane McKenzie McTavish (1836-1934), John Henry McTavish (1838-1888), Donald Campbell McTavish (1844-1933), and Maria Louisa McTavish (1845-1918). Another member of the family was Archibald McTavish Campbell (1852-1942) who is listed in genealogies as the son of Donald Campbell and Maria Simpson McTavish. If this is true, his parents had a very close relationship for at least 13 years before they married. Archibald couldn’t have been the son of Donald McTavish because McTavish died five years before Archibald was born. Regardless of who his father was, Archibald was Emily’s half-brother.

Donald McTavish may not have been involved with the Hudson’s Bay Company, but his children certainly were. George started with the Company as a clerk in 1849 and retired as a Chief Factor in 1880. John married the daughter of Chief Factor John Rowland and moved to Fort Garry in 1856, where he was in charge by 1870. That year he was acclaimed as a Conservative representing Ste. Anne in the first Manitoba legislature. In 1874 he was chosen as a member of the North-West Territorial Executive Council. He later was a commissioner for the Canadian Pacific Railway. Donald became a clerk at Norway House after marrying in 1875. He also rose to the position of Chief Factor. His daughter, Florence Edith McTavish Rogers (1876-1947) was the first female member of the Manitoba Legislature (elected 1920), and her daughter was Enid Rogers (1903-1990), who was a prominent resident of Colborne after she moved there in 1942. Maria married Matthew Beeston (1857-1931), who was a clerk with the Company from 1880 to 1914. Of Emily’s siblings, only Jane had no connection with the Hudson’s Bay Company. She married prominent Toronto physician James Thurborn (1830-1905). At one point he was the President of the Canadian Medical Association. Half- brother Archibald was employed by the Canada Life Assurance Company from 1874 to 1922. Like most of his half-siblings, he moved to Manitoba (1881) and was in charge of the CLAC office in Winnipeg after 1895.