One of Canada’s most steadfast but lesser known explorers.
JAMES ANDERSON, (January 15, 1812 – October 16, 1867), HBC chief factor and explorer, was born in Calcutta India, son of Robert Anderson and Eliza Charlotte Simpson, and died in Sutton West, Ontario, Canada. It is perhaps auspicious that his birth and death years coincide with two important dates in Canadian history, i.e. the War of 1812, and the birth of Confederation in 1867.
Anderson joined the Hudson’s Bay Company the year his father immigrated to Upper Canada in 1817. He was first posted to Moose Factory (James Bay, Ontario) and from there to the Nipigon Post where he was promoted to chief trader in 1847. From there he headed to the more distant Mackenzie River District (now British Columbia), and in 1855 he was promoted to chief factor while serving at Fort Simpson, North West Territories.
At this time the search was on for Sir John Franklin’s ill-fated expedition to find a North-West Passage, and so the British Admiralty asked the Hudson’s Bay Company to check out a report that traces of his expedition had been found along the Great Fish (Back) River, Great Slave Lake District, NWT.
Anderson was therefore put in charge of this expedition, and did indeed find tools and other debris from the Terror, Franklin’s boat. However, the exposure caused Anderson permanent loss of voice, and later his death from tuberculosis.
Sir George Simpson informed him that his expedition had “quite fulfilled all that was expected from it by reasonable people,” the Admiralty awarded him £400 and the polar medal, and extracts from his pithy journal were published at Sir JohnRichardson’s urging in the Royal Geographical Society’s Journal.
In 1863 he retired to Sutton West, and died there in October 1867, survived by his wife Margaret, daughter of Roderick McKenzie, a chief factor in the HBC, and six sons and one daughter.
Years later I became well acquainted to one of his grandsons, Howard Anderson, whose farm, in Egypt, Ontario, encompassed the original Leacock homestead […of writer and humorist, Stephen Leacock, fame]. I now live within half a mile Stephen Leacock’s Summer residence.