LOGAN, ROBERT, fur-trader, merchant, and councillor of Assiniboia; b. 1773, in either Scotland or the West Indies; d. 26 May 1866 at Red River (Man.).
There is little record of the early life of Robert Logan. His father was a planter in the West Indies, but after a slave rebellion destroyed their holdings in the Caribbean the family moved to Montreal. Robert completed his education there and became fluently bilingual.
In 1801 Logan entered the service of the North West Company, and from 1806 to 1814 represented it at the post of Sault Ste Marie. He became disgruntled at his lack of progress and returned to Montreal in 1814, “a dissatisfied winterer.” He was persuaded by Colin Robertson* to transfer to the Hudson’s Bay Company. After assisting Robertson in the preparation of his outfit for a thrust into the Athabasca country, Logan accompanied the brigade to the pays d’en haut.
Logan wintered at Île-à-la-Crosse and in 1815 he was placed in charge at Rock Depot (Gordon House) on Hayes River. In 1818 he assumed supervision of the company’s business at Rainy Lake (Lac La Pluie). Despite his apparent success Logan was unhappy as an employee and preferred to strike out on his own. The opportunity came quickly. He was requested by Lord Selkirk [Douglas*] to oversee his affairs at Red River in the absence of Alexander Macdonell*, governor of the Red River Settlement. Although the sources are inconclusive, it appears Logan may also have served briefly as sheriff of Red River. In any case, he left the HBC probably late in 1819, established himself at Red River, and began a long and varied career in the newly opening west.
As early as 1822, Sir George Simpson* wrote to Andrew Colvile that “Logan is the best settler about the place without exception; is sober, industrious and active, has a little spirit of enterprise and improvement about him, with the command of a little money.” His capital was turned to advantage. In 1825 he purchased the remains of Fort Douglas and a windmill for £400. The windmill powered the first grist mill in Red River and the enterprise prospered. Logan received ten per cent of all the grain he handled. Over the years he engaged in the wholesale trade, was an outfitter to the fur brigades, and became one of the busiest importers in the district. Logan was also a partner in the Buffalo Wool Company.
His prominence in business affairs led him, almost inevitably, into the public life of the small community. 1n 1823 the General Quarterly Court of Assiniboia recommended his appointment as a councillor. In 1835 he was appointed a justice of the peace for the Third District, and in the administrative reorganization of 1837 became a magistrate for the Middle District. He resigned from this office, as well as from the council, in 1839 because of ill health. Five years later, however, he accepted the position of chairman of the Board of Public Works, a post for which his wide business interests suited him admirably. Logan once again undertook the duties of magistrate in 1850. Throughout these active years he was frequently consulted by the HBC on Indian affairs.
Robert Logan was twice married. On 13 Jan. 1821 he married Mary, a Saulteaux Indian, just prior to the baptism of their daughter Ann on the same day. Up until that time they had lived together according to the “custom of the country,” but after settling permanently in Red River Logan felt constrained to regularize his domestic affairs. Mary Logan died in 1839 and the following year Robert married a widow, Mrs Sarah Ingham. Twelve children were born to Robert Logan during his first marriage and four during the second.
All the family ceremonies in Red River took place in Upper Church (St John’s Cathedral) despite the fact that Logan was a Presbyterian. The lack of a Presbyterian church was especially curious since most of the original European immigrants to the colony were Scottish crofters brought out by Selkirk. After many promises and many disappointments about a minister, Logan was pleased to be a member of the committee which secured the services of the first Presbyterian minister in Red River, the Reverend John Black*, in 1851.
The concluding years of Robert Logan’s life were spent attending to his many business enterprises and those of his children in whose careers he took a direct and continuing interest. He remained apart from the growing factionalism of Red River which would erupt three years after his death in 1866 in the insurgency of the Métis. Despite his public activities, he was a businessman and thought of the future of the Canadian west in that context.
PAC, MG 19, E1, ser. 1 (mfm. at PAM); E3. PAM, MG 2, A5, C3, C23; MG 7, B7, register of baptisms, 1813–79; register of marriages, 1820–82; register of burials, 1821–75; MG 14, C23. Canadian North-West (Oliver). [Nicholas Garry], “Diary of Nicholas Garry, deputy-governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company from 1822–1835 . . . ,” ed. F. N. A. Garry, RSC Trans., 2nd ser., VI (1900), sect.ii, 73–204. HBRS, II (Rich and Fleming); XIX (Rich and Johnson). Ross, Red River Settlement (1957), 144-X15, 176–78, 346–48. Ross Mitchell, “Robert Logan of Red River, 1775–1866,” Manitoba Pageant (Winnipeg), 13 (1967–68), no.2, 19–23.