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SHAW, ANGUS, fur trader, politician, militia officer, and jp; b. in Scotland; m. an Indian woman according to the custom of the country; m. secondly 30 Nov. 1802 Marjory McGillivray, sister of William, Simon*, and Duncan* McGillivray and niece of Simon McTavish*, at Christ Church in Montreal; m. thirdly October 1823 Julia Agnes Rickman in Milford, Conn.; he is known to have had three children: Anna, baptized on 17 Oct. 1797 at age nine in the Scotch Presbyterian Church in Montreal, William, b. 29 May 1802 and baptized in Christ Church on 4 November, and Isabella, born of his last marriage; d. 19 July 1832 in New Brunswick, N.J.

Angus Shaw came from Scotland, most likely from the region between the Isle of Islay, where his sister Marion lived, and Inverness. When and where his career as a fur trader began cannot be determined. He seems to have had close ties with Roderick McKenzie*, whom he called “my dear Rory.” By 1789 he was working for the North West Company. That year he built a post at Moose Hill Lake (Moose Lake, Alta, northwest of Muriel Lake), where operations involved a score of men and four canoes. Three years later he established Fort George (near Lindbergh), on the North Saskatchewan River. This major trading post employed more than 100 men and more than 15 canoes. In 1795 Shaw had Fort Augustus (Fort Saskatchewan) built farther up the river. As a wintering partner with Donald McTavish* in the English River department, he established a post at Lac la Biche in 1799, and from there sent 20 men to build another at the mouth of the Slave River. During these years Shaw was caught up in fierce rivalry with the Hudson’s Bay Company and its employees, who included William Tomison.

In 1802 Shaw was moved to another theatre of operations. The NWC put him in charge of the king’s posts, which it had just leased. He was to live at Quebec and make an annual visit to the posts, located on the lower north shore of the St Lawrence and on the Saguenay. By the following year the NWC clearly wanted to intensify competition with the HBC and perhaps bring it around to conceding the right of passage through Hudson Bay. Shaw led an expedition of five canoes up to James Bay by an inland route to meet the Eddystone, a ship dispatched from Great Britain. Three posts were built on the south shore of the bay, on Charlton Island and at the mouths of the Moose and Eastmain rivers, but they were abandoned three years later. In July 1806 the company gave Shaw an assistant, James MacKenzie*, who was to winter at the king’s posts, but in 1808 it decided to outfit them from Montreal and not appoint a replacement for Shaw at Quebec. During these years Shaw had helped and encouraged the Catholic missionaries at the posts for which he was responsible.

He had been admitted to the Beaver Club in 1796, and was a member of the Beef-Steak Club or Barons’ Club at Quebec and of the Canada Club in London. He had also served as member for Effingham in the House of Assembly of Lower Canada from April 1802 to June 1804.

Shaw had been promoted wintering partner in the NWC in 1792, with 2 out of 46 shares, but he gave these up in 1808. Two years earlier McTavish, Frobisher and Company had been reorganized as McTavish, McGillivrays and Company, and Shaw had been taken in as a partner. Thus he was an NWC agent and in this capacity he went to Fort William (Thunder Bay, Ont.) in 1810, 1811, and 1812 at least. He also acted as justice of the peace for the Indian Territory from 1810 to 1816. He seems to have participated in the capture of Michilimackinac (Mackinac Island, Mich.) from the Americans in the summer of 1812, and on 3 October he was appointed major in the Corps of Canadian Voyageurs. On 1 Nov. 1814 McTavish, McGillivrays and Company of Montreal was again reorganized; Shaw no longer had any part in it, having transferred his shares to the firm the preceding May, but through a separate agreement he continued to receive the income from 2 of the 19 shares in the company. William McGillivray had apparently been disappointed by his brother-in-law’s administrative abilities. The partners may also have thought that Shaw would be much more useful if he went back into service. John McDonald* of Garth considered him “an excellent trader, a man who managed his men and the Indians well.”

“Le Chat,” as he was nicknamed, took an active part in the final phase of the struggle between the two giants of the fur trade. In 1815 he was at Red River (Man.), where he seems to have helped break up the colony. For this reason in March 1816 Lord Selkirk [Douglas*] ordered Colin Robertson* to arrest him. In 1818–19 Shaw was in the Athabasca region. In the course of his return trip to Fort William in the spring, he was again arrested, this time at Grand Rapids (Man.) by HBC governor William Williams*. Because he threatened to come back and spread bloodshed and terror throughout the country once released, Williams decided to keep him prisoner. He had him transferred to York Factory and from there to London, where he was set free. His wife Marjory came to join him; she died on 27 March 1820.

After the amalgamation of the two great rivals in 1821 Shaw retired. He seems to have gone to live in the United States, where he was out of reach of the lawsuits arising from the bad state of McTavish, McGillivrays and Company’s affairs. He died there of a “pulmonary complaint” in 1832. In the absence of an exact inventory it is difficult to put a value on his fortune, and the wills that he made in 1799 and 1810 are no longer in the Montreal notaries’ minute-books. One thing is certain: he was anything but poor. At his death, he held shares in the Bank of Montreal and the HBC and owned properties in Montreal, at Quebec, and in the United States. In August 1832 George McDougall was appointed trustee of his estate, which was the object of suits for a number of years. In 1905 one of Marion Shaw’s descendants was still investigating it.

Gratien Allaire

ANQ-M, CC1, 3 août 1832; CE1-63, 4, 30 nov. 1802; CE1-126, 17 oct. 1797; CN1-29, 25 mars 1799, 29 nov. 1802, 18 mai 1810; CN1-185, 16 mars 1810. AO, MU 2117, 1872, no.3. McCord Museum, Beaver Club minute-book. PAC, MG 30, D1, 27. Univ. of Toronto, Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, ms coll. 30 (J. N. Wallace). Les bourgeois de la Compagnie du Nord-Ouest (Masson). Docs. relating to NWC (Wallace). Simon Fraser, The letters and journals of Simon Fraser, 1806–1808, ed. W. K. Lamb (Toronto, 1960). HBRS, 1 (Rich); HBRS, 2 (Rich and Fleming), 20, 23, 72, 75, 85, 92–93, 284–89; HBRS, 24 (Davies and Johnson), 293, 305; HBRS, 26 (Johnson), xxv, xxx, lxix, 9, 12, 57, 59, 65, 216–17; HBRS, 30 (Williams). Journals of Samuel Hearne and Philip Turnor, ed. J. B. Tyrrell (Toronto, 1934; repr. New York, 1968), 358, 361, 364. Select British docs. of War of 1812 (Wood). Montreal Gazette, 14 May 1810, 31 July 1832. Quebec Gazette, 10 May 1810. “Calendar of the Dalhousie papers,” PAC Report, 1938: 3. Caron, “Inv. de la corr. de Mgr Plessis,” ANQ Rapport, 1927–28: 232, 236, 243, 251. “General list of partners, clerks & interpreters who winter in the North West Company’s service, with the dates and nature of their respective engagements,” PAC Report, 1939: 53–56. É.-J. [-A.] Auclair, Saint-Jérôme de Terrebonne (Saint-Jérôme, Qué., 1934), 32. J. S. H. Brown, Strangers in blood: fur trade company families in Indian country (Vancouver and London, 1980), 99–100, 173. W. S. Wallace, The pedlars from Quebec and other papers on the NorWesters (Toronto, 1954). Wallot, Un Québec qui bougeait, 58. M. [E.] Wilkins Campbell, McGillivray, lord of the northwest (Toronto, 1962); NWC (1957). Jean Bruchési, “George Heriot, peintre, historien et maître de poste, “Cahiers des Dix, 10 (1945): 204. L. J. Burpee, “The Beaver Club,” CHA Report, 1924: 73. É.-Z. Massicotte, “Une rencontre de bourgeois du Nord-Ouest,” BRH, 36 (1930): 717–18. Victor Morin, “Clubs et sociétés notoires d’autrefois,” Cahiers des Dix, 13 (1948): 130.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Gratien Allaire, “SHAW, ANGUS,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed November 1, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/shaw_angus_6E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/shaw_angus_6E.html
Author of Article: Gratien Allaire
Title of Article: SHAW, ANGUS
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1987
Year of revision: 1987
Access Date: November 1, 2014