River was still the only settlement. This colony—popularly known as the Selkirk or Red River settlement—had a hard struggle to establish a foothold. It was long the battle-ground of the rival fur-trading companies, and more than once during ita earlier years had been entirely abandoned by the harassed settlers.
First Arrivals.—The first settlers sent out by Lord Selkirk arrived at Red River in the year 1812, and Captain Miles McDonell, the colony governor, found himself at the head of "eleven or twelve families to begin with." These were largely Irish, with a few Scotch from Glasgow. In 1813 they were joined by a company of Highlanders, victims of the "Highland clearances " already mentioned. Fort Douglas, about a mile north of the confluence of the Assiniboine and Red rivers, was the head-quarters of the Hudson's Bay Company, while the Nor'-Nesters had a post (Fort Gibraltar) at the junction of the two streams, where Winnipeg now stands. The colonists were almost entirely without the implements necessary for agriculture, but they were freely supplied with arms and ammunition. This fact has been put forward as showing that the Hudson's Bay Company—of which Selkirk was now the leading remember—had determined to eject their rivals, and to this end, rather than in the interest of settlement, had sent the colonists to Red River.
The Rival Companies.—Up to this time the rivalry of the two companies, though keen, had not been unfriendly. Now, however, the colony governor, claiming the soil of the Red River country as Lord Selkirk's absolute property under his grant from the Hudson's Bay Company, issued a proclamation (1814) forbidding, in the interests of the settlers, all export of provisions. Several seizures of Nor'-Wester stores took place, and in the fall formal notice to quit the territory was given to the officers of that company. They retaliated by arresting Captain Miles McDonell and his sheriff and sending them to Montreal for trial on a charge of stealing stores. During the absence of the governor, the resident officer of the North-West Company at Fort Gibraltar induced the entire colony to migrate to Upper Canada. The settlers had declined to take part in the quarrel between the two companies and were glad to find quieter homes in the older province. Their descendants are still to be found around Lake Simcoe and in some of the western counties of Ontario.