Biography of MacTavish, W. (William), 1815-1870

William Mactavish (1815-1870) joined the Hudson’s Bay Company as an apprentice in 1833 and by 1852 he was a chief factor in the company. In 1858 he was appointed governor of Assiniboia and in 1864 he became governor of Rupert’s Land. Unfortunately for Mactavish, he became governor at a time when company rule was becoming extremely unpopular. Still Mactavish believed that the population of Red River should have a say in the transfer of Rupert’s Land and that the Métis had a right to demand a settlement with the Canadian government. He was imprisoned after shortly after Riel seized Upper Fort Garry on November 1, 1869. While he was imprisoned, Mactavish continued as the Hudson’s Bay Company’s governor of Rupert’s Land and, as such, authorized loans to the Métis. He resigned from the HBC in January. By this time Mactavish was suffering from advanced tuberculosis, which he knew was terminal. In February of 1870, Riel released him from prison and in May he and his family left for England, where Mactavish died on July 21.

Mentioned in:


  1. Déclaration de 1908 d'André Nault, Elzéar Lagimodière et Duncan McDougall concernant les événements de 1869-70, extrait, fo. 353-54
  2. Louis Schmidt, Mémoires, 1911-12, extrait, p. 81-82
  3. Governor Mactavish to the inhabitants of Red River Settlement


  1. Lettre du 7 avril 1870 de Alexandre Antonin Taché à Sir George Etienne Cartier
  2. Letter of 16 February 1870 from John A. Macdonald to Alexandre Antonin Taché


  1. Jean-Baptiste Ladéroute, "Mémoires des troubles du Manitoba 1869-70", extrait, p. 25-30
  2. Jean-Baptiste Ladéroute, "Mémoires des troubles du Manitoba 1869-70", extrait, p. 27-29
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