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Fur Trade

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(Mackinac) How much the fur trade had meant to the Island socially & commercially was realized when its operations ceased. It had made Mackinac "a great mart of trade long before Chicago, Milwaukee, or St. Paul had entered on their first beginnings, & vied with its contemporaries Detroit & St. Louis. The capital & enterprise on the Island pertained principally to the business of the Company. They furnished employment to a great number of men, who with their families, contributed to the life of the village. In the summer
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"The Fur Co. announced the expansion of their fishing facilities."
This was at La Point. Evidently as the fur trade faded out they went into the fishing business.
- B. J. Lambert, Shepherd of the Wilderness
 
1834 - Astor dissolved the American Fur Co.. Ramsay Crooks bought out the Northern Dept., & the post at Mackinac Is. dwindled.
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Gurdon Hubbard - who [went] west to learn the fur trade. He arrived at the mouth of the Chicago River (from Mackinac) in the fall of 1818. He worked for the Astor Company in its heyday. In 1824 the old trader Deschamps resigned the management of the Illinois River posts & Hubbard took charge of the outfit. In 1823 he became a special partner in the American Fur Company, & when John Kinzie the elder resigned his agency in Chicago he bought from the Co. its entire Illinois business. In 1833 Chicago was incorporated as a town & Hubbard was elected to the Board of Trustees. He head[ed] the 1st Board of Canal Commissioners, & on July 4th, 1836, he dug the first spade of earth for the canal. Meanwhile Hubbard had developed the Eagle Steamship Co., the first regular shipping service between Chicago & Buffalo.
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Mackinac fur trade -
1811 - Astor & others bought out the old Mackinac Company (a British concern) &
merged it with his American Fur Company (chartered 1809) to form the Southwest
Fur Company.
1815 - Astor bought out the others & it became the American Fur Company.
1817 - Ramsay Crooks (after being employed at Astoria & elsewhere by Astor) became
a partner in the AFC, & for 4 or 5 years he was the company's Mackinac agent
(although he lived mostly in N.Y.).
1828 - Gurdon F. Hubbard purchased the entire interest in the trade of Illinois from the
AFC & settled in Chicago.
1834 - Astor sold out & transferred the charter to Crooks.
1842 - reverses brought the death of the AFC.
1845 - Crooks opened a fur commission house in N.Y. which was successful & which
he operated until his death in 1859.
- D. H. Kelton, Annals of Fort Mackinac (1882) (Mil. Lib.)
(Kelton was a 1st Lt., 10th Infantry in 1879, stationed at Mackinac.)
 
The store of the Northwest Trading Company was kept by a man by the name of Dickson. He stayed on with the Mormons and married a schoolteacher they brought. He went along with the Mormons.
According to Mrs. Vesty Vesty, the fur-trading post building stood back of where the Beachcomber is now, but Lawrence says, "The N.W. Trading Co. built their trading post before 1814,"* and he says it was the log building I remember below the place where the Medical Center is now. (Could this have been the store & the other the place for receiving & storing furs or vice versa?) This 1814 date is possible because the Company was organized in 1783 - however it was a Canadian company. They had exclusive rights until after the Treaty of 1896, when Britain gave Mackinac & Detroit to the new U.S.. After that Astor cut into their trade. The drawing of the international boundary gave Astor Grand Portage on Lake Superior & the Northwest Trading Co. had to move further north. In 1816 Astor had Congress pass a law refusing trading licenses to anyone but American citizens (however could an American get a license to operate for a foreign company).1 The N.W. Co. merged with the Hudson's Bay Co. in 1821. This is the North West Co. of Rochester, Col. Fisk president.
*Could he have meant 1841? Much more reasonable.
 
The trade by the [American] Fur Co. continued until 1834, when Mr. Astor transferred his stock & charter to Ramsey Crooks & Associates. Mr. Crooks became president, & the business continued as usual until 1842 when, on account of competition with the old "Northwest Fur Co." (British) & other causes, it was obliged to assign, & the American Fur Co. career ended.
- p. 198 [no other citation given; possibly John R. Bailey, Mackinac]
 
 

1 Punctuation as in original.