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Biography of James Birnie

JAMES BIRNIE. – Mr. Birnie was a Scotchman by birth. He was born at Paisley, county Renfrew, Scotland, in the year 1800. In 1816 the ambitious lad left his native health and emigrated to Montreal, Canada. Here, under the tutelage of a Catholic priest, he studied the French language for about two years, at the end of which time he entered the employ of the Northwest Fur Company as one of its clerks, and was sent across the Rocky Mountains to Fort Spokane, where he arrived towards the close of 1818. The fort at this time was in charge of a Mr. Haldin, with whom Mr. Birnie remained for several years. He then went to the Kootenai country, where he was married to the daughter of a Frenchman, a Mr. Bianlien, from Manitoba. Here he spent several years trading with the Indians, buying furs, etc., and then returned to Fort Spokane. In 1821 the Northwest and Hudson’s Bay Company amalgamated as one concern. In 1824 Dr. McLoughlin removed a part of the forces at Astoria up the Columbia river and established Fort Vancouver. During this year, or the beginning of 1825, Mr. Birnie was appointed Indian trader and bookkeeper for the consolidated companies, then known as the Hudson’s Bay Company, and was stationed at Vancouver, where he remained until 1831. He was then sent to the Northwest coast to succeed Captain Simpson, deceased, and to complete the building of Fort Simpson, which work he speedily accomplished. After several years service at Fort Simpson, he returned to Astoria, and for a second time took charge of that trading post. It...

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