Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
March 2005

L’Encyclopédie de l’histoire du Québec / The Quebec History Encyclopedia


William Conolly


Conolly, William (1787?-1849), fur-trader, was born at Lachine, near Montreal, about 1787; and entered the service of the North West Company as a clerk about 1801. He was made a partner of the North West Company about 1818; and in 1819 he was in charge of Cumberland House, where he received Franklin on his first expedition to the Arctic. At the union of the North West and Hudson 's Bay Companies in 1821, he was made a chief trader; and in 1825 he was promoted to the rank of chief factor. From 1824 to 1831 he was in charge of the district of New Caledonia; and in 1831 he retired from the fur-trade. He died at Montreal on June 3, 1849. In 1805 he married, "according to the custom of the country", a Cree woman named Susanne; and by her he had six children, one of whom became in 1828 the wife of James (afterwards Sir James) Douglas. In 1832, however, Conolly repudiated his Indian wife, having been advised by the Church that an Indian marriage was not valid, and married in Montreal his cousin, Julia Woolrich, the daughter of a wealthy Montreal merchant, by whom he had several children. His Indian wife was sent to a convent on the Red river, where she was supported, first by Conolly himself, and after his death by his white wife. On the death of the Indian wife, the eldest of Conolly's half-breed sons, then a middle-aged man, brought suit in the courts to obtain his share of Conolly's estate. The Canadian courts ruled that the Indian marriage was valid; but the case was carried to the judicial Committee of the Privy Council, and before judgment was given the case was settled out of court. Some account of the litigation over Conolly's estate will be found in the Lower Canada jurist, vol. xi, pp. 197 ff.

Source : W. Stewart WALLACE, ed., The Encyclopedia of Canada, Vol. II, Toronto, University Associates of Canada, 1948, 411p., pp. 117-118.


© 2005 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College