Alexander Mackenzie

Stornoway, Scotland
1764 – March 11, 1820

Alexander Mackenzie born in Stornoway on the isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland. When he was ten years old his father moved him to New York, leaving his sisters behind. Soon after the Revolutionary War started and Alexander’s father died. His aunts moved with him to Montreal in 1776. In 1779 he obtained a job with a trading company. With increasing competition in the trading business there was a desire to explore more territory. Mackenzie was keen to be a part of that.

In 1792 he set out to find a route to the Pacific. He found the upper reaches of the Fraser River, but was told that the lower portion of the river was unnavigable and populated by hostile native tribes. He followed an established trading route and crossed the Coast Mountains, following the Bella Coola River to the sea. This was the first recorded transcontinental crossing of North America by a European outside of Mexico. On July 22, 1793 he made it to his westernmost point where progress was halted by unfriendly Nuxalk tribes. He inscribed “Alex MacKenzie from Canada by land 22d July 1793” and returned to settled Canada. The rock, near the water’s edge in Dean Channel, still bears his words.

Submitted by:
Mike Kelly



Dictionary of Canadian Biography

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