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Lord Selkirk, Thomas Douglas, 5th Earl of Selkirk, was a Scottish colonizer in Canada. He was a noteworthy philanthropist who sponsored settlements of the immigrants at the Red River Colony.
See the fact file below for more information on the Lord Selkirk or alternatively, you can download our 25-page Lord Selkirk worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- Thomas Douglas, also known as Lord Selkirk, was the 5th Earl of Selkirk. He was born on St Mary’s Isle in Scotland on June 20, 1771. Douglas was the youngest son of Dunbar Douglas, the 4th Earl of Selkirk, and Helen Hamilton.
- Douglas was born into a large family and became the next to the title after his father passed away because he sought to make a significant mark in the world.
- Douglas attended the University of Edinburgh and studied law. He then developed an interest in social and political affairs.
- The breakdown of the clan systems in the area and the conversion of large areas of the Highlands into sheep walks had minimized the crofters to a life of marginal existence. Not only that, but Douglas was also very shocked by the condition of the Irish peasantry.
- Douglas’ concern led to the passion of his life. Colonizing these people in North America would help develop their economic prospects and strengthen the British Empire.
- After the death of his brothers in 1797, Douglas was able to succeed in the family estates two years later.
LORD SELKIRK SETTLEMENTS
- Thomas Douglas, 5th Earl of Selkirk, was well-known for his settlement at Red River Colony. However, prior to this, his Canadian settlement had already begun further to the east.
- Knowing the Highlanders’ economic conditions, Selkirk thought about his settlement in British North America.
- By 1803, Prince Edward Island and Upper Canada were awarded to Selkirk. In July 1803, three shiploads of settlers left the area headed for PEI with Selkirk on board. Most of the settlers were from Skye and Uist. The three ships were named the Dykes, the Polly, and the Oughton.
- After launching the colony, Selkirk planned to journey to Halifax and Boston to learn more about the general conditions of the immigrants’ prospects and problems.
- Selkirk was awarded 1,200 acres of land in Upper Canada. Additionally, he would be awarded a further 200 acres for every family he settled, with 50 of that 200 going to the settler.
- The land Selkirk chose was in the Dover and Chatham townships near Lake St. Clair in the southwestern part of Ontario. He called this settlement ‘Baldoon’, naming it after his father’s estate in Scotland.
- Selkirk’s settlement started well, but several problems occurred. Heavy rains affected the work, ruined the crops, and flooded several areas of the fields. After that, Malaria infected and killed a large number of the settlers.
- Selkirk decided to close Baldoon and transfer the settlers to a healthier location up the Thames River. After that, Douglas applied for a grant of 300,000 acres in New Brunswick. However, this request was turned down, and Upper Canada’s government did not support him in a large-scale colonizing venture.
HUDSON’S BAY COMPANY
- In 1804, Lord Selkirk was married to Jean Wedderburn-Colville, whose family was involved in the Hudson’s Bay Company. This made Selkirk involved in the company, and he had an interest in the Red River Area. By the year 1809, a small settlement of freemen decided to remain in the area due to the fur trade. Many of the settlers married Indian women and surviving by hunting and planting a few crops.
- In 1810, the Hudson’s Bay Company agreed to establish a company colony at the Red River forks. However, several members of the North West Company felt that the settlement would be bad for business.
- Nonetheless, in 1810, Selkirk was asked to submit a proposal for settlement on a land grant five times larger than the size of Scotland. For his part, Selkirk would supply the company with 200 servants a year and develop an agricultural colony.
- Selkirk wanted to find and attract settlers, so he established emigration agents in the Hebrides, Glasgow, and Ireland. They planned to send an advance party in 1811 to prepare crops and buildings for the first group of settlers that were scheduled to arrive in 1812.
- Two ships, the Edward and the Ann, sailed with advance party. Some were left with Selkirk to prepare for the colony, while others went to fur trade posts to exhibit the strength of the North West Company.
- After his experience with Baldoon, Selkirk insisted on having settlements be dry and clear of woods, yet near enough to the woods to have access to fuel and building supplies.
- The first settlement was named Point Douglas. It was located along the main trade route of the North West Company. This settlement was a threat to the livelihood of the North-Westerners. A major problem with this settlement was Selkirk’s ignorance about the environment that he was sending his people into. He lacked understanding of the concerns of the North-Westerners and the Indians.
- Life at this settlement was not easy. Several problems occurred, including harsh winters, scarce food, and almost non-existent amenities. Due to these issues, some settlers started to leave. However, all was not lost. Another party arrived later, and crops began to flourish.
SETTLEMENT OF THE RED RIVER
- In 1816, Selkirk’s preparations for a large expedition to the Red River began. He tried to find some military support, and about 90 men from the disbanded ‘de Meuron Regiment’ accompanied him.
- The men agreed to be paid for the westward journey, and once there, they would have a choice of free passage to Europe or choice of land.
- Several problems occurred at the settlement, as battles for control of the area continued. For the following year, the colony was attacked by traders.
- However, in 1817, Selkirk began reconstructing the area and established a school and a church. He also arrested some of the traders, which resulted in a drawn-out trial that eventually freed them from North-Westerners.
- In 1818, Selkirk returned home. He died two years later on April 8, 1820. Selkirk’s humanitarian impulse had broken his health and consumed his fortune. However, it left a warm memory in the Canadian West.
Lord Selkirk Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about Lord Selkirk across 25 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Lord Selkirk worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about Lord Selkirk, Thomas Douglas, 5th Earl of Selkirk, who was a Scottish colonizer in Canada. He was a noteworthy philanthropist who sponsored settlements of the immigrants at the Red River Colony.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Lord Selkirk Facts
- Lord Selkirk’s Profile Writing
- Timeline of the 5th Earl
- The Settlements
- The Questions of Selkirk
- Filling the Ships
- Settlement Problems
- True or False
- The Jumbled Company
- Benefits of the Settlements
- Red River Analysis
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