Simpson, George
George Simpson (Courtesy Glenbow Archives NA-841-164)
(c.1790-1860)

Although it is not obvious looking west from the prairies and foothills, the route between Orient Point to the south and Phantom Crag and Mount Costigan to the north, through the valley containing Lake Minnewanka is a natural one from the prairies into the heart of the Rockies. In fact, the first European to visit the site of present day Banff Townsite travelled this way.

As governor of the Hudson's Bay Company, Sir George Simpson was probably the most powerful man in British North America at the time. He was combining business with adventure when he passed this way in August, 1841 with twenty-two men and forty-five horses, for although Simpson was interested in expanding the HBC's fur empire, he was also on a trip around the world.

The party was guided by a Metis named Peechee (see Mount Peechee) who is commemorated by the peak which lies to the south of Lake Minnewanka's midpoint. Simpson wrote that, "The Indians and Peechee were the only persons that had ever pursued this route; and we were the first whites that had attempted this pass in the mountains. The pass is now known as Devil's Gap Simpson referred to the mountains on either side as, "very grand, of every varied form... their craggy summits resembling battlements among which dizzy heights the goat and sheep delight to bound."

Simpson's party continued on to what has become Banff Townsite, built a raft to carry the horses and baggage across the Bow River, and then travelled through the Continental Divide by way of what is now known as Simpson Pass. The party then followed the Columbia River to the Pacific Ocean. Reaching Asia, he crossed Siberia, Russia, and Europe to complete his trip around the world.

He was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1841.

[Additional Information: Simpson, George. "Narrative of a Journey round the world during the Years 1841 and 1842". London: Henry Colburn, 1847]

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