Peter Pond

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Peter Pond
BornJanuary 18, 1739 (1739-01-18)
Died1807(1807-00-00) (aged 67–68)
Milford, Connecticut
Occupation(s)Explorer, cartographer, merchant soldier

Peter Pond (January 18, 1739 – 1807) was an American explorer, cartographer, merchant and soldier who was a founding member of the North West Company and the Beaver Club. Though he was born and died in Milford, Connecticut, most of his life was spent in northwestern North America, on the upper Mississippi and in western Canada.

Early life[edit]

Copy of a map presented to Congress of the United States and to the Lieutenant Governor of Quebec by Peter Pond, 1785. (National Archives of Canada)

Pond, born on in January 18, 1739 at Milford, Connecticut, began his fur trading career with his father out of Fort Detroit.[1] He traded throughout the regions south of Lake Superior and west of Lake Michigan, which later became Minnesota and Wisconsin. During the French and Indian War, Pond enlisted in the Connecticut Regiment, a provincial infantry unit. A narrative of his early life was published in the 1933 book Five Fur Traders of the Northwest.[2]

Through his business he became acquainted with Alexander Henry the elder, Simon McTavish and the brothers Thomas, Benjamin and Joseph Frobisher. They would be the founders of the North West Company (NWC) in 1779, which developed a fierce rivalry with the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC). Working for he group, In search of new fur resources, Pond went to the area west of the Great Lakes. In 1776–1778 he wintered at a fur post he established at the junction of the Sturgeon River and North Saskatchewan River near present-day Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.[3] The site is today a National Historic Site.[4]

He was chosen to take four canoes northward into the Athabasca region.[2] He took his party through the Portage La Loche (the Methye portage). It took the group eight days to travel about 12 miles.[5] In 1778-1779 he wintered at Pond House, a post he built on the Athabasca River, 60 kms from Lake Athabasca. Likely this was the first fur trading post inside today's Alberta.[6] He collected so many furs he did not have capacity to haul them all away in one trip. He operated this post, the first white man's building in present-day Alberta, for ten years[7]

At Lac La Ronge, Jean-Étienne Waddens had a lucrative trade with “the Northward Indians” coming from Lake Athabasca. In late 1781, Pond, a man who too represented the company's interests, joined him. However, they were on bad terms. In March 1782, Pond fatally wounded Waddens in a fight. The act was called murder. In 1783, Mrs. Waddens requested the governor of Quebec, Frederick Haldimand, to arrest Pond, submitting an affidavit of one of Waddens’ men. Pond was examined in 1785 but was not brought to trial, most likely because Lac La Ronge lay in the territories of the HBC, beyond the jurisdiction of the Province of Quebec.


In 1783, Pond's explorations led him again to the Athabasca, a region stretching from Lac Île-à-la-Crosse to the Peace River. There he explored waterways around Lake Athabasca and determined the approximate locations of Great Slave Lake and Great Bear Lake from First Nations peoples of the area. From his notes and diaries Peter Pond drew a map showing rivers and lakes of the Athabasca region, including what was known of the whole area from Hudson Bay to the Rocky Mountains and interpolating his information to the Arctic Ocean or Northwest Passage.

In 1785, one copy of Pond's map, accompanied by a detailed report, was submitted to the United States Congress[8] and a second to the Lieutenant Governor of Quebec, Henry Hamilton. Pond needed financial support to carry his explorations to the limits of North America's northwest, but the British government was not forthcoming. A partner in the NWC, founded in 1784, he was in charge of the company business in the Athabasca and Peace River areas. An ambitious man with a reputation for having a violent temper, he was implicated in two murders (one of a rival trader): Although acquitted on the murder charges, the company replaced him with Alexander Mackenzie. In the process of taking over the management of the business Mackenzie learned a great deal from Peter Pond about the Athabasca and Peace River region. Pond left the NWC in 1788.

Later life and death[edit]

Mackenzie was intrigued by Pond's belief that the tributaries of that area, which could be seen gathering into a great river flowing northwestward, flowed to the Northwest Passage. Mackenzie took the initiative to follow up on Pond's belief and followed this great river to its mouth; the watercourse, now called the Mackenzie River, did in fact flow to the Northwest Passage section of the Arctic Ocean. Peter Pond had contributed to the mapping of Canada by drawing the general outline of the river basin that Mackenzie recorded in 1789. The maps that Peter Pond subsequently drew, based on his explorations and on the information provided to him by First Nations peoples, ultimately gained international recognition for Pond at the end of the 18th century.

In 1790, Pond sold his shares in the NWC to William McGillivray. He returned to Milford, Connecticut, where he died in 1807.[9]


  1. ^ Fedirchuk, Gloria (June 1990). "Peter Pond: Map Maker of the Northwest (1740-1807)" (PDF). Arctic. Calgary: Arctic Institute of North America. 43 (2): 184–186. doi:10.14430/arctic1609. Archived (PDF) from the original on May 31, 2023. Retrieved 2013-08-13.
  2. ^ a b "Peel 66, p. 12". Archived from the original on September 28, 2023. Retrieved 2023-09-29.
  3. ^ "Peter Pond". Alberta: How the West was Young, Fur Trade and Mission History. Collections Canada. Archived from the original on 2016-03-16. Retrieved 2013-08-13.
  4. ^ Pond, Peter National Historic Person. Directory of Federal Heritage Designations. Parks Canada.
  5. ^ "Peter Pond". Archived from the original on June 10, 2023. Retrieved 2023-09-29.
  6. ^ "Alberta: How the West was Young - Fur Trade and Mission History - Peter Pond". 2016-03-16. Archived from the original on 2016-03-16. Retrieved 2023-09-29.
  7. ^ MacGregor, James (1972). A History of Alberta. Edmonton: Hurtig Publishers. p. 36.
  8. ^ Hayes, Derek (2006). Historical Atlas of Canada: Canada's History Illustrated with Original Maps (illustrated ed.). Vancouver: Douglas and McIntyre. p. 141. ISBN 978-1-55365-077-5.
  9. ^ "Peter Pond - Milford, CT - Connecticut Historical Markers". Milford Preservation Trust. October 2010. Archived from the original on May 2, 2018. Retrieved 2013-08-13.

Further reading[edit]

  • Chapin, David (2014). Freshwater Passages: The Trade and Travels of Peter Pond. University of Nebraska Press.
  • Gough, Barry M. (1983). "Pond, Peter". In Halpenny, Francess G (ed.). Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Vol. V (1801–1820) (online ed.). University of Toronto Press.

External links[edit]