Peter Fidler (1769 - 1822)

Manitoba, Canada

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Place of Burial: Manitoba, Canada
Birthdate:
Birthplace: Bolsover, Derbyshire, England
Death: Died in Fort Dauphin, Manitoba, Canada
Occupation: Chief Surveyor, Hudsons Bay Co. Map maker, Hudson's Bay Company labourer, writer, explorer
Managed by: Terence Skrypnyk
Last Updated:

About Peter Fidler

Peter Fidler was born in Bolsover, Derbyshire, England and at the age of 19 years signed a 5 year contract with the Hudson Bay Co. (H.B.C.) as a labourer at York Factory. Because of competition between the H.B.C. and the North West Co. (N.W.C.), it became evident that trading posts be established inland among main waterways and with this decision, it was obvious that detailed maps of rivers and lakes be required to make further company decisions. Peter Fidler's brilliance, as well as his ability to read and write, soon became obvious to company officials and in 1790, Peter was called to learn the art of surveying.

During the winter of 1791, Peter mapped Lake Athabaska and made mention of the Tar Sands in his journals. Returning in the spring, he mapped the 1,600 mile route from York Factory to Athabaska and Great Slave Lake. That same year, Peter mapped the North Saskatchewan River and established a trading post. The winter of 1792-93, he surveyed and mapped the Battle, Red Deer and Bow Rivers, also outlining the Rockies (the first to indicate the Rockies on a map). During this trip, he was also the first explorer to see and record the coal at Drumheller. He also made notes of several passes in the Rockies which he heard of from the Kootenay and Snake Indians and he also made note of cactus, the buffalo and birch trees which were necessary for inland survival. In 1793, Peter mapped the Seal River. By 1797, Fidler became the only mapmaker for H.B.C. and in 1799, was sent to establish more trading posts and head a campaign against the N.W.C. During this time, he mapped a second shorter route to Athabaska via the Churchill River and became responsible for several posts he had established including Bolsover House, Greenwich House and Chesterfield House.

Once again, Peter Fidler was sent to Athabaska area and established Nottingham and Mansfield House. It was during this period of time that several years of misery and severe harassment were imposed on him from the N.W.C. and in 1806, all posts were abandoned and left to the competition. Fidler then took charge of Cumberland House and mapped Wollaston Lake area, Lake Winnipeg and the Nelson River outlet.

In 1812, he was sent to the Red River colony as assistant to Lord Selkirk and surveyed lots and supervised building of houses.

Peter Fidler was also a meteorologist. He kept records faithfully every day for over 30 years. His thermometer, wind vane and barometer were read many times a day and not even the Indian attack on York Factory in 1794 where 6 met their death interfered with his daily recordings. He also recorded bird migrations, the annual break up of ice and vegetation conditions. He even noted the different temperatures at which different liquors froze and also recorded the progress of his garden, making him one of Canada's first horticulturists. In his lifetime, Peter accumulated a library of over 500 volumes indicating his pleasure in the art of reading. It has also been noted that during his active years he travelled over 47,000 miles on foot and that most of our maps of Western Canada are based on his works. Peter Fidler was appointed District Master at Fort Dauphin in 1819 and died there in 1822. He lies in an unmarked grave at Fort Dauphin.

Peter's will should indicate to us the complexity of this amazing man. His invested estate was to pay interest to his wife and children until the youngest child became the age of 21 years. The principal was then to accumulate interest and to be left, both principal and interest, to the eldest direct grandson of his son Peter on his own 200th anniversary of his birthday, 1969.

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Peter Fidler's Timeline

1769
August 16, 1769
Bolsover, Derbyshire, England
1794
August 14, 1794
Age 24
York Factory, Manitoba, Canada
1795
June 20, 1795
Age 25
1798
October 10, 1798
Age 29
1800
November 10, 1800
Age 31
1802
November 26, 1802
Age 33
1804
October 12, 1804
Age 35
1806
November 29, 1806
Age 37
1809
June 17, 1809
Age 39
Holy Lake
1811
June 27, 1811
Age 41