Peter Skene Ogden

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Peter Skene Ogden

Peter Skene Ogden (alternately Skeene, Skein or Skeen), (baptised 12 February 1790 – September 27, 1854[1]) was a fur trader and a Canadian explorer of what is now British Columbia and the American West.

Ogden was a son of Chief Justice Isaac Ogden of Quebec and his wife Sarah Hanson. The family was descended from a 17th-century British emigrant to the American colonies (Long Island & New Jersey). His father Isaac and grandfather (David) were loyalists during the American Revolution. His father relocated to England at this time, then later returned to British-run Quebec.[2] One of Ogden's brothers, Charles Richard Ogden was a lawyer, politician, and public servant from Canada East. Ogden married Julia Rivet/Reava, a Meti/Nez Perce (sometimes known as Flathead or other Salish).[3]

During his many expeditions he explored parts of Oregon, Washington, Nevada, California, Utah, Idaho and Wyoming. Despite early confrontations with the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) during his time with the North West Company, he later became a senior official in the operations of the HBC's Columbia Department, serving as first Chief Trader of Fort Simpson and similar posts.

Professional life[edit]

After a brief time with the American Fur Company, he joined the North West Company in 1809. His first post was at Île-à-la-Crosse, Saskatchewan in 1810, and by 1814 was in charge of a post at Green Lake, Saskatchewan, 100 miles (160 km) south.[3]

Ogden had frequent run-ins with the rival HBC employees and engaged in physical violence on several occasions. In 1816, HBC clerks reported that Ogden killed an Indian who had traded with the Hudson's Bay Company. The Indian was "butchered in a most cruel manner," according to HBC officer James Bird. Although many in the North West Company viewed this as a necessary part of living in the Northwest, the HBC viewed Ogden as a dangerous man whose actions were deplorable, especially considering his background as the son of a judge. Ogden was charged with murder, and the North West Company moved him further west to attempt to avoid any further confrontations with the HBC. He served at different posts in modern-day Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia for the next several years.

As a way of ending the ongoing strife between the two companies, the HBC and the North West Company merged in 1821. Ogden's violent history placed the now larger HBC in a quandary. The company management severely disliked and distrusted Ogden, but finally agreed that he had done no more than many others during the "fur-trade wars" and appointed him Chief Trader for the Snake River Country of the HBC's Columbia Department in 1823.

Between 1824 and 1830 Ogden set out on a series of expeditions to explore the Snake River country. One of the company's objectives was to bring as many furs from this area as possible to the HBC so as to create a "fur desert". This would discourage inroads by American trappers and traders. The exploration trips included:

The expeditions were a successful venture for the HBC, but not without troubles, including an attack by the Mohave people near the Gulf of California.

In 1830, Ogden was sent north to establish a new HBC post named Fort Simpson near the mouth of the Nass River in British Columbia. He also managed an outpost on the south coast of Alaska. He administered a fur post at Fort Vancouver throughout the 1840s. There Ogden fought successfully against American fur competition and successfully negotiated with local native tribes, including the Cayuse.

In 1847 Ogden averted an Indian war and successfully negotiated for the lives of 49 settlers taken as slaves by the Cayuse and Umatilla Indians after the Whitman massacre.

Retirement and death[edit]

Ogden retired to Oregon City, Oregon with one of his several Native American wives. His contact with native tribes led him to write a memoir entitled "Traits of American Indian Life and Character. By a Fur Trader." The book was published posthumously in 1855. He died in 1854 and is buried at the Mountain View Cemetery in Oregon City, Clackamas County, Oregon.


Ogden Avenue in downtown Las Vegas, Nevada, is named for Peter Skene Ogden, as are:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Peter Skene Ogden Dictionary of Canadian Biography
  2. ^ A History of the Ogden Family - Written in 1908 and presented to the United Empire Loyalists Association in Toronto on February 11th, 1932.
  3. ^ a b "Peter Skene Ogden (1790-1854)". Oregon Encyclopedia - Oregon History and Culture. Portland State University. Retrieved Mar 3, 2013. 
  4. ^ Morgan (1953, 1964), Jedediah Smith and the Opening of the West, p. 210, 211.

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