William Henry McNeill

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William Henry McNeill (7 July 1803 – 4 September 1875) was best known for his 1830 expedition as the captain of the brig Llama, which sailed from Boston, Massachusetts, United States, 12,000 miles around Cape Horn, to the Pacific Northwest on a fur trading expedition.[citation needed]

Boston merchants owned the brig whose cargo consisted of trading merchandise. The Chief Factor of the Hudson's Bay Company for the region, Roderick Finlayson, purchased the Llama and its cargo in Honolulu in 1832 and retained McNeill as captain.[1] In order to work for the company, it made an exception to its policy of requiring that all of its employees be British subjects.[2]:267 McNeill was an American, born in Boston. He provided the company for the first time with a ship commanded by a man who knew the north west coast well.[2]:268

In 1836, the Hudson's Bay Company vessel, S.S. Beaver, the first steamship on the Pacific Northwest Coast, arrived at Fort Vancouver. McNeill took over as the second captain of the Beaver in 1837 and remained so until 1851.[3]:392

In 1837, the company was concerned that a site be found to replace Fort Vancouver in case they were ever driven out of that area, and directed McNeill aboard the Beaver to explore for a suitable location for the operations of the company with a safe harbour and land suitable for cultivation.[2]:299 On 10 August that year, he located, according to his log, " . . an excellent harbour and a fine open country along the sea shore, apparently well adapted for both tillage and pasturage . . ." The location he found became Fort Victoria.[3]:392

On 11 May 1841, along with Alexander Caulfield Anderson, McNeill greeted U.S. Navy Lt. Charles Wilkes of the United States Exploring Expedition when Wilkes anchored his sailing ship, USS Porpoise in southern Puget Sound near Fort Nisqually, a Hudson's Bay Company trading post near the present town of Dupont, Washington.

On 14 March 1843 Captain McNeill anchored off Vancouver Island in McNeill Bay to scout the location for Fort Victoria.[citation needed]

He resigned command of the Beaver in 1843 following which, in 1849, he established Fort Rupert, near modern-day Port Hardy. McNeill was promoted to Chief Factor at Fort Simpson in 1856 and retired from the Hudson's Bay Company from that post in 1863.[3]:393 He retired to his farm on Vancouver Island near Victoria, British Columbia. He died there of pneumonia in 1875.

Port McNeill, British Columbia is named for Captain McNeill.[1]

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  1. ^ a b "Port McNeill". BC Geographical Names. 
  2. ^ a b c Akrigg, G.P.V.; Akrigg, Helen B. (1975), British Columbia Chronicle 1778–1846 Adventurers By Sea and Land, Vancouver: Discovery Press, ISBN 0-919624-02-2 
  3. ^ a b c Walbran, Captain John T. (1971), British Columbia Place Names, Their Origin and History (Facsimile reprint of 1909 ed.), Vancouver/Toronto: Douglas & McIntyre, ISBN 0-88894-143-9 

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