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WSU/Pend Oreille Extension introduced the Sense of Place series in 1999, with a focus on local landscape and natural history of Pend Oreille County, Washington. A partnership with the Kalispel Tribe of Indians Natural Resources Department has allowed us to expand this program through EPA funding to include more classes, a newsletter and this website.

A Brief History of David Thompson


1770 David Thompson born in London, England

1777 Sent to London’s Grey Coat Charity School

1784 Apprenticed to Hudson’s Bay Company, arrived at Churchill Factory on Hudson Bay for clerical duties

1787 Winters with Pikani (Peigan)

1788 Thompson broke his leg and while recovering, learned surveying and astronomy

1790-96 Surveyed much of northern Manitoba and Saskatchewan

1797 Quits HBC and joins rival North West Company

1798 Surveys part of international boundary; headwaters of Mississippi and Assiniboine rivers; and 2 sides of Lake Superior

1799 Marries Charlotte Small (they would have 13 children together)

1800-01 Moves to Rocky Mountain House, attempts unsuccessfully to find route across the Rockies

1802-06 Surveys on the Peace River and Lake Athabasca

1807 Crosses the mountains via Howse Pass and establishes Kootenai House

1808-09 Explores Kootenay, Pend Oreille, and Spokane rivers and establishes trading posts in British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana regions

1810 Because of opposition by Pikani, Thompson abandons Howse Pass route

1811 Crosses mountains by Athabasca Pass and travels length of Columbia to its mouth to find the Pacific Fur Company already there

1812 Thompson retires from the fur trade, and with his family, moves to Terrebonne near Montreal to redraw maps

1815 Moves to Glengarry County, Ontario, takes position with Boundary Commission, surveys the border from Lake of the Woods to the Eastern Townsites in Quebec

1826 Resigns from Boundary Commission, surveyed canals, township boundaries and land grants, continued work on his maps of the west

1843 Completes work on his atlas which mapped the entire Canadian land from Hudson’s Bay to the Pacific showing an area of over 3.9 million sq. km. (1.5 million sq. mi.)

1843-50 His vision failing, Thompson began writing his adventures from his 77 original notebooks. It was a task that he never would complete.

1857 Thompson dies at the age of 86 in obscurity and a pauper. Charlotte died 3 months later. They are buried in Mount Royal Cemetery in Montreal.

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