In 1815 Thompson moved his family the short distance from Montreal to Williamstown (Ontario) in Glengarry County. There, he set himself up as a farmer, merchant and landowner. He acquired extensive land holdings and developed local businesses.

Appointment as astronomer and surveyor to the Boundary Commission and a contract with the British army to supply cedar canoes of his own design encouraged Thompson to anticipate a prosperous future. Consequently, he enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle as shown by these engraved silver spoons which may have been used when entertaining guests.

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Silver spoons belonging to David Thompson
Carrie McGillivray fonds
Reference Code: F 4502
Archives of Ontario

Hugh McGillis and John McDonald, fellow partners in the North West Company, had travelled with Thompson. They later settled near him in Glengarry County, Ontario. McDonald married Nancy Small, Charlotte’s sister.

Portrait: Portrait of Hugh McGillis (1767-1848)
Portrait of Hugh McGillis (1767-1848)
Reference Code: S358
Archives of Ontario, I0027768
Portrait: John McDonald of Garth
John McDonald of Garth
Alberta Folklore and Local History Collection
Bruce Peel Special Collections Library
University of Alberta, 96-93-529


























Photo: Thompson Bethune House, Williamstown, 1926

Thompson's Williamstown house, now owned by the Ontario Heritage Trust, was designated a National Historic Site of Canada.


Click to see a larger image (70K)
Thompson Bethune House, Williamstown, 1926
Carrie McGillivray fonds
Reference Code: F 4502
Archives of Ontario, I0027927
Montreal Gazette, 16 October 1846
Click to see larger image (310K)
Montreal Gazette, 16 October 1846

By 1835 however, his businesses had failed. He also held several mortgages on land in Glengarry but the owners defaulted and Thompson was left in financial ruin.

He struggled to support his family with a few surveying projects. He also began writing an account of his travels with the idea of publishing them.

Page from the original manuscript of Thompson’s Narrative, [ca. 1846]
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Page from the original manuscript of
Thompson’s Narrative, [ca. 1846]
Thompson (David) Papers, Ms. Coll. 21
Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library,
University of Toronto

“I am the morrow 73 years old but so destitute that I have not where with to buy a loaf of Bread. May the Pity of the Almighty be on us.”

Entry dated 29 April 1843, Journal #82
David Thompson’s notebooks and journals
Reference Code: F 443-1
Archives of Ontario

Portrait: George Simpson, Governor of Rupert’s Land, 1857

During the Oregon Boundary dispute in the 1840s, Thompson urged the British government to argue for all of the Oregon territory that he had explored rather than the 49th parallel suggested by the American government. The U.S. argument won out.

He met with Governor Simpson of the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1843 to offer him a map of the Oregon district. Simpson declined the offer.


George Simpson, Governor of Rupert’s Land, 1857
Reverence Code:
Archives of Ontario, I0027769
Photo: Thompson memorial, Mount Royal Cemetery, Montreal

In declining health and disappointed his life’s work remained unrecognized, David and Charlotte spent their later years living with their daughter and son-in-law in Longueuil near Montreal.

Thompson died 10 February 1857 shortly before his 87th birthday, followed by his wife three months later. They were buried in the family plot of his son-in-law Dalhousie Landell, located at Mount Royal Cemetery, Montreal. The graves were finally marked in 1927 on the initiative of the Canadian Historical Society.


Thompson memorial, Mount Royal Cemetery, Montreal
Parks Canada, 2006