Paperback / softback
November 21, 2008
9.00 Inches (US)
6.00 Inches (US)
1.57 Pounds (US)
$37.99 USD, £24.99 GBP
v2.1 Reference

A Son of the Fur Trade

The Memoirs of Johnny Grant

Born in 1833 at Fort Edmonton, Johnny Grant experienced and wrote about many historical events in the Canada-US northwest, and died within sight of the same fort in 1907. Grant was not only a fur trader; he was instrumental in early ranching efforts in Montana and played a pivotal role in the Riel Resistance of 1869-70. Published in its entirety for the first time, Grant's memoir-with a perceptive introduction by Gerhard Ens-is an indispensable primary source for the shelves of fur trade and Métis historians.

About the Authors

Born and raised in Manitoba, Gerhard Ens is Associate Professor of History and Classics at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. He has spent his professional career researching and writing about the fur trade, the Métis, and First Nations communities in Canada. In recent years he has also worked as a consultant and testified as an expert witness in various Métis and Indigenous Title and Treaty Rights court cases.


"Johnny Grant was one of those legendary frontiersman who lived large and unapologetically, amassing his fortune on gut instinct, guile and charm. Born at Fort Edmonton in 1833, the Métis land speculator and rancher had an affinity for adventure and seduction. In the course of his life he managed to sire 28 children by at least six women. He tells in his memoir, 'I may reflect here that about this part of my nature, this great fondness for women which has followed me through life, that it has brought me very close to trouble at times, but I always got out of it without any serious consequences.'" Geoff McMaster, Express News, University of Alberta, December 10, 2008

"One day in 1905, at their Edmonton-area home, Clotilde Bruneau Grant asked her elderly husband to dictate his memoirs to her. ... [As a result], we have a rare Metis autobiography that provides a precious and absorbing look into the window of 19th century life on the U. S. and Canadian frontiers. Grant was quite the character....And although some of Grant's memoirs have an air of truth-stretching about them, they are invaluable for relating the fascinating, long-forgotten, customs of the frontier.... Ens has done a superlative job of editing Grant's memoirs and made them a wonderful read, but Grant has given us the best gift of all—himself, in all his up-close, in-your-face 19th century glory." Naomi Lakritz, Calgary Herald, August 9, 2009

"[Grant's] narrative is amazingly modern in feel — colorful, on-scene, up-front-and-personal, honest — and entirely lacking in that fustiness that often characterizes memoirs of the Victorian period. Grant's account also reflects a great deal of the personal influence that he felt from the native American side of his family ancestry. Memoirs like this, that give us an in-depth look at the mixed-blood side of Western American and Canadian history, are rare and needed for a complete perspective of what 'life on the frontier' was really like.'" Patricia Nell Warren, March 23, 2009 [Complete review posted on]

"Published in its entirety for the first time, A Son of the Fur Trade: The Memoirs of Johnny Grant is the collected memoirs of John Francis Grant (1833-1907), who during the course of his eventful life in the Canada-northwest U.S. fur trade experienced and wrote down his perspective upon a host of historical events. In particular, Grant offers a unique perspective on events in Native American history, as he often lived and worked in Indian-controlled territory and even fell in love with Indian women. An authentic window into bygone era, A Son of the Fur Trade is an excellent primary source and especially recommended for college library collections; its smooth, accessible prose makes it surprisingly enjoyable reading for casual browsers as well as historians." Willis M. Buhle, Midwest Book Review, 2009

"The annals of Montana history are populated with an abundance of men who 'lived large.'... One of the state's most prosperous early businessmen, Grant was also one of its more spectacular failures, having made and lost a fortune by the time of his death in 1907.... In this unabridged version [of Grant's memoir], a critical introduction provides an overview of the manuscript's provenance, followed by a detailed chronological summary of Grant's life. This chronology is not intended as a mere précis but instead provides the broader sociopolitical context necessary to understand Grant's perspective on events.... This book is enhanced with family photographs, maps, detailed endnotes, and two genealogical appendixes intended to assist the reader in sorting out the complex web of Grant family relationships. However, the strongest element of the manuscript is Johnny Grant's narrative—with or without annotation. Grant's candid reflections on his personal relationships and his matter-of-fact acceptance of his financial failures provide interesting insights into the man and reveal his most basic priorities—his family and his horses — not necessarily in that order. This latest version of Johnny Grant's memoirs will appeal to readers of western history, scholars of the Métis, and anyone who enjoys stories about fascinating people in our shared past. This detailed and intelligent book is destined to become the standard reference on Johnny Grant, and rightly so." Heather Devine, Montana: The Magazine of Western History, Summer 2009

"The Johnny Grant Memoir has been almost a legend among western historians. The manuscript was known to exist but no one could seem to find it.... Grant, a Métis, led an adventurous life in Manitoba, where he was deeply involved in Riel's first rebellion in 1869-70. He was a businessman in Manitoba for the next twenty years and lived in Alberta from 1891 until his death in 1907. The book is a fascinating account of western life from a Métis viewpoint." Alberta History, Autumn 2009

"This memoir, which Grant dictated to his wife before he died in 1907, is really two books. The first is a story packed with adventures of the early West. They start with his raucous relation with his father, a Hudson's Bay Company trader in Idaho, which comes to a head when his father holds his son at gunpoint. The men would reconcile but the incident set Grant on a course of living as a trapper among aboriginals and other mixed bloods like himself.... Meanwhile, tales like the one of Grant hauling saddlebags of gold powder by public stagecoach across the plains are the stuff of TV and movie westerns.... But the rise of European-imported capitalism with its banks and lawyers signalled the end of Métis businessmen like Grant. Grant was illiterate, and ignorant of fine-print capitalism, and was frequently victimized by some swindle or other. This is the second book.... Ens [the editor] is meticulous. Rich footnoting fills gaps in the memoir and provides biographies of everyone from bit players to historic figures Grant encounters." Bill Redekop, Winnipeg Free Press, September 13, 2009

"Gerhard Ens, Associate Professor of History at the University of Alberta in Edmonton has brought the entire known manuscript to light as A Son of the Fur Trade: The Memoirs of Johnny Grant. Ens has augmented the autobiography with scholarly footnotes, and included his interpretation of Grant's history and character. A valuable addition to the text is the truly exhaustive family tree assembled by Anita Steele. Steele has followed every lead until a credible picture has emerged. Thanks to the efforts of Ens and Steele, Johnny Grant, his forebears and descendants, can now take their rightful places in Canada-U.S. northwest history." Lyndel Meikle, The Canadian Journal of Native Studies

"This is a splendid book that is a must read for anyone interested in the second half of the nineteenth-century Canadian and American West. It pulls the reader from adventure to adventure. This book should make many think about communities, identities, and their formation in the frontier." Frits Pannekoek, Canadian Book Review Annual Online, 2008

"Johnny Grant (1833-1907) lived a prodigious life. Although he died within sight of his Fort Edmonton birthplace, the intervening seventy-four years saw him range across the West, living a number of almost discrete lives.... The text provides rich source material relating to diverse facets of nineteenth-century western history.... Grant witnessed a broad swath of western history.... Grant's narrative is ably served by Ens's editorial work.... Two genealogical appendices compiled by Anita Steele are works of heroic archival research, and are complemented by an evocative collection of family photographs." [Full review at:]—Bill Moreau, H-Canada, H-Net Reviews

9780888644916 : a-son-of-the-fur-trade-grant-ens
Paperback / softback
468 Pages
$37.99 USD

Other Titles by Gerhard J. Ens

From Rupert's Land to Canada

edited by Theodore Binnema, Gerhard J. Ens, Rod Macleod
May 2001 - The University of Alberta Press, an imprint of University of Alberta Press
$34.95 USD - Paperback / softback