Simon Metcalf


According to family-based sources, Simon Metcalf was born in Yorkshire, England in September 1735. He was the son of Simon and Elizabeth Colton Metcalf of Yorkshire.

In May 1763, he married Catherine Humphrey. The marriage produced at least nine children - but only the first two were born in England. The Metcalfs emigrated to New York (first settling in New York City) about 1765 - leaving their eldest son behind to be educated in Europe. A new-born daughter may have been left in England as well.

However, at least one source has called Simon Metcalf an officer and a veteran of the Seven Years War.

About 1769, he was identified as a surveyor working on the western boundary (Stanwix treaty line) of New York. By 1770, he had secured an appointment as "Deputy Surveyor" in the province of New York and produced a number of land maps of greater Albany County. He was known to William Johnson.

Metcalf was involved in a number of patents. In compensation for his work, in 1771, he received a large tract along the Missisquoi River where he settled his budding family, opened a fur trading post at the mouth of the river, and commenced a logging operation. The 30,000 acres New York patent encompassed much of present-day Swanton, Vermont.

At the outbreak of hostilities, he supported the Revolutionaries and was taken prisoner by the British and brought to Montreal. Between 1778 and 1779, two children were born in Montreal. In 1781, he seems to have been living in Canada and was supplying trusted information to Governor George Clinton.

His property on Lake Champlain was destroyed during the War and title to it subsequently passed to members of the Allen family who had him turned out and banished from Swanton "naked and destitute."

Sometime following the end of the war, he settled his family in Albany.

During the 1780s, he also had taken a consignment of seal furs that had been shipped from the Falkland Islands and were stored in New York City . In 1787, he acquired the trading ship Eleanor and, in September, set off with a cargo of furs for China. For seven years, he and his sons traded to the Far East. One son was killed by islanders in Hawaii.

In 1790, his household was configured in a had settled his family into a house in Albany's second ward. However, it is doubtful whether Metcalf himself had returned to Albany at all after leaving New York in 1787. His son and wife were living in a second ward house in 1788. He seems to have been been in the Pacific for the better part of all those years. In 1794, Metcalf and his crew were killed by natives on Queen Charlotte Island in the Pacific Northwest.

Simon Metcalf's widow and surviving children lived on in Albany. Catherine Murphy Metcalf died in 1818 and was buried in the Episcopal cemetery.

biography in-progress


the people of colonial Albany Sources: The life of Simon Metcalf has not been assigned a CAP biography number. We have adopted the spelling "Metcalf" because both census and assessment records showed that form. This sketch is derived chiefly from family and community-based resources. This fascinating historical character has been the subject of a number of biographical treatments. Although it focuses on his trading career almost to the exclusion of his Albany-related existence, Metcalf's fascinating story is told by Rhys Richards in Captain Simon Metcalfe: Pioneer Fur Trader in the Pacific Northwest, Hawaii, and China, 1787-1794.

first posted: 11/25/08