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William Alexander Aitken

William Alexander Aitken, also known as William Alexander Aitkin (c. 1785–1851), was a fur trader with the Ojibwe.



Aitken was noted as a native of Edinburgh, Scotland. He came to the Upper Mississippi region around 1802 from Canada and was employed by John Drew, a trader in the Mackinac area. Aitken worked as a clerk in John Jacob Astor's American Fur Company; he was assigned to William Morrison's Fond du Lac Department.

In 1831, Aitken became the Department's chief trader, establishing his headquarters at Sandy Lake, Minnesota. He had trading posts in the Fond du Lac District, which went as far to the west as Pembina, North Dakota, to the north as Rainy Lake and to the south below the mouth of the Crow Wing River. In 1836 he had a major disagreement with Ramsay Crooks, and in 1838 he was discharged for mismanagement.

Aitken set himself up in competition as an independent trader on the Upper Mississippi out of St. Louis, Missouri. He died 16 September 1851. He was buried on the east bank of the Mississippi opposite to the mouth of the Swan River in Morrison County, Minnesota, where he had a trading post from 1842 until his death.


Aitken had at least six wives:

  • Pagoonce , daughter of Chief Broken Tooth
  • Madeline Ermatinger (Beshakwadokwe, Striped-Cloud; recorded variously as Payshahquodoquay, Pach-a-kwa-dok-we, etc.), daughter of Charles Oakes Ermatinger and Charlotte Katawabide;
  • Nu-gu-nay-au-nah-quod;
  • Odishkwaagamiikwe (End-of-the-Lake Woman; recorded as O-dish-quah-gah-me-qu[ay]); and
  • Julia Quodaince.

He was said to have had 25 children among his wives, including a daughter Mathilda Aitken, who married William Whipple Warren. One of the first criminal trials in Minnesota Territory concerned the murder of his son Alfred.[1]


Aitkin County, Minnesota and the city of Aitkin, Minnesota are named after him.


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