John Clark


John Clark was from the village of Conon in Rosshire in northern Scotland and worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company from 1859-1881. He sailed to Canada in 1859, aged 21, aboard the Prince Arthur, and spent much of the following twenty years in the coastal region surrounding James Bay. He worked first in the mess at Moose Factory and, over the next few years, was promoted to postmaster, then clerk and finally clerk in charge.

HBC post, Albany, c. 1867.
© Hudson’s Bay Company Archives, Archives of Manitoba. Bernard Rogan Ross. 1987/363-A-6/5.

His last ten years in Canada were spent at Little Whale River and at Fort George, and his final posting was at Martens Falls, in Ontario, where he was based from 1878-1881. In 1881, with his wife and family of four children, Clark returned to Scotland. In his mid-forties by this time, Clark appears to have entered local politics, and in time became a Baillie, most likely in Edinburgh. Much of his career with the Company was spent as a clerk, and so he was responsible for recording daily events in post journals, creating inventories, and dealing with correspondence. Though he generated a great deal of documentation relating to Hudson's Bay Company business, there are few clues to his personal life.

Little Whale River, 1872.
© Hudson’s Bay Company Archives, Archives of Manitoba. James L. Cotter. 1987/363-C-55-29.

Traces in material things allow some insights into Clark's family life. He probably spent the first few years of his service as a bachelor, but by the late 1860s had married Eliza, who would have been of Cree ancestry and from the James Bay region. Their happiness was short-lived. The inscription on a headstone in the HBC cemetery in Moose Factory reveals that the years between 1869-71 must have been filled both with great happiness and sorrow for John Clark. His and Eliza's daughter, Catherine, lived for only a few hours; Eliza herself died aged 21 in 1871, and their infant son, Donald, died several months later. Clark soon remarried, again most likely to a woman of Cree heritage. Her name is not yet known, and neither are those of the children of this marriage. It is also unclear how the family settled into life in northern Scotland, following their move to Dingwall in 1881.

Key Artefact - Pouch

© The Trustees of the National Museums of Scotland A.1968.727

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