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The Back Bedrooms - Fur Trade Society

The traders and clerks of British Columbia’s fur trade knew each other well, although they sometimes did not see each other for years on end and occasionally did not even like each other but they were a small group close-knit community of early residents.  The sudden onslaught of the 1858 gold rush created a new social milieu in British Columbia, but the older fur trade families continued to form a special group.  Many retired to Victoria and here with Sir James Douglas and Dr, Helmcken they made up a circle of friends.  Among these associates were Dr William Fraser Tolmie, John Work. John Tod, Roderick Finlayson and James Murray Yale

Fort Victoria about 1858
Fort Victoria about 1858
BC Archives, A-04101


James Murray Yale

James Murray Yale 1798-1871

James Murray Yale joined the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1815.  For many years he was Chief Trader at Fort Langley (1833-1859).  He retired in 1859 to a farm in Saanich near Victoria.

BC Archives, G-07598


Roderick Finlayson

Roderick Finlayson 1818-1892

Roderick Finlayson joined the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1837 and was sent west in 1839.  He acted as chief trader at Fort Victoria following the death of Charles Ross in 1844.  Following James Douglas’s arrival at Victoria in 1849 he became Head accountant.  He retired from the Company 1872.

Roderick Finlayson about 1870
BC Archives, A-01267


John Tod

John Tod 1794-1884

John Tod joined the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1811.  He held positions at a variety of positions including being stationed at MacLeod Lake and Fort Kamloops before coming to Victoria in 1850. He retired in 1852 and moved into his house in Oak Bay.  The old section of the house was completed in 1850 and is the oldest buildings till standing in Victoria.

John Tod about 1860
BC Archives, A-01618
John Work

John Work 1791-1861

John Work began his career with the Hudson Bay Company in 1814.  Between 1826 and 1830 he clerked at Fort Colville and by 1834 he became a Chief Trader.  In 1844 he was appointed to the Board of Management for New Caledonia and was stationed at Fort Simpson.  He moved to Victoria in 1852

John Work  about 1870
BC Archives, D-09086

Dr. William Fraser Tolmie

Dr Tolmie 1812-1886

Dr. William Fraser Tolmie joined the Hudson’s bay Company in 1832.  He worked for most of his company career at Fort Nisqually and Victoria.  He was doctor at Fort Nisqually, but while in Victoria was the general manager of the Puget Sound Agricultural company.  He retired in 1870.  He married John Work’s daughter Jane in 1850.

Dr William Fraser Tolmie about 1860
BC Archives, A-01477

Fort Victoria about 1860
Fort Victoria about 1860, the stockade has been partially demolished.
BC Archives, A-00903
Fort Victoria about 1860

Fort Victoria about 1860
BC Archives, A-04098


Fort Victoria about 1858
BC Archives, A-04656

Fort Victoria about 1857
Fort Victoria about 1857, looking from across the Bay James Douglas’s Garden.
BC Archives, E-09225

Mary Helmcken, RBCM video 2006


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Helmcken house is home to several historic artifacts that relate to the early fur trade days.

Chair used at Fort Victoria, it is constructed without nails.
RBCM HH1988.1.231



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