Davis, John

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Davis, John

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The records in the Davis, Hodgson and Coulter fonds were found together in the mid 1960s, in an abandoned log house which had once belonged to Robert and Ruby Coulter.

Research revealed that the documents and photographs were from the descendants of three English men who had arrived in what was then Rupert’s land to work for the Hudson’s Bay Company around the turn of the nineteenth century. All three of these men took “country wives” (i.e. first nations women) as partners. This was a common practice in the fur trade because it gave the trader negotiating power and protection as well as a partner who was skilled in surviving the wilds of Canada. In the next two generations, the three families became strongly inter-related.

John Davis, of Clerkenwell, London arrived in Canada when it was still Rupert’s Land in 1801, to work for the Hudson’s Bay Company. After working at two other posts, he arrived at Henley House in 1812. After two years at Henley, he went on to Osnaburgh and Martin Falls, where he became the chief factor in 1821. He married a woman identified only as Nancy/Anne. Their children were Elizabeth, born [1812]; Mathilda Anne, born 1814; Anne (Nancy), born June 30, 1816; William, born [1820]; Catherine, born [1822] and George, born Apr 23, 1824. In 1820, John Davis prepared a will, from which it is clear that he was concerned about the welfare of his wife and children: “Codicil to my will made in the summer of the year eighteen hundred and twenty and which Will is in possession of my wife Nancy I now will desire and do appoint Thomas Vincent Esquire Chief Factor to the Hudson’s Bay Company a joint executor to my last Will jointly with my brother William and my sister Nancy Davis. I am induced to add this codicil to my Will on reflecting on the uncertainty of life and the situation I leave my dear wife and the children I leave with her in particular my mind will then be relieved from a load of anxiety as my highly esteemed friend is one to whom I can look up with confidence…” In 1822, John went to England for a furlough, taking with him his two children, Matilda and Elizabeth, to be educated in England. After returning to Canada he was the Chief Factor at two other posts before he drowned in Hannah Bay on a journey from Moose Factory to Mistassini. John and Nancy’s oldest daughter, Elizabeth died in 1834 at the age of 12. Matilda Ann returned from England and in 1840 established a school for Metis girls called Oakfield in St. Andrews Parish, north of Winnipeg. She died in 1859, but the school continued and is now a provincial heritage site. Anne (Nancy) married Nicol Finlayson, another HBC Factor and had two children. Catherine married John Hodgson the third, a grandson of John Hodgson and his aboriginal wife. George Davis married Catherine Yorkstone and had seven children, including William, whose papers are in this collection.


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South Peace Regional Archives

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