The Journal of John Work - January to October 1835.


Cat No.:   CA0425:

John Work (“Wark”, at birth) was born in County Donegal, Ireland, c1792. In 1814 he was employed by the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) in the Scottish Orkney Islands while in his early 20’s, and remained their employee throughout his life. Within that same year he was transported to the actual Hudson’s Bay and within a further five years - attaining ever more senior positions - he was assigned to an overland exploration expedition bound for the Columbia District, where he was to continue his duties. His journal of this (1823) voyage is the earliest first hand record of him, and the first indication that he had obtained some sort of academic education, i.e., being able to keep the journal.

The west coast local he was assigned to was a part of what is now Oregon / Washington, but at that time, and especially in the view of the HBC, allegiance to any far off - and so functionally irrelevant - Eastern national administrations, was a secondary consideration to the primary needs of profitable trading and expanding the company’s trading area. John obviously had a flair for this type of work since he rapidly moved up in the layered hierarchy of the HBC, reaching the rank of “chief trader” within only 8 years. His work required frequent travel and this took him over many thousands of miles, both north (to Prince Rupert approx.), south along the Pacific coast (to San Francisco), inland to the Upper Fraser River and into what is now known as Montana, Idaho, Nevada and Utah.

He faithfully maintained his journals through all those years and today they are preserved in the original sixteen volume format in rare and important document repositories up and down these self same areas. This publication is a transcript of most of the fourteenth and all of the fifteenth journal, these being written during the period between January and October 1835 when he was journeying in (now) British Columbia. The previous journals (mostly) detailed his expeditions through U.S. territory / states.

John’s sixteenth journal details a canoe trip in 1851, but following a serious accident during a “backwoods” expedition in 1840 he seems to have taken a less “hands on” roll in the primary work of the HBC but, instead, started “assisting” in setting up a self governing authority in British Columbia. (The inverted commas signify a whole other story - which is a part of the early history of the formation of a democratic administration in the Province!) John Work continued to live and work in BC until his death in December of 1861.

As mentioned earlier there is little or nothing known as to how John Work came by his education but according to his transcribers his “hand” was difficult to read and his spelling was somewhat idiosyncratic (not so unusual in those days.) In order to provide easier understanding of the journals the transcribers have “regularized” date formats and the spelling of well known names, to avoid confusion, and have made numerous small corrections in punctuation. Otherwise they tried to use exactly the words John had used just as he wrote them. There is an illustration in the book showing a page of John’s own writing so you can judge the difficulty of this task for yourself.

These journals were written more as a business log than as a purely personal memoir and so appear a little brusque. On the “plus” side however, they are packed with the sort of detail a “regular” journalist would be liable to consider not worth recording but which help to draw a “no nonsense” picture of frontier life in this period which is difficult to appreciate otherwise.

We invite you to join us in thanking the Slocan Community Library, and particularly their librarian Joyce Johnson, for loaning us this book in the interest of ensuring the continued availability of its content and the preservation of the original. Fully computer searchable and FastFind enabled.

No. of CDs is:  1 ;   Format is:  PDF ;   Searchable?:  YES;

FastFind:  Yes;  ISBN No.:   978-1-927503-35-5 ;