John Work papers, 1823-1862

Overview of the Collection

Work, John, 1792-1861
John Work papers
1823-1862 (inclusive)
.43 cu. ft. (1 box)
Collection Number
4981 (Accession No. 4981-001)
Papers of a company official with Hudson's Bay Company
University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections
Special Collections
University of Washington Libraries
Box 352900
Seattle, WA
Telephone: 2065431929
Fax: 2065431931
Access Restrictions

Open to all users.


Biographical NoteReturn to Top

John Work was born c. 1792 in Ireland to parents Henry and Letitia Wark. His last name, Wark, was later anglicized to Work when he began his career with Hudson’s Bay Company. He had five siblings, including Senator David Work and Joseph Wark.

Work appears not to have had an adequate early education; however, he nevertheless was hired as a writer for the Hudson’s Bay Company on June 15, 1814, at Stromness in the Orkney Islands. After serving in five different positions along Hudson Bay, in July 1823 he was assigned to the Columbia District. It was on this trip from York Factory to the Columbia District that Work kept the first in a series of journals that documented all of his expeditions from July 1823 to October 1835. During his first trade season in the Columbia District, Work and Finan McDonald extended trade into the Flathead country in Montana before traveling to the district’s headquarters at Fort George (Astoria, Oregon). Throughout his career with Hudson’s Bay Company, Work continued to travel on a number of trading expeditions, including ones to eastern Idaho, northwestern Utah, Nevada, Mexican California, northern Vancouver Island, and along the Columbia River. He also supervised the construction of many trading posts, including Fort Colville and Fort Simpson. Fort Simpson served as his permanent residence from 1836 until 1846, during which time he worked as the field manager of the fort. In 1849, Work settled his family at Fort Victoria.

Although Work had been urged to marry the daughter of a chief of the Cayuse Indians in order to secure the company’s protection along the Columbia River, Work instead married a mixed-blood Spokane woman named Josette Legacé. She often accompanied Work on his travels. The couple had eleven children: Jane, Sarah, Letitia, Margaret, Mary, John, Catherine, Josette, Henry, David, and Cecilia. Several of his daughters eventually married men who featured prominently in the Hudson’s Bay Company.

In August 1852, Work purchased farmland along the northern boundary of Fort Victoria, where he built a mansion he named Hillside. Work died at Hillside on December 22, 1861.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

Typescript copies of journals and outgoing correspondence relative to Work's career as an officer of the Hudson's Bay Company at various company settlements including Fort Vancouver, Fort Colville, Spokane House, Fort Nisqually, and Fort Victoria.

Other Descriptive InformationReturn to Top

The journals and correspondence in this collection are typescript copies of original documents at the Provincial Archives in Victoria, B.C. All journals have edit marks by T. C. Elliott and were published in Washington Historical Quarterly.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

Creator's literary rights not transferred to the University of Washington Libraries.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Acquisition Information

Purchased from C. B. B. in 1919. One of the journals was a gift of E. S. Meany, Jr., August 1937.

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top


Journals Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Journal of John Work
From York Factory to Spokane House, 1823. Between Spokane House and Ft. George, 1824. Athabaska Pass. Spokane House, Fort Flathead. Fort Nez Perce, Fort George. Columbia River. Personnel: Peter Skene Ogden, John Work, Alex Ross, William Kittson, Finan MacDonald, Jas. Birnie, J. McMillan, John McLoughlin, George Simpson, and others.
July 1823-November 1824
Journal of an Expedition of the Hudson's Bay Company northward from Fort George (Astoria) on the Columbia River to the Fraser River
Localities: Astoria; Columbia River; Bakers Bay; Shoalwater or Willapa Harbor; Grays Harbor; Chehalis River; Black River & Lake; Budd Inlet or Eld Inlet; Puget Sound the channels, bays, islands, rivers of Eastern shore; Puget Sound Indian tribes; Boundary Bay; Nikomeckl River; Point Roberts; Fraser River. Personnel: Jas. McMillan; Thomas McKay; T. N. Annamour; John Work; Michael Laframbois; 35 servants composed of French Canadians, Iroquois Indians, Sandwich Islanders, 1 Englishman, 1 American; and 1 Iroquois free-hunter and his slave.
November and December 1824
Copy of Journal of John Work
Work was sent from Fort Vancouver in charge of the Spokane outfit--the entire brigade being in charge of McLeod. The journal covers affairs both among the Spokanes and the Flathead trading posts, and return to Vancouver.
21 June 1825-12 June 1826
Copy of Journal of John Work
Fur trading expedition from Fort Vancouver, up the Walla Walla River, across country via Spokane House to Fort Colville, and from there into the Flathead and Pend d'Oreill country, and back to Fort Colville. Includes the early days at new Fort Colville.
5 July 1826-15 September 1826
Copy of Journal of John Work
Journey from Fort Colville to Fort Okanogan.
20 May 1828-15 August 1828
Copy of Journal of John Work
Fur trading expedition from Fort Vancouver to and through the Snake River country, over the mountains into California, to the vicinity of the Spanish missions.
17 August 1832-2 April 1833
Copy of Journal of John Work
Continuation of record of the expedition from the vicinity of the Spanish missions north to Fort Vancouver via the Willamette Valley.
3 April 1833-31 October 1833
Copy of Journal of John Work
Expedition down the Willamette Valley to the Umpqua River and return.
22 May 1834-10 July 1834
Copy of Journal of John Work
Fur trading expedition from Fort Vancouver to the Northwest Coast, on the Llama
11 December 1834-30 June 1835
Copy of Journal of John Work, in charge at Fort Simpson during its construction
Gives account of the coasting fur trade at Fort Simpson, and the voyage to Vancouver, with stops on the way down at intermediate forts.
July-October 1835

Outgoing Correspondence Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Tolmie, William F.
30 March 1848
Barclay, Archibald
20 February 1850
Tolmie, William F.
24 December 1851
Tolmie, William F.
29 March 1852
Tolmie, William F.
28 August 1854
15 November 1855
2 November 1857
17 July 18[??]
Copies of letters of John Work to Edward Ermatinger
Letters are marked from Fort Colville, Fort Flathead, Fort Vancouver, the Columbia River, Fort Simpson, the Northwest Coast, the Steamer Beaver, Fort Nisqually, and Fort Victoria.
2 January 1828-8 August 1856

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Trading posts--Washington (State)

Personal Names

  • Ermatinger, Edward, 1797-1876--Correspondence
  • Tolmie, William Fraser--Correspondence
  • Work, John, 1792-1861--Diaries

Geographical Names

  • Fort Colvile (Wash. : Trading post)
  • Fort Nisqually (DuPont, Wash.)
  • Fort Nisqually (Tacoma, Wash.)
  • Fort Spokane (Spokane County, Wash.)
  • Fort Vancouver (Wash.)
  • Fort Victoria (B.C.)

Other Creators

  • Corporate Names
    • Hudson's Bay Company (creator)

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Personal Papers/Corporate Records (University of Washington)