First White Woman at Nootka Sound?

Friendly Cove, Nootka Sound. Volume I, plate V...
Friendly Cove, Nootka Sound. Volume I, plate VII from: “A Voyage of Discovery to the North Pacific Ocean and Round the World” by George Vancouver. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was probably on July 7, 1787, that the first white woman arrived in what is now British Columbia.  She was the seventeen year old bride of Captain Charles Barkley of the 400-ton Imperial Eagle, a British ship operating under an Austrian flag.

Dutch merchants had cornered the East Indies pepper market and doubled its price.  British traders struck back by securing a charter awarding them exclusive rights in the East Indies and equipping a number of ships to carry the trade.  Charles Barkley was given command of a fine ship called Loudon, well-armed with a disciplined crew.  Owing to complications in international trade, the Loudon was taken to Ostend, Belgium, given Austrian registry and renamed Imperial Eagle.  All this took about two months, during which time Barkley met Frances Hornby Trevor.  They were married in October 1786, and the Imperial Eagle spread her white sails for a voyage around Cape Horn to Nootka, Vancouver Island — quite a honeymoon trip!

Early in July, Barkley entered the strait between Vancouver Island and the mainland and named it Juan de Fuca after an early explorer.  After arriving at Nootka, the ship anchored in Friendly cove near the village of Chief Maquinna.  The Indians, who had never seen a white woman before, were amazed by Frances.

There was also a surprise.  A small boat came out from shore and a most disreputable looking white man came on board.  He was filthy and wearing otter skins for clothes.  It turned out that he was Dr. John Mackay, who had been left there the previous year by an expedition led by James Strange.  Mackay had spent the winter with the Indians, studying their habits and their health.  He had also planted some garden seeds and grain to see how they would grow.  Mackay has the distinction of being the first farmer and doctor on the Pacific coast.  He had learned a great deal from the Indians.  His garden had grown, but the Indians had stolen his clothes and implements.  Mackay was greatly relieved to rejoin some fellow countrymen!  Mackay turned out to be a great help to Barkley because he had learned to speak the Indian language.  Together, they practically cornered the fur market for a time!

To read more about today’s post, I should send you to Wikipedia, and then to Lady Rose Marine Service.


  1. I wonder if the Indians utilized the tools that were stolen to build their own farm. It must have been a trip of a life time for Frances. Did she stay in BC until her golden years?


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