A handwritten journal that is the earliest known account of British Columbia by an English woman is coming to UBC.
UBC Rare Books and Special Collections has acquired a journal kept by Susannah Weynton (née Hack, 1821-1901), the wife of the master of the Hudson’s Bay Company supply ship Cowlitz, Captain Alexander John Weynton. It is believed to be the only firsthand journal written by a woman of a maritime fur trade voyage and the earliest original account of B.C. by a woman in existence.
“This journal is a gift to all Canadians,” said Jean Barman, an expert on B.C. history and professor emeritus in UBC’s department of educational studies. “Weynton’s pithy descriptions of Vancouver Island and Fort Langley in 1850, the earliest known to survive by an English woman, remind us of our long history of many peoples coming together in diverse ways.”
Weynton’s handwritten journal documents her outward and return voyages from London to the Pacific Northwest via Cape Horn and Hawaii between Aug. 4, 1849 and March 22, 1851.
While the journal includes an account of the Juan Fernandez Islands and a detailed record of her lengthy stay in Hawaii, it is Weynton’s four months spent on Vancouver Island at Fort Victoria and Fort Rupert and on the mainland at Fort Langley between March and July 1850 that will be of most interest to British Columbians.
She describes the fort, newly installed Chief Factor James Douglas and family, Governor Blanshard, as well as her observations about the Indigenous peoples she encounters, agriculture and the natural beauties of the area.
The journal was purchased for $88,000 with the support of several donors, including the Department of Canadian Heritage through the Movable Cultural Property grant program, the Victoria Historical Society, the Sue and Keith Mew Family Foundation, Dr. Wallace B. Chung and Professor Barry Gough.
“This journal is a window into another time in B.C., providing another tool for teachers, students and the community to learn about the rich history of this province,” said Katherine Kalsbeek, head of Rare Books and Special Collections. “We are thankful for the amazing support we received to bring this journal to the UBC Library.”
A digitized version of the journal is available for viewing in UBC Library’s Open Collections. The public can also view the journal in person by booking a tour of UBC Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections.