George Taylor

I am very pleased to present a guest post from a fellow Hogue researcher and distant cousin, Maurice Hogue.  I mentioned Maurice here.  He has extensive information about George Taylor, whom I wrote about here.

George Taylor’s roots

Tracking a Taylor in England or Scotland is no picnic. A genealogist dug up this information.

George was listed as age 28 on his fist contract with HBC, signed May 17, 1787, so that would put his birth date as either 1758 or 59. His residence was listed as Berwick (Berwick-Upon-Tweed) in Northumberland, England.

That led the genealogist to search the Berwick records, but nothing turned up so he move to nearby towns and villages. Records from Bamburgh (or Balmbrough probably), a half hour drive south of Berwick on the North Sea Coast showed a baptism of a George Taylor there on Aug. 19, 1759, with the father, George Taylor of “Balmbrough”.

Next step was to check marriage records and what turned up in Berwick was the marriage banns issued between George Taylor of Balmbrough and Margaret Grieve. The marriage took place on June, 21 1757. They were both shown as 30 years of age. The marriage license showed George Taylor’s residence of Fleetham, Bamburgh.

Then things get a bit hazy. The burial of George Taylor of Fleatham was recorded as Nov. 11, 1758. So it would lead one to conclude that if he was baptised in August 1759, and taking the usual nine-months pregnancy period, it seems unlikely he was baptised as a new born. The most likely scenario would be that he was born in 1758 before his father died. Perhaps that date of baptism marked his first birthday.

And an aside re Berwick-Upon-Tweed: it lies on the Tweed River, the boundary between England and Scotland. It was once neither part of England or Scotland. It often had to be mentioned specifically in various Acts of Parliament right until the 1740s. There’s also speculation that it was not specifically noted on the treaty document to end the Crimean War with Russia in 1854-56, so was technically still at war with Russia.

George Taylor would seem to be English, but a wee bit of brogue might have been understandable. Whatever, he definitely was not part of the Orkney Taylors who came here. The Taylor name seems well-entrenched in the area of Bamburgh, which by all accounts, is a beautiful seaside village.

A Sea-going man
An episode in George Taylor’s seagoing life was particularly interesting, noted in HBC records as the Brig Beaver, Voyage of Discovery 1791-92. George was the ship’s master and as such kept the Beaver’s log. The detail in this document is fascinating.

The captain was one Charles Duncan. The Beaver arrived late in the sailing “year”, encountering early ice in Hudson Strait, and as such were unable to proceed to Rankin Inlet until August, and not allowing any exploration. Why were they going to Rankin Inlet? The esteemed Captain Duncan believed that north of Rankin and westward from there, was the entrance to the fabled and long-sought northwest passage. He had read this in a journal kept by someone named William Norton and became convinced that was the route.

Because they were late, they only explored Marble Island, and because it was so late (ships normally sailed back to England in late June), they sailed back to Churchill and wintered there. In July of 1792 they headed back to the area.

They sailed into the Chesterfield River (Chesterfield Inlet) about ten miles, then Duncan decided to leave the brig there and he and George and four crew took the long boat up the river. Eight days later (August 12) they were in Baker Lake but could not find deep water that would accommodate a larger ship. Plus there was still ice. No passage there.

They rowed back to the Beaver and returned to Churchill on August 30th. A few days later, Captain Duncan returned to the ship, “a little indisposed” according to George. They set sail for England (really quite late in the season) accompanied by another brig, the Nimble.

Soon Duncan became somewhat delirious, then he gave command of the ship to George, and attempted suicide. Officers from the Nimble came on board. “The Capt. appears to be insane”, wrote George. Duncan wanted a razor. George refused to give him one and then put him under watch. Soon he had to resort to putting Duncan in irons, as he was now raving about the devil.

George was concerned about keeping his captain under restraints, the typical way of dealing with the insane back then. Another suicide attempt followed that. Remember too that George was also trying to keep the ship on course, and it appears, a crew that was disturbed by all of this.

George seemed to be a compassionate man; he did not like using restraints on Duncan and even writes that if it was against the law to keep a man from killing himself “I’d rather be an Indian or an Esquamault”.

On September 28, the Nimble left the Beaver behind, around Cape Resolution at the entrance to Hudson Straits. About a week later, the Sea Horse came into the picture, and Duncan was transferred to that ship, leaving George to sail the Beaver back to England, arriving in London October 22.

I was unable to find anything further regarding Captain Duncan. We are left to presume his frustration and disappointment at not finding the magic “passage” contributed to his condition. George Taylor was up to the task. Obviously a competent sailor – who knows how much sailing he had done before he joined HBC – and a man with a heart. And a love for the Beaver as well. It returned to Severn district and York Factory in 1793, reconverted to a single-masted sloop, and became George Taylor’s baby for several years.


Comings and Goings

Jane, the woman with whom George created nine children, was apparently the daughter of a chief. She was Cree, and most likely Swampy Cree, or Lowland or Homeguard Cree. George appears to have learned the way of the land, and I found a reference somewhere that he was considered a fine hunter. When at York Factory, it appears that he lived along Ten Shilling Creek which is south of the Hayes River and sort of parallels the Hayes, joining where all those islands are located at the mouth of the Hayes.

It should also be stated that George spent much of his time here in Fort Severn as well. It is now Severn, Ontario. It was an extremely destitute and hard-luck location for HBC and the residents there. In looking through those logs I found mention of the death of John Taylor, son of George Taylor, September 5, 1809. George was not there at the time as he was off on one of his trips with the Beaver. That was the first reference I had ever seen to a son named John, so though I was a little sad that someone had died, I was also pretty excited to find that information. Sometimes you do find nuggets if you look hard enough.

The reference to the Britannia is another of great George’s sailing adventures. I think he had at last decided to leave his family at York Factory when he sailed away in September of 1815 on the Prince of Wales. He was listed as a passenger, arriving in Yarmouth in November. I searched other journals and ships logs for the ensuing years but found no record of him returning until…

The Britannia episode

With great avariciousness, the HBC decided to commission a ship designed to carry only one commodity: furs. They dispatched the Britannia to York Factory in 1817. The ship’s pilot was none other than George Taylor, a man who knew much about the area and the movement of goods. At that point he was almost 60 years of age, pretty old by working standards then.
Unfortunately, George could not steer the Britannia clear of bad weather. The ship left York Factory for England on October 1, 1817 in the midst of an early storm. Gale winds and early ice prevented any headway, and on the 19th they changed course to Churchill, but without success. The ship was in trouble. Then they tried to head to the Charlton Islands (in James Bay, talk about optimism). But ice stopped their progress, and in danger of sinking or breaking up, turned to the west to make it to shore. This proved unsuccessful as well and the ship and its valuable cargo ran aground on ice on November 12, .75 of a mile off shore at a point somewhere between York and Fort Severn, likely close to the small East and West Pen Islands.

George Taylor would certainly have great knowledge of that area. How many times had he sailed the Beaver from Severn to York Factory? The crew left the ship and trudged inland to make a camp, a prospect that was not too promising, given the weather. Some men were sent to Severn for supplies and tents, others trekked to York Factory. Then ensued a few months of scurvy, ill health and near-starvation for Captain John Edman and his crew.

Edman was considered a hero by the HBC brass at York Factory. They continued to send him communications with survival tips and instructions by runners from York and on one of those communications one of the signees was George Taylor (and his signature is the same as on his contract or journals.) There was no mention of George Taylor being at that camp.

Unfortunately Edman turned from hero to near-criminal. At some point in April, he was advised to send his crews to remove the furs from the Britannia which was doomed to destruction when the ice began to break up. Two weeks after the first attempt at bringing out furs, the next crew found the ship (and mostly all of its valuable cargo) totally destroyed by fire, attributed to some fire lanterns that had been left on. You might wonder if someone not exactly keen on walking five or some miles on ice with a load of fur pelts, might have decided to tip one of those lanterns deliberately.

Thus it was that Captain Edman returned in September 18, 1818 on the Prince of Wales to England. George Taylor was also listed in the passenger list and when he reached London a month later, he must have said “enough”.


The mystery continues

So where did he go? When and where did he die? I had little luck in determining anything official. In one of the HBC documents I found a reference to the baptism of Anne Taylor Cox, in February 1838, daughter of Captain Taylor deceased. Aha. But then who was Anne? Was this perhaps Nancy, George’s daughter, who married John Cox, and had to get baptised for the marriage? That would make sense, more so than assuming this was a daughter of George Taylor Jr. who, at that time, was very much alive.

(Any such news of George’s passing would have been received at the earliest, on the yearly ship from England in 1837.)

Also, George Jr. requested that he be granted passage for Europe in a letter to the chief factor at York dated August 5, 1833. Why? Had he received word that his father was ill, deceased? I found no reply from the Chief Factor, nor could I find George Jr listed as a passenger on any ship leaving that year or the next.

Then in another reference to Fur Trade Servants (Discharged or Deceased) Ledger I found reference to a George Taylor “A”, Sept 3 1839 payment paid to him, but the note below was indecipherable. Then a payment to George Taylor “B”, for travel expenses, which I would think was a payment to George Jr. So perhaps that first payment was to George Sr’s estate?

The reference to Robert, the son in England, is the last mystery. All of George Sr.’s sons seem to have had some schooling in England or Scotland, except likely the deceased John. I saw some place a comment that Robert was working on a “coaler” out of Newcastle. That’s in Northumberland. So is Bamburgh. So is Berwick. It would seem logical that George would have returned to the area where he grew up. His son was there. Perhaps that genealogist in Berwick should have been checking deaths in the 1830’s for our George Taylor, but we didn’t have the little snippets of information that we do now.

What an adventurous life!  I have not read George Taylor’s logs at the Hudson Bay Archives, but must put that on my “to do” list.

Thanks to Maurice for this informative post.  For some interesting reading about Berwick-upon-Tweed, look here.