Scott from Santa Cruz, California asks:

In 1854, my great great grandfather, then a collier in Staffordshire, England, signed an "indenture and contract of service" with the Hudson's Bay Company to work as a coal miner in what was then Colvile, B.C. How did the Hudson's Bay Company get involved in coal mining? Was this in response to possible encroachment by U.S. citizens as in the case of the Frazier River gold rush?

Bob Bothwell responds:

Your great great grandfather worked in a coal field at Colvile, which is now part of Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island. The HBC bought 6,200 acres (from the government) at that time and worked them, as you say, by miners on a five year indenture. The standard rate was 17 pounds per year. My information doesn't extend to exactly why the company got into the business, but it was standard practice for the HBC to import labor from the old country. The Staffordshire miners arrived on the ship ContinuePrincess Royal in November 1854.


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