A letter written by Hudson’s Bay Company trader John Fredrick Kennedy in August of 1854 sold at an auction by All Nations Coins and Stamps on February 21 in Vancouver for $3,850. An interesting historical artifact from a time before modern postal service, the letter was sold to a private collector in B.C.
Kennedy wrote the letter to his daughter Mary while onboard a ship at Prince Fredrick’s Sound. All Nations Coins and Stamps transcribed the full letter and you can read it thanks to this CBC Article.
The biography of John Kennedy is an interesting case study for a typical HBC employee working for the Company during the 19th century.
John was born at HBC’s post, Cumberland House in 1805. His father was Alexander Kennedy, a Scot from the Orkney, who came over to work for HBC in 1798, and his mother was Cree woman, Aggathas (Mary) Bear. During his furlough, Alexander Kennedy took John and his other sons back to Edinburgh and John stayed and obtained his medical degree. John signed on with HBC in 1829 to be a surgeon on the ship Isabella in the Columbia District (British Columbia) and had many positions over the years, including Chief Trader at Fort Simpson (today Lax Kw’alaams). John married Fanny Legaic, daughter of Tsimshian chief Paul Legaic and had a number of children including Mary – the recipient of the 1854 letter. He retired in Victoria, B.C. and died in 1859.