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The Story of Charles Thomas
Charles Thomas was an important figure along the Bonnechere River. His life spanned 80 years, partly spent in the north and partly at Golden Lake. After he left the Hudson Bay Company, he started his own stopping place which he called Charlie’s Hope. Maps of the Golden Lake area show that the point at the end of the McMillan Road bears the name “Thomas Point”
He was born Sept. 9, 1793 and died Mar. 14, 1873. To several of his children, he left farms or properties along the Bonnechere River. Many of his descendants still live in the area, especially in North Algona Wilberforce Township. His diary is a valuable resource for information on the lives of people travelling along the Bonnechere in the 1850’s. He records the weather, the traffic on the river, the various visitors and lumbermen who stayed at his stopping place, the seasons, celebrations, family events, hunting and fishing tasks, and business trips.
As background, it is worth noting that he was a Factor or agent at Hudson Bay Post Golden Lake in 1832, although his training took place during the years that his father, John Thomas, was Chief Ffactor at Moose Factory, James Bay.
Charles was the son of John Thomas who emigrated in 1769 from London, Middlesex, England or Wales to Moose Factory, Rupert’s Land, James Bay. John worked with HBC until 1813. He left the HBC in 1814.
On November 2, 1815, John Thomas addressed a letter to the Governor and the Committee of the HBC from Vaudreuil, Lower Canada, requesting to be allowed to return to Moose Fort, but he was advised from a meeting held on March 6, 1816 "that his sons may be taken into the Service at Moose Fort but that he himself cannot be allowed to return thither, but if he wishes to settle in Hudson's Bay the Committee will assign him Lands in the Red River Settlement." John did not appear to take advantage of this proposal. He died in Vaudreuil in 1822.
Charles Thomas was baptised and educated in England before returning to Moose Factory. He returned from England by 1808 when he entered the HBC service.
From 1811-1814, he worked as a clerk at Moose Factory and as writer and assistant trader at New Brunswick House. About 1813, he married Hannah Mannall, daughter of "Chief Trader", John Mannall.
He retired for the first time from the HBC on June 22 , 1814 and left for Vaudreuil, near Montreal with most of his extended family.
Charles re-entered the service in 1815, serving in the Athabasca until 1817, and at Cumberland House, 1817-1818.
He was at St. Mary's, Peace River District 1818-1819, in Athabasca, 1819 -1820, and at Fort St. Mary's, Peace River District 1820-1821
Charles Thomas is highly praised by Company leaders, as recorded in letters by George Simpson, an active leader for the Company in North America and one who replaced Colin Robertson in Athabaska.
Charles Thomas retired from the HBC the second time, in 1822, when he returned to Vaudreuil on the death of his father. He was referred to as a good Clerk and Trader.
Stationed 1830 to 1832 at Lake of Two Mountains in the Montreal department
He went to Golden Lake in 1832 as a Certified Agent of the Hudson Bay Company.
After the expiration of his contract with the Hudson Bay Company, Charles became a “Free Agent” remaining at Golden Lake and opening a stopping place which he called “Charlie’s Hope”.
Obituary in the Renfrew Mercury Friday Mar 14, 1873:
"At Golden Lake, on Saturday, the 8th quite unexpectedly, at the advanced age of 80 years, Mr. Charles Thomas. He had resided at Golden Lake for a number of years, and was one of the oldest pioneers on the Bonnechere River. His father was formerly Governor of one of the Hudson Bay Company's Posts; and Mr. Thomas being possessed of a good education, held different trusts under him.
In all his dealings with the public, he earned the respect and esteem of all. He was upright and independent, honest and honorable generous and a fast friend. For his years he was a hale hearty man, and in the best of spirits; and his sudden decease has cast a gloom upon the village of Eganville, where he was better known. He was a gentleman of most kind and pleasing manners much respected in his walk of life.
For the past thirty years he kept an accurate Diary, and was preparing it for publication. It contains thrilling excitements and perilous adventures in the Northwest, and pleasing reminiscences that took place on the different chains of lakes on the Bonnechere, Madawaska &c
Experts from the diary of Charles Thomas
Sept. 30, 1850
1851 March 17, St. Patrick’s Day