VINCENT, THOMAS, fur trader; b. c. 1776; d. 30 March 1832 in England.
Thomas Vincent was said to be of Edmonton (London), England, but he was evidently of a County Durham family, since he had numerous ties with that region. On 5 May 1790 he entered the Hudson’s Bay Company as a writer. His first year of service was spent at Fort Albany (Ont.) and his second at Henley House (near the junction of the Albany and Kenogami rivers) under John Hodgson. Following several more years at Albany, he assumed charge of the post at Martin Falls in the summer of 1797. The next winter he was appointed master of Pointe-au-Foutre House (Man.) at the mouth of the Winnipeg River, a position he held until the summer of 1801. Competition with the North West Company and the New North West Company (sometimes called the XY Company) was lively there. In the fall of 1802 he was sent to re-establish the HBC post at Red Lake (Ont.); he found numerous traders in the area. The most immediate opposition came from Nor’Wester Jacques Adhémar and four men who arrived in September, but during his first year Vincent managed to trade 27 bundles of furs to their 8. The Nor’ Westers burned Vincent’s house following his departure in May 1804, doubtless being glad to see him and his 15 men depart.
After two seasons at Fort Albany and a summer at Martin Falls, Vincent took charge of Brandon House (Man.) for the season of 1806–7, replacing John McKay*. His rival there was Nor’Wester François-Antoine Larocque* He was sent to Fort Albany as second officer for the next two seasons and then spent a year in England, returning in 1810 as chief factor at Albany. When his superior, Thomas Thomas, governor of the Southern Department, was made governor of the Northern Department in 1814 to succeed William Auld, Vincent became governor locum tenens of the Southern Department. One of his first acts in this position was to arrange, in accordance with instructions from London, for George Atkinson to begin to explore systematically the interior of the Eastmain, the eastern coast of James and Hudson bays. Vincent himself explored a route linking Henley House and New Brunswick House (on Brunswick Lake, Ont.), and hence the drainages of the upper Albany and Moose rivers. At Moose Factory in the summer of 1815 Vincent received a formal appointment as governor of the Southern Department. From October 1815 to the summer of 1819, with the exceptions of a stay at Moose Factory between January and September 1816 and a visit to the Eastmain, Vincent made New Brunswick House his base, it being a useful post from which to watch NWC activities. While there, in 1817, he instructed Atkinson to carry out further explorations. Although the London committee censured his personal behaviour during this period, he retained his position owing to a shortage of officers. In 1819 and 1820 his headquarters were at Moose Factory.
At the merger of the HBC and the NWC in 1821, Vincent became a chief factor in the new concern and presided over the council held at Moose Factory that year. From 1822 to 1824 he had the charge of the Moose district; from 1824 until his retirement on 1 June 1826 he directed the trade of the Albany district. He returned to England that autumn.
Between the mid 1790s and 1810, three sons and three daughters were born to Vincent and Jane Renton, a native-born daughter of a company employee. Their eldest son, John, became a clerk in the company in 1816, and was the father of Anglican archdeacon Thomas Vincent. Their eldest daughter, Harriet, married HBC chief trader George Gladman*. According to Harriet Gladman’s account, Jane Renton left Vincent when he took a second wife, Jane, daughter of the late James Sutherland*. Vincent described Jane Sutherland as his wife in his will of 1826. She apparently predeceased him, however, for his final will, dated Hartlepool, County Durham, 24 March 1832, made no reference to her but left legacies to his children and stepchildren and to Jane Renton, who was later described as his widow. Jane Renton lived for many years with George Gladman’s widowed mother at Moose Factory, where James Hargrave* in 1837 described them as “without flattery two of the most respectable Ladies I have met in this land.” She died there in September 1858 at age 76 and was buried as Mrs Jane Vincent. The considerable correspondence regarding Vincent’s estate, legatees, and finances gives a vivid picture of his Hudson Bay ties, and of the varied problems facing mixed-blood offspring – his and others – in the early to mid 1800s.
ACC, Diocese of Moosonee Arch. (Schumacher, Ont.), Moose Factory and its dependencies, reg. of baptisms (mfm. at AO). PAM, HBCA, A.36/14: ff..54–307; B.3/a/112: f.5; B.4/a/2–4; B.86/a/46; B.107/a/1; B.177/a/1, 6, 8. HBRS, 2 (Rich and Fleming); HBRS, 24 (Davies and Johnson); HBRS, 30 (Williams). Letitia [Mactavish] Hargrave, The letters of Letitia Hargrave, ed. Margaret Arnett MacLeod (Toronto, 1947). Morton, Hist. of Canadian west (1939). T. C. B.Boon, “Thomas Vincent, evangelist, builder, and traveller,” Winnipeg Free Press, 15 April 1961: 34. N. J. Williamson, “Historic Bas de la Rivière,” Manitoba Pageant (Winnipeg), 23 (1977), no.1: 8–17.
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