BEVAN (Beevin, Beven), WILLIAM, HBC sloop-master; chief at Moose Fort; fl. 1723–37.
William Bevan, who was described as a “diligent, careful” man, sailed from London to Albany Fort in 1723 as mate of the Beaver sloop. Four years later he succeeded George Gunn as master. Bevan, like Gunn, was “deficient in the language,” but because no better man was available, he also took over as trader at the vessel’s winter base on the Eastmain River.
In anticipation of the building of a new post near the mouth of Moose River, Bevan and Joseph Adams were sent there from Albany Fort in 1728 to take soundings. They began their journey of about 100 miles along the flat coast of James Bay, but their boat soon became leaky, and they were obliged to continue by canoe. The exchange of craft undoubtedly gave Bevan some experience of the dangers faced by Indians who could travel from Moose River to Albany Fort only during the short summer season [see Scatchamisse]. Then, as now, the few suitable landing places were unapproachable except at high tide; furthermore, there were no migrating geese to satisfy the hungry, wind-bound traveller. While in Moose River Bevan and Adams discovered the site of the post which Pierre de Troyes* had captured from the HBC in 1686.
In 1732, two years after Moose Fort was established, Bevan was made “Chief Factor and Commander” there. Like his predecessors, John Jewer and Thomas Render, Bevan found the men at Moose Fort given to “Mutiny and Sottishness,” and he apparently had little control over them. This state of affairs, together with Bevan’s own laxity – he accepted without close investigation a bad-tempered cook’s explanation that the “prodigious Smoak” in the kitchen was caused by “the steem of the dishwater on the hot Bricks” – led to the destruction by fire of Moose Fort in the space of two hours on the night of 26 Dec. 1735. An Indian girl lost her life and three HBC men died afterwards from exposure and hunger. After collecting the scattered remains of property and food, and making temporary shelter, Bevan set the men to work rebuilding Moose Fort.
Bevan, whose contract had been renewed by the HBC in 1736 before news of the fire reached London, was recalled to England in 1737 and was succeeded at Moose by Richard Staunton*.