CLARK, GEORGE, HBC carpenter; d. 17 Sept. 1759 at Henley House (at the junction of the Kenogami and Albany rivers).
George Clark’s first service with the Hudson’s Bay Company was from 1746 to 1748 as a carpenter and joiner at York Fort (York Factory, Man.). He returned to England in 1748 but was rehired on a five-year contract. He sailed in 1749 on board the Success sloop (Capt. Thomas Mitchell), which in company with the Mary (Capt. William Coats) made a reconnaissance of Richmond Gulf (Lac Guillaume-Delisle, Que.) to decide on a site for a new post. On arriving at Albany (Fort Albany, Ont.), Mitchell reported that the trees at Richmond were too small for use in building, and Clark spent the winter at Albany cutting timbers, fitting them together, and marking them for reassembly at Richmond. On 20 June 1750 he sailed with Mitchell for Richmond Gulf, but part of the wood had to be left behind because Robert Pilgrim, chief at Moose Factory, refused to allow the sloop attached to his post to take part in the expedition. Clark was chiefly responsible for the construction of Richmond Fort, which consisted of a square house built of the timber from Albany and four flankers made from the stunted local trees. In 1753 and 1754 he also constructed a small outpost at Little Whale River.
Clark went to England in 1754. Returning to Albany in 1755 he found it upset because the master and men at its outpost, Henley House, had been killed by Wappisis and some other Indians. In the spring of 1757 Robert Temple, chief at Albany, tried to mount an expedition under the leadership of George Rushworth to resettle Henley, but he could not persuade the men to go. They were afraid of being killed, provisions were poor and wages small, and Rushworth’s fiery braggadocio alarmed them. In 1758 Temple asked Clark to be master at Henley. Clark agreed, and it is a measure of the respect he commanded that there was little difficulty obtaining volunteers.
The party arrived at Henley on 1 June 1759 and decided to rebuild the post on the previous site. Clark erected a two-storey, square house and repaired the palisades, most of which were still standing. On 23 August he sent four men to Albany to assist in bringing up stores and provisions for the winter. It was an unfortunate decision, for only four men were left at Henley. Early in the morning of 17 September Clark and John Spence walked toward the bank’s edge, where some 20 men, probably French and Indians, lay in ambush. Clark was killed by the first volley of fire, but Spence, though wounded, managed to gain the house. The attackers kept up a steady fire until night, but Spence, John Cromartie, and James Inkster put up a stout defence and wounded several of them. Shortly after midnight the three defenders lowered themselves from a window and set out to walk to Albany. Spence was left at Fishing Creek in the care of some Indians, and his companions walked on until they met the boats on the way to Henley. Two Indians were sent to fetch Clark’s body, which had been scalped. He was buried at Albany on 6 Oct. 1759.
The company found its men most reluctant to resettle Henley. In 1766 the post was finally reestablished by William Richards at a somewhat safer location a few miles downstream from its original site.
HBC Arch. A.1/38, p.78; A.5/1, f.34d; A.6/8, ff. 10, 20, 134d; A.6/9, ff.5, 124d; A.6/10, f.13d; A.11/2, f.181; A.11/3, ff.24d, 28, 32, 33, 35d, 41, 43d, 51–51d; A.11/57, ff.7, 19d, 26d; A.11/114, ff.122d, 127, 128d. Morton, History of the Canadian west.