FULLARTINE, JOHN (the name is sometimes written Fullertine or Fullerton, but he signed Fullartine), succeeded James Knight as governor and chief commander for the HBC in James Bay; b. c. 1652; d. October 1738 in London.
When John Fullartine of Edinburgh joined the HBC in 1683 he was described as a “tradesman,” but no mention of the craft in which he served his apprenticeship has so far been found. He can claim to be among the first Scotsmen employed by the company and his engagement was probably one result of Governor John Nixon*’s recommendation that men from over the border should be recruited because they came from “a hard country to live in,” and would not only accept lower wages, but be “better content with their dyet then Englishmen.”
Fullartine sailed to James Bay in the Diligence (Capt. Nehemiah Walker*) and gained his initial experience in the fur trade at the post on Rupert River. When the company issued instructions to Henry Sergeant*, governor of the James Bay posts, to obtain isinglass from Eastmain River Fullartine was named as one of the men to be sent there. The project was not carried out, however, so presumably Fullartine remained at Rupert River where he was in September 1685, when Hugh Verner*, chief factor, received warning from Zacharie Jolliet of a threatened French attack on the company’s posts. As soon as winter travel became possible Fullartine was sent to Albany Fort to warn Sergeant and to get advice. Fullartine was there on 16 July 1686 (o.s.) when the threat became a reality and Governor Sergeant surrendered to Pierre de Troyes*. Fullartine was one of the prisoners who, on release, sailed northwards in the overcrowded Colleton to spend the winter of 1686–87 either at York Fort or New Severn; he returned to England the following autumn.
The capture of Albany and the other James Bay posts took place while England and France were at peace. In 1688 the truce existing between the two crowns caused the HBC to limit the first objective of the expedition, which it sent to Albany River under Captain John Marsh*, to re-establishing trade. Marsh was instructed to avoid conflict with the French who, under Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville, were at Albany Fort (renamed Sainte-Anne). Fullartine was a member of this abortive expedition and by the second week of March 1689 he and his surviving companions were prisoners of the French. Later in the season he was one of the selected number sent overland to New France. As England and France were then at war, he was kept for two years in “miserable Servitude” before being sent to France and imprisoned at La Rochelle. His wife was among those who petitioned Queen Mary for help in getting their husbands freed. Release came about the spring of 1692, and he returned to London.
Fullartine entered into a new contract with the HBC and sailed from the Thames in the Royal Hudson’s Bay (Capt. Michael Grimington) in June 1692. The expedition, supported by the Pery (Capt. Charles Cotesworth) and the Prosperous (Capt. Henry Baley), proposed to recapture Albany Fort from the French. James Knight was in command and before sailing he was requested by the committee “to have some Regard” for its old servant John Fullartine. After calling at York Fort the ships sailed to Gilpin Island off the East Main and Fullartine was one of the 127 men who wintered there, 1692–93, “under the government of Captain James Knight.” Albany Fort was taken on 22 June 1693 without difficulty, though resistance was put up by the few Frenchmen left there. Fullartine was commended by the committee for having been “soe forward in the Performance” of his duty. It appears that in the season 1693–94 Fullartine traded for the company (and himself) on Gilpin Island, earning thereby the committee’s thanks and a reminder that private trade was against standing orders.
When Knight sent his deputy, Stephen Sinclair, back to England in 1694, he appointed Fullartine to the vacancy and the choice met with approval in London. In 1697, when Knight determined to delay no longer in returning to England, he left Fullartine in command. Undoubtedly Fullartine looked forward with reasonable confidence to the company’s confirming his position and appointing him governor, but events were even then occurring in Hudson Bay to cause him future disappointment. The French, having diverted their aggressive efforts from James Bay to the more coveted Port Nelson area, had for the second time in four years captured York Fort (renamed Fort Bourbon). Fullartine should have received supplies and news from England in 1697 by the Dering [III] (Capt. Michael Grimington), but this vessel “hardly Escaping” on 26 August during the battle off Hayes River which preceded the surrender of York Fort to Iberville, returned directly to England. Fullartine, with his ‘Tew hands,” was thus left without replenishments of supplies and trading goods, and also without news. How soon he learned about the company’s losses is not known, but he possibly heard reports of the surrender of York Fort from Indians during the following winter. He certainly learned about the company’s changed fortunes when the supply-ships arrived from England in the summer of 1698; his own expectation of being appointed governor was disappointed. It was expected that Albany Fort would be exchanged with the French for York Fort under articles 7 and 8 of the treaty of Ryswick; with this transaction in mind, the company had prevailed upon Knight to return to Albany as its chief representative. The commissioners did not agree about the disposal of York Fort, however, with the result that the treaty of Ryswick never operated in Hudson Bay, and Albany Fort remained in the company’s possession. It was to be the only English fort in the bay until 1714 when the company’s rights in Hudson Bay were restored to it under the treaty of Utrecht (1713).
Fullartine served as deputy governor until Knight returned to London in 1700, and then acted as governor during the 1700–1 season. On the arrival of the supply-ship in 1701 he received the company’s commission constituting him governor and chief commander of Albany, Moose, and Rupert Rivers, and of all the territories within Hudson Strait and Bay as well as upon the East and West Main. Anthony Beale was appointed his deputy. Fullartine’s commission, unlike Knight’s, was unsupported by one from the crown because the company had been advised by counsel that its own commission was sufficient by virtue of the charter of 2 May 1670. But in 1702, when England had entered the War of the Spanish Succession, the company thought it necessary “in order to the better Defence” of Albany to obtain and send to Fullartine a commission from Queen Anne. This constituted him governor and chief commander of the places named in the company’s commission, and of any “since new Erected, Settled, discovered or Recovered & which formerly have been or of Right doe belong to us & are or were Granted by the Charter’ to the HBC.
Fullartine’s letter of 2 Aug. 1703 acknowledging the commission is the first of any written from Albany Fort to survive in the HBC archives. It reviews in an outspoken manner the problems and difficulties at Albany when war in Europe was increasing the costs of supplies and limiting the sales of furs. Fullartine remarks that if the trade was not profitable enough to defray the cost of sending a ship annually from London, “it will soon not be worth the keeping” because repeated disappointments make “all men sick” of the country. His complement, after the ship sailed for England in 1703, was 35 men and boys.
Fullartine had asked to return to England “the next year” as he was intermittently “sadly tortured with the gravel and stone,” but he was obliged to wait until 1705 for the appearance of the next ship. Acting on Fullartine’s recommendation the committee had appointed Anthony Beale his successor. On 13 September, when the business for 1704–5 was finished, Fullartine called the men together and read the new governor’s commission. He then went aboard the Hudson’s Bay [II] expecting to return to England, but Captain Michael Grimington was ill and his ship could not be got out of Albany River. It is not known whether Fullartine reported in writing to the committee on the argument that developed between himself and Beale; only Beale’s version of events has survived. According to this the Albany council members, including Fullartine, met and agreed that the vessel should winter at Gilpin Island off the East Main where he, Fullartine, would trade on behalf of the company. But a little later Fullartine suddenly “Grew very Angrey and Assumed the Government,” and threatened “to tie Neck and Heels” any who hindered him. Beale, knowing him “to be given to passion,” refused to yield, and Fullartine gave way. There were no more disagreements, but talebearing by “some knaves” caused Fullartine to resolve not to re-enter Albany Fort; on his return from Gilpin Island in the summer of 1706 he “made his Lodging in a Tent” until he boarded the ship for England.
On 21 Oct. 1706 Fullartine was welcomed to London by the committee and when outstanding salaries were settled early in the next year he, not Beale, was allowed the governor’s remuneration for the season 1705–6. The committee’s support of Fullartine presumably rested on the royal commission of 1702 which had not been cancelled.
Fullartine was engaged by the company early in March 1708 to go again to Albany Fort as Beale had asked to return home. In its instructions issued to Fullartine just before he sailed the following May, the committee remarked that he was appointed governor and chief commander “bejond the Seas” according to the company’s commission, which was “dignifyed and Confirmed” by the queen’s commission. He was ordered to try to settle a post at Moose River if he found that the French had taken Albany; but all was well and he settled down to what was to be his last period of service overseas. Because the company did not send a ship to Albany in 1709 and because the Hudson’s Bay [II] (Capt. Joseph Davis) which it sent in 1710 could not return to England until 1711, the committee received no news direct from Fullartine between the autumns of 1708 and 1711 when he himself returned. But news had been received from an unexpected source late in April or early in May 1710. Four Mohawk chiefs from New England, who had come to London to petition Queen Anne for aid against the French, accepted an invitation to “take A Colation” with the governor and committee at Hudson’s Bay House. It was at this party that one of the guests informed his hosts that there had been an unsuccessful French attack on Albany Fort. He had knowledge of it because he had been in Canada when the French party had returned. The information given by this Mohawk chief, together with that contained in Fullartine’s no longer extant report (from which the committee apparently quoted to inspire Joseph Isbister* at Albany Fort during the War of the Austrian Succession), and that conveyed in the scattered references to the affair found in correspondence and accounts, reveals that the attack took place on or about 26 June 1709. Fullartine, it appears, was warned of the approach of the French by a friendly Indian, Jack Tuckey. The attackers numbered about 100 (including 30 Indians) and in the fight lost their 2 leaders and 16 men. The company’s only casualties were James Fidler and Oliver Stricklar; these two men, who were absent from the fort at the time of the attack, were ambushed and killed on their way back.
Fullartine was welcomed home by the committee on 2 Oct. 1711. By the time the general court was held on 27 November following, he had acquired enough HBC stock to allow for his election to the committee. His first-hand knowledge and experience of the fur trade and of life in Rupert’s Land were undoubtedly invaluable to his fellow members who never had ventured through Hudson Strait. Fullartine was a conscientious HBC committee member for many years until his death, in October 1738, at Newington Green, Middlesex.
John Fullartine was one of the first employees of the HBC who not only rose from one of the lower ranks in the company’s service to that of governor overseas, but also served on the London committee. He was employed in the bay at a time when the company’s affairs were threatened by French aggression, and his loyalty and courage were recognized. He had the ability to gain the respect of Indians as well as of the men under his command; and he successfully managed the company’s trade. His progress from the status of tradesman to that of governor overseas was slow but steady, and the pattern of his promotion at the bayside set a precedent which was followed on many occasions in the 18th century. Fullartine’s attendance at the weekly meetings of the London committee was regular, but as only decisions were recorded in the minutes it is not known how much influence, if any, he had on company policy. During his lifetime Fullartine became a legend. The story of his defence of Albany became garbled with the passing years (Samuel Hearne*’s version is evidence of this) and then forgotten. All surviving information about this incident in the HBC’s records has now been examined and once again Fullartine’s part in maintaining the company’s rights in Hudson Bay is recognized.
[Fullartine’s only surviving letter is printed in HBRS, XXV (Davies and Johnson), which also lists the pertinent sources in the HBC archives. For back-ground information on the company’s trade and financial position during Fullartine’s career, see HBRS, XXI (Rich.) His death is mentioned in The Historical Register (London), XXIII (1738), 40, and his will, dated 17 March 1736 (proved 20 Oct. 1738) is in Somerset House, P.C.C., Brodrepp, f.232. a.m.j.]