GRIMINGTON, MICHAEL, sometimes written Gryminton or Grymington, HBC captain; d. 15 June 1710 at Harwich, Essex, England.
Nothing is known about Michael Grimington’s origin or his life before he became a seaman in the HBC’s new 40-ton frigate Albemarle (Capt. Thomas Draper*) in 1680, but the possibility of his having made earlier voyages to Hudson Bay should not be ruled out. The Albemarle’s destination was Charlton Island in James Bay, but Draper was ordered to call en route at Severn River and, if he found it suitable for settlement, to remain there and establish a trading post. How far these orders were followed is doubtful, but no settlement was made, so Grimington spent the winter of 1680–81 in James Bay and, the following autumn, returned to London in the Albemarle.
Grimington was employed in James Bay during the season 1682–83, going out in the Lucy (Capt. Nicholas Reymer) and returning in the Diligence (Capt. Nehemiah Walker*). The committee must have heard exceptionally good reports of Grimington’s ability, because it took the unusual course, not long after his arrival in London, of securing his agreement to go back to the bay in 1684 and to serve there for three years. Confirmation of the committee members’ good opinion is evident not only in a much more remunerative contract made longer in advance than customary, but also in remarks to Governor Henry Sergeant* in their letter of 1684 when they referred to Grimington’s particular knowledge of the navigation at the mouths of Albany and Moose Rivers.
After taking an “Oath of fidelity to the Company” Grimington sailed as second mate in the chartered ship John and Thomas (Capt. Leonard Edgcombe*) for James Bay where he was to command “the Yatch,” one of the three small vessels stationed there and used for lightering as well as local exploration. The reference to the yacht suggests the Colleton, but it is not certain that Grimington was given command of that particular vessel on arrival in James Bay.
In the spring of 1685 the committee members decided that Thomas Phipps*, chief warehouse-keeper in James Bay, should be governor in the Port Nelson area instead of John Abraham*. They accordingly sent instructions to Sergeant to provide a passage for Phipps in the first available coastal vessel, which was to be commanded by that “skillfull Coaster,” Michael Grimington. The Hayes sloop made the passage northwards before the end of navigation in 1685 and Grimington wintered at York Fort where he was to be stationed for the future. His ability as a coaster was put to the test in the following summer when he sailed the Hayes through driving ice from Port Nelson to the mouth of Churchill River. There, during the explorations made by Grimington and his companions (John Abraham, Francis Hildsley, Martin Johnson, John Warner and Benjamin Wallis) relics of Jens Munk*’s 1619–20 expedition were found.
When the supply-ship from London reached York Fort later that summer (1686) it was learned that the vessel bound for the James Bay posts, the Happy Return (Capt. William Bond*), had been lost in Hudson Strait, so Governor George Geyer* sent Grimington in the Hayes with a cargo of supplier for the relief of their southern colleagues. It was then not known at York Fort that, although the English and French were not at war, the HBC posts on Moose, Rupert, and Albany Rivers had been captured by Pierre de Troyes* and all the inmates taken prisoner. Somewhere on the passage southwards Grimington must have unknowingly passed the Colleton in which the majority of those who had been released were going to York Fort. How soon he learned that the James Bay posts were occupied by the French under Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville can only be guessed. The fact that the Hayes was not captured until 14 June 1687 (the date on which Grimington’s wages ceased according to HBC records) indicates that in the passage southwards the Hayes was delayed by the early onset of winter, that Grimington was obliged to find safe quarters off the East Main, perhaps at Gilpin Island, and that he did not get in touch with Albany Fort as soon as winter travel became possible because he had learned from Indians that the French were in occupation. His aim would therefore be to try to slip back unnoticed to Port Nelson as soon as ice conditions allowed in 1687. It is highly probable that he was trying to do just this on 14 June when the Hayes encountered the Craven, an HBC ship which had been captured and armed by the French. Besides Frenchmen, the latter vessel was carrying some of the Englishmen, who had barely survived the winter, to Rupert River en route to Nemiskau and New France. At the time the Hayes was captured (and two of her crew killed), Grimington was on an island cutting timber with which to mend her rudder. And there the French left him for 15 days. He was almost dead when they took him away to join the party bound for New France. The account of the capture of the Hayes and of the events which followed was given to the HBC in London on 17 Jan. 1688 by Edward Coles and eight other men. It appears that the party arrived at Quebec on 12 September and that with the exception of Michael Grimington and John Egremon, who were detained against their wills, all were found passage in ships bound for France.
Through its governor, Lord Churchill, the HBC brought the circumstances of Grimington’s detention to the notice of the king. This “excellent Seaman in those parts,” it claimed, was being held “to teach them the Navigation of the Bay” to the detriment of the company and contrary to his duty and allegiance as a British subject. Royal aid was sought in getting the irregularity brought to the notice of the French king so that instructions ordering release might be sent to the governor of Canada in 1688. Grimington reached London via La Rochelle in the early part of 1689.
In the following June Grimington sailed from the Thames as chief mate in the company’s new ship, the 150-ton Royal Hudson’s Bay (Capt. Leonard Edgcombe). The 70-ton Northwest Fox (Capt. John Ford) sailed in company. Edgcombe’s ship was carrying supplies to the expedition led by John Marsh* which had sailed in 1688 to re-establish trade in Albany River and, as war had recently been declared between England and France, Edgcombe was ordered to take offensive action against the French should they still be in occupation of the forts in James Bay. When the vessels were about 30 leagues off the Scilly Islands they were attacked by three French privateers. Ford surrendered, but Edgcombe and Grimington fought for about eight hours and escaped. However, their disabled ship had to be taken back to Plymouth to be refitted. Desertion of seamen, lack of a convoy, and above all the danger of beginning a voyage to Hudson Bay so late in the season, made it necessary to abandon the venture for that year, so Grimington spent the winter of 1689–90 in England. The committee expressed its appreciation of his conduct by presenting him with a piece of plate (valued at £10) in the form of a tankard bearing the company’s coat of arms.
In 1690 Grimington was given command of what had been the HBC’s 120-ton pink Dering. This had been renamed Prosperous and with royal consent converted into a fireship for the protection of the Royal Hudson’s Bay (Capt. Edgcombe) and the Dering [II] (Capt. James Young*). Their captains and Grimington carried letters of marque. After escorting the two vessels to York Fort, Grimington was to winter there if needed by Governor Geyer and, at the opening of navigation in 1691, to explore “Dering River” to the north of Churchill River and “to fix a Factorie there.” Although Grimington wintered in the bay it is not known whether he sailed to this unidentified river before returning to England in the autumn of 1691.
Grimington next sailed from London in 1692 as a member of the expedition sent to recapture Albany (renamed Sainte Anne) Fort. The committee recommended him to the leader, James Knight, as one “very fitt both to advise & Execute,” and made him commander of the Royal Hudson’s Bay. From York Fort on, Grimington was “chiefe or Admirall”; he, Charles Cotesworth of the Pery, and Henry Baley of the Prosperous carried letters of marque. The expedition wintered on Gilpin Island and in June 1693, after the few remaining Frenchmen were overcome, Albany Fort caine back into the HBC’s possession. Grimington, his part in that venture being finished, returned to London. “Severall omisions” on his part earned him a severe reprimand and on being re-engaged he was warned against entertaining his warrant officers without the approval of the committee. It is thus obvious that his offence during 1692–93 had been over-familiarity with lower ranks to the detriment of discipline.
Grimington successfully commanded the Royal Hudson’s Bay to and from York and Albany Forts in 1694, but as no supply-ships were sent to the bay in 1695 he remained in England. In 1696 he again commanded the Royal Hudson’s Bay and carried a letter of marque, but on this voyage he sailed not only with the HBC’s ship Dering (the third of that name and under the command of Henry Baley) and Knight (Capt. Nicholas Smithsend*), but also with H.M. ships Bonaventure (Capt. William Allen) and Seaford (Capt. Grange). The aim of this expedition was to recapture York Fort, which had been taken by Iberville in the autumn of 1694. This purpose was accomplished (though the French again took the fort the following year) and according to orders Grimington brought the Dering back to England in the same year. When the Bonaventure was off the Scillies, it was attacked by a French man-of-war. Grimington was accused of running away, but the committee members were apparently satisfied with whatever explanation he gave them.
In 1697 the HBC’s ships Royal Hudson’s Bay (Capt. Nicholas Smithsend) and Dering, commanded by Grimington, were convoyed by H.M. ships Hampshire (Capt. John Fletcher*) and (until she was lost in Hudson Strait) Owner’s Love (Capt. Loyd). Grimington was ordered to sail to James Bay after calling at York Fort and to return to England in the same season, but he could not follow these instructions because the ships encountered Iberville’s Pélican off Hayes River on 26 August. In the battle which resulted Grimington, “hardly Escapeing,” returned to England with nine wounded men aboard. The Hampshire was sunk and the Royal Hudson’s Bay captured. Although Grimington’s voyage “was not so successfull as could have been wished,” the committee were well satisfied that “he had done his utmost in all Respects.”
York Fort (Fort Bourbon) was not returned to the HBC until 1714; thus, from 1698, the company’s ships sailed to its only possession, Albany Fort, in James Bay. As commander of the Dering [III] Grimington made successful return voyages there in 1698 and 1699. He remained in England in 1700 because Albany Fort was thought not to be in need of supplies, but he made a successful voyage there and back in 1701 as captain of the 100-ton Pery. The peace which had lasted between England and France since 1697 ended in May 1702. Grimington, in command of the newly built 160-ton Hudson’s Bay [II], experienced inevitable difficulties in getting seamen and in joining convoys and, as a result, his arrival in James Bay occurred so late in the season that he was obliged to winter on Gilpin Island before even delivering the cargo at Albany. He returned to England in 1703.
Grimington remained in the HBC’s employ even though vessels were no longer sent annually to the bay. He took the Hudson’s Bay to Albany in 1705 but she ran aground in Albany River while he was sick, and the homeward voyage had to be postponed until the next year. This postponement caused the differences which arose between John Fullartine and Anthony Beale. Grimington’s next voyage to Albany, out and home, was successfully made in the Hudson’s Bay in 1708, and he was again in command of her in 1710 when he sailed from the Thames on what proved to be his last voyage. He died at Harwich, Essex, on 15 June and was buried there two days later. The Hudson’s Bay continued to Albany under the command of Joseph Davis.
Grimington was survived by his wife Anne and by a son, Michael.
Throughout his long service Grimington was entirely concerned with marine affairs in Hudson Bay and the Thames. His lax behaviour in 1692–93 may have prejudiced his appointment as governor of York Fort in 1696 to the advantage of Henry Baley, though there is no proof that Grimington aspired to the position. His skill as a navigator was unquestioned as was also his loyalty during one of the most decisive periods in the history of the HBC.
[References to Michael Grimington and his sailing instructions (1690–96) are found in HBRS, XI, XX (Rich and Johnson). HBRS, XXV (Davies and Johnson) contains biographical information. a.m.j.]