PILGRIM, ROBERT, HBC mariner and chief factor; buried 1 Dec. 1750 at Hackney (now in London), England.
Robert Pilgrim was first employed by the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1730 as a steward aboard the Hudson’s Bay (Capt. Christopher Middleton). For the next five years he was aboard company ships making the annual supply trips from London to the James Bay factories. In 1735 he became master of the sloop attached to Moose Fort (Moose Factory, Ont.), a position he held until 1738 when he returned to the trans-Atlantic voyages.
In 1740 Pilgrim contracted for five years’ employ in Hudson Bay and was appointed to the governing council of Prince of Wales Fort (Churchill, Man.). There he served grudgingly under Richard Norton (1740–41) and James Isham. When Isham went to England in 1745 Pilgrim was given charge. In 1748 he was transferred to the command of Moose.
Badly afflicted with rheumatism, Pilgrim, accompanied by his Indian wife Ruehegan (Thu a higon) and a son, returned to England by the Seahorse in 1750. Shortly after, he died. His will expressed the wish that his son be placed under a guardian in England and Ruehegan be allowed to rejoin her family at Churchill. The HBC afforded facilities for her to return to the bay but ordered its captains to refuse in future to bring any natives as passengers to Britain.
The HBC’s trust of important charges to Pilgrim had been unwise. He was soon at odds with neighbouring factors and with Joseph Robson, Robert Evison, and others of his subordinates. He traded unfairly with the Indians and neglected the maintenance of fort buildings. To a query about him from the London committee, Thomas White, who took charge at Moose in 1751, replied, “Mr Pilgrim being dead having very little to say of his general good Character We beg to be excus’d entring into his bad one.”
Greater London Record Office, St John-at-Hackney parish register, 1737–69. HBC Arch. A.1/34, pp.227, 292; A.1/35, p.9; A.6/5, pp.222–25; A.6/6, pp.39–40, 154, 156; A.6/7, pp.15, 50, 91, 152–53, 157, 222–23, 287; A.6/8, pp.130, 135; A.11/13, ff.96–99d; A.11/43, ff.49d, 51, 54d, 58–58d, 60; A.15/9, pp.49, 72–73, 128, 283–84, 336, 387–88, 444; A.15/10, pp.18, 72, 129, 191, 245, 314, 324; B.3/a/41; B.42/a/23; B.42/a/38; B.135/a/6; B.135/a/7; B.135/a/20b; B.239/b/7, f.3; B.239/b/8, f.3d; C.2/1, ff.25, 30, 35, 41; C.2/2, ff.50, 59, 61. PRO, Prob. 11/784, f.396ff. G.B., Parl., Report from the committee on Hudson’s Bay. HBRS, XXV (Davies and Johnson). Christopher Middleton, A reply to the remarks of Arthur Dobbs esq . . . (London, 1744); A vindication of the conduct of Captain Christopher Middleton . . . (London, 1743). Joseph Robson, An account of six years residence in Hudson’s-Bay, from 1733 to 1736, and 1744 to 1747 . . . (London, 1752). Morton, History of the Canadian west. Rich, History of the HBC, I.