VERNER, HUGH, HBC employee; fl. 1678–97.
Verner, who was probably a Scotsman, or had Scottish connections, first went to James Bay in 1678 and apparently showed much ability, for on the renewal of his contract in 1681, he was made chief factor at the post originally known as Charles Fort on Rupert River. In response to the entreaties of his wife, Elinor, Verner returned home in 1682, but in March 1683 he applied for his former position and, on account of his ability, experience, and loyalty, was re-engaged. As a passenger to Charlton Island, en route to Rupert River, in the chartered ship Diligence (Capt. Nehemiah Walker) Verner would have been a spectator at the capture of the interloping ship Expectation.
In September 1685 Verner received a warning of intended French aggressions against the Company’s posts from Zacharie Jolliet, his competitor and near-neighbour at Nemiskau Lake. Zacharie, like his brother Louis Jolliet, had enjoyed hospitality at Charles Fort in Governor Bayly’s time and that had been when he had first met Verner, whom he now advised to retreat from Rupert River. The French threat, made at a time when the English and French kings were at peace, was apparently not taken seriously by Governor Sergeant at Albany but Verner, according to his own account, started to get his post into a state of defence in the spring of 1686. Nevertheless, during the early hours of 23 June (3 July n.s.) he was completely surprised by a force of French soldiers and Canadians under the command of the Chevalier de Troyes, and after a very brief resistance, during which his ship-wrecked guest, Mrs Maurice (late companion to Mrs Henry Sergeant) was wounded, he was forced to surrender. Verner was released later in the year and allowed to sail to York Fort (called by the French Fort Bourbon) in the Colleton. He returned to England in the summer of 1687.
Verner was re-engaged as a trader at the “Bottom of the Bay” in 1688 and thus became a member of the expedition under Governor John Marsh which went to Albany River (Quichicouani) with instructions to re-establish the Company’s trade and, owing to the treaty of neutrality of November 1686 between the English and French kings, to live at peace with the neighbouring French. The expedition was a failure. By 11 March 1688/89 (o.s.) (HBC Arch., A.15/3, f.184) Marsh was dead and William Bond, Andrew Hamilton, and the rest of the English party had all been captured. Verner was one of those sent overland to Canada later in the year. He reached England via France early in January 1691. Later that year Verner went to York Fort where he was employed as an assistant to Governor Geyer until he was recalled home in 1693. He again offered his services to the HBC in 1697 but as there was no opening suitable for him no further references to him are to be found in the Company’s archives.