Benson, Alfred Robson

Benson was born in Whitby, Yorkshire, likely in 1815. Little is recorded of his life before he arrived at Fort Victoria aboard the Harpooner on the final day of May 1849. According to J. S. Helmcken, who was acquainted with him by way of the Medical Society in England, Benson was "a sterling, honest, kind-hearted upright man. Always ready to do good, but somehow did not fit in." He was also portrayed by Helmcken as a grumbler and one of a group of more recent arrivals openly aligned with Governor Blanshard in opposition to James Douglas and the HBC. Nevertheless, perhaps impressed by his credentials, Douglas called upon him to witness five treaties completed with local indigenous groups on April 30, 1850 and one on May 1, 1850 which he signed and attached the initials "M.R.C.S.L." (Member of the Royal College of Surgeons, London).  Benson was transferred to Fort Vancouver in 1852 and following a return visit to England in 1855 he was employed at Nanaimo in 1857 where he became a prominent and much talked about member of the community. It was there that he was married to herbalist, Ellen Philips in 1860. He retired from the HBC two years later when Ellen died. Subsequently, he returned, once again, to Whitby where he died around 1900.


  • Evans, Mike. "Alfred Robson Benson." BC Metis Mapping Project.
  • Hudson's Bay Company Archives. "Benson, Alfred R." Biographical Sheets.
  • Peterson, Jan. Black Diamond City: Nanaimo – The Victorian Era. Victoria: Heritage House, 2002.
  • Smith, Dorothy Blakey, ed. The Reminiscences of Doctor John Sebastian Helmcken. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1975.
Graham Brazier