Coté, Francois Xavier

Coté was engaged by the Hudson's Bay Company from L’Acadie, Lower Canada in1840 and served on board the barque Columbia before being transferred to shore duties where he served one year at Fort Stikine as a middleman. In 1843 he was transferred to Fort Victoria where he took part in the construction of the new fort. Over the course of the next seven years Coté was a prominent figure at the fort where his skills as canoesman were frequently called upon to take mail, dispatches, packets and, occasionally, passengers between Fort Victoria and Nisqually as well as lead search parties for deserters. In April of 1847, he brought artist Paul Kane to Fort Victoria from Nisqually and in August of the same year he was a member of a party charged with taking possession of Belle View (San Juan) Island on behalf of Great Britain "pursuant to orders from Mr. Chief Factor Douglas". He was prominent in other ways as well; twice earning Finlayson's ire for misconduct arising from drunkenness. It may be that Coté was married twice, as there is reference to "Coté's wife" in the journal in 1846 as well as a formal announcement made of his marriage along with five other HBC servants to unnamed women in a group ceremony conducted by Mons. Veyret on July 19, 1848. Other sources suggest Coté's wife was a Clallum woman named Catherine and together they had a daughter also named Catherine who was baptized at Fort Victoria November 4, 1849. On February 9, 1850 Coté announced his intention to leave the HBC; however three years later he signed a contract with the Company to build houses for miners in Nanaimo. Subsequently his canoeing skills were employed by Adam Horne in an adventurous expedition across Vancouver Island from Qualicum to Alberni Inlet. And once again he rejoined the Company briefly in 1861 for an expedition into the Chilcotin country. Though he was involved in a fight in 1863 which caught the attention of the press, little is known of his whereabouts for the remainder of the 1860s.


  • Abstract of Servants' Accounts (Fort Vancouver – Columbia District). B./223/g/7. Hudson's Bay Company Archives.
  • Evans, Mike. "Francois Xavier Coté." BC Metis Mapping Project.
  • Norcross, Blanche E. Nanaimo Retrospective: The First Century. Nanaimo: Nanaimo Historical Society, 1979.
  • Watson, Bruce McIntyre. Lives Lived West of the Divide. Kelowna: Centre for Social, Spatial, and Economic Justice, University of British Columbia, 2010.
Graham Brazier