John Lee Lewis

John Lee Lewis has been described as the “fop of the Columbia District,” attributing his dashing style to the influence of his singer/actor father Charles Lee Lewes. He entered the service of the HBC in 1807 at the age of 15 as a writer, and had worked up to Chief Trader by 1821.

In 1844, he was posted to Fort Simpson where he accidentally shot off his right hand, an injury not all that uncommon due to the flintlock guns that fur traders used. He then took a leave of absence to England, returning in 1845 to take up his post at Stuarts Lake.

During the time of his mention in the Journal, it is suspected that he was in Fort Colvile, the refuge of missionaries after the massacre at Waiilatpu Mission in 1847 (the Cayuse people along the Oregon Trail retaliated when a small pox outbreak devastated their community). During his time there, he enjoyed trapping foxes, possibly a skill his wife, a woman of mixed English and Cree ancestry, taught him.

According to the Journal, it seems Lewes left the Fort in January 1849. Upon retirement in 1852, Lewes and two sons of his eight children left for Australia, though they eventually returned to Manitoba to join the rest of the family. Lewes died in that province twenty years later.


  • Anderson, Nancy Marguerite. “John Lee Lewes, HBC – The 'fop' of the Columbia District.” Fur Trade Family History. fop-of-columbia.html.
  • Evans, Mike. “John Lee Lewes.” BC Metis Mapping Research Project.
  • Hudson’s Bay Company Archives. “Lewes, John Lee.” Biographical Sheets.
  • “Letter from Jacqueline Lee Lewes.” Woodland Historical Museum Society.
Miranda Harvey