James Allan Grahame
A Staff Article
WE plan to publish, from time to time, brief biographies of members of the Craft who helped in the pioneer work of British Columbia.
We should all know something of these men. They did a good work well, in spite of many difficulties, and they deserve to have their names remembered and their services recorded.
The subject of this first biographical sketch, James Allan Grahame, was born at Edinburgh, Scotland, December 22, 1825. His father was James Grahame, well known as a contributor to "The Signet." At eighteen, young Grahame entered the service of the Hudson's Bay Company. On one of the company's sailing vessels, he crossed the Atlantic in 1843, and, in due course, reached Fort Garry, via Hudson's Bay and Norway House.
Next year he was transferred to the Pacific Coast. He made the journey by way of Edmonton, the Yellowhead Pass and the Columbia River to old Fort Vancouver, Washington, where the Hudson's Bay Company's headquarters in the West were established, in charge of John McLoughlin, who was afterwards succeeded by Sir James Douglas.
In 1853 Mr. Grahame was appointed Chief Trader, in which position he remained at Fort Vancouver until 1860, or until the boundary dispute between Great Britain and the United States was settled. He then turned over the fort to the United States military authorities and made his way northward to Victoria. Some months later he went back to the Old Country.
His able administration of a difficult post was rewarded by promotion to the rank of Chief Factor, and in the following year he returned to Canada, travelling by Montreal and St. Paul to Norway House, where he assumed his new charge.
In 1867 he again returned to British Columbia, going by way of New York,, Panama and San Francisco. Two years later he was summoned to London and crossed the continent over the Central Pacific, the first coast-to-coast line operated. Incidentally, his time of nineteen and a half days from Victoria to London was a record in the way of speed up to that date.
In 1870 Mr. Grahame returned again to Canada, this time to assume entire charge of the Hudson's Bay Company's interests on the Pacific Coast. He was called to London in 1872 to receive promotion to the position of Sub-Commissioner, and in 1874 he was once more summoned to London, where he was appointed to the Chief Commissionership, with headquarters at Fort Garry, now Winnipeg. He entered upon the duties of this important position following the retirement of the Hon. Donald A. Smith, later Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal.
In 1884 Mr. Grahame retired from the employ of the Hudson's Bay Company. For three years he lived at Montreal; then he moved to Victoria, where he lived continuously until his death in 1905.
Mr. Grahame's prominent position with the Hudson's Bay Company made him well known throughout Canada, but his acquaintance was much broadened through his Masonic connections.
He was one of the organizers of the Grand Lodge of British Columbia, of which, in 1872, he was Deputy Grand Master. Only for his removal to Fort Garry in 1874 he would, doubtless,have received even higher honour in this jurisdiction.
Source: The Square, A Staff Article, R.J. Templeton publisher. Vancouver : The Square Limited, November 1921.