Belle Vue Sheep Farm Journals

Royal Navy Capt. George Richards extensively mapped the San Juan Archipelago in the late 1850s, including this detail of the Belle Vue Sheep Farm home establishment on the Cattle Point prairie (note the misspelling). The map indicates the rocky bight, now known as Grandma's Cove, as a "Landing Place." An Indian Village is also shown on the bluff overlooking the cove.



The Journals
As with all Hudson's Bay Company journals in North America, the Belle Vue Sheep Farm ledger recorded weather, daily activities, occurrences of note, arrivals and departures of visitors, and expeditions into the hinterlands. S The Journals are housed in the provincial Archives of Manitoba in Winnepeg (see citation below).

Special thanks to San Juan Island historian and NPS Volunteer Boyd Pratt for his many hours of transcription and scholarship.

Belle Vue Sheep Farm Journals Introductio
Interpreting the Belle Vue Sheep Farm Journals

Charles Griffin
Charles John Griffin was first Clerk and later Chief Trader in charge of Belle Vue Sheep Farm. Griffin was born ca. 1827 at Limerick, Ireland and raised in Montreal ("Lower Canada"). After working as a Company apprentice at Fort Coulonge, Edmonton, and York Factory, he moved west to Fort Langley (1850-1851). With a year's duty in Babines, New Caledonia (now the British Columbia mainland), he returned to Fort Langley for another year before arriving at Fort Victoria in 1853. Griffin arrived on San Juan with a re-engaged Clerk's wage of £100 from Fort Simpson (located on the Canadian coast near the Skeena River and Prince Edward's Island), where he had been Clerk at £45. By 1856, he had been in the employ of the Company for eight years. In 1857, Griffin was appointed Chief Trader, with an accompanying rise in salary. In addition to the principal task of managing the operations of the farm, he was required, as were all heads of Company posts, to maintain a journal of daily occurrences (the "Post Journal"), including the weather, how the servants were employed, and special events that might impact the operations (such as the arrival of boats, disturbances with Native Americans or visitors, etc.). After he left Belle Vue Sheep Farm on January 5, 1862, he served as Chief Trader at Red River (where he was married to Elizabeth Margaret Bird), Oxford House, and Churchill. He left Churchill with his wife on July 30, 1873 and died in Ottawa on July 22, 1874.

The following links contain transcriptions of Griffin's Journal.

Journal 1854, Journal 1858 Journal 1859 Journal 1860 Journal 1861-62

Robert Firth
Robert Firth took over as Belle View Sheep farm agent in 1862. Firth arrived on San Juan Island on January 7, 1862 to assume management of the farm. In the spring of 1864, the Company leased the farm to him for three years, and subsequent leases ran up to the year 1873, by which point San Juan Island was American territory. Firth became an American citizen on February 5, 1878 and was awarded two land patents: a cash sale of 40 acres in 1880 and a homestead entry of 186.1 acres in 1884. His descendents still live on San Juan island.

Robert Firth's Diary

Belle Vue Sheep Farm Correspondence, 1853-67
Features incoming and outgoing corespondence pertaining to Hudson's bay Company operations on San Juan island.

Belle Vue Sheep Farm Glossary/Indexes: While researching the Journals, Pratt gleaned and categorized the names of employees, San Juan Island place names, a chonological accounting of improvements over the years and a list of vessels calling at the island.

Chronological List of Improvements
People Associated with San Juan Island
Servants of The Company
Place Names

Ships and Boats

  • Black and white reconstructed image of a bearded man

    Po`alima (Peter Friday) was one of the 16 Hawaiian shepherds who worked for the Hudson's Bay Company on San Juan Island.

  • Watercolor illustration of a busy farm with vehicles and outbuildings right beside teh ocean
    The Belle Vue Sheep Farm

    The British Hudson's Bay Company established the Belle Vue Sheep Farm in 1853. American settlement severely impacted its operations.

  • Black and white headshot of a man with Mutton Chops
    James Douglas

    James Douglas's aggressive posture nearly caused America and Britain to fight a war over the San Juan Islands

Last updated: November 12, 2022

Park footer

Contact Info

Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 429
Friday Harbor, WA 98250


360 378-2240

Contact Us