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Francis "Frank" Worth Beaton (1865-1945)

To the History of Fort St. John

Dateline: February 11, 2006. Last update: December 21, 2023.

January 18, 1945

Headline - Pioneer H.B.C. Factor Dies, 1945

    Frank Worth Beaton, of Fort St. John, who in his eightieth year died in Providence hospital in the first hour of January ninth, 1945, was for over 45 years employed with the Hudson's Bay Company, about 30 years of which were spent as factor of the posts in the Fort St. John vicinity. The Beaton river and Beaton airport were named in his honor.

    This tribute can be paid to this stalwart pioneer: That he was held in great affection and esteem by his children, a man fair and just in his dealings with the Indians and a loyal servant of the Hudson's Bay Company.

    Born in the Orkney Islands in the year 1865 he spent part of his early boyhood days at sea. This training as a sailor was one of the main factors in his being hired by the Hudson's Bay Company. At the age of 18 or 19 he came to Edmonton in their employ and was soon transferred to Athabasca. One of his first jobs was the building of a river steamer at Fort Wrigley. When he was 22 he married the late Mrs. Beaton, formerly Emma Shaw, daughter of a Hudson's Bay factor. His ability was early recognized by the company and he was made manager at Trout Lake (Grouard). While there he opened a post at Chippewyan Lake.

    At Trout Lake his children, John, Mary and Margaret were born.

    His skill as a shipbuilder was again made use of as he built some scows for the company at Fort Dunvegan before he was transferred to Hudson Hope about the years 1901 or 1902. He stayed one year. The final transfer was to Fort St. John. The post was then on the south side of the Peace River, south of the present hamlet of Fort St. John. Mr. Beaton moved the post to a point almost directly across the river. This was a job he had to do in the case of the post at Hudson Hope.

    In the year 1924, not long before his retirement from the company's service, he moved the post to Fish Creek, one mile west and one mile north of the present Fort St. John. While at Fort St. John, Mr. Beaton opened posts at Fontas, Sikanni, Beaton River and Nig River. It is reported that he made the trip to Fontas by dog team in 1925 and used the dogs to haul the logs out of the woods for the building. A son, John, is in charge of these latter four posts at the present time.

    In the early days of Fort St. John, the mail was brought from Dunvegan once a year. Mr. Beaton made the trip in five days with a dog team when the ice was clear.

    He seldom, if ever, rode the toboggan. The dogs wore moccasins and the factor's toes were sometimes bleeding at the end of a trip when he wore snowshoes.

    Hudson Hope was then an outpost of Fort St. John and Factor Beaton visited the former post occasionally making the return trip in winter when the ice conditions were good, in the amazing time of five hours.

    Harvey Taylor, of Taylor Flats, had charge of the post at Hudson Hope for eight years in Mr. Beaton's time.

    Colleagues who accompanied him from Scotland were Peter Gunn, from whom he took over the post at Fort St. John; John Sutherland and Charles Bremner. Of these, Mr. Sutherland is still employed by the company at Athabasca as a river boat engineer.

    When Inspector Moodie, of the mounted police, accompanied by the present Col. H. S. Tobin, of Vancouver, made the historic journey in 1897 from Edmonton to the Yukon, discovering the Laurier pass through the Rockies, Beaton helped them to outfit at Fort St. John and secured Indian guides for them.

    The last herd of buffalo was killed about 1912. In this year an epidemic swept the country and many Indians died. Mr. Beaton had to bury many of them.

    For the convenience of the Indians, simple calendars were made so they could mark off the days and be at the post two days before New Year's Day.

    A daughter, Mrs. Birley, tells of her mother cooking great quantities of plum pudding for the feast. Cooking commenced weeks in advance. Indian women came decked in their finest cashmere wool dresses, all the way from England tartan cloth from Scotland and bright colors galore. At one time it was estimated that 3,500 Indians camped near the post and 1,400 teepees were counted. One story is told of an Indian, Chief Montney, sweat pouring off his face in his endeavour to eat large quantities of plum pudding.

    For many years Mr. Beaton held the position of sub-mining recorder. He was also justice of the peace.

    He is survived by his sons, John, a factor at Moberly Lake; William, who was wounded in the present war and is in Italy; Frank, with the Canadian army; Angus, Duncan and Fred, and two daughters, Mrs. K. Birley (Mary) and Mrs. Carl Mikkelson (Margaret). Mrs. Birley has two sons, Douglas and Frank, both overseas. Her youngest son, Derek, was killed in action. Mrs. Mikkelson's children are Glen, Mervin, Ralph, Katherine, Maggie and Agnes. Further relatives are cousins in Vancouver.

    Funeral services were held for Mr. Beaton from St. Martin's church at Fort St. John on Jan. 12. Many people from both sides of the Peace River attended. Burial took place in the Fort St. John cemetery.


  • it is not known which newspaper this article originally appeared in - it has been copied from the scrapbook of Frances Bennett, held by the the Fort St. John - North Peace Museum. The spelling indicates that the writer was American.

  • The photo to the right is from the obituary in The Province, which spelled his middle name incorrectly.

  • the trip from Fort St. John to Hudson Hope and back, accomplished by Mr. Beaton in 5 hours, is currently 108 miles by road.

  • the Fort St. John - North Peace Museum gives the date of the move of Fort St. John to the north side of the river as 1872, not ca. 1903 as reported here.

  • Frank and Emma Beaton had 12 children, 10 sons and 2 daughters.

  • Frank Beaton was buried in the Protestant section of the Fort St. John Cemetery.