Barkley, Captain Charles William
b. 1759
d. 1832-05-16
Captain Charles William Barkley was a sailor and trader who began his career at 11 when he sailed under his father's command on an East India Company voyage.1 By 1786, Barkley sailed from Ostend, Belgium, in the Imperial Eagle, bound for the Pacific Northwest.2 Just prior to the departure, Barkley married Frances Hornby Trevor who joined him on the sojourn.3 They reached Nootka Sound in June of 1787, where Barkley was fortunate to encounter John Mackay, who shared his geographic knowledge of Vancouver Island, and his experiences with the Nuu-chah-nulth people, with whom Barkley wanted to trade.4 Barkley traded successfully in the area, particularly in Nootka Sound, Clayoquot Sound, and Barkley Sound, which Barkley named after himself.5
Despite Captain Cook's claims that the then unnamed Straight of Juan de Fuca did not exist, Barkley sailed through it in July of 1787, titling it on his charts after its original discoverer.6 Eventually, and through a series of unfortunate events, Barkley was betrayed by his partners, who sold Imperial Eagle and gave his charts to John Meares, a fur trader who later claimed credit for much of Barkley's work.7
Barkley went on to captain several other ships, but without much documented success.8 He died in England in 1832.9 Frances Barkley is believed to be the first European woman to see British Columbia,10 and the first to sail around the world openly as a woman.11 She was also the first woman to write about what would become British Columbia; her life experiences, Reminiscences, were published, over a century after her death, in The Remarkable World of Frances Barkley: 1769–1845.12
  • 1. Barry M. Gough, Barkley, Charles William, Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. Ibid.
  • 4. Andrew Scott, The Encyclopedia of Raincoast Place Names (Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publishing, 2009), 59.
  • 5. Barry M. Gough, Barkley, Charles William, Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
  • 6. Ibid.
  • 7. Ibid.
  • 8. Ibid.
  • 9. Ibid.
  • 10. Andrew Scott, The Encyclopedia of Raincoast Place Names (Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publishing, 2009), 59.
  • 11. Beth Hill and Cathy Converse, eds., The Remarkable World of Frances Barkley, 1769-1845 (Surrey, BC: Heritage, 2003), 6.
  • 12. Alan Twigg, First Invaders: The Literary Origins of British Columbia, Vol. 1 (Vancouver, BC: Ronsdale Press, 2004), 150-155.
Mentions of this person in the documents
People in this document

Cook, James

Vessels in this document

Imperial Eagle

Places in this document

Barkley Sound

British Columbia

Juan de Fuca Strait

Nootka Sound

Vancouver Island

The Colonial Despatches Team. Barkley, Captain Charles William. The Colonial Despatches of Vancouver Island and British Columbia 1846-1871, Edition 2.2, ed. The Colonial Despatches Team. Victoria, B.C.: University of Victoria. https://bcgenesis.uvic.ca/barkley.html.

Last modified: 2020-12-02 13:40:34 -0800 (Wed, 02 Dec 2020) (SVN revision: 5008)