GORST, THOMAS, employee of the HBC and author of detailed accounts of life in James Bay during 1670–71 and 1672–75; fl. c. 1668–87.
Gorst was a passenger in the Eaglet, which was forced by storm damage to abandon the precharter voyage of 1668, but he apparently sailed again in 1669, this time in the Wivenhoe, on Captain William Stannard’s second abortive attempt to reach Hudson Bay (HBC Arch., A.14/1, f.35).
In 1670 Gorst sailed in the Prince Rupert to Charles Fort where he spent the trading season of 1670–71, and before returning to London he accompanied Governor Charles Bayly on an exploration of the coast and islands of James Bay. In 1672 he again went to Rupert River where he was employed first as Bayly’s secretary and later, during 1674–75, as Governor William Lydall’s storekeeper.
Gorst came home in 1675 and in 1676, as purser of the Prince Rupert, was associated with Capt. Thomas Shepard in the abortive search for the elusive Busse Island (ibid., A.15/1, p. 4). After Gorst’s return in the same year from this voyage his employment was terminated. He applied for work in 1680, but was not re-engaged as his demands were too high. He was presumably identical, however, with the Thomas Gorst who went to James Bay in 1685 and who was captured by the French in 1686. Nothing more is known of him after 1687, by which time he had been released and sent to Port Nelson, where he may have died.
John Oldmixon used information from Gorst’s journals for 1670–71 and 1672–75 in vol. I of The British Empire in America . . . (London, 1708). For a reprint of the relevant part see: Documents relating to Hudson Bay (Tyrrell), 383–97. A contemporary manuscript “Extract” from the 1670–71 journal is among the papers of the 17th-century experimental philosopher Robert Hooke, in the Guildhall Library, London. The “Extract” is printed in Nute, Caesars of the wilderness, 286–92. Information on Gorst will also be found in HBRS, V (Rich); VIII (Rich), 50, 52, 309, 310; XI (Rich and Johnson).