Morris Moss: Pioneer Jewish Fur Trader, Government Agent and More, Based Out of Victoria, BC

Morris Moss

Morris Moss Canadian Fur Trader

Morris Moss Canadian Fur Trader

Values Codes H – E – L – P


Morris Moss was born in London born in 1842 and educated at University College.


Along the way

Morris Moss came to San Francisco via Panama at the age of 19, and to then Victoria, in 1862, as an agent for San Francisco fur traders Liebes & Co.

Moss started an Indian trading post at Bella Coola, where he re-opened Sir Alexander Mackenzie’s old trail as a supply route through to the Cariboo miners.

With the help of Indian guides, he ran pack trains to Williams Creek and Barkerville.

Shipwrecked during a gale, Morris Moss was marooned on a remote island for several months, and held prisoner by hostile Indians until rescued by friendly Indians from Bella Coola.

After the Bute Inlet road building massacre in 1864, known as the Chilcotin WarMorris Moss accompanied the punitive expedition as Indian-expert advisor, bringing several Indians to justice.

In 1867, Moss became a fur trader at Bella Bella, where he built a store and residence.

Bella Coola Valley Post Card

Bella Coola Valley Post Card

While prospecting in the area, he discovered the Hebrew Mine.”

He could have recouped part of his investment, but refused such offers and, in the end, it was never developed.

In 1869, Moss had a trading post in the Queen Charlotte Islands/Haida G’wai.

In 1870 he went up to the Omineca, traveling by canoe on the Skeena River to the rich claims there

This venture was followed by a trip to the Alaska boundary.

In the North, where he prospected and traded, Morris Moss wore his fringed-buckskins and enjoyed the culture of the Native peoples.

In the 1870s,  Moss purchased a sealing vessel, sailing aboard it every season.

This developed into a highly successful fur and sealing business.

Two of his schooners were seized in Bering Sea by US officers, claiming he had a monopoly over sealing rights.

An international arbitration would rule in his favor and the US paid full damages for illegal seizure.

Moss Bank and Moss Passage in Milbank Sound, were named for him.



Early on, Morris Moss was appointed by Governor Douglas as Government Agent for the Northwest Coast and Justice of the Peace.

Moss became Indian Agent and Collector of Customs for the northwest coast, visiting every locale in British Columbia from the Nass River down.


Victoria, BC

In Victoria, his home base, the sophisticated Morris Moss participated in society balls, symphony concerts and theatrical performances.

He built a fine home on Fort Street.



Morris Moss served as President of the synagogue, Congregation Emanu-El.



Moss was a member of the Victoria B’nai B’rith Lodge and the Victoria Club.



In 1883, at age 42, Morris Moss wed 22-year-old Hattie Bornstein, the daughter of a Victoria fur dealer, in San Francisco.

A son, Alexander Moss was born to them. But Morris Moss was still inclined to prospect.

In June 1892, leaving his wife and son behind in, Moss went to investigate mining properties in Washington State; but the family never heard from him again.

Four years later, in 1896, there was news of his death in Denver, Colorado.


  • Cyril Leonoff, editor, “Pioneer Jews of British Columbia,” Western States Jewish History 37/3&4.
  • Sarah H. Tobe, “Lured North of the 49th, Jewish Colonial Roots,” Western States Jewish History 46/2&3
  • Archives of Sarah H. Tobe, Cyril E. Leonoff, Christopher J.P. Hanna, and David Rome.

Sarah H. Tobe is curator of this Morris Moss exhibit.