Saturday, June 13, 2009


As most of you who are invited to this page know, I have been researching and writing the life of Alexander Caulfield Anderson, explorer and fur trader. In the process I have discovered some amazing things, and I am sure I will discover more as I progress through the final re-writes. This page will change as I find new items to explore -- but here is a list of a few of the things I have to write about:

The Smell of Furs -- One of my readers (Michael K.) asked me to expand on a statement in my manuscript, when I said that the furs stank --"What did the furs smell like?" This was probably the most difficult question I was asked, but I learned the answer and am delighted with it. One part of the answer came from one of Jack Nisbet's books, but the real answer I stumbled on (by accident) in an early edition of the Beaver magazine, when it was just a pamphlet put out for the staffmembers of the Hudson's Bay Company retail stores.

Flintlock and Percussion Guns -- At Fort Langley I met the Victoria Voltigeurs, who are members of a re-enactment group who shoot black-powder for pleasure. These people explained how the fur trade guns worked (or didn't work), and helped me understand some of the issues that fur traders faced when they explored territories that were inhabited by natives who far outnumbered them. Many of our modern day expressions come from the days of the flintlock guns: for example, "lock, stock and barrel," and "flash in the pan." These guns were, by the way, the same guns that the soldiers of the Honorable East India Company used, which makes the soldiers' stories even more interesting.

The Sasquatch story -- A.C. Anderson was the first man to see a sasquatch (David Thompson was the first white man to see a Sasquatch footprint). I know where part of the story came from, and it comes from a most surprising source -- his grandson.

The Scarborough Estate -- Captain James Scarborough died near Cathlamet about 1855, and Anderson and his father-in-law, James Birnie, were executors of Scarborough's estate. Many years later descendents of Scarborough charged Anderson with theft of their ancestor's gold and money. I know nothing about the gold, of course, but I do know where his money went.

The Readers -- I cannot think of anything I did that had more value for me, as a writer, than handing my manuscript out to four readers, for their comment. I learned so much from that simple process, and I think their comments improved the book to a tremendous degree.

The Collins Telegraph Trail and our family's connection with it.

James Anderson (A), Alexander Caulfield Anderson's brother who also joined the fur trade

Alexander Caulfield Anderson's lost manuscripts -- there were many of them; Anderson's correspondence with John Stuart (N.W. Co. and HBC) and Stuart's notes on Anderson's lost manuscript -- notes which give researchers a good idea of what Anderson had to say about the early fur trade.

The California Rhododendron, a flower which differed markedly from what I expected it to be. I had a picture in my mind of a grove of flowers in an open meadow -- they were anything but!

James Birnie's story, and that of Charlot Beaulieu. After years of service in George Simpson's Hudson's Bay Company, Birnie retired to Cathlamet in 1846. His home quickly became the social centre of the country around Fort Vancouver, and Birnie considered himself to be the Laird of Wehkiakum, with his wife the Lady. Both came from humble beginnings and were unlikely royalty. Neither James nor Charlot began their lives at the top of the social ladder -- anything but, in fact.

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