Sunday, December 27, 2009

Medicines used in the fur trade

At Fort Alexandria, the summer of 1846 proved so inclement that, in mid-August, Alexander Caulfield Anderson reported the crops were poor due to the summer's constant rain and thunderstorms.
In September the men brought in the last of the ruined harvest, and the shortage of hay was so extreme they drove out to cut natural grass at a lake near the fort.
It was not long before they returned -- the driver of the cart reeled in his seat as if drunk and the rest of the crew lay violently sick in the bottom of the wagon.
Believing they had snacked on a familiar water plant the voyageurs called "Queue de Rat," the French-Canadians had eaten an extremely toxic water plant called Water-Hemlock.
It could easily have killed them, but Anderson sprang into action and using the simple medicines he had available sat the fort, he saved the lives of his men.

There were few medicines available at Fort Alexandria, and in this case Anderson probably used Tartar emetic, a colourless and poisonous salt that induced vomiting.
Other medicines in his possession were equally simple -- dysentery, diarrhea and other stomach problems were treated with jalap, calomel, powdered rhubarb, or cream of tartar.
For coughs, colds, vomiting or general pains, Anderson used emetics or purgatives, ointments, poultices, or bleeding.
Over the his years in charge of the post, he treated a number of ailments -- some patients survived, and some did not, but Anderson took his responsiblities as a doctor seriously and corresponded regularly with the doctor at Fort Vancouver.

From Reel 1M619, HBCA, B.223/d/93, Vancouver Fort Account Book 1836-7, here is a list of the Columbia District medicines --
Sulphuric Acid, Aromatic Acid, Nitrous Acid, Nitric Acid, Distilled Acetic Acid, Camphorated Acid, Citric Acid, Muriatic Acid, Oxalic Acid, Tartaric Acid.
Alcohol, Alocs [?], Alum, Ammonia Carbonate, Ammonia Subcarbonate, Ammonia Subcarbonate solution, Ammonia Muriate, Ammonia Spirits, Ammomacum.
Tartrate of Antimony, Butter of Antimony, Antimonial Powder [and then there's a few I can't read].
Belladona Leaves, Borax, Camphor Gum, Cardamon seeds, Chamomile flower, Charcoal Powder, Chalk (prepared), Cicuta Powder, Cuchona Bark, Sulphate of Copper.
Powdered Digitalis, Digitalis leaves, Ether Rectified, Gentian extract, Ginger root and powder, Arabic Gum, Iodine, Iron carbonate, Iron Sulphate, Iron Red Oxide.
Lavender comp. spirits, Lead Acetate, Powdered linseed, Liquorice Extract and root, Magnesium calc..., Magnesium carbonate, Magnesium sulphate.
Manganese Powder, Mazercon root, Myrrh and tincture of Myrrh, Mercury, Almon Oil, Croton oil, Carob oil.
Volatile Oregonium, bergamot, cloves, casia.
Ointments of Calamine, Cataccous, Cauthurides, Cotric, Mercurial.
Opium in various forms, Potash in various forms, Plaster Court, Mercurial, Ammonium, etc.
Prussian blue, Sulphate Quinine, Rhubarb Powder, Sarsaparella Root, Meadow saffron, Senna leaves, Spanish soap.
Soda, Carbonate, sulphate, solution of chlorate.
Burnt sponge, strychnine, Sassafras Root, Turlingtons Balsam, Oil of Turpentine, Valerian extract, Yellow and white wax, Zinc in plates, zinc oxide, Peppermint extract.

Medicines for scurvy were: antiscorbutics such as red cabbage in vinegared Pickle, essence of Malt, lemon crystals, sauerkraut, cranberries, vegetables.
But with all this primitive medicine, it appears they had the smallpox vaccination! Amazing!

Joseph Louis Rondeau, NWC and HBC

Now that we are in the Fraser's Lake district, let us wander off to the Macleod's Lake post -- or Trout Lake post of the North West Company (NWC).
Joseph Louis Rondeau was born in Lanoraie, Quebec on August 31, 1797.
He was the son of Louis Rondeau, voyageur for the NWC and a man who appears to have had as many as four wives over the years.
Joseph's mother was Marie Madeleine Borneuf, baptized Jan. 11, 1759 at Notre Dame, Quebec City.

As a youth of about 17 years, Joseph Louis Rondeau joined the fur trade of the North West Company as a voyageur -- this would be about 1814-15.
His 1819 contract with the company was for three years and would have gone on to 1822 -- a year after the NWC merged with the Hudson's Bay Company under the latter company's name.
Rondeau's biography says that he worked on the 'Frazer River,' Great Slave Lake and in the Athabasca District.
He was posted in the Rocky Mountains about 1817, where he served under Archibald Norman McLeod and dandled McLeod's child on his knee.
I will doublecheck, but I think McLeod may have been posted at Dunvegan post north of Edmonton and east of McLeod's Lake -- but he was in charge of McLeod's Lake, the first settlement in modern-day British Columbia, established in 1805 by Simon Fraser.
McLeod Lake was originally named Trout Lake Fort, and the present name of lake honours Archibald Norman McLeod, an employee of the North West Company.
It is highly likely that Joseph Louis Rondeau spent some time at the McLeod's Lake post when it was called Trout Lake.

But Rondeau says that he spent a winter on the banks of the Fraser River, and we can only guess where he was.
Almost certainly he spent some time at McLeod's Lake, but he may have gone to Fort George or even as far as Fort Alexandria -- though the latter fort was built in 1821 and Rondeau was not in the area at that time.
But McLeod's Lake is not far from the Fraser River and the NWC men might have followed a river trail south to spend the winter in the alluvial valley of the Fraser near McBride, B.C.

Rondeau's HBC records say this about him:
He entered the HBC service in 1821; Contracts: 19 August 1824, and 17 July 1826.
1821-1822, Middleman in the Athabasca district
1822-1824, Middleman in the Athabasca district
1824-1827, Middleman in the Swan River district
1824-1830, Middleman in the Island Lake district
1831-1833, Middleman in the Fret establishment (any idea where this is?)
1831-1833, Middleman, general charges?
1833, 1 June, Free at Red River

Before he left the HBC, Rondeau apparently spent time at Edmonton House.
It was there, I believe but will never prove, that he met his wife, Josephine Beaulieu, younger sister of Alexander Caulfield Anderson's mother-in-law, Charlot Beaulieu.
Josephine was born in the territory that was later named Montana, in 1808-10 -- this is mentioned in several Minnesota censuses and in her son's death certificate.
She is supposed to descended from the French-Canadian named Beaulieu and his Kootenais wife.
David Thompson was in this area at Saleesh House, and it is possible that Charlot's and Josephine's father was the voyageur, Beaulieu, who served under David Thompson and who remained in the district as a free-trader for years after Thompson left.

About 1827 Rondeau settled at Red River and lived near Fort Garry about 8 years.
It was there he was married to Josephine Beaulieu.
For a few years he appears in the Red River census (see Drouin Records online, Registres Riviere Rouge, Manitoba, 1831-1849)
He then joined 60 or so refugees who left the Red River district for St. Paul (Minnesota), and settled near Fort Snelling, about 1837.
He purchased a house that was burned by the military when the settlers were forced out in May 1840, and like many others he moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, where a built a new house.
Rondeau appears in Ramsey County census in 1850 -- 56 years old.
He died in 1885 in Crookston, MN, and his obituary says he was 88 years old.
A very famous street in St. Paul was named for him.

Christmas in a fur trade fort

Christmas was always a special time at the fur trade posts in New Caledonia, and holiday celebrations differed only a little from our modern-day celebrations, at least for the voyageur.
The employees of the New Caledonia forts were, for the most part, French-Canadians or Metisse (French and native), but Sandwich Islanders (Hawaiians) also worked in the fur trade of New Caledonia, as did a few Orkneymen.

The Christmas holiday began with a half day off work on Christmas Eve.
At day-break on Christmas morning, the voyageurs celebrated the holiday by firing their guns into the air.
The dozen or more voyageurs did not fire their guns all at once, but took turns firing their guns one after the other -- bang! -- bang! -- bang!
In this way the voyageurs orchestrated a celebration that lasted more than a few minutes, and ensured that everyone around them -- the gentlemen and the homeguard natives -- knew that Christmas morning had arrived.
Celebrating Christmas was, of course, part of the Catholic religion of the French-Canadian voyageurs.
But the fur trade was a mixture of cultures, and the firing of guns into the air came from the aboriginals.

After waking up the gentleman with their gunfire, the voyageurs came to wish him a Merry Christmas, and to receive their regale.
On Christmas morning 1846, Alexander Caulfield Anderson gave his voyageurs a meal of meat, flour, and potatoes.
He doesn't mention the pint of rum he gave them, but it was definitely a part of the voyageurs' regale.
At Fort Alexandria, the natives also received a regale of meat and potatoes, but tobacco was substituted for rum.

The voyageurs did not celebrate with the gentleman, but returned to their houses to prepare their meal and drink their rum.
The gentlemen -- that is the gentlemen in charge of the fort and any clerks he had under him -- did not celebrate Christmas with their voyageurs, but with each other.
However, both gentlemen and voyageurs might have celebrated Christmas with the homeguard natives (those who lived near the posts), because this was an excellent time to encourage them in their hunts.

The fur trader rarely made any entries in the post journal on Christmas Day, excepting a note on the weather.
Other celebrations not mentioned in the fur trade journals may have been common at the various forts in New Caledonia.
For example, on New Year's Day 1843, Anderson arranged a shooting contest between the French Canadian voyageurs and the natives that surrounded the post, with the prize being a set of leggings from the post store.
Because of the extreme cold, everyone shot poorly.
For the most part, the French Canadian employees made better shots than the natives, but a native man named Grand Corps carried off Anderson's prize for the best shot made that day.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, everyone!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Anderson's Reindeer, the Caribou

Now that we are in the area close to the Chilcotin plateau, let us talk about Anderson's reindeer.
They were not, of course, reindeer, but the caribou.
On his 1867 map of British Columbia, Anderson has written across the shoulders of the Chilcotin plateau the words: "Reindeer Barrens -- an extensive mountain plateau abounding with reindeer and ptarmigan at certain seasons."

In his Dominion at the West, the Government Prize Essay (1872), he wrote of these animals:
"The Rein-deer (C. Tarandus) the Caribou of the Canadian voyageurs, inhabits all the mountainous regions dependent on the Rocky Mountains and the Coast Range, north of a certain point. ..The species found in these localities, distinguished by Richardson as the Rocky-Mountain Reindeer, differs materially from the variety common to Hudson's Bay known as the Rein-deer of the Barren Lands. The general characteristics of this animals are so well known that description would be superfluous. Its susceptibility to the attacks of the fly, especially of the large Gad-fly called after it (Estrus Tarandi), and the partiality it exhibits to the odour of smoke arising from its habits of resorting to the vicinity of casual fires in the woods as a protection against the attacks of its tormentors, are taken advantage of by the Ta-cully of the Upper Fraser who, even in the winter season, employ lighted brands of rotten wood to cover their approach to the herds while feeding."
He goes on to explain that the Ta-Cully (Carrier) natives also construct huts during the summer season. "In these huts constant smoke is maintained; lured by which the deer approach, and are shot from the ambush."

He offers a better description of these animals in his draft unpublished mss., "British Columbia," in PABC.
"The Rein-deer (Curvus Tarandus, the Caribou of the French Canadians, and so generally known among the European residents) inhabits the mountainous ridges North of 49 degrees, south of which line I am not aware of its having been met with.... This deer, called by the Ta-cully Ho-tsee, is very gregarious in its habits. In the winter it inhabits the skirts of the mountains, feeding on the various parasitic lichens which are produced by the several firs, especially one of a deep green color called by the natives "Frog's Hair," hanging in rich festoons more particularly from the "Scotch fir" of this Coast (P. Banksiana). The species ...differs greatly in size, and somewhat in habits, from the Rein-deer of Hudson's Bay and its adjacent coasts. It is much larger, a difference which may arise partly from a more congenial habitat and richer food, partly from the long and painful migrations which its Eastern congener has annually to undergo. These last, driven by the swarms of mospquitoes from the low swampy districts bordering on Hudson's Bay, are compelled to travel Northward in quest of higher lands where they can have recourse to their wonted luxury of basking in the sun upon a snowy bed. ... The Western reindeer undergoes the same process of migration, and from the same operating causes. It has not, however, far to go to obtain all its requirements. A few miles travel bring it to the summits of the ridges where on the deep snow-drifts with which the hollows are filled until late in the summer, it obtains the luxury for which its Eastern brother has to travel so far.

"In all other respects but size the characteristics of the Eastern and Western Rein-deer are not obviously different -- each possessing the same expansive hoof which enables it to pass over the hardened snow like the European variety. The edges of the hoof, too, are so sharp that they can readily canter over the smoothest ice. The flesh of the Rein-deer, next to that of the Mountain Sheep and the Moose, is perhaps the most delicious of the products of the chase....

"The Rein-deer seems to be peculiarly susceptible to the attacks of the mosquito. Inhabiting a country chiefly wooded, it resorts eagerly to the smouldering remains of the fire by which large tracts of its native forests are frequently devestated. There, reveling in the smoke, it sets its tormentors at nought and enjoys a glorious holiday -- for even on the mountain tops the persecuting fly will occasionally follow and compel the Reindeer to seek still further refuge.

"The natives do not fail to avail themselves in the chase of the Caribou, of their partiality for smoke. In some of the large mountain plateaux ... they erect during the mosquito season, huts in divers parts of the open plain. The outside of these huts is surrounded with dry limbs and branches of trees so as to resemble a natural heap of fallen wood. In these they reside temporarily with their families, keeping up constantly a copious smoke. The deer are thus lured within distance and are shot by the ambusher foe through interstices left for the purpose.

"In connexion with this subject, I may recall some of my individual experiences in the Rein-deer chase, during winter, in company with the Ta-cully. Falling in, perhaps late in the day, with the recent vestiges of a herd, fire is at once set to a rotten tree, after which the hunters retire some distance to encamp. Attracted by the well known odor the deer, albeit not driven by the mosquito, gradually congregate in the vicinity of the smoke, browsing around in happy ignorance of what awaits them. Before dawn the hunters are afoot. All the outside clothing is held over the fires so as to become well impregnated with the odor of smoke. Each then provides himself with a lighted branch of rotten wood; and thus the party approaches the herd within a short distance; the brands are dropped, and a general discharge takes place. The deer disperse; but frightened and confused, after making a circuit, in most cases rally around the seat of danger, anxious for the fate of their slain or wounded comrades. A second discharge generally sets them to flight; and the flight once commenced is rarely discontinued within a distance of twenty or thirty miles. The pursuit of the rein-deer, when thus fairly started, is an arduous task; rendered all the more difficult from the facility with which they pass over the frozen snow in the opens, leaving scarcely a trace to guide the hunter whose snow shoes barely suffice to enable him to pass without sinking over those spots which the Rein-deer traverses so easily."

Fort McLoughlin

Alexander Caulfield Anderson arrived at McLoughlin Bay in May 1833, and helped to build Fort McLoughlin.
He left Fort McLoughlin in early 1834, and did not return to the place for many years.
On the above map you will see where Fort McLoughlin was situated, on the north end of Campbell Island.
A few miles to the east you will see McKenzie's Rock, on the north shores of Dean Channel.
This is the place where Alexander Mackenzie took his sextant reading in 1793 -- 40 years before Fort McLoughlin was built -- and where the natives of the area were frightened away by a lightning strike.
The fur traders at Fort McLoughlin thought that Mackenzie's Rock was about twenty five miles east of their fort.
But the location of Mackenzie's Rock had been forgotten, and even the natives did not remember where it was -- the native chiefs of the time told their tribal members to stay away from the rock, and later generations 'forgot' where it was.
Mackenzie's actual rock is more than fifty miles east of Fort McLoughlin.

Anderson's first reference to Fort McLoughlin was, of course, his letter to Uncle Alex Seton, when he says that he arrived at Fort Vancouver (Columbia River) "after a voyage from York Factory of 3 1/2 months -- partly on horseback -- in boats & in canoes."
"I am now on the point of starting for the north west coast in a brig belonging to the Company," he continued, "in company with a party of two other Gentlemen & 40 men, the object being to erect an establishment at a placed called Millbank Sound." (Source: Mounie Archives)

In his History of the Northwest Coast, he tells us of the excitement of an collision with the native tribes that surrounded Fort McLoughlin:
"Our land party consisted of 40 men, the vessel which conveyed us to our destination, a brig called the 'Dryad,' was ordered to remain moored opposite our encampment in order to afford us if necessary, the protection which our guns might be supposed to afford.
"Our operations proceeded rapidly, and by the month of October the area of the fort was well picketed in, bastions constructed at the corners, and several substantial houses within. So far no serious disagreement with the natives occurred, or if any had occurred through the imprudence of our maritime protectors, the differences had been checked with a firm hand and in a kindly spirit.
"Unfortunately, however, about the 1st of October one of our men, named Richard, a French Canadian, was found to be missing: enquiries were made of the Indians, and the answer recd so evasive that we judged it proper to seize one of the chiefs and hold him as hostage. Tyeet, the chief in question, was a well disposed Indian, as we supposed, and we found it difficult to reconcile the contradictory statements that were educed in various periods of our enquiry, yet nothing farther could be done save to retain him until some intelligence of our missing man should transpire.
"Everything remained quiet and undisturbed for a few days, yet I could not but suspect the unwonted tranquility that reigned around. It was a Sunday and not a soul was to be seen outside the fort, save only a solitary Indian seated by a small fire on the opposite side of the bay.
"Evening came on, and the men asked permission to go outside for water. Reluctant to do so at that late hour, I declined to give the keys without the sanction of my superior; which being given the men went out leaving two only within the fort who were appointed to guard our hostage; and one who guarded the wicket.
"I myself went out having my pistols upon me, and leaving my other arms where they were easily accessible, for I had my misgivings and they were very shortly realized.
"(I) advanced to the edge of the bank, and looking around when suddenly, within a few paces of me, I saw darting thro' the bushes a host of armed Indians.
"I turned at once, gave the alarm, and retreating to the fort was speedily prepared to defend the entrance...."

In his Notes on the Indian Tribes of British North America (1855), Anderson wrote: "(The Cowichans) are succeeded by the Hailtsa connexion, commencing in about latitude 51 degrees N. and extending through the ramifications of Fitzhugh and Milbank Sounds. The Hailtsa tribes communicated with the southern branches of the Ta-Cully sept of New Caledonia, the Ta-otin, Chilcotin, and Nascotin, namely of (Fort) Alexandria."
Anderson's Notes on the Indian Tribes of British North America is freely available on the internet -- you should have no trouble downloading this entire manuscript.
The Ta-Cully tribes he speaks of are those who surrounded both Fraser's Lake and Fort Alexandria; they are also called the Carrier.
The way the natives from the coast -- those that surrounded Fort McLoughlin, and the Nuxalk people from the native village at the mouth of the Bella Coola River -- communicated with the Ta-cully tribes around Fort Alexandria and Fraser's Lake, was by travelling up the native grease trail that followed the Bella Coola River into the interior.
They carried with them their valuable eulachon oil, and traded that fish oil for the rich furs of the interior.
The Ta-Cully people and natives from the coast met at Kluskus Lakes, on Alexander Mackenzie's West Road River.

Fifty years after he helped to build a fort in the estuary of the waters that Alexander Mackenzie had explored, he returned to visit the native village at the mouth of the Bella Coola River.
It was at this time that he heard the natives' version of Alexander Mackenzie's visit to the coast.
Anderson's friend wrote the natives' story down.
"McKenzie is still talked about by old Indians, one of whom related to me an anecdote which had been handed down through successive generations, viz., that the canoe load of Indians who accompanied and followed McKenzie a short distance down the channel, seeing him take an observation with an instrument (the sextant), said that immediately after "fire came down from the heavens."
"This so frightened them that they at once declined to go farther, turning back and leaving the distinguished voyageur to himself."
This is what Anderson said of the occasion:
"The Indian tradition has been vividly preserved even to minute particulars, and it is interesting to note the different aspects which the same circumstances assume, when regarded from the opposite point of view."

Thleuz-cuz Lake

In "British Columbia," draft unpublished manuscript (PABC), Anderson says: "Passing over several brooks which fall in on either side as we descend (the Fraser River south of Fort George), the next stream of any magnitude we arrive at is the West-Road River of (Sir Alexander) Mackenzie. This stream, which can scarcely be called navigable to any useful end, is called by the natives Nas-coh -- the people in its vicinity Nas-cotin. Higher up its chief branch is called Tee-a-coh (ie. Literally "Road River.") One of its chief feeders is the lake Thleu-uz-cuz (ie. "Split fish" -- the Slou a cuss of Mackenzie). By the line of this stream, crossing afterward the dividing ridges, Mackenzie penetrated to the Sea at the head of Milbank Sound, where he narrowly missed falling in with the exploring parties of Vancouver."

Anderson was always interested in Mackenzie's 1793 exploration. In the above map, Mackenzie's route down the Blackwater or West Road River is indicated in yellow -- you will see that he descended the Fraser River as far as the area where Fort Alexandria was later located, before returning to the north and taking Blackwater or "West Road River" to the Pacific Ocean. While he was in the area where Fort Alexandria was later built, Mackenzie had his clerk carve his name and the date, 1793, on a tree trunk. Whether the NWC men who built Fort Alexandria in 1821 ever found the tree is unknown, but Anderson never mentioned the then fifty-year old carving in his writings.

In 1844, Anderson made his own journey to Mackenzie's West Road River to establish a fur trade post on Thleuz-cuz Lake -- now Kluskus Lake. His approximate route from Fort Alexandria (which was then on the west bank of the Fraser River) followed a Ta-cully footpath that took the fur traders over many wooded ridges of land and along the shorelines of several small lakes. As the Ta-cully people travelled great distances on foot, the fur traders found that riding horses over their uncleared footpaths was slow and tiring work.

Anderson reached Thluez-cuz lake after six days travel, and found a large number of Natives gathered for a feast. The Ta-Cully people were delighted when Anderson said he planned to set up a post at Thleuz-cuz, and warned him that, if he did not, their furs would continue to find their way to the coast by the Natives' grease trail.

In his 1867 map of British Columbia, Anderson called Thleuz-cuz Lake 'Pelican Lake.' It is likely that when he arrived at the lake, he discovered a healthy breeding colony of White Pelicans at the lake. They are there no longer -- the only place that the American White Pelicans breed in British Columbia today is at Pelican Lake, north and east of Anderson's Pelican Lake of 1844.

The Salmon and Trout at Fraser's Lake

I am looking at all of Anderson's writings over the years, to uncover some personal items that refer to his time at Fraser's Lake post.
He was in charge of this post from spring 1836 (Outfit 1835) to spring 1840, but wrote little about his time there.
But in later writings, Anderson often mentioned the fish he found at the posts he served at.
In particular he wrote about the salmon that were so important to the fur traders in this region, where there were no large animals to hunt, and where starvation was often a problem.
In the end, his interest in the salmon and other fish he found in the interior lakes resulted in his obtaining his final position as the Dominion of Canada's Inspector of Fisheries -- a position he held from 1876 until his death in 1884.
In his article in BCHQ, Spring 2003, Rod Palmer calls Alexander Caulfield Anderson "an Ideal First Inspector of Fisheries."

In his published manuscript, The Dominion at the West; a Brief Description of the province of British Columbia, its Climate and Resources (Victoria, Richard Wolfenden, 1872), Alexander Caulfield Anderson described the new colony of British Columbia as "a Land of Lakes," and continued with, "It would be a vain attempt to describe the beauties of many of these superb sheets of water: and impossible to enumerate even a tithe of their number. In the aggregate there are many hundreds, varying in dimensions from seventy miles and upwards in length, by four or five miles in breadth, to the mere mountain tarn of a few acres in extent. Abounding with fish, the water of these lakes in generally very pure...."

Here's a word about the fish he found at Fraser's Lake (I will identify the fish as far as I am able, at the bottom of the page):
"The Peet is a red-fleshed Trout, frequenting the larger lakes, such as Stuart's and Fraser's. It grows to a great size, frequently exceeding 20 pounds in weight, and in some positions, I have been assured, weighing as much as forty, though I have never myself seen any nearly so large. They are usually caught with hooks, baiting with a small fish, during the season of open water. In early spring the natives catch them by making holes in the ice and roofing them over with pine-boughs so as to exclude the surface-light. In this way the fish, attracted by a lure, is readily detected and speared."
His footnote says: "This device, it may be noticed, is merely a modification of the Norwegian water-telescope; and shows how readily Man, in exigency, arrives through different processes at a common end."
To continue: "The Sha-pai is another variety, equal in all respects to the last; but differing in appearance, its fin being marked with faint orange-colored spots, and the flesh having a yellowish tint.
"The Peet-yaz, or Salmon-trout, resembling generally the ordinary trout caught elsewhere. There are, however, several varieties, differing in size and quality, as well as appearance, according to their habitat.
"The Talo-yaz (ie. Little Salmon), is a peculiar variety of Trout, of excellent quality, confined to certain lakes of the Upper District, and found, I think, in the Great Okinagan Lake -- a sheet of water abounding also in the larger species.
"In addition to hook and spear, weirs are employed to capture the various descriptions of Trout as they enter the rivers from the lakes to spawn. The gill-net, too, set in favorable positions, is employed for the small varieties. The artifical fly and the spoon-bait, which the angler bent on sport would employ, were of course unknown to the native fishermen, whose devices I have mentioned."

There were no carp in Fraser's Lake at this time, and so to understand this next paragraph, you can refer to my June 21, 2009, entry "The early fur traders' Carp."
"There are immense numbers of Carp of several varieties. These, when they enter the streams from the lakes to spawn, commencing in April, are caught by the natives with ingenious weirs, and sun-dried in vast quantities.

"The Sturgeon of British Columbia (Acipenser transmontanus of Richardson) differs widely in all respects from the common Sturgeon of the Atlantic (A. Sturio). This noble fish is common both to the Columbia and Fraser River; but does not by the former stream penetrate to the British Columbia frontier -- interrupted apparently by the Kettle Falls at Colvile, near to which point some have been known to reach. The fish appears in Fraser River in early Spring, following the shoals of certain small fish, called by the natives Oola-han, as they resort to the lower parts to spawn. The Western Sturgeon attains an enormous size: in the upper part of Fraser River, about Stuart's and Fraser's Lakes, having been caught weighing as much as seven or eight hundred pounds. These fish do not, there is reason to believe, always return to the sea; but, finding abundant food in the upper waters, continue to dwell and propagate there, frequenting chiefly the neighbourhood of the two lakes mentioned, and probably other localities. Unlike the Salmon, which constantly deteriorate as they ascend, the Sturgeon conversely improve; and are invariably fatter when caught in the upper waters, than in the vicinity of the sea.
"On the Lower Fraser these fish are caught by the natives in a singular but very effacious manner. A canoe, manned by two persons, one of whom acts merely to keep the light vessel in position, is suffered to drift along the deepest channel. The fisherman, seated in the bow, is armed with a jointed staff which may be lengthened at pleasure, and to the end of which a barbed harpoon attached to a cord is loosely affixed. With this he feels his way, keeping the point of his weapon constantly within a short distance of the bottom. The fish, slowly swimming upwards, is detected by the touch: and instantly struck, is afterwards readily secured. In the Upper Fraser the bait is chiefly employed; but in the larger eddies strong nets are found very effective. At the effluence of Lakes Stuart and Fraser, near which the Hudson's Bay Company's posts are situated, long stake-nets are set during Spring and Summer, and by means of which a fish is occasionally caught, the more highly prized for its comparative rarity: for while the Sturgeons grows to larger dimensions in these vicinities, it is very much rarer than in the lower parts of the river.

"The Salmon entering Fraser River are of several varieties, making their appearance successivly at various periods from early Spring to the end of summer. As a general rule it may be asserted that the earlier shoals are the stronger and richer fish. For clearness sake I shall confine my remarks chiefly to two principal varieties, called by the lower Indians Saw-quai and Suck-kai, by the upper Indians Kase and Ta-lo; by which latter names I shall distinguish them. The first, equal in size and quality to the large Salmon of Europe, enter the Fraser in May; the latter, a very much smaller and not so rich a fish, arriving a month or so later.... "

Kase (Fraser's Lake), or Saw-quai (Fort Alexandria) = Chinook (also called the Spring)
Ta-Lo (Fraser's Lake) or Suck-kai (Fort Alexandria) = Sockeye
The trout Anderson named the Peet; the Sha-pai; the Peet-yaz or Salmon Trout; Tao-Yaz or Little Salmon = Rainbow Trout, Cut Throat Trout, Lake Trout or any other of the many trout or chars that live in these lakes.
Oola-han = eulachon
Talo-Yaz might be the Kokanee salmon, a land-locked salmon which does not return to the ocean as the others do.

Anderson finishes this section of this manuscript with the comment: "I am not, however, to write a treatise on natural History, but to confine myself to such notes as may tend practically to a useful end. Nevertheless I may be pardoned if I have dwelt passingly upon a fact which, if for its singularity alone, is worthy of record. Before quitting this branch of the subject, too, I may supply some memoranda which will convey the idea of the productiveness, in favorable years, of the salmon-fisheries on the Fraser. At the post of Fraser's Lake, in 1836, 36,000 dried salmon were purchased and stored for use; and at other Posts proportionate quantities were likewise secured out of the superabundant provision made by the natives. This year in question it is true, was one of great abundance."
No one living at Fraser Lake today would be able to catch 36,000 salmon. Our Fraser River salmon fisheries is in crisis. Fewer and fewer salmon are returning to the river every year, and our salmon fisheries may never recover from years of mismanagement and over-fishing. The salmon which supported our fur-trading ancestors might soon disappear.

Monday, December 7, 2009

An Updated Index of Articles

Alexander Caulfield Anderson:
Nov. 8, Alexander C. Anderson and James Anderson A, HBC
Sept. 7, A.C. Anderson items in Royal British Columbia Museum

Anderson-Seton family:
July 16, The Anderson-Seton family tree
July 16, The Anderson-Seton family
July 18, Elton Alexander Anderson, 1907-1975
July 22, General Sir James Outram
July 26, James Anderson A, HBC
August 9, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Seton
Nov. 8, Alexander C. Anderson and James Anderson A, HBC
Nov. 11, Collins Telegraph Trail, re: James Mackenzie Anderson
Nov. 11, Constable Henry "Harry" Anderson of the B. C. Police

Anderson and Seton Lakes -- August 23, 2009

Anderson's River Trail:
Aug. 2, 2009, Following Alexander Caulfield Anderson around British Columbia

Brigade Trails:
Aug. 2, Following Alexander Caulfield Anderson around British Columbia (Anderson's River trail)
August 23, New Brigade Trail, Copper Creek to Loon Lake
Sept. 8, The Brigade Trails
Sept. 20, New Brigade Trail, Loon Lake to Drowned Horse Lake
Nov. 1, Brigade Trail, Bridge Creek to Fish Lake (Williams Lake)
Nov. 1, Brigade Trail, Fish Lake to Fort Alexandria

Fort Alexandria:
Nov. 8, 2009, Fort Alexandria

Fort George (Prince George, B.C.):
Nov. 9, 2009, Up the Fraser River to Fort George

Fraser's Lake (Fraser Lake):
Nov. 11, 2009, Fraser's Lake Post

Fraser River:
July 26, Following Alexander Anderson Around British Columbia
August 2, Native Bridges in the Fraser Canyon
August 9, Salish Wool Dogs

General Fur Trade:
June 13, Anderson's Tree
June 19, Trade Blotter
June 21, the Early fur traders' Carp
August 29, A short chronology of the fur trade in the New Caledonia district
Sept. 8, The Brigade Trails
Nov. 15, HBC Boats west of the Rocky Mtns.
Nov. 23, Betsy Birnie
Dec. 6, The Smell of Furs

Aug. 16, Following Alexander Caulfield Anderson around British Columbia
Aug. 30, Sam Black

August 23, 2009, Fort Langley via Kamloops to Fort Alexandria

Native Bridges in the Fraser Canyon:
Aug. 2, 2009

New Caledonia:
Aug. 29, A short chronology of the fur trade in the New Caledonia district
Nov. 8, Fort Alexandria
Nov. 9, Up the Fraser River to Fort George
Nov. 11, Fraser's Lake post
Nov. 15, HBC boats west of the Rocky Mountains

Nicola Valley:
August 16, 2009, Following Alexander Caulfield Anderson around British Columbia

People of the Fur Trade:
Aug. 30, Sam Black
Nov. 23, Betsy Birnie
Nov. 28, John McIntosh

Rhododendron Flats -- July 25, 2009

Salish Wool Dogs -- August 9, 2009

Thompson's River:
August 9, 2009, Following Alexander Caulfield Anderson around British Columbia

1846, First Exploration:
Aug. 23, 2009, Anderson and Seton Lakes

1846, Second Exploration:
July 25, Rhododendron Flats
June 13, Nicolum River
June 13, Anderson's Tree

1847 Exploration:
July 26, Fraser River
August 2, Native Bridges in the Fraser Canyon
August 9, Salish Wool Dogs

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Smell of Furs

One of the most important thing I did as I prepared this manuscript for publication, was that I gave it to four people to read.
One of my readers questioned the fact that I said in my manuscript that the furs smelled.
"What did they smell like"" he asked.
Great question, but it is not the easiest question to answer by any means.
In his book Sources of the River; Tracking David Thompson across Western North America, Jack Nisbet says: "An average beaver pelt weighed a little better than a pound, and one pressed pack .... usually topped ninety pounds. Warm or wet weather would draw out the smell of any unscraped fat, and the fur bundles often made rancid travelling companions."

That's a good start, and for a while I thought I might have to be satisfied with that answer.
Then, as I flipped through the index of the Beaver magazine, I discovered a heading that read "the distinctive smell of furs."
In an early Beaver Magaine is an article by J.D.J. Forbes, Show Week in the HBC London fur warehouse (Beaver Magazine, April 1921).
In the London warehouse, each fur is stored on its own floor -- it is an easy thing to discover what odour each animal's fur carries!
Mr. Forbes says, "Another thing that strikes the casual visitor is the variety of odours he encounters as he goes from one floor to another. The distinctive odour of the muskrat, for example, is quite easily distinguished from the peculiar smell which clings to the marten or Canadian sable. Bears have odours of their own, and that connected with the black or brown bear is quite different from the polar's flavour. Otter and mink skins each have faint but recognizable smells, and fisher is at times quite pungent. Fur seals in brine and dry hair seals are not difficult to scent, and wolves soon betray their presence. Beaver and foxes perhaps are most free from odour, whilst the smell of wild skunk is the most obnoxious."

The furs are quite beautiful, Mr. Forbes tells us.
No fur is more sparkling than the skunk's when it is cleaned; the soft richness of the beaver fur is only revealed after processing, when the long copper-coloured hairs are removed.
The otter fur is close and short and is much more durable than the rougher coat of a fox or a wolf.
Canadian sable or marten, mink, fisher, and lynx are on the floor above the otter.
These are the fine furs, with mink being the least valuable, though it is popular.
Lynx is silky but fragile; and usually dyed black before use.
The variety of colour in marten skins is extraordinary, he says, but the darker colours are the most valuable.
Fisher, the largest members of the weasel family, has the most handsome coat and can almost compare in value at times with the sable.
Bear skins take up much more room on the floor than the more valuable furs.
In the HBC warehouses, the valuable fox skins were stored on the top floor.
There was red, blue, white, and silver foxes -- I also know that Anderson called some of the foxes he saw in New Caledonia "cross foxes."
The white fox and blue fox (which has shades of blue and brown) were both Arctic breeds; Anderson would not have seen them in New Caledonia.
Here's a mention of the cross fox: "Cross fox is another very popular article which in size and texture is similar to its kinsman the red fox, but it differs from the latter in that its back is usually covered with silvery hair and a more or less well-defined black cross is to be seen on its neck...."
Wolves have a coarse fur; wolverines were distinguished by their distinctive saddle of dark colour surrounded by a belt of lighter coloured hair.
But the silver fox was the most valuable fur of them all, with its fine hair and beautiful coloring that ranged from pure silver-white to a deep, rich, black.