Sunday, January 3, 2010

Robert Birnie

Alexander Caulfield Anderson left the Fraser's Lake post in the winter of 1839, and waited at Fort George to make another journey up the Fraser River to pick up the leather supplies for the territory.
Peter Skene Ogden cancelled those orders, and asked Anderson to come to Stuart's Lake to spend the remainder of the winter with him.
Anderson learned that he would be reassigned to the Columbia District in the spring, and that he would be leaving New Caledonia with the outgoing brigades in the summer of 1840.
On the last day of January, 1840, Ogden reported that "Anderson arrived from Fort George today. He did not come by [Fraser Lake] but by [Stuart River], a far shorter route, and one we shall in future follow -- a great saving of time and provisions."
Up to this time, the HBC men had fallen into the habit of travelling via the Nechako River to Fraser's Lake, then taking the overland trail to Stuart's Lake.
It appears that the HBC men in New Caledonia had, by the 1830's, forgotten many of the routes that had once been well known to the NWC explorers.
After Anderson re-introduced the new route in 1840, the HBC brigades from Stuart's Lake and from Fraser's Lake travelled south by separate river routes, meeting at the native village of Chinlac and travelling together to Fort George.

In our explorations of this territory, we will travel south with the outgoing 1840 brigade all the way to Fort Vancouver, over the old brigade trail across the Thompson plateau and down the North Thompson River to the Thompson's River post.
Peter Skene Ogden led out the brigades, and with him travelled Alexander Caulfield Anderson and his family, Archibald McKinlay and his wife and children (if any), and Robert Birnie.
Robert Birnie was Betsy Birnie's younger brother, who had travelled north with the New Caledonia brigade to accompany his sister to Fort Alexandria, where she was married to Alexander Anderson.
Apparently, Robert Birnie spent a few years in the fur trade at Fraser's Lake, in the care of his brother-in-law.
When he returned to Fort Vancouver on June 10th, 1840, he officially joined the fur trade and clerked under James Douglas.
In 1841 Robert Birnie was sent to San Francisco, then called Yerba Buena, via the Sandwich Islands, in the ship, Cowlitz.
He left San Francisco in the same ship that Governor George Simpson and Dr. John McLoughlin travelled in, and shortly afterward left the employee of the HBC at Sandwich Islands.
He worked in the Sandwich Islands as a bookkeeper for a while, then returned to California where he worked in a store in Santa Barbara and various other places.
About 1846 he arrived in Oregon and helped his father set up his new farm at Cathlamet, after which he returned to California, where he farmed.
This information comes from the Bancroft Library manuscript called Personal adventures of Robert Birnie, born at Astoria, Oregon, 1824, Feb. 7 -- Mss. C-E65:33.

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