Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Gentlemen in New Caledonia district

At this point we are following Alexander Caulfield Anderson's outgoing journey from New Caledonia to the Columbia district, in 1840.
Anderson returned to New Caledonia in November 1842, and remained in the district until spring, 1848.
This was an isolated district for the fur traders, but it sometimes appears as if no one was in the district other than Alexander Caulfield Anderson.
That is not so; however there were probably more Metis men in the district than white men.
Here are some of the gentlemen who worked the district at the same time Anderson was in charge at Fort Alexandria, 1842-1848.
Not all were Metis, but more than you would expect were.

For the most part, the gentlemen who worked the New Caledonia fur trade remained in the territory for a number of years, though Archibald McKinlay left McLeod Lake with the outgoing 1840 brigade and was placed in charge of Fort Nez Perce.
Peter Skene Ogden planned to leave the territory in 1844 but abandoned his plans when John Lee Lewes, who was to replace him, lost his hand in a shooting accident.
Fort Colvile's Archibald McDonald retired from the fur trade and Lewes took over this less difficult post.
John Tod remained at Kamloops until 1848; though he was the fur trader that was closest to Fort Alexandria, he rarely if ever visited the post.
But other men did.

In the Fort Vancouver account books of 1844, B.223/d/156, these men are listed as being in New Caledonia:
Officer -- Donald Manson, C.T.
Clerks -- Alexander C. Anderson; Duncan Cameron; Thomas Charles; William F. Lane; William McBean; John McIntosh; Donald McLean; Henry Maxwell; William Porteus; William Todd.

In a letter to Governor Simpson, D.5/13, fo. 109, HBCA, this is a listing of gentlemen forming the New Caledonia establishment, 15th Feb. 1845:
Donald Manson, Stuart's Lake; Mr. A. C. Anderson, Alexandria; Thos. Charles, Thuzcuz; Wm. Porteous, Fort George; Wm Todd, Fraser's Lake; Donald McLean, McLeod's Lake; Henry Maxwell, Connollys Lake; Dun E. Cameron, Babine Lake. A note at the bottom says "The latter gentleman retired from the service this summer and as he goes out from this with the Brigade on the 21st April next, that post will be vacant."

These are the men who appeared, from time to time, in the Fort Alexandria journals:

The red headed clerk, Donald McLean, visited the fort regularly, but remained in charge at the Chilcotin post until it was closed down in early 1844. McLean was a Scot, born on the Isle of Mull and he entered the service in 1833. By the time Anderson arrived at Fort Alexandria in 1842, Donald McLean was probably about forty years old. Although McLean is often called the "bully of the fur trade," I find no reference to that reputation in Anderson's journals.

Donald McLean was the first man that Anderson met when he approached Fort Alexandria in 1842.
The second man who caused trouble for Anderson and the gentlemen of the district was William Morwick, who was in charge of the Babine fort.
Morwick was from the Orkney islands and was Peter Skene Ogden's cook at Fort St. James.
However, because of a chronic shortage of men, Morwick was put in charge of Fort Connolly, with the title of postmaster.
He was a shrewd man, but made some mistakes and was shot and killed by a Native named "Grand-Visage," who shot him in the head as he stood silhouetted between two parchment-covered windows.
Grand-Visage was tempted out of his hiding place and shot as he trustingly passed one of the bastions of the fort.
Peter Skene Ogden had to leave Stuart's Lake with the brigade and assigned Anderson the responsibility of solving the problems caused by the Natives' response to the shooting of Grand-Visage.
William McBean took over the post, and Anderson told him that it would be prudent to avert ill-will -- "in this we compromise none of our standing with the natives, seeing that we were the aggressors in this affair."

Fort George's William Porteus sometimes visited Fort Alexandria; there is no biographical record for him in the Hudson's Bay Archives unfortunately.

Porteus was replaced by Henry Maxwell, who sometimes came to Fort Alexandria to get treatment for his "chronic rheumatism." Born in 1817, Maxwell would have been thirty years old when Anderson met him, and he left New Caledonia for the Columbia at the same time Anderson did. Maxwell was born in Montreal and apparently not Metis, and retired to Delaware after 1864.

William Fletcher Lane worked for the North West Company 1820-21 and was born in Ireland about 1794. He came into the HBC as a clerk in 1821, and worked in the Ottawa River and English River districts until he was dismissed for being troublesome. In 1829 he rejoined the Company, and travelled west with Alexander Anderson in the Lachine brigade and Saskatchewan boats, both men bound for the Columbia district. Lane was diverted north to the Athabasca district, however, and reached New Caledonia about 1832. By the time Anderson knew him again in 1842, he would have been almost fifty years old, and it did not appear that they were friends.

The new Thluez cuz post, established in 1844, was first run by William Todd. He proved to be an unsatisfactory manager and was soon replaced. Todd was Metis, baptized in 1823 and joined the company in 1841. His birthdate is unlisted, but if it was about 1823 Todd would have been a very young man when Anderson first knew him -- only nineteen years old. In fact Anderson does write in the Fort Alexandria journals, "That gentleman is young and inexperienced and I am therefore (perhaps uselessly) uneasy in a high degree about the enterprise entrusted to him. I am anxious for the arrival of the Gentlemen expected by express, in the hope that one of greater experience may then be at my disposal."

William McBean was born at Folle Avoine, Lake Superior, about 1807, and was Metis. He entered the HBC service in 1828 at Rupert's River, and by 1833 was in New Caledonia. When Anderson re-entered the territory in 1842, McBean would have been thirty five years old. McBean made apprentice clerk at Babine and was clerk in charge at Fraser's Lake by 1841, but because he was Metis, would never have made Chief Trader.

Thomas Charles appeared in the New Caledonia district in November 1844, and this responsible young man took over the Thleuz-cuz post from Todd, running it fairly efficiently and making mistakes only because of inexperience with the country. James Anderson, A.C.'s son, tells us that this young man was a son of the Mr. William Charles of the Red River district, who travelled west as far as Red River with Anderson in 1832. If so, Thomas Charles is the brother of William Charles, who was in charge of the Hudson's Bay Company in Victoria in 1874-1885; both of them would have been Metis.

Paul Fraser acted as witness when Anderson was married at Fort Alexandria in 1837, and he clerked at Fort St. James and later worked in the Columbia district. He was Scottish and no relation to Simon Fraser, according to H.R. Hatfield in "Chief Trader Paul Fraser, his parentage and grave," Okanagan Hist. Soc. 1980. Paul Fraser returned to New Caledonia about 1844, and annoyed Anderson by riding his horses hard through deep snow until they were exhausted. Fraser beat his men and is sometimes accused of causing the death of one man; he was a man who "as usual promises great things, more I fear than can be reasonably expected from him." James Douglas continued his notes with, "He has an unfortunate tongue, which is a never failing source of trouble to himself and all around him. Anderson was very bitter with him at Langley about some reports to his prejudice and was disposed to go to great length with him but I advised him to drop the matter and patched up a reconciliation on Fraser's solemn promise of amendment for the future -- which I fear was forgotten as soon as the parties separated." (D.5/29, fo. 57b, HBCA). The French Canadian (Metis) employees did not forget Fraser's treatment of them -- Paul Fraser was killed when a tree being felled at the brigade's campsite by accident fell on his tent.

Clerk John McIntosh, whose story is told in an earlier posting, was another witness to Anderson's marriage -- not something that Anderson would have wished for. McIntosh was about thirty two years old when Anderson met him in 1835, and thirty seven years old when Anderson returned to New Caledonia the second time. McIntosh was the Metis son of a HBC Chief Trader, and had quite a few years of experience in the fur trade -- experience which did not translate to a promotion.

Twenty five year old Montrose McGillivray, who accompanied Anderson as clerk on his third expedition down the banks of the Fraser River to Fort Langley, was grandson of William McGillivray, partner and chief director of the NWC before 1821. A Metis, Montrose McGillivray died in the measles epidemic of 1848.

Finally the son of Peter Skene Ogden worked for Alexander Anderson at Fort Alexandria, as a clerk in the fur trade. Michel Ogden was obviously a Metis man, as his mother was Native. He joined Anderson at the old Thompson's River post when Anderson re-entered the territory in fall of 1842, and was one of two Metis men who led him over the trail that would become the new brigade trail between Kamloops and Fort Langley. Ogden accompanied Anderson on his expedition to Fort Langley up and down the Fraser River canyons in 1847, and he followed Anderson to Fort Colvile in 1848. He is regularly mentioned in the Fort Alexandria journals and proved to be one of Anderson's most reliable employees.

I have said that I am surprised how many of these gentlemen were Metis; but a surprising number of the employees of the fur trade of Fort Alexandria were also Metis, rather than French Canadians.
In my next posting, I will attempt to list them all for you, and to discover their stories.

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