Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Joseph Allard, Fort Alexandria employee

Joseph Allard was a young man when he joined the fur trade in Lachine, in 1839.
He was sent almost immediately to New Caledonia, where he was listed as a middleman from 1839-1847.
According to Bruce Watson, Lives Lived west of the Divide, he appears to have been posted to Fort George, though he was many times at Fort Alexandria.
That may have been in later years, however. I have found little on Allard in the journals before 1848.

For Joseph Allard's descendents, here is what I have found.
He did not appear in the Fort Alexandria journals before November 1846:
"Fri. 27th [Nov.] -- do. Yesterday afternoon Allard arrived from Ft. George on horseback. Mr. Maxwell has sent him down to meet the express and likewise to get some medical assistance from me, as he is unwell. But I am afraid I can do little to benefit him, beyond what is contained in the advice I have already given him. His disorder seems to be a violent chronic rheumatism -- meanwhile, at this season it is impossible to send the man back with a horse, & it is unsafe to send him unaccompanied by the river. So he will wait until the arrival of the Express party which cannot now be long delayed."
Allard was at Fort Alexandria that Christmas: "Saturday 26th -- Yesterday being Christmas Day, the men had a treat of meat & other dainties as usual. Today at 10 am. Allard & Vautrin with Marten the Indn. set out to convey the packet to Ft. George."
Poor guy -- dark and gloomy Fort George was no place for a man with rheumatism or arthritis!

Joseph Allard had a long career in the HBC as middleman in New Caledonia and at Thompson's River post (Kamloops).
He retired in 1860, though he may have casually worked in the fur trade for an additional two years.
This man settled near Fort Alexandria, and as late as 1873 was a farmer in the area.

Some of you are probably wondering what a middleman was.
The water-bourne portion of the brigade was made up of many men with different jobs and responsiblities.
The brigade leader was an experienced voyageur who chose the camping spots and announced the rests, when the men fired up their pipes to enjoy a leisurely smoke.
Each boat or canoe carried a bowsman and steersman -- veterans who wielded their enormous paddles to steer their canoes around the many hazards that littered the river routes.
They also carried Middlemen, who paddled or poled for eighteen hours a day.
These voyageurs were muscular men, physically suited to paddling their canoes or boats upriver and carrying freight over the many portages on the route.
Even in New Caledonia, they dressed in multi-coloured sashes and red shirts with decorations of ribbons and ostrich feathers, and sang their chansons to a fierce rhythm of forty to fifty paddle strokes a minute (in canoes, at least).
And the language they spoke was a French patois that included more epithets than the average person was comfortable hearing.


  1. can you direct me to the journals you speak of here?

  2. I see you have already discovered this. I was going to send it to you, but now won't. The Fort Alexandria journals are in the HBC ARrhives, on microfilm. You can borrow them, talk to your local library. They are not, however, easy to read, and these posts have all the information I got from them in the years that I read. There are journals later than 1848. There are no Fort George journals. I dont think I have any information beyond what I have posted here, sorry.