Sunday, January 23, 2011

I call myself a family historian ....

... and, in truth, I am less interested in the genealogy than in the stories of the people -- some who are members of my large Anderson-Seton family, and some who are not.
In spite of that, my blog is being picked up by a number of genealogists.
Most recently the blog has been mentioned in a genealogical/archival research blog which you will find at
The mention is on date January 21, 2011.
I do not know if the author wants to keep his/her name private so I will not mention the name of the person who wrote the note to me -- the blog is listed under Blair Archival Research with no profile information given.
The blog's author has listed ten genealogical blogs and other resources, with Fur Trade Family History at number 4.
I am honored by the mention and thank the owner of the blog.
But I noted with interest that one of these sites was a New Zealand genealogical blog, and as we know, many of Alexander Caulfield Anderson's descendents live in New Zealand.
Those of you who are genealogists might want to check out Blair Archival Research's list of blogs on to see if you can find anything of interest to you.

One of the things I like most about this blog is that my readers (not all of whom are listed) are so willing to share their family stories with me.
Some of the people I have talked to are descended from fur traders or Natives who will be major characters in my next book.
Thanks to all of you for sharing your stories.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A short break for illustrations

Out of necessity, I am taking a short break from this blog.
Firstly, the postings I have promised to make will require me to dip into information that I researched five or more years ago.
I have forgotten much of what I learned and it will take time to put it all together again.
But more important than that .... I must create the illustrations that are to be placed in the finished book, and that takes time I do not have readily available.
Most photographs are already submitted to the publisher, but the last few illustrations will take more time.
At the same time I am drawing the last few important maps, I am applying for permissions to various archives, for use of photographs in their collections.
Fortunately for me, most of the illustrations and maps came from the British Columbia archives.
It's an expensive business -- it cost me some $2000 to order copies of all of Anderson's important maps.
It will cost me a further $2,000 to use all the illustrations and portions of the maps I am applying for.
But these maps and photographs are important, and will make for a great book.
This is a very personal project for me -- it is a memorial to a great man history has ignored.

I have an interesting story attached to one of the most innocent appearing illustrations -- that of Anderson's Latin Bible preserved in the Royal British Columbia Museum collection.
Anderson purchased the Bible at Fort Vancouver in 1840, as he passed through on the way to Cowlitz Farm and Fort Nisqually.
When I took my photographs, the Bible fell open at a page that held a collection of dried leaves, and I photographed that page.
Because that page said something about Anderson's interest in natural history, I chose that photograph to place in the book.
It wasn't important to me to identify the leaves, but I sent the photo off to a friend who has an interest in natural history.
He suggest "elm," and sent the photo to another friend, who forwarded it to someone else, who identified the leaves as "maybe a rhododendron."
The identification of this plant meant nothing to the naturalists who suggested rhododendron, but it meant a great deal to me.
As you know from an earlier posting on this blog, in 1846 Anderson walked through the grove of California rhododendrons that still grow at Rhododendron Flats, Manning Park.
He must have carried his Latin Bible with him on that exploration, and slipped a few California rhododendron leaves betweeen the pages of the book.
What an interesting caption that will make!

But we haven't really identified these leaves yet.
The Royal British Columbia Museum botanist will look at the dried leaves when he returns from his Christmas break.
He may even do a DNA test to establish the true identify of these plants.
We have to wait for his answer before I can write the caption.
But doesn't that say something very interesting about the character of Alexander Caulfield Anderson?

Sunday, January 9, 2011


If you are on Twitter, I am, too.
I don't know yet how it works, but I have signed up to receive a bunch of writing tweets so I can learn how to use it.
My twitter address is furtradefamily -- should be easy for you to remember.
I described myself as a sleep deprived writer telling the story of Alexander Caulfield Anderson's journey through British Columbia's history -- true enough!
We'll see how it works -- hope to see you there.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Sasquatch Story

J.W. Burns, a schoolteacher who lived on the Chehalis Reserve near Harrison Hot Springs, was the first man to write stories about the Sasquatch.
As early as 1927 a major magazine published one of Burns' stories, and the Sasquatch became a household word in British Columbia.
These ape-like humanoids are reported to stand between six and eleven feet tall and vary in weight from 700 pounds to over a ton.
They walk erect, have monkey-like features, and are covered in dark, rich auburn or black hair.
Their easily located footprints -- spotted much more often than the creatures themselves -- are fourteen to eighteen inches long and seven inches in width.
[Source of description: David G. Gordon, Field Guide to the Sasquatch (Seattle, Sasquatch Books, 1992)

Although Sasquatch are reported all over the North American continent, most have been found in the Coast Ranges of British Columbia, in exactly the area that Alexander Anderson and his party passed through in the early summer of 1846.
In fact, if you have done any research on the subject of Sasquatch, you know that Alexander Caulfield Anderson is often listed as the first white man to have ever seen one.
Most writers report that Anderson heard the story of the Sasquatch at the Footstone, north of the Lillooet River.
But some reserachers say that Anderson and his men were stoned by a family of Sasquatch entrenched behind rocks on a mountainside as the men wound their way through the narrow Fraser Canyon.
Some Sasquatch historians even mention Anderson's letters to the Board of Management as references -- but no one has found his report in the Hudson's Bay Company archives.
Nor is there any mention of such a creature in Anderson's other writings, though he described every animal from the hummingbird to the mountain caribou.
Nor did Anderson mention this human-like creature in his descriptions of the Natives of the territory.

It is fairly easy to discover the beginning of the Sasquatch story and Anderson's connection to it.
The story involves many interesting and well-known persons, including newspapermen Bruce "Pinky" McKelvie, H.H.C. "Torchy" Anderson, and a reporter named John Green.
McKelvie was born in Vancouver in 1889 and joined the Province newspaper in 1912, where he was a police reporter and covered City Hall affairs.
"Torchy" Anderson was Alexander Caulfield Anderson's grandson, born in Calgary in 1894 -- he came to the Province newspaper in 1928 and worked with McKelvie.
John Green was a reporter from Vancouver who worked with Bruce McKelvie and probably with Torchy Anderson.

Torchy Anderson owned a copy of his uncle's memoirs, which contained a copy of Alexander Caulfield Anderson's 1846 journals.
Bruce McKelvie, a Sasquatch research and history writer, would have had little trouble in connecting the "Footstone" story with the Sasquatch -- especially as a Lil'Wat storyteller named Charlie Mack had already made the connection.
And in 1954, Green purchased the Agassiz Harrison Advance, a community newspaper that served the area at the head of the Fraser Valley.
At the time Green took ownership, the editor was running a series of articles on the "Sasquatch Indians."

"Sceptics may scoff at the stories told of the Harrison Sasquatch Indians, people of the mountains, of immense stature, between seven and eight feet tall, ape-like creatures with shaggy hair covering most of their bodies," the editor had written.
"Most of the local Indians and some white people have no doubt at all of the existence of the Sasquatch, in fact according to some Indians the Sasquatch were the only race of people on earth at one time.
He finished the story with, "The true Indians are not likely to invent stories to deceive their white brothers."

Green was reportedly dumbfounded when he read the story, but he soon became an avid collector of Sasquatch lore, according to Daphne Sleigh in The People of the Harrison (Abbotsford: Abbotsford Printing, 1990).
For example, on Friday, April 1, 1955, Green reported a Sasquatch seized a woman from the front lawn of the Harrison Hot Springs Hotel and ran off with her into the bush.

In June 1956, Sasquatch hunter Rene Dahinden arrived in Harrison Hot Springs, eager to prove the existence of this creature.
Dahinden was an immigrant from Switzerland, a farm worker in Alberta who had developed an interest in the Sasquatch.
The newspaper headlines read, "Two Men going into Bush in Search of Sasquatch."
After an unsuccessful search, Dahinden emerged from the bush and left Harrison Lake, supposedly to raise more funds for another expedition.
Although Sasquatch stories continued to appear in the newspaper at regular intervals, no one appeared willing to contribute funds for the search.
Green's July 1, 1957 editorial complained that "Most of our readers will have noticed by this time that the Harrison Sasquatch Expedition (under Rene Dahinden) appears to exist only in the newspapers."
The problem, Green explained, was that no one outside Harrison Hot Springs had contributed money to the fund, and if local business people wanted the publicity that this expedition would bring to their area, they would have to pay for it themselves.
Finally, Harrison Hot Springs Council convinced itself of the marketing potential of the Sasquatch, and contributed $1,000 towards the Expedition's supposed expenses -- money which probably went toward erecting a welcome sign graced by an enormous neon Sasquatch on the outskirts of Harrison Hot Springs.
Just as tourist season kicked off, Green reprinted an old story about a humming Sasquatch that attempted to hypnotize a local woman.
He followed that story up with others, and the stories were more unbelievable every week.
But other newspapers picked up the stories and the tourists flooded into Harrison Lake Hotsprings.

Sasquatch hunters came to Harrison Hot Springs, too.
Naturalist Ivan T. Sanderson arrived at Harrison Hot Springs, and writer Marion Templeton Place reported in her book, On the Track of the Bigfoot (sorry, I guess I didn't note the publisher) that John Green met with Sanderson.
"'Sasquatch,' Green repeated slowly," she wrote.

Place continued this imaginary conversation:
"Sasquatch was the English version of words meaning 'wild man of the woods,' used by several Indian tribes to describe the hairy two-legged creatures long encountered in the mountains of British Columbia and Vancouver Island.....
"Green added that if he remembered correctly, the earliest known sighting between white man and the creatures took place in 1864 when an officer of the Hudson's Bay Company traveled through the Fraser River country, in present-day British Columbia.
"This man, Alexander Caulfield Anderson, had come west to explore and establish the most practical route for fur brigades to travel between the Company's posts on the coast, up the river and over the mountains into the interior."
Except for the date error -- 1864 instead of 1846 -- this story is fairly correct so far.
But, Place's story continues:
"In his journal the fur trader reported that 'hairy humanoids' had hurled rocks down on his party as it worked through the awesome canyon of the Fraser River.

"Sanderson interrupted to ask if Anderson had included a physical description of the creature in his journal.

"'Unfortunately not,' Green answered. However, he added, his eyes twinkling, if the scientists and his friends wanted to learn more about Sasquatch, particularly about the one captured long ago --


"Green chuckled. Yes, captured. And then there was the story about one who had kidnapped a prospector --


"Kidnapped, the newspaper publisher declared seriously. In his files he had both the story written by the prospector and an affidavit attesting to its truth..."

I checked out Marian Templeton Place in Something about the Author: Facts and Pictures about Contempory Authors & Illustrators of Books for Young People, (Detroit: Gale Research, 1972) vol. 3, p.160.
[You might find this encyclopedia in your local library youth section].
Marian Templeton Place was a children's writer who enjoyed penning stories of the old west.
However, every once in a while she took a break from gold rush and gunfighter stories to write about monsters.
Her Sasquatch books might be found in the youth non-fiction section of the local library, filed alongside books about the Loch Ness Monster and UFOs.
But even though Marian Templeton Place is known to be a writer of youth fiction, her Sasquatch books, including "Bigfoot All over the Country," are regularly cited as reliable sources in many books and articles about the Sasquatch.

There's lots of information about the Sasquatch around, and some of the most interesting information is contained in a book by Greg Long, The Making of Bigfoot: the Inside Story (New York: Prometheus Books, 2004).
John Green is a character in this book, as is the above mentioned zoologist Ivan Sanderson.
It appears they exerted a lot of effort in their search for the Sasquatch, but failed to find solid evidence it actually existed.
A long time ago, I addressed a short query to a Bigfoot website, no longer on the internet.
I inquired about the source of the information contained in its pages.
John Green -- and I presume it was the above named John Green -- quickly responded.
He wrote:
"In the 46 years since I first heard that A.C. Anderson was supposed to have written of a Sasquatch sighting I have yet to encounter any indication that he actually did so, in 1864 or any other year.
"I have read in the original his account of exploring the Harrison Lillooet route bypassing the Fraser Canyon, which is where such a report was supposedly to be found, but there is none."

But Alexander Caulfield Anderson is not the only fur trader that is connected with the Sasquatch.
An earlier fur trader is said to have been the first man to see a Sasquatch footprint.
My next story will tell you about David Thompson's experience with the finding of a Sasquatch footprint.
It will also bring us back from our geneological and historical jaunt to British Columbia's west coast, and return us to the western slopes of the Rocky Mountains.