Sunday, February 27, 2011

Lists of voyageurs contracts

I found another resource for fur trade researchers through the Centre for Rupert's Land Studies at the University of Winnipeg.
Google "Centre for Rupert's Land Studies," and drop down the left side of the page to "Other Links."
There are tons of fur trade resources on this page, but I was most interested to see a collection of voyageurs contracts at the bottom of page 4, when the list was printed out.
This is the Davies/Scroggie Collection of Voyageur Contracts, held by the Yale University Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library in the Yale Collection of Western Americana, WA MSS-S-2357, Davies/Scroggie Collection of Voyageur Contracts.
There is of course no Beaulieu listed in these contracts, and for the most part the collection is too late to be of interest to descendents of Beaulieu.
There was however more than one familiar name -- and I forwarded some information onto a possible descendent of Alexis Courchene.
This should puzzle him for a while.
You might find one of your voyageur ancestors in this 38 page document -- it's worth while looking at it.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Some resources for locating North West Company employees

My search for Beaulieu began about eight years ago, and continues to this day.
I have learned a lot, but still cannot prove that David Thompson's Beaulieu was the man I call 'Our Beaulieu.'
But I have come across quite a few books which list names of men who worked for the North West Company.
Among these are the following:

"The Northwest," by B.C. Payette, in the University of Victoria Library under number FC3206 P39.
I believe the book was written and self published by a descendent of a North West fur trader named Payette, who worked at Spokane House at about the same time that James Birnie was there, and Beaulieu.
Somewhere in the middle of the book is a page that is headed by the words: "La Compagnie du Nord-Oues -- Liste des Bourgeois, Commis, engages, et voyageurs de la Compagnie du Nord-Ouest, apres la fusion de 1804."
This translates more or less as: 'North West Company, list of bourgeois [gentlemen], clerks, engages and voyageurs of the North West Company, after the merger of 1804.'
The North West Company merged with smaller companies at various times but always maintained the name of the North West Company.
There are no Beaulieus listed in the Department of la Riviere Athabasca, nor is there any listed at Fort des Prairies.
But at La Bas de la Riviere Rouge [lower Red River district], a Jos. Beaulieu is listed among the voyageurs contre maitres, or 'master voyageur.'
At le Pic [Lake Superior] a Louis Boileau, Interpreter, appears; At Lac Aux Flambeau voyageur Basile Beaulieu.
I believe both these latter two men are members of the Hudon dit Beaulieu family who later settled in Minnesota; I will mention them later.

Another listing in this same book has the men at the Lower Red River Department in 1805, and Joseph Beaulieu is listed there as well, with Louis Boileau at Pic Dept., and Basil Beaulieu at Lac des Flambeaux.

These lists must be copied from original records somewhere which I have not found; perhaps they are in the Hudson's Bay archives but not on microfilm reels.
They probably came from the following book, in fact:

From: "Les Bourgeois de la Compagnie du nord-ouest, original journals, narratives, letters, etc., relating to the Northwest Company," par L. R. Massan (New York: Antiquarian Press, 1960) vol. 1.
"List des bourgeois, commis, engages, et voyageurs de la Compagnie du Nord-ouest apres la fusion de 1804:
Le Bas de la Riviere Rouge: Voyageurs -- Contre Maitres, Jos. Beaulieu
Le Pic: Interprete, Louis Boileau; Lac la Flambeaux: Voyaguers, Basile Beaulieu."
Payette got his information from here, but where did author L. R. Massan find the original list?
Somewhere there has to be primary information -- where?

From: "New Light on the Early History of the Greater Northwest -- the Manuscript Journals of Alexander Henry, Fur Trader of the Northwest Comapny, and of David Thompson, Official Geographer and Explorer of the Same Company, 1799-1814 -- Exploration and Adventure among the Indians on the Red, Saskatchewan, Missouri and Columbia River," editor Elliott Coues:

From Alexander Henry's Journal -- "Oct. 2nd 1805 -- We set off for Pembina River with Le Sueur, Huneau and wife. Fire on the plains in every direction; burned our horses' feet passing through smoldering turf. We slept at night in Beaulieu's tent on Sale River."
The footnote says: "Beaulieu is a very old name in these annals. A half-breed family of that name was found on Slave R. when the N.W. Co. first reached it, in or about 1778, showing prior presence of the French so far as this.
"Francois Beaulieu, one of that family, born in the region, was one of the six voyageurs who started with (Sir) A. McKenzie for the Pacific May 9th, 1793, from the place where the party had wintered on Peace R., he was baptized by Mgr. Tache in 1848, then supposed to be over 70 years old, and died Nov. 1872, almost a centenarian.
"The Beaulieu of the text is Jospeh, listed as voyageur contre-maitre, N.W.Co., Lower Red R., 1804.
"Basile Beaulieu from Montreal, was a voyageur N.W. Co. in 1804-5, at Lac de Flambeau (Torch L.), Minn.
"One Beaulieu, given also as Bolieu, and never with Christian name, was one of three men under Mr. Quesnel at the Rocky Mountain House on the Saskatchewan River when Thompson arrived there, Oct. 11th 1806; he went with Thompson into the Rocky Mts., where we hear of him at various points, 1807-11."

Considering that Charlot Beaulieu Birnie was born in the Red River district about 1805, it seems quite likely that the Joseph Beaulieu listed in Payette and in Coues is her father.
The Sale Riviere is today's Lasalle River, which flows from the west into the Red River, south of modern-day Winnipeg.
There are other books which give information on some of the men who worked in the early fur trade, and below is another in which we found some information:

From: "Five Fur Traders of the Northwest," edited by Charles Gates and published by the Minnesota Historical Society of St. Paul.
In 1801, colorful Archibald Norman McLeod was a partner of the North West Company and in charge of the post of Fort Alexandria -- not the Fraser River post that Anderson was at, but the one on the prairies a hundred miles west of Swan River.

From the Diary of Archibald N. McLeod: "Tuesday 7th [1800] -- No so cold as usual.
"Blew fresh, a good deal of the snow thawed today, Lambert & Beaulieu went off.
"I wrote Messrs. McGillis, Harrison & Nolin by them."
Francois Nolin was listed in 1799 as clerk in the Fort Dauphin department; Lambert is mentioned in the post journals and might have been McLeod's employee.
Beaulieu was never mentioned as one of Fort Alexandria's employees, and I couldn't find when he arrived at McLeod's post, unless he was one of the "two men came here late in the evening from Shell River, with letters."
Here's the journal for the few days around this time:
"Sunday [April] 5th -- Easter Sunday -- A cold, tho clear day. The Stone Indians went off, we kept all the horses in the fort all day except two poor lean horses, being apprehensive they should take it into their heads to prefer riding home to walking. Two men came here late in the evening from Shell River, with letters from Messrs. Chaboillez, McDonell & Mr. McDonell in particular tells me he has only one keg mixed rum, in his house & only half a roll Tobacco.
"Monday 6th -- Cold and blowing hard, the people are some cutting fire wood, others hauling, some for Gum & others working at the Batteau. Several of the people are ill with severe colds. One of the Shell River men having brought his violin with him the people danced all night.
"Tuesday 7th -- No so cold as usual. Blew fresh, a good deal of the snow thawed today, Lambert & Beaulieu went off, I wrote Messrs. McGillis, Harrison & Nolin by them. I sent 15 steel traps, two horses & a colt, a short gun, with some other articles to River a la Biche. Cadotte killed a swan today."

Now, I had assumed until this time that Beaulieu was one of the Shell River men.
Re-reading this I am not so sure.....
Let us continue reading McLeod's journal for a day or so longer.

"Wednesday 8th -- Far from being a warm day. Most of the people are ill with bad colds, the Batteau was finished today. Jacques & & [sic] the two Le Fevres arrived from the Lower Fort with the men's horses & my black horse. La Verdure sent up both his horses for his boy & some dried meat as they catch no fish, they have already eat half a bag Pimican [pemmican]. Mr. [Daniel] Harmon writes me he found everything in good order below. The snow about here I believe is determined to remain with us, whilest all the country round us has not a single spot remaining. Some of the men & women danced this evening.
"Thursday 9th -- Thaws a great deal, the Red River men went away. I wrote Mess. McDonall & Chaboillex, I sent the former 13 1/2 qts....."

So the Red River men were also at the Fort when the Shell River men arrived -- I wonder which group of men Beaulieu belonged to?
I thought that one of the Red River men might have been the freeman, Joseph Fallardeau, who arrived from Riviere que Appelle on the 27th March with a letter from Mr. McDonell.
I also note that on Sunday 29th March a man named "Bellile arrived from Mr. Perignes ahorse back on old Le Fevre's horse."
Was this Beaulieu?
No, he is not, because McLeod's journal continues -- on Thursday 2nd "the Tonnerre went off, as did Bellile who left LeFevre's horse here."

So far we have a fair bit to mull over:
If Charlot was born in Red River around 1805, then this Beaulieu is likely her father.
If so, he might play the fiddle.
His brother is supposedly the Francois Beaulieu who paddled to the west coast with Alexander Mackenzie in 1793.
It is possible that the Red River Beaulieu came west and met David Thompson at Fort des Prairies, travelling across the Rocky Mountains with him.
If so, he is a voracious eater!

Historian T.C. Elliot also made the connection in his article, "David Thompson's Journeys in the Spokane country."
A footnote says: "Beaulieu was a French Canadian freehunter and voyager; name also spelled Boileau; first name not identified. James Birnie of Astoria and Cathlamet and an officer of the North West Company and the Hudson's Bay Company for many years, married a Boileau, probably a daughter of this man."

Another archival document links Charlotte Beaulieu Birnie with Josephine Beaulieu; it says:
"The only sister of Charlotte Beaulieu married a Rondeau and lived at or near St. Paul, Minn., supposed to be very well to do."
Source: Mss. 1092, Oregon Historical Society, Gathered and compiled by Ben Holladay Dorcy of Portland, OR -- a descendent of James Birnie -- above quote appears on page 126 of the transcript, but a descendent other than myself has confirmed the information is in the original document.

Josephine Beaulieu's descendents say she was born in "Montana" about 1808-1810.
No records exist for Josephine's birth, of course, but her son's death certificate records his father was born in Canada, but his mother in 'Montana.'
Montana was not a state until 1889, but David Thompson's Beaulieu traded for furs in the area around Saleesh House, now known to be near present day Thompson Falls, Montana.
But like everything else we have here, this is secondary information.
Still, a recently discovered document in the Minnesota archives once again hints of the family connection to David Thompson's Beaulieu.

Along with Joseph and Josephine Rondeau's descendents, other residents in St. Paul, Minnesota, included descendents of Bazile and Paul Hudon dit Beaulieu, two French Canadian brothers who worked the North West Company's fur trade south of the Great Lakes.
Clement Hudon dit Beaulieu (1811-1893), son of Bazile, noted that the Beaulieu who accompanied Thompson in 1807-11 was a man named Henry, a member of the Hudon dit Beaulieu family.
There were two Henri/Honore Beaulieus listed in the North West Company's fur trade records for 1811-1821 -- an Honore Beaulieu appeared in the English River records, 1813-15, F.4/32, fo. 131, and Honore/Henri Beaulieu appears in Montreal and Fort William, 1816-1821, F.4/32, fo. 32, HBCA.
Though it is impossible to prove that Henri Hudon dit Beaulieu was the man who accompanied Thompson across the mountains, a modern day descendent of Hudson dit Beaulieus say he did not.
But a handwritten note in the same file strengthens the argument that the Rondeaus of St. Paul understood they were descendents of David Thompson's Beaulieu:
"The Christian name of Saskatchewan Beaulieu was Henry H -- the Rondeaus of St. Paul are his descendents on the maternal side."
(Source: Handwritten note [1920?], Clement H. Beaulieu and family papers, 1857-1932, Mss. #P60, Minnesota Historical Society Archives.)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"Fur, Fortune, and Empire"

I have found Eric Jay Dolin's book, Fur, Fortune, and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America (New York: Norton & Co., 2010) on our Canadian bookstore shelves.
If you want to know the history of the American fur trade -- the early settlers, the ousting of the British from places like Fort Michilimackinac and Detroit in late 1700's; the Americans heading west up the Missouri River; the founding of Astoria; the Mountain men who threatened Peter Skene Ogden, and the buffalo hunts -- this is the book for you.
It is perhaps the American view of books such as David Lavender's Winner Take All: the Trans-Canada Canoe Trail (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1977), which tells of the explorations made by the early fur trade companies through the Great Lakes onto the Saskatchewan River.
Our Beaulieus might have been at Michilimackinac or Detroit; one of them may also have been in some of the areas the Mountain men trapped in.
This is American history, but it affects our history and is the background to many of our fur trade stories.
I am looking forward to reading it.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Search for Beaulieu

As a family historian I always knew where I came from -- sort of.
My great grandfather Alexander Caulfield Anderson married Betsy Birnie, daughter of James and Charlotte Birnie, first settlers at Cathlamet, WA.
James Birnie we knew came from Scotland, but it has been Charlotte's story that has always intrigued me.
I knew she was French Canadian and Cree, born in Red River about 1805 -- but how did she come to be west of the mountains?
I had no chance of knowing who her mother was, but who was her father?

In his "History of the Northwest Coast," (a mixture of writing old and new) A.C. Anderson wrote in 1864: "Mr. Birnie was a Scotchman by birth. He was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, in the year 1800.
"In 1816 the ambitious lad left his native heath and emigrated to Montreal, Canada. Here under the tutelage of a Catholic Priest, he studied the French language for about two years, at the end of which time he entered the employ of the North West Fur Company as one of its clerks and was sent across the Rocky Mountains to Fort Spokane, where he arrived toward the close of 1818.
"The fort at this time was in charge of a Mr. Halden[e], with whom Mr. Birnie remained for several years.
"He then went to the Kootenai country where he was married to the daughter of a Frenchman, Mr. Beaulieu, from Manitoba.
"Here he spent several years trading with the Indians, buying furs, etc., and then returned to Fort Spokane."

Anderson's report is not entirely accurate, and I am not sure he was certain of Beaulieu's name -- but that is not the point.
His son, James Robert Anderson, wrote another account which appears to be even less accurate:
"James Birnie, my maternal grandfather, was born in Aberdeen in Scotland in 1800 and came to America in 1818.
"He resided in Montreal for two years with the object of acquiring a sufficient knowledge of the French language to enable him to carry on the work of an officer of the North West Fur Company, whose employees were mostly French Canadians.
"Taking service with that Company he spent several years in the Red River country now known as Manitoba, where he married the daughter of an officer of the Company, a Miss Beaulieu.
"The family acquired considerable wealth in Montreal where they afterwards resided."

So did Birnie meet his future wife at Red River, where no French Canadian named Beaulieu was a partner in the North West Company?
Or did Birnie meet and marry his wife at Spokane House after 1818?

One of my aunts visited the town of Cathlamet many years ago, and returned with a note: "James Birnie and Charlotte Beaulieu remarried by Beaver Nov. 8, 1838, at Fort George.
"Charlotte's father, Beaulieu, trader in the Kootenai for many years.
"Mother, Cree from Red River."
And the most intriguing line of all .... "One of Beaulieu's brothers was Francois Beaulieu who was one of six voyageurs with Sir Alexander McKenzie, May 9, 1793."

Ten years ago I took those words as gospel, but since then understand that these are secondary sources.
Secondary sources are those which are written down after the fact, or recorded by other persons after the fact.
In these cases the words came well after the fact -- stories that James Birnie told his children, and that Birnie's children told a local historian, who passed on the story to her daughter without writing it down, and her daughter passed on the story to her son -- Cathlamet historian David K. Hansen.
It was probably David's mother who gave the story to my aunt.

Both A.C. Anderson's and his son, James' accounts come directly from James Birnie, and neither recorded the story at the time they heard it.
And even if they had, it was still a secondary source -- a story recorded years after the fact, by people other than the men involved directly in the story.
If James Birnie had recorded the story in 1820, when he heard it directly from the man named Beaulieu, it might be considered a primary source.
But he didn't.

In 2002, David K. Hansen, then in charge of Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, told me that "Charlotte Beaulieu spelled her name Beauleu -- the same spelling we had but without the i."
He also confirmed that Charlot was descended from the brother of Francois Beaulieu.

I knew that our Beaulieu was a freetrader in the Kootenays for many years.
As a British Columbian, I have a very solid idea of where the Kootenays is -- somewhere around Castlegar or Trail or ... well, you know what I mean.
That is all I knew, and I did little research on Beaulieu.
Instead I kept busy researching both James Birnie and Alexander Caulfield Anderson in the Hudson's Bay Company Archives records.
In early days one of my most rewarding method of researching these two men was to spend hours in bookstores picking up books and searching their indexes.
I searched for Anderson and Birnie, and I also looked up Beaulieu men who may have been in the Kootenays in the early 1800's.
And suddenly I found him!

I picked up a book edited by Barbara Belyea, called Columbia Journals: David Thompson [Montreal: McGill UP, 1994].
"Beaulieu" was listed in the index!
This Beaulieu was one of David Thompson's men, and he crossed the Rocky Mountains with Thompson in 1807.
In July 1807 Beaulieu helped Boisverd make a large canoe [p.49]; a few days later Thompson recorded that "Beaulieu has been these ten days so very ill that he could not help us, & at length so much that we dispaired of his Life -- his complaint a violent dry Colic & Pain under his Ribs on the [left].
"This morn perceiving a small swelling close under his left Ribs mid of the side to be enlarging, he was feeling it with attention, & by his fingers feeling something rough he sent for me.
"It appeared to be a small splinter -- I extracted it, & to our great surprise found it was a porcupine Quill, that had made its appearance from the inwards -- it was of the short thick ones on the Rump & Tail of the Porcupine.
"It can be accounted for only by supposing that, when he eat part of the Dog the day we passed the Height of Land, he had in eating the Meat swallowed the Porcupine Quill in the meat, as he is a voracious eater."

This book kick-started by search for Beaulieu -- was this our Beaulieu or not?
Could it be possible that our Beaulieu came across the Rocky Mountains with David Thompson fifteen years after his supposed brother, Francois, paddled to the west coast with the North West Company explorer Alexander Mackenzie in 1793?
The search began then, and continues to this day.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Friends of Brigade Trails Meeting

If you are interested in the brigade trails and live close enough to Vancouver or Hope to attend this meeting, you might want to do so:
Hudson's Bay Company (1849) Heritage Trail -- special evening at the Blue Moose Coffee House in Hope, B.C.
At this meeting, you will learn about the HBC trail of 1849 over the Coquihalla, and the important role it played in the development of British Columbia.
Archaeologist Jeff Martyn will explain the trail's First Nations origins and fur trade history, and will present the findings of the Heritage Context study and Archaeological Overview Assessment he conducted on the trail in 2010.
He has uncovered information about First Nations traditional use and their collaboration with the fur traders in the 1840's and 1850's.
I hope he has uncovered Blackeye's true name, but I expect that will be too much to ask.
Kelly Pearce, of the Hope Mountain Centre, will then outline the work done to re-open the trail for hikers and horseback riders.
He will also tell you about the improvements planned for 2011 and show you some of the trail's spectacular scenery.
To find out more about this trail, go to the Hope Mountain website at
Oh, and I forgot to tell you the meeting date and time -- The meeting is to be held at the Blue Moose Coffee House, 322 Wallace Street, in Hope, at 7:00 pm. Thursday, February 24th.
I hope that at the end of this meeting, all parties will agree to set up a Friends of the Brigade Trails Association, an organization that will protect and market the brigade trails.
If you are interested in attending this meeting or future meetings, or in taking part in any plan to market and protect the brigade trails in British Columbia, contact me and I will forward your name and email address on to the person who is organizing all this.

I have an idea that I am going to toss out to all those fur trade descendents I have talked to over the years, and to the descendents of Alexander Caulfield Anderson scattered around the world.
Do we want to make plans to meet each other and hike the brigade trail together?
Those of us who like hiking can hike; others can rent horses and ride over the trail.
We can meet every night at the fur traders' encampments -- Campement des Femmes at Tulameen, B.C.; Lodestone Lake (12 miles away); Podunk Creek; Encampment du Chevreuill (Deer Camp) on the west side of the summit; Manson Camp at the head of Peers Creek.
We can have speakers at every camp; we can arrange photographers or camera men to record the event or film it for a story; we can have Native speakers who can tell us what their ancestors did on the top of the mountain.
There may be hundreds of fur trade descendents in this area, and dozens who will want to take this trip.
Those who are disabled or otherwise unable to hike the trail (broken down knees, etc.) can hitch a ride to the camp and spend a few hours exploring or cooking our supper.
We have to remember that all of us descendents of the fur traders are some thirty years older than our ancestors were when they rode over the trail.
Does anyone want to do this?
If we are going to do it, I suggest it be organized for about two years away -- say, summer, 2013???
That will enable everyone to clear up their schedules -- the Aussies can arrange their holidays and fly in, the Americans can get their passports and get themselves organized.
How about it?
Get in touch if you're interested!
Come on, Chalk -- come on Steph and Scott! Michael, get your knees fixed up or ride a horse -- that's what I am going to do.
Lolo descendents -- your g.g.grandfather walked over this trail many times on his way to Fort Victoria.
And descendents of Tsilaxitsa and Blackeye -- so did yours! We want to see you there too.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

David Thompson's men

I think that by now you will have noticed that I have touched on the North West Company's explorer, David Thompson, a number of times in the last few weeks.
David Thompson is my lead into my next section, when I will speak of our search for our ancestor, who was said to be a voyageur in the North West Company.
This is a different kind of genealogy than you will have done in the past, and I hope that a few of you can discover more about your family after reading these next sections of my blog.
I guess that I am going to dip into genealogy for a while, in spite of stubbornly calling myself a "family historian."

David Thompson first joined the Hudson's Bay Company but, in 1797 quit the company and walked 75 miles to a North West Company post to join them.
In 1804 he was promoted to partner and given the task of establishing new trading posts in the territory occupied by the Kootenais [I am using David Thompson's spelling].
Two voyageurs, La Blanc & La Gasse, had already spent the winter of 1800-1801 amongst the Kootenais people on the west side of the mountains, and returned in the spring with stories of the wealth of furs.
David Thompson failed in his first attempt to cross the mountains that summer, and the project was dropped.

In 1806, opening up the fur trade on the west side of the mountains again became important to the North West Company.
Thompson was appointed to lead an expedition across the mountains, and in preparation for making the journey the following summer, arrived at Rocky Mountain House (near modern-day Rocky Mountain House, Alberta) in October 1806.
In 1807 he made his first crossing of the mountains, and set up his first post on a river he would later come to understand was the northern flowing part of the Columbia River.
The NWC men who accompanied him on this historic journey were: Clerk Finan McDonald, and voyageurs: Beaulieu, Bercier [guide], Boisverd, Boulard and family, Buche, Clement, Le Camble, and Lussier and family.
Note the women -- David Thompson also brought his wife and children across the mountains on his first journey.

Thompson and his men built their first house -- Kootanae House -- on the Columbia River where it flows northward toward Big Bend, or Boat Encampment.
The party spent its first winter at Kootenae House.
More men joined his party in the spring of 1808, and Mousseau was one of the men who explored the new territory with Thompson.
They reached the area around Bonner's Ferry, in modern day Idaho, and Thompson left Beaulieu, "One of my faithful men," behind with trade goods while he took the furs they had collected out over the mountains.
Jaco Finlay, sometimes a member of the party, spent the winter working on the east side of the mountains, in the Bow River Country.

Thompson returned to spend the winter of 1808-1809 at Kootenae House, and brought with him clerk James McMillan and three new voyageurs: Methode, Crepeau, and [Charles?] La Gasse.
In spring 1809 he took out the furs, and then returned to the territory to explore to the south.
He and his men established the post Kullyspel House on Pend-Oreille Lake in late summer, and in October 1809, were in the area where they planned to establish their third trading house.
James McMillan was there, as was Beaulieu, Boulard, Jaco Finlay, and a few other men, including Boisverd and La Gasse.
Their new house was called Saleesh House, built in November 1809, in the vicinity of modern day Thompson Falls, Montana.
In March 1810, Thompson returned to Kullyspell House, and later crossed the mountains to take out the furs.
He returned to the territory by Athabasca Pass in winter of 1810-1811, as mentioned in the last post.
By this time the men who had been left behind in the territory had built Spokane House, on the banks of the Spokane River a few miles from the now southern-flowing Columbia River.
In May 1811, Thompson arrived at Saleesh House and found it empty, but learned from passing Natives and freemen that Finlay had built the new house.

The NWC had determined that it was now time for Thompson to descend the Columbia River to its mouth.
By June 1811 he was at Ilth koy ape or Kettle Falls, on the Columbia.
In July he started his journey downriver.
On July 15 he arrived at the mouth of the Columbia, where John Jacob Astor's Pacific Fur Company had established their headquarters.
In mid-September he had travelled all the way up the Columbia River to what we now call Boat Encampment.
David Thompson crossed Athabasca Pass and left the territory forever.
But he left behind him quite a few of his men, who were now probably "free-traders" -- men who worked for themselves but traded to the company.

As you can see, while I am interested in David Thompson, I am far more interested in the men who accompanied him.
To find out who David Thompson's men are is not a difficult task -- you just have to know where to look.
There are not many North West Company records remaining in the Hudson's Bay Archives, but there are some.
The "Northwest Company Ledgers, 1811-1821," are found on Reels 5M7 and 5M8 in the Hudson's Bay Company Archives.
From this ledger we can determine a few of the records of Thompson's men.
Here we go!

Pierre Bercier
1812 -- Very hard to read but it says "Colum. Bk" and "by Columbia outfit ... for ... Thompson."

Augustin Boisverd
1811, 1812, 1813, and reads like "Colum. Outfit" -- this is all very hard to read.

Joseph Cotte -- with Thompson in 1881
1812 -- To sundries per Columbia, 1811

Baptiste D'Eau -- with Thompson in 1811, a deserter.
1811 -- appears in the Fort des Prairie records all the way through to 1821; he obviously continued to work in the fur trade.

(Jaco) Jacques Raphael Finlay
1811 -- To balance due since 1809, posted By salary for 1811, 1200
1812 -- To balance By salary this year, 1200; by two canoes for Mr. Thompson, note 200; By F. Macdonald 100 R. Bruguire 60160.

Baptiste Le Tendre (with Thompson in 1811, a deserter.
Jean Bte LeTender, fils -- 1811-1821 appears in the Fort des Prairies book; he too continued to work in the fur trade at Fort des Prairies.

"Lussier" (with Thompson in 1807)
Francois Lussier, 1811-1820 in the Fort des Prairies book, and in a different spot, Lucier.
Francois Lucier, 1818-1821 at Fort des Prairies.

Finan McDonald (Thompson's clerk)
(illegible) Kenneth Mackenzies draft in favour of his father, 1811
1812 To sundries at Columbia (illegible), 1810-1811
1814 To sundried at [Potlid?]
to Columbia outfit, 1813

James McMillan (with Thompson in 1810)
1812, to sundries at Columbia; and 1812 Columbia outfit.

David Thompson
1812 To sundries per Petled [is this Potlid, and what does this word refer to?]
1812 To Sundries per F. Wm. Bk
1814 To Sundries per PotLid
1813 To Sundries Ak Bk [Athabasca Book?] Dld his boy

Rene Vallade
1812 for Columbia Book, 1810-1812
Columbia outfit 1813-1817

Antoine Valle
1812, Columbia outfit, in 1817 F. des Prairies outfit

Augustin Valle
1812-1818, Fort des Prairies outfit.

These are old notes -- as you can see I found quite a few of David Thompson's men in these records, and some that might not have been Thompson's men.
Beaulieu is a bit of a challenge, as there are two in this list, one with an appropriate date and one without.
In folio 95 I found a full page listing of "Bad and Doubtful debts," with a Beaulieu listed amongst the men:
1811, Joseph Beaulieu, 1252.5 (Doubtful)
This sounds as if Beaulieu did not sign another contract and the bookkeepers for the NWC did not know where he was.
For reasons I will explain below, this is the more likely David Thompson man.

The other Beaulieu is below:
Beaulieu, Joseph
1818, to sundries Montreal Book
1819, to sundries F des P eqt book
1820, to sundries Ft... Book
To sundries R.R. Book

David Thompson's Beaulieu was a free trader by about 1811 -- this second man might be David Thompson's man who rejoined the company but it is more likely someone who joined at Montreal, as you can see by the records.
I have only looked up David Thompson's men in these records, but those of you who have ancestors who worked for the North West Company in 1811 and afterward can request these two reels (you need both of them) to find out a little bit about your ancestors.
You will have to read every page, these records are not necessarly in order and some pages list dozens of men who the company can no longer locate.
You do not request these reels from the Hudson's Bay Company -- you either go to your University (if you are a student) or to the main branch of your local library, and request the reel through them.
Possibly your local archives will handle Hudson's Bay company reels.
Our British Columbia archives no longer does this service; and with the Greater Victoria Public Library you can request the reels online.
However, you have to go to the Hudson's Bay Company website and find the number of the reel to order.
To find North West Company reels, go to:
"Hudson's Bay Company Archives," not Manitoba Archives [although you can get to HBCA from Manitoba Archives website];
"Search" on left side of page;
"HBCA Online finding Aid" in middle of page;
Search "Section F -- Records of Related or Subsidiary Companies" in middle of page;
"North West Company (F.1-7) in middle of page;
You should now have the entire listing of what the HBCA owns, and you will want to look first at the Account Books and, maybe, the Servants' Contracts.
The most valuable lists of men is in the reels I already mentioned, 5M7 and 5M8, but you might also find records on the other reels.
You need to know that not everyone is listed in these records -- for example, I did not find my great-great grandfather James Birnie; yet I know he worked in the Company possibly as early as 1816, and he was west of the mountains in 1818.
Good luck in your search.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

David Thompson and the Sasquatch

You now know that fur trader and explorer Alexander Caulfield Anderson was the first white man to see a Sasquatch.
But amongst Sasquatch historians, North West Company explorer and geographer David Thompson is recognized as the first white man to have spotted the footprint of a Sasquatch.
This is how the story happened:
Thompson first entered the territory west of the Rocky Mountains in 1807, by the Blaeberry River.
He and his men set up a number of fur trade forts over the years: Kootenais House, on the headwaters of the Columbia River, in British Columbia, in 1807; Kullyspell House on Pend Oreille Lake, Idaho, in 1809, and Saleesh House in modern-day Montana later the same winter.
In spring 1810 Thompson left the district (not for the first time) and took his furs to Rainy Lake, just north of Fort William on Lake Superior.
He then returned to the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains, planning to carry his trade goods into the district on the west side of the mountain range.
But Thompson and his men were being watched by the Piegans, who wanted to block his passage into the district occupied by their enemies, the Kootenays.

The fur trader felt so threatened he decided to avoid the southernmost pass and to cross the Rocky Mountains by Athabasca Pass -- a trail he had only heard of but never seen.
He and his men made the long journey northward to the Athabasca River, and climbed the sloping hills to the pass.
It was the end of December, 1810 -- mid-winter.
On December 30 the party set off on foot and horseback to cross the mountains.
Their guide pointed out the route down the west side of the mountains, and left them to find their own way down to the banks of the Columbia River.

Years later, Thompson wrote of the footprints he and his men saw as they descended the snowy west side of the mountains.
In his book Mapmakers' Eye, Jack Nisbet writes "the surveyor had cut a line of unusually large animal tracks that his hunters insisted had been made by a 'mammoth.'
"In his journal, Thompson had carefully recorded the measurements and dismissed them as the marks of a large grizzly bear, but in the Travels he included his hunters' description of a dry lake bed where the behemoths feasted on sphagnum moss.
"He used the opportunity to reference recent Siberian discoveries of mammoth bones, and recounted a tribal story about a monster very like a mammoth that is similar to a Delaware Indian legend found in Thomas Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia.
"Finally after restating his belief that the tracks must belong to a large old grizzly bear and not one of Mr. Jefferson's living mammoths, he wondered what unsolved wonders were yet to be uncovered in the vast reaches of the Rocky Mountains."

Source for the above quotes are from: Jack Nisbet, The Mapmaker's Eye: David Thompson on the Columbia Plateau (WSU Press, 2005).
And the Travels mentioned in above quote is The Writings of David Thompson, the Travels -- edited with an Introduction by William E. Moreau, publishers, McGill-Queens University Press and The Champlain Society, in association with the Centre for Rupert's Land Studies at the University of Winnipeg.
Only one volume has been published thus far, with two more volumes of Thompson's writing to come.

David Thompson's travels have been published in various forms in the past, and sometime a few years ago someone who read them realized that the footprints might have belonged to a Sasquatch.
And the story began, and remains, and is recirculated every few years when Sasquatch historians get together.
But did you know that mammoths are real and that they lived in the Rocky Mountains as recently as the early 1800's?
I find that far more interesting than the Sasquatch story.
In his book, Sources of the River, Jack Nisbet writes more about David Thompson and the mammoth:
"The Old Chief told David Thompson a story about a creature who lived up in these woods, an animal that stood eighteen feet tall and could never lie down, but had to lean against trees to catch a nap.
"The Kootenais thought this was because it had no joints in the middle of its legs, but they couldn't say for sure since they had never been able to kill one and examine it."

Even though the two men worked in different fur trades and never knew each other, there were a number of connections between David Thompson and Alexander Caulfield Anderson.
When young spprentice clerk Anderson entered the fur trade at Lachine in 1831, he met then-retired David Thompson at one of the fur trade parties, and described him as decrepit.
That's one of the connections -- a second connection is, of course, the Sasquatch.
There are more connections, but the most interesting thread that ties the two men together is, perhaps, the mammoth.
Next week I will tell you the story of Alexander Caulfield Anderson and the Mammoth!