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!


  1. My fiancé is a great x 9 (I believe, I'd have to dig out the records) grandson of David Thompson & Charlotte Small! We only found out a few months ago, when we started digging into his family history.

    So I've been googling as much as I can! Just want to thank you for this blog :)

    "David Thompson is recognized as the first white man to have spotted the footprint of a Sasquatch." <-- this is insanely amusing to me!!!

  2. Please, if you are on Facebook, join us on the Descendants of David Thompson's men Facebook page -- we would love to hear from you. Another descendant of David Thompson who lives in the east somewhere just came down the Columbia River with the 'brigade,' and we have photos of him on the page.
    Just find the page, click on Request or whatever, and I will let you in. I have no rules, and we have some pretty interested people in the group!
    This invitation to join the page is pretty much open to everyone who has some connection with Thompson's men. Thompson left the territory in 1812 -- I am researching people who worked with Thompson's men after 1812, too.