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.)


  1. check
    Support Monument & Museum cause by purchasing item at
    Nor'West Loyalist Museum in Williamstown, Ontario which opens in May has tons of information on David Thompson ( died a pauper) after instrumentally opening up the West! A shame! McGillivray should be considered the real Father of Canada not Mcdonald!

  2. Yes; Montrose McGillivray who clerked for Alexander Caulfield Anderson at Fort Alexandria for a short time, and who accompanied Anderson on one of his expeditions across country, was a descendent (grandson, I believe) of this man. Thanks for reading this. There was another grandson in the area, too. Nancy

  3. I've been trying to find out more information on my GGGGG Grandfather John Dugald Cameron who married Marie Charlotte Lesperance. Wondering if anyone can lead me in the direction of photo's or more information.