I have talked about our Beaulieu ancestor as if I knew he came to the west of the mountains with the fur trade of the North West Company -- and yes, some descendants of Charlot Beaulieu Birnie said he did.
But there are other ways that he could have arrived here, with other explorers that came west through the Mississippi -- the Lewis and Clark expedition, for example.
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark led an expedition called the Corps of Discovery on a voyage of exploration from St. Louis, up the Missouri River and over the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific coast.
They left St. Louis in May,1804, and a full eighteen months later they spotted the Pacific Ocean -- "Ocean in View! O! the Joy!" Clark wrote in his journal.
The explorers left Fort Clatsop on March 23, 1806, and arrived back in St. Louis on September 23 of the same year.
They had been away from St. Louis for two and half years.
French Canadian voyageurs travelled west with them, and some of them may have remained behind when Lewis and Clark returned to the east.
I knew of this cross-country journey, and I carefully checked out the names of the men who travelled with them, in search of Beaulieu.
I did not find him.
At the same time I knew that other men had come west, and that these other men may have used the services of these efficient French Canadian voyageurs.
However, researching this history takes time and energy, and because I live in Canada, its not as easy to research as it would be if I lived in the United States.
Libraries tend to carry books of interest primarily to Canadians, and the University Library is a little more difficult to access than it has been in the past.
But with the publication of Eric Jay Dolin's book, Fur, Fortune and Empire: the epic history of the Fur Trade in America, that research has become a little easier.
Dolin tells us of the other explorers who travelled west into the fur trade, and now we have a list of men to follow into the Kootenais district.
The Lewis and Clark expedition left St. Louis in 1804 and returned in 1806.
"Although the expedition can't be credited with sparking the western fur trade," Dolin says, "it did propel it forward.
"The detailed information about the physical and natural geography of the lands explored by the expedition, especially those surrounding the upper Missouri and beyond, excited and inspired St. Louis furtraders, one in particular being Manuel Lisa."
Manuel Lisa, a Spaniard born in New Orleans in 1772, had come north to St. Louis in the late 1790's.
Very quickly he established himself as one of St. Louis' leading fur traders, competing heavily with the Chouteau family of fur traders.
Lisa was an aggressive and abrasive man who believed the end justified the means, according to Dolin.
The men who knew him, and those who worked for him, loathed him.
Fur trade historian Hiram Chittenden said of Lisa, "In boldness of enterprise, persistency of purpose, and in restless energy, he was a fair representative of the Spaniard of the days of Cortez."
But, he added, if Lisa was unscrupulous, "the only difference between him and his detractors is that he was too sharp for them and succeeded where they failed."
In the spring of 1807, Manuel Lisa left St. Louis with fifty or sixty men, including a few members of the Corps of Discovery.
They used keelboats -- barges about fifty to seventy five feet long and eight to eighteen feet wide -- which they cordelled, warped, or poled upriver.
Sometimes they rowed the boats in deep water, and sometimes if the wind blew from the east they sailed.
He both traded directly with the Indians and sent men into the wilderness to trap for themselves.
Each man had a rifle, a horse or mule, and six or eight steel traps.
In addition to their wages, the men earned a portion of the profits from the furs they trapped for themselves -- an added incentive to work hard.
Manuel Lisa built a fort at the confluence of the Yellowstone and Bighorn Rivers, first called Fort Manuel or Fort Lisa.
This was the first building built in Montana, predating David Thompson's Saleesh House post!
Manuel Lisa and his men remained in the area until 1808, when he returned to St. Louis with his furs.
Immediately another group of businessmen set out for the upper Missouri.
This group included some members of Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery (as had Manuel Lisa's).
It was back by the Chouteau family, and other stockholders included Meriwether Lewis' brother, Reuben; Alexander Henry and Pierre Menard; and William Clark himself.
Apparently Alexander Henry and Pierre Menard led the group, beginning their journey west in spring 1809.
They built a trading post at a place called the Three Forks, which in April 1810 came under attack by a roving band of Blackfeet.
Again it appears that they did not depend on the Natives for their fur trade, but also sent men out to trap for furs.
Some of the men were attacked and brutally murdered, and Henry and Menard were eventually forced to close their Three Forks post.
Menard returned to St. Louis with their furs, while Alexander Henry headed south over the continental divide to set up a post on the north fork of the Snake River.
He was the fur American fur trader to operate west of the Rocky Mountains.
If my map of Oregon and Upper California from the surveys of John Charles Fremont (13696C, BCA) is correct, then his post was probably built on what is labelled Henry's Fork on the upper Snake River, just west of the Three Tetons.
On the east side of the Wind River Mountains are the many rivers that feed into the Missouri and the upper reaches of the Yellowstone River.
So, as you can see, there are two other major fur traders who might have employed a French Canadian named Beaulieu -- who might have come from the Red River district after 1805 (when his first daughter was supposedly born), and was in the Montana/Idaho area by 1809-10.
I haven't yet done a search for journals or for lists of French Canadian employees, but it is possible that I might find a Beaulieu man here.
This would confuse the issue somewhat -- Birnie descendants might be incorrect when they say Beaulieu worked for the North West Company.
Their statements are secondary sources -- written after the fact by people who were not involved in the actions of the person they are writing of.
Birnie probably met Beaulieu, but he never wrote anything down -- these notes come from Birnie's son-in-law, A.C. Anderson, who never knew Beaulieu, and Anderson's son James, who got the story from Birnie, or from Charlot.
Another fur trader also penetrated the west at this time, but I am not sure our Beaulieu would have come with him.
At the same time Manuel Lisa was pushing his way up the Missouri in spring 1807, John Jacob Astor was making plans to build a series of fur trade forts along the Missouri -- and up and over the mountains and down the Columbia River all the way to the Pacific!
In 1808 he incorporated his American Fur Company and its subsidiary company, the Pacific Fur Company.
It wasn't until 1810 that Astor's ship sailed from New York, arriving at the mouth of the Columbia in February, 1811.
His land expedition never reached Astoria until 1812.
I believe these late dates mean that I do not have to look in the records of the American Fur Company for our voyageur, Beaulieu.
So, if you are in the position of looking for your French-Canadian ancestor, and you cannot trace how he got to the west, these early explorering expeditions will give you another place to look.
Unless you have clear records that show how your ancestors came into the west, you have to look at these American explorations, even if it is only to cross them off your list.