Sunday, October 30, 2011

Another important online fur trade resource

I often receive emails from persons on the other side of the world.
They have stumbled across my blog and need more information on their fur trade ancestors in Canada.
I try to answer every question I get asked, and one of my resources -- with which I have been very fortunate -- is this:
"The Dictionary of Canadian Biography online," at
There is a tremendous amount of history and biography located on this site, and it is all accurate as all of the biographies are written by historians interested in the particular character they are writing about.
An excellent resource easily accessible to anyone, from anywhere on the planet!

One of the most important things about this site is that at the bottom of the page, the author will list the sources for the information contained in the biography.
That gives the researcher an opportunity to view the sources and learn something more about your ancestor.
In fact, for many years I didn't look at the bottom of Alexander Caulfield Anderson's biography in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography.
When I finally checked through the list, I discovered one source I hadn't viewed -- and that source contained an affectionate, personal description of Anderson that far exceeded anything I had already collected.

Should you have discovered that you have an ancestor who worked in the early fur trade in Detroit or Montreal, then there is a book that you have to obtain so that you can understand the early fur trade -- which differed from the fur trade of the North West Company and the HBC.
I have mentioned this book before on my blog -- here it is again:
"Winner Take All; The Trans-Canada Canoe Trail," by David Lavender, published by McGraw Hill in New York, Toronto, St. Louis, Dusseldorf, Mexico and Panama, in 1977.
I found my copy in a second hand bookstore, but if you are in Australia (where many of my correspondents are) than you may have to order the book online.

I am taking a brief holiday in Vancouver, and so might not be posting anything more this weekend.
I will return.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Listing on Amazon Books

For those of you who want to see the listing for
The Pathfinder: A.C. Anderson's Journey through the West,
and its cover quotes, please go to:

Sunday, October 23, 2011

For Leonard/Lenniard descendants

In my posting dated May 30, 2010, I listed what I thought I knew of the Fort Alexandria men.
At that time I wrote of the man called Jean Baptiste Lennard/Lenniard/Linneard, and learned from the HBCA biographical sheets that his supposed name was Jean Baptiste Leonard.
Since that time, of course, I have had a few conversations with a descendant of either this man, or another who was in the territory at the same time -- supposedly a Scotsman.
Here's the problem I have now -- Fort Alexandria's Lennard was at Fort Alexandria when Anderson arrived there in 1842, and Anderson spelled his name as above, with various spellings.
But only a few months later, Anderson travelled north to take charge of Fort St. James for one or two months, in Peter Skene Ogden's absence.
In the Fort St. James post journals I immediately discovered another "Leonard," with his name spelled a different way than Fort Alexandria's Lennard/Lenniard/Linneard.
I now believe that these are two different men -- that if they were the same man Anderson would have spelled his name the same in both journals.

So, here is the "Leonard" from the Fort St. James post journals, 1840-46, B.188/a/19, HBCA:
"Saty. 11th [March 1843] -- do. weather overcast. Touin & Leonnard arrived from McLeod's Lake bringing 120 beavers & 1/2 roll tobacco. Mr. McIntosh writes that the party lately arrived there had made indifferent hunts..."
"Saty. 25th -- ...One of Leonard's dogs is returned -- absent without leave doubtless."
(I think Leonard has set off with a dog train to McLeod Lake, and allowed one dog to stray.)
"Thurs. 30th -- Fine weather, but rather cold in the shade...Laferte met Lacourse and Soris on Lac a la Carpe, going on well, but Leonard & his companion he found in their encampment at one o'clock, not having yet made a move that day. They were not then (yesterday) more than half-way though it was their 9th day from this. Perrault lays the blame on Leonard, who, he says, will not march, nor exert himself in any way and has suffered the dogs to gnaw the greater part of his load, from laziness to drive them off during the night. Conduct such as this ought surely to meet with some punishment; and indeed, as I believe the fellow too incorrigibly lazy ever to reform, the most prudent method is to get rid of him, if possible, out of the district.
"Saty. 1 April -- do weather. Still seeking cattle. In the forenoon Lacourse & Louis Taroutanta arrived from McLeod's Lake, their third day. they met their lazy companions at Lac en Long.. proceeding very leisurely...
"Mon. 3rd -- Very mild. Laferte returned from Nautlay, sent Francois & James Boucher with two teams & fresh dogs, having 200 salmon each exclusive of provisions for McLeod's Lake. They are to proceed until they meet Leonard & Perrault, who by way of penalty for their dilatory proceedings will then exchange trains & return to McLeod's Lake...
"Tues. 4th -- ... Francois & James returned having met the other at Lac Porteur."

I thought for a moment that Anderson had sent Leonard and Perrault to finish their time in New Caledonia at the McLeod's Lake post, a gloomy, cold and unfriendly place to live.
Not so...

"Thurs. 13th [April] -- ...In the evening Perrault & Leonard arrived from McLeods Lake."
There is no further mention of Leonard up to the time Anderson left Fort St. James for Fort Alexandria in mid April, 1843.
However, I think it fairly clear that these are two different men -- the difficulty is deciding which of them is your "Leonard."

Here is what Bruce Watson, in his Lives Lived, says about the two men:

Linniard, John [variation: Linneard, Lennard] fl. 1834-1861 (British: Orcadian Scot)
Birth: probably near Kirkgate, Orkney
Death: drowned in South Thompson River, B.C.
HBC Middle, Fort Vancouver 1835-1836; Middleman, New Caledonia, 1836-1838; Farmer, New Caledonia, 1838-1856; Labourer, Thompson river, 1856-1860
John Linniard joined the HBC on April 17, 1834, in Orkney as a labourer and appears to have spent his entire career at interior posts. Must of this time, until 1856, was spent at Fort Alexandria doing farming duties, tending crops, making fences, etc. There he took a wife and raised his first family. He appears. after his contract ended in 1859, to have retired around 1861, for in 1862 he pre-empted 160 acres on the south side of the Thompson River, eight miles east of Fort Kamloops. His name was still carried on HBC books until 1869. Some time later, John Linniard drowned in the South Thompson River while trying to retrieve a duck.

Leonard, Jean Baptiste (c.1820-?) Canadian: French
Birth: probably Montreal, c. 1820
HBC Middleman, Thompson River, 1840-42; Middleman, New Caledonia (Fort St. James), 1843-1856; Middleman, Fort Langley, 1857-1860
Jean Baptiste Leonard joined the HBC from Montreal in 1840 and worked with it for the next twenty years.

It is not always easy to figure out who your ancestors are, when the records are so hard to find.
I think, though, that Bruce Watson is correct in that there are two men with similar names, in New Caledonia at the same time.
Which one is yours? -- that is the puzzle you have to solve now.
Oh, the joys of genealogy.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Pathfinder: A.C.Anderson's Journeys in the West

Good morning, everyone -- I have some more good news for you.
The hard work on the book is finally done, all the maps in the colour section are drawn and the captions finally written, re-written, edited and approved.
The chapter headings are complete, and in the process of doing this we have exchanged a less important map for another of greater importance, greatly enhancing the book.
The last questions have been answered, the last inconsistencies in spelling corrected -- it's amazing how much work goes into perfecting a book for publication.
Five or more Heritage House staff-members read the book and every person had different comments or questions for me -- and many of those questions were very good.
Is it B.C. Police or B.C. Provincial Police? West Road River or Westroad River or Black Water River or Blackwater River and when do we use West Road River and when Blackwater as they are two different names for the same river?
Thompson River or Thompson's River? La Traverse or Little Fort? Lac Round (as A.C. wrote it) or the more correct Lac Ronde?
I think I have answered hundreds of questions in the last few weeks, and often came home to another twenty questions to answer before morning.

But I think this detailed work is finished, and the book is heading off to the printer.
This does not mean that the books will be rolling off the press immediately -- there is one more step to come.
The printer will make the blueline proof -- that is, the film from which the book will actually be printed.
Bluelines are proofs of the page negatives, printed in blue ink and made into a book of sorts -- an actual representation of the book with each page in the place where it is supposed to be.
The editor checks the proofs to ensure that no errors have been introduced during the printing process, then returns the bluelines to the printer.
After that the actual printing and binding of the book begins.
As the printer has a number of books in its lineup already, we might have to wait our turn....
But I hope we will have books in hand as we approach the Heritage House Author Celebration in November.
I have been fascinated by the whole process and I wish I could watch this part, but it is now my job to stay out of the way and let the publisher and the printer do their work.
I will see the finished product in a few weeks time.

Now that the book is out of my hands, do I have more free time?
I have to write three speeches that I will be giving in the next few weeks.
I must learn Power Point, but I don't know if I will be using it for all three speeches -- I have to find that out, too.
I have already mentioned the Heritage House Group Author Celebration -- now let me tell you about all three upcoming occasions.

The Heritage Group Author Celebration will be held on November 17 at the Maritime Museum (Bastion Square), at about 7pm. in the evening (I don't actually know yet when it starts).
This is an upscale event and if you are coming, you can dress up -- my sister says she is planning to wear her Christmas sequins!
It is a shared evening, with ten different authors from the various publishers under the Heritage umbrella speaking about or reading from their newly published books.
I will be there with a five or so minute talk -- and someone told me that this short speech will be the one most difficult to write.

About a week after that event, I will be speaking on the book in front of the Victoria Historical Society, which has its meetings at the James Bay New Horizons Centre at 7:30 pm.
This will be a three-quarter of an hour talk and I will hopefully know my Power Point by then so that I can use a few of the many photographs to illustrate the difficulty of the expeditions Anderson made.
This talk is already advertised in the Victoria Historical Society Publication, which says:
24 November 2011
Alexander Caulfield Anderson: The Pathfinder -- Nancy M. Anderson will speak about her ancestor's important role in developing new brigade trails for the Hudson's Bay Company in New Caledonia in the late 1840's. Her biography of A.C. Anderson will be published this fall.

Finally, we will be holding The Pathfinder Book Launch on December 1st, at the Crown Bookstore.
As I have mentioned before I used to do a lot of shopping at the Crown Bookstore when it was located downtown.
Now it is located close to the Parliament Buildings, and I suspect there will be plenty of parking available just across the street as the launch will be held in the evening, about 7pm.
This event will be advertised in the local papers; and I will have to write a different speech for that event, as the speech I give in front of the Historical Society will not work at this event.
So you can see I will be busy over the next few weeks.

I am also planning a holiday -- it has been a few years since I have actually had a two week holiday but that is what I am planning.
Much of it will be a work holiday, but I plan to spend a few days in Vancouver, promoting the book to the Vancouver area book stores.
Okanagan is looking after itself and some members of the Historical Societies up there have been promoting the book up and down the valley during this time when they have been celebrating their 200th anniversary.
The Hope Mountain folks all know about the book too, are we are arranging a visit to Hope so that I can speak about the book -- sometime in the New Year.
I hope weather allows me to travel up there easily, and we will have to discuss what to do if the winter travelling is as difficult as it is forecast to be, at the time I have to travel.
I think we'll be okay.

Bookstores are now placing their orders for this book, and by the time I visited many of the Victoria bookstores, they had actually already placed their orders.
I think that you can now order the book through the Heritage House website, at -- go to Fall 2011 catalogue.
I say, "shop at your local bookstore" -- but I also know that many small communities don't have a local bookstore and so you will be shopping online.
Many small museums will carry the book, but they are often closed during the winter months -- or only open on long weekends or for special events -- and so shopping at these small museums is also difficult.
So, by all means, order your book online and you will receive your copy as soon as it is printed up!
E-books are also available, but you will have to wait a month or two before the books is set up on the server and all the wrinkles ironed out.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Rather a short post, probably

This might be a short post today, as I am in the middle of doing the last minute work for publication.
A friend who has just finished publishing his book advised me that there will be issues right to the last minute, and I am finding that is true.
We are working on the four colour maps in the middle of the book.
First the illustrator draws blank maps on which the route is to be drawn in red ink.
She forwards them to the editor who forwards them to me, with instructions to use red pens (which, of course, I do not have).
I print out numerous copies and carefully draw on them the routes of Anderson's explorations/expeditions, drawing one of the four journeys between Kamloops and Fort Langley on each sheet.
The end result is four finished maps and many ruined sheets of paper as I discard maps on which I have made a mistake!
I do the same with the maps of the two brigade trails over the range of hills that separated the Fraser River from Kamloops -- the 1848-49 trail up Anderson's River, and the later trail that crosses over the Coquihalla mountains.
I run the good maps through the scanner and email them back to the editor, and she forwards them to the illustrator who lives in Vancouver, who draws all four routes on one base map, and the two brigade trails on a second base map.
Then she sends them back to the editor who looks them over and forwards them to me, and I make major or minor corrections and return the maps to the editor, for her to send them on to the illustrator for correction or completion.
When the layout of the book and the maps to go in it are almost finished, the illustrator puts them up in the sky somewhere, and at this point everyone who needs to look at the book can work on it.
One person can access the book and enter the index, which is based on the index I worked on a few weeks ago.
I know this is happening because I am getting batches of the type of questions that would turn up when one is doing the index -- do we say commissioner or Commissioner, or do we on occasion list the names of the three commissioners/Commissioners?
Is it McLeod Lake post as it appears in Chapter 20, or McLeod's Lake as it appears in an earlier chapter?
Fort Kamloops or Kamloops Post? We need to ask these innocent little questions so we can be consistent throughout the book.
Even my biography is questioned -- am I the descendant of three or four generations of fur traders or am I the fourth generation descendant of fur traders?

The book should be perfect when it is done, but I know it won't be.
I know when I put it out there that someone will give me information that I failed to find (or, worse, that I overlooked), that changes the book.
That happens to every author -- you make the corrections in the second run of the book and hope not too many persons notice the first error.

But in spite of this flurry of work, the book is almost finished.
However, it will be published a little later than we planned -- November rather than October.
But the bookstores are placing their orders for the book, so you can go in and request they order you a copy.
I don't know if you can yet order from Heritage House online.
You must also remember that if you are planning to order an e-book, you will have to wait at least a month or so longer until it is loaded online without error.

If you live in the Hope area, the book will be available at the Museum.
In Princeton, it will be found at The Image Emporium on Bridge Street, and hopefully from the Museum on days when its open in the winter-time.
In Yale you will find it at the Museum, when open during the winter -- they tell me they open on a number of occasions over winter.
Of course you are internet savvy and can order the book directly from the publisher, Heritage House.
In the Okanagan it will be available through Chapters, and I think the same applies to Kamloops.
The Kamloops Museum will carry it, as one of their images is contained in the book.
In Victoria it will be found in most bookstores -- in only one or two I have not been able to contact the book-buyer, but I'll get there eventually.
Certainly the book will be carried by Crown Books -- this is a BC book, after all, and if any one book store in Victoria is a BC bookstore, Crown Books is it.
I spent a great deal of time in Crown Books while I was researching the places where Anderson was.
After all, they carried all the Lands and Forests Maps for BC, and I have most of them.

There is actually a reason for bringing Crown Books into this conversation -- my book launch will be held at Crown Books in early December.
The first book launch is the Heritage House launch, held at the Royal BC Museum in November.
It is a shared book launch for all authors published in the late summer and fall by Heritage House, and its a very dressy occasion -- quite fun! (I invited myself to last fall's book launch).
The second book launch, to be held at Crown Books, will be the launch for my book alone, and the speech will be a little more than the five minutes I will get at the Heritage House launch.
Am I nervous yet? No, but I will get there.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Notes on the Fort Colvile men and their descendants

I received this information from one of my regular readers, who knows everything that goes on in the part of the world that surrounds Fort Colvile.
Godfroi Lagrave was Godefroy Cornoyer (Cornailler) dit LaGrave and he married Genevieve Finlay, daughter of Patrick Finlay and Margaret Cardinal.
Donald Angus McLeod married Rosalie Morigeau, the daughter of Francois Morigeau and Plains Cree Isabelle McTavish. He died in 1901 on the Flathead Reservation.
Joseph Morell married Marie Anne Delard, daugher of Joseph (Delore) Delard and Elizabeth "Shuswap" Souchanabe.
Augustin Neron married Cecile Finlay, the daughter of Miquam Finlay at Frenchtown, MT, in the winter of 1862-3. He was later a farmer and was listed in 1860 Washington census as in the Bitterroot Valley, Montana. His surname variations are Neron; Neyrand; Naro, and he is also known as Crooked Hand Shaw, or Broken Hand Shaw.
Thomas Stensgar Sr., was a native of Scotland and former employee of the HBC. "He owned the lands now known as the Parker farm. Stensgar married a native woman. They were the parents of a large family, several of whom are still living on the Colville Indian Reservation. Both Mr. and Mrs. Stensgar and their children were splendid citizens and industrious farmers." This information comes from Stevens County Fifty years Ago, Graham's Recollections, Thomas Graham, 1928, p. 8.
Another source tells me that Thomas Stensgar married first: Julia Plant, daughter of Antoine Plant, and secondly, Maria Yuma.

Fort Colvile

In summer 1848, Anderson and his family rode away from the Kamloops post, leading the Fort Colvile men back to their home post on the Columbia River.
He had left Fort Alexandria for the last time, and would never return.

Fort Colvile had been established about 1826 when Governor George Simpson instructed John Work to close down the old Spokane post and transfer its business to the Columbia River fort.
Alexander Ross had travelled up the Columbia River with the Governor, and described the future location of Fort Colvile:
"At this place, the site of the new establishment, to be named 'Colville,' was marked out close to the [Kettle] Falls.
"The situation of Colville has been extolled by many as a delightful spot; there is a small luxuriant vale of some acres in extent, where the fort is to be built, under the brow of a woody height; this is so far pleasant enough, but in every other respect the prospect on all sides is limited.
"The place is secluded and gloomy; unless the unceasing noise of the Falls in front, and a country skirted on the opposite side of the river with barren and sterile rocks and impenetrable forests in the rear, can compensate for the want of variety in other respects.
"If so, the place may, indeed, be called delightful: otherwise, there are very few places in this part of the country less attractive or more wild."

You will notice the American spelling of Colville here; the author of the article from which I am quoting this information was an American and the spelling might have been his, or it might have come from Alexander Ross himself.
Actually the fort was named for one of the London directors of the company, and would have been spelled 'Colvile.'
The new fort did not get constructed immediately, but James Birnie who was then in charge of Spokane House, planted the first crop of potatoes the same year the fort was supposed to be constructed.
James Birnie would become Alexander Caulfield Anderson's father-in-law, but at this time, Anderson's future wife was a toddler.

"This fort is to be situated in a little nick just above the falls on the south side of the River," John Work wrote in his journal when he received instructions to build the fort.
"This little nick or valley is of a horse shoe form, about 2 miles along the River side and about 2 1/2 or three miles in depth surrounded by steep hills on both sides, a ridge of hills run along the opposite side of the river.
"The Fort is to be situated on a sandy ridge about 600 yards from the river side."
The rounded hills behind the fort was part of the Selkirk range of mountains, and those across the river the Monashee.
But Archibald McDonald, in charge of the place for many years, called the fort an "obscure hole west side of the Rocky Mountains."
Others had a different opinion.
Lieutenant Johnson, of the Wilkes expedition, described the place: "The whole of the northern posts depend upon Colvile for supplies and provisions," and he declared it "superior, for the purposes of cultivation, to any other spot on the upper waters of the Columbia."
When the missionaries Walker and Eels arrived at the place, Walker wrote in his diary that the sight of Colvile with "fields well fenced, large stacks of all kinds of grain, cattle and hogs in large droves ... was a feast to my eyes."
Mary Walker described the fort in a letter to her family: "Majestic craggy mountains of granite covered with yellow pine & at this season of the year capped with snow present themselves on either hand.
"The site of Colvile is pleasing & romantic ... I never was in a place I liked the looks of better. The fort is large and more elegantly constructed than any I have before seen."
George T. Allan described Fort Colvile as a "neat and compact little establishment, and nothing I have yet seen in the Indian country can equal the beauty of its situation."
George Simpson, when he revisited the fort in the early 1840's, also enjoyed the view.
"On reaching the summit of a hill, we obtained a fine view of the pretty little valley in which Colvile is situated.
"In a prairie of three or four miles in length, with the Columbia River at one end, and a small lake in the centre, we decried the now novel scene of a large farm, barns, stables, &c., fields of wheat under the hand of the reaper, maize, potatoes, &c., &c., and herds of cattle grazing at will beyond the fences."

It is hard for us to imagine the discomfort and inconvenience that these fur traders lived in.
The gentlemen in charge of these forts had little privacy, and they never had their own separate house.
At Fort Nisqually Anderson and his family shared their house with Captain William McNeill's family, and the Captain resided in the same house when his ship, the steamer Beaver, was at Fort Nisqually.
I believe at Fraser's Lake Anderson had his own residence, but at Fort Alexandria his private residence consisted of a room built on to the gentleman's house.
The gentlemen's house itself was often shared with the missionaries or with other fur traders, so while the bedroom might have been private, the living quarters were not.
I have a description of the Fort Colvile's gentleman's house, and it is not a place that I would like to live in.
However, we must also remember that the description comes from a British naturalist who wandered the wilderness of the Columbia district for a few years.
His name was John K. Lord, and he later authored a book titled "At Home in the Wilderness: What to Do There and How to Do it," [London, 1876].
He describes the gentleman's house a few years after Anderson left Fort Colvile, and the character he describes is probably Angus McDonald, a man who was happiest when he lived in a leather tent somewhere in the wilderness.

"I shall select for description Fort Colville, which is situate on the banks of the Upper Columbia, about 1,000 miles from the seaboard.
"This quaint old place, one of the Company's earliest trading stations west of the Rocky Mountains, is worthy of a passing description as affording a good example of the fur-trader's 'Home in the Wilderness.'
"The trader's house is quadrangular in shape, and built of heavy trees squared and piled one upon another...
"The visitor, on entering the somewhat ponderous portals of this primitive mansion, finds himself in a large room dimly lighted by two small windows, the furniture of which, designed more for use than ornament, consists of a few rough chairs and a large deal table, the latter occupying the centre of the room.
"Looking beneath this table one cannot fail to notice an immense padlock, which evidently fastens a trap-door, and if you happen to be a guest of the chief trader (and here I must add as the result of long experience that the Hudson's Bay Company's traders are the most hospitable kind-hearted fellows I ever met with), the probabilities are greatly in favour of your discovering the secret of the trap-door, very soon after you enter the room.
"The table pushed back, the trap-door is unfastened, and the trader descends into a dark mysterious-looking cave, soon however to emerge with a jug of rum, or something equally toothsome.
"Now, if you are of an inquisitive turn of mind, you may find out that in this underground strong-room, all valuables are deposited and secured.
"This room, beneath which the cavern has been excavated, has some person to occupy it night and day, and the chief trader sleeps in it; hence it is next to impossible that the savages could steal anything unless they forcibly sacked and pillaged the establishment.
"An immense hearth-fire, both warms and lights this dreary sitting-room, for at least eight months of the year."

I know that when Anderson arrived at Fort Colvile there were no pickets surrounding it.
Because of the Cayuse war south of Fort Colvile he immediately ordered the construction of a palisade around the fort.
But this is how Lord describes the grounds behind the gentleman's house a few years later:
"Behind the dwelling is a large court enclosed by tall pickets, composed of trees sunk in the ground side by side, (the house itself was I believe once picketed in, but the Indians proved so friendly that any protection of that description was deemed unnecessary).
"In this court, all the furs traded at the fort, are baled for conveyance by the Brigade to Fort Hope.
"The trading shop, and store of goods employed in bartering with the savages, adjoins the trader's house, although not actually a part of it; and the fur-trader stands therein behind a high counter, to make his bargains.
"The Indians have a curious custom in their barterings, which is, to demand payment for each skin separately, and if a savage had fifty marten skins to dispose of, he would only sell or barter one at a time, and insist on being paid for them one by one.
"Hence it often occupies the trader many days to purchase a large bale of peltries from an Indian trapper."

Later in the same article, Lord has a further description of some of the fur trade posts -- and it appears to be true of Fort Colvile, too.
"In many of the Posts the trade room is cleverly contrived, so as to prevent a sudden rush of Indians, the approach from outside the pickets being through a long narrow passage, only of sufficient width to admit one Indian at a time, the passage being bent at an acute angle near the window, where the trader stands.
"This precaution is rendered necessary, inasmuch as were the passage straight, the savages might easily shoot him.
"Where the savages are hostile, at the four angles of the court bastions are placed, octagonal in shape, and pierced with embrasures, to lead the Indians to believe in the existence of cannon, intended to strike terror into all red-skinned rebels daring to dispute the supremacy of the Company.
"Over the fur shop are large lofts for storing and drying the furs in as they are collected.
"Beyond this a smith's shop, a few small log shanties, and an immense 'corral,' for keeping the horses in, whilst fitting out the 'brigade,' make up all that is noteworthy as far as the buildings are concerned at Fort Colvile.
"The regular staff stationed at this Post, consists of the chief trader, a clerk, and about four half breeds, the remainder of the hands needed are selected from the Indians.
"The houses are by no means uncomfortable, and I can truthfully say, many of the happiest evenings of my life, have been passed in the 'big room' at Fort Colvile."

Because most of Anderson's later writings were to encourage immigration into British Columbia, he never wrote a good description of Fort Colvile.
But his son, James Robert Anderson, did.
James was ten to twelve years old, and though he wrote his memoirs many years after he left the fort, his memories of Fort Colvile remained clear and sharp.
"Fort Colvile was a pleasant post, the country in the vicinity was clear of timber up to the foot-hills one or two miles distant.
"The fort was situated about a mile from the Columbia River on the left hand bank and about the same distance from the Roman Catholic mission down the river, presided over by Pere de Vos, a Jesuit priest.
"Quite near the mission which was situated on higher ground than the Fort, were the Kettle or Chaudiere Falls which stretch clean across the Columbia.
"Here the Indians used to congregate when the salmon were running.
"The manner of capturing the fish was accomplished in two ways -- one was by baskets, so called, made of withes some ten feet long, closed at the sides and lower end.
"This was suspended so that the upper end touched the water of the falls, the other end being lower.
"The salmon, in attempting to leap the falls, often missed and fell struggling into the basket when he was hooked out.
"The other way was by spearing the salmon whilst in mid air, from a frail looking staging sticking out over the seething torrents, a most exciting pursuit."

There is a little more that might be of interest to local historians, though this salt lick, like the fort itself, must now be buried under the waters of the Columbia River:
"Between the Fort at Colvile and the foot-hills was a salt lick which the horses and cattle in the vicinity frequented and in the course of time quite extensive excavations were made.
"These salt licks occur in various parts of the country and are frequented not only by domestic animals but by wild beasts of various kinds."

Actually, I cannot say that Anderson never left behind a good description of Fort Colvile.
He listed the buildings that existed at Fort Colvile when he left it for the last time in 1852:
1 range of stores, 60 x 25 feet (stores is probably store-houses)
1 range ditto, 50 x 21 feet
1 store, unfinished, 40 x 22 feet
1 dwelling house, 50 x 24 feet
1 dwelling house, 24 x 18 feet
1 range of officers'houses, 60 x 18 feet
1 range of men's ditto, 50 x 18 feet
1 house, Indian hall, 16 x 16 feet
1 kitchen, 27 x 16 feet
1 blacksmith's shop, 17 x 13 feet
1 carpenter's shop, 30 x 17 feet
1 meat house & ice cellar, 20 x 16 feet
1 bake house & oven, 15 x 15 feet
1 poultry house, 20 x 13 feet
1 pigeon house, 9 x 9 feet
1 root house, 40 x 20 feet
pigs' houses, 60 x 15 feet
1 stable, 17 x 13 feet
1 barn, 50 x 15 feet
2 byres, each 65 x 20 feet
horse yard, six feet high, solid logs, 127 x 87 feet
barn yard, 81 x 60 feet
cattle yard, 84 x 33 feet
1 bastion, 12 x 12 feet
stockades, 208 feet square, 14 feet high (so when Anderson left the fort, the stockades existed)
18 M. fence poles
340 acres cultivated land
one flour mill complete with one pair of stones and bolting machine, 30 x 20 feet.

Farm at White Mud (a few miles behind the fort, but part of it):
1 dwelling house, 16 x 16 feet
1 barn, 30 x 20 feet
1 stable, 20 x 15 feet
1 pig house, 8 x 8 feet
1 1/2 m. fence poles
30 acres cultivated land.
The listing of the buildings and improvements at Fort Colvile was for the settlement of the Oregon Boundary Question, of course, and was presented to show the value of Fort Colvile to the Americans who were claiming ownership of it.
And you will notice the flour mill -- this is the third flour mill that Anderson had some connection with, and the second flour mill he was responsible for the construction of.
The first mill he constructed was at Fort Alexandria.
I know that a mill existed on his arrival at Fort Colvile; I know he built this second mill; and I know there are photographs of a little mill which do not match the description of this mill.
Were there two mills at Fort Colvile, or three?
Maybe I will have to research this question, and tell you the answer.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Indian Potatoes and other Native foods

Some of you will know that I have been chasing the story of Indian Potatoes around for a little while, without a lot of success in discovering what they actually are.
One of my followers told me about a place called Potato Mountain, in the Chilcotin, where Natives harvested potatoes every year and where they had special ceremonies to celebrate their harvest.
Alexander Caulfield Anderson wrote a few essays in his later years -- essays which listed the Native foods he saw in his fur trade years, mostly at Fort Alexandria, but also at Fort Colvile.
So far I have been unable to find any mention of Indian potatoes in his writings, or in those of James Anderson, his son.
But I did stumble on Potato Mountain -- the local library hosted a writer named Bruce Fraser who had just published a book of fiction called, "On Potato Mountain; a Chilcotin Mystery."
That confirmed to me that Potato Mountain did exist, and according to the map in the above mentioned book, Potato Mountain is a high ridge of land that runs north-south between the upper reaches of the Chilko River, which flows north into the Chilcotin River, and the Homathko River which runs south from Tatlayoko Lake through Waddington Canyons and into Bute Inlet on the coast north of Vancouver.
And in fact, when I look at my copy of the Canadian Board of Geographical Names (Gazetteer of Canada) for British Columbia, I find the Potato Range of mountains listed:
"Between Chilko and Tatlayoko Lakes, Range 2, Coast district."

So now that we know where the Potato Mountain is, I need to ask what kind of potatoes the Natives harvest there.
The book, On Potato Mountain, tells me this, and this statement is in the words of a Tsihlquot'in man named Antoine:
"Before my time, before Reserves, our people survive on the land and water. In summer, Tsihlquot'in fish salmon returning from sea to spawn in the streams and lakes; Chilko, Taseko, and Puntzi. They hunt deer, moose, and the caribou; pick sour berries and dig succulent roots on Potato Mountain...."

What roots? For the answer to that question, I go to the experts.
I have already told you that I never found any "potatoes" in the writings of Alexander Caulfield Anderson and his son, James Robert Anderson.
Both of these men would have been considered experts in that field, at that time at least.
But new experts have emerged; they have talked to the Natives and learned their stories and they have studied the plants that Natives used.
One such expert is a botanist named Nancy J. Turner, who is a professor of Environmental Studies at the University of Victoria and who works with the Royal British Columbia Museum staff.
She has written three or four books on ethnobotany, and one of these books is called, "Food Plants of Interior First Peoples."
In Nancy Turner's book, I am able to identify some of the plants that would have been labelled "Indian potatoes."

The Mariposa Lily (Calochortus macrocarpus Dougl.) is a member of the Lily family which also carries the name of Desert Lily, Sweet Onion, and "Wild Potato."
It is a perennial with a tapering, deep seated bulb, and striking lavender or pink three petalled flowers born singly or in pairs at the top of the plant. The plant likes dry hillsides and plains and usually grows in light sandy soil. It flourishes east of the Coast range, south of Williams Lake, in the interior Plateau and also in the Columbia and Kootenay River valleys to the east. All the interior Salish groups from the Ktunaxa (Kootenay) to the Tsilhqut'in, ate the small elongated bulbs of Mariposa Lily, which they called "Sweet Onions," or "Wild Potatoes." Generally they harvested the lily bulbs in the spring, from April to June. Nancy Turner describes the bulbs as "crisp and sweet, so people usually ate them raw.." But if enough were collected the Natives threaded and dried them, with or without steaming them first.

The Mariposa Lily might be the plant that grows on Potato Mountain, but there are other plants, including some Lilies, that are also sometimes called "Indian potato."

Yellow Avalanche Lily (Erythronium grandiflorum, Pursh), called Glacier Lily, Yellow Dog-tooth violet, Snow Lily, Indian Sweet Potato, or Indian Potato.
This lily is a perennial with an elongated, deeply buried corm-like bulb. The plant usually bears two lance-shaped leaves, pointed and tapered at the base. The flower is erect, about 15 cm. tall, bearing one or sometimes more nodding golden-yellow flowers up to 5cm across with prominent stamens and pistil. We all know what tiger lilies look like; in appearance the Avalanche Lily looks like white tiger lilies. The blooming season is from April to August, depending on the elevation. Considering that my original source also told me about "nodding potatoes," I think this plant might be the plant the Natives call Nodding Potatoes.
Avalanche Lilies grow in mountains and high valleys from Vancouver Island to the Rocky Mountains. Their slender, starchy bulbs rank with Bitter-root, wild onions, and Spring Beauty in importance as a food source for the southern interior. The Natives dig the plant in April to August, and steam them or roast them in hot ashes. To preserve the bulbs for winter they let them soften and peel and thread them on a string of twisted Red cedar bark before hanging them up to dry. In the past, these bulbs in strings were an important trading item for the Natives.

Chocolate Lilies were another bulb that the Natives ate, but it appears that these do not grow in the area around Potato Mountain, so we must ignore them for now. The Yellowbell Lily also did not grow so far north -- but the Tiger Lily did, for Alexander Caulfield Anderson described how the Natives harvested and prepared the Tiger Lily he found around Fort Alexandria. This letter was written on the 3rd September 1845, and is addressed to Sir William J. Hooker, of Kew Gardens:

"Our New Caledonian fields have already, I believe, yielded their humble treasures very liberally to poor David Douglas, who, if my memory fail me not, visited in 1833, when I was stationed elsewhere. Thus I cannot hope that my [small] collection will possess much novelty for you. The Tza-chin or edible Bitter Root of N.C. (which by the way appears to me to be nearly identical with the Tiger-Lily of our gardens) might perhaps be entitled to some little note as a bonne-bouche if cultivated in England. The mode of preparing it is either in small subterranean kilns, or by steaming until soft and mushy. It is easily raised from the seed, of which I have sent a supply; there is also some bulbs, but I fear their germinating principle will be destroyed before they reach their destination." In his manuscript, British Columbia, Anderson gives more information about the tiger lily when he says: "The natives of the latter place [Fort Alexandria] use the root as an article of food. Carefully steamed it is an excellent substitute for potato -- its flavour somewhat like that of a roasted chestnut, with a slight bitter which renders it very agreeable."

You may have noticed the 'Bitter root' word in Anderson's letter, above. Though Anderson also called the tiger-lily the 'edible bitter-root,' in this same letter he talks of another plant called spetlum, or bitter-root. The tiger lily does earn the bitter-root name Anderson gave it, however, according to Nancy J. Turner:

"Tiger Lily is a tall perennial with a white ovoid bulb, up to 5 cm. in diameter, composed of thick fleshy scales like garlic cloves." The stem is slender, the flowers are bright orange, dark spotted near the centre. The Natives used the large bulbs of Tiger Lily wherever they could find them. The flavour of the bulb was strong, peppery and bitter, and they were used like pepper or garlic to flavour foods. The Tsilhquot'in called the bulb 'beaver-stick,' and harvested the bulbs in the early spring; the Okanagan and other southern Natives harvest them in the fall.

I have mentioned two other plants: the bitter-root, and Spring Beauty. Let me now tell you what they are, from Nancy J. Turner's "Food Plants of Interior First Peoples."

Bitter-root "is a low stemless perennial arising from a branching deep-seated fleshy taproot, which is grey-skinned with a white inner core that may turn pink on exposure to the air." The plant grows in the driest areas of the B.C. interior, and is now considered rare. But to the Okanagan and the Thompson River Natives, this plant was the most important of all the edible roots. Amongst its other names is the name, 'spatlum' -- almost the same name that Anderson quoted to Hooker one hundred and fifty years ago! However, this plant does not grow in the Chilcotin district and will not be the one of the potato-type plants that grow on Potato Mountain.

Spring Beauty -- However, the Spring Beauty could be one of the Indian potatoes harvested on Potato Mountain. The Spring Beauty is a perennial that grows 5 to 15 cm. tall with one or more stems arising from a shallow corm which might be 5 cm or more in diameter. The corm is brown-skinned and white inside, and the flowers are usually white with five petals and two broad sepals about a centimeter or more wide. The plant grows in dry sagebrush hills, usually at higher elevations in the central and southern part of the province on both sides of the Cascade Mountains. The Tsilhquot'in people certainly ate this plant in large quantities. They dug up the corms after the plants had flowered, from late May to late June depending on the elevation. The corms are not deeply buried, and Natives used a short digging stick to pry them out of the earth, replanting the smaller corms to allow them to develop. They cooked the corms by steaming them, or washed them and boiled them like potatoes. In fact, Spring Beauty resembles potatoes in flavour but are a little sweeter. These Indian potatoes could also be harvested in the autumn, and are said to be sweeter at this time.

I think I am satisfied that the Indian potatoes that grow on Potato Mountain are not potatoes -- as we know them -- but lilies or other bulb/corm producing wild plants.
I don't know if any of my readers are interested in the descriptions of the plants the Natives used, or that Anderson wrote about.
If so, let me know. I have lots of information on this particular subject and can wander for hours through the edible meadows that belonged to the Natives who lived around Fort Alexandria or in the southern regions of the province -- especially now that I have Nancy J. Turner's book and can more readily identify the plants and flowers that Anderson spoke of so often.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Hudson's Bay Company Archives

A while ago I received a note from Heather Beattie, archivist of the Hudson's Bay Company Archives.
She had read my post of September 3rd when I talked about Section A of their records, and has this to add:
"Since the Keystone Archives Descriptive Database was launched in 2005, HBCA archivists have been working to enter descriptions of the records in our holdings.
"Full online descriptions are currently available for Sections A, B, C, D, F, H, RG2 and RG7.
"This includes records of the Governor and Committee, Governor and Council of Rupert's Land, Commissioner's Office, Canadian Committee, Fur Trade Department, Northern Stores Department, Wholesale Department, Montreal Department, Southern Department, Northern Department, Oregon Department and Western Department, all Hudson's Bay Company posts and districts, and records of related or subsidiary companies.
"This is an ongoing project, and new descriptions are being added to the database on a regular basis.
"Until everything has been added to Keystone we are also continuing to provide access to some of the older Online Finding Aids, which have been available on the HBCA website since the late 1990's.
"I think these may have been what you were looking at for all of the non-Section A records -- much more detailed descriptions of most of these records are available in Keystone, and we generally encourage researcher to look there instead of (or in addition to) the Online Finding Aids."

She is exactly right -- I have only been looking at the Online Finding Aids in the HBCA archives rather than searching the Keystone Database in the Manitoba Archives website.
Of course when I started the search ten years ago, that was the only way to find the records.
So if you are searching today, do check out the Keystone Archives Descriptive Database and see what you can find.
Obviously it isn't only Section A on that database!

Heather finishes her message to me with this:
"All of the HBC records created prior to 1920 (and many more recent ones) are available on microfilm and can be borrowed through the interlibrary loan program.
"If you ever have any questions about our holdings or online tools, please feel free to contact me."

Thanks, Heather, for the information, and I will search through Keystone next time.
As a note -- I have always found the HBC archives staff helpful and willing to give information.
Because they receive so many emails the responses may not be immediate, but they know their archives and they do answer the questions to the best of their knowledge.