Sunday, May 13, 2012

John Ballenden, Chief Factor in the Columbia district

There were two men named John Ballenden in the service of the HBCo., and I have just discovered that one was the father of the other -- and I am not even sure that the Hudson's Bay Company archives is aware of this fact.
The first John Ballenden came from Stromness, Orkney, and entered the service in 1770. According to his records he was probably born about 1757, and first served as Andrew Graham's servant at Fort Severn and Fort Prince of Wales.
In 1782 he was writer at the Prince of Wales fort when it was captured by the French.
In 1784 Ballenden was at York Factory; in 1787 back at Fort Severn; and at the turn of the century he was in charge of York Factory.
In 1801 his Stromness wife, Elizabeth Gray, requested that her husband return home; the request was denied but in the following year he left York Factory for the Orkneys and never returned.

This first John Ballenden's boy, also named John Ballenden and born ca. 1812, married Sarah McLeod, mixed-blood daughter of Alexander Roderick McLeod.
And so this John Ballenden must be the son of the first John Ballenden, although HBCA does not seem to make the connection between them.
The record for the second John Ballenden is brief -- the HBC Archives Biographical sheet says only this:

"John Ballenden was born about 1810 and came from Stromness in the Orkneys. He entered the service of the Hudson's Bay Company as an apprentice clerk in 1829, being first employed at York Factory and in the Lower Red River district, and later in the counting house at York Factory.
"In 1836 he went to Fort Garry as accountant, and in 1840 he was given the joint management of the Sault Ste. Marie and the Lake Huron districts. He was promoted to the rank of Chief Trader in 1844, and in 1848 he was made a Chief Factor.
"In 1850-51 he was allowed leave of absence on account of ill-health. On his return from England he was appointed to Fort Vancouver, where he remained as a member of the Board of Management until 1853. He was on furlough during the season 1853-54, and in the succeeding outfit he was appointed in charge of Red River Settlement at Fort Garry.
"Ill-health prevented him carrying out all his duties during the season, and he was once again allowed furlough in 1855-56. He retired as from June 1, 1856, and died on December 7th of the same year.
"He married Sarah, a daughter of Chief Factor Alexander Roderick Mcleod [sic], at Red River on December 10, 1836. Three sons and three daughters were beneficiaries under his will, particulars of which are in A.44/3, HBCA.

Bruce Watson, in his "Lives Lived West of the Divide," does make the connection between the two Ballenden fur traders.
Here is what he says about our John Ballenden -- the one who served at Fort Vancouver:


Ballenden, John, 1810-1856 (British: Orcadian Scot)
Birth: probably Stromness, Orkney, 1810. Born to John Ballendine and Elizabeth Gray.
Death: Red River Settlement, December 1856
"John Ballenden, whose father-in-law was Chief Factor Alexander Roderick McLeod, had a fleeting interest in the Columbia, finding himself in that district more from circumstances of sickness than by design. John appears to have lost his father in early childhood. He entered the service of the HBC on June 8, 1829, as an apprentice clerk, sailed to the Hudson Bay on the Prince Rupert IV, and served in a variety of posts east of the Rockies, becoming Chief Trader in 1844 and Chief Factor in 1848.
"In 1848 he suffered what may have been a stroke. While attached to the Columbia, and after furloughing 1850-51 in England because of ill health, he found himself on his way to Fort Vancouver where he stayed on for two years, participating on the Board of Management until he went on furlough again. During his stay at Vancouver, he suffered what appeared to be another stroke, as he temporarily lost the use of his right arm. In 1854-1855 he was appointed in charge of the Red River Settlement at Fort Garry. He retired on June 1, 1856, and died at the end of that year.
"On December 10, 1836, at Red River, John Ballenden married Sarah, a daughter of Chief Factor Alexander Roderick McLeod. Together they had three sons and three daughters."
[I know that Duncan, one of his sons, died shortly before Ballenden reached Fort Vancouver.]

Well, I have a lot more information on John Ballenden and his Metisse wife, Sarah, and I will give it below.

This information on Sarah Ballenden comes from Sylvia van Kirk's book, "Many Tender ties, Women in Fur-Trade Society, 1670-1870." There are many more details in the book itself.
John and Sarah Ballenden returned to Red River district in 1848, when Ballenden took charge of the district.
The English women who had come into Red River took offense at Sarah Ballenden's high ranking in the local social heap.
Some were offended that they were forced to give precedence to a mixed blood woman, who they could not possbily consider to be their social equal -- because she carried Indian blood.
But, as wife of the district's chief Factor in charge, Sarah was determined to take part in the local society, and organized dinner parties and balls and presided at the officers' mess at Upper Fort Garry.
The highlight of the 1849 social season was the christening of her infant daughter -- called a "splendid entertainment with [an] abundance of champagne," by Letitia Hargrave, wife of York Factory's Chief Factor James Hargrave.
From her first days in Red River, Sarah became an object of gossip and speculation -- every act, word or deed was noted and commented on by a group of white women who set themselves up as watchdogs of Red River society.
Her popularity with the young single men was suspect: and one man became particularly suspect.
This was Captain Christopher Foss, an officer who had come out with the Chelsea Pensioners in 1848 and who now dined at the mess table at the Upper Fort, that Sarah Ballenden presided over.
Some women cattily remarked that Sarah was the type of woman who must have a sweetheart as well as a husband.
The bullying gossip was circulated and re-circulated, and magnified until, in summer 1849, it was rumoured that the Captain's attention to Sarah were such that John Ballenden should be able to demand a divorce!

Even the Governor of Assiniboia heard the rumours, though he hestitated to take action because of John Ballenden's popularity in the district.
But when Ballenden left Red River to take his furlough, leaving his wife behind, the Governor forbade his family to associate with Sarah, and a concerted effort was made by Red River society to exclude Sarah Ballenden from local events.
Even some of Sarah's mixed race friends were convinced that they should exclude Sarah from their society.

But Sarah fought back against the bullying English community.
She was not without her supporters, and in her husband's absence, she took refuge with a the family of her husband's friends.
She obtained sworn statements from people who knew there had been no affair between Captain Foss and herself, and on John Ballenden's return to Red River, her friends convinced him there had been no truth in the rumours.
Foss himself brought a lawsuit against some of the gentlemen and English women who had so slandered Sarah, and the three-day trial began in July, 1850.
Numerous witnesses were called but the evidence proved to be vague and circumstantial and most witnesses were forced to admit that they had only heard and repeated rumours concerning Foss and Mrs. Ballenden.
After several hours of deliberation, the jury declared that Mrs. Ballenden had been unjustly slandered, and the defendants were required to pay heavy damages.
But Sarah Ballenden continued to be shunned by the Englishmen and women, and many of the other mixed blood women of the Red River community.
When John Ballenden was posted to the Columbia district, where he worked with Alexander Caulfield Anderson, he left his wife behind again.
She spent a lonely winter alone before moving to Norway House to stay with her husband's good friend, Chief Factor George Barnston.
When Ballenden's own poor health finally forced him to leave the Columbia district, husband and wife had a tender meeting -- in Scotland one resource says -- only a few months before poor Sarah Ballenden died of consumption.

It is a sad story and should not have happened, but it did.
But I have said I will tell you about John Ballenden and his argument with Chief Factor James Douglas of Fort Victoria.
Chief Factor John Ballenden arrived at Fort Colvile with the incoming express in late October or early November, and he found Alexander Caulfield Anderson and his entire family sick, but slowly recovering, from the influenza that had raged through the district that year, killing many Natives and sickening many of the fur traders.
He loaded the Anderson family onto the boats and carried them downriver to Fort Vancouver with him.
The Fort Vancouver correspondence books held by the Hudson's Bay Company archives are filled with letters written from Fort Vancouver at that time, and one can easily follow what was happening in the Columbia district over the next few years, when John Ballenden took over Peter Skene Ogden's position.

James Lowe (brother of Thomas Lowe, retired fur trader and store-keeper in Oregon City and San Francisco) wrote from San Francisco, in September 1853, that: "Chief Factor [Peter Skene] Ogden who now leaves Fort Vancouver at his own wish, is rather an old man..."
John Ballenden had come into the district to take his place for a year, while Ogden went on furlough.
From Fort Vancouver, Ballenden wrote to Archibald Barclay that "Mr. Ogden in his letter of 17th & 20th November mentioned my arrival on the latter date at Fort Vancouver. I left Red River Settlement on the 21st August and having crossed the plains on horseback reached Edmonton on the 20th September. The Saskatchewan and Columbia Brigades not having then arrived there I was obliged to remain at that Post until the afternoon of the 30th September when I started with the Columbia party.
"Although unusually late our voyage was pleasant and we reached Jaspers House on 22nd October. I there separated the party into two Brigades -- sent off Mr. [Donald?] Manson with one of New Caledonia, via Tete Jaunes Cache, and started myself with the other for the Columbia River. We reached Fort Colvile on the 5th November and there found Mr. Chief Trader Anderson seriously indisposed and almost all his family suffering from the prevailing epidemic -- the influenza. I had no officer with me appointed to relieve him but considering the circumstances of his case I felt obliged to place Mr. William Sinclair ... in charge of that post "pro tempore" and to take Mr. Anderson and family with me to Vancouver."

From Fort Vancouver, John Ballenden wrote to George Simpson in early January 1852, hinting of trouble to come. "In this I shall enclose copy and extract from private letters to Mr. Douglas," he wrote.
"They are intended for your perusal only, but I should like to know what you think of them. Do you think I have acted right?"
The enclosed copy of Ballenden's letter to James Douglas said this: "My dear sir; there can be no cooperation where there is no confidence. Have you not been rather deficient in the latter lately? ... You were aware that both I and Mr. Work [the 3rd member of the Board of Management] were here... and yet instead of leaving these dispatches open for our perusal and guidance, they are sealed, and you mention not a word respecting their contents....
"What will be the natural inference in the minds of Sir George Simpson & the Governor & Committee, that there is no confidence and consequently no cooperation between the three officers to whom they have entrusted the management of the business in this district?
"You said, in your last letter, that Mr. Ogden was rather 'untractable' lately -- might not this have arisen from circumstances similar to those to which I now allude -- a want of mutual confidence respecting the Company's affairs. I assure you, and I feel happy in being able to say so, that there is not, in my opinion, a gentleman in the Company's service, that would have brought the Company so scathless through the troubles and confusion of the last three years, as Mr. Ogden has, and yet leave the Territory respected & regretted by all."
This was John Ballenden's "warning shot over the bow," but James Douglas ignored it.

In one of John Ballenden's reports, written in early December 1851 to George Simpson, we get a clue of what has been happening in the correspondence that passed between Forts Vancouver and Victoria over the last few years.
John Ballenden reported that "I have visited Portland and Oregon cities and been introduced by Mr. [Peter Skene] Ogden to all the great men of the Territory. I intend to accompany him as far as Astoria on the 7th to open the trails and see him as far on his homeward journey. I shall then return to Vancouver and remain there quite for the winter.
"I sent Mr. Anderson (or rather Mr. Ogden sent him) to Astoria the other day, and I wrote Mr. Douglas privately. I then alluded to the sharp letters which had been written both by him and Mr. Ogden [and] trust that such would be unnecessary between us, and expressed my earnest desire to do-operate with him and Mr. Work. This is, I think, the best way I could have begun. Of this you may rest assured, that it will not be my fault if we do not get on agreeably..."

It seems that relations between Chief Factor James Douglas and Chief Factor John Ballenden did not continue smoothly, and Douglas found Ballenden a tough customer to deal with.
In a letter dated 21st February 1852, Ballenden recommended that: "the supply of Fort Colvile in future or at least so long as our Establishment there is within the American lines, should be sent from this Depot, but to this Mr. Douglas although he does not object yet hesitates so much to adopt the plan that I feel reluctant to make any change although convinced it would tend to the Coy's interest. I have however thought it necessary to repeat my recommendation to the Board of Management..."
And in a March letter to Eden Colvile Ballenden suggested: "Allow me to suggest the propriety of establishing a fort in the vicinity of the Columbia Lakes. Some such arrangement will be necessary as soon as the Company's ... rights are transferred to the American Government. If connected with Thompson's River by a post at L'Ance de Sable on the Great Okinagan Lake, it would keep up the Company communication with all the Indians along the British frontier, and be the only route for parties and expresses to and from the East side of the Mountains. It would also obviate the necessity of paying, as we now do, custom duties on all goods imported at Colvile for trade. I have had several conversations with Mr. Anderson on this subject, and he approves of my suggestion..."
The forts north of the boundary line would not be built for many years, but Ballenden and Anderson got their way on having Fort Vancouver supply Fort Colvile that year.
And I think they got their way by simply ignoring all the objections that James Douglas made to their plan.
I have no letters that indicate that John Work had any objection to John Ballenden's plans -- it appeared to be James Douglas who desired to run the show in the Columbia district.

On the 15th of March, James Douglas wrote that "in reference to [the Fort Colvile] Brigade arrangements you are at liberty to regulate the movements of your own party in the journey to and from Fort Langley..." and warned Anderson to bring enough men to the Fort, as "there is no probability of any spare men being at Fort Langley."
In April, John Ballenden reported to James Douglas and John Work that "I also now enclose a letter received from Mr. Anderson respecting the supplies to Fort Colvile, outfit 1852. Agreeing with him in every respect on this subject, I have directed that the returns be brought down here [to Fort Vancouver], and that the Outfit be supplied here and forwarded by the same route. I should not have taken such a step without its receiving your approbation, had I not here a large quantity of trading goods on hand, which cannot be so advantageously disposed of elsewhere, and upon which the Custom House duties have been already paid."

In early May, Douglas complained to Ballenden that, "I do not approve of the directions you have issued for transporting the returns of Colvile to Fort Vancouver apart from its being disrespectful to the Board of Management... It is directly at variance with our instructions and with the express wishes of the Company who are anxious that the business of the whole interior should be carried on through Langley.
"Besides I feel assured that the transport of the Colvile returns from Fort Vancouver to this place will involve a greater expense than you appear to anticipate. I have no wish, however, to cavil at small things or to give you pain in any manner, and I am therefore glad that you have adduced so weighty a reason for your proceedings in that case, as that of leasing a large quantity on hand which cannot be so advantageously disposed of elsewhere and upon which the custom House duties have been already paid...."

But Eden Colvile had visited both Fort Victoria and Fort Vancouver that spring, and on his arrival at Red River he reported to the Governor and Committee at Norway House, that "from Mr. Anderson's letter it would appear that he intends proceeding to the Dalles and Fort Vancouver for his outfit in accordance with an arrangement made by Mr. C.F. Ballenden, though the other Members of the Board of Management appear so decidedly opposed to the scheme, that I have some doubt whether it will be eventually carried out."
So perhaps John Work actually had something to say about Ballenden's decision....
Anderson's letter, written from Fort Colvile in April, stated that "for reasons which Mr. Ballenden will have explained, I am directed to convey the returns by horse and bateau to Fort Vancouver: when the District will in future be outfitted, instead of through Fort Langley as for several years past..."

On the 3rd of April, John Ballenden reported on his decision to the members of the Board of Management, when he said that Anderson "has started for Fort Colvile with the express, will see that off, and then make a plan of our Possessory rights there, at Okanagan and Fort Nez Perces for the Surveyor general.... I also now enclose a letter received by me from Mr. Anderson respecting the supplies to Fort Colvile Outfit 1852. Agreeing with him in every respect on this subject, I have directed that the returns be brought down here, and that the Outfit be supplied here and forwarded by the same route."

And Ballenden later reported to Governor Simpson that "The returns of that [Fort Colvile] district were delivered here by Messrs. Anderson & McDonald, early in June, and the latter was enabled to return to his [home?] ground with his outfit, earlier than he could possibly have done when supplied from Fort Langley."
It appears that travel by the Similkameen brigade trail took less time, snow on the Coquihalla delayed the journey out and in and the Columbia River brigade, though it took a few days longer, allowed the Fort Colvile men to return home weeks earlier in the season -- an advantage to the Fort Colvile fur trade.

Ballenden also reported that "Mr. C.T. Anderson accompanied by Mr. [Angus] McDonald arrived here on the 30th May with the Fort Colvile brigade. They brought with them the Returns of that District for the past Outfit. I am happy to inform you the Furs are nearly equal in value to those of the last year, and Mr. Anderson reports favorably of the business of the place as conducted by Mr. McDonald and [William] Sinclair. Such being the case, the Board of Management have approved not only of the manner by which the furs were brought out, and the Outfit send in this season, but have also agreed to follow the same route ensuing year...."

Word reached Governor Simpson that James Douglas was opposing John Ballenden's attempts to change how Fort Vancouver ran its own district, and he wrote to James Douglas.

In July 1852, Douglas responded to one of Governor Simpson's letters, with the explanation that: "The official letter to which you refer... has not come to hand, and I cannot imagine to what particular action of the Board of Management you allude in your private letter, unless it be to some of Ballenden's first arrangements after his arrival at Fort Vancouver when he did act on several occasions upon his own individual responsibility.
"One of those instances was the removal of Anderson from Colvile on the plea of ill-health, and a second instance was allowing the route of the Colvile brigade to Fort Vancouver, from whence that District has this year received its outfit.... Differences of opinion must necessarily occur on many points between the members of the Board which must be decided by the majority; but I believe there is the best disposition, on all parts to co-operate heartily and cordially in promoting the general interest."
I thought I had Governor Simpson's letter, but I cannot find it, and we can only guess what he said to James Douglas.

As he departed Fort Vancouver, John Ballenden penned a courteous letter to the other two members of the Board of Management, James Douglas and John Work -- "I shall leave here for the East side of the Mountains on the morning of the 24th current [March], and it is more than probable that our official connection will terminate forever. If during  the very short period it has lasted, any remark which I have made may have been considered either personal or offensive, I shall be very sorry, but believe me they were not intended as such."

I actually got quite fond of John Ballenden as I read his letters in the Fort Vancouver Correspondence and in Governor Simpson's incoming correspondence.
It is certain that he and Alexander Caulfield Anderson got along very well, and they liked and respected each other.
They must have spent many long evenings discussing the worries of the business at Fort Vancouver and in the Columbia district under the Americans, and it is clear from various correspondence -- both before Anderson came to Fort Vancouver, and after -- that Ballenden listened to Anderson and promoted many of Anderson's ideas to Governor Simpson.
However, it didn't really make a difference, and nothing much changed in the Columbia district after Ballenden's departure from the place.
But Anderson didn't care. Within a year or so he left the fur trade behind him.

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