Sunday, June 3, 2012

Doctor William Todd of the HBC

Oddly enough, I believe my next few posts are going to wander around persons we have already talked about recently, and make further connections between them.
When I talked about John Ballenden, I found another connection between him and Alexander Caulfield Anderson, that I had not known of.
Well, actually, the connection was to one of the clerks who worked under Alexander Caulfield Anderson at Fort Alexandria -- and so I will now launch into the story.

In my posting dated Sunday, May 13, 2012, I talked about John Ballenden, who for a year or so was Chief Factor in the Columbia District, replacing Peter Skene Ogden while Ogden took his furlough.
Ballenden was in Red River when his wife, Sarah, was bullied by some British women who were offended that a woman with Native ancestry took precedence over them -- Sarah Ballenden was the mixed-blood wife of the Chief Factor while their husbands were less important in the fur trade society.
I left out part of the story, and so I will now continue it, from Sylvia van Kirk's book, Many Tender Ties; Women in fur-Trade Society, 1670-1870:
Associate Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company, Eden Colvile, arrived in the Fall of 1850 and "did attempt to heal the breach. Since Ballenden himself was convinced of his wife's innocence, the Governor deemed it only fair that she should be reinstated in society and delighted Ballenden by admitting Sarah to the company of his wife. The wives of the lesser Church of England clergy also re-established relations with Mrs. Ballenden. Gradually peace seemed to be returning to the settlement, although it rankled with some that Captain Foss, who was very popular with the English mixed-bloods, had not had the good grace to leave Red River.
"During the months immediately following the trial, the Ballendens lived quietly at Lower Fort Garry where they had removed. Governor Colvile found Mrs. Ballenden's behaviour so discreet and proper that he began to think that the poor woman 'had been more sinned against than sinning.' The parsons and their women ere 'very strait-laced', he declared, and the colony 'a dreadful place for scandal.' When Ballenden decided  that he must go to Britain for medical treatment in the fall of 1850, Colvile favoured his wife by allowing her to remain at the fort; there was no lively mess table at the Lower Fort, but Mrs. Ballenden was to take her meals with the clerk W.D. Lane. The winter arrangements began auspiciously enough, but during December the scandal suddenly blew up again, when an unsigned letter, reputedly from Sarah Ballenden to Captain Foss inviting him to visit her at the fort, was intercepted. Although there was never enough evidence to actually prove it, Foss allegedly managed a discreet two day visit during Colvile's absence. The chagrined Governor, informed of this fact by [Adam] Thom, now felt obliged to cease all association with Mrs. Ballenden. A short time later, the unfortunate woman inextricably incriminated herself by paying a short afternoon visit to the house of retired officer Donald McKenzie, where Foss was living...."

Another resident in Red River, Doctor William Todd, wrote to his friend Donald Ross, (interestingly enough from his residence with was called Foss Cottage, his temporary home -- had Foss finally left Fort Garry?) on June 2nd, 1851: "I left the settlement last summer in a ferment; found it on my return in mainly the same state and from the same cause viz. Mrs. B[allenden] & Captain Foss, there is I fear no doubt of their guilt. I feel for poor B[allenden]. He was devotedly attached to her. This blow will be too much for him to bear, I suspect, [and?] will send him to his way home, as he would get the news before the canoes must leave or perhaps before he left England. I hope he will take some other appointment. He cannot now and ought not come here which I much regret. I have not seen either her [Sarah Ballenden] or the Captain [Foss], he I understanding is concocting all the mischief he can assisted, t'is said, by that old fool the .... with whom he had taken up his quarters for the winter."
Note: I have added punctuation for legibility in this letter.
Another question -- was Donald McKenzie the old fool that he referred to in this letter? I guess he was...

Anyway, I am not talking about Donald McKenzie, but I am interested in Doctor William Todd, who has a connection with the Columbia District, and whose son worked under Alexander Caulfield Anderson at Fort Alexandria for a short time.

The Hudson's Bay Record Society has a very cut and dried biography of Dr. William Todd:
"William Todd, an Irishman, appears to have been born about 1784. He entered the HBC service as a surgeon in 1816, proceeding to York Factory in the Company's ship Prince of Wales. He was first employed at Cumberland House until 1818, when he was appointed surgeon at the Red River Colony. In 1819-20 he was employed at Fort Wedderburn, Athabaska, returning to Europe by the ship Eddystone from York Factory in the latter year. On his return to North America in 1821 he was appointed clerk and surgeon at Lower Red River until 1822, when his services were transferred to York Factory, where he remained until 1827. He was subsequently employed as a surgeon in the Columbia district for two years until 1829, when he was placed in charge of the Upper Red River district with headquarters at Brandon House. During 1831-32 he remained in charge of the same district, residing at Fort Ellice. In 1833 he was appointed in temporary charge at Red River owing to the ill-health of Chief Factor Donald McKenzie, and was then given charge of the Swan River district with headquarters at Fort Pelly, where he remained from 1835 to 1843. During 1843-44 Todd was granted furlough and went to Europe. In 1844, he was appointed in charge of Severn in the York district, and in 1845 he resumed his former charge at Fort Pelly, where he remained until 1851, with the exception that he was granted furlough during 1849-50. In 1851 he was again granted furlough and he died on 22 December of that year. He was promoted to Chief Trader in 1831.

Dr. William Todd was a man to take note of, and in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography is described as having a "reputation as a clever, attentive doctor who was extremely scrupulous on points of honor and etiquette. He was not, however considered particularly useful as a trader..... As a doctor, however, he was probably the most famous surgeon in the west before 1850." Todd dealt with a mysterious illness at York Factory -- an illness that had appeared every year at the place, affecting in particular the officers at the fort. Unhappily for all concerned he contracted the illness himself, and left the fort so weakened that the sickness affected his health the rest of his life. However, his treatment of the illness stopped its annual recurrance, though his records do not indicate what the sickness might have been nor what his treatment actually was. Too bad -- historians would like to know what this sickness might have been.

This is what Bruce McIntyre Watson has to say about Dr. William Todd in his book, Lives Lived West of the Divide -- and to my surprise he did not connect the Doctor with William Todd Jr., who worked under Alexander Caulfield Anderson:
Todd, William; Irish
Birth, Ireland, c.1784
Death: Red River Settlement, December 22, 1851
HBC, surgeon and clerk, Coastal Trade, 1827-28; Surgeon and clerk, Fort Vancouver, 1828-29
Irish born William Todd joined the HBC as a surgeon in 1816. Between 1816 and 1827 he was employed at a variety of posts east of the Rockies and came over with the returning Express in September 1827. After a brief stint in the Columbia District, he returned to the Red River district becoming Chief Trader in 1831. In that year, Simpson thought that because of his lack of French and business knowledge, as well as his drinking habits, he would not go far, but Todd worked with the HBC until his death twenty years later.
William Todd had two wives and six children. He married Marianne between 1830-1835 and had two children. On August 20, 1839, he married Eliz Dennet (d. 1844) and together they had four children. He worked steadily at a variety of posts until he was granted furlough in 1851, dying on December 22 of that year. Four of their children were Albert, Samuel, Elizabeth, and Mary.

With his first wife, Marianne, he had two children as stated above. Marianne died between 1830-1835 at York Factory according to the Denney Paper at Glenbow Archives, Calgary. A daughter, also named Marianne, died in March 1823 at four month; and son William Todd lived to grow up and work in the fur trade west of the mountains. William Todd was described as a large man, standing at 6'3" in height. He built his final home on the Assiniboine River in the Red River settlement -- a 200 acre wheat farm situated at Sturgeon Creek, Manitoba, parish of St. James -- five miles above Upper Fort Garry.

This is an aside, of a sort: I have a copy of a letter that Dr. William Todd wrote after he left the Columbia district -- and for those descendants of the Ermatingers, the Works and the Birnies that I regularly talk to, I will put a little bit of this letter in this posting -- of course you all know that James Birnie mentioned in this letter is my great-great-grandfather!
"York Factory, 15th July 1829
"Dear Edward [Ermatinger];
"You will I believe not be much surprised at my replying to your esteemed favours from this place where I arrived the 5th July after the usual agreeable journey across the mountains. As you will naturally be anxious to hear the news from your old quarter (Fort Vancouver) I shall without further ceremony commence altho aware these will be more fully detailed by Frank [Ermatinger] and our old friend [John] Work both of whom I left in good health, the latter particularly sore at the late promoting and Frank talking as loud as ever, by the by he appears a favourite with the great man [Dr. McLoughlin].
"You had hardly left Vancouver when we were put on the alert by Indian reports (of the capture of Fort Langley and massacre of W. McMillan and party) it is needless to say without there being any foundation for them, nevertheless the Doctor took it much to heart and so far credited it that Mr. [James] Birnie was prepared to follow your express with the dismal news when it was contradicted. Nothing again of moment occurred till the arrival of the Brigade from the Interior casualties on their way down, three were drrowned at the lower part of the Priests Rapids a key of Castorium and some dressed skins lost, Bostonves [Bostonais] was in the boat and had a narrow escape...."[MS2716, BCA]

A number of Dr. Todd's sons joined the fur trade, and one of them was his eldest boy, also called William. Here is his work record from the Hudson's Bay Company, with new information on his mother, at least -- I have added information from other sources too:
Todd, William Jr.
Parents: Dr. William Todd and Marianne Treathly/Ballentyne
Born at York Factory in 1823, baptised Sept. 7, 1823 at St. John's Cathedral (where?)
Entered HBC's Service, 1841
1841-1842, Apprentice postmaster, Swan River
1842-1843, Apprentice Postmaster, General Charges, Columbia
1843-1844, appointed Apprentice Postmaster, Nez Perces, Columbia
1844-1845, Apprentice Postmaster, Thompson River, Columbia
1845-1847, In charge, Fraser's Lake, New Caledonia, Columbia
1847-1848, Postmaster, disposable, Columbia
1848-1864, Clerk in charge, Connolly's Lake, New Caledonia, Columbia
1865, Freeman, Red River Settlement
Wife: Sarah Jane Johnstone, marriage in 1849 while he was at Connolly's Lake?
2nd wife: Fanny Anne Hourie, married 1868

Now, let us go to the Fort Alexandria journals, and find out what Alexander Caulfield Anderson had to say about his employee, William Todd.
As you already know, Anderson arrived at Fort Alexandria in November, 1842, when Donald McLean was in charge of the Chilcotin post, and Thleuz-cuz Lake was served only by the occasional derouine party.
In April 1844, William Todd arrives at Fort Alexandria:

"Tues. 30th -- Occasional showers. Finished planting our potatoes, say about 60 bus. in all -- at farm and in the vicinity of the fort & little river. The [outgoing] brigade only got to the Terre Blanche today. They have been detaining owing to two missing horses. In the evening Mr. Wm. Todd arrived from Kamloops with a letter from Mr. [John] Tod sent. It appears that in consequence of a rumour among the natives that the natives about Lac Vert [Green Lake] meditated molesting us, he had thought it expedient to send a reinforcement consisting of Mr. T & 4 men, to assist the brigade. [So William Todd was working at Kamloops post at this time].....
"Wed. 1st May -- Fine with occasional showers, but very little rain falls and we are a good deal in want of rain. Young Mr. Todd went off to rejoin the brigade. Ground a few bushels grain for immediate use. The mill is now to undergo repair. Lenniard occupied at garden. Others variously."
So that's it for a little while...

On Monday May 27th, Anderson's clerk recorded that: "Morning cloudy. Mr. Anderson accompanied by Lapierre, M[ichel] Ogden & an Indian started for Thluz-kuz...."
Anderson returned a week or so later, as recorded in the Fort Alexandria journal -- "Thursday 6th [June] -- Weather as yesterday. Employments the same. About 16 hrs. PM Mr. Anderson & party arrived from Thleuz-cuz via Chilcotins and at 5pm. Mr. Porteus arrived from Fort George."
Anderson writes later that same day that: "I returned on 6th inst. from a visit to Thleuz-cuz. My journey to that place occupied 5 days and my return (by way of Chilcotins) 4 1/2. The object of my visit, besides trading the furs on hand there, was to examine the place, preparatory to the adoption of steps for forming a permanent establishment there, in accordance with Mr. C. F. Ogdens letter of instruction to me. I had an interview with a large party of Nichaotins, who, in common with other inhabitants of the vicinity were assembled at Thleu-cuz celebrating a feast. The results, as far as words go, was very encouraging, and it remains to be proved in how far the future will realize the present promise...."

In a letter to Governor Simpson, Anderson reported that: "The post of Thleuz-cuz was established in September; and I am happy to inform you is doing extremely well...." At the same time, the Fort Alexandria journals of September 1844 tell us that, on the 26th of the month: "I sent off Laframboise & Baptiste Lolo to Thuz-cus (see letter this date). They are taking back the horses & apres that remained there owing to the fatigue of the former. I have written Mr. Todd upon various points as per letter. That gent is young and inexperienced and I am therefore (perhaps uselessly) uneasy in a high degree about the enterprise entrusted to him. I am anxious for the arrival of the Gentle[men] expected by express, in the hope that one of greater experience may then be at my disposal."
So sometime over the rain-filled summer of 1844 when water smeared many pages of the Fort Alexandria journals, making them unreadable, young William Todd arrived at Fort Alexandria to take over the running of the Thleuz-cuz post, established in September on Thleuz-cuz Lake on the Blackwater River.
If he was born in 1823, young William Todd is only 21 years old in 1844, and he is placed in charge of a tiny post on an isolated lake in the middle of nowhere -- a daunting situation indeed, for someone so young!

On November 12th, Anderson wrote in the Fort Alexandria post journals that: "The YK express arrived on Sat'y in charge of Mr. Thos. Charles, a young man recently from England. Three servants (new hands) with Marineau & Tout-laid. Yesterday forenoon they were sent off as per letter at end viz. Cadotte, with 2 pork-eaters, by the river for S[tuart's] Lake, with the letters, Mr. Charles with Marineau, Atla (as guide) and the man Delonais to Thleuz-cuz; at which place Mr. C[harles] with relieve Mr. Todd, who will thence proceed, accomapnied by Delonais to S[tuart's] Lake, as per letter. They take on 6 bags flour for the post, which coupled with the fishery they will doubtless have made (since we have no intimation to the contrary), will enable them, I trust, to pass a comfortable winter."

But on Monday, November 18th [1844], Anderson received a letter from Mr. Todd, which he noted in the post journal: "Today [a] very great surprise!" he wrote. "Vautrin cast up from Thleuz-cuz, having a letter from Mr. Todd dated 17th inst. notifying that the [fall] fishery [failed and] that he had killed a horse (Rapide) some time previously for food, and now trusts entirely upon what I am [sending] by Marineau. I cannot conceal my chagrin at this extraordinary instance of improvidence. In my instructions [of] September I had notified that about the 10th November I should send a party with some [further] necessaries for the Post (meaning a supply of flour &c) -- but nothing whatever was said to me that I should furnish any provisions, as I was in hope that their fisheries would suffice. But in the face of this understanding Mr. Todd delays notifying to me the failure of his fisheries until this late season, when I am unprovided with the means of conveying assistance to him (and at the best, his letter is dated 2 days after the proposed departure of Marineau.) Had he sent to me (which he could have done with equal, if not greater facility) 3 weeks ago, I could then have sent a good supply of provisions  by Marineau."

There is of course a page ripped out here, and the next entry is in December 1844. On the 3rd of that month, Anderson reports that: "This evening the party from Thleuz-cuz arrived, their 9th day thence. Mr. Todd is with them, having been [intended] to proceed direct to Stuart's Lake, owing to Delainais' absence -- the cause of detention was their having waiting at Thleuz-cuz till Vautrin arrived there. They have brought the furs that were on hand, consisting of about 30 beavers, 75 martins, & other furs..... Upon the whole, while I am well satisfied with the trade and prospects of the post, I must confess that I do not approve of the arrangements which have led to this confusion and inconvenience, which by a little forethought on Mr. Todd's part, and some additional care, might have been altogether avoided. Without wishing to be captious, I am constrained to say this much."

And on Tuesday the 10th of December, Anderson wrote: "Mr. Todd (whom I had delayed a few days to permit the ice to consolidate a little) set out today with Delonais for Fort George [Prince George, BC]. I have given them Hunna [a Native guide] at the expense of a capot [blanket-coat] to guide them to Fort George as being both ignorant of the country & the dangers of the river, I considered it unsafe to let them go unattended....." And so, young William Todd left Fort Alexandria and will probably not appear in Anderson's journals again.

So. Thomas Charles took over the running of the Thleuz-cuz post, and he remained there for a number of years and did a really good job. And so I come to a very interesting family with three brothers, all with stories of their own and all connected with Alexander Caulfield Anderson!
Stories of people like this making history interesting.
These are the stories I enjoy telling.


  1. I am an MA student at Oxford Brookes University in England and am trying to track down the journals and correspondence of Dr William Todd who refers to a treatment for smallpox used by the Cree Indians which involved soaking in Little Minotou lake.. Could you let me know how you tracked down your information.

    Many thanks.


    Loraine Fergusson

  2. Hi there. Are you still involved in this research re:smallpox? I am a descendant of William Todd and would love to learn more about your findings!