Sunday, June 10, 2012

Thomas Charles, HBC

I finished my last posting with a promise of three interesting stories about three brothers, all carrying the last name Charles.
The first of these brothers -- or supposed brothers -- is Thomas, who took over the running of the Thleuz-cuz post from young William Todd in December 1844.
Some of you will be wondering where the Thleuz-cuz post stood -- it was constructed north west of Fort Alexandria and stood at the lake that is today called Kluskoil Lake, on the Blackwater River.
According to the Gazetteer of Canada: British Columbia (Canadian Board on Geographical Names), Kluskoil Lake is an expansion of the West Road River -- also called the Blackwater River -- and lies southwest of Titetown Lake in the Cariboo district, under the hill called Kluskoil Knoll.
(You will see below that Bruce McIntyre Watson disagrees with me on the identification of the actual lake -- he may be right. But Alexander Mackenzie visited a lake which had a looming hill to one side; and so this was the lake on which the post was built, I think.)

You may wonder why I say supposed brothers: In his Notes and Comments on Early Days and Events in British Columbia, Washington and Oregon, James Robert Anderson (son of Alexander Caulfield Anderson) noted that Thomas Charles "was a brother of William Charles, both of whom died in Victoria, the former in 1885. John Charles, another brother ... was accidentally killed in the Rocky Mountains in 1849."
Below is what Bruce McIntyre Watson has to say about the three (supposed) brothers in his Lives Lived West of the Divide:

Charles, John Jr., d. 1849, mixed descent
Birth: possibly Athabasca, Alberta. Born to John Charles and Jane Auld
Death: Moose Encampment in the Rocky Mountain Portage, October 1849
Being the son of an HBC officer, John Charles joined the HBC in 1846 on a five year apprenticeship contract. He started at Norway House and made his way overland to Fort Vancouver where he worked for two outfits before being accidentally shot on October 21, 1849, at Moose Encampment while in charge of the express.

Charles, Thomas, c.1825-1885, mixed descent
Birth, Split Lake, Ruperts Land, c. 1825
Death: Victoria, April 1885
"Careful and thrifty" apprentice clerk Thomas Charles, who joined the HBC in 1843, arrived at Fort Alexandria from England, where he likely received an education, was in charge of the Brigade on November 12, 1844. He replaced William Todd at Fort Fluzkuz (Thleuz-cuz is spelled many different ways in the fur trade records -- who knows which way is correct). He spent his career in New Caledonia and became Chief Trader in outfit 1859-1860. After he retired around 1872, he moved to the James Bay area of Victoria where he lived with his two daughters. He died at around sixty years of age and was buried in the Ross Bay cemetery.

Charles, William, 1831-1903, probably mixed descent
Birth: Ruperts Land, March 1831, to John Charles and Jane Auld
Death: Victoria, May 1903
William Charles, who was born into the fur trade, was sent by his father to be educated at Hill Street School in Edinburgh and, subsequently, Edinburgh University. In 1852, at the age of twenty two he came to the Pacific coast via Panama and for a short time was employed by Breck and Ogden of Portland, Oregon, before joining the HBC on June 14, 1853, as an apprentice clerk. A man known for his integrity, he spent the rest of his career in the Oregon/Western Department and British Columbia from 1858...... I am horrified to discover that Bruce Watson (who knows everything) does not know who William Charles married! His wife was one of the Birnie daughters (sisters to my great-great-grand-mother) and so he is in my family tree. I will have more information on William Charles at a later date.

But in this posting, I am going to be telling you a little about Thomas Charles, who came to replace William Todd at the Thleuz-cuz post.
(I have a little extra information re: William Todd, too, which I did not discover last week -- also a surprise tidbit re: Montrose McGillivray, at the end of the posting).

I don't have a lot of specific information about Thomas Charles, but I can tell you how he appeared to Anderson, using information taken from the Fort Alexandria journals.
With Thomas' probable education in Edinburgh and possible attendance at Edinburgh University (if he was actually a brother of the above boys), he would have been a well educated young man; Anderson would have enjoyed a few discussions with him, I think.

On Saturday November 9th, the York Factory express arrived at Fort Alexandria in the charge of Thomas Charles, "a young man recently from England." On Tuesday Anderson wrote that "Mr. Charles, wt Marineau, Atla (as guide) and the man Delonais to Thleuz-cuz; at which place Mr. C. will relieve Mr. Todd..."
Delonais returned to the fort on Friday 15th, and Anderson writes: "Delonais, the man who accompanied Mr. Charles, cast up. He states that he lost himself 3 days ago, but having succeeded in finding the encampment in the night, he slept there, and next morning was unable to find his horses, which he had hobbled closely."
Winter set in only a few days after Delonais returned to the fort, and the river froze up; storm blew in just after Christmas and no one in the territory moved around at all.
Storm or no, this was not a winter where the fur traders experienced extreme cold, and so I believe that Charles would have found life at Thluez-cus quite comfortable.
It cleared up after the New Year, and on Sunday 5th January, 1845, Vautrin arrived from Thleuz cuz with the accounts of the post.

There is no mention of the Thleuz-cuz post and Thomas Charles until, in March 1845, Anderson engages "Olivier Laferte for 2 years, Thleuz-cuz wages at 19 pounds with 3 pounds as fisherman, the same terms as his last engagement. He has a special understanding that he shall winter at Alexr. or Theluz-cuz; and I have promised him his liberty at the end of his contract..."
So this is one of the men who would have joined Thomas Charles at Thleuz-cuz, and I think he had already been there when Charles arrived -- this tells us, too, that those employed at the Thleuz-cuz post received extra wages for accepting that isolated posting.
On March 24th, 1845, Michel Ogden with Laframboise (Indian labourer)... "set out for Thleuz-cuz to transport hither the furs that may be on hand there."
In April there are some pages missing in the journal, but immediately after the gap the record continues with: "... with Mr. Charles arrangements, who seems throughout to have acted with prudence and discretion, but he was, of course, being a stranger in the District, ignorant of the limited resources which the country, at best, affords. Considering everything the returns (being procured from some 8 or 10 Inds. only) are good. the martens especially are remarkably fine, excelling much those of Alexandria; and all the furs are extremely well stretched and dressed."
Thomas Charles had come to Fort Alexandria with his furs, and left again on Monday, April 7th: "Mr. Charles, accompanied by his Inds., set out on his return to Thleuz-cuz. He has passed a few days here to recruit from the fatigue & privation which they suffered on the way. Nothing new occurs. A couple of geese killed."
In June 1845, "Today Liard arrived from Thleuz-cuz. The accounts thence are satisfactory. 125 martens with other furs have been procured there since last month..."
On Thursday, June 3rd: ""Michel Ogden... will then diverge & with Laframboise proceed to Thleuz-cuz with a supply (10 lbs.) of tobacco for the trade there, of which they appear to be much [in] need."

There are many gaps in the Fort Alexandria journal, and after the next gap (which covers most of the summer months) we learn that Thomas Charles is at Fort Alexandria.
The new journal starts in the middle of a sentence, in September 1845: "..rapid. Mr. Charles horses are not yet assembled but he will start tomorrow morning taking with him a couple of light loads of salmon & some trifles for the trade &c &c."
On Wednesday October 8th: "Laferte, Ignace, Wentrel & Baptiste LaPierre & Laframbois (Indn) are preparing to set out with the Thleuz-cuz outfit tomorrow."
(To save some confusion, there were two men named Laframboise at Fort Alexandria -- one a French Canadian, the other a Native.)
These men appear to have remained at Thleuz-cuz, as on November 1st: "Ignace arrived, bringing letters from Mr. Charles, by which every thing is going on satisfactory at Thleuz-cuz. To my surprise (for at first I took it for granted that Ignace had left the other people close at hand) I find that he left them early this morning -- and they have not yet cast up. I am highly displeased at this irregularity -- and the more so since Wentrel is by no means a trustworthy character."
In fact, when the men turned up they were short two packs of furs, and everyone was sent out to look for them. "It was found lying in the road -- the horse having broken his girths and followed the party light without their perceiving the loss, till they arrived at the encampment. A More shamefully negligent thing to all concerned I have never met with."
The fur trade was having great difficulty attracting good men at this time, and of course any man who appeared to be a reasonable worker was snatched up by the posts in the east -- York Factory and Norway House.
New Caledonia received the worst of the new engages, and those with the worst attitudes. In later years they sometimes received no new men at all!

There is hardly a peep out of Thomas Charles or the Thleuz-cuz post the following winter.
However, the next mention of him also gives us a little more information about William Todd, mentioned in the previous posting.
On Monday March 16th, 1846, Anderson wrote: "Chilly. Wind variable NW & N, wt occasional sleet falling. Yesterday afternoon the retiring servants (5 in number) cast up; bringing the intelligence that the packet box for the East side, with all the ac/s & letters, had been lost by Mr. William Todd in the Ile. de Pierre Rapids (above Fort George), he through some unfortunate accident having suffered train [?] and everything on it to fall into the water. It appears that Mr. Todd returned forthwith to S. Lake to give intimation of this disaster, while the servants came on. Under these circumstances I find myself awkwardly situated, without a letter from above -- All I can do is to wait till I hear some further tidings from S. Lake, for of course, Mr. Manson will take prompt measures to send down a duplicate of at least the most important documents. This strange & unlooked for disaster must occasion great inconvenience & delays on all hands."

"Wed. 18th -- This afternoon Mr. William Todd arrived with duplicates of the principal accounts and letters. The party will set out early in the morning, the horses being ready hobbled &c &c. Shortly after, Mr. Charles arrived from Thleuz-cuz. He set out with horses to bring the returns hither; but finding too much snow in the mountains, he has left Vautrin & wife with the packs, and is come for assistance to convey the [latter].
"Thursday 19th -- same weather. Express party off about 8am to encamp at the guard when they will get fresh horses..... Mr. Charles has frozen his foot pretty sharply, and I do not think it prudent to send him back for the furs with the people now sent -- Michel Ogden according sets out in lieu, with 3 lads...."

William Todd: "Friday 27th [March 1846]. Fallardeau & Linneard having come down on Thursday evening, Mr. William Todd, with the former, and the other men (6 in number) set out this morning for Stuarts Lake."
All this is happening as the new fort is being constructed on the top of the hill on the east side of the Fraser River -- on Saturday March 28th, Anderson "took possession of my house on top of the hill; the furs & trading goods are likewise removed to a temporary store there.."
On Tuesday 31st: "Mr. Charles frozen foot being healed he set out on his return today, accompanied by the Indn. who came with him."

Although it had been suggested by Peter Skene Ogden that Thomas Charles take over the charge of Fort Alexandria for the summer, while Anderson was away on his first cross country expedition, it was Michel Ogden who actually looked after the fort.
Charles remained (I presume) at the Thleuz-cuz post for the majority of the summer, or at least until the Natives cease trading their furs.
He is not mentioned at all until Monday, November 2nd, when it appears he has been at Fort Alexandria for the latter part of the summer, at least.
This is what the journal says for that day: "Mr. Charles & Tout Laid set out for the horse-guard, to kill some game & take provisions as they came."
On Thursday 5th: "Mr. Charles returned from his trip below -- unsuccessful, the game being all departed...."
It appears that he is treated as an employee of Fort Alexandria, at least for this period of time, for on Saturday 7th: "Mr. Charles with 4 men off to Stonia to raft down the wood."
It might be that there is little use to work the fur trade at Thleuz-cuz post in the late summer and early fall, as the new furs have not be trapped yet, and the fisheries are finished.

However, though there is no mention of his departure for Thleuz-cuz in the journals, he must have returned.
On Friday May 7th 1847, Alexander Caulfield Anderson wrote in his post journal:
"The brigade set out yesterday; I follow today, having been appointed to conduct an expedition to Fort Langley during the summer. Mr. Thomas Charles will meanwhile remain in charge here; Bapts. Lapierre being sent to conduct the trades at Thleuz-cuz, accompanied by William Davis. Mr. Charles has full instructions in regard to the summer operations."

Anderson returned to Fort Alexandria in September 1847, and Thomas Charles again disappears from the journals, with no mention of where he has gone.
You can see how difficult it is to follow people around this fur trade; you have to read between the lines.
But Anderson tended to write about the men he worried about, so Charles' apparent invisibility indicates the confidence that Anderson had in him.
Thomas Charles is not mentioned again in Anderson's post journals.

So where did he go?
To find his records we must now return to Bruce McIntyre Watson's Lives Lived, which at least tells us where Thomas Charles was supposed to be, according to the fur trade records.
Apprentice Clerk, Fort Alexandria, 1844
Apprentice Clerk at Fort Thleuz-Kuz, 1844-1848
Clerk, Fort Babine [Fort Kilmaurs, on Babine Lake], 1848-1849
Clerk, somewhere in New Caledonia, 1849-1850
Clerk, Fort Alexandria, 1850
Clerk, Fort George [Prince George], 1850-1855
Clerk, somewhere in New Caledonia, 1855-1858
Chief Trader, location unknown in New Caledonia, 1859-1860
Chief Trader, Fort George, 1860-1866
Chief Trader, New Caledonia somewhere, 1866-1872.

Bruce Watson's books also give us a history of the various posts that existed west of the Rocky Mountains.
This is what he has to say of the Thleuz-cuz post -- which he calls Tluz-Cuz Post, noting that it is also called Fluz kuz, Tluzkuss, Tluz-Kuz, Sluz cuz, and Klooskurs.
"Tluz-Cuz on Lake Tluzcuz, seventy miles north of Chilcotin, was a small post that was set up in 1844 to replace the Chilcotin post to intercept beaver that were going to the coast from the Nas-Cotin villages attached to Fort George and Alexandria. It was a uniquely placed high activity centre since the Lake was: "the nucleus where all the surrounding roads unite, being directly on the track followed by Sir Alex. MacKenzie on his way to the extremity of Milbankd Sound...." (HBCA, D.5/8, fo.40-40d)
"Furs were no longer taken to the coast with the closure of Fort McLoughlin in 1843 although tobacco and other goods traded from the Americans on the coast meant that furs were still being traded there. A year after it was established, Forts George and Fraser determined that it was drawing trade away. The Tluz-Cuz post functioned until 1849.
Managers of Tluz-Cuz Post, 1843-1849:
Donald McLean, clerk, 1843-1845 (Donald McLean was in charge of the Chilcotin post and would have sent trading parties north to the lake, where no post was yet built -- NA)
William Todd, 1844-1845
Thomas Charles, 1845-1848
Montrose McGillivray, post master, 1848-1849.

Nest week I will talk about Thomas' supposed brother who died in the Rocky Mountains -- a tragic story and one that is still open to interpretation.
By accident, and only because I was reading the Fort Vancouver letters that were written at the time the Charles boy's death occurred, I can tell you the story behind the story.
And strangely enough, this story will lead us back to John Lee Lewes and his son, Frederick (about whom I know almost nothing), and Alexander Caulfield Anderson at Fort Colvile.
And Thomas Lowe, too -- another member of my enormous fur trade family tree.

No comments:

Post a Comment