It was only 250 miles from Jasper's House to Fort Assiniboine, but as you can see, in some years the journey was quick and easy, while in others there were difficulties.
Fort Assinboine itself still exists as a small town, or hamlet, on the north bank of the Athabasca River west of Whitecourt, Alberta.
The horse portage between the Athabasca River and Edmonton House may have caused a lot of trouble in the early years, but many improvements were made on the road and travel over the road became easier.
But I think for the most part that all these travellers came over the improved road; certainly it was never easy travel for the horses.
The Saint Albert trail, which heads north west from Edmonton centre, is a remnant of the old portage, I have been told, and Edmonton House itself stood where the government buildings south of the current Parliament Buildings now stand.
The Parliament Buildings probably now stand on the place where the Indian camp outside the fort was -- a place where the drums never stopped beating.
There's a story in that which I will tell you at the end of this posting.
York Factory Express Journal, 1827, by Edward Ermatinger:
Saturday 5th [May] Fine warm weather. Embark with 6 men and old Paget a freeman at 1/2 past 4 am. taking with us all the furs at this place, say 7 packets. Stop 3/4 hour to breakfast. Afterwards 1 [hour] to gum our canoe. Encamp at 7pm. A great deal of ice along the banks of the [Athabasca] River.
Sunday 6th. ... Start 1/4 before 5 am. At 10 o'clock come up with Mr. [George] McDougal[McDougall] and 4 men from New Caledonia who have been following the ice these 9 days past from Jasper's House. Remain here 3 or 4 hours and proceed again 6 or 7 miles, the ice having given way so far. Mr. McDougal gets a bark canoe, left here by Mr. F[inan] McDonald last fall, repaired to take down in place of a skin one which he brought from Jasper's House.
[According to Bruce Watson (Lives Lived), Finan McDonald was at Boat Encampment in October 1826 on his way to the East, to retire.]
Monday, 7th. Fine warm weather. Make an attempt to continue our [sic] but soon stopt. However after breakfast having observed that by making a short portage we should gain a clear channel we again embark and succeed. Afterwards having occasion to put ashore and speak to some Indians about a boat left somewhere hereabouts by Mr. F. McDonald last fall we are overtaken by an immense quantity of loose floating ice which detains us above an hour till it is passed. We then make a fresh start to meet with no further impediment. As to the boat we find that it is a good distance above us in one of the channels blocked by ice when we passed which prevented us from seeing it. Arrive at Fort Assiniboine [75 miles northwest of Edmonton] at 8pm and learn that this Post has not provisions enough to furnish our men a meal the want of which was one reason for my not delaying longer to endeavour to get down the Boat.
Tuesday, 8th. Fine warm weather. As J[ohn] Stuart, Esq., has not yet arrived from L[esser] S[lave] Lake from whom alone we can expect a supply of provisions to put us to Edmonton and also having been given to understand by Mr. [John Edward] Harriott that the gentleman required a few more men to expedite his arrival, I determined on remaining here with the Express while the Columbia men in conjunction with those of New Caledonia should go down and assist him up with his craft. Accordingly, Mr. McDougal with 9 men in one canoe embarks for that purpose this morning. D[avid] Douglas, Esq., Passenger.
Wednesday, 9th. Fine warm weather. The three men left above and Nipisingue (Nipissing Indians) whom Mr. Rowand requested from Jasper's to act as guide for people going with Leather (express) arrive this afternoon, but without the Iroquois's Beaver one having come in and informed that they were unable to bring them the distance is so great and so much snow.
Thursday, 10th. Thick snow all day no arrivals.
Friday, 11th. Snowing all day. Bastonois treats his comrades with a dog.
Saturday, 12th. Light snow in the morning. Clears up before noon. Snow mostly disappears.
Sunday, 13th. Fine weather. In the evening J. Stuart, Esq., &c arrives with 3 canoes.
Monday, 14th. Fine weather. Take our departure from Assiniboine about 4 o'clock with 56 horses and men, part of the horses only being loaded. Proceed thro' the woods between 4 and 5 miles and encamp at a small creek. Many deep mires. Horses very poor and weak.
Tuesday, 15th. Weather rather overcast. Start at 7 am. Breakfast at the Riviere Creuse (Picher or Cruche Creek). Road to it very bad full of mires ascend several hills. Several horses remain behind unable to come farther light. Men sent back to endeavour to bring them up, report one to be dead. Mr. McDougal with a man goes ahead to Edmonton to inform of the state of the horses &c. Proceed again having rested the horses 5 hours and encamp at Les Deux Rivieres. Distance of today's journey between 10 and 12 miles. Killed 2 geese and 2 ducks.
Wednesday, 16th. Morning fine towards evening several claps of thunder. Shower of hail and successive showers of rain. Start between 7 and 8 am. Proceed thro' thick woods. Swamps about 8 miles and take breakfast at first prairie. Afterwards continue for near 5 miles and encamp in the woods across the 2nd prairie. Our road the whole of this day has been thro' one continued mire -- several horses too weak to come up with the rest, tho' light. Two men return to bring them up but are unable.
Thursday, 17th. Fine morning. Start 6 am. Proceed 1 1/2 mile and arrive at the Paddle River (a tributary of the Pembina River), make a raft and get our baggage across in about 3 hours afterwards go on 3 miles and stop to breakfast. Detained here several hours by rain. Again continue 7 miles and arrive at the Pembina River. The road from Paddle Rives lies along the borders of small lakes, thro' swamps and woods, the track thro' the latter being in some cases extremely bad much fallen wood and deep mires.
Friday, 18th. Fine morning. Mr. Stuart's craft not having yet arrived, people set about making 3 rafts. These being made cross over all the property and load 20 horses herewith. Proceed to Lac la Nane (Nun Lake) distance 5 or 6 miles. Set a net. Two men also repair a weir already made in the River. Find here Cardinalle, a freeman, and family with several tents of Indians. Mr. Stuart remains at Pembina with the rest of the horses to wait his people.
Sunday, 19th. Fine warm weather. Our net last night yielded 60 carp and the weir 30 carp and pike, 9 horses are returned to assist Mr. Stuart in bringing forward his pieces. Afterwards 3 men sent off to clear the road ahead of fallen wood and also to make a wear (weir) at Berland's Lake to supply fish on our arrival.
Sunday, 20th. Fine warm weather. Our fishing yield about the same quantity as last night. A man arrives from Mr. Stuart with letters. The craft were about to arrive when he left. Mr. S. had gone down to meet them on a raft. Having collected all the carp we are able for our voyage we take our departure hence with 13 loaded horses. Travel about 8 miles thro' woods occasionally very bad road and encamp. One of the horses is unable to bring up his load. The men carry it.
Monday, 21st. Fine weather. Start at 5 am. Mr. Douglas with one man goes ahead to reach the Fort today. Near Berland's Lake we meet 5 men with 22 horses from Edmonton take 2 saddle horses for Messrs. E. Harriot and Ermatinger. Send the rest forward to meet Mr. Stuart. Take breakfast at Berland's creek. Afterwards proceed to the large scaffold and encamp. Our route to Berland's Lake was for the greater part bad in the extreme thro' thick woods full of deep mires, thence the road takes thro' the plains and is pretty good. Distance say to the Lake 12 miles and to the encampment 8 or 9 do.
Tuesday, 22nd. Fine warm weather. Proceed at 4 am. reach the Sturgeon River about 10 o'clock with the strongest of the horses. Others do not arrive till 2 o'clock, occupy our time till 3 pm. rafting our property across afterwards resume our journey and arrive at Edmonton at 7 pm. 5 men remain behind at the river, their horses being too fatigued to proceed, roads thro' the plains often bad thro' swamps and mires. Distance to Sturgeon River from our encampment about 16 miles thence to the Fort 9 miles.
Wednesday, 23rd. Fine warm weather. 6 Boats receive their cargoes in order to be off to morrow morning.
Express Journal, Spring 1828 by Edward Ermatinger:
7th [May]. Fine weather. Remain this day repairing our canoes.
Thursday, 8th. Fine weather. Start with 3 canoes at 4 am. Having on board 9 packs furs, &c, with Mr. Klyne besides our own baggage. Two of the canoes have each 6 men and the other 5. River very shoal -- ground in many places -- delay nearly 1 hour gumming one of the canoes. Encamp nearly at Baptiste's River after 7 pm.
9th. Fine weather. Embark at 1/4 past 3 am. Remain 2 hours gumming a Boat which was left on the banks of the River 2 years ago and place in it 3 men, one out of each canoe, to take it down to Assiniboine. [This will be the second of Finan McDonald's boats, see above]. Encamp above the Big Island 1/4 before 8 pm.
10th. Fine weather. Start at 3 am. and arrive at Assiniboine at 1/2 past 9. Prepare our Baggage and cross our horses and commence our journey on the Athabasca Portage at 6 pm., travel only two miles and encamp, 13 horses are employed transporting our Baggage &c. Messrs Klyne and Harriott accompany us with packs and horses.
11th. Morning fine. Messrs. [Joseph] McGillivray, McDonald and Ermatinger with 5 horses leave the party at 4 am. to go ahead to Edmonton having with them the accts., &c. Afternoon a tremendous storm of wind with rain overtakes us in the Burnt woods, bringing down trees in every direction. One fell upon one of the horses and killed him on the spot. Encamp a little beyond the Paddle River.
12th. Fine weather. Start at 3 am. proceed near to Lac a Berland and encamp.
13th. Fine weather. Before we arrive at Sturgeon River, McGillivray's horse knocks up and is left. Arrive at Edmonton at 7 pm.
14th. A man with 6 horses sent off to assist the people behind.
16th. Mr. Dease and party arrive at 1/2 past 2 pm.
Diary of a Journey from Fort Vancouver in 1835, James Douglas:
Tues. 21 [April] Left Klyne's House this morning at 8 o'clock with one canoe, 4 passengers and 8 men. The other men remain here to mend and prepare the two other canoes for descending the River. They will follow us as soon as they are ready for the journey which will be I suppose tomorrow. The river is very low, and they will be much lumbered with families and baggage, two causes from which much delay may be naturally expected on their way down. Had the case been otherwise I should scarcely have decided on separating the party. But my aim is to reach Edmonton about the 26 current which cannot be accomplished unless the utmost diligence is used.
Wed. 22nd April. A very stormy day with snow & rain in abundance.
Monday 23 [are the dates a little confusing here?] Left our encampment of last night but before we had advanced a mile from the place found an accumulation of ice which renders the river impassable at present. At this place we landed and remained stationery for a considerable time to see if the ice would give way. During this state of suspense I walked a short distance down the river and found the ice firm at two places, but beyond these clear water. This circumstance determined me to attempt a passage. Accordingly the canoe and property were carried over the first bridge of ice and launched into the water. We shortly afterwards encountered a second obstruction, then a third which were passed in a similar manner to the first. After proceeding a few miles further we overtook a large body of floating ice near which we encamped. We are now near 15 miles from Baptiste River. Distance today 6 miles.
Fri. 24. Left our encampment and advanced about 4 miles when we were again obliged to stop, as the river is entirely blocked up. The two lost [last?] canoes rejoined us.
Sat. 25. Our progress this day does not exceed 5 miles, and for a considerable distance below our encampment the ice is still so solid and compact as to remove all probability of giving way immediately. A circumstance which determines me to push on ahead leaving the bulk of the party to come on leisurely with the property. My plan is to proceed with a canoe perfectly light and 10 men. In places where the ice has already disappeared we will use the canoe, and we will either drag or carry our property over the ice wherever we may meet with it.
Sunday 26. A clear frost [sic] night. At half past 4 we were on the move, and after gliding smoothly over a few miles of open water we reached a large field of ice, over which all the property was carried. A second soon after appeared and was passed in the same manner. Soon after we reached Baptiste's River which is exceedingly high and rushes with such impetuous force into the Athabasca River as nearly divides it in two. To our great joy we encountered no more ice during the day, but from the geat quantity still adhering to the banks on both sides, it is evident that it has been very recently carried off. Met a canoe from Assiniboine which left that place 5 days ago. They inform us that they were stopped the whole of the 24th & 25th by the ice floating downwards in such quantities as to cover the entire body of the river. Encamped about 40 miles above the Fort.
Mondy. 27. Reached Assinboine at 8 o'clock, and at 1.30 pm. Commenced the portage on horseback. Slept at the two River. In ascending the Athabaska river I could ;make but few observations on the quality of the soil, but suppose it to be of very indifferent quality from the kind of wood which it produces. From Klynes [Jasper House] to McLeods branch [McLeod River] the banks of the river are thickly wooded with the white spruce and Canadian Balsam, with a few birch. Below the latter place a good many aspen and poplar trees.
Tues. 28. Encamped at Eagle Lake. The country through which we have passed is pretty generally covered with timber. There are certainly a few clear spots called Prairies but they are of small extent [crossed out: save the one now near us] and scarcely merit any notice. there are no lakes of any extent save the one now near us, and the Paddle and Summer Bay [?] are the only 2 rivers that deserve the name. At the latter we were compelled to construct a raft as we could not otherwise cross the property without wetting.
Wedy. 29. Encamped 4 miles before reaching Sturgeon River, on the banks of a small river which runs thro' a narrow valley bordered with willows, and the banks thickly covered with grass, which is a most eligible situation for our encampment as we are completely shut out from observation, and run little risk of being discovered by any roving parties of horse thieves. From Eagle Lake to Berland's Lake the country is in general densely wooded with the white spruce, poplar & birch, but from that place to Sturgeon river it is totally different in its character. Instead of the gloomy interminable forest we have met with the extensive prairie variegated by pleasant groves of trees, and watered by numerous tiny lakes and small streams of water. The surface of these prairies is thickly covered with various grasses indicating a rich productive soil.
Thurs. 30th, April. Reached Edmonton at 8 o'clock am.
Journal of a Voyage from Fort Vancouver to York Factory, Hudson's Bay, 1841, by George Traill Allan:
Friday 14th [May] Fine pleasant weather; immediately after breakfast, we resumed our travels with two Boats and ten men and descended a long way down the Athabasca River; the banks of this River are very thickly wooded and the current so extremely rapid that a Boat can descend with ease in three days a distance which it requires fourteen to ascend.
Saturday 15th. We got underway this morning at 3 am.; we had descended about four hours when turning a point in the River we discovered two Moose Deer -- about to cross at some distance below us; the men immediately step't pulling & allowed the Boats to drive before the current; in this manner we had approached very near the Deer, who, not perceiving the Boats, took the water and proved to be a Doe with her fawn of a year old. Now the chase commenced in right down earnest, and although there were no scarlet coats amongst us I am sure there could not have been more ardent sportsmen. The Moose finding their retreat cut off from the South side of the River, swam with great speed toward the north, the Doe at this movement received two shots and the Boats coming up a blow from an ax dispatched her; leaving one of the Boats to secure the prize, we made chase with the other after the fawn -- and soon coming up with her, one of the men caught her by the ears and drawing his knife cut her throat in regular Smithfield fashion. Such was the end of the two moose Deer! -- and the excitement of the chase being over, I could not but think of the sanguinary nature of man -- & when I perceived the River died with the blood of the poor Moose, I almost regretted the part I had just taken in their destruction. We now made for the shore & making a large fire endeavoured to console ourselves for the late murder, if it may be so styled, with a breakfast of Moose Deer stakes, than which no meat to my taste can be better. Those were the first of the Moose tribe that either Dr. Tolmie or I had seen & we found them very interesting animals; the men having cut them up, we again embarked, and had descended but a very short distance when we started some geese from the sands along shore & one of the men leaping ashore brought us five of their eggs & we picked up a good many afterwards going along; we thus suddenly found ourselves in a land flowing, if not with milk & honey, at least with Deer, Geese & Eggs.
Sunday 16th. About 12 o'clock am. we arrived at Fort Assiniboine & arranged ourselves to start with Horses for Fort Edmonton; it had heretofore been the custom for the Columbians to receive provisions at Fort Assiniboine to take them to the next post; but our success as hunters enabled us, instead of receiving provisions, to leave a portion for the people of the Fort in exchange for which we received some potatoes and dried Buffalo Meat. Having secured the Boats, by hauling them upon a high bank, for our return in the fall from York Factory, the property, now swelled up with fifteen packs of Beaver Skins we had brought from Jaspers House to fifteen horse loads, was all tied up ready for a start next morning.
Monday 17th. Early this Morning the horses being collected & loaded we started from Fort Assiniboine with fifteen loaded and eighteen light horses in all thirty-three. I having previously disposed the men so as to give each two, four loaded horses betwixt them (to take charge of) and each a horse to ride. About 4 pm. we encamped at a place called Larocques Encampment.
Tuesday 18th. Started at 8 am. and marched till 2 pm. when we arrived upon the banks of the River Pambina, this River being so much swelled by the melting of the Snow in the Mountains as to prevent our crossing we were obliged to chop wood and make four rafts, upon which we managed to transport ourselves and the baggage, and encamped upon the other side.
Wednesday 19th. Before getting underway this morning, I found a note suspended to a branch in our road addressed to the gentleman in charge of the Columbia Express & upon opening it, it proved to be from Mr. Geo. McDougall who had passed with a party of men & a band of horses only about two hours before we reached the opposite bank, stating that he had left two Rafts at my service; b ut they happened to be upon the wrong side of the River -- & had we perceived his note sooner we could not have availed ourselves of them without swimming across, a rather unpleasant occupation in such cold water & swift current. We now pushed on as quickly as the Horses could march, through a very rugged country covered with swamps and fallen timber, as I had some hopes of overtaking Mr. McDougall with whom I am well acquainted. About 3 pm. we got clear of the woods and my horse smelling those of the party a-head began to neigh with all his might & upon my giving him the reins he lost no time in accelerating his pace which in a very short time brought me in sight of Mr. McD's party winding their way slowly over a hill; waiting now for Dr. Tolmie to come up we both rode on swiftly ahead of our men and took Mr. McDougall quite by surprise, he having had a full days start of us from Assiniboine. Introducing the Doctor I called a halt to wait the arrival of those behind it being now 4 o'clock and the horses much fatigued. Mr. McD rode off to inform his people where to camp and soon rejoined us to get the Columbia news & take supper -- making my man produce the wine &c we gave all the news of the west and in return received all those of the east side of the mountains. Dr. Tolmie stuck to his teetotalism & would not join Mr. McDougall & me in a glass of wine, the latter gentleman rode off after supper to sleep at his own camp.
Thursday 20th. This forenoon we breakfasted at Sturgeon River -- and arrived at Fort Edmonton about 5 o'clock pm. where we were received most kindly by Mr. Harriott, Chief Trader, and treated with an excellent supper of Buffalo stakes. The country over which we had just passed from Assiniboine to Edmonton scarcely merits description being composed principally of thick woods and swamps -- here and there a small plain to vary the uniformity of the prospect.
Journal of a Trip from Vancouver to York Factory, Spring 1847, by Thomas Lowe:
Sunday 9th [May] -- Fine pleasant weather. Started from Jasper's House at 10 o'clock and as the current was strong, we got down a good distance.
Monday 10th -- Cold disagreeable day. Snowing the whole time. Made a good days work.
Tuesday 11th -- Fine weather. Arrived at Fort Assiniboine at 4 pm. and had the boat hauled up. Encamped at a short distance from the fort where the horses are to be brought tomorrow morning.
Wednesday 12th May -- Fine day. Took breakfast and started with 13 horses, having 9 packs of furs to take to Edmonton which we brought from Jasper's House. The men are on foot. Road bad, and horses poor. Shortly after starting, saw the two boats of Mr. McDougall from Less[er] Slave Lake arrive. He left the Boats to meet us. He has six packs and 10 men and will start after us tomorrow. Came about 20 miles and encamped.
Thursday 13th -- Fine day. Made a long march. crossed the Paddle River in the afternoon and afterwards the Pambina River, where we had to make a raft. Encamped on the other side.
Friday 14th -- Rained in the afternoon, which obliged us to camp early, having come only about 20 miles. Got within 5 miles of Berlands Lake.
Saturday 15th -- Fine warm weather. Came to the Sturgeon Creek, crossed the pieces in a canoe, drove the horses over, and camped on the other side.
Sunday 16th -- Fine weather. Started early, and arrived at Edmonton about 7 o'clock in the morning.
Monday 17th -- Fine weather. Mr. Rowand sent off two boats today to Fort Pitt.
Tuesday 18th -- Rainy, and much thunder. Mr. McDougall arrived in the afternoon, with his packs.
Wednesday 19th -- Showery. Eight boats sent off down the River. Louis Leblanc who was in charge of Rocky Mountain House arrived this evening, having come ahead of the Brigade.
Thursday 20th May -- Fine warm weather. The Brigade from Rocky Mountain House arrived here this morning. Eight boats.
Friday 21st -- Beautiful day. The eight boats which arrived yesterday started today to proceed to Fort Pitt.
Journal from Vancouver to York Factory with Express, Spring 1848, by Thomas Lowe:
Thursday 11th [May] -- Cloudy. Left Jasper's House at 9 am. with one boat for Assinaboine. We embarked 10 packs of furs for Edmonton, also Dr. [John Frederick?] Kennedy's two sons and two men belonging to this place. The water is low, and being much loaded we scraped a good deal, and the men were often in the water hauling over the shallow places. Got through the lake very easily, and encamped a short distance above the Mountain View.
Friday 12th -- Rained a little in the forenoon. Passed the rapid de Mort before breakfast, and Baptiste's River at 1 pm. The water in the latter was high, and we got on much better.
Saturday 13th -- Fine weather. Killed a moose this morning before breakfast. The water in McLeod's River was likewise high. Arrived at Assinaboine at 3 pm. got the boat hauled up, and everything ready for starting tomorrow morning.
Sunday 14th -- Started from Assinaboine this morning at 9 am. with 14 loaded horses and 8 saddle horses. Just as we had started Mr. McDougall arrived with his two boats from Lesser Slave Lake, and will follow us tomorrow. The horses are in a most wretched condition, and we must consequently go very slow. Nevertheless we got to the first usual encampment. this has been a most beautiful day, and the Portage appears in a pretty good state.
Monday 15th -- Fine weather. Passed the Paddle River in the afternoon, where we found just water enough to allow us to cross without making a raft. There was a bark canoe at the Palina River, in which we crossed ourselves and property and encamped. The horses however will only be crossed tomorrow morning.
Tuesday 16th -- Fine weather. Came a good distance today considering the state of the horses and encamped at Berland's Lake.
Wednesday 17th -- Very cloudy all day, and a little rain, but not enough to prevent us from going on. Came as far as Sturgeon Creek and crossed all the property. The horses however were left on the other side, in case of their being any thieves hereabout from the Fort.
Thursday 18th -- Crossed the horses early this morning and started from Sturgeon Creek. Arrived at Edmonton about 6 o'clock in the morning. Before our arrival it had begun to snow, and continued so the rest of the day.
Friday 19th -- Very disagreeable weather. snow and sleet the whole day.
Saturday 20th -- The weather still continues very unpleasant. In the evening the Rev. Mr. Thibeault arrived from Lac de Diablo, to pay a visit to Bishop Demers.
Sunday 21st -- Raining all day. Attended Mr ... Church. Bishop Demers & Mr. Thibeault had also a very large congregation. In the evening Mr. McDougall and his party arrived from Lesser Slave Lake. They had been afraid of two days delayed by the bad weather, and some of their packs have got wet.
Monday 22nd -- Rain during the fore part of the day, but fine weather afterwards.
Tuesday 23rd -- Cloudy, but no rain. This morning 13 boats started for Fort Pitt. They have only about 25 pieces per boat, and three men.
Wednesday 24th -- No rain, but very cloudy. The carpenters are busily employed getting the boats in readiness for our departure from this place tomorrow. The different ladings were given out, and taken down to the River side in the afternoon.
Journal of the Columbia Express Party, 1849, by John Charles:
11th, Friday [May] Left Jasper's House about 11 am. the boat being laden with the returns of that place. The water is so low that the boat was constantly thumping on the stones. Camped at sunset. Fine.
12th, Saturday. This morning our progress was checked by the river being blocked up with ice in two places where we made portages by carrying the pieces and hauling the boats over the ice; we had not, however, proceeded three miles further down the river when we again encountered ice in floating masses through which we could not find a passage notwithstanding our repeated efforts. We were therefore obliged to put ashore and camp.
13th, Sunday. We embarked at daylight, but just about sunrise we were again under the necessity of putting ashore and wait until the ice drifted down.
14th, Monday. Made a little more progress to day than yesterday. Wind blowing pretty hard and the ice floating down in pretty large masses.
15th, Tuesday. Embarked at daybreak and were again obliged to put ashore for breakfast and wait until the channel would be again clear of ice. After spending a greater part of the day in this manner we again left, but were obliged to encamp early. Commenced raining last night and continued almost all day without intermission.
16th, Wednesday. Left our encampment at broad daylight and put ashore at the next point; that being the utmost extent of our progress to day. After breakfast we were visited by a couple of freemen from a lodge a few miles below us. Fine day. Weather tolerably warm. The ice drifting down slowly.
17th, Thursday. Arrived at the lodge about 7 am. and got some dried meat and a few tongues from one of the Freemen named Baptiste who embarked in our boat for Edmonton. Made about eight miles to day. Clear weather in the forenoon, but somewhat cloudy towards evening with appearance of rain.
18th, Friday. The river having risen considerably last night, we were enabled to travel all day without encountering ice of any consequence. Saw two moose deer, but did not succeed in killing either of them. Had a few passing showers of rain with occasional glimpses of sunshine.
19th, Saturday. Arrived at Fort Assinaboine early this morning. Had the boat taken up the bank and placed under the boatshed. The saddles etc. etc. for the Portage were taken across to the place where we unloaded the boat. It rained so hard all day that we could not possibly leave until tomorrow.
May 20th. Sunday. Beautiful clear day. Started this morning with 10 loaded horses and arrived at a small prairie about 5 o'clock, where we camped. Dark clouds gathering in the west.
21st, Monday. Commenced raining early this morning and continued all day some snow fell towards night. We remained at our encampment in consequence.
22nd, Tuesday. The weather being so unfavorable for travelling with packs of furs without any covering to protect them from the rain we were obliged to remain at the encampment this day also.
23rd, Wednesday. Started this morning before sunrise. Camped on the opposite side of Papira River which we crossed with a raft.
24th, Thursday. Started about Sunrise and camped at 5 pm. Fine clear day. Blowing pretty strong.
25th, Friday. Before reaching Sturgeon River we were met by Edmonton Horse Guard who brought us word that Mr. Rowand was anxiously waiting for us. We arrived at Edmonton about 5 o'clock. Almost all the boats of the Saskatchewan Brigade have already left, and Mr. Rowand does not intend to leave his establishment until the arrival of Mr. McDougald [McDougall] from Lesser Slave Lake with his returns and who is now momentarily expected.
26th, Saturday. Warm weather. The remaining boats getting in their cargoes.
27th, Sunday. Had a heavy shower of rain in the evening, Mr. Brazeau arrived from Fort Assiniboine, but brings no word of Mr. McDougall.
28th, Monday. The Columbia Boat and two others left Edmonton.....
According to the book, Exploring the Fur Trade Routes of North America, by Barbara Huck et al, Edmonton House [sometimes called Fort Edmonton] was located at the most westerly point that a brigade from York Factory could travel before the Saskatchewan River froze.
Do you notice that I am now talking about brigades, where up to this point I was speaking of the York Factory express?
The difference between an Express and a brigade is that the Express travelled light and fast with papers and passengers, while the larger brigades carried out the furs to York Factory, to be shipped to London.
The men of the York Factory Express crossed the mountains every spring to join the outgoing Saskatchewan Brigades at Edmonton House, and everyone travelled downriver together.
They still had a long way to go -- though the travel for the outgoing express was all downriver, there was still more than a thousand miles of travel from Edmonton House to York Factory.
And as you will see from some of the express journals to come, not everyone took the same downriver route with the boats.
Oh, and the Edmonton story I promised to tell you:
This story involves the Red River rebellion and its effect at the town that surrounded the old fort at Edmonton House.
It takes place almost thirty years after the last express journal in my posting -- in 1885, in fact.
Outside Edmonton there was a long standing Indian encampment, where the drums were always beating.
When news of the Rebellion reached Edmonton, an old timer at the fort supposedly told the newspapers that there was no danger from the Indians as long as the drums continued to beat.
The newspaper foolishly printed the information; the next morning the Native camp stood silent and abandoned.
Can you imagine how nervous the residents of Edmonton were?
Nothing happened; although during the Rebellion the fledgling towns that surrounded Forts Pitt and Carlton were burned, Edmonton remained peaceful.
I suspect that the Natives and Metis people who lived in or around Edmonton, who could also read newspapers, enjoyed their joke.