Saturday, October 13, 2012

From Norway House to York Factory, on Hudson's Bay

We are continuing the various express journals eastward, from Norway House to York Factory on Hudson's Bay.
Both Edward Ermatinger's York Factory Express Journals end at Norway House, but he will return in one journal that takes him from York Factory westward to the Columbia, in 1827.
The gentlemen who kept the journals often had little to say of the journey to York Factory -- you will see what I mean when you read James Douglas' journal.

However, as you will see when you read these posts, none of the Columbia men that kept these journals travelled downriver with the York Factory Express.
Instead they remained behind to attend the meetings and write the Minutes, and then went on to York Factory in canoes.
Sometimes they reached "the Factory" before their expressmen did.

I should say something of the journey from Norway House to York Factory, to help you understand why they mention so many different names of rivers on their relatively short trip to Hudson Bay.
Alexander Caulfield Anderson took out the express in 1842, but he also travelled this same route in 1832, as he was coming to the Columbia.
So he travelled over this short, rapid-filled river system four times.
From my book, The Pathfinder -- in 1832, Anderson travelled north from Fort Garry (Red River), to Norway House to join the east-bound Columbia express and Saskatchewan Brigade:
"Anderson arrived at Norway House on the morning of June 27, and by five o'clock that evening he was travelling east toward York Factory with the men from Edmonton House and the Columbia District.
"The Fort Vancouver men had crossed the Rocky Mountains in the early spring, carrying the papers and records of the Columbia district east to the annual meeting of the Company at Norway House.
"While the chief factors attended the meeting, the men of the Columbia express continued on to York Factory to help the Saskatchewan men off-load their furs for shipment to England, and pick up the thousands of pounds of supplies and trade goods to be carried back to Edmonton House.
"As Anderson had been assigned to the Columbia district, he would now travel with the Columbia express wherever it went -- first east to York Factory; then west to Edmonton House and beyond.
"The Saskatchewan boats crossed Playgreen Lake, at the north end of Lake Winnipeg, and entered the Nelson River, a rough waterway that carried the combined flow of the Saskatchewan, Red, and Winnipeg rivers north to Hudson Bay.
""The descent for a certain distance from Lake Winnipeg towards the sea," Anderson learned, "by a series of lakes terminating in Split Lake, is necessarily very gradual; thence consequently to its mouth the Nelson rushes with great impetuosity."
"The brigaders soon left the boisterous [Nelson] River for a tiny stream [Echimamish] so blocked by beaver lodges that it was little more than a series of still ponds that carried the boats into the calmer Hayes River, at a place called Painted Stone Portage.
"The men paddled quickly downriver and within a day or two arrived at the Company's headquarters on Hudson Bay."

I will tell you more about the Hayes River, with its many name changes, rapids, and portages, in the next posting.

From the same above source (The Pathfinder), a description of York Factory: "York Factory stood on a muddy peninsula covered with scrub willow and saw grass; its docks lay at the far end of three miles of boardwalks across flooding bogs.
"The officers' store sold goods that came straight from London via the Company ships that anchored offshore.
"There were flannel and gingham shirts, trousers, shawls, hose, tobacco, clay pipes by the dozen, finger rings, breast pins and beaver hats.
"Anderson bought a few items he had missed on the journey north -- an enamel wash basin, soap, cotton suspenders and a fur cap.
"He played with the idea of purchasing a sextant but decided against it.
"Then the wide selection of candies tempted him, and he bought Scotch caraways, candied sugar and almonds.
"He was only eighteen years old."

If your ancestor was a clerk, Chief Trader or Chief Factor, who might have shopped at York Factory, you can look for the record of his purchases (as I did Anderson's) in the York Factory Officers' Shop Book, B.239/d/422, HBCA [check HBCA records online for exact file number for the year you are interested in].
So lets begin with the journals....

Diary of a Journey from Fort Vancouver in 1835, by James Douglas:
Fri. 19th June. Left Norway House at one o'clock; in 6 hours reached Black Water river; in two hours more passed Black Water and Harvy Lake. Encamped at the Etchinamines.
Saty. 20. Left encampment at half past 2 -- 8 1/2 hours Painted Stone; 4 hours to White Falls; 3 hours Hill Portage; encamped.
Suny. 21. Windy Lake. Wessenissanis River, Oxford Lake. Encamped.
Wed. 24th. Reached the Factory (York).

James Douglas' journal will continue, bringing him from York Factory westward to the Columbia District.
From this point in time it will no longer be called the York Factory Express, but the Columbia Express.

George Traill Allan's express journal also ends at Norway House; however you will be happy to know that I have a copy of his Journal of a Voyage from Norway House to Fort Vancouver, Columbia River, 1831. We already know, from his journals, that some very interesting people travelled west with him that year.

Journal of a Trip from Vancouver to York Factory, Spring 1847, by Thomas Lowe:
Monday 21st [June] Beautiful day. Early this morning C.F. McKenzie arrived with his Brigade from Isle a la Cross, and C.T. Ball from Red River with his family, having gone there for them on his way up from Canada. The Norway House brigade of 4 boats was sent off today for York Factory with the Returns, and 1 forwarded the letters from the Columbia by them, as I may be detained here for some time. This evening the Saskatchewan Brigade of 11 boats likewise started for York Factory.
Tues. 22nd June. Fine warm weather. Employed writing the Minutes of Council. Messrs. O'Brien, Pelly & Burke started this morning to overtake the Saskatchewan Brigade in a loaded boat. In the evening Hector R. McKenzie & James Pruden started with 3 boats for Carlton on their way to McKenzie's River, and Joseph Hardisty accompanies them as far as Carlton, to go into the Columbia this Fall with the Express.
Wednesday 23rd. Rained a little during the day and a thunder storm in the afternoon. Mr. [Francis] Ermatinger arrived after breakfast with the loaded canoes from Canada, and was accompanied by a Mr. Griffin, app. Clerk.
Thurs. 24th. Raining most of the day, with much thunder and lightning. In the evening Sir George Simpson gave a Ball in the Council Room, at which we all mustered, and kept it up until midnight.
Friday 25th. At day light the morning Mr. [John] Rowand and I embarked in a light canoe with 10 men for YF. Rain in the morning. Got as far as the Painted Stone or Height of Land, where we encamped.
Saturday 26th. Much rain in the morning. Got the canoe and luggage carried across forenoon at Upper Hells Gates, and Mr. O'Brien left the boats to embark with us in the canoe. Encamped near the end of Oxford Lake.
Sunday 27th June. Fine day. Reached Oxford House at breakfast time, and remained there about an hour. The River is very low, and we had a great many Portages to make. Encamped a short distance beyond Knee Lake.
Monday 28th. Met a great many boats today on their way from YF to Red River with Goods. Encamped near the Rocks and found the mosquitoes very troublesome.
Tuesday 29th. Very warm. Passed the junction of the Fox River with Hill River before sundown which is then called Steel River. As the Fox River is rather high, we will have fine water down to York. Put ashore to supper and paddled all night, as there are now no more rapids.
Wednesday 30th. Fine warm day. Arrived at York Factory at 2 o'clock in the afternoon. I find that the Columbia letters I forwarded from Norway House have not yet come to hand here.
Thursday 1st July. Very warm. Working in the office at the Columbia Accounts. Cromarty, a Postmaster, arrived with the Returns from Severn.
Friday 2nd. Rain in the morning, but fine and fair throughout the day. The Norway House Brigade arrived, and brought the Columbia letters.
Saty. 3rd. Beautiful weather. Roussain, a Postmaster, started with the Lac La Pluie [Rainy Lake] Brigade of 4 boats, with the outfit of that district.
Sunday 4th July. fine warm day. All quiet at the Factory.
Monday 5th. Rainy. In the evening 4 boats of the Saskatchewan Brigade arrived.
Tuesday 6th. Very close and oppressive. In the afternoon Messrs Pelly & Burke arrived with one boat, the rest will be here tomorrow.
Wednesday 7th. Still unusually warm. Thermometer at 90 degrees in the shade. The remainder of the Saskatchewan Brigade arrived today.
Thurs. 8th. Sultry. Mr. Pelly began today to work at the Furs for England.
Friday 9th. Rain & thunder. Most of the boat crews drunk and fighting.
Saturday 10th. Very squally weather. In the afternoon all the men were called up and told where they were to go. We have got 20 pretty good hands for the Columbia.
Sunday 11th. Blowing fresh, and the air cool and free from the swarms of mosquitoes which have lately been so troublesome.
Monday 12th. Rainy and cold. Finished all my accounts, and have nothing more to do until the Brigade starts.
Tuesday 13th. Warm and swarms of mosquitoes. In the forenoon the Swan River Brigade arrived, consisting of 5 boats in charge of Dr. Todd. Passenger C.T. Bell and Mr. Griffin, the former to await the arrival of Sir John Richardson from England, whom he is to accompany in search of Capt. Sir John Franklin, and the latter to remain at this place, to which he is appointed.
Wednesday 14th July. Fine warm weather. This forenoon 9 of the Saskatchewan boats started for inland, and the other two will leave tomorrow. Mr. Bernard Ross goes up as a passenger with these Boats on his way to McKenzie's River.

Journal from Fort Vancouver to York Factory with Express, Spring 1848, by Thomas Lowe:
Tuesday 20th [June] Warm weather. Busy writing all day. Council sitting most of the day. Messrs. Sinclair & Mactavish, also Mr. George Miles, and Mr. & Mrs. Clouston started early this morning in a light canoe for York Factory, and the Saskatchewan Brigade consisting of 11 boats including the two boats from Cumberland left in the afternoon. One boat remains behind for us.
Wednesday 21st. Fine day. This afternoon about 3 o'clock Messrs. Rowand, Harriott and myself started in a light boat for York Factory, called in passing on Mr. Mason at Rossville. Encamped a short distance above the Sea Carrying Place.
Thursday 22nd. Rainy disagreeable day, with a good deal of thunder. Detained at the 1st Beavers day in the Echinamis River for about 2 hours. Water in this River very high. Encamped a short distance beyond the 2nd Beaver dam.
Friday 23rd. Fair most of the day. Got to the Painted Stone early, overtook the Saskatchewan Brigade at Robertson's portage. It was in a very bad state owing to the recent heavy rains. Got the boat and pieces across and started from the other end about noon. In running Upper Hells Gates broke the boat, and had to put ashore to have it repaired. Encamped here.
Saturday 24th. Rainy. Had a head wind in Windy Lake, and only got a little beyond the entrance of Oxford Lake.
Sunday 25th. Head wind and rainy weather. Only made a short distance in the Lake, and had to encamp on an Island early in the day.
Monday 26th. Remained in the same Island all day windbound. Rainy disagreeable weather.
Tuesday 27th. Fine weather. Started from our encampment this morning and with the assistance of a little wind arrived at Oxford House to an early breakfast. Had a fair wind through Knee Lake as far as the Knee, and pulled afterward nearly to the end of it before encamping.
[I suspect that Knee Lake has a big bend in it, which the fur traders called the Knee].
Wednesday 28th. Had a fair wind this morning through the remainder of Knee Lake and also in Logans Lake. Running rapids all day afterwards. Broke the boat in the first Rapid below Mossy and were delayed there 5 hours repairing it. Went a short distance afterwards and encamped at the Rocky Landing. Rainy, and a thunder storm in the afternoon.
Thursday 29th. Fine weather. Ran the remainder of the Rapids this morning, and passed the Rock at 8 am. Got into Steel River at 2 pm. and having put ashore for supper at sunset drifted all night. We have been passing boats the whole day on their way up from York Factory to Red River.
Friday 30th. Found ourselves this morning at daylight at Pennygatawny River. Sailed most of the way afterwards, and arrived at York Factory at 8 am. Mr. Sinclair with the Lac La Pluie boats only got here this morning and Mr. Mactavish with the light canoe two days ago. Fine warm weather.
Saturday July 1st. Fine pleasant weather. Employed settling accounts &c.
Sunday 2nd. Mild fair weather. In the forenoon the Saskatchewan Brigade arrived consisting of 11 boats including the two from Cumberland. Mr. Deschambeault was the only passenger.
Monday 3rd. Fair and warm. Mr. Cromarite arrived from Severn with 3 boats. The men of the brigade got their Rum this morning, and there has been a good deal of fighting.
Tuesday 4th. Rained a little during the day. In the forenoon Mr. McKenzie of Rat Portage started with the Lac La Pluie boats.
Wednesday 5th. Fine weather. Mr. Sinclair started this morning in a small canoe for Norway House.
Thursday 6th. Cool during the day, but in the evening very warm and sultry. Late in the afternoon the 3 English River boats arrived at the Factory in charge of Mr. Saml McKenzie. Mr. Clare was likewise a passenger. Sir George Simpson started from Norway House on the 24th ultimo.
Friday 7th. Fine warm day. Dr. Todd arrived in the afternoon with the Swan River Boats.
Saturday 8th. Cloudy, but no rain. Messrs. Rowand & Harriott finished packing the Saskatchewan outfit, and as soon as Mr. Deschambeault has got the Cumberland pieces ready the Brigade will start.
Sunday 9th. Rainy during the day, and in the evening a good deal of thunder & lightning. Mr. Hargrave read prayers in the forenoon as usual.
Monday 10th. Fine day. In the evening the news of the different boats were appointed. There are 23 new hands for the Columbia. One boat is to be left here to bring up the new hands that come out in the ship, so that there will only be 9 boats for the Saskatchewan, besides the two for Cumberland.
Tuesday 11th. Cloudy and sultry weather, with a few peals of thunder. All the pieces were taken down to the Store near the Wharf ready for embarkation.
Wednesday 12th. Fine day. In the forenoon gave out the cargoes of 8 of the Saskatchewan Boas, amounting to 76 pieces each, and in the afternoon about 4 o'clock they started with a fair wind.
Thursday 13th. Cloudy but no rain. Mr. Deschambeault started in the afternoon, with the two Cumberland boats.

Journal of the Columbia Express Party, 1849, by John Charles:
27th, Wednesday [June]. The day occupied in making copies of the Minutes of Council as well as other documents of a public nature.
28th, Thursday. Messrs. Rowand, Harriott, Christie and Simpson started at 2 o'clock this morning for [blank in mss]. Messrs. [John Lee] Lewes and Deschambeault left at 8 am. immediately after breakfast, and Mr. Sinclair, Mr. Lockhart and myself embarked in alight Canoe at 11 am. We overtook and passed Mr. Lewes and Co. about sunset. We camped at the Damn [sic].
29th, Friday. Came up with Messrs Rowand and Harriott at Robinsons Portage which is computed to be about 3/4 of a mile in length. We left the portage at half past twelve and about an hour afterwards were across the Mountain Portage.
30th, Saturday. Overtook Peter Calder this morning, with his brigade at .... Portage. After breakfast we came up with the Lac la Pluie Brigade and before 4 pm. overtook the Oxford House boat and arrived at the above place [Oxford House] about half an hour before them, where we put ashore and had dinner given us by Mr. Robertson.
July 1st, Sunday. Made two Portages before breakfast, the Knife handled Place and Trout Fall. Had two hours sail in the evening. Put ashore for the night almost at the end of Knee Lake which Mr. Sinclair informs me is 60 miles in length.
2nd, Monday. Entered Swampy Lake about 4 o'clock am. Made 4 portages and 3 demi-charges today. Met the Red River Freighters towards evening. Put ashore at 5 o'clock and had supper when we embarked and drifted and paddled all night.
3rd, Tuesday. Entered Steel River about 4 am. Sailed for about two hours, just before arriving at the Factory which was at 2 o'clock pm.
4th/16th. This period was spent at the Factory in equipping the Saskatchewan and other Brigades, also in packing and making up Outfits. With the assistance of Mr. Clouston the accountant, I was enabled to get every thing necessary for the Columbia in the way of documents etc. The weather during this interval was very changeable.

And that is it for express journals from Norway House to York Factory.
I can, however, give you a little more information on the York Factory Express' arrival and departures in 1842, when Alexander Caulfield Anderson accompanied it to the east.

Excerpts from the Fort York (York Factory) Journals, B.239/a/155, HBCA:
July 1st, Friday. Heavy rain with thunder. Four men employed packing otters for the Columbia. Mr. McTavish arrived in the CF small boat from Norway House. the English Packet not received there at the date of his departure the 26th ult.
2nd, Saturday. Cloudy weather in the forenoon; heavy rain towards evening. Finishing packing furs for the Columbia. Eight men in the fur store. [These were fine furs to be supplied to the Russians on the Northwest coast, I expect].
Sunday 3rd. Moderate weather and high clouds. Wind north east. About midday two Saskatchewan Boats arrived and delivered their cargoes in apparent good order.
4th, Monday. Heavy rain throughout the day. Wind north. Tinsmith making hatbands for Saskatchewan district. Mr. Sinclair began duty in the general shop making up the Saskatchewan orders. Mr. Gillespie finished the orders of the gentlemen of that District.
5th, Tuesday. Mr. Sinclair finished the Saskatchewan orders.
7th, Thursday. Clear moderate weather wind north east. The Blacksmith making bundles of iron for Saskatchewan. Tinsmith finished making tinware for shops. At noon the Montreal express canoe arrived from Norway House, Messrs. Harriott and Anderson passengers. A small canoe from Oxford House with two Indians arrived. Also outfitted Saskatchewan District.
8th, Friday. Fine clear weather, wind south.
9th, Saturday. Sultry weather with slight showers in the forenoon. Wind south east. Munro allowed to be off duty in order that he might prepare for his voyage to the Columbia.
10th, Sunday. Close, sultry weather with showers at intervals, wind south. Public prayers read.
12th, Tuesday. Thick fog in the morning, fair at noon, afterward heavy rain till evening, wind north. Gorston employed this am. making a shell for the body of Rowland, one of the sawyers off duty sick. Early this morning the Norway House Brigade of 4 boats received their cargoes and took their departure. Three boats belonging to Saskatchewan and one to Cumberland were also cleared in course of the day.
13th, Wednesday. Heavy incessant rain throughout last night and till noon this am. when the weather cleared up. the boatbuilder finished repairing three Saskatchewan boats which are to start tomorrow. Outfitted English River.
14th, Thursday. Sultry weather in the forenoon. thunder with heavy rain and hail in the evening. Three boats started this morning for Saskatchewan, and Mr. C. T. Todd with 4 Swan River boats arrived and delivered their cargoes in good order.
15th, Friday. Fine warm weather with light clouds, wind variable. Smith a boatbuilder from the Columbia employed repairing boats cut his hand so severely as to incapacitate him from duty.
16th, Saturday. Fine weather and light clouds, wind east. At noon the two last boats for the Saskatchewan started with Messrs. Harriott, A. McPherson, Anderson & Pelly, passengers. At the same time 3 boats left for English River with Messrs. McKenzie and W. Sinclair, passengers.
18th, Monday. Cold raw weather, with rain and fog from the northward all day.

The next posting will cover the upriver journey to Norway House -- a long, hard slog through the many rapids and portages of the Hayes River.
The downriver journey from Norway House had been quick and easy.
No so the upriver journey!

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