Sunday, November 25, 2012

Up the Saskatchewan River to Cumberland House

Did you notice I sneaked in a new journal in the last entry -- another by George Traill Allan, who has proven to be a very interesting writer.
I don't know if he will mention his fellow passenger anywhere in this journal, but this interesting passenger is a Native man the fur traders all called Spokane Garry.
This boy was born in 1811 in the area around David Thompson's Spokane House, and was one of the sons of the local tribal chief, Illim-Spokanee.
He and another Native boy (named Kootenais Pelly) were chosen by the HBC men and offered an opportunity to attend the Anglican mission school at Fort Garry, Rupertsland, where they were taught English and religion.
In 1828, Spokane Garry's father died and he was brought home in the express, to take his father's place as chief.
He returned to the mission the following spring, bringing five other students with him; in 1831 he returned to Spokane and never went back to the mission school.
He spent much of the next few years preaching his simple Anglican faith in the Columbia plateau, and teaching methods of agriculture that he had learned in the Red River settlement.
If you want to learn more, go to the Free Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History at, and read Jim Kershner's article on Spokane Garry.

Journal of a Voyage across the Continent of North America in 1826 by Aemilius Simpson, R.N.:
Thursday 3rd [August] Commenced fine clear weather. At 4am we embarked and after [heavy] labour for four hours, at the Poles and hauling the Line, the men being frequently up to their britches in water, we arrived at a small Island, at the entrance of Cross Lake, having come a distance of 3 miles against a succession of rapids and strong current. Having breakfasted on this Island, we again pursued our route [word] of the southern extremity of Cross Lake, in a westerly direction for about 5 miles, which brought us to a narrow outlet or Channel from Cedar Lake, which being very rapid occupied us until 3:30 pm in ascending although only a distance of 6 1/2 miles. We ascended Cedar Lake in a [Westerly] direction 12 miles, which brought us to the Long point, when the weather [worsened]. A bad appearance and a considerable traverse being before us, we put ashore in a small bay on the West side of this point, at 8 pm. and encampt for the night. We had hardly pitched when we had a heavy thunder storm with much rain and lightning, we therefor considered fortunate that we had not taken the traverse on our day. Distance was 25 miles from the Red Rock.
Friday 4th. Strong breezes with rain during the night which detained us in our encampment until 5.20 am. When the wind moderated we embarked and proceeded on our ascent of the Cedar or Bourbon Lake, keeping under the shelter of its southern shores. At 11 am. the wind shifted [word] which enabled us to make sail and steer a more West course, which brought us to the head of this Lake at 2 pm. which I estimate to be 11 leagues in a [?] direction by compass and is indented by some very [large] bays and thickly studded with Islands and is a much longer sheet of water than the maps shew it. Then re-entered the Saskatchewan, ascending which by a swampy branch of the River for 3 leagues. We cross the great little Muddy Lakes and again re-entered the Saskatchewan, which we ascended for 2 leagues, which brought us to the Pine encampment, where we put up for the night having come during the day an estimated distance of 59 miles. Altho' but an indifferent encampment, it is the only one this part of the country affords for a great distance, it being continuous swamps.
Saturday 5th. Commenced fine and clear weather, a sharp northern wind, at 3.15 am embarked and made fair up the Saskatchewan, by a branch of considerable extent. The banks fringed by a thick crop of willows and other low shrubs at present flooded some feet above the roots, beyond the banks and extending between the intersections of the various branches of the river in swamps and sheets of water with occasionally in the distant view a few rounded elevations of land, bearing a growth of pines which stand conspicuous above the adjoining swamps. Noon, fine clear weather. Ther. 66 degrees at a quarter past noon, we succeeded in getting our breakfast cooked up on a raft. When we again pursued our route through a continuation of the same description of scenery, but as we ascend the banks occasionally present a fringe of poplars and elm, the water being some feet above their roots. At 9 pm we secured our boats for the night and cooked our supplies on a raft and slept in our boats. The heavens presented one of the finest displays of the Aurora Borealis I have beheld, the whole heavens was a brilliant blaze covered by this phenomenon... Our days distance was 39 miles by estimation.
Sunday 6th. Commenced fine and clear weather, at 3.30 am. We continue our ascent of the River, by a narrow channel formed by an island, of about 12 miles long, when the mainstream resumes its breadth again, which having ascended for about 5 miles brought us to the confluence of the Barrier (?) River, whose eastern point of [land] forms a small plot of dry ground [to the] jeopardy of a freeman and who had cultivated a small [patch of] potatoes. We found Indians encampt here, from whom our crews procured a supply of sturgeon and giving articles of [word] apparel in exchange of much greater value than the fish received, but a short supply of provisions and a ravenous appetite enhanced their value in the estimation of our men. One of our boats having fallen in the [rear] it was determined to wait his arrival at this spot... Encampt at 11 am having come from this mornings situation an estimated distance of 17 miles. The great quantity of filth collected about the Indian encampment did not make our situation desirable.
Monday 7th. Fine clear weather, a breeze North. At 11 am the sternmost boat having come up we embarked and continued our ascent of the Saskatchewan, about 2 miles above the Barrier River is another tributary stream falling in from the SW named the Carrot, and extending to the West is a chain of lakes. The Barrier Hills upon [word] extending from the West to SW forming a blue ridge on the distant horizon. Having come about 8 leagues along a swampy [piece] of country, we put up for the night alongside a range of Poplars.
Tuesday 8th. A continuance of fine weather, which may be considered fortunate in our present situation, when the country affords the encampments. At 3 am we continued our ascent of the Saskatchewan, when having come about 8 leagues in a winding direction to the SW we struck out of the main stream into a small channel which led us into a lake which we proceeded to cross in a Westerly direction for 5 miles which brought us to a chain of swampy channels leading in to the west by which track we cut off a great part of the distance to Cumberland House. Our days journey was much retarded by one of our boats constantly falling in the rear and the communication being now rather intricate, we did not wish to part company. We were therefore obliged to make frequent stops -- she appears a heavy pulling boat and I suspect is not [well] manned. At 8.30 pm we put up for the night under a clump of willows, having come an estimated distance of 36 miles during the day. The night presented us with a display of the Aurora Borealis.
Wednesday 9th. Close and warm weather, bringing in an abundant supply of moskitos. At 3 am we continued our journey and having come about 5 leagues we arrived at Cumberland House at 8.30. Mr. Leith the gentleman in charge of this post having fallen in the rear [at the] rapids, the arrangement for the supply of provisions for our crew cannot be made until his arrival, which will detain us here for the day. [Section omitted]. Mr Leith arrived in the evening, and also the Athabasca Brigade, that had left the Grand Rapids on the morning of the same day that we left them, they had followed a new route, but got [lost in the?] swamps and were obliged to make a portage [across] a considerable flat of mud, so that they lost by the experiment. This Post is in very good order, a considerable extent of ground around it is in a high state of cultivation, yielding abundant crops  of wheat, barley and potatoes, and a garden affording an excellent supply of vegetables for the table. The soil appears of an excellent quality being a black loam of considerable depth upon a subsoil of lime stone. The surrounding country is swampy. Pine Island, on which the post is situated, is low, but bears a good growth of Pines -- I saw few Indians at this post, they [are at] the different fishing situations, procuring a winters supply.

Journal of a Voyage from York Factory to Fort Vancouver, Columbia River, 1827, by Edward Ermatinger:
6th [August]. Fine weather. Started [from the entrance of Cedar Lake] between 9 and 10 am, sailed for a short distance thro' the Lake and then pulled thro' it till 9 pm when we encamped near the end of it.
7th. Fine weather. Started about 3 am. Rowed all day and stopt to rest in the Boats about 8 o'clock. Land being overflowed unable to camp on shore.
8th. Started about 3 am. Rowed till afternoon then hoisted sail and sailed and rowed together till 10 pm and stopt for the night at the lower end of the narrow below the Pas. Rained all day.
9th. Tremendous claps of thunder this morning. Rained at intervals all day. Started before 3 am. Sailed a short distance. Reached the Pas between 9 and 10 o'clock and took breakfast with Capt. [George] Back, Lieut [E.N.] Kendall and Mr. [Thomas] Drummond who arrived at the same time with ourselves. Afterwards set off and pulled all day against a strong head wind. Encamped (on land) at 1/2 past 8 pm.
10th. Rained all day. Started between 3 and 4 am. Reached the Barriers, by which track we proceeded at 8 pm. Having pulled up the River against a very strong current for a short distance, we entered a Lake and  hoisted sail, but the darkness of night obliged us to wait daylight and at 10 o'clock we set about making ourselves as comfortable as we could in open Boats drenched with incessant rain.
11th. Rained all day (one shower of hail). About 4 am we resumed our voyage and arrived at Cumberland about 6 pm having rowed all day against a strong head wind thro' lakes and narrows. We found two men here from Carlton who arrived some time ago with Provisions.

Journal of a Voyage from Norway House to Fort Vancouver, Columbia River, 1831, by George Traill Allan:
(He does not pick up his journal until the other side of Cumberland House -- too bad.)

The Return Journey from York Factory, 1835, by James Douglas:
Tuesday 11th [August]. Encamped at the upper end of Cedar Lake.
Wedy. 12. Encamped a few miles above Leaf Island.
Thursday 13. Encamped on Little Channel of the Pas. Showery.
Fri. 14. Encamped a considerable distance above Grand Remoux.
Sat. 15. Encamped at the upper end of the Barrier. Showery.
Sunday 16. Reached Cumberland at 2 o'clock pm where we passed the day waiting for the boats still behind. For the past 3 days the weather has been very unsettled, thunder storms, drizzling, rains and sunshine have succeeded each other in rapid succession, one part of the sky being covered with dense cloud, while in other parts the blue azure of the heavens was rendered more striking and beautiful by the contrast. From Cedar Lake to this place the country is low, full of small lakes and arms of the main river, and during the spring floods must be from its trifling elevation, entirely, or in great measure, inundated. The driest and most elevated portions of those low grounds are covered with willows and the most parts with reeds, long grass and rushes. One or two high points in the river are covered with pines, and some others with poplars. In these placed the soil is black and the limestone formation very abundant. The country through which the Sascatchewan runs from this to Cedar Lake is low alluvial land to a great distance on either side.

Journal of a Trip from Vancouver to York Factory, Spring 1847, by Thomas Lowe, in charge of party:
Sunday 15th [August] Wind strong ahead, and having gone as far as the entrance of Cross Lake, remained windbound there the rest of the day. The English River Brigade of 3 boats in charge of C. F. McKenzie came up to us in the forenoon, and camped alongside. The wind fell about sunset, and we then pushed off and pulled across the lake.
Monday 16th. Made a portage at the Grand Descharge before breakfast. When we reached Cedar Lake had a fine side wind, which carried us to Rabbit Point a couple of hours before sundown. Had to remain there until the wind lulled, and then pushed off about sundown with the oars. Carried on until midnight with the assistance of a slight breeze, and put ashore near the end of Cedar Lake.
Tuesday 17th. Pulled through the remainder of Cedar Lake this morning, and likewise got through Muddy Lake in course of the day. Camped about 10 miles up the River. this has been an exceedingly warm day. The Portage La Loche Brigade of 6 boats in charge of L'Esperance drifted past us at night. Mr. Lomond is a passenger.
Wednesday 18th. Fine warm weather. Had a light favorable breeze in the afternoon. Current strong and water high. Got to within a short distance of the Island below the Pas.
Thursday 19th. Exceedingly warm. Reached the Pas about 2 pm. and spent the rest of the day there settling with the Indians who have been working in the boat from Norway House.
Friday 20th. Last night 3 Iroquois who were to have gone to the Columbia stole a canoe and deserted from the brigade. It is supposed that they went down the River to Norway House. It had evidently been a preconcerted business, as they decamped with all the clothes and a good stock of provisions. Spent all the morning on the look out for them but in vain, and started from the Pas after breakfast having taken in a supply of Pemican. Mr. O'Brien started ahead in a canoe for Cumberland to arrange matters before the Brigade arrives there. Made good progress today as the state of the River admitted of tracking in many places.
Saturday 21st. Very warm. This evening got as far as the mouth of the River leading to Cumberland Lake, where we encamped, waiting for the return of Mr. O'Brien from the Fort.
Sunday 22nd. Remained at the same place the whole day. In the afternoon Mr. O'Brien returned and the Cumberland Outfit was taken from the Boats, and put into the Cumberland boat which of course leaves us here.
Monday 23rd. Started from the mouth of the River this morning, and got up to the Portage about noon, where a supply of Pemican sent from Cumberland for the boats crews was taken in. In consequence of some difficulty in engaging Indians who are to go up as far as Carlton, we had to spend the remainder of the day here. Raining nearly all day.

Journal from Vancouver to York Factory with Express, Spring 1848, by Thomas Lowe:
Thursday 10th [August] Started at daylight this morning and got through Cross Lake with a fine side wind. The boats got up the Grand Decharge without taking out any of the pieces, and we breakfasted at the entrance of Cedar Lake. Pull the rest of the day against a strong head wind, and encamped about two miles past Rabbit Point.
Friday 11th. Rained hard last night, and most of today. Started early from our encampment with a fine side wind, and soon got through Cedar Lake. Breakfasted at the entrance of Muddy Lake, but had to pull through most of it as the wind was too close. Sailing and pulling the rest of this day, and encamped about 15 miles up the River ahead of most of the Brigade.
Saturday 12th. Pulling the whole day against a strong current. Fine warm weather. In the evening met L'Esperance with 7 boats, on his way to YF with the Returns of McKenzie's River. Encamped near the Island below the Pas.
Sunday 13th. Warm pleasant weather, but a head wind. Arrived at the Pas at 2 pm, and as some of the Boats did not arrive until the evening had to remain there for the night.
Monday 14th. Started from the Pas at daylight, wind ahead. Took in 30 bags C. M. Salt for the Saskatchewan. Pulled the whole day, and as the water is falling made good progress. Fine weather.
Tuesday 15th. Beautiful weather. After breakfast entered a small channel which leads through a Lake to Cumberland, but as there was not water enough, after working hard and hauling the boats through the mud the whole day, we had to return to the main River by the same road as we came, and encamped at our breakfasting place, at the entrance of the channel, long after dark.
Wednesday 16th. Exceedingly hot. Breakfasted at the entrance of the channel which leads to Cumberland Lake. there the pieces which were in the two Cumberland boats belonging to the Saskatchewan were taken out and divided amongst the remaining 9 boats. Those two boats then left us with Mr. Deschambeault, as did also the 3 English River boats in charge of Mr. Samuel McKenzie, which have accompanied us all the way from Lake Winnipeg. In the evening we encamped at the mouth of the small River above the Cumberland portage.

Journal of the Columbia Express Party, 1849, by John Charles:
14th, Tuesday [August] We all left the Grand Rapid at about half past twelve am [again, I think he means pm] poling up the whole way to our encampment which was immediately above "Rouche Rouge" and where the main lines as well as the poles were put in use. Fine weather.
10th, Wednesday. Made a portage this morning at 8 am, at a rapid called the "Grand Descharge." Breakfasted about noon. Sailed through three quarters of Lac Bourbon or Cedar Lake, at an Island of which we encamped.
16th, Thursday. The wind still blowing from the same quarter, we hoisted sail about 3 am. and five of the boats, owing to a thick fog in the morning lost the road, and it was late in the evening before they joined us. We all encamped together at 9 pm, in the Riviere du Pas. The light boats went ahead after breakfast intending to wait for the Brigade at the Pas Mission.
17th, Friday. Started about half past three this morning and came on pulling and sailing until 6 o'clock in the evening when we put ashore at a hammock of poplars and encamped.
18th, Saturday. Had alittle sail wind this morning and a few smart showers of rain. Arrived at the Pas about 3 pm. where we spent upwards of an hour in taking in provisions etc from Constance's Store [house]. Camped a few miles above the Pas.
19th, Sunday. Dull, chilly weather. Encamped late.
20th, Monday. The sky overcast. Cold weather for this season of the year.
21st, Tuesday. About 10 am. we past Cumberland Portage. Saw two canoes with Indians who appeared to be on a hunting excursion. Encamped some time after sunset. This morning Mr. Rowand with two boats went ahead of the Brigade.

In 1832, when Alexander Anderson travelled west with the Columbia Express and Saskatchewan Brigade, his brigade also appeared to pass by Cumberland House.
This is what the Cumberland House Post Journal (B.49/a/47, HBCA) says, for the time the Saskatchewan brigade was there:
"1832 August 20th -- I arrived in company with two Indians in a small canoe for the purpose of taking a boat to the entrance of Lower Lake river to meet the Saskatchewan brigade and receive the outfit for this place.
"Tuesday 21st. Took George Ballendine and some Indians with the old boat and a canoe and met the brigade at the fishing wire (weir) creek. When we encamped some of the crafts were in the rear; and did not arrive tonight.
"Wednesday 22nd. All the crafts arrived this morning and the Guides determined to make treat to Pass by the upper Little River, which not being certain whether they would or not was the cause of me coming down to meet them. Arrived at the House at even, as also My master with the English River boats, the Boats from Portage la Loche hav [sic] left the house a little before on their way for York Factory.
"Thursday 23rd. The Saskatchewan Brigade of ten boats left us this morning. Mr. McKenzies remaining till the afternoon during which time the inventory was taken...."

Cumberland House was one of the oldest HBC posts in the interior -- in fact it was the earliest post in the interior of the country.
The post was established by fur trader and explorer Samuel Hearne in 1774, and given its name for Prince Rupert, Duke of Cumberland -- the first governor of the Hudson's Bay Company.
It was not located on the Saskatchewan River, but on an island in Cumberland Lake -- the island on which the post was situated actually separated Cumberland Lake from the Saskatchewan River.
In its day it was an important post -- From Cumberland the fur traders struck north into the Athabasca district via Portage la Loche, or west to Edmonton House by the North Saskatchewan River.
In 1840 an Anglican mission was established at Cumberland House by Henry Budd, a Swampy Cree who later became the first ordained minister of Aboriginal ancestry.
In 1966 an all-weather road reached the south bank of the Saskatchewan River, but to get to Cumberland House itself community residents had to rely on an unreliable ferry system.
Thirty years later a bridge carried the road across the river to Cumberland House, and accessing this primarily (but probably not entirely) Metis and First Nations community has become much easier.
Income for the 1,500 persons who live here comes from traditional sources -- trapping, hunting and fishing, outfitting and guiding, logging, cattle raising, wild rice harvesting and production of maple syrup.

Friday, November 23, 2012

From Norway House, across the top of Lake Winnipeg

At this point we will rejoin the Saskatchewan brigade and Columbia express, on its journey home across the top of Lake Winnipeg.
As you saw on their downriver journey, for some this was a fierce crossing.
No safe canoe course lay across Lake Winnipeg in any direction! It is still the worst lake in Canada for small craft.
The reasons are many.
The lake was (and is) surprisingly shallow -- in many places only ten or twelve feet deep.
It is 280 miles long with a maximum width of 65 miles.
The strong prairie winds which  often blew across or up this lake quickly created steep-fronted, choppy waves with whitecaps.
Small boats are still driven off the lake by two o'clock pm when the wind rises; for the most part the voyageurs made early camp and got up at 3am. to cross the lake when the winds were quiet.
Fur trade journals are filled with stories of waiting for days for the wind to subside, of being swamped or dashed against the rocks or of battling sudden storms and losing men and supplies.
The north basin, larger and deeper than the south, was particularly deadly because of the high clay banks that lined the north end of the lake.
A south wind -- not uncommon -- created wind-driven tides that piled the water up the cliffs, inundating the narrow north shore.
A brigade caught crossing this treacherous seventy mile stretch had no safe place to land.

So, knowing this about Lake Winnipeg, let us see how our various journal writers survived the crossing.
Remember, that in 1832, when Anderson crossed the lake, "much risk was run in the crossing of Lake Winnipeg."

Journal of a Voyage across the Continent of North America in 1826 by Aemilius Simpson, R.N.:
Sunday 30th [July] During the night we had a heavy fall of rain, and thunderstorm against which our tents proved but a very indifferent shelter, many coming down and exposing their inmates to a complete wetting. The scanty supply of provisions has reduced our crews to the alternative of eating dogs, which however is considered a [word] Article of food by some of the old Voyageurs. The gentlemen participate in the general scarcity, and are reduced to a very scanty diet. Mr. Ferrier proceeded for Montreal with retired servants, and J..., having three canoes, and Mr. MacDonnel for Timmicamairy in a light Canoe.... Our arrangements at this place being completed, we resumed our journey at 5 pm and proceeded to an encampment on Norway Point.
Monday 31st. Commenced calm and cloudy at 4.45 am. We embarked and pursued our route along the N.W. shores of Lake Winnipeg, which for the [first] thirty miles is composed of steep cliffs of clay. We were favored with a fair [wind] for a great part of our days run, sometimes blowing strong accompanied by rain, which induced us to keep close in with the shore, thereby increasing our distance considerably. At 3.15 we [awaited] the arrival of our sternmost boats, under the lee of MacIntosh's Island, the one mentioned by Franklin as lying off the [point] forming the separation between Limestone Bay and the Main Lake. At 4 we pursued our journey again to the S.W. keeping close along the shore. At 8.30 we entered a snug cove about a mile to the [west] of the 2nd Rocky Point, where we encampt for the night, having come during the day a distance of 60 miles.
August 1826 -- Tuesday 1st. Commenced heavy shower at 2 am. Embarked and pursued our journey along the shore of Lake Winnipeg in a S.S.W. direction, at 4.30 we got a firm breeze from the N.W. with clear weather, to which we made sail, and having come about 20 miles from our encampment we entered the Saskatchewan River at 7.30 am. and continued our ascent of it for about 2 miles, we arrived at the foot of the Grand Rapids. After Breakfast I walked to the W end of the Rapids, which from the Entrance of the River I estimate to be 6 miles, forming a great bend between South and North and founded by steep cliffs of gravel and lime stone, with the elevation of about 80 feet [words omitted]. We found at the head of the rapids Mr. Prudens with the [boats] of the Saskatchewan brigade, and also three boats under Mr. Clous[t]on for the Athabasca Department. A great number of Indian were encampt here actively engaged in the sturgeon fishery, from whom we obtained a very seasonable supply of wild fruits, the strawberry, Poyer (poier?), ... which formed a very agreeable repast. A few nights previous to our arrival here a fatal event took place. the Indians while sitting in their fort, were killed by a flash of lightening; there relations craved rum to console them under this heavy dispensation. Our crews have been employed in transporting the cargo and boats across the portage. We had throughout the day fine and pleasant weather.
Wednesday 2nd. Very warm and clear weather. thermometer at noon 80 degrees..... Our crews from daylight were employed transporting the boats and [goods] across the portage, which is a most laborious operation, having to drag them up a steep bank of [word] and then to launch them across the portage a distance of 1800 yards and whose extreme height was determined by my mountain barometer to be 67 feet. At 3.30 pm this difficult [portage] being completed we embarked and continued our ascent of the Saskatchewan by tracking and poling against a very strong current, and with our utmost efforts, did not advance above a league. At 9.20 pm we encampt for the night, just below the Red Rock. Several Indians having accompanied our brigade our [party] this evening presented a grotesque group.

York Factory Express Journal, 1827, by Edward Ermatinger:
31st [July]. Weather being moderate started after sunrise and rowed to the Mossy Point -- here finding that wind was likely to be too much for us we about ship to regain our last Encampment. However afterwards thinking that it had calmed we put about again when about half back then the wind veered a little to the S.W. We were enabled to hoist sail but we soon perceived that a storm was coming on and had only time to run our boats ashore and get out the cargoes when it began to blow a gale with thunder and lightening and heavy showers of rain. The place where we were forced to put ashore is a very bad landing and never approached but in cases of danger -- here we were fortunate enough to find Tom Firth with two Saskatchewan boats who was forced ashore yesterday by bad weather. His people were useful in assisting us to land our cargoes which was done with little damage. One Boat however got two planks knocked out by the violence of the waves before she could be hauled up and 16 of her timbers broken.
August, 1st. Fine weather. Wind westerly blowing hard. People employed drying some of our wet things and repairing the boat broken yesterday. Remained here for this night.
2nd. Fine weather. Wind being more moderate loaded the boats and got under weigh about 8 am. Rowed along the shores of the Lake till 6 pm and then hoisted sail and proceeded with a fresh breeze till night.
3rd, Friday. Sailed all night and arrived at the Grand Rapid at 9 am. Got the Boats up to the Portage and carried the cargoes half way over. Traded some fresh and dried sturgeon from freemen and Indians.
4th. Fine weather. Had our boats and cargoes over the portage and were ready to start about 4 am. However Larance's Boat by mischance got loose just as they were going to load her and was precipitated down the Rapid. Fortunately an eddy brought her up before she got far down and in a short time she was brought back safe. As we were about to embark one of our Columbia young hands (Desaire) was missing and it was thought he had deserted, people were sent off in pursuit. In a short time he came running to the boats in great consternation -- it seems he had laid himself down in some part of the Portage and fell asleep which held him longer than he intended. While we were sending for him another man (E. Pepin) actually did desert and we only succeeded in finding him late at night. This fellow added the crime of theft to desertion -- for it appears during the time we were occupied on the Portage he had concealed a small bale containing the property of two of his companions and when found he was already rigged out in their clothing. As a punishment he was tied for the night. About 6 pm. 4 of the Boats were sent off and ourselves with two remained near the portage for the double purpose of recovering our man and trading some more sturgeon.
5th. We had a good deal rain during the day with thunder and lightening. Started between 3 and 4 am. At the Red Rock carried half cargoes and after working up a very bad part of the River full of strong Rapids we came up with our other 4 Boats at midnight encamped at the entrance of the Cedar Lake.

Journal of a Voyage from Norway House to Fort Vancouver, Columbia River, by George Traill Allen, A/B/40/Al5.2A, BCA:
Wednesday, 27th, 1831 [July?] I sailed from Norway House at 3 o'clock am. for the Columbia River in the same boat with Mr. [James] Douglas, clerk, and in company with Chief Factors McIntosh and [Duncan] Finlayson, and Messrs Grant and [Pierre] Pambrun, clerks, nine boats and about eighty men. A fine fair breeze soon brought us to Lake Winnipeg, which is considered about 300 miles in length. At the entrance we put ashore to breakfast and wait for Governor Simpson who soon arrived in a light canoe accompanied by Chief Factor [John] Rowand. The Governor after remaining half an hour on shore bade us all adieu and proceeded on his voyage to Red River. Mr. Rowand now joined his boats and added another guest to our mess. Having breakfasted, we found that the breeze had become too strong for our heavily laden boats to face the Lake and were obliged to lay to during the remainder of the day.
Thursday 28th. We started at 3 am. and having pulled with the oars about 10 miles against the head wind and along steep banks where it was impossible to land boats or cargo, the breeze now became a strong gale and forced us to rear about and drive before it as far back as we had advanced. About noon the gale seemed to abate and we again ventured to face the lake, but had soon cause to regret the attempt. The wind continued to increase till 4 pm. when it became a regular gale and we were obliged to run the boats on shore at the great risk of their cargoes.
Friday 29th. We started about 3 this morning and being favored with a fine breeze we made great progress; got out of Lake Winnipeg and entered the river Saskatchewan where we encamped for the night along side four boats for Athabasca under charge of Richard McLeod Esquire. As nothing worthy of notice occurred until Tuesday 18th of August, I pass on to that date.

The Return Journey from York Factory, 1835, by James Douglas:
Thursday 6th [August]. Fine weather. The wind having abated considerably we recommenced our journey and proceeded on quietly throughout the day; with the help of (crossed off: wind and sail) oar reached the Little Island where we encamped.
Friday 7. A favourable change of wind this morning induced us to make an early start. We had not proceeded far when it fell calm. In a short time it commenced blowing from another quarter making it not quite so favourable to our progress. The breeze having gradually freshened the waves swelled up to a very menacing size and rushed forward with impetuous force towards the rock bound coast, threatening destruction to every object which they encountered. Forced to run for a very commodious harbour where we passed the day.
Sat. 8. Left our harbour of yesterday with a favourable wind which carried us very swiftly forward in the direction of the river. Reached the foot of the Grand rapid at 12 o'clock. Encamped with all the cargoes rendered at the lower end of carrying place. this morning fell in with Dr. King, the fellow traveller of Captain Back, returning from the expedition undertaken for the purpose of succouring Captain Ross. He informed us that the result of the expedition had not been satisfactory either in a geographical or scientific point of view. Leaving Fort Reliance with the commencement of spring, they proceeded in a North Westerly direction through the Chusadawa, Lake of Heaven, and a chain of small lakes where they constructed a boat for their ascent to the coast. On arrival at the Great Fish River their descent was very rapid. This river is very broad and deep. Falls and rapids of a dangerous character were found in every part of it. In its course it intersects one or two lakes and discharges in the ocean 70 miles West of Chesterfield's Inlet. After exploring a short distance of coast, and experiencing much detention from floating ice they commenced their return to Fort Reliance where they remained during last winter with abundance of provisions.
Sat. 8th, August. Dr. King states that the Great Fish river abounds with fish and geese. The banks of the river were covered with rein deer, and numerous herds of musk ox, an animal generally found in low valleys water by a rivulet where they can indulge their propensity for mud & filth. Captain Back has called in question the correctness of Ross' survey. He is of opinion that the neck of land which this navigator has named Boothia is the Island of North Somerset. King differs again from Back and supports his opinion by very plausible reasoning. The result of so many conflicting opinions tending rather to subvert each other than to illustrate the proposed objects is not calculated to satisfy the public.No word from the Northern Lakes to the coast.
Monday 10th. Left the Grand Rapid at 10 o'clock and encamped at the Grand Discharge. The limestone banks still are seen covered with a white clay soil.

Journal of a Trip from Vancouver to York Factory, Spring 1847, by Thomas Lowe, in charge of party:
Monday 9th [August]. Took advantage of a slight change of wind this morning, and got about 10 miles beyond Mossy Point, but were then obliged to run ashore, and unload the boats. Here we were windbound the remainder.
Tuesday 10th. Left our encampment again this morning with a fine breeze of wind, which sometimes died away and freshened again in course of the day, so that with pulling and sailing we managed to come within about 20 miles of the Grand Rapid before night. Put ashore for supper, and pulled about 10 miles afterward.
Wednesday 11th. Fine weather, but strong head wind, so that we have been windbound all day on a large Island about 10 miles distant from the Grand Rapid.
Thursday 12th. Raining at intervals during the day. Took advantage of a slight change of wind this morning to start fro the Island where we were windbound yesterday, and succeeded in getting over to the entrance of the Saskatchewan before noon. The water in the River is low, and the boats will have to make 3 trips over the shallows before reaching the portage at the foot of the Grand Rapid. Most of the boats made two of these trips this evening, and the remainder will be brought up tomorrow.
Friday 13th. Raining towards evening. this morning the remainder of the pieces were brought up & in course of the day all the cargoes were carried to the upper end of the Portage. Five of the boats were likewise brought up by water, although it is customary when the River is in its proper state to take them across the Portage.
Saturday 14th. The other 6 boats were brought up by water this morning, and we started from the Grand Rapid after breakfast, but as the wind was strong ahead, and we had to put ashore more than once on account of very heavy rains, we only got as far as the head of the Red Stone Rapid.

Journal from Vancouver to York Factory with Express, Spring 1848, by Thomas Lowe:
Saturday 5th [August]. Fine weather, but wind still ahead. About 6 o'clock in the evening the wind changed and we started under sail. Pulled & sailed during the night.
Sunday 6th. Showery. Pull most part of the morning and breakfasted at McIntosh's Island. Sailed all day afterwards, pulling occasionally when it lulled, and reached the mouth of the Saskatchewan about 10 o'clock at night.
Monday 7th. Cloudy, but very little rain. Had all the boats up to the lower end of the Portage at the Grand Rapid before noon, after having made two trips for the Pieces. Most of the pieces have been brought across the Portage tonight.
Tuesday 8th. This morning had the remainder of the Pieces brought across the Portage, and in the forenoon the boats, so that we were able to make a start from the Portage in the evening. Encamped about a mile above. In the afternoon the Revd. Mr. Rundle met us at the Grand Rapids. He is on his way from the Saskatchewan to Norway House in a small bateaux with 3 Indians.
Wednesday 9th. Cloudy, and some showers. The Saskatchewan is at present unusually high, and the current strong. An unfortunate accident happened this morning in hauling one of the boats round a strong point below the Rocher Rouges [Red Stone]. The boat sheered round, and the men having been hauled into the water, one of them (a young Canadian named Xavier Gilveste) was drowned. He came up from Canada this season, and was going to the Columbia. His body was not found, as the current swept him into the middle of the River. Breakfasted at the head of the Rocher Rouge, and got up to the entrance of Cross Lake afterwards, but as there was a strong head wind blowing we were windbound there.

Journal of the Columbia Express Party, 1849, by John Charles:
11th, Saturday [August]. Started this morning at 4 am., with a favorable breeze, but which before noon settled down to a calm. We did not put ashore until we arrived at McIntosh's Island which was at half past seven in the evening. About 4 pm. we saw two boats full manned about two miles to our left, supposed to be Sir John Richardson and party on their way to Norway House.
12th, Sunday. Reached the Grand Rapid under full sail at half past twelve am [I think pm is meant]. All the boats with the exception of two made two trips of half cargo each, from the foot of the Rapid to the upper landing place, before dark. Had a heavy shower of rain towards evening. Traded a few sturgeon from Indians pitched at this place.
13th, Monday. All the pieces and two of the boats were taken over to the other end of the Portage. Beautiful warm weather.
14th, Tuesday. We all left the Grand Rapid at about half past twelve am. [pm would be meant?] poling up the whole way to our encampment which was immediately above Roche Rouge and where the main lines as well as the poles were put in use. Fine weather.

We have got all these brigade men safely across Lake Winnipeg and through the Grand Rapid to Red Stone Rapid, or beyond.
Some have stopped at the Grand Descharge which is west of the Grand Rapid; others have made it all the way to Lac Bourbon or Cedar Lake.
In one of his essays Alexander Caulfield Anderson described the Grand Rapids they passed, and the Cole Rapids which were still to come.
Here is what he had to say:
From Lake Winnipeg "Hence to Edmonton on the Saskatchewan there are no impediments to the navigation of any moment, save the Coles' Rapids, near the confluence of the north and south branches [of the Saskatchewan], some twelve miles in length, which are navigable with care and skill, and the Grand Rapid near the mouth, where the river bursts through the ridge of limestone which forms the north-western boundary of Lake Winnipeg."

In a few of these journals we have seen mention of various persons who were obviously not fur traders, but Arctic explorers.
Numerous books have been written about Rear-Admiral Sir John Franklin, born in 1786. This Arctic explorer disappeared in the Arctic where he died in 1847, near -- but not aboard -- his abandoned ice-bound ship Terror. 
His entire crew also died -- from starvation and cold, tuberculosis, lead poisoning, and scurvey.
But of course these fur trade journals that mention him and his partners are written before 1847, and Franklin's fatal expedition.
Captain George Back is mentioned in James Douglas' journal. Back served under Franklin in the first expedition in 1818, and is obviously still part of the various expeditions.
It appears that at the time Douglas was speaking to Back, Back was involved in some explorations with Sir John Ross, another explorer.
In 1829 Ross would disappear, and Back would set out in search of him.
Fortunately for John Ross he did not die in the Arctic; in May 1834 George Back learned that Ross was back in England.

Dr. Richard King, also mentioned in above Douglas journal, was a naturalist and ethnologist and served with George Back on one of his expeditions.
Interestingly enough, in Richard King's biography on dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, we have a paragraph which directly addresses the complaint that James Douglas made, of King's disagreement with Back and Ross:
"King considered the completion of the survey of the northern coast of North America to be the great geographical problem of the time, one that would help to settle the practicability of a northwest passage. In 1836 he proposed to solve the problem of Boothia Isthmus, a feature placed by John Ross on his map of the area on the basis of Eskimo report only. If the isthmus existed, then King thought -- rightly, as it turned out -- that the land north of it, named North Somerset (now Somerset Island) by Ross, was a part of the northern coast, and that Boothia Peninsula, rather than Melville Peninsula, was the most northeastern point of the continent."

I have taken a week or so off and have spent that time reading microfilms in the library.
I did however forget that I had this post written, and I forgot to put it online.
My apologies for that forgetfulness -- but I have discovered some new and interesting things which I can later add to this blog.
One of them will be Chief Factor John Ballenden's report on his 1852 crossing of the mountain portage to the Columbia River.
That is yet to come of course; we have yet to reach the first fur trade post on the Saskatchewan River.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

From Fort William to Norway House

We are going to begin this posting with a quote from David Lavender's book, "Winner Take All":
"Those who had crossed the Height of Land that hemmed in Lake Superior were acknowledged as members of a select brotherhood by being baptized with water sprinkled from an evergreen bough. From then on they had the right to don gay sashes at Grand Portage or Kaministiguia, put feathers in their caps, and strut down to the camp of the porkeaters from Montreal, stand spraddle-legged in front of them and invite a fight with the boast, "Je suise un home du nord.""

He was a man of the north -- he had travelled the route between Fort William and Lake Winnipeg and beyond; he was a true adventurer and far better than any of the "porkeaters" who had brought the Montreal canoes up from Lachine.
He was a permanent employee in the fur trade; he was wiry and short and averaged five feet in height but was enormously strong and apparently inexhaustible.
His pace was breathtaking; he paddled at 40 or 50 strokes a minute and averaged about 100 kilometers a day, even while travelling upriver.
On the innumerable portages along these rivers north of Lake Superior, he carried two or three ninety pound packs at a time, at a dogtrot over the rough trails, using, as aids, leather tumplines that circled his forehead and passed over his shoulders.
He waded his canoe through the various obstacles, or carried it across the portage on his shoulders.
And from Lavender's "Winner Take All," another quote:
"Another bond came from the way they travelled together month after month, each proud of his own canoe, his fellows, his brigade. On the trail they were under the charge not of one of the "gentlemen," but of one of their own class who had risen, because of superior ability, to be a guide. It was he who chose each camping place, announced the rest pauses when the men could fire up their clay pipes, and decided how each rapid should be met. The guide was also responsible for the property in the canoes under his supervision. His was the almost impossible task of making sure that liquor kegs were not surreptitiously tapped during the march (all travel was called a march) and that goods were not harmed by rough handling."

Aha -- there is a story in that last line, which I will tell you eventually.
But first, let us talk about Fort William, which was built at the mouth of the Kaministiguia River in 1801-1803, by the men of the North West Company.
The actual fort stood on the north bank of the Kiministikwia River, opposite where the middle channel broke off. (I see my spelling here varies -- I am not sure which spelling is correct).
Its south side faced the river, and its east side Lake Superior; it was surround by fifteen foot tall palisades and its interior was 490 feet square.
Two blockhouse or bastions stood, one in the south west corner and one in the south east; the main gate was cut into the south wall and it, too, had a guard house or turret overhead.
The gardens were west of the fort; inside the fort was the cooperage, the canoe building yard, and shops for tinsmiths and blacksmiths and carpenters and more.
The counting house stood along the west wall, the fire pump and stone store on the south wall.
Along the east wall was the lookout, where men stood to watch for the brigades coming along the lake.
In the centre of the enclosed fort grounds was the "court," a square formed by warehouses, clerks' quarters and other storehouses.
The Grand Hall stood on the north side of the court; it was a wooden building with a large central hall that help two hundred celebrants at one time.
This was where the gentlemen congregated at the NWC's summer rendezvous every year.
The voyageurs themselves camped outside the fort walls, where their bragging and fights would be less disruptive to the business of the fur trade.

The modern day replica of Fort William is built further upriver than the original fort stood; its old location is apparently buried under the modern-day site of the Canadian Pacific Railway yard in Thunder Bay.

From old Fort William, let us now travel north and west from Lake Superior, to and through Lake Winnipeg to Norway House.
I have told you the fort stood opposite the place where the middle channel broke off.
From here, the canoes went upriver for thirty miles, where there were shallow riffles of fast water and one decharge.
The first portage was called the Mountain portage, and it passed the 120-foot-tall Kakabeka Falls on the right or west bank.
It was not an easy portage; nor was any part of the route easy.
It followed a convoluted waterway with numerous portages all the way to Lake Winnipeg.
But it was a beautiful route, and for the westbound voyageurs the journey was downstream almost all the way to Lake Winnipeg.

Generally the Nor'Westers saved time by transporting goods by road to a place above the Kakabeka Falls -- almost certainly the HBC men continued this practice.
Above the falls the river dropped a difficult ten feet to the mile with seven portages and one decharge.
At Dog Lake -- named for an Indian effigy of an outsized dog lying at the top of a 400 foot high hill that overlooked the beautiful Kaministikiwia Valley -- the gentlemen climbed the hill to enjoy the view while the voyageurs packed their goods and canoes over the trail below.
They paddled fifty miles across Dog Lake, and followed the marshy Dog River, Jordain Creek, and Cold Water Creek, to Cold Water River.
Three boggy portages on the west side of the cold lake brought them to Land Lake and Lac de Milieu (now Savanne Lake).
They followed the winding Savanne River to island studded Lac des Mille Lacs, and portaged over a divide at Baril Portage, into another river -- the Pickerel.
From the west end of Pickerel Lake they crossed over the Pickerel and Deux Rivieres portages into Sturgeon Lake, then down the Maligne River to Lac la Croix.

Before 1830 the voyageurs followed the Loon River from the west end of Lac la Croix, through Vermillion and Sand Point Lake into Lake Namakan.
After 1830, it appears that they preferred another route, which left Lac la Crois from a bay on the north shore and stroke directly for Namaken Lake, by what they called the Michan River.
I presume that the Michan River is the route that Alexander Caulfield Anderson travelled when he went over this river route in 1832.

Namaken Lake has two outlets, and the North West Company men followed a smaller waterway that flowed from the east side of the lake and headed directly for Rainy Lake, passing just below Kettle Falls.
Two small portages brought them into wild and beautiful Rainy Lake.
As they begin their descent of the Rainy River, they leave behind them the rocky Canadian Shield, and begin to travel through a gentler, softer country.
A two day journey down this rapid river, uninterrupted by portages of any sort, brings them into Lake of the Woods -- a large rocky lake filled with small islands.
Here the voyageurs could get lost, and on occasion, they did.

The north and east part of the Lake of the Woods had deep water, rocky shores and thousands of islands; but the shores on the southwest were shallow and marshy, while the south shore had sand dunes.
The voyageurs entered the lake on its south shore, and headed straight north across the open lake, making what they called "la grande traverse" across what is now called Traverse Bay.
Normally the voyageurs skirted the west side of Big Island -- but if the treacherous wind they called La Vieille ("Old Woman") blew, they paddled through sheltered narrows east of both Big Island, and Bigelow Island.
At the north end of the lake they entered the Winnipeg River by one of three channels.
They almost always used the shortest portage at Portage Bay, though lighter HBC canoes used a longer portage to the east.
Another historian says they headed "to the western tip of Aulneau Peninsula, a more direct and nearly north-south route, seventy five miles long. At the tip of the pininsula they had a portage in the middle of the lake at low water."
Though descriptions differ, it is probable that both writers are talking of the same place.
This is the famous Rat Portage.
We are now close to modern day Kenora, and Eric Morse says here that another portage might have been used.

At Rat Portage, the voyageurs entered the wild and beautiful waterway called the Winnipeg River. Eric Morse says the Winnipeg River is "unquestionably the grandest and most beautiful river the Montreal Northmen saw on their whole journey from Lake Superior to Lake Athabasca."
It ran through "tortured rock" and "dropped quickly with spectacular rapids and falls."
It was a downhill journey and over its 225 kilometer length the river dropped 100 meters.
Canoeing the entire length of the river to Lake Winnipeg required twenty six portages, or carrying places!
First came the Dalles, eight miles downriver.
Next an island which the voyageurs passed on its rapid filled north side, using five portages at least.
Some they passed on the right side, some on the left; it took an experienced guide to know the best route, as you can see.
There was yellow rock at Terre Jaune, white clay at Terre Blanche, and a dark hollow in the rock beside La Cave rapid.
Portage de l'Isle followed nineteen miles later, and the voyageurs portaged across a small island in the rapid.
Over the next sixty miles the Winnipeg River continues to drop rapidly, and at Lac du Bonnet has lost 160 feet in altitude.
There were 14 additional portages -- Sturgeon Falls being one of them.

The Winnipeg River comes to an end at a large island, where a channel to the north splits off and becomes the Pinawa River.
The river to the left -- the Blanche River -- was much rougher, and so the voyageurs preferred the shallow, rocky Pinawa.
Eight more portages brought them all the way into massive Lake Winnipeg, where the voyageurs took a course straight across Traverse Bay to a low spot in the narrow neck just south of modern-day Victoria Beach.
They portaged over the neck and, paddling the the mouth of the Red River, went down it as far as Fort Garry.

When Alexander Caulfield Anderson came over this route in 1832, he arrived at the half constructed lower Fort Garry -- the Stone Fort.
There he met John Stuart -- yes, the same John Stuart who was clerk in New Caledonia with Simon Fraser, after whom Stuart Lake was named.
When I tell you that Alexander Caulfield Anderson knew everybody, this is what I mean -- he met Simon Fraser at Lachine, and John Stuart at the half-built Stone Fort, or Lower Fort Garry.
John Stuart and Alexander Anderson would have a later conversation, which I will write about sometime -- it is a story that, I believe, will surprise a few historians and archivists.

The Stone fort was built on the west bank of the Red River a few kilometers below St. Andrew Rapids, high above the reach of the floodwaters of the Red River.
Despite its advantages for the brigades, Lower Fort Garry was never really viable and in 1836 the HBC re-built their old fort at the "Forks", where Winnipeg now stands.

From my book, The Pathfinder:
"At that time, the original Fort Garry, which had been flooded out so many times the wooden buildings were rotten, was in the process of being replaced by a stone fort closer to Lake Winnipeg.   The new fort was only half finished, but the brigaders stopped here to pick up the Red River fur returns, which they were to carry north to York Factory. At Fort Garry, the chief factor arranged for Anderson to travel by canoe ahead of the brigade so he could catch up to the boats from the Saskatchewan District to the west, as they passed through Norway House, at the north end of Lake Winnipeg, on their way to York Factory.
"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."

Friday, November 2, 2012

The journey from Lachine to Fort William [Thunder Bay]

It is not likely we will get all the way to Norway House in this single posting, and so this post will probably be divided into two postings.
If you are researching these river roads or want to learn more, the best sources (and the ones I will be using) are these two books:
Exploring the Fur Trader Routes of North America; Discover the Highways that Opened a Continent, by Barbara Huck et al, and
The Fur Trade Routes of Canada: Then and Now, by Eric W. Morse.
Both books are available in your local library and the first will still be in bookstores, I expect.

We will begin with a quote from my own book, The Pathfinder, which speaks of young Anderson's arrival in Montreal, in 1831.
"In the summer of 1831, Alexander Anderson disembarked in Montreal and clambered into a lumbering, two wheeled, horse drawn cart -- called a caleche -- for the nine mile trek west to Lachine. The post stood at the head of the Lachine rapids, which blocked marine traffic on the St. Lawrence River west of Montreal. As headquarters of the North West Company, Lachine House had once been the busiest place on the continent, its stone warehouse bulging with rich furs from the interior. But the HBC's headquarters was now at York Factory, on Hudson Bay, and Anderson soon realized that his dreams of adventure in Indian country would never occur at this quiet post......

"In Spring 1832, the governor and council of the Hudson's Bay Company assigned Anderson to the Columbia district, where Chief Factor John McLoughlin would put him to good use. In April, two flotillas of canoes paddled away from Lachine. The express boats travelled light and fast with papers and accounts for the annual meeting of the Company at Norway House. Behind them came the slower canoes of the brigade, heavily laden with the outgoing provisions and passengers for the interior. One of these brigade canoes carried Anderson away from Lachine House.

"From Lachine House, the canoe route followed the traditional river road used for hundreds of years by the coureurs de bois (early French fur traders), and more recently by the voyageurs of the NWC. David Thompson had travelled this route many times, as had Simon Fraser and Alexander Mackenzie. Now 18-year-old Anderson followed the same route his predecessors had travelled, westward into the territory they had opened to the fur trade."

In this part of the world -- that is, between Montreal and Fort William [Thunder Bay, Ontario] they used 40-foot Montreal canoes made of white or silver birch, with seams tightly sewn with spruce fibres called wapete, and waterproofed with many applications of spruce gum.
These were tough, strong, canoes, ideally suited for the rough river passages, and they carried four tons of freight and passengers.
About the first of May, when the Ottawa River was finally free of the ice that had drained out of the interior lakes, these big canoes started off from a position on the river bank, just upstream from the old Stone Shed -- a large warehouse built in 1803 by Alexander Gordon, a merchant who had served as a clerk for the HBC.
Interestingly enough, though Gordon had worked for the HBC, while at Lachine he was in what was mostly North West Company country!
But even after the HBC absorbed the NWC, Lachine continued to be part of the fur trade -- primarily because Governor George Simpson chose to make his home there.

From the beach at Lachine, the voyageurs travelled west, sixteen miles, to Ste. Anne's, where they stopped at a church, that was part of a convent, for their traditional blessing for their long journey west.
At this point they were still travelling the St. Lawrence River, but at the Lake of Two Mountains they headed for the mouth of the Ottawa River.
They generally timed their voyage to be able to make their first camp near the upper end of the Lake of Two Mountains, where they received their regale -- a keg of rum.
Then the voyageurs drank and partied and fought and sang far into the night while the gentlemen tried to get a little big of sleep.

On a brigade such as this, the voyageurs did all the work -- this was their journey.
They woke up the next morning a little hung-over, and paddled up the Ottawa until they reached twelve miles of rapids, in three sets -- called the Long Sault.
Generally they tracked their boats through the rapids of the Long Sault, along the north side of the river, though on quieter stretches of the river they could paddle their canoes half-loaded.
On this stretch of the river were three carrying places, which varied with the height of the water.
Today's Ottawa River, with its twelve dams and reservoirs, does not in any way resemble the rough, fast-flowing river that the voyageurs paddled up two hundred years ago.

By travelling up the Ottawa River and crossing the height of land by various streams the voyageurs cut some five hundred kilometers of travel of the route they would have travelled had they continued to follow the St. Lawrence River west.

At the place where Ottawa now stands they came up to the Chaudiere Falls, named so because it resembled a cauldron of boiling water.
Portaging was the only way around these boiling falls, and in springtime the portage began downstream from the falls.
From The Pathfinder: "... as the gentlemen kept an eye on the freight at the head and foot of the trail, the voyageurs carried 90-pound bundles, two at a time, at a dogtrot over the rough trail, so close to the riverbank they were sprayed with the windblown water. Finally they brought the canoes over the portage on their shoulders, and the gentlemen followed them over the trail."

Next came the Little Chaudiere Falls, and Barbara Huck et al says this about this place:
"Those tracing the route today will have no trouble finding this historic trail, for the city of Hull has created a park -- Parc des Portageurs -- complete with biking and hiking trails, to commemorate it.
"One section of the original trail, which lies just below Brebeuf Park, is particularly interesting.
"Here, a set of low stone steps -- built by the voyageurs according to canoe historian Eric Morse -- can clearly be seen mounting a bank from a submerged stone shelf at the water's edge."

From the head of the portage, the voyageurs paddled across the bay to begin tracking and poling up the Deschenes Rapids.
My other source says the Deschenes Rapids was passed by portage, on the north shore.
At Chats Falls, or the Sault des Chats Sauvage, the river spread out and flowed through a line of beautiful waterfalls a mile wide.
The voyageurs portaged past these falls on the second island from the north.
Chats Falls was named, not for the cats, but for the raccoons that were common here at one time.
They were called les chats sauvage.
They travelled this part of the river, and others, at the slow speed of four miles an hour!
When portaging, of course, their speed was reduced to half a mile an hour.
This was a long, slow journey when you compare it to modern-day travelling.

Above Chats Falls there was still fast water through the top end of Lac des Chats, called the Chenaux.
There were four sets of rapids here -- the Decharge du Derige, the Mountain Portage, the Decharge du Sable, and Portage du Fort; they probably passed on the Quebec side of the river, using poles.
At Portage du Fort, where the river cascaded down through many channels among big trees, the voyageurs landed and carried their loads along the portage path on the right hand side.

After they rejoined the river once again, they reached Calumet Island which was surrounded by rapids.
The island's name comes from the dense white limestone, soft enough to be whittled into pipes or calumets.
This was the longest portage of the Grand Portage, a little over a mile long.
they began their portage at a little cove, and followed an easy trail that ascended the hill through a forest of cedar trees, though the trail took the voyageurs past two steep ravines before rejoining the river.
Beyond was Lac Coulonge, and when Anderson travelled this river, Fort Coulonge stood on this lake.
In one of his later manuscripts he mentioned this fort, and so we know he was there.

Next came the Allumette Island and the rapids that surrounded it, and the channel taken by the voyageurs was the narrower channel on the main Ontario shore.
Travelling up these rapids was like pushing through a tunnel.
At the upper end of the peaceful Lac des Alumettes beyond, the voyageurs came up to the granite of the Precambrian shield which rose straight from the river.
The old name of the lake was Riviere Creuse [Deep River]; today the town of Deep River stands here.
From The Pathfinder: "When at last the cliffs opened up again, the voyageurs set up camp on a sandy point of land on the west shore. Across the river from their camp loomed a black-stained cliff, a special place for the Natives, who tied tobacco to the arrows they shot at the cliff face as an offering.
"It was a special place for the voyageurs, too. New voyageurs were baptized in the river off the sandy point, and gentlemen who crossed this height of land for the first time also took part in the ceremony. Almost certainly, Alexander Anderson received a splash of water in his face from a branch dipped in the river, along with a playful request that he never kiss a voyageur's wife without her permission. When the mock baptism was finished, the voyageurs celebrated by firing their guns in the air. The fur trade was a mixture of cultures, and while the mock baptism mimicked the religious practices of the Roman Catholic voyageurs, the firing of guns into the air was a Native tradition."

This is what Carolyn Podruchny has to say about this ceremony, from her book: Making the Voyageur World: Travelers and Traders in the North American Fur Trade:

"At several points of geographical significance along the transport routes in the pays d'en haut, novices who had never before passed that point were obliged to participate in a ceremony of mock baptism. the ceremony of baptism, representing the purification from original sin, is usually performed on infants and involves putting water on the individual's head through immersion or sprinkling. In the case of voyageurs in the fur trade, it represented primarily the initiation of neophytes into the occupation. As the first of Catholic sacraments it was recognized as the door to church membership and to spiritual life, but ironically the ritual baptism marked voyageurs' departure and increasing separation from the settled Christian world. At the same time, the ceremony marked voyageurs' entrance or initiation into the occupation, and it represented the continuing practice of Catholicism, albeit in modified form, in the interior..

"The point of baptism along the Grand, or Ottawa, river was the first place on the route out of Montreal where the bedrock or Precambrian shield could be seen. It was located about two hundred miles northwest of the modern city of Ottawa, where the Deep River, or the Riviere Creuse, entered the Ottawa River, at the upper end of Lac des Allumettes. Here canoe brigades passed through a narrow, deep, and swift part of the river, where towering cliffs of granite provided a significant visual marker for the entrance into a new land. Immediately after this difficult passage, brigades stopped at a sand point, where canoes could be easily grounded and the crew could pause for a rest. Known as "point au bapteme," it was the oldest and most well established site of ritual baptism along fur trade routes. As early as 1686, the Chevalier de Troyes mentioned the practice as an established custom: "Our French have the custom of baptizing at this place those who have not passed before." The "Pointe aux Baptemes" is today marked on maps."

To continue the journey: their next portage upriver was at Des Joachims, where the Ottawa River did a big S-turn and there were two miles of thundering rapids.
They portaged there, making use of two bays and a little lake which cut down the carrying distance.

Beyond that point they abandoned the Ottawa River, and entered the Mattawa River which led them west.
The forty mile long Mattawa was rough and rocky and narrow, and it had a small rapid at its mouth where it flowed into the Ottawa, called the Mattawa Rapid.
It was generally run, not portaged.
Next came the Plain Camp Rapid (Flat Field) and eleven other portages or rapids.
At Rapide des Perches near Pimisi Lake, the voyageurs threw away their poles and took up their paddles.
This was the end of their upriver push.

Eric Morse, author of Fur Trade routes of Canada, says that the Mattawa River route might have gone through Robichaud Lake rather than following the Mattawa River above Talon Lake.
You who live in this part of the world might have a better notion of where it goes.

The voyageurs had to make their way over a height of land and into Lake Nipissing over a series of granite ridges and bogs.
First there was a 1500 yard long winding portage over a low height of land, after which they put their canoes into a beaver-dammed stream and followed it down, through a succession of ponds and over two portages, into Lake Nipissing.
The entire distance of this portage and shallow stream paddling was about seven miles.

Lake Nipissing was a shallow lake and so dangerous choppy in high winds, and the followed a course along its south shore among many protecting islands.
At the portage called Chaudiere des Francois they reached a flat rock in still water where the French River began.
The seventy mile long French River gave the voyageurs a rushing downriver day voyage to Lake Huron, and they entered the lake by the most protected westernmost channel, making a short portage around a curved rapid at the river mouth.
At this point they were in massive Lake Huron, where they had a choice of routes.
If it was windy, they stayed inside the sheltered line of islands that graced the top of Lake Huron, and travelled 200 miles west to Sault Ste. Marie.
If it wasn't windy, they might have paddled or sailed west across the lake, outside the curving line of islands.
The inside route sounds most interesting, and was probably the route they usually travelled.
Just west of the mouth of the French River they passed a point they called "Grondine," or "groaning," for the sound of the waves that moaned as they swelled over the rocks.
West of that they passed through a narrow channel, just wide enough for a canoe, where the rocks rang like a bell when struck by the waves in the lake.
This place, often mentioned in fur trade journals, was called "La Cloche."

At this point, the brigade was 430 miles from Lachine House.
From The Pathfinder: "On the Great Lakes, the voyageurs often travelled early in the morning and made camp when the dangerous afternoon winds blew. They followed Lake Huron's north shore to Sault Ste. Marie, where they paddled through a narrow canal built many years earlier by the men of the NWC. Their next major stop would be at Fort William, on the north shore of Lake Superior, a few hundred miles to the west."

On Lake Superior, the canoes kept close to shore -- for a good reason.
In June there are frequent heavy fogs on the lake, in July and August there is less fog but the heavy, sudden squalls make the lake unsafe for small, heavily loaded canoes.
To beat the wind, the voyageurs often travelled at night and rested during the day -- they would certainly be on the water by three every morning.
If the wind was blowing in a favorable direction, they might raise a sail and travel at 8 to 10 knots.
But they were often pinned down by high winds for several days at a time; in a normal month for one day out of every two!
And the lake is four hundred miles long.

But they were almost at Fort William, and so I will refer to the Fort William Journals to let you know what happened:
Journal of Fort William Establishment, Outfit 1831 -- Donald McIntosh, C.T., B.231/a/11, HBCA
May 1832 -- Tuesday 15th -- It continues still raining and blowing from north east from which quarter it has blown with little variation for this month past.
Thursday 17th -- We had several showers of rain in the afternoon. Wind southwest.
Saturday 19th -- Thermometer below the freezing point this morning. Weather cloudy and very cold for the season.
Monday 21st -- Blowing a furious gale from north west attended with heavy showers of rain in course of day.
Thursday 24th -- Hard frost last night. We had several showers of rain and hail in course of the day. Blowing a heavy gale from the eastward.
Friday 25th -- I cannot conceive what detains the Express canoe from Canada so long. It rained all the afternoon, wind north east.
Saturday 26th -- Two men arrived here from Lake Nipigon in a small canoe. They say that they walked across the lake on the ice, from which circumstance I am inclined to think that it is owing to the backward spring the express canoe is so late.
Tuesday 29th -- The men were variously employed. The express canoe from Montreal arrived about 6 o'clock P.M. Mr. C.T. Robert Cowie is the Gentleman in charge of the Packet. Blowing very fresh from the north.

Aha! Remember that Alexander Anderson is not travelling in the Express canoes, but in the slower brigade canoes.

Journal of Transactions and Occurrences at Fort William from 1st June 1832 to 1st June 1833, B.231/a/12, HBCA:
June 1832. Saturday 2nd -- It rained throughout the night and all the morning attended with a heavy gale from North East.
Sunday 3rd -- A light canoe arrived from Red River. We are much disappointed to find that the Governor was not on board of her. The backward spring prevented his coming hither. The ice in Lake Winipic [Winnipeg] he found too weak to walk on, and too strong to get through with a boat or canoe.
Tuesday 5th -- Weather clear.
Wednesday 6th -- Fine weather. The Montreal brigade arrived on board of which were Messrs. Lane, Anderson, and Perreyere, an Eclesiastic. Also Mr. C. T. Christie's family. Fine warm weather for the season.
Thursday 7th -- The Montreal Brigade went off this afternoon in five north canoes which they exchanged for the Montreal canoe. One canoe remained today waiting for the Dispatches.

You see that they have already departed Fort William and left their Montreal canoes behind them.
From The Pathfinder: "At this post, the brigade men clambered into five North canoes. Smaller and lighter than the vessels they had been travelling in to this point, these were the only canoes that could be use on the small rivers and difficult portages north of Lake Superior. Their next destination was Lake Winnipeg, hundreds of miles to the northwest, and their immediate route led them through Dog Lake and along many marshy rivers and lakes to wild and beautiful Rainy Lake...."
I will leave that part of the journey to the next post.