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.

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