It is worthwhile to read journals of those who are strangers to the fur trade, to explore the newcomers' view of what is so familiar to the fur traders themselves that they [the fur traders] failed to mention it.
The Arctic explorers who have been mentioned in a few express journals posted in the last few weeks, also travelled with the voyageurs -- either in the Saskatchewan brigades or in their own canoes or boats.
Here, from the book, The Man Who Ate His Boots: The Tragic History of the Search for the Northwest Passage, by Anthony Brandt [Anchor Books, 2011] is a quote from one of John Richardson's letters, which describes the voyageurs that travelled with them:
"At two or half past two if the morning is dark Capt. [John] Franklin or myself call the guide, who ... awakens the men.
"They are on their legs in an instant, and every man marches to the beach with his blanket under his arm.
"Part of them put the canoe into the water and load her, while others take down our tent, & roll up the bedding in which operation we assist.
"In ten minutes or at the longest half an hour we are all embarked, and the men after their morning dram ... strike up a cheerful song and paddle away vigorously at the rate of about 4 miles an hour.
"Every half hour they lay in their paddles for about two minutes to rest a little and light their pipez, hence these pauses are termed by them pipez.
"At 9 o'clock we put ashore to breakfast.
"My occupation is to strike a light and I therefore jump ashore at once with my fire bag in my hand.
"Capt. Franklin brings a handful of dry twigs or grass or a piece of birch bark.
"Two of the men bring dry wood, a fire is speedily kindled, our servant who in the mean time has been filling the kettle, hangs it to the troi pied or tripod, three sticks which another of the men has by this time tied together and set up."
Antony Brandt goes on to report: "Breakfast takes three quarters of an hour at the most, he says, and then it's back to the canoes until three in the afternoon, when the men take a longer break than usual and eat a little pemmican.
"At eight they put ashore for the night, and dinner is prepared with equal dispatch; it consists of "tea, cold meat, eggs, cheese, butter &c according to the state of our larder," and then they sleep.
""We consider it a good days journey when we travel 60 miles, but two days ago we travelled about 80 having paddled all night..... ""
I cannot imagine starting off in the early morning without at least a cut of coffee to sustain me -- the voyageurs had at least their early morning dram.
They were tough, tough people -- voyageurs and gentlemen alike.
The following is a continuation of the last posting, in which I put in three journals that covered the distance of the North Saskatchewan River, between Carlton House and Edmonton House.
Here, now, are the last three journals.
Diary of a Journey from Fort Vancouver in 1835, by James Douglas:
Thursday September 1. Having concluded the various arrangements with Carlton last evening we recommenced our journey at 6 o'clock this morning. The sky was overcast, and threatening rain, but these vapours were quickly dispersed by a brisk northerly breeze which was of great assistance to us during the whole day. Encamped about 6 miles above Ash Island. The country on both sides very beautiful and picturesque, rising from the river by a sloping and undulating ascent to the highest level visible from the river. On this level the age [sic: eye?] of the spectator ranges through the vast expanse of prairie variegated and adorned by innumerable groves of trees, smooth green hills and streams of water forming altogether one of the [crossed off: first] finest prospects imaginable.
Weds. 2. Raining all day. Met with a party of Stone Indians who provided us with a quantity of fresh buffalo meat. Encamped 12 miles below Lower Eagle Creek.
Thursy. 3. Fine weather but cold for the season. Encamped. Passed Lower Eagle river at 10 o'clock. Beautiful country.
Friday 4. Rather severe frost last night. Many of the people who slept with wet garments or bed clothes found them this morning stiff as boards. The oar is now principally in use the water being too high to admit of any advantage being derived from the line. Sky overcast and frequent showers of rain. Several bands of buffalo were seen by the hunters but none slaughtered.
Sat. 5. A very dense fog occasioned considerable difficulty to the boats, being in continual danger of becoming entangled amidst the numerous flats which obstruct and render the ascent very tedious and circuitous. Beautiful clear day and very warm. Mr. McLeod a gentleman who accompanies us to the Columbia joined us today at 10 o'clock nearly opposite Battle River. It was near this spot that Mr. Cole after whom the rapids in the lower part of the river are named was shot by a Cree Indian in a transport [?] of jealous rage on account of the seduction of his wife. Encamped 5 miles below Pike River.
Suny. 6. Clear warm weather. Encamped 7 miles Bas Ford Desnoyer. Early today a poor Red deer which was hotly pursued by a pack of fierce wolves was observed rushing at full speed down the hills on the opposite side directly towards the river. This circumstance having engaged our attention the foremost boats stopped to await the issue of the pursuit. On gaining the water the red deer dashed into the stream with reckless haste having outdistanced all its pursuers. The boats lying close ashore were not perceived by the poor animals until within 50 yards when a badly aimed shot gave intimation of its danger. Gun after gun were discharged without effect. The deer crossed the river and was seen coursing through the prairie apparently uninjured having escaped with equal good fortune both from wolves and hunters.
Mon. 7. Fine clear weather, and strong westerly breeze which considerably retarded our progress. Landed on the upper [crossed off: end] or South Western extremity of Bas Ford Desnoyer at half past 9 and were detained there waiting the arrival of a boat which had fallen far behind until midday. Passed Manchester House or Fort Brule so called from the manner in which it was destroyed by the Fall Indians, at 5 o'clock, and we encamped near 9 miles above it.
Tuesy 8. Raining at intervals during the day. Had a few hours of sail, wind which was of some trifling assistance to us. Encamped at the upper end of Montagne La Biche.
Wedy. 9. Arrived at Fort Pitt about midday. Dry weather, but the sky overcast.
Thursday Septr. 10. Left Fort Pitt this morning at 9 o'clock with only one boat pretty strongly manned and with less loading than the others in order to proceed on ahead of the Brigade to Edmonton from when[ce] it is necessary to dispatch a few men to Fort Assiniboine to prepare the canoes and make other arrangements previous to the arrival of the main party. Rained heavily last night, but dry during the day. Encamped one mile below Vermilion River.
Friy 11. Early this morning continued our journey; observing a luminous circle or halo around the moon, and sky wearing a rather threatening aspect we concluded that a change of weather was not distant, and truly enough for about 7 this morning after ascending Frog Rapid the rain commenced falling rather heavily and continued throughout the day. Passed Lovers' Rapid at 2 pm and encamped 2 miles below the old fort of Dog Rump Creek. A N.E. wind was of some [blank in mss].
Saturday September 12th 1835. It rained slightly during the night but the sky was this morning clear in many places giving promise of a finer and more pleasant day than yesterday. Early in the morning passed the old fort. The banks of the river are on both sides covered with wood but we still have at times a distant view of the lefty smooth hills peering out from beyond the intervening thickets. At half past 2 reached Fort de L'isle where the deceased King shot by Lamotte lies interred. Encamped the second reach below the Rapid of Bas Fond du Lac des Aufs. While at this place a gentle easterly wind which had been gradually increasing in strength since morning induced the men to elevate the mast, and after concluding our meal the sail was spread to the breeze which carried us forward so rapidly as to render the exertions of the crew unnecessary, a respite from labour which is very acceptable to the poor fellows who are dreadfully fatigued by the long continuance of their toils. Encamped four miles the Crooked Rapids. Heard the calls, consisting of a loud whistle, of a great number of red deer on the hills bordering the river. The buck red deer is at this season in full flesh and his branching antlers are now grown to their full size, and as he stands looking proudly from the lofty smooth hills amongst which at this season he delights to ramble appears the most superb animal of the deer kind.
[Sunday] 14. The easterly wind still continues and we are not dilatory in availing ourselves of its assistance. Passed the White Mud River at 12 o'clock, and at 4 o'clock the Rapid called Lac de Vivres, and encamped at half past 7.
Mony. 15. Quitted our encampment at 4 this morning, at 9 passed the River des Quartre Peteaux, at 10 Carp River and encamped one mile above the Three Islands where the Vermillion [crossed off: Pass] River falls into the Saskatchewan. Rained during the early part of the day, and our progress was somewhat retarded by a powerful westerly wind which below [sic: blew] furiously until the evening.
[Tuesday] 16. At half past 3 the men were on the alert and before the dawn we were on the route. At 10 reached Sturgeon River; an hour & half more brought us to old Fort Augustus. Encamped a few miles above Point La Pierre.
Wesy. 17. Arrived at Edmonton about half past 2 pm.
I didn't know who Coles' Rapids was named for, but the voyageurs and fur traders of the time knew all the stories of their rivers.
But check out James Douglas' story in fur trade records before you adopt it as a "true story."
Douglas relates another story, where a man named King was shot by Lamotte at Fort de L'Isle.
This happened in the early 1800's, when the NWC and XY Company were both on the Saskatchewan River, having built posts close to each other, with Fort de L'Isle being the NWC fort.
The shooting did not happen at the fort, but at a native village nearby -- James King of the NWC, and Joseph-Maurice Lamothe of the XY Company left their forts to pick up furs they both thought they owned.
When King obtained the furs that Lamothe thought belonged to him, they argued, and Lamothe shot King.
Charges were laid against Lamothe in Montreal, and though he went to Montreal to face them he changed his mind and disappeared into the West forever.
Both the NWC and XY Co. posts were abandoned in favor of Fort Augustus upstream, or Paint Creek House [later Fort Vermilion] downstream.
Journal of a Trip from Vancouver to York Factory, Spring 1847, by Thomas Lowe, in charge of party:
Monday, 6th [September]. The Brigade started from Carlton this morning at daylight, and Messrs. O'Brien, Ross, McKenzie & myself with a Guide started on horseback after breakfast to proceed by land to Fort Pitt, but to encamp every night if possible with the Brigade. Fine weather. The boats had a fine sail wind most of the day, and came a good distance.
Tuesday 7th. Fine weather. There was a little fair wind this morning, but it soon died away. Came to within 5 miles of the Eagle Hill River in the evening. There were 5 lodges of Indians on the opposite side of the River. A great many buffalo seen today. 3 killed.
Wednesday 8th. Beautiful day. We crossed the horses this morning to the North bank of the River, and will now proceed on that side all the way up. The boats came a good distance today pulling and tracking.
Thursday 9th. Splendid fair wind the whole day. Encamped a little above Battle River. The boats stopped several hours to kill buffalo, otherwise we could have been much farther ahead.
Friday 10th. This morning the wind was very strong and only favorable until breakfast time, after which it came ahead, and we were windbound the remainder of the day. Rainy weather.
Saturday 11th. Quite calm this morning, and the boats started again. In the afternoon a light favorable breeze sprung up, and they sailed until sunset. Passed a camp of Indians containing upwards of 50 lodges in the morning. The brigade was detained for some time in the forenoon, as one of the men's wives was delivered of a son. Made good progress and encamped above English River.
Monday 13th. Beautiful weather, and a favorable breeze the whole day, which brought the Brigade to Fort Pitt before sundown. We arrived on horseback at 1 pm.
Tuesday 14th. Fine weather. The boats remained here all day, getting out the Outfit for the Post.
Wednesday 15th. Fine weather. The Brigade started from Fort Pitt this morning early, but Messrs. O'Brien, McKenzie & myself remain here to proceed overland on horseback to Edmonton.
Thursday 16th. Beautiful day. We started on horseback this morning after an early breakfast, accompanied by one of the men of the Fort as Guide. Took dinner at Frog Creek, and went on afterwards until we reached a lake on this side of Dog Rump Creek, where we encamped.
Friday 17th. The weather is still very pleasant, but unfortunately we have a poor set of horses, and have been able to make but a short distance. Encamped at a small stream, not far beyond Egg Lake.
Saturday 18th. Clear weather, and very warm. Came a good distance today. Encamped on the banks of the Saskatchewan, not far on this side of Vermillion Creek. Late when we encamped.
Sunday 19th. Excessively hot. Our horses are so much fatigued, that we only got as far as Sturgeon Creek tonight.
Monday 20th. A thunderstorm last night, and raining most of the day, with a strong gale of wind. Arrived at Edmonton about 10 am. Colin Fraser has been sent off with young Hardisty and 4 men to Jasper's House by land, taking 12 bags pemmican for us and his own outfit, which will lighten our boats considerably in the Athabasca.
Tuesday 21st. Bad weather. Raining and blowing the whole day. Engaged making arrangement with Mr. Harriott concerning the express.
Wednesday 22nd. The weather is better today, but the wind is still ahead for the boats, on their way up from Fort Pitt.
Thursday 23rd. Fine weather. The Brigade arrived early this mroning, and the pieces were immediately carted up to the Fort. Been employed all day in getting things in readiness for our departure from Edmonton.
Friday 24th. Squally, and rain in the afternoon. Had all the Otter Packs corded. Sent off the Guide with 4 men to Assinaboine, to get the boats repaired, and put in the water.
Journal from Vancouver to York Factory with express, Spring 1848, by Thomas Lowe:
Tuesday 19th [August]. The Brigade started from Carlton early this morning, with a fine breeze of wind. It was 2 pm before Mr. Rowand, Mr. Beardmore & I started on horseback to overtake them. Encamped a short distance above the Ash Island, but the boats were on the opposite side.
Wednesday 20th. Fine weather. The hunter who was with us killed 5 buffalo today, which were divided amongst the boats' crews. Encamped about 5 miles below Eagle Creek. Sailed until we reached the Elbow.
Thursday 31st. Crossed Eagle Creek before breakfast. Crossed the horses about noon to the North side of the River, and will now proceed on that side as far as Fort Pitt. Cloudy and a little rain. Wind ahead. Saw a large band of Cabres but could not get at them. Encamped about 2 miles below Fort de Glace.
Friday Sept. 1st. Breakfasted at the Bas Fond de Gibb Is [??]. Fine weather, no wind. Camped about 4 miles below Battle River. Boats opposite side.
Saturday 2nd. Breakfasted opposite Battle River. Fine weather, but a little head wind. Camped at Jack River.
Sunday 3rd. Wind strong ahead all day, and boats windbound for about 3 hours in the afternoon. Crossed Turtle Creek in the morning & breakfasted about a mile on the other side. Killed 4 buffalo (young bulls) today, and in the evening a fat cow. Encamped below the Grand Coole.
Monday 4th. Passed a large camp of Indians at noon, about 20 tents, killed two cows in the morning, and a young bull, and in the evening another cow. Had a sail wind for some time in course of the day. Camped opposite old Fort de l'Isle.
Tuesday 5th. Breakfasted at English River. The boats had a fine fair wind most of the day. Started ahead after breakfast for Fort Pitt, and arrived there about 5 pm after which the wind came ahead.
Wednesday 6th. Strong head wind all day for the boats, and they did not arrive at the Fort.
Thursday 7th. Shortly after breakfast the boats arrived. They were windbound the whole of yesterday. Had the outfit taken out (more than 100 pieces). As the water is very low the whole of the 8 boats are to go on to Edmonton, although it is usual to leave one here. They have now only 65 pieces each.
Friday 8th. The Brigade started from Fort Pitt early this morning, and after breakfast Mr. Rowand, Mr. B[eardmore] & myself started on horseback to proceed to Edmonton. Crossed to the South side & took dinner at Vermilion Creek. Fine weather. Went on until very late at night, but after all could find no proper campment being without water.
Saturday 9th. Beautiful weather. Very much annoyed by sand flies today. Passed the Chain of Lakes in the afternoon, and encamped a short distance beyond Le Bute Noir.
Sunday 10th. Fine day. Breakfasted at the Eagle's Nest Creek, and arrived at Edmonton about 10 at night. Mr. John Rowand & Mr. Colin Fraser crossed the river in a boat to take us to the fort. Mr.Brazeau was also there & Louis Leblanc. They fired 3 cannon in honour of Mr. Rowand's arrival.
With this next journal, you will have to remember that there were no buffalo in the area around Fort Carlton and the Brigade fed on domestic beef -- a worrying problem when the men in the Brigade boats worked so hard.
Journal of the Columbia Express Party, 1849, by John Charles:
2nd, Sunday [September]. It was 3 o'clock in the evening before the Brigade left Carlton for Fort Pitt. A party with 14 horses started the same time by the opposite side of the river in order to hunt for the men of the Brigade. Saw no animals to day. Camped at a small river, some two or three hundred yards above the Saskatchewan.
3rd, Monday. Had some rain last night. Chilly morning. Weather became fine towards noon. Frederick [Lewes] killed three ducks this evening after we put down to camp.
4th, Tuesday. Rained almost all night. Saw a few deer this morning but were not able to approach them. About 1 pm we waited for the boats to cross our horses to this side of the river, where we though of having better success. Two Buffalo bulls were killed to day, one by B[aptis]te Carlton and the other by a man out of the boat.
5th, Wednesday. This morning about 11 o'clock Mr. Harriott dispatched 5 of the best hunters in the brigade on horseback, the boats to wait for their return. One of them returned late at night with an animals. Had several heavy showers towards evening.
6th, Thursday. At 6 am. the hunters arrived with 4 other animals which were equally divided between the 10 boats. We started from our camp immediately afterwards.
7th, Friday. Blowing a pretty stiff breeze in the morning, right ahead. Boats obliged to be dragged through the water in many places on account of the numerous sandbanks.
8th, Saturday. The boats had very good sail wind in the morning but towards evening it veered round. Camped above Battle River about 1/2 past 5 pm where we met a boat full of dried and fresh meat sent down from Fort Pitt for the brigade.
9th, Sunday. Snowing and raining almost all day boats obliged to put ashore early.
10th, Monday. Weather, still cold and uncomfortable.
11th, Tuesday. Fine weather. Boats sailing and tracking to day.
12th, Wednesday. Mr. Harriott, Mr. Griffin, [Frederick] Lewes, Logan and myself went ahead of the brigade after breakfast and arrived at Fort Pitt about 3 pm, the boats about an hour afterwards.
13th, Thursday. The Brigade consisting of nine boats left Fort Pitt this morning about half past eleven. Messrs. Harriott, Young, Griffin and Frederick Lewes are to proceed on horseback across land to Edmonton House.
14th, Friday. After breakfast all the boats hoisted sail and the wind being light aft we were enabled to come a great distance to day.
15th, Saturday. Tracking commenced this morning. Beautiful weather.
16th, Sunday. Fine clear weather.
17th, 18th, 19th, 20th. We had beautiful dry weather during these four days. Men tracking from morning until night. Passed two camps of Freemen who were camped near the river side. No animals of any sort to be seen.
His journal ends here.
Those of you who have read my earlier posting about this young man -- dated June 16, 2012 and titled John Charles, HBC -- know that he was killed in the Athabasca Pass, shot by accident by the American, Young, who accompanied the brigade.
In his memoirs, James Robert Anderson, son of Alexander Caulfield Anderson, tells the story of John Charles death as he heard it.
This is secondary information, and of course part of the story is incorrect -- John Charles was already employed by the HBC at Fort Vancouver and had accompanied Peter Skene Ogden to Fort Nez Perces after the Waillatpu Massacre in November 1847.
But James was only 10 or 12 when this incident happened, and he would have heard the story at Fort Colvile shortly after it happened, and perhaps, again, at Fort Vancouver.
In later years he might also hear the story from his close relative-by-marriage, William Charles:
"John Charles, a brother of the late William Charles, was in 1849 coming over with a party to join the Company at Fort Vancouver, and one evening in camp on the Rocky Mountains a certain Mr. Young, an American, who had obtained permission to accompany the party, whilst displaying his gun, of which he was rather proud and it is said which he handled in quite an inexperienced manner, accidentally discharged it, the full charge entering John Charles' body killing him instantly.
"The body was buried on the spot, but at the instance [sic] of his father, was some years after brought to Fort Vancouver and interred in the cemetery there.
"A useless, and as it turned out, a most unwise proceeding, as the last time I saw the grave it was in the parade ground of the U.S. troops garrisoned at Fort Vancouver and is now, I suppose, unmarked and unremembered."
I have had a short conversation with Tom Holloway, the gentleman who writes the Fort Vancouver blog -- Fur Fort Fun Facts -- found at http://furfortfunfacts.blogspot.com
He tells me that the graveyard under the military parade ground was the first of two Fort Vancouver graveyards, and no one knows who was buried there.
He has, unfortunately, nothing more to add to John Charles story, but is keeping his eye open for information he might stumble on.
Since writing the first posting about John Charles on June 16, 2012, I have learned a little more about the man who shot him.
In June 1849, George Simpson wrote to the Board of Management from Norway House, telling them this:
"A person named Young who has long been resident and well known in Canada as a master Shipbuilder, a shrewd intelligent man and an excellent tradesman both theoretically and practically, applied to me this season for a passage across the continent with a view to his proceeding to California.
"Considering it likely that he might be very useful in assisting in the repairs of the Steamer if they were done at any of our own establishments, in drafting and laying down a new Vessel, or in laying the ways at the coal mine &c [in Fort Rupert, Vancouver's Island], I agreed to give him a passage in consideration of his rendering the Company six months service after his arrival at Fort Vancouver..." [D.4.39, fo. 94, HBCA]
Other correspondence in the same batch of letters tell us the man's name is Alexander Young, and it was expected that he would pay for his free passage by working for the company for six months without pay, but for room and board.
I have found no mention that Alexander Young fulfilled his obligation, and certainly he is not listed in Bruce Watson's books, Lives Lived West of the Divide.
If I remember he was, a short time later, working for an American shipbuilder and not for the company at all!
Young might have been shipped up to Fort Rupert, but I suspect the fur traders at Fort Vancouver were so disgusted with Young that they encouraged him to move on.