Sunday, December 9, 2012

Up the North Saskatchewan River to Carlton House

Let us continue the upriver journey toward the Columbia District, by the returning York Factory Express and Saskatchewan Brigade.
This series of journals begins somewhere around the Cole's Rapids, on the Saskatchewan River.
In this experimental combination of journals, the beginnings and endings can be somewhat arbitrary, as some journal keepers camped before they reached the twelve mile long set of rapids (which some called "falls") and some after.
Almost all fur traders used the word "falls" to indicate rapids, though, as Anderson noted after his exploration down and up the Fraser River, "there is no such abrupt descent as the name implies."

Journal of a Voyage across the Continent of North America in 1826 by Aemilius Simpson, R.N.:
Thursday 17th [August] The frequency of the rapids and great strength of current requires an additional force upon our track line, so that the crews cannot form an hourly relief of fresh hands, which obliges them to take frequent rests so that our progress is very much retarded. The lay of the country is extensive, plains as far as the eye can see.
Friday 18th. Commenced fine weather we embarked at 4 am and continued our ascent by tracking until 6 am, when having got above the rapids into a comparatively still part of the river resembling a chain of lakes, we took [good] use of a fair wind & made sail, but a heavy fall of rain at 7 was followed by a calm. Noon it cleared up and we had a good [breeze] from the East but at 2 pm we had a thunder storm with heavy rain which continued for an hour, when it again became fine clear weather -- a few leagues brought us again into rapids, and the river along our track has been richly studded with islands, low and flat, bearing a rich growth of poplars & willows principally. the bounding country continues extensive plains by crossing which in a direct line, I am informed it is only two days journey to Carlton House. The Banks of the river occasionally rise & form perpendicular clay cliffs with flat summits, the intervening flats are thickly wooded.
Saturday 19th -- Commenced heavy rain, with wind NW at 4.15 am. At 7 am it cleared up and became fine. We discovered on an eminence skirted with woods on the left banks of the river a few Indian lodges and horses, we put on shore to breakfast that we might communicate with these Indians, whom we found to be a party of Crees, who had been attacked a few days before by a strong war party of the Blackfeet & Blood Indians, who had succeeded in killing ten of their nation & destroying their property. They however [word] thus they had retaliated amply, by killing more than [that] number of the enemies, but no reliance can be placed on Indian authority in such cases, it is evident they had the worst of it as they were flying out of the reach of Blackfeet, with the [remnants] of their property. They say they were taken by surprise & that most of their enemy was dispatched, their apprehension of another attack was so strong that they have requested that we will cross them and their families on the opposite bank [and] this request was readily complied with [much omitted here].
Sunday 20th. The country now presents a [view] of rich meadow land, with [many] groves of wood interspersed on its surface. Came a distance of 6 leagues and arrived at Carlton House at 3.15 pm. This post is pleasantly situated and in a very good state of defense against Indian attack, which is very necessary in this quarter as the neighbouring Indians are warlike and formidable. I make the distance by estimation, by the course of the river, from Cumberland House 304 miles, to a direct line it is only 163. The travelling distance from York Factory is by my estimation 1,002 miles.
Monday 21st. The transfer of Mr. Stuart from this post to the Lesser Slave Lake detains the brigade until he completes the necessary arrangements with his successor, Mr. Pruden. Carlton House is situated about 1/4 of a mile [from] the south bank of the Saskatchewan, a flat surface of country extending for rather more than that distance to a bank with rather a steep ascent, but moderate elevation, forming a rise of [word] running parallel to the course of the river. On gaining the summit of which immense plains present themselves to the utmost range of human vision, on the flat ground immediately in the neighbourhood of the fort a considerable track [tract] of land is new cultivated and produces very good returns of wheat, barley, potatoes, and vegetables in considerable perfection, the surrounding country produces great quantity of the hazelnut, the poyer, a very rich berry, the choke cherry & other [kinds] of new fruit. The tillage of land was intensely new to the Indians who looked upon it with great curiosity at the first introduction, but have shown no disposition to follow the example, which would be a great step towards their civilization. We found a band of horses at this Post that had been sent from Edmonton to wait the arrival of our Brigade, and who fortunately is [prey to] the thieving depredations of the Indians, who seldom fail in availing themselves of any opportunity that offers in that way. The evening was hot & sultry with vast numbers of moskitos.

Journal of a Voyage from York Factory to Fort Vancouver, Columbia River, 1827, by Edward Ermatinger:
20th [August] Fine weather. Started at 5 am. At point below Campement des Femmes found a man from Carlton with the meat of 2 Buffaloes, of which we took breakfast. Owing to the badness of one of the staves in a 2 gallon keg (Brandy) which we got at York Factory for Columbia, outcoming 1828, we found that just the half has run out in LaRance's boat. Desaire having a sore foot remained at our Encampment unknown to us. McKay went off in search of him and only arrived at the Encampment with him at 11 pm. Encamped at 1/2 past 7 o'clock one point above Rapide Croche.
21st. Fine warm weather. Started at 5 am. Encamped a point above Sturgeon River.
22nd. Started at 1/2 past 4 am. At 9 o'clock we were met by Gadana with meat from Carlton. Breakfasted and afterwards hoisted sail with a fresh breeze, but did not sail far when the wind headed us and we again took to the oars. Encamped about 8 pm in sight of the Steep Banks.
23rd. Fine weather. Mosquitoes very thick. Started before 4 am. Sailed for a short distance; arrived at Carlton after 3 pm. Yesterday it appears the last of a party of about 400 Slaves, Sourcis and other Indians took their departure after having stolen 7 horses and committed other depredations about the Fort.
24th. Very warm weather and mosquitoes so thick that we can get no rest night or day. employed giving out the orders and outfit of this place &c.
25th. Weather very warm and mosquitoes very thick. Outfit for this place completed and Boats reloaded.

Journal of a Voyage from Norway House to Fort Vancouver, Columbia River, 1831, by George Traill Allan:
Tuesday 16th August. About noon today we met a canoe from Fort Carlton loaded with fresh buffalo meat sent by Mr. Rowand who had gone on ahead for a supply for the boats.
Wednesday 17th. Very heavy rain, remained on shore during the forenoon. The country which had hitherto been covered with wood, now begins to have a beautiful appearance, large plains now and then breaking in upon the view.
Thursday 18th. We started at 4 am. and at half past 10, we reached Fort Carlton, and were regaled by Mr. Pruden, the gentleman in charge with an excellent breakfast on Buffalo stakes.
Friday 19th. Remained at Carlton enjoying Mr. Pruden's hospitality. Fort Carlton is situated on the banks of the river Saskatchewan, in winter it is rather a dangerous post from the number of Indians that frequent it, particularly the Assinaboines.

Diary of a Journey from Fort Vancouver in 1835, by James Douglas:
Tuesday 25 [August] Departed at the dawn of day from our encampment [at Campement des Femmes], and after a few hours travelling ascended the Crooked Rapid without accident. The sky rather overcast and threatening but no rain fell. Proceeded with the oar almost all day. Country on both sides of the River of some elevation, wooded with intervals of prairie land.
Wed. 26. Rained during the night and nearly the whole of the day. Found a camp of Crees at Sturgeon River from whom a quantity of provisions was traded. Encamped nearly 10 miles below the willow banks.
Thurs. 27. Rained during the great part of the night. At dawn of day we continued our journey, tho' the weather is by no means favourable for the preservation of the property as the rain still continues. After a few hours rowing a gentle breeze from the N. East aided the exertions of the crew very considerably in propelling the boats against the powerful current, and as it gradually increased the oar was entirely laid aside our advance being too rapid to admit of them being used to advantage. Arrived at Carlton at 3 pm. The gardens at this place have a very unpromising appearance; the potato crops were entirely destroyed by the severe frosts, the wheat is still green and the ears not filled. the barley being a more hardy grain has suffered less and has a finer appearance. 150 tents of Crees are in the vicinity.
Saty. 29. The rest of the boats which we had left behind arrived late this evening. A party of Crees also arrived from a war excursion which they had entered into in conjunction with their allies the Stone Indians. They have been but too successful in executing their barbarous projects, having surprised and by their accounts nearly destroyed a camp of nearly 200 Fall Indians. The leader of the party is the man who holds the knife.

Journal of a Trip from Vancouver to York Factory, Spring 1847, by Thomas Lowe, in charge of party:
Wednesday, September 1st. Fine weather. The Brigade came up to us at Campement des Femmes at breakfast time, having come up Cole's Falls very well, as the water is in a good state. Passed the Crooked Rapid in the afternoon, and went 10 miles beyond.
Thursday 2nd. Fine pleasant weather. Pulling the whole day, and made an average day's work.
Friday 3rd. Squally, and a little rain. Came a good distance today.
Saturday 4th. Raining at intervals during the day, and blowing strong ahead. Arrived at Carlton about 3 pm. and before dark the Outfit for the Post was taken out of the Boats.
Sunday 5th. Cloudy, and a little rain. Nothing was done today, but all is ready to start tomorrow.

Journal from Vancouver to York Factory with Express, Spring 1848, by Thomas Lowe:
Friday 25th [August]. This morning the boats came up to us and breakfasted. Got up the Rapid Croche about noon, and tracked & rowed the remainder of the day against a strong head wind.
Saturday 26th. Exceedingly warm, although there was a strong breeze ahead. Passed some Indians about noon on the right bank of the River. Made the usual days march.
Sunday 27th. Warm clear weather. After breakfast came to where the Carlton horses are kept, when Mr. Beardmore & I took horses and rode to the Fort, where we arrived at sunset. Messrs. Rowand & [Duncan?] Finlayson arrived here early this morning with the light boat.
Monday 28th. Fine day. The Brigade arrived at breakfast time, when we had the Outfit for the post taken out, and everything arranged before night. A boat is to be left here.

Journal of the Columbia Express Party, 1849, by John Charles:
29th, Wednesday [August] At 2 pm we reached "Rapid de Croche" and at half past four the men put away the tracking lines and took to their oars. Camped at half past seven. Some parts [of] the channel very shallow indeed. On the beach some of the men in the Guides boat found a slip of Birch Bark on which was written the accounts of Mrs. Rowand's decease.
30th, Thursday. At 1 pm. we arrived opposite the Sturgeon River where we traded a few sturgeon, some berries, etc. from Indians encamped there. Warm weather.
31st, Friday. Pulling and tracking all day. Wind pretty strong towards evening. Encamped below a high bank, a quarter after eight.
Sept. 1st, Saturday. Arrived at Carlton House exactly at 11 am., the boars were all discharged and the Carlton Outfit taken up to the Fort. Messrs. [John] Rowand, Young and James Simpson started on horseback for Edmonton a few minutes before our arrival. No buffalo meat to be had at this Fort in consequence of those animals being at such a distance. The Brigade feeding on domestic Beef.

From this great distance (the west side of the Rocky Mountains) it is sometimes hard to find out much about these prairie posts.
My books are almost entirely British Columbia or Columbia River histories -- the collection, which is fairly substantial, hardly touches on the east side of the mountains!
However, this I know about Carlton House -- it was an old post with a long history.
It was first established in 1795 at or near the junction of the North and South Saskatchewan Rivers.
This first post was abandoned in 1804 and rebuilt some 90 miles to the southwest, on the South Saskatchewan River.
In 1810 it was moved again, to its present site on the North Saskatchewan.
Because of its location close to the buffalo herds, it quickly became a key provisioning post, providing the nearby posts and the men of the brigades with fresh buffalo meat and pemmican, fresh produce and grains grown in their gardens.
Today the old fort is partially reconstructed, and re-enactors celebrate the old fur trade days.
It is only an hour's drive north of Saskatoon, in Fort Carlton Provincial Historic Park.
You can get more information on the fort from the Saskatchewan website, Virtual Saskatchewan, at
Did you know that employees of the trading shop worked in unheated surroundings because of the gunpowder on site?
I did not.

I do, however, have the records of the Journal of Carlton House, 1832/33, kept by J. P. Pruden, Chief Trader, B.27/a/19, HBCA.
This journal tells the story of Anderson's passage through that place in 1832:
"Sept. 2nd -- Sunday. Wind Ely, cloudy weather with light rain. The weather has been very unsettled for a month past.
"Sept. 3rd -- Monday. Wind Sly, fine weather. Men variously employed. Martin Labelle and party arrived with the meat of 4 buffalo and informs me the Buffalo are all passed and gone up country. In the evening at sun set 2 boars arrived in which was Chief Traders Heron and Cowie, Clerks Mr. Annace and Anderson. They inform me they left the rest of the brigade at La [?] Point.
"Sept. 4th -- Tuesday. Calm. fine weather. 8 boats arrived. Chief Trader Harriott on board [with] Messrs. Grant and Kittson and Mr. Simon McGillivray, wife and family, commenced immediately on getting the outfit for this post brought up to the fort....
"Sept. 5th -- Wednesday. Windy Wst, cloudy weather with as little rain...
"Sept. 6th -- Thursday. Calm clear fine weather. Having finishing [loading] the Outfit 8 boats took their departure for Edmonton. Passengers Messrs. Chief Traders Heron, Harriott & Cowie. Clerks, Mssrs. Grant, Annace, Kittson & Anderson, at 11 o'clock am. Indians arriving but bring nothing."

But I think that one of the most interesting things to know about Carlton House is that, for the gentlemen at least, this is where the fun began!
This is where the gentlemen mounted their horses and charged around the prairies chasing buffalo, if they were to be found nearby.
Certainly, that is what Alexander Caulfield Anderson got to do, when he crossed the country in 1832.
I know this, because he said so.
In a letter to his uncle Alexander Seton, that is stored in the Seton of Mounie Archives at University of Aberdeen, Scotland, he said this:
"Fort Vancouver, Columbia, 14th February, 1833
"My dear uncle
"I arrived here on the 4th November after a voyage from York Factory of 3 1/2 months -- partly on horseback -- in boats & in canoe.
"I am now on the point of starting for the north west coast in a brig belonging to the Company -- in company with a party of two other Gentlemen & 40 men, the object being to erect an establishment at a place called Millbank Sound.
"This Fort is finely situated on the Columbia River, and the soil is very fertile. The company has a very large Farm on which are raised annually about 7,000 bushels potatoes, 500 & [word] and of wheat, 5,000 or 6,000 of pease & [word] Melons are also raised here in large quantity, and a few apples & turnips are now procured. From what I stated before, you may imagine it would be a fine country to settle. The River is huge & navigable for 100 miles from its mouth. Salmon are in immense quantity as well as the moose.
I have killed only one buffalo & one deer since I have been in this country and a great many ducks, geese, partridges, etc.
Pray give my love to my aunt and all my cousins, and believe me to remain,
My dear uncle,
Your affectionate nephew,
A. C. Anderson."

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