Saturday, January 19, 2013

Jasper's House to Boat Encampment, probably part 1

A short history of Jasper's House: it began its history under the name of Rocky Mountain House, in 1813 -- and it was a North West Company post.
Its first location was probably on the outlet of Brule Lake, near its junction with Solomon Creek (now on the eastern edge of Jasper National Park0.
At that time there were two posts named Rocky Mountain House (the other near the modern-day town of Rocky Mountain House, Alberta), and so the northern most post adopted the name of Jasper's House, for postmaster Jasper Hawse, who ran it until 1817.
In 1830, the Hudson's Bay Company, who had taken over the assets of the North West Company in 1821, moved Jasper's House west, to the north shore of Jasper Lake.
So in the previous posts you will see some travellers who arrive at the old post on Brule Lake, and some who travel a few miles west to the post's new location.
Most of this above information comes from Parks Canada website: go to National Historic Sites/Jasper House.
They have some very good images of the old house itself, in 1872 and of the stupendous mountains that surrounded it.
After 1853 the York Factory express no longer travelled over the mountains, and Jasper's House fell into disuse.

So, let us depart Jasper's House for good, and travel west over the mountains to Boat Encampment.
Just so you know you will see the word "batture" fairly often in these postings.
A batture is a gravel bar on the sides of the river and running under it -- like a sand bar.

Journal of a voyage across the Continent of North America in 1826 by Aemilius Simpson, R. N.:
Saturday 7th [October] A very sharp frost during the night followed by great heat throughout the day. I employed myself in the forenoon with the assistance of Mr. [George] Barnston, in measuring the height of [Miette] Rock, the remarkable mountain whose northern termination falls perpendicularly and forms the southern boundary of the grand defile through which our route lays. At its entry this mountain has its name from a Canadian who [once] had ascended to its summit, when he sat down on the edge of the precipice nearly four thousand feet high & felt so little apprehension that he amused himself by scraping his heels against the rock -- he must be very credulous that believes this story.... The outfit for this post having been delivered and our arrangements completed we embarked at half an hour past noon & pursued our journey to the Rocky Mountain portage -- Messrs. [James] Macmillan, [James] Birnie & Drummond with a few men accompanied the horse brigade for the same place. The river in all directions presents a continuing mass of snow clad hills towering their lofty summits in [word] ranges than out ... this is truly sublime. We continued our ascent of Mt. Athabasca, occasionally opposed by rapids alternating with sheets of comparatively still water -- until 6 pm, when we encampt for the night at the base of Miettes Rocks up on a grouse [gravel?] flat or Batture...
Sunday 8th. Fine and clear weather, embarked at 5 am and continued our ascent of the Athabasca. On having gone for a few miles we entered a small lake which was so shallow that we had considerable difficulty in finding a passage through it. I had to make a portage over some sand bars, which detained us considerably. The proper channel lies along the mountains on our right.... Additional ranges of mountains present themselves far exceeding in height those we have already passed or in our immediate neighbourhood, one particularly to the south covered with snow a great distance from its summit. At 2 pm we met the men who were proceeding for Jasper's House with an express from the west side of the mountain portage. As it was now unnecessary for them to proceed, their communication being directed to the gentleman in charge of our brigade, they embarked with us. At 6.15 am we arrived at the encampment from which we were to commence our land journey across the mountain and the point of separation from the brigade for New Caledonia. The weather throughout the day was fine with cold & strong gusts of wind [blowing] from the deep gullies or valleys... As we approached our encampment, the pine became limited to one kind, the scrub pine, a Pinus Banksiana -- thinly [spread] over meadow face of country forming a narrow strip along the base of the mountains.
Monday 9th. Fine and clear weather. At noon our land party & horses arrived bringing with them a supply of moose deer meat & mountain sheep. The latter is very good meat, much resembling in taste & flavour the highland mutton... This day has been occupied in making arrangement for our journey across the portage & the separation of the brigades for the Columbia & New Caledonia, the latter pursue a route that has thitherto been passed by few, report says it is a good one which soon leads them to the head waters of the Fraser River.
Tuesday 10th. A sharp frost during the night with fine and clear weather. The luggage and horses having been sent across the river to [word] Plain, we wish our friend Messr. MacGillivray & MacDougall and the rest of the Brigade for New Caledonia a farewell and commenced our journey across the portage at 10 am, our party consisting of Messrs. MacMillan, Birnie, Barnston, Sinclair, Drummond & myself with twenty four men and boys, having nineteen horses to convey the luggage and passengers. We continue our journey until 2 pm. when we encampt in a small plain, extending from base to base of the bounding mountains with a small stream meandering through it. It is named the Buffalo Encampment. Our route has been by a tolerably good track, the path thro' the wood being clear with a good hard footing for our horses, & no precipices of great importance. The weather during the day was pleasant.
Wednesday 11th. Commenced with hail and rain showers in the [morning], snow on the mountains. At 6 am we resumed our journey. At 8 we arrived on the banks of the Athabasca where we waited the arrival of a canoe that had been dispatched from [Jasper] House for the purpose of crossing our luggage & that being completed at 11 we pursued our journey, our route leading thro' a flat and woody face of country with a great quantity of burnt wood strewed over the surface for about five miles, when we arrived at another branch of the Athabasca, a narrow but deep and rapid stream which we forded with some difficulty. From here we continue our track leading along the banks of this stream principally. We occasionally ascend pretty steep eminences & pass three [thro'?] thick woods, interspersed by swamps or marshes into which the poor horses sink with their loads, and costs a great deal of labour to extricate the poor animals from their disagreeable situation. Having come about 18 miles we encampt at the Moose Deer encampment situated on a flat or batture through which the river has its course, bounded by immense mountains whose summit appear almost vertical to us. The evening is fine.
Thursday 12th. Cold weather with occasional showers of hail and rain. Commenced march at daylight, and continue travelling until 3 pm., having come a distance of 25 miles in a winding course to the SW ascending & descending high cliffs alternately, over one of which a horse fell, and the poor animal was so much injured that it was deemed necessary to kill him, an expedient that was not atall disagreeable to our voyageurs, his flesh being consumed by them, a good and seasonable supply of food. The river has now wandered away to a pretty stream, its course very much through flats or battures confined by stupendous mountains, in some places again it forces its way thro' ravines and cliffs of rock....
Friday 13th. The weather commenced cold with snow. On descending the [hills] some distance it turned to rain & on arriving at its bottom the weather became warm and fine, comparatively. We commenced our march at 6.30 am & having come thro' a defile our ground intersected by swamps and small streams or brooks, & bearing a stunted growth of pines, we arrived at the Committees Punch Bowl, which forms the source of the small streams running in opposite directions, one to the West, being one of the sources of the Columbia River, the other to the East, forming the sources of the Athabasca, at present this is only a small & nearly [round?] sheet of water, having the great depth but at certain seasons it forms a considerable surface. About a league beyond here we commenced our descent of the Grande Cote, a precipice [illegible] and which forms a very serious obstacle on the line of communication, and it is only necessary or an arduous spirit of enterprise that could have first induced man to make it a thorough fare, it has almost a perpendicular descent of about five miles, and occupies us two hours and ten minutes. On arriving at its foot and looking back up on the immense mountain, that you have just descended, you cannot [help]feeling some degree of amazement at the feat you have performed and the idea [fixes] itself on the mind, that this is by no means an agreeable barrier between separated friends. How the poor horses with their loads succeeded in getting down this immense hill is most extraordinary, [and] as you descend the mountain the face of the country assumes quite a new character.... From the foot of the Hill we pursued our route along a batture for about 3 1/4 miles when we encampt having come a distance of about 18 miles, over the most difficult & extraordinary road I certainly ever travelled.
Saturday 14th. Commenced gloomy with rain. Proceeded along a batture intersected by various branches of the river which obliges us to cross a number of them, on coming to the foot of this batture we [enter] a wood, there which the track is particularly bad for the great quantity of fallen trees, some of an enormous size lying across the path. In this place there are bogs into which the horses frequently sink, the ascent is trifling however. On getting thro' this wood we arrived on another batture extent by about 5 miles, the stream [begins] to increase considerably in size, rendering the track more difficult. At 2 pm we encampt, all foot travellers & horses having had a very fatiguing days march. In the afternoon the weather was fine with warm winds occasionally,.
Sunday 15th. Rain during the night, at day light we continue our journey & passing over a batture when we forded several considerable branches of the river, [at a distance] of about 2 miles we entered a wood, the point having a considerable elevation & affording a very difficult track from the quantity of fallen timber strewn on it. But the path affords good firm footing for the horses. On getting out of the wood, we arrived at a marsh or swamp of considerable extent covered with long grass & reeds & having with difficulty passed through it, we came to a short point of wood & then to the Boat Encampment at 10 am, terminating our journey across the Rocky Mountain portage. Here the water communication commences again, which is certainly an agreeable change in our mode of travelling. We found Mr. Dease & Mr. Finnan MacDonald here; & a few return servants & families on their way across the Mountains, who were waiting our arrival so as to return with our horses to the other side of the mountains -- the weather during the day was fine.

York Factory Express Journal, 1827, by Edward Ermatinger:
2nd [October]. Fine weather but cool. The 4 canoes were sent off about 8 o'clock this morning to proceed to the Portage, the 2 large ones laden with each 15 packs Leather and 3 Cassettes or cases and manned by 6 men -- and the 2 old ones each 12 packs, 1 Cassette and manned by 5 men. Provisions, 1 bag Pemican pr. canoe. At noon our horses being collected and the baggage tied &c our van marched and the whole party were off from Jasper's by 1 pm. All the gentlemen and families go by land to lighten the canoes. Our pieces for this amount 66 packs Leather and parchment, 18 bags pemican with our private baggage and the number of horses we are to employ on the Portage amount to to 54. We encamped at 5 pm below the point of Miettes Rock, which is high and difficult to pass. The mares are to follow us light to the Portage.
3rd. Fine weather. Started before 8 am and proceeded generally through a good track and encamped at Campement de Cardinalle, a small creek, after descending the hills beyond the 2nd Lake at 5 pm. Apisasis killed two moose near the encampment, which the horses fetch after they arrived from their day's march.
4th. Fine weather. Started before 8 am and arrived at the Portage about noon. On our way thither the hunter killed another moose. We found the people with the canoes and cargoes here before us. They arrived this morning also. The rest of the day employed drying and repacking leather.
5th. Friday. Fine warm weather. Having separated and prepared the Baggage the Columbia people set off about 10 am with 15 horses, 3 employed as saddle horses for Messrs. Todd, Ermatinger, Mr. McLeod's wife and 2 children, the other 12 laden with the following baggage &c:
Cassettes..; paper trunk and small cassette; case and basket; portmandeau; 8 bags pemican; portage straps; kegs sugar biscuit; flour; moose; beds &c &c
Mr. McDouglas has 40 horses to transport his packs &c. Memo of Art given to Mr. McD for his voyage -- 8 bags pemican; 2 canisters tea; 1/2 keg biscuit; 1 moose; sugar; 4 flagons spirits; 1/2 cheese.
Encamped on the banks of the River, having passed Campment des Vaches and a piece of Bad Woods.
6th. Fine warm weather. Started before 8 am and proceeded till 4 when we encamped 3 or 4 miles beyond Campment d'Orignal. Road much encumbered with fallen wood.
7th. Fine weather. Started at 8 am and encamped near the height of land, having passed thro' some very bad swamps and mires during the day. View of the mountains very grand. One ahead all day clearing the road in different places, and as the track is much worse farther on 4 will start early to-morrow morning for the same purpose.
8th. Sharp frost this morning, but day fine. We started between 8 and 9 o'clock and continued our march until near 4 pm, when we encamped on the battures below the Grand Cote. This has certainly been a very labourious day's march for the horses, but the road was never better, we had not the least snow on the way. Apisasis killed a young grizzly bear at the height of land, and one of the men killed a marten on the Big Hill.
9th, Tuesday. Fine weather. Start as usual. Proceeded over Battures and afterwards thro' a point of woods which is one mire from beginning to end and much encumbered with fallen wood. Encamped at the end of the Battures next to the last point of woods, 3 pm.
10th. Fine weather. Started at 7 am and arrived at the end of the Portage about 1/2 past 10. Found J. W. Dease, Esq., and family here. People occupied the remainder of the day making paddles &c.

Though he doesn't actually say it, he has reached the Boat Encampment. His next day's notation says he is in the boats on the Columbia River, and has already passed the Dalles des Morts.

Journal of a Voyage from Norway House to Fort Vancouver, Columbia River, 1831, by George Traill Allen:
Tuesday 27th [September]. We left Klyne's House today at 4 pm with twenty loaded horses exclusive of our riding horses. At sunset we encamped on the borders of a beautiful small lake situated between very high mountains. The scenery which present itself here surpassed everything which I had hitherto seen and made me regret more than once that I was no landscape painter. From this small lake the person in charge of Klyne's House procures generally a sufficient number of whitefish to feed his establishment during a great part of the winter and he who eats the Whitefish has no reason to envy the banquets of a London Alderman.
Wednesday 28th. Our route lay betwixt very lofty mountains and we passed over one of considerable height. In descending a mountain I generally resigned the bridle to my horse and in such cases he never failed to pick out the best and safest track.
Thursday 29th. The same scenery as yesterday presented itself with the difference of much higher mountains.
Friday 30th. Today we entered a point of wood and found the track so blocked up with fallen trees as to render it almost impassible to our horses. The mountains as seen today were really splendid, a thick fog having concealed the base, the summits appear, as it were, to tower above the skies.
Saturday, 1st October. On passing today between the mountains I perceived at some distance large masses of ice suspended as it were in the air, to have a nearer view of which I took a gallop in that direction. Sometimes when the path lies near the base of the mountains that are so bedecked, travelling becomes dangerous by these immense masses suddenly giving way. We heard frequently at a great distance a noise similar to thunder and which we attributed to the ice falling from the mountains. It is not many years since a gentleman had a very narrow escape by one of those masses falling directly behind him.
Sunday 2nd. We descended a very high mountain which occupied us four hours in the descent. It was so very deep that we were obliged to dismount and allow the horses to choose the best and safest track for themselves. On reaching the base of the mountain we found ourselves on the banks of the Columbia River along which we wended our way for a considerable distance and encamped for the night. On looking from our encampment at the mountains down which we had just descended, it seemed almost incredible that we could have done so with loaded or even with light horses.
Monday 3rd. We passed through some points of wood and found the path, if it could be called so, almost blocked up with fallen trees, and where no trees appeared to intercept us, we found morasses in which the poor horses would sink to the belly at every step and found great difficulty in extricating themselves.
Tuesday 4th. We arrived today at the boat Encampment so called from its being the rendezvous where the boats from the west side of the Rocky Mountains come to meet and convey the express from York Factory and Red River down the Columbia. We remained here till the 10th, when Mr. [Francis] Heron, Chief Trader, made his appearance from Fort Colvile with two boats.......

I thought this was the same Francis Heron who afterward spent many years in the Saskatchewan district, under Chief Factor John Rowand -- I was wrong.
An Irishman, Heron served at Fort Colvile from 1829 to 1833, Fort Langley in 1834, and was quickly transferred back to Fort Colvile for a year.
According to Bruce McIntyre Watson, in his books, Lives Lived West of the Divide, Heron had a run in with Dr. John McLoughlin shortly after his first arrival at Fort Colvile, and was found very unpopular.
Governor George Simpson called him "idle and indolent," perhaps because of his drinking problem.
He took a four year furlough in Europe after leaving the Columbia district, and died in 1840.

Though there is a town in British Columbia named Boat Encampment, it is not where the fur traders' boat encampment was.
Their encampment was drowned by a massive hydro-electric project on the Canadian portion of the Columbia River, and now lies under Kinbasket Lake.
But before they flooded this historic site, they photographed it -- and the aerial photograph is in my book on page 30.
To find this photograph (and others) for my book, I spent days in the British Columbia archives pouring through the folders and binders of landscape photos.
It was worth it -- not only did I find this image, which I am not sure many historians are familiar with, I found the portrait of prominent Okanagan chief, Tsilaxitsa, filed away under landscapes!
Even a few of the archival staff were excited by the last find.
It's amazing what can be hidden away for years in the archives, to be uncovered, discovered, and identified by historians or researchers.

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