Saturday, January 12, 2013

West to Jasper House, part two

We will begin again, continuing the journey from Fort Assiniboine to tiny Jasper's House, sometimes called Klyne's House, as you have seen in the previously published journals.
How many days did it usually take to make the journey from Assiniboine to Jasper? -- in Simpson's journal of 1826 they took only 11 days to travel from Assiniboine to Jasper's, according to my last posting.
Edward Ermatinger's 1827 journal indicates their upriver travels took 11 days, and George Traill Allen also recorded the same length of time for their upriver journey.
But as you have seen by the last posting, James Douglas' upriver voyage in 1835 was done in boats, and according to him, it was the first time they had used boats rather than canoes for this part of the journey.
It will be interesting to see how many days longer the boats will take (if any), and how many difficulties they will have in the strong currents of this rapid-filled river.

Diary of a Journey from Fort Vancouver in 1835, by James Douglas:
Saturday 26th [September] At 3 o'clock left Fort Assiniboine with 3 of the boats, 9 men in each and encamped at the lower end of the Grand Bas-Fond. Experienced no unusual difficulty in ascending even the strongest points. Fine clear weather.
Sunday 27. Proceeded on our journey at the dawn of day at 8 o'clock. Passed Compass Point and afterward Sled Point at 12, and encamped 5 miles above the Lower end of Big Island. Fine weather.
Monday 28. No accident occurred during the day. Boats rather weight[y?] in the strong points, a very harassing day's work for the men. Encamped 9 miles above the Great Bend. Fine warm weather. A violent southerly wind in the evening.
[Tuesday 29]. A very boisterous wind which sounded loud & shrill among the rigid boughs of the now leafless trees caused us some degree of alarm during the night, as large portions of the forest are frequently overturned by violent storms of wind. Our progress was not so great as yesterday, owing to the increased rapidity of the stream. Encamped above McLeod Forks.
Wed. 30. A violent westerly wind retarded us considerably this day. Saw a few Assiniboines yesterday, and another party today. The former provided us with some fresh meat. Observed several horizontal beds of coal projecting from the perpendicular banks. Encamped a few miles above Hogg's Island at a place which we have named 100 miles point, such being the computed distance from Assiniboine.
Thursday 1st, October. A slight frost made the early part of the morning disagreeable both to passengers and to the poor men who are, notwithstanding the cold, under the necessity of plunging into the water when dragging the Boat along by the line. The river in many places is very strong, with intervals of smooth water. Distance performed 23 1/2 miles. Encamped 45 miles below Baptiste's River. Saw a red deer crossing the river, but at too great a distance to be shot.
Friy 2. Rained slightly during the early part of the day. The weather cleared up in the evening and the air became somewhat chilly. Distance 20 miles. Encamped a few miles above Heron's Island on an island covered with pines.
Sat. 3. Fine weather but rather cold particularly in the morning. At 7 o'clock arrived at Cache of Leather made by the party last summer who were prevented by the sudden and uncommon rise of the water from conveying it to Mountain. They have left here 18 pieces forming 6 pieces additional for each of our boats. Our tracking lines are too weak to drag the boats up the strong impetuous currents which we are constantly encountering. Encamped 3 miles below Baptiste River.
Sunday 4. Frost during the night, but the cold moderated in the morning. Slight rain in the early part of the day. Experienced considerable difficulty in ascending Califond's River. Encamped on the pine island above Birch Island.
Mony. 5. Very mild morning and very warm during the day. Our progress tediously slow owing to the number of rapids which we had to ascend. The boat lines are too weak for such plans [sic -- places?] and the consequence is a very great loss of time, as the three lines must be attached to the same boat. If we venture to bring them up singly they snap like cobweb. Encamped on 200 miles Island.
Tues. 6. Slight frost during the morning but the day remarkably fine & pleasant. Our difficulties commenced immediately on leaving the encampment and it was 5 o'clock in the evening before we reached the comparatively smooth water above Rapide des Morts. In ascending Rapide Platte just as one of the boats was toiling up the steepest part the towing lines broke, and 2 men had rather a narrow escape from drowning. Encamped 4 miles above Old Man's River.
Wed. 7. Fair weather. Encamped 6 miles above Maypole Island.
Thurs. 8. Encamped 4 miles below the lower lake.
Friy. 9. Reached Klyne's at 6 pm.

So James Douglas' upriver journey took some thirteen days -- not too shabby!
Let's see what happens in the future -- in Thomas Lowe's journals of 1847 and 1848.

Journal of a Trip from Vancouver to York Factory, Spring 1847, by Thomas Lowe, in charge of party:
Friday, October 1st. Very cloudy and cold. Started from Assinaboine early this morning, and as the water is in a fine state, made a good distance. As no one in the Brigade is acquainted with any of the remarkable places in the River, it will be impossible for me to mark the encampment.
Saturday 2nd. Still cloudy, but kept fair until the evening, when it began to rain & blow, and continued so during the night. Made a good day's work.
Sunday 3rd. Beautiful weather. Got up as far as the place where the Otter Packs were sent back by Mr. Lane last year, when he found he could proceed with them no farther.
Monday 4th. Fine weather. Passed McLeod's River about noon, and encamped a good distance beyond. Rained during the night.
Tuesday 5th. Dull cloudy weather, and a little rain. Came the usual distance. In the forenoon passed the Cache that Mr. McDonald made three years ago.
Wednesday 6th. Beautiful day. The River has risen considerably, and we made slower progress.
Thursday 7th. Very cloudy the whole day, and a little rain. A very great rise in the river. Passed Beaver River in the forenoon, which falls into the Athabasca on the right hand.
Friday 8th. Rained the whole day, and so heavy in the afternoon that we had to encamp.
Saturday 9th. Kept fair today, but the River is now so high that it is very difficult work, and there is no appearance of its falling. Killed a moose deer this evening, which is a very [seasonable] supply, as our pemmican is nearly finished.
Sunday 10th. Fine weather. Passed Baptiste's River early in the forenoon. The Athabasca rose last night about 6 inches.
Monday 11th. Fair and warm during the day, but very cold last night. As we are short of provisions, Mr. McKenzie & Chastellain started to walk to Jasper's House in order to obtain a supply & bring it down to meet us on the way. Made very little progress on account of the high water.
Tuesday 12th. Fine day. This morning at breakfast time Mr. McKenzie & Chastellain came back saying that they found it impossible to advance through the woods, and that they were confident they could not reach Jasper's House sooner than the boats. As our situation is becoming very unpleasant on account of the want of provisions, I sent off Michel the Guide alone. The boats made better progress today as the water is falling a little.
Wednesday 13th. Fine weather. Made slow progress, as we were in a rapids the whole day, and had to cut a road in many places to haul the line. Passed the Rapid Croche and the Rapid de Mort in the afternoon.
Thursday 14th. Rained most of the day. Passed Old Man's River in the forenoon, and made good progress, not so many Rapids today.
Friday 15th. Fine weather. Came in sight of the Rocky Mountains at breakfast time. Shortly afterwards met Michel the Guide coming down the river on a raft to meet us. Finding the road almost impassible he turned back this morning, having gained but a short distance on the boats, although he has been walking for three days. He had killed a large red deer however, which will serve the people for a couple of days. Came a good distance today.
Saturday 16th. Snowing the whole day. This is the first snow we have had this season. Came a good distance as there were few rapids, and good places all the way for tracking.
Sunday 17th. Exceedingly cold weather, and snowing at intervals during the day. Had to put ashore before breakfast to make fires for the men, owing to the severity of the weather. Encamped within a short distance of the lake.
Monday 18th. Weather cold and clear. Breakfasted at the entrance of the lake where we found a good deal of broken ice. Had a strong head wind in the Lake, but succeeded in getting through it, and encamped at the Rocher de Miette.
Tuesday 19th. Cold disagreeable weather. The last of our provisions of every description was finished this morning, as we have been obliged to give all our mess stores to the men. Arrived at Jasper's House a little after noon.

In 1847, Thomas Lowe started his upriver journey later than was usual, and he took four days longer than James Douglas did.
It took Thomas Lowe 17 days to travel from Fort Assiniboine to Jasper's House in 1847.
You will notice that Lowe said that no one knew the names of the places along the river this year, and that is an indication of what was then happening in the fur trade -- the old-timers were dying off or retiring, and the few newcomers, who were joining the fur trade, had no idea of what they were in for.
The times were changing, and the express journals of these later years reflect this change.

Journal from Vancouver to York Factory with Express, Spring 1848, by Thomas Lowe:
[a long blank in the journal after Monday 11th, but they don't appear to be too far away from Fort Assiniboine, I believe].
Sept. 24th, Sunday. Fine warm day. In the forenoon while the men were walking ashore following the boat, a chocolate Bear which was running up from the water side found himself in the midst of them, and was so taken by surprise that he jumped upon one Norman Smith, and before he could be frightened off by the others had inflicted a very severe wound on his forehead, and with his tooth besides two or three smaller ones below the eyes. But nothing very dangerous. Made very good progress today, and marched about two hours up La Crosse Isle.
Monday 25th. Fine weather. Breakfasted near the end of La Cross Isle, and encamped at the further end of the Long Reach.
Tuesday 26th. Exceedingly warm, and the River has risen a little in consequence. In the afternoon we saw several freemen a little below McLeod's Forks. They had only half a beaver to give us. Two of the Jasper's House men got a small canoe from them, and are to go ahead in it. Encamped about a mile above McLeod's Forks.
Wednesday 27th. Strong head wind all day, but very warm. The two men who started ahead yesterday broke their canoe, and we embarked them again late in the afternoon. Encamped at Mr. McDonald's Cache.
Thursday 28th. Rather cloudy most of the day but no rain. Came on very well today, as there are fewer Islands, and better tracking ground.
Friday 29th. Fine day. Breakfasted at the Grand Point opposite a small river which falls into the Athabasca on the right bank. About 2 pm. passed the Beaver River, and encamped on an Island a good piece beyond.
Saturday 30th. Cloudy all day, but no rain until the afternoon when we had a thunder storm. Shortly after breakfast came to an encampment of 3 lodges of freemen, but they were all off, as I supposed, to bring home meat. Here we took a canoe which Mr. Colin Fraser has got made for himself, and put 6 men and 4 bags of Pemican in it. It will accompany us for the present.
Sunday, Oct. 1st. Raining nearly all day, but not cold. Encamped at Baptiste's River.
Monday 2nd. Snowing most of the day, and cold. A strong current all day, and made poor progress. Encamped on an Island where there was a [word] lodge.
Tuesday 3rd. Clear cold weather. Made poor progress in the morning, but got on better afterwards. Encamped about 20 miles above a large open space on the right bank which has been burned long since, and now forms a paradise. Encamped left side.
Wednesday 4th. Very cold in the morning, but warming during the day. Very strong current. In the forenoon had to put ashore to have Charlebois' boat repaired, as he damaged it yesterday in a Rapid. Stopped there about three hours. Encamped upon Canoe Island.
Thursday 5th. Same weather as yesterday. Breakfasted at the bottom of Rapid [word]. Encamped about a mile below the Mountain View.
Friday 6th. Fine clear weather. This morning Mr. Colin Fraser started ahead for Jasper's House in the canoe with 5 men light, and expects to get there in three days. Made good progress today as there were few rapids & good tracking ground.
Saturday 7th. Fine weather, not cold. Came on very well today, and encamped at the foot of the Rapids below the Lake.
Sunday 8th. Beautiful day. Breakfasted at the commencement of the Lake, and as we had a good deal of trouble afterwards in finding the channel spent the day in the Lake, and encamped about 2 miles up the River. It was fortunately calm weather, which is a very unusual thing in this Lake.
Monday 9th. Fine weather. Arrived at Jasper's House about 3 pm. and had the boats unloaded at once on the opposite side of the river. Mr. Fraser arrived here with the canoe yesterday. Had a dance tonight at the House, and there was no want of women as there are about a dozen lodges of freemen here.

In 1848, Thomas Lowe is not clear on what date he left Fort Assiniboine (he arrived at Edmonton on the 30th of September and makes no mention of the traverse across the portage).
If we presume that he left Assiboine on the first date mentioned in his journal, then he took 15 days to journey upriver to Jasper's House.
Likely, his journey took longer than that.
I told you in an earlier posting about the fur trade film that is just being put together -- The Return of the Far Fur Country. (See: for more information on this upcoming film).
In the preview of this film they showed an image of the men dragging their boats (or scows) up the Athabasca River.
It was an amazing image, and the image that had the greatest impact on me.
It looked like unbelievably hard work -- and I believe it was.
No wonder these fellows took so long to make their way between Fort Assiniboine and Jasper's House!

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