You will notice that Aemilius Simpson's journal, following, is a little confused.
It will take a little concentration on your part to read it properly, as he wrote it in pieces and repeated himself several times over.
Still, his descriptions of the country are vivid, and because he is a newcomer to the country he describes incidents that the fur traders ignored because they were so familiar to them.
My great-great-grandfather James Birnie again makes his appearance in this journal (and in the next, also).
He is always there, but travelling almost invisibly -- to Simpson, at least.
Let us continue our downriver journey toward Fort Vancouver, as the men are anxious to be home after six months travelling across the continent and back.
Some are so anxious to get home they abandon their journal entries entirely; John Charles abandoned his while he was still travelling the North Saskatchewan River!
Journal of a voyage across the Continent of North America in 1826 by Aemilius Simpson, R.N.:
Sunday 22nd [October] Having made the Kettle Falls portage, which is about 1/2 mile over a considerable hill, we embarked & continued our descent of the Columbia. On doing so for about 5 miles, we arrived at the Grand Rapids, where we make a portage of the goods over a cliff or point of rock on the left bank of about 800 [word] yards. The boats run the rapids. On leaving this portage we continued our descent at a very rapid rate repeatedly running strong rapids, our course being winding between [word]. The banks of the river are generally low with gravel beaches, but in some places rocky points & cliffs project to the river. The bounding country is composed of undulating hills partially wooded, with fine meadow surfaces affording fine pasture for domestic animals were they introduced...
Daily notes: thick fog in the morning. [He's back at Fort Colvile & Kettle Falls here] The boats and cargoes having been transported across the portage to the foot of the falls we embarked at 9.45 pm & continued our descent of the Columbia. The Kettle Falls are formed by shelving mass of rock extending across the bed of the river, the higher shelf forms a fall of about fifteen feet, and a second shelf forms another of about eight feet. The scenery about these falls is very grand, the rigid & projecting cliffs hanging in fantastic forms over this awful clash of water, which from the channel being contracted by these projecting cliffs, the stream [pushes] its way through with such accumulated force that its surface forms immense whirlpools; on the left of the falls is an [word] on whose summit you see a great number of the burial places of the natives curiously grouped, its face forming a precipice washed by a troubled stream a branch of the River [name]. The Indians erect stages & [fishing] baskets very ingeniously placed over the falls, by which means they catch great number of salmon, when leaping the falls as they ascend the river. A few miles below these falls are the Grand Rapids formed by the projecting mass of rock obstructing the course of the river.
Monday 23rd. We had a fog in the morning which frequently [forms] about 3 leagues below the encampment. When we arrived at the Spokane forks rapids -- a chain of strong rapids the passengers walk across a point on the right, covered with immense blocks of rock that appear to have been washed there by the force of the rapids. The view of the boats running these rapids with the wild character of the scenery which is much heightened by the fog is rather terrific, they dashed down the rapids as if to an inevitable destruction, and [arrived] at the foot of the rapids, without having received further injury than shipping a good deal of water. The running of rapids is an operation that requires great skill and coolness. Along our days track the country presented a very sterile appearance, hardly a tree to be seen and only a parched like grass forming a thin covering over its surface with a confused heap of detached rocks strewed over it.
Tuesday 24th. Fine and clear weather, having to run a chain of rapids below our encampment we did not embark until day light, when we commenced our run of the rapids, which form a [long] Chain for about 8 miles. Below these rapids the river follows its course in a very winding direction for about 3 1/2 leagues when we arrive at the junction of the Okinagan River, where we arrived at 9 am. We found Messrs. Archibald MacDonald & Armitinger [Ermatinger] here; who presented a communication from Dr. MacLoughlin directing the brigade to carry a supply of salmon for Walla Walla, but as these fish have not yet arrived from Thomson's River, we were detained here till then.
Wednesday 25th. The salmon having arrived this evening, we will resume our journey in the morning.
Thursday 26th. the morning showery with strong breezes from the south but the weather became fair at 9 am and continued so during the day. The face of the country continued to present the same singular formation, a range of hills along the river at the Rocky Island Portage seems somewhat different.
Friday 27th. The Priests Rapids are a long shoot [chute] of about 10 miles, in many places particularly towards their foot they are confined to narrow channels, formed by perpendicular face of rocks of about 15 feet elevation. The river forcing its way with great volume through [these] channels of this description [sic]. On the right banks a range of the column extends, but terminates a short distance below these rapids, when the country on the right becomes flat and sandy.
Fine and clear weather, a fresh breeze from the SW We continued our descent of the river at 4:30 am. Frequently passing ridges of these columnar [rocky] hills, at 11 we commenced our run of the Priests Rapids, so called by the Canadian voyageurs from the circumstance of an old Indian who constantly visits the boats, when passing these rapids, who they think resembles one of that Holy order. Below the rapids the banks of the river becomes densely lined with Indians, of the Ska-moo-namicks, Yacca-ma & other tribes. They constantly importune us for tobacco, of which they frequently get a small donation. Many of these Indians are perfectly naked, which is certainly a very disgusting sight to the civilized stranger, they appear to possess no sense of shame for this indelicate exposure, which is a breach of decency that I never [saw] among savages or Indians of any other country. Their habitations is merely a few grass mats placed against a few stakes stuck in the ground. As they frequently change their situation these dwellings are very portable....
We continued to [travel] after dark to avoid the annoyance of being importuned for tobacco by the Indians, until we arrived at a spot where timber could be procured for our fires, the face of the country being destitute of woods. The only supply of that article is the drift timber strewn along some parts of the banks of the river. We encampt at 8 pm.
Saturday 28th. The morning showery, we embarked at 4 am. Having descended the river SE for about 4 leagues, we arrived at the confluence of the Gaumama River, falling in from the West. It is at the confluence of this river they propose removing the establishment. On descending about 3 leagues further, we arrived at the junction of the Lewis & Clarke's branch, the supposed boundary of the United States.... It is about 9 miles below this branch the post of Walla Walla is situated on the left or S. bank of the Columbia, where we arrived at 8 am. This post is in charge of Mr. [Sam] Black... Orders having been received to send a supply of horses to Vancouver by a detachment of hands from our Brigade the occupying arrangements will detain us here for the day.
Sunday 29th. Rainy weather.... The forenoon was occupied in sending the horses across the river which was a very real caution for these poor animals, some of the young ones were nearly drowned, 53 horses & 4 colts succeeding in crossing, with which Messrs. [James] Birnie and [George] Barnston, with five men, proceeded for Fort Vancouver. We will resume our Journey in the morning.
York Factory Express Journal, 1827, by Edward Ermatinger:
[October] 17th. Made portage with Boats and Cargoes at the Grand Rapid which occupied us above 2 hours. Encamped at 1/2 past 5.
18th, Thursday. Fine weather. Started at 4 am, passed the Spokane forks at 1/2 past 10. Encamped at 1/2 past 5.
[Though he doesn't say so, they probably arrived at Fort Okanogan the following day]
20th. Fine weather. Mr. [Archibald] McDonald's men [from Thompson's River] having arrived this afternoon with Salmon which we have to take to [Fort] Nez Perce we load our boats and went and encamped at the Fork of the little River. We left Okanagan the Pigs and a bale of Leather which we brought from Colville and we take in for Nez Perces 15 bales Dried Salmon.
21st. Fine weather. Started at 6 am and encamped at the head of the Isles des Pierres at 5 pm.
22nd. Fine weather. Embarked about 6 am and ran the Isles des Pierres Rapids -- ran the Priest's Rapids also. Put ashore a little above the Marle Banks and took supper. We afterwards started with the intention of drifting all night but the people paddled till 10 pm when we considered [it] safest to put ashore till morning, the night being very dark and the River shoal in some places.
23rd. Fine weather. Started at 4 am and arrived at Nez Perces about 1 pm. We passed great numbers of Indians this morning on their way downwards. At Nez Perces we found Mr. [James] Birnie sent up from fort Vancouver to meet us and strengthen the party going down. Great numbers of Indians encamped round the Fort.
Journal of a Voyage from Norway House to Fort Vancouver, Columbia River, 1831, by George Traill Allen:
We remained about two days at Colvile and then bidding farewell to Mr. Heron, we set out for Okanagan where we arrived in two days. It is a small post under the charge of a couple of men. We only remained there a few hours when we again embarked.
During our voyage from Colvile to Okanagan I had one narrow escape from drowning, in descending one of those dreadful rapids for which the upper parts of the Columbia River are so noted. Of the three boats the one in which I happened to be was in the middle, and owing to some mismanagement of the other boats, ours was pushed into nearly the middle of the rapid and consequently took in a deluge of water, but was glad to escape with our lives.
Diary of a Journey from Fort Vancouver in 1835, by James Douglas:
Thursday 22nd [October] Embarked 46 bags, provisions at this post for the lower post, Left the Portage at 5 o'clock. Encamped at Grande Rapids.
Friday 23rd. Encamped a few miles above the Stoney Island Rapid. Cold.
Saturday 24th, October. Okanagan at 7 o'clock.
Sunday 25th. 4 miles above Stoney Island Rapid.
Monday 26th. 6 miles below Priest's Rapid.
Tuesday 27th. Nez Perces.
James Douglas makes no further entries in his journal after this point.
Journal of a Trip from Vancouver to York Factory, Spring, 1847, by Thomas Lowe, in charge of party:
Sunday 7th [October] Fine clear weather. Had the remainder of the pieces carted across this morning, and started about noon, with three boats, each 40 pieces and 7 men. Left two of the new hands at Colvile. Made a portage at the Grand Rapid. In running the rapid two of the boats were broken, and we had to encamp there to have them repaired.
Monday 8th. Breakfasted before leaving, as the 2 boats were not finished last night. Made in consequence a short distance today. Began to snow in the afternoon. Encamped a little above the Spokan River.
Tuesday 9th. Fine weather. Came near to the Little Dalles.
Wednesday 10th. Another fine day, although very cold. Arrived at Okanagan afternoon. Discharged 16 bags Indian corn here for Thompson's River [Kamloops]. Mr. [Ferdinand] McKenzie leaves us here to go into New Caledonia, and takes with him 1 man for N.C. and 4 for Thompson's River. Found Edouard Crete here, who goes down as far as Walla Walla [Fort Nez Perces]. Had the boats gummed and remained at the Fort for one night.
Thursday 11th. Fine weather. Started from Okanagan early this morning, but did not make so great a distance as formerly, being now reduced to 6 men per boat.
Friday 12th. Cloudy weather. Breakfasted above Les Isles des Pierres & encamped above the Priest's Rapid.
Saturday 13th. Rainy unpleasant weather. Got to the middle of the Grand Ecore, and had to purchase wood from the Indians.
Sunday 14th. Fine weather. Arrived at Fort Nez Perces after breakfast, and Mr. [William] McBean gave us a salute of 7 guns. Here we found the Measles very prevalent, the Indians were dying in great numbers. Delivered 4 bags flour for the Mission, and left 2 bags flour, and [one] Keg biscuit for the use of the Express next spring. Crete, whom we brought from Okanagan was left here, and an Owhyhee put in the boats in place of him. Got 2 pigs killed for the boats' crews. Had the boats loaded and gummed, ready for starting tomorrow.
The express journeys of 1847 and 1848 travelled up and down the Columbia at very historic times for the fur trade, and Thomas Lowe led both.
Because of that, what he has to say is important to fur trade history in the Columbia district and elsewhere.
The Mission mentioned above, is the Waillatpu Mission run by Doctor Marcus Whitman.
The Measles had come north with the Nez Perces and Cayuse men who had spent their summer at Sutter's Fort, in California.
This measles epidemic killed hundreds of Cayuse and Nez Perces people and spread all over the entire region and reached north to the post at Kamloops, and Fort Alexandria, where Alexander Caulfield Anderson was employed.
Those of you who have followed my blog for a while know what was the result -- the massacre of Doctor Whitman and his wife Narcissa, at Waillatpu, and the hostage-taking of a dozen or so American women.
This changed the fur trade in the Columbia district; those of you who have read my book also know it changed the fur trade in New Caledonia and Kamloops.
To learn more about the Waillatpu Mission massacre, you can read my three posts, listed here:
Sunday, July 2, 2012, Waillatpu Mission, Summer to Fall 1847;
Saturday, July 21, 2012, The Waillatpu Massacre, November 29, 1847; and
Sunday, August 5, 2012, After the Massacre at Waillatpu.
Yes, it took me three posts to write the whole story, and I have learned even more since I wrote these three posts last summer.
In this next journal posted here you will see the after-effects of the Waillatpu Massacre that had occurred eleven months earlier, as the brigades carried downriver the belongings of the missionaries who, earlier that year, had abandoned their mission-house south of Fort Colvile.
Journal from Vancouver to York Factory with Express, Spring 1848, by Thomas Lowe:
23rd Monday [October]. This morning early the three boats were put in the water and loaded and after breakfast we started. It then began raining, and continued during the day. Made a portage at the Grand Rapid, and crossed the boats safely. Encamped a good distance down the River on the South bank. Left 2 new hands at Colvile to fill up deficiencies and 2 more in place of [illegible] and James Ballenden who go down to Vancouver with us. At Colvile we left Mrs. Fraser and family, and took in 50 bags flour for Walla Walla, 10 bags grain for Vancouver, & 19 pieces of property belonging to Messrs. Eels & Walker to be landed at Vancouver, so that we have now 40 pieces per Boat [more than] previous year. I have still 9 men per boat, which is just a full crew, as the boat pull 8 oars. Mr. [Alexander Caulfield] Anderson killed two fat pigs for the men and we got a good supply of fresh meat for our mess. Rained heavy all day.
October 24th, Tuesday. Kept fair all day. [We stopped] a short distance above the Spokan River and gummed Joe's boat. Ran the Spokan Rapid without getting out. In the evening ran the Rapid at Les Isles de Prairie, and encamped about two miles below the Sinpoil River.
25th, Wednesday. Fine weather. Arrived at Okanagan in the evening, and encamped there. Lafleur was absent, having started yesterday for Colvile for goods.
26th, Thursday. Strong head wind most of the day. Made a pretty fair distance nevertheless.
27th, Friday. Fine weather, but wind still ahead. Encamped more than half way down the Priests Rapid. Breakfasted at the foot of Les Isles du Pierres, when Joe's boat had to be gummed and repaired, as he broke it in the morning as we started very early and he could not see very distinctly. Passed the Rocher du Bois in the afternoon.
Oct. 28th, Saturday. Had to start rather later than usual this morning to run the remainder of the Priests Rapid. fine weather, and after breakfast had a fine sail wind with which we sailed until evening. Encamped at the mouth of the Yackima river, where there was a large camp of Indians....
29th, Sunday. Beautiful day. Started this morning about 3 hours before daylight, and arrived at Walla Walla [Fort Nez Perces] about an hour after sunrise. I traded a cow from the iNdians for the people. Delivered 43 bags of flour at Walla Walla and took in 5 packs furs for Vancouver and 2 bags Indian corn for the Catholic [missionaries] at the Oaks. Had the boats gummed, and started from Walla Walla about an hour before sunset. Encamped above the Grand Rapids.
Thomas Lowe's journal ends here, and a note at the bottom tells us he arrived at Fort Vancouver on the 3rd November.
This happens many times as they approach the end of a long journey -- the record tapers off and disappears.
I imagine everyone -- gentlemen and voyageurs alike -- worked steadily, nose down, driving their way downriver to reach home and family.
And for Thomas Lowe, that was important. He would soon marry James Birnie's daughter, La Rose, and set up a new life outside the fur trade.