Sunday, March 31, 2013

More stories about Fort Nisqually and Anderson Island

I found more stories about Fort Nisqually and Anderson Island than I could actually fit into my talk last weekend (see last weeks' posting).
As a result, I am posting the extra information here, for Anderson Islanders, and others to find.
So this blog posting might be a bit patchy, but I will try to make it all work together.

By the way, if anyone wants to read more about Anderson Island and its history and early settlers, you should find and read the book, Island in the Sound, by Hazel Heckman [Seattle: UWPress, 1967]. My copy of the book is in its sixth printing, 1997!

A description of Fort Nisqually, by Missionary Father Modeste Demers:
Alexander Caulfield Anderson reached Fort Nisqually, at last, in late autumn 1840.
Sometime before he reached the place, Missionary Father Modeste Demers visited the old fort.
Demers described the post as it was when William Kittson was in charge: It was "an elongated square of about four arpents in area, surrounded like the other forts by a palisade twenty feet high, and flanked by four bastions furnished with firearms."
Unlike other forts in the area, however: "The palisade is crowned on the exterior by a species of circular gallery, as much for serving in the defense of the fort as for observing the acts of the natives and keeping them in check. In this enclosure are grouped various buildings, such as the smokehouse, the trading house... the commandant's house, one for strangers, one for the engages..."
It was not unknown, in these fur trade posts, to have galleries around the inside of the fort walls; but it appears, at first, that Demers says, this one hung on the outside of the walls.
When Lieutenant Wilkes drew his images of the fort shortly after Demers passed through, there were no galleries on the outside of the palisades.
If English was not Demers' first language, it is possible he substituted the word "outside" for "inside."
But I think we're reading it wrong (or at least I am). I think Demers meant that the galleries hung on the outside or exterior walls, but inside the fort itself.
That would be perfectly normal for a fur trade fort of this time, and it makes much more sense to hang the galleries behind the shelter of the log palisades, not in front of them.
But I might be wrong.

More on Alexander Caulfield Anderson, the farmer:
 As I was reading through material to write this talk, I found one more thing to say about Anderson, referencing his time at Fort Nisqually and later.
I found a line in Lieutenant Charles Wilkes' journals, written while he was at Fort Nisqually, to the effect that: "Mr. Anderson informed me he had or was making an experiment with some of [the Nisqually Natives] to till the land, but he found them disinclined to work although they were more apt than he had given them credit for."

As I have mentioned in other talks, I have run across a number of stories where Anderson is teaching the Natives who live near his residence (wherever it may be) to grow their own food, something that is quite foreign to them.
Only a few years after he left Fort Nisqually, he watched as the Alexandria Natives returned home in an early winter snowstorm, and he knew they had little food to spare because the salmon run had failed.
One year later and after another failed salmon run, Anderson wrote in the Fort Alexandria journals that, "Eleven Indians [are] working the soil [at our] suggestion, and I have promised to supply them seed potatoes."

And when he lived in North Saanich from 1862 to about 1876, he encouraged the Natives of the Tseycum Reserve to cultivate their clayey soil, and some soon raised pigs and cattle or farmed smaller sections of richer soil. He had a particularly strong interest in grafting fruit trees, and a few of his Native neighbours even learned this agricultural craft from him, and now owned small thriving orchards.
I wonder if, while he was at Fraser's Lake, or at Fort Colvile, he also tried to teach the Natives to grow their own food?
Unfortunately I do not have enough information on these times, and there is, I believe, no where else to look.

The Royal Navy Ship, Fisgard, off Anderson Island, 1846:
This is an Anderson Island story, and not a story about Fort Nisqually, nor one about Alexander Caulfield Anderson. Yet, it fits here, and I would have told the Anderson Island people this story if I had the time to do so.
I am not aware that they are very familiar with the story, though they might be. They do, however, know that for a little while, Anderson Island was named "Fisgard" Island.
The story came to me from Steve Anderson, retired manager of the replica Fort Nisqually at Point Defiance Park. This is his research, not mine.

The Royal Navy ship Fisgard was stationed off Fort Nisqually in 1846. Its job was to provide a British presence in the area to support the upcoming Boundary discussions between the United States and Britain.
It was the late afternoon of 26th September, 1846. A rare thunderhead formed in the sky to the west, and by six o'clock that evening, horizontal sheet lightning streaked across the sky.
"The thunder roared in the most awful manner," one man at Fort Nisqually reported, "and its grandeur was greatly increased by the reverberations amongst the neighboring woods, which were set on fire in several places by the vivid flashes of lightning."

Now you might not know that ships such as the Fisgard were at great risk of lightning strikes in storms like this.
At this time, the Royal Navy ships had no defense against such dangers -- if a bolt of lightning struck the ship's mast, it could splinter the mast and send it tumbling to the decks.
A strike could kill a man; it could find the powder magazine and blow the entire ship out of the water, killing everyone aboard!

However, before she left London, the Fisgard had installed a new-fangled, untested, experimental lightning conductor consisting of copper rods, plates, and nails on the ships spars and hull.
No one really believed it would work, but as one observer said, "considering the grave number of ships which have been damaged or destroyed by lightning, it is not without considerable interest we witness and record such [events]."

So, a mile and a half from Fort Nisqually, the tall masts of the Fisgard jutted up toward the sky.
At 7:45 pm, a powerful bolt of lightning struck the ships main spar and shook the Fisgard to its core.
"A sudden report, as if many guns had gone off, threw all hands into the utmost consternation."
The crew watched the lightning follow the trail of copper down the mast -- those who were standing nearest the mast on the upper deck described the effect of the fluid-like "strike" as illuminating the mast with a most beautiful stream of purple light.
The bolt of lightning grounded in the sea, and left the ship undamaged.
When the Fisgard returned to London it was greeted with fanfare, largely due to the fact that she had beaten the lightning strike.
And so that is a piece of British history, made at Anderson Island.

James Tilton's 1855 map of Puget Sound and Washington Territory:
There is more to the Fisgard Story: When I visited Fort Nisqually in Point Defiance Park, the re-enactor, Lane, showed me a pile of maps and photographs that lay on the table in the Chief Factor's residence.
Amongst them was surveyor James Tilton's map of Puget Sound and Washington Territory, dated 1855.
Anderson Island was clearly indicated on the map, as was McNeil -- but Anderson Island was labelled "Fisgard," and McNeil, "Duntze."
John Alexander Duntze was the Captain of the British ship, Fisgard, when it was stationed off Anderson Island.

So who was this man, James Tilton?
Tilton was the surveyor General of Washington Territory, and arrived at Olympia in the spring of 1853.
I find to my shock that he is part of the Charles Mitchell story that recently hit the news in Victoria and Seattle.
Charles Mitchell was a young black slave owned by James Tilton: Mitchell was smuggled aboard the ship Eliza Anderson, and freed by the British fur traders at Fort Victoria.

Presumably when Surveyor James Tilton drew his map of the area in the mid-1850's, Anderson Island still carried the name of Fisgard Island (and McNeil, Duntze) and those are the names he put on his official map of the territory.
But Lieutenant Charles Wilkes had already officially named the islands Anderson and McNeil -- for Alexander Caulfield Anderson and William McNeill, the fur traders in charge of Fort Nisqually when he arrived there in 1841.
He must have gone east and then drawn the maps that contained the names that the American government officially adopted for those two islands.
Still, fifteen years after Wilkes was at Fort Nisqually, surveyor James Tilton drew his official map of Washington territory, and labelled the islands "Fisgard" and "Duntze."
When and how did Lieutenant Charles Wilkes' names for the two islands supersede James Tilton's labels? When and how did the new names (or older, I guess) reach the Puget Sound area, to be officially adopted by the American residents who lived there?

I am on Twitter, as you know, and I asked the question of a map researcher I was chatting to.
Through a contact she had she got me a copy of this map, labelled: Map of the Oregon Territory by the U. S. Exploring Expedition.
You can find it at this internet site, and at others:
It is on the Oregon History Project site -- but the best is under [google this]: "1850 map of the Oregon Territory [electronic resource]." You can pick the bottom of Puget Sound and enlarge it enough to see that this map does not name any of the islands there.
So this is not the map that labelled Anderson Island.

Next I took a quick look at "Map of Oregon and Upper California from the Surveys of John Charles Fremont and other authorities, drawn by Charles Preuss..." in 1848. Anderson Island is not named on that map either.
Finally I dug out Derek Hayes' book, Historical Atlas of British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest [Vancouver: Cavendish Books, 1999] which I have owned for many years.
On page 120 of this book, I found the answer, and this is what Derek Hayes has to say...
"Wilkes' Narratives of the United States Exploring Expedition was published in five volumes in 1844.
"Also published were a number of maps of the northwest, including one map of the whole Oregon Territory [this is the map I have spoken of, above].
"Another map was of the southern part of Georgia Strait (Map 200). Ringgolds Channel, named after one of Wilkes' Officers, is today's Rosario Strait.
"A map of the southern part of Puget Sound (Map 201) shows the site of today's Olympia."
It is Map 201 which clearly labels Anderson and McNeil Islands, and tells us that these two islands had their official names by 1844, when the book was published -- not that the locals, or even the Washington Territory government officials (ie, James Tilton), seemed to be aware of that fact.

But all this does not yet answer the question: how did Anderson Island also carry the name "Fisgard Island?
Who named it Fisgard -- was it James Tilton, or was it someone else?
A note in the "Washington Geographic Names," by Edmond S. Meany, tells us that Anderson Island "had at least two other names.
"The Inskip chart, 1846, shows it as Fisgard Island, after the British frigate which was on this station, 1844-1847. Inskip sought to carry the honor further by changing the name of McNeil Island to "Duntze Island" for Captain John Alexander Duntze of the frigate.
The Town of Steilacoom site says that "For the Americans, Lt. Charles Wilkes remapped the Sound area almost fifty years after Puget. The desire to Americanize the area showed itself in his renaming every feature after his American crew members and friends stationed in the area.
"The British replied quickly: R. A. Inskip's mapping mission came only five years later.
"Inskip kept the tradition of ignoring his forebears, and made a detailed chart with all-new names -- again mostly taken from his fellow British crewmembers."

A further search tells me that the Brit was named Robert A. Inskip, and he was here in 1846.
He named Anderson Island for the RN ship Fisgard, which was here -- and McNeil for Duntze, the Fisgard's captain.
In 1847 the name of McNeil Island was restored (and probably that of Anderson, too) -- but that occurred in England, and no one here knew that had happened.
It seems that either the British mariners, or perhaps even the fur traders at Nisqually, kept the old British names alive until the American surveyor James Tilton came here in 1855, to write them down.
Even that was temporary. At some point Lieutenant Wilkes' names took precedence and Fisgard Island officially became Anderson Island.
According to Hazel Heckman, author of Island in the Sound, as late as 1886, a baby named Betsy Johnson Cammon was born on what they called "Wallace Island."
So it's no wonder that Alexander Caulfield Anderson never knew that Anderson Island was named for him!

Anderson Island had a third name for a short period, when it was called "Wallace Island."
A note in the "Washington Geographic Names," by Meany, also says that Anderson Island has another name -- Wallace Island, in honor of Leander C. Wallace, who was killed by Snoqualmie Indians during their attack on Fort Nisqually in 1849.
I can tell you that story, as it is written in the Fort Nisqually Journals:
Wallace, presumably, had settled on what was then called, in some quarters, Fisgard Island.

On May 1849: "Tuesday 1st. Cloudy with strong SW breeze. About noon a large party of Snoqualmie & Skeywhamish [Skykomish] armed arrived & took up their position before the watergate, where they had an affray with our people, in which the American, Wallace was killed & Lewis slightly wounded one of the enemy was killed & another slightly wounded, the cause and commencement are nearly as possible as follows:
"As the horn blew for dinner a large party of Skeywhamish & Snoqualmie were reported to have arrived, our working & other Indians immediately commenced running into the Fort bringing with them their movables & when dinner was over a large party of them to the number of about a hundred, were observed advancing across the plain on the NW side of the Fort, when they arrived part went to Lahalet's lodge & the others (the greater part) gathered round the water-gate, where they were soon after rejoined by the others.
"On being asked the reason why they came in such numbers, and making such a warlike demonstration, they replied that they had heard that young Lahalet (who is married to a daughter of one of their petty [Petit or lesser] chiefs) was beating his wife brutally, and that they did not come with the intention of harming any of the whites.
"The Chief Patakynum was then invited into the Fort, and to the others were given tobacco to smoke in the pipe of peace, for which they retired to one of the deserted lodges.
"We took the precaution of placing two armed men at the gate, Thibeault & Gohome with orders to let none of them in.
"I also took My gun and knocked about our Indians, who in fear of the enemy, were engaged in sweeping out the fort.
"I had just taken round them when I heard a shot.
"I repaired immediately to the gate & learned that it had been fired by Gohome in jest.
"I reproved him for his carelessness & told him to take good care.
"Soon after I arrived at the gate, four or five of the worst Snoqualmies came rushing to the gate, provoked no [doubt], by the shot unguardidly fired by Gohome, one of our number.
"Copass, more forward than the rest, rudely pushed Gohome who was standing between the door posts into the Fort and took his place.
"I went to him & demanded why he did that for, and told him to keep quiet, but on answering only with insult, I put him out, upon which he cocked his gun & drew his dagger making two or three threats at me with it.
"Wren was standing a piece off at the time by the gate, he was called in.
"I called out to close the gate which was done, but finding Wren shut out, it was again opened.
"Wren upon Entering, seized one of their guns where upon a scuffled ensued, and the gun falling between the door & the Fort, prevented us from closing, during that time I observed Copass pointing his gun at me.
"I at once presented mine, and as I thought fired first ....
(But it is maintained by the friendly Indians outside that, one of the Snoqualmie, "Qullawowt," provoked by a blow given by Wren, with the butt end of the gun, to one of their chiefs, fired at him but missing, my shot followed. Which is the right way I can't be positive, the noise & excitement being too great.) [edited slightly for readability]
"I thought I fired first ... but missing him wounded another, a good many shots then followed, the gate closed, we took to the bastions, but our people taking some time to get armed (the affair being rather sudden) by the time they were at the stations, most of the enemy were out of shot, running away full speed across the plains toward their canoes.
"Patakynum who was in the Fort at the commencement of the row escaped after the closing of the gate, unperceived by none of our people, young Lahalet showing him the way.
"Wallace & Lewis were unfortunately standing outside when the affray commenced, they did not respond to the call of: "All hands come in and shut the gate" they perhaps thought themselves secure from harm as they were Americans, they did not belong to the Fort, if this was the case they were sadly mistaken.
"They were also beckoned in by Simmons & others there at the time, but unfortunately they either unheeded or did not perceive them.
"Copass is said to be the one that shot poor Wallace.
"Lewis escaped unhurt most wonderfully, one ball went through his vest & trousers, another slightly grazed his left arm.
"Segeass an Indian received a flesh wound in the neck by the ball meant for Wren.
"A Medicine Man, a Skeywhamish is the one killed, and a Snoqualmie wounded in the shoulder.

"We do not suppose that the War party came here with the purpose of attacking us, but think they had some other objective in view besides the affair with Lahalet, it was probably their design to kick up a row with the Fort Indians and then kidnap as many of the women & children as they could catch, and one circumstance also proves that they thought lightly of quarreling with the whites.
"When the tobacco was handed out to them Qullawowt asked Wren, if it was not poisoned, and one of the Indians would smoke until Wren had previously smoked & chewed the tobacco in their presence.
"A good many yarns are told of them by the Indians here, what they were saying & going to do, but it will be to no purpose to mention any here, being only Indian stories more lies than truth.
"The Snoqualmie & Skeywhamish are the terror of all the tribes south of the Soquamish, and tribes of the Sound would rejoice to see the above chastised by the whites, and would nearly assist if required.
"We sincerely hope they will soon get that chastisement they so richly deserve."

This was written in 1849 -- only a year and a half after the massacre at Waiilatpu.
The word "poison" rings a bell that the fur traders should have noticed, and perhaps did.
For more information on the Waiilatpu Massacre, go to the first of three posts -- you will read the word "poison" fairly often here:
Sunday, July 8, 2012 -- Waillatpu Mission, Summer to Fall 1847
First of three posts re: Waillatpu Massacre

Saturday, July 21, 2012 -- The Waillatpu Massacre, November 19, 1847, and finally:
Sunday, August 5, 2012 -- Peter Skene Ogden's rescue of the Waillatpu victims.

These can be a hard read: it was a brutal massacre. If you think you can't handle the middle section, please don't read it.
You might think this did not affect Fort Nisqually -- but it did.
It affected everyone in the fur trade. Even at the Thompson River post, hundreds of miles to the north, the Natives were talking about "poison."
And maybe that should be the title of my next book......

Monday, March 25, 2013

Alexander Caulfield Anderson at Fort Nisqually

I was invited down to Anderson Island, the bottom island in Puget Sound, to give a talk in front of the Anderson Island Historical Society.
As you may or may not know, this island sits west of Fort Nisqually, and was named for Alexander Caulfield Anderson.
Of course I combined the trip with a side-trip to the reconstructed Fort Nisqually: my first visit there and hopefully, not my last.
The reconstructed fort sits far north of its old location opposite Anderson Island, and is now located in Point Defiance Park, Tacoma.

Nor will it be my last visit to Anderson Island; we were treated very well there (which I will say in the next paragraph when I tell you what I said there).
But I will have to tell you now what I meant by "the parking spot of shame."

We followed the instructions given us and drove straight through Steilacoom on a road that led us straight to Union Avenue and the Anderson Island ferry dock.
We had our tickets, so when we saw the ferry line ups up the hill from where we were, we took a quick U-turn and headed up the hill.
My sister was driving. She dodged into the end of the first line of stopped cars.
This was a mistake!
The line started off almost immediately, and we passed cars that were sitting in a second line and realized that we had, inadvertently, "jumped" the line.
The ferry staff knew it too, and they pulled us over and made us wait next to the dock, while everyone loaded onto the ferry.
We were the last car allowed on the ferry, and as we drove on, the car deck employees were having some trouble holding their laughter.
We were the last off the ferry, too.

On Saturday, the Anderson Island resident invited us to a lunch at the Chicken Coop, where I had three reserved spots at three different tables.
I ate my lunch at one table, and then was moved to another where I talked to a batch of Anderson Island Historical Society members and executives.
At the third table I talked to writers and more executives -- it was a great way to talk to everyone and to meet everyone and to ask a lot of questions and get a few questions answered.
Of course this is when I heard the many stories of line-jumping on the ferry dock -- we were certainly not the only persons who accidentally (or intentionally) jumped the line!

Anyway, my talk now follows.
It was written to be 3/4 long, and to do this I had to leave many stories out.
Those stories will appear in the next post, in a week or so.

I began with -- Good evening, everyone, and thank you for coming out tonight.
We (my sister and I) have been treated very well here -- for the most part.
We did, inadvertently, jump the ferry line on our way onto the island, and spent a little time in the "parking spot of shame." [everyone laughed, even if they hadn't heard the story].

I am now going to tell you about my great grandfather, Alexander Caulfield Anderson.
He was a Hudson's Bay Company fur trader and explorer. Today, in British Columbia at least, he is mostly remembered for the four explorations he made across the mountains that separated the fort at Kamloops, from Fort Langley on the lower Fraser River.

However, those explorations took place in 1846 and 1847 -- five years or more after he left the area around Anderson Island.
And while that is British Columbia's history, what happened the year following those explorations is your American history. It is all connected with what happened at Fort Nisqually, when A. C. Anderson was here in 1840 and 1841.

So let me tell you Anderson's story.
I will tell you first a little about his childhood in India and London, and how he came to join the fur trade in 1831.
I'll talk about what happened whilst he was in charge of Fort Nisqually ten years later, and how this island got to be named for him.

Alexander Anderson was born in India, on March 10, 1814. His father, Robert Anderson, had made a mess of his military career in Australia and Tasmania, and rebuilt his life in British India as an indigo planter. By 1810 he was part owner of an indigo plantation near Ruttanpur, north of Calcutta -- the plantation was named Kishinaghaur.
Robert's partner's name was Alexander Gordon Caulfield -- and that is how Robert's third son came to be named Alexander Caulfield Anderson.

Robert [Alexander's father] was the seventh child of a commoner, a tenant-farmer named James Anderson, and his noble wife, Margaret Seton of Mounie Castle, Aberdeenshire.
How James managed to entice this foolish woman, who came from a wealthy family, to marry him I do not know. But after their marriage, James selfishly forced Margaret to abandon her inheritance and home, and to bring up his children in brutal poverty near Edinburgh.
Margaret Anderson died after giving birth to numerous children, all of whom then grew up in the indifferent care of their father, James.

Like father, like son, and Robert [A.C. Anderson's father] was also a man who was difficult to get along with. After making a small fortune in the indigo business at Kishinaghaur, Robert argued with his partner and returned to England with his wife and three sons -- a fairly wealthy man.

I then showed a picture of Alexander Caulfield Anderson's mother (which I don't have permission to post here), and said: Her maiden name was Eliza Charlotte Simpson, and she was the daughter of a high ranking East India Company official. Her father managed the Salsette Mint, near Bombay, and probably minted the gold coin that the East India Company used in India.

Robert and Eliza Anderson came to England from India with their three sons in 1817, and set up their family home in West Ham, an area in East London then inhabited by the gentry. It was still quite a rural community at that time.
Alexander was only three years old when he arrived in London, and so he grew up in West Ham, and attended services at the West Ham Church. Some of his brothers and sisters, who did not survive their childhood, are buried there.

Just north of West Ham, on Broadway, stood Rokeby House College, where Alexander and his two older brothers, Henry, and James, were sent to be schooled.
The boys received what they then called "a liberal education" -- an education that meant they studied culture and read books written by intellectuals, old and new.
Their father's receipt for the last year of the children's schooling, which is in the British Columbia archives, shows that the three boys also took elocution and dancing lessons. They were being trained to be gentlemen, not fur traders.

But wealth that is easily earned is often easily lost, and in London Robert Anderson continued to pursue business interests of his own. He invested much of his fortune in a rope manufacturing company owned, apparently, by his brother, and proceeded to lose his money.
About 1821 -- only 4 years after he had returned to England -- a retired Army officer who had known him in Australia met Robert on the London streets, and wrote of their meeting to a common friend:
"I conclude you have not forgotten Robert Anderson that was at Norfolk Island and went from thence to India.... He made a handsome fortune, say a capital to produce six or seven hundred a year from trading in Indigo. With this property he returned to England & not being satisfied he entered partnerships with a ropemaker who soon failed, whereby he lost pretty much [all his fortune] and he is now drudging along in that line with scarcely business enough to keep his wife & family, consisting of five or six children. I see him frequently & he inquires after you."

So, as a direct result of his father's gradual (or sudden) impoverishment, young Alexander was forced to abandon his schooling and take a job. This did not happen immediately, but he must have been only thirteen or fourteen years old when he began to clerk at the Leadenhall Street offices of Redman & Co., who, I believe, traded English goods in China, for Oriental teas and silks.
Alexander clerked there for some two and a half years, by which time he was old enough to make a decision on his future.
Harry, the eldest boy, entered the maritime section of the East India Company and worked on one of their ships, the Eden. Eventually he would captain his own vessel.
Several of Alexander's cousins chose careers in the British Army or the Army of the Honorable East India Company. One became famous. A second was assassinated in India and the third drowned off South Africa.
Alexander and his older brother, James, chose the fur trade -- a fairly unusual choice for gentlemen like them, but a choice made because their uncle, Alexander Seton, was heavily involved in business with a prominent member of the Board of Directors of the Hudson's Bay Company.
Alexander himself noted that he was drawn to the fur trade because of the rousing stories of American writer James Fennimore Cooper -- who wrote, among other books, The Last of the Mohicans.

So in 1831, Alexander came west for adventure. He was sixteen or seventeen years old when he set out on his life's journey, travelling by ship to Montreal.
He spent a long and boring eight months at Lachine, nine miles west of the city, where he apprenticed under the auspices of the elderly fur trader, James Keith -- a humourless man who an earlier apprentice had described as resembling a "dried spider."

In spring of 1832, Alexander boarded the brigade boats in Lachine and began his six-months long journey across the continent to Fort Vancouver [Vancouver, WA], via York Factory on Hudson Bay.
He arrived at Fort Vancouver in November 1831. In a letter to his uncle, he described his journey west, and the fort itself:
"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...
"This fort is finely situated on the Columbia River, and the soil is very fertile... 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."

From Fort Vancouver, Anderson was sent north to Fort McLoughlin, on the northwest coast of today's British Columbia [Bella Bella, BC]. He went on to Stikine River, in Alaska, and Fort Simpson, just south of the Alaska Panhandle. In 1835 he ended up with Chief Factor Peter Skene Ogden, at Fort St. James and Fraser's Lake, in New Caledonia.

Peter Skene Ogden was a very easy man to work for; tolerant, joking, friendly, trusting, and a very good fur trader. It was a perfect relationship, because Ogden both mentored his clerk, Anderson, and allowed him his freedom -- but in doing so, he set him up for Anderson's future failure at Fort Nisqually.
I don't have a lot of information about Anderson's five years at Fraser's Lake, but he had his share of adventures there. In 1837 he married, and his wife was Betsy Birnie, daughter of the fur trader James Birnie, founder-to-be of the Washington state town of Cathlamet, on the Columbia River west of Fort Vancouver.

Anderson wrote: "In the spring of 1840... I accompanied the outgoing brigade commanded by Mr. [Peter Skene] Ogden to Fort Vancouver, and in the autumn of that year was appointed to the charge of Fort Nisqually, on Puget Sound."

I then showed a picture of Chief Factor John McLoughlin, the man in charge of the entire Columbia district, and Alexander Anderson's superior at the Cowlitz Farm (where he spent a few months) and at Fort Nisqually.
Unlike Peter Skene Ogden, who micromanaged nothing, McLoughlin controlled all aspects of his fur trade. In later years, Anderson politely described McLoughlin as a "man of great force of character, somewhat domineering and of strong opinions."
McLoughlin's letters of instruction were numerous and always terse. For example, this is one note he wrote to Anderson at Fort Nisqually:
"Your ewes you will not allow any of the rams at your place get at them. Please send me an account of the number of sheep at Nisqually and if it does not cause too much delay as diligence ought to be used to send Mr. Arthur across I wish you would count the cattle and send the number at least you can send the number in the books, and let me know if the quantity of what [is] in the ground and how many ploughs you have fit for use."
Whatever McLoughlin ordered done was done, without question, and no deviation from his instructions was allowed, unless there was a very good reason for it.
Of course, Anderson, who had matured in the relaxed and tolerant atmosphere of the New Caledonia fur trade under Peter Skene Ogden, ran into trouble with Chief Factor McLoughlin.
He received one or two dozen of McLoughlin's letters before he snapped, and wrote an angry response.

The letter Anderson wrote no longer exists!
But Chief Trader James Douglas read it, and rebuked Anderson for his hot-tempered response.
Douglas wrote: "I have read your letter to Dr. McLoughlin and do not approve of the warm expostulatory style, which I regret is neither proper nor respectful.
"It was never, my dear Sir, Dr. McLoughlin's intention to question the propriety of your general conduct -- he merely inquired as a matter of justice equally to himself and to you, why certain specific orders had not been followed to the letter, and I certainly think you would have acted a much wiser part, had your reply to a requisition so simple, been given in a more courteous way...
"We hear of trifling deviations from orders, now there can be no such things as a trifling deviation, for whether in trivialities or in grave matters, the principle in question is, in both bases, equally endangered and equally outraged...."

And so Anderson learned, the hard way, to obey all orders given to him, and think his time at Fort Nisqually was a difficult time for him.
I believe that when young Anderson arrived in the Columbia district he was pretty cocky; a confident young man with a very high opinion of himself.
He was about twenty seven years old -- in the youthful prime of his life and still young enough to imagine he would accomplish great things.
But life in the fur trade under Chief Factor John McLoughlin knocked that cockiness out of him, and he was a different man in later years.

So Anderson remained, unhappily, in charge of Fort Nisqually for the winter, and in the early spring, James Douglas addressed a second letter of advice, or of complaint, to him.
Douglas said: "I am informed that it has been said within the circle of Batchelor's Hall that you are unpopular with the Indians of Nisqually. Without reference to the truth of this rumour I wish to caution you against the exercise of any considerable severity towards the Natives.
"In assuming a new charge it has always been my study to act with the utmost circumspection, until I became fairly established in the opinion of the Indians.
"Then but never sooner, I would begin to lecture and reform abuses, having recourse, if necessary to the infliction of moderate punishment, but I always did so with apparent reluctance....."

James Douglas had hardly been successful in his own negotiations with the Natives while he was in New Caledonia.
In addition to this, Douglas had been situated at Fort Vancouver for many years now, and was probably unaware of what had been happening in distant New Caledonia, under Peter Skene Ogden.
Ogden, and the fur traders who worked under him, had forcibly shut down the old "debt system" which had existed in New Caledonia.
Under that system, the Natives had received guns and ammunition every fall, which they paid for in the spring when they brought in their furs.
But many Natives never brought in furs to pay down their debts, and so the fur traders forced the hunters to trade furs for guns and traps in the fall, and to make payment on their old debts every spring.

Of course, the Natives objected.
Anderson described the Dakelh at Fraser's Lake as "a peaceful race, yet ... subject to violent though transitory outbursts of passion." Probably he witnessed a few violent outbursts of anger over the four years it took to make such a major change to the fur trade.
The Dakehl hunters who traded at the Fraser's Lake post, and the T'silhquot'in that lived to the south, had earned a reputation for being difficult.
At this time, the T'silhquot'in, especially, caused so much trouble that Ogden ordered the temporary closure of the post that served them.

But that was in New Caledonia. Here in the Columbia district, and at Fort Nisqually, that debt system had never existed.
There was no need to be forceful with the Natives -- but I think that Anderson had to learn that, and it was a difficult transition for him to make.
He had arrived at Fort Nisqually when the man in charge [William Kittson] was too sick to train him.
He was an absolute stranger in this part of the world, and to these Natives, who were quite different from those in the north.
Yes, he made some errors. Many errors, in fact.

But Anderson was stuck at the first of the two Fort Nisquallys -- a place that has been described by people who knew its history well, as the "armpit" of the fur trade. No fur trader yet had advanced his career at this post.
Anderson must have considered the possibility that his fur trade career would take the same downhill tracks as others' had done, at this miserable and rotting fort.
But he continued his work at Nisqually.
And because he stayed at old Fort Nisqually, he became a part of a very important piece of history.

On May 11th, 1841, Alexander Anderson reported to the governor of the Company that "Nisqually Bay was enlivened by the arrival of the Vincennes and Porpoise, two of the vessels attached to the United States Exploring Expedition, under Lieutenant Charles Wilkes.
Their story is told in the book, Sea of Glory, by Nathaniel Philbrick [NY: Viking, 2003], and the red-coat that Wilkes describes is Alexander Caulfield Anderson.

In another book, titled Puget's Sound, author Murray Morgan describes the first meeting of Lieutenant Wilkes, leader of the expedition, and Alexander Anderson -- as you know, at this time Oregon Territory was jointly occupied by the British fur traders and the Americans, though there were few Americans here yet.

Morgan wrote: "For the first time, British and American officials faced each other on the water their countries coveted. Alexander Canfield Anderson, the slight, thoughtful chief trader at Nisqually, and Henry McNeill, the burly, short-tempered captain of the Beaver, introduced themselves to Wilkes. They promised the Americans "all the assistance in their power" or, Wilkes added skeptically in his journal, "at least that was their offer. A few days will show the extent of it."

You will notice that the above author incorrectly listed Anderson's name. Still, Morgan's research was good -- on his Donation Land Claim papers, taken out in the early 1850's, Anderson was listed as "Alexander Canfield Anderson."

According to one of Wilkes' expeditioners, the Fort Nisqually stockade was oblong-shaped 200 x 250 feet, of "upright posts eight to ten feet high, at each corner a Sentry Box or house large enough to hold fifteen or twenty persons, perforated with holes of sufficient size to admit the muzzle of a musket."
A second crewmember reported that: "the site was never chosen by an Engineer or wasn't calculated to stand a siege, as its inmates are compelled to go nearly a mile to get their water..." He noted, too, that the Stockade "was falling to decay and they are about to build another in a better site," further north and closer to the farm and dairy.
One of Wilkes' men also described Anderson at work, trading for furs:
"I found Mr. Anderson busily employed in trading for a few skins just brought in by the natives; though the value of the whole could have been only 10 or 15 dollars, much time was occupied and many pipes smoked before the bargain was concluded. I was informed that furs of all kinds were every year becoming more scarce and that the prices were also slightly increasing."

So, the hundreds of members of the United States Exploring Expedition arrived at run-down Fort Nisqually in May, 1841. They built a log house they called the "observatory" on a hill near the fort, and stored their instruments there.
In short order Lieutenant Wilkes organized surveying parties. The ships' boats set off to explore and survey the coastline, and in their coastal charting they named many of these islands and straits for the American sailors and scientists on the expedition.
Others they named for the fur traders at Fort Nisqually. McNeil Island was named for William Henry McNeill, Captain of the Beaver, while Anderson Island was named for Alexander Caulfield Anderson.

Did Anderson have any idea the island was named for him? I don't think he did.
I am not even aware that Anderson set foot on Anderson Island.
He never wrote about it and never included on any of his maps -- not even the 1858 Guide to the Goldfields.
I'm not sure the other fur traders ventured over to Anderson Island either; but I do know that when the fort was being constructed in the early 1830's, that they built their chimneys from clay that was obtained from the island.

Anyway, in May 1841, the first group of Americans had taken off in  their boats to chart the islands.
Two other groups would borrow horses from the Natives and explore the interior of the then Oregon Territory.
Wilkes himself took the easier of two explorations; he headed south to Fort Vancouver, where he met Chief Factor McLoughlin, and the governor of the Company who had just arrived there.
He also visited the Willamette Valley, where the few Americans who had already come west to Oregon had settled. The valley impressed him. The Americans did not.
He travelled to the mouth of the Columbia River and saw the waves that blocked its entrance. He realized then that the United States needed to claim Puget Sound as theirs, for its excellent navigation and safe waters.

The second exploring party arranged for horses and guides so they could cross the range of mountains east of Fort Nisqually (by Natches Pass) on their way to Yakima River and Fort Colvile.
By May 18th they were finally ready to hit the road -- history says they were the first white men to go over the pass, although their French-Canadian guide had probably been there before them.
Certainly they were the first Americans to travel this dreadful route to the interior, and they had a tough time. One expeditioner noted that: "A sailor on shore, is as a Fish out of Water."

While the Americans were away from Fort Nisqually on their various perambulations through the country, one of the American scientists on the ships described the Meteor shower that occurred above Puget Sound, on May 31st, 1841:
"At ten minutes past 8 o'clock pm, a meteor of immense magnitude and brilliancy shot across the havens in a north-west direction, illuminating the heavens to such an extent that there was a resemblance to a sheet of fire, till it nearly reached the horizon, when it exploded, sending off myriads of coruscations in every direction.
"When it first commenced its flight, it was exceedingly slow in its descent, but as it increased its distance towards the horizon, it increased its velocity considerably, until it burst. Many old seamen on board never witnessed a meteor half so large, nor one whose light remained so long visible. From the time it was first seen until it entirely disappeared, was one hour and twenty five minutes."

At the end of June, Lieutenant Wilkes and his men returned to Fort Nisqually. On July 5th, the American sailors celebrated the Fourth of July.
First they obtained an ox from Fort Nisqually, and barbecued it all night on a spit in the meadow where they planned to have their party.
Early the next morning, they fired their brass howitzers twenty six times -- one time for each state of the Union.
"The reports of the guns not only astonished the natives," one of the expeditioners remembered, "but waked up the red-coats in the fort, who came running up to the observatory with the Indians, nearly out of breath, to enquire the cause of the racket.
"We pointed to our country's flag, which was so proudly waving in the breeze over the observatory.
"They then called us a crew of crazy Americans."

At nine o'clock or so the American sailors, dressed in their whites, marched toward the old fort with fife and drum in lead, and gave the British fur traders a loud three cheers. The Brits cheered back, and the sailors were quite amused that there were only three or four men inside the fort to return their cheer.

They marched to the picnic ground [American Plains] near the missionary station, where everything was ready for their celebration.
The sailors raced across the prairie on horses borrowed from the Indians; others played football or cornerball and some danced on a door to the music of the fiddle. The Nisqually Natives, apparently confounded by the music that came from this tiny box with strings, examined the instrument carefully to figure out how it could make such a racket.
Speechmaking began in the early afternoon, when the sergeant of marines read the Declaration of Independence out loud.
Dinner was finally piped in at four, and Wilkes said: "All the officers present dined with me -- Mr. Anderson, Capt. McNeill & Dr. Richmond, Missionary. All seemed to enjoy themselves and I gave them as good chow as the Oregon Territory afforded."

Less than a week after that feast, Alexander Anderson accompanied Wilkes on a visit to the Shutes River, intending, Wilkes said, "to visit the Bute Prairies, for the purpose of examining them."
The Bute Prairies is now the Mounds Prairie -- or Mima Mounds, near Olympia.
They sent horses ahead to meet them at the bottom of the Sound, and took to the boats to row to the mouth of Deschutes Creek, at the bottom of West Bay.
"An early start on the 10th of June brought us to the falls by 11 o'clock," Wilkes reported. "The weather had become disagreeable with rain showers... This Arm is about 9 miles deep and the Shutes River falls with its head down a fall of some 65 feet in height. It is here about 10 feet wide and 2 feet deep, it forms a basin of 50 feet diameter at its foot from which the land rises and makes a cool pleasant retreat in summer."

Anderson and Wilkes continued on to the prairie with two men with shovels and pickaxes.
 "The path is an Indian trail & everywhere overgrown with alders &c from 12 to 15 feet high. Pitched our tents & made fires & then chose the Butes which we desired to open, 3 of which were dug into..."
Both Anderson and Wilkes were curious about these mounds, and tried to determine whether or not they were burial sites. As we know now, they are not [although no one really seems to know how these seven-foot tall mounds occurred].
"No kinds of articles, bones, or anything was found in them," Wilkes reported.
"The Indians have no tradition respecting them whatever..... Having finished our examination, I determined to return to my part at the falls, and accordingly parted with my friend, Mr. A., who intended to return to Fort Nisqually," with his employees.

But back at Fort Nisqually, trouble was brewing for Anderson.
At this time, Fort Nisqually was very cramped, with many farm and fur trade buildings crowded inside the palisades of the fort.
Both Anderson and Captain William Henry McNeill, and their families, lived in the same house -- at least when McNeill was on shore from his ship, the Beaver.
It can't have been pleasant, especially when it appears that the two men did not get along well.
The Captain was a burly man with a fierce temper -- a carrier of grudges, who reported on Anderson behind his back to Chief Factor John McLoughlin.

On June 5th, 1841, McNeill wrote that: "Very little fur makes its appearance at this place however I have seen some Beaver brought here and taken away again."
On August 4th, he reported: "On the 2nd ulto Mr. Anderson and Andrew [sic] St. Martin had a quarrel together. I did not ascertain at the time the real cause of the dispute but have since learned that it was about some order that st. Martin did not execute cheerfully or with dispatch. St. Martin came to me today and said he would not remain at the place....."

In early September, when the HBC governor, George Simpson, arrived at the fort on his whirlwind tour around the world, Captain McNeill complained directly to him.
As a result, Simpson wrote a note to McLoughlin, stating: "I learn from Captain McNeill that the Indians usually frequenting this place are in a very disaffected state, arising from Mr. Anderson's want of popularity, & as his recent conduct in reference to St. Martin has been exceedingly unpopular, both Mr. Douglas and myself, likewise Captain McNeill consider it advisable that a change of management should immediately take place."

Anderson was not at the fort at the time, and he would not return home for another month. He had gone across the Natches Pass to collect a herd of cattle that were being sent from Forts Nez Perces and Colvile, to Fort Nisqually.
I "crossed the Canada Range over the North West shoulder of Mt. Rainier by the Sanahamish (now known, I think, as the Natchess Pass)," he wrote.
I "followed an Indian trail, expending a good deal of labour in parts to render it passable for our return. Met the parties conducting the cattle low down on the Yakima River (on the Swanapum branch)."
I "left the great portion of the party to herd the cattle near the verge of the mountains so as to recruit [others to help]. Returned to Nisqually with one man to procure provisions and further assistance."
We "met the party, and returned with them bringing the cattle through to the Nisqually Plains with some loss by strays on the way, some of which, if not most of them, probably afterwards reached the same locality, following on the trail of the herd."

In October 1841, Anderson arrived at Fort Nisqually to find the letter that Simpson had written one month earlier. It read:
"For a variety of reasons which it may not be necessary to detail at present, I think a change of management here is likely to be advantageous in several points of view."
I don't know if Anderson was relieved, or worried.
He writes that, "In October I had orders to proceed to Vancouver."
He packed up his belongings and spent the winter at Fort Vancouver under John McLoughlin's disapproving eye.
In the Spring he took the York Factory express across the continent to Hudson Bay, and back to the Columbia.
It must have been a tough journey -- after he left York Factory, the bitchy, gossiping Chief Factor's wife wrote this of him:
"The gentlemen here are too apt to thrash and indeed point their guns at their men and Mr. Anderson, who came across from Vancouver last spring was so detested that they confessed that if he had fallen into the river not one would have held out a stick to him."

We don't really know what happened at Fort Nisqually, but the voyageurs he travelled with did know, and I think they gave him a very hard time.
On his return to the west side of the mountains, Anderson left the express at Fort Colvile (near Spokane) and rode north and west to take charge of Fort Alexandria, New Caledonia.

I think he had some hard lessons to learn at Fort Nisqually, but he learned them.
In the following years Donald Manson, at Fort St. James, dealt regularly with argumentative employees who tried to abandon the fur trade -- and often managed to do so. Anderson never had much problem with his employees.
While he was in charge of Fort Colvile his employees remained until their contracts were finished, even though the California gold rush was in full swing at the time.
So Anderson learned a lot at Fort Nisqually, and I believe his time there was pivotal -- at least in his personal history.
What happened here might have disappointed him. He may have felt as if he was a failure.
But what happened here changed him, and taught him to be a better man.

He did his most important work after he left Fort Nisqually.
I have already told you that in 1847 and 1847, Anderson made four important explorations across the mountains that separated Kamloops from Fort Langley, on the lower Fraser River.
What happened after he discovered his two possible brigade trails is important, and it is tied to the time when both Anderson and Wilkes were at Fort Nisqually.
On Lieutenant Wilkes' return to the east, he published a book called "Life in the Oregon Country before the Immigration."
This publication encouraged the Americans to come west, and they came by the thousands every year afterward.
In 1847 it appears they brought the measles with them.
The measles spread rapidly amongst the Natives on the Columbia River and killed thousands of them.
The hard-hit Cayuse tribe blamed the missionaries at the Waiilatpu Mission, near Walla Walla, for the many deaths in their villages.
They swarmed into the mission house and murdered the missionary, his wife and a dozen other Americans.
(For more on this massacre, see link at bottom of page. But read the rest first.)
The massacre set off a massive war that closed down the Columbia River to the fur traders and forced them to come out over one of Anderson's unfinished trails.
The first journey out was an unmitigated disaster -- the second year they tried the other trail Anderson had explored and the journey proved to be better.
By the third year Anderson's trail was proving its worth, by bringing the fur traders out to Fort Langley from Kamloops without many difficulties at all.

And so, you can see that Anderson was here, at Fort Nisqually, at a pivotal time in American history, when Lieutenant Charles Wilkes first saw the beautiful and sheltered waters of Puget Sound and decided to keep them in American hands.
Anderson left Fort Nisqually in time to mature enough to be the man the fur trader chose to explore for the new trails they thought they might need, when the boundary finally went through.
And in 1848, when the massacre of the Waiilatpu Missionaries and the resulting Indian wars closed down the Columbia River to the fur traders, Anderson's rough trails were already in place and available to them.
As miserable as he was at Fort Nisqually, he grew up enough to become the man the fur trade depended on.
And so, Fort Nisqually, and Lieutenant Charles Wilkes' visit, is a very important part of Alexander Caulfield Anderson's story.

For more on the Waillatpu Massacre, see THREE posts beginning with: "Waiilatpu Mission, Summer to Fall 1847 [July 8, 2012]
1st of Waiilatpu Mission posts

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Fur Trade Farming, at Fort Alexandria

Farming was a very important part of the fur trade under Governor George Simpson, and every fort had a garden that grew its own food. Hungry fur traders did little work, of course, and shipping sacks of flour and other foodstuffs up the brigade trail from Fort Colvile or Fort Vancouver was not an option. So, whether they liked it or not, fur traders in New Caledonia (northern British Columbia) had to garden.
Some gardens were more successful than others, and while Alexander Anderson was in charge of Fort Alexandria, New Caledonia, his gardens and grain crops were for the most part, very successful.
He wrote about the harvesting schedule many years later in one of his manuscripts, and I have taken this from his son's Memoirs.
Anderson is writing this long after he left the fur trade and sometime after the colony of British Columbia was a fact:

"As the best criterion of the productive powers of British Columbia," he wrote, "I will cite some of the statistics of the Hudson's Bay Company's farm attached to the post of Alexandria, conducted under my own supervision for six years succeeding 1842.
"[In April] Wheat, Barley and Oats were sown in the order mentioned as fast as the ground was prepared; fall wheat having of course been sown the preceding autumn.
"Immediately following, potatoes were planted, generally about the beginning of May. Late in June or the beginning of July refreshing thunder showers, lasting sometimes at intervals for a week or ten days, afforded a favourable opportunity for sowing turnips which the heat afterwards brought on with great rapidity.
"The remainder of time till the commencement of harvest was occupied in attending to the gardens and green crops and laying in a stock of hay for the winter.
"Fall wheat was less to be depended upon than  the Spring variety, for the reason that, if frost came on before the fall of snow, the expansion of the surface soil was apt to unroot the growing grain.
"The crops securing during the years I have mentioned were invariably good. I have witnessed forty bushels of the finest spring wheat threshed from the produce of a measured acre (Canadian) of sixty yards square. The yield of barley was invariably heavy; that of oats good, considering the inferior variety we cultivated. All the culinary vegetables throve well....

"The amount of crop thus annually raised was generally about five hundred bushels of wheat, several hundred of barley and oats, and a thousand or twelve hundred of potatoes besides a large quantity of turnips and a sufficiency of the vegetables usually produced in the Kitchen garden. To grind our wheat we had a small portable mill with stones two feet in diameter. This mill of American manufacture was bought at Fort Vancouver on the Columbia [Vancouver, WA], taken up the Columbia by water to Okinagan and thence packed on horse back, piece meal, to its destination. The mill itself was well made and efficient, but the driving gear constructed at Alexandria was a marvellous piece of workmanship. In those days of make-shifts and dove-tailing, of means and appliances to turn a Canadian voyageur into a millwright was nothing. Hence our mill, of which by the way we were very proud, rumbled round in a most eccentric manner. It did its work though, but with a wondrous strain upon the poor horses who tugged the unwieldy machine around. The flour thus produced was of excellent quality and tasted all the sweeter, I doubt not, as being the result of our own exertions.

"I have talked however of a thing that was. All, I am informed, has since been suffered to fall into decay; and the little farm on what I used to pride myself has passed away, ...even the very cocks and hens have vanished, and if the mill remains, it must be as the mere ghost of its former imperfect self -- a sad memento of the past."

So, we will now go to the Fort Alexandria journals and see what Alexander Caulfield Anderson had to say about the farming and harvesting of crops under his care. For those of you who do not know where Fort Alexandria was -- it stood on the banks of the Fraser River north of Soda Creek and Williams Lake, and well south of Quesnel and Prince George.

Anderson arrived at Alexandria on Sunday November 13th, 1842, so there was little that he could have done for a few months. His first post in the journal said this:
"Monday 21st. Fair and mild. Despatched Mr. Donald McLean for Chilcotins on Saturday last, with Linneard & Marineau & sundry goods & prov[ision]s as per Blotter. Horses as per do. The men are to return immediately, as likewise the horses, except two which are to remain for the drouines to Thleuz-cuz, and a filly for the trade. Three men off for a raft of firewood, as the river is again free of ice. Dubois and another making a travail, hauling timber &c. Gendron, cook -- Trudelle lost the day looking for a horse. The men making a working utensil. Michel Ogden & an Indian boy securing the barley from the deprivation of the rats, and clearing out the accumulation of shavings from beneath the flooring of the carpenter shop. I'm out of breath with this long enumeration and shall in the future confine my remarks to general topics. Meanwhile, I may state that most of the natives about this place, after a little persuasion, are about to depart on a marten hunting excursion. Gave Whaletah his annual present." [B.5/a/5, fo. 33, HBCA]

For many months after this journal entry the only farming that went on was the hauling of hay the fields at Stonia Lake to the barns near the fort. In early 1843 they had 21 barn loads in all -- we don't know the size of the cart that was used to haul in the hay, but I doubt it was a large wagon. I do know they were short of hay that year. In short order there was none to feed the cattle, which were put out on the grasslands around the fort to feed.

Unfortunately in spring 1843 Anderson went to Fort St. James to take charge of the place during Peter Skene Ogden's absence. He would return to Alexandria on April 26th, when Donald McLean, who was in charge in his absence, wrote, "Commenced sowing the wheat received from Colvile, 4 bushels sown at the lower field near the barn."
A day later he "set a Turkey hen on 13 eggs, and a domestic hen on 15. Evening cloudy with light showers. 9 1/2 bushels wheat sown."
On Friday: 'Men of the establishment are variously employed. Lenniard, LeFevre, Theriouax & Indian ploughing, harrowing & rolling wheat." On Saturday "a brood of chickens hatched, most of them lived but a short time."
On Monday May 1st, "The New Caledonia brigade of 24 men, under charge Mr. A.C. Anderson, started for the Columbia ...This post is now left with 4 man, including the cooks, for the summer. Men of the establishment busy getting seed into the ground, 30 bushels wheat." Tuesday: "Set 3 hen turkeys on 39 eggs, 20 also Domestic hens, our chickens I am sorry to say do not get on well. Men variously employed ploughing, harrowing, sowing &c."

On the 25th of May, 1843, Anderson returned to the fort and took charge of the post journal again. "Gendron, who is cook &c, at leisure intervals is employed planing boards. Theriouac wheels. The rest finished yesterday the fence on the way to the Barn.... Today Lefevre & Wentrel hauling pickets with 5 horses. Michel Ogden with Laframboise & Marten, two Indian lads engaged for the summer, digging out stumps in new ground contiguous to fort. Today was warm; but for two or three days preceding the weather was extremely boisterous & ungenial with wind at N."

In June, Michel Ogden planted turnip [seeds?] near the barn, about half an acre, and the rest was sown near the fort. In mid June the men were "hoeing earth round potatoes in garden, which are now long enough." On the 19th they "transplanted some cabbages, lettuces and Swede Turnips at garden at little river.... Our crops are thriving."
In early July Anderson noted that "our potatoes & turnips which have been duly thinned & hoed are thriving well. The barley is earing fast." By the 19th, "Wheat in ear and flowering, barley the same; but oats, except a little near the barn, yet closed." There is not yet any mention of corn, but I know it was sometimes planted at Fort Alexandria.

At the end of July, Anderson reported that: "Yesterday there was a heavy thunder shower, and again this afternoon -- a circumstance which will tend to retard our hay making; but I trust fine weather will soon reappear. Quebec and Gendron arranged (or I should rather say made) three cradles, which I intend to employ for harvesting our grain. The barley is ripening fast, and should the weather prove favorable, will be fit to cut in ten days or a fortnight. Lefevre and his companion having carted sufficient grass, as I suppose, for roofing the barn, now begin to transport a quantity for the purpose of re-roofing our boat-shed which was partially uncovered last winter as a last resort to save the lives of our starving cattle. Linneard, Tout Laid & an Indian lade making hay. M. Ogden taking care of calves &c about the fort." August 1st: "Gendron after milking cattle, having breakfast &c, set out with Thirouac to commence covering the barn."

On Wednesday Anderson describes the fields of grain: "Our wheat is thriving well, but the heavy rains of Sunday & Monday have crushed down some patches in those fields where the straw is longest. Some of the wheat, I should state, was six feet high & upwards; but this remark applies to that sown in good new soil only. That sown upon some patches of old worn out soil is feeble [as] might of course be expected. Generally, however, the [fields] present a most luxuriant & encouraging appearance."

On the 7th of August the men are still covering the boat shed with grass, and "Linneard came down from the hay this evening, the whole being now cut. Lefevre & the Indian lads remain today & stack what is still on the ground." On the 11th, "Two men cutting barley, of which a small load was housed today. Rain interrupted their harvesting for a few days, and the incoming brigade arrived at the fort which took everyone away from the farming duties.

By the 29th of August, Anderson wrote that: "... the weather has been favorable for our harvest & the men have been occupied at it without cessation (except of course, the Sabbath). Today, however, the foul weather interrupts our purpose. 800 sheaves of wheat are housed. The [remainder] cut is for the most part in stooks up on the fields. One half of our wheat is now reaped, but our limited [resources] do not admit of our carrying on operations as we might wish. Men variously occupied excavating a cavereau [an ice-box], preparing a thrashing floor &c."

In early September Anderson reported that: "[Montigny] & Marineau... carting barley of which 10 cart loads were brought home, of about 50 large sheaves each. The others tying wheat. Yesterday at noon the reapers finished the largest piece of wheat & continued at the barn. Today not reaping, being considerably in advance of the tyers [women & children who were tying the wheat?]. ...Threatening weather, with occasional drops of rain but nothing material." Two days later they "finished cutting our barley of which the crop is so copious as to fill our boatshed with the exception of ten feet vacant at each end, say about 40 good cart loads, of 50 sheaves each, more or less."

[The boatshed, by the way, sheltered the brigade boats over the summer and was emptied when the incoming brigade took the boats upriver to Fort St. James.]

Problems always occurred. Tuesday 5th: "Cutting wheat at barn. Unfortunately one of the wheels of Linneard's cart got broken, through the upsetting of the cart. This about noon, the vehicle was laid by & Marineau continued alone. Montigny & Indians shearing wheat & M. Ogden pulling up pease [vetch?]. Thirouiac & afterwards Linneard reaping. Having finished the barn patch of wheat, they began upon a piece of oats. The other piece of wheat, though well advanced and in parts perfectly ripe, may be suffered to wait a few days without injury."

The next morning Linneard repaired the wheel. By this time the boathouse held "..38 1/2 loads contained in one side of barn, being full to the summit... 49 loads now housed of 70 sheaves or more per load. Continued cutting the evening, Oats, &c." On Friday, 8th of September, Marineau took in the remainder of the large field of wheat. "This, with one half of the patch near the barn, fills the barn -- say 72 loads in all. Afterwards all hands at the other wheat fields. The oats are sheaved and stooked."

The Fort Alexandria men sheaved the last of the wheat in mid September, and on the 18th, "Linneard & others making a stack of white wheat opposite back door of barn, it having been lodged temporarily under cover in the thrashing space of barn. The stack, which is unfinished, is covered with oil cloths in case of foul weather during the night." Anderson's attention then turned to the trading for fish which also brought in food that would feed the men over the winter.

At the end of August he inventoried the harvest for that year:
"Total of wheat &c Harvest 1843 -- 40 cartloads Barley (50 large sheaves each)
93 loads white, 6 loads red -- 104 cartloads Wheat (50 large sheaves each)
12 loads Oats (with still more to come. They housed the last of their oats on the last day of September).
60 Bushels Potatoes (660)

There was a long break in his journal at this time. Anderson's journal began on about the 20th of April, 1844, when he wrote:
"Want of ink has interrupted my journal for a time but now by the arrival of Marineau from Colvile, I have received a supply.... The men have been busily occupied for the last week at the farm & today, 19th, we harrowed in and rolled the last of our wheat, say 23 1/4 bushels ... occupying all our disposable land. There were 30 bushels last year; but as the seed was very poor it was sown considerably thicker. The extent of land [remains] the same, but the crops were shifted."

And so the cycle of farming begins again in April, 1844. On the 22nd they are sowing oats at the barn. A day later they finished harrowing & rolling all the grain, having sown 24 1/2 bushels of wheat. By the 30th of April they finished planting their potatoes. On the 1st of May Lenniard is working in the garden, while others are grinding wheat.

But 1844 would prove to be a cold and backward season, at least for a few weeks. On the 9th of May, 1844, Anderson noted that: "Our oats in the lower fields sown about a month ago, have been so much inured by the inclemency of the weather" including hard overnight frosts, "that much of the grain will, I fear, not recover. Accordingly I today got part of the two fields resown with the remainder of our oats -- say 5 1/2 bushels, leaving those parts least injured by the frost to take their chance."

One of the difficulties of farming in the fur trade was that most of the Fort Alexandria men went out with the brigade every summer to Fort Vancouver [Vancouver, WA.], and returned home about the middle of August. Though it was always a necessary task, keeping up with the farming was almost impossible to do when only four men remained at the fort. The women and children were put to work, and everyone at the fort did their share of the farm work. Still, it was heavy and hard work, and often interrupted by other work that also had to be done. In September 1844, Anderson noted in his journal that "with this scanty complement [of men] I can, it is true, manage to scramble through; but it cannot be expected that I shall be able to prosecute the farm with that spirit which can alone ensure success." A more telling complaint is, perhaps, this one:

"With our multifarious operations at this place it is a difficult matter to go on regularly with any particular job. Like drunken men, we make one step forward & then a half-halt in arrears. I cannot help it."

I think that says it all.

I get a lot of questions through this blog sometimes, and some of them are very interesting questions. One reader told me about potatoes, and so I researched the kinds of potatoes that were grown at the fur trade forts: specifically Fort Vancouver.
If you want more information on that subject, find my blog posting, "Potatoes at Fort Alexandria." You might find the post by goggling that name exactly. However, if that does not work, then go to Fur Trade Family History (this blog) and find the posting for the date Sunday, August 14, 2011 -- "Potatoes at Fort Alexandria."
Or try this link: (live link below)
Potatoes at Fort Alexandria

As I told you a while ago I was also asked about Indian corn being planted at Fort Alexandria, and I did finally find it mentioned. Father Nobili, who passed through the fort on various occasions, wrote that he saw fields of many kinds of Indian corn.
Here, now, is the Fort Alexandria journal posting that is relevant to that occasion:
Because of missing pages, it is hard to tell the exact date this was written. It is probably Monday 4th May, 1845:
"Finishing putting in our seed grain, say in all as under:
29 wheat, 15 Barley, 10 Oats -- Some Pease & Indian corn (for summer use only)."

And so, by the skin of my teeth I was able to confirm that, Yes, Pere Nobili saw Indian corn at Fort Alexandria. It was planted every spring and eaten over the summer months and, so, never mentioned in the harvests of Fort Alexandria.