Sunday, July 14, 2013
I have been speaking of Fort Langley and Ovid Allard, so let me tell you a few more stories about the man and the place, collected from various resources including the writing of local historian Bruce McKelvie, and James Robert Anderson, son of A.C.Anderson.
So here we go, from Mss 001, B.A. McKelvie, BCA, Box 24:
Jason the Fleece Hunter, by Jason Allard, Chapter 3
"My father, Ovid Allard, was a remarkable man in many ways. Although he entered the service of the great fur trading organization at the age of seventeen he had attained a grounding in classical education and useful arts that was uncommon with the majority of young men enlisted in the service from the Canadas. It was customary in those times to recruit the "gentlemen" in Scotland and England, and to engage the "servants" in the Canadas or from the Metis of Rupert's Land....
"It was in 1834 that Ovid Allard and Donald McLean, who was later to achieve prominence as a trader and eventually die in the Chilcotin War, joined the Hudson's Bay Company's service, appending their names to a formidable document that bound them to serve, day or night, and in any part of the continent where the company might direct. For forty years, until his death in 1874, Ovid Allard never faltered in that obligation -- and never once in that time did he revisit his boyhood home....
"It was with high hopes of rising in the company of such men that Ovid Allard and Donald McLean set out from Montreal on their great adventure. the next four years they were constantly on the move. Now at fort Garry; now on the Saskatchewan; now on an expedition to strange tribes in search of new sources of fur supply -- all over the Prairies they wandered, from Hudson's Bay to the Rocky Mountains, and from the sub-Arctic region to the Missouri. They were among those who constructed the fort where Boise, Idaho, now stands, and traveled with hunting parties of Blackfeet and Cree. then in 1839 they were separated. McLean was sent to Spokane, and my father was ordered to Fort Vancouver, where after a few months he was sent overland to Puget Sound to embark for Fort Langley.
"Shortly after his arrival at the fort on the Fraser he was delegated to assist in trading with the Indians. Francis Noel Annance, whom the Indians named "The War Chief" -- a title they later bestowed on my father -- was still occupying the post of Indian trader, a position which he held from the commencement of the establishment. It required patience, courage, tact and a sharp wit to be an Indian trader, and Annance possessed all these qualifications.
"A year after Ovid Allard was taken on to the strength of Fort Langley [sic] the place was destroyed by fire. He often told me of that terrible night; how the men risked their lives to save the property of the fort, neglecting their own meagre belongings.
"There was a Scottish woman by the name of Findlay. She was the wife of one of the men and one of the very few white women in the whole Western country. she was a wonderful butter-maker, and the fame of her butter spread to the far reaches of New Caledonia in the north. Her chief concern when fire broke out was for the safety of the pans of cream from which she planned to churn butter the following day.
""Who will save my cream?" she shouted, ringing her hands and catching at first one and then another scurrying figure. She grasped my father by the arm as he dashed back into the fort to carry out another load of trade goods. "My cream, my cream," she cried.
""Never mind your cream," he answered, "where are your children?" The woman gave a shriek. She had forgotten her two little tots, and it was fortunate that Ovid Allard remembered them, for it was with the greatest difficulty that he managed to get into the burning hut where they were asleep. He carried them to safety, just as some others arrived with the precious cream. And Mrs. Findlay, in her happiness at the recovery of her children, rushed to gather them in her arms and upset the pans of cream over which she had been making so much fuss.
"Immediate steps were taken to rebuild the fort, but a new location was decided upon. Erosion of the river bank was already threatening the ground close to the palisades and on several occasions the floods in the spring had crept through the pickets. So higher ground, on a rise three miles higher up the stream was selected, and here was reared one of the largest forts in the West. Four bastions guarded the sides, and the enclosure was sufficiently large to permit of a substantial fire break between the main buildings. A huge structure of squared logs was erected at the end farthest from the river, for the accomodation of the officers of the establishment, and this became known as "The Big House." ....
"On either side of the main, or river gate, within the stockade, were situated the store houses, while along the length of one was were stretched the cooperage, blacksmith shop, trading store, and several dwellings. On the other side of the square was a row of dwelling. There were fifteen buildings in the fort, all told....
"Very little iron was used in the building of Fort Langley, and in the construction of Fort Victoria three years later, none at all was used. The squared logs were mortised and fitted, and where it was necessary to fasten timbers, wooden pins were utilized.
"It was already apparent, by the time that the fort was reconstructed, that the Hudson's Bay Comapny could not make good its claim to the Oregon Territory, and sooner or later Fort Vancouver must be relinquished to the United States. this would mean that a new outlet for the trade of New Caledonia must be found, and a new depot must be established where the products of the Northern woods could be exchanged for the trade goods brought by ship from England, and the new fort was constructed to meet the requirements of such a depot....."
And that is where Alexander Caufield Anderson came into the story of Fort Langley.
From the Memoirs of James Robert Anderson, a description of Ovid Allard. James would have first seen the fort in 1851:
"Mr. James Murray Yale, the gentleman in charge, was a man of retiring disposition, but of unquestioned ability. the rest of the people employed were workmen, one of whom was named Allard, who was usually known by the name of Shortlain. This man was designated as a Post Master. Post Masters mentioned in the Hudson's Bay Company's service were not officers, but workmen, who by their superior ability were put in charge of small outposts, hence the designation of Post Master.
From: "Jason Allard, Fur-trader, Prince, and Gentleman," by B.A. McKelvie, British Columbia Historical Quarterly, vol. 9, 1945:
""There were gay times at Fort Langley, too, especially when the annual fur brigade would sweet down the river with the furs from New Caledonia," Jason recalled. "Or when the Company's ships would arrive with supplies. then there would be high celebration; bagpipes and fiddles would be brought out, and reels and square dances -- and the inevitable dram -- would be the order of the day. The voyageurs would dance and fight all night and have a mighty good time of it. At the Big House, as the officers' quarters were known, there would be feasting and merriment galore. Dangers and privations were forgotten when there was occasion for a celebration."
"He recalled many noted characters in the Hudson's Bay Service who came to Fort Langley, mentioning such individuals as Chief Factor James Douglas, Donald Manson, and A. C. Anderson, who would never stay at the Big House, but would pitch his tent outside of the fort."
I have one more piece to write about Ovid Allard, and it has taken me two hours to find it!
Here it is, in James Robert Anderson's papers:
Miscellaneous Historical Inquiries, Mss. 1912, vol. 17, file 13:
"Dear Brenda; You asked me one day to write you some of my recollections of old Fort Langley. You have read Jason Allard's account of the finding of the site and building of the Fort where his father was post master -- that is he had charge of the Indian shop, and the keys of the Fort. Many a time I have heard him calling out the time for the people to go out, and of course all strangers would hurry out. I used to visit him when he was trading with the natives for their cranberries and hazel nuts. the blacksmith's shop was a wonderful place to me. The smith made nails of different sizes and iron hoops for the kegs, barrels and vats that were being made by the Cooper with his three or four assistants, getting ready for the salmon run. Ovid Allard did all the trading with the natives for their salmon. He used to stand at the wharf with two or three trunks full of the Indians' favorite stuffs such as vermillion for the women to give themselves rosy cheeks, and tobacco for the men. Cromarty [was] at the cauldron making brine, and ever so many boys and a man or two would be running from the wharf with the salmon which they piled before the women of the fort and others who were seated in a circle in the shed where they cut the salmon. No rest for the boys -- they had to continued their running this time with the cut salmon to the .. men in the big shed where they were salting the salmon. And so they worked for the week -- early in the morning till late at night, till the salmon run was over. All that old Basil with three or four assistants used to do was to milk the cows, make the butter, and look after the herd in winter...."
You probably saw in my last post [Sunday, July 7, 2012] that a modern historian criticized Mrs. John Manson for stating that Allard "had boxes filled with things to please [the Natives], beads, vermilion and other knick-knacks."
The historian said that the Natives were shrewd bargainers and knew the value of their labour.
Now another witness is listing the same items that Mrs. Manson listed: vermillion and tobacco.
Historians: Listen to the fur trade descendents!
They were there: you were not.
Sunday, July 7, 2013
It's wonderful to talk to someone who is descended from one of the fur trade people I have researched (to a degree, anyway).
Frankly sometimes I sit down at this blog and say to myself: Well, what will I write today?
Knowing that there is someone out there who is descended from so-and-so always gives me something to write about.
So here you are -- whether you like it or not I am going to tell you what I know about Ovid Allard.
It's not a lot, but I have told you that I am going to make these posts shorter, haven't I?
I hope to (it doesn't always work that way, though).
So here is what Bruce McIntyre Watson, author of Lives Lived West of the Divide: A Biographical Dictionary of Fur Traders Working West of the Rockies, 1793-1858, volume 1 (of 3), has to say of Ovid Allard.
Any descendant of this man could join two Facebook pages -- that of Children of Fort Langley and Descendants of Fort Nisqually Employees.
Allard, Ovid [Ovide] (1817-1874) Canadian: French
Birth: St. Roch, Montreal, July 1817. Born to Francois Allard and Suzanne Mercier
Death: Fort Langley, B.C., August 1874
HBC Middleman, Fort Vancouver, 1834-1835; Middleman, Snake Party, 1835-1839; Assistant trader, Fort Langley, 1839-1841; Middleman, Fort Langley,1841-1842; Indian trader, Fort Langley, 1842-1843; Interpreter, Fort Langley, 1843-1846; Labourer and Carpenter, Fort Nisqually, 1846-1847; Interpreter, Fort Langley, 1847-1853; Post master, Fort Langley, 1849-1850; Interpreter, Columbia Dept., 1853-1854; Untraced vocation, Fort Langley, 1858-1859; Clerk, Fort Yale, 1859-1865; Clerk, Fort Langley, 1864-1874; and Post master, Fort Langley, 1864-1874.
According to oral tradition, a seventeen year old Ovid Allard was articling for a notarial office in Lachine when he joined the HBC from that city as a middleman in 1834. He spent his first five years at Fort Hall [Idaho] and was second in command when Fort Boise was built in 1837. In 1839 the tall competent French Canadian was assigned to Fort Langley, where he helped to build the new fort after it was burned down in 1840 by a careless Jean Baptists Brulez.
He spent much of his forty year career at Fort Langley, and when the 1846 border was drawn, he established a new Brigade route from Fort Kamloops to Fort Langley [in 1849 or later. A note here: the actual brigade trail never did go over any of the routes that Alexander Caulfield Anderson explored, but followed the route that Blackeye's son showed Henry Newsham Peers in 1848].
That same year, he along with sixteen others each laid claim to 640 acres of land around Fort Nisqually in an unsuccessful bid to secure PSAC land. In 1847 he established Fort Yale, and the following year, Fort Hope.
According to Mrs. John Manson, during the salmon run at Fort Langley, Allard did all the trading with the natives for their salmon. "He used to stand at the wharf and had boxes filled with things to please them, beads, vermilion and other knick knacks," perhaps misstating the real situation as the natives were shrewd bargainers and knew the real price of their labour.
Allard's education and competence posed a problem for an insecure James Murray Yale, who from the 1850s, tried to keep Allard subservient through apparent mean spiritedness and a short temper. In 1853, Yale became so enraged at Allard for shooting his favourite, but vicious dog, and for Allard having provided barrels to a non-Company trader, that Ovid packed his family off in a canoe and went to Fort Victoria to hand in his resignation. James Douglas convinced him otherwise and sent him to Nanaimo where he arrived on March 11, 1854, as "supervisor of outside work." Four years later, on February 4, 1858, he left Nanaimo on the steamer Otter to re-establish a defunct Fort Yale, where he stayed from May 1858 to 1864. At that point he returned to Fort Langley and remained in charge there until his death on August 2, 1874.
Ovid Allard, whose family life was very complex, had two wives and seven or eight children. In Fort Hall he married a native woman with whom he had Sennie.
According to his granddaughter, Julia Hamburger Apnaut, Sennie was given away at Fort Langley by his second wife, Justine, to a passing Scottish trader, a Mr. McKay, by a jealous wife tired of Allard's doting on the youngster.
Justine, on the other hand, claimed that the baby had fallen overboard and drowned in the river (the baby returned some years later as Marie and became the mother of Julia Hamburger Apnaut, the story of which she chronicled in Indian time.)
On February 22, 1853, Allard formalized his marriage to second wife, Justine Cowichan (c.1823-1907), the sister of a Cowichan confederacy chief T'Soshia.
Their children were: Lucie, Jason Ovide (who worked in the fur trade for many years), Mathilde, Sara, and Joseph.
While at Fort Langley, a young daughter accidentally drank poison, died, and was buried by Ovid in a coffin made from boards in the floor.
Here is a letter from Ovid Allard to James Murray Yale, written from Fort Hope, 2nd June 1850 [E/B/Al52c, BCA].
The letter may make him appear uneducated -- but he was a French Canadian who wrote English creatively:
"My dear sir; I am sending this canoe down with the furs thats here and in the same time to inquire if you think its necessary for us to go and work uppon the old road, Pahallak says there as been amaney sticks that falld in the roade in the winter of which you would likely wish it should be take off, we cannot do nothing upon the new Road yet for the snow, its trew that its not very deep and yet its likely if this Cold weather continew that it will be some time yet before its gone, it has been snowing on the mountain for three Nights now. We are Clearing ground here the timothy is all sowed, I am near out of all Articles of trade, but I don't ask for Any, the Indians [h]as little now to trade salmon the[y] only catches a few here and the[y] Seems to not have a great wish to trade them. However I have no doubt that the[y] will be glad to get us to purchase them by and by.
I would like to have a canoe here we have none belongs to the Fort the are all Scatter uppon the several Crossing place along the new road that's three in all. I always thought by a letter Mr. Peerse send me by the New Road in the spring that Mr. Manson intended to come by the New Road as he was saying that he was in hope that there was grass enough for to feed the horses here all the time that the brigade should be at Langley, and that it would be injureing the horses very much to send them back across the mountains to feed. Please to Excuse for saying so much, if you wishes me to go and work uppon the old road I am redey. I would like to go all though as far as I would meat them if you approve of it I'll take three Indians & old Pahallak with me and Mr. [George] Simpson, I think that the snow would not hinder the brigade to pass uppon the new road yet about the 20th of the month its was about the times I went with Mr. Peerse last spring on the mountain and the snow was then mid way up the trees its not so now we are able to see all the trees thats been mark along when the where working at the rod.
"Please to exuse of all Errors. Ovid Allard."
The old road he talks off was the one via Anderson River and Lake Mountain: it was never used again. In fact, when Alexander Anderson came out over the Coquihalla route, he found the snow hard enough that it easily supported the horses' weight.
The other good story I have is about Jason Ovide Allard, Ovide's son, and this is what Bruce Watson tells us about him:
Birth: Fort Langley, September 1848, mixed race
Death: New Westminster, December 1931
Untraced vocation, Western Dept., 1860-1861; Apprentice post master, Fort Yale, 1861-1865; Post master, Fort Shepherd, 1866-1869; In charge of company store at Wild Horse Creek, 1867
Born into the fur trade, Jason Allard became a later source of information about life in this period. Jason attended school in Nanaimo and at the age of twelve went to work for the HBC as an apprentice post master. As a young lad, he also occasionally interpreted for British Columbia judge Matthew Baillie Begbie. He had many small adventures throughout his short career, but one of the most unusual happened at Fort Shepherd. While he was working at that borderline fort, he ordered the regular two hundred lbs of cheese for nearby Fort Colvile; however a gremlin extra "0" slipped into the order form and was signed by Colvile's Angus McDonald as such.....
Here's the rest of the story, direct from the BCArchives:
Jason Allard's Ton of Cheese [E/D/Al5s]
A package was opened and it proved to be cheese. Then another 100-pound bale was opened. It was cheese, too. I began to get nervous. The third and the fourth and the fifth proved likewise to be cheese.
"How much cheese did you order?" demanded Angus McDonald.
"Two hundred pounds."
"Are you sure?" And away he rushed for the order book. There sure enough was the duplicate, but instead of the 200 pounds I had intended to order, an extra cipher had been added, and we had been sent 2,000 pounds of it. Macdonald became wrathy. He almost exploded, and fumed and stormed about until I reminded him that he had signed the order. "Get it out of my sight, cheese, cheese, image it, a whole ton of cheese," he shouted.
I looked about for a place to stow the offending cheese, but the warehouse was pretty well filled. At last, over in one corner I spied a number of empty rum barrels, so I had the cheese all unpacked and put into the barrels, and I covered them over with sacking.
Months went by and there was nothing said about cheese, and you can depend on it, I was not going to be the first to mention it.
Then one day, Macdonald complained that the fare was rather scanty. "Let's see," he mused, "isn't there some cheese about? Where is it, Jason?"
"You told me to put it out of your sight, and I always obey orders."
"Well, get some."
So I had a piece brought, and I can assure you that it was without doubt the best cheese that anyone ever tasted. The hot summer sun had melted and mellowed it and the flavour of the rum impregnated it. "Goodness, man! What have you been hiding this for?" shouted Macdonald in glee. After that he wanted cheese for breakfast, lunch and supper, and the odd midnight snack as well. I took the improved cheese out of storage and had it transferred to the store. The officers of the United States army barracks, who used to dine with us frequently, got a taste of it and it recommended itself so highly that soon posts 100 miles away were sending in for "Allard's Cheese." The result was that within two months it was all gone, and then Mr. Macdonald kicked again. this time because I had not saved it. But believe me, I worried more over that cheese, while it was maturing in the rum barrels, than I want to again, and the very mention of cheese for years after was enough to put me off my meals."
Well, admittedly, Angus McDonald [A.C. Anderson's clerk at Fort Colvile] was a rough character who would have frightened a young man like Jason Allard, who was probably only about twenty years old at the time.
Let's continue his biography: Allard first retired from service on March 17th, 1865 but finally left the service in 1869, angry at being upbraided for his familiarity with the young American army officers at Fort Colvile. He led a full life after retirement (chronicled in "Jason Allard, fur trader, prince and gentleman") and in his later years was still recognized by the Cowichan natives as having inherited rights within the Cowichan group. As he spoke five native dialects plus English and French, in 1871 he was hired for a CPR survey crew. To supplement his income, Allard and his family would walk across the border and pick hops, but after his wife's death, he moved into New Westminster to be closer to the courts for interpreting. Jason Allard died December 16, 1931.
So there are the stories of Ovid Allard, and his son, Jason -- at least in part.
Ovid especially played a role in the creation of the brigade trails; thus he will be a character in one of my next books.
But it will be a few years before I am able to write Jason's story, so I am recording it now, so that you too can enjoy it.