Sunday, July 14, 2013
More information re: Ovid Allard, and Jason his son
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.