Sunday, July 7, 2013

Ovid Allard, and Jason, his son


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.

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