Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Good Neighbour: Alexander Caulfield Anderson, the Man Behind the History

This is the talk (I dislike the word, speech) I gave in front of a small group of people who decided to come to the Heritage Week event at the Saanich Centennial Library behind Tillicum Mill, here in Victoria, on February 20th.

Small group, perhaps -- but interested. At the end of the talk they had a lot of questions for me -- one man was taking notes!

For those of you who have read my talks before, I realize that I have a common introduction for every talk.
But I am talking to people who I have not spoken to before, and these words introduce, first: the importance of the man to British Columbia's history; and second: why I am interested in him.
They need to know this: especially when, as in this case, I am speaking of the man I discovered behind the history that many of us (who read this blog) already know.

So, here we go (A note here: before I was edited I never considered the word "so" important. But my editor used it, and I, too, have come to realize its importance. Funny how one little word makes such a difference.....)

Good evening, everyone, and thank you for coming tonight. I am Nancy Marguerite Anderson, the author of the book, The Pathfinder: A. C. Anderson's Journeys in the West.

Anderson's full name was Alexander Caulfield Anderson. He was the Hudson's Bay Company fur trader who, in the mid-1840's, threaded his way through mountain passes and down rapid-filled rivers in search of a horse-friendly trail through the mountainous country that separated the Hudson's Bay Company fort at Kamloops, from Fort Langley, on the lower Fraser River. He made four expeditions between the two forts, and discovered two possible horse trails -- both of which by-passed the canyons and rapids of the Fraser River.

These were exciting times! At this time, the fur traders' traditional route to their headquarters every summer was down the Columbia River to Fort Vancouver, which stood only one hundred miles from the mouth of the river. However, only a few months after Anderson returned home from his second set of expeditions, Native uprisings along the lower Columbia River, at Fort Nez Perces (Walla Walla), forced the fur traders to abandon any attempt to down the Columbia River with their furs.

The furs must come out, however, and the trade goods must come in. But the furtraders had no substitute trail. The HBC men decided to bring out their furs to Fort Langley from Kamloops, by one of Anderson's untested horse trails through the mountains.

The journey out was chaotic disaster -- the return journey to Kamloops no better. Horses fell from clifftops carrying valuable trade goods with them and frustrated fur traders had fist fights while French-Canadians deserted for the California gold fields, and one man took his own life rather than tackle the return journey home.

Anderson lived and worked through those turbulent years and the difficult years that followed. Because he played such an important role in those pivotal years -- when the whole history of what would become British Columbia and Washington State was changing -- he is considered by modern-day historians to be one of the most significant figures in British Columbia's history.

But Alexander Caulfield Anderson was my great grandfather, and I wanted to know who he was. As I researched his story, I learned things that threatened to destroy the historic and heroic fur trade figure that lived inside my head.

What I learned about my ancestor transformed him into a man, with quirks and flaws and character and kindness and courtesy -- an extraordinary human being.

And this is the man I am going to tell you about now -- not the fur trader and explorer whose work changed our history, but the man who cared for others. Who helped others, be they man or woman: Native or white or mixed-blood; British Colonists or American gold-miners or Royal Engineers.

I will begin with a story of potato crops growing wild in the fur traders' New Caledonia, not far from Fort Alexandria where Anderson did his most important work. New Caledonia was the area of north central British Columbia around Fort St. James, and Fort Alexandria was the southern-most post in that fur trade department. The point of land [whose image I then showed] on which the fort once stood, is on the Fraser River just north of Williams Lake and south of Quesnel.

Potatoes were a staple food of the fur trade, and every post grew them in their gardens. In fur trade journals there is always one French-Canadian employee who camps on the fort's potato fields to prevent theft -- because Natives, too, understood that potatoes were good food. But though the Natives ate the potatoes they stole, they did not usually grow them -- or at least, not at Fort Alexandria.

Anderson was in charge of this post from 1842 to 1848. The post was far enough north that no one could depend on their wheat crops, though it grew more reliably at Anderson's post than anywhere else in the territory. Barley grew well at some posts, and turnips and potatoes were generally grown in large numbers at all.

But none of these crops fed the Native population, who depended on their annual root harvests, and upon the salmon that swam up the Fraser River by the hundreds of thousands every summer. In years when the salmon did not arrive, the Natives seemed to starve.... From The Pathfinder: "When winter finally fell and the cycle of fishing was finished, the Company men could asses whether the Natives had enough food to allow them to enjoy a good hunting season. In 1844, it seemed they did not, especially when a storm blew in at the end of October with snow and freezing temperatures. Anderson wrote of his worry about the Natives' starving condition and what he saw as their miserable circumstances in comparison to his relative comfort in the fort:

""Would I could predict with honest Sir Hugh that there are pippins & cheese to come -- but alas! I fear cold fingers and hunger will be the more probable lot of many in the interior, and we, who are comparatively in comfort, have reason to be thankful that we are so... T'is a glorious privilege to be able to write nonsense now & then, when there is no censor of the press, or rather of the pen, to check one -- Enough! A good fire, a warm house, & divers acceptable concomitants, with a foot of snow around one, are circumstances that may well occasion a momentary glimpse of contentment in a mind not always swayed by cheerful emotions.""

Honest Sir Hugh was a character in Charles Dickens, and pippins are apples. Anderson made this journal entry shortly after he watched the Alexandria Natives return to their winter houses in an early snow storm. He knew the salmon run that year had been poor and the Natives would starve. Their hunts would suffer as a result, of course -- it was not entirely sympathy for the Natives that made Anderson take this next step. In the Fort Alexandria journals of April 1846, I found that Anderson, without clearly saying so, was intentionally taking steps to teach his Native neighbours how to grow their own food -- something that was, for the most part, foreign to them..... "Eleven Indians [are] working the soil [at our] suggestion, and I have promised to supply them seed potatoes."

I haven't found this sort of thing in any other fur trade journal, but I have discovered that this one story might continue today. One of the readers of this blog told me the story of a patch of potatoes that grew wild in the interior, at a place only fifty miles from old Fort Alexandria. They were known to have been growing wild at this spot before the gold miners arrived there in 1859 or so.

So, where did these potatoes come from? Are they descendants of the seed potatoes that Anderson provided the Alexandria Natives in 1846, so they could grow their own food every year? I don't know. They could come from the potatoes the early Spanish explorers dropped off among the Native tribes of the coast, that might have worked their way into the interior via the Grease Trails. I like to think they are Fort Alexandria's potatoes, but it doesn't matter. I passed the information on to the people at the Royal British Columbia Museum (one of whom was growing Nootka (Spanish) potatoes in his backyard). They are trying to figure out what kind of potatoes they are, and how they got there.

We all know the stories of the 1858 Fraser river gold rush -- Anderson played an important role in this story, too. At the time the gold rush began, Anderson was already retired from the fur trade and living in Cathlamet, Washington Territory -- on the Columbia River west of the headquarters at Fort Vancouver. He was planning to set up a store-keeping business, like his father-in-law James Birnie had done. The Americans had been coming west for some years and were now settling in large numbers around Portland and Oregon City. Business would have been good, had it been allowed to happen.

But this is a unique time in American history: the new American settlers were driven west by a notion they called "Manifest Destiny." They already owned Louisiana Territory which nudged the east side of the Rocky Mountains and included the Milk River basin, in what is now southern Alberta and Saskatchewan. They had wrestled Texas Territory from the Mexicans. Now they believed it was their "destiny" to occupy the entire North American continent, from sea to sea, and the modern Pacific Northwest and California was theirs for the taking. Some individuals pursued their goals quite aggressively, and for anyone who was of British ancestry, like Anderson, life in the new Washington Territory became "uncongenial," to say the least. [This is a very complicated history and I have shortened it a great deal, believe me!]

But that was not the worst of it -- in addition to the Americans' bad treatment of the British fur traders, their treatment of the American Indians who lived here sparked one war after another, and Anderson saw his plans to build a store-keeping enterprise evaporate.

However, one surprising opportunity did present itself -- the California gold rush died down and in 1855 miners began to find gold in Eastern Washington, around modern-day Spokane. Only a few years later, Americans for panning for -- and finding -- gold on the Thompson River near Kamloops. Of course, on their return to American territory they told stories of the gold they had discovered in British territory, and more gold miners clamoured for a route to these northern gold fields.

Anderson was the only person in the area around Portland, Oregon, who was known to have been to those places. So many Americans came to him for information that he wrote a book, called "Guide to the Goldfields of the Frazer's and Thompson's River," which included a map to the Goldfields.

This map was printed off by the thousands and sold to all the American gold miners who flooded north and east towards Spokane and the Thompson River. In late 1857 gold was rumoured to be found on the Fraser, and in spring 1858 thousands of San Francisco gold miners sailed north to Fort Victoria. However, because of the seasonally high water along the Fraser River north of Yale, none of the miners could make their way into the gold fields north of the Fraser River Canyons.

Thousands of miners were stuck in Victoria, and the poor fur traders had no idea of what to do with them. They thought of Anderson. Fur trader John Work wrote Anderson a letter that tempted him north to Fort Victoria, and when he arrived there, Governor James Douglas put him to work.

Anderson suggested that a good trail could be built over the route of his first expedition of 1846 -- the route he had been guided over could never have worked for the fur traders who needed either a good horse road, or a safe river route for loaded boats. However, Anderson judged that his trail would work well for the gold miners, who would reach the Fraser River north of its barrier of rapids and falls [Hell's Gate and Black Canyons] and who could pack in their supplies and provisions.

So Governor James Douglas [whose 1835 journals we have been reading for the last 6 months] put Anderson to work supervising the building of the first trail into the gold fields of the upper Fraser River. Note that this was not the Cariboo Road -- the Harrison Lillooet Trail led up the Fraser River to Harrison river and Lake, and the lake's north end where the new town of Port Douglas sprang up.

The miners themselves built the road that followed the Lillooet River through Pemberton Valley to Lillooet Lake, and over a rugged height of land to the south end of Anderson Lake -- named by Alexander Anderson for his own family. Chinese immigrants from San Francisco set up boating businesses to ferry miners the length of Anderson Lake, to Birkenhead Portage [now Seton Portage] -- named by Anderson for his soldiering cousin, Alexander Seton, who had died in the recent sinking of the HMS Birkenhead off South Africa. Seton Lake -- which Anderson also named for his cousin -- lay beyond Birkenhead Portage, and at the far end of Seton Lake, a three mile long river took the miners to the banks of the Fraser north of Hell's Gate and Black Canyons, and south of modern-day Lillooet.

And so Anderson's map brought thousands of American gold miners north to the colony of Vancouver's Island -- and Anderson's trail took them over the mountains that separated Fort Langley, on the lower mainland, from the gold fields on the upper Fraser River. Anderson's work was done at the end of the summer, and he would now take charge of the new Custom House for Victoria's free port.

At this time the walls of old Fort Victoria were still standing, but the first government officials were coming from England to run the two new colonies -- Vancouver's Island, and the separate colony of British Columbia which was being set up across the water, with its headquarters at New Westminster.

For a few months, Anderson was acting-Collector for the Colony of British Columbia, in the absence of the official Collector. He had kept no separate set of books for British Columbia, and so all of Anderson's records for both colonies were handed to the new British Columbia collector, Wymond Hamley....

From The Pathfinder: "With limited means and no experience as an accountant, Anderson had set up the Customs House books by himself, and they had worked efficiently during the first busy months. However, Anderson had learned his bookkeeping in the fur trade, where no money existed to tempt men to steal. His system did not allow for dishonesty, but Hamley's examination of the books revealed that eight permits issued by the Deputy Collector Charles Angelo had not been entered in the Customs House books, and the money had disappeared."

All hell broke loose among the newly arrived British colonists! Angelo was arrested and thrown in jail and Anderson was reported to be responsible for the mess. He was removed from office, but before that was done he arranged with lawyer Henry Crease [later Judge Crease] that One hundred and fifty dollars be paid from the Custom House funds to Deputy Collector Angelo's wife, who was now penniless and could not feed her children. "I do this on my own responsibility," Anderson said, "and to satisfy my own scruples on the score of humanity, for it has been intimated to me that for any payment made under present circumstances I shall be held responsible."

He was held responsible. This payment -- much of which was actually owed to Mrs. Angelo by the Colonial Government -- would return to haunt him many times over the years. The fur traders no longer ran the colony -- the new immigrants from England did. Anderson lost his job and there was no other employment he would have considered. He was a partner in a new shipbuilding enterprise, and he owned farmland in North Saanich on which he was now having a new house built. He made plans to move out to the remote region in the spring, when the house was completed. In the meantime he imported a herd of 60 cattle from Oregon, and put them out on the grasslands of his farm to feed.

Anderson kept himself busy trying to make a living, but he still took time out of his busy schedule to work with his Saanich neighbours, clearing land for the church they would construct in the spring. He would not, however, take part in the building of St. Stephens Church. The winter of 1861-62 blew in early with frigid temperatures and deep snow that covered the ground and remained until spring. No one in the area was well enough established to have grown a crop of hay too sell. Cows do not forage under snow for feed, and at the end of the long winter, only a few head of cattle remained alive.

This was not all. The same cold winter weather froze the waters of the Fraser River all the way from Yale to the river mouth, and by the time the ice melted, Anderson's steamship business was dead -- his large, beautiful warehouse on Wharf Street gone. He was in crisis, with no job, no business, and now no income. The fur trade had no made him wealthy. He owned property in North Saanich on which he had a large mortgage, but no livestock and no way to support himself.

He wrote for a living, though it brought him little money, of course. At this time, the government of the Colony of Vancouver's Island and British Columbia held writing contests for essays that encouraged immigration to the new colonies.

But at the same time, the Royal engineers were arriving in Victoria, and they needed information on the interior of the country where they were supposed to be building roads and bridges. They were immediately sent to Anderson for that information, and he gave it to them. He took his old travelling maps and turned them into finished maps -- for example, his old travelling map of the route up the Columbia River from Fort Colvile to Boat Encampment, was transformed into the beautiful finished map of the Columbia River and Athabasca Pass.

In North Saanich, Anderson became the representative of the people who lived there and in South Saanich -- which was then the community along Mount Newton Crossroad and in Saanichton. Good roads had been a promise made by the Government of the time, and they were now reneging on that promise. There are many letters from Anderson in the records of the Lands and Works Department, wherein he asks for repairs to the rough roads and better bridges across the many deep creeks that flowed through the area. In The Pathfinder I described the road as a morass of tree roots and mudholes -- his son, Walter, later described West Saanich Road:

"The West Road to Victoria was slowly improving, though still a very bad road as roads go.. At intervals along the road were wayside inns, it being an unwritten law that a stop should be made at each one of these and a little refreshment partaken of. The most northerly of these houses was Henry Wain's [Wain Road and West Saanich Rd]. then after a seven mile drive came the Mt. Newton Hotel, at the junction of the Mt. Newton Crossroad.... Then came the Royal Oak at the junction of the West and East Roads. Beyond that the road, instead of coming in Quadra Street as now, diverged at the far side of Christmas Hill and skirted the shore of Swan Lake, at the far corner of which stood the Swan Lake Hotel, kept by a sister of Henry Wain and her husband.... It may seem strange to many people in this age that stops should be made at all of these places, but I can assure them that it was a boon to be able to get a glass of wine or beer, or something stronger, and very comforting to warm oneself at the big log fire on a cold winter's day while on a long wearying drive over rough roads such as we had then."

From The Pathfinder: "Even while he worked as a gentleman farmer in North Saanich, Anderson continued to contribute to Victoria organizations. In 1862, the members of the Immigration Committee, which encouraged settlement in British Columbia, named Anderson to its committee... In 1864 he was appointed justice of the peace and acted as coroner for the district, investigating murders and accidental deaths for the colonial government. In 1865 Anderson was called as a witness for the British government in the British and American Joint Boundary Commission hearings held in Victoria, where he gave his occupation as "gentleman." In 1866 the new editor of the Colonist newspaper approached Anderson for information on the route to the Big Bend Gold Mines which were then making the news -- Anderson was one of the few people in Victoria known to have been to that out-of-the-way place."

I can add to this paragraph that he was one of the Saanich settlers who helped to organize the Saanich Agricultural Fair, which still runs today.

In 1866, the Colonies of Vancouver's Island and British Columbia merged, using the name "British Columbia." In 1871, the province became a part of the Dominion of Canada, which now called for representatives for the House of Commons. Alexander Anderson announced his intention to run for election.

One of his competitors was the local brewer, Arthur Bunster. The election itself took place in Harry Wain's roadhouse with Anderson's 10-year old son, Walter, acting as returning officer. On election day, bunster distributed free beer outside the hall while Anderson watched as the tide of voters turned against him. When one of his strongest supporters entered the hall to cast his vote for Bunster, Anderson stood up and, looking the man sternly in his eyes, said, "And you, too, Mr. Blank?"

"I had never properly grasped the significance of Caesar's dying reproachful question till that moment," young Walter later observed. "Well, the election was over, and Bunster's beer won the day."

While he resided in North Saanich from 1862 to 1876, Anderson worked on improving the lives of the Natives who lived nearby -- just as he had done when he was a fur trader. For many years he was their self-appointed doctor. He encouraged the residents of the nearby Tseycum Reserve to cultivate their clayey soil, and some soon raised pigs and cattle or farmed smaller sections of richer soil. Anderson 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.

His son, James, said that: "In his management of the Indians he was singularly successful, always firm in his dealing with them, he was ever ready to accede to all their just demands, while sternly refusing to abate one job of the rights of the whites, as understood by the then rulers of the land.... Often called upon to relieve sickness or distress he was ever willing to sacrifice his time to the wants of the Natives, and so endeared himself to them so that years after he had left the scene of his active life he was remembered and spoken of in affectionate terms, even by the younger generation who only knew him by tradition. Naturally it gives me a melancholy satisfaction to bear this testimony in the memory of my father."

The Natives in the interior also remember Anderson, the fur trader. In 1876, Alexander Anderson was appointed the Dominion Representative of the Indian Reserve Commission set up that year to settle Indian Reserves on the Coast and in the interior -- the other members of the Commission were Archibald McKinlay, retired fur trader now cattle rancher, and Gilbert Malcolm Sproat, an immigrant from England. The three Commissioners worked the last part of 1876 on the coast, and in spring of 1877 the Provincial Government hustled them into the interior to settle the tribes around Kamloops who were reported to be almost in a state of war.

When the Commissioners arrived in Kamloops, they found the Natives all over the region were threatening to go to war. The American Indians across the border were already battling the United States Army, and Native chiefs rode north from the Spokane area to incite their Okanagan cousins to join them in their insurgency.

The image I showed then is in my book -- it is the picture of Tsilaxitsa, on page 203. [Of course I showed the coloured version, as it is so beautiful.] As nephew of the powerful Chief Nkwala, after whom the Nicola valley is named, Tsilaxitsa had by 1877 become the most prominent Okanagan chief of his time. A few days after the three man Commission's arrival in Kamloops, Anderson reported that:

"Tsilaxitsa, the chief of the Okanagans, who when a young man travelled with me a good deal... visited our camp to pay his respects to the Commissioners. He afterwards visited me privately at my tent, and after a good deal of conversation imparted to me the [news].. of what has recently transpired among the natives at the General Councils that have been held.... He said that, in talking to me thus privately, he wished to forewarn me, for old friendship's sake, that an unsatisfactory feeling was abroad, but that he would address the Commissioners, as a body, only after we should have visited his lands....

"Tsilaxitsa is a man of much influence. Like the rest he is astute, and his words must be accepted with caution. Nevertheless, under the influence of an old friendship, he had probably been as frank with me, privately, as his nature will admit."

The private conversation between Tsilaxitsa and Anderson, in Anderson's tent, infuriated the third Commissioner Sproat. But, as Anderson said, he had known Tsilaxitsa for many years. Thirty years earlier (in 1847) Tsilaxitsa, and a Native I believe is his close relative, the son of the Similkameen chief Blackeye, had been Anderson's guides over what Anderson called the Similkameen trail, up the mountainside from modern day Boston Bar and across the plateau behind to the Nicola Valley.

And in later years it is likely that both these young chiefs acted as Anderson's Native guides over the Coquihalla brigade trail -- as their uncle N'kwala had done for the fur traders who rode up and down the old Okanagan Trail. This was, after all, one of the long-standing traditions of the fur trade.

The Indian Reserve Commissioners returned to Victoria at the end of 1877, and Anderson -- who had two jobs for the Dominion government -- continued his work as Fisheries Inspector, travelling up and down the coast from the Nass River, next to the Alaska Panhandle, to the new canneries set up at the mouth of the Fraser River. In his work, Anderson protected both the fish resources, and the fishermen themselves -- including the Natives and their traditional fisheries.

Here is an example of his work: One year the canneries received so many fish they could not can them all, and the excess fish were discarded on the beach and left to rot. To prevent such waste in future years, Anderson arranged that if the canneries again had an excess of fish delivered to them, they would give the extra salmon to their Native neighbours so that the fish could be smoked and preserved for their winter supply of food.

Anderson also collected and shipped to London, England, samples of cans of salmon now produced in British Columbia, and many pieces of Native art, canoes, and fishing gear. All items that survived the watery journey to England were exhibited in the massive International Fisheries Exhibition held in London in 1883. This Exhibition provided a tremendous boost for the British Columbia salmon canning industry, and the Minister of the Canadian Marine and Fisheries Department reported to Anderson on the many gold awards the province won:

"Some specimens certainly received much attention," the Minister wrote. "The salmon for their huge size -- the tinned salmon for the fine display made by the Government... and the Indian fishing gear for its grotesque appearance... Our Indian from New Brunswick who has his birch bark canoe did not like the fancy cedar canoe you sent. I put him in it one day in his pond and he came near upsetting and could not paddle it like his own "birch." He soon came ashore and said, "only damn fool Indian use that kind of canoe."

How many of you like to walk in Beacon Hill Park? Did you know that Alexander Anderson is one of the men who is responsible for preserving the park as it is -- a non-commercial park? In 1883, Judge Matthew Baillie Begbie wrote the trust that outlined the rules for the use of the park, a trust which prohibited profit making activities, including the erection of sponsorship signs.

Anderson's son, James, said this about his father: "He was always in the front rank in raising his voice against any invasion of the rights of the public. Just prior to his death he warmly opposed the erection of an Agricultural Hall in Beacon Hill Park, which was being advocated by some ill-advised people and he took up the question with the government." On April 10th, 1884, the Daily Colonist published Anderson's letter: In it he declared that constructing an agricultural hall in the park was "a barbarous proposal" that "will be strenuously opposed by many who have the improvement of the city and the conservation of its natural attractions sincerely at heart."

However, not everyone is happy about this today. I have an article from a 2005 newspaper titled: "The Land that Fun Forgot." Again, a modern group is fuming because they cannot raise funds in the public park... So thank Judge Matthew Baillie Begbie, who drew up the original trust in 1883, and Alexander Caulfield Anderson, who defended it a year later -- for keeping Beacon Hill Park a park. This is history. I've said this many times. History doesn't just happen and then go away: it's always still here. We are surrounded by it.

I told you at the beginning of this talk that Alexander Caulfield Anderson was my great grandfather, and I wanted to know who he was. One of the questions I continually asked myself while I was writing this book was -- Was he a drunk? Did he drink too much?

You will remember the story I told you of Anderson stopping at every road house for a restorative drink on his way into town from North Saanich? I have another story that didn't make it into the book, where Anderson tripped and fell one one of the rough boardwalks that Victoria had at that time, and suffered a bad cut on his face. Bystanders picked him up and carried him into a drinking house -- but did he trip because he was drunk?

Fur traders were supplied, at every post, with a generous supply of good liquors and wines which they certainly drank. There were many instances where fur traders drank too much, and few stories of fur traders that did not drink.

I considered that, because of his fur trade past, Anderson probably drank more than most of us today consider reasonable. Perhaps more than the new English immigrants considered wise -- after all, Indian Reserve Commissioner Gilbert Malcolm Sproat criticized both Anderson and McKinlay for "being drunk in front of the Indians they represented," at Savona's Ferry in 1877.

In the stories that follow I found the answer to my question. In the late 1870's San Francisco historian, Hubert Howe Bancroft, arrived in Victoria to research the history of the territory, and interviewed many retired HBC men. He described Anderson: "In personal appearance... Mr. Anderson was of slight build, wiry make, active in mind and body, with a keen, penetrating eye... In speech he was elegant and precise, and by no means so verbose as in his writings, and in carriage, if not so dignified as [Roderick] Finlayson, his manner would do him credit at St. James [London]."

In another publication Bancroft wrote this -- and in writing this he answered all my important questions, including the one about his drunkenness. This will also give you a very good idea of the kind of man that Alexander Caulfield Anderson was:

"But more than to any other in Victoria, I feel myself indebted to Mr. A. C. Anderson, a man not only of fine education, but of marked literary ability, of poetic temperament, chivalrous in thought as well as in carriage, of acute observation and retentive memory he proved to be the chief and standard authority on all things relating to the country. He had published several works of value and interest, and was universally regarded as the most valuable living witness of the past. Tall, symmetrical, and very erect, with a long narrow face, ample forehead, well brushed white hair, side whiskers, and keen, light blue eyes, he looked the scholar he was. Scarcely allowing himself an interruption, he devoted nearly two weeks to my work with such warm cheerful and gentlemanly courtesy as to win our hearts... He took luncheon with us every day, smoked incessantly, and drank brandy and soda temperately."

It was my project to discover who Alexander Anderson was, and I think I accomplished this. I found a man who cared for his Native neighbours, by ensuring that they could grow crops, such as potatoes, to support their families during those long, cold, Cariboo winters. Was this unusual among the fur traders? I believe so.

As to the gold rush: his map brought the gold miners north to British Columbia, and his trail took them into the interior more or less in safety. The road served the miners well until the better Cariboo road was built. Later it was more or less replaced by the Duffy Lake Road, still in use today. But years after the original Harrison-Lillooet trail was abandoned, a cattle drive plodded over it -- and today it is a functioning hiking trail.

Anderson ensured that a woman, whose husband was in jail and whose children would have starved without his assistance, received money that was owed to her -- enough money that would support her and her family if she were careful. He helped to clear the land to build the local church. He acted for his Saanich neighbours in getting roads improved and burned out bridges replaced. He helped the Royal Engineers by drawing maps that would lead them into the interior that he knew well and where they had to build new roads and bridges. His later maps led a new batch of gold miners to the mines in the Omineca, and on the Big Bend of the Fraser River.

He tried, unsuccessfully, to represent Vancouver Island district in Ottawa. I think he would have been a very good representative -- perhaps better than some we have today.

As we know, relations between the Natives of today are not as friendly as they used to be, when the fur traders were in the interior. I have been told of a letter to Queen Victoria from a Native chief, that said that the good white men were the fur traders, and the bad white men the settlers who came later. I have not seen this letter and so don't take this as the truth, but you can see that Tsilaxitsa apparently considered Anderson a friend -- as far as it was possible for a Native man of his time to be friends with a white man that represented a government that was trying to take the land from his people.

Anderson's final neighbourly act still lives today in his defense of keeping Beacon Hill park a park, rather than allowed agricultural buildings to be constructed in it. Would the park have resembled the PNE grounds in Vancouver? I doubt it. But Anderson died 129 years ago, only a month or so after his wrote his letter. He had no interest in whether or not Beacon Hill Park remained a park, and he would probably never walk through it again. But you will. And as you do, you can remember that Alexander Anderson helped to keep this park safe for you.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The rush home: Fort Nez Perces to Fort Vancouver

This will be a short post for me.
Everyone in these expresses was eager to get home and hardly any one paused to make entries in their journals.
I expect the voyageurs paddled all night when they could, but there were plenty of hazards in this part of the Columbia River.

In my book, The Pathfinder, I described this part of the Columbia River: "Eighteen miles past Fort Nez Perce[s], the Columbia River turned sharply westward and forced its way through a narrow canyon with perpendicular walls. The rapids that blocked this canyon were followed closely by another set of rapids at the Big Island. With those disruptions behind them, the voyageurs guided their boats down the fast-flowing river until at last they reached the foot of the Cascade Mountains, 100 miles east of Fort Vancouver.

"This was the most dangerous stretch of the Columbia River. The mountains forced the Columbia through a rocky passage only 150 paces wide, and the river fell 20 feet almost immediately and continued to tumble down rocky rapids, known as the Chutes, as it carved its way to the sea. The voyageurs partially avoided the hazards of The Chutes by beaching their boats and carrying their loads over the narrow trail along the riverbanks. The boats themselves they ran downriver over the three sections of Celilo Falls and into the rapids of The Dalles, where the river continued its downhill tumble between perpendicular walls of basalt for four rough miles. At the two-mile mark of the Dalles, however, the men and supplies waited on a sheltered beach for the boats, for in the low waters of autumn the remaining rapids were a passable, but exciting, ride.

"Below The Chutes and The Dalles came the Cascades, a foaming chain of rapids that rushed around a sharp bend in the river and was avoided by the use of a narrow, slippery, four-mile portage along the bank of the Columbia. There were no rattlesnakes here, as there had been on the other portages, for between The Dalles and the Cascades the desert faded away as if a line had been drawn in the sand and the lush green growth of the coast flourished.

"Once the difficulties of the Cascades were behind them, the voyageurs paddled their boats down the smoothly flowing river toward Fort Vancouver. They paused on the riverbank near the fort's sawmill to don their colourful clothes before paddling quickly downriver, their voices raised in song. Soon the headquarters loomed above them on the grassy slopes, and HBC employees crowded the banks to greet the new arrivals. Eager for their regale [of rum], the voyageurs raised their red-painted paddles in a noisy salute, while the guns of the ships anchored in the river boomed a welcome."

Journal of a voyage across the Continent of North America in 1826 by Aemilius Simpson, R.N.:
Monday 30th [October] At 7am we embarked from Walla Walla [Fort Nez Perces] and continued our descent of the Columbia. We fall in with the Horse Brigade at our Breakfast encampment. Noon, strong breezes. The river has expanded considerably being now little short of a mile. We passed numerous Indians along the banks of the river, who importuned us very much for Tobacco. At our night's encampment they collect about us in great numbers, but conducted themselves peaceably, having got tobacco to smoke, of which they are passionately fond.
Tuesday 31st. The morning gloomy. At 5 am we embarked & pursued our route down the Columbia... at 2 pm we arrived at the Shoots [Chutes] Falls, where we had to make a portage of our boats & luggage for about 1/4 mile across a Rocky point on the North shore. We found about 70 Indians encampt upon this portage, who conducted themselves very peaceably... We gave the chiefs some tobacco to have a smoke when they ranged their tribes about and indulged in that luxury... At about two miles below the shoots, we came to the Dalles Rapids, a long & intricate chain rushing with great force through a number of narrow & crooked channels, bounded by huge masses of perpendicular rock...
November 1826, Wednesday 1st. .. At 3 pm. we arrived at the Cascades, which is the last obstruction in the Columbia River. We make a portage here along the base of a hill on the North shore of about 1/4 mile. We encampt for the night at the foot of the falls or Cascade -- our crews being employed during the evening in transporting the boats and luggage...
Thursday 2nd. We embarked at 6.15 pm and continued the descent of the Columbia, for about a league below the Cascades there is a very strong current with rapids. The run branches off into several channels formed by Islands: for about 6 leagues below the Cascade the river is bounded by a range of high hills densely wooded, then falls in plains.... We breakfasted at the Prairie de Tea, a few miles above Johnson's Island, from here the banks of the river become low and continue so to the Fort, they are fringed with trees of the poplar & ash... We arrived at Fort Vancouver, our place of destination, having made the journey from York Factory in three months and nineteen days, a distance which I estimate by our route of five thousand eight hundred and seventeen miles, the whole of which is by water communication, except the Assinaboine & Rocky Mountains Portage, which does not exceed [one?] hundred miles, but still they form the most serious obstacles on the line of route. Our journey [though] not performed with great expedition, may be justly called good, as during the whole of it, not the smallest [difficulty] and every thing destined for the different posts arrived in perfect safety.

Isn't it a shame we are finished with Aemelius Simpson's journal?
And I also regret not having copied out the entire journal, and omitting so much of it; but of course at the time I found it I was following my great great grandfather, James Birnie, across the country.
Sooner or later I will get back to this journal.

York Factory Express Journal, 1827, by Edward Ermatinger:
24th [October] Fine weather. Having settled our business at this place we embarked at 11 am. Most of our cargoes remain here and we have scarce [sic] anything but our Provisions and baggage to take down. Encamped at 1/2 past 5 at the tail of the Long Island.
25th. Fine weather. Embarked at 4 am. The Chutes Portage [Celilo Falls] held us 2 1/2 hours and we had just time to clear it and encamped. At 5 pm began to blow very hard. Found but few Indians on the Portage.
26th. We had a little rain today and a strong head wind which impeded our progress greatly. We could not start until daylight, about 6 am, on account of running the Dalles. Encamped just above the Cascades 1/2 past 5 pm.
27th. Fine weather. Started about 6 am. Got over the Cascades by 9 and arrived at Fort Vancouver about 4 pm.

Journal of a Voyage from Norway House to Fort Vancouver, Columbia River, 1831, by George Traill Allen:
On the 25th of October 1831, we arrived safely at Fort Vancouver.

Journal of a Trip from Vancouver to York Factory, Spring, 1847, by Thomas Lowe, in charge of party:
Monday 15th [November] Last night it came on to blow very hard and we had to unload the boats and haul them upon the beach. Were unable to start from Fort Nez Perces until midday. Mr. McKay embarks as passenger for Vancouver. Encamped short distance below the Grand Rapid.
Tuesday 16th. Had fine weather today. Encamped a very short distance above the Chutes.
Wednesday 17th. Windy, but no rain until the evening. Reached the Chutes early this morning and succeeded in getting the boats and pieces across with our eight men & only about a dozen Indians, most of them being sick. Had the boats gummed, and pushed off just about dark. [Encampt] the head of the Grand Dalles.
Thursday 18th. Rained last night, and during most part of today. Had to put ashore for a short time in consequence of the strong head wind. Got to within a short distance of the Cascades.
Friday 19th. Blew very strong last night, and we could not start until after daylight this morning. Reached the Cascades in time for breakfast. Found about 70 waggons of American emigrants there. It was sundown before we got the pieces across and the boats passed. Pushed off from the lower end of the Portage in the evening, and put ashore for supper some distance below. Carried on in the night time and with the help of a favorable breeze of wind, reached the Saw Mill a little after midnight.
Saturday 20th November. Raining the whole day. Started from the Saw Mill two hours after daylight, and reached Vancouver about 10 am. Found all well. The Fort fired a salute of 7 guns. The measles now raging much in the upper country have not yet reached this. Mr. [John] Work is here from the Northwest Coast having arrived with Mr. [James] Douglas four days ago. The men got their Regale in the evening.

You will notice that Thomas Lowe's York Factory express came in very late this year, and James Douglas and Peter Skene Ogden were very concerned about this.
So, too, was Governor Simpson.
He wrote to Douglas and Ogden in June 1848 [B.223/c/1, fo. 292-3, HBCA]:
"The late arrival of the express at Vancouver during the two past years must necessarily have been attended with much inconvenience to the service, and we have given particular instructions to the gentlemen in charge of the Saskatchewan Brigade to use his best endeavours to have the express forwarded as early in the season as possible in future: and from the measures which have been taken, together with the favourable state of the water, we are in hopes Mr. [Thomas] Lowe may reach Ft. Vancouver this year at the latter end of October.
"From the information we have received from the gentleman in charge of the Saskatchewan, from Mr. Lowe and from the Columbia guide, we find that the craft now in use on the Athabasca River are not the large unwieldy boats you supposed them to be, but light handy craft of small draft of water, better adapted for the navigation than any other we have in our power to substitute.
"The delay during the two past years arose from causes of which we trust there may not be a recurrence....
"We have to beg that the express from the Columbia may be sent out sufficiently early next season to reach Edmonton before the departure of the Saskatchewan brigade, which is intended to start about the 15th May."

Journal from Vancouver to York Factory with Express, Spring 1848, by Thomas Lowe:
Arrived at Fort Vancouver on 3rd November.

That's it -- the end of the long journey from Fort Vancouver to York Factory and back, via the Athabasca Pass.
We've had many interesting people join our cross country journey, some of whom I have been able to identify, and some who I have not.
James Douglas, whose journey we have followed, later became a member of the Board of Management at Fort Vancouver and moved north to Fort Victoria in 1849.
He later became the Governor of Vancouver's Island and is responsible for ensuring that the New Caledonia brigades found a good route to Fort Yale, first -- later to Fort Hope.
Being anything but a "geographer," he drove James Murray Yale of Fort Langley mad (but that's what my next book is all about).
I do have one James Douglas quote that makes me laugh every time I read it, and it is very relevant to all that happened in the Fort Vancouver area in 1848 and later.
"The Americans are a restless people," James Douglas said in March 1848, "and will be for ever involved in trouble with the Indians.
"We shall hold on as long as possible and endeavour to pick our way carefully amidst the rocks and quicksands which beset our path, and I trust that success will finally be the reward of all our suffering."
Little did James Douglas know at that time, that the battle between the Gentlemen and employees of the HBC, and the Americans who then surrounded them, had only just begun.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Fort Colvile to Fort Nez Perces, and the Waillatpu Mission massacre

You will notice that Aemilius Simpson's journal, following, is a little confused.
It will take a little concentration on your part to read it properly, as he wrote it in pieces and repeated himself several times over.
Still, his descriptions of the country are vivid, and because he is a newcomer to the country he describes incidents that the fur traders ignored because they were so familiar to them.
My great-great-grandfather James Birnie again makes his appearance in this journal (and in the next, also).
He is always there, but travelling almost invisibly -- to Simpson, at least.
Let us continue our downriver journey toward Fort Vancouver, as the men are anxious to be home after six months travelling across the continent and back.
Some are so anxious to get home they abandon their journal entries entirely; John Charles abandoned his while he was still travelling the North Saskatchewan River!

Journal of a voyage across the Continent of North America in 1826 by Aemilius Simpson, R.N.:
Sunday 22nd [October] Having made the Kettle Falls portage, which is about 1/2 mile over a considerable hill, we embarked & continued our descent of the Columbia. On doing so for about 5 miles, we arrived at the Grand Rapids, where we make a portage of the goods over a cliff or point of rock on the left bank of about 800 [word] yards. The boats run the rapids. On leaving this portage we continued our descent at a very rapid rate repeatedly running strong rapids, our course being winding between [word]. The banks of the river are generally low with gravel beaches, but in some places rocky points & cliffs project to the river. The bounding country is composed of undulating hills partially wooded, with fine meadow surfaces affording fine pasture for domestic animals were they introduced...
Daily notes: thick fog in the morning. [He's back at Fort Colvile & Kettle Falls here] The boats and cargoes having been transported across the portage to the foot of the falls we embarked at 9.45 pm & continued our descent of the Columbia. The Kettle Falls are formed by shelving mass of rock extending across the bed of the river, the higher shelf forms a fall of about fifteen feet, and a second shelf forms another of about eight feet. The scenery about these falls is very grand, the rigid & projecting cliffs hanging in fantastic forms over this awful clash of water, which from the channel being contracted by these projecting cliffs, the stream [pushes] its way through with such accumulated force that its surface forms immense whirlpools; on the left of the falls is an [word] on whose summit you see a great number of the burial places of the natives curiously grouped, its face forming a precipice washed by a troubled stream a branch of the River [name]. The Indians erect stages & [fishing] baskets very ingeniously placed over the falls, by which means they catch great number of salmon, when leaping the falls as they ascend the river. A few miles below these falls are the Grand Rapids formed by the projecting mass of rock obstructing the course of the river.
Monday 23rd. We had a fog in the morning which frequently [forms] about 3 leagues below the encampment. When we arrived at the Spokane forks rapids -- a chain of strong rapids the passengers walk across a point on the right, covered with immense blocks of rock that appear to have been washed there by the force of the rapids. The view of the boats running these rapids with the wild character of the scenery which is much heightened by the fog is rather terrific, they dashed down the rapids as if to an inevitable destruction, and [arrived] at the foot of the rapids, without having received further injury than shipping a good deal of water. The running of rapids is an operation that requires great skill and coolness. Along our days track the country presented a very sterile appearance, hardly a tree to be seen and only a parched like grass forming a thin covering over its surface with a confused heap of detached rocks strewed over it.
Tuesday 24th. Fine and clear weather, having to run a chain of rapids below our encampment we did not embark until day light, when we commenced our run of the rapids, which form a [long] Chain for about 8 miles. Below these rapids the river follows its course in a very winding direction for about 3 1/2 leagues when we arrive at the junction of the Okinagan River, where we arrived at 9 am. We found Messrs. Archibald MacDonald & Armitinger [Ermatinger] here; who presented a communication from Dr. MacLoughlin directing the brigade to carry a supply of salmon for Walla Walla, but as these fish have not yet arrived from Thomson's River, we were detained here till then.
Wednesday 25th. The salmon having arrived this evening, we will resume our journey in the morning.
Thursday 26th. the morning showery with strong breezes from the south but the weather became fair at 9 am and continued so during the day. The face of the country continued to present the same singular formation, a range of hills along the river at the Rocky Island Portage seems somewhat different.
Friday 27th. The Priests Rapids are a long shoot [chute] of about 10 miles, in many places particularly towards their foot they are confined to narrow channels, formed by perpendicular face of rocks of about 15 feet elevation. The river forcing its way with great volume through [these] channels of this description [sic]. On the right banks a range of the column extends, but terminates a short distance below these rapids, when the country on the right becomes flat and sandy.
Fine and clear weather, a fresh breeze from the SW We continued our descent of the river at 4:30 am. Frequently passing ridges of these columnar [rocky] hills, at 11 we commenced our run of the Priests Rapids, so called by the Canadian voyageurs from the circumstance of an old Indian who constantly visits the boats, when passing these rapids, who they think resembles one of that Holy order. Below the rapids the banks of the river becomes densely lined with Indians, of the Ska-moo-namicks, Yacca-ma & other tribes. They constantly importune us for tobacco, of which they frequently get a small donation. Many of these Indians are perfectly naked, which is certainly a very disgusting sight to the civilized stranger, they appear to possess no sense of shame for this indelicate exposure, which is a breach of decency that I never [saw] among savages or Indians of any other country. Their habitations is merely a few grass mats placed against a few stakes stuck in the ground. As they frequently change their situation these dwellings are very portable....
We continued to [travel] after dark to avoid the annoyance of being importuned for tobacco by the Indians, until we arrived at a spot where timber could be procured for our fires, the face of the country being destitute of woods. The only supply of that article is the drift timber strewn along some parts of the banks of the river. We encampt at 8 pm.
Saturday 28th. The morning showery, we embarked at 4 am. Having descended the river SE for about 4 leagues, we arrived at the confluence of the Gaumama River, falling in from the West. It is at the confluence of this river they propose removing the establishment. On descending about 3 leagues further, we arrived at the junction of the Lewis & Clarke's branch, the supposed boundary of the United States.... It is about 9 miles below this branch the post of Walla Walla is situated on the left or S. bank of the Columbia, where we arrived at 8 am. This post is in charge of Mr. [Sam] Black... Orders having been received to send a supply of horses to Vancouver by a detachment of hands from our Brigade the occupying arrangements will detain us here for the day.
Sunday 29th. Rainy weather.... The forenoon was occupied in sending the horses across the river which was a very real caution for these poor animals, some of the young ones were nearly drowned, 53 horses & 4 colts succeeding in crossing, with which Messrs. [James] Birnie and [George] Barnston, with five men, proceeded for Fort Vancouver. We will resume our Journey in the morning.

York Factory Express Journal, 1827, by Edward Ermatinger:
[October] 17th. Made portage with Boats and Cargoes at the Grand Rapid which occupied us above 2 hours. Encamped at 1/2 past 5.
18th, Thursday. Fine weather. Started at 4 am, passed the Spokane forks at 1/2 past 10. Encamped at 1/2 past 5.
[Though he doesn't say so, they probably arrived at Fort Okanogan the following day]
20th. Fine weather. Mr. [Archibald] McDonald's men [from Thompson's River] having arrived this afternoon with Salmon which we have to take to [Fort] Nez Perce we load our boats and went and encamped at the Fork of the little River. We left Okanagan the Pigs and a bale of Leather which we brought from Colville and we take in for Nez Perces 15 bales Dried Salmon.
21st. Fine weather. Started at 6 am and encamped at the head of the Isles des Pierres at 5 pm.
22nd. Fine weather. Embarked about 6 am and ran the Isles des Pierres Rapids -- ran the Priest's Rapids also. Put ashore a little above the Marle Banks and took supper. We afterwards started with the intention of drifting all night but the people paddled till 10 pm when we considered [it] safest to put ashore till morning, the night being very dark and the River shoal in some places.
23rd. Fine weather. Started at 4 am and arrived at Nez Perces about 1 pm. We passed great numbers of Indians this morning on their way downwards. At Nez Perces we found Mr. [James] Birnie sent up from fort Vancouver to meet us and strengthen the party going down. Great numbers of Indians encamped round the Fort.

Journal of a Voyage from Norway House to Fort Vancouver, Columbia River, 1831, by George Traill Allen:
We remained about two days at Colvile and then bidding farewell to Mr. Heron, we set out for Okanagan where we arrived in two days. It is a small post under the charge of a couple of men. We only remained there a few hours when we again embarked.
During our voyage from Colvile to Okanagan I had one narrow escape from drowning, in descending one of those dreadful rapids for which the upper parts of the Columbia River are so noted. Of the three boats the one in which I happened to be was in the middle, and owing to some mismanagement of the other boats, ours was pushed into nearly the middle of the rapid and consequently took in a deluge of water, but was glad to escape with our lives.

Diary of a Journey from Fort Vancouver in 1835, by James Douglas:
Thursday 22nd [October] Embarked 46 bags, provisions at this post for the lower post, Left the Portage at 5 o'clock. Encamped at Grande Rapids.
Friday 23rd. Encamped a few miles above the Stoney Island Rapid. Cold.
Saturday 24th, October. Okanagan at 7 o'clock.
Sunday 25th. 4 miles above Stoney Island Rapid.
Monday 26th. 6 miles below Priest's Rapid.
Tuesday 27th. Nez Perces.

James Douglas makes no further entries in his journal after this point.

Journal of a Trip from Vancouver to York Factory, Spring, 1847, by Thomas Lowe, in charge of party:
Sunday 7th [October] Fine clear weather. Had the remainder of the pieces carted across this morning, and started about noon, with three boats, each 40 pieces and 7 men. Left two of the new hands at Colvile. Made a portage at the Grand Rapid. In running the rapid two of the boats were broken, and we had to encamp there to have them repaired.
Monday 8th. Breakfasted before leaving, as the 2 boats were not finished last night. Made in consequence a short distance today. Began to snow in the afternoon. Encamped a little above the Spokan River.
Tuesday 9th. Fine weather. Came near to the Little Dalles.
Wednesday 10th. Another fine day, although very cold. Arrived at Okanagan afternoon. Discharged 16 bags Indian corn here for Thompson's River [Kamloops]. Mr. [Ferdinand] McKenzie leaves us here to go into New Caledonia, and takes with him 1 man for N.C. and 4 for Thompson's River. Found Edouard Crete here, who goes down as far as Walla Walla [Fort Nez Perces]. Had the boats gummed and remained at the Fort for one night.
Thursday 11th. Fine weather. Started from Okanagan early this morning, but did not make so great a distance as formerly, being now reduced to 6 men per boat.
Friday 12th. Cloudy weather. Breakfasted above Les Isles des Pierres & encamped above the Priest's Rapid.
Saturday 13th. Rainy unpleasant weather. Got to the middle of the Grand Ecore, and had to purchase wood from the Indians.
Sunday 14th. Fine weather. Arrived at Fort Nez Perces after breakfast, and Mr. [William] McBean gave us a salute of 7 guns. Here we found the Measles very prevalent, the Indians were dying in great numbers. Delivered 4 bags flour for the Mission, and left 2 bags flour, and [one] Keg biscuit for the use of the Express next spring. Crete, whom we brought from Okanagan was left here, and an Owhyhee put in the boats in place of him. Got 2 pigs killed for the boats' crews. Had the boats loaded and gummed, ready for starting tomorrow.

The express journeys of 1847 and 1848 travelled up and down the Columbia at very historic times for the fur trade, and Thomas Lowe led both.
Because of that, what he has to say is important to fur trade history in the Columbia district and elsewhere.
The Mission mentioned above, is the Waillatpu Mission run by Doctor Marcus Whitman.
The Measles had come north with the Nez Perces and Cayuse men who had spent their summer at Sutter's Fort, in California.
This measles epidemic killed hundreds of Cayuse and Nez Perces people and spread all over the entire region and reached north to the post at Kamloops, and Fort Alexandria, where Alexander Caulfield Anderson was employed.
Those of you who have followed my blog for a while know what was the result -- the massacre of Doctor Whitman and his wife Narcissa, at Waillatpu, and the hostage-taking of a dozen or so American women.
This changed the fur trade in the Columbia district; those of you who have read my book also know it changed the fur trade in New Caledonia and Kamloops.

To learn more about the Waillatpu Mission massacre, you can read my three posts, listed here:
Sunday, July 2, 2012, Waillatpu Mission, Summer to Fall 1847;
Saturday, July 21, 2012, The Waillatpu Massacre, November 29, 1847; and
Sunday, August 5, 2012, After the Massacre at Waillatpu.
Yes, it took me three posts to write the whole story, and I have learned even more since I wrote these three posts last summer.

In this next journal posted here you will see the after-effects of the Waillatpu Massacre that had occurred eleven months earlier, as the brigades carried downriver the belongings of the missionaries who, earlier that year, had abandoned their mission-house south of Fort Colvile.

Journal from Vancouver to York Factory with Express, Spring 1848, by Thomas Lowe:
23rd Monday [October]. This morning early the three boats were put in the water and loaded and after breakfast we started. It then began raining, and continued during the day. Made a portage at the Grand Rapid, and crossed the boats safely. Encamped a good distance down the River on the South bank. Left 2 new hands at Colvile to fill up deficiencies and 2 more in place of [illegible] and James Ballenden who go down to Vancouver with us. At Colvile we left Mrs. Fraser and family, and took in 50 bags flour for Walla Walla, 10 bags grain for Vancouver, & 19 pieces of property belonging to Messrs. Eels & Walker to be landed at Vancouver, so that we have now 40 pieces per Boat [more than] previous year. I have still 9 men per boat, which is just a full crew, as the boat pull 8 oars. Mr. [Alexander Caulfield] Anderson killed two fat pigs for the men and we got a good supply of fresh meat for our mess. Rained heavy all day.
October 24th, Tuesday. Kept fair all day. [We stopped] a short distance above the Spokan River and gummed Joe's boat. Ran the Spokan Rapid without getting out. In the evening ran the Rapid at Les Isles de Prairie, and encamped about two miles below the Sinpoil River.
25th, Wednesday. Fine weather. Arrived at Okanagan in the evening, and encamped there. Lafleur was absent, having started yesterday for Colvile for goods.
26th, Thursday. Strong head wind most of the day. Made a pretty fair distance nevertheless.
27th, Friday. Fine weather, but wind still ahead. Encamped more than half way down the Priests Rapid. Breakfasted at the foot of Les Isles du Pierres, when Joe's boat had to be gummed and repaired, as he broke it in the morning as we started very early and he could not see very distinctly. Passed the Rocher du Bois in the afternoon.
Oct. 28th, Saturday. Had to start rather later than usual this morning to run the remainder of the Priests Rapid. fine weather, and after breakfast had a fine sail wind with which we sailed until evening. Encamped at the mouth of the Yackima river, where there was a large camp of Indians....
29th, Sunday. Beautiful day. Started this morning about 3 hours before daylight, and arrived at Walla Walla [Fort Nez Perces] about an hour after sunrise. I traded a cow from the iNdians for the people. Delivered 43 bags of flour at Walla Walla and took in 5 packs furs for Vancouver and 2 bags Indian corn for the Catholic [missionaries] at the Oaks. Had the boats gummed, and started from Walla Walla about an hour before sunset. Encamped above the Grand Rapids.

Thomas Lowe's journal ends here, and a note at the bottom tells us he arrived at Fort Vancouver on the 3rd November.
This happens many times as they approach the end of a long journey -- the record tapers off and disappears.
I imagine everyone -- gentlemen and voyageurs alike -- worked steadily, nose down, driving their way downriver to reach home and family.
And for Thomas Lowe, that was important. He would soon marry James Birnie's daughter, La Rose, and set up a new life outside the fur trade.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Boat Encampment to Fort Colvile, Columbia River

Again we are beginning our journey with Aemilus Simpson's journals, which means it is hardly necessary for me to tell you anything about this exciting and efficient downriver journey.
His descriptions of the country, which he is seeing for the first time, tell us all we need to know.
Enjoy the ride!

Journal of a voyage across the Continent of North America in 1826 by Aemilius Simpson, R. N.:
Monday 16th [October]. Rain during the night, the morning foggy. Our crews were employed in using the early part of the day arranging our boats and preparing for our voyage down the Columbia River. Our arrangements finished, we wished Mr. Finnan MacDonald [safe journey] across the mountains, and embarked at a quarter past noon, and commenced our descent of the Columbia, our party being embarked in three boats (constructed in imitation of canoes) including Mr. Deases', and consisting of about 33 hands. We now proceed on our journey with great rapidity, descending the stream, at about 7 to 8 miles per hour. In some parts along the banks a low margin of land extends to the base of the bounding ridges of mountains, but generally it is confined by Rocky cliffs of primitive formation, some of them composed of a similar lime stone which thus constituted the main mass of the Mountains. The face of the country is thickly cloaked with wood of a very great growth, principally the pine & cedar trees.
Tuesday 17th. The morning hazy. At 7 am we run the Upper Dalles rapids, a very grand shoot [chute], the running of which is attended with considerable danger and requires great skills on the part of the steersman & bowsman. The passengers and paper chest are landed at the head of the rapids, a very proper precaution. One of our boats struck a stone in running the rapids, but fortunately escaped without sustaining any considerable damage. The bounding cliffs present a great variety of curious specimen for the mineralogist, but the great rapidity with which we passed afforded little time for their collection, among those which I collected is laminated kyanite.... Continued fair with a cold and sharp wind during the day. We saw a few Indians in their very curiously constructed canoes. In the afternoon ran the 2nd Dalles rapids, our boats shipping a good deal of water. The scenery about these rapids is very fine. At 6 pm. we entered the upper lake & encampt upon a [sand] flat at its entrance, having come about 89 miles during the day.
Wednesday 18th. Commenced with rain, which continued until 8 am, accompanied with strong breeze pm., SW, retarding our passage.... One of our boats having fallen out of sight, we waited her arrival. We passed a few of the Lake Indians, who were engaged in fishing salmon, the most miserable looking fish I ever beheld being in the last stage of existence after having continued their ascent from the sea this great distance they become so red and they hardly bear any resemblance to what they were....
Their mode of fishing with a spear, a man stands erect in a small canoe with this spear in readiness, and on seeing a fish running along the bottom in the shallow water, he immediately darts it at the fish and they are so expert, that they seldom miss. At 4.30 we completed our descent of the Lake when we entered the river, but our boat having again fallen in the rear, we encampt for the night so as to allow her [to] come up before dark.
Thursday 19th. This morning hazy. At 4 am. we embarked when we [descended] the river for 5 leagues and then entered the Arrow Lake, which we continued to descend for the remainder of the day. In the afternoon we had a favourable wind from the N to which we spread our sail cloth and [sailed] a good deal. this Lake is generally very narrow for [such] a sheet of water, seldom exceeding two miles. The water of this Lake has a sea green colour from which I would infer that it has a great depth, on entering this lake you come into the SW from which it gradually turns to the ESE. At 6pm we encampt having traveled fourteen hours & coming a distance of about 20 leagues.
The communication between the lakes is a continuation of river for about 6 leagues. On entering the Arrow Lake it runs to the SW and gradually turns to the SSE, and on passing the Arrow Rock, a remarkable cliff on the left it turns to the ESE & SE. The Arrow Rock, so named on account of a round hole in its face full of arrows, said to have been fired at it by Indians, when practicing the bow & arrow before a war excursion.
[Can you believe it -- when I collected this many years ago, I omitted the next! How priorities change over the years!]
Friday 20th. On embarking we continued our descent of the Arrow Lake for about 14 miles, when we return to the river, and continuing its descent in a very winding course between east & south, we arrived at the Kettle Falls. Along our track received the addition of three very large streams, viz. MacGillivrays, Flathead & Mutton Blanche. The morning fine and clear weather, but towards day light a thick fog hung on the bed of the River. ... At 1:30 the Dalles Rapids, a long shoot bounded by steep Rocky cliffs & having a remarkable block of rock rising perpendicular in the bed of the River of considerable height. We arrived at Fort Colvile at 4:30 pm. We were received here by a number of Indians, the chiefs mounted on horses which we were obliged to shake cordially by the hand in return for this compliment. To a stranger they appear grotesque figures, their faces painted a variety of colours and their leather robes fancifully decoration according to their fashion, giving them a very fantastic air. We found this post merely in progress, a few houses only being completed, & no stockades up for defense. The ground about here appears well calculated both for grazing & agricultural purposes & produces at present potatoes of an immense quantity, and I have no doubt will yield ample return of grain, in its being tried. The face of this country has quite a lawn-like appearance. The Indians we found here are the Spokan, Kootenies, Nez Perces and Kettle Falls Tribes.
Saturday 21st. A slight frost during the night followed by fine clear weather. Mr. Dease requiring a copy of the Minutes of Council and some other arrangements being necessary, we remained at Fort Colvile for the day.

York Factory Express Journal, 1827, by Edward Ermatinger:
11th [October]. Fine weather. Left the Portage between 9 and 10 am and having travelled with a swift current all day encamped at 1/4 before 6 about 5 miles below the Dalles des Morts. Killed a fine fat Bear today.
12th. Thick fog all day. We were on the water before 5 am. Entered the 1st Lake about 3. Encamped at 1/2 past 6 pm.
13th. Foggy morning but fine day. Started at 1/2 past 4 am. Paddled thro' the 1st Lake (about 2/3 of it) down the River and encamped a little way in the 2nd Lake at 5 pm. Gummed one of our boats. Saw Indians.
14th. Had a shower of rain but day generally fine. Embarked 2 am. Proceeded thro' the 2nd Lake and re-entered the River about 2 pm. Encamped some distance below McGillivray's river [Kootenay River] at 5 o'clock.
15th. Fine weather. Started about 4 am. and reached Fort Colvile by noon.
16th. Fine weather. People employed this day gumming their boats. One they take over the Kettle Falls portage and one is already there left in the summer. The latter requires pitching all over. Get our baggage transported in carts below the Portage.

Journal of a Voyage from Norway House to Fort Vancouver, Columbia River, 1831, by George Traill Allen:
Tuesday 4th [October]. We embarked on the far famed Columbia, which runs here with tremendous velocity. We reached Fort Colvile, Mr. Heron's quarters, in about four days. The Fort is most delightfully situated in a beautiful plain surrounded by high lands. I may observe here, as a rather remarkable circumstance, that although the lower parts of the Columbia are noted for great rains, it is very rare indeed that it rains at Colvile. There is a farm of considerable extent here and which produced wheat, Indian corn, barley, etc. in abundance.

Diary of a Journey from Fort Vancouver in 1835, by James Douglas:
Sat. 17th [October] Rain & snow all day. Left the Boat Encampment this morning at 7 o'clock and proceed on during the day without accident or detention. Encamped a few miles below Pork Eater's Point.
Sun. 18th. Weather similar to yesterday. Entered the lake at 4 pm. Saw 3 Indians.
Mon. 19th. Encamped at Pine Point, commencement of 1st Lake. Clear weather.
Tues. 20th. Clear weather. Encamped a few miles above McGillivray's River.
Wed. 21st. Arrived at Colvile this day at 2 pm.

As you can see, everyone is eager to get home to Fort Vancouver, and has little to say of this part of the downriver journey.
Still, there are a few good journals coming....

Journal of a Trip from Vancouver to York Factory, Spring 1847, by Thomas Lowe, in charge of the party:
Saturday 30th [October] fine weather in the forenoon, but snow afterwards. Started after breakfast from the Boat Encampment with four boats, [number] men and 23 pieces per boat. the River is in a fine state, and we got a short distance below St. Martin's Rapids.
Sunday 31st. Rained last night, but kept fair during the day. Made a portage of half the pieces at the Rapid de Mort before breakfast and encamped not far from the head of the Upper Lake.
Monday, 1st November. Fine weather. Breakfasted at the entrance of the lake and had a sail wind during the day. Encamped near the end of the lake.
Tuesday 2nd. Snowing in the morning, but fine weather afterwards. Got to the commencement of the Lower Lake to breakfast. Calm today. In the evening put ashore about the middle of the Lake for supper.
Wednesday 3rd. Last night started about 10 o'clock and pulled all  night. Had a favorable breeze in the daytime, which took us through the remainder of the Lake about noon. Has been a fine day. Encamped a little below the Pend'Oreilles River.
Thursday 4th. Beautiful clear weather. Breakfasted at Dease's Encampment, and arrived at Colvile a little after noon. Had the boats hauled up on the beach, and the pieces taken into the Fort.
Friday 5th. Snowed the whole day. Two of the boats were [transported] to the other end of the Portage, but with much difficulty as the road is almost impassible on acct of the snow.
Saturday 6th. More snow again today. Had the other boat taken across and most of the pieces.

Journal from Vancouver to York Factory with Express, Spring 1848, by Thomas Lowe:
Monday 16th [October]. Fine weather. In the forenoon the three men who were behind with their horses last night arrived. The Boat which we left here in the Spring was properly gummed and arranged today, and in the afternoon about 4 o'clock we started from the Boat Encampment with 3 boats, having about 20 pieces per boat, and 13 men each. The river is in a fine state, and we swamped a short distance above St. Martin's Rapid. Mrs. Fraser & family return with us to Colvile.
Tuesday 17th. Beautiful day. Ran St. Martin's Rapid early, and breakfasted a short distance above the Rapid des Morts. In running the latter Pierre's boat took in a good deal of water as he had to run straight through the middle of the heavy waves, not being able to trust [the men on] the eddy on account of the awkwardness of the crew, who were too frightened to do as they were ordered. Passed a lodge of Indians in the afternoon, and traded a little dried meat. Shortly afterwards we killed a female Caribou on the beach. Encamped a short distance below the Upper Dalles.
18th, Wednesday. Fine weather. Breakfasted at the entrance of the Upper Lake. Pulled against a strong head wind all day, and encamped about the middle of the lake. Before encamping it began to rain and rained until past midnight when it cleared up, and the moon rose. We then pushed off, and pulled until day light when we found ourselves near the end of the lake.
Oct. 19th, Thursday. Beautiful day. Breakfasted near the commencement of the Lower Lake, and after breakfast had a fine strong wind, with which we sailed most of the day. Put ashore for supper a good piece more than half through the Lake, and started afterwards. Pulled all night.
20th, Friday. Fine weather. At daylight found ourselves at the end of the Lower Lake, and breakfasted a good piece down the River. Pulled hard all day, and at sunset got to Colvile, where we found Mr. [Alexander Caulfield] Anderson and his men all well. Had the pieces taken up to the Fort.
21st, Saturday. Fine day. Had two of the Boats hauled across to the other end of the Portage and all the Pieces. In the evening came on to rain, and we could not get the third boat across. It is a new boat and had to be arranged properly & caulked.
22nd, Sunday. Fine weather. Had the third boat hauled across this morning, and the Boutes were employed gumming the whole of them today. All the men slept with the property. In the evening a man of the name of Angus McLeod arrived overland from Vancouver, with letters from below.

If you want to see good images of this part of the river drawn at the same time the expresses were coming downriver (or going up) then find the library book, Paul Kane, The Artist: Wilderness to Studio by Kenneth R. Lister (Royal Ontario Museum Press).
It's not likely you can afford to buy this book -- it's a big one.
I will quote a little from it to help you see what he saw.
"The brigade left Boat Encampment on November 16, 1846, and four days later, on November 20, they reached Fort Colvile at Kettle Falls.
"They had passed through the calm of the Arrow Lakes and run such rapids as Les Dalles des Morts in the upper reaches of the river and the Lower Little Dalles a short distance north of the Colville River.
"On his return journey, Kane arrived back at Fort Colville on August 6, 1847.
"He remained in the area for more than a month, leaving on September 22 and arriving back at Boat Encampment on October 10, 1847....
"In the Fort Colville area, Kane came into contact with the largest number of Native peoples, and in this upper Columbia River region he produced the greatest number of sketches.
"Fort Colville was established by the HBC in 1825, the site chosen for its proximity to Kettle Falls and the salmon fishery.
"As well, the site provided land for farming and, being close to the falls, provided the means, such as draft animals and wagons, for negotiating the Kettle Falls portage.
"Fort Colville became the headquarters for the district, the largest HBC post between the Rocky Mountains and the Cascade Range."