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BC Historical Books

The makers of Canada. Mackenzie, Selkirk, Simpson Bryce, George, 1844-1931 1909

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         Parkman Edition 

1909 Entered according to Act of the Parliament of Canada
in the year 1905, by Morang & Co., Limited, in the
Department of Agriculture
OP -2-
.      127
INDEX    .....
.      281
H ||| 1 SING arms and the hero," the words used
J- by Virgil to introduce his great story of
valour and heroism in the far Mediterranean may
be as truly applied by us in beginning an account
of deeds and men in the rise and struggles of
frontier life in the far west of North America.
The picturesque and heroic are not confined to any
age or clime; indeed, they are characteristic in a
peculiar degree of the early days of occupation of
the American continent. The conflict of the two
great fur companies, which carried on a trade covering the vast expanse of British North America,
stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans,
brings before us operations extending over distances
before which Caesar's invasions or even Alexander's
great marches shrink into insignificance.
The now venerable Hudson's Bay Company,
which we recognize to-day as having a history of
two and a quarter centuries, had spent the first
century of its rule satisfied with its place of preeminence on the shores of Hudson Bay, had declared several enormous dividends, and had begun
to consider its right prescriptive to the trade brought
by the Indians down the rivers, even from the
Rocky Mountains, two thousand miles to the west.
It was a beautiful thing to see the fealty with which
the northern Indians, the Crees and Chipewyans,
and the Eskimos as well, regarded the English
traders, and brought to them at York Factory and
Fort Churchill the marten, fox and beaver skins
caught, by their shrewdness and ceaseless energy, on
the rivers and in the forests of the vast interior.
The taking of French Canada by the English relieved the company for one or two decades from any
show of competition which may have affected them
on their southern border during the French regime.
But as Canada began to receive adventurous
spirits from Scotland, England, and the American
colonies, it became evident to the traders of Hudson Bay that new opponents not to be despised
would have to be met and dealt with. The Scottish
merchants of ■ Montreal, many of whom had the
blood and spirit of the Highland clans that had
fought at Culloden, and Englishmen, who had
braved the hardships of the American frontier and
had come to Canada to try their fortunes, looked
towards the fur country as a new field for adventure
and profit. Men of this class are proverbially men
of daring and of self-confidence. In frequent contact
with the Indians, encountering the big game of the
woods, crossing deep rivers, and running dangerous
rapids, accustomed, in short, to all the hardships of
the border country, the frontiersman is full of spirit
and resource.
Accordingly, a few years after the conquest,
Curry, Finlay, Henry, sen., and many others
whose names are well known, started from Montreal with their companies of Indians and French-
Canadians, and, going up the Ottawa River and
Great Lakes, fixed their eyes on the star of'hope in
the far north. Verendrye, a French explorer, had
led the way inland from Lake Superior, thirty or
forty years before, though he and his followers had
never gone north of the Saskatchewan. The merchants of Montreal thought nothing of penetrating
farther to the north; so, leaving the Saskatchewan
behind, they planned a flank movement on the
Hudson's Bay Company, which would completely
cut off from them the great bodies of Indians
who came down the English River or the Saskatchewan to the forts on Hudson Bay.
True, a few years before this plan was undertaken,
the Hudson's Bay Company, no doubt preparing
to gird itself for the fray, had sent an ardent explorer, Samuel Hearne, afterwards known as the
"'Mungo Park' of Canada," to explore the interior, conciliate the Indians, and ascertain the
possibility of increasing trade. After two absolute
failures, Hearne gained, on his third journey from
Hudson Bay, Lake Athapapuskow, probably Great
Slave Lake; and, going north-eastward, he discovered the Copper Mine River, and reached the
shore of the Arctic Sea. This was a worthy achievement,   and  it  was   three   years   after  this  that
I feH2£SS322£§r8§i?
Thomas and Joseph Frobisher, two merchants from
Montreal, in furtherance of the plan spoken of,
built (1772) a fur trader's fort at Sturgeon Lake on
the Saskatchewan River, where the northern lakes
and watercourses make a connection with the
Churchill or English River, which runs down to
Hudson Bay.
This was a strategic point of first importance.
North, east, and west it commanded the approaches;
and it was a stroke of genius when the brothers Frobisher erected their simple log fort at this point,
and prepared to wage a war worthy of the giants.
Hearne and his colleagues at Fort Churchill were
not long in hearing of the intruders and their plans;
in fact, friendly Indians in a single season blazed
the news on the very shore of Hudson Bay. Hearne
lost no time in taking up the gage of battle thrown
to him by the Frobishers. Going to Pine Island
Lake, the western arm of the Sturgeon, within five
hundred yards of the fort built by the Montrealers,
he began (1774) the erection of Fort Cumberland,
a trading-post well known to the present day.
It was a fateful year when first two forts, the embodiment of rival interests, stood face to face, a few
hundred yards apart, on the Saskatchewan River,
the great artery of Rupert's Land. Then and there
was begun a conflict which for well-nigh half a
century stirred the passions of violent and headstrong men, urged to its height one of the most
celebrated competitions of modern times, intro-
duced the fire-water—the curse of the poor Indian
—as a means of advancing trade, and dyed with the
blood of some of the best men of both companies
the snows of Athabaska, the banks of the Saskatchewan, the rocky shores of Lake Superior, and the fertile soil of the prairies on the Red River of the'North.
At the very, time when the thirteen English
colonies on the Atlantic shore were precipitating a
fratricidal conflict, in which families were divided,
neighbours alienated, and English-speaking colonists
separated into hostile camps, in the far north a
company of Englishmen from Hudson Bay were
turning their weapons against Englishmen in
Canada, both speaking the same tongue, respecting the same laws, and flying the same flag.
Seventeen hundred and seventy-four and its succeeding years thus presented the sad spectacle of
Anglo-Saxon interests, both in the Atlantic colonies
and in Rupert's Land, in a state of fiercest conflict and division, from the tropics to the Arctic
circle, from the Gulf of Mexico to the icy sea.
The Hudson's Bay Company had been averse to
entering on a conflict which promised to be so
severe and destructive of successful trade, but the
Montreal traders were aggressive. Frobisher's men
had penetrated to Lake Athabaska and built forts
in the surrounding region. But the English company,
with enormous energy, pushed forward its plans and
built its forts. It took hold of the Assiniboine and
Red River country, and built famous forts, such
5 ■li
Brandon House, Edmonton House, Carlton
House, and trading-posts at the mouth of Winnipeg
River, on Rainy Lake, and even in the country
now included in Minnesota. The great distance of
these trading-houses from each other well shows
how thoroughly the Hudson's Bay Company had
covered the country, for each of these centres
carried with it a number of subordinate posts.
The Montreal traders were no less energetic. In
fact, though the Hudson's Bay Company had a
higher reputation with the Indians, and though the
English company could reach the interior earlier in
the spring, yet the dash and spirit and acquaintance
with the country of the Canadian traders made them,
in organization and trading ability, more than a match
for their rivals. Finding the need of strengthening
themselves, the several firms of merchants who
were trading from Montreal agreed to unite in
1783-4. The prospect of peace and cooperation was,
however, immediately destroyed by some of the
selfish and unworthy elements of the new company
breaking away from it, and with the help of other
Montreal merchants organizing an opposition.
Four years afterwards a cruel murder was perpetrated in the Saskatchewan region, by Pond, the
marplot who had divided the company, and so great
was the fear and confusion caused by this act that
the three Montreal companies effected a union in
1787 into one North-West Company. New posts
and a great impulse to trade resulted from this union.
The trade, which at the time of union amounted to
£40,000, by the end of the century had increased
to three times that sum. The last quarter of the
eighteenth century thus saw the English and the
Canadian fur companies, side by side, occupying
the vast interior of Rupert's Land, and even crossing the Rocky Mountains in search of trade.
Into the Canadian company, among the young
Scotsmen who were attracted to Canada by the
fur trade, entered a young Highland adventurer,
Alexander Mackenzie by name. He at once rose to
prominence, and became a determined and perhaps
rather aggressive and irreconcilable element among
the Nor'-Westers in the Protean phases of their
exciting history. The nineteenth century had just
dawned as Alexander Mackenzie published in
London an account of his great discovery. The
book had ardent readers in Great Britain. One of
these was a young Scottish nobleman, Thomas, Earl
of Selkirk, who had a lofty imagination and a high
public spirit. The book of travels excited in the
young peer the spirit of adventure, and led to his
embarking on a great scheme of emigration. In a
few years, to further his emigration plans, Lord Selkirk gained a controlling interest in the Hudson's
Bay Company, being opposed in this by Alexander Mackenzie, who held a quantity of stock in
the English company.1 Lord Selkirk organized his
1 The second part of this book narrates in detail the circumstances
connected with Lord Selkirk's great project.
7 J
colony under the auspices of the Hudson's Bay
Company, though opposed by Mackenzie and others
of the Nor'-Westers. But, as we shall presently learn,
colonizer and fur trader could not at all agree. Their
aims, methods, and interests were not to be reconciled, and blood ran plentifully on the bleak plains
of Rupert's Land to the disgrace of both parties,
who claimed the shelter of the British flag.
The imperial and Canadian authorities were both
compelled to interfere. Lord Selkirk, wearied and
harassed by conflicts, lawsuits, and misunderstandings', returned home to die. With sympathetic
interest in this conflict from the other side, Alexander Mackenzie, far away in Britain, spent his
declining years, until, in the same year, (1820) the
opposing leaders passed away.
The following year saw more peaceable counsels
prevail, and the two companies united under the
name of the older organization as the Hudson's Bay
Company. Just as the union was effected a new
force appeared in the trader's clerk, George Simpson, who, as governor, was destined to unite the
discordant elements, and in a career of nearly forty
years to raise the united companies to a position of
greatest influence.
We ask the patient attention of our readers, as
with some detail we set forth the life, work, and
influence of these three representatives of the great
fur companies, viz., Sir Alexander Mackenzie, the
Earl of Selkirk, and Sir George Simpson.,
WHY so many Scottish men of education,
spirit, and daring found their way, after the
conquest, to Canada, and especially to Montreal, is
somewhat difficult to ascertain. Scotland is a rugged
country, with a climate fitted to make a hardy race;
it is very far from being a fertile country in the
main; a large portion of its people—larger than at
the present time—were mountaineers, loving adventure and accustomed to the hardships of the
heath and wood. It is thus possible that young and
adventurous Scotsmen found in Canada a home in
a northland, suited to their thought and liking.
Highland soldiers had clambered up the heights
of Quebec, and the land seemed theirs by right of
conquest. Some of the soldiers remained in Canada
along the great St. Lawrence, while those who returned to their native valleys, as they told the tale
of daring on the Plains of Abraham, and made
I Evan's, Donald's fame ring in each clansman's
ears," inspired the young and ambitious to seek out
the land of the hunt and fur trade, and make it
Among those of better parts and respectability
there came to the New World Alexander Mackenzie.
9 f
According to the statement of his own family, he
was a native of Stornoway, in the island of Lewis
on the west coast of Scotland, and not, as stated
in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, of Inverness. He is
said to have been a scion of the old Mackenzies
of Seaforth, from whom Stornoway, with the whole
island, of which it is the capital, passed years ago to
its present proprietors, the Mathesons, of Achany
and Ardross. According to the Dictionary of National Biography, young Mackenzie was bom in the
year 1755, but his grandson writes to the author
that his grandfather was born in 1763. The future
explorer had received a fair education, and being
familiar with the sea, and finding the boatman's life
attractive, was well fitted for the work of the fur
trade, towards which he was drawn on his arrival in
Montreal at the age of sixteen.
In 1779, on his arrival in Canada, the leaders of
the fur trade were Simon McTavish and the brothers
Frobisher. The two companies under these leaders
represented the greater part of the capital and influence of the fur trade. There were, however, restless spirits among the traders who did not acknowledge the prevailing domination. Two Americans,
Peter Pond and Peter Pangman, the latter known
as Bastonnais (i.e., the American), though possessed
of little capital, were plotters of the first water.
They succeeded in inducing the Montreal merchants, John Gregory, an Englishman, and Alexander
Norman McLeod, a proud and aggressive High-
lander, to unite in company and fight the strong
monopolists led by McTavish.
With this nest of oppositionists Alexander Mackenzie allied himself. His keenness and daring at
once attracted the attention of his employers, and
his selection, after a very short experience, to lead a
trading expedition to Detroit, on the lower lakes,
was a remarkable example of confidence. It was no
easy thing to conduct a trading party from Montreal
to Detroit in those early days. The rapids of the
St. Lawrence had to be faced and overcome, while
the watercourses were the highways for the bands
of Indians from the far west, who were rendered the
more treacherous by the success of the American
Upper Canada, through which Mackenzie wended
his way to the west, was still an uninhabited forest,
for the United Empire Loyalist was only finding his
way to his asylum of rest north of the lakes. Crossing the Niagara peninsula along the Niagara River,
or leaving Lake Ontario at Fond du Lac, where the
city of Hamilton now stands, portaging to the Grand
River, and descending it to Lake Erie, the adventurous voyageurs then coasted the shallow lake and
found their way to Detroit, their destination.
Detroit had been a favourite resort of the traders
under the old French regime. It is said that at the
time of the conquest there were some two thousand
French-Canadians or their descendants living on the
banks of the Detroit River. Some have questioned
11 Hi
this statement inasmuch as within twenty-five years
from that date, when young Mackenzie betook himself to Detroit, there were only seventy of these old
French families. Either the former statement was
incorrect, or else the migration of these borderers
farther west to Michilimackinac and the shores of
Lake Michigan had been very large. The latter is
the more likely explanation.
The counting-house experience of five years in
Montreal, and a year's responsibility at Detroit
fitted the young Scottish trader for undertaking
what was the joy of every Nor'-Wester, the journey
to the far North-West. Mackenzie was visited at
Detroit by McLeod, the junior member of his house,
and induced to leave quieter scenes behind and adventure himself in a land yet largely unknown to
Now raised to the dignity of a bourgeois,1 (1785)
Mackenzie set out for the land that was to make
him famous. Passing Mackinaw and Sault Ste.
Marie, the new leader entered the great Lake
Superior, and coasting its northern shore, reached
Grand Portage, of which he speaks with some interest.
Grand Portage was the cynosure of every fur
trader, whether he were coming from the interior to
the stormy Lake Superior, or going westward
through the upper lakes. To the imagination of the
young fur trader Grand Portage made a strong
1A partner or shareholder in the company.
appeal, just as it does even now to those acquainted
with the old days of the fur trade.
It lies on a most unfrequented part of the north
shore of Lake Superior, some forty miles southwest of Fort William, of which it was the predecessor. A few years ago the writer paid the
lonely spot a visit. After being rowed in a small
boat by the keeper of a neighbouring lighthouse, in
a dismal and dangerous night voyage, he reached
this famous rendezvous of the old traders. The
name of the place was taken from a nine-mile portage to avoid the rapids of the Pigeon River. Over
the portage a wagon road was constructed, which
may still be seen. A few sunken timbers only are
left in the water to represent the warehouses and
wharves of this once thronged and important place.
These formerly faced a pretty bay made by a rocky
islet standing out into the lake as a protection and
shelter to it. On this island is now the dwelling of
a solitary French fisherman, looking like a robber's
keep. Besides the fisherman there is not a white
man to be found for twenty miles. An Indian
village occupies the site of Grand Portage. The
village has a multitude of dogs, but neither wagon
nor horse is known to be within many miles. Grand
Portage was found, after the Treaty of Paris, to be
on the American side of the Pigeon River, but was
not given up for nearly twenty years after Mackenzie's first visit.
When Alexander Mackenzie arrived at Grand
Portage it was in its glory. Five hundred men in the
employ of the fur traders assembled there, those
from the east who met no Indians lived on cured
rations, and were called mangeurs de lard, or pork-
eaters ; while the independent westerners were known
as coureurs de bois or wood-runners. Into this
stronghold of the old company Mackenzie and his
associates had now come, representing the Gregory
interests, and with the fixed determination of winning a foothold in the heart of the great fur country
which extended far to the north and west.
The vigorous, if not violent, member of the company, A. N. McLeod, remained in Montreal to
manage the headquarters. The members of the determined little band divided up the great territory
among them. The Red River district was apportioned to Duncan Pollock, a veteran trader, the far-
off Athabaska was given to John Ross, the rich
Saskatchewan to Rastonnais Pangman, and the
Churchill or English River to the young bourgeois,
Alexander Mackenzie, who already showed evidences of a dominancy and influence by and by to
become supreme. With the younger company were
also associated James Finlay, son of the pioneer
trader to the fur country, and Alexander Mackenzie's cousin, Roderick McKenzie, who became
a well-known trader, and was the historiographer
of the fur traders.
The practical talent and influence of the Mac-
kenzies showed itself in the new organization. They
laid it down as a principle that the best results from
the fur trade were not to be gained by the two companies, even though they were rivals, being in a
state of friction and conflict. Accordingly Alexander
Mackenzie and his neighbouring bourgeois of the
other company, P. Small, completed their successful
winter's work by carrying their furs in company
to He a la Crosse, making the river banks resound
with their joyous songs. Roderick McKenzie had
as his rival hi the English River district one of the
greatest men of the old company, William Mc-
Gillivray, and they, too, after a good winter's trade
carried in company their superabundant catches to
the place of rendezvous.
Unfortunately this harmony did not prevail everywhere. Trader Ross had found as his rival Peter Pond,
who had basely deserted Pangman, and returned to
his old masters. Pond was a man of enormous
energy. He had been the pioneer of the Athabaska
district, but while the successful upholder of his
own company, he was the terror of his rivals and
the scourge of the peace-loving Indians of the
Athabaska district. Five years before this time the
desperate trader had, it was believed, been the cause
of the death in the Athabaska country of a popular
Swiss trader, M. Wadin, the agent of a rival company, and now Ross found a constant irritation
being kept up between Pond's subordinates and
his own. During the whole winter matters went
from bad to worse, until in one   of the actual
15 a
quarrels of the two parties, Ross was unfortunately
The brigades of the year, led by Alexander Mackenzie and others, had just left He a la Crosse to
carry their cargoes to Grand Portage, when the sad
news of the death of John Ross reached Roderick
McKenzie, who had been left in charge of He a la
Crosse, in the absence of the party en route for
Lake Superior. McKenzie considered that the matter
of Pond's violence, since it was the second occasion
on which he had been charged with murder, was so
serious that it was absolutely necessary that the
partners at Grand Portage should know of it.
Accordingly, in a light canoe manned by five
voyageurs, he hastened unguided to the rendezvous
and made the painful journey in a month's time.
The news of the bloodshed in Athabaska filled
the minds of the members of both companies in
Grand Portage with dismay. All felt the words of
the wise man to be true, that the | beginning of
strife is as when one letteth out water," and this
being Pond's second offence no one knew to what it
might grow, especially in the remote Indian territories. The matter was fully debated and canvassed
among the traders, and it was decided that the
union of the two companies was imperative. Accordingly the North-West Company was established
(1787) with a larger membership, and the three
firms, headed by McTavish, Frobisher, and Gregory
respectively, became the agents for the joint ad-
ministration of affairs at Grand Portage and Montreal.
All eyes were turned upon the rising young
trader, Alexander Mackenzie, as the man to meet
the emergency in Athabaska. He alone was fitted
I to bell the cat." While he was, under the, united
company, to act ostensibly in concert with the bloodthirsty Pond, yet the understanding was that he
should take the supervision, as Pond's extravagant
ideas had lost for him the confidence of the traders.
Masson states that Mackenzie on going to the
Athabaska district, had determined to follow the
course of the Hudson's Bay Company, viz., to withdraw all posts from beyond Lake Athabaska, and
compel the northern Indians to trade within the
precincts of a well-organized fort built upon the
lake. His fear of the influence of the Hudson's Bay
Company, however, led him, on fuller consideration,
to change his plans, and to push out agents even
farther to the north than had yet been done.
In his administration of this northern district
Alexander Mackenzie at once showed his surpassing ability. His surrender of preconceived opinion,
and his adoption of the policy of expansion, showed
him to be a man of observation and decision. The
fact that he was a very young man was all in his
favour in his new work. At twenty-four he had the
energy of maturity and the adventurous instincts of
youth. In a service such as that of the fur companies in a new country,  overcaution, prejudice,
1 I
and slavery to routine are deadly sins. When
Simpson, a young man who had only spent a
winter in the country, was chosen as governor
of Rupert's Land, he succeeded because he had
ability and had nothing to unlearn; so young
Alexander Mackenzie proved his adaptability and
his fitness for leadership.
AnotKer mark of his foresight and good judgment was revealed in his selection of the localities
which should serve as centres for future expansion.
Thus early the thought of the explorer was directed
to the two oceans, one to the north and the other
to the west, as opening up a field for the largest
speculation and enterprise.
Having decided to adopt the new policy of
"advance," he selected Leroux and his party,
who had been brought from Great Slave Lake, to
return thither and to push the trade with vigour.
Leroux not only did this, taking up a post on Great
Slave Lake, but, finding the Indians indolent and
careless about trade, he despatched a well-known
Chipewyan leader known as the "English chief,"
to induce the northern Indians to come to his fort
with their furs. Leroux also sent a sturdy Highland
trader named Sutherland to visit distant tribes of
Indians and win their good-will by a liberal distribution of presents. The good news spread far among
the solitudes of the remote region beyond, so that
in the following spring a large number of Indians
from a lake far to the west, hitherto unknown to the
traders, came to search out the lavish monarch of
the north—Leroux. The policy, open spirit, and
attractive manner of Mackenzie were all found
reflected in the whole body of his subordinates.
Another stroke of genius, also looking to the
future, was his choice of a commanding position on
Peace River, the great waterway flowing to Lake
Athabaska from the west, a position which dominated even the western slope of the Rocky Mountains. To this point he despatched Boyer to found
a fort and open trade on the route to the western
sea. This he did at a spot where the Little Red
River, a tributary from the south, flows into the
Peace River.
It was the custom of the trading companies to
give positions of trust only to men of ripe years
and experience. Seldom was a man known to be
promoted to a commissioned office while under
forty years of age. That Alexander Mackenzie
should be placed in charge of so difficult and important a district as Athabaska was an unheard-of
thing, but it simply showed that this man, so
honoured at an early age, was destined to be one
of the master minds of the fur trade, though it is
well to state that his sudden elevation did not free
him from the jealousy afterwards manifested by
some of the traders.
LAKE ATHABASKA, on account of its geographical position, was the key to the far
north. Vast regions inhabited by the best of fur-
bearing animals were, and are to the present day,
tributary to it. As already stated, the violent Peter
Pond had led the way to the district, although he
had not taken possession of the lake itself. It was in
1778 that Pond built his post on Elk River, or, as the
French called it, Riviere a la Biche, thirty miles
south of Lake Athabaska. To this point Alexander
Mackenzie had come, here his broad plans were laid
for the extension of the fur trade, and here the
brilliant designs were conceived that were to make
him famous as an explorer.
Masson, in his book on the North-West Company,
depicts in a striking manner the feelings of many of
the more educated and enterprising fur traders, as
they contemplated the monotony and humdrum of
much of a fur trader's life. He represents Alexander
Mackenzie as not entirely above the tedium which
he sought to relieve by bursts of bustling activity.
I How do you spend your time ?" asked a young
clerk of the North-West Company of a comrade of
his own age, who, like himself, had received a good
ir VM
education. 11 rise with the sun; I go to see the
traps ; if a number of Indians arrive I buy their furs,
then I eat tollibee (white fish) three times a day. Do
you see ? I find the time very long, and I fear that
my constitution will be seriously injured by that
kind of a life, but what can be done ? I make a dog
train; I bend some wood for snowshoes ; and with
perseverance I hope to learn the use of the crooked
Such a life could not satisfy Alexander Mackenzie ; his intelligent and open nature revolted
from the idea of passing the best years of his life in
such intellectual stagnation: now some dirty savages
to receive ; some goods to exchange for furs ; some
voyageurs to despatch to the interior; these for
companions, men without education and sometimes
of bad. character! Ennui, the worst of maladies,
consumed him; he felt himself degraded and useless. His ambition demanded a wider horizon, and
for his energy wider fields, and the work of seeking
new regions; in short, the desire to travel and explore was burning within him, and he resolved to
do his share towards the discovery of the famous
north-west passage, if it existed, and to reach the
Arctic Ocean.
Various reasons, however, led to his considering
the plan very fully, before he decided upon it. There
was, as already stated, a considerable amount of
jealousy among the traders. Mackenzie had belonged
to the smaller company, he was unpopular with
22 m
Le marquis, as the great McTavish, the head of
the traders in Montreal, was called, and he knew
that it would be almost impossible for him to get a
commission to explore the far distant north, and to
incur the expense and danger of such a voyage—
even should he offer himself at the annual meeting
of the partners at Grand Portage.
Another difficulty lay in his way. The district to
which he was appointed had by the conduct of Pond
become unsettled, and there was no one of his subordinates to whom he could entrust the direction of
affairs. The first obstacle would be largely removed
if the second were solved. Accordingly the thought
came to his mind to secure as his lieutenant in the
district his cousin, Roderick McKenzie, who was
not well satisfied with his position in the trade, and
was seriously thinking of leaving the fur country
altogether, and returning to Montreal.
The vision of expansion placed before Roderick
McKenzie by his cousin proved an attractive one,
so that he decided to remain in the country, and
soon found his way to the Athabaska district. A
strong friendship was thus developed between the
two cousins, though, as we shall see, to be interrupted for a time in subsequent years by the changes
in the fur companies. The work entrusted to
Roderick McKenzie, and the way in which he
did it, resulted in giving him a high place among
the traders.
Arrived at Elk or Athabaska River, Alexander
if WSm
Mackenzie and his confiding kinsman laid theii
plans for accomplishing what they had in view.
The post was thirty miles from Lake Athabaska,
or Lake of the Hills, as it was also called. Alexander Mackenzie addressed himself to putting the
trade of his district in thorough order, and kept his
hold of Elk River post, the old centre, but Roderick
was sent to take up new ground and build a new
To Alexander Mackenzie's keen eye it was plain
that Lake Athabaska would be a more central point
from which to send out his messages to the traders,
and to which they could come conveniently with
their furs. It would afford a line of immediate communication with the vast lake and river system of
what we now know as Great Slave and Great Bear
Lakes and the Mackenzie River, and it would also
lead the way to passages through the Rocky Mountains, where lay great regions still to be explored.
Roderick McKenzie has left us in his interesting
1 Reminiscences " the story of how he took up his
position on Lake Athabaska, and pushed forward the
work entrusted to him. "After making every possible
inquiry and taking every necessary precaution," says
the enterprising novice, "I pitched upon a conspicuous projection which advanced about a league
into the lake, the base of which appeared in the
shape of a person sitting with arms extended, the
palms forming, as it were, a point. On this we settled
and built a fort, which we called Chipewyan. It is
altogether a beautiful, healthy situation, in the centre
of many excellent and never-failing fisheries, provided they are duly attended to at the proper
The matter of food is ever an important one in
these far northern regions, where nature is not profuse in her gifts, so that the proximity of good fishing-grounds was an important consideration for the
hungry traders.
The first Fort Chipewyan was built on a promontory on the south side of Lake Athabaska, a few
miles east of the entrance of the Elk River into
the lake. It was regarded as a great triumph of
skill when this farthest great outpost of the fur
trade was completed. Its commanding position
and its commodious and comfortable appointments
were a surprise to the Indians and old voyageurs
who frequented the region. Roderick McKenzie
had an eye for the aesthetic, so he fitted out his
new fort with every luxury possible in those remote and barren regions. His painting of the interior
of the new post, and his attention to its comforts
were something unheard of in such a region. The
new fort was at once accepted, by Indians and traders
alike, as the natural centre of trade, and was at times
spoken of as the | Emporium of the North."
Roderick McKenzie always had a taste for literature, as was seen years later when he opened correspondence with traders all over the north and
west, asking for descriptions of scenery, of adven-
ture, folklore and history. On his building Fort
Chipewyan we learn that he also had in view the
founding of a library at the fort, which would not
be only for the immediate residents of Fort Chipewyan, but for traders and clerks of the whole region
tributary to Lake Athabaska, so that it would be
what he called, in an imaginative and somewhat
jocular vein, "the little Athensof the Arctic regions."
This library became, perhaps, the most famous in the
whole extent of Rupert's Land, and more than fifty
years afterwards we read of Lieutenant Henry Lefroy,
on his expedition for magnetic observation, spending
the winter in Fort Chipewyan, and revelling in the
treasures of its well-selected library; therefore the
library was not entirely, as Masson contends, scattered
and destroyed in the first generation after its founding. The establishment of a library in the far north,
and other similar incidents, are evidences of the intelligence and even culture found in the posts of the
fur traders from the time of Mackenzie to the present. Elsewhere the writer has amplified the matter,
and with slight modification said: That the officers
of the fur companies were not traders only is made
abundantly evident. In one of his letters Governor
Simpson (1833) states that their great countryman,
Sir Walter Scott has just passed away ; he thanks
one of his traders for sending him copies of Blackwood's Magazine; and orders are often given for
fresh and timely books. A little earlier we find the
minute interest which the fur traders took in public
events in a letter from Chief Factor John Stuart,
after whom Stuart's Lake in New Caledonia was
named. Stuart speaks to another fur trader of the
continuation of Southey's | History of the War of
the Peninsula " not being published, and we know
from other sources that this history fell still-born,
but Stuart goes on to say that he had sent for
Colonel Napier's " History of the Peninsular War."
I Napier's politics," says Stuart, | are different, and
we shall see whether it is the radical or a laurel
[Southey was poet laureate] that deserves the palm."
These examples illustrate what all close observers
notice, that the officers of the fur companies not
only read to purpose, but maintained a keen outlook for the good, even for the most finished contemporary literature.
Here, then, the winter of 1788-9 was spent in the
new fort by Roderick McKenzie. Even a view of
the map can hardly make vivid to us the great distance to the far north that Fort Chipewyan is. From
Montreal to Grand Portage took the mangeurs de
lard many days. After the coureurs de bois left
Grand Portage with song and flags and mirth, time
fled quickly until the outlet to Rainy Lake was
reached, which was a stopping-place for the western
expeditions. On August 1st the canoes, manned
with sturdy French-Canadians or Indians, left
Rainy Lake for the far north. As the season was
fast passing the canoemen worked with might and
main in order to reach their destination. It was the
if IB
end of September before the voyageurs and their
well-laden canoes reached Athabaska.
About this time of the year the traders from the
far north of Lake Athabaska, and the Indians of
remote Arctic regions reached Fort Chipewyan, and
the whole lake was alive with canoes, urged forward
by Indian men and women coming to the trader,
whom they regarded as the mightiest of men.
This trading season over, the early winter came
in October, when officers and men had little to do
but sort their furs, and secure food for subsistence, filling in the intervals of their time with the
interests of the library of which we have spoken.
Roderick McKenzie, writing of the winter at his
new fort, says: | These men and myself, I recollect,
visited six nets three times a day from under the ice
during that fall fishery, but no mittens can be used
during that serious operation. The fingers and wrists
while occupied in managing the nets and disentangling the fish from the meshes, must be kept constantly immerged to prevent their freezing. I had a
number of voyageurs in charge ; they were divided
into crews independent of each other and in different
houses, each having to provide itself at the fisheries."
Whether it was trading with the greasy Indians
from the north, in their poverty and misery, or
hastening up and down the waterways in summer,
or living almost entirely on the fish which were
caught with such difficulty and hardship, it is plain
that fife at Fort Chipewyan represented, under the
most favourable circumstances, the embodiment of
all that was inhospitable, uninteresting, and laborious. And yet we are told that Athabaska and the
Mackenzie River were the greatest desire of the
hardy traders.
29 I lit
THE dream cherished by Alexander Mackenzie,
that he should find a new way to the Arctic
Ocean, was not a mere vain ambition. Nearly twenty
years before, Samuel Hearne, the explorer of the
English company from Hudson Bay, had succeeded
in reaching the Arctic Ocean by way of Lake
Athapapuskow, and thence north-eastward along
the Copper Mine River to the frozen sea.
Hearne's exploration, whether looked at from the
point of view of the enormous distance, the fact that
it was accomplished after two previous failures, the
lack of experience and scientific training of the man,
or the bravery of the explorer, had been a marvel.
True, he had made a mistake in placing the mouth
of the Copper Mine River nearly four degrees farther
north than it should have been, but he had succeeded in his most hazardous attempt.
As the representative of a rival company, and as
he believed, of a more energetic company, Alexander
Mackenzie heard with nervous interest from the tales
of the Indians who visited Fort Chipewyan of a vast
river rivalling the Saskatchewan or the Churchill,
and on which the white man had never set eyes.
Roderick McKenzie had now gained command
of the details of management, and his adventurous
cousin felt that he might at length strike to the
north and add his name to the list of great national
explorers—perhaps to be the discover of the northwest1 passage sought for so ardently by his predecessors. All things being well prepared Alexander
Mackenzie started on his voyage. We have his own
account of the memorable journey to which we shall
refer. Never did a recital of exploits begin in so
modest and even commonplace a way as this :—
Journal of a Voyage, 8§c.
June, 1789. Wednesday, 3. "We embarked at
nine in the morning at Fort Chipewyan, on the
south side of the Lake of the Hills . . . . in a
canoe made of birch-bark."
To make a successful voyage in the wilds of the
far north the great requisite is a reliable crew and a
good band of followers. Hearne had found this out.
Mackenzie himself knew it well from his half-dozen
years of western exploration and trade. He had
secured a guide, the "English chief," who was a true
successor of Matonnabee, Hearne's famous guide.
The "English chief" had often made the journey
from Lake Athabaska to Hudson Bay to trade with
the English company, and had thus gained his name.
With his two wives and two young Indians in one
canoe, and his followers and slaves to act as interpreters and food providers in another, the chief
accompanied the " Kitche Okema "—Mackenzie.
Mackenzie led the way in his own canoe, accom-
panied by four French-Canadians, two of them
having their wives, and a steady young German
named John Steinbruck. His four Canadians deserve
mention. They were Francois Barrieau, Charles
Ducette, Joseph Landry, and Pierre De Lorme.
Leroux had before, as we have seen, penetrated
the northern route to Great Slave Lake, and now
he was at Fort Chipewyan to assist the explorer
in his great departure for the north. Leroux was
taking merchandize with him to trade in Slave
Lake, but the other canoes being overloaded, Mackenzie required him to take clothing and merchandize to serve the advance party when they should
leave Slave Lake behind, and push forward into
the great unknown.
All being ready the brigade started on its way on
June 3rd, 1789, crossed Lake Athabaska, twenty
miles wide, to a river that led out of the lake, and for
seven miles further the party pushed on, interrupted
by the hunters stopping to shoot a wild goose and a
couple of ducks. Camp was soon made and the
journey was well begun on the first day. The next
day they followed the tortuous stream to every
point of the compass, until, after a ten miles' spurt,
the branch joined Peace River, the vast stream coming from the west.
Some confusion is caused by travellers stating that
the Peace River empties into Lake Athabaska, and
by others declaring that Lake Athabaska flows towards Peace. River. Both are correct. During high
water the channel followed by Mackenzie runs from
the river into the lake, but at other times, as in this
first voyage, the lake flows into the river.
The Peace River, which rises to the west of the
Rocky Mountains and flows through them, is, at the
point where Mackenzie reached it, a mighty stream,
a mile broad. Indeed, from this point of junction
the river changes its name, and flowing northwards
to Great Slave Lake, is known as Slave River.
After reaching Slave River the party hurried forward, making twenty-four and a half miles, and then
enjoyed the excitement of running the upper rapids.
Camp was not struck until they had made thirty-six
and a half miles more, thus accomplishing seventy-
one miles as their day's work. The camp was at the
junction of the Dog and Slave Rivers and just above
the second rapids of the Slave River.
The next day was one of difficulty. Two rapids
required the unloading of the goods at the De"-
charge, as the road around the rapids is called;
the load only is taken over the carrying-place, and
the canoes are floated light down the rapids. Twelve
painful miles followed, in which there were the three
dangerous portages called D'Embarras, Mountain,
and Pelican, besides one or two smaller carrying-
places, and other dangerous rapids. From this
part of the river onward are fierce rapids, boiling
caldrons, and whirling eddies. Some twenty-one
miles brought needed rest to men and Indians.
The watchful hunters had provided themselves on
the way with a fine quarry of geese, ducks, and
The fourth day out the party pushed on with
marvellous energy, under Mackenzie's fierce driving,
making seventy-two miles, and were only prevented
from doing as great things on the following day by
cold winds and pelting rain, after they had gone
about forty-four miles. Another day in camp was
lost by this storm, and on June 9th an early start
brought them to Great Slave Lake at nine o'clock
in the morning, after a short but rather difficult
run of fifteen miles.
This journey over fierce rapids, driftwood eddies,
and rocky portages, in the face of strong headwinds,
and with stoppages to provide food, over a distance
of two hundred and seventy-two miles in less than
a week, shows the remarkable power of inspiration
that Alexander Mackenzie had, and is a tribute as
well to the strength, skill, and hardihood of his
chosen band of French-Canadians and Indians.
Great Slave Lake now presented a dismal sight
to the impetuous voyageurs. A biting wind blew
towards them, but at least they were free from the
troublesome mosquitoes, which had been their constant attendants down the river. Mackenzie now
began to realize that he was approaching the Arctic
regions. Trees grew on the banks of the streams in
a yellow clay mixed with gravel, though in low
levels there was a rich black soil. Although it was
the middle of June the ground was not thawed
more than fourteen inches deep, and the shore of the
lake had not a spot of green upon it. The explorer
heard from the Indians that near by were wide plains
frequented by herds of buffalo, and that moose and
reindeer were found in the woods. Many beavers
built their houses on the smaller lakes and rivers.
Swans, geese, and ducks appeared in vast numbers.
It was near this spot, now reached by the explorer
at Great Slave Lake, that Leroux and his party
had three years before built their houses.
For twelve days the party moved along the shore
of the lake, now avoiding the floating ice, now protecting themselves from the copious rains, and always seeking by a northward trend to gain the outlet,
which was to lead them on their journey to the
Before leaving the lake Mackenzie met the Yellow
Knife Indians who came with their peltries to trade
with Leroux. After the bartering was over the explorer addressed the assembled savages and informed
them of his intended visit to the north, that his
traders would remain at this spot until their friends
and relatives came to trade, and that, if the trade
should be important enough, he would build a
fort upon the lake. They promised, in return, great
things, and sought the protection of the " Kitche
Okema" from the Chipewyans, who, they declared,
tyrannized over them.
All needed supplies having been transferred from
Leroux' canoes to his own, on June 25th Mackenzie
started for his northern voyage, amid volleys from the
small arms of the traders, who were being left behind. With parting admonitions to send his communications back to Roderick McKenzie at Fort
Chipewyan the explorer paddled cheerfully off to
the northern solitudes. For no less than four days
the party moved hither and thither, under the
leadership of a Yellow Knife guide, seeking for the
river that was to lead them to the north. Well- nigh
discouraged, they at length succeeded, by going
round the long point of an island, in finding the
looked-for channel on the south-west of Great
Slave Lake. Passing a shallow some ten miles
wide, going gradually westward, the party reached
the river, where the width was narrowed to half a
mile, and where the current became stronger. By
the last day of the month they were running westward, with the Horn Mountains in sight on their
left, extending from east to west.
On July 1st the brigade was fairly under weigh,
though the frequent rains and clouds of mosquitoes
made their journey most uncomfortable. After
travelling for four days the scenery of the country
completely changed, and they were among Indians,
who were very wary and inaccessible. It was only
after the | English chief" had succeeded in reaching these shy natives that they consented to meet
Mackenzie, and they came to him with much trepidation.
Mackenzie's  own account of their meeting is
•I ,1!
graphic: "There were five families, consisting of
twenty-five or thirty persons, and of two different
tribes, the Slave and Dog-Rib Indians. We made
them smoke, though it was evident they did not
know the use of tobacco; we likewise supplied them
with grog; but I am disposed to think that they
accepted our civilities rather from fear than inclination. We acquired a more effectual influence over
them by the distribution of knives, beads, awls,
rings, gartering, fire-steels, flints, and hatchets, so
that they became more familiar even than we expected, for we could not keep them out of our tents,
though I did not observe that they attempted to
purloin anything."
Mackenzie states that they told him fabulous
stories about the river, which he was bound to explore. They were certain that it would take several
winters for him to reach the sea, and that old age
would overtake him and his followers before they
could return. Horrid monsters and evil spirits they
declared would have to be opposed and conquered,
besides, two impassable falls barred the passage down
the river. Though this information did not alarm
the resolute leader, yet it carried consternation
among his Indians, who firmly believed that as
they went farther north the game would become
Pushing on, however, day by day the party made
remarkable progress, and on the fifth day of July
they passed the mouth of the Great Bear River
which pours into the Mackenzie the sea-green
coloured water of the great drainage area of Great
Bear Lake—the largest lake in the fur traders' domain, containing, as it does, no less than fourteen
thousand square miles.
On leaving the party of Dog-Rib Indians, Mackenzie had compelled one of the men of the tribe to
accompany him as guide; he was now induced to
let him return. His next guide was obtained from a
second band of Indians they had met, known as the
Hare Indians, but he was unwilling to go far.
Another guide escaped after leading them a short
As they proceeded northward the explorers met
new races of Indians. Mackenzie describes them
with muchinterest. On the tenth of the month he
met a tribe called the Degutbee Dinees or the
Quarrellers, who gave the pleasing information
that the distance to the sea was not great. The
explorer's attention was also attracted by a range
of snowy mountains to the westward, which ran
parallel to his course. He now found by observation
that he had reached 67° 47' north latitude. His
latest guide tried to persuade him to go no further,
being afraid of the Eskimos. Mackenzie, however,
insisted on pressing forward, and took the middle
channel, which contained a larger body of water.
The party had evidently reached the delta of the
great river which has since borne their leader's name.
Landing on an island on Sunday, July 12th, Mac-
kenzie and the I English chief" ascended to the
highest point, "from which," says the explorer
in his matter-of-fact fashion, " we discovered the
solid ice extending from the south-west by compass
to the eastward." The hope was now high in the
breasts of the whole party, especially in the French-
Canadians, that they were about to reach the western
sea, for which La Verendrye and many other Nor'-
Wester and Hudson's Bay Company leaders had
sighed in vain. It was noticed that during the night
the baggage in their encampment was being reached
by the rising of the water.
On the fourteenth of the month Mackenzie gave
orders to man the canoes, and then he forced his
way in the face of a fierce wind that threatened to
engulf his craft. Thus he sought to reach the sea.
He landed at eight o'clock on a considerable island,
which he called Whale Island, and in giving an
account of this makes an important entry in his journal : I This morning I ordered a post to be erected
close to our tents, on which I engraved the latitude
[elsewhere stated by him to be 69° 7'] of the place,
my own name, the number of persons which 1 had
with me, and the time we remained there."
Early next morning it was found that the water
had again risen and invaded their baggage, and they
began to surmise that this was the rising of the ocean
tide. The party were now within a short distance
of the Arctic Sea, and were very anxious to reach
that towards which they had so strenuously striven.
They found themselves a degree or two within the
Arctic circle, and were amazed to see that they were
in the land of the midnight sun. This being accomplished the commander was satisfied, and with peremptory haste started southward on his return
ALL readers of Mackenzie's journal experience
great disappointment as they reach his account
of his nearest approach to the Arctic Sea. The rise
of the sea tide was surely a certain indication to him
that he was near the ocean. The appearance of icefields, seen by him from the heights of the islands
among which he passed, suggested to him the frozen
surface of the Arctic Sea. For some reason he turned
back, having only reached the delta of the great
river which he had been descending. Why did he
do this ?
Not a reflection of regret do we find, nor is any
indication given that he considered his northward
journey ended, save for his erection of the post on
which his name was engraved. An unobservant
reader would suppose as he describes his journey
among the islands of the delta that he was following the same course down stream as he had been
pursuing for the preceding six weeks.
However, closer attention will show that on July
16th, after discussing with the Indian guide the possibility of the party meeting with friendly Indians,
who might inform them further of the route, Mackenzie received the information that he would not
43 s  •
. si
likely meet them unless it were at a small river
coming from the east which fell into the great one.
The journal says: " We accordingly made for the
river, and stemmed the current." Here is the first
indication that the explorer had given up his journey,
and was now ascending the river.
The delta of the great river had been full of interest for the whole party. One day Mackenzie's
men saw a great many animals in the water which
they had thought at first were pieces of ice. These
they found to be whales, and the party took to their
boats in hot pursuit. The prey, however, evaded the
pursuers, and it was well. As the explorer says, " it
was a very fortunate circumstance that we failed in
our attempt to overtake them, as a stroke from the
tail of one of these enormous fish would have dashed
the canoe to pieces."
Before getting back from this vain expedition a
fierce north-east wind arose, and a heavy fog fell;
the waters rose in violence, and the party reached
the land with the greatest difficulty. The only satisfactory course seemed to be to keep in the lee of
the islands, which, as already mentioned, he called
the Whale Islands, on the greatest of which he
had encamped.
We are thus left to infer the reasons for his hasty
return, which the explorer seems to attempt so ingeniously to gloss over. The Indians had found it
difficult to obtain much game, the party had not
more than five hundred pounds of food supply on
44   •
hand, and the prospect of facing an Arctic winter
with its decreasing amount of game was, even to so
brave a man as Alexander Mackenzie, sufficiently
alarming. The islands on which they had encamped
were exposed to the winds off the icefields, and
they here found the weather at the season which
elsewhere would be the middle of summer, most
severe. The entry in the journal for July 15th is:
"As the evening approached the wind increased,
and the weather became cold. Two swans were the
only provision which the hunters procured for us."
Moreover, there are constant indications that the
guide wished to return homeward, and the " English chief" after reaching the lower portions of the
river gave evidence very clearly that he would prefer to be back in his own region of Athabaska. Certainly the ice on the lower part of the river suggested that the short summer would soon be over,
and pointed to the necessity of hastening southward. Mackenzie's reticence in regard to the reason
for his sudden departure southward is undoubtedly
very remarkable.
One remark alone in the later part of his voyage
may give a clue to his course of action. On August
13th, nearly a month after the return voyage was
begun, the feeling of distrust between the " English
chief" and the commander showed itself very
clearly. After giving an account of the altercation,
Mackenzie, in the journal, says : " I stated to him
that I had come a great way, and at a very con-
siderable expense, without having completed the
object of my wishes, and that I suspected he had
concealed from me a principal part of what the
natives had told him respecting the country, lest he
should have been obliged to follow me." Here, then,
seems the explanation that a cabal had been made
against Mackenzie by reason of which he could not
obtain the necessary information to enable him to
proceed. It would have been more satisfactory to
us if the explorer, who had so nearly accomplished
his object, had taken us into his confidence.
On the day of their return southward Mackenzie
records seeing the first spruce tree that had been
in view for some time. He makes the remark that
it is extraordinary that there should be any wood
whatever in a country where the ground never thaws
below five inches from the surface. But as the ascent
of the river was made the weather became pleasant,
and the evidences of animal life in the flocks of wild
fowl and their young became more frequent.
Numbers of the natives, not seen on the way down
the river and who were strange to the ways of white
men, were now met. " They were alarmed at the
firearms in our hands, and asked us not to discharge
them in their presence." When they saw the explorer engaged in writing, their curiosity was excited. Through the medium of the " English chief"
Mackenzie ascertained that these Indians had learned
from the Eskimos, whom they had met, that they
had seen large canoes (ships) full of white men, to
I; ■?!
the westward, eight or ten winters before, from
whom they had obtained iron in exchange for leather.
The expanse of water where they had met them was
called by them Belboullay Toe or White Man's
On July 24th the exploring party passed a small
river, on each side of which the Indians and Eskimos
collected flint. The bank was crumbling away in
places, and among the de'bris were found pieces of
petroleum, having the appearance of yellow wax. A
few days more brought the returning travellers to the
zone of huckle-berries, raspberries, and that fruit
widespread throughout the fur trader's country, the
Saskatoon berry, known to the French-Canadians as
Fifteen days after the return journey was begun
Mackenzie's party reached the entrance of the rushing stream running into the great river from Great
Bear Lake. Being now the first day of the month
of August the explorers passed here the first night,
since leaving Lake Athabaska, in which it was dark
enough to see the stars. As the party came to
this precipitous part of the river they were compelled to take to the shore, and, walking along
it, to use their towing lines to drag the canoes up
the stream. At times on the banks of the river* at
this point, their attention was called to the whole
bank giving off a sulphurous smell. The source of
this odour proved to be a seam of coal which had
been on fire for years.
47. I
ii ,1
About August 11th Mackenzie began to find the
"English chief" restless and moody. The wily leader
seems to have been afraid that the explorer would
leave the great river, and explore some of the larger
tributaries coming into it from the east. The " English chief" had told some of the French-Canadians
that he intended before the party reached Slave
Lake to leave them, and make a visit to a tribe
of Indians, whom he knew.
It was at this juncture that the " English chief"
drew upon himself the reproaches of Mackenzie,
to which reference ,has been made. When rebuked the " English chief" denied the charges
made by the explorer, stated that he would not
accompany the party any further, and after the
Indian fashion gave way to a loud and bitter lamentation, in which his relatives assisted him in their
vociferations of grief, though they gave as their
excuse that their tears flowed for their dead friends.
Mackenzie, after two hours of this extravagant
sorrow, soothed their wounded feelings, and the
chief returned to his allegiance.
On August 22nd the party was rejoiced at reaching Great Slave Lake; here, making use of sails on
their canoes, they greatly hastened their speed. Two
days afterwards the worried explorer was rejoiced to
meet his trader Leroux, whom he had left on
the lake to pursue the fur trade. Leroux had not
succeeded very well, but had visited a band of
Indians on Martin Lake, and obtained a number
of peltries. While on Great Slave Lake Mackenzie
matured a plan for sending Leroux, under the
guidance of the " English chief" to visit the Beaver
Indians, whose country lay to the west. When
he reached Leroux' house, which had been built
at the mouth of Yellow Knife River, and which
afterwards became known as Fort Providence, he
tells us " he spent the whole night making the
necessary arrangements for the embarkation of
the morning, and in preparing instructions for
Leaving his faithful trader Leroux, whose name
as a pioneer has ever since been associated with
Great Slave Lake, Mackenzie and his party struck
across the lake, and after a somewhat stormy
passage arrived at the entrance of the river running
from the south into Slave Lake, at which point
Leroux' first house for trading had been built. The
ascent of the river—the Slave—had now to be
made, and its rapids and fierce eddies required
skill in his canoemen, though the effort of the
ascent was not, on the whole, more arduous than
that of the descent had been.
To face the well-known portages gave some variety
and excitement to the sturdy French-Canadians, who
had gone the whole journey without a murmur, and
who had the greatest confidence in L'Ecossais,
commanding and imperative as he was to them and
to all. Ten days sufficed to traverse the distance of
something more than two hundred and sixty miles,
49 r*iM
and the fact that on the day before their arrival at
Lake Athabaska "it froze hard during the night,
and was very cold throughout the day," showed
how fortunate the party was in reaching its destination at the very spot where they had encamped
on June 3rd.
The last entry of the journal is as follows:—
September 12th, 1789. "The weather was cloudy, and
also very cold. At eight we embarked with a northeast wind, and entered the Lake of the Hills. About
ten the wind veered to the westward, and was as strong
as we could bear it with the high sail, so that we
arrived at Fort Chipewyan by three in the afternoon, where we found Mr. McLeod with five men
busily employed in building a new house. Thus,
then, we concluded this voyage, which had occupied
the considerable space of one hundred and two
The results of this great journey of Alexander
Mackenzie down La Grande Riviere are worthy of
1. There was opened up to the knowledge of the
world a region some two thousand miles in length,
with resources of coal, petroleum, salt, and furs that
are only now beginning to be fully known.
2. Mackenzie, from conference with the Indians
met on the lower Mackenzie River, established the
existence and course of the Yukon River more correctly than it was laid down on the maps for two
generations following his time. He made out that
the Yukon emptied into Norton Sound rather than
into the Arctic Sea, as some early maps give it.
3. The great explorer, though of a commanding
spirit, adopted in treating the Indians the pacific
measures which have always been successful With
them, and began the policy which was consistently
followed by the Hudson's Bay Company during
the century just closed.
4. While the daring leader took with him a certain quantity of provisions, leaving at He a la Cache
a small supply of pemmican for his return journey,
yet in the main he adopted the policy afterwards
followed by the Arctic explorer, Dr. John Rae, on
his great journey up the west coast of Hudson Bay
in search of Franklin, viz., of depending on the
game and fish that might be secured along the line
of exploration. Mackenzie's journal gives minute
accounts of the number of ducks, geese, swans,
beavers, reindeer, and fish obtained en route.
5. The explorer gathered much useful knowledge
from Indian and Eskimo hearsay and experience,
which led him to infer from their story of Belboul-
lay Toe or White Man's Lake (or Sea) that they
were speaking of the great Pacific Ocean, and referred to Spanish expeditions or perhaps to the
voyage of the celebrated Captain Cook up the west
coast of America some ten or eleven years before.
Mackenzie, by his determined courage, reticence,
and prudence, by his shrewdness and intelligence,
and by his consummate leadership, added not only
to the sum total of British heroism, but also on this
voyage secured the experience and laid the foundation for the greater expedition by which he was to
gain his chief fame as being the first white man north
of Mexico to cross the continent to the Pacific
ARRIVING in September at Fort Chipewyan
Alexander Mackenzie entered upon a restful
winter, the affairs of the fort being well administered
by his cousin Roderick. During the absence of the
great explorer in the far north, Roderick McKenzie
had gone down the long route to Grand Portage to
carry his furs and plan for further trade. By meeting
the other traders there he came in touch with the
views and projects of the company.
That winter brought the whole matter of exploration before the traders in their far northern post, Fort
Chipewyan. Roderick McKenzie informed his cousin
that the partners at Grand Portage had no friendly
feeling for the spirit of exploration. They regarded
the returned voyager from the | Great River" as
ambitious, and as being more chimerical than
practical. Alexander Mackenzie was, moreover, considered by them, both by disposition and previous
connections, as being not thoroughly loyal to the
united companies.
But the project of a greater effort and greater
fame occupied the imagination of the explorer
all that winter, and in spring as soon as the rivers
were open he went eastward to Grand Portage
53 m
with a great purpose throbbing in his bosom. As
he journeyed eastward, and met other traders hieing away to the rendezvous," he obtained scraps of
news, and was most faithful in sending them to lonely
Fort Chipewyan. He informed his cousin that food
was very scarce at the depdt from which Athabaska
was supplied, also that McTavish was greatly dissatisfied with the packs of furs from Athabaska for
the past year; but that the various traders on
their downward journey were carrying a very successful catch as the result of the past winter's work.
From Grand Portage he writes expressing dissatisfaction, and says, "My expedition was hardly
spoken of, but that is what I expected."
However, the disappointed trader returned from
Grand Portage realizing that he had a growing
number of friends among the wintering parties,
and that Le marquis (McTavish) was losing influence on account of his haughty temper and
domineering spirit. Sending his cousin Roderick
to Great Slave Lake, Alexander Mackenzie occupied
Fort Chipewyan for another winter. Some of his
letters to his relative are extant, and these show an
intimate interest in the affairs of the far north. He
speaks of organizing the Yellow Knives more fully as
a tribe, and appointing a chief over them. Reference
is also made to the question of continuing the fort
on Great Slave Lake. The explorer is willing to do
this if trade demands it, but is of opinion that a fort
will need to be established on the south side of the
lake near the entrance of the Slave River, instead of
the house built by Leroux on the far northern arm
of Slave Lake. He shows his expansive spirit by referring to the other Indians, upon whom he had
stumbled on his great voyage. He refers with strange
self-depreciation to the great river, which he had discovered, under the unlikely name of " River Disappointment;" and asks his cousin to make diligent
enquiry among the Indians " regarding a great river
[Yukon] which is reported to run parallel with, and
falls into the sea to the westward of the river on
which I voyaged, and to commit such information
to paper." He refers in the spring to his regret that it
is not his cousin's turn to thread the watercourses
to the great meeting in Grand Portage, and is sorry
that he will not have his company.
If the adventurous journey of Alexander Mackenzie had not been appreciated by his own companions of the North-West it was otherwise with
their rivals of the Hudson's Bay Company. Four
years before Mackenzie had gone north, the desperado
of the company, Peter Pond, had made a map of the
country for the purpose of presenting it to the
Empress of Russia. Through knowing nothing of
astronomy or geography, Pond made up his distances from the stories of the voyageurs, who made
a league's journey in the time it took to smoke
a pipe. The voyageurs' leagues were thus too hastily
made. Counting in this fashion Pond made the
distance from Hudson Bay to Athabaska much
55 mm
longer than it really was, and, knowing from Captain Cook's observations the number of miles from
Hudson Bay to the Pacific coast, he made the
unknown territory west of Athabaska much less
than it really was.
Though not distinguished in exploration, the Hudson's Bay Company, no doubt impelled by the desire to meet their rivals, and also proud of Hearne's
successful explorations twenty years before Mackenzie's Arctic journey, sent out from England a
young lad named George Charles to assist in exploration. The lad was only fifteen years of age, had
received one year's instruction in a mathematical
school, and was consequently quite incompetent to
do the work of taking astronomical observations and
reckoning distances.
The British government was at this time engaged
in dehmiting this territory and that of their rebellious colonies, which had separated as the United
States, and were anxious to secure as large a terri-'
tory as possible. In order that full information might
be at its disposal the government asked the Hudson's Bay Company to carry on explorations and
secure all possible knowledge of the country even to
the Pacific Ocean. Induced to do so by the Colonial
Office, the company in 1791 sent out as astronomer
Philip Turner, a most competent man, to obtain the
information sought for. Coming with imperial authority the expedition was entitled to the recognition of
the North-West Company as well as of its rivals.
Alexander Mackenzie, on his way eastward, heard
of the coming of the expedition, and wrote to his
cousin at Fort Chipewyan to make preparations for
assisting it, and instructed him to lodge "the
English," as he calls them, if there should be
room in the fort. Fourteen days later Alexander
Mackenzie writes from a point farther to the east,
stating that he had met Mr. Turner, and says, " I
find the intention of the expedition is discoveries
only. I also find the party ill-prepared for the
This remark shows that the Nor'-Westers had
entertained some suspicion as to the Turner expedition, but the meeting had satisfied Mackenzie
that they should not only not assume hostility
towards this undertaking, but should even help to
forward its aims. He states that Mr. Ross, the
leader of the expedition, wished to pass the winter
at Fort Chipewyan, and to secure storage at the
fort for some of his baggage when he proceeded
further on his journey. It was found, however, by
astronomer Turner, as he wintered at Fort Chipewyan and enjoyed the hospitality of the North-
West Company's officers, that the purpose of his expedition could be accomplished without proceeding
further. He took correct observations, and, on finding
that the fort was in 115° west longitude, showed that
instead of Lake Athabaska being only a short dis-
ance from the coast, as Pond had maintained, it
was more than three hundred leagues from it.
i wzmm
■ if"
Alexander Mackenzie had already taken so strong
a grasp of North-West affairs that he was a necessary figure at the great annual meeting at Grand
Portage. Writing in August to his cousin Rod-
derick at Fort Chipewyan as to the results of the
council, he informs him that the public announcement could now be made of a re-arrangement of the
North-West Company's affairs for the next seven
years, 1791-8. The well-known names still appear as
partners t McTavish, Frobisher and Company hold
six-twentieths of the stock; Montour, Grant, Small,
Gregory, Pangman, and Alexander Mackenzie each
one-tenth ; while McGillivray, who had bought out
Pond for eight hundred pounds, and a Mr. Sutherland own one-twentieth each.
He gives information of the continued employment of Lesieur and Fraser in the far west, of his
deputy, Leroux, in the far north, of Cuthbert Grant
in the centre country, of trader Thorburn, and of the
astronomer Thompson, to whom further reference
will be made. A reference to his proposed continuation of his visit to Montreal, and of the possibility
of his taking a journey across the ocean, closes the
letter to his faithful kinsman in far-off Athabaska.
Alexander Mackenzie carried out the journey of
which he had hinted to his cousin. The reason for
this trip was found in the great project of further
exploration that Mackenzie had harboured in his
bosom. On his former journey to the Arctic the
explorer had found his lack of astronomical know-
ledge and the want of proper instruments a serious
drawback in marking the steps of his journey from
day to day, and in fixing with any degree of accuracy the points necessary either for proper description or for affording the material for making
correct maps.
Accordingly, Mackenzie determined to spend his
winter in Britain, perfecting his knowledge and obtaining the necessary instruments for use in his proposed exploration. How this winter was spent we
have no information, but we may be sure it was
used to some purpose. It was no easy thing for a
man who had become already so prominent in the
fur trade to gather himself together in a remote
Hyperborean fort, make arrangements in the face
of jealous and unsympathetic partners, absent himself from his work and responsibilities for a year,
and cherish the purpose of gaining some higher niche
in the temple of fame by his sacrifice.
Probably another aspect of the matter would
cause Mackenzie's greatest self-denial, that is, stooping again to become a learner. If we do not mistake
Mackenzie's character, he was a stalwart, self-possessed, and somewhat proud man. He had distinguished ability, and had with it that perfervidum
ingenium Seotorum that gives, not precisely self-
confidence, but a dignified self-respect that we call
manliness. It was not easy for such a man to sit at
the feet of however distinguished a teacher and imbibe the elements of mathematical science. It was
only pressing ambition and thirst for useful service for his company and country that nerved
Alexander Mackenzie thus to humble himself. CHAPTER VII
HIS object in Great Britain having been gained,
Alexander Mackenzie returned during the
summer in time for the great meeting at Grand
Portage in August; and the affairs of the traders
being arranged for another year, he hurried back to
Athabaska to meet his cousin and talk over future
plans. His design, until then kept secret, was made
known. He had early in the season sent word to
Fort Chipewyan that a small party should be sent
on to Peace River to cut square timber for a house,
go on with its construction, and surround it with
This was not the first expedition to Peace River,
for it will be remembered Alexander Mackenzie
sent, in 1788, trader Boyer to found a post on
the Peace River, where the soil is exceedingly
fertile and the climate mild enough to allow the
growth of turnips, carrots, parsnips, and potatoes.
The spot selected by Boyer had in the four intervening years already gained the name of the | Old
On October 10th, 1792, Mackenzie, having arranged to leave Fort Chipewyan under his cousin
Roderick's control, prepared to push on to his winter
quarters on Peace River. Steeringwesthistwocanoes,
which were laden with his men and the necessary
articles for trade, Mackenzie came to the Vail River,
which afforded a passage to Peace River, and in two
days was on his way up the Peace River itself.
Peace Point was soon reached, this name having been
given to a portion of the bank of the river formerly
in dispute between the Kinistineaux (Crees) and the
Beaver Indians. Here the quarrel had been settled,
and the spot was henceforth memorable. The falls of
Peace River, twenty feet high, were avoided by a
portage, and the party soon came to the Old Establishment. Mr. Finlay, the Nor'-West trader who had
just reached the fort over which he was placed, was
overtaken by Mackenzie's party.
On the tenth day after his departure from Fort
Chipewyan Alexander Mackenzie reached Finlay's
Fort, and was received with the firing of guns and
much demonstration. About this fort, under Finlay's
charge, there was an Indian population of three
hundred, sixty of whom were hunters. Waiting for
two or three days Mackenzie found them coming
in till their full numbers were well-nigh reached.
During the whole summer it was the custom of
the Nor'-Westers to give no spirits to the Indians,
but now on the approach of winter they made
known their desires to the great white chief.. Mackenzie thus describes his method of dealing with
I As they very soon expressed their desire of the
expected regale, I called them together to the number of forty-two hunters, or men capable of bearing
arms, to offer some advice, which would be equally
advantageous to them and to us, and I strengthened
my admonition with a nine-gallon cask of reduced
rum, and a quantity of tobacco. At the same time
I observed that as I should not often visit them
I had instanced a greater degree of liberality than
they had been accustomed to."
As the ice was beginning to set on the river, Mackenzie, after spending five days with Finlay, took his
leave amid the firing of musketry, having sent on
his two loaded canoes two days in advance for fear
of the ice.
The next place of interest reached by the explorer
was the forks of the Peace River. Here the river
was seen to come from two directions, one east, the
other, twice its size, from the west. Pursuing the
larger branch for six miles to the south-west, the
spot already selected for winter quarters was reached.
The place was well chosen, on the high banks of
the Peace River. Cypress, arrowwood, and thorn
trees covered the banks. On either side of the river,
though hidden by the trees, were extensive plains,
and on these buffaloes, elks, wolves, foxes, and bears
abounded. Far to the west was to be seen a ridge
called Deer Mountain, and here, as the name implied, great numbers of deer were found.
As soon as the explorer's tent was pitched he
gathered the Indians together, and sought to gain
their favour by giving each four inches of Brazil
tobacco and a dram of spirits, and by smoking the
pipe of peace with them. He then addressed them,
saying that he understood they had troubled the
former bourgeois, and reproved them for this,
though assuring them that he would treat them
kindly if they deserved it, but severely if they
showed carelessness or opposition. After bestowing
more presents of the same kind, he had assurance
from them of the greatest devotion and of pride
that he had seen fit to visit them.
The explorer was kept busy till November 7th
settling matters with the Indian hunters, and fitting
them out for the winter catch. This done he immediately began the erection of his houses. The men
sent on early in the season had been most industrious,
and had cut and squared enough palisades eighteen
feet long and seven inches in diameter to enclose a
square of one hundred and twenty feet; they had
dug a ditch three feet wide to receive the pickets ;
and had also prepared timber and planks enough
for the erection of a house.
On the sixteenth of the month the ice stopped
running in the other branch of the river, the tongue
between the two being only a league across. The
same thing happened to the stream in front of their
fort six days afterwards, and the freezing of the
streams enabled the hunters to move about more
freely, and to secure a plentiful supply of fresh
meat, although as there was no sleighing, the game
had to be carried home in a very toilsome manner
on the shoulders of the men.
Mackenzie was called upon to exercise his medical skill in curing his people of several acute diseases, but all those in health were kept hard at
work upon the houses. A young Indian had lost the
use of his right hand by the bursting of a gun. He
was brought to Mackenzie in a very bad state.
Poulticing, salveing, and burning away the proud
flesh with vitriol, the explorer succeeded, by this
most heroic treatment, in saving the young man's
life and gaining the confidence of all his friends.
A murder occurred among the Indians and threw
out the trader's plans for gathering furs, as all
disappeared for a time lest they should be punished
by the masterful man.
Until November 2nd Mackenzie took observations of the temperature with the thermometer; upon
the coldest morning it registered 16° below zero. He
was, however, much gratified during this inclement
season, to be saluted by the singing of birds as he
walked through the woods. Two days before Christmas the explorer's house was ready, and he willingly
deserted his tent to occupy the rugged mansion.
Towards the end of the month what is known as
a Chinook wind came sweeping down the Peace
River from the west side of the mountains. It came
with the force of a hurricane, licked up every particle
of snow, and covered with water the ice on the river.
New Year's Day, which was not quite so wild, was
observed according to the usual western custom of
firing guns at the break of day. A moderate allowance of rum and cakes was provided for all.
Early in February the weather became very cold,
and continued so for six weeks. None too soon for
the impetuous and impatient explorer, the middle of
April brought the marvellous season so well known
in the North-West when winter merges suddenly
into summer. The trees were in bud, and many
plants were in bloom. On the twenty-fifth of that
month the river was clear of ice.
A preliminary step to the great exploration
he had in view was to settle up the fur trade for
the winter. The furs were all gathered and packed
securely for the long transport to Grand Portage.
The two old canoes were repaired, and four new
ones built. On May 8th the hunters and canoemen
who could be spared were dispatched in these six
canoes, which were filled with furs and provisions,
and with a full bundle of public and private despatches to his cousin Roderick on Lake Athabaska,
to be transmitted by him to the great assize of the
traders at Grand Portage.
Now for the West! Mackenzie's astronomical observations were now of some value. He tested
carefully the instruments which he was to use on
his long journey to the western sea. He was now
ready for embarkation, for he had worked out the
details thoroughly during the winter. A monster
canoe, twenty-five feet long, of twenty-six inches
hold and four feet nine inches beam, and yet light
enough for two men to carry without fatigue for
miles, was to transport the whole party and their
belongings, provisions, goods for presents, arms,
ammunition and baggage to the weight of three
thousand pounds.
The crew was to consist of ten persons. Their
names deserve to be mentioned. After the great
explorer came his lieutenant—Alexander Mackay,
of Reay—who relieved Mackenzie of much responsibility. He was an able man, and was chief among
the notable traders who afterwards carried out the
plans of John Jacob Astor on the Pacific coast.
Mackay's career was afterwards arrested all too
soon; he was killed on the Tonquin—a story of
the coast known to all. Two of Mackenzie's faithful
French-Canadians—Joseph Landry and Charles
Ducette, who had accompanied him on his former
voyage were ready to follow him on the present occasion. Four others also stood willing to go.
These were Baptiste Bisson, Francois Courtois,
Jacques Beauchamp, and Francois Beaulieu, the
last of whom died as late as 1872, aged nearly one
hundred years, probably the oldest man in the
North-West at the time. Archbishop Tache' gives
an interesting account of Beaulieu's baptism at the
age of seventy. Two Indians complete the list. One
of these was so indolent that he bore the name of
cancre—the crab.
One of the things that constantly causes our
wonder as we read the records of North-West exploration, both by Nor'-Westers and their rivals from
Hudson Bay, is the magnitude of the results achieved
by men so poorly provided with even the necessaries
of life and travel. Here were ten men about to undertake a terrific journey of more than three hundred
leagues through a country partly unknown, and such
of it as was known presenting enormous difficulties.
Mountain torrents must be stemmed or circumvented, vast regions must be traversed where game
was reported scarce, and Indians, famed for fierceness and deceit, must for the first time be taught
fear or respect for the adventurous intruders upon
their hitherto unmolested domain.
That man was of heroic mould who could originate such an expedition, and could inspire other
men to face such dangers, where lofty purpose
and over-mastering ambition could alone nerve him
through the discouraging and even desperate periods
of his journey. And yet how simple and natural
the explorer's account of the beginning of so great
and difficult an expedition: " My winter interpreter,
with another person, whom I left here to take care
of the fort, and supply the natives with ammunition
during the summer, shed tears on the reflection of
those dangers which we might encounter in our expedition, while my own people offered up their
prayers that we might return safely from it."
68 ■^
THE great voyage was now begun (May 9th,
1793). The party started out full of hope. On
the Peace River, as the travellers Butler, Gordon,
and others have told us, the scenery is beautiful,
the banks are fertile, and animal life is abundant.
An elk killed and a buffalo wounded were the
achievements of the young men as they landed for
the night encampment.
Mackenzie thus describes the river:—" This magnificent theatre of nature has all the decorations
which the trees and animals of the country can
afford it; groves of poplars in every shape vary the
scene ; and their intervals are enlightened with vast
herds of elks and buffaloes ; the former choosing the
steeps and uplands, and the latter preferring the
plains. . . . The whole country displayed an
exuberant verdure; the trees that bear a blossom
were advancing fast to that delightful appearance,
and the velvet rind of their branches reflecting the
oblique rays of a rising or setting sun, added a
splendid gaiety to the scene, which no expressions
of mine are qualified to describe."
The men of the voyage were, however, too intent
on this enterprise to be delayed by the hunt or by the
69 ■
fertile valleys. The banks soon rose to greater heights,
and the navigation became even more difficult. The
cascades and rapids became correspondingly more
trying, and soon the first band of Rocky Mountain
Indians who were questioned failed to tell anything
of the route beyond the first mountains, though they
took much interest in the proposed expedition.
Within three days of starting it became evident
that bears were very numerous. Along the bank
footprints were seen of the great grizzly, the terror of
Indian and trader alike. The monotony was varied
by the voyageurs having to gum their canoe, which
had already met hard usage; by stopping to examine
an island with canoe-birch growing upon it; by passing the entry of a tributary river; and by watching
the shore for bears and buffaloes.
A dangerous rapid well-nigh put an end to their
canoe on the tenth day out, and thus some delay
occurred. Again en route the party saw the strength
of the stream increase. The shore rose three hundred
feet above the water, and on the following day the
members of the party were compelled to cut steps
in a soft stone wall around a boiling rapid, in doing
which their canoe was broken. No bark was found
with which to mend it, and poles were used to steady
the canoe till at last in a bottomless whirlpool all
help failed. The river became one continuous rapid,
and even the well-trained voyageurs were thoroughly
Discontent now very naturally began to prevail
among the men. Mackenzie had little hope himself.
Further progress up the river by canoe seemed impossible. Clambering with his Indians to the heights
above the river the explorer took observations, and
his own account of the situation is: | The river is
not more than fifty yards wide, and flows between
stupendous rocks, from whence huge fragments
sometimes tumble down, and falling from such
height form the beach between the rocky projections."
It seemed as if an impassable barrier had been
reached. Mackenzie sent Mackay and the men up
the steep banks to explore, and they returned
through woods, over steep hills, and through deep
valleys, with the news .that the rapids extended for
three leagues. They were not, however, discouraged,
and the narrator states that a " kettle of wild rice,
sweetened with sugar, along with the usual regale
of rum," renewed their courage.
After the return of this scouting party, the resolve was taken to fight a way through the obstacles,
and persevere in the journey. Cutting a road through
the thicket, and up rocky steeps, slow progress was
made—a mile on one day, three miles the next—over
steep hills, dragging the canoe on the toilsome
march, until, after making about eight miles in three
days, they succeeded in passing above the falls of the
river, and in bringing up all their baggage. A longer
route taken by the Indians could have been followed.
It was probably a foolish thing to take the more
71 If
I ih ?
direct way, but it was certainly an exhibition of
British endurance. The fall that had been passed
was the one of which the River Indians had asserted
that it was equal to Niagara. In this they were of
course mistaken.
The rapids passed, the canoe was again committed
to the opposing stream, and the journey resumed.
They were now completely surrounded by mountains, whose tops were perhaps fifteen hundred feet
above the stream. The altitude was beginning to
influence the temperature. The journey, though
near the end of May, was sometimes interrupted by
the party landing to build a fire, on which occasion
what the commander continues to call a "regale"
of rum was always indulged in with satisfaction.
On the last day of the month the forks of the
Peace River were reached, and the party was much
troubled as to which branch of the stream should be
followed. Mackenzie was anxious to take that coming
from the north-west, but the old Indian guide insisted that by taking that from the south-east a
carrying-place would soon be reached by which
another large river would be accessible. On one of
the last days of the month the commander himself
began to feel that his voyage was becoming a heavy
burden. Thoughts of the lower country recurred to
him, and he took an empty rum-keg, and after
writing a full account of his voyage thus far, placed
it in the keg, which he carefully sealed up and committed to the rushing river to be carried perhaps to
some kind friend, or to be picked up by some other
explorer as his last memorial. The crew, also driven
nearly to desperation, in their fancy heard a discharge
of firearms, which arose entirely from their disturbed
imaginations. They were quite mistaken as to its
being a war party of the Kinistineaux, as no Indians
Mackenzie, Mackay, and all their followers were
now becoming sceptical as to there being any carrying-place over the mountain height. The leader and
his lieutenant, leaving the canoe, betook themselves
to a mountain on the river bank, laboriously clambered to the top of it, and Mackenzie climbed the
highest tree on the height. He saw only a vast
wooded expanse before him. The mid-day sun proved
very hot to the party shut up in the forest, and
mosquitoes were a continual plague.
On the return of the two spies their canoe was
gone, whether up or down stream they could not
tell. Great anxiety and many gloomy surmises filled
their minds, but in time the crew, which had found
the river exceedingly difficult, appeared. The strong
current had broken their canoe, and thus delayed
On Sunday, June 9th, the party was surprised to
hear confused sounds in front of them. They proceeded from some Indians who had chanced to see
them, and had become much alarmed. Not knowing how strong or in what mood their unseen
neighbours might be, Mackenzie directed his boat-
73 Wji
men to cross to the opposite side of the river. When
they were not more than half way across the river,
two men appeared upon the cliff brandishing their
spears, and showing their bows and arrows in token
of defiance, meanwhile shouting loudly. After parleying, however, they were reassured, and the party
joined them on the shore. They had never seen white
men before. They examined the newcomers with
the greatest care. The whole Indian encampment
proved small. There were only three men, three
women, and seven or eight boys and girls.
Mackenzie's hopes of finding the carrying-place,
and the way over the height, now began to rise again.
The Indians, however, professed the utmost ignorance of any such thing. The explorer plied them
with presents, gave sweets to the children, and made
himself most friendly.. They still denied any knowledge of the road he sought. Time is of value in
dealing with Indians, and so Mackenzie continued
to delay, hoping to gain the much desired information. Their reticence was probably ignorance and
mental obliquity rather than any studied concealment.
One evening one of the men lingered by the fire
after the others had retired. In talking he let fall a
reference to a great river, and pointed significantly
up the river on which they were. Pressed by Mackenzie he at length admitted that there was a great
river flowing towards the mid-day sun (south), of
which a branch flowed near the river up which they
were proceeding. He stated also that there was a
small river leading from the Peace River into three
small lakes connected by portages, and that these
emptied into the great south river. He denied any
knowledge, however, that the great river emptied
into the sea.
Before giving up the matter with the Indian, Mackenzie succeeded in getting a map of the region,
with its rivers and lakes drawn on a strip of bark by
a piece of coal. One of the Indians was now induced
to act as guide to the desired spot.
On the day after the interview with the friendly
Indian the party started, and two days afterwards
quitted the main branch, and, working their way
in the canoe painfully up the encumbered stream,
reached the first small lake. The whole country in
the neighbourhood was flooded, so that the canoe
passed among the branches of the trees. They were
surrounded by the evidences of life. No Indians were
met, but beavers abounded; swans were numerous ;
ducks and geese were plentiful in this secluded retreat ; tracks of the moose were visible; blue jays,
yellow-heads, and one humming-bird cheered their
hearts; and wild parsnips, of which the voyageurs
were fond, grew in abundance.
On June 12th, 1793, Mackenzie makes the important announcement:—1 The lake is about two
miles in length, east by south, and from three to
five hundred yards wide. This I consider as the
highest and southernmost source of the Unjijah or
Peace River " (latitude 54° 24' north, longitude 121°
west). It was a long way from this mountain jungle
to the mouth of the river which he had seen when
approaching the Arctic Sea.
Hope had now reached fruition. The height of
land had been gained. The boat crew landed and
unloaded their canoe, and here they saw running
over a low ridge of land—eight hundred and seventeen paces long—a beaten path to another lake. On
each side of the lake was a mountain, the space of
the lake between them being about a quarter of
a mile. A cache of Indian supplies—nets, hooks, and
some implements—was found. Mackenzie took what
he wanted of them, and left in exchange a knife,
fire steels, beads, awls, etc. At this point two streams
tumble down the rocks from the right and flow
eastward towards the other lake; and from the left
two other streams pour down the rocks and empty
into the lake they were approaching. Proceeding
west the water was now flowing with them, and
they were beginning to descend the western slope.
Six miles from the third lake a careful and painful
effort was made, and the western side was reached.
The river ran with "great rapidity, and rushed
impetuously over a bed of flat stones." Beside this
far west stream they encamped for the night.
The boiling waters of this treacherous river were
worse than anything they had seen on Peace River.
On the resumption of the journey after their long
portage the canoe had been dashed with fury on the
76      * I
rocks. Then a few holes were stove in the bottom,
and the sad condition of the voyageurs was such that
the I Indians without attempting to help, sat down
and gave vent to their tears." The canoe escaped
destruction, although ammunition and some utensils of value were lost. While mending the shattered
canoe Mackenzie despatched two of his men through
the westward thickets to find the great river they
were seeking.
On June 19th Mackenzie makes this announcement : " The morning was foggy, and at three we
were on the water."
The story of the succeeding days need hardly be
given. The travellers were on the stream which
Simon Fraser descended in 1806, this has always
been regarded as one of the most dangerous feats
ever undertaken by man. With every variety of
anxiety and hardship they courageously braced
themselves to the effort, and for three days continued the descent.
On the way a band of intelligent Indians was
met, whose chief was a sagamore of great age and
wisdom. The old chief informed the explorer that
he was not on the way to the western sea. He was
going southward, and the sea lay to the west. Provisions were getting short, and the prospect was that,
if any time were lost, there could be no return
to Lake Athabaska during the season then in progress. He was informed that he should have left the
Nechaco, or Fraser River, a considerable distance
up, by a small tributary flowing into it from the
To turn back is not easy for any one, much less
to a man of Alexander Mackenzie's stamp. But
the Indians adhered to their former statements,
and startled him with their frankness. One said,
1 What can be the reason that you are so particular
and anxious in your enquiries of us respecting a
knowledge of this country ? Do not you white men
know everything in the world ? "
These were hard questions for the explorer. Mackenzie gathered his company around him, and laid
before them the alternative of going back, or of going on and proceeding by the land route to the sea.
To his surprise and gratification they all declared in
favour of the march to the sea. Mackay, the faithful lieutenant, engraved the explorer's name and the
date of arrival at this farthest point down the Fraser
River on a tree upon the banks of the stream.
And now on the west side of the great divide the
party is pausing before the return journey up the
furious Fraser.
ON June 23rd the famous party having decided
to descend the Tacouche Tess£ or Nechaco
(Fraser) River no further, prepared to ascend the
river until they reached the newly-decided course
by which they would proceed by land to the Pacific
Ocean. Just as the party was ready to depart the
guide proposed to save time by crossing by land to
his lodge, and then to meet the party farther up the
river. Mackenzie did not relish the proposal, thinking it merely a plan of the guide to desert the party.
The leader was helpless to prevent the course suggested, and so the guide and his people departed by
Rumours and suspicions now haunted the minds
of Mackenzie and his followers. It was said hostile
Indians were likely to beset their way, and they were
thrown on their guard. The explorer deemed it best
to stay for a time at their encampment, which they
named Deserter's Creek.
While waiting here a peculiar incident happened.
The explorer was awakened at midnight by a
rustling noise in the forest and the barking of dogs.
Later on the sentinel announced to the leader that
he saw a human being creeping along on all fours
79 m
about fifty paces above the camp. This was thought
at first to Tbe a bear, but proved to be an old man,
blind and infirm, who had been left behind by the
Indians, and had lain hidden and without food for
two days. This strange prisoner was obstinate and
somewhat knowing. He was, as the party moved
slowly up the river, taken with them by force, and
at last after efforts to escape was left by his own request on Canoe Island, being provided with a supply
of food. As long as the old man was with Mackenzie
he proved through his restlessness and cunning a
veritable, " old man of the sea."
Mackenzie's canoe had now become so leaky that
steps to repair it became necessary. On the twenty-
eighth of the month the work of building another
canoe was undertaken. Different parties were sent
into the woods in search of bark, watape (the fine
roots of the thorn used for sewing the bark), and
gum. After several failures at last the materials were
provided. But now the foreman of the canoe-builders
was very slow and half-hearted. Mackenzie berated
him, telling him he knew he did not wish to go on
with the journey. To his whole party, however,
the brave explorer again declared that he would go
at all hazards, even if he went alone, and he thus
shamed his followers into action.
On July 3rd the expedition reached the mouth of
a small river, which he called the West Road River.
This ran into the Nechaco from the west. The question now was whether to follow this river to the
coast, or to ascend the great river further north before taking the westward direction. His followers
on being called together in council decided to ascend
the great river further. Their decision was wise, for
during the day they saw two canoes approaching
them from the north, and to their surprise and joy
one of these contained the guide, who had, as they
supposed, deserted them, and six of his relatives. A
painted beaver robe adorned the returning wanderer,
and he was made still more gorgeous by presents
from Mackenzie, who was also liberal to the friends
of the guide.
The Indians were of the Tinne* or Chipewyan
tribe, which is found from Lake Athabaska up
the Peace River nearly to the Pacific coast. They
were now near the starting-place for the seaboard.
Mackenzie and his Frenchmen allowed the Indians
to go on ahead, and meanwhile took precaution to
bury, under the ashes of their fire, supplies of pem-
mican, wild rice, a keg of gunpowder, and near by
two bags of Indian corn, to await their return. Overtaking the advance guard, the party assembled and
proceeded to build a stage on which to place their
canoe, and a square enclosure of logs to contain all
articles which might be left behind when they undertook their land journey.
All was now ready, and, heavily laden with food,
arms, and ammunition, French-Canadians and Indians prepared for the long tramp, the leader taking
as his share of the burden his astronomical instru-
ments. The party started on short rations of two
meals a day. Ascending a steep hill they trudged
wearily westward, and halted at an Indian camp.
This was twelve miles from the place of departure,
and here they were joined by a number of Indians,
who were to accompany them.
Journeying steadily westward, meeting new Indians, and entering their houses; wearied by long
and trying marches; seeing snow-capped mountains
along the way; once or twice, though short of food,
hiding pemmican along the trail for the return
journey; and keeping up the spirits of his followers,
now by fault-finding, now by persuasion, this born
leader of men urged his way to the long-desired
western sea.
As the travellers pushed on over their course, new
scenes met them. The Indians increased in numbers,
lived in better houses, and seemed to be in much
better circumstances. At one point Mackenzie and
Mackay were received by a chief in truly baronial
style, every deference and consideration being shown
them by this forest magnifico.
On July 18th a river was reached, and with
canoes obtained from the thrifty natives the voyageurs returned to their native element, and were
at home on the rushing river, with their faces towards the sea.
At one point the superstition of the Indians led
them to bring their sick to Mackenzie. Some cases
were beyond the explorer's skill, and he describes
the orgies by which the medicine men sought to
cure those patients afflicted by the most aggravated
ulcerous wounds. When Mackenzie deigned to heal,
his chief recourse was to Turlington's balsam, which
he declared to be a safe remedy, especially when
only a few drops in warm water were applied.
The explorer thus describes his visit to a great
chief of the region, and we see readily that the
Indians had far more intercourse with white traders
on the Pacific seaboard than was generally supposed:
July 19th, 1793. " I paid a visit to the chief,
who presented me with a roasted salmon; he then
opened up his chests, and took out of one of
them a garment of blue cloth, decorated with brass
buttons, and another of flowered cotton. These I
supposed were Spanish. They Bad been trimmed
with leather fringe after the fashion of their own
cloaks. Copper and brass are in great estimation
among them, and of the former they have great
plenty. They point their arrows and spears with'
it, and work it up into personal ornaments, such as
collars, ear-rings, and bracelets, which they wear on
their wrists, arms, and legs. . . . They also have
plenty of iron. I saw some of their twisted collars
of that metal which weighed upwards of twelve
pounds. . . They have various trinkets, but their
manufactured articles consist only of poniards and
daggers. Some of the former have very neat handles,
with a silver coin or a quarter or eighth of a dollar
fixed on the end of them."
Mi i
1 |   II
Mackenzie was about to take an observation to
learn his whereabouts, but he was suddenly stopped
by the chief, probably on some superstitious ground.
His ready acquiescence in the chief's wishes was probably a benefit to the expedition, as it led to his
being supplied with a canoe, fully equipped, in which
he was able to pursue his voyage, accompanied by
the young chief as a special mark of his favour.
Before leaving Mackenzie discovered that the
chief had no fear of the instruments, except that he
was apprehensive that they might drive the salmon
from the river. He also pointed out the large cedar
canoe, forty-five feet long, in which, ten years before,
he had gone to the south with forty of his Indians,
and had seen two large vessels filled with white men,
who received him kindly. These were, no doubt, the
ships under command of Captain Cook.
Under the guidance of the young chief the expedition went on its way down the river, the Bella
. Coolla, soon to find it difficult to navigate on account
of the many channels into which the river divides.
It now began to show the influence of the tides,
and the Indian guides evinced a great disposition to desert the party, no doubt dreading the
fierce natives they would soon encounter on the
coast. Their stock of food was also well-nigh exhausted. Small mussels or anything eatable were
regarded as valuable. Seeking shelter from the
wind in the channels of the river, the party kept
near the land, and here met three canoes with
fifteen men in them. These Indians were rather
aggressive. They examined with some forwardness
the belongings of the white men, and assumed an
air of indifference and disdain. One of them, indeed,
was insolent, and declared that a large canoe had
lately been in the bay, and that one of the men
whom he called " Macubah " (Vancouver) had fired
on him and his friends, and that " Bensins " (Johnstone—Vancouver's lieutenant) had struck him on
the back with the flat part of his sword. The insolent Indian then persuaded Mackenzie's Indians
to leave him. A troublesome savage actually pushed
his way into Mackenzie's canoe, and insisted on examining the explorer's hat and handkerchief.
Mackenzie now determined to land, but the attitude of the Indians led him to think it well to take
precautions for defence. Accordingly, in landing, the
white men and servants took possession of a high
rock. The people who had come in the first three
canoes were the most troublesome, but in time they
went away. The natives having left the party unmolested, the hungry voyageurs took such a meal
as they could spare from their scanty viands. Lying
down on the rock, which was little larger than was
needed for their accommodation, the members of the
expedition remained strictly on the defensive.
Mackenzie, now wishing to mark his visit, determined to make an inscription on the side of the good
rock that had served him for defence. So he mixed
a quantity of vermilion with melted grease, and
85 I'll
■-1 I
; ts ,8
wrote on the inland face of the rock: "Alexander
Mackenzie from Canada by land, the twenty-second
of July, one thousand seven hundred and ninety-
three. Eat. 52° 20' 48" Ar."
It is rather a curious fact that one of Vancouver's ships was, on the very day of Mackenzie's
arrival, anchored off Point Maskelyne on the coast,
some two and a half degrees north of Mackenzie, at
the point where one of Vancouver's lieutenants had
fired upon a group of Indians, as referred to by the
insolent native.
The proximity of Vancouver's force was unknown
to Mackenzie, and so of no help to him. Not liking
the situation on the top of the memorial rock, the
explorer moved his camp three miles further away
from the Indian village, to a retired cave on the
coast. The conduct of the Indians and their thievish
disposition annoyed him.
After having had some trouble with the young
chief who accompanied him, the explorer determined to start on his return journey. Before doing
so he took five astronomical observations, and
worked out the longitude to be 128.2° W. He
makes a remark as to Captain Meares, an explorer
who had visited the Pacific coast in 1787-9, claiming that there was a practicable north-west passage
south of 69.5° N. Mackenzie's first voyage showed
the impossibility of this, and Vancouver's survey of
the coast proved the absurdity of the contention.
Leaving the encampment Mackenzie now moved
with his followers towards the river, and came into
the part of it since known as Mackenzie's Outlet He
soon had further evidence of the hostility of the Indians and found that it arose from the incitement of
the Indian who constantly spoke of " Macubah " and
" Bensins." One day one of the rascals seized Mackenzie from behind, but the stalwart leader shook
him off. The approach of some of Mackenzie's followers caused a hasty retreat on the part of the assailants. Irritated by the forwardness of the Indians
the explorer went to the village, and courageously
demanded articles which they had stolen and a
supply of fish. These demands were met, and the
supplies were paid for. The exploring party designated the hamlet of these miserable beings, "the
rascals' village."
On July 23rd the ascent of the river was begun
on the return voyage. Much discontent, however,
prevailed among the members of the party. They
were irritated and tired by the hardships through
which they had passed. But there was no help now
for their condition. Having embarked they began
their tedious journey by having to pull themselves
up the rapid river by the branches of the overhanging trees.
After two days of fatiguing travel the party arrived
at a village where the medical skill of the leader
had been exerted upon the sick son of the chief.
The youth had died and now the blame was being
put upon Mackenzie. Signs of hostility were shown
87 if!
as the explorers approached the village. The chief
sought to avoid the leader. Brought face to face
with him the old man threw a purse, which had been
stolen from the whites, fiercely at Mackenzie. A gift
of cloth and of knives, however, restored the peace
which had been broken. On the next day the party
arrived at what they had called the " friendly village," and their treatment here was most kindly.
Mackenzie gives a somewhat detailed account of
the fife and language of the friendly villagers.
Thus with stirring incidents the journey was continued, until, on August 13th, they reached the lofty
mountains which all travellers see in coming from
the coast to the Rockies, | perpendicular as a wall,
and giving the idea of a succession of enormous
Gothic churches." The mountains closely hemmed
in the party. On the sixteenth the height of land was
gained which separates the Columbia from the Peace
River, and " on the following day," the narrator says,
"we began to glide along with the current of the
Peace River." With monotonous sameness the journey continued, the chief interruption being, as before,
the portage de la Montague de Roche, though the
killing of a buffalo there supplied the hungry travellers with a very acceptable change of food. For seven
days they continued their descent of the eastern slope
of the mountains until they reached the neighbourhood of the fort at the forks of the Peace River. In
the words of the leader himself: " At length, as we
rounded a point and came in view of the fort, we
threw out a flag, and accompanied it with a general
discharge of our firearms, while the men were in
such spirits, and made such an active use of their
paddles, that we arrived before the two men, whom
we left here in the spring, could recover their sense
to answer us. Thus we landed at four in the afternoon at the place which we left on May 9th. Here
my voyages of discovery terminate. ... I received, however, the reward of my labours, for they
were crowned with success."
Mackenzie did not linger long at the Peace River
fort, but hastened back to Fort Chipewyan, and the
companionshipof his cousin. Hehadbeenabsentsome
eleven months in all, and passed the winter of 1793-4
in the solitudes of the north. Mackenzie's nervous
system had been somewhat affected by the demands
of the hard year of travel and anxiety. He made
fitful attempts during the winter to write his journal,
but the task was then too great for completion.
In the spring (1794) Alexander Mackenzie, now
the successful leader of two great voyages, and the
explorer of a vast region of new country, in fact,
the first to make the north-west passage by land,
journeyed down to Grand Portage, and turned his
back upon the upper country {pays den haut),
never to see it again.
89 ■^—«■ **
THE time of Alexander Mackenzie's retirement
from the upper country became an era of
trouble and excitement for the North-West Company. The old lion of Montreal, Simon McTavish,
had always borne the reputation of a tyrannical and
domineering leader. As years fell upon him he became more and more unpopular, and as he was the
moving spirit at headquarters in Montreal, there was
a wide-spread feeling that the interests of the wintering partners, as the leading traders throughout
the north and west were called, were in jeopardy.
The derisive nicknames Le Marquis, and Le Premier, applied to McTavish are indications of this
A corresponding spirit of confidence on the part
of the winterers may be detected as gathering
around Alexander Mackenzie. This no doubt partly
arose from self-interest, and the feeling of animosity
to Simon McTavish, but it was also a tribute to the
ability and capacity of the explorer of the Mackenzie
River and of the route to the Pacific Ocean. It was
certainly remarkable that a young man of thirty-
one, and one whose fur-trading experiences had been
91 -1  i
mostly in the frozen north should thus rise so soon
into prominence and influence. Yet so it was.
It was his duty now, having left the upper country,
to take a leading part in the great annual gathering
at Grand Portage. To this gathering McTavish
rarely came. No doubt the presence of Mackenzie
would serve as a rallying-point for discontent, as
the young trader had belonged to the minor company, which had united with the greater in 1787.
The desire to separate from the old company and
be free of the intolerable control from Montreal
showed itself at Grand Portage in 1795. Several
traders left the old company and cast in their lot
with I Forsyth, Richardson & Co.," the rival of Le
Premier. Though Alexander Mackenzie could not
extricate himself from the affairs of the old company, yet his sympathies were plainly with the discontented. If Simon McTavish was the impetuous
Ajax, Mackenzie was Achilles sulking in his tent.
The new North-West Company perfected its
organization in 1795-6, and gave great evidences
of vigour and pluck. To Lake Superior, to the Red
River, to the Assiniboine and Swan Rivers, and to
far distant Athabaska, it brought back the memories
of the fierce days of 1783, when Mackenzie made his
great dash for the English River. The new company
was called the X. Y. because the bales of the North-
West Company being marked N.W., these were
the next letters of the alphabet. Its work prospered,
though it must be confessed that more heartburning
and unfair competition resulted; and greater use of
strong drink, as an agency in dealing with the Indians, was made than ever before or since in the fur
trade. With the sympathy, possibly with the hidden
assistance of Alexander Mackenzie, the "Little Company" or X.Y.'s, undoubtedly made great headway,
and, somewhat arrogantly, built their emporium at
Grand Portage, in 1797, within half a mile of the
chief establishment of the North-West Company.
At the annual gathering Alexander Mackenzie
stated his intention of withdrawing from the old
company. The utmost plainness of speech was indulged in by many present about Le Marquis, and
much ill-feeling shown. Mackenzie proved firm in
carrying out his intention, and, leaving the company,
set sail for home. It was shortly before this time that
he seems to have had an opportunity of coming
within the shadow of the court of St. James having
been chosen to be the travelling companion in
Canada and the United States of Edward, Duke of
Kent, the father of our late Queen Victoria. No doubt
this gave him some claim to notice in England.
We have seen that in the year when Mackenzie
returned from the Pacific coast expedition he sought
to prepare the materials for giving to the world
an account of his two great voyages. His cousin,
Roderick McKenzie, had the pen of a ready writer,
and it is generally believed that he gave him much
help in preparing his journal. Others attach little
importance to  this  suggestion, inasmuch as the
journal, being very much of the nature of a log,
shows little literary merit. Going to England, arrangements were at once made for its publication.
The book1 appeared in 1801, and obtained a very
favourable reception. From the time of old John
Hakluyt, the Puritan prebendary of St. Paul's
Cathedral, who made a collection of English ana
other voyages, the English people have dearly loved
books of travel. From the Earl of Selkirk's own lips
we learn that it was this book which first called his
attention to Rupert's Land, and led him to lay the
foundation of his colony on the Red River.
A great tribute to Sir Alexander Mackenzie's
work comes from an unexpected quarter. William
Mackenzie, of Gairloch, an old friend of Sir Alexander, wrote in 1856 a very interesting letter to Sir
Alexander's son, the heir of Avoch. It is given to
me by the family, though it once before appeared in
the appendix of one of R. M. Ballantyne's smaller
works. It is as follows:—
1 Leamington, May 24th, 1856.
"When in Stockholm in 1824, Lord Bloomfield,
our minister there, did me the honour of presenting
me to the king—Bernadotte, father of the present
king of Sweden. At the king's special request the
audience was a private one, and I was further especially requested to oblige by coming in my full
1 Voyages from Montreal on the River St. Lawrence, through the Continent of North America to the Frozen and Pacific Oceans : in the years
1789 and 179S.
Highland dress. The audience" lasted fully an hour.
Such an interest did Napoleon's first and most fortunate marshal take in everything which was Highland, not even the skean dhu escaped him, etc., etc.
I now come to your family portion of the audience.
I As we chatted on, (old Bernadotte, leaning upon
my o'keachan, claymore) he was pleased to say, in
that suaviter in modo, for which his eagle eye so
fitted him, ' Yes, I repeat it—you Highlanders are
deservedly proud of your country and your forefathers, and your people are a race apart, distinct
from all the rest of Britain in high moral as well as
martial bearing, and long, I hope, may you feel and
show it outwardly by this noble distinction in dress.
But allow me to observe, sir, that in your family
name and in the name Mackenzie there is a very
predominant lustre, which shall never be obliterated
from my mind. Pray are you connected in any way
with Sir Alexander Mackenzie, the celebrated North
American traveller, whose name and researches are
immortalized by his discoveries in the Arctic Ocean
and of the river which since then does honour to
his name ?'
" I informed His Majesty that as a boy I had
known him well, and that our families and his were
nearly connected. This seemed to give me still
greater favour with him, for familiarly putting his
hand on my shoulder brooch, he replied that, on that
account alone, his making my acquaintance gave him
greater satisfaction. He then proceeded to tell Lord
95 HI
Bloomfield and me how your father's name had
become familiar to him and so much valued in his
1 He said that at one time Napoleon had arranged
to distract the affairs of Britain by attacking her in
her Canadian possessions ; not by a direct descent
upon them, but by a route which would take England quite by surprise and prove infallible. That
route was to be of the Mississippi, Ohio, etc., up to
our Canadian border lakes. For this arrangements
were to be made with America—New Orleans occupied as a pied-a-terre by France, etc.
"' The organization and command of this gigantic
enterprise,' as Bernadotte said, f was given to me by
the Emperor with instructions to make myself master of any work which could bear upon it, and the
facilities the nature of the country afforded. Foremost among these the work of your namesake (Sir
Alexander Mackenzie) was recommended, but how
to get at it, with all communication with England
interdicted, all knowledge of English unknown to
us, seemed a difficulty not easily to be got over.
However, as every one knows, my then master,
L'Empereur, was not the man to be overcome by
such small difficulties. The book, a huge quarto,
was procured through smugglers, and in an inconceivably short space of time most admirably translated into French for my especial use. I need hardly
add with what interest I perused and reperused that
admirable work till I had made myself so thoroughly
96 ■
master of it that I could almost fancy myself (this
he said laughing heartily) taking your Canada en
revers from the upper waters, and ever since I have
never ceased to look upon the home and think
of the author with more than ordinary respect and
"After a short pause and a long-drawn breath,
almost amounting to a sigh, accompanied by a look
at Bloomfield and a most expressive 'Ah, mi lord,
que des changements depuis ces jours-la!" Bernadotte
concluded by saying that the Russian campaign had
knocked that of Canada on the head until Russia
was crushed, but it had pleased God to ordain it
otherwise—eet maintenant me voilh Roi de Suede' (his
exact words as he concluded these compliments
to your father). So much for old recollections of my
sunny days of youth.
" Yours faithfully,
"Wm. Mackenzie
I (Gairloch)
I To George Mackenzie, Esqre.,
Miss Mackenzie, of Fortrose, the granddaughter
of Sir Alexander, sends word to the writer:—" We
have the French edition of Sir Alexander Mackenzie's travels, on which the following is written
in an old hand, \ Napoleon's copy from St. Helena.'
It is also stamped with the French eagle. This book,
contains an engraving of Lawrence's portrait of Sir
Alexander, and also a map, showing his travels in
1789." This copy was sent to the Mackenzie family
by an old friend from the continent.
Another notable circumstance in the life of the
successful explorer was his acquaintance in Canada
with the Duke of Kent, the father of our late Queen
Victoria. The duke had, in 1792, and for a few
years afterwards, been stationed in Canada and
Nova Scotia, and becoming acquainted with Alexander Mackenzie had honoured him with his favour,
and had afterwards kept up a correspondence
with the fur trader. After coming to Britain Sir
Alexander was further honoured in being at times
a travelling companion of the duke.
Now that Alexander Mackenzie had become
famous as the writer of so valuable and interesting
an account of his voyages, and had the favour of
one so high in the affairs of state as the Duke of
Kent it was not surprising that the honour of knighthood should be conferred by the king on the modest
and courageous explorer.
Honoured by royalty, appreciated by the English
public, and, as we have seen, known upon the continent as a successful explorer who had written a
history of the fur trade, we can readily imagine that
on his visit to Montreal in the year after the publication of his work he was received with open arms
by the citizens. The opponents of Simon McTavish,
and all discontented souls were ready to welcome
him as a rival to the heady old Marquis.
He was immediately put at the head of the X. Y.
Company, which he had formerly secretly aided, and
which sometimes bore the name of the new North-
West Company. His prestige and influence at this
time may be seen in the fact that this company
was very often spoken of as " Sir Alexander Mackenzie & Co." The vigour of the little company
under the new leader stirred up the old " Emperor "
at Montreal, and in 1802 he reorganized the North-
West Company after a most marvellous fashion.
He not only extended the agencies of the fur company to the South Saskatchewan and the Missouri,
but also rented the " posts of the king," as the trading-stations on the lower St. Lawrence were called,
and actually carried the war into Africa against
the Hudson's Bay Company by estabhshing Nor'-
West posts on Hudson Bay—a thing utterly unheard of in North-West Company annals.
The zeal inspired in the old company by its master
mind was amazing, and no doubt the bold policy of
Le Marquis would have come out victorious, but
in 1804 Simon McTavish died, all his projects fell to
the ground, the obstacles to union of the two Canadian companies were removed, and the breach, which
had extended from 1796 to 1804, was healed. The
intense rivalry now ended, the degrading methods
of plying the Indians with strong drink were repressed, and an impulse to trade was given, as seen
in the building of new forts, notably Fort Gibraltar,
on the site of the present city of Winnipeg in the
year after the union. The new fort at the mouth
of the Kaministiquia, built a year or two before
this happy union, but never christened, was now
Fort William, named after the Hon. William
McGillivfay, a noted man in the old company.
Sir Alexander Mackenzie was not only a leader
in the fur trade, but his abilities called for his recognition in the public affairs of Lower Canada. He
was chosen representative in the legislative assembly by the English-speaking county of Huntingdon;
but parliamentary affairs were not to his taste, and
he soon resigned his new honours and position,
and in 1808 returned to Scotland to take up his
abode there, and spend his remaining years, though
he had only reached the age of forty-five.
The old trader, although retired from the atmosphere of beaver and pelts, still took an interest in
the fur trade. In the year 1811 Lord Selkirk, a
British nobleman, undertook his scheme of emigration to the banks of the Red River, and in order to do
so purchased a large quantity of stock in the Hudson's Bay Company. This scheme was strenuously
opposed by Sir Alexander Mackenzie, who had purchased a sufficient quantity of the stock to take
part in the company's affairs. When the first ship
with Lord Selkirk's emigrants was leaving Stornoway for America, it is stated by Miles Macdonell,
the commander, that strong and unfair opposition
was offered to the departure of the colonists. Mr.
Reid, collector of customs at Stornoway, did all in
his power to thwart the emigration movement by
sowing discontent in the minds of the settlers. Inasmuch as the collector's wife was an aunt of Sir Alexander Mackenzie, it was natural that it should be
said that this opposition was inspired by the retired
explorer himself.
In the year after this affair (1812) Sir Alexander's marriage took place. Geddes Mackenzie, who
became his wife, was one of the most beautiful and
gifted of Scottish women. She was of the blood of
the clan whose name she bore:
" McKenneth, great Earl of the North,
The Lord of Loch Carron, Glensheil and Seaforth,"
and was a true scion of the clan whose leader fought
for James IV at Flodden, Queen Mary at Langside,
and James II, who created Mackenzie Marquis of
Seaforth and Earl of Mar in 1715. This clan raised
the 72nd and 78th Highland regiments. Geddes Mackenzie's grandfather was Captain John Mackenzie
of Castle Leod, who married his cousin, and purchased the property of Avoch in Inverness-shire;
her father was George, a prosperous merchant of
London, and he was the last Mackenzie of Gruinard.
She was also a close relative of the Mackenzies of
Miss Geddes Mackenzie brought with her the property of Avoch in her own right, and this was after
their marriage transferred to Sir Alexander. To them
there were born two sons and one daughter. The
eldest was Alexander George, born February 14th,
1818, and the daughter bore her mothers name,
101 i
Geddes. Alexander George was the father of the
present George Mackenzie, of London, of Alexander Isabel and Geddes Margaret, unmarried sisters,
who live at the Deanery, Fortrose, and two other
After his marriage Sir Alexander took much interest in agriculture in the neighbourhood of his
property, and his grandson says: " On his return to
Avoch he carried out many real improvements in
the neighbourhood, building the wall which now
protects the road between Avoch and Fortrose from
the sea, and laying down an oyster bed in the Bay
of Munlochy, which was worked successfully for
many years."
Very unexpectedly, on March 12th, 1820, Sir
Alexander Mackenzie died. Returning home from
a journey to London he was taken ill in the coach
at Mulnain in Perthshire, and died there. The
body was taken on to Avoch, and buried in the
family enclosure in the churchyard.
Thus suddenly his career was closed at the age of
fifty-seven. His wife survived him forty years.
102 ^
great things in reaching the Arctic Sea and
the Pacific Ocean by new routes, but the greatest
thing he did was giving an impulse to other explorers. Vast portions of the northern half of North
America were yet unknown, when he followed the
two routes which were simply length without
breadth. Other traders were encouraged by his
successes to open up new regions. Seven years before the end of the eighteenth century Alexander
Mackenzie reached the Pacific Ocean. Two years
afterwards David Thompson, a youth educated at
the Bluecoat School in London, and well versed in
mathematics and astronomy, with three companions,
found his way from Hudson Bay to Lake Athabaska.
Returning to York Factory from the very lake
which Alexander Mackenzie had passed on both
his expeditions, Thompson reported in favour of
prosecuting explorations further west for the Hudson's Bay Company. His request was refused, whereupon the enthusiastic explorer betook himself at
once to Grand Portage, and offered himself to the
North-West Company. He was immediately appointed astronomer and surveyor by the Montreal
103 1T3M
traders. That choice was one of the wisest the Nor'-
Westers ever made.
Shortly after his appointment in 1796 Thompson
joined himself to one of the northern canoe brigades,
and with, his instruments began at once to establish
the latitude and longitude of the several posts. Following the fur traders' route he arrived at Lake
Winnipeg House at the mouth of the Winnipeg
River, coasted around Lake Winnipeg, and, leaving
it, ascended a small river and crossed to the Swan
River district. Reaching at this point the traders'
paradise, and the rich prairies of the west, Thompson
turned southward, and gained the plains where the
buffalo herds were met. Here among beaver-meadows
Thompson wintered.
The summer having come, with its good roads
and blossoming prairies, the explorer followed the
course of the Assiniboine River, and found comfortable quarters at Assiniboine House, near the
entrance of the Souris River into the river he was
From this point Thompson made his famous journey to the Mandans on the Missouri River, following
the course, to a large extent, of the younger Verendrye
as described by Parkman. The journey was made in
the winter time over a treeless plain; the distance was
two hundred and eighty miles—thirty-three days of
travelling under low temperatures—and was performed with a few horses, and numerous dog
teams. At all important places on his route the
astronomer made his observations and gained the
material for the important map which he afterwards
Going eastward down the Assiniboine early in
1798 Thompson reached the site of the present city
of Winnipeg, and found no fort or dwelling. He
then ascended the Red River, and came to Pembina
House, where he took observations to establish the
forty-ninth parallel of latitude—the boundary between Rupert's Land and the United States.
Now going southward the energetic explorer determined to settle the debatable question of the
source of the Mississippi, near which were several
forts belonging to the Nor'-Westers. He decided
Turtle Lake to be the source of the Father of
Waters, but in this he was wrong, as the true
source was declared a generation afterwards to be
Lake Itasca, which is half a degree south of Turtle
Lake. After fixing the position of the several posts,
Thompson then went eastward to Lake Superior,
and coasting along its north shore with difficulty
reached Grand Portage, whence he had departed
three years before, and where the account of his
work was received with the highest praise by the
Nor'-Westers. He was regarded as a born explorer,
upon whom the mantle of Alexander Mackenzie
had fallen.
Thompson threw himself into his work with
vigour, but it was not until 1805 that the plans
which Alexander Mackenzie and others had made
were carried out with great energy. The particular
event that led to determined action was the union
of the smaller company, which, as already said, was
often known as " Sir Alexander Mackenzie & Co.,"
with the North-West Company.
The united company, seeking new worlds to
conquer for the fur trade, sent David Thompson
up the Saskatchewan to explore the Columbia
River, and examine the vast " sea of mountains "
bordering on the Pacific Ocean. The other partner
chosen was Simon Fraser, and his orders were to go
up the Peace River, cross the Rockies, and explore
the region from the northern side.
In 1806 Thompson crossed the Rocky Mountains,
and built, in the following year, a trading-house for
the North-West Company on the lower Columbia
River. With strange determination he persisted in
calling this river the Kootenay. For several years he
passed to and fro from the Kootenay region to the
other side of the mountains, reaching, at times,
Grand Portage.
The presence of the Astor Fur Company at the
mouth of the Columbia River was regarded as a
menace by the Nor'-Westers. Thompson received
orders to checkmate the Astorians by descending
the Columbia River, and occupying the point where
this river empties into the Pacific Ocean. Accordingly in the summer of 1811 the explorer started to
descend the Columbia River, which no white man
had yet done. The American explorers, Lewis and
106 ^
Clark, had, in 1805, crossed the Rocky Mountains
further south, and by way of the Lewis River had
come upon the lower part of the Columbia River,
and followed it to the sea. This, together with the
proposed occupation of the mouth of the river by
Astor, was what led to Thompson's present expedition. Proceeding down the Columbia, Thompson
took formal possession of it, at the junction of the
Spokane and Columbia, here, as well as at other
points, erecting poles with notices upon them claiming the country for Britain.
In July, 1811, after various delays from mutinies
and other obstacles, Thompson reached the mouth
of the Columbia River, but was chagrined to find
that the Astor expedition had arrived by way of
Cape Horn, and taken possession of the coveted
territory. Thompson philosophically accepted the
situation, but, reascending the river, established two
posts at what he considered good objective points.
In the following year David Thompson definitely
left the service of the North-West Company, and
spent the remainder of his life, which was a long one,
chiefly in government employment. In the year after
his return from western exploration Thompson prepared a great map of the country, which, for a number of years, adorned the banqueting hall of the
bourgeois at Fort William, and is now in the
Government Buildings at Toronto.
Returning now to Simon Fraser, who had been
appointed by the fur traders to explore the district
107 JBrii
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of New Caledonia, we find that in 1806 he crossed
the Rocky Mountains, and came upon a river which
he called Stuart River, in honour of his able lieutenant, John Stuart. On this river Fraser built a
fort, which, with Scottish fervour, he called New
Caledonia, and this seems to have led to the whole
of the northern region west of the Rocky Mountains receiving the name of New Caledonia. Fraser
had been asked by the Nor'-Westers to descend the
Tacouche Tesse River, down which it will be remembered Alexander Mackenzie had gone for some
distance, till he left it to take a western road to the
Pacific Ocean. The general opinion was that the
Tacouche Tesse* was simply the upper Columbia, and
that, descending it, Fraser would reach Thompson,
who had gone across the mountains to the Columbia
farther south. Fraser's orders to advance had been
brought to him by two traders, Jules Maurice
Quesnel and Hugh Faries.
Leaving Faries in charge at the new fort, Fraser,
with two able assistants, Stuart and Quesnel, nineteen voyageurs and two Indian guides in four canoes,
left the mouth of Stuart River, and proceeded down
the Tacouche Tesse" River on one of the most notable
and dangerous voyages ever attempted. We cannot
undertake to give even a summary of the account
of the journey down the river, where a succession
of rapids, overhung by enormous heights of perpendicular rocks, made it almost as difficult to portage
as it would have been to risk the passage of the
108 ■^
canoes and their loads down the boiling caldron of
the river.
Let it suffice to quote a few words from Frasef's
journal: " I have been for a long period among the
Rocky Mountains,- but have never seen anything
like this country. It is so wild that I cannot find
words to describe our situation at times. We had to
pass where no human being should venture; yet in
those places there is a regular footpath impressed,
or rather indented upon the very rocks by frequent
travelling. Besides this, steps which are formed like
a ladder by poles hanging to one another, crossed at
certain distances with twigs, the whole suspended
from the top, furnish a safe and convenient passage
to the natives down these precipices; but we, who
had not had the advantage of their education and
experience, were often in imminent danger, when
obliged to follow their example."
As the party proceeded down the river they saw
a great river flowing in from the left, making notable
forks. Thinking that probably Thompson's expedition by way of the Saskatchewan might at that very
time be on the upper waters of this tributary they
called it Thompson River. In this they were mistaken,
but it has ever since borne the name Thompson as
one of the rivers of British Columbia. Another river,
flowing into the Tacouche Tesse' from the east, was
called, in honour of the second bourgeois of the expedition, the Quesnel, and this name has ever since
been retained.
109 if
On July 2nd the party reached an arm of the
sea, and saw the tide ebbing and flowing. They
knew their journey had now practically ended, but
they were not allowed to visit the desired destination. The Indians were so hostile that Fraser could
not pass down to the mouth. He, however, was
near enough to take the latitude, and found that
it was some degrees north of the Columbia, whose
latitude was known to him. He had discovered
a new river. How hard is it to determine the relative value of human achievement! This river was to
be called for all time the Fraser River, and yet the
explorer did not grasp the magnitude of the discovery he had made and of the fame which was his.
His ascent of the river proved a less difficult task
than his journey down had been, taking nine days
These great discoveries were the last made for
some time by the fur companies. One reason of this
was that the pioneer discoverer, Alexander Mackenzie, retired from the active service of the company, and took up, as we have seen, his residence in
Britain. Another, perhaps stronger reason for the
abrupt cessation of exploration is found in the
troubles that beset the companies, and the dangerous conflicts that took place in different parts of the
fur country after the project of Lord Selkirk to
found his colony on the banks of the Red River
in 1811, under the auspices of the Hudson's Bay
It was not for more than a decade after this, when
peace had been restored, that Finlay proceeded up
the branches of the Peace River, and even later
still that Robert Campbell ascended the Liard River,
and, crossing the height of land, discovered the upper -
Enough has been said, however, to show how the
example and influence of Alexander Mackenzie resulted in the wider exploration of even the most
dangerous and inaccessible parts of the Rocky
Mountains, and to call attention to the honour
to which he is entitled as the pioneer in the line of
Ill •g|t. ,v
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THE name and titles of the Earl of Selkirk are
firmly attached to a number of localities in the
Canadian West: a town and county of Manitoba,
a. range of mountains in British Columbia, a fort on
the Yukon River, and an island in Lake Winnipeg, all bear the name of Selkirk; a part of the city
of Winnipeg called Point Douglas, where originally stood Fort Douglas, preserves to this day the
family name of the great colonizer. The ruins of
a fort near the international boundary, known as
Fort Daer, long remained to recall one of the
titles of the noble house of Selkirk.
The man who thus impressed himself upon so
vast a region was no common man, and the story
of his life is worthy of a place in the treasure-house
of Canadian and British worthies.
Thomas Douglas, fifth Earl of Selkirk, Baron
Daer and Shortcleugh, was a scion of one of the
oldest Scottish noble families. As the writer has
said elsewhere, " The intrepidity of the Douglases,
the perseverance of the ancient family of Marr, and
the venturesomeness of the house of Angus, were
all his inheritance by blood. Back nineteen generations, and not less than seven hundred years be-
i f
fore his time, Theobald, the Fleming—the Selkirk
ancestor—scorned the quieter pleasures of home,
and went to seek his fortunes among the Saxon
people of old Northumbria, bought himself a new
home with the sword, and the lands of Douglas
were granted him because he had won them
Time does not permit to tell the deeds of Theobald's great grandson, Sir William Douglas, the
hardy man who joined the unlucky Wallace, and
suffered death for it, and of Sir William's grandson,
the grim Sir Archibald. James, the second earl of
Douglas, who fell fighting against the Percy, was
the brave hero of the battle of Otterburn. It was
his dying boast that "few of his ancestors had
died in chambers." Good Sir James Douglas lived
in the days of the Bruce, distinguished himself at
Bannockburn, and figured in the attempt to carry
the heart of King Robert to Jerusalem. These
might suffice for a group of ancestors of remarkable distinction, but there was also that other
famous man, Archibald, " Bell the Cat," the Earl
of Angus, whose courage and resource have become watchwords in history.
With such heroic blood in his veins our great
colonizer was born, being the seventh son of
Dunbar, fourth Earl of Selkirk. He was born in
June, 1771, at St. Mary's Isle, the earl's seat at
the mouth of the Dee in Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland. At the age of fifteen young Thomas Douglas
went to the University of Edinburgh, and there
pursued his studies till he was nineteen. His college
days gave promise of an energy, resourcefulness,
and ability which were to urge him to great achievements in his later days. With Walter Scott he was
a member of | The Club," a small society of ardent literary spirits. The earl, young Thomas's
father, was a broad-minded man, who showed
favour to rising genius, and patronized Robert
Burns. It was at St. Mary's Isle that Burns, on
being entertained, extemporized the well-known
| Selkirk Grace " found in his poems.
On another occasion the poet Burns, a guest
at Ayr of Dugald Stewart, the great metaphysician,
there met Lord Daer, an older brother of Thomas
Douglas, and was so captivated by him that he
wrote a poem concerning him, in which he says:—
" Nae honest, worthy man need care
To meet with noble, youthful Daer,
For he but meets a brother."
Amongst the companions of Thomas Douglas in
the little club of nineteen in Edinburgh were men
afterwards greatly distinguished: William Clerk,
of Eldin, Sir A. Ferguson, Lord Abercromby,
and David Douglas, afterwards Lord Reston.
At the close of his college career, the young
nobleman, who had a great sympathy for the downtrodden and oppressed, found his way to France,
and was disposed, like many British Liberals, to extend his approbation to the leaders of the French
Revolution. It may be of interest to give here
a letter written by him to his father, the Earl
of Selkirk.
"Dear Father,—We are all here very quiet,
tho' your newspapers have probably by this time
massacred half of Paris. The disturbance of which
Daer gave you an account is completely settled.
The measure M. de la Fayette took of breaking
one of the mutinous companies of the Garde Soldee
was indeed much criticized in the Groupes of the
Palais Royal, but the ferment is blown over, and
will probably be put out of their heads by the
Avignon business. I was at the National Assembly
the whole three days they discussed it (one of
which they sat 12 hours). It is carried by a great
majority that they are not to unite it at once to
France as the Jacobins wished.
11 have no more time as the post is just going.
I Yours,
"Thomas Douglas."
On his return from France young Thomas
Douglas went, as seems to have been his custom
during his college course, to spend his summer in the Highland straths and valleys. He
had become extremely fond of the Highland
people, and although a Southron learned the
Gaelic language.
In 1797, on the death of his brother, Lord Daer,
young Douglas, who was then the sole survivor of
the family of seven sons, was made Baron Daer
and Shortcleugh, and two years afterwards, on the
death of his father, he became Earl of Selkirk. His
youthful enthusiasm was now, at the age of twenty-eight, very great, and the wealth and influence
placed at his disposal as a British earl turned his
thoughts to benevolent and noble projects.
It was now the beginning of the nineteenth century, and all the accounts of that period agree in
saying that there was great distress among the
British people.
The sympathetic heart of the philanthropic
young man had been touched by the sufferings of
his Highland countrymen. The Napoleonic wars
had been especially hard upon the Highlands, but
an economic wrong also set on fire the Highland
heart. Men can be found in Canada to-day whose
indignation rises when the i Highland Clearances "
of the early years of the nineteenth century are
mentioned. The " Clearances " were the result of
a policy adopted by the great landholders of the
north of Scotland to diminish the large number
of small crofts or holdings, and to make wide sheep
runs for rental to a few proprietors, who with larger
capital might better develop the resources of their
estates. This policy could not fail to bear heavily
upon the poor. The Highlander has a passionate
attachment to his native hills, and his shielan, poor
as it is, is his home. In the lament of the Highlanders, it was said in their Gaelic idiom that " a
hundred smokes went up one chimney," meaning
119 I
that only one house now stood where a hundred
had formerly been seen.
The heart of the young earl was deeply touched,
and he forthwith laid plans for a systematic emigration policy which should bring relief to his unfortunate countrymen, and to the suffering people of
the neighbouring island of Ireland. Our next chapter will treat in greater detail of the earl's schemes
of emigration; suffice it now to say that these are
embodied in his most elaborate work on emigration,1 to which we shall again refer.
There seems to have been a spirit of marvellous
enterprise in Lord Selkirk which expressed itself
in plans and projects of improvement, and in discussion of public affairs of the greatest moment.
To a patriotic Briton the first decade of the nineteenth century gave abundant cause for anxiety.
Napoleon, with " Europe-shadowing wings," threatened at any moment to swoop down on the British
Isles. The attempt of the French fleet to land at
Bantry Bay in Ireland in 1796 had been trifling
enough, but now Napoleon's added allies made him
far more formidable. Accordingly Lord Selkirk in
his place in the House of Lords, in 1807, laid before
his fellow-legislators a plan of defence for the empire. "Every young man," said he, "between the
ages of eighteen and twenty-five, throughout Great
, Britain, should be enrolled and completely trained
1 Observations on the Present State of the Highlands of Scotland, with a
Viewof the Causes and Probable Consequences of Emigration. London, 1805.
to military discipline." His Lordship estimated that
of the population of Great Britain and Ireland, then
put down as about eleven million, upwards of six
hundred thousand were between the ages named and
eligible for this purpose. The training would proceed in succession. For three months officers would
train one-fourth of those within their districts; and
so on with the second quarter, till all would have
secured twelve weeks drill in the year. Once a
year a general assemblage would take place at a
fixed time, and the trained men be kept in form by
the drill required. With due regard to the interests
of the agriculturists, the beginning of summer
would be selected as the time of general assemblage.
This remarkable scheme was developed with a
minuteness of detail and a clearness of statement
quite wonderful in a man not trained to military
affairs. It is a tribute to his acuteness, and to his
grasp and foresight, that the main points of the
plan he outlined are now in force throughout a
great portion of Europe.
In the following year the earl developed his
ideas on this subject in a brochure of some eighty
pages, bearing the title, "On the Necessity of a
more Effectual System of National Defence." In
publishing this work Lord Selkirk had the assistance of his kinsman, Sir John Wedderburn, afterwards of the East India Service. It is interesting
to note that in republishing this work more than
121 '   :
fifty years afterwards, Sir John could do so, finding
it strikingly applicable to the conditions then prevailing.
Sir John, in referring to the Earl of Selkirk, calls
him "a remarkable man, who had the misfortune
to live before his time." While this may refer to the
trials which afterwards overtook Lord Selkirk, we
question very much whether His Lordship's schemes
were as chimerical and ill-considered as this statement would imply.
This period of Lord Selkirk's life was certainly
one of great activity. After his publication of his
scheme of defence, he was made a Fellow of the
Royal Society, and it was perhaps this circumstance which stimulated his literary activity. In any
event we are justified in attributing to him two
anonymous works which anticipate his later acknowledged views as contained in his "Sketch of
the British Fur Trade in 1806." In these two
books, | Observations on a Proposal for forming a
Society for the Civilization and Improvement of the
North American Indians within the British Boundary" (1807), and "On the Civilization of the
Indian in British America" (no date), the author
advocates the establishment of schools in which
young Indians might be instructed, not only in
ordinary branches, but also in industrial pursuits.
He would have had certain portions of the country
set apart for the Indians alone, he would have had
the I legislature applied to for an Act to authorize
the governor of Canada to fix by proclamation the
limits of the country reserved for the use of the
Indian nations," and he would have secured the
total suppression of the liquor traffic, whose ravages among the Indians he describes in startling
We read these details with surprise, for we see
them all embodied in the Reserve System, the Industrial Schools, and the law making it illegal to
give or sell strong drink to an Indian, in fact, in
the main features of the policy carried out so successfully in Western Canada during the last twenty-five years of the nineteenth century. It is unjust
to contend that the propounder of such practical
ideas lived before his time.
In 1809 Lord Selkirk succeeded in gaining the attention of the public men of his time in a pamphlet
published by him, entitled "Parliamentary Reform,"
which he addressed to the chairman of the committee at the " Crown and Anchor," presumably
a Whig organization. The house of Selkirk was
Whig, or Liberal, in its views. This may be seen by
any one who reads the work mentioned on emigration. The expansive and altruistic spirit shown
in the work was quite in harmony with the large-
hearted and sympathetic views which we attribute
to the writer. But as every student of political
science knows, the excesses of the French Revolution, the rancour of political parties, and the evident
discontent in the United States that followed the
first generation of democratic rule, chilled the ardour
of lovers of liberty in all lands about the beginning
of the nineteenth century. Men like Coleridge and
Wordsworth, who had looked to the French Revolution to break the chains of tyranny, not only in
France but for the whole world, saw with dismay
the terrorism of a mob replaced by a great military
despotism, and they shuddered at and forsook principles they had formerly advocated.
So with Lord Selkirk. He states to the men of
the I Crown and Anchor" that his father and
brother had been zealous friends of a parliamentary
reform, and that all his early impressions were in
favour of such a measure. 1 He had thought," he
says, "that if the representation were equalized,
the right of suffrage extended, the duration of
parliaments shortened, bribery could scarcely be
applied with effect." " But," says he, 11 have had
an opportunity (in the French Revolution and in
a visit to America) which my family never had of
seeing the political application of those principles
from which we expected consequences so beneficial.
With grief and mortification I perceived that no
such advantages had resulted as formerly I had
been led to anticipate." Lord Selkirk accordingly
refused to take part in the proposed agitation, and,
indeed, went further and threw in his lot with the
reactionary party.
We have thus sought to give a picture of the
mental characteristics of this public-spirited philan-
thropist. He was mentally most acute and active,
indeed his mind burned itself out in activities and
projects that to some seemed visionary. But he was
a man of deep thought and large heart. As we look
upon the marble bust chiselled by Sir Francis
Chantrey, the great English sculptor, now at St.
Mary's Isle, we see the indications of intellectual
fineness and keenness of mind, as well as of a generous and pitiful heart.
Author, patriot, colonizer, and philanthropist—
his enthusiastic devotion to his projects possesses
us, and we seem to see the "tall, spare man, full
six feet high, with a pleasant countenance," as he
came to Helmsdale to bid the Highland emigrants
to his colony farewell; as he afterwards stood on the
banks of the Red River and apportioned his colonists
their lots; as he dealt with the bands of Indians of
the West, who sealed a perpetual covenant with
him whom they named their " Silver Chief." We
shall follow him with interest through the many
phases of his eventful though somewhat sorrowful
125  ^
IN the very year that Wordsworth penned his
sonnet of lament for England, and gave forth
his cry for help for the British people, Lord Selkirk
was deep in contemplation as to how he might
relieve their necessities. To him emigration seemed
the remedy. He had just read Sir Alexander Mackenzie's journal, and had heard of the district of
Red River as being fertile and affording room for a
large population. The plan flashed into his mind of
being the leader in a pioneer movement of settlement for Rupert's Land which would relieve the
distress of crofter, farrn labourer, and operative alike,
and restore the equilibrium disturbed by war and
other disasters.
Accordingly His Lordship, on April 4th, 1802,
sent to Lord Pelham, home secretary, a letter
and memorial. This has never been published, but
through the kindness of the Earl of Kimberley when
he was colonial secretary some years ago, a copy
was furnished to the writer.
In these documents Lord Selkirk says: " No
tract of land remains unoccupied on the sea-coast
of British America, except barren and frozen
deserts. To find a sufficient extent of good soil in
a temperate climate we must go far inland. This
inconvenience is not, however, an insurmountable
obstacle to the prosperity of a colony, and appears
to be amply compensated by other advantages that
are to be found in some remote parts of British
territory. At the western extremity of Canada, upon the waters which fall into Lake Winnipeg, and,
uniting with the great river of Port Nelson, discharge themselves into Hudson Bay, is a country
which the, Indian traders represent as fertile, and
of a climate far more temperate than the shores
of the Atlantic under the same parallel, and not
more severe than that of Germany and Poland.
Here, therefore, the colonists may, with a moderate
exertion of industry, be certain of a comfortable
subsistence, and they may also raise some valuable
objects of exportation. . . . Some of the British
traders have extended their discoveries into a
climate which appears well adapted even for the
vine, the successful cultivation of which would save
immense sums that go every year from this kingdom into the hands of its enemies. To a colony
in these territories the channel of trade must be the
river of Port Nelson."
Here is the genesis of Lord Selkirk's emigration
movement almost a decade before he organized his
expedition to enter upon the land to be reached
by way of Nelson River. Lord Buckinghamshire,
the colonial secretary, did not favour the scheme,
"the prejudices of the British people were so strong
against emigration." This is not to be wondered at.
Britain was engaged in a great war in which her
very existence was at stake. Surely it would be
folly to weaken her supply of men. Lord Selkirk,
in his book published three years after this letter,
combats the arguments against emigration. He especially falls foul of the Highland Society, which
had strenuously opposed the removal of the Highlanders from their lands to the New World.
Lord Selkirk was, however, impressed with the
thought of relieving suffering, and, in 1803, had
organized and carried out his first emigration party.
Forbidden by the British government to begin a
colony six hundred miles inland from Hudson Bay,
on the shores of Lake Winnipeg, he was compelled
to content himself with a strip of land on the coast
of Prince Edward Island, on the Gulf of St. Lawrence, which could be reached by ship.
In his work on emigration a good account is
given of this colony. The unoccupied land extended, on the east coast of Prince Edward Island,
for some thirty miles. " Separated by an arm of the
sea from any other settlement," he says, " the emigrants . . were placed in circumstances scarcely
more favourable than if the island had been completely desert."
Lord Selkirk had intended himself to precede the
colonists, and to oversee the preparations made for
their reception. This he was unable to do. Eight
hundred persons, the greater proportion of whom
were from the Isle of Skye, and a number from
each of the shires of Ross, Argyle, and Inverness,
with a few from the Island of Uist, made up this
pioneer party. They sailed from the British Isles in
three ships, and arrived respectively on the 7th,
9th, and 27th August, 1803. On Lord Selkirk's
reaching Charlottetown, the capital of the island,
he found that the third ship had just arrived,
and that the settlers had debarked from the other
vessels in the district selected for them.
The selected region had been cleared by the
French, who had been driven out in the year before the taking of Quebec, and in the lapse of
forty years thickets of young trees had grown up,
interspered with grassy glades. This afforded a suitable region for encampment and settlement. The
settlers had, in the openings, built for each family
a hut of poles, which they had covered over with
spruce branches, and in these they were fairly
comfortable. The camp had a strange appearance;
confused heaps of baggage were everywhere piled
up beside the huts; the fires built at night in
the open spaces gave a weird appearance to the
scene. Lord Selkirk had his tent pitched at the end
of the camp, and all seemed to feel that the happy
days of clanship were back again, and that the
I Clearances " were a thing of the past.
The usual difficulties were experienced. The land
was not well surveyed, each family was impatient,
and indeed somewhat jealous as to the spot which
should be assigned to it. Certain measurements
were absolutely necessary. This took time. Discontent began to arise. Visitors came from the
English settlements of the island and started doubts
by their advice, and at one time the settlement
was nearly broken up. Food rose in price to a high
figure, and flour had to be brought from Nova
Scotia. Scarcity of food, exposure, and a new climate brought their inevitable consequences, and a
contagious fever broke out among the settlers.
Fortunately Lord Selkirk had brought with him
a competent and clever physician, and through his
exertions very few fatal cases occurred.
At the end of three or four weeks from the time
of Lord Selkirk's arrival all the allocations had
been made, and the land sold at a moderate price
—less than one half the price current on the island ;
the fever had begun to abate ; and provisions
became more plentiful by their importation fropi
abroad by Lord Selkirk's agent. The narrator says:
| From the moment the settlers were fixed in their
respective allotments of land they were enabled to
proceed without interruption in their work."
The zeal of the settlers is recorded to have been
remarkable. A father and three sons occupied one
lot; the father, sixty years of age, insisted on being
an axeman; the sons had no resource but to hide
the axe, and the aged woodman spared the tree for
the best of reasons. An elderly widow and her two
sons had taken a  claim; the young men being
absent from home, the octogenarian matron seized
the axe and undertook to fell a tree; the return of
her sons stopped her well-meant efforts in time to
prevent the tumbling monarch of the forest from
crushing to the earth their humble dwelling.
The settlement continued to thrive; the people
gained courage; they began to love their new home,
and two years after their arrival Lord Selkirk says,
speaking of the general improvement, "One of
very moderate property, who had a small possession
in the Isle of Skye, traces his lineage to a family
which had once possessed an estate in Rossshire,
but had lost it in the turbulence of the feudal
times. He has given to his new property the name
of the ancient seat of his family, has selected a
situation with more taste than might have been
expected from a mere peasant; and to render the
house of Auchtertyre worthy of its name, is doing
more than would otherwise have been expected
from a man of his station."
Thus the colony prospered. Probably not less
than four thousand people on the island trace their
origin to the three shiploads of 1803, while many
in different parts of the Canadian West call themselves Lord Selkirk's islanders.
As soon as Lord Selkirk had seen his colonists
fairly settled, he visited the United States and
Canada. His active mind was taken up with the
problems he saw being worked out in the New
World, and his patriotic feeling was roused in favour
■■■■-■■--^-^ ~ gro fc
of the British dependency of Canada. In the United
States he found numbers of "families from Scotland
and Wales in New England and in the state of
New York," who were willing to remove to Canada
if favourable terms could be obtained.
Becoming acquainted with the leading men in
Montreal and Toronto, Lord Selkirk, with surprising alertness and courage, undertook several large
schemes of emigration and development. He purchased a tract of land in the townships of Dover
and Chatham, in the western part of Upper Canada
near Lake St. Clair. Some twenty families of his
Highland colonists from Prince Edward Island
were, under the management of Alexander Mac-
donell, Sheriff of the Home District, placed on these
lands and the name of one of his properties—
Baldoon—was given to the settlement. A road
known as Baldoon Street was cut through to the
town of Chatham on the river Thames. Baldoon
being situated in a swampy district, did not thrive;
the settlers suffered from the fever and ague prevalent in the locality, and afterwards in the War of
1812 had various losses.
From a bundle of papers found in the archives
of the Selkirk family, which the writer had the
opportunity of perusing, a glimpse of the Earl of
Selkirk's energy and determination may be seen.
Observing the obstacles to settlement and improvement arising from the want of communication
through the country, Lord Selkirk, in 1804, pro-
133 I
I !
posed to the government of Upper Canada the
building of a main highway from Amherstburg to
York (Toronto), a distance of nearly three hundred
miles. The cost of this was estimated at £40,000
sterling, and as the province was poor and weak
the earl offered Governor Hunter to provide the
money required and to accept payment in wild
lands on each side of the road when constructed.
To those who were familiar with the fearful roads of
the western peninsula of Upper Canada even fifty
years after this date, the proposal of Lord Selkirk
will appear to have been one of great value. The
executive council, however, over-estimating the
value of the lands, regarded Lord Selkirk's terms
as too high and rejected them.
Writing from London, England, in 1805, the
Earl of Selkirk proposed to take and settle one of
the Indian townships lying near the mouth of the
Grand River in Upper Canada. The township of
Moulton, valued at between £3,000 and £4,000,
seems to have been in the hands of the Earl of
Selkirk for a time, but like Baldoon, it was marshy,
and so proved unsuitable for immediate settlement,
though in later times, after drainage, it proved to
be a valuable township.
Undoubtedly Lord Selkirk's experiments in emigration were bravely undertaken, and showed
evidence of organizing ability, but they proved
unremunerative, as almost all early movements of
the kind have done. To-day thriving communities
represent the Prince Edward Island, Baldoon and
Moulton settlements. They were the first attempts
of one who was yet to take a much higher and
wider flight. They but served to make definite and
absorbing an ambition which was to become the
dominating passion of his life.
LORD SELKIRK'S first visit to Montreal in
1803 was a notable event. As already mentioned, having seen his body of Scottish emigrants
settled in Prince Edward Island he crossed to the
United States to examine the problem of settlement in the republic. Here he was distressed to see
his countrymen living under a foreign flag, and absorbing the spirit hostile to the mother country so
largely prevailing at that time among the first generation of Americans. The thought came to his mind
of endeavouring to counterwork this loss to the
empire. He was, as we have seen, a man not easily
overcome by difficulties, and he bethought himself
of the plan already described of founding settlements in Upper Canada and inducing British subjects in the United States to come to these. Some
of the Baldoon settlers were actually of this class.
Montreal was at this time the centre of commercial life for Canada. The open mind of the imaginative earl was greatly impressed by what he saw
there. He saw his own countrymen, the McTavishes,
Mackenzies, McGillivrays, Camerons, and the rest,
the magnates of the fur trade and leaders in the
public life of Lower Canada. He saw at Ste. Anne
and Lachine the arrival and departure of the voya-
geurs in their canoes, going and coming over a
route hundreds of miles long to Grand Portage,
the depot on Lake Superior, and this but the introduction to a course thousands of miles further
inland to far distant Athabaska. There was a sense
of mystery connected with the many Indian tribes
of which he heard, and a romantic inspiration in the
conception of the rapids and waterfalls and portages
of the little-known journey, and in the spectacle
of a few hundreds of white men governing a region
without law or military force, or even a respectable
show of numbers at any one point. All this appealed strongly to the mind of a man of Selkirk's temperament. The impression made upon
him was similar to that expressed by Washington
Irving in the opening chapter of "Astoria," in
which that writer speaks in his now well-known
phrase of the " Lords of the North."
The reception given the noble earl by the successful traders of Montreal was distinctly cordial
and enthusiastic. His rank, his open-mindedness,
and his successful achievement in settling his and
their countrymen in Prince Edward Island were
well known to them. Masson says of his arrival:
I Lord Selkirk was received with open arms in
Montreal. His reputation had preceded him, and
all regarded it as an honour to be allowed to entertain him. The bourgeois of the North-West Company, who held the highest place in the English
society of Montreal, and among whom the Scottish
element predominated, were the first to offer him
the abundant hospitality for which they were distinguished."
The embodiment of the fur traders' pride and
position was the Beaver Club of Montreal. It had
been founded some twenty years before Lord Selkirk's visit with less than twenty members, and
could only receive new members from officers
who had endured the hardships of the interior
of the fur traders' country. The appointments
of their club house were notable. On their tables
silver and glassware, of a kind unknown elsewhere
in Canada, shone with resplendent light at their
feasts. Each member on such occasions wore an
elaborate gold medal bearing the motto, " Fortitude in distress." Bear, beaver, pemmican, and
venison were served in the fashion of the Posts,
song and dance gave entertainment during the
evening, and when wine brought exhilaration in
the early morning hours, partners, factors, and
traders, in the sight of all the servants or voyageurs who happened to gain admittance, engaged
in the "grand voyage" which consisted in all seating
themselves in a row on the rich carpet, each armed
with tongs, poker, sword, or walking stick to serve
as paddle, and in boisterous manner singing a
voyageur's song, " Malbrouck" or " A la Claire
Fontaine," while they paddled as regularly as the
excited state of their nerves would allow.
Some parts of the proceedings did not meet the
taste of the philosophic and high-minded earl, but
the motto " in vino Veritas " came to his mind, and
he was given a great opportunity of learning the
spirit, objects, and even details of the fur trade
which he could have obtained in no other way.
It is stated by Masson that several of the bourgeois were suspicious while others were surprised
at the persistence with which Lord Selkirk pursued his researches and investigations into the
affairs of the fur trade. It has often been stated by
the advocates of the case of the Nor'-Westers in
the subsequent troubles of the fur trade, that Lord
Selkirk played an unworthy part in obtaining
detailed information about the fur trade, which he
used to the disadvantage of the Montreal company
in after years. It has even been said that Lord
Selkirk returned to England completely decided to
take advantage of the information that he had thus
We can see no ground for believing this to have
been the case. Lord Selkirk's attention arose from
the same disposition that led him to interest himself in the poor of his own country and of Ireland;
in the question of repatriation from the United
States ; in the condition of the Indians; and in
the defence of Britain from the dangers of a
Napoleonic invasion. Minds such as that of Lord
Selkirk require material for constant thought, and
find satisfaction in discussing such problems and
planning useful enterprises. The enthusiasms of
such men have often been of the greatest value to
the world.
The disproof of this slur thrown upon the honour
of Lord Selkirk, that he took advantage of the
hospitality of the Nor'-Westers to obtain private
information to be used in injuring their company,
is seen in the fact that there is no evidence that for
the following seven years the subject of gaining a
hold of any portion of the fur traders' country for
the purposes of colonization occupied his mind.
Even if the subject were before his mind in those
years, it seems very unlikely that he planned any
scheme which would not allow the Nor'-Westers
freedom of the vast territory which was sufficient
for all their purposes.
As we have seen, philanthropic problems as to
agriculture, the condition of the poor, the safety of
the country, and the spread of civilization occupied
his mind during these seven years. Lord Selkirk's work on emigration, consisting of well-nigh
three hundred pages, discusses the state of the
Highlands and the benefit of emigration to the
colonies, but gives no hint that at that time he
saw in the fur traders' land a field for emigration, or that envious thoughts had any place
in his mind. He was in no way interested in the
Hudson's Bay Company, and had no hostility to
the Nor'-Westers.
By the year 1810 a plan had matured in the mind
of the Earl of Selkirk to help the poor in his native
land and to carry out a project magnificent in its
proportions and sufficient, if successfully executed,
to relieve the widespread distress. This we may
call the founding of a great colony in the interior
of Rupert's Land—in other words the dream of a
New World empire.
It is not necessary to suppose that any interest in
the fur trade, for or against either of the companies,
had anything to do with this great project. It was
simply a comprehensive philanthropic scheme on
the part of Lord Selkirk to relieve distress in his
native land. In it was involved the ambition to succeed in so vast an enterprise.
As to the state of England in the first decade
of the nineteenth century there can be no two
opinions. A great English historian has said: "During the fifteen years which preceded Waterloo, the
number of the population rose from ten to thirteen
millions, and this rapid increase kept down the rate
of wages, which would naturally have advanced in
a corresponding degree with the increase in the
national wealth. Even manufactures, though destined in the long run to benefit the labouring
classes, seemed at first rather to depress them. . . .
While labour was thus thrown out of its older
grooves, and the rate of wages kept down at an
artificially low figure by the rapid increase of population, the rise in the price of wheat, which brought
wealth to the landowner and the farmer, brought
famine and death to the poor, for England was cut
off by the Napoleonic war from the vast cornfields
of the continent of America. Scarcity was followed
by a terrible pauperization of the labouring classes.
The amount of the poor rate rose fifty per cent.;
and with the increase of poverty followed its
inevitable result, the increase of crime."
It was in 1809 that the state of despair reached
its worst, and the kind-hearted and mgenious-minded
earl was impelled to action. He began to consider
how, even though he should involve himself and
his estate in heavy financial obligations, he might
assist his Highland fellow-countrymen, whose traditions and associations he admired. Judged by the
hard canons of finance we can see that he was projecting a very unlikely and doubtful enterprise; but
to the earl with his deep sympathy and somewhat
too vivid imagination it seemed feasible. Whatever
the leading motive which dictated his course, it was
certainly neither a partizan nor a sordid one.
With the remarkable caution that was united
with his spirit of enterprise, he sought to know the
legal basis on which the Hudson's Bay Company
founded its title. In view of the importance which
afterwards became attached to the legal question
involved, it may be well to give the opinion of five
distinguished English lawyers to whom the question was submitted.
"We are of opinion that the grant of the soil
contained in the Charter (H. B. Co.'s Charter,
of 1670) is good, and that it will include all the
143 I
country, the waters of which run into Hudson
Bay, as ascertained by geographical observations.
I We are of opinion that an individual, holding
from the Hudson's Bay Company a lease, or grant in
fee simple of any part of their territory, will be
entitled to all the ordinary rights of landed property
in England, and will be entitled to prevent other
persons from occupying any part of the lands, from
cutting down timber, and fishing in the adjoining
waters (being such as a private right of fishing may
subsist in), and may (if he can peaceably or otherwise by due course of law) dispossess them of any
buildings which they have recently erected within
the limits of their property.
I We are of opinion that the grant of the civil
and criminal jurisdiction is valid, but it is not
granted to the company, but to the government
and council at their respective establishments; but
we cannot recommend it to be exercised so as to
affect the lives or limbs of criminals. It is to
be exercised by the governor and council as
judges, who are to proceed according to the law of
I The company may appoint a sheriff to execute
judgments, and to do his duty as in England.
| We are of opinion that the sheriff, in case of
resistance to his authority, may collect the population to his assistance, and may put arms into the
hands of his servants for defence against attack, and
to assist in enforcing the judgments of the court;
but such powers cannot be exercised with too much
" We are of opinion that all persons will be subject to the jurisdiction of the court who reside, or
are found within the territories over which it extends.
| We do not think the Canada Jurisdiction Act
(43. Geo. III.) gives jurisdiction within the territories of the Hudson's Bay Company, the same
being within the jurisdiction of their own governors
and councils.
" We are of opinion that the governor (in Hudson Bay) might, under the authority of the company, appoint constables and other officers for the
preservation of the peace, and that the officers so
appointed would have the same duties and privileges as the same officers in England, so far as these
duties and privileges may be applicable to their
situation in the territories of the company.
(Signed) | Samuel Romilly
IW. M. Cruise
I J. Scarlett
I John Bell."
The report of these prominent lawyers gave
Lord Selkirk his warrant for proceeding with his
scheme. This was nothing else than obtaining,
by purchase of its stock, a controlling interest in
the Hudson's Bay Company. In the year 1810 he
and his friends succeeded in purchasing a large
t m
II ! iil-is
quantity of the stock of the Hudson's Bay Company, and by May, 1811, they owned £35,000 out
of a total of £105,000.
The general court of the proprietors was called
together for a meeting on May 30th, and the
decision arrived at was of momentous interest not
only to Lord Selkirk, but to the North-West
Company, to the Hudson's Bay Company, and to
British interests in the whole fur country of Rupert's
Land, the Indian territories, and even in Canada.
About £45,000 worth of stock was represented
at the meeting. Nearly £30,000 of this amount
was in the hands of Lord Selkirk and his friends.
Such well-known Hudson's Bay Company names
as Wedderburn, Mainwaring, Berens, and Pelly are
chronicled in the minutes as on Lord Selkirk's side,
while of the opponents Thwaytes and Whitehead
owned £13,000, while three Nor'-Westers, who
had purchased their stock within forty-eight hours
of the time of the meeting, opposed the majority.
These were Alexander Mackenzie, John Inglis, and
Edward Ellice, and they together held £2,500 of
The proposition Lord Selkirk made to the company was a great and important one. It was for
the purchase of a tract of land in Rupert's Land
lying east and west of the Red River of the
North, and it involved the obligation on the part of
the earl to settle, within a limited time, a large
colony on the lands acquired, and the assumption
of the expense of transport, of outlay for the
settlers, of government, of protection, and of quieting the Indian title to the lands.
The die was now cast. A territory consisting of
some one hundred and ten thousand square miles,
a region larger than Manitoba, was possessed by
one man. He was a determined enthusiast who
would imperil his estates and all his means for the
furtherance of his project. He would beat down
opposition, whether from the British government,
the jealousy of the fur-trading section of the Hudson's Bay Company, or the bitter animosity of the
North-West Company which considered the scheme
one deliberately aimed at its influence, if not at its
very existence.
AN anxious season was now passed through by
the colonizer. The planning and execution
of a scheme of emigration as comparatively simple
as carrying his eight hundred settlers to the
shore of Prince Edward Island had been serious
and difficult, how much more so was the crossing
of the flow of Arctic ice from Hudson Strait, the
landing on the inhospitable shore of Hudson Bay,
and the penetration of the interior by a wild and
dangerous route of seven hundred miles to the
banks of the Red River. In all probability the
founder had no conception himself of the gigantic
obstacles which were to be met and overcome.
The project once entered on could not be abandoned ; and the colonizer issued the advertisement
and prospectus of the colony, and called for emigrants to join the enterprise. The advantages presented were clearly set forth, and the principles on
which the colony was to be organized were satisfactory. His Lordship undertook to provide transport, to give the means of livelihood for a time, and
to bestow parcels of land from his broad acres on
Red River. The declaration that the greatest freedom of religious opinion was to be allowed, was,
for the beginning of the nineteenth century, a
rather unique and unexpected proviso. Here was
a contrast both to the conditions of settlement in
Puritan New England, and to the early settlement of Lord Baltimore in Maryland where belief
in the doctrine of the Trinity was a sine qud non.
As it was not a part of Lord Selkirk's plan to
accompany the expedition himself, it was necessary
for him to obtain the assistance of a competent
director or, leader for the band of colonists. Some
years before this time, the earl had been in correspondence with a young United Empire Loyalist
named Miles Macdonell, who with his family, well-
known in Canadian affairs, had left New York
state and come to Glengarry, in Upper Canada.
Young Macdonell had been an officer of the
King's Royal Regiment in the war of the American Revolution, and held the rank of captain in
the Canadian militia. To the colonizer's mind he
possessed the necessary experience and firmness
for the difficult task of leading a mixed band of
emigrants during their trying journey. By the end
of June, Captain Miles Macdonell had reached
Britain and had been placed in charge of the
Three ships, the Prince of Wales, the Eddystone
and an old craft the Edward and Anne with
worn rigging and an incompetent crew, had proceeded to Yarmouth, on the east coast of England.
The two first-named were to carry the regular
cargo of the company to Hudson Bay; the third,
unsuitable though it was, was to be the receptacle
of the precious human freight going forth to found
a new community. By the middle of July the little
fleet had reached the Pentland Firth and was
compelled to put into Stromness, in the Orkneys.
Here the Prince of Wales took on board a number
of Orkneymen who were to go out as servants of
the company. Proceeding on their way the fleet
made rendezvous at Stornoway, the chief town of
Lewis, one of the Hebrides. Here had arrived a
number of colonists or employe's, some from Sligo,
others from Glasgow, and others from the Highlands.
Many influences were now brought to bear against
the colonizing expedition. It had the strenuous opposition of Sir Alexander Mackenzie, and pressure
was successfully brought to bear upon some of those
who had actually accepted Lord Selkirk's offer, in
order to induce them to desert the expedition. A
so-called " Captain" Mackenzie, denominated a
"mean fellow," came alongside the Edward and
Anne, which had some seventy-six men aboard—
Glasgow men, Irish, and a few from Orkney—and
claimed some of them as "deserters from His
Majesty's service." The demand was, however, resisted. It is no wonder that in his letter to Lord
Selkirk, Captain Macdonell writes: "All the men
that we shall have are now embarked, but it has
been a herculean task."
A prominent member of the expedition, Mr.
Moncrieff Blair, though posing as a gentleman,
deserted on July 25th, the day before the sailing of
the vessels. A number of the deserters at Stornoway had left their effects on board, and these were
disposed of by sale among the passengers. Among
the officers was a Mr. Edwards, who acted as the
medical man of the expedition. He had his hands
completely full during the voyage, and returned to
England with the ships.
Another notable person on board was a Roman
Catholic priest, known as Father Bourke. Captain
Macdonell was himself a Roman Catholic, but
he seems from the first to have had no confidence in the priest, who, he stated, had come
away without the leave of his bishop, who was
at the time in Dublin. Father Bourke, though carried safely to the shores of Hudson Bay, never
reached the interior, but returned to Britain in the
following year.
After the usual incidents, and an "uncommon
share of boisterous, stormy, and cold weather " on
the ocean, the ships entered Hudson Bay. Experiencing in the bay a course of fine mild weather
and moderate fair winds, on September 24th the
fleet reached the harbour of York Factory, after a
voyage of sixty-one days out from Stornoway.
The Eddystone, which was intended to go to
Churchill, not having been able to reach that place,
sailed with the other vessels to York Factory.
The late arrival of the expedition on the shores of
Hudson Bay made it impossible to ascend the
Nelson River and reach the interior during the season of 1811. Accordingly Captain Macdonell made
preparations for wintering on the coast. York Factory would not probably have afforded sufficient
accommodation for the colonists. Captain Macdonell states in a letter to Lord Selkirk that " the
Factory is very ill constructed and not at all adapted
for a cold country." In consequence of these considerations, Captain Macdonell at once undertook,
during the fair weather of the season yet remaining, to build winter quarters on the north side of
the river, at a distance of some miles from the
Factory. No doubt matters of discipline entered into the plans of the leader of the colonists. In a short
time very comfortable dwellings were erected, built
of round logs a foot thick, the front side high with
a shade roof sloping to the rear. The group of huts
was known as the " Nelson encampment."
During the early winter the chief work which
the captain laid on his two score men was providing themselves with fuel, of which there was plenty,
and obtaining food from the Factory, for which
sledges drawn over the snow were utilized by the
detachments sent on this service. The most serious
difficulty, however, arose at a meeting in which a
dozen or more of the men became completely insubordinate, and refused to yield obedience either
to Captain Macdonell or to M. W. H. Cook, the
governor of the Factory. Every effort was made to
maintain discipline, but the men steadily held to
their own way, lived apart from Macdonell, and
drew their own provisions from the fort to their
huts. These troubles tended to make the *winter
somewhat long and disagreeable.
Captain Macdonell, being a Canadian, knew well
the danger of the dread scurvy attacking his inexperienced colonists. The men at the fort prophesied evil things in this respect for the " encampment." The captain took early steps to prevent the
disease, and his letters to Governor Cook always
contain demands for "essence of malt," "crystallized
salts of lemon," and other anti-scorbutics. Though
some of his men were attacked by scurvy, yet the
sovereign remedy so often employed in the lumber
camps of America, the juice of the white spruce,
was used with almost magical effect. As the winter
went on, plenty of venison was obtained, and the
health of his party was in the spring much better
than could have been anticipated.
After the New Year had come, all thoughts were
directed to preparations for the journey of seven
hundred miles or thereabouts to the interior. A
number of boats were required for the transportation
of the colonists and their effects. Captain Macdonell
insisted on his boats being made after a different
style from the boats commonly used at that time
by the company. His model was the flat boat,
which he had seen used on the Mohawk River in the
state of New York. The workmanship displayed in
the making of these boats was very disappointing to
Captain Macdonell, and he constantly complained
of the indolence of the workmen. In consequence
of this inefficiency the cost of the boats to Lord
Selkirk was very great, and drew forth the objections of the leader of the colony.
Captain Macdonell had the active assistance of
Mr. Cook, the officer in charge of York Factory,
and of Mr. Auld, the commander of Churchill, the
latter having come down to York to make arrangements for the inland journey of the colonists.
By June 1st, 1812, the ice had moved from the
river, and the expedition started soon after on its
journey to Red River. The new settlers found the
route a hard and trying one with its rapids and
portages. The boats, too, were heavy, and the
colonists inexperienced in managing them. It was
well on towards autumn when the company, numbering about seventy, reached the Red River. No
special preparation had been made for the colonists,
and the winter would soon be upon them. Some of
the parties were given shelter in the fort and buildings of the company, others in the huts of the
freed men, who were married to the Indian women
and settled in the neighbourhood of the Forks,
while others still found refuge in the tents of the
Indian encampment in the vicinity.
The arrival of this party, small, discontented,
wearied and well-nigh despairing, marks an era in
155 wl
the history of the Red River, and of the present
province of Manitoba. Though it was no very distinguished party, though it had no story of sentiment such as the Pilgrim Fathers had when they
arrived at Plymouth Rock, though it was free
of the glory of Penn as he came to lay down the
principle of peace to the dusky savages, and though
it lacked the political grandeur of the companies
of the United Empire Loyalists who came to Upper
Canada, yet it was the beginning of settlement upon the prairies, and is, therefore, of genuine interest
and importance.
Lord Selkirk's indomitable perseverance had been
rewarded by proving that a company of British
settlers could weather a severe winter, and ascend
the rapids and falls of the rivers running from the
interior to Hudson Bay. His hopes to be the
founder of a large community were not to be
realized in his day; yet the last quarter of the nineteenth century has shown, in the settlement of
Manitoba, the prescience and wisdom of Lord
THE outlook was dark for the band of colonists
on the banks of the Red River. Milton and
Cheadle, fifty years afterwards in starting on their
journey westward across the plains from Red River
complained that their chief difficulty was want of
food. No field of grain had ever been sown on the
fertile banks of the Red River when the colonists arrived. Game and fish were the only natural sources
of the food supply. The shelter was insufficient, and
the winter, with its low temperatures, was coming
upon the unready settlers. Miles Macdonell, the
governor as he was called, had tried to provide
something for his dependents. Certain supplies of
potatoes, barley, oats and garden seeds, were
bought from the North-West Company, and these
had been imported from Canada at a large expense.
A few farm animals had also been brought to Red
River to begin the operations of the infant settlement.
As the winter progressed supplies began to fail,
and Governor Macdonell sought other means of
support. The banks of the Red River, in what is
now Manitoba, are much more wooded than the
territory on the south side of the American bound-
ary line, in what is now Dakota. Lying lower, as it
does, Manitoba has a large expanse of meadowland,
and not the high plains which are found in Dakota.
The herds of buffalo are fond of the elevated plateaux, and accordingly did not approach within
sixty or seventy miles of the infant settlement.
Governor Macdonell led his settlers up the banks
of the Red River to a point where he selected a
site for an encampment at Pembina, as the Nor'-
Western fort was called. The herds of buffalo
here were so tame that they came to rub themselves against the stockades of the fort. Though
unaccustomed to the chase the new settlers obtained sufficient food for sustenance, and were thus
able to pass their first winter.
The forks of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers,
where now stands the city of Winnipeg, was the
centre about which the new settlers gathered.
Though now considered the chief centre of the
West it was not so before the beginning of the
nineteenth century. Important forts near where the
towns of Portage la Prairie and Brandon now stand
had, at the end of the eighteenth century, been the
centres of trade. Fort Gibraltar, the first fort erected
at the Forks, with the exception of a temporary
French post in 1738, was begun only in 1804 by a
bourgeois of the North-West Company. An encampment of the Hudson's Bay Company seems to
have been established shortly before the arrival of
the colonists, but now a number of buildings were
erected a mile north of Fort Gibraltar at a point
ever since known as Colony Gardens.
While these trying experiences were overtaking
the forlorn and inexperienced company of settlers,
Lord Selkirk was seeking additional colonists to
swell the numbers of his Red River establishment.
The opposition of the Nor'-Wester agents in
Britain was very damaging to him. Any reports of
the sufferings of the first band of emigrants which
may have reached the motherland were sure to be
given currency.
Small though the number on the second voyage
may have been, yet even these were seriously
delayed at Stornoway, their place of embarkation, by the collector of customs, who, it will be
remembered, was a relative of Sir Alexander Mackenzie. Objection was raised that the number being
carried by the Hudson's Bay Company ships was
in contravention to the Dundas Act. Through Lord
Selkirk's interference, however, the ships were permitted to sail.
As if to fill their cup of trouble ship-fever broke
out upon the voyage, so that a number of the
passegners and crew died at sea, and others on the
shore of Hudson Bay. A small number—not more
than fifteen or twenty colonists—were ready to undertake the toilsome route from York Factory to
Red River, and they were fortunate in being able
to make the journey from Stornoway to Red River
in one season, viz., that of 1813.
159 Ml
At Red River the little band, with marvellous
pluck, made the most of its hard lot. Inured to
the life of the country by their winter experience
at Pembina the settlers returned to the settlement.
The summer supply of food was even more difficult to obtain than that of the winter. The fish in
the Red River were few in 1813 ; and edible roots
and berries were scarcer than usual. The chief dependence of the settlers was on the starchy taproot of a plant growing on the plains, said by some
to have been of the parsnip family, but probably
the root of the prairie turnip of the pea family. The
succulent leaves of a plant of the goosefoot family
were boiled as pottage, and assisted in saving the
settlers from starvation.
Though unprovided with agricultural implements,
so great was the zeal of the new comers that with the
help of the hoe they sowed a small quantity of wheat,
which they had obtained from the fort at the foot of
Winnipeg River on Lake Winnipeg. They were surprised to see their small sowing return them, in the
finest wheat, nearly one hundred fold. The great
yield gave them hope of the goodly land to which
they had come, though their small patches of grain
were preserved with great difficulty from blackbirds
and pigeons, which, in myriads, sought to take toll
of the strangers who had come to rob them of
their solitudes.
To the difficulties of Governor Macdonell were
now added the additional party, small though it
was, to be provided for and introduced to the hardships of an unknown and most trying life. The
supply of food for the second winter was no more
abundant than for the first, and the number of
colonists was now approaching one hundred. The
experience of the first winter had shown that a removal to Pembina was the only way of gaining an
adequate means of supply. Accordingly the whole
band wended their way southward to their winter
On their first arrival the Nor'-Westers had shown
them no great opposition, thinking probably that
the settlers would retire from the country when
they found their hardships insupportable. The
arrival of the second band, small though it was,
began to show the Nor'-Westers that the colonizer
was determined, and was not to be thwarted. No
doubt this feeling of antagonism was increased by
the action of Governor Macdonell, who issued a
proclamation and built a fort, during his second
winter in the neighbourhood of Pembina, to which
he gave the name Fort Daer, from one of the family
titles of Lord Selkirk.
Accordingly the colonists in their second winter
sojourn at Pembina experienced a complete change
in the attitude of the French half-breeds, who resided about them. In the former year, in their inexperience, the French natives had helped them greatly,
but now things were changed. The half-breeds were
evidently instructed by their masters, the Nor'-West
traders, to lend no assistance to the needy strangers.
The snow was deep, and the colonists found it difficult to pursue the buffalo, and were often in great
straits for food. Plots were sprung upon them,
which made them afraid to go far from their place
of abode, and provisions purchased by them were
obtained at a very high price. When spring came
the discouraged settlers returned in a destitute condition to their holdings near the Forks. A writer of
the country describes them as | having had to barter
away their clothing for food, many of them frostbitten, half-naked, and so discouraged, that they resolved never to return to Pembina again under
any circumstances."
Notwithstanding the serious obstacles which met
the hundred colonists on. Red River, the noble
founder continued his efforts to add new members
to his colony. No doubt the remoteness of his
colony, and the impossibility of obtaining frequent
information from it, hid from Lord Selkirk the
serious condition of things on the Red River.
In 1813 he succeeded in despatching the largest
number of settlers he had yet sent, and these reached
Churchill by the Prince of Wales which started on
her voyage from the Orkneys. Mr. Archibald Mac-
donald, who was in charge of this party while on its
way to the interior, has left us a clear and interesting pamphlet as to their journey. The party was
ninety-three strong. At Churchill, according to
reports, they suffered much, as a severe fever had
raged among them on the sea voyage, and they
were in a very unfit state to endure the severity
of winter in so high a latitude.
About the middle of the following April Mac-
donald led a portion of his party—those strongest
and most fit for the journey—by way of York
Factory and up the Nelson River to the rendezvous
on Red River. Arriving at their destination before
the end of June, they were able to plant a considerable quantity of potatoes.
The possession of houses—though of a very
humble kind—and the subdivision of the land produced a happier state of mind among the colonists.
The second part of Macdonald's party arrived later
in the season, Governor Macdonell having gone
north to meet them.
On account of causes afterwards to be explained,
some one hundred and fifty of the colonists, prejudiced by their difficulties and also led by strong
inducements offered them by the Nor'-Westers,
left Red River and by a long canoe journey down
the fur traders' route reached the shores of Georgian
Bay in Upper Canada and were given lands and
assistance in the western part of that province.
About one quarter of the colonists decided to
remain in Red River Settlement, but these were
threatened by the half-breeds and fled northwards
to Jack River, since known as Norway House, near
the north end of Lake Winnipeg.
In these unfortunate   circumstances  Governor
163 : HI
Macdonell was served with a summons to answer
certain charges preferred against, him before the
courts of Lower Canada, and went east compelled
to leave his hapless colonists without leadership
or guidance.
Hunger, cold, enmity, persecution, threats, and
actual personal violence, added to the homesickness
and state of doubt incident to a new settler's life,
made the condition of the Selkirk settlers at the
end of 1814 in their refuge at Jack River a most
pitiable one. But Lord Selkirk was a determined
and brave man, and with true Scottish pluck he
made arrangements for sending out another party,
the best and strongest yet, to make good the loss
by desertion, and to strengthen and defend the
remnant now in a place of refuge. Governor Macdonell having been removed by legal process, his
place had to be filled, and the colonizer obtained a
military officer of high standing in the British army,
who had been a notable traveller and author. This
was Robert Semple, thereafter known as Governor
With a party of one hundred Highlanders, mostly
from the parish of Kildonan, near Helmsdale, in
Sutherlandshire, Scotland, the new governor hastened on his way, and made the whole journey from
Britain to Red River in the one season of 1815,
reaching his destination in October of that year.
On arriving at the settlement Governor Semple
found the faithful remnant, which had fled to Jack
'X'."' ,       _.._: A SURE FOUNDATION
River, again upon their lands, led by Colin Robertson, a Hudson's Bay Company officer who had been
sent to their assistance and who had been successful in inducing them to return to their deserted
Such was the occupation of the Red River district by its first settlers. Nearly three hundred had
been sent out by His Lordship. One half of these
had gone to Upper Canada, and formed successful
settlements in the township of GwiUimbury, south
of Lake Simcoe, and in the district south of London
in Upper Canada.
Other disasters followed the settlement, as we
shall see in another chapter, but the foundationwas
laid and a control assumed which no doubt preserved the country for the British Crown. The
Selkirk settlers were a barrier to all the machinations of the worst elements of the United States
frontier who sought to foment disturbances between
the two countries. Moreover, the Selkirk settlement became a nucleus around which gathered the
retired traders of the Hudson's Bay Company with
their wives and children, many of these having
Indian blood. Thus was formed one of the most
unique communities that the ethnologist can investigate.
Education and religion did not leave the infant
settlement long neglected. A Scottish elder, empowered by the Church of Scotland to marry and
baptize,  accompanied the party brought out by
Governor Semple. The Roman Catholic Church
sent out two devoted priests a few years later, and
shortly after these came a clergyman from England
to represent the Church Missionary Society.
From being a number of scattered and discouraged settlers the community grew to have
an individuality, very marked in speech, customs,
manners, and ideals. No doubt from its remoteness
and want of energy it had peculiarities which might
not draw forth unbounded admiration, but on the
whole it was a staid, moral, loyal community. As
we shall see, two years after the arrival of his last
party, Lord Selkirk visited the settlement in the
time of its greatest distress.
The chief service rendered to the empire by the
Red River Settlement was that it became the predecessor of the Manitoba of to-day—of Manitoba
with its sturdiness, energy, and enterprise, qualities
which are making it an influential member of the
sisterhood of provinces in the Canadian dominion.
THE opposition shown by Sir Alexander Mackenzie and his Nor'-Wester friends in Britain
to Lord Selkirk's scheme, first in opposing it in the
Court of Adventurers of Hudson Bay and again
in endeavouring to lead aside colonists who had
accepted Lord Selkirk's terms, was but a presage of
the attitude of the Canadian traders to the new
settlers. True, on the arrival of the colonists, a
position of hostility was not definitely taken by the
Nor'-Westers, probably because the scheme was
so chimerical to them that they believed it would
fail by its own defects. However, the feeling of
enmity early showed itself.
The half-breeds, bois-brules, or Mdtis, as they
are in different accounts called, were chiefly allied
to the Canadian traders, and they were inspired
with the thought that this settlement meant an
invasion of their territory and was an infringement
of the Indian title, in which through their mothers
they had an interest.
The Indians were much interested and even
diverted by the newcomers. The thought of a people
not living by the chase, but hoping to gain a livelihood by cultivating the soil seemed to them unique,
167 i\
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and lacked the romance of their wild and venturesome life. Observing the futile efforts of the colonists
to turn up the earth with no implement more effective than the ordinary hoe and thus to attempt to
grow wheat and oats, the Indians were quick to
take up the words by which the French-Canadian
half-breeds designated the colonists, jardiniers or
gardeners, and mangeurs de lard—pork eaters—
the one nickname signifying something like rustic or clodhopper to us, the other greenhorn or
It is worthy of note that even on the part of
the Hudson's Bay Company's traders in the country there was some feeling of jealousy towards the
colonists. Lord Selkirk had but lately bought stock
in the company and was regarded as an interloper,
and the " old hands " in the country were averse to
the new plans proposed.
As already mentioned, the arrival of a second
and then other contingents, sent out through the
energy of the founder, aroused on all hands a
feeling of alarm, and though the acres of Rupert's
Land were wide, yet it must be confessed that new
settlers were very far from being acceptable, much
less popular, to the aborigines and mixed races
among whom they came.
The new colonists being so ill-provided with the
necessaries of life, and the bareness^ of the country
making it impossible to give them subsistence,
rendered the situation most difficult, and indeed
alarming. The founder's money was available for
purchasing supplies, but there was no store of supplies for purchase. The long and dreary winter on the
Great Lake so mournfully described in the sombre
poem "Hiawatha," became more serious still on the
borders of Lakes Winnipeg and Manitoba.
The instinct of self-preservation is one of the
most imperious known to us. And so it came that
during the second winter spent at Pembina' by
Miles Macdonell and his hungry followers, when
buffaloes were scarce, the snow deep, and the
attitude of the half-breeds so distinctly hostile, the
governor bethought himself of some device by
which he might secure a more certain means of
support for his discouraged colonists. On reading
over his instructions, based on the legal opinion
given on a former page of the right of Lord
Selkirk to exercise important powers in the country, Governor Macdonell determined to take an
effective step towards utilizing the resources of the,
country. So in the very heart of the bitter and
discouraging winter, the governor issued a proclamation, dated January 8th, 1814, in which the
preamble runs: " Whereas the Right Honourable
Thomas, Earl of Selkirk, is anxious to provide for
the families at present forming settlements, etc.,
... all traders and others within the territory of
the Hudson's Bay Company are forbidden to take
provisions from the territory without permission in
the form of a governor's license."
Now this proclamation played a great part in the
events of the subsequent three years, not only in
Red River Settlement but also throughout Rupert's
No doubt under the legal opinion in his hands
the founder and his deputy were justified in taking
the step they did. At the same time it has been
generally considered an imprudent and unfortunate
act. The Nor'-Westers were the direct successors
by blood, by colonial connection and sympathy, of
the old French voyageurs who, three-quarters of a
century before, had first explored Lake Winnipeg,
the Red and Assiniboine Rivers, and the Saskatchewan up to the shadow of the Rocky Mountains.
The native people were born in the land which
their Indian ancestors claimed. The North-West
Company had been in the district concerned a
generation before the Hudson's Bay Company.
Taking all these things into account, the proclamation was deemed a high-handed act which really
dispossessed the people, and struck a blow at the
high-spirited North-West Company, which in local
resources was much the strongest force in the
country. Moreover, the law of embargo is ever
unpopular and distasteful, even when the legal
authority to issue it may be undoubted.
It is quite true that the proclamation made provision for no monetary loss on the part of any one
whose goods might be seized for the use of the
colony. The document declared: " The provisions
procured and raised as above shall be taken for the
use of the colony; and that no loss may accrue to
the parties concerned, they will be paid for by
British bills at the customary rates."
A chorus of dissents and angry threats greeted
the ill-starred proclamation. The half-breeds, most
of whom were trappers and accustomed to the free
life of the plains, were especially thrown into a ferment. That what they considered a handful of
foreigners should arrogantly curtail their natural
rights was a thing not to be borne. Their loud
protestations reached the ears of the governor, and
their threats not only to disregard the proclamation but even to meet it with armed resistance
roused the unfortunate governor to further action.
The calm judgment of later times looks at the
small force at the disposal of Governor Macdonell,
and though not giving him credit for much wisdom
or caution, admires his pluck and decision.
His next step was to direct his subordinate,
Sheriff John Spencer, to proceed to Brandon House,
a Hudson's Bay Company's fort one hundred miles
or more west of the Red River, and situated on the
bank of the Assiniboine, and to seize provisions
which had been collected at Souris River, the
North-West depot near the company's fort. Spencer
seems to have had a more vivid sense of the danger
than his superior officer, and would not go unless
the governor would give him detailed instructions
as to how he should proceed, and would guarantee
171 Iran! f
11 n
lliill, ll
! lit m |[{
It Vis SI' iw<
(ill: St'J
him against any subsequent damages. Governor
Macdonell was something of a martinet and did
not hesitate a moment in authorizing extreme steps
to be taken.
Spencer executed his mission promptly and efficiently. No armed resistance was offered by the
North-West Company's fort, and he seized six
hundred bags of pemmican (dried buffalo meat),
each weighing eighty-five pounds. The prize was
placed under the care of the master of Brandon
House, near by.
West and east alike were now aflame. The Nor'-
Westers did not take immediate action. Knowing
that their annual gathering would take place in
early summer at Fort William, they held back until
proper plans could be laid for vindicating themselves, and making their reprisals with due certainty. Simon McGillivray, one of the great Montreal chiefs of the North-West Company, had declared his dictum two years before this time: "Lord
Selkirk must be driven to abandon his project, for
his success would strike at the very existence of
our trade."
The council at Fort William represented the full
energy of the North-West Company, and their
leaders were astute, determined, and ingenious men.
They sent two of their most energetic traders,
Duncan Cameron and Alexander Macdonell—the
one representing a conciliatory if somewhat deceptive policy, the other being the apostle of force and
violence if necessary. Their choice showed the shrewd
insight of the North-West Company's officers.
Duncan Cameron immediately began, on his
return to Fort Gibraltar, his plan of oily persuasion.
Being a Highlander and speaking Gaelic, which
gave him instant entrance to the hearts of the
colonists, he paid special attention to the leaders of
the people by inviting them to the fort and entertaining them with true Highland hospitality. He
further assumed an authority and state that impressed the simple-minded people with the glamour
which the idea of chieftainship has for the Highland
mind. He had been a member of a border corps of
volunteers in Canada in 1812, and now had himself
styled " Captain Commanding, etc." The accuracy
of this title has been questioned. He certainly was
dressed in a flaring red uniform which somewhat
supported his claim. During the winter following
the meeting of the partners at Fort William, Cameron organized his plan. He succeeded in gaining the
allegiance of three-quarters of the Selkirk colonists,
and awaited the opening of spring to carry out
his full scheme.
The absence of Governor Macdonell at Pembina
gave the Nor'-Westers an opportunity of advancing
their interests at the Forks. Finding that a minority
of the colonists were loyal to Lord Selkirk and their
engagements, threats of violence were resorted to,
and demand was made upon Archibald Macdonald,
who had charge of the company's stores as vice-
governor, to hand over the field-pieces belonging to
the colony. On this being resisted, the settlers who
were prepared to follow Cameron broke open the
storehouses and removed nine guns to Fort
Governor Macdonell soon after returned, and
having been served with a notice to surrender
to the authorities represented by the Nor'-Westers,
refused to acknowledge it. In June, a fortnight
after the arrival of Alexander Macdonell, who
represented the policy of violence of the North-
West traders, a body of armed men proceeded from
Fort Gibraltar and fired upon a number of the
employe's of the colony. In order to avoid further
irritation and prevent possible bloodshed, Governor
Miles Macdonell agreed to recognize the warrant
issued for his arrest and proceeded under arrest to
Montreal, but was never brought to trial.
Cameron was now ready to carry out his promise
to the settlers who were disloyal to the colony; and
in June with the deserters departed on his long
journey to Upper Canada. In order to coerce the
remainder, a notice, signed by Cuthbert Grant, the
young leader of the half-breeds, and three others,
was served upon the colonists: " All settlers to
retire immediately from the Red River, and no
trace of a settlement to remain." Naturally unwilling to give up their holdings and to return to the
inhospitable shores of Lake Winnipeg, the settlers
did not acquiesce.
At this time a fiery Highlander, seemingly able
to cope with either Cameron or Macdonell, was in
charge of the Hudson's Bay Company's affairs at the
Forks. This was John McLeod. He gathered the
colonists together into the group of buildings called
the Colony Houses, and made his blacksmith shop,
a small erection of logs, into a temporary fort. He
took a small three or four pounder which was lying
in the fort and brought it to the smithy. Bringing
along a supply of powder, and cutting up a number
of chains into short pieces the plucky Highlander
awaited the assault.
It was on the very day of the serving of the
order to the colonists to depart that a great demonstration of hostility was made by Alexander Macdonell and Cuthbert Grant, followed by some
seventy or eighty armed men. In the fashion of the
country they drew themselves up on their Indian
ponies in battle array. The colonists and their leader
stood their ground, and opened fire upon the attacking party with their chain shot, and scattered
McLeod in his journal states that, "All the
colonists' houses were, however, destroyed by fire.
Houseless, wounded, and in extreme distress, they
took to the boats, and saving what they could,
started for Norway House (Jack River), declaring
they would never return."
After the departure of the colonists the assailants
for several days kept up attacks on McLeod and
175 sfir
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1 v
his Hudson's Bay Company servants, but at length
retired, leaving the store of £800 to £1000 worth of
valuable goods in the hands of their rightful owners.
McLeod and three men repaired his buildings, and
took steps to save the crops left behind by the
refugee settlers.
He also in the last words of his diary makes an
important announcement. " That done I took upon
me, without order or suggestion from any quarter,
to build a house for the governor and his staff of
the Hudson's Bay Company at Red River. There
was no such officer at that time, nor had there ever
been, but I was aware that such an appointment
was contemplated.
11 selected for this purpose what I considered a
suitable site at a point or sharp bend in the Red
River about two miles below the Assiniboine, on a
slight rise on the south side of the point—since
known as Point Douglas, the family name of the
Earl of Selkirk. Possibly I so christened it—I
forget." I
Diplomacy and force combined seemed to have
triumphed as embodied in the persons of Cameron
and Macdonell. The order, "No trace of a settlement to remain," seems to have been a prophecy
now fulfilled. Dark indeed looked the future for
the two score colonists left crouching on the rocky
shore at Jack River.
IN the attack made on the colonists' quarters by
the bois-br'tbUs a worthy gentleman, John
Warren, of the Hudson's Bay Company service,
had been killed. Blood had been shed, and it was
the general expectation that other victims would
follow. The total removal of the colonists, by deportation or expulsion, for a time gave an ominous
peace. But the news of expected trouble had found
its way down the fur-traders' route, and Colin
Robertson, formerly a Nor'-Wester officer, came to
the rescue under engagement to watch over Lord
Selkirk's interests, and brought with him twenty
Canadians. Finding the settlers had gone to Lake
Winnipeg he followed them, and succeeded in
leading them back to their deserted homesteads.
About ninety new settlers from Scotland, mostly
from Helmsdale in Sutherlandshire, came in a
single season, as we have seen, and Governor
Semple's control gave hope of better things. Several of the demolished buildings were rebuilt, the
governor's house was improved, others were erected
beside it, and Fort Douglas began to assume a
more military appearance.
The Hudson's Bay Company and colony under
the leadership of Governor Semple, a military man,
and Colin Robertson, an experienced officer, became more aggressive. Fort Gibraltar, in its turn
was captured by Robertson, and the field-pieces
and other booty taken by the Nor'-Westers were
restored to their rightful owners. Duncan Cameron
was likewise seized as a reprisal for the arrest of
Miles Macdonell, but he was given his liberty
The greatest anxiety now prevailed on both sides.
For a few months Governor Semple had, with the
colonists, made the usual winter visit to Fort Daer
to hunt buffaloes, which this year were very abundant. Shortly after the New Year (1816) Governor
Semple returned to the Forks, and he and Robertson now determined to act with decision on account
of the threatenings of the bois-bHiUs as to their
purposes in the spring. Fort Gibraltar was captured,
and Cameron, the commandant, was arrested, and
taken by Colin Robertson to York Factory. On
account of the ship from the bay not departing as
usual, Cameron did not reach England for seventeen months.
Governor Semple now determined to dismantle
Fort Gibraltar and take the material down to
strengthen Fort Douglas. Before Colin Robertson's
departure with Cameron in charge the destruction
of Fort Gibraltar had been discussed with the governor, and Robertson had disapproved of it. However, on the departure of Cameron the fort was
dismantled, its stockades made into a raft, the remaining material piled upon it, and the whole
floated down the Red River to Fort Douglas.
Following out the same policy the officer commanding Fort Daer seized the North-West Company's fort at Pembina.
The new policy of " thorough " adopted by
Governor Semple was, as events proved, a dangerous one. The Indians and " free-traders," the latter
being French-Canadians with Indian wives, not
attached to either company, were both inflammable
elements. Fearing trouble the free-traders betook themselves to the plains. The Indians hearing
the threats coming from the west, strange to say,
offered the colonists their assistance. Governor
Semple seems to have been living in a fool's paradise, not suspecting the danger by which he was
surrounded. His late arrival in the country probably explains his want of prudent preparation.
The cloud rising in the west grew darker and
darker. From the east, too, came a rumour that a
Nor'-Wester force was coming from Fort William
to attack the settlement.
Cuthbert Grant wrote from the west to one of
the Canadian officers that as soon as spring came
the bois-brMes, the " new nation," as he now called
them, would drive out the settlers, and would remain at Red River for the summer to ensure that
the settlers did not return. His words were loud
and boastful.  Efforts were made to induce the
Indians to join the western levies, but the redman
was too astute to commit himself. Nitchie, as the
Indian is called in the west, always wagers on the
winning horse.
Coming down from Qu'Appelle and gathering
his forces at Brandon and Portage la Prairie, Cuth-
bert Grant, with great spirit and bravery, swept
down to overwhelm the English company and the
helpless colonists. Mounted on fleet Indian ponies
the party moved with great rapidity. Some four
miles west of the Forks, the Nor'-Wester and
half-breed contingent left the banks of the Assiniboine and crossed the prairie, probably to avoid
Fort Douglas and to join forces with the eastern
It was on June 19th, 1816—a sad and bloody day
commemorated by a stone monument three miles
north of the city of Winnipeg, at the side of the
king's highway—that Cuthbert Grant's party was
seen from the watch tower of Fort Douglas, and
the governor with a party of twenty sallied out to
meet them, largely unprotected and no doubt
entirely underestimating the danger which lay
before them. Full of bravery, that all now see
to have been the most fatal rashness, Governor
Semple went on, sending back for a cannon which
was in the fort.
The half-breeds on their horses approached
Governor Semple's party in the form of a half
moon at a point near the Red River called Seven
Oaks, and made a dashing and threatening display
as they swept forward.
The colonists had betaken themselves to Fort
Douglas, and in the accents of their mournful
Gaelic tongue made sad complaint. A daring fellow
named Boucher came from the ranks of the attacking party and approached the governor. Gesticulating wildly, he called out in broken English,
"What do you want? What do you want?"
Governor Semple answered, "Whatdo you want?"
To this Boucher replied, " We want our fort." The
governor said, "Well, go to your fort." At this
juncture the governor unwisely placed his hand
on Boucher's gun. Immediately a shot was fired,
probably by accident, and at once the firing be-
camevgeneral. It has generally been believed that
the first shot, intentional or unintentional, was fired
from the bois-brdles line. In a few minutes the
work was done. Semple, his staff, as well as others
of the party to the number of twenty-two, fell—
killed and wounded.
Governor Semple had his thigh bone broken by a
shot, but was not killed. A kind French-Canadian
undertook to care for the governor, but in the fury
of the fight an Indian—the greatest rascal of the
company—shot the wounded officer in the breast
and killed him instantly. There were few Indians
in the attacking party, but the half-breeds were
many of them disguised in Indian dress and painted
for the war dance.
Rarely does so complete a slaughter take place,
and the plains of Rupert's Land had seen nothing
approaching it in horror since the coming of the
white man. Cuthbert Grant was full of excitement.
Before the skirmish was fairly over he declared that
unless the fort were given up immediately, it
would be taken by force and every man, woman
and child would be put to death. This policy,
seemingly as determined as that of " Old Noll,"
was effective, and led to a bloodless surrender of
Fort Douglas. On the evening of the third day
after the fight, after an inventory had been taken
of the effects, the band of colonists mournfully
filed out of their fort, again to betake themselves
to Lake Winnipeg, their haven of rest in trouble.
The other party which had come from Fort
William was to meet that of Cuthbert Grant before
the attack was made. It was perhaps this fact that
led the western leader to conduct his men across the
prairie in the rear of Fort Douglas. The eastern contingent was under the command of A. N. McLeod
and two Swiss mercenaries engaged by the Nor'-
Westers in Montreal. The length of the journey
from Fort William—more than four hundred miles
—is sufficient cause for their failure to reach the
rendezvous promptly. The party was coming up
Red River when they met the seven or eight boats
loaded with colonists whom Cuthbert Grant had
allowed to depart under the command of the
sheriff of the Red River Settlement.
A very clear account of the latter part of this
sanguinary episode in the fur traders' history is
given by Sergeant Huerter, one of the Swiss mercenaries who had accompanied McLeod. After
McLeod had challenged the retreating settlers he
ordered them ashore, examined all the papers in
their effects, took possession of all letters, account
books, and documents of every kind, broke open
Governor Semple's trunks, and indeed treated the
poor colonists with needless severity.
Seven days after the fight McLeod's party arrived at Fort Douglas, and was received with
volleys of artillery and small arms. As senior officer
on his arrival McLeod took command of the fort,
and occupied the quarters lately used by Governor
Semple. Huerter visited the field of Seven Oaks
shortly after his arrival and saw a miserable sight.
A number of human bodies lay scattered about the
plains, and were nearly reduced to skeletons, very
little flesh adhering to the bones. It was said that
many of the bodies had been partly devoured by
dogs and wolves.
The savage Indian blood did not fail to assert
itself in the rejoicings and revelry that took place
after the victory. The bois-brules were painted, and
danced naked after the Indian fashion. Riotous
scenes took place day after day. Violent threats
Were freely made against the Hudson's Bay Company, Lord Selkirk—the founder—and even against
the poor colonists themselves.
The poet of the French half-breeds—a rhymster
named Pierre Falcon—celebrated the victory in his
irregular numbers. The first stanza ran :—
" Do you wish to listen to celebrate a song of truth ?
The nineteenth of June the bois-br&Us have arrived
As brave warriors,
They have arrived at the Frog Plain."
The last stanza has been versified :—
Who has sung this song of triumph ?
The good Pierre Falcon has composed it
That his praise of these bois-bruMs
Might be ever more recorded."
Alexander Ross, the historian of the early Red
River days, has given a curious sequel to this deed
of blood on the part of the bois-br&les under their
Nor'-Wester leaders. Of the sixty-five persons who
composed Cuthbert Grant's party, he points out
that no less than twenty-six met a violent or sudden death, and he gives the names and fate of the
twenty-six in his work on Red River Settlement.
Equally curious is the answer given by Joseph
Tasse" in his "Canadians of the West." "Ross
would see in the miserable death of these men
almost a chastisement of Providence, as if it was
not unfortunately too often the lot reserved for
these intrepid men, who pass their life in the chase,
on the plains, or in the game, forests of the North-
West, who are constantly exposed to the greatest
dangers and to accidents of every kind." CHAPTER VIII
LORD SELKIRK knew well that trouble and
likely bloodshed were to be expected on Red
River. His anxiety for the success of the colony and
the happiness of his settlers led to his determination to visit Canada, and, if possible, the colony.
Accordingly, late in the year 1815, taking with
him his family, consisting of the countess, his son
and two daughters, Lord Selkirk hastened to
Montreal On arriving in New York he learned of
the first dispersion of the colonists, their flight to
Norway House, and the further threatenings of the
excited bois-briiles. On the founder's arrival in
Montreal in October, he found it too late to proceed on his journey up the lakes to the interior.
In Montreal he spent the winter in the face of his
powerful enemies. The Nor'-Westers watched him
with wolf-like ferocity. Full of the highest moral
courage he brought the affairs of his beleaguered
colony before the government of Lower Canada,
but little did he know how bitter was the opposition engendered among the fur traders to himself
and his scheme.
In February, 1815, Lord Selkirk represented his
fears to Lord Bathurst, the British secretary of
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state, and suggested the despatch of an armed
force to preserve the peace. After the overt acts of
violence committed during the summer of 1815
the case demanded immediate attention, and Lord
Selkirk brought the urgency of the matter under
the notice of Sir Gordon Drummond, governor of
Lower Canada, supplying His Excellency with an
account of the cruel expulsion of the people from
their homes in the Red River.
It was plain that no influence could be brought
upon the authorities to interfere in the matter.
The greater part of the power in Lower Canada
was in the hands of the Nor'-Westers and their -
friends, for the fur traders were the leading merchants of Montreal, and many of them were in the
legislature and in positions of trust. It is true, as
we have seen, that during the winter of 1815-16
there was little turmoil, but it was only the calm
before the storm, and Lord Selkirk strongly suspected this.
Accordingly he began to plan a private expedition. This he would lead in person to the Red River,
and restore his colony to peace. He had confidence
in the strength of Fort Douglas to resist a considerable attack, and now that his new governor, Robert
Semple, was there—an experienced and brave officer
—he believed the case hopeful.
His Lordship was not, however, a man to do
things by halves. He had been sworn in as a justice
of the peace in Upper Canada and for the Indian
territories, and had received the promise of a sergeant and six men of the regular army to accompany and protect him. Not able to obtain the privilege of leading an armed party, that being a prerogative of the Crown, he originated a project of engaging a number of discharged soldiers and making
them settlers, placing them upon his land, that,
in time of need, he might call upon them for
The close of the Napoleonic wars had led to a
reduction in the size of the British army. Among
the brave Swiss regiments likely to be reduced were
two which were sent to Canada to assist in the war
against the United States. This war being now
over the regiment often called, after the colonel
of the more celebrated corps, the De Meurons,
was disbanded. With some one hundred of these
mercenaries Lord Selkirk concluded a bargain to
go to the North-West as military settlers under
his pay, and to render assistance as required.
Great outcry was made against Lord Selkirk for
employing these soldiers ; the De Meurons are declared to have been desperadoes, worthless and despicable. It is well to remember that four of the
same regiment were engaged by Mr. A. N. McLeod on his expedition to crush out the colony.
Early in June, 1816, a number of officers and
about one hundred men went westward to York
(Toronto), their strength being increased by as
many sturdy canoemen. It was His Lordship's in-
187 !
tention to proceed westward to where the city of
Duluth stands to-day, then known as Fond du
Lac. Leaving the expedition before its arrival at
Sault Ste. Marie, he had a conference with the
garrison stationed on Drummond's Isle. Here the
colonizer had a long and interesting interview with
Kawtawahetay, an Ojibway chief, in which' the
Indian asserted that inducements had been held
out to himself and his warriors to unite in driving
the colonists entirely from Red River.
The party had little more than found Sault Ste.
Marie when it was met with news of the most
serious kind: nothing else than the murder, as
it was called, of Governor Semple, the destruction
of his band of attendants, and the banishment of
the unfortunate settlers to their place of refuge on
Jack River. This was a crushing blow.
The plan of voyage was at first to go by way of
Fond du Lac and through what is now Minnesota to
Red River, and thus reach Fort Douglas, which was
to be their capital and residence. Now it was absolutely necessary to go to Fort William, and meet
the enemies of his people, as they sought to return
to Canada. Feeling as a magistrate that the bois-
brMes and their leaders had done grievous wrong,
he determined to bring the murderers to justice.
The resolve to go to Fort William involved
facing many dangers and risking a serious conflict.
But Lord Selkirk had the courage of his ancestors.
He directed his expedition up the Kaministiquia
River from Lake Superior and Thunder Bay, and
encamped directly opposite Fort William, the
citadel of his enemies. The first step was to demand the release of the Red River prisoners who
were being carried away by the Nor'-Westers, and
were at this point on the way to Canada. On this
demand being made the leaders sent the prisoners
to His Lordship's camp, and denied that they had
ever arrested them.
Making use of his magistrate's commission, Lord
Selkirk obtained depositions from men actually engaged in the fur trade to the effect that the partners and officers of the North-West Company were
guilty of inciting opposition to the colony, and
of approving the attacks made on his people. He
then issued warrants against McGillivray, McKenzie, Simon Fraser, and others but allowed them
to remain in Fort William. At first much liberty
was given these prisoners, but on suspicion of a
conspiracy arising among them, they were confined
in one building.
A fuller examination having been made the guilt
of the prisoners seemed clear, and three canoe loads
of them were despatched eastward under guards.
One of the canoes was unfortunately capsized in a
storm, and one of the best known Nor'-Westers
(McKenzie) was drowned.
Lord Selkirk was severely criticized in this
matter. The best that can be said is that it seemed
to be the fashion for each side to take advantage of
189 1
i m
its temporary strength or opportunity to gain an
advantage. Miles Macdonell was first arrested and
taken to Canada by the Nor'-Westers ; then, in reprisal, Duncan Cameron was carried off to Hudson
Bay; and now the McGillivrays and Fraser—high
officers—were taken captive and deported down the
lake. It seems to an impartial observer like the old
Scottish border feuds reduced to a science, and conducted according to the forms of law, or like the
practical carrying out of Robin Hood's maxim—
" The good old way, the simple plan
That they should take who have the power,
And they should keep who can."
Certainly Lord Selkirk had much provocation, and
we can hardly wonder at his using his force of
the De Meurons to vindicate himself and his interests.
Lord Selkirk remained at Fort William, and for
the time was free of all danger from his foes. It
was August, and he began to think of preparing for
winter, as he could hardly expect to follow the
long canoe route to Red River, and be certain
• of reaching his destination before winter set in, as
he must take the risk of armed opposition into
account. He moved his camp up the Kaministi-
quia River, some nine miles above Fort William,
and the wintering place on -the cliff overlooking the
river is still known as Point De Meuron.
The usual uneventful winter on the shore of
Lake Superior—where the outside world becomes
a blank—was passed by His Lordship and his followers.
In March, 1817, the De Meurons started on
their journey to Red River. After leaving Lake of
the Woods, they followed a route across country,
in order that they might take the Nor'-Westers
in Fort Douglas by surprise. This expedition was
successful, and the trained soldiers without much
opposition took the stronghold of the bois-bruUs
who knew little of the real art of war.
In May Lord Selkirk started on his inland journey, and in the last week of June reached Red
River and looked upon the land that had been his
dream for fifteen years, ever since he had read Sir
Alexander Mackenzie's book of voyages. His arrival gave instant hope for the settlement of the
troubles in the North-West. The government of
Canada had issued a proclamation to the effect
that all property taken during the troubles should
be returned to the original owners. To a certain
extent the restitution took place. The settlers were
brought back again from their place of refuge on
Lake Winnipeg to their deserted homesteads.
On the return of the colonists they were gathered
together in a sort of general council to meet their
noble friend and protector. The gathering was at the
spot where the burying-ground and church of St.
John's are now to be seen in the northern part of
the city of Winnipeg. Church and burying-ground
and school were then provided for, and on the people
requesting a minister of religion to be sent them His
Lordship acknowledged the obligation saying, | Selkirk never forfeited his word."
The twenty-four lots which had been occupied
by the woe-begone and discouraged colonists were
promised to them free of all dues. At the request
of the colonists the founder gave a name to their
settlement, calling their parish Kildonan from their
old home in the valley of the Helmsdale in Suther-
landshire, Scotland. His Lordship ordered also a
complete survey of the land to be made, and steps
to be taken to lay out roads, to build bridges, and
to erect mills. Report goes that old Peter Fidler,
the surveyor of the company, laid out the boundaries which remain in many instances to this day.
Lord Selkirk, whom the Indians called "Silver
Chief," as we have said, met them with their
chiefs, and gained their complete confidence. His
affability and fairness impressed the trustful red-
men. The object of the treaty made with the
different bands was to extinguish the Indian title.
The meeting with the Indians was a memorable
one. Peguis, the Saulteaux chief, made a sensible
speech; the Assiniboine chief claimed His Lordship
as a true friend; Robe Noire, the Ojibway, said,
"We have reason to be happy to-day." From that
day to this the Indian of the Red River has looked
upon the white man as a brother.
Such was Lord Selkirk's noble work of pacification on the Red River. A writer of the time, speak-
ing of His Lordship, says, " Having thus restored
order, infused confidence in the people, and given a
certain aid to their activity, Lord Selkirk took his
final leave of the colony."
Passing down the Mississippi River to St. Louis
he journeyed eastward to Washington, came northward to Albany, and hastened to Upper Canada,
without diverging to Montreal to visit his family,
though he had not seen his wife and children for
more than a year. The threatening cloud of disaster seemed dark in that direction, but he did not
flinch, and pushed forward to meet it.
198 MI
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THE year in which Lord Selkirk visited his
colony was one of note. Sir John Coape Sher-
brooke had been in constant communication with
Lord Bathurst in England, but how to act and
bring to an end the disgraceful state of things on
British territory was the puzzle. All power in
Lower Canada seemed centred in the hands of the
North-West oligarchy. Lord Selkirk had appealed
in vain for assistance. To get a fair-minded commissioner in Canada seemed impossible to Governor
Sherbrooke. At length, W. B. Coltman, a merchant
of Quebec and a lieutenant-colonel of militia, a
man accustomed to government procedure, was appointed. It must be added that he was unwilling
to accept the duty. With him was sent Major
Fletcher, who possessed legal qualifications.
Through various delays it came about that Commissioner Coltman and his bodyguard of forty
men of the 37th Foot did not reach the shores
of Lake Winnipeg till July 2nd, 1817. This was
only a few days after Lord Selkirk's arrival. Lord
Selkirk had been represented during the past
winter in Montreal as a buccaneer and a tyrant,
and Colonel Coltman expected some trouble with
195 m
His Lordship. In this the commissioner found himself quite mistaken. He was so impressed with Lord
Selkirk's reasonableness and good faith that he recommended that the legal charges made against
him should not be proceeded with.
Colonel Coltman, after investigating affairs at
Red River, made preparations for a speedy return
to Canada. His sense of justice and fairness impressed men of all shades of opinion at Red River.
At the mouth of the Winnipeg River he writes that
he had stopped over for a time to investigate the
conspiracy to destroy the Selkirk settlement in
which he feared the North-West Company had
been implicated. By November of 1817 Colonel
Coltman had returned to Quebec, and the governor had the satisfaction of reporting to the British
colonial secretary "that the general result of Colonel
Coltman's exertions had been so far successful that
he had restored a degree of tranquillity in the Indian
territories which promises to continue during the
Colonel Coltman's report of about one hundred
folio pages is an admirable one. His summary of
the causes and events of the great struggle between the companies is well arranged and clearly
stated. Lord Selkirk, while treated impartially,
appears well in the report, and the noble character
of the founder shines forth undimmed.
But the cessation of hostilities, brought about by
the proclamation of the king and by Coltman's visit
to the interior, did not bring a state of peace. The
conflict was transferred to the courts of Upper and
Lower Canada, these having been given power some
time before by the imperial parliament to deal
with cases in the Indian territories.
A notable trial was that of Charles Reinhart, an
employe' of the North-West Company, who had
been a sergeant in the disbanded De Meuron regiment. Having gone to the North-West he was,
during the troubles, given the charge of a Hudson's
Bay Company official named Owen Keveny, the
accusation against the latter being that he had
maltreated a Nor'-West employe*. It was charged
against Reinhart that in bringing Keveny down
from Lake Winnipeg to Rat Portage he had at
the Falls of Winnipeg River brutally killed his
While Lord Selkirk was at Fort William, Reinhart,
having arrived at that point, made a voluntary confession before His Lordship as a magistrate. When
the case came before the court in Quebec the argument of local jurisdiction was raised as to whether
the Falls of Winnipeg River were in Upper Canada,
Lower Canada or the Indian territories. Reinhart
was found guilty, but the sentence was not carried
out, probably on account of the uncertainty of the
jurisdiction of the court. This case became an important precedent in recent times.
Lord Selkirk's return, and bravery in facing the
charges made against him, did not in the least
moderate the opposition of his enemies of the
North-West Company, but served rather to stir
up their hatred. Sandwich, the extreme western
point of Upper Canada, was a legal centre of some
importance, and here four charges were laid against
Lord Selkirk, which were very irritating to His
Lordship. These were: (1) Having stolen eighty-
three muskets at Fort William; (2) having riotously
entered Fort William, August 13th ; (3) assault
and fafse imprisonment of Deputy-Sheriff Smith;
(4) resistance to legal warrant. The first of these
charges failed, though a heavy bail was kept hanging over Lord Selkirk, which was very annoying to
him, but served the purposes of his enemies.
In Montreal, in 1818, an action was brought
against Colin Robertson and four others for destroying Fort Gibraltar in 1815, but the charge
against them was ignominiously dismissed. This
was shortly followed by an action against Lord
Selkirk and others for having conspired to ruin the
trade of the North-West Company. This case was
tried before the celebrated Chief-Justice Powell.
When the grand jury refused to bring in an answer
on the case, the irate chief-justice summarily adjourned the court. In the next session of the legislature of Upper Canada, of which the chief-justice
was a member, legislation was passed enabling the
courts to deal with the charges against Lord Selkirk. This high-handed proceeding was but in keeping with many indefensible legislative acts of Up-
per Canada in the first quarter of the nineteenth
This legal conspiracy succeeded. In a court held
at York (Toronto), Lord Selkirk was mulcted in
damages of £500 in favour of Deputy-Sheriff Smith,
and £1,500 for illegal arrest and false imprisonment of McKenzie, a North-West partner at Fort
Lord Selkirk, with the pertinacity which characterized him, then brought charges against the murderers of Governor Semple, against a number of
partners of the North-West Company as accomplices, and two other charges against some of the
settlers, lured away by Duncan Cameron, for stealing His Lordship's property. In all these four cases
a verdict of " Not guilty " was rendered. The evidence of these trials was published separately by
the rivals, with partizan notes in each case. Upwards of three hundred pages of evidence were
printed relating to the Seven Oaks affair.
Enough of this disheartening controversy 1 It
would be idle to say that Lord Selkirk was faultless ; but as we dispassionately read the accounts of
the trials, and consider that while Lord Selkirk
was friendless in Canada, the North-West Company
had enormous influence, we cannot resist the conclusion that advantage was taken of His Lordship,
and that justice was not done. It is true that in the
majority of cases the conclusion was reached that it
was impossible to place the blame with precision on
either side ; but we cannot be surprised that Lord
Selkirk, harassed and discouraged by the difficulties
of the colony and his treatment in the courts of
Upper and Lower Canada, should write as he did in
October, 1818, to the Duke of Richmond,, the new
governor-general of Canada:—
"To contend alone and unsupported, not only
against a powerful association of individuals, but
also against all those whose official duty it should
have been to arrest them in the prosecution of
their crimes, was at the best an arduous task ; and,
however confident one might be of the intrinsic
strength of his cause, it was impossible to feel a
very sanguine expectation that this alone would be
sufficient to bear him up against the swollen tide of
corruption which threatened to overwhelm him.
He knew that in persevering under existing circumstances he must necessarily submit to a heavy
sacrifice of personal comfort, incur an expense of
ruinous amount, and possibly render himself the
object of harassing and relentless persecution."
The ferocity of spirit exhibited by the Nor'-
Westers in Lower Canada and their allies, the
Family Compact of Upper Canada led by the
redoubtable Dr. Strachan, can hardly be believed
was not the evidence overwhelming. To a man of
Lord Selkirk's high ideals, it meant simply the
destruction of all his hopes and plunging him into
the deepest discouragement.
VERY rarely has a benefactor made his return
voyage across the Atlantic Ocean so utterly
cast down as Lord Selkirk was in 1818. Full of
hope and determination he had, in 1815, sent out
his military governor, Semple, in whom he confided much. Though full of anxiety Selkirk had
nevertheless come to Montreal full of determination
and resource. But now the condition of his remote
and helpless colonists, the opposition of the governing powers in Canada, his expensive and discouraging lawsuits, and the mental suffering that comes
to a proud spirit when it is beaten and broken—all
these combined to make his return to his native
land a most melancholy one.
Soon after His Lordship's return his friend, Sir
James Montgomery, brought the serious features
of Lord Selkirk's treatment in Canada before the
British House of Commons, moving for all the official papers in the case. The motion was carried and
the Bluebook—known as that of 1819—contains a
storehouse of material, where the patient student
may find recorded the chief facts of this long and
heart-breaking struggle.
The mental condition of Lord Selkirk soon began
to prey upon his body—never very strong at the
best. He sought in his overstrained state the assistance of his friends, and his self-vindication seemed
to be the only topic on which his active mind
spent itself.
In the year following his return from Canada,
and when all about him became fearful for his
health, his friend, Lady Katherine Halkett, in order
to give his mind occupation and comfort, appealed
to his old college friend—now become the most
influential man in many ways in Scotland—Sir
Walter Scott, requesting his aid in placing fairly
before the world the misrepresentations of Lord
Selkirk's enemies. The chivalrous Sir Walter was
suffering acutely at the time, and was unable to
comply with Her Ladyship's wish. The writer was
fortunate in obtaining from Lord Selkirk's family
(1881) a copy of the letter which Sir Walter Scott
wrote in reply, and it may be well to give as much
of it as bears upon the subject:—
"My Dear Lady Katherine,—I was most exceedingly indisposed when Your Ladyship's very
kind letter reached me. . . . The bad news your
favour conveyed with respect to my dear and esteemed friends, Lord and Lady Selkirk, did not
greatly tend to raise my spirits, lowered as they were
by complete exhaustion. ... I am afraid I have
already said enough to satisfy Your Ladyship how
ill-qualified I am, especially at this moment, to
undertake a thing of such consequence to Lord
Selkirk as a publication of his case. ... It is most
painful to me in these circumstances, my dear
Lady Katherine, to feel that I should be attempting an impossibility in the wish to make myself
master of the very unpleasant train of difficulties
and embarrassments in which Lord Selkirk has
been engaged. . . . Most devoutly do I hope that
these unpleasant transactions will terminate as
favourably as Lord Selkirk's ardent wish to do
good, and the sound policy of his colonizing deserve ; for, as I never knew in my life a man of a
more generous and disinterested disposition, or one
whose talents and perseverance were better qualified to bring great and national schemes to conclusion, I have only to regret in common with his
other friends the impediments that have been
thrown in his way by the rapacious avarice of this
great company.
"I have been three days in writing this scrawl.
I cannot tell Your Ladyship how anxious I am
about Lord and Lady Selkirk.
"I beg my best compliments to Mr. Halkett, and
am always, with most sincere regard, Your Ladyship's most obedient and faithful servant,
" Walter  Scott.
| Edinburgh, 10th June, 1819."
To see a man thus prostrate whose years—forty-
eight—had scarcely brought him to his prime is sad,
but kind and loving hearts supplied their sympathy
and care to the sinking earl. The countess and her
young family accompanied him to the continent,
and in the south of France sought the rest and
pleasant surroundings that they hoped would restore him. The months dragged on without any
improvement, and on April 8th, 1820, at Pau, in
the department of Basses Pyrenees, in the south of
France, Lord Selkirk died surrounded by his family.
His bones lie in the Protestant cemetery at Orthes,
in the same department.
The Gentleman's Magazine of 1820 gives a
sketch of his life, evidently penned by a loving
"Few men were possessed of higher powers of
mind, or were more capable of applying them with
more indefatigable perseverance. His treatise on
* Emigration' has long been considered a standard
work, and as having exhausted one of the most
difficult subjects in the science of political economy.
His Lordship is also advantageously known to the
public as the author of some other literary productions, all of them remarkable for the enlargement
and liberality of their views, the luminous perspicacity of their statements, and that severe and patient
spirit of induction which delights in the pursuit
and is generally successful in the discovery of truth.
"To his friends the death of this beloved and
eminent person is a loss which nothing can repair.
His gentle and condescending manners wound
themselves round the hearts of those admitted to
his society, and conciliated an attachment which
every fresh interview served to confirm. With those
connected with him by the ties of kindred and the
sweet relations of domestic society, His Lordship
lived on terms of the most affectionate endearment;
indeed, seldom has there existed a family the members of which were more tenderly attached to each
other than that of which His Lordship was the head,
and few families have experienced a more severe
succession of those trials by which the Almighty
chastens the heart and disciplines the virtues of
His creatures. His Lordship was eminently exemplary in the discharge of every social and private
duty. He was a considerate and indulgent landlord,
a kind and gracious master; to the poor a generous
benefactor, and of every public improvement a
judicious and liberal patron.
"The latter years of the life of this lamented
nobleman were employed in the establishment of an
extensive colony in the western parts of British
America. In the prosecution of this favourite object he had encountered obstacles of the most unexpected and formidable character. With these,
however, he was admirably qualified to contend; to
the counsels of an enlightened philosophy and an
immovable firmness of purpose, he added the most
complete habits of business and a perfect knowledge
of affairs. The obstructions he met with served only
to stimulate him to increased exertion; and after
an arduous struggle with a powerful confederacy,
which had arrayed itself against him, and which
205 ■ m a
would, long ere now, have subdued any other adversary, he had the satisfaction to know that he
had finally succeeded in founding an industrious
and thriving community. It has now struck deep
root in the soil, and is competent, from its own
internal resources, to perpetuate itself and to extend the blessings of civilization to those remote,
and boundless regions."
We add nothing. These are fitting words with
which tenderly to leave the foreign grave of the
founder of the Red River colony.
Lady Selkirk survived the fated earl. Their son
Dunbar James Douglas succeeded his father in
1820 and died in 1885, when the title became extinct. Lady Isabella Helen, eldest daughter, married the Hon. Charles Hope, who was at one time
governor of the Isle of Wight. Their son, Captain
John Hope, R.N., now occupies the Selkirk family
seat of St. Mary's Isle, Kircudbrightshire, Scotland.
Lady Catherine Jane, second daughter, married
Loftus Tottenham Wigram. The family of Earl
Thomas are now all dead.
206  p. I   i
| 1
■ 1
C^r^t^ytt^r-^  ,#■
■ fmfflmi
SOMETIMES the names of men intimately associated or diametrically opposed to one another are continually appearing together before
us. It was so in the case of the two men, Sir
Alexander Mackenzie and Lord Selkirk, whose
careers we have been following. Of two whose
lives afford a striking example of friendship it was
said, "in their death they were not divided." It
may be similarly remarked in regard to these two
notable opponents. Mackenzie's book gave the impulse to Lord Selkirk's movement ; Mackenzie's
company gave the clue to Lord Selkirk for his
scheme; Mackenzie was the chief opponent in the
Hudson's Bay Company to the sale of territory to
Lord Selkirk for his colony; under Mackenzie's
silent but powerful opposition, the chief obstacles
were thrown in the way of His Lordship's colonization project; and now within a month of each
other the two antagonists were called away from
earth's trials and rivalries, Sir Alexander dying on
his way home from London, March 12th, 1820;
and Lord Selkirk passing away twenty-seven days
later, on April 8th, far from home, seeking health
in a foreign land.
But leaving aside the personal questions at issue,
and looking at the interests of the two rival companies, we readily see that their antagonism was a
mistake for both; that instead of applying their
energies in overcoming the forces of nature in their
trade they had wasted them in bitterness and
hostility to one another. This was recognized by
both companies as soon as the heat of passion began
to die down, after the action of the imperial government and the timely visit of Colonel Coltman to
the scene of conflict. Two years had elapsed since
the return of Lord Selkirk from America. As is
usually the case some of those who had stood sullenly in the background during the painful conflict
now raised their voices in favour of peace.
The chief agent in a movement towards reconciliation was Edward Ellice. His father and the
two sons were known as the " bear and cubs " by
the old Hudson's Bay Company people. One would
say that, if this comparison were well chosen, Edward Ellice would hardly be the man for a peacemaker. His father, however, had large financial
interests in the fur trade, and the son had gone
from England to Canada in 1803. The young
trader passed through the stirring days when the
new North-West Company or X. Y. was, by its
ruinous policy of using strong drink in trade and
of sending aggressive traders everywhere, making
the fur trade unprofitable. He had seen the union
of the old and new North-West Companies in
which brothers had been divided, and chief friends
thrown into hostile camps. He had seen that breach
closed and those wounds completely healed.
Fifteen or sixteen years had passed since that
time, and Ellice advocated, under the circumstances
similar to those of the earlier date, that the two
great companies which had been fighting a battle
royal should lay down their arms and be friends.
He urged strongly the plea of self-interest. Both
companies were reduced to the verge of bankruptcy.
He pointed out that there was great extravagance
in the conduct of trade. Two rival traders, outbidding each other, gave more for the furs than they
were worth, simply to gain the victory over each
other. Often two traders were stationed where the
catch of furs was limited, and both establishments
at the close of the year showed a serious shortage.
The necessity of watching rivals, of ascertaining
their plans, and of counterworking opposing movements caused a great loss of time, and so a loss of
money and of prestige.
The Indians were irritated by the varying standard of values in trade caused by unhealthy com-
petion, and their relatives, the half-breeds, were in
sympathy with them, while the half-breeds of the
plains, mostly French and belonging to the North-
West Company, were an excitable element at any
time, ready to break the peace and create trouble
in the country.
Thus jealousy, overtrading, loss of time, too great
211 I
an extension of agencies, and carelessness of management had, even before Lord Selkirk came upon
the scene, led to a loss of money and to the decay
of the companies. It was said that it was the low
rate to which the stock of the Hudson's Bay Company had fallen that induced Lord Selkirk to buy
into the company for the purpose of furthering his
emigration scheme.
The massacre of a British officer and his staff to
the number of upwards of twenty, cultivated and
useful men, by a half-breed band on the plains of
Rupert's Land, where for a century and a half the
Hudson's Bay Company had ruled, and where for
fifty years the shrewd Scottish sense of the Montreal traders had prevented more than an occasional
death by violence, startled the imperial government
into activity. Lord Bathurst, hearing of Edward
Ellice's plan, sent for the peacemaker, heard his
views, and adopted the method suggested. He promised to unite the companies by statute if they
could but make a financial adjustment between
The propounder of the plan, encouraged by the
promise given by the government, undertook amid
numberless prophecies of failure to bring together
the hostile elements. Mr. Ellice gives an account of
his difficult work in the evidence taken before the
Parliamentary Committee of the British House of
Commons in 1857.
The agreement, reached after much discussion,
was entered into on March 26th, 1821. It provided that the two companies should share equally
the profits of trade for twenty-one years, each company furnishing an equal amount of capital. The
whole stock was divided into one hundred shares,
forty of which were to be distributed among the
wintering partners, as the traders actually engaged
in Rupert's Land were called.
In order to preserve the rights of both parties the
new Act provided for the appointment and specified the duties of new officials. The governor and
directors of the new Hudson's Bay Company were
given power to appoint district governors, who were
to preside at meetings of chief factors, and three
chief factors were necessary to constitute a council.
Twenty-five chief factors and twenty-eight chief
traders were provided for, to be taken alternately
from the two companies. The forty shares to be
divided among the wintering partners were divided
.into eighty-five parts, and to each chief trader was
given a one-eighty-fifth share, while each chief
factor owned two eighty-fifths. The remaining seven
shares were divided among old and deserving members of both companies. The Act provided for a
license to be given to the company to trade in the
territories outside the original Hudson's Bay Company's territory as far west as the Rocky Mountains,
but did not include the Pacific slope. The license
granted was to be renewed every twenty-one years.
The Act which accomplished the union, which
was often called the coalition, was passed on July
2nd, 1821. Provision was made for trying minor
offences by local magistrates, but criminal cases involving capital punishment and civil suits of over
£200, were to be brought for trial before the courts
of Upper Canada.
But the real work of reconciliation was not to be
accomplished by passing equitable Acts of parliament, or by bestowing fair salaries upon the
partners. It needed a man of the right stamp
to unify and moderate the opposing members.
What qualifications should such a man have ? He
needed to be young and independent, not having
strong affiliations with either party, and yet a man
of intellect, of position, and of attractive manner to
hold the respect of shrewd, experienced factors and
traders. He must be of British rather than Canadian
antecedents in order that the older company might
be satisfied, and yet preferably a man of Scottish
origin to gain the confidence of the strong Celtic
element which largely made up the North-West
Company of Montreal. To have visited the fur
country was a necessity, and yet not to have there
lost his business habits as so many of the older
traders who had lived long at the remoter posts had
done. A man, he must be, of quick perception,
affable manners, patient temper, good judgment,
and of natural astuteness. Was such a catalogue of
virtues and habits to be found in any one man ? It
seemed very unlikely.
In the year before the coalition a young man
had been sent from the London office of the
Hudson's Bay Company in Fenchurch Street by
Andrew Colville, Lord Selkirk's brother-in-law,
to watch over the fur-trading interests of the
Hudson's Bay Company in far-distant Athabaska,
where shrewdness and decision were needed, if
anywhere. This was George Simpson. His birth
might have been urged against him, but subtle
minds might prove that it gave him an advantage in the trying and thankless position to which
he was called. It has been shown that William
the Conqueror, the Duke of Monmouth, and
others who had the bar sinister across their escutcheons, developed enormous powers of pluck and
determination. So it was with George Simpson,
who was the uncle of Thomas Simpson, the
Arctic explorer. His strong, clear intellect, high
animal spirits, well-knit, broad-chested frame, compact height—five feet and seven inches—plausible
tongue, and affable disposition—all these with, perhaps, the added consciousness that he must depend
entirely on his own exertions, made him a man
surprisingly fitted for the work of directing the
great enterprise in the hands of the Hudson's Bay
He had come to the fur country in 1820, and in
that year arrived on Lake Athabaska with fifteen
loaded canoes. Like Sir James Douglas on the other
side of the Rocky Mountains, Simpson seemed to
215 m
b R
grasp the situation at once, and his resource and
courage were shown immediately: He reached out
as far as Peace River. Whether he ever visited
Great Slave Lake is not known. His account of his
winter spent in Athabaska is interesting :—
"At some seasons both whites and Indians live
in wasteful abundance on venison, buffalo meat,
fish and game of all kinds, while, at other times,
they are reduced to the last degree of hunger, often
passing several days without food. In the year 1820
our provisions fell short at the establishment, and
on two or three occasions I went for two or three
whole days and nights without having a single
morsel to swallow, but then, again, I was one of a
party of eleven men and one woman which discussed at one sitting meal no less than three ducks
and twenty-two geese." Thus was concentrated in
one season an experience valuable to the future
The young governor immediately braced himself to his great work. The union of Hudson's
Bay Company traders with Nor'-Westers changed
the centre of gravity of the trade, and Norway
House on the north side of Lake Winnipeg took
the place of Grand Portage or Fort William where
the Nor'-Westers were wont to assemble. In later
years Governor Simpson was accused of being arbitrary and dictatorial, but at the early meetings
held at Norway House he won golden opinions for
his affability and fairness. The work of every dis-
trict was reported on; and the new governor at
once, by his diplomacy and shrewdness, took his
place among these wily old traders of the west,
able to baffle Indian cunning and deceit, and showing himself a thorough leader of men.
As we shall see he was imperious on the route.
He was as " furious as Jehu " in his driving, but
it was men, not horses, he impelled to swift action.
The story was prevalent a generation ago on Red
River that on one of his voyages, in crossing the
Lake of the Woods, the impetuous governor was
urging forward his favourite French voyageur with
such unreason that the stalwart boatman, it is said,
seized his tormentor by the shoulder, and plunged
him into the lake, to draw him out quickly, wet and
dripping, suiting his action with an emphatic oath.
With great rapidity and yet with business tact
Governor Simpson reduced to order the chaotic
affairs of the two companies. Learning from the
assembled chief factors at Norway House the nature
of the trade at every point, a radical policy was pursued of cutting down establishments, withdrawing
from unremunerative points, distributing the money
influence to better advantage, conciliating the hostile
and encouraging the discouraged. In every corner
of the wide region of Rupert's Land as well as in
the valleys and shores of British Columbia, was
felt the power of this predominating personality,
from the very moment of his laying his hand upon
the helm.
Complaints no doubt were heard from time to
time, some of the older officers left the company,
many gave vent to bitter feelings. A good writer
among the traders, Ferdinand Wentzler, wrote in
1824 : " The North-West is now beginning to be
ruled with a rod of iron." It was natural that there
should be discontented ones, but this adverse opinion
serves to show that Governor Simpson was a living,
energizing fact in the wide-spread affairs of the
company. We shall follow this man of iron will
and shrewd diplomatic faculty through the mazes
of business in which he distinguished himself for
nearly forty years, while he upheld the dignity and
usefulness of the high office to which he had been
IT is usual to make great movements in the
world depend on the trusted leader who inspires courage, and points the way to other men.
Thomas Carlyle's doctrine of heroes is a very
simple way of accounting for human progress.
Great leaders themselves, however, are the first
to point out how much they depend for their
success on the faith, honour, and ability of their
subordinates, and to cast doubt on Carlyle's philosophy. Especially in the case of Governor Simpson was this so. He was young, unacquainted
with the fur trade, and in a remarkable degree dependent on those leaders in the company who had
tramped the winter snows and stood up for their
own party in Rupert's Land, the Indian territories,
and New Caledonia.
The band of twenty-five chief factors and twenty-
eight chief traders, chosen half and half from each
of the uniting companies, made up half a hundred
men whose knowledge, experience, courage, and
zeal could hardly be surpassed. With a sprinkling
of Englishmen and a few Irish these select leaders
of the fur trade were chiefly Scotsmen, who, with
executive ability and power of adaptation, upheld
219 f I
the reputation of their countrymen for sagacity and
trustworthiness. It may be worth while to look at
some of these leaders and their achievements as
they aided the young governor in bringing order out
of the chaos into which conflict had thrown the
Chief among the chief factors was Colin Robertson, who had been a Nor'-Wester at first, but
who had entered the service of the Hudson's Bay
Company under Lord Selkirk's direction to forward
the interests of the colony. Robertson, while somewhat irascible, was a useful and competent man*
His appointment augured well for a friendly atti-
.tude towards the Red River colonists on the part
of the new company, and was a pledge that the interests of the English company would not be
swamped by the aggressive traders from Montreal.
Another chief factor of peculiarly picturesque
and notable mien was John McLaughlin. His part
was chiefly played west of the Rocky Mountains in
the Oregon district. Edward Ellice, the peacemaker
between the companies, said of McLaughlin, " Dr.
McLaughlin was rather an ambitious and independent personage. He was a very able man, and, I
believe, a very good man. . . . While he remained with the Hudson's Bay Company he was
an excellent servant." McLaughlin was fond of
show, and his distinguished manner is said to have
impressed Governor Simpson. A trader's journal
is worth quoting: " McLaughlin and his suite would
sometimes accompany the south-bound expeditions
from Fort Vancouver, in regal state, for fifty or one
hundred miles up the Willamette, when he would
dismiss them with his blessing, and return to the
fort. He did not often travel and seldom far; but
on these occasions he indulged his men rather than
himself in some little variety. ... It pleased
Mrs. McLaughlin thus to break the monotony of
her fort life. Upon a gaily-caparisoned steed, with
silver trappings and strings of bells on bridle reins
and saddle skirt, sat the lady of Fort Vancouver,
herself arrayed in brilliant colours, and wearing a
smile which might cause to blush and hang its head
the broadest, warmest, and most fragrant sunflower.
By her side, also gorgeously attired, rode her lord,
king of the Columbia, and every inch a king,
attended by a train of trappers, under a chief trader,
each upon his best behaviour."
Further north in New Caledonia proper, as the
district to the west of the Rocky Mountains had
been named by the enterprising Scotsmen from
Montreal, Chief Factor John Stuart made a name
for himself. Near the beginning of the nineteenth
century, John Stuart, as lieutenant of Simon
Fraser, made one of the most notable and difficult
journeys of exploration recorded, in his descent
of the Fraser River from its source in Stuart's Lake,
so called from this trader, to a few miles from its
entrance into the Pacific Ocean. John Stuart,
though second in command of the expedition, was
221 witi':
versed in engineering and was a more cultivated
man than his leader, Simon Fraser. He is generally
believed to have been the brain of the enterprise.
Stuart was a man of much information and literary
tastes. Far up in the fastnesses of the Rocky Mountains he kept in touch with the important new
books, and from his lofty standpoint discoursed
upon the amenities of literature in correspondence
with his fellow-traders of kindred tastes.
Foremost among the chief factors under the
new organization were Donald McKenzie, a man
of affairs, and Alexander Christie, who had a diplomatic and kindly spirit. Both of these men rose
still higher in the service of the company, becoming governors of the colony of Assiniboia. Some
dozen years after the union of the companies, it
became evident that the Hudson's Bay Company
should relieve Lord Selkirk's heirs of the responsibility of maintaining the colony. During eight years
of this time Governor McKenzie ruled as well as
the troublous times would permit. When a settlement was reached with Lord Selkirk's representatives, Alexander Christie, who had succeeded
Governor McKenzie, became the official governor
of Selkirk colony, under the general control of
Governor Simpson.
Many schemes for the agricultural development
of the Red River colony had been tried during the
transition period after Lord Selkirk's death until
1835, but they had failed, and this chiefly through
mismanagement. The Hudson's Bay Company now
found it necessary to supersede the patriarchal form
of government, and to give a semblance of representative government.
The council of Assiniboia was a partly successful ruling body, though in its later years unpopular,
largely because it was said to reflect the company's
rather than the popular opinion. Governor Christie
was the first governor of Assiniboia who had a
regular council to assist him. The council included
fifteen members, Governor Simpson was president
but Governor Christie the local head of the body.
This council included the leading clergy, retired
fur traders, merchants, and settlers of the colony.
Chief Factor Christie served his first period as
governor for six years, and after an interval another
period of two years.
Thus among the twenty-five chief factors and
twenty-eight chief traders we might go on selecting
men worthy of notice. Time would fail to tell all
their notable exploits. James Bird retired to settle
in the colony and became a member of influence
in the council of Assiniboia. Edward Smith became
a dominant figure in the far Mackenzie River
district. Chief Factor George Keith, who passed
most of his fife in Athabaska, Mackenzie River,
and Great Bear Lake, wrote a series of most interesting letters, embodying a number of Indian
tales; his brother James was also a leading chief
factor who lived in later years at Lachine.
Chief Factor James Leith will long be remembered. In his will less than twenty years after the
coalition of the companies he left £12,000 to be
expended for the benefit of the Indian missions of
Rupert's Land. His relatives bitterly opposed this
bequest, but the case was decided against them,.
and the interest of this amount, with £300 a year
given by the Hudson's Bay Company, now goes as
an annual income of £700 to the bishopric of
Rupert's Land. So much for the leaders at the
time of the union.
As years quickly passed new men rose to take
the place of the retiring chief factors and to give
Governor Simpson their assistance. To name a few
of these is but fair.
In 1825 William Connolly became chief factor.
He was notable in the district west of the Rocky
Mountains, New Caledonia, being in charge of Fort
St. James. Married to an Indian wife, his large
family grew up to be Well educated and notable.
One of his daughters became Lady Douglas, the
wife of Sir James Douglas of Victoria, British Columbia.
On William Connolly leaving the heights of the
Rocky Mountains, he was succeeded in the charge
of his post by Peter Warren Dease, who became
chief factor in 1828. Dease was very celebrated in
his notable expedition with Thomas Simpson, a
relation of Governor Simpson. They were sent out
by the Hudson's Bay Company to explore, in 1837,
the coast of the Arctic Sea, and performed the
duties assigned to them with much success.
Duncan Finlayson became a chief factor in 1832,
and seven years later began his five years of service as governor of Assiniboia. The reign of Governor Finlayson is treasured in the memory of the
people of the Red River Settlement as that of an
ideal governor. Ross says of him: " A man of
business habits, liberal principles, and strictly just,
he knew nothing of party and its objects, but at
once took his position in the interests of all, and
especially as the friend of the poor." This is a most
desirable record for a public man to leave behind
But among all those called to his councils by
Governor Simpson, the man possessed of the highest
qualities as an administrator was James Douglas,
afterwards Sir James, who eventually became a
chief factor. Douglas was a man of imperial mind,
and his fame stands high on the Pacific coast today. Born near the beginning of the century, a scion
of the noble house of Douglas, James Douglas
joined the North-West Company as a lad, and,
going west, was soon taken by Dr. McLaughlin
to the Pacific slope. At Fort St. James he learned
the Indian languages with the same facility as he
had mastered French, and soon among the wild
tribes of the Upper Rockies showed his ability
in managing men. He married Nellie Connolly, a
native girl of sixteen, daughter of Trader Connolly.
225 IS
He rose with marvellous rapidity in the service,
and was made chief factor in 1840. It was said
of him: "He was one of the most enterprising and
inquisitive of men, famous for his intimate acquaintance with every service of the coast." He became
governor of Vancouver Island in 1851, was knighted
in 1863, and continued governor of the island as
well as of the mainland of British Columbia.
It is impossible even to mention the names of
all who were high in favour as trusted councillors
of Governor Simpson during his many years of service. The appointments to the annual council, usually held at Norway House, were generally made
at the governor's suggestion. This tended to make
his position somewhat difficult, by spreading the
impression that he was the fur-trading autocrat, an
impression, indeed, which a close reading of the
records will not fail to confirm.
Men are at times raised to positions of importance largely on account of What seem to be accidental circumstances. An instance of this is seen in
the case of James Hargrave. He was for years the
officer in charge of York Factory, on Hudson Bay,
which was the entrepot of Rupert's Land. Orders
from traders and others for their supplies poured in
to Hargrave, who had goods bought and forwarded,
inland by the annual ship as it arrived at York Factory from Britain.
A strong friend of Hargrave's at Red River
Settlement was the Rev. William Cochrane, the
226 m
stalwart missionary who really laid the foundations
of the Church of England in Rupert's Land. The
forces at work in making chief factors are shown
by him in a letter to Hargrave. After years of service at York Factory, Hargrave thought, and so
did his friends, that he was deserving of the honour
of promotion from the position of bourgeois to that
of chief trader, and after that chief factor. The chief
tradership was long in coming. Before it came
Cochrane wrote to him of his expectation that the
governor would grant it. Disappointed in one year
he writes in the next: I Are you likely to get another feather in your cap ? I begin to think that
your name will have to be changed into MacAr-
grave. A ' Mac' before your name would produce
a greater effect than all the rest of your merits put
together. Can't you demonstrate that you are one
of the descendants of one of the great clans ? " But
the governor did not forget, for in 1833 Hargrave
was made chief trader and eleven years afterwards
chief factor.
John Siveright, George Barnston, and John Bal-
lenden were all men who as letter writers, prominent
traders, and able men rose to the highest places of
distinction in the service.
One most notable man whose name cannot be
passed by is that of the trader and explorer, Dr.
John Rae, who became a chief factor in 1850. Dr.
Rae's chief distinction was his daring and success
in coasting up the west shore of Hudson Bay,
chiefly without carrying a supply train. He found
traces of the remains of Sir John Franklin, and
obtained half the reward offered by the British
government for traces of the lost explorer. Dr.
Rae was a man of scientific tastes and most active
mind, and to the day of his death retained an
enthusiastic interest in Rupert's Land.
William McTavish, who reached the height of
ambition of every fur trader, was appointed chief
factor in 1851, and became the last governor of
Assiniboia undei the Hudson's Bay Company
regime He was a man of force of character,
though he fell on evil times in the troublous years
of 1869 and 1870.
The region of Labrador knew well the distinguished services of Donald A. Smith, now Lord
Strathcona, for more than twenty years under
Governor Simpson's rule, though he was not made
chief factor until the year after the death of the
great governor.
Robert Campbell, a.Perthshire Highlander, for
more than thirty years a favourite of the governor,
noted as the discoverer of the Upper Yukon, and
John Mclntyre, master of Fort William, a devoted
follower of the governor, both rose, some years after
Sir George's death, to high rank in the company.
These are some of the men—not by any means
all who should be mentioned—who supported
Governor Simpson and helped to make his administration strong. Many of their names have been
given to posts, or forts, or lakes, or capes in the wide
extent of Rupert's Land. They were chiefly noted
for their uprightness and trustworthiness. Among
the Indians,' when there was no military or police
force, no law or civil authority, it was found that the
probity and faithfulness of the fur trader was the
chief power in promoting order and good-will among
the native peoples. The Hudson's Bay Company's
officers and men gained the reputation of being
keen traders not to be trifled with, and yet fair men
who would not take undue advantage in a bargain.
Governor Simpson had, on the whole, a trustworthy band of men to lead, and this largely accounted for his success.
GOVERNOR SIMPSON had a remarkable
faculty of adapting himself to his surroundings, and soon caught the spirit of the fur traders.
He was far from being a mere money-maker—
a business automaton. He was fond of the social
life which had been developed in the precincts of
the Hudson's Bay Company's posts. New Year's
Day^ St. Andrew's Day, and probably other notable days were observed, and the Indians, only too
prone to indulge their idle habits, were glad to fall
in with such cheerful interruptions to the monotony
of life.
On these holidays and especially for the week
between Christmas and the New Year, there was
at times too great a tendency to indulgence. But
Governor Simpson was in thorough harmony with
the fur traders' customs. No doubt he found it
necessary to maintain an attitude of strict opposition to the use of strong drink in dealing with
the Indians, but with the occasional relaxation of
rules at set times he was in perfect sympathy.
This dual character in the governor also showed
itself in business matters. He was a keen business
man. Before his time, in the conflict of the com-
I I I ■• I
panies, business had languished and both companies
suffered heavy loss. New establishments had been
built out of pure rivalry, and many of them were
far from paying for themselves. With remorseless
exactness and thoroughness Governor Simpson
dealt with these, closed them, reduced their expenditure, or reorganized their methods. But with all
this there was in the governor an unusual love of
pomp and show. This was a very valuable element
in impressing the Indian imagination, and could
have been justified on business grounds, but it was
with the governor rather a piece of thorough enjoyment—a survival of his boyish nature, when,
with the aid of decorated canoes and flags and
music, he disported himself in the pageants of the
In the seventh year of his governorship he made
a notable voyage through his fur-trading domain
from York Factory to Fort Vancouver on the
Columbia River. It is fortunate for us that there
was with the governor a gentleman, Archibald
Macdonald, who had the " pen of a ready writer,"
and who has left us a most readable description of
the journey in a small work entitled, " Peace River;
a Canoe Voyage from the Hudson Bay to the
The departure of the expedition on its transcontinental trip was a great event at York Factory.
Two light canoes were very thoroughly fitted up
for the journey—tents for camping, utensils for the
camp-fire, arms to meet any danger, provisions in
plenty, wine for the gentlemen and spirits for the
voyageurs. Each canoe carried nine picked men,
and from Governor Simpson's reputation as a swift
traveller it was quite understood that their lot
would not be an easy one.
On July 28th, 1828, fourteen chief officers—
factors and traders—and an equal number of clerks
were gathered together at the Factory to inaugurate
the great voyage. The event had gathered the
whole Indian community about the posts, and probably no greater spectacle had taken place at York
Factory since Miles Macdonell and his Scottish
settlers, nearly twenty years before, had started for
their new home on the Red River. Hayes River
resounded with the cheers of the assembled traders
and their dependents, while a salute of seven guns
made the fir trees of the northern station re-echo
with the din. The voyageurs then gave in unison
one of the famous boat-songs for which they are
noted, and with pomp and circumstance began their
The long progress of hundreds of miles from the
Factory to the outlet of Lake Winnipeg was made
with lightheartedness and marvellous speed. Near
the foot of Lake Winnipeg is situated Norway
House, which at the time was the virtual capital of
the fur traders. The approach to this point was
made an event of great importance. The fort,
though simply a depot of the fur trade, had a
m . H
|t 1
number of Indian settlements within reach, and all
the denizens of the region were on tip-toe to see
the pageant which they knew was approaching.
Indian warriors and trappers were there in large
numbers; the lordly redman was accompanied on
all his journeys by his whole family, so that bevies
of old and young women peered upon the scene
from the background, while groups of Indian
children with their accustomed shyness stood awestruck at the spectacle. The " Kitche Okema"
—the greatest mortal they had ever seen—was
The party from York Factory had begun already
to show marks of their voyage, and so they landed
some miles away from the fort, performed their
toilets and arranged their attire as best they could.
Fully ready they resumed the journey, and with
flashing paddles sped through the rocky gorge by
which Norway House is reached, quickly turned
the point, came in sight of the fort built on a slope
rising from the lake, and saw floating from the tall
flagstaff of Norway pine on the top of Signal Hill
the Union Jack with the letters H. B. C,—the
flag which had a magical effect on every trader and
Indian as he beheld it flying aloft.
The governor's gaudily painted canoe was easily
discernible by its high prow, on which sat the
French-Canadian guide, who for the time being, as
pilot, had chief authority. The governor looked on
with interest, while from his immediate neighbour-
mmsm A*
hood in his canoe pealed forth the music of the
bagpipes, as well suited for effect on the rocky
ledges surrounding Norway House as for the fastnesses of the governor's native land. From the
second canoe rang out the cheery bugle of the
senior chief factor, who was really in command of
the expedition.
As the canoes came near the shore the effect was
heightened by the soft and lively notes of the
French-Canadian voyageurs, who were always great
favourites of the governor. The song they sang in
French was one that never becomes wearisome—
that of "A La Claire Fontaine." The leader
carolled the solo:—
" A la clairefontaine
Men allant promener,
Tai trouvi Teaif, si belle
Que je m'y suis baigne"."
And then all joined in chorus—
" II y a longtemps que je t'aime
Jamais je ne foublierai."
The reception over, the governor at once proceeded to the duties of his office and examined
the details of the work of the fort.
A large correspondence had met him at Norway
House. To despatch this and examine the prospects
of trade at the place was a work into which the
governor entered with the greatest gusto. All officers and employe's appeared before him ; the buildings, books, trade, and outlook were all inspected
235 !■ 'I
or considered, and this man of lordly tastes was
found to be possessed of an iron will and keen business acumen. His rapidity in despatching business
was so great that it was said he could do the work
of three ordinary men.
The long journey of a thousand or more miles
from Norway House to Fort Chipewyan, into the
detail of which we cannot enter, was accomplished
by rapid transit, interruptions only being made to
examine minutely the affairs of Cumberland, Carlton, Edmonton, and a score of minor points along
the route.
Fort Chipewyan had always maintained its preeminence as an important dep6t of the fur trade.
The governor had spent his one year as a clerk
within its precincts. He now returned to it with
his new rank as a potentate having power to
make or unmake men. Its picturesque position
as well as historic memories appealed directly to
him. Here he met the officer in charge, William
McGillivray, whose name was a great one among
the Nor'-Westers, the original chief of that name,
after whom Fort William was called, having died
three years before this voyage took place. McGillivray, at the invitation of the governor, taking his
family with him, joined the party in crossing the
Rocky Mountains.
The same waving of flags, firing of guns, shouting of Indians and employes, and the sound of
singing and bagpipes which had attended the arri-
236 m
val and departure of the distinguished travellers at
Norway House were repeated at Fort Chipewyan.
A little more than a month had passed from the
time of their leaving York Factory when the travellers entered Peace River in order to cross the
Rocky Mountains. As Forts Vermilion, Dun vegan,
and St. John were passed, the most important fact
pressed on the members of the expedition was the
lack of provisions. This was a year of unusual
dearth in the whole region as far as Fort McLeod,
which lay west of the summit of the mountains.
At the various stopping-places the governor, besides examining into the financial prospects and
management of each fort, was called upon to settle
disputes. This His Excellency did with the same
distinguished success with which he accomplished
all his other duties. Presiding with the air of a
chief-justice, he gave caution and advice in the
most impressive manner, and with due solemnity
he lectured the Indians for their orgies and for the
scenes of violence which often followed them.
In passing from Fort McLeod to Fort St. James
the journey was made across the crest of the Rocky
Mountains, the voyageurs carrying the baggage on
their shoulders, while horses were provided for the
gentlemen of the party. Fort St. James being the
emporium of the fur trade for New Caledonia, was
a place of note, and the entry to it was made as
splendid as circumstances would permit. The journal says :—" Unfurling the British ensign it was
given to the guide, who marched first. After him
came the band, consisting of buglers and bagpipers.
Next came the governor, mounted, and behind him
Dr. Hamlyn, the physician, and Macdonald, the
scribe, also on horses. Twenty men, loaded like
beasts of burden, formed the fine; after them a
loaded horse; and finally McGillivray with his wife
and family brought up the rear."
Thus arranged, the imposing body was put in
motion. Passing over a gentle elevation, they came
into full view of the fort, when the bugle sounded,
a gun was fired, and the bagpipes struck up the
famous march of the clans, | Si coma leum codagh
na sha " (If you will it, war). Trader James Douglas, who was in charge of the fort, replied with
small ordnance and guns, after which he advanced
and received the distinguished visitors in front of
the fort.
Descending from the crest of the Rocky Mountains, by September 24th the party came to Fort
Alexandria—named after Sir Alexander Mackenzie
—four days down the Fraser River, and then reached Kamloops, the junction of the North and South
Thompson Rivers. At every place of importance
the governor took occasion to assemble the natives
and employes and gave them good advice, "exhorting them to honesty, frugality, temperance,"
finishing his prelections with a gift of tobacco or
some commodity appreciated by them.
After a rapid descent of the Fraser River the
party reached Fort Langley near its mouth, in two
days less than three months from the time of their
starting from York Factory. From this point
Governor Simpson made his way to Fort Vancouver, on the Columbia River, then the chief post
on the Pacific coast, and in the following year
returned over the mountains, satisfied that he had
gained much knowledge and that he had impressed
himself on trader, engage, and Indian chief alike.
239 14
Pi     '
['  Si
j. (,
l; I
IN less than twenty years Governor Simpson had
gained complete leadership of the Hudson's
Bay Company, and his word had become law. This
arose not from a mere autocratic disposition on his
part, but from the recognition of his wisdom and
ability in London and in the vast western territory.
The governor, while visiting his wide domain every
year, made his headquarters in Lachine, near Montreal, and thus became acquainted with Canadian
life. In this way Governor Simpson became the
exponent of the best traditions and opinions of
the old Nor'-Westers as well as the embodiment
of the interests of the directors in London, whom
he visited as often as possible. His influence in
Canadian affairs became very considerable. Many
of the retired traders lived in Montreal and along
the St. Lawrence and Ottawa rivers, forming a sort
of guild of their own, and the governor naturally
became the leader of this wealthy and influential
set. The old days of the Beaver Club were kept
alive to some extent at Lachine,
Troublous days fell upon both Upper and Lower
Canada in the third decade of the century. The
French in Lower Canada were dissatisfied with the
oligarchy which governed them, for up to this time
Britain had not trusted the French-Canadians to
govern themselves. In Upper Canada the Family
Compact, a combination of placemen, governed the
province without regard for the interests or will of
the masses of the people. These conditions led to the
unfortunate rebellion of 1837-8. Papineau in Lower
Canada and WilHam Lyon Mackenzie in Upper
Canada headed the revolt. No doubt the state of
thingsin the two provinces justified great discontent, and the two sets of placemen were responsible
for the evils which an oppressed people rose to
overthrow. It is questionable, however, whether
the evils could not have been remedied without the
dreadful alternative of an appeal to arms. Of course
the Hudson's Bay Company, its officers, and retired
partners and men were a part of the system of
oligarchy, and threw in their lot with the government as determined loyalists.
This was not surprising. The Hudson's Bay
Company was a chartered company, and of old
standing. All such organizations have their very
fife in the favour of the state, and are disposed to
support the interests of capital as against the rights
claimed by the people. It is probably a good feature
of the British constitution that there are bodies
which stand for law, order, and stability when
popular tumult threatens to overturn and destroy established institutions. Nevertheless, popular government demands, and rightly, that equity
and fair play be meted out to all classes of the
The interests represented by Governor Simpson
in Montreal were strongly united against the Papi-
neau rebellion. That rebellion was soon suppressed
by the force of the regular soldiery, aided by the
lack of coherence in the rebel party and the natural
differences arising among its chiefs. Furthermore,
there was a settled conviction in the minds of the
French people that the British government, which
had been their friend after the conquest in 1759,
would in the present crisis accord them justice. It
was the wheel of government nearest them which
they wished to destroy, not the force which supplied guidance to the larger mechanism.
The rebellion over, the usual British process of
examining into the grievances which had caused
the outbreak took place. Lord Durham came to
Canada, and with his liberal instincts, recommended a course of legislation which gave the
people the rights they so strongly demanded. Lord
Durham's visit to Canada was one of the most
fortunate things in the history of British North
America. The policy of rewarding those who had
stood true to British interests, and also of redressing the grievances which unquestionably existed,
healed the serious breach which was threatened
both in Upper and Lower Canada.
The part taken during the rebellion by Governor
Simpson, as well as the successful exploration of
the Arctic coast at this time by Dease and Simpson
at the governor's suggestion, was duly rewarded, in
1839, by the order of knighthood.
It is questionable whether the events through
which Governor Simpson passed during the rebellion
were favourable to the best interests of civil government in Rupert's Land. As we have seen, in 1835
a council was established for the government of
Assiniboia—as the Red River Settlement was
officially called—and Governor Simpson was the
head of this council. The fact that its members
were all appointed by the Hudson's Bay Company
in London, though many of them were natural
leaders of the people, was likely to rouse a feeling
of antagonism, and, on however small a scale, to
array the masses against the classes. The officers
and retired officers of the Hudson's Bay Company
with the privileged clergy certainly dominated. It
was probably an unfortunate thing that Governor
Simpson, while this new body was becoming fixed
in its attitude towards the hitherto ungoverned
people of Red River, should have been placed
in antagonism to the aggressive movement of
Papineau and the French-Canadian malcontents.
The suppression of the rebels, the banishment
of a number of them, the feeling of victory,
the increasing sentiment of loyalty, and the personal reward of knighthood no doubt influenced
Sir George and increased in him the feeling of
the autocrat, however much this may have been
held in check by his natural good feeling and
sense of diplomacy.
That our estimate is not a wrong one may be
seen in his action in more fully organizing the
judicial staff of the colony, and in his choice of an
occupant for the high office of recorder. A young
Scottish lawyer in Montreal, named Adam Thom,
had taken a noted part in journalism in Montreal
during the Papineau rising. Papineau in a moment
of passion had declared: " The time has gone by
when Europe could give monarchs to America.
The epoch is approaching when America will give
republics to Europe." Young Thom, with true
British fervour, resented such disloyal sentiments,
and entered the lists with a series of newspaper
letters, signed " Caniillus," which were remembered
for many a day for their anti-French tone and for
their forcefulness.
When the rebellion was over, Lord Durham
came, as We have seen, to Canada, bringing with
him an exceptionally brilliant staff of assistants.
To these he added the powerful young controversialist, Adam Thom, who was versed in
Lower Canadian affairs. In 1838 Thom returned
with Lord Durham to Britain, and in 1839, the
year in which Governor Simpson was knighted,
Thom was appointed by the Hudson's Bay Company, at a salary of £700 a year, the first recorder
of Red River, or as he was also styled, president
of the Red River court. The new recorder came
ill l!
from Britain by way of New York, and proceeded
at once to Fort Garry.
The fourth decade of the century saw Sir George
with his aristocratic notions presiding over the
council of Assiniboia. His policy of government
was, to a certain extent, affected by the influence
of the new recorder, who was also a member of
the council.
At present the details of the irritation in Red
River Settlement are not of importance to our
description of Governor Simpson's work as a civil
ruler. Suffice it to say that Recorder Thorn's influence was felt in restrictions made upon the
settlers in their dealing in furs, of which trade the
company claimed the exclusive right, and certain
regulations of an onerous kind as to letters sent by
post from the settlement. Governor Simpson, with
great wisdom, allowed all these annoying ordinances
to come by way of proclamation from the local
governor, Christie, but was no doubt to a certain
extent responsible for them. Towards the end of
the decade the ferment reached its height in an
dmeute on the part of the Mdtis, or French half-
breeds on the Red River, in which they released
from prison one of their compatriots and defied the
At Governor   Simpson's   suggestion,  Recorder
Thom did not take his place upon the bench for a
year.   Then the recorder, at the instance of Sir
George, again presided at a case which gave rise to
is III
popular discontent, and again the governor was
compelled to consent to the cessation of his judicial
functions. He allowed Judge Thom, however, to
serve as clerk of the court, which he did until 1854
when he retired to Britain. During this decade in
which Recorder Thom seems to have been the
" stormy petrel" of the Red River Settlement,
Governor Simpson acted with diplomatic discretion.
The troubles culminating in 1849 led to the appointment of a local governor in Red River Settlement,
who was not necessarily to be an officer of the fur
trade. Sir George Simpson retired from the active
administration of affairs in the colony. He was,
however, when present, the superior officer, having
precedence of the governor at Fort Garry.
Notwithstanding all this, Sir George's visits to
Fort Garry or Lower Fort Garry were always
notable events. He seems still to have been regarded as the source of ultimate authority in time
of difficulty. To all he was accessible. Visits of respect were paid to him by the leading residents on
his arrival in the colony, and he no doubt oiled the
wheels of government by his skill and good sense.
Sir George during his long career largely kept
in his own hand the dealings with the clergy, who
received from the Hudson's Bay Company certain
grants and support for education and also for church
service, and as a rule he satisfied this important
class, although he often rallied them in a jocular
way for not being as self-denying and devoted to
their tasks as he professed to think they ought to
be. On the whole, during his administration of
civil affairs in Rupert's Land, especially in the Red
River Settlement, a period of nearly forty years,
he was regarded as a fair and reasonable man,
though credited with being rather astute or even
adroit in his management. CHAPTER V
THE desire to extend the business of the Hudson's Bay Company, and also to see a region,
that of Siberia, that resembled his own empire of
Rupert's Land, led Sir George Simpson, in the
second year after he was knighted, to undertake a
journey round the world. This was a very different
thing from the Drake or Cook voyages, " ploughing
a furrow " round the world by sea. It was really a
journey over three continents in addition to crossing
the two greatest oceans of the earth.
Two portly volumes containing an account of his
voyage, filling nine hundred pages, appeared some
five years after this journey was completed. This
work is given in the first person as a recital by Sir
George of what he saw and passed through. Internal evidence as well as local report on the Red
River show another hand to have been concerned
in giving it a literary form. It is reported that the
facile assistant to the busy governor was Judge
Thom, the industrious and strong-minded recorder
of the Red River Settlement, who, as we have seen,
was a protege^ of the governor.
The work is dedicated to the directors of the
Hudson's Bay Company. These were nine in num-
ber, and their names are nearly all well known in
connection with the trade of this period : Sir John
Pelly, long famous for his leadership, Andrew Col-
ville, deputy-governor, who by family connection
with Lord Selkirk long held an important place,
Benjamin Harrison, John Halkett, another kinsman of Lord Selkirk, H. H. Berens, A. Chapman,
M.P., Edward Ellice, M.P., the Earl of Selkirk,
the son of the founder, and R. Weynton. Most of
these names will be found commemorated in forts
and trading-posts throughout Rupert's Land.
Having made preparations for being absent from
his important duties for a long period* Sir George
Simpson started on his great tour, leaving London
on March 3rd, 1841. The ship called at Halifax,
but discharged its cargo at Boston, from which
port Sir George went by land to Montreal, and
started up the fur traders' route via the St. Lawrence and Ottawa rivers on May 4th. Soon Ste.
Anne was reached by the canoe brigade. The editor
of the work, who knew Montreal and its vicinity
as well as the customs of the voyageurs, shows
his sense of humour in referring to Moore's " Canadian Boat Song " by saying, "At Ste. Anne's rapid
on the Ottawa we neither sang our evening hymn
nor bribed the Lady Patroness with shirts, caps,
etc., for a propitious journey, but proceeded."
Following the old canoe route, Georgian Bay and
Lake Superior were soon passed over, though on
the latter lake the expedition was delayed about a
week by the ice, and here too Sir George received
the sad news of the unfortunate death of his kinsman, Thomas Simpson, who is well known for his
Arctic explorations. Taking the route from Fort
William by the Kaministiquia River, the travellers
hastened through Rainy Lake and river and Lake
of the Woods. In referring to Rainy River, Sir
George speaks, in the somewhat inflated style of
the editor, without the caution which every fur
trader was directed to cultivate in making known
the resources of the fur country. A decade afterwards, as we shall see, Mr. Roebuck, before the
committee of the House of Commons, when Sir
George was speaking of Rupert's Land as a barren
land, quoted the somewhat fulsome passage.
Following the usual route by Winnipeg River,
Lake Winnipeg, and Red River, Fort Garry was
soon reached, and here the governor somewhat
changed his plans. He determined to cross the
prairies by light conveyances, and accordingly on
July 3rd, at five in the morning, with his fellow-travellers, with only six men, three horses, and one
light cart, the " Emperor of the Plains " left Fort
Garry under a salute, and with the shouting of the
spectators started on his journey to follow the
winding Assiniboine River.
A thousand miles over the prairie in July is one
of the most cheery and delightsome journeys that
can be made. The prairie flowers abound, their
colours have not yet taken on the full blaze of
251 till 111
yellow to be seen a month later, and the mosquitoes
are not very troublesome. The weather, though
somewhat warm, is very rarely oppressive on the
plains, where a breeze may always be felt. This
long journey the party made with reckless speed in
three weeks; and arrived at Edmonton House to be
received with the firing of guns by nine native chiefs
of the Blackfoot, Piegan, Sarcee, and Blood Indians, dressed in their finest clothes and decorated
with scalp-locks. "They implored me," says the
governor, "to grant their horses might always be
swift, that the buffalo might instantly abound, and
that their wives might live long and look young."
Four days sufficed at Edmonton to provide the
travellers with forty-five fresh horses. They speedily
passed up the Saskatchewan River, meeting bands
of hostile Sarcees, using supplies of pemmican, and
soon caught their first view of the white peaks of
the Rocky Mountains. Deep muskegs and dense
jungles were often encountered, but all were overcome by the skill and energy of the expert fur
trader Rowand, their guide. They advanced until
surrounded by the sublime mountain scenery, which
was sometimes obscured by the smoke from fires
prevailing throughout this region, which was suffering from a great drouth. At length Colville, on the
Columbia River, was reached, nearly one thousand
miles from Edmonton, and this journey, much of it
mountain travelling, had averaged forty miles a
day. The party from Fort Garry had been travel-
ling constantly for six weeks and five days, and
they had averaged eleven and a half hours a day in
the saddle. The weather had been charming, with a
cloudless sky, the winds were fight, the nights cool,
and the only thing to be lamented was the appearance of the travellers, who, with tattered garments
and crownless hats, entered the fort.
Embarking below the Chaudiere Falls of the
Columbia, the company took boats worked by six
oars each, and the water being high they were able
to make one hundred, and even more, miles a day, in
due course reaching Fort Vancouver. At Fort Vancouver Governor Simpson met Trader Douglas—
afterwards Sir James Douglas. He accompanied the
party, which now took horses and crossed country
by a four days' journey to Fort Nisqually. Here, on
the shore of Puget Sound, lay the ship Beaver, and
embarking on her the party went on their journey
to Sitka, the chief place in Alaska, where the
governor exchanged dignified courtesies with the
Russian governor Etholine, and enjoyed the hospitality of his " pretty and lady-like wife." In addition, Governor Simpson examined into the company's operations (the Hudson's Bay Company had
obtained exclusive license of this sleepy Alaska for
twenty years longer), and found the trade to 'be
10,000 fur seals, 1,000 sea otters, 12,000 beavers,
2,500 land otters—foxes and martens—and 20,000
sea-horse teeth.
The return journey was speedily made, the Beaver
It !
1 If
calling, as she came down the coast, at Forts Sti-
kine, Simpson, and McLaughlin. In due course
Fort Vancouver was reached again.
November was now drawing to a close, when two
barques dropped down the Columbia River, the one
bound for England, and the other, the Cowlitz, destined to convey Sir George Simpson to California,
the Sandwich Islands, and then to Sitka again. On
the third of December the party embarked on the
Cowlitz at Fort George. The boat was detained for
three whole weeks ere the bar at the mouth of
the Columbia could be passed, so fierce was the
storm which prevailed. The gale abated, the bar
was crossed, and Christmas was spent on board
with the usual festivities, and with many a toast
for absent friends. Down the coast the journey
became pleasant, Drake's Bay, supposed to have
been reached by that old navigator, was passed.
After this the ship was becalmed, but in a few days
more Yerba Buena, a small coast town of California, was reached, where there was a Hudson's Bay
Company fort, which the governor desired to visit.
This point was on the Bay of San Francisco, and
the future great metropolis was soon visited. San
Francisco numbered at the time two thousand five
hundred people, and it seemed a most quiet and
unattractive spot. Not being able to land any cargo
without government authority, the Cowlitz was
compelled to pass down the coast to Monterey,
the seat of government, in order to make a
customs entry and to visit the Spanish governor,
At Monterey the governor met Francis Erma-
tinger, who, in the disguise of a Spanish caballero,
had come overland to spy out the country and give
Sir George a report upon it. On January 19th the
party succeeded in leaving Monterey, whence after
a stormy passage the vessel reached Santa Barbara.
Having been received with the highest honours
and having been entertained with every gaiety, Sir
George and his party left Santa Barbara regretfully
and sailed for the Sandwich Islands on January
26th, 1842. The voyage of two thousand three hundred miles from the Californian coast to Honolulu,
the capital of the Sandwich Islands, was a new experience. The air was close and sultry; the albatross
and other tropical birds accompanied the vessel, and
the time was wiled away with books. On February
10th the tall summit of Mauna Kea, the great volcanic peak of Hawaii, was to be seen; and sailing
past the islands, anchor was cast at the entrance
of the harbour of Honolulu, where the Cowlitz
was soon boarded by Mr. Pelly, the agent of the
Hudson's Bay Company, and Mr. Allan, a Hudson's Bay Company's officer. They were now among
homelike surroundings, for there was a considerable
English colony in Honolulu.
Sir George Simpson found in Honolulu a town
of nine thousand souls, and was comfortably housed
in a former royal palace obtained for the occasion.
IF * I
Sir George had his love of pomp gratified by the
attentions of royalty, and was honoured by King
Kamehameha II, who dined with him on board the
Cowlitz. He was also introduced to the pretty
Queen Kaluma, whose name, meaning " the rum,"
the greatest object of a Sandwich Islander's admiration, amused him. Meeting the premier and others
the traveller gained a full knowledge of the state of
matters in the Sandwich Islands.
Leaving the islands regretfully, Sir George and
his party sailed directly for Sitka, and on the
twenty-third day out, April 16th, saw New Archangel. Sir George had now spent more than a year
on his travels—three-fourths of the time on the
land and one-fourth on the ocean.
At Sitka the party was heartily welcomed by
Governor Etholine. Leaving New Archangel Sir
George passed down the coast to Stikine, where
he found a dreadful tragedy had just been enacted
in the death by shooting of John McLaughlin, jr.,
the young gentleman lately in charge of the Hudson's Bay Company's fort at that point. As this
crime had been committed by drunken Indians the
governor at once introduced strict regulations prohibiting the use of strong drink in the fur trade.
Sir George then returned to Sitka. At this time,
on account of the Russians retaining the old style
in their time reckoning, the Cowlitz changed the date
in her log from April 30th to April 18th. Impressed
with the fact that Sitka was the dirtiest place he
ever was in Sir George Simpson, having made a
treaty with Governor Etholine entirely abolishing
the use of spirituous liquors, left the New World
to sail westward on May 9th, new style.
The good vessel Alexander, Captain Kadnikoff,
was now to convey Sir George and his party; and
with the very kindest attentions of the "manly and
generous" captain, the journey was made from
Sitka, around the south coast of the peninsula of
Kamchatka in Asia to Okhotsk, on the coast of
Siberia, in forty-four days, though in former times
the journey had taken three months.
At Okhotsk the company maintained a post.
This was situated on a low point, so near the level
of the sea that it was inundated when a southerly
wind blew. Okhotsk is a village of eight hundred
souls; not a tree and hardly a blade of grass is
to be seen within miles of the town. The climate
is intensely disagreeable. The governor, after accomplishing his errand at Okhotsk, made a bargain, in which he, of course, got the worst, with
a local usurer named Jacob to take his party, in
eighteen days' time, to Yakutsk^ on the Lena,
which river they were to ascend. After meeting
many caravans and innumerable travellers, and
passing through strange experiences the party arrived at Yakutsk to be received with distinction
by the local governor Roodikoff, who entertained
the travellers with every delicacy, including the
strange beverage kumiss.  Yakutsk proved to be
a town of five thousand inhabitants, more than
half of them whites. It is the great centre of
Eastern Siberia for the fur trade, and for ivory
obtained from the tusks of the many extinct mammoths embedded in the river mud.
On July 18th Governor Simpson's party left
Yakutsk by overland journey, to avoid the difficult
navigation of the Lena, taking a britzska with five
horses, and two telegas with three each. Arrived
at Bestach the party embarked in a tolerably comfortable boat for the officers and a smaller one for
the Cossacks and servants. These boats were towed
by horses, and progress was very slow. The travellers suffered from mosquitoes, weariness, and loss
of sleep, but the food was good.
On August 8th the tedious journey was ended,
and at the landing-place carriages, sent by the
governor of Irkutsk, met the party. The record
states, "that at one stopping-place they breakfasted
on eggs, cream, and strawberries, adding to these
delicacies of the season in the centre of Asia a little
of our pemmican, from the heart of North America
—such a picnic between the two continents as
neither of them had ever seen before."
At Irkutsk a most hospitable reception met Sir
George Simpson. The local governor, M. Patneff-
sky, provided him with a handsome carriage and
four grays, and General Rupert, governor-general
of Eastern Siberia, who lived at this point, gave
him messages from the Czar. He also met the arch-
bishop of Eastern Siberia, whose hand Sir George
cordially shook, when the prelate presented it to
be kissed, the hearty governor not being aware of
the gaucherie he had committed.
Sir George's stay at Irkutsk was the occasion of
overflowing hospitality. "Though everything was
magnificent," Sir George says, " Siberian entertainments, however, are not without their little drawbacks. Before dinner all the guests drink schnaps
out of the same glass, eat caviare and herring with
the same fork, and help themselves to preserves
with the same spoon; and during dinner changes of
knives and forks are unknown." Though Irkutsk
had about twenty thousand people it seemed to be
in a state of dilapidation and decay.
Leaving Irkutsk on August 15th the overland
journey to Tobolsk, the famous stronghold of the
Cossacks, was made in twenty days, and the fine old
city, famous as the seat of the chivalrous invader
Yermac, was entered just as the sun was rising.
So rapid had been the governor's journey that they
outstripped the courier who had gone ahead of
them. Tobolsk is the centre to which the convicts
from Russia are sent. The stay of the party at
the city was short, and a rush was made to
Tiumen, the most ancient settlement of Siberia.
At this place of ten thousand souls the travellers
were entertained in a thoroughly royal maimer by
the mayor of the town.
The overland journey through the province of
Perm was uneventful. On September 17th Novgorod was reached. Here two or three hundred
thousand people from all parts of Europe and Asia
congregate at the most important fair in the world.
Hoping soon to reach the western limit of Russia
the travellers pushed with great speed through
Moscow and on to St. Petersburg.' The distance
from Okhotsk to St. Petersburg, including stoppages, had occupied ninety-one days, during which
time the party had traversed about seven thousand
Thirteen days after leaving St. Petersburg Sir
George reached London, "having," as he says in
his narrative, " with the exception of the proposed
trip to Kiachta, accomplished my journey round
the world as originally contemplated, the whole
being completed within the space of nineteen
months and twenty-six days."
PROBABLY no man shows his real thoughts
in any way more readily than in his correspondence with his friends. Governor Simpson was an
excellent correspondent, and kept the whole of his
wide-spread command in hand by letters written
promptly and frequently. He had the knack of
dealing succinctly and clearly with business matters
and then, drifting off into a page of what he calls
"chit-chat," which was very interesting and was
eagerly looked for by his correspondents.
We are to be congratulated in our study of his
life that the versatile governor wrote so many
letters. In a garret in Queen Street, Edinburgh,
the letters and papers of the late James Hargrave,
chief factor of the company and for many years
master of York Factory, were stored by his son with
trusty solicitors. York Factory was for many years
the entrepot of all the goods for Rupert's Land, and
the place of export for the furs gathered from the
Arctic solitudes. Hargrave's correspondence accordingly embraced communications from all parts of
the fur traders' territory and from almost all men
of prominence in the far West.
Large packages of Governor Simpson's letters
261 II
were docketed and left in perfect order by Chief
Factor Hargrave, who, upon retiring, treasured
these memorials of the past. The writer, through
the kindness of their custodian, from the many
hundreds of these letters, selected some thirty
written during the interesting portion of Governor
Simpson's life, beginning with 1830 and including
a number of years following.
The governor had at this time been ten years at
the helm of the company's affairs, had become acquainted with the work and with the thousands of
men under him. He was certainly master of the
situation. In a letter from Norway House in June,
1830, the governor writes that a change has taken
place in his condition, meaning that he had just
been married. Mrs. Simpson had accompanied him
to Norway House and he writes that she is to accompany him to York. His wife was a sister of
the wife of Chief Factor Finlayson, and on this account Red River Settlement was the governor's
residence for several years after his marriage. With
the zeal of a Benedict, he writes that Leblanc—
a faithful and expert workman—is to be ready to
leave York Factory with him and return to Red
River Settlement to arrange a house for the wintering of himself and his bride, and he gives orders
to his faithful man at York Factory to have his
quarters on the bay in good order for his arrival.
In the same letter, however, in which he speaks
of his new found felicity, a social shadow falls
across the view. He mentions that a leading factor
has been married, and has gone to Moose Factory.
He says to Hargrave^ " Pray soothe his woman by
any argument you can think of, and say she will
not be deserted." The meaning simply is that the
officer had been married—manage du pays—to a
native, and that when he legally married, he pensioned off the woman or had her married to some
one else. This bad practice was only too common
in certain quarters in the fur country.
Governor Simpson was a strong and sympathetic
friend. In a letter dated Red River Settlement,
December, 1831, he speaks very feelingly of the
death of his friend Mr. Richardson—John Richardson, of the firm of Forsyth, Richardson & Co.—of
Montreal. His friend had been a prominent man in
the fur trade. The governor speaks of him as " a
gentleman of the first standing and character in
Canada," and refers to the kindness and attention
which he had shown him.
Living happily in the settlement he says, " here
we are very happy and gay, but the weather has
been very changeable." He mentions the McKen-
zies and McMillans, leading fur-trading people, the
Rev. Mr. and Mrs. Jones, the pioneer clergyman
and his wife, of whom Governor Simpson was fond,
Dr. Tod, an eccentric trader, and Dr. Hambly, the
physician, "the strangest compound of skill, simplicity, selfishness, extravagance, musical taste and
want of courtesy I ever fell in with." ..." The
iM Hi
people are living on the fat of the earth ; in short,
Red River is a perfect land of Canaan as far as good
cheer goes." The governor was plainly happy in the
midst of his new-found domestic joys.
In all the governor's letters there is a shrewdness and adroitness that is very marked. He is,
indeed, somewhat given to flattery. The great object of every clerk in the service was to rise to the
position of a commissioned officer. The governor,
in March, 1832, informs Hargrave that he has prophesied at one of the annual gatherings that Hargrave would be among the first to be promoted.
He writes!, "You are a prodigious favourite with
your bourgeois." He states, however, that the suggestion to make him chief trader had been opposed
in the council. The governor promises that it will
not be long delayed, and promotion came, as we
have seen, in the following year.
The governor's interest in the people is well
shown in a letter written in December, 1832. The
crops in the Red River Settlement had been very
poor that season, owing to an unusually wet summer and very "unseasonable frosts in the early
part of the autumn." He hopes the people may,
however, have enough to eat. " You will be sorry
to leam," he says, " that Mrs. Simpson continues
in very delicate health. She joins in regards to
In 1833 the governor himself was exceedingly
unwell at Red River Settlement, and he writes
that the traders McMillan and Christie advise him
to make a trip to Canada and England. Mrs. Simpson also continued in a very poor state of health.
He comforts Hargrave by telling him that he hopes
to send him a commission from the next meeting
of partners in June at Norway House. In the same
year there was a great scarcity of the necessaries of
life throughout the country; especially was there
a great dearth of pemmican and grease. Turning
suddenly from an expression of his sympathy for
the people, the governor writes, " Sir Walter Scott
is no more ; our universally admired and respected
fellow-countryman is gone."
An example of the governor's firmness and skill
in administering reproof is seen in a letter written
from the Red River Settlement in December, 1833.
Referring to some unpleasantness between Hargrave and one of his fellow-traders, the writer states
that no doubt his correspondent will be happy and
comfortable now that the source of the discord
is removed. Then he goes on to tell of all the craft
(boats) of Red River shopkeepers being stopped
in the ice on their way to England from York
Factory. The crews of Logan's and Sinclair's had
managed to reach Norway House. McDermot's
people had not in December been heard from. He
then states that the "trippers" blamed Hargrave
for delaying them so long at York. The governor
says, however, that he and Mr. Christie upheld his
officer at the Factory; but privately he states his
fear that Hargrave in his anxiety to dispatch the
Prince George, the company's ship, on her journey
through Hudson Bay to England, had delayed the
brigades five or six days.
In the same letter Governor Simpson shows the
part he took in religious affairs. The missionaries of
the Church of England thus far held the whole
ground among the Highland settlers of Red River.
The people were somewhat irritated. While the
governor sympathized to a certain extent with his
fellow-countrymen in their desires, yet he feared
dissension, and preferred matters to remain in their
existing condition. He says, | have got into the
new church (St. John's), which is really a splendid
edifice for the Red River people." He says they are
now less clamorous about a Gaelic minister. He
likewise has a fling at his complaining fellow-countrymen, saying that they had wished to have their
private stills, and now | about whiskey they say not
one word, that rum is so cheap, and good strong
' heavy-wet' in general use."
Among his chit-chat in May, 1835, he speaks of
a promising Scottish officer having gone through
his work manfully and being an efficient officer,
"which is a feather in his cap." Ballenden afterwards became master of Fort Garry.
In the year 1836 there are many letters.   The
governor was on the eve of going to England, and
after the council at Norway House writes a letter
every other day to Hargrave. In most generous
terms he instructs Hargrave to be attentive to
Captain Carey and his family. The captain was the
new head of the company's experimental farm at
Red River Settlement. Extra allowances were to
be made for the newcomers, and for three officers
at Red River Settlement, as well as greater liberality
to be shown to all the gentlemen and clerks.
In another letter of the same month the governor
urges that the several brigades should be got off
as early as possible, in order that they mighti all
reach' their destinations before the setting in of the
ice. They were to leave in the following order:
Saskatchewan, Columbia, Lac la Pluie (Rainy
Lake), Sinclair, and McKenzie (Red River).
The governor has been charged with conniving
to degrade the Indians and to prevent the whites
obtaining their rights. One evil, however, he continued strongly to oppose, that was the use of
strong drink, at least in any general way. We have
already seen how on the Pacific coast he entered
into a compact with the Russian governor to completely do away with strong drink among the
Indians of the coast.
Writing July 6th from Norway House, he says
to Hargrave: "Has the allowance of wine regulated
by fixed system succeeded at York ? I do not at all
see that it is necessary to introduce evening brandy-
and-water parties for the convenience of the captains. On the contrary I should be glad that it was
broken off; let them take their 'whack' at the
dinner table, like other people. When spoken to in
England about heavy drinking on shipboard, they
said in their defence that it is the custom of the
service at the Factories."
In this letter the governor's love for curiosities
and display may be seen. He instructs Hargrave
to send to him at London the calumet (red pipe)
to be handed to him by Trader Ross; also a pair
of leather shoes and Indian scalps. He wishes to
have the trader send him stuffed birds, well made
snowshoes, or anything else curious at the Factories. These objects he showed with great pleasure
to the numerous friends whom he gathered around
him in the world's metropolis.
Sometimes the governor held a very strong
opinion, favourable or otherwise, of certain of his
subordinates. Of John Tod, an irrepressible fellow-
countryman of his own, he had no good opinion.
In 1823 an historian has described with great liveliness Governor Simpson summoning Tod and in
bland terms telling him the council had been
pleased to send him to New Caledonia, which it is
well known was regarded as the Siberia of the fur-
traders. The imperturbable doctor was highly pleased
and said to the governor that that was the place
where he most wished to go. In a letter of 1836 to
Hargrave occurs the following: "John Tod has
been a most useless and troublesome man of late.
He goes home with his wife this summer. He requires more luxury and attention, I understand, than
any governor of Rupert's Land would be indulged
with; let him have all that is fit and proper, out
not an iota more."
On the other hand the letter says : " If anything
seems to you that may be useful to Finlayson at
Ungava let it be forwarded. He will have no further supplies till autumn 1838, and perhaps not
then. It has been decided to send another man to
An interesting group of letters lies before me
dated June, 1849. One of these is a letter from Sir
George Simpson to Hargrave at York Factory. It
is written from Norway House. With it is a letter,
or copy of a letter, from Hargrave to Sir George
and within this a list of names. The correspondence
shows the inner history of how the appointments
to high offices were made in Sir George's time.
Hargrave had now become a chief factor. He is
asked to select such men as he may regard most
fit in the company's service for appointment to
commissions at the meeting of the following year.
This was presumably done by every officer, and
then from the lists suggested; the appointments
were made.
Hargrave suggested two names for chief factor.
These were John Rae, the Arctic explorer, and
William Sinclair, an old and respected trader. By
contemporary fists we find that these two were appointed, and were the only ones appointed to the
chief factorship in 1850, showing how much Har-
grave's opinion was valued. He suggested the names
of six clerks for the chief traderships.
In the year 1849 the first bishop of Rupert's
Land, Bishop Anderson, was appointed, and came
out from England in a company's ship by way of
York Factory, and thence to Fort Garry. It is
amusing to find in the postscript to this letter the
evidence that Sir George desired to have his kingdom in proper order for the inspection of the prelate. He says to Hargrave: " I shall be up here,
God willing, about June 10th next. Pray take care
that there be no drunken scenes at York at any
time, more especially when the bishop passes or
during the visits of missionaries or strangers, and do
not let brigades start on Sundays."
THE important fact is to be borne in mind that
the Hudson's Bay Company's charter covered
only Rupert's Land, Le., the territory whose waters
flow into Hudson Bay. That left the Arctic slope
and the Pacific slope, with Vancouver Island, outside their control. For this vast excluded portion of
north-west British America the company held permission to trade secured from the imperial parliament. The license was given for twenty-one years.
Twice dining Governor Simpson's rule this license
came up for renewal. The disturbed state of Canada
in 1838 led to this being secured by the company
with little opposition or criticism.
But in the interval between 1838 and 1859 there
had been a complete change. In Red River Settlement itself great unrest had prevailed from 1847
onward. The attention of Canada, now pacified and
prosperous, had also been drawn to the fertile plains
of the North-West. Accordingly a determined opposition to the granting of the license arose, and
embodied itself in the appointment of a powerful
committee of the imperial House of Commons
which met in 1857.
This committee became famous.    The   whole
economy of the Hudson's Bay Company was discussed. The committee held eighteen meetings,
examined at length twenty-nine witnesses, and
thoroughly sifted the evidence. The personnel oi the
committee was brilliant. The Hon. Henry Labou-
chere, secretary of state, was chairman. Mr. Roebuck and Mr. Gladstone were inquiring and aggressive ; Lord Stanley and Earl Russell gave due attention to the proceedings ; and Edward Ellice, the
old peacemaker of the companies, was combined
witness and advocate for the company. Old explorers and pioneers such as John Ross, Dr. Rae,
Colonel Lefroy, Sir John Richardson, Colonel
Crofton, Bishop Anderson, Colonel Caldwell, and
Dr. King gave information.
From time to time, beginning in February and
ending in July, the committee met and gathered a
vast mass of evidence, making four hundred folio
pages of printed matter. It is a storehouse of valuable material about the Hudson's Bay Company.
As was proper and necessary, Sir George Simpson
was summoned and gave important evidence. He
was asked fourteen hundred and twenty-three questions, and his testimony covers forty-four pages of
the voluminous report. Sir George was certainly
subjected to a severe attack by Mr. Gladstone,
Mr. Roebuck, and Mr. Grogan. To say that he
came through the ordeal without a scratch would
not be true. He was followed with a determined
persistence, and his defence of the great monopoly
was only partially successful. He found out the
full meaning of Job's desire that his adversary
had written a book, for the " Journey Round the
World" was his hardest task to defend. With today's knowledge of the golden wheatfields of Manitoba, it seems hard to understand his evidence,
though it must be said that the large sums of
money sunk by the Hudson's Bay Company in its
fruitless endeavours to advance agriculture in the
Red River Settlement may have influenced his
pessimistic testimony as to the capabilities of the
While obtaining this enormous mass of evidence, every phase of Rupert's Land was brought
out, and incidentally the main features of the thirty-
seven years in which Governor Simpson had held
sway. The theory of the aggressive element of the
committee was that many parts of Rupert's Land,
especially the Red River Settlement, were suitable
for settlement, and their contention implied that it
was simply greed and selfishness that led to the
Hudson's Bay Company holding so firmly to its
One line of investigation followed was to show
that the company had a monopoly and exercised
it. It was maintained that the people of Red River
Settlement were desirous of exporting their surplus,
products, and the changes were rung and the case
was cited of William Sinclair and Andrew McDer-
mot, leading merchants,  who had been  refused
transport in their export of tallow. Sir George
strenuously maintained that this was simply because the ship accommodation was not sufficient,
and that part of the company's goods as well had
to be left behind. It came out, however, that Sinclair was suspected of fur-trading, a point on which
the company always held a strong position. Much
was made of the fact that there was no market
for more than a paltry eight thousand bushels of
wheatj which were taken by the company. To this
Sir George's repeated answer was that the company could not obtain all the wheat supply required, and had at times even to import bread-
stuffs for its own use.
Efforts were also made to prove that the Hudson's Bay Company did not wish settlers to take up
the land, that they would only give a lease, and that
obstacles were thrown in the way of settlement. In
answering this charge Sir George was probably
successful. He reiterated that they had no power
to prevent squatters taking their lands, and that
the majority of the settlers were squatters, not. one
of whom had been dislodged from his holding.
It was pointed out that in 1844 a form of deed
with tyrannical provisions was introduced, but it
was replied that it had been little used. The form
of deed required four things of the settler: (1)
That he would not deal in furs; (2) That he would
neither distribute nor import spirituous liquors; (3)
That he would resist a foreign invasion ; (4) That
he would promote the religious institutions of the
settlement. Pressed for a satisfactory explanation
Sir George maintained that the council of Assiniboia had exceeded its powers in this matter.
As to the charge that a regulation had been
adopted by which letters would not be sent out
from the Fort Garry post-office for those who had
been suspected of participation in the fur trade,
Sir George denied any knowledge of the matter,
although from the noise made about the affair it
is hard to believe the governor could have failed
to hear of it.
The battle royal was fought, however, on the
capacities of the country to support a large population. Sir George on this point took a surprisingly
firm, and even defiant attitude. Categorically asked
whether a province could not be laid out which
would give a livelihood to a large body of settlers,
Sir George with decision replied: " I do not think
settlers would go to the Red River from the United
States or anywhere else for the purpose of settlement."
It was with delicious irony that his tormentor
then read to Sir George the description from his
own I Journey Round the World " of the country
lying between Red River and the Rocky Mountains : | Beautiful country, lofty hills, long valley,
sylvan lakes, bright green, uninterrupted profusion
of roses and bluebells, softest vales, panorama of
hanging copses," and asked him if he had changed
his mind. The only reply made by the governor was,
"Yes, there were a great many flowering shrubs."
At another time Sir George was maintaining that
the country could not support a population on account of the " poverty of the soil," that in the district spoken of the earth was frozen the year round,
that any time in summer " frozen earth " could be
reached by digging a foot and a half into the soil;
then he maintained that the want of fuel would
make settlement impossible, that the locusts would
devour every green thing, and that floods were so
prevalent that settlers would be driven out. " I have
myself," said the governor, " paddled over the roofs
of some of the houses in my canoe."
With a scathing tone his tormentor again read
from the fatal book, speaking of Rainy River:
" Nor are the banks less favourable to agriculture
than the waters themselves to navigation, resembling in some measure those of the Thames near
Richmond. From the very brink of the river there
rises a gentle slope of green sward, crowned in many
places with a plentiful growth of birch, poplar,
beech, elm, and oak. Is it too much for the eye of
philanthropy to discern, through the vista of
futurity, this noble stream, connecting as it does
the fertile shores of two spacious lakes, with crowded steamboats on its bosom and populous towns on
its borders ?"
Sir George could not extricate himself, but it is
only fair that we should remember that his versatile
editor, Recorder Thom, had made up his book, and
it was no doubt the eloquence and imagination of
the editor which was responsible for these highly-
coloured and poetic flights. The intensity of the
situation was all the greater, because Sir George
could not disown the book or make known its
Sir George's testimony as regards the difficulties
attending the practice of agriculture might be
summed up in the expression which he used in
regard to the approach to the country through
British soil, namely: " That the difficulties were
insuperable unless the Bank of England were expended on it." But his answer as to the treatment
of the Indians by the company, the degree of law
and order maintained by the company, and the
general encouragement given to the missionaries in
their religious and educational work, was on the
whole very satisfactory.
Whatever criticisms may have been made as to
the Indians he was able to show that a benevolent
and just policy had always been employed towards
them. The charges as to starvation of the natives
on the shores of Labrador were not fastened on
the company; and it was made clear that there
was no title a North-West Indian was prouder to
carry than that of an employ^ or customer of the
Hudson's Bay Company.
Sir George was able to show that in many cases
missionaries had been given free passage to the
il hi
country in the company's ships and boats, that a
considerable sum of money was spent annually in
chaplaincies, and in supporting schools, while nothing more was taken from the pockets of the people
than a four per cent, tariff on imports, which tax
bore also upon the company, while life and property were surprisingly safe. Much to the astonishment of his questioners, Sir George was able to
point to the fact that only nineteen capital crimes
had been committed over the whole vast territory
during the thirty-seven years of his governorship.
This was all the more remarkable as the small
population of only eight thousand souls in Red
River Settlement made it difficult to carry on
government, and to this was added a certain restlessness which the governor described as " arising from the love of mischief-making on the part
of some of our second rate half-gentry."
Thanks to this inquiry many things were made
plain: the whole financial system, the plan of
management, the appointment of officers, the simple state of society in Red River Settlement, and
the provision for the support of religious institutions
arising from the Leith bequest and the gift of the
The committee did its work well, and was compelled to decide in opposition to the governor's
contentions. Those who have lived to see Rupert's
Land at the beginning of the twentieth century,
and have passed by its vast wheatfields and com-
fortable homes, will realize how far astray he was,
and at the same time reflect on how utterly untrustworthy may be our honest judgments.
The committee, whose valuable report was cordially adopted by the House of Commons, recommended that it is § important to meet the just and
reasonable wishes of Canada to assume such territory as may be useful for settlement; that the districts of the Red River and the Saskatchewan seem
the most available; and that for the order and good
government of the country arrangements should be
made for their cession to Canada." It was also
agreed that those regions where settlement was impossible should be left to the exclusive control of
the Hudson's Bay Company for the fur trade.
The committee recommended that Vancouver
Island should be made independent of the company, and also that the mainland territory of British
Columbia should be united with the island.
Some three or four years after the eventful sittings
of this committee, and while the old regime still
held sway, the veteran emperor of the traders died.
He had been much excited over the visit of the
Prince of Wales to Canada. This over, he had proceeded on his trip to Red River as usual. It is said
that he reached Sault Ste. Marie, but was too ill to
proceed farther. He returned to Lachine, and there,
after a short illness at his home, passed away in
Though such writers as McLean, who had been
279 w
111 111
in the company's service and had a grievance, do not
hesitate to say that his " was an authority combining the despotism of military rule with the strict
surveillance and mean parsimony of the avaricious
trader," in summing up his life the writer may say :
Governor Simpson lifted the fur trade out of the
depth into which it had fallen, harmonized the hostile elements of the two companies and made them
one brotherhood, reduced order out of chaos in the
interior, helped various expeditions for the exploration of Rupert's Land, and on the whole was a
beneficent ruler. His management of the financial
concerns of the Hudson's Bay Company was such
as to gain him the approbation of his own country
and of the whole financial world.
THE infant life of Canada was nourished by the
fur traders. The new impulse given to France
in the last year of the sixteenth century by Chau-
vin's charter to trade for furs held within it untold
possibilities for the development of Canada. French
gentlemen and soldiers came forth to the New
World seeking excitement in the western wilds,
and hoping also to mend their broken fortunes.
There were scores of such at Quebec and Montreal,
but especially at Three Rivers on the St. Lawrence.
Nicolet led the way to the fur country; Joliet
gave up the church for furs; Duluth was a freebooter, and the charge against him was that he
systematically broke the king's ordinance as to the
fur trade ; La Salle sent the first vessel—the Griffin—laden with furs down the lakes, where she was
lost; the iron-handed Tonty deserted the whites
and threw in his lot with the Indians as a fur trafficker; and La Verendrye, one of the greatest of the
early Frenchmen charged with making great wealth
by the fur trade, says in his heart-broken reply to
his persecutors: "If more than 40,000 livres of
debt which I have on my shoulders are an advantage, then I can flatter myself that I am very rich."
281 m
Shortly after French Canada became British, it
was seen that so lucrative a traffic as that in pelts
should not be given up. Curry, Finlay and Henry,
sen., pluckily pushed their way beyond Lake
Superior in search of wealth, and found it. The
Montreal merchants made the trade up the lakes
the foundation of Montreal's commercial supremacy in Canada; and the North-West Company,
which they founded, only did what the great English company had been doing with their motto,
" Pro pelle cutem" for a hundred years on the
shores of Hudson Bay.
It is evident to the most casual observer that the
fur trade was an important element in the building
up of Canada, not only in wealth but also in some
of our higher national characteristics. The coureurs
de bois and the canoemen stood for much in the
days of our infancy as a new nation.
While we delight to see the sonorous Indian
words chosen as the names for our New World
rivers and lakes, counties and towns, yet we
rejoice too that our pioneers are thus commemorated. The names of all the French pioneers
mentioned are to be found fastened on the region
which they explored. Fraser, Thompson, Stuart,
Quesnel, Douglas, Finlayson, and Dease have
retained their hold even in the face of such
musical terms as Chipewyan, Metlakahtla, Assiniboine, and Muskegon. Winnipegosis and Manitoba forts have borne the names of our three traders,
Mackenzie, Lord Selkirk, and Simpson, and Fort
Alexandria also commemorates the first of these.
Rivers and islands, counties, towns, mountains
and vast regions of territory are all known by the
names of the trio whose fortunes we have been
The great explorer leads the way for the development of his country, stimulates inquiry as to the
resources of the land he finds, and awakens the desire in other breasts to follow if not excel him in his
discoveries. The map maker, the mineral prospector, the lumberer, and the tourist are all dependent
on him as their guide. What Columbus is to the
New World as a whole, the explorer is to the
special field he discovers, and his fame, if not
so great, must yet be akin to that of the
man who ploughed the first furrow across the
The fur trader is also the pioneer of settlement.
It is quite true that there is an antagonism between
the fur trader and the settler. The fur trader seeks
to keep the beaver, the mink, and the fox alive that
he may take toll of them year after year ; when the
settler comes the beaver dam is a thing of the past,
and the fox flees far away to his forest lair. Yet inasmuch as the settler is permanent, and the trader
transient, the meeting of the two has the inevitable
result of driving off the trader. This cannot be
helped, it is the trader's misfortune; he must find
"fresh woods and pastures new," and then when
his fur-trading days are done he must resort to the
life of the settler and spend the sunset of his days
in village or clearance.
It was the old Hudson's Bay Company led by
Lord Selkirk that introduced the Highland settlers
on Red River, and decreed that Fort Garry
should be the centre around which gathered the
Red River Settlement, which in time became
the city of Winnipeg. Fort Victoria on Vancouver
Island, chosen by Trader James Douglas as the
depot of the fur trade, has become the capital
of British Columbia and the gem of the Pacific
coast. All over Rupert's Land the places chosen
by the fur traders have become the centres where
has grown up the trade of to-day. Portage la
Prairie was a fort, so was Brandon, so was Qu'Ap-
pelle, so was Edmonton, so was. Fort William, and
many others. In hundreds of cities on the American continent the old fur traders' fort was the first
post driven down to mark the establishment of the
commerce of the future day.
Sir George Simpson fought a losing battle when
he sought to keep a Chinese wall round his fur
preserve. It was impossible to maintain this splendid isolation. Prejudice, misrepresentation, charter
rights, and rocky barriers could not stop the inevitable movement. The sleepy fur trader in his dream
hears approaching the sound of the bee—" a more
adventurous colonist than man"—and mutters in
his sleep:—
-=- I
" I listen long
To his domestic hum, and I think I hear
The sound of that advancing multitude
Which soon shall fill these deserts."
It must be so 1
No country was ever in the position to need the
fur trade in its early history as much as old Canada. Early Canada was covered with heavy forests.
The St. Lawrence, its chief artery, was difficult to
navigate. Its first colonists were all poor—fleeing
away from the despotic persecution of victorious
American revolutionists, leaving everything behind
them, or crossing the Atlantic because of hard
financial conditions in the motherland. Moreover,
Canada is northern and nature is not so prolific
as she is further south. Hence long years elapsed
before poverty was driven out, and peaceful plenty
Now the northerly situation of Canada was very
favourable for the production of fur-bearing animals.
Furs are very valuable, and are so fight and may be
contained in such small space that the trapper may
carry a fortune in one single pack upon his back.
This made trade possible over thousands of miles to
the interior, through the agency of the birch-bark
canoe, which the redman so valued as to call it the
gift of the manitou. So while fifty years were passing in Little York (Toronto), the capital of Upper
Canada, with the most painful and slow steps of
improvement, Montreal was the mart of a most
valuable trade. The fur-trading merchants became
V if
ill Hi!
nabobs. Forsyth, Richardson, McTavish, Frobisher
and many others became wealthy, bought seigniories, became prominent figures in public life,
were looked up to as their natural leaders by their
French-Canadian voyageurs, and retired from business to live in their palatial abodes—the | lords of
the north "—or to retire as did Sir Alexander Mackenzie and others to the motherland and spend
their remaining days as country gentlemen.
The same thing has continued from the earliest
days till now. Not only can a man of fair education,
who rises with reasonable rapidity in his forty years
or more of service for the company, have at the end
of his time say from six to eight thousand pounds
sterling, but clerks, post-masters, and labouring-
men may all leave the service with proportionate
savings. True the life may be long, hard, and unattractive, but expenses are small and savings large.
The Red River Settlement grew to twelve thousand people in 1870, five-sixths of its people having
come through the channel of the fur trade.
No doubt in the present condition of Canada the
fur trade does not occupy so important a place. The
farmer tends to overtake the hunter in fortune, just
as the settler must in time drive out the trader. But
the very greatest service was rendered the country by
the fur traders in early Canada supplying a class of
capitalists who spent their money in giving employment to others, organized first lines of transport by
boat, filled the sea with their sailing vessels to carry
freight and passengers, and afterwards introduced
steamships to thread the rivers, cross the lakes and
even the Atlantic Ocean.
Montreal became a centre for wholesale trade.
Goods could be supplied to the settlers in Western
Canada; then when transport of a better kind was
needed, the capital and energy of Montreal merchants became the basis for building lines of railway, and for giving the farmer with his products
access to the great markets of the world. The chain
of connection is complete in Canada between the
fur trader's pioneer work and the present state of
, Canadian trade and commerce.
The fur trade was also a school for the development of such high moral qualities as courage and
,tact. In no other circumstances does so much depend upon the personal qualities of the man. The
!fur trade is carried on in the solitudes, far from
| organized society. The dealings are with savages
| who are kept down by no visible authority, who
are ignorant and may be appealed to by greed,
jealousy, or superstition to turn against the trader
and injure him. Thus it was often dangerous to go
far from the base of supplies and venture almost
single-handed among untutored tribes.
The experiences of the fur companies in such
circumstances have been very remarkable. At first
there may have been violence done by the natives
to the traders. The brothers Frobisher on their first
visits to Rainy Lake were robbed, the ship Ton-
quin on the Pacific coast was attacked and many
employe's killed, massacres of the traders took place
at Fort St John and Kamloops in British Colum-
bia, and Chief Factor Campbell was attacked in his
occupation of the head waters of the Stikine and
on the Upper Yukon. Yet it is marvellous that
for more than two centuries, or including the French
regime, three centuries, the traders have freely
mingled with the savage tribes and have been
objects of envy from their possession of valuable
goods, but have succeeded by sturdiness and good
management in getting control of the wildest
Now this was chiefly accomplished by the good
character of the traders. The men of the Hudson's
Bay Company especially, but to a certain extent
also all the fur traders of British America have
been men of probity and fairness. Just and honest
treatment of an Indian makes him your friend. The
terrible scenes of bloodshed enacted by the Indians
among the Americans in the Western States can, in
almost every instance, be traced to dishonesty and
wrong on the part of the traders and Indian agents
of that country. British fur companies have been,
on the whole, dominated by a wise desire to retain
the confidence of the Indian, and have proved the
statement true that Britain alone has shown an
ability to deal justly with and to gain the confidence of inferior races.
In reaching this end great determination, watch-
fulness, and caution are developed in the trader.
He must be firm, must never let an Indian imagine
he can master him, and many a time must be ready
to use the | knock-down " argument in the case of
the impudent or the intractable. Physically and
mentally the successful trader requires to be a man
among men. Thus the fur trade has cultivated a
manliness, straightforwardness, and decision of
character which has proved a heritage of greatest
value to the Canadian people.
Wherever the Hudson's Bay Company fort is established there flies the Union Jack. On Sundays
and holidays it was always unfurled, and the lesson
that there was something higher than trade was
thereby taught, for on those days traffic ceased.
The companies were always on the side of law and
order. The loyal sentiment was their only way of
governing the Indians, and it became a part of
their settled policy to | honour the king." In the
War of the Revolution the traders along the frontier
were true to Britain, and the celebrated capture of
Michilimackinac in 1812 was accomplished by a
British force of less than two hundred men—one
hundred and sixty of them Nor'-Wester voyageurs
under Captain Roberts. In the struggle of the
Canadian rebellion we have seen that from Governor Simpson down all the fur traders were against
rebellion and in favour of law.
Undoubtedly hand-in-hand with the United Empire Loyalists, the Nor'-Wester influence did much
to keep Canada true to British institutions, while
the presence of the Hudson's Bay Company and
the Selkirk colony in Rupert's Land, and the traders led by Chief Factor James Douglas on the
coast, were the means of preserving to the British
Crown the greater Canada which was an object of
desire for half a century to the Americans. The
traders did their full share in maintaining and perpetuating the loyalty which to-day is so strong a
sentiment in the breasts of Canadians.
290 INDEX Ilfl 111
Anderson, Bishop, the first bishop
of Rupert's Land, 270, 272
Assiniboia, the council of, 223,244;
issues a tyrannical deed of settlement, 274-5
Assiniboine River, 92, 104, 158,
170, 180, 251
Astor Fur Company, 106
Athabaska district, apportioned to
John Ross, 14; Peter Pond disturbs its peace, 15; Roderick
McKenzie opens up new ground
and builds a new headquarters
there, 23-4
Athabaska Lake, 5, 19, 21, 24, 25,
33, 47, 50, 55, 56, 57, 77, 81, 215
Athabaska or Elk River (Riviere a
la Biche) 21, 23, 25
Athapapuskow, Lake, 3, 31
Baldoon,   Lord   Selkirk's   settlement of, 133
Bastonnais, see Pangman, Peter
Bathurst, Lord, 186, 195, 212
Beaver, the, 253
Beaver Club, the, of Montreal, 139,
Belboullay  Toe   or   White Man's
Lake, 47, 51
Bella Coolla River, 84
"Bensins," (Johnstone) 85, 87
Bernadotte, Bang of Sweden, pays
a tribute to Mackenzie, 94-7
Bird, James, a member of the council of Assiniboia, 223
Boti-Brules (half-breeds) or Metis,
167, 178, 179,181,183, 184, 185,
Bourke, Father, 152
Boyer, Trader, builds a fort and
opens the fur trade on Peace
River, 19, 61
Brandon, 158, 180,284
Buckinghamshire, Lord, colonial
secretary, 128
Burns, Robert, extemporizes the
" Selkirk Grace," 117 ; his poem
concerning Lord Daer, 117
Cameron Dpnoan, of the North-
West Company, 172 ; his plan of
oily persuasion,  173; with   the
• deserters proceeds to Upper Canada, 174; seized as a reprisal for
the arrest of Miles Macdonell,
but released again, 178, 190 ; arrested and taken to York Factory,
from thence to England, 178
Campbell, Robert, ascends the
Liard River, and discovers the
Upper Yukon, 111, 228, 288
Charles, George, sent out by the
Hudson's Bay Company to assist
in exploration, 56
Christie Alexander, a chief factor of
the Hudson's Bay Company and
governor of Assiniboia, 222, 223,
246, 265
Churchill River, see English River
Cochrane, Rev. William, laid the
foundations of the Church of
England in Rupert's Land, 226-7
Colonists, on Prince Edward Island,
129-32, 149 ; in the townships of
Dover and Chatham, 133; in
Moulton, 134; the advantages
offered to, 149 ; embark upon the
Edward and Anne, 151; settle for
the winter at the "Nelson Encampment," 153; start for the
Red River, 155, 156 ; gather
about the forks of the Red and
Assiniboine rivers, 158 ; a second
lot starts for the Red River Settlement, 159; about twenty reach
the settlement, 159; a third party
arrives, 162-3; about three
quarters of, leave the settlement
under Nor'-Wester influence and
settle in western Ontario, the
others flee from the half-breeds
to Jack River, 163 ; their pitiable
condition at Jack River, 164; one
hundred more sent out to replace
the deserters, 164; their education and religion cared for, 166 ;
a number leave with Cameron for
Upper Canada, the remainder
ordered to leave the district, 174 ;
attacked by Alexander Macdonell
and Grant, 175, 180-2 ; Lord
Selkirk demands the release of,
189; gathered together to meet
Lord Selkirk, 191-2
Coltman, W. B., appointed commissioner to investigate the
trouble 'between the two companies, 195 ; reaches the shores of
Lake   Winnipeg,   195;   recom-1
mends that the legal charges laid I
against  Lord   Selkirk   be withdrawn, 196; returns to Quebec,
196; a satisfactory report of his
work, 196
Columbia River, 88, 106, 239
Colville, Andrew, 215, 250
Connolly, William, chief factor, j
Cook, Captain, 51, 56, 84
Cook, M. W. H., the governor of i
York Factory, 153, 154, 155
Copper Mine River, discovered by
Samuel Hearne, 3, 31
Coureurs de bois, 14, 27, 282
Cowlitz, the, 254, 255, 256
Curry, Thomas, a pioneer fur trader
and explorer, 3, 282
Daer, Lord, elder brother of Lord
Selkirk, 117; his death, 118
Dease, Peter Warren, chief factor,
with Thomas Simpson explores
the Arctic coast, 224-5, 244
De Meurons, the, sent out as military settlers by Lord Selkirk,
187, 190, 191, 197
Douglas, Dunbar, fourth Earl of
Selkirk, 116
Douglas, Thomas, fifth Earl of Selkirk, Baron Daer and Short-
cleugh, see Selkirk, Earl of
Douglas, Sir Archibald, 116
Douglas, Sir James, joins the North-
West Company as a lad, 225;
called to the council of Assiniboia, 225; at Fort St. James, 225,
238 ;   marries   Nellie Connolly, INDEX
224, 225 ; made chief factor, 226 ;
becomes governor of Vancouver
Island, 226; is knighted, 226;
continues governor of the island
as well as the mainland of British
Columbia, 226 ; meets Sir George
Simpson, 253
Douglas, Sir William, 116
Duke of Kent, the, 93, 98
Durham,   Lord,   governor-general
and    high   commissioner   after
the rebellion of 1837, 243, 245
Eddystone, the, 150, 152
Edmonton House, 6, 236, 252
Edward and Anne, the, 150, 151
Elk or Athabaska River, 21, 23, 25
Ellice, Edward, the peacemaker,
210; advocates the union of the
Hudson's Bay and North-West
Companies, 211; his opinion of
McLaughlin, 220; witness and
advocate for the Hudson's Bay
Company at the investigation, 272
"Emporium of the North," (Fort
Chipewyan) 25
"English chief," a weU-known
Chipewyan leader, 18; j acts as
Mackenzie's guide, 32; induces
: the Indians to meet Mackenzie,
37 ; a feeling of distrust between
Mackenzie and, 45, 48 ; becomes
restless and moody, 48; guides
Leroux to the Beaver Indians, 49
English or Churchill River, 3, 4,
Etholine, Russian governor, 253,
256, 257
Family Compact, the, 200, 242
Faries, Hugh, 108
Fidler, Peter, 192
Finlay, James, pioneer fur trader
and explorer, 3, 282
Finlay, James, jr., 14; his fort on
Peace River, 62; explores the
branches of the Peace River, 111
Finlayson, Duncan, chief factor and
governor of Assiniboia, 225, 262
Fond du Lac, 11,188
Forsyth, Richardson & Co., 92, 263
Fort Alexandria, 238, 283
Fort Chipewyan, on Lake Athabaska, built by Roderick McKenzie,
24, 25; its library, 26; Alexander Mackenzie embarks at, on
his trip to the Arctic Sea, 32';
returns to, 50 ; references 53,89,
Fort Churchill, 2, 4, 152, 155,162
Fort Cumberland, built by Hearne
(1774) 4, 236
Fort Daer, 115, 161, 178, 179
Fort Douglas, 177, 178, 179, 180,
182, 186, 191
Fort Garry, 246, 247, 251, 284
Fort Gibraltar, 99, 158, 174 ; captured by Colin Robertson, 178
Fort Providence, 49
Fort St. James, 224, 237
Fort Vancouver, 232, 239, 253
Fort William, named after the Hon.
William McGillivray, 13, 100,
107, 172, 179, 188, 251, 284
Franklin, Sir John, the explorer,
51, 228
Fraser,   Simon,   employed by the
North-West Company to explore
the district  of New Caledonia,
106,107,108; his notable voyage
295 lltt
down the Tacouche Tesse or
Fraser River, 108-10, 221-2;
arrested by Lord Selkirk, 189
Fraser (Tacouche Tesse or Nechaco)
River, 77, 79, 108, 110, 221, 238
Frobisher brothers, (Thomas and
Joseph) build a fort on Sturgeon
Lake, 4 ; build forts in the region
of Lake Athabaska, 5 ; leaders of
the fur trade, 10
Gentleman's Magazine, gives a sketch
of Lord Selkirk's life, 204-6
Grand Portage, the Mecca of the
fur traders, 12-13; brigades
start for, 16; Mackenzie goes to,
53, 89; the annual meeting at,
92 ; references, 105, 106, 138
Grant, Cuthbert, a shareholder in
the  North-West Company,  68
trades in the centre country, 58
leader   of the half-breeds, 174
attacks  the   colonists   at   Fort
Douglas, 180-2
Great Bear Lake, 24, 38, 39, 47,
Great Slave Lake, 3,18, 24, 33, 36,
48, 54, 216
Gregory, John, unites with A. N.
McLeod to fight the monopolists
led by McTavish, 10,11; a shareholder in the North-West Company, 58
Hargrave, James, in charge of
York   Factory,   226;   appointed
- chief trader and later chief factor, 227,264; receives many letters from Governor Simpson, 261-
70;   blamed   for   delaying   the
brigades, 265-6
Hearne, Samuel, sent by the Hudson's Bay Company to explore the
interior, 3 ; on his third journey
discovers the Copper Mine Raver
and reaches the Arctic Sea, 3, 31;
builds Fort Cumberland, 4
Helmsdale, 125,164, 177, 192
Henry, sen., Alexander, a pioneer
fur trader and explorer, 3, 282
" Highland Clearances," 119,130
House of Commons, a powerful
committee of, investigates the
affairs of the Hudson's Bay Company, and opposes the license
giving it sole control of the Arctic and Pacific slopes and Vancouver Island, 271-9; its members, 272; the results of the
investigation, 279
Hudson Bay, 2, 3, 4, 66, 99, 162
Hudson's Bay Company, the, during its first century, 1; a movement planned to oppose its trade,
3; sends Samuel Hearne to
explore the interior, 3; enters
into conflict with the Frobisher
brothers and builds famous forts
and trading-posts in the Assiniboine and Red River country, 5-
6 ; its policy with the Indians, 51;
sends out George Charles to assist
in exploration, 56; sends out
Philip Turner as astronomer, 56;
refuses Thompson's request for
further exploration, 103; the
opinion of five English lawyers as
to the legal basis of its title, 143-
4;    its   important    meeting of
May 30th, 1811, 146; becomes
more aggressive, 177; its union
with the North-West Company
advocated, 211; provisions of the
agreement, 212—13; the Act
which accomplished the union,
213-14; relieves Lord Selkirk's
heirs of the responsibility of maintaining the colony, 222; gives
Assiniboia a semblance of representative government, 223; sends
Dease and Simpson to explore the
Arctic coast, 224-5 ; allows certain grants to the clergy, 224,247,
277-8 ; sides with the government in the rebellion of 1837,
242 ; its charter, 271; its license
to trade on the Arctic and Pacific
slopes and Vancouver Island, 271;
opposition to this license, 271;
- the investigation of its rights by
a committee of the House of Commons, 271-9
Indians, Beaver, 49, 62; Black-
foot, 252; Blood, 252; Chipe-
wyans or Tinnes, 2, 36, 81; De-
gutbeeDinees or Quarrellers, 39 ;
Dog-Rib, 38, 39; Eskimos, 2,
39, 46, 47 ; Hare, 39 ; Kinistin-
eaux or Crees, 2, 62, 73; Ojib-
way, 192 ; Piegan, 252; Sarcee,
252 ; Saulteaux, 192 ; Slave, 38 ;
Yellow Knife, 36, 54
Itasca Lake, 105
Jack River, 163, 164, 176, 188
''Journey Round the World," by
Sir George Simpson, 249-60, 273,
275, 276
Kaministiquia   River,   100,   188,
190, 251
Keith, George, chief factor, 223
Keith, James, chief factor, 223
" Kitche Okema," (Mackenzie) 32,
" Kitche Okema," (Simpson) 234
Lachine, 137, 279
La Grande Riviere, 50
Lake of the Hills, (or Athabaska)
Lake of the Woods, 217, 251
Lake Winnipeg House, 104
Landry, Joseph, 33, 67
La Verendrye, French explorer, 3,
40, 104, 281
Lefroy, Lieutenant Henry, spends
a winter at Fort Chipewyan, 26
Leith, James, chief factor, his bequest to the Indian missions of
Rupert's Land, 224, 278
1 Le Marquis," (McTavish) 91, 93,
98, 99
I Le Premier,"  (McTavish)  91; 92
Leroux, Trader, takes up a post on
Great Slave Lake and pushes the
trade, 18-19, 33, 36; has little
success, 48 ; visits the Beaver Indians, 49; his name forever associated with Great Slave Lake,
49 ; his first trading-post built at
' the mouth of the Slave River, 49;
trades in the far north, 68
Liard River, 111
"Little Company," or X.Y.'s, 93
297 ra.l1'
ill I
Macdonald, Archibald, in charge
of Lord Selkirk's third party of
emigrants, 162-3; the field-pieces
of the colony demanded of, by
Cameron, 173-4
Macdonald, Archibald, author of
"Peace River; a Canoe Voyage
from the Hudson Bay to the
Pacific," 232, 238
Macdonell, Alexander, of the North-
West Company, 172; with a body
of armed men fires upon the
colonists, 174-5
Macdonell, Alexander, Sheriff of
the Home District, in charge of
Lord Selkirk's Baldoon settlement, 133
Macdonell, Captain Miles, placed
in charge of Lord Selkirk's
colonists, 100, 150; at last succeeds in getting the colonists
started, 151; settles them for the
winter on the shores of the Nelson River, 153 ; has a number of
boats built for their transportation
to the interior, 154-5 ; on account of the scarcity of food,
builds a winter encampment at
Pembina, 158 ; his difficulties increased by the arrival of the
second party of colonists, 160-
1; issues a proclamation re
provisions, 161, 169, 170-1 ;
builds Fort Daer, 161 ; summoned to appear in the courts of
Lower Canada, 164, 174, 190;
directs Sheriff Spencer to seize
provisions collected at Souris
River by the North-West Com-
pany, 171; proceeds to Montreal under arrest, but is never
brought to trial, 174
Mackay,   Alexander,   Mackenzie's
• lieutenant, 67, 71, 73; engraves
on a tree the explorer's name and
the date of arrival at the farthest
point down the Fraser River, 78
Mackenzie, Alexander George, son
of Sir Alexander, 101; his children, 102
Mackenzie, Captain John, grandfather of Geddes Mackenzie, 101
Mackenzie, Geddes, the wife of Sir
Alexander, 101
Mackenzie, George, the father-in-
law of Sir Alexander, 101
Mackenzie's Outlet, 87
Mackenzie River, 24, 91
Mackenzie, Sir Alexander, his
birth, 10; his arrival in Canada,
10 ; leads a trading expedition to
Detroit, 11; induced by McLeod
to venture into the interior, 12;
raised to the dignity of a bourgeois, 12; arrives at Grand Portage, 13-14; apportioned the
English River district, 14; appointed by the new company to
supervise the Athabaska district,
14; his policy of expansion, 17-
18; selects a commanding position on Peace River, 19; i his
desire to reach the Arctic Ocean,
. 22-3; secures Roderick McKenzie as his lieutenant in the
Athabaska district, 23 ; starts on
his journey to the Arctic Sea,
32-3; takes the "English
chief" as his guide, 32; reaches INDEX
Great Slave Lake, 35; embarks
on the river which is to lead him
north, 37; reaches the delta of
the Mackenzie River, 39 ; erects
a post on Whale Island on which
he engraves the latitude, his
name, etc., 40; turns back when
a few degrees within the Arctic
circle, 41, 43; a clue to the
reason for his returning, 45-6 ;
distrusts the " English chief,"
45, 48; overtakes Leroux on
Great Slave Lake, 48; sends
Leroux to visit the Beaver Indians, 49; ascends the Slave
River, 49 ; arrives at Fort Chipewyan, 60, 53; results of his
voyage down La Grande Riviere,
50-1; in the spring goes to
Grande Portage, 63-4; back to
Fort Chipewyan for the winter,
54 ; the first to make the northwest passage by land, 55, 89;
meets Philip Turner, the astronomer, 67; writes to Roderick
McKenzie of the re-arrangement
of the North-West Company's
affairs, 58; spends a winter in
England, 58-60 ; returns to Athabaska, 61; establishes winter
quarters on Peace River, 61-3;
starts on his journey to the western sea, 66-7, 69 ; describes the
Peace River, 69, 71; reaches its
forks, 72; writes an account of
his voyage and places it in a keg,
which he throws into the river,
72-3; under the advice and
guidance of a band of Indians
turns into a branch of the Peace
River, 73-6 ; his announcement
as to the source of the Peace
River, 76-6; on the Fraser, 77;
his company decides to turn back
and proceed by the land route to
the western sea, 78, 79, 81; near-
ing the sea, 84; inscribes his
name, etc., on the side of a rock,
85-6 ; has trouble with the Indians, 86-8; the return journey
begun, 86-7; arrives at the fort
on Peace River, 88-9; hastens
on to Fort Chipewyan, 89 ; goes
to Grand Portage in the spring
(1794) and retires from the upper
country, 89, 91; his friendship
with the Duke of Kent, 93, 98 ;
publishes his journal, 93-4; is
knighted, 98 ; at the head of the
X. Y. Company, 98-9; represents the county of Huntingdon
in the legislative assembly, 100 ;
returns to Scotland to live, 100;
opposes Lord Selkirk's scheme of
emigration, 100-1, 151, 167;
his marriage and children, 101;
his death, 102, 209
Mackenzie, William, of Gairloch, a
letter from, to Alexander Mackenzie's son, 94-7
Mackenzie, William Lyon, leader
of the rebellion in Upper Canada,
| Macubah,"- (Vancouver) 85,86,87
McGillivray, Simon, one of the
chiefs of the North-West Company, 172
McGillivray, William, a rival of
Robert McKenzie in the English
River district, 15 ; a shareholder
in the North-West Company, 58
Fort William named after, 100
in charge of Fort Chipewyan, 236
joins Governor Simpson on his
journey to Vancouver, 236, 238
McKenzie, Donald, a chief factor
of the Hudson's Bay Gompany
and governor of Assiniboia, 222
McKenzie, Kenneth, 189, 199
McKenzie, Roderick, a cousin of
Alexander Mackenzie, 14; in the
English River district, 15; informs the partners at Grand
Portage of Peter Pond's violence,
16; goes to the Athabaska district as Alexander Mackenzie's
lieutenant, 23 ; builds Fort Chipewyan, 24-5 ; writes of his first
winter at Fort Chipewyan, 28 ;
Alexander Mackenzie sends communications 'to, 37; goes to
Grand Portage, 53; goes to Great
Slave Lake for the winter, 54;
again in charge of Fort Chipewyan, 61; assists Mackenzie
with his journal, 93
McLaughlin, John, a chief factor of
the Hudson's Bay Company, 220-1
McLeod, Alexander Norman, unites
with Gregory to fight the monopolists led by McTavish, 10-11;
visits Mackenzie at Detroit, 12;
remains in Montreal to manage
the headquarters, 14 ; commands
the eastern contingent to attack
Fort Douglas, 182; meets the
retreating colonists and treats
them with needless severity, 183 ;
arrives at Fort Douglas and takes
command, 183
McLeod, John, in charge of the
Hudson's Bay Company's affairs
at the Forks, 175; defends the
remaining colonists against the
attack led by Alexander Macdonell and Cuthbert Grant, 175-
6 ; builds a house for the governor at Point Douglas, 176
McTavish, Simon, a leader of the
fur trade, 10; losing influence,
64; becomes more unpopular,
91; reorganizes the North-West
Company, 99 ; his death, 99
McTavish, William, chief factor,
228; last governor of Assiniboia
under the Hudson's Bay Company regime, 228
Mangeurs de lard, 14, 27
Masson, L. R., quoted, 17 ; depicts
the life of the fur traders, 21-2 ;
on Lord Selkirk's arrival in
Montreal, 138-9
Matonnabee, Hearne's fkmous guide,
Meares, Captain, 86
Montgomery, Sir James, brings
Lord Selkirk's treatment in Canada before the House of Commons, 201
Montour, Nicolas, a shareholder in
the North-West Company, 58
Montreal, the headquarters of the
North-West Company, 14, 98,137
Moulton, the township of, Lord
Selkirk's settlement in, 134
Napoleon, his copy of Mackenzie's
travels, 97
Nechaco River, see Fraser River
|j Nelson Encampment," 153 INDEX
Nelson River, 128, 153
New Caledonia, 27, 108, 219, 221,
224, 268 •
North-West Company, the, formed,
6, 16, 92; does not appreciate
Mackenzie's explorations, 54, 55 ;
the re-arrangement of its affairs
for the years 1791-8, 58 ; discontent in the company, 91, 92 ;
McTavish reorganizes it, 99 ; the
X.Y Company unites with, 99 ;
employs Thompson as astronomer
and surveyor, 103 ; pleased with
his work, 105; "Sir Alexander
Mackenzie & Co." unites with,
106 ; sends Thompson to explore
the Columbia River, 106 ; builds
a fort on the lower Columbia,
106 ; suspicious of Lord Selkirk's
investigations into the fur trade,
140, 141 ; considers Lord Selkirk's scheme of emigration as
deliberately aimed at its influence, 147 ; opposes the new
settlers, 161-2; induces some
of the settlers to go to western
Ontario, 163; resents Macdon-
ell's proclamation, 170; its provisions at Souris River seized
by McDonelFs order, 171-2; its
annual gathering at Fort William, 172; brings an action
against Lord Selkirk, 198-9;
its union with the Hudson's Bay
Company advocated, 211; provisions of the agreement, 212-
13 ; the Act which accomplished
the union, 213-14    •
Norway House (Jack River) 163,
175, 185; made the rendezvous
of the united companies, 216 ; references, 226, 233, 262
"Observations on the Present State
of the Highlands of Scotland,
with a view of the Causes and
Probable Consequences of Emigration," by the Earl of Selkirk,
120, 123, 139, 141
1 Old Establishment," 61, 62
Pangman, Peter, {Bastonnais) with
Pond induces the Montreal merchants to unite against McTavish,
10; apportioned the Saskatchewan district, 14; a shareholder in
the North-West Company, 58
Papineau, Louis-Joseph, 242, 243,
244, 245
Peace River, 19, 33, 34, 61, 69, 76,
81, 88, 106, 216
Pelly, Sir John, 146, 250, 255
Pembina, 158, 161, 169, 179
Pollock, Duncan, apportioned the
Red River district, 14
Pond, Peter, with Pangman induces
the Montreal merchants to unite
against McTavish, 10; deserts
Pangman and returns to his old
masters, 15 ; a disturbing element
in the Athabaska district, 15; a
murder committed by, 6, 15;
builds a post on Elk River, (1778)
21; his map of the country, 56, 67
Portage la Prairie, 158, 180, 284
Powell, Chief-Justice, 198
Prince Edward Island colony, 129-
32, 149
Prince of Wales, the, 150, 151, 162
'<n I
Qu'Appelle, 180, 284
Quesnel, Jules Maurice, 108,109
Rae, Dr. John, Arctic explorer, his
great journey up the west coast
of Hudson Bay in search of
Franklin, 51, 227-8; a chief
factor of the Hudson's Bay Company, 227, 269
Rainy Lake, 6, 27, 251
Red River, 94, 105, 127, 155, 157,
158, 159, 170, 251
Red River district, apportioned to
Duncan Pollock, 14, 92
Red River Settlement, 166, 170,
182, 225, 226, 244, 246, 247, 262,
267, 286
Reinhart, Charles, his notable
trial, 197
Riviere a la Biche, (Elk River) 21
Robertson, Colin, induces the few
faithful colonists to return to
their settlement, 165, 177; captures Fort Gibraltar, 178 ; takes
Cameron prisoner to York Factory, 178; an action brought
against for destroying Fort Gibraltar, 198 ; a chief factor of the
Hudson's Bay Company, 220
Rocky Mountains, 19, 24, 106, 108,
170, 215, 252
Roebuck, Mr., 251, 272
Ross, Alexander, historian, 184,
Ross, John, trades in the Athabaska
district, 14; disagrees with his
rival, Peter Pond, 15; killed in a'
quarrel, 16
Rupert's Land, 4, 94,127,142,168,
170, 219, 261
Saskatchewan River, 3, 4, 31, 106,
170, 252
Sault Ste. Marie, 12, 188, 279
Scott, Sir Walter, 26,117 ; a letter
from, 202-3, 265
Selkirk, Thomas Douglas, fifth
Earl of, 115; his ancestors, 116 ; birth, 116 ; early
years, 117 ; a letter written by,
to his father, 118 ; inherits the
title, 118-9; his book on emigration, 120, 123, 139, 141; his
plan of defence for the empire,
120-2; made a Fellow of the
Royal Society, 122; literary work,
122; his ideas on the treatment of
the Indians, 122-3; on parliamentary reform, 123—4; personal appearance, 125 ; his
scheme of emigration to Rupert's
Land, 7, 8, 100, 110, 127, 141-
2; a quotation from his letter
to Lord Pelham, 127-8; his
first settlement on Prince Edward
Island, 129-32, 149 ; he reaches
Charlottetown, 130; visits the
United States and Canada, 132;
interests himself in the repatriation of Canada from the
United States, 133, 137, 140;
purchases land in the townships of Dover and Chatham and
settles some twenty families
there, 133; his proposal to the
government of Upper Canada to
build a highway from Amherst- INDEX
burg to York, is refused, 133-
4 ; takes and settles the Indian
township of Moulton, 134; his
first visit to Montreal, 137-9 ;
seeks to know the legal basis on
which the Hudson's Bay Company
founded its title, 143 ; obtains a
controlling interest in the Hudson's Bay Company, 145-6 ; purchases a tract of land in Rupert's
Land, 146-7 ; his first party of
emigrants starts, 151; sends out a
second lot, 159 ; a third lot, 162 ;
a fourth lot to replace the deserters, 164; engages Colin
Robertson to help the colonists,
177 ; visits Canada, 185 ; brings
the affairs of the colony before
the government of Upper Canada,
185-6; sworn in as a justice of
the peace, 186; engages one
hundred of the De Meurons as
military settlers, 187 ; leaves for
Duluth, 187-8; hears of the
murder of Governor Semple and
resolves to go on to Fort William,
188; demands the release of the
Red River prisoners, 189; arrests, prominent members of the
North-West Company implicated
in the attack on the colonists,
189; moves his camp to Point
De Meuron, 190; reaches the
Red River Settlement and meets
his colonists in council, 191-2;
gains the confidence of the Indians, 192; returns to Upper
Canada, 193 ; tried at Sandwich
on four charges, 198; an action
brought   against   him   by   the
North-West Company, 198-9;
four cases brought by him against
his enemies of the North-West
Company, 199 ; returns home
in the deepest discouragement,
201; his health breaking down,
202; his death at Pau, in the
south of France, 204, 209; his
children, 206
Semple, Governor Robert, appointed to take Miles Macdonell's
place, 164; visits Fort Daer, 178;
returns to the Forks, 178; with
Robertson captures Fort Gibral-
| tar, 178; dismantles Fort Gibraltar, 178-9; seizes Fort Pembina, 179; opposes Grant's attack on Fort Douglas, 180, 181;
killed by a treacherous Indian,
Seven Oaks, 180,183, 199
Simpson, Sir George, sent out to
Athabaska to watch over the
interests of the Hudson's Bay
Company, 215; his appearance
and disposition, 215, 217, 218;
his account of his first winter in
Athabaska, 216; a thorough
leader of men, 217; his business
policy, 217, 232; enjoys the
social life at the Posts, 231; his
love of pomp and show, 232,268;
makes a notable journey from
York Factory to Fort Vancouver,
232-9; at Norway House, 233-
6 ; on to Fort Chipewyan, 236 ;
enters the Peace River, 237;
crossing the Rockies, 237; at
Fort St. James, 237-8; down
the Fraser River, 238; reaches
11   I
Fort Langley and makes his way
to Fort Vancouver, 239;  establishes his headquarters at Montreal,  241;   takes   a   firm stand
against the Papineau rebellion,
242-4;   is knighted, 244; as a
civil ruler, 246 ; retires from the
active administration of the colony, 247; his dealings with the
clergy,  247,  266 ;   his journey
round the world, 249-60; publishes an account of it, 249-50,
273;  at' Sitka, 253 ;  at Yerba
Buena and San Francisco, 254;
at Santa Barbara, 255 ; at Honolulu, 255; back to Sitka, 256; prohibits the use of strong drink in
the fur trade, 266, 257, 267', at
Okhotsk, 257 ; at Yakutsk, 257 ;
at  Irkutsk,   268-9;   at Tobolsk
and Tiumen,   259; at Novgorod
and St.   Petersburg, 260;   back
to London,   260;   events   mentioned    in    his    letters:    (his
marriage,  262;   death   of John
Richardson,    263 ;    Hargrave's
promotion, 264; his wife's and
his own delicate health, 264-5 ;
his kindness to Captain Carey,
267; how promotions were made,
269 ; the arrival of Bishop Anderson, 270) ; gives evidence at the
investigation into the affairs of
the Hudson's Bay Company, 272-
9; his death, 279; what he accomplished in his life, 280
Simpson,   Thomas,   the   explorer,
215 ;   with Dease   explores the
Arctic coast,   224-6,   244;   his
death, 251
Sinclair, William, 265, 273, 274
" Sir Alexander Mackenzie & Co."
99 ; unites with the North-West
Company, 106
Sitka, 253, 256
Slave River, 34, 49, 65
Small, P., a shareholder of the
North-West Company, 15, 58
Smith, Edward, 223
Smith, Sir Donald, (Lord Strath-
cona) 228
Souris River, 104,171
Spencer, Sheriff John, 171, 172
St Mary's Isle, 116,117 .
Stornoway, Sir Alexander Mackenzie's birthplace, 10, 100, 151,
152, 159
Stuart, Chief Factor, John, a letter
from, 27; his notable journey
down the Fraser River, 108, 221-2
Superior, Lake, 12, 92, 105, 138,
189, 250
Swan River, 92, 104
Tacouche Tesse or Nechaco
River, see Fraser River
Thom, Adam, a lawyer in Montreal, 245; re the Papineau rebellion, 245 ; joins Lord Durham's
staff, 245; returns with him to
England, 245 ; is appointed the
first recorder of Red River, 245 ;
proceeds at once to" Fort Garry,
246; becomes unpopular and
leaves the bench, 246-7; retires to Britain, 247; assists
Governor Simpson in writing his
book, 249, 277
Thompson,  David, 58;  reports in INDEX
favour of further exploration to
the Hudson's Bay Company, but
being refused joins the North-
West Company as astronomer and
surveyor, 103; establishes the
■ latitude and longtitude of the
several Posts, 104; goes to the
Swan River district, 104; finds
comfortable quarters at Assiniboine House, 104 ;. his famous
journey to' the Mandans on the
Missouri River, 104 ; establishes
the boundary between Rupert's
Land and the United States, 106 ;
mistaken in the source of the
Mississippi, 105 ; sent to explore
the Columbia River, 106 ; builds
a trading-house for the North-
West Company on the lower Columbia, 106 ; ordered to checkmate the Astor Fur Company by
taking possession of the property
at the mouth of the Columbia
River, 106 ; takes formal possession of the Columbia at its junction with the Spokane, 107 ;
arrives too late at the mouth of
the Columbia, but reascends and
erects two Posts at good objective
points, 107 ; retires ' from the
North-West Company into government employment, 107; prepares a map of the  country, 107
Thompson River, 109, 238
Tod, Dr. John, an eccentric trader,
263, 268
Tonquin, the, 67, 287
Turner, Philip, sent out by the
Hudson's Bay Company as astronomer, 56; his expedition, 57
Vancouver Island, made independent of the Hudson's Bay Company
and united to the mainland, 279
Voyageurs, 22, 25, 28, 35, 65, 70,
77, 82, 85, 108, 138, 139, 170,
233, 250
Wadin, M., a Swiss trader, killed
by Peter Pond, 15
Wedderburn, Sir John,  121, 122,
Whale Island, 40, 44
White Man's Lake, (Belboullay Toe)
47, 51
Winnipeg,   Lake,   104,   160,   169,
170, 195, 251
Winnipeg River, 6, 104, 160, 251
X. Y. Company, the, formed, 92;
builds its headquarters at Grand
Portage, 93; Mackenzie at the
. head of, 98-9; unites with the
North-West Company, 99; its
ruinous policy of using strong
drink, 210
York Factory, 2, 103, 152, 155,
159,178, 226, 232, 261
Yukon River, 50, 288


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