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Scouts of empire. The story of the discovery of the great North-West Burpee, Lawrence J. (Lawrence Johnstone), 1873-1946 1912

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The F. W. Ho way
and R. L. Reid
Collection of Canadiana
Gift of
Dr. H. R. MacMillan       SCOUTS OF EMPIRE
Stationers' Hall
.   ■ •• i •' •■■   '}.
"N the whole history of Northern discovery no name stands out in more
heroic proportions than that of Henry Hudson, navigator of unknown seas, pathfinder
of a new empire. The very mystery that
enshrouds his early life lends an added interest to the three years, packed with achievement, of which we have undoubted knowledge. What could be more typical of the
simple manliness of the age than the passage
in which that quaint old editor of English
voyages, Samuel Purchas, describes the
opening scene in Hudson's first voyage:
" Anno 16.07, Aprill the nineteenth, at Saint
B I <K>u .tawu.^nMS'
Ethelburge, in Bishops Gate street, did
communicate with the rest of the parishioners
these persons, seamen, purposing to goe to
sea foure dayes after, for to discover a passage
by the North Pole to Japan and China 3   ?
In this voyage, Hudson reached Greenland
and   Spitzbergen.    The  following  year  he
again sailed in search of a north-east passage,
and explored a part of Nova Zembla.    Hudson's log of this second voyage contains a
delightful picture  of that  elusive denizen
of the deep, the mermaid :  " This morning,
one of our companie looking over boord saw
a   mermaid,  and   calling  up  some  of  the
companie to   see her, one   more came up,
and by that time shee was come close to the
ship's side, looking earnestly on the men:
a little after, a   sea   came and overturned
her : from the navill upward, her backe and
breasts were like a woman's, as they say that
saw her ;  her body as big as one of us;  her
skin  very white ;    and  long hair  hanging
downe behinde, of colour blacke : in her going HENRY HUDSON AND THE GREAT BAY
downe they saw her tayle, which was like the
tayle of a porposse, and speckled like a
Hudson's third voyage has now been made
familiar to everyone, through the tercentenary celebrations last year on the noble river
that bears his name. The circumstances of
his fourth, and last, voyage, are not, however,
quite so familiar; and the object of this
article is to tell, briefly and simply, and as
far as may be in the language of the original
narratives, the story of Henry Hudson's last
attempt to find the long-sought passage to
the Indies, and its tragic conclusion.
He sailed from the Thames, April 17, 1610,
in the Discovery, the same stout little craft
that Captain Weymouth had sailed up the
strait eight years before, and which was to
bear Sir Thomas Button in his unavailing
search for Hudson in 1612. The voyage was
uneventful until they reached the entrance
to Hudson Strait, where they encountered
the curious phenomena which Captain Davis
rvwmwi iMMftKMTimtiknim
had described many years before, " the sea
falling down into the gulfe with a mighty
overfall and roaring." With infinite patience Hudson navigated his ship through the
strait, buffeted by contrary winds, and
threatened at every turn by masses of broken
ice, while his mutinous crew were only
prevented from seizing the vessel and turning
her homewards by wholesome fear of their
iron-hearted commander.
At the western end of the strait, Hudson
sent a boat ashore in charge of Abacuk Prickett
(whose .garrulous journal of the voyage is
our principal authority), to examine the land
to the westward. Prickett climbed the hills,
and looked out upon the waters of the great
inland sea. One can imagine what the
emotions of such a moment should have
been ; but they made no impression on the
soul of Abacuk Prickett. That he stood upon
the threshold of a momentous discovery;
that for aught he knew to the contrary, this
might indeed be the Western Sea, sought by
generations of stout-hearted captains; that
•beyond the western horizon might lie the
shores of sunny Cathay and the Isles of
Spices; this, or anything like it, troubled not
the heart of Abacuk Prickett. Doubtless,
on his return to the ship, he reported to
Hudson what he had seen from the mountain
top ; but what he had seen on the way
thither was of much more immediate interest. " In this place," he says, " great
store of fowle breed, and there is the best
grasse that I had seene since we came from
England. We saw some round hills of-stone,
like to grasse cockes, which at the first I tooke
to be the worke of some Christian ; and
being nigh them I turned off the uppermost
stone, and found them hollow within and
full of fowles hanged by their neckes. . . .
Wee came aboord and told the master what
wee had seene, and perswaded him to stay
a day or two in this place, telling him what
refreshing might there bee had ; but by
no meanes would he stav."    " So we left SCOUTS  OF  EMPIRE
the fowle," laments poor Prickett; while his
captain, regardless of these wasted delicacies,,
drove his ship out into that vast sea which
held   such  wonderful   possibilities.
For reasons of his own, to which we have
no clue, Hudson did not cross the bay, but
sailed down the eastern shore, until he
finally brought the Discovery to anchor at
the foot of James Bay. " Here," says
Prickett, m our master sent out our boat,
with myselfe and the carpenter to seeke a
place to winter in; and it was time, for the
nights were long and cold, and the earth
covered with snow. . . . We went to the
south and the south-west, and found a place,
whereunto we brought our ship, and haled
her aground: and this was the first of
November. By the tenth thereof we were
frozen in."
The exact place where Hudson spent this
memorable winter is a matter of some
interest. Unfortunately Prickett's narrative,
with  its   vague   and   confusing  geography,
helps us not at all, but other evidence points
to the mouth of the Rupert. In a memorial
of the Hudson's Bay Company, of 1699, P
is said that Captain Gillam " built Fort St.
Charles upon the ruins of a House which had
been built there above sixty Yeares before
by the English." Gillam had been sent out
with the Canadian adventurer Radisson, in
1688, to build a fort and open up trade with
the Indians ; and on the strength of this
voyage Prince Rupert and his associates
obtained from King Charles the famous
charter of the Hudson's Bay Company,
Radisson himself, in his overland journey of
1662 to the shores of the bay, found 1 an old
howse all demolished and battered with
boulletts." That Hudson built a house on
the shores of the bay, we know from Prickett's
narrative ; and that it was the s?me seen by
Radisson in 1662, and by Gillam in 1668, does
not admit of much doubt. Here is Prickett's
characteristic story of the building of the
house :—
\&m scouts of empire;
" Now out of season and time the master
calleth the carpenter to goe in hand with an
house on shoare, which at the beginning our
master would not heare, when it might have
been done. The carpenter told him, that
the "snow and frost were such, as hee neither
could nor would goe in hand with such worke.
Which when our master heard, hee ferreted
him out of his cabbin to strike him, calling
him by many foule names, and threatning
to hang him. The carpenter told him that
he knew what belonged to his place better
than himselfe, and that hee was no house
carpenter. So this passed, and the house
was (after) made with much labour but to
no end."
Now it appears that Hudson had brought
with him a young man named Henry Greene,
who, because he possessed some education,
was given more consideration than others of
the ship's company. But Greene was not
the kind of man who accepts good fortune
in  an  humble  spirit,  and  presently' made
himself thoroughly obnoxious to Hudson,
who from having shown him too much favour
now ran to the other extreme. " You shall
see," writes our faithful historian Prickett,
" how the devil out of this so wrought with
Green, that hee did the master what mis-
chiefe hee could in seeking to discredit him,
and to thrust him and many other honest
men out of the ship in the end.':
Hudson and his men passed a very uncomfortable winter on the bay, as might be
expected. " To speake of all our trouble in
this time of winter (which was so cold as it
lamed the most of our company, and my selfe
doe yet feele it) would bee too tedious," says
Prickett,—who thereupon proceeds to give
a minute account of the winter's troubles.
Having brought with him provisions for
only a limited period, Hudson had to husband
his resources with the utmost care, and this
became in the end one of the causes, if not
the main cause, of the final tragedy. For
three months they were well supplied with
ptarmigan, which winter in immense numbers around James Bay. With the spring,
however, the ptarmigan left them, and as
Hudson sternly refused to break into the
scanty store of provisions needed for the
homeward voyage, they were driven to
every expedient to satisfy their hunger.
" Wee went into the woods, hilles, and
valleyes, for all things that had any shew
of substance in them, how vile soever ; the
mosse of the ground, then the which I
take the powder of a post to bee much
better, and the frogge (in his ingendring
time as loathsome as a toade) was not
There follows, in Prickett's narrative, an
account of the first meeting of Hudson and
his men with the natives; an account interesting both because of its graphic simplicity, and also because it records the first
fur-trading transaction in the afterwards
famous territories of the Hudson's Bay
Company :  | About this time, when the ice
■■'-■. ---■-  j-y'-"''J _-    -•■ a HENRY HUDSON AND THE GREAT BAY
began to breake out of the bayes, there came
a savage to our ship, as it were to see and to
bee seene, being the first that we had seene
in all this time : whom our master intreated
well, and made much of him, promising unto
himselfe great matters by his meanes, and
therefore would have all the knives and
hatchets (which any man had) to his private
use, but received none but from John King
the carpenter, and my selfe. To tjiis savage
our master gave a knife, a looking-glasse, and
buttons, who received them thankefully, and
made signes that after hee had slept hee would
come againe, which hee did. When hee
came hee brought with him a sled, which hee
drew after him, and upon it two deeres
skinnes and two beaver skinnes. Hee had
a scrip under his arme, out of which hee drew
those things which the master had given
him. Hee tooke the knife and laid it upon
one of the beaver skinnes, and his glasses and
buttons upon the other, and so gave them to
the master, who received them ;   and the
IX jffWWi'ffHF
savage tooke those things which the master
had given him, and put them up into his
scrip againe. Then the master shewed him
an hatchet, for which hee would have given
the master one of his deere skinnes, but our
master would have them both, and so hee
had, although not willingly. After many
signes of people to the north and to the
south, and that after so manysleepes he would
come againe, he went his way, but never
came more."
As the spring advanced and the ice went
out of the small bays, the men got out the
nets, with fair luck, while Hudson, sailed
down the coast in search of the Indians, from
whom he hoped to secure a supply of meat,
but returned disappointed.
It was now the middle of June, the bay
was fairly clear of ice, and Hudson decided
to sail for home, ill-equipped though he
was with provisions of any description. To
silence the grumbling of his men, he divided
among the company all that remained of the
ship's stores, making a pound apiece, for
fourteen days, for each man's share. This,
with a little cheese and about four score
small fish, was all that remained for the long
voyage home, unless they might chance to
secure game  in  the  Straits.
Three days they sailed to the north, but on
the twenty-first of the month found themselves hemmed in by masses of floating ice.
For long enough mutiny had been in- the
air, but fear of their captain, or some last
traces of manliness, held the crew in check.
Now all restraining influences were broken.
The ice proved only a temporary barrier
but it was sufficient to seal the fate of Henry
Hudson. Half the crew lay sick in their
bunks, and all were on short rations. There
was actually not sufficient food in the ship
to keep them all alive during the homeward
voyage. One expedient remained, and that
they seized upon. They would turn the
master and the sick adrift in the shallop, and
let them shift for themselves.
Of what followed we have only Prickett's
narrative, but although he was more or less
involved in the conspiracy, we may probably
accept his story as substantially correct.
Greene and the boatswain came to him on
the night of the twenty-first, and told him
of their plan. Prickett, if we may credit
him, tried to dissuade them. He reminded
them of their wives and children, and asked
them why they should wilfully banish themselves from their native country, by committing so foul a deed. But Greene bade
him hold his peace. He knew the worst,
said he, which was to be hanged when he
came home, and of the two he would rather
be hanged at home than starved abroad.
And that was patriotic of Henry Greene.
So the pious Prickett, failing to turn them
from their purpose, made them swear upon
his Bible (which he is careful to tell us lay
before him) that they would do no man
harm ;   which they did cheerfully.
At  daybreak,   the   conspirators  gathered
upon the deck, and seized Hudson as he came
out of his cabin. " Then was the shallop
hailed up to the ship side, and the poore.
sicke, and lame men were called upon to
get them out of their cabbins into the
shallop." Prickett again assures us that he
sought even at this eleventh hour to turn
the mutineers from their purpose. " On my
knees I besought them, for the love of God,
to remember themselves, and to doe as they
would be done unto. They bade me keepe
myselfe well, and get me into my cabbin.':
There had been some dispute as to the
fate of Philip Staffe, the ship's carpenter.
Greene, who had a grudge against him, would
have turned him adrift, but the others
overruled him, for the carpenter was needed
on the ship. So it was decided to keep him
on board ; but they had reckoned without
their man. This Staffe was a man, every
inch of him. His character shines clear,
though we get but one fleeting glimpse.
He had been seized and bound, but was now
■   15 J
OfngggBMnHMK scouts of Empire
Set at liberty. Turning upon the mutineers,
he consigned them all to the gallows, and
climbed into the shallop with Hudson.
So they stood out of the ice, " the shallop
being fast to the sterne of the shippe, and
they cut her head fast from the sterne of our
ship, then out with their top-sayles, and
towards the east they stood in a cleere sea.''
-Having done this, the men proceeded to
ransack the master's cabin. While they were
engaged in this congenial task, word came
that the shallop was overtaking the ship.
They rushed on deck, I let fall the mainsayle,
and out with their top-sayles, and fly as
from an enemy." The shallop dropped
rapidly astern, and with her disappears that
gallant seaman and dauntless explorer,
Henry Hudson.
To record the homeward voyage of the
mutineers would be in the nature of an anticlimax, but it may be worth mentioning
that the estimable Henry Greene, with three
of  his   companions, was  treacherously, and
most appropriately, murdered by the Eskimo
on Digges Island; and that the rest, after
suffering incredible hardships, finally reached
Plymouth. A contemporary narrative says
that they were promptly thrown into prison,
and that " they are going to be kept prisoners
till their captain will have been found,'1' and
so they too drop out of sight. UH.BM~.laeg I
CT AMUEL HEARNE, the intrepid ex-
plorer of the Barren Grounds of
Northern Canada, was born in London in
1745. He entered the Navy as a midshipman
in 1756, and saw service under Lord Hood,
but finding little, if any, prospect of advancement, left the Navy and joined the Hudson's
Bay Company. He acted as mate of one of
their sloops employed in trading with the
Eskimos on Hudson Bay, but the spirit of
adventure impelled him to seek some more
hazardous enterprise, by which he might
hope to achieve distinction. Fortunately
the Company were already casting about for
a suitable man to lead an expedition inland,
to solve the moot question of the Northwest Passage, and incidentally to search for
copper mines, the existence of which had
been reported by the Chipewyan Indians at
Fort Prince of Wales. Governor Norton
offered him the appointment, and he eagerly
On November 6, 1769, Hearne left the
fort with a strong party of Indians, under
their leader Chawchinahaw,' and two
English volunteers. He took with him
instruments, maps, and ammunition and
supplies sufficient for two years. As the guns
of the fort roared a salute, the explorer must
have felt confident of success. His mettle
was to be severely tried, however, before
that should come. Chawchinahaw, for
reasons best known to himself, set himself
to thwart Hearne in every possible way,
and finally deserted him, setting off with
his native followers in another direction.
Lacking guides, nothing remained for Hearne
but to turn about and make the best of his
way back to the fort, a distance of some two
hundred miles.
Undaunted by this mortifying failure, the
explorer started again on February 23,
1770, taking with him a smaller party of
Indians, and leaving the Englishmen behind.
A salute was dispensed with, but the Governor
and his officers lined the walls and gave
Hearne three rousing cheers. He set off
to the westward, and wintered on a lake on
the upper waters of Seal River. In the
spring he turned north, and on the last day
of June reached the Kazan River,.at a place
which he called Cathawachaga, about a
day's journey south of Yath-Kyed Lake.
Again he was hampered by the perversity of
the Indians, who wasted valuable time in
hunting caribou and musk ox, until the year
was too far advanced to admit of their reaching the Coppermine River—the goal of
Hearne's ambition—that year. Hearne
unfortunately lacked the quality of command
which gave Mackenzie such supreme control
20 oaanfmnw
over his equally refractory crew. The former
possessed the will-power and determination
to carry a project through at any cost to
himself, but had little, if any, influence over
his followers. To add to his difficulties, he
broke his quadrant at the northern end of
Dubawnt Lake ; and for the second time
must return to Prince of Wales, where he
arrived November 25, after an absence of
eight months and twenty-two days.
On the return journey, however, he was
fortunate enough to meet a famous Chipew-
yan chief, Matonabbee, who knew the
country thoroughly and was absolutely
trustworthy. Matonabbee asked Hearne if
he would make another attempt to reach
the Coppermine, and on the explorer's
emphatic statement that he was determined
to carry out the discovery, even at the risk
of his life, the Indian volunteered to accompany him.
This shrewd native philosopher had his
own well-defined ideas as to the personnel
of a successful exploring party. If he was
to be believed, the real cause of the failure
of the two attempts already made was
the absence of women. Women were indispensable. Obviously they were made for
labour ; they could carry or haul as much
as two men; they could pitch the tents ;
make and mend clothing; in fact, said
Matonabbee, there was no such thing as
travelling in the north without their assistance. Moreover, he shrewdly added,
" though they do everything, they are
maintained at a trifling expense ; for as they
always stand cook, the very licking of their
fingers in scarce times is sufficient for their
subsistence." It was decided, therefore,
that the party should consist of Matonabbee,
some of his immediate followers, and their
Hearne set forth, for the third time, from
Fort Prince of Wales, on December 7, 1770.
By the end of the year they had reached
Nuetlin Lake, and on March 2 camped on
the shores of Wholdiah Lake. Matonabbee
acted as 'guide, and his plan of campaign
was worthy of the man. They were working
leisurely to the westward, living on the
country as they went. To turn north before
spring would be to court certain starvation,
but later, when the vast herds of caribou
migrated north, it would be possible to make
a dash for the Coppermine, with the assurance of an ample supply of provisions.
May, 1771, found the party at Clowey
Lake, where they were joined by about two
hundred < natives, much to Hearne's annoyance. For a time he was puzzled to
account for this formidable addition to his
party, but on questioning them he learned
that they were a war party, marching against
their hereditary enemies, the Eskimo. He
did what he could to dissuade them from
their purpose, but they laughed at his
scruples; nor was he able to prevent them
from joining his own people.
They rested at Clowey Lake for a month,
23 rrnriiiiftiniif
completing their preparations for the dash
through the Barren Grounds. Then they
set forth, almost due north, for the Coppermine. By the end of May they had reached
another lake, called by the Indians Peshew.
Here most of the women were left behind,
with all the heavier equipment. At the
Conge-cap-tha-wha-chaga River they met
a number of Copper Indians, who helped
them over the river, and agreed to act as
guides for the last stage of the journey.
Their way lay for some miles over a trail
so steep that they were often compelled to
crawl on hands and knees. This was one of
the main Indian thoroughfares, over the
Stony Mountains. At the summit Hearne
noticed several large flat stones covered
with innumerable small pebbles, -which the
Copper Indians informed him had been
deposited there as a tribute to the gods.
The explorer added his pebble to the pile.
July 13 they arrived at the banks of the
Coppermine, which Hearne was disappointed
to find quite a small and shallow stream. It
had been represented to him as a mighty
river, navigable for large vessels for many
miles from its mouth, and on the strength
of this description, he had built ambitious
hopes of trade when he should have discovered
the far-famed copper mines. Ships were to
sail around from the bay—by what route
does not appear—and ascend the river to the
mines, where the valuable ore, reported to
be there in inexhaustible quantities, could be
readily loaded on board. On his return
journey, Hearne searched diligently for the
mines, but the entire party found but one
small lump, which he carried back with him to
Fort Prince of Wales as a souvenir of his
journey. The fact remains that the Indians
constantly brought copper to the fort, and
always said that it came from this far-away-
metal river. Perhaps some more fortunate
prospector, better equipped with technical
knowledge, may yet discover the much-
talked-of mines,    and the remote banks of
the Coppermine may some day rival the
southern shores of Lake Superior. Another
generation may see a shipping port built
at the mouth of the Coppermine, with a
fleet of ore steamers plying thence to smelters
say on the shores of Lake Athabaska—but
this is wandering from the story of Samuel
Hearne and his journey.
Arrived at the banks of the river, the
Indians lost no time in sending scouts down
stream to look for the Eskimo. The scouts
presently returned and reported a considerable encampment some miles below. The
Chipewyans immediately crossed the river,
stripped, put on war paint, and armed themselves with spears and shields. It was
decided to surprise the Eskimo in the early
morning, before they had left their tents.
Everything favoured the Indians. They
were in the midst of the village before the
unfortunate Eskimo were aware of their
presence. , Hearne graphically describes the
scene that followed :   " The poor unhappy
victims were surprised in the midst of their
sleep, and had neither time nor power to
make any resistance; men, women and
children, in all upwards of twenty, ran out
of their tents, stark naked, and endeavoured
to make their escape ; but the Indians having
possession of all the land side, to no place
could they fly for shelter. One alternative
only remained, that of jumping into the
river ; but, as none of them attempted it,
they all fell a victim to Indian barbarity."
To his horror, Hearne saw a young Eskimo
girl speared at his very feet, so close that when
the spear was thrust into her side she fell
down, writhing round his legs. He pleaded
earnestly with the Indians for her life, but
without avail. As they transfixed her body
to the ground with their spears, they asked
him contemptuously if he wanted an Eskimo
wife. To a Chipewyan, that was the last
degree of degradation. Hearne could hardly
restrain his tears at the horror of the scene
and his own utter inability to prevent it.
27 mm
One of the most pitiful scenes of the
massacre was the finding of an old woman,
blind and deaf, sitting placidly on the banks
of the Coppermine, fishing, while her friends
and relatives were being butchered a few
yards away. The Indians fell upon her
before she had any conception of who or
what they were. In her case, at least,
murder was perhaps the best thing that
could have happened. This wanton massacre
had such an effect on the Eskimo, that when
Hanbury visited the Coppermine one
hundred and twenty-eight years afterward,
he found that the story had been handed
down from father to son, substantially as
Hearne tells it in his narrative. It may or
may not be regarded as retributive justice
that to-day the broad country between the
Coppermine and Hudson Bay, once occupied
by the Chipewyans as their hunting-ground,
knows them no more, and their places have
been taken by the despised Eskimo.
From the site of the massacre—ever since
known as  Bloody Fall—Hearne could dis>
tinctly see the sea.    He had already made a
rough survey of the river from  the point
where he first struck it, about forty miles
from its mouth, and he now completed the
task.    He made  a rough calculation as  to
the latitude and longitude of the mouth of
the   river—a   calculation   which   Sir   John
Franklin, who visited the place in 1821, found
to   be   very   rough   indeed — took   formal
possession of the country on behalf of the
Hudson's Bay Company;   and then lost no
time    in    beginning    the   long  homeward
journey.    He took a somewhat more westerly
course, which brought him, on Christmas
Eve, to the borders of Great Slave Lake, of
which he gives a fairly accurate description.
He was the first white man to see this great
inland sea, which Alexander Mackenzie was
to cross eighteen years later on his famous
journey to the Arctic.    The remainder of
the journey was comparatively uneventful,
Hearne and his men reaching Fort Prince
I ai^to
of Wales the last of June, 1772, after an
absence of eighteen months and twenty-three
days. For two years, seven months, and
twenty-four days, he had been almost continuously engaged in the attempt to reach
the Coppermine—a remarkable enough example of dogged perseverance under exceptional difficulties.
In 1774, two years after his return from
the Coppermine, Hearne was again sent inland, upon a more prosaic, though scarcely
less significant journey. For a century, the
Hudson's Bay Company had been content to
enjoy their comfortable monopoly on the
shores of the great bay. The Indians had always been content to bring their peltries down
to Fort Prince of Wales and York Factory,
and no valid reason appeared why the Company should go to the expense and discomfort of following them to their far-off homes
in the interior of the continent. The time
came, however, when rival fur-traders forced
their hand.    A group of energetic merchants
in Montreal had sent men among the Indians
west of Lake Superior, shortly after the
cession of Canada to England, and these
tireless adventurers, working ever deeper
into the north-west, had at last reached the
Churchill, at Frog Portage, where they
intercepted the Indians on their way down
to the bay, and persuaded them to transfer
their trade to themselves. § Aroused at
length to the seriousness of their position,
the Hudson's Bay Company determined to
fight the Montreal traders—afterward known
as the North-West Company—on their own
ground. For such a task they could find no
better man than Samuel Hearne, who was
accordingly entrusted with the task of building a trading post on the Saskatchewan, in
the very heart of the continent. This
post, Cumberland House, built in 1774, is
still operated by the Company. jj
. The following year Hearne returned to
the bay, to become governor of Fort Prince
of Wales, where he remained until the year
3i ~"" w
1782, when the fort was captured by Admiral
La Perouse. Some years ago Dr. Robert
Bell met an aged pensioner of the Company
on the bay, who had been present when La
Perouse appeared with his French fleet.
" When the French appeared outside the
walls," said he, 1 there were not sufficient
men inside to have manned one gun. The
majority were all away in the marshes duck-
shooting." He described graphically how
La Perouse appeared before the gate demanding the surrender of the fort; how Hearne,
realizing the uselessness of resistance, hastily
doffed the rough working clothes in which
he had been working about the fort, and put
-on the full uniform of his office as governor ;
how he marched out through the gate, his
sword drumming against the stones as he
went, and presented the keys of the fort to
La Perouse on a silver salver ; and how the
latter, having stripped the fort of everything
of value, tried to pull down the massive walls,
failing which he blew them up with gun-
32 the quest of the Coppermine
powder, leaving them pretty much as they
appear to-day.
La Perouse sailed away to France, taking
Hearne with him as his prisoner. The two
struck up a friendship, however, on the
voyage, and the explorer was treated rather
as a literary notability than as a prisoner
of war. La Perouse had found Hearne's
narrative of his journey to the Coppermine
among the papers at the fort, and after reading it with keen interest, returned it to the
author on the express stipulation that it
should be published as soon as possible after
his return to England. " For one reason or
another, possibly through the reluctance of
the Hudson's Bay Company to make his
discoveries public, Hearne was unable to
redeem his promise for several years. It
was not, in fact, until 1795, three years after
the explorer's death, that the book finally
saw the light.
! "*HE ancient town of Three Rivers, on
the St. Lawrence, can boast of having
given birth to several notable explorers, but
of none of its famous sons has it more reason
to feel proud than of Pierre Gaultier de
Varennes, sieur de la Verendrye. Born in
1685, son °f Ren^ Gaultier de Varennes,
governor of the town, La Verendrye was
marked out by inheritance and environment
as a man of action. Entering the Army at the
age of fourteen, he had seen active service
in the New England and Newfoundland
campaigns before he reached the age of
twenty. In 1706, he sailed for France,
fought under his brother in Flanders, and
was severely wounded at Malplaquet. Urged
by keen ambition and untiring energy,
and seeing little promise of advancement
dn the Army, he returned to Canada. An
unusual period of peace reigned in the new
land, and the thoughts of the young man
turned toward the vast untravelled spaces of
the West, wonderful tales of which he had
eagerly listened to as a boy in Three Rivers.
Half forgotten dreams of discovery took form
anew in his mind, and when the Governor
offered him the position of commandant of
the trading posts on Lake Nipigon, north
of Superior, he accepted with alacrity.
Here we find him in 1728, faithfully discharging the duties of his office, but never
losing sight of the supreme object of his
ambition. The compelling call of the West
was ever in his ear, and he was even now
upon the threshold of his life's work. In this
year there came to him from Kaministiquia
an Indian named Ochagach, who told him
of a great lake many leagues to the west-
mWtd MWittCBBBIfl
ward of Lake Superior, out of which flowed
a mighty river toward the setting sun.
Ochagach had not himself been to the mouth
of this river, but had learned from the
neighbouring tribes that it emptied into
an immense body of water that ebbed and
flowed. Who can wonder that La Verendrye
saw in this a clear path to the long-sought
Western Sea, the goal toward which the
eyes of French explorers had been steadily
turned since the days of Jacques Cartier !
Ochagach's first lake was the Lake of the
Woods; his river, the Winnipeg; and his
great western sea, whose waters ebbed
and flowed, Lake Winnipeg. The curious
phenomenon of an apparently regular rise
and fall of the waters of this lake has been
commented upon by many later travellers.
It is merely the result of a change from
northerly to southerly winds, but one can
readily understand its effect upon the receptive minds of early explorers.
La Verendrye returned to Quebec, en_
I   i   3^
listed the interest of the Governor, De
Beauharnois, in his project for western discovery, and persuaded several of the leading
merchants of Montreal to join him in,
financing the enterprise. In the summer of
1731 he set forth, accompanied by his three
sons, Jean-Baptiste, Pierre and Francois, his
nephew La Jemeraye, who had already seen
service in the west among the Sioux, and a
party of soldiers and voyageurs, about fifty
in all. Father Messager, a Jesuit missionary,
joined the expedition at Michilimackinac.
The Indian Ochagach was to act as guide.
August 26 they reached Grand Portage,
fifteen leagues south-west of Kaministiquia,
and here the explorer encountered the first
of a long series of setbacks that were to try
his mettle to the utmost. Enemies at Montreal had tampered with his men, playing
upon their superstitious fears, and they now
flatly refused to go farther. After much
difficulty, a few of them were persuaded to
go on to Rainy Lake to build a fort there,
37    L
-—-— — --- SCOUTS   OF   EMPIRE
while La Verendrye with the remainder
wintered at Kaministiquia. The following
year La Verendrye joined the advance party
at Rainy Lake, and the whole expedition
pushed on to the Lake of the Woods, where
he built Fort St. Charles. This fort consisted, according to a contemporary narrative,
of several rough log cabins, enclosed in an
oblong stockade. The site was discovered
a year or two ago by a party of historical
students from St. Boniface, and many interesting relics were recovered from the ruins.
The following winter La Verendrye sent
his eldest son down Winnipeg River to its
mouth, where he built Fort Maurepas, and,
first of white men, stood on the shores of
Lake Winnipeg. The theory that this was
the Western Sea had already been exploded,
but La Verendrye had every reason to feel
satisfied with his progress in western exploration. He had reached a pivotal point in
the vast system of inland waterways, leading
in one direction up the Red River and the
Assiniboine, and in another to the Saskatchewan and the rivers of the far North-west. His
situation was, however, critical enough. His
own slender resources were already exhausted,
and the Montreal merchants were clamouring for dividends. They cared nothing for
La Verendrye's dreams of western discovery ;
their sole interest was in the profits of the
fur-trade. Every step forward had therefore
to be won against manifold obstacles. On
the one hand were the natural difficulties of
an unknown and difficult country ; on the
other the apathy and sometimes active
hostility of his followers ; and behind it
all the necessity of delaying each forward
movement until sufficient peltries had been
traded from the Indians to satisfy the hungry
partners in Montreal. One can readily
imagine how maddening this state of affairs
must have become to a man of La Verendrye's
temperament. The open road lay before
him, with the promise of momentous discoveries lying ever beyond the horizon, but
he must keep a constant curb on his impatience, and waste valuable months in
bartering trinkets for furs—to enrich his
greedy creditors. Time and again he was
compelled to make the long journey down to
Montreal, to wring much-needed supplies
from the reluctant hands of his partners.
Fruitless efforts were made to induce the
government to grant financial assistance to
what was really a great national undertaking •
and La Verendrye finally abandoned himself
to the inevitable. He must move forward
with clogged feet; but he was determined to
continue his task at all hazards. To put the
final test to his courage, his right-hand man,
La Jemeraye, died after a brief illness brought
on by overwork and exposure, and a few
months later his eldest son, Jean-Baptiste,
was treacherously murdered by the Sioux.
With tireless energy and resourcefulness,
however, La Verendrye moved forward, his
eyes ever fixed on the great object of his
ambition—the   discovery   of   the   Western
Sea. Ascending Red River to the forks, he
built a temporary post in what is now the
city of Winnipeg; and paddling up the
Assiniboine, built Fort La Reine not far
from the present town of Portage la Prairie.
In the autumn of 1738, he set out on an
overland journey to the Mandan villages
on the Missouri, and his narrative furnishes
the earliest account of this most remarkable
of the western tribes. A number of the
Mandans came out to meet • him, bearing
corn in the ear and native tobacco, emblems
of peace and friendship. An imposing entry
was made into the Mandan village. The
French flag was borne proudly in front, and
a salute fired with all the available muskets,
to the consternation of the Indians, who
were as yet unaccustomed to the noisy firearms of the Whites. The chief's lodge was
placed at the disposal of the explorer, and he
and his men were generously entertained.
Here, again, however, ill luck dogged the
steps of La Verendrye.    He awoke the next
.X* rassg
morning, to find that his interpreter, on
whom he had relied to question the Mandans
as to the most practicable route to the westward, had disappeared in the night. The
principal object of his journey was defeated,
and nothing remained but to retrace his
steps to Fort La Reine, leaving behind a
couple of men to winter among the Mandans
and learn their language. Before taking his
departure, he assembled the chiefs and principal warriors of the Mandans, and presented
them with a French flag and a leaden plate,
duly engraved, to be kept in perpetuity as a
record of the taking possession of the Missouri
country in the name of the French King.
In the autumn of 1739 the two men left
with the Mandans returned, bringing good
news. During the summer a party of strange
Indians had arrived at the Mandan villages
from the far South-west. They told the
French of bearded white men who lived in
houses, and prayed to the Master of Life.
The home of these white men was said to be
by the borders of the great lake whose waters
were unfit to drink, and they offered to
conduct them to the sea, which they said
could be reached in a few months.
The opportunity was too good to be lost.
La Verendrye had not yet recovered from
a serious illness contracted on his visit to
the Mandans, but it was decided that his
son Pierre should lead an expedition toward
the south-west—an expedition which the
explorers confidently expected would solve at
last the great problem of the Western Sea.
Pierre set forth in the spring of 1742,
accompanied by his younger brother. They
were to travel across the plains, to the
Mandan villages, where they hoped to pick
up Cheyenne guides. The ' spectacle of
these two young men, with nothing to rely
upon but their own alert intelligence, pluck,
and resourcefulness, starting out upon a
journey of several thousand miles, through
a country infested with hostile tribes, is
one to arouse enthusiasm.    That they did
not indeed realize the- full extent of the
task they had assumed is true enough, but
the information they had gained could have
left no doubt that it was one to test their
courage and endurance to the utmost, and
there were chances enough that they might
never return to Fort La Reine. It must
therefore have been a solemn moment, both
for them and their father, when the time
came to say farewell.
They reached the Mandan villages without
mishap, but there disappointment awaited
them. The Gens des Chevaux, or Cheyennes,
had not arrived, and though they waited
impatiently through the months of May,
June and July, there was still no sign of the
promised guides. To wait any longer would
be impossible. They must go forward, or
abandon the attempt for that year. Two
of the Mandans wer-e at last prevailed upon
to act as guides to the Cheyenne country,
and the two young Canadians struck out
boldly   into   the   unknown.    For   twenty
days they journeyed toward the south-west,
over rolling prairie and through the Bad
Lands of the Little Missouri, and about the
middle of September arrived at a village of
the Beaux Hommes, or Crows, where they
were hospitably received. One of the
Mandans had already deserted them, and the
other now insisted on returning to his own
people. Here they remained for some time,
gathering information as to the country
beyond. Early in November they reached
a village of the Cheyennes, and, still travelling toward the south-west, came to a tribe
known as the Petits Renards, and, beyond
these, another called the Pioya. Turning
now somewhat more to the south, they
encountered a party of Cheyennes, returning
in a panic to their villages, having been attacked and defeated by a number of Shoshones. The Shoshones bore somewhat the
same relation to the surrounding tribes as
the Sioux did farther north, and the Iroquois
east of the   Mississippi.   Their   hand was
45        ^ SCOUTS  OF  EMPIRE
against every man, and their war-parties
carried desolation into every quarter of the
south-west. From the Cheyennes, Pierre
and his brother learned of a tribe known as
the Gens de l'Arc, or Bowmen, who were
reported as trading with the Spanish settlements on the Gulf of California. This
was news indeed to the explorers, as it seemed
to bring them within measurable distance
of their goal. They pushed on, therefore,
with redoubled vigour, and on November 21
came to one of the Bow villages.
Here everything was excitement and confusion. A party of Shoshones had been
discovered to the westward, and the Bowmen
were organizing an expedition against them.
At the urgent invitation of their hosts, La
Verendrye and his brother consented to
accompany them. They must have done
so with some reluctance, knowing from
experience the importance of keeping on
good terms with all the tribes through
whose country they must journey, but they
had little choice in the matter. The attitude
of the Bowmen toward the Shoshones was
not one to admit of any neutral attitude.
The explorers must take sides with their
hosts, or return the way they had come.
There was at least this consolation, that the
course proposed to be taken by the warriors
would bring them within reach of the great
range of mountains to the westward, of
which they had already heard from the
Cheyennes, and which they now knew formed
an immense barrier across their path.
On the first day of the new year, 1743,
the brbthers saw upon the horizon a jagged
outline. Day by day the mountains grew
more distinct. They looked with amazement upon their towering peaks, and perhaps
remembered the tales they had listened to
years before, in their far-off Canadian home,
of the mysterious Mountains of Bright
Stones that lay far to the westward, upon the
borders of the Western Sea. As they drew
nearer, the slopes of the mountains were seen
to be thickly clothed with pine and fir.
Finally, on the tenth of the month they
had reached their very foot, but as ill luck
would have it the war party here came
unexpectedly upon a camp of the Shoshones,
deserted and in the utmost confusion. It
was clear that the Shoshones, learning
through their scouts of the approach of this
formidable war party, had precipitately
fled ; but the Bowmen, with native perversity, jumped to the conclusion that the
enemy had executed a flank movement, with
the purpose of falling upon their defenceless
camp, where were all their women and
children. Turning back therefore, despite
the remonstrances of some of their chiefs,
backed by the explorers, they never paused
until the camp was reached, where they
found to their chagrin that everything was
in perfect security, and that the squaws had
seen nothing of the Shoshones.
One can readily conceive the bitter disappointment   of   Pierre   and   his   brother.
With the prize, as they conceived, almost
within their grasp, they were forced, to turn
back. There were the mountains, upon
whose western slope lay the road to the
Western Sea. Indeed, for aught they knew
to the contrary, that long-sought sea might
even be visible from the summits of these
guardian peaks. But the eastern slopes were
infested with war parties of Shoshones, and
none of the Bowmen would think of acting
as guide on such a perilous journey. Desperately they sought some means of going
forward, but every expedient failed. Nothing remained but to turn back> and hope
for some more favourable opportunity
another year.
The long journey to the Assiniboine was
made without mishap. On the banks of
the Missouri they erected a pyramid of stones
on the summit of a hill overlooking the river,,
buried a leaden plate bearing the arms of
France, and formally took possession of the
country in the name of the King. They
E 49
reached Fort La Reine July 2, 1743, to the
great joy of their father, who had become
anxious on account of their prolonged
absence, and had almost given them up as
dead. Their expedition, so far as its principal
object was concerned, had been a failure,
but it had resulted in the discovery of a
great range of mountains, and that in itself
was no mean achievement. The exact
course followed by Pierre and his brother
has been matter of dispute, as has also the
particular range which they discovered, but
whether they reached the Rocky Mountains
proper, or only some outlying range such as
the Bighorn, the journey from the Assini-
boine, under all the circumstances, deserves
to rank among the most remarkable expeditions in the annals of western exploration.
Of the later explorations of La Verendrye
and his sons little can be said here. They
reached the banks of the Saskatchewan, and
built one or more posts on its banks, but
whatever dreams the indomitable explorer
may have entertained of reaching the Western
Sea by this northern route were brought to
nought by the vindictive schemes of his
enemies in the east. Beauharnois, who had
been his constant friend, had been recalled
to France, and the new governor, Galis-
soniere, and his successor La Jonquiere,
placed every obstacle in his path. Belated
recognition came from the King, in the
shape of the coveted Cross of St. Louis, but
the life of La Verendrye was already drawing
to its close. He had returned to Quebec,
broken in health, but not in spirit. One
of his last public acts, in September, 1749,
was to write a characteristic letter to the
Colonial Minister in Paris outlining a new
plan for the discovery of the Western Sea.
Three months later the great pathfinder of
the west had finally laid down his task.
Unfinished it may have been, but was it not
a splendid example of pluck and perseverance
under conditions of almost unexampled
difficulty   and   discouragement ?
T IKE most of the leaders in the western
—' fur trade, Alexander Mackenzie was
a native of Scotland, born at Stornoway,
in the Island of Lewis, in the year 1763.
He came to Canada at the age of sixteen,
and almost immediately determined to engage
in the fur trade. At Montreal the young
man came into contact with such pioneer
merchants as Simon McTavish and the
Frobishers, Alexander Norman McLeod,
John Gregory, and Peter Pond, who were
already laying the foundations of the North-
West Company and its vigorous rival the
X Y Company. On every side he heard
tales of the western traffic in peltries; tales
52 1
that fired his imagination and appealed to
the spirit of adventure that was strong within
him. It was necessary that he should serve
an apprenticeship in the counting-houses
at Montreal, and there as well as at Detroit,
he gained a knowledge of the practical details
of his work, but Mackenzie was never more
than nominally a fur-trader. The com-
mercial side of his chosen occupation did
not appeal to him. His heart was set upon
achieving some notable exploit in the field
of exploration, and while conscientiously
performing the duties of his position as a
trader, he never lost sight of this first object
of his ambition. The constant need of
opening up new fields and getting in touch
with remote tribes of Indians took him into
many unknown or little known regions, but
Mackenzie looked beyond these minor explorations to some notable discovery that
would mean a distinct addition to the sum
of geographical knowledge.
His first great opportunity came in 1789,
rnonanna ■ MM UN ■ VftflWM
when he set forth, with a small company
of voyageurs, to trace the mighty river that
afterward bore his name, to its remote destination in the Arctic sea. The story of
that remarkable piece of exploration cannot
be given here. It must be sufficient to say
that, after surmounting many difficulties
and discouragements, he finally reached the
mouth of the river, and returned to his
starting-point, Fort Chipewyan, on Lake
Athabaska, after an absence of one hundred
and two days.
This successful piece of work served but
to stimulate Mackenzie's ambition to one of
even greater magnitude and more far-reaching significance. This was nothing less than
the completion of the long search for the
Western Sea, a search which, as has been
stated in a previous article, had been the
dream of French explorers throughout the
entire period of French rule in Canada, and
which had been left as a legacy to the men qf
British   birth  who  succeeded  them.    The
tide of discovery had in Mackenzie's day
been carried to the foot of the Rocky
Mountains, but beyond all was unknown.
Cook, Vancouver, and other adventurous
navigators had explored the Pacific coast
of the continent, and it remained for some
equally enterprising land-captain to close
the gap by an expedition over the mountains
and through the untravelled region beyond,
to the shores of the Western Sea. This was
the task that Mackenzie had set himself,
and upon which he engaged in the autumn
of 1792.
Starting once more from Chipewyan,
with a fellow-countryman, Alexander
Mackay, six French-Canadian voyageurs,
and a couple of Indians, he ascended Peace
River to a point six miles above the mouth
of Smoky River and wintered there. Here
he made final preparations for the overland
dash to the sea, as soon as the ice should break
up the following spring, in this way saving
much valuable time for the double journey,
for he planned to make his way to the sea
and return the same season.
On May 931793, Mackenzie embarked with
his men in a twenty-five-foot canoe, which
he had built during the winter. It was
made particularly strong and light, for the
uncertain waterways that lay before him.
His course lay up the Peace River, whose
waters beyond this point had never before
been traversed by white men. Elk, buffalo
and other large game were plentiful, and
the Indian hunters kept the party well
supplied. The explorer watched with
kindling enthusiasm the unfolding of the
wonderful panorama that lay before him,
" a succession of the most beautiful scenery
I have ever beheld." The ground rose in
terraces from the water's edge, the level
spaces richly carpeted with young grass, while
groves of poplar in every imaginable shape
lent variety to the scene, which was further
enlivened by vast herds of elk and buffalo,
browsing on the open meadows.    Here and
&&& L
there the terraces were broken by rugged
precipices, rising sheer to a height of several
hundred feet.
Eight days after his departure from the
winter quartets, Mackenzie had his first
view of the mountains, their towering snow-
crowned summits glittering along the western
horizon. It was now becoming increasingly
difficult to make headway against the
violence of the current. The canoe was
laboriously dragged up several rapids by
means of a sixty-fathom line. At one place
steps had to be cut in the face of the solid
rock for a distance of twenty feet, to get
round a projecting shoulder. Finally
further progress by water became impossible, and the explorer and his men had
no option but to cut a trail through the
bush and portage canoe and lading some
three miles, up and down hill, to the
navigable water above the rapids. A few
hundred yards below this point the river
rushed  with  astonishing  velocity  between
m rvggys
towering banks, not more than thirty-five
yards apart. W. F. Butler, who travelled
this way some eighty years afterward, has
left a striking picture of this gorge :
" Making my way along the edge of what
was, in ages past, the shore of a vast lake, I
gained the summit of a ridge which hung
directly over the canon. Through a mass
of wrack and tangled forest I held on, guided
by the dull roar of waters until I reached an
open space, where a ledge of rock dipped
suddenly into the abyss ; on the outer edge
of this rock a few spruce trees sprung from
cleft and fissure, and from beneath, deep*
down in the dark chasm, a roar of waters
floated up into the day above. Advancing
cautiously to the smooth edge of the chasm,
I took hold of a spruce-tree and looked over.
Below lay one of those grim glimpses which
the earth holds hidden, save from the eagle
and the mid-day sun. Caught in a dark
prison of stupendous cliffs (cliffs which
hollowed out beneath, so  that the topmost
ledge literally hung over the boiling abyss of
waters), the river foamed and lashed against
rock and precipice, nine hundred feet below
me. Like some caged beast that finds escape
impossible on one side, it flew as madly and
as vainly against the other ; and then fell
back in foam and roar and raging whirlpool.
The rocks at the base held the record of its
wrath in great trunks of trees, and blocks of
ice  lying  piled   and  smashed- in  shapeless
On the last day of the month, they reached
the forks of the Peace River, and Mackenzie
was sorely puzzled whether to ascend what
was afterward known as the Finlay, to the
north, or the Parsnip, to the south. He
remembered, however, the warning of an
Indian who had been this far, and had
assured him that the southern branch led
by a portage to another river flowing to the
south-west. " I did not entertain the least
doubt," says he, § if I could get into the
other river, that I should reach the ocean."
Amid bitter grumbling from his men, who
did not at all relish forcing the canoe up
what was much the more difficult of the two
streams, Mackenzie turned to the south.
Day after day they made their painful way
against the current, until at length they
°reached the upper waters of the Parsnip,
and Mackenzie began to look about anxiously
for the portage.
On June 9 two natives appeared on the
banks, and after much parleying with the
interpreter, met Mackenzie on the shore.
They approached him with a good deal of
suspicion, but were finally persuaded to
lay aside their bows and arrows, and when
the explorer stepped forward and took each
of them by the hand, one of them, but with
a very tremulous action, drew his knife from
his sleeve and presented it to him as a mark
of submission. Mackenzie was the first
white man they had ever met, and they
examined him and all his belongings with
open-mouthed astonishment.    With one of
¥■-; - •-   '
these Indians as guide, the party continued
up the river, and on June 12 reached a small
lake, the source of the Parsnip. If Mackenzie had gone no farther, this in itself would
have been a notable enough achievement,
for he now stood at one of the most remote
sources of the same mighty river system
whose outlet he had discovered a little over
four years before. Two thousand four
hundred and twenty miles lay between
source and mouth.
Mackenzie, however, was looking toward
a more notable achievement than the discovery of the source of the Parsnip, and the
most difficult part of his journey still lay
before him. Shouldering canoe and baggage,
he and his men crossed the height of land,
and after a troublesome passage down a
tumultuous little stream to which he gave
the appropriate name of Bad River, reached
the banks of what was afterward to be known
as the Fraser, but which he supposed to be
the Columbia.    On the banks of the Fraser
lived an interesting tribe named the Carriers,
who, like the Mandans on the Missouri,
had attained a comparatively high state of
development. Mackenzie describes one of
their houses which he visited. It was about
thirty feet long by twenty wide, built to
accommodate several families, with three
lire-places, rows of beds on either side, and
shelves for storing dried fish. He also gives
the earliest description of the salmon-trap
of the Carriers, a long cylindrical basket made
of thin strips of wood held together by half
a dozen hoops.
From the Carriers the explorer learned
that the passage down the Fraser would be
attended with grave danger, and that he
would find a more direct and easier route
overland. He determined, therefore, to
abandon his canoe and make a dash for the
sea. To reach the route indicated by the
Carriers, it was necessary that he should
return up the river a considerable distance.
Before turning back, Mackay engraved the
name of his leader, with the date, on a tree
by the river's side. At this point the North-
West Company some years later built a
trading post, and named it Alexandria, in
honour of the explorer.
On July 3, Mackenzie arrived at the
mouth of the West Road River, or the
Blackwater as it is now called, from which
he set out the following day on the last stage
of his journey to the sea. Near the mouth
of the river he cached a quantity of provisions and some of the heavier equipment,
and the remainder was made up into ninety-
pound packs for the voyageurs, the Indians
carrying loads of half that weight. So
laden, the party marched off to the westward, their burdens growing lighter from
day to day as they neared the coast. They
passed through native villages from time to
time, and although their appearance excited
astonishment, the inhabitants always proved
On  the  seventeenth of the month they
63 SCOUTS OF Empire
crossed a range of mountains, and late at-
night came to a village of the Coast Indians,
on the banks of the Bella Coola, whither the
Indian guides had already preceded them.
Mackenzie walked boldly into one of the
huts, threw down his burden, and, after
shaking hands with some of the people, sat
down upon it% They received him without
the least appearance of surprise, but made
signs that he should go up to the chief's
house, a large building, erected on upright
posts, some distance from the ground. 'A
broad piece of timber, with steps cut in it,
led to a scaffolding even with the floor.
" By this curious ladder," said Mackenzie,
"I entered the house, and having passed
three fires, I was received by several people,
sitting upon a very wide board, at the upper
end. I shook hands with them, and seated
myself beside a man, the dignity of whose
countenance induced me to give him that
preference. I soon discovered one of my
guides seated a little above me, with a neat
mat spread before him, which I supposed to
be the place of honour and appropriated
to strangers."
The chief immediately rose and brought
a quantity of roasted salmon, and directed
a mat to be placed before the explorer, on
which he laid one of the salmon. Having
enjoyed this hospitality, Mackenzie ordered
his men to make a fire outside, and took leave
of his host. " We laid ourselves down to
rest," he says, " with no other canopy than
the sky; but I never enjoyed a more sound
or refreshing rest, though I had a board for
my bed and a billet for my pillow." He had
no sooner awakened the following morning,
than his hospitable friend brought him a
breakfast of berries and roasted salmon, with
the dried roes of fish.
Salmon formed the staple food of these
Indians, and they had contrived to secure
to themselves an abundant supply. With
great labour they had built an embankment
or weir across the river. It was about four
feet above the level of the water at the time
Mackenzie saw it, and was constructed of
small trees fixed in the bed of the river in a
slanting position, with the heavy ends down.
Over these had been laid a bed of gravel;
then a tier of smaller trees; and so on
alternately until the work was brought to
the desired height. Beneath this weir the
machines were placed, into which the salmon
fell when they attempted to leap over.
" These people," says Mackenzie, " indulge
an extreme superstition respecting their
fish, as it is apparently their only animal
food. Flesh they never taste, and one of
their dogs having picked and swallowed
part of a bone which we had left, was beaten
by his master till he disgorged it. One of
my people having also thrown a bone of
the deer into the river, a native, who had
observed the circumstance, immediately
dived and brought it up, and, having consigned it to the fire, instantly proceeded to
wash   his   polluted   hands."    This   curious
l-4- %
superstition even went to the length of
preventing Mackenzie from taking venison
in his canoe, the natives fearing that the fish
would instantly smell the objectionable food,
and abandon the neighbourhood.
Taking leave of these hospitable villagers,
the explorer embarked with his men, and
proceeded rapidly down the Bella Coola,
some of the natives acting as boatmen. " I
had imagined," says Mackenzie, " that the
Canadians who accompanied * me were the
most expert canoe-men in the world, but
they are very inferior to these people, as
they themselves acknowledged." One of
their feats was to shoot the canoe over a weir
without taking a drop of water. Making
brief visits to other villages, where he enjoyed
the same generous hospitality, toward evening he came within sight of the mouth of
the river, where it discharges into North
Bentinck Arm. He spent the night at a
village a short distance above the mouth
of the Bella Coola, and on the morning of
the twentieth found himself on salt water,
a welcome sight to the explorer and his men.
Paddling down the North Arm, Mackenzie
crossed the entrance to South Bentinck Arm,
and landed at the cape which Vancouver had
visited some time before and named Point
Menzies. Here, for the first time, he experienced hostility on the part of the Coast
Indians. Three canoes arrived, with a
number of natives, whose attitude was so
insolent that the voyageurs became alarmed
and urged Mackenzie to return at once.
He would not do so, however, until he had
determined his position, which continuous
cloudy weather had so far prevented. At
last he succeeded in getting observations
both for latitude and longitude, and.knew
that he was at the entrance of Vancouver's
Cascade Canal. His object being accomplished, he immediately made preparations
to return, his departure being hastened by the
menacing attitude of the natives, who were
gathering in large numbers.    Before enter-
6S 1
ing his canoe, however, the explorer mixed
some vermilion in melted grease and painted
in large characters on the face of the rock
on which he had slept the previous night,
this brief memorial: " Alexander Mackenzie, from Canada, by land, the twenty-
second of July, one thousand seven hundred
and  ninety-three."
The return journey was made without
serious misadventure. At the mouth of
the Bella Coola a number of the Indians
met him with daggers in their hands and
fury in their faces, but his resolute attitude
and their familiarity with the deadly power
of lire-arms held them in check. With
characteristic daring, Mackenzie was not
content to escape quietly up the river. He
drew his men up in front of the village, and
insisted on the restoration of a number of
articles that had been pilfered, demanding
at the same time a supply of fish as the
price of his departure. The Indians, now
thoroughly   cowed,   immediately   complied
with his demands. Paying for the fish the
explorer continued his journey; rested at
the Friendly Village for a few hours; crossed
the mountains ; and on August 4 had regained the Fraser. August 24 saw him back
once more at his fort on Peace River.
" Here," concludes Mackenzie, " my voyages
of discovery terminate. Their toils and
their dangers, their solicitudes and sufferings,
have not been exaggerated in my description.
On the contrary, in many instances, language
has failed me in the attempt to describe
them. I received, however, the reward of
my labours, for they were crowned with
7° V    . I
T^WELVE years after Alexander Mackenzie made his splendid journey over
the mountains and through the wilderness
of New Caledonia to the sea, another young
fur-trader followed his trail for a time,
and then by a brilliant piece of exploration
opened up a new path to the shores of the
Western Ocean. Scottish by descent, and
Colonial by birth, Simon Fraser combined
the dogged perseverance of the one with
the resourcefulness of the other. He was
born at Bennington, Vermont, about the
year 1776, the son of a captain in Burgoyne's
ill-fated army. After Captain Fraser's
death, his widow, with her young son, settled
- mk
P2S, B --
at Three Rivers, on the St. Lawrence, removing later to St. Andrews, near Cornwall.
Simon entered the service of the North-
West Company in 1792, and revealed such
conspicuous ability that at an age when
many young men are not much more than
started on their life's work, he had reached
the summit of the fur-trader's ambition,
ranking as a bourgeois or partner of the
Not much is known of his life in the west
up to the year 1805, beyond the fact that
he was stationed at various trading posts
between Lake Superior and the Rocky
Mountains, and satisfied to some extent his
restless ambition by constant expeditions
into the territory of all the surrounding
tribes. He crossed the mountains by the
Peace River Pass in 1805, and thereafter his
life becomes part of the early history of New
Caledonia, that wonderful region of mountains, lakes and rivers, with its intensely
interesting  native  population,   into  whose
lives Father Morice has given us such vivid
To Father Morice we are indebted for an
entertaining account of Fraser's first meeting with the Carriers on the shores of Stuart
Lake :
" The soap-berries were ripening, and
most of ' Kwah's people were camped at the
mouth of Beaver Creek, to the south-west
of the present Fort St. James, when what
appeared to them to be two immense canoes
were descried struggling against the wind,
around a point which separated them from
the outlet of the lake.
% Immediately great alarm arises in the
crowd of natives. As such large canoes
have never plied the Carrier waters, there is
hardly a doubt that they must contain
Toeyen's friends, the wonderful strangers
from ' the country beyond the horizon ' he
had been told to expect back. Meanwhile,
the strange craft are heading for Beaver
Creek, and lo ! a song the like of which has
never been heard in this part of the world
strikes the native ear. What can that
mean ? Might not this be a war party
after all ?
p I No,' declares Toeyen, who, donning
his red piece of cloth as an apron, seizes a
tiny spruce bark canoe lying on the beach
and fearlessly paddles away. On, on he
goes, tossed about by the great waves, until
he meets the strangers, who, recognizing him
by his badge, bid him come on board. His
fellow-tribesmen, now seeing in the distance his own little canoe floating tenantless,
take fright. - They have already killed him,'
they exclaim. c Ready, ye warriors; away
with the women ! '
" At this cry, which flies from mouth to
mouth, the men seize their bows and arrows,
and the women and children seek shelter in
the woods. But the curious craft, which
on coming nearer prove to be large birch-
bark canoes, are now within hearing distance,
and Toeyen cries out to the men on shore to
be of good cheer and have no fear, as the
strangers are animated by the most friendly
disposition. The fugitives are hastily recalled, and Simon Fraser, with John Stuart
and his other companions, put ashore in
the presence of a crowd of wondering
Carriers. .  .
I On landing, Fraser's men, to impress
the natives with a proper idea of their
wonderful resources, fired a volley with their
guns, whereupon the whole crowd of Carriers
fell prostrate to the ground. To allay their
fears and make friends, tobacco was offered
them, which on being tasted, was found too
bitter, and thrown away. Then, to show its
use, the crew lighted their pipes, and, at the
sight of the smoke issuing from their mouths,
the people began to whisper that they must
come from the land of ghosts, since they
were still full of the fire wherewith they had
been cremated. Pieces of soap were given
to the women, who, taking them to be cakes
of fat, set upon crunching  them, thereby
causing foam and bubbles in the mouth,
which puzzled both actors and bystanders.''
Near the outlet of Stuart Lake, a trading
post was built, afterward known as Fort St.
James, and which is still in operation. Fort
Fraser was built the same year, on the lake
of that name. For two years, Fraser busied
himself in laying the foundations of the important fur-trade of New Caledonia ; and in
the spring of 1807, word came from the east
that he had been selected to lead an expedition down the Tacouche Tesse (then still
supposed to be the Columbia), to its mouth.
The particular object of the journey was to
offset the discoveries of Lewis and Clark, who
had crossed overland from the Missouri, and
explored the lower portion of the Columbia,
reaching its mouth in November, 1805. As
the great river Fraser was to explore did not
happen to be the Columbia, the particular
object of his journey—to take possession of
its upper waters—was not accomplished;
but in other respects it deserves to be re-
membered as one of the most extraordinary
exploits in the history of exploration.
Taking with him John Stuart, Jules
Maurice Quesnel, nineteen voyageurs, and
two Indian guides, Fraser started down the
river, from Fort George, on May 28. At
Fort George Canon they had a foretaste of
what lay before them. Attempting to run
the rapids, one of the canoes was dashed
violently against the rocks, and only saved
from absolute destruction by the greatest
good fortune. Two days later they passed
the site of future Alexandria—Mackenzie's
farthest point down the river. From this
point, Simon Fraser was covering absolutely
new country. Beyond, all was unexplored.
Who could tell what might not lie hidden
in these wild fastnesses! One thing at least
seemed certain : there would be no lack of
excitement and danger. The natives assured
Fraser that it was nothing short of madness
to attempt to descend the river; that it
was broken by a succession of fierce rapids
. ^
and cataracts; and that its banks rose f o
immense heights on either side, in wild,
impassable precipices. All this might have
daunted the heart of a less stout-hearted
traveller. It had no other effect upon Fraser
than to stiffen his determination to carry
out his orders at all possible costs. Fortunately, he had in Stuart and Quesnel two
comrades after his own heart; and over the
voyageurs he possessed the same rare influence
wielded by Mackenzie; in both cases the
men were dominated by a masterful personality, one that inspired both confidence and
June 3 they ran some minor rapids, and
came to one of formidable dimensions. The
banks rose sheer from the water's edge on
either side. The channel was contracted
to forty or fifty yards, and through this
narrow gorge the immense volume of water
was forced with irresistible power, rushing
turbulently, tumultuously, its foam-crested
waves dashing first against one rocky wall, IH
then against the other. For two long miles
extended this wild tumult of waters. Could
any craft made by man ride safely through ?
The Indians said not; and Fraser was
inclined to agree with them. Yet there
was no alternative but to abandon the
expedition, for the banks here seemed
absolutely impassable. After painful. deliberation, the explorer decided that the
rapids must be tried. He ordered five of
his most expert boatmen to man a light
canoe, and, not without serious misgivings,
watched them push out into the stream.
Only for a moment could they control
her. Over the first cascade she rode in safety.
Then the men lost all power. Drawn into
an eddy, the frail craft was whirled about
like a reed, while her crew could do nothing
more than keep her upright. Out into
the stream again she flew, skimming over
the breakers like a bird, now avoiding a
jutting rock by a hair's-breadth, again
in imminent  danger of   crashing into  the
bank. Finally, she was forced against a
low, projecting rock. The men sprang out,
and managed to hold what remained of
the sorely-tried canoe, until Fraser came
to. their rescue.
To reach them, however, was a serious
problem, and one involving as much peril
jto the rescuers as to those they hoped to
rescue. The bank was almost perpendicular,
and to reach the men on the rocks below,
the rescuing party had to drive their daggers
into the face of the cliff and let themselves
down foot by foot. So they got down, but
to win up again was an even more formidable
task, for the canoe itself must somehow or
other be dragged to the top of the precipice.
Steps were cut in the face of the cliff; a
line fastened to the end of the canoe; some
of the men scrambled to the summit with
the line, while others supported the canoe
on their shoulders. After hours of painful
effort, in which a single false step would
have hurled the whole party into the boiling
80 y
waters beneath, the canoe was dragged to
the top of the cliff before dark. It might
seem at first sight the height of folly to risk
valuable lives for the sake of a canoe; but
it must be borne in mind that to travellers
in the wilderness the possession of a canoe
may often involve the safety of the entire
Now the explorer was in a serious dilemma
indeed. Obviously, where a light canoe
could not ride in safety, itwas folly to attempt
to take loaded canoes. Was there a remote
possibility of getting over by land ? Fraser
made a careful examination of the country,
and decided that it might be done, though
with infinite difficulty. It was, indeed,
a superhuman task—climbing the steep face
of a mountain with eighty or ninety-pound
packs; but the tough, wiry voyageurs,
inured to every hardship, and past-masters
of the portage, achieved the seemingly impossible. Even the canoes were eventually
brought safely over the mountains; and
G 81 scouts of empire
the whole party embarked once more on
the waters of the Fraser.
If they imagined, however, that their
difficulties were over, they were far enough
from the truth. An hour or two of comparatively smooth-going brought them once
more into the perilous neighbourhood of
another great rapid, which was found to be a
succession of immense whirlpools. Here,
again, the choice was between running the
rapids or abandoning the canoes. The
latter were unloaded, therefore, and after
a most hazardous passage got safely through.
Fraser, usually reticent as to the dangers of
his famous journey, refers to this as " a
desperate   undertaking."
In portaging the heavy packs overland,
one of the men wandered off the trail, and
came to a point where he could move neither
forward nor backward. On one side rose
a perpendicular wall of rock; on thf other
was a sheer drop to the river far beneath
If he could get rid of his unwieldy pack, it
would be possible to make his way back slowly
to safer ground ; but every effort to do so
threatened to take both man and pack over
the cliff. Fraser saw his predicament, and
crawled on hands and knees over the rocks,
until he reached a spot from which he could
manage to cut the thongs that held the pack
and send it spinning down into the turbulent
So the story goes day after day ; a tale
of almost incredible hardship and danger ;
running unknown rapids, where nothing
but the marvellous instinct of the voyageur,
or simple good fortune, saved the party from
destruction; toiling painfully over long
portages, with heavy packs, up and down
steep hills and around dizzy precipices, feet
bruised and swollen from contact with sharp
rocks and sharper thorns. A good deal has
been written in disparagement of the French-
Canadian voyageur, and some points of the
indictment are no doubt founded on fact;
but after all, a man who could sing under
such conditions as these might  be forgiven
many grave faults.
One can picture the scene in camp, from
what we know of the voyageur under similar
conditions elsewhere. The camp-fire has
been built on some comparatively level spot,
and around it lie the men, nursing bruised
and bleeding feet, and thoroughly tired, but
forgetful of all the perils of the day's work
as they puff at their pipes and spin yarns,
breaking out every little while into one or
other of the inimitable chansons of their
home-land, perhaps A la claire fontaine, or
Malbrouck, or En roulant ma boule :
Derrier' cliez nous, y a-t-un 6tang,
En roulant ma boule.
Trois beaux canards s'en vont baignant,
En roulant ma boule.
Rouli, roulant, ma boule roulant,
En roulant ma boule roulant,
En roulant ma boule."
Day followed day, and still the river showed
no signs of a less tempestuous passage. If
anything, its wild  medley of cascade and
■a   I      «4 Ifti
"■'' -rr-
~— — ,-.J.jqjllJ».WJW«
waterfall, rock and whirlpool became more
violent and forbidding. The morning
of the 9th they encountered a rapid that
threw all its predecessors into the shade.
" Here," says Fraser, " the channel contracts to about forty yards, and is enclosed
by two precipices of immense height which,
bending towards each other, make it narrower
above than below. The water which rolls
down this extraordinary passage in tumultuous waves and with great velocity had a
frightful appearance. However, it being absolutely impossible to carry the canoes by
land, all hands without hesitation embarked
as it were a corps perdu upon the mercy of
this awful tide. Once engaged, the die
was cast. Our great difficulty consisted in
keeping the canoes within the medium or
fil d'eau, that is, clear of the precipice on
one side and from the gulfs formed by the
waves on the other. Thus skimming along
as fast as lightning, the crews, cool and
determined,  followed each other in awful
■Ft"     8s§        I SCOUTS   OF  EMPIRE
silence, and when we arrived at the end,
we stood gazing at each other in silent congratulation at our narrow escape from total
The following day, convinced at last of
the impracticability of the river for canoes,
Fraser abandoned them, cached all the
heavier articles, made the remainder into
eighty-pound packs, and set forward on foot
to the sea. Five days later he reached the
Forks, where what was afterward known as
the Thompson joins the main stream.
Here he obtained a canoe from a party of
Lillooet Indians, in which some of the party
embarked, the rest following by land. On
the 26th, navigation again became quite
impracticable, and the entire party had to
proceed by land, over an exceedingly rugged
and difficult country. | I have been for
a long period among the Rocky mountains,"
says Fraser, " 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 or the shrouds of a ship, by poles
hanging to one another and crossed at certain
distances with twigs, the whole suspended
from the top to the foot of immense precipices
and fastened at both extremities to stones
and trees, furnished a safe and convenient
passage to the natives; but we, who had not
had the advantage of their education and
experience, were often in imminent danger
when obliged to follow their example.'1
On the 28th, Fraser reached a village of
the Achinrow Indians, where he and his men
enjoyed the luxury of boiled salmon. Here
again canoes were obtained, and the explorer
embarked on the final stage of this most
eventful journey. The following day they
reached a point where .the river divided into
several  channels.   Proceeding  down  what
■ I 87     .
ll [' [
seemed to be the most promising of these
channels, Fraser finally came in sight of a
small bay or arm of the sea.    Following the
right shore, he paddled up a little river to
a village of the Coast Indians.    The natives
fled at his approach, but returned after a
time, brandishing their war clubs from a
safe distance.    Re-embarking, the explorer
continued his  course  to  a  second village,
but did not think it prudent to disembark.
His provisions were now completely exhausted, and from the attitude of the natives
there seemed very little prospect of renewing
the   supply.     Very  reluctantly,   therefore,
Fraser turned about and ran rapidly upstream
with the tide, encamping near a village of
friendly   Indians.    He    confesses    his    disappointment in not seeing the main ocean,
but, after all, this was a very minor consideration.    He had  achieved  the  extraordinary
task of tracing one of the most unnavigable
of rivers from its upper waters to the sea,
and had established the very important fact
that this great river was not the Columbia.
More fortunate than some other great explorers, Fraser's name has been preserved
from oblivion in that of the tempestuous
stream of which he was the true discoverer.
89 f. 7
' -| VI
ACKING the dramatic qualities of the
—a lives of other western explorers, that of
David Thompson is none the less of absorbing interest. His fame does not rest upon
one brilliant exploit, but rather upon the
results of a lifetime, and a long lifetime at
that, of patient and most effective service.
" In the westward explorations of the
North-West Company," says H. H. Bancroft,
§f no man performed more valuable service, or
estimated his achievements more modestly."
He was born in the parish of St. John,
Westminster, on April 30, 1770, and entered
the service of the Hudson's Bay Company
at  the  age  of  fourteen,  starting his  long
career in the west at Fort Churchill, on
Hudson Bay. There he began what is undoubtedly one of the most remarkable series
of journals in the whole history of exploration. For the amazing period of sixty-six
years, with scarcely a break, he recorded in
these journals the results of his labours as fur-
trader, surveyor and indefatigable traveller.
They fill forty-five volumes of manuscript,
and cover a very large part of what is now the
Dominion of Canada. They include the
narratives of a number of original explorations of great value, and of innumerable
surveys of regions where others had preceded him, but had left only imperfect
records. They constitute a veritable mine of
information on the topography of Northwestern America, as well as on the history
of the western fur-trade. These journals,
with his great manuscript map, made for the
North-West Company in the years'1813-14,
and embodying the results of his observations
and surveys for nearly a quarter of a century,
9i tsm&aa
are a legacy of which Canadians may well
feel proud. As a people we have been
shamefully slow in recognizing our debt to
such men as David Thompson. Some day,
perhaps, he may find a niche in some Hall
of Fame, in the company of Cabot and
Cartier; Hudson and Hearne; La Salle,
Marquette and La Verendrye ; Vancouver,
Mackenzie and Fraser.
For thirteen years, Thompson remained in
the service of the Hudson's Bay Company,
building up the fur trade, establishing new
posts in the interior, and surveying large
sections of the wonderful system of waterways—the high-road of the fur-trader—
that drains the country from the Rocky
Mountains to Hudson Bay. In May 1797,
he left the Hudson's Bay Company and
entered the service of the North-West
Company. On May 23 in that year, he
makes this note in his journal: " This day
left the service of the Hudson's Bay Co.,
and   (entered)   that   of   the  Company   of
Merchants from Canada. May God Almighty prosper me.' He left Bedford
House, on Reindeer Lake, north of the
Churchill, and travelled down to Cumberland House, meeting on the way Simon
Fraser and Roderick McKenzie, of the
North-West Company. With them he
continued down to Grand Portage, then the
headquarters of the Canadian company.
Under the Treaty of 1792, the forty-
ninth parallel had become the dividing line
between Canada and the United States, west
of the Lake of the Woods, and Thompson's
first service to his new employers was to
survey the boundary and ascertain the position of the company's posts with respect
thereto. He was also instructed to visit
the Mandan villages on the Missouri and
prepare a report upon this intensely interesting tribe; to inquire for the fossils of prehistoric animals ; and to search for anymonu-
ments which might throw light on the
ancient state of the country through which
93 aHM.«Qi*aQQo< wwj.mJCKio>jfmaa
he was to travel. All of which bears striking
testimony to the breadth of view of the
enterprising Scottish merchants of Montreal
who controlled the destinies of the North-
West Company. Thompson faithfully carried out his instructions, so far as the
surveys were concerned; and paid a notable
visit to the Mandans in 1797—the earliest
of which we have any record, after that
of La Verendrye in 1738. Apparently he
saw nothing of the fossils of prehistoric
animals by the way, or of anything in the
nature of ancient monuments.
The following year, he made an important
journey on foot, in midwinter, in the course
of which he discovered the headwaters of
the Mississippi—a quarter of a century
before Beltrami's journey of 1823. His
starting-point was McDonald's House, at the
mouth of the Souris, and his companions
there—veteran fur-traders and travellers—
laughed at the idea of attempting such a journey as he contemplated, in midwinter, and
scouted it as impossible. David Thompson,
however, enjoyed the reputation of never
having set out upon any expedition, and
returning without having achieved his
object. This journey proved no exception
to the rule. He tramped down the Assini-
boine on foot, taking with him a dog-team
to carry his provisions; and ascended Red
River to its upper waters. Toward the end
of April, he reached Turtle Lake, which
he states to be the source of the Mississippi.
By various waterways he made his way to
the St. Louis River, which he descended to
Lake Superior, and then surveyed the south
shore of the lake, reaching Sault Ste Marie
on May 28. From there he returned to
Grand Portage.
It would be impossible in this short
sketch to follow Thompson in his journeys
and explorations throughout the immense
country between Lake Superior and the
Rocky Mountains. In 1807, however, he
began the most notable of all his undertak-
*95 e»
ings—the exploration of the mighty river of
the Pacific slope, the Columbia. To this
important work he devoted five years of his
life. It was the crowning achievement of
his long service in the west. Upon its
completion, he left for ever the wonderful
region of immense river-systems, boundless
plains, and gigantic mountain ranges, in
which so much of his life had been spent,
and thereafter devoted himself to government surveys in the comparatively well-
known country east of Lake Superior.
In May, 1807, Thompson left Rocky
Mountain House, on the north bank of the
Saskatchewan a little above the mouth of
the Clearwater, and on June 22 reached the
summit of Howse Pass. A few miles more,
and he stood on the banks of the Blaeberry,
a small tributary of the Columbia. He
had now exchanged the comparatively gentle
and easy-going rivers of the plains for the
wild and turbulent streams of the Pacific
slope.    All his  energy  and  resourcefulness
would be needed to carry his ambitious
project to a successful conclusion. The
Blaeberry represented the first step in a long
and difficult journey to the shores of the
Pacific, a May God in His mercy give
me," he piously notes in his journal, " to see
where its waters flow into the ocean, and
return in safety."
Two days later he descended the Blaeberry to the Columbia, which, through a
natural misapprehension, he named the
Kootenay. Here he camped for twelve days,
building canoes, and on July 12 started upstream. Duncan McGillivray had anticipated him as far as the Blaeberry, in 1800,
but David Thompson was the first white
man to reach the upper waters of the
Columbia. Before his task was completed,
he was to endure many hardships and dangers,
and to have his iron will and powers of endurance tried to the uttermost, but in the
end he would have to his credit the exploration of the entire length of ^he Columbia,
and its great tributary the Kootenay, and
down to the point where Lewis and Clark
reached the Columbia in 1805 he could
claim the honour of first discovery.
About the middle of July, Thompson
reached Windermere Lake, and built Fort
Kootenay, where he spent the winter. In
the spring of 1808 he continued his way up
the Columbia to its source in Upper Columbia
Lake. From the head of this lake, he could
see the waters of another mighty stream
flowing turbulently to the south, and immediately determined to follow it. This
river, which he named after his friend Mc-
Gillivray, was the Kootenay, though its
identity as a branch of the Columbia was not
to be discovered for some time to come.
Portaging his canoes over the flat terrace,
now cut by a canal, Thompson embarked
on the Kootenay, which he descended to
Kootenay Lake, which he reached May 14.
Returning to the Columbia, he packed his
winter's  furs,  and  carried  them  over  the
98 I
mountains    to    Rocky    Mountain    House.
September   of  the   following   year   he   set
out  on  horseback,  from  a  point  on   the
Kootenay below the falls: crossed the Cabinet
Range,   and   reached   Kullyspell,   or   Pend
d'Oreille, Lake, where he built   Kullyspell
House.    From  this  time  until the  spring
of 1810, he was almost constantly occupied
in  exploring  the  Pend  d'Oreille  country,
Crossing to the east once more, with the
winter's  pack,  he  returned  in  November.
The Piegans having barred his way through
Howse Pass, Thompson turned north, and
after suffering almost incredible hardships,
penetrated the mountains by way of Athabaska Pass, which he discovered in January,
1811.    He reached the Columbia some distance below the Blaeberry, and in the spring
added this portion of the river to his previous
surveys.    In June he travelled overland to
the Spokane River, which he descended to
the Columbia, and ascended the latter as
far as Kettle Falls, the magnificent waterfall
of which the Canadian artist and traveller
Paul Kane has left us such a glowing
Resting here for a few days, Thompson
started down the Columbia, and on July 9
reached the mouth of Snake River—the
highest point attained by Lewis and Clark.
Here he took formal possession of the
country. j Here," he says in his journal,
" I erected a pole, with a half sheet of paper
well tied about it, with these words on it—
Know hereby that this country is claimed
by Great Britain as part of its Territories,
and that the N.-W. Company of Merchants
from Canada, finding the Factory for this
People inconvenient for them, do hereby
intend to erect a Factory in this place for
the commerce of the country around.—
D. Thompson." Alexander Ross ascended
the Columbia in August of the same year,
and mentions the proclamation in his narrative : " Early in the morning what did we
see waving triumphantly  in the air at  the
confluence of the two great branches, but
a British flag, hoisted in the middle of the
Indian camp, planted there by Mr. Thompson as he passed, with a written paper,
laying claim to the country north of the
forks as British territory." The explorer
continued his way down the Columbia,
reaching its mouth July 15 or 16. Here
had been founded a few months before the
famous trading post of Astoria, immortalized
in Washington Irving's delightful but somewhat inaccurate story.
Retracing his steps, Thompson reached
Kettle Falls, by a roundabout route, toward
the end of August. From here he wrote
a letter to Daniel Williams Harmon, then
stationed at Stuart's Lake, in Northern
British Columbia. The letter went by what
was known as the Indian post. Paul Kane,
in his Wanderings of an Artist, describes
this primitive form of mail delivery, fj The
gentlemen in charge of the various posts have
frequently occasion to send letters, sometimes
**■ i •      ta£
for a considerable distance, when it is either
inconvenient or impossible for them to lit
out a canoe with their own men to carry it.
In such cases a letter is given to an Indian,
who carries it as far as suits his convenience
and safety. He then sells the letter to
another, who carries it until he finds an
opportunity of selling it to advantage ; it
is thus passed on and sold until it arrives
at its destination, gradually increasing in
value according to the distance, and the last
possessor receiving the reward for its safe
delivery. In this manner letters are frequently
sent with perfect security, and with much
greater rapidity than could be done otherwise."
One may get some idea of the " rapidity "
of this means of letter carriage by the fact
that Thompson's letter reached Harmon on
the sixth of the following April* It took
exactly seven months and eight days going
from Kettle Falls to Stuart's Lake !
From Kettle Falls, Thompson continued
his survey of the Columbia, ascending through
the Lower and Upper Arrow Lakes, to
Boat Encampment, at the mouth of Canoe
River, where he had spent the latter part of
the winter of 1810-11. He had now surveyed every foot of the Columbia, from
source to mouth, and had done it with the
thoroughness that marked all his work.
His labours in the west were now drawing
to a close. He had devoted the best years
of his life to the cause of western discovery,
in the service of the two great Fur-trading
Companies, and felt disposed to spend his
remaining years in less strenuous employment. In a letter to Alexander Fraser, he
says: " If all goes well and it pleases good
Providence to take care of me, I hope to see
you and a civilized world in the autumn of
1812. I am getting tired of such constant
hard journeys; for the last twenty months
I have spent only bare two months under the
shelter of a hut; all the rest has been in
my tent, and there is little likelihood the
next twelve months will be much otherwise."
■ s
This was written in December, 1810, from
the Athabaska River, in the course of his
exceedingly difficult and dangerous trip
through the mountains by way of the Athabaska Pass.
Thompson finally left the Columbia River
•country in May, 1812, crossing the mountains
by the Athabaska Pass, and arriving at Fort
William, on Lake Superior, in August.
Here he finally took leave of the west and
the fur-trade, and settled at Terrebonne,
where for two years he was engaged in the
preparation of his great map. He died in
February, 1857, at the ripe age of eighty-


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