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Sir Alexander Mackenzie and his influence on the history of the North West Sage, W. N. (Walter Noble), 1888-1963 1922

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NO. 43, JUNE, 1922
The Jackson Press, Kingston m I
No. 1, Tie Colonial Policy of Chatham, by W. L. Grant.
No. 2, Canada and the Most Favored Nation Treaties, by
O. D. Skelton. |p||
No. 3. The Status of Women in New England and New France,
by James Douglas.
No. 4, Sir Charles Bagot: An Incident in Canadian Parliamentary History, by J. L. Morison.
No. 5, Canadian Bank Inspection, by W. W. Swanson.
No. 6, Should Canadian Cities Adopt Commission Govern"
ment, by William Bennett Munro.
No. 7, An Early Canadian impeachment, by D. A. McArthur.
No. 8, A Puritan at the Court of Louis XIV, by W.^T Grant.
No. 9, British Supremacy and Canadian Autonomy: An Examination of Early Victorian Opinion Concerning
Canadian Self-government, by J. L. Morison.
No. 10, The Problem of Agricultural Credit in Canada, by
J| H. MicheU.        M '*' |jp.
No. 11, St. Alban in History and Legend: A Critical Examination; The King and His Councillors: Prolegomena to
a History of the House of Lords, by L. F. Rushbrook
Williams. ':^ptti S
No. 12, Life of the Settler in Western Canada Before the War
of 1812, by Adam Shortt.
No. 13, The Grange in Canada, by H. MicheU.
No. 14, The Financial Power of the Empire, by W. W. Swanson.
No. 15, Modern British Foreign Policy, by J. L. Morison.
No. 16, Federal Finance, by O. D. Skelton.
No. 17, Craft-Gilds of the Thirteenth Century in Paris, by F.
B. Millett.
No. 18, The Co-operative Store in Canada, by H. MicheU.
(Continued oa inside back page) SIR ALEXANDER MACKENZIE1
THE first white man to reach the Pacific Ocean overland by
crossing the North American continent north of the
Spanish possessions was Alexander Mackenzie, a bourgeois
or partner of the Canadian North West Company. On the face
of a rock, on the shores of Bentinck Arm, at Point Menzies
on the British Columbia coast, the following simple statement
was inscribed:
'Alexander Mackenzie, from Canada, by land, the twenty-
second of July, one thousand seven hundred and ninety-three.'
If Mackenzie had accomplished nothing else than this, his
niche in the Hall of Fame would have been secure. But the
discovery of the overland route to the Pacific was merely the
crowning achievement of a life of hardship and adventure.
Four years previous, in 1789, Mackenzie had discovered the
great river which now bears his name, and had traced it
from its source in the Great Slave Lake, to its outlets in the
Arctic Ocean. From the time of his admission to a partnership in the fur-trading firm of Gregory and Macleod in 1785,
until 1794, when he finally left the North Country for good,
Mackenzie travelled many thousands of miles over the canoe
routes and portages between Grand Portage on Lake Superior
and the Lake of the Hills, as Lake Athabasca was then termed.
But Mackenzie, though a partner in the North West Company
xBibliographidal note. |p|
The following abbreviations have been used in the preparation of
this paper, which was originally delivered before the History and Social
Science Section of the Washington Educational Association at Belling-
ham, Wash., U.S.A.
Voyages for Mackenzie, Alexander.—Voyages from Montreal on the
River St. Laurence through the Continent of North America to
the Frozen and Pacific Oceans in the years 1789 and 1793.—
London:  1801.
Davidson for Davidson, Charles Gordon.^The North West Company.—
Berkeley, Cat, 1918.
Masson for Masson.—Les Bourgeois de la Compagnie du Nord-Ouest.—
Quebec: 1889-90.
Bryce for Bryce, George.—Mackenzie, Selkirk, Simpson (Makers of
Canada Series).—Morang, Toronto: 1911. and later in the so-called X Y Company, was, in his early
years, by no means satisfied to remain a mere fur-trader.f§He
could not bring himself to settle down to the hum-drum life of
a trading fort. The lure of the vast unknown was upon him,
and on two occasions he set out to explore the huge hinterlands
of North America. On each occasion he reached an Ocean,
and opened up territory hitherto unknown.
When he undertook the first of the voyages Alexander
Mackenzie was only twenty-six years of age# He reached the
Pacific at the age of thirty. He left the North Country, when
under thirty-two years of age, with his great discoveries made.
After that time the fur-trader triumphed over.the explorer,
and the politician over both; for Mackenzie became the focussing point for the opposition to the firm of M'Tavish,
Frobisher and Company, who were the backbone of the North
West Company. He was, by this time, the greatest figure
next to Simon M'Tavish, 'le Marquis', in the Canadian fur-
trade, but even M'Tavish's reputation was not so well known
internationally as Mackenzie's.
''.'■■-   i  • . II--'   '■
Early Days in the Fur Trade.W^,
It will be well here to outline very briefly the early career
of Alexander Mackenzie—for he did not become Sir Alexander
Mackenzie until 1802, when he was knighted on account of
his great achievements.JgHe was born in 1763 at Stornaway,
in the Island of Lewis, Scotland, and seems to have received
a fair education, although our knowledge of the facts of his
early life is very incompletei He came to Canada at the age
of sixteen, arriving in the year 1779. He attached himself to
Mr. John Gregory, a Montreal merchant, with whom he tells
us he remained five years.1
During this period 1779-1784, the Canadian fur-trade was
largely in the hands of a group of traders headed by the firms
of M'Tavish and Company, Todd and McGill, and Benjamin
and Joseph Frobisher. These traders, representing nine
distinct interests, in 1779 formed an agreement for one year,2
^Voyages, p. xix
2Davidson, p. 9. and in 1783-4 the North West Company was foundedift This
Company was 'purely a partnership with transferable shares
and not a chartered company,'3 and its stock was divided into
sixteen equal shares.
^ftlt so happened that two of the possible partners in the
North West Company, Peter Pond and Peter Pangman, were
not satisfied with the new arrangement and began, to try to
make other plans. Pond was at length brought back into the
North West Company's fold, but Pangman entered into successful negotiations with Alexander Mackenzie's employers,
Messrs. Gregory and Macleod. A rival concern was launched,
and in it, at the instance of Mr. Gregory, Alexander Mackenzie
became a partner.
Mackenzie proceeded at once to Grand Portage, on Lake
Superior, situated about forty miles south-west of Fort William, Ontario, in American territory. Grand Portage was
then the depot of the Western Canadian fur-trade, and there
Mackenzie received his first assignment for the upper country
trade. He was placed in charge of the outfit for English
River—as the Churchill was then termed. For the opponents
of the North West Company were determined to compete with
their rivals throughout the entire fur-hunting territory, even
as far north as Lake Athabasca.
Thus Alexander Mackenzie set off for the Northland in
1786, accompanied by his cousin, Roderick Mackenzie, and the
two cousins started at once to build up a reputation as fur-
traders. Alexander Mackenzie went on further into the
interior than did Roderick, but each of them was very successful. Orie point of interest to note is how well the
Mackenzies managed to get along with their rivals of the
North West Company. Unfortunately Mr. Ross, who had
been placed in charge of Athabasca by Mackenzie's concern,
met an untimely death, as a result of an altercation with
Peter Pond, who was representing the North West Company
in that region.3a jfll
The result of Ross's death was the amalgamation of the
two rival concerns in 1787.   A new North West Company was
- 3aThis was the second murder case in which Pond was involved, the
first being that of  Waden,  or Wadin,  in  1780 or  early in  1781,  see
Voyages, p. xvi, and Davidson, p. 41.
3Davidson, p. 13. formed, including the rival company with Alexander
Mackenzie as one of the new partners. Mackenzie was then
sent to Athabasca, where he arrived in the autumn of 1787.
Peter Pond was still nominally left in charge, but Mackenzie
seems to have been the real ruler of the district.
' lr    ■    ■ IL
The Arctic Voyage, 1789
It was while he was in Athabasca that Mackenzie first
formed his project of attempting to find his way by river to
the northern ocean. It is more than probable that he expected
to find the long-sought northwest passage. He certainly tells
us in his Voyages, that 'the firstfivoyage has settled
the dubious point of a practicable North West passage; and I trust it has set that long agitated
question at rest and extinguished the disputes respecting
it forever.'4 This voyage clearly showed there was no northwest passage south of 70° north latitude. Roderick Mackenzie
tells us that as early as 1788 his cousin had informed him 'in
confidence that he had determined on undertaking a voyage of
discovery the ensuing Spring by the water communication
reported to lead from Slave Lake to the Northern Ocean.'5
During the spring of 1789 Mackenzie was preparing for
his first voyage of discovery. Accordingly he sent Roderick
Mackenzie to Grand Portage in his place, and got his affairs
in order for the great undertaking..
The start was finally made on the morning of June 3,
1789, from Fort Chipewyan, the new fort on Lake Athabasca,
built by Roderick Mackenzie in 1788. Alexander Mackenzie's
party consisted of four Canadians, one German, and two
women, the wives of two of the Canadian boatmen. With
them went several Indians including one known as the English
chief. One of Mackenzie's most trusted henchmen, Le Roux,
accompanied the party to Great Slave Lake, and was commissioned to build a fort on the northern shore of that lake.
It is beyond the scope of this paper to follow in detail
the 'dash for the Arctic Sea/ The curious may find it given
in full in Mackenzie's Voyages) and they will be found fasci-
4Preface, p. v.
5Masson, Bourgeois, vol. I, p. 27. nating reading. Mackenzie was as successful as an author as he
was as an explorer, and his narrative is wonderfully interesting.   It begins simply thus:
'June 1789, Wednesday 3.
'We embarked at nine in the morning, at Fort
Che'pewyan, on the South side of the Lake of the Hills, in
latitude 58.40 North and longitude 110.30 West from Greenwich, and compass has sixteen degrees variation East, in a
canoe made of birch bark.' 6
The course of the explorers was across Lake Athabasca,
down Slave River to Great Slave Lake, which was reached on
June 9.7 This lake was found to be still full of ice and the
mosquitoes were bad. After several days' delay Mackenzie
crossed the Lake and on June 25th parted with M. Le Roux
who remained behind to trade with the Indians. Four days
were spent in trying to find the outlet to Great Slave Lake,
and finally, on Monday, June 29th, the party entered the great
river which now bears Mackenzie's name. From then on
Mackenzie's course was along the river to the Arctic Sea,
which was reached on July 12th, 1789.
During the voyage to the sea Mackenzie was continually
on the lookout for mountain ranges, and rivers flowing from
the West. Although in the Voyages he does not tell us definitely, it may be inferred that he was looking for a river
which would take him to the Pacific, in case the newly found
great river did not do so.8 Thus he chronicles the discovery
of the mouth of Liard River, which he calls the River of the
Mountain, on July 1st. The next morning the Rocky Mountains were sighted. These mountains 'appeared to be sprinkled with white stones,, which glistened in the sun,
and were called by the Indians manetoe aseniah,
or spirit stones/9 Mackenzie suspected that the white
patches were talc, but as they had disappeared by the return
journey he concluded that they were only snow fields which
had melted as the season advanced. The mouth of the Great
Bear Lake River, flowing in from the east, was passed   on
6Mackenzie, Voyages, vol.i, p. 2.
7Mackenzie, Voyages, p. 7.
8Dr. G. C. Davidson's discovery of a new map by Mackenzie in the
Colonial Office proves this.    See infra. ^Voyages, p. 29. i
6 m
July 5,10 and the rapids of the Mackenzie were encountered on
July 6 and 7, but proved to be of. little difficulty. Three days
later the party arrived at the head of the delta at the mouth
of the river.
There is little evidence to show that Mackenzie realized
that he had now almost arrived at the Arctic Ocean. ^An
observation taken on July 10 showed the latitude of 67° 47'
which, as Mackenzie naively remarks, 'was farther North
than I expected,' but he puts the blame on the variation of
the compass.yf-Although his provisions were running short,
Mackenzie determined to follow the further course of the
waters which he believed 'emptied themselves into the Hyperborean Sea/ He encountered difficulties with the Indians at
this point, the guide appearing most unwilling to proceed further. However, Mackenzie determined to keep on, and,-on
July 12, reached the mouth of the middle branch of the
Mackenzie River. An observation gave 69° 1' North latitude,
and it was noticed that the 'lake was quite open to the Westward,' but very shallow, so shallow that it was impossible to
proceed. Apparently without knowing it, Mackenzie had
arrived at the Arctic Ocean.
The party remained from July 12 to July 16 exploring-
the islands, including Whale Island, in the vicinity, and the
appearance of the tide was noted on July 15, when it was
observed that the 'water had flowed' under the baggagje.11 The
next day, apparently owing to lack of provisions, Mackenzie
turned back. He gives no reasons in his journal for so doing,
but merely states: 'We accordingly made for the river and
stemmed the current/
The return to Fort Chipewyan was comparatively
uneventful. The outstanding bit of information was obtained
on July 26th from a Dog-rib Indian, who told Mackenzie that
'the Hare Indians had informed him that there was a river
on the other side of the mountains to the southwest. This
river was larger than the Mackenzie, and emptied into the
Belhoullay Toe,12 or White Man's Lake. The next day
Mackenzie got further information about the mysterious river
10Voyages, p. 39.
X1p; 65. 12Davidson, p. 56. of the West. He met more Indians, one of whom drew him a
map on the sand.   Mackenzie thus describes the map:
'This singular map he. immediately undertook to delineate,
and accordingly traced out a very long point of land between
the rivers, though without paying the least attention to their
courses, which he represented as running into the great lake
at the extremity of which, as he had been told by Indians of
other nations, there was a Belhoullay Couin, or White Man's
Fort. This I took to be Unalascha Fort, and consequently the
river to the west to be Cook's River; and that the body of water
or sea into which this river discharges itself at Whale Island,
communicates with Norton Sound/ 13
Mackenzie was unable to get this Indian, or any other, to
accompany him across the mountains to the other river, which
seems to have been, without doubt, either the Yukon or one of
its tributaries, possibly the Porcupine. So the leader had to
abandon his project and resume his journey up the Mackenzie'
At length, on September 12th, Fort Chipewyan was again
'•rr^^d^fter a voyage of discovery lasting one hundred and
two days.   Mackenzie had not reached the Pacific, but he had
discovered a mighty river, and arrived at the Northern Ocean.
One of the latest writers on Mackenzie's voyages, Dr. G.
C. Davidson, maintains that it is 'an interesting question
whether Mackenzie realized that he had actually reached this
Northern Ocean/ 14 In fact, Mackenzie calls the body of water
he found there a, 'lake/ and seems to suggest that it empties
into the Hyperborean Sea.§ To be sure, he mentions the tide,
but tides are indicative of inlets and arms of the ocean, as well
as the ocean itself. Dr. Davidson has discovered a map in the
Colonial Office on which, there appears this inscription on the
west side of the river: 'By the Indian Account the Sea is but
a short way to the Westward.15 Among the notes 'pinned to
the map' is the following:
'Athabasca is 2750 miles to the North and. West of
Montreal, the distance from this to the North Sea in Latitude
69£° North, and Longitude about 135° West from Greenwich
by the Slave Lake and Mackenzie's River is 1540 miles.    It
13Voyages, p. 85.
14Davidson, p. 59. 15Davidson, p. 60. 8
was in the summer of 1789 that I went this Expedition, in the
hopes of getting into Cook's River. Though I was disappointed in this it proved without doubt that there is not a
north-west passage below this latitude, and I believe it will
|j§ generally be allowed that no passage is practicable in a Higher
Latitude, being eternally covered with ice.'16
'This statement', Dr. Davidson concludes, 'indicates that
Mackenzie supposed that the river which drains Great Slave
Lake emptied into the Pacific Ocean.'
This certainly seems a reasonable explanation.
[ HI. '.       ■..■". :V      "
To the Pacific by Land, 1792-3.
Three years after the first voyage Alexander Mackenzie
undertook his second attempt to reach the Pacific. These
intervening years had been spent for the most part in preparation for the new attempt, although Mackenzie had not
been unmindful of his duties and interest as a fur-trader. In
the spring of 1790 he had left Fort Chipewyan and proceeded
to.Grand Portage. There he was rather chagrined to find that
his voyage had excited but little interest. In July of that year
he wrote to Roderick Mackenzie:
'My expedition was hardly spoken of, but that is what I
expected/ 17 What the bourgeois of the North West Company
were chiefly interested in was the reorganization of the Company. In the reorganized company of twenty shares,
Alexander Mackenzie held two shares, one of which he bought
from MacBeath for three hundred and fifty pounds, Halifax
currency, 'over and above the stock on hand/ 18
The winter of 1791-2 was spent by Mackenzie in England,
gaining the mathematical knowledge and purchasing technical
equipment necessary for the new venture. During his absence
the astronomer, Turner, sent out by the Hudson's Bay Company at the request of the Colonial Office, had wintered at Fort
Chipewyan, and found by accurate observation the distance
of Lake Athabasca from the Pacific to be not fifty leagues as
16Davidson, p. 61.
17Masson, Bourgeois, vol. I, p. 35.
18Masson, Bourgeois, vol. i, p. 39. Pond had supposed, but rather over three hundred leagues.
So when Alexander Mackenzie returned to Fort Chipewyan
in 1792, probably the late summer or early autumn, though
the exact date is not recorded, he was well equipped for his
new undertaking, and he possessed a better idea of the
amount of territory to be covered.
Accordingly, on October 10, 1792, leaving Roderick
Mackenzie in charge of Fort Chipewyan, Alexander Mackenzie
started out for his winter quarters on the Peace River. On
November 1, 1792, he reached the wintering place six miles
above the mouth of the Smoky River.19 There the explorer
and his party remained until spring, Mackenzie filling in time,
.observing the habits and customs of the Indians, attempting
to get information from them concerning the land beyond the
mountains, and noting all occurrences of importance in his
At length, on May 8, 1793, Mackenzie despatched six
canoes laden with* provisions, letters, and furs, to Fort Chipewyan. The next day he and his party embarked in a single
canoe for the new adventure. Mackenzie's companions on this
occasion were as follows: one Scotchman, Alexander Mackay,
Mackenzie's trusted lieutenant; six French Canadians, two of
whom, Joseph Landry and Charles Ducette, had accompanied
the chief on his previous voyage, and two Indians as hunters
and interpreters. There was no guide. Apparently there was
no Indian available who was acquainted with the country
beyond the mountains. |||
Mackenzie's path to the Pacific lay along the Peace River.
It was a toilsome journey, but steady progress was made. On
May 12 some Indians told Mackenzie that he should reach
the Rocky Mountains in ten days' time.20 He notices in his
journal for that day that the land on both sides of the river
was 'very much elevated' and 'on the western side' it presented
'white, steep, and lofty cliffs/ 21 The same day an old Indian
told Mackenzie of 'another large river beyond the Rocky
Mountains/ and described to him 'a fork of it between the
mountains/    He directed Mackenzie to take the southern
"Davidson, p. 63.
^Voyages, p. 157.      gfe 21p. 158. 10
branch; 'from thence/ he said, 'there was a carrying place of
about a day's march for a young man to get to the other river/
By Sunday, May 19th,^1793, formidable rapids were
encountered, and the party met with some danger. The canoe
was injured, and had to be repaired. It looked for a while
as if the rapids were insurmountable, but in the end British
pluck triumphed, and the party kept on going up stream in
face of obstacles which would have daunted less determined
At length the mountains were crossed, and on May 31
Mackenzie and his fellow-travellers arrived at the forks of
the Peace River, where the Finlay from the N.N.W. and the
Parsnip from the-E.S.E. meet to form, the main stream.22
Mindful of the old Indian's advice, Mackenzie, much against
his will, followed the southern branch. It was well he did so,
for the Finlay would only have taken him to the Pacific by a
much longer route and a portage to the Skeena River, which
would easily have been missed.^ By this time the party was
exhausted and disheartened, and it needed all Mackenzie's and
Mackay's persistence and firmness to keep the voyageurs and
Indians to their task. The crew were for following the Finlay
branch, partly, apparently, because Mackenzie had determined
to follow the other, but they were overruled, and the canoe
proceeded up the Parsnip branch.
In face of great difficulties the explorers went on toiling
up the river, fit was desperate work, and we read on June
2 that 'the men were so oppressed with fatigue, that it was
necessary that they should encamp at six in the afternoon/ 23
The usual day began with sunrise (or even before) and ended
with sunset. For some reason Mackenzie missed the mouth
of the Pack River, which would have taken him to McLeod's
Lake and finally, by Summit Lake, to Giscome Portage, the
natural trail across the height of land which separates the
headwaters of the Peace River from the main stream of the
On June 9, some Indians appeared, who possessed iron
utensils which they had, apparently, procured by intertribal
22Voyages, p. 185. ^Voyages, p. 188.
24See Davidson, p. 64. 11
trade from the Coast Indians.25 These Indians told Mackenzie
that 'he could proceed by a series of portages from the head
of the Parsnip River to a small river emptying into a large
one flowing towards the mid-day sun/ 26 This latter river, the
Indian stated, 'did not empty itself into the sea/ 27 The river
was, of course, the Fraser. H|
Thus encouraged, Mackenzie's party proceeded, and on
June 12, 1793, reached a small lake which the explorer took
to be to be the 'highest and Southermost source of the Unijah
or Peace River, latitude 54° 24' North, longitude 121° west of
Greenwich/ 2S
After a short portage another river, which Simon Fraser
later named the Bad River, was reached, and on June 17, after
many adventures the explorers launched their canoe in the
main stream of that great river, the Fraser.a9 Two days later,
on June 19, the mouth of the Nechaco River was passed,
apparently unnoticed. As the weather was foggy, Mackenzie
can probably be excused for his failure to discover the most
obvious route to the Pacific via the Nechaco River, Fraser
Lake and Burns Lake to the Bulkeley and Skeena Rivers (i.e.,
following the line of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway from
Fort George to the mouth of the Skeena).
On June 21, some new information was obtained from a
band of Carrier Indians who, at first, seemed extremely
hostile, but were soon pacified by the present of some beads,
looking glasses, 'and other alluring trinkets/ 30 The Indians'
account of the Fraser was sufficiently terrible to cause even
Mackenzie some alarm.
'According to their account/ he states, 31 'this river, whose
course is very extensive, runs towards the mid-day sun; and
that at its mouth, as they had been informed, white men were
building houses. They represented its current to be uniformly
strong, and that in three places it was altogether impassable
from the falls and rapids, which poured along between perpendicular rocks that were much higher, and more rugged,
^Voyages, pp. 198-201.
26Davidson, p. 65, based on Voyages, pp. 203-4.
27Voyages, p. 204. ^Voyages, p. 216. WjL
^Voyages, p. 228. 30Voyages, p. 244. 31Voyages, p. 245. 12
than any we had yet seen, and would not admit of any passage
over them.'
Fortunately for Mackenzie the Indians were able to inform
him that there was another route to the sea, much more direct
and less difficult. Mackenzie was naturally loath to abandon his
progress down the great river, which he later, on August 16 on
his return, called by the Indian name the Tacoutche Tesse and
falsely identified with the Columbia River. But the season
was advancing, and supplies were short.32 Above all Mackenzie
knew that he had to recross the mountains and brave once more
the known dangers of the Peace River before the fall of
winter. It was a long way back to Fort Chipewyan on Lake
Accordingly, on June 23, the bow of the much-battered
canoe was turned up-stream, and on July 3 the party arrived
at the mouth of a river running in from the west. This river,
now known as the Blackwater, was termed by Mackenzie the
West Road River. Along it the canoe made . its way for a
short distance, when it was decided to abandon the water
route and proceed by foot overland.33 This was accordingly
done, and a long march began which ended on July 17, when
the upper waters of the Bella Coola River were reached. The
next day, July 18, two canoes were obtained from the Indians,
and the party began the last lap of the long journey to the
On the 19th Mackenzie visited the great chief of the Bella
Coola region, further progress having for the moment been
stopped by the curiosity of the natives. The chief was laid up
with a pain in his chest, which Mackenzie promptly relieved
by giving him a few drops of Turlington's Balsam on a piece
of sugar. The chief was much gratified and later presented
Mackenzie with a roasted salmon. He showed the explorer
his treasures, 'a garment of blue cloth, decorated with brass
buttons, and another of a flowered cotton/ 34 which Mackenzie
took to be Spanish. There was also any amount of copper and
brass and iron in the possession of the chief and his warriors.
Mackenzie thus describes their treasures:35
32He had no more than 30 days' provisions remaining, and only 150
rounds of ball ammunition and 30 pounds of powder; ibid., pp. 255-6.
3Hbid., p. 284, July 4.
34p. 333. 36pp. 333-4. 13
'Copper and brass are in great estimation among them,
and of the former they have great plenty; they point their
arrows and spears with it, and work it up into personal ornaments, such as collars, ear-rings, and bracelets, which they
wear on their wrists, arms and legs. I presume that they find
it the most advantageous article to trade with the more inland
tribes. They also abound in iron. I saw some of their twisted
collars of that metal which weighed upwards of twelve pounds.
It is. generally beat in bars of fourteen inches in length, and
one inch three quarters wide. The brass is in thin squares.
Their copper is in larger pieces and some of it appeared to
be old stills cut up. They have various trinkets, but their iron
is manufactured only into poniards and daggers. Some of
the former have very neat handles, with a silver coin of a
quarter or eighth of a dollar fixed on the end of them. The
blades of the latter are from ten to twelve inches in length,
and about four inches broad at the top, from which they
gradually lessen into a point/    SK
After this visit to the chief Mackenzie and his party
resumed their voyage, and finally, on July 21, they reached
Bentinck Arm and Point Menzies, and there, on July 22,
Mackenzie recorded on the South East face of the rock on
which the party had slept the night,36 surrounded by none too
friendly Indians, the brief inscription already quoted.37 The
long journey was over. The Pacific had been reached overland from Canada.
The return journey began at once on July 23, and on
August 4 the Fraser River was again reached. Thirteen days
later, August 17, the party was again on the waters of the
Parsnip, and on the main stream of the Peace by August 19.
Finally, on August 24, Mackenzie and his fellow-voyagers
were back at the Fort where they had spent the winter, and
from which they had started the 9th of May.
Mackenzie concludes the narrative of his Voyages thus
' . . . riere my voyages of discovery terminate. Their
toils and their dangers, their solicitudes and sufferings, have
36This encampment Mackenzie named 'Porcupine Cove.'
^Supra, p. 411. 38p. 397. Pa
14 i|
not been exaggerated in my description.   On the contrary, in
many instances, language has failed me in the attempt   to j
describe them.   I received, however, the reward of my labours,
for they were crowned with success.
'As I have now resumed the character of a trader, I shall
not trouble my readers with any subsequent concern, but
content myself with the closing information that, after an
absence of eleven months, I arrived at Fort Chipewyan, where
I remained for the purposes of trade, during the succeeding
winter.'    ,
Thus simply ends the account of one of the greatest
voyages of discovery ever made.
IV. /~|| '/"-■_      ■ ;._.
Later Days and Death.
Mackenzie, the fur-trader, now again takes the place of
Mackenzie, the explorer, and little remains to be told. In the
spring of 1794, Mackenzie left Fort Chipewyan for Grand
Portage, and never again returned to the North Country.
At Grand Portage Mackenzie found that the affairs of
the North West Company were very unsettled.-^ Some of the
Montreal traders headed by Forsyth, Richardson and Company, were ready to break away from the parent company and
to form a new North West Company. This was done in
1795-6, and the so-called X Y Company was established.!
Alexander Mackenzie, although on bad terms with Simon
M'Tavish of M'Tavish, Frobisher and Company, remained
with the old Company until 1799, when the engagement
between Mackenzie and the Company expired and was not
In that year Mackenzie retired to England, where his
Voyages appeared in 1801|| He was knighted in 1802, and in'
the same year he brought forward a scheme for forming civil
and military establishments at Nootka, also on the Columbia
River and at Sea Otter Harbour, in 55° North latitude. These
schemes came to nought; and Mackenzie returned to Canada
in 1802 to place himself at the head of the opposition to the*
39Masson, Bourgeois, vol. I, p. 48. Tw
North West Company. The new North West Company, known
as 'Sir Alexander Mackenzie and Company' or the 'X Y Company', was fighting for life against M'Tavish's old North
West Company. Bitter rivalry between the two companies
continued until M'Tavish's death in 1804, when a reunion took
place. Of the one hundred shares in the reunited company,
twenty-five, or one-quarter, were assigned to the X. Y.
In 1808 Sir Alexander Mackenzie left Canada for good,
and returned to Scotland. Four or five years later 40 he married a namesake of his, Miss Geddes Mackenzie. Lady
Mackenzie was the owner,! in her own right, of the property
of Avoch and this property she made over to her husband.
Mackenzie's death occurred very suddenly in 1820, at the
early age of fifty-seven. He was taken ill When travelling
from London to Perthshire, and died at Mulnain in that county
on March 12, 1820.
. v. .  : -■;
General Estimate of Mackenzie.   His influence on North
West History.
Mackenzie had done great things for North West
America. His journeys had led him to two oceans, and he had
demonstrated beyond all shadow of doubt, that there was no
North West Passage south of 70° North Latitude. He had
proved that the mythical Strait of Anian, which was supposed
to connect the Pacific Ocean and Hudson's Bay, had no possible
existence. He had opened up Territories hitherto unknown,
and had discovered two mighty rivers—the Mackenzie and the
Fraser, and had traced the former to its outlet in the Frozen
Ocean. fe
But all this he did as a fur trader;, and not as an official
of the British Crown. It is noteworthy that he never took
possession of the Territories he discovered in the name of His
Majesty, King George III. ft He possessed no Royal Warrant
for that purpose, although his unsuccessful attempt in 1802
to interest the British people in his scheme for forming civil
401813; so Masson; 1812 according to Bryce, p. 101.
3 16
and military establishments on the Columbia River at Nootka,
seems to show that he was alive to the necessity of establishing
British rights of sovereignty on the North West Coast.
Mackenzie's exploration, and the publication of the
Voyages in 1801, aroused much interest concerning North
West America. We are told by Bryce41 that Napoleon had a
copy of the Voyages smuggled into France, and translated for
the perusal of Marshal Bernadotte. The Corsican was at this
time dreaming of a great American Empire, and he was
planning to entrust to Bernadotte the task of establishing the
Tricolour in North West America and of attacking Canada
from the rear. Fortunately for North America these schemes
came to nought, but Bernadotte years after confessed that he
could, for a time, almost fancy himself 'Taking your Canada
en revers from the upper waters/ 42 Nor was Bernadotte
alone influenced by the "narrative. Lord Selkirk also has left
on record his debt to Mackenzie's Voyages. It was from this
book that the founder of the Red River Settlement admitted
that he first obtained information concerning Rupert's Land.
But above all, the exploration of Sir Alexander Mackenzie
prepared the way for the journeys of Simon Fraser and David
Thompson, both employees of the North West Company.
Fraser in 1805 founded the first fort west of the Rocky
Mountains, and in 1806 explored the headwaters of the Parsnip River, crossed the height of land to the Bad River, and
reached the North Fork of the Great River which he, like a
Mackenzie, took to be the Columbia, but really is the Fraser.
This he followed to the junction of the Nechako River, where
one year later he founded Fort George. Thence he proceeded
up the Nechaco and Stuart Rivers and Stuart Lake. As far as
the junction of the Nechaco and the Fraser Rivers, Simon
Fraser was following Mackenzie's course and he took
almost malicious pleasure in pointing out errors in Sir
Alexander's narrative. Fraser discovered the South Fork of
the Fraser River on their journey, and prided himself not a
little that Mackenzie had missed it. In his journal he recorded his feelings as follows: 'This river is not mentioned
by Sir A. M. K. which surprises me not a little, it being full
«Bryce, pp. 94-7. *Hbid., p. 97. 17
in sight and a fine large river, and in the state we saw it, equal
in size to that of the Athabasca River, and forms what Mr.
McDougall in his journal of last Spring calls the Great Fork.
It flows in from the right, and as far as I can judge, about
10 or 12 miles above the first Portage. Sir A. M. K. appears
to have been very inaccurate in the courses, or there must have
been a vast difference in the compass he made use of, and the
one we had, which is old and perhaps not very good/ 43
Two years later in 1808 Fraser made his celebrated
descent of the Great River and ascertained that it was not
the Columbia. How he managed to brave the dangers of the
canons of the Fraser will always remain a source of wonder
to subsequent generations. In his journal he describes how
he and his party took their lives in their hands and shot the
Great Canon in their canoes. At length the calmer waters
of the lower Fraser were reached, and on July 2, 1808, the
party reached the site of the present city of New Westminster. A few hours later Simon Fraser came in sight of a
gulf or bay of the sea which the Indians called Pas-hil-roe,
and which has been identified as the Gulf of Georgia. At that
point hostile Indians were encountered and the exploring
party turned back. Fraser was deeply disappointed that he
did not see the Main Ocean, but he had explored a mighty
river and traced its course to its mouth.
David Thompson, a fellow-employee of the North West
Company, was at this time tracing the course of the Columbia
^feiver and its Tributaries. In 1807, the year before Fraser's
descent of the Great River, Thompson had built 'Kootanae
Hause' on the upper waters of the Columbia. During the next
two years he explored the Kootenay River and established
posts on the Flathead and Pend d' Oreille Lakes. In 1811 he
endeavoured to forestall the Astorians in their attempt to
found a trading post at the mouth of the Columbia River, but
failed. He arrived at Astoria on July 15, 1811, only to find
the Pacific Company in possession.
But in the meantime the North West Company had not
been idle in the territories through which Sir Alexander
Mackenzie had  blazed  the way in 1793.     Forts  had  been
43Quoted by Howay and Scholefield, British Columbia, vol. I, pp. 247-8. m 18
founded at McLeod Lake in 1805, Fort St. James on Stuart
Lake in 1806, Fort Fraser, 1806, and Fort George, 1807.
Mackenzie's Company was well established in this Northern
region to which the name of New Caledonia was given.
These forts formed the bases of a profitable trade with the
Indians, and showed that the explorations of, Sir Alexander
Mackenzie had opened up a new world beyond the Rockies to
Canadian fur-traders.
Walter N. Sage.
• ^  No. 19, The Chronicles of Thomas Sprott, by Walter Sage.
No. 20, The Country Elevator in the Canadian West, by W. C.
No. 21, The Ontario Grammar Schools, by W. E. Macpherson.
No. 22, The Royal Disallowance in Massachusetts, by A. G.
No. 23, The Language Issue in Canada; Notes on the Language
Issue Abroad, by O. D. Skelton.
No. 24, The Neutralization of States, by F. W. Baumgartner.
No. 25, The Neutralization of States, by F. W. Baumgartner.
No. 26, Profit-Sharing and Producers' Co-operation in Canada,
by H. MicheU.
No. 27, Should Maximum Prices be Fixed? by W. C. Clark.
No. 28, Sir George Arthur and His Administration of Upper
Canada, by Walter Sage.
No. 29, Canadian Federal Finance—II, by O. D. Skelton.
No. 30, English Courtesy Literature Before 1557, by Fred. B.
No. 31, Economics, Prices and the War, by W. A. Mackintosh.
No. 32, The Employment Service of Canada, by Bryce M.
No. a^, AUenby's First Attempt on Jerusalem: A Chapter in
Scottish Military History, by J. L. Morison.
No. 34, John Morley: a Study in Victorianism, by J. L. Morison.
^No. 35, Elizabethan Society—A Sketch, by J. B. Black.
No. 36, The Condensed Milk and Milk Powder Industries, by
F. W. Baumgartner.
No. 37, Nationality and Common Sense, by J. L. Morison.
No. 38, Kapuskasing—An Historical Sketch, by Watson
No. 39, Palestine in Transition from War to Peace, by A. E.
No. 40, Business Cycles and the Depression of 1920-21, by W.
C. Clark.
No. 41, Captain John Deserontyou and the Mohawk Settlement at Deseronto, by M. Eleanor Herrington.
No. 42, First Days of  British Rule in  Canada, by William
No. 43, Sir Alexander Mackenzie and His Influence on the
History of ithe North West, by Walter N. Sage. 


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