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Autobiography of John Macoun, M.A. : Canadian explorer and naturalist, assistant director and naturalist… Macoun, John, 1831-1920 1922

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t^^ /m^^^à^y^^r^ôA/ vfauvm/wv      THE   AUTHOR   AT   WORK,
Assistant Director and Naturalist
to the Geological Survey of Canada
With Introduction by
1922 Çrf 3/
Chapter I—1831-1850.—History of the Macoun Family—Early
life in Ireland—Many amusing episodes and incidents of childhood  1
Chapter II—1850-1856.—Emigration to Canada, 1850—Incidents of
the voyage—Clearing a farm—Episodes in the life of a settler—
Hiring out—First acquaintance with Canadian wild flowers....        14
Chapter III—1856-1860.—Teaching school—Religious experiences—
Study of botany—Attendance at Normal School, Toronto, 1859.        28
Chapter IV—1860-1871.—Continuation of botanical studies—First
appointment as a teacher in Belleville, Ont.—Marriage, 1862—
Relations with other botanists—Botanical excursions—Accep-
tancy of the Chair of Natural History, Albert College, Belleville,
Ont         37
Chapter V—1872.—Meets Mr. Sandford Fleming and Rev. Geo. M.
Grant—Becomes Botanist to their expedition across the prairies
and mountains to the Pacific in search of a route for the Canadian Pacific Railway—Descriptions of country—Incidents of the
journey across the prairies         46
Chapter VI—1872-1874.—Continuation of journey to the Pacific
Coast—The Peace River—Over the mountains in winter—Arrival
at the Coast—Homeward bound—Reports and conclusions in
regard to climate based on growth of plants—-Many episodes
described        65
Chapter VII—1874-1875.—Exploration from Victoria to the Peace
River—New Westminster, Yale, Spence's Bridge, Quesnel, Ne-
chaco, Fort St. John, McLeod Lake, Parsnip and Finlay Rivers,
Hudson's Hope—Description of the route—Botanical notes—Episodes and incidents         90
Chapter VIII—1875.—Down the Peace River 700 miles in a dugout
from Fort St. John to Fort Chipewyan—Provisions run out—
Reaches Fort Chipewyan sick and starving—Returns east via
Athabasca River, Buffalo Lake, Clearwater River and Lake, Isle-
a-la-Crosse, and Green Lake—Across country to Fort Carlton and
on to Winnipeg—Many interesting incidents en route—Home on
November 13, after travelling about 8,000 miles       Ill
Chapter IX—1875-1879.—Notes on climate—^Recommendations in
regard to route of Canadian Pacific Railway—Offers of positions
—Publications of report on Country between Port Arthur and
the Pacific; 1877—Made Emeritus Professor of Albert College,
1879—Explorations on the prairies, 1879—Up the Assiniboine to
Fort Ellice, then to Long Lake—Crossing the Saskatchewan River CONTENTS—Continued
—Battleford—Red Deer Valley—Calgary—Adventures en route
—Description of the country—Blackfeet Indians—One of the last
buffalo hunts—Returns to Winnipeg and the East       131
Chapter X—1879-1880.—Review of conditions in Canada in regard
to politics and the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway
—Confederation—Purchases of land from the Hudson's Bay Company—First Riel Rebellion—Exploration for route of C. P. R.—
Contradictory statements in regard to value of prairies for agriculture—Fourth exploration of the Canadian North-West, 1880
—Qu'Appelle Valley, Moose Jaw, Old Wives Lakes, Swift Current,
Cypress Hills, Fort Walsh, Humboldt, etc.—Meetings with Indians—rMany interesting episodes and incidents       155
Chapter XI—1880-1881.—The North-West boom—Lectures on the
West—Negotiations with the "Syndicate" for the construction of
the C. P. R.—Fifth exploration of the North-West—Interview
with Jim Hill, Railway Magnate, re route of C. P. R.—Decision
to send railroad via Bow River Pass—Explorations along Lakes
Manitoba and Winnipegosis and rivers entering these lakes—Adventures, mishaps, and amusing incidents—Difficulties of river
navigation—Up to the Red Deer and down the Swan River and
the Assiniboine to Fort Ellice—Takes train from Brandon to
Winnipeg—Interview with Lord Lome and Donald A. Smith—
Permanently appointed to the Government Service—Writes a
book called "Manitoba and the Great North-West."       181
Chapter XII—The climate of the Canadian prairies and causes—Deductions from plant life—Causes of aridity in certain parts of
the prairies—Uniformity of temperature over a great area and
description of air currents which cause this—Suitability of the
climate for wheat growing—Conclusions       197
Chapter XIII—1882-1884.—Removal to Ottawa—Collecting in Western Ontario and on Gaspé Peninsula—Begins work at the Geological and Natural History Survey, Ottawa—Difficulties of the
position—Becomes one of the charter members of the Royal Society
of Canada—Visits Nova Scotia and the Island of Anticosti, where
extensive collections of natural history specimens were made—Incidents during the summer—Begins to write the Catalogue of
Canadian Plants—Examination of the country along the Nipigon
River and Lake Nipigon, and from Nipigon east along the C. P. R.,
then being constructed—Reviews life in Canada up to 1884—Collections made for the Museum i..      205
Chapter XIV—1884-1885.—Accompanies members of the British
Association to Western Canada, 1884—Incidents of the trip—
North-West Rebellion of 1885—Explorations in the Rocky and
Selkirk Mountains—Description of climbing mountains—Many
incidents—Travels on C. P. R. from the summit of the Selkirks
to Ottawa, being one of the first passengers over parts of the road
—Destruction of forests by fire -...      221
Chapter XV—1886.—The Colonial Exhibition-:—Sent to England as
one of thé Canadian representatives—Attends many functions
—Entertained by Lord Brassey, Duke of Northumberland, Mar- CONTENTS—Continued
quis of Salisbury, Earl Warwick, Earl of Erne, Marquis of Lome,
and others—Visits Ireland and finds distant relatives and namesake, John Macoun of Kilmore—Many places of interest in
England are visited—Interesting incidents       234
Chapter XVI—1887-1893.—Visits Vancouver Island to study the
fauna and flora—Ascent of Mount Arrowsmith—Alberni—Cape
Beale—Returns to Ottawa by C. P. R.—Appointed Asistant Director and Naturalist to the Geological Survey—Visits Prince Edward
Island, 1888—Lower Mainland, Okanagan District, Shuswap
Lake, and Gold Range, B.C., 1889—Large collections made for
the Museum—Another visit to British Columbia, 1890—West
Kootenays and eastward through the Selkirks—Visits district
about Banff, 1891—Mountain climbing—Photographing trees near
Lake Erie and obtaining specimens of the wood, 1892—Collecting
on the Lower Mainland of British Columbia and on Vancouver
Island, 1893—Many interesting incidents       247
Chapter XVII—1893-1897.—Arranging material for the proposed
New Museum—Visits the prairies, 1894, to collect specimens—
Medicine Hat, Crane Lake, Cypress H*Hs—Examination of Southern Saskatchewan and Alberta, 1895—Conclusions in regard to
drought—Collecting in Manitoba and Northern Saskatchewan,
1896)—Examination of the southern slope of the Rocky Mountains
and the Crow's Nest Pass, 1897—Adventures and amusing incidents	
Chapter XVIII—1897-1904.—Visits Cape Breton, 1898—Sable
Island, 1899—Interesting observations on the vegetation of the
Island—Begins the Catalogue of Canadian Birds, winter 1899-
1900—Examination of Algonquin Park, Ont., 1900—^Studies flora
from Niagara to Lake Erie, 1901—Visits the Klondike and reports
on the agricultural possibilities of the district, 1902—Interesting
observations on the climate of the Yukon—Spends the first summer
in thirty years in Ottawa and vicinity, 1903—Another visit to the
Rocky Mountains, 1904—Laggan, Kicking Horse Lake, Field,
Emerald Lake—Collecting—Incidents	
Chapter XIX—1904-1920.—Work on the Rocky Mountain flora-
Collecting along the Lower St. Lawrence, 1905—Montmorency
Falls, Cap a l'Aigle, Murray Bay, Tadousac—Collecting fungi
about Ottawa—Examining the country on both sides of the Grand
Trunk Pacific Railway from Portage la Prairie to Edmonton, 1906
—Amusing incidents in regard to Prof. Macoun—Resolution of
appreciation of his work passed by Agricultural Committee of
House of Commons, 1906—Arranging specimens for the Victoria
Memorial Museum—Obtained photographs of trees in Western
Ontario, 1907—Later in season went to Gaspé Basin and Percé,
P.Q., to study seaweeds—Revised his Catalogue of Canadian Birds,
1907-8—Visited Vancouver Island, 1908—Large collections made
—Visited West Coast of Vancouver Island, 1909—Great variety
of species and large number of specimens of marine life collected—
Collected in Nova Scotia, 1910—Wrote the Flora of the Maritime
Provinces—Moved to the Victoria Memorial Museum, 1911—
Work on the Ottawa and Vancouver Island flora with a view to
publication—Has a paralytic stroke, 1912—Moves to Vancouver
276 CONTENTS—Concluded
Island, 1912, and begins collecting there—Much time spent in the
collecting and study of cryptogams—Continuation of collecting
in 1913, 1914, 1915, 1916, 1917, 1918 and 1919 on Vancouver
Island and adjacent islands—Large collections of cryptogams
were made and many new species found by him—Presented a large
collection of plants of Vancouver Island, mounted and named, to
the Herbarium of the Provincial Museum, Victoria, 1917, also,
later, a fine collection of cryptogams—Death of his son, James
M. Macoun, January 8th, 1920, a great shock to him—Worked on
his autobiography—Conducted a column in the Sidney Review
under the name of "Rambler"—Died of heart failure at Sidney,
Vancouver Island, July 18, 1920—Personal characteristics—
List of Species named after Author.	
Facing Page
The Author at Work, Victoria Memorial Museum, Ottawa,
John Macoun, shortly after his arrival in Canada from Ireland       24
Looking down the Peace River from   the   Escarpment,
Peace River, Alta., as first seen by John Macoun in 1872     70
The Victoria Memorial Museum, Ottawa, Ont     110
One of the Grain Fields in Saskatchewan, the Author's
Prophecy Fulfilled      142
Prof. John Macoun in the Prime of Life.     1%
Mount Sir Donald from Bald Mountain, with Mount Macoun in the Centre     230
Naturalists in the Field     279  INTRODUCTION
IT is just thirty-eight years ago since first I came in contact
with John Macoun. I was a young man then, riding and
farming on the prairies of Western Manitoba, but my thoughts
were not on the farm. My eyes were ever turning to the wild
life about me—the birds and flowers. I was suffering too, amid
the pleasure of it, suffering from the knowledge-hunger—the total
absence of books and guides. Botanies were indeed scarce in
those days, and I had made a collection of prairie flowers (now in
the St. Louis Herbarium) with only the popular names attached;
in some cases they were names which I had given them, for lack
of better.
Then I met a government official at Winnipeg, who said:
"Why don't you write to Professor John Macoun at Ottawa? He
is the best naturalist in Canada and is one of those big men who
always are ready to help a student."
So, without introduction of any kind, I sent a preliminary
collection of plants to Macoun, asking if he would name them for
me.   His answer is before me now, in his own handwriting :
Ottawa, August 15th, 1884
My Dear Sir:
"I reached home yesterday, after having been absent about
nine weeks and, in going over my correspondence, find yours.
"Any assistance I cart give regarding botany you can always
have for the asking, so do not be backward in that line.
"The names of your plants are as follows:" (Here follows
a long list.)
"Your plants are all common forms on the prairie except No.
23, (Physalis lanceolata Michx,) which, as far as I know to the contrary, is rare. I would like to know the exact locality where
found, etc.
"Wishing you every success in botany and ornithology, and
I agreeing with you, in the deep interest attached to the birds of
the West, I am, dear Sir,
Truly yours,
J. Macoun.
"To E. T. Seton, Esq."
That letter, written entirely in his own hand, is characteristic
of the man and his life. With nine weeks' mail piled on his desk,
he, nevertheless, unselfishly paid first attention to the student who
sent him specimens and craved his help.
The friendship thus begun continued through life. Many
other students of botany and lovers of nature found this same
portal to his heart, their common interest in the wild things.
His universal kindness and helpfulness, and his vast erudition
in natural science, combined with the fact that he was the pioneer
naturalist of Canada, with official recognition as such, have given
him a permanent place in our records, as well as in our affections.
He will be remembered by posterity as the father of exact natural
history in Canada, and I am proud indeed of the chance to stand
among his mourners, who yet rejoice that our standard-bearer died
in the fullness of life and the fullness of success.
May 8th, 1922. CHAPTER I
History of the Macoun Family—Early Life in Ireland-
Many Amusing Episodes and Incidents of Childhood.
IN writing my memoirs I intend to give at the very commencement a sketch of what I know of our family history.    I was
born on April 17, 1831, in the parish of Maralin, called also
Magheralin and, in ancient times, Linn, County Down, Ireland.
The parish of Linn was very old as in the Annals of Ireland it is
stated that it was assessed, in the reign of Edward the First of
England, for a contribution towards one of the crusades. Our parish church was apparently very old and its graveyard, which was
elevated somewhat above the surrounding ground, was also very
old. I remember that our seat in the church was next to the Earl
of Clanwilliam, and the rector, when I was leaving, gave me a
paper in which he told me that we were one of the oldest families
in Maralin. This paper is still in the possession of one of the
members of my family. The graveyard was very interesting on
account of the names on the tombstones of those who had died
there over two hundred years ago. Amongst others, I noticed
that a member of our family, James Macoun, had lived to be 105
years of age and was buried here in Maralin. Later I learned
more of his history from my uncle, Joseph Kincaid and James Bell
—two old men when I was a boy. The James Macoun, known
in our family as the "old man," was born in 1601 and died in 1706.
He was, as far as we know, our first progenitor to settle in Ireland.
Before this the family was Scotch. This first Irish ancestor evidently fought under Cromwell.
What I am going to refer to now is from information received
from the two old men previously mentioned and from Macaulay's
History of the reign of William the Third.
In 1641 a rebellion took place in the north of Ireland called
the Forty-one War.   This rebellion was an attempt made by the 2 HISTORY OF THE MACOUN FAMILY
Irish to destroy the settlements, English and Scotch, that had
been made under James the First, of England. A great many of the
settlers around Maralin were killed and drowned by the Irish at
this time as they broke down a bridge over the river Bann near
Portadown and drove the settlers down to the bridge and pressed
them into the river, where most of them were drowned. While I
was in England in 1886 I saw a work called the "Forty-nine."
This contained a list of the men who composed a number of the regiments who served under Cromwell in 1649, when he was such a
terror to the Irish who had destroyed the settlers eight years before.
In the list I saw in England, were the names of Sir Hugh Magill,
Lieutenant of one of the regiments, and James Macoun, Ensign.
I take it that this James Macoun was the "old man" spoken of
above. These two men were apparently great friends, and it is
stated that Sir Hugh married James Macoun's sister. Sir Hugh
was granted a large tract of land by Cromwell and the legend says
that the men of Sir Hugh's regiment received land from him and
had to do military service for it in later years. This is possibly
true because our property was freehold and given by Sir John
Magill, brother of Sir Hugh, to James Macoun at a few shillings
a year forever and this lease we held when we sold before we came
to Canada.
The next record in connection with the family is in 1689 or
'90, when Sir Hugh Magill at that date called out all the men in
the neighborhood of Maralin and met King James' army at Dro-
more with such troops as he could raise, and was defeated and
retreated to Coleraine, near Deny. These men were in camp
there all winter while the siege of Derry was in progress, and when
William the Third came over in the spring they joined his army
and marched with him to the Boyne, and in that battle one of
the Macouns was killed. This man was said to be the son of the
original James Macoun, who emigrated from Scotland. This
fight of Dromore is given in detail in Macaulay's history of that
time. While this James Macoun was with the troops at Dromore
his wife and two sons were left at Maralin. After the fight at
Dromore the French and Irish came down on Maralin and the
people fled to the woods, some going to Armagh and from there to HISTORY OF THE MACOUN FAMILY 3
Enniskillen. James Macoun's wife went with this party and lost
her two boys. They had taken refuge in the woods and were on
the point of starvation when they resolved to try and save their
cows which had been taken by King James' troops and confined
with many others in what was called in my day "The Miller's
Holm." Oak woods surrounded Maralin at the time and at night
the boys went to where the French and Irish had gathered the
cattle in "The Miller's Holm" near Maralin. This was a narrow
ravine down which a little stream flowed and the sentries evidently were close to the high road which passed the ravine, and the
boys in the night went in and drove off their own cattle and took
them into the woods. There they lived on their milk till their
mother returned after the siege of Derry.
The next item of information I have in regard to the family
is when these boys appear in history as church wardens of the
parish of Maralin. This record my son, W. T. Macoun, found in
the parish records of Maralin. These two brothers, Robert and
James Macoun, were both church wardens in the year 1706. My
father held another lease besides the one direct from Sir Hugh
Magill, and this lease was made by Robert Macoun, the elder, to
his brother James, in 1708, on condition that the latter would
build a house in a given time. This house was built, and in it,
several generations later, I was born. The terms of the lease I
do not remember, but I read the parchment and distinctly recollect that the land was given by Robert Macoun, Gentleman, to
his brother James at one shilling a year forever. This land, apparently, was not a portion of that which had belonged to James
prior to this lease as the house stood outside of our land. The
house and garden were quite distinct from our other property.
Evidently our house was built as a gathering place for the people
of the village, as it was the largest house in the village and built
in such a way that an attacking force, without cannon, could not
gain an entrance. The house was not very large but was foursquare and its walls were two and a half feet thick and the windows on the ground floor were quite narrow and each had a part
that was a lattice, and all had diamond panes of small size fastened with lead.   Iron stanchions made it impossible to gain admit- 4 HISTORY OF THE MACOUN FAMILY
tance by the windows. The front door was double oak filled with
large nails that were clinched inside. This made it impossible to
cut it down. The key of the door was very large and as a boy I
was not able to turn it, and the bolt was nearly an inch and a half
Over the door there was a stone inserted, giving the date,
1708, so that we had no doubts as to the age of it. The walls
were so solidly built that I believe the people in the early times
understood how to make mortar very much like the concrete that
is used today. This is all the data I have of the erection of the
house. I might say that the garden as it was in my time, showed
that it was the same garden that had been established when the
house was built. Inside, the garden was surrounded by a bank
and outside, by a ditch of considerable depth so that the land was
well drained. In my father's time it had many rare shrubs of
great beauty, of which my mother took advantage in our youth
and sold to neighboring families to eke out her scanty means, due
to the fact that the property had been willed away from our
branch of the family.
My grandfather was born in 1737 and his family consisted of
two sons and four daughters, my father being the younger son.
Our property, being entailed, always descended to the eldest son
and his heirs. On this account my father enlisted in the army
about 1796 and joined a dragoon regiment named "The Black
Horse," being the Seventh Dragoon Guards, and were called the
"Princess Royal's Regiment." (That is, the regiment of King
George Third's eldest daughter.) Its commander for a long time
was the Duke of York and my mother said that my father looked
upon him as an exceptionally good commanding officer, so good
that he called his eldest son Frederick instead of calling him after
himself. Two years after my father joined, the Rebellion of 1798
broke out in Ireland and his regiment was ordered there. This
led my father to take part in all the engagements that took place
in the south of Ireland and I heard my mother say that he was
wounded at the battle of New Ross, where his horse was shot from
under him and that he took off the saddle and put it around his
shoulders when making his escape from the battle.   Except for HISTORY OF THE MACOUN FAMILY 5
the Rebellion, my father saw no further active service, although
the Peninsular War continued almost the whole time he was in
the army. Preceding the battle of Waterloo, his regiment was
under orders to embark but when the news came of the battle
they were not required and returned to London. Before this time
he had obtained a furlough and went home to see his father and
found that in his absence his elder brother had died and he was
heir to the property. After consulting with his father it was decided that he would cut the entail off the whole so that my grandfather could leave the property to whom he saw fit if my father
did not return. This was before the battle of Waterloo, and my
father, not returning again until about 1820, found that his father
had made a will and died suddenly leaving the property to his
daughters, except the house and a few acres of land which were
left; to my grandmother and a maiden sister as long as they lived.
On their death it was to go to my father, if alive, and in case of
his death to be divided among the other three. At the death of
his mother and sister, my father got possession of the house and
land, which we still owned when we left Ireland in 1850. My
father married Anne Jane Nevin, (my mother) in 1824, and her
family were Scotch immigrants of the usual fighting clans, who
had come to Ireland after the battle of Bothwell Bridge. My
mother's people, being Presbyterians, and having relatives acting
as ministers, my father was married in their house by a Presbyterian minister. Before my brother Frederick was bom my father
was told that if his wife had a son that he would be illegitimate and
could not be heir to the property as the law required the child
to be born in wedlock which had been performed by an authorized
minister of the Church of England, so my father was married the
second time by a Mr. Dolling in the church in Maralin. I was
born on April 17th, 1831, and my father died in October, 1837
I remember very little about him but there are a few incidents
that happened that I recollect distinctly. My earliest remembrance is that Frederick and myself were playing along a ditch
that ran outside of the garden. In it grew a grass that we gathered the leaves of and which when put between our teeth made a
sound hence we called it  "Squeal Grass."   This grass turned out 6 HISTORY OF THE MACOUN FAMILY
to be Glyceria nervata. While leaning out to gather the leaves,
one day, that were floating on the surface of the water in the
ditch, I tumbled in head foremost and Frederick ran away screaming. My father, who was clipping the hedge inside, jumped over
and before long had pulled me out. I remember that I was so
young at the time that I had not ceased to wear baby clothes.
Another thing I remember was that the Earl of Clanwilliam,
who, by the way, was our landlord and a member of the Magill
family, invited my father and Frederick to %o to Gill Hall near
Dromore and have lunch with him and they went and Frederick,
like most youths, got sick from the quantity of food he ate and
was taken in hand by the butler.
The last thing I recollect about my father was going with
him, dressed more like a boy, to Moira, where he drew his pension
and he took me to the Church and showed me'a tablet that was
placed there in memory of a soldier, named Lavery, who was killed
in the American War. I remember little more about my father,
except, that he was a tall man and. frightened the boys on the
street when he would get a little tipsy and dress up in his uniform. After my father's death I recall marry things that happened. I remember the day before he died quite well. The doctor had him sitting up and I saw him bleed him and take a large
bowl of black blood out of his arm and the next day he died. At
any rate that was the only thing that impressed me about my
father's death, except the pride I felt when being patted and such
things by the friends that came to the funeral.
The next thing I can recall with wonderful clearness was what
they called in the north of Ireland, "The Windy Night," when
many farm houses and stack-yards were blown to pieces and innumerable trees uprooted and the whole country devastated. It
is remembered in Ireland to this day. It took place on the night
of the 6th of January, 1839.
I remember being sent by my mother to school to an old woman who had five or six young ones like myself and my impression is that she was acting as nurse for us instead of teaching us
anything from books. The chief thing I recollect is that on the
21st of June she marched us by a Saint's well near the village, HISTORY OF THE MACOUN FAMILY 7
called Saint Roan's Well, and there she undressed us and placed
each one of us under the spout out of which the water issued.
This was intended to strengthen our religious and physical nature
—she was a good Roman Catholic.
My school days were like those of nearly all boys; the greatest impression of them that remains is the fights that we had with
our fellows, and there are other pleasant memories, such as bookmakers tell of when they went to school. A boy that could not
defend himself had a very poor chance of having pleasant times.
Our school was the parochial school of the church and, therefore,
we were taught by the cleric of the Established Church of Ireland.
No Roman Catholics attended it and we thought it our duty to
fight the members of their school every day, as we always made a
point of seeing them as they went home. From what I can remember now I seemed to have been a terror, because I was left-
handed and used my left hand while I was expected to use my
right and looking back on it now I always seem to have come out
the victor. I fought others as well and never seem to have ever
considered myself at fault. I remember that on one occasion I
came home with a black eye and a bloody nose and my mother
upbraided me and I told her that a certain boy had attacked me
and caused all the trouble. I was telling this to my mother just
when we entered our house and as I had proceeded thus far the
other boy's mother, who was behind me, said: "Mrs. Macoun,
look at my son and see which of them has got the worst of it."
Both my mother and I turned around and the boy, besides being
far worse off than I, had his clothes almost torn off. Of course I was
caught in a falsehood and had to own up that I was the aggressor
but said that I fought him because he would not do what I wished.
Our school was in an old orchard which had been the Abbey
garden of years before, and our chief occupation in the late summer was-sneaking into the orchard and getting the fruit off the
ground. I did my work in the early morning and got to the orchard before the other boys and generally had the largest share.
A small river ran close to the school and our occupation part of
the time was catching small fish, called sticklebacks. We used a
string and a small stick and a bent pin to which a fish-worm was 8 HISTORY OF THE MACOUN FAMILY
attached. I have no remembrance of having had any special
companions in my early youth.
My mother was very particular and tried to keep us from
the boys of the neighborhood and as we had a garden well fenced
in she encouraged us to spend our idle time in it. She gave my
elder brother and sister parts of the flower beds that my father
had had to tend but I seemed to prefer taking an old knife and
going out to the fields and digging up flowers and bringing them
in and making a flower garden of my own. I only remember
primroses and the wild hyacinth.
About this time a sect of Methodists came to our village,
called the Ranters, and preached in the village schoolhouse.
They were troubled with idle men and boys. My mother was
asked to allow the Ranters to preach in our kitchen on Sunday
and she allowed them to do so. Later, a prayer meeting was
established there and it was one of the old time meetings and the
hearers would make responses when the speaker would bring out
anything of an unusual or startling nature. One evening the
speaker said, amongst other things, that if the people would not
repent they would all be cast into Hell and tormented forever.
One of the old men who frequently responded woke up as the
preacher reached his climax and yelled at the top of his voice:
"God grant it!" To crown it all I laughed so heartily that I fell
over and caused a great deal of disturbance, in the midst of which
a canary, we had, started to sing. This was only one of the many
occurrences that took place in the meetings held at our
I do not wish to say that I could not tell a lie, like George
Washington, but I remember well I had the moral courage, even
as a boy, to not lie if I were caught in doing something wrong. I
will cite one circumstance that gave me great credit with the good
people of our neighborhood. One Sunday I was given the task
by my mother of watching our garden, but as soon as the meeting
commenced in the house I started for a stream at some distance
and had a fine time wading and chasing fish. On my way home I
turned up a lane which was crossed by another and as I reached
the crossing I saw Mr. Montgomery, our Squire, and his wife HISTORY OF THE MACOUN FAMILY 9
walking arm in arm down the avenue and I ran across and he
saw me and called out: "John, what are you running for?" I
answered without hesitation that I was running for fear of his
seeing me. The next day he called in to see my mother and told
her how fortunate she was in having such a truthful boy, and made
me a present of a piece of silver. I felt that I had done a very
meritorious thing. Whether or not that event had a great influence on my boyhood and raised my status so that I was permitted to play with Mr. Montgomery's children in their own gardens, while others were completely excluded, I do not know.
My aunts were married to men called Spence, Kincaid and
Murphy, but I only remember that Uncle Joe Kincaid, a widower,
lived with my Aunt Spence, who had lost her husband. He seems
to have been a man of more than ordinary ability, as he took
charge of her boys and superintended the farm. One day he took
me into the orchard and showed me the filbert trees and pointed
out the male flowers (aments) and told me from his imperfect
knowledge, that from these flowers, nuts would come in the
autumn. This sank into my memory and, as I will mention later,
bore fruit. I loved work so well that when I would go to "Edin-
more," as their place was called, they could not get rid of me easily, as I wanted to work on the land and drive a horse ; and this
was in the dead of winter and very cold. I loved to live outside
and be going into out-of-the-way places and later it became even
a passion with me and I knew more birds' nests than any other
boy in the country. I remember being credited with the knowledge of one hundred and eight birds' nests in one spring.
Owing to the death of* my father, Frederick and I seemed to
have done a great deal of the work on the land, as I remember
more about that than anything else. About this time the Ulster
Railway was built and Frederick and I went to Moira to see the
"Iron Horse" when it first reached that village. There was a
great crowd and I stood beside an old lady who, as the engine
came along, exclaimed that it was going on without horses ! Evidently she expected that it would be drawn by horses. At this
time and for years afterwards carriages were not covered and
when people, riding in them for the first time, came to a bridge you 10 HISTORY OF THE MACOUN FAMILY
would see everyone bowing their heads, fearing that the bridge
was falling upon them.
As time passed things became more serious and my life seemed to have been taken up with working at one thing or another.
I was always a busy-body. One time, when I was a small boy,
they were building a large oblong haystack in my Aunt's stackyard and when the stack was nearly up the greater part of it
slipped and fell down. When my cousin looked around I was
missing, but as one of them had seen me gathering up the hay
close to the stack at the time it fell, my cousin crept under and
finally reached me and when I was brought out I was insensible
but recovered shortly. Time passed rapidly and I grew up to be
a boy of sixteen, and at this time a great flood took place in the
Lagan, a river near where we lived, and carried off 1,600 webs of
fine linen that were on the bleach greens. The flood had come so
suddenly and it was of such magnitude that no one had ever seen
anything like it before. It carried the cloth over the meadows
that were flooded and strung the webs in bushes and along the
banks and on every obstruction the water met with for fifteen
miles down stream towards Belfast. I suspect that I took chances
as I got great credit for getting four webs that others were unable
to get at. I took these to the office and returned them and, of
course, got the bonus that was being given to anyone who obtained
a web. The wife of the gentleman who owned the bleach green
saw my mother and myself in Lurgan some time after that and
my mother told her that I was the boy who saved the webs and
the old lady put her hand on my head and said that she had heard
we were going to America and likely I would be President there
before I died.   Of course I was very proud.
My brother Frederick was now nearly twenty-one years old
and he decided that as soon as he was of age he would sell the
property and we would go to Australia. The year before he became of age a law was passed in England that was called "The
Encumbered Estates Ireland Bill." This was in the year 1849.
Under this Bill any entailed property in Ireland could be sold.
In due time my brother attained his majority and sold our property and we prepared to start for Australia.   My mother, how- HISTORY OF THE MACOUN FAMILY 11
ever, whose brother had gone to America some years before, begged us to go to America instead of Australia, and by doing so we
missed being in Australia when the gold fever broke out in 1850.
I might say something about the Irish Famine in 1848, but
could hardly add anything to what nearly everyone knows already.
I remember, however, that our potatoes were not larger than
marbles and that the whole of the potato crop, upon which the
people of Ireland depended, was practically destroyed in 1847 and
starvation brought upon many thousands of the people. Often
we would come across men and women tying by the road-side
unable to walk, where they were dying either of fever or starvation.
We had to pay, that year, 16 shillings on the pound taxes for Poor
Houses and not one of the people of the vicinity was in them.
They were filled by strangers that had been picked up dying by
the road-side. At the time of Dan O'Connell's death in 1846, I
was a clerk in a store on North Street, Belfast and recall that at
that time the bell was tolled night and day for a month.
One other event should be related. My grandfather had
built a church for the Roman Catholics and given a lease for fifty
years. We received the rents and one day Father Matthew, the
great Irish temperance leader was at the chapel when our rent
was due, and came to our house with the clerk who was paying
it and had a talk with my mother and put his hand on my head
and blessed me and hoped I would grow up a good temperance
man, which I am happy to say I did.
Before leaving my youth and Ireland, I may, in this place,
mention some of the characteristics that I had as a boy and as I
write this down, after seventy years, I find that I haven't changed
much. My strongest characteristic was moral courage. I often
took a whipping stoically when a weaker boy bawled so loudly
that listeners would say he was being killed. I, without a murmur, received what I got and often two whippings upon my
shoulders by telling what we called a "white lie," to enable some
weak boy to escape it. I remember one happening at school that
I think worthy of recording. The teacher was very strong on
spelling and usually gave us forty or fifty words to learn, which
we did each day.    I never remember studying this lesson as, 12 HISTORY OF THE MACOUN FAMILY
whether I succeeded or not, I was always whipped. One day we
had a hard lesson and nearly the whole class had failed and the
law was that for each word you missed you got a slap on the hand
with a ruler. I saw that it was going to be serious and behind my
back I shook my fist at a small boy who was our best crier, and
let him understand that if he would not cry I would thrash him
when school was out. He understood me, as I had done it before,
and he immediately began to yell at the top of his voice and the
teacher could not stop him and eventually when there was quiet,
asked him why he cried and the boy said: "John Macoun said
he would whip me if I did not." The teacher turned to me and
said: "I intend to do the whipping today" and he gave me what
he had intended for the whole class. That was the kind of schooling we got in Ireland in the days when I was a small boy.
Every afternoon, when school was let out, we waited for the
Roman Catholic children to come from their school and then we
would have a decent set-to. I, apparently, was a little savage as
my forte was to dash in and catch a boy by the hair (they wore
long hair in those days) and never let go until I had hammered
him below the belt so severely that he would cry "quit." Hence,
I never remember losing a fight but I was often afraid.
I never attempted to smoke but once, when my brother got
a clay pipe and tobacco and he and I and our younger brother
had a good smoke. Then we ate apples and suffered horribly all
night afterwards. My elder brother and I never touched tobacco
after that. I was always active and fond of work, whether I got
pay or not. I remember picking a field, that is, clearing it of
stones. I had taken the contract from my uncle for doing it,
working hard for ten days or more at four pence half penny per
Another characteristic was the power of seeing. I could
find more strawberries and more birds' nests and got more fun
out of our games than any other boy. One thing I would never
do, and that was to play with what was called a "bad boy." In
front of our own house a number of us were playing on the street
one day when a "bad boy" attempted to join us. I would not
allow it, and when my back was turned he took a race at me and HISTORY OF THE MACOUN FAMILY 13
shoved me and I fell and hit my head on a stone and was carried in senseless. For years after that I was troubled frequently
with head-ache, which ceased by my having bleeding at the nose
so badly that they thought I was going to bleed to death. I have
had no trouble with head-ache since. I was very determined in
having my own way in our play and generally succeeded and at
the same time I must have been fairly amiable because I was
nick-named "Johnnie Goodfellow," by a half-witted boy who
played with us, while my elder brother was named the "Hard
Fellow." CHAPTER   II
Emigration to Canada, 1850—Incidents of the Voyage—
Clearing a Farm—Amusing Episodes in the life of a
Settler—Hiring Out—First Acquaintance with Canadian Wild Flowers.
TO please my mother, my brother gave up thoughts of going
to Australia and we took our passage for America and left
Maralin on the Second of May, 1850, for Belfast. We sailed
from there on the ship "Chester", which carried three hundred and
eighty-seven passengers. I do not recall any person being in the
first cabin. The steerage people, I do not remember seeing, and we
of the second cabin had the deck to ourselves. The night we left
Belfast a great gale sprang up and, the bow-ports having been
left open, the ship began to leak. In the middle of the night all
hands were called to man the pumps and the sailors shirked and
hid and there was a great commotion and the passengers were
called upon to go to the pumps. My brother-in-law and Frederick
started for the deck. Frederick returned in about ten minutes
and I asked him why he came back so soon and he said "I never
got there. When we reached the deck, the ship was rolling so that
I fell and when I was able to get up I came down. I would
rather die in bed than be drowned on the deck." Some of the
passengers went almost insane and the women cried and the children cried and there was an awful hub-bub. When daybreak
came it was seen that the ports had been left open when they were
putting the ballast into the ship.   The ballast was pig-iron.
After this, the weather for three weeks was beautiful and fair
and we made a quick passage to some point between Newfoundland and Nova Scotia on a Sunday afternoon, the 27th of May.
This day, a big storm of wind and snow broke out and our bowsprit was carried away and all the sails upon it. There were fears
that the mainmast would be taken away also, so all hands, pas- EMIGRATION TO CANADA 15
sengers and all, were called upon to take the sails off the ship,
which we did in quick time. The storm soon subsided and the
next day was fine and we lay to awhile till the jury bow-sprit was
prepared and we passengers used to congregate at the bow of the
vessel. One evening, we were discussing our position and the ship
was pointing west and in the morning she pointed to the sun again
and an Irishman called out: "By golly, the sun is rising this
morning in the west." He had no idea that the ship was just
merely lying at anchor and that the current had caused her head
to swing round. After the storm, the Captain had taken his bearings and said we were so close to Newfoundland that he would
put into St. Johns if the weather did not moderate. It moderated
and we headed for the St. Lawrence and had fine weather all the
way up to Quebec. The beauties of the St. Lawrence have been
spoken of so often that I shall say nothing now about them.
When we reached Quebec we cast anchor in the stream somewhere about the Isle of Orleans. There were quite a number of
ships at anchor at that time and our Captain took a boat's crew
and some passengers and the boatswain up to Quebec when he
went to report at the Custom House. It seems that they all had
more whiskey while ashore than was wise and the boatswain and
the Captain quarrelled coming back. As soon as the boat touched
the ship's side, the Captain ran up the ratlines on to the deck,
seized a marline-spike and, as the boatswain came up, struck him
on the head and the man fell into the sea and was drowned. The
crew held a meeting that night and decided not to work the ship
any more and, a strong wind coming up, the anchor did not hold
and the vessel fell off a long distance from where she was anchored.
Hie Captain signalled up to Quebec and the river police came
down and took charge of the ship. It took them a long time to
get the vessel warped up to where she had been the night before.
We heard afterwards that the Captain had been imprisoned and
tried for the murder of the boatswain, but it was shown that he
was not at fault.
The next day we left Quebec for Montreal. We went up on
the "John Munn," evidently a flat bottomed boat, because all
night long three men were occupied in rolling great hogsheads from side to side to keep her on an even keel.    I paid more attention to the working of the ship that night than I did to sleeping.
When we reached Montreal we took the train from there to
Lachine, nine miles up and there we took the boat for Kingston
and went up the St. Lawrence river and the canals to that city.
We then took another boat up the Bay of Quinte to Belleville,
where we lodged with Robin Archer, a friend of my uncle. One
thing I remember about the morning we reached Belleville. Like
any other "tenderfoot" we were wandering up the street in the
early morning and a man was taking down the shutters and he
asked us if we were new arrivals. We said that we were and he
asked us if we would care to take our "bitters" now. We said
that we would if it were not too bitter, in fact, that we would
like to have some. We went in and he put a bottle before us and
a cup and asked us to help ourselves and, behold, it was whiskey
of a very unpleasant taste.
Two days after we reached Belleville, Frederick and I arranged to start for my Uncle's place in Seymour, thirty-two miles
away and began to walk and succeeded very well the first part of
the day. During the afternoon we got very hungry and we had
no idea as to where we could get any food, as we thought that the
public houses of Canada, like those in Ireland, only gave drink.
We spent the whole day walking in the hot sun without food, and
late in the afternoon reached a point in the road where I asked a
man if we were near Seymour. "Oh," said he, "you are in Seymour now." We asked him if he knew Alec Nevin, our uncle,
who lived in Seymour, and he said that he had never heard
of him. He noticed we were tired and when my brother told him
that we were hungry too, and that we had had nothing to eat all
day, he told us to go up to his house and tell the wife that he sent
us and she would give us all the bread and milk we could eat.
We went up as he told us and the bread and milk greatly
refreshed us and we were informed that we had still ten miles to
go, as my uncle lived on the western side of the township, while
we were then on the eastern side. We travelled on and had
various adventures and discussions with men we saw on the way
but late in the evening we reached my uncle's house and, behold, EMIGRATION TO CANADA 17
it was a one-roomed shanty, although he had a frame house almost erected in which we could sleep during the summer. I may
say here that by this time America had lost a large number of its
attractions and we began to realize something of the hardships
that lay before us.
The day after we arrived at Seymour a wagon was sent down
to Belleville to bring up the other members of the family and in
due time it arrived back, but on the way, in crossing a corduroy
bridge, my mother was jolted out of the wagon and fell into the
ditch; she was none the worse, however, except that her clothes
were in quite a bad state. When we all got together at my
Uncle's and realized that all our decisions, made while we were in
Ireland and on the way to America, had come to naught, we felt
very blue. In Ireland it had been decided that I was going to be
the farmer and Frederick was to tend to certain other matters and
James was to do something else. We now discovered that ploughing was impossible, because the land was all covered with trees.
Almost all the land was taken up by settlers or others and no
place was available for a person of small means and no opportunity
for anything but manual labour. We stayed at my Uncle's for
the better part of June without obtaining any kind of work, and
it had begun to be talked amongst the people that we were just
a useless crowd. It was finally settled that Frederick was to
continue his efforts to try and buy one hundred acres of land and
we were to go out to work.
I hired with James Ponton. My brother James went to a
farmer to work in the harvest, and John Spence, my brother-in-
law, did the same. Shortly after this Frederick bought one hundred acres with eleven acres of clearing and a small shanty on it.
To this, he and my mother moved. It was about one and a half
miles from where my Uncle lived and this was where Frederick
lived during the summer. None of us knew how to chop and we
were only fit for harvest work, that anyone can do.
There was a fine spring of pure water in the forest that Frederick bought and he was advised to build his house near it.
Then, like a woodsman, he commenced to clear the land where
the house was to be, but, never having seen a tree cut down, he 18 EMIGRATION TO CANADA
did exactly as a beaver does, cut all around the tree and watched
it till it started to fall and then ran away from it. Working alone
and in the hot sunshine, with perhaps heavy old-land clothes on,
and much troubled by the black flies, he had an awful time of it
and was so discouraged that he decided to leave for Ireland and
join the Irish Police. He intended leaving me what money remained after paying his passage and I was to look after my mother
and the others. After some time, I persuaded him that this would
be a mistake and induced him to stay one year and if things
were not well at the end of that time I would take over the money
and property.
Later in the summer he became more satisfied with the conditions and began to think about marrying and also building a
house, the latter of which he did in the autumn. The house, by
good luck, was built in the clearing that was on the place when
we came to it and it was on this homestead that he lived until his
I remember well the day the house was put up. At that
time all buildings were erected by what was called a "Bee." The
men of the neighborhood were invited to come and each man who
came brought an axe, and was ready to do anything that was required of him. The chief men at a "Bee" were the four corner
men. We had four excellent men on the corners and the building
progressed finely and was completed before night. In the afternoon Frederick produced the whisky, which was a necessary accompaniment at all "Bees," men could go and take a drink when
they saw fit. "Bob Stillman," a wise leader and a very religious
man, said, when he saw the whisky, that the Devil was coming,
and later in the afternoon "Tom Munroe," a Frenchman, lost his
balance and fell off the corner where he was and "Bob Stillman"
asked what the cause was and I answered at once: "It was on
account of the Devil coming." Of course, in that day, everybody
As I have observed, I went to work at the Ponton's and was
called by the ladies "the young man," to distinguish me from the
old people and a couple of others who were on the farm. I seemed to be the man of all work, but not able to do much as I knew EMIGRATION TO CANADA 19
nothing of work at all. My chief work was picking stones off
the summer fallow and a yoke of oxen were hitched to a "stone
boat" which slid over the ground and the stones were drawn to
the fence corners by the oxen. A little boy, nephew of the women, drove the oxen but, one day, he was required for something
else and I was asked if I could drive the oxen alone. I thought
that I could and got along fairly well. In the evening the men
questioned me and asked how I got along With the oxen and I
said : "Oh, very well, 'Haw' gave me a great deal of trouble, but
*Gee' did whatever I wished him to." Of course there was a
great laugh. I found that the names of the oxen were Buck and
Berry and that Haw and Gee meant for them to come towards
you or go away from you and as I had never heard the names of
the oxen, but the other two words in constant use, I had decided
that they were the names of the oxen.
Another afternoon, I was working in a field close to the woods
when I heard something falling repeatedly from a large tree and
I crossed the fence to investigate and found that there was a large
butternut tree loaded with fruit and the squirrels were up amongst
the limbs cutting the nuts off and letting them fall to the ground.
I picked up over a bushel and piled them at the base of the tree
and went back to my work. After supper, I took a large bag and
went back to get my nuts, but behold, they were all gone. At
first I thought some person must have stolen them, but I found
out later that the squirrels had quietly carried them off.
Another incident of my farming experiences stands out before
me. All the fields were enclosed by rail fences and usually a
block was placed under the lowest rail. A pea field was alongside of where I was gathering stones and small pigs came along,
and, to my astonishment, went into the field and I could find no
way to get them out but by taking down the fence. I happened
to look where they went in and found that the block of wood
that had been placed to hold up the corner of the fence was hollow and the pigs crawled through the log and got into the peas.
Something struck me that I could stop that and I took the log
out of the corner and sloped it in such a way that it would appear
to go into the field and the next time the hogs came along I watch- 20 EMIGRATION TO CANADA
ed them and they immediately crawled into the log and came out
on my side of the fence. After doing this two or three times they
seemed to get frightened and ran away grunting and never tried
the fence again. Many other circumstances might be spoken of
regarding the greenhorns when they come to a new country and,
even to-day, the old settlers laugh at the ignorance displayed by
the green youths from the old country.
After our summer's work, James and myself returned to our
new house. The work that all settlers took up in the fall was
called "underbrushing," which was to cut all trees, under six
inches, at the base, down level with the ground and gather up
the rubbish of every kind and throw it into a wind-row. While
"underbrushing" we cut all fallen trees into lengths and everything would then be in readiness for the cutting down of the larger
trees when the winter set in. James, Frederick and myself
were all "underbrushing" one day when we came to a tree that
had been blown out at the root and Frederick, being the best
chopper, took the cut at the root, while James and I cut near the
top. Frederick, being handy with the axe, was soon ready to cut
his length off, when he called to us : "Look out there !" We looked
and, behold, he was slung over the root of the tree and the
stump was turning back to where it had stood. By good luck, it
threw him so far off, that the stump went into its old place and he
was thrown beyond it. As soon as we saw that no harm was done
we sat down and had a good hearty laugh, but, we had learned a
lesson : under no consideration to stand on a log and sever it from
the stump but rather by the tree above the stump. After "under-
brushing" and cutting and getting ready for the winter I went to
a neighboring farmer for a month to chop wood and to thresh oats
in the barn with a flail. I received $7.00 for the month's work
and worked from daylight or before it, until after dark. One day,
when I was out chopping it was very cold and I was wearing a
pair of worsted gloves. One of my fingers got frozen and we had
been told that if any part of us got frozen we were to rub snow on
that part until we had thawed it out. As soon as I saw the finger
was frozen I took the gloves off and commenced to rub the frozen
one with snow and in a few moments I had five frozen fingers in- EMIGRATION TO CANADA 21
stead of just one and I immediately returned to the house and had
them thawed out properly and was not injured by the freezing.
Another foolish thing that we did, I may mention, to show
that it is only by experience we learn. At Christmas time we
expected my uncle and his family to come with a sleigh and we
would all have a great sleigh ride. We lived about two hundred
yards from the road and, as we had no lane at the time, we got
shovels and shovelled over a foot of snow off the ground all the
way from the house to the road so that they, as we thought, could
come up easily. Instead of helping them we had worked for
nothing, because it was impossible for the horses to pull the sleigh
over the bare ground and of course we were laughed at as greenhorns.
After Christmas and before New Year's day, Josh Archer,
Frederick's brother-in-law, arranged to go into the woods to cut
and saw logs. I agreed to go with him as measurer of the logs
and to keep the men's time. The first thing we did when we went
to the woods was to find where there was a spring and clear a
place and erect a shanty where the men were to live. A number
of dead pines were cut down and the logs brought together and
the shanty was put up almost in a day and roofed with boards.
The men began to cut the trees around where the shanty was and
another man and myself were inside the shanty filling the chinks
with mud and pieces of wood to keep out the cold. While we
were at work the trees were falling all round the shanty and I was
frightened for fear a tree would fall in our direction and I asked
the man what he would do if a tree fell on the shanty. He said
he would be so scared that he would not know what to do. I told
him that I would drop down just where I was and lie close to the
log beside me. With that, we heard a tree crack and we listened
and in a short time heard the first tree strike another tree and a
tremendous crack took place and we very soon heard the swish
of a tree coming our way and I did as I had said, and fell down
at once beside the wall and with that a tree lit fairly on the top
of our shanty and knocked the other man down; but he was soon
on his feet again and ran out and was sure he was killed. He
frightened all the men with his yelling and had not been injured.
I enjoyed the winter in the shanty very much and no accidents
took place and no men were injured.
I left the shanty afterwards and engaged as clerk in the store
of John Gibb, in Campbellford. I remained with him until late
in the spring, when I got tired of being a clerk and hired with a
lady called Mrs. Carlow, for a year, at $10.00 per month with my
During that summer my brother-in-law, John Spence, had
hired out with a farmer named Fraser, who had been an old gardener in the north of England and was very enthusiastic about
the flowers of Canada. I had been much interested in seeing the
strange flowers the past summer but thought little of making a
study of them, but his talks about flowers so roused my interest
that I talked flowers with him every Sunday when I went to see
John Spence. This was the first time I took any interest in the
flowers of Canada and to encourage me he presented me with an
old book, that is in my collection at Ottawa, which was a list of
the plants of Northumberland and Durham in England, published
in 1806. This book I studied like a child with a picture book and
learned the names of the flowers of England before I knew those
of our own country. During the next two years, I had many
talks with this old man but he died and my visits to his place
ceased. At odd times during the next winter, Frederick and I
took out cedar rails from a swamp that he had on our place. I
cut and split and he carried the rails en his back for nearly half a
mile. These rails eventually fenced in the 11^ acres of the clearing on his farm. Our friends called us fools now instead of loafers,
as they had done in the summer. A whole series of accidents took
place while we were engaged with the rails, as we actually knew
nothing about the work. One day, a cedar limb fell off a tree in
the swamp and it had a sliver sticking out at the butt end of it
and it fell straight on Frederick's back and penetrated between
two of his ribs, close to the backbone. We thought little of it
that evening but the next morning he was unable to move and
had great trouble with the wound in his back. At that time, balsam gum was the great cure-all for wounds and I went to the
woods and got a small vial filled with the gum and brought it EMIGRATION TO CANADA 23
home and his wife put a poultice on his back with the gum. After
a time, when the wound cleared Jane, his wife, thought she saw
something in the wound and discovered the end of the stick, nearly half an inch wide, protruding from between his ribs and she
got a pair of tweezers that she had and pulled it out and found
that it was over two inches long. We then thought there was
considerable danger and so had a doctor brought to see Fred and
he probed the wound and said, that if it had gone in much further it
would have struck a vital part and advised keeping the wound
clean and anointing it with the balsam gum, as I had done before
he came.
My own mishap took place in the same swamp but it was
more simple than was Frederick's. I was cutting a cedar log and
in bending a small stem limb it broke and the part still on the tree
bounced back and struck me clear in the eye and I was blinded at
once, because my other seemed to be in sympathy with the one
that was struck. Frederick led me home and I was in great pain
with the eye and spent a very agonizing night of it. In the morning, Jane thought she would have a look at my eye and told me
that she thought there was something near the eye ball and she
saw something there and got her tweezers again and pulled out a
piece of bark lying above and back of the eyeball and the pain was
instantly relieved.    In a day or two it was as well as ever.
Another mishap that took place years after this, I may relate,
to show how accidents often take place in the bush. I had taken
a contract to cut ten acres for one of the farmers and Frederick
and I worked together part of the time. One morning, we cut
down a large maple that had old limbs at its top and was hollow,
although we had no knowledge of this at the time and cut it. We
stepped back from the tree as it fell and a family of flying squirrels
flew out of the top and we gazed up at them and did not remark
the large limb that was falling right down upon us. Without any
warning, Frederick's axe flew out of his hand and a large limb came
between him and me, where we stood. The limb had been displaced with the falling of the tree and it fell with the large end
downwards. The limb had fallen clear on the top of his axe-
handle as he held it in his hand and he was not hurt, fortunately. 24 EMIGRATION TO CANADA
One other incident that happened in the same winter I may
mention, to show the dangerous things new settlers in a new country had to pass through. One night, in the latter part of
winter, a shower of rain had fallen and caused all the logs to be
covered with a thin sheet of ice, I was chopping a beech tree
that was about a foot and a half through and standing on it at
the same time. My boots happened to slip off the log, the axe
flew from my hands, and my head scraped over the log and I
almost lost my senses, but soon found that no bones were broken,
but a small bone about my "Adam's Apple" was dislocated and
I could not get my head straight, until I shoved the bone back in
place again. The curious part of it is that that bone came out
occasionally for ten years after that accident happened.
I shall say nothing about selling goods, while I was a clerk in
John Gibb's store, except in regard to one circumstance that shows
that I was not very wide awake at this stage of my life. I had
remarked that old ladies who came to the store to buy cotton and
such things always wanted me to sell it at a lower price than the
one fixed, so, to be even with them, when they came to the store,
I always added a cent to the price set per yard, and, after due
discussion and deliberation, I threw it off again, and got credit
from these older people, of being a very accommodating clerk.
Mr. Gibb noticed that the old ladies preferred me to wait upon
them and asked me the reason and I told him what I always did,
and he advised me to cease doing anything like that as he would
lose custom if it got around that he had two prices.
After clerking, I went to Mrs. Carlow, who had an old farmer
called Ivey, as foreman, and a young man to take care of the
horses and I was just the young man that did odd jobs about the
place and had charge of nothing. During the summer, Mrs. Car-
low, being an Anglican, gave ten acres of her land, which was bush,
for an English Rectory and Church and she asked Mr. Ivey to
go and locate it. He reported that he was unable to do it and
she then asked the other man and he said that he had no idea of
how to go about it. In the end, she turned away in great indignation and said it was an awful thing for her to have three men
about her who could not do a simple thing like that.    I spoke up JOHN   MACOUN.  SHORTLY   AFTER   HIS   ARRIVAL
at once and said: "But Mrs. Carlow, you have not asked me yet!"
She then asked me if I could do it and when I said that I would
try she ungraciously told me to do so then. I may say here that
I was always able, when a boy and up to the present, to make
out to do in some way or other what was required of me and in
this case I thought I saw no difficulty.
I took my axe and went to the farm and, after some difficulty
and a good deal of thought, I ran the lines and made a brush fence
along three sides and the road allowance made the fourth and
five years later, when it was surveyed properly and added to the
church, I was found to be nearly right.
This piece of work established my character and ability with
Mrs. Carlow. She had no children of her own and was bringing
up a young man named Harry Denmark, the son of her brother.
A private teacher came early every evening to give him lessons
and I was invited into the library by Mrs. Carlow to take part
in the lessons with the teacher and her nephew Harry. Apparently, I took advantage of this as the teacher told my brother that
I was all mouth and eyes when I was receiving lessons. Harry
was what would be called a "real sport" as he was on the river
all day sailing canoes or going on rafts and taking innumerable
chances. He built a skiff and, in the autumn, he and I went to
the Trent River, north of where my brother lived, and fished and
shot ducks all day long and returned to my brother's house at
night. By the end of the week we decided to return to Mrs.
Carlow's. I may say that the skiff had been brought up to the
river north of my brother's* place, by a team from the farm and
we were now going to take the boat back by the river, which was
a foolhardy thing to try to do as there were two falls and numerous
rapids on the river below us.
We ran one slide (Helly Falls Slide) and, as there was scarcely
any water on it, we went down it without difficulty ; in fact, towards the bottom of it we had to pull the boat over the slippery
boards as there was no water. We had then a mile and a half to
Crow Bay where Harry's father lived, and below that another
mile and a half and we came to the Middle Falls. Here, Harry
got it into his head that we should run over the dam as the fall 26 EMIGRATION TO CANADA
was not very high, but I advised him to take the slide which we
did. On this slide there were about four inches of water running
and, as we rushed down, the boat came too near the side and as
I was in the bow I shoved it, as I thought, gently, but owing to
the swiftness of the water and slipperiness of the boards the boat
went broadside down the remainder of the slide and I was thrown
out on the apron and Harry righted the boat and shot into the
water again. By good luck, I caught a chain and was able to
hold on till he came back and took me off. Another mile and we
were home and I decided that that was the last time I would go
out duck shooting with a "Sport."
I may just add a word here. The next winter Harry went
home to his father's place on Crow Bay and he and the hired man
went out in the spring with two guns and he was never seen again
alive.   Both were drowned in Crow Bay.
When I left Mrs. Carlow, I returned to my brother's and this
was my last experience as a hired man. My brother attempted
to work in a saw-mill, piling boards, but he worked two days and
came home with blistered hands and told me that if he died of
starvation he would never work again for anybody.
After leaving Mrs. Carlow, I bought one hundred and sixty-
four acres from the Government and decided to become a farmer.
I made an arrangement with my brother to live with him and
help him at a certain sum per day and he was to board me at a
certain sum per day when I was working for myself, and that was
our arrangement for the next five years. At the time I am speaking of most of the land in Seymour West still remained bush and
the roads were little better than paths. A wagon road was
generally made through the easiest part of the country and not
on the proper road allowance at all. During the summer, fires
would take place and at times become dangerous to the whole
country round and all the farmers would have to turn out and
fight the fire. Other times, a fire would be on our own land and
the fight there would be both severe and dangerous. I have
known Frederick and myself to have been so exhausted that his
wife would have to come to us with water at the risk of being
burned herself, while my mother would stand and gaze at us and EMIGRATION TO CANADA 27
the fire. Everyone in the country went through such experiences
as this and none escaped.
One thing was creditable to the settlers, they were all willing
to help each other and "Bees" were the regular ways of helping a
farmer who was in distress or who wanted help for a big undertaking. We were just as ready to go out and cut a man's grain or
plow his land as we were to go and help him erect a home or a
big frame barn. All worked and all helped. The. slogan of the
country was "Root hog or die!"
These early settlers made Canada! I do not remember an
idle man; all worked and although the pay was poor and the
returns very often scarcely anything, I do not remember a dissatisfied man. CHAPTER III
Teaching School—Religious Experiences—Study of Botany
—Attendance at Normal School, Toronto, 1859.
AS I said, my brother James went to Belleville the second
year we were out and became an apprentice as a moulder
and now, after six years farming and making very little, I
decided to follow his footsteps and leave the farm and become a
teacher. Two causes forced this upon me. One was an affront
that my brother's wife received from a man who held a small
mortgage on my brother's land and the other was my desire to
study botany. When I announced to my mother that I was going to teach school and give up farming she laughed at me as,
since I was thirteen, I had never been in school and she thought I
was deficient in knowledge of books. However, I said that I would
make a trial and I would pay off Frederick's mortgage at any rate.
I knew a little of a good many subjects but grammar was
one I had never paid attention to and so I bought Kirkham's
Grammar and gave it three days' study and decided that I could
pass for a school-teacher without difficulty. After my three days'
grammar, I decided I was fit to go before the County Inspector
and discuss the matter with him. I walked forty-three miles to
where the Inspector lived and, it being winter, he took me out in
his cutter and questioned me on various subjects as we went along.
He said: "Mr. Macoun, a very short time in school as a pupil
with a good teacher should give you information as to how to
govern a school that I shall give you, and with a permit you can
try your hand at teaching." He advised me to go to the school in
the village where he lived and board with the teacher and attend
his school. I attended school for the next three weeks and then
received my certificate and returned to my home triumphantly.
Now my troubles began. I thought that I would be engaged
in the section where my brother lived but he was informed that TEACHING SCHOOL—STUDYING BOTANY 29
it was out of the question as it was not possible for a man who
had been farming a month ago to start out to teach school properly. That was my first rebuff. Next, I went to another section
where they wanted a teacher and they employed one who took
ten dollars a year less salary than I was asking, and so I returned
home again somewhat discouraged. I now decided to strike out
for the front, which was the township of Brighton, as I had heard
they had schools which were vacant in that place.
I had walked twenty miles that day and was very tired and
had made a number of inquiries, but no teachers were needed, but,
as I walked along in the early part of the evening, I saw a man
taking potatoes out of a pit and he told me that a teacher was
needed in that district and directed me where to inquire. The
trustees met the same evening and discussed the matter and one
of them, who had been at college when he was young, asked me
a few questions, which I answered in a diplomatic manner. One
of them was on grammar of course and I gave two answers, one
according to Kirkham and another from a book I had studied
when at school. Thus I got credit for a knowledge of authors,
and I doubt yet whether the authors or myself were correct in
the rendering of the subject, but I learned from this experience
that the trustee was rather more ignorant than I.
That same evening, the trustee's wife, in discussing school
matters with me, asked me if I could teach astronomy. I said:
"I have my doubts." "Well," she said, "Miss Spencer, our former
teacher, taught it." I found that Miss Spencer had taught it
from books and I told her tiiat I could teach it that way all right.
I thought, before she told me of teaching it out of books, that the
teacher would be expected to take the pupils out and discuss the
stars with them.
I was hired and my salary was the munificent sum of $14.00
per month for six months, and board around. The boarding
around was that I had a headquarters where I could stay the
latter part of each week and I would board a week at a time with
the people that sent children tt> the school.
I may now make a review of my character as a boy. Up to
when I was nineteen, at which age I came to Canada, I was called 30 TEACHING SCHOOL—STUDYING BOTANY
a "good boy," but did not go to Sunday School so far as I can
remember. I made excuses which were really lies, told the truth
when a lie would have been dishonorable, never went back on my
word and hence was called "good," without having any of the
characteristics that "good boys" are supposed to have now. I
never swore; I never smoked but once; would not play with bad
boys; read the Bible; believed in God, but all the time was a
young heathen. Without any idea beyond the enjoyment of the
present, I was confirmed in church and passed much better than
any of the others, but still I was in the dark about religion, although I was always correcting my playmates in such things.
I remember telling one boy that if he swore he would never get to
heaven and he answered at once: "I guess I have as good a chance
as Jock Osle. ' ' This man we boys used to call ''Curse the World. ' '
He never spoke but that he swore.
These, then, were my opinions and actions before I was nineteen. When I came to Canada, a new world opened up before me
and of course new ideas were added to many of those I brought
from Ireland. I found that truth and honor were scarcer in
Canada than in Ireland and many wore the cloak of religion that
had not the remotest idea of the character of what they claimed
to know. We were located in the country where there were no
churches except Methodist and Bible Christians. There were
three different shows, running against each other, and we boys and
girls patronized each one whenever it suited us. My seven years
in the country brought many new ideas about things, both spiritual
and temporal. We attended church and all the protracted meetings that were held in the churches during the winter months,
which an irreverant man of my acquaintance told me were held
to make over the members each year. I remember well one protracted meeting that was being held and a number of young men
who were attending "Bees" went nearly every night and one or
two would be converted occasionally. One afternoon a young
man, named William Henry Graham, told us jokingly that he was
going down to the school house and intended to be "converted"
that night. He went and, sure enough, he was converted, went and
studied for a preacher, and in a short time had a church of his
own. A year or two after his conversion he married a second
cousin of mine and later in his life went to Brockville and filled the
church there to the satisfaction of the people, so that they kept
him for many years, and his son today is the Hon. Geo. P. Graham.
"Conversion" as it was called, placed you with the saints,
who, in my opinion, were lying sinners in many cases. I was full
of fun but serious at heart and did only what I thought was right.
I tried to be a Methodist and attended class-meeting. One Sunday in telling my experience I felt I was not as good as I might be
and the class-leader told me I ought to have as good a testimony
as Brother So-and-So. I knew the Brother lied and I did not, so
I resigned from the class-meeting. I had very serious thoughts at
this time about religion but in examining the people by whom I
was surrounded and who were spoken of as highly religious I had
my doubts of them.
At this stage I shall digress and speak of my development in
connection with the science of botany. In another place I have
mentioned where I got my first idea in regard to botany, namely
that when I was quite a small boy my uncle took me into the
orchard and showed me a row of filbert trees and pointed to the
aments, or barren flowers, hanging on the branches of the naked
trees and said to me: "Jock, these that you see here will all fall
off and in the autumn it is on these trees we get the nuts that we
use at Christmas time." This lay in my mind and after we came
to America I was engaged one morning in May splitting rails and
while resting on a heap of the rails I noticed the hazel bushes at
the edge of the woods and, like Moses, went to examine and discovered that these were identical with what my uncle had shown
me in Ireland. I discovered that he did not seem to have known
that on these same bushes there were other little objects that were
pink and these I found to be only on the bushes that held the
aments. Later, I knew that these were the female flowers and
that the nuts were produced by these being pollenized by the male
flowers.   These were the first studies I made in Botany.
Next, I came across an old gentleman named Fraser, a farmer with whom my brother-in-law lived, and he told me the names
of many of the highly colored flowers around his house and gave 32 TEACHING SCHOOL-STUDYING BOTANY
me a list that had been published in England fifty years before,
which gave the plants of the counties of Northumberland and
Durham. For years this book was the spring from which I
gathered my basic knowledge. All these plants were named
according to the Linnaean system. I remember that when I would
be returning from labour for my dinner I always aimed to pick up
a plant that I did not know and then work on it to find out
where it stood in the system. As was well known at that time,
the system in vogue was an artificial one but it certainly served
a tyro and my object was to find out where each species was in
the classification. My only other book besides this list, that I can
remember, was Mistress Lincoln's Botany, and it followed the same
system so that I was enabled to make some progress.
I may mention here how I learned. I would take a common
species of roadside or garden plant of which I knew the name
and then immediately endeavour to work out its correct name from
the classification. The Mullein was the species that I took first.
I found it more difficult than I had thought on account of its long
and short stamens, but I soon came to understand the arrangement of the stamens and pistils so well that most plants could be
classified by their form alone. We had a library in Seymour at
this time and I obtained a small English Botany from it and learned the most of our common weeds from that book as in that early
time all our weeds were immigrants from England, although I did
not know it then.
Another book from which I learned a great deal was Agassiz's
"Lake Superior." This gave an account of the plants around
Lake Superior and was the only information recorded from that
lake until I went there twenty years later. After my spending
six years farming in Seymour, as already related, I decided to
become a teacher, partly to study Botany and for another purpose
that I have spoken of elsewhere. Up to the present I never had
had more than one holiday in the year and that was Christmas
Day. Frederick and I might take a day's fishing in the summer,
but an eight-mile walk and scrambling along the river was not
very restful.
From Seymour I went to Brighton, where I taught school two TEACHING SCHOOL—STUDYING BOTANY 33
and a half years, and in all my spare time, while I was there, I
evidently kept botany to the front. I remember sitting under
the fence when I was boarding with my prospective father-in-law,
Simon Terrill, who was a well-known Quaker in that district, and
he found me with a plant in my hand and said : "John, what dost
thee ever expect to make out of the study of botany?" I told
him that I did not know but that it gave me a great deal of pleasure.
During the first year I was there I would get a number of
plants in the summertime and bring them into the school and sit
and describe these plants to the best of my knowledge as I had
not up to that time thought of drying them and making a collection. I described them so that it could be told what I had found
in years to come. This record is in a quarto volume with a number of species described in it by me over sixty years ago. In that
same book is a list of 256 plants that I named and collected the
first year I was there.
I In August, 1859, I went to Toronto to attend the Normal
School for a Session and had the great fortune to board with a
Mrs. Wadsworth, on Victoria St. Her son was attending Toronto
University and in his third year and a prize man in botany. Very
soon we became companions and on Saturdays would go off botanizing. At that time the cemeteries were nearly all brush or
woods and we generally went there. I found that as I had learned botany he actually knew nothing of it. He also showed me
that I had much to learn. His knowledge was that of the schools
and consisted of structural botany and classification obtained
chiefly from lectures while mine was of the woods and fields. I
knew the plants and where they grew. I soon learned where I
was deficient and paid more attention to fundamentals. My
experience in the Normal school was a new one to me as I never
had heard a lecture or had seen a big school. Looking back now
I can see that I was very green, ignorant of many things, but had
the power of thinking for myself. I could not write fast enough
to take lectures, but put down what I could and filled out my
notes afterwards. Doing this got me into difficulties sometimes,
but I made progress and was even applied to by older men when 34
in difficulty. I could write many pages on my experiences, but
will only mention two. The students had to teach in the Model
School to show their ability. The third division was the terror
of the whole class and one of the dreadful troubles young students
had to meet. One morning I was notified to teach it, the lesson
was the Pigeon. I came in and found myself in front of a gallery
of boys that would average perhaps ten or more years. Pandemonium reigned for a time as every boy wished to tell me about
his pigeons. I was nonplussed, but finally got in a word and
asked them to tell me something about wild pigeons. This
caused the clamour to cease and as no one spoke I asked them to
tell what wild pigeons ate in the spring when they came in such
numbers. One boy said "peas," I said that was right, "but what
did they get in the woods," no answer, and I said: "I will tell
you, the fruit of the elm." I had seen them eat it. At this point
the Head Master of the Model School came in and the bell rang.
I had never reached the lesson. I believed I was a failure and
would get no certificate. Next week a student told me that I
was all right for he had seen the teachers' standing in the Model and
I stood high. Some years ago I saw a book written about the
teaching of that time and the author hinted that the Third Division was designed to test the teacher's ability to keep order.
The other episode was different. Dr. John Sangster was our
science master and he always questioned us before lecturing on
the preceding lecture. He had lectured one day on pneumatics
and told the cïass about the atmosphere. I was absent teaching
in the Model School and knew nothing about what he said. When
he began to question this day, I took care to not catch his eye.
He marked me and immediately asked me what was the weight
of the atmosphere. I was taken aback by the question, but
promptly answered, if he found the number of square inches on
the globe and multiplied them by fifteen he would find the weight.
In his usual sarcastic way, he said that would do, but said, why
did I not follow his lecture. I said that I did not hear it as I was
at the Model. From this time forward I could see his eye twinkle
every time he met me.
Time passed and we formed a football club at the Normal TEACHING SCHOOL—STUDYING BOTANY 35
and challenged the University to play a series of matches. I
shall mention how we played 60 years ago. One of the Professors
placed the ball in the centre of the ground and each party lined
up at the end of the ground and at the word started for the ball.
I was the best runner on our side (but a very poor kicker), and
reached the ball first and met head-on the son of Alexander Mac-
Kenzie (the rebel of 1837) and I, having more momentum, went
over him and took the ball. We were not allowed to touch the
ball nor put a hand on any player, but just use the shoulder. Late
in the season we met for a match and it began to rain and we discussed the probabilities and a University boy said, it would rain
all afternoon as it was coming from the East. I agreed with him
that it would but said that it was really coming from the west.
Someone said let us go to Professor Kingston, who had charge of
the Weather records.
We were where the Parliament buildings stand now and the
Professor lived quite near. A few of us were admitted and the
Professor asked what he could do for us. The young man said
that he claimed the rain came from the east and another said
from the west and we wished to know who was right. He said
it appeared to come from the east, but this storm was coming
from the west as it was now raining from Detroit to Toronto.
He asked for the student who claimed the rain came from the
west, so 1 stood up and he asked me how I knew, I told him I
had Maurie's Geography of the sea, and he said, "that is the best
book on the subject of air circulation." I mention these instances
for the purpose of impressing upon any young person reading this
that anyone desiring earnestly to attain knowledge can attain it
without any teachers. Without any teacher I had succeeded so
well that I was now a marked man, both in the Normal and among
University students. My five months at the Normal School had
opened my eyes, and I saw that being self-taught gave one a great
advantage over those that had only studied what pupils are told,
especially in lectures. Many young men were so busy writing
they had no time to think. I could not write fast and only took
short notes. I had taught myself, in studying plants, to ask
why such things were so and applied the same test to the lectures 36
in the Normal and so came out with an Al certificate of the Junior
Division at Christmas. Dr. Robertson, Head Master, offered me
the Village school at Brampton near Toronto, and I offended him
when I said I was already engaged|for the School at Castleton,
Northumberland County. If you were recommended by the
Normal teachers in those days it was as great an honour as to be
mentioned in despatches in war time. CHAPTER IV
Continuation of Botanical Studies—First Appointment as
A Teacher in Belleville, Ont.—Marriage, 1862—Relations  WITH  OTHER  BOTANISTS—BOTANICAL  EXCURSIONS—
Accepts the Chair of Natural History, Albert College,
Belleville; Ont.
THE scene now shifts to Castleton, where, beginning with
January, 1860, I spent ten months teaching and studying
botany. The village doctor (Dr. Gould) was an Eclectic,
as many doctors were at that time and understood botany. Very
soon he and I were friends and I went with him when he was
visiting on Rice Lake Plains. I usually rose at four in summer
and made a large collection before breakfast. During this summer
I progressed greatly in my studies and made excursions in all
directions. Up to this time I made no attempt to do anything
with carices or grasses. I had no microscope nor glass, of any
kind, and had to depend on my eye alone and, as a result, I learned
to depend on the eye even in taking in the meaning of a book. I
collected a few species this year which I could make nothing of,
and sent them to Professor Hincks, of Toronto University, who
named them for me. One of them was a puzzle (Ambrosia artemi-
siaefolia) to me and I have never forgotten the pleasure it gave
me to know its name. Doctor Gould, of Castleton, was a great
help to me and took me to'many places I could not go on foot.
In the autumn I heard through my brother who lived in
Belleville that one of its schools would be vacant in November
and I applied for it. The late Sir Mackenzie Bowell was Chairman of the Public School Board at that time and obtained my
appointment. On November 1st, 1860, I became teacher in No.
1 School, Belleville. There were four Public Schools in that
town at that time. My removal to Belleville was the real turning point of my life.   Before the winter was over I had discovered
I could hold my own with the best of the teachers and stood well
with the people. I then decided to devote all my spare time to
natural history and as a commencement bought a few books. I
remember the first one I bought was Goldsmith's Natural History
and began its study, but soon gave it up. When I learned from
it that ants laid up corn for winter, I knew better. Next I took
geology and read Lyell's First Principles and bought Humboldt's
Cosmos and Hugh Millar and other works of like nature and many
on physical geography. By reading and observing in the open,
and from my habit of thought, I began to see the causes which
had produced all the changes in the world. My vision widened
and I saw how to apply my knowledge in school. I began to
give the scholars lectures on physical geography and covered the
land with plants and animals that I knew were there. It was
easy to show why cities grew up by the sea and on navigable
rivers and to explain about the trade routes of long ago. What
I said was not all fact but none of us knew any better and the
children were interested and I was learning. The first year in
Belleville I had established my reputation as a teacher and had
no trouble with pupils or trustees. My botanical studies were
ever before me and I made great progress in collecting. I made
a very large collection of Carices and named many of them, but
had a number I could not name. I wrote to Professor Dewey of
Rochester, New York State, and he answered at once that he
would name my collection for me, which he did. It turned out
that I had nearly ninety forms and some of them quite rare. One
of my species was Carexmirata Dewey which was dropped later
by the United States botanists, but has been taken up
again in late years. Two forms were considered new and
named by him Carex Bellivilla and C. Canadensis. This year
I began to collect every moss I could see, but I knew little
about them.
My chief difficulty all through my earlier days was the lack
of basic knowledge. I did not know how to commence, never
having received a lesson in botany. Structural botany I learned
from Woods Botany. I studied the Linnaean System from English books and used it in placing plants all through the sixties. CONTINUATION OF BOTANICAL STUDIES 39
After getting a home of my own in 1862 I at once commenced a
more permanent herbarium.
I was married on January 1, 1862, and felt the value of a
home of my own. I now had more duties, my mind was maturing
and I had made more progress in my collecting and general study.
I obtained a text book on geology that, after describing the
various rocks of a great period, gave a chapter on the animal life
of that age and another on the plant life, also. This book opened
my eyes and I immediately saw the connection between the "Six
Days' Creation" that we all believed in at that time. I saw at
once that whoever wrote the Pentateuch saw pictures of the earth
in the making just as geology and astronomy teach now, but
these were not believed then. Since then I never doubted the
authenticity of the Bible. I still doubt many of the expounders
of it. After this time I could never see how a naturalist could
doubt the existence of a God. By this I don't mean one who
created things en bloc, i.e., in six days.
I had started on a new life and I put my powers at work and
I now became a real collector and thinker, but far from being a
botanist, though called that by my friends. This year (1862) I
did so well in collecting Hepaticas that I sent a series of collections
to Sir.. Wm. Hooker, who was then Director of Kew Gardens.
He was so well pleased with what I sent that he presented me with
his great work on the British Jungermannia a quarto volume containing 91 plates. This work is in my library at Ottawa. In
collecting mosses and liverworts I was also alert and had my first
new moss named and figured in 1861, by Professor Sullivant, the
father of American Bryology. I kept adding to my flowering
plants, but could make nothing of grasses at that time. Two
causes prevented this knowledge of fundamentals. I was self-
taught and had no microscope. In 1863 Mr. C. F. Austin was
working on the Hepaticae and mosses of the United States, especially the former, and I sent my material to him and for over ten
years I supplied him with my specimens and he determined them.
This year I had a visit from Mr. George Barnston of Montreal,
an old Hudson Bay Chief Factor. He was an excellent botanist
and a special lover of mosses.   He made me many visits after 40 CONTINUATION OF BOTANICAL STUDIES
this and was a very esteemed friend until his death. This year, also,
Professor George Lawson of Queen's College, Kingston, who formed
the Botanical Society, came to visit me and asked me to join.
That summer we had a great meeting in Queen's College and
I met for the first time young men who were botanical students.
The leaders among them were Dr. Robert Bell and his brother
John; A. T. Drummond, of Montreal and J. K. McMorine,
of Kingston and others whom I have forgotten. These young
men were a part of the class which Professor Lawson was teaching
and I called him "the father of Canadian Botany." All the other
botanists whom I heard of or knew were taught outside of Canada.
These young men were a great inspiration to me when I saw their
enthusiasm, and a spur to keep ahead of them. I was older than
they were, but they had been taught and I was an outsider. The
older men and the professors seemed to take pleasure in some
remarks I made and I lost my diffidence and we all became very
sociable. Of course I was only a schoolmaster to the young men
at first but very soon we were all young botanists together. Dr.
John Bell had made a collection of plants on the Gaspé Peninsula
and these were discussed, and it was decided that I was best able
to decipher them. I took them to Belleville and named them and
my part of them is now in the Herbarium at Ottawa. My visit
to Kingston opened my eyes and I saw better than I had in Toronto in 1859 that independent thought was the power that always won. At one of our meetings in Kingston I read a short
paper on bog plants. In this paper I stated that the bog produced
Arctic conditions and plants from a bog should not be included in
speaking of the flora in Canada when climate was under discussion.
Shortly after, the editor of the "Whig" said, in speaking of our
meeting that in my paper I applied some of Professor Tyndall's
statements in his new book on "Heat as a Mode of Motion."
I had not seen the book, but I was always looking for causes, and
by this time I was ready with an answer for almost any natural
cause, right or wrong.
The years 1863-64 passed and I was adding to my herbarium
by exchanges with botanists in the United States. Doctor Vasey
and many others exchanged with me, and I began to have quite CONTINUATION OF BOTANICAL STUDIES 41
an extensive herbarium. This year I visited Professor Dewey in
Rochester, New York, and had a very pleasant and instructive
visit. He was nearly eighty years of age and wanted his mantle
to fall on someone and told me that I was, with the exception of
Dr. Asa Gray, better fitted to take up his work after his death
than anyone else he knew. I told him that my knowledge was
self-acquired and I was deficient in many branches of education
and that I could not think of such a thing. Loaded with specimens and blessings I took my leave. My standing in botany was
now getting well established and the next year (Sir) Mackenzie
Bowell who was publishing a Directory of the County of Hastings,
asked me if I would write a sketch of the Botany and Geology of
the County. This I did to his satisfaction and my own, and by
it added to my rising standing as a teacher and scholar. I now
planned a series of excursions that added greatly to my botanical
knowledge and unconsciously prepared myself for the future. My
purpose was to make a botanical trip every year in my summer
This year (1865) I made an excursion up the Hastings Road
into sparsely settled country and brought back many species I
had not hitherto found. I had learned that soils produced certain
plants and I now found that rocks, lakes and ponds and river
bottoms had distinct floras, and there was no chance about where
things grew. I could now tell what I might expect in any locality so I always aimed to go where conditions varied. My school
prospered and gave me no trouble. The year 1866 was an off
year in many ways. The Fenian Raid took place in June and I
was in camp at Prescott for some time. The same summer gold
was discovered near Madoc and people went mad over gold hunting, and even the children in the school would bring me rock specimens showing traces of mica and others, iron pyrites. These I
classified as fool's gold. In the late summer Dr. Robert Bell, of
the Geological Survey which was then located in Montreal was
sent up to examine Richardson's mine and report on it. He did
so and like a wise man gave a neutral report which pleased nobody. The excitement increased and men came from all over
Canada and the States.   Richardson's mine sold for $40,000.00 42 CONTINUATION OF BOTANICAL STUDIES
and chiefly to local men. One of the shareholders, Mr. Robert
Patterson, asked me in November if I would go out to Madoc and
report to him what I thought of it. I told him that I knew very
little of geology and less of mineralogy, and that he had better
get someone who knew more. He said that he would risk me, so
I made the "Pilgrimage" as we called it. I had three ideas about
how to distinguish gold and with these and a jack-knife I became
a specialist. I knew that iron pyrites and quartz were too hard
for my knife, that calcite or limerickite would cut or crumble and
that gold would cut readily but not crumble. With this primitive
knowledge I entered the lists in a hotel in Madoc Village and found
all sorts and conditions there. The people generally had samples
which the farmers called "Quartz." I asked to see the specimens
and found, as I expected, calcite, which cut easily and looked like
quartz. I told them that it was not quartz, and at once I had a
crowd around me. Quartz, iron pyrites and calcite were disposed of in short order, and I was the centre of a crowd. A man
came up and produced a nugget of pure gold, but lighter in color
than the Madoc gold. This was the Quebec gold, which I had
seen in Belleville. I immediately said that it was not found here
and told him he got it before he came to Madoc, and that it came
from the Chaudière. It was seen that I was a specialist and
took precedence at once. I may say that that was the first and
last time I ever claimed the role of a mineralogist. The upshot
of my investigation at the mine next day was that gold was there,
but in small quantities. Mr. Patterson unloaded and I rose in
public favour.
The year 1867 was spent without special incident and in
1868 a grand expedition was planned to the source of the Trent
River. I. I. Tenill a teacher in the Deaf and Dumb Institution
in Hamilton, Ont., Henry Reizen, School Inspector of South
Victoria and myself were the explorers, I being the botanist. Details of our trip and how we left Lindsay and reached the Muskoka
Lakes and our adventures by flood and field would fill a book
itself. In this connection I will only say that I made very large
collections of many species hitherto not seen by me. I made a
very large collection of potamogetons and rushes and other genera CONTINUATION OF BOTANICAL STUDIES 43
and as these species required the work of specialists I wrote to
Dr. Robbins of Vermont, regarding the potamogetons and
Professor Englemann of St. Louis, Missouri about the rushes.
These gentlemen answered promptly and I had their help in all
my difficulties as long as they lived. Before this year I sent my
difficult species to Kew, but Sir Joseph Hooker had ceased to
work on American Botany and had left the work to Dr. Asa Gray
of Harvard. I wrote Dr. Gray and I suppose recited my successes.
His answer was very caustic and he plainly told me that others
might accept my statements, not Asa Gray. Of course I made
good and I found a kind, generous, and noble man. Years after,
I met him in Montreal, and remember the merry twinkle of his
eye when he told how he sat on my assertion of knowledge.
The upshot of my ten years or more of botany had given me
standing in England and Scotland as well as in the United States,
and I was becoming known even in Canada and my own town of
Belleville. This year, Albert College rose from an Academy to a
University and the necessity arose to increase the staff and the
range of subjects. Bishop Albert Carman, Principal of the
University asked me if I would undertake the chair of Natural
History, and give my lectures in the morning. I fell in with the
arrangement and took up the work. I had never heard a lecture
in College, but I was a teacher and succeeded to my own satisfaction anyway, and as there were no complaints, I went on in
my own way making sure of the statements I made. My knowledge of botany and geology, physical geography and meteorology was all first hand and I could give as much in half an hour
as the average student could swallow, if not digest. I had unconsciously been preparing myself for the future in the above
studies and it soon became apparent.
At this time Canada was often looked on as the "Lady of the
Snows," and we helped that opinion by our winter sports. One
section of our people maintained that Canada was a mere fringe
along the Great Lakes and the arable land only fifty miles in depth
at the most. The other had a wider outlook. I confess I belonged to the majority, or the first section. My reading the
accounts of explorations and travellers' tales led me to believe 44 CONTINUATION OF BOTANICAL STUDIES
this. This winter, I read Professor Agassiz's Lake Superior and
adopted his view of that Lake. He gave a real picture of it as it
was and I noted his statements carefully.
I was now known outside of Belleville and Mr. George Barnston and Mr. David Watt of Montreal asked me if I would make
a botanical trip to Lake Superior and collect everything in that
line. I was glad of the chance. They agreed to furnish the
money if I would give them the greater part of the specimens.
At this time there were few inhabitants around the Lake, except
at the Hudson's Bay Co.'s trading posts. Mr. Donald A. Smith
(Lord Strathcona) was then Commissioner of the Hudson's Bay
Company and he gave me a circular letter to each officer around
the Lake to receive me as a guest and help me in every way,
which all did without exception.
Early in July, 1869, I sailed from Collingwood on the "Old
Algoma" and had a wonderful time for nearly two months. I
collected at many places around the Lake and stayed for two
weeks at Fort William with Mr. John Mclntyre, who was in
charge, and, being an old traveller, was very entertaining. In
Agassiz's Lake Superior, he spoke of seeing the cows and their
calves swimming across the Kaministikwia every morning to feed
and returning at night. He saw them in 1848 and I saw them do
the same thing in 1869. They may do it yet. My collections were
very large and contained many rare species, which I picked up
everywhere we stopped. We had sixteen horses and a large lot
of lumber which was intended for Mr, Dawson who was just
starting the "Dawson Road" that cut such a figure during the
next ten years. The lumber was used to build the first house at
Port Arthur, as it was named afterwards. There I saw the first
specimens of Rubus nutkana, which is so common on Vancouver
Island. Besides going to many places of interest I made observations on climate and gained light on one problem. Agassiz placed
the flora around as mostly subarctic, but I found that that statement only held close to the lake, while I found the plants a few
hundred yards back from the lake almost identical with those
north of Belleville. I saw the cause at once, the lake water according to Agassiz was 48° F. at midsummer and 120 miles of CONTINUATION OF BOTANICAL STUDIES 45
cold water accounted for the change in flora on its shores. Later
on in these notes I will speak of what this led to.
Many of the species I found on this trip were rare and a
number new to science. Mr. C. F. Austin named the mosses and
hepaticas and named one of them Jungermannia Wattiana. The
lichens I sent to Professor Tuckerman and found him a gentleman
and a friend in need. Until his death he named every one of my
lichens. But what was most valuable to me was that he presented
me with all his works and assisted me in many other ways. When
I look back at this early time, I found that every specialist helped
me in every way they could and I was now, thanks to them, on
my feet and could do my own thinking without the aid of a master.
The more I read the less I believed in many notions that prevailed
about climatology, but had no knowledge to contradict them.
I decided to spend part of my vacation this year (1870) in
North Hastings about 50 miles north of Belleville. I took a
companion, one of my pupils, and we spent two or three weeks
amongst the lakes and streams of that region. No difference was
found in the general flora except one that I had noted before,
namely that the Laurentian rocks produced generally a distinct
flora from that of the limestone. I considered the plants on
limestone lands as showing a warmer climate than the Laurentian.
I would say now that the soils were warmer and more southern
forms were to be seen.
The year 1871 opened with an invitation to spend my holidays at Royston Park near Owen Sound, and I gladly accepted,
as I wished to visit Lake Huron. Mrs. Roy was an accomplished
botanist and corresponded with all the leading Scotch botanists.
Besides, she knew where most of the species, for which Owen Sound
was famous, grew. July of that year saw me a guest at Royston
Park, and for the first time having communion with a botanist
day after day. Mr. Roy called himself our man Friday and
carried a basket. We collected many mosses and flowering plants,
the former of which were sent to Professor James, who was then
preparing his Manual of North American Mosses. The ferns of
that region were fine and a number of species were collected in
quantity. CHAPTER V
Meets Mr. Sandford Fleming and Rev. Geo. M. Grant—
Becomes botanist to their Expedition across the Prairies and Mountains to the Pacific, in search of a route
for the Canadian Pacific Railway—Descriptions of
Country—Incidents of the journey across the prairies.
IN 1857, the British Government sent out an expedition under
Capt. Palliser, to explore in Canada. This expedition spent
four years in the country and made a report stating that it
was impossible to make a railroad through the Rocky Mountains.
Their report also said that the largest proportion of the prairies
was nothing more than part of the Great American Desert. This
report gave the country quite a setback. In 1867, Nova Scotia
and New Brunswick joined Quebec and Ontario, forming a united
Canada. As soon as this took place, the ideas of Canadians were
apparently enlarged, for immediately they asked England to
arrange for the purchase of the Hudson's Bay Company's claims
for the North West Territories. This purchase was accomplished
in 1869. These efforts caused a good deal of irritation amongst
the Company's servants in the North West and especially amongst
the half-breeds at Fort Garry. This resulted in the "Riel Revolution," which took place in the winter of 1869, which led to the
expedition of the Canadian Militia under General Wolseley, and
the revolution was suppressed in 1870. Next year, British Columbia joined the coalition and on July 20th, 1871, signed the
agreement. Immediately after the signing by British Columbia,
survey parties started work both at Victoria and Ottawa to survey
the route of the first Canadian transcontinental railway, which
was subsequently called the Canadian Pacific.
In the winter of 1871, I was asked again by Mr. Watts of
Montreal, if I would go to Lake Superior the coming summer and
make another collection for him of the plants that grew around "^
the Lake. I made arrangements at the College for permission to
stay away longer than the holidays should opportunity offer to
go to Manitoba, as I wanted to see the prairies. On the 15th of
July, I started for Toronto and the next day went to Collingwood
to take the boat for Lake Superior. On the way out I noticed a
company of gentlemen in peculiar dress and thougt they were
English sportsmen. I took passage on the "Francis Smith," and
so did they.
As the boat left for Owen Sound, I was standing on deck looking at the scenery we were passing when a gentlemen came up
where I "was and we began talking. I told him I was admiring
the beautiful trees and shrubs. He said that he was considering
the strategic importance of the hills. I saw at once that he was
a military man.
Mrs. Roy, of Royston Park, at Owen Sound, where I had
spent my holidays in 1871, had promised to meet me in Owen
Sound and give me a few boxes of strawberries. I walked into
the town and the gendeman that I had talked with on the boat
overtook me and fell into step. I told him I was about to meet
a lady who was going to give me some strawberries and, sure
enough, in a few minutes we met Mrs. Roy with the strawberries,
and I introduced the gentleman as a military friend I had met on
board the "Francis Smith." He bowed and said, "Colonel Robertson Ross, at your service, madam," and she said, "Am I speaking to the Adjutant General?" And he said, "Yes." Mrs. Roy
said, "My husband told me yesterday that you were coming
West."   We had some conversation and came back to the ship.
On board, a gentleman in semi-clerical costume (Rev. Dr.
Grant), came up to me on deck and began to converse. He talked freely with me and shortly retired. He had hardly gone until
a fine looking man appeared and entered into conversation and
asked me a few questions. I told him what I was intending to
do, and he said, "What would you think of going across the prairies?" I said, "Nothing would please me better." In a few
minutes I found he was the Sandford Fleming who was the chief
engineer of the Pacific Railway which was to be built in agreement with British Columbia.   He invited me to go with him to L
the Pacific Coast and act as Botanist to his party which was now
on the way. I now found that the men who were peculiarly
dressed were his party. I became one of the company : the Chief,
Sandford Fleming, C.E., Ottawa, the Secretary, Rev. George M.
Grant, Halifax, the Doctor, Arthur Moren, M.D., Halifax, the
Botanist, John Macoun, M.A., Belleville, and Mr. Horetzky,
I soon felt myself at home in their company and was told by
Mr. Fleming to keep my eyes open and make a note mentally or
otherwise of the productions of the part of the country we passed
through. My observations on the trip are found in my report to
the Government. I made a practice of going on shore at every
opportunity, showing that I was on the job, and very soon attracted the attention of the party and the passengers on the boat,
among whom there were a great many tourists. The following
extracts are given word for word as they are found in "Ocean to
Ocean," which was written to record events of this expedition by
Reverend Dr. Geo M. Grant, later Principal of Queen's University.
"Two or three days previously, the Chief had noticed, among
the passengers, a gentleman out for his holidays on a botanical
excursion to Thunder Bay, and, won by his enthusiasm, had engaged him to accompany the expedition. At whatever point the
steamer touched the first man on shore was the Botanist, scrambling over the rocks or diving into the woods, vasculum in hand,
stuffing it full of mosses, ferns, liverworts, sedges, grasses and
flowers, till recalled by the whistle that the Captain always fortunately sounded for him. Of course, such enthusiasm became
known to all on board, especially the sailors, who described him
as "the man that gathers grass" or more briefly "the Hay-picker
or the Hay-maker." They regarded him, because of his scientific
failing, with the respectful tolerance with which all fools in the
East are regarded, and would wait an extra minute for him or
help him on board, if the steamer were cast loose from the pier
before he could scramble up the side. This morning the first
object that met our eyes on looking out of the stateroom window
was our Botanist on the highest peak of the rugged hills that
enclose the harbor of Gargantua.   Here was proof that we all HIS FIRST JOURNEY ACROSS THE PRAIRIES 49
had time to go ashore and most of us hurried off for a ramble
along the beach, or for a swim, or to climb one of the wooded rocky
heights. The beach was covered with the maritime vetch or wild
pea in flower, and beach grasses of various kinds. When the
Botanist came down to the shore he was in raptures over sundry
rare mosses, and beautiful specimens oiAspidiumfragrans, Woodsia
hyperborea, Cystopteris montana and other rare ferns that he had
gathered. The view from the summit away to the north, he
described as a sea of rugged Laurentian hills covered with thick
woods. In the meantime some of the passengers went off with
the Botanist to collect ferns and mosses. He led them a rare
chase over rocks and through woods, being always on the
lookout for the places that promised the rarest kinds, quite indifferent to the toil or danger. The^ight of a perpendicular face
of rock, either dry or dripping with moisture, drew him like a
magnet, and, with yells of triumph, he would summon the others
to come and behold the trifle he had lit upon. Scrambling, panting, rubbing their shins against the rocks, and half breaking their
necks, they toiled painfully after him, only to find him on his
knees before some "thing of beauty" that seemed to us little
different from what we had passed by with indifference thousands
of times. But, if they could not honestly admire the moss, or
believe it was worth going through so much to get so little, they
admired the enthusiasm, and it proved so infectious that, before
many days, almost everyone of the passengers was so bitten with
"the grass mania" or "hay fever" they had begun to form collections."
On July 22nd, we arrivep! early in the morning at Prince
Arthur's Landing (Port Arthur) and landed at the commencement of the Dawson Route which was being started when I was
there in 1869. We halted only a very short time there as preparations had been made for us and we almost immediately started for Lake Shebondowan, forty-five miles distant. We travelled
in wagons up this road and found it very good indeed after what
I had seen three years before.
At Lake Shebondowan we took a water route to the North
West Angle.   At this stage I may mention how the party was 50 HIS FIRST JOURNEY ACROSS THE PRAIRIES
taken through the Lakes and Rivers from this point to the borders
of Manitoba. When we reached the Lake we found a small
steamboat ready to take us across and ahead of us had been a
number of immigrants who were going by that route to Manitoba.
Our party had three large Hudson Bay birch-bark canoes and
canoe-men who were brought all the way from Montreal, being
the pick of the Iroquois Indians. One of them, Ignace, had been
Sir George Simpson's chief guide and the others whom we had
were equally as good. Of the three canoes one was a five fathom
canoe equal to 30 ft., and the others were four fathom. Besides
our canoes there were a number of others and the flotilla was
arranged as follows. The barge with the immigrants was tied to
the steamer and each canoe was attached in single fashion to
each other and it. Of course, Mr. Fleming's was in the lead. This
was the order of progression at any time during the trip while we
were attached to a steamer.
After we crossed the Lake, the country passed through was
very varied and, in fact, was apparently more water than land and
caused great difficulty afterwards to the engineers to make a railway location through it. The following extract from "Ocean to
Ocean" will suffice in showing the character of the region passed
through: "We now entered a lovely lake twenty-two miles long;
its name explains its characteristic. As the steam launch stationed on it happened to be, unfortunately, at the west end, the Indians again paddled the canoes for the four miles, when we met
the launch coming back; it at once turned about and took us in
tow. After a smart shower the sky cleared, and the sun shone on
innumerable bays, creeks, channels, headlands and islets, which
are simply larger or smaller rocks of granite covered with moss
and wooded to the water's brink. Through this labyrinth we
forged our way, often wondering that the wrong passage was never
taken, where there were so many exactly alike. Fortunately, the
fire-demon has not devastated these shores. The timber in some
places is heavy; pine, aspen and birch being the prevailing varieties. Every islet in the Lake is wooded down to the water's edge.
Our Botanist, though finding few new species not obtained on his
holiday, looked forward with eager hope to the flora of the plains. HIS FIRST JOURNEY ACROSS THE PRAIRIES 51
"This expedition," he said, "is going to give me a lift that will
put me at the head of the whole brigade." But, as we drew near
our third portage for the day, his face clouded. "Look at the
ground; burned again." One asked if it was the great waste of
wood he referred to. "It is not that, but, they have burned the
very spot for botanizing over. What is a site for shanty and
clearing, compared to Botany!"
"July 20th, the Chief awoke us early in the grey, misty dawn.
It took more than a little shaking to awake the boys; but the Botanist had gone off no one knew where, in search of new species.
As we emerged from our tent, Louis and Baptiste appeared from
theirs and kindled the fire. We had commenced the programme
intended to be carried out while on the way to the Pacific. This
was to rise at day-break, have firstrbreakfast, make a certain distance, then a halt for second breakfast. Then another halt for
lunch and to camp early in the evening after having proceeded as
far as Mr. Fleming had planned we should go that day." This
rule was carried out as long as I was with them. For the next
few days, the scenery and the conditions were just as I have described. On the 25th, we had a terrible rain-storm and we lay part
of the day under the canoes and, from an extract, I will tell in a
few words the conditions under which travellers existed at that
time. "After taking a swim, we rigged lines before huge fires, and
hung up our wet things to dry, so that it was eleven o'clock before
anyone could lie down. 'Our wet things,' with some meant all.
The Doctor and the Secretary had stowed theirs in water-proof
bags, kindly lent them by the Colonel, but, alas, the bags proved
as fallacious as our 'water-proofs' ! Part of the Botanist's valise
was reduced to pulp but he was too eager in search of specimens
to think of such a trifle, and, while all the rest of us were busy
washing and hanging out to dry, he hunted through woods and
marshes and, though he got little for his pains, was happy as a
"On the 26th, we were up at three a.m., and off within an
hour and made very good progress. We were now drawing towards Fort Frances on Rainy Lake, but owing to head winds and
the little steamer having such a large number of canoes and barges 52 HIS FIRST JOURNEY ACROSS THE PRAIRIES
we were unable to make the west end of Rainy Lake and so were
forced to camp on the shore of the Lake after we had made only
thirty miles." Our steamer was small, the flotilla stretched out
far and the wind was ahead. We therefore determined to camp;
and, by the advice of the engineer, started to the north shore to
what is called the 15 Mile House, from Fort Frances, said house
being two 'deserted' log huts. In a little bay here, on the sandy
beach, we pitched our tents and made rousing fires, though the
air was warm and balmy, as if we were getting into a more southern region. The Botanist, learning that we would leave before
day-break, lighted an old pine branch and roamed about the
place with his torch to investigate the flora. The others visited
the immigrants to whom the log huts had been assigned, or sat
around the fires smoking, or gathered bracken and fragrant ar-
temisia for our beds."
Next day, we reached Fort Frances and for the first time saw
the Colorado Potato Beetle and noted its power of destruction as
most of the potato plants were destroyed. We spent a few hours
at the Fort and then started down Rainy River which was very
.beautiful and showed that in the future it would be a valuable
and attractive country. The following extracts will give a general
idea of its appearance. "Rainy River is broad and beautiful;
and flows with an easy current through a low lying and evidently
fertile country. For the first twenty-five miles, twenty or thirty
feet above the present beach or intervale, rises in terrace form,
another, evidently the old shore of the river, which extends far
back like a prairie. The richness of the soil is evident, from the
luxuriance and the variety of the wild flowers. Much of the land
could be cleared almost as easily as the prairie; other parts are
covered with trees, pines, elms, maples, but chiefly aspens."
We had now reached the Lake of the Woods and it being
Sunday we intended to proceed no further, but, the steamer came
along and we had to hook on. In a short time we reached the
Lake and a thunder-storm coming up we were compelled to take
shelter behind a small island. The crew, the immigrants and
ourselves constituted a large number, so we moved to a smaller
island, and hauled the canoes out of the water, and later had HIS FIRST JOURNEY ACROSS THE PRAIRIES 53
the usual Sunday service. We had dinner on this island and there
I found the ash-leaved maple, the nettle tree, Celiis occidentalis,
and an abundance of flowers, twenty-four kinds that I had not
seen since joining the expedition and of these, eight with which
I was unacquainted.
Early the next morning, July 29th, we arose early and got
ready for the journey. The captain was afraid to take the passage as it was still very rough. The Indians were afraid also and
it was finally decided that instead of travelling as we had been
used to in a long line, one behind the other, two canoes should
be fastened to two barges that were in front of us, thus travelling
in a more compact body and, by this means, we passed the 'traverse.' The sun came out and we were enabled to travel the
remainder of the day and reached North West Angle in the evening and immediately retired to rest.
Early in the morning of the 30th, the wagons arrived to take
us to Oak Point, the commencement of the prairies. We had now
eighty miles to travel by wagon to Oak Point through a new road,
the country being chiefly covered with light forest. For the first
twenty miles we travelled over a flat country, much of it marshy,
with a dense forest of scrub pine, spruce, tamarac and here and
there aspens and white birch. In the open parts of the country
many kinds of wild fruit grew luxuriantly, such as strawberries,
raspberries, black and red currants, and so forth, and many flocks
of wild pigeons and prairie chickens, were sitting on the branches
of the different trees by the road side.
The next section of the country was totally different in
character. It was light and sandy for more than ten miles or so
west. The following extract will give a general description of the
country passed through. "This total change in the character of
the soil afforded a rich feast to our Botanist. In the course of
the day he came on two or three distinct floras; and, although
not many of the species were new, and, in general features, the
productions on the heavy and light soils were similar to those of
like land farther east in Ontario and the Lower Provinces, yet,
the luxuriance and variety were amazing. He counted over four
hundred different species in this one day's ride.   Great was the L
astonishment of our teamsters when they saw him make a bound
from his seat upon the wagon to the ground and rush to plain,
woodland, or marsh. At first, they all hauled up to see what was
the matter—it must be gold or silver he had found. But, when
he came back triumphantly waving a flower or bunch of grass,
and exclaiming: "Did you ever see the like of that?" "No, I
never," was the general response from every disgusted teamster.
The internal cachinnation of a braw Scotch lad from the kingdom
of Fife, over the phenomenon, was so violent that he would have
exploded had he not relieved himself by occasional witticisms;
"Jock," he cried to the teamster who had the honor of driving our
Botanist, "Tell yon man if he wants a load of grass, no to fill the
buggy noo, an' a'll show him a fine place where we feed the horse."
But when one of us explained to the Scot that all this was done in
the interests of science and would end in something good for
schools, he ceased to jibe, though he could not altogether suppress
a deep hoarse rumble far down in his throat—like that of a distant
volcano—when the Professor, as we now called him, would come
back with an unusually large armful of spoil. The bonny Scot was
an immigrant who had been a farm servant in Fife five years ago.
He had come to the Angle this spring, and was getting thirty
dollars a month and his board, as a common teamster. He was
saving four-fifths of his wages and intended in a few months to
buy a good farm on the Red River among his countrymen, and
settle down as a Laird for the rest of his life. How many ten
thousands more of Scotch lads would follow his example if they
only knew how easy it would be for them."
After leaving this point, we pushed on as fast as possible but
found when we stopped for dinner we were still thirty-three miles
from Oak Point, and, after some discussion, we decided to push
on again, which was a foolish" move as it turned out later. When
We were about half way clouds formed and a heavy rain began to
fall and our horses were very much jaded by their long haul, and
owing to the heavy nature of the road our progress was very slow.
Shortly after, it grew dark and the darkness was so dense that
we could scarcely see the road and the teamster was unacquainted
with it in the dark, but a halt was called and Mr. Fleming, Dr. HIS FIRST JOURNEY ACROSS THE PRAIRIES 55
Grant, and myself got out of the wagon and took hands in front
of the horse. Mrs. Fleming in the centre of the road and Dr.
Grant on his right and I holding his left hand. For some miles,
and I thought hours, we tramped when suddenly the teamster
called, "All right, I see a light." We were actually through the
woods and onto the prairie and, sure enough, there was a light.
The teamster stopped and we got on board and asked him if he
could see the road now himself. He said no road was necessary
now that we were on the prairie. We just headed straight for
the light and, though we were two miles off, we started for it even
though there was no road, and arrived a long time after midnight.
The following is another extract from "Ocean to Ocean." "Arrived there wearied and soaked through. We came to what
appeared to be the only building, a half-finished store of the Hudson's Bay Company. Entering the open door, barricaded with
boxes, blocks of wood, tools and so forth, we climbed up a shaky
ladder to the second story, threw ourselves down and slept heavily
beside a crowd of teamsters whom no amount of kicking could
awake.   That night drive to Oak Point we 'made a note of.'
"July 31st. Awakened at eight a.m. by hearing a voice
exclaiming: "Thirty-two new species already; it is a perfect floral
garden." Of course it was our Botanist with his arms full of the
treasures of the prairie. We looked out and saw a sea of green
sprinkled with yellow, red, lilac and white. None of us had ever
seen the prairie before and behold, the half had not been told us.
As you cannot know what the ocean is without having seen it,
neither can you in imagination picture the prairie." I may say
that Dr. Grant's expressions only conveyed a slight opinion of my
own thoughts in the matter. I was really astounded by the
number of species and their luxuriance that I beheld on that morning when I first saw the prairie. And for nearly a thousand miles
the same thing was repeated, at intervals, with variations chiefly
in color. The impressions then made have never faded from my
We were now thirty miles from Fort Garry and struck out
on a straight road across the prairie. In that one ride I seemed to
have lived half a lifetime.   When we reached the Red River we 56
crossed it in a scow and walked up to Fort Garry, which was to
be our home during our stay, one altogether too short.
Captain Palliser in his exploration, 1857-1862, seemed to have
adopted the views of the American people, who, at that time, had
condemned the whole of the centre of the United States, from the
hundredth Meridian to California, to sterility and called it "the
American Desert." And the desert was said by Palliser to extend
northward of the 49th parallel to the Saskatchewan. Such a view
was adopted at this time by our Government, and, when we reached Winnipeg, all the leading men were discussing the subject, pro
and con. Archbishop Taché took a leading part on one side and
a Mr. Taylor, the American Consul, took the other side. While
in Winnipeg, or at Fort Garry as it was known at that time, this
was the constant theme of discussion. Archbishop Taché spoke
of a "fertile belt" extending from Winnipeg northwestward to
Edmonton, but maintained that the Saskatchewan country was a
dry, poor affair and it was "not fertile." In 1868, Archbishop
Taché had published a pamphlet at Ottawa, in which he stated
this very thing, that the Saskatchewan was not fertile but that'a
belt of country extended from Winnipeg to Edmonton in which
wheat and other cereals would grow. At this time, the Canadian
Government believed that the "Great American Desert" extended
into Canada north of Latitude 51° and hence the only part of the
country of value would be that from 52° northward, hence the
term, "Fertile Belt."
Consul Taylor, on the other hand, lived most of his life in
St. Paul, Minnesota, and knew the value of the prairie country,
and, having heard great accounts of the black soils to be found in
the Saskatchewan Valley, he maintained that in the future it
would be the wheat producing country of the American continent.
I heard both expositions and thought little about the results,
as ,at that time, I had no idea of the country talked of.
After leaving Fort Garry, we travelled nine miles beyond
Portage La Prairie and stopped there over Sunday. The afternoon we left Portage La Prairie we had an awful storm and, to
show what a storm on the prairie really is, I make the following
extract from "Ocean to Ocean" :   "At 4 p.m. we started for Rat HIS FIRST JOURNEY ACROSS THE PRAIRIES 57
Creek, ten miles off (from Portage La Prairie). The sky was
threatening, but, as we always disregarded appearances, no one
proposed a halt. On the open prairie, when just well away from
the Hudson's Bay Company's store, we thought we were in for a
storm. Every form of beauty was combined in the sky at this
time. To the south it was such blue as Titian loved to paint:
blue, that those who have seen only dull English skies say there
is nowhere to be seen but on canvas or in heaven; and the blue
was bordered in the west with vast billowy mountains of the
softest, fleeciest white. Next to that, and right ahead of us, was
a swollen black cloud along the under surface of which greyer
masses were eddying at a terrific rate. Extending from this, and
all around the north and east, the expanse was a dun-colored mass
livid with lightning, and there, to die right, and behind us, torrents of rain were pouring and nearing us every moment. The
atmosphere was charged with electricity, on all sides; lightning
rushed towards the earth in straight and zig-zag currents and the
thunder varied from the sharp rattle of musketry to the roar of
artillery; still there was no rain, and but little wind. We pressed
on for a house, not far away; but there was to be no escape.
With the suddenness of a tornado the wind struck us—at first
without rain—but so fierce that the horses were forced again and
again off the track. And now, with the wind came rain—thick
and furious; and then hail—hail with angular lumps of ice from
half an inch to an inch across, a blow on the head from one of
which was stunning. Our long line of horses and carts was broken.
Some of the poor creatures clung to the road, fighting desperately;
. others were driven in to the prairie, and, with their backs to the
storm, stood still or moved sideways with cowering heads, their
manes and long tails floating wildly like those of Highland Sheties.
It was a picture for Rosa Bonheur; the storm driving over the
vast treeless prairie and the men and horses yielding to or fighting
against it. In half an hour we got under the shelter of the log-
house, a mile distant; but the fury of the storm was past, and in
less than an hour the sun burst forth again, scattering the clouds,
till not a blot was left in the sky, save fragments of mist to the
south and east." 58
Three miles further on was our camping place, Rat Creek.
We were now ten miles from Portage La Prairie and to that date
no settler had crossed it. Mr. MacKenzie and Mr. Grant were
the only settlers there at that time. The whole of the country
west of this to Edmonton was called the "Great Lone Land," and
extended from here eight hundred miles without an inhabitant
except a few half-breeds and Indians.
I may as well mention now our mode of travel. Our caravan
consisted of six Red River carts and two buck-boards which had
been bought at St. Paul. The carts were all of wood and no iron
in them at all. From this time forward, the Chief decided that
we would make three spells a day and must make at least forty
miles each day for the next month. We had attached to one of
the carts an odometer which gave the number of revolutions of
the wheel and from that was measured the distance travelled on
each spell. By such means, we knew without any difficulty how
many miles we had travelled. The cavalcade was arranged so
that one buck-board went in front and then the six carts one after
the other. My buck-board was the last of all. We had over
forty horses and, as we were going so fast most of the time, they
were changed three times a day. This was our regular mode of
travelling for the whole trip. We would rise at sunrise and have
some breakfast; take a second breakfast after going about ten to
fifteen miles; then take our mid-day spell of the same distance
and, after dinner, take another spell and camp early in the evening.
As we were passing over the whole distance through the "fertile
belt," we were seldom on a very extensive prairie so that we had
feed, wood, and water most of the time.
Just as we were about to start and leave Rat Creek (the men
of the party had gone ahead), a band of Sioux, noble looking fellows, came sweeping across the prairies in all the glory of paint,
feathers and Indian warlike magnificence. They had come from
Fort Ellice, having recently travelled the long road from Missouri,
and were now on their way to Governor Archibald to ask permission to live under the British, flag, and that small reserves or
allotments of land be allowed them, as they were determined to
live no longer under the rule of "the Long Knives."   All had guns HIS FIRST JOURNEY ACROSS THE PRAIRIES 59
and adornment of one kind or another. A handsome brave came
first with a painted tin horse hanging down from his neck to his
naked bronze breast, skunk fur around his ankles, hawk's feathers
on his head, and a great bunch of sweet-smelling mint Monarda
fistulosa on one arm to set him off the more. I went up to the
leader and made signs to him that he was a fine fellow and slapped him on his bronze thigh, as he sat like a king on his horse.
They were the first wild Indians I had ever seen andt when I looked at those magnificent fellows, I felt that their day was about
ended and was sorry to think of it. They were dressed, just as I
had read in books, with breech cloths around their loins and a
few beads and ornaments about their bodies and all the rest was
naked and the color of bronze on account of the sun shining broadly on their naked bodies. This was theikst and last time I have
ever looked on such splendid looking Indians.
The prairies, we had been passing through in Manitoba, were
then called weedy prairies on account of the number of tall flowering plants that grew upon them. Before us, while we stayed at
Rat Creek, extended a flat plain, twelve miles wide without a
house, and one unbroken mass of tall flowering plants ; sun-flowers
penstemons, asters, golden-rods, and many other compositae.
This prairie that we now entered upon was the last of the Manitoba plain and, in rainy weather, was a very difficult region on
account of the richness of the soil and wet ground.
For the next few days we were travelling from Rat Creek to
Fort Ellice, a distance of 150 miles. During that time, we passed
through a beautiful country and to us Easterners it looked as if
it were a perfect garden with the rich soil and great numbers of
autumn flowers. When we reached the Assiniboine, at Fort
Ellice, the ford was only three feet deep but the bottom was a
shifting sand so it did not do to let the horses stand while crossing.
I waded in and led the company across as the Chief of the party
had gone to the Fort. Curiously enough, I led my party across
the same place in 1906 and close to the crossing of the Grand
Trunk Pacific.
After crossing the river, we moved west for the first few miles
along the north bank of the Qu'Appelle and I went down into the HIS FIRST JOURNEY ACROSS THE PRAIRIES
valley and among the sand hills near the stream to inspect the
flora and came back rewarded by finding half a dozen new species.
For the next few days we were passing through a very fine
country and still we felt that there were no signs of the want of
fertility. All the land was good. After passing through the little
Touchwood Hills and the greater Touchwood Hills, which are not
hills at all but merely a succession of beautiful little lakes and
forests of poplar that had been kept from fires by the lakes, we
shortly came to the widest expanse of prairie we had yet seen.
Away to the west and south it extended without a break as far as
we could see. Before descending to the plain, the half-breeds, on
horse-back, rode into the thickets and pulled down some small
poplar trees that were there, put them on their shoulders and rode
to our camping place out on the prairie.
The day after we crossed the Touchwood Hills, when out on
the prairie south of Quill Lake, we saw two white cranes, on a
ridge, that looked to me like two ostriches, they stood so high.
Willie, the boy that got our horses and Frank Fleming, immediately started out to catch the cranes. Frank carried a gun and Willie
carried a lariat. I, being at the rear of the train, had a good look
at the pursuit. As they galloped towards the cranes, the cranes
ran for their lives along the ridge and, as the boys approached the
ridge, one of the cranes took to flight and the other one, which
may have been a young one and unable to fly, ran like a race
horse. Willie went after it and eventually ran up close enough to
throw his lariat around its head and brought it to the ground.
The old one returned and seemed to attack Willie, but was beaten
off by Frank Fleming. In a" few moments, Willie came riding past
him with the crane over his shoulder and, at the camp fire, it was
cleaned and got ready to eat at our first camping place. In extent its wings were at least six feet; a most excellent specimen.
The flesh tasted very good, but was of a dark color.
Day followed day and, on the fifteenth of August, we arrived
at the South Saskatchewan. At this time there was no established
ferry. When travellers came to the shore, if the boat were on
the far side, they would send over a man on horseback, and if
the boat were on their side they just took it over and left it when HIS FIRST JOURNEY ACROSS THE PRAIRIES 61
through. This was the point that was afterwards called Batoche's
Crossing. It was thirteen years after when General Middleton,
with the Canadian Militia, fought with the half-breeds at this
At Duck Lake, a few miles further on, we got a great many
wild fowl, and later passed on to Fort Carlton. Fort Carlton at
this time was a renowned Post, as all travellers to the north
passed it. The Post itself was of very little importance. It was just
the usual square of four or five wooden buildings surrounded by a
high fence. This constituted the Fort, and, having been designed
and intended against the Indians only, it was of little consequence
that it was built on the low ground almost by the river. At Fort
Carlton, we crossed the North Saskatchewan and took what was
called the Northern Trail for Edmonton. Our reason for doing
this was that, if we took the more southern route, we should be
liable to run against the Blackfeet Indians, who were frequently
fighting with the Crées, and all travellers to Edmonton kept to
the north. This is a quotation from Mr .Grant: "After crossing
the Saskatchewan we did not move the camp till about eight
o'clock. This delay gave the Botanist an hour or two to hunt for
new species, which he did with all diligence and the rest of us had
time for a swim or a ramble up and down the river. Our Botanist
had been slightly cast down of late because of finding few new
varieties. The flora for the five hundred and thirty miles between
the eastern edge of the prairie at Oak Point and the Saskatchewan
is wonderfully uniform. The characteristic flowers and grasses
are everywhere the same. We expected, however, to meet with
many strange varieties after» crossing the two Saskatchewans."
The distance from Fort Garry to Edmonton is nine hundred
miles and is usually regarded as consisting of three portions:
two hundred and fifteen miles to Fort Ellice on the Assiniboine;
three hundred and nine more to Fort Carlton and about three
hundred and eighty up the North Saskatchewan to Edmonton.
On this third part of the journey we are now entering.
Before writing any further of the trip, I may now repeat some
opinions in regard to the prairies held at that time. Some observers, long resident in the country, declared that the fertile belt 62 HIS FIRST JOURNEY ACROSS THE PRAIRIES
practically meant the whole distance between the North and
South Saskatchewan and other vast regions to the east, north and
west, especially a broad belt along the bases of the Rocky Mountains to the south of Edmonton, two hundred miles long by fifty
broad, the home of the Blackfeet, and pronounced by many to be
the garden of the North-west. Others maintained that, as far as
the Saskatchewan country was concerned, only a narrow belt
along such rivers as the Battle, Vermilion and Red Deer could be
cultivated with success. It is not necessary to decide between
those views now. We knew, at this time, on the authority of
Captain Palliser, who crossed and re-crossed the plains several
times, that the central American desert extended a short way into
British Territory, forming a triangle, having for its base the forty-
ninth parallel from longitude 100° to 114° W., with its apex reaching to the 52nd parallel of latitude. But the first emigrants would
naturally select land along the courses of streams, especially the
navigable rivers, and they would soon find out all about the intervening districts.
While at Edmonton, I found quite a number of miners at work
On the bars of the river. From one of these miners I bought an
ounce of Saskatchewan gold and, on my return to Ottawa, had it
made into a ring for my wife, which she still wears.
While we were crossing the prairie we read "Butler's Lone
Land" and discussed a pamphlet which was published by a Mr.
McLeod of Ottawa immediately before we left.
When we reached Edmonton, Mr. Fleming decided that it was
important that this pamphlet should be taken into account and
asked Mr. Horetzky and myself if we would try and reach the
Peace River and come through the mountains to Fort McLeod
this autumn, and we said that we would try. It was decided that
as soon as Mr. Fleming's party left for the West, Mr. Horetzky
would arrange the outfit for our trip. The following is from
"Ocean to Ocean." :
"We had to say good-bye (Mr. Fleming's party) not only to
the Indians who had come from Fort Pitt and to Mr. McDougal
and the gentlemen of the Fort; but also to Horetzky and to
our Botanist, as the Chief had decided to send these two on a HIS FIRST JOURNEY ACROSS THE PRAIRIES 63
separate expedition to Peace River, by Fort Dunvegen, to report
on the flora of that country and on the nature of the northern
passes through the Rocky Mountains. We parted, with
regret, for men get better acquainted with each other on shipboard, or in a month's travel in a lone-land, than they would under
ordinary circumstances in a year."
The quotations from "Ocean to Ocean," written by Dr. Grant
and published in 1873, are now followed by quotations from Mr.
Horetzky's book, named "Canada on the Pacific," published in
1874, dedicated to Mr. Mackenzie, who was then Premier of
Canada. Mr. Horetzky's descriptions and observations of certain parts of our trip are freely given and I put in a few of my own
observations to fill up the hiatus. The first quotation I make is
a part of the Preface.
"To the officers of the Hudson's Bay Company, without
exception, the best thanks are due for the hearty welcome and
aid extended to Mr. Macoun (my colleague), and myself, during
our journey. Mr. Macoun, Botanist, of Belleville, Ontario, has
also contributed very important data regarding the flora and
growing capabilities of the Peace River country. In the section
covering Lesser Slave Lake to the Fraser River the reader will
kindly bear in mind that absolute correctness is not to be
The next quotation is in regard to the start to the Pacific:
I "Hurrah for the Peace River!' Such was the joyous exclamation of our Botanist, as, after waving an affectionate adieu to our
late travelling companions, he turned upon his heel and remarked
to me in a manner peculiarly, his own, 'Now we shall soon settle
McLeod's theoryC It must here be remarked, by way of explanation, that, in the early part of 1872, a pamphlet, styled 'The Peace
River' had been published in the City of Ottawa, setting forth
the possibility of a line of communication between the Eastern
and Western parts of the Dominion of Canada, by the Valley of
the Peace River. The author of the article in question had been
aided by extracts from an old Hudson's Bay Officer's Journal and
Diary. The Chief Engineer of the Canadian Pacific Road, struck
by the possible advantages of such a highway, chose the writer 64 HIS FIRST JOURNEY ACROSS THE PRAIRIES
of these notes (Horetzky) to make a reconnaissance of that pass,
and ascertain as nearly as possible its actual elevation. With
this object in view, I left Edmonton in the beginning of September, 1872, accompanied by Dr. Macoun, an eminent botanist,
en route for the Pacific coast." CHAPTER VI
Continuation of Journey to the Pacific Coast—The Peace
River—Over the Mountains in Winter—Arrival at the
Coast—Homeward Bound—Report and Conclusions in
Regard to Climate Based on Growth of Plants—Many
Episodes Described.
HAVING, as already remarked, bidden adieu to our late
companions, and having seen them fairly under way for
Jasper House, it now behooved me to make preparations
for the Peace River journey, and as the season was already advanced no time was to be lost.
A circumstance which lent an additional zest to our contemplated trip was the fact that we were in complete ignorance as to
the proper means of procedure and the time necessary to accomplish the journey. Nobody at Edmonton could tell us aught
regarding the Rocky Mountain Passes north of Tête Jaune Cache.
In vain, did we seek for information as to our proposed journey.
All the positive information we did obtain was that a Hudson's
Bay Company's boat annually descended the Peace River to the
Rocky Mountain Portage for the supply of leather required for
the Indian trade in New Caledonia (a part of northern British
Columbia), but that boat had already been down and long since
returned to the west side of the mountains, and our chances of
getting through to McLeod's Lake before the winter set in were
very slim indeed. In fact, everybody was only too willing to
impart what knowledge he possessed, but, as that was generally of
a negative and contradictory character, we derived but little
satisfaction or advantage from it. We were told by one party
that such and such a route was not to be thought of; by another
that we would possibly make a very slow and tedious progress on
foot through the dense forests of the Peace River but that it would
be folly to think of taking horses; and a third and veritable Job's 66 ARRIVAL AT THE COAST
Comforter coolly affirmed that we would never be able to cross the
the Grand Muskeg which was described as being infinitely worse
than the famous Dismal Swamp of Virginia. We were filled with
all manner of conjectures. One would tell us we could not cross
the rivers on our way and others said we would never get through
the Rocky Mountains. The end of it all was that Horetzky decided to take the bit in his teeth and do what he thought best.
I may say here that it was Horetzky who had charge of Mr. Fleming's party all the way from Fort Garry and, as he was an old
Hudson's Bay Company's clerk, he knew how to deal with the
half-breeds and Indians, therefore I was quite safe in being his
"These conflicting and adverse statements, although rather
disheartening, did not prevent my choice of some well-defined
course and I determined to strike across the country to Fort As-
siniboine on the Athabasca and thence over the swampy and
barren grounds intervening between it and the Lesser Slave Lake.
But we had to bide our time.
"Two Hudson Bay clerks, then at Edmonton, had received
peremptory instructions from their superior officer at Fort Garry
to immediately proceed to New Caledonia by way of Peace River
and, as a matter of course, all the resources of Edmonton in the
way of horses, men, and provisions were laid under contribution
in order to expedite their journey. Notwithstanding these drawbacks, I set about making preparations for the journey as fast as
it could be done under the circumstances, but little assistance,
however, could be expected from the Company until Messrs.
Young and King had been disposed of. On the second of September, these gentlemen's preparations being completed, they took
their departure, kindly promising to smooth the way for us by
leaving advice of our expected advent at every post they should
pass, and, whilst bidding us farewell, expressed the wish that we
should meet again, only on the west side of the Rocky Mountains,
as they would travel with customary Hudson Bay celerity. The
Botanist, whose countenance during our affecting leave-taking of
Messrs. Young and King had assumed a rueful and comically sad
expression, especially upon their allusion to our keeping the rear ARRIVAL AT THE COAST 67
all the way to Fort McLeod, remarked, after the last of the cavalcade had disappeared through the main gate of the Fort. "It is
too bad to be left behind in this offhand manner." "Never mind,
my dear Mac," said I, "We may not be so far behind them after
all, and, as they intend to proceed by canoe from Fort Assiniboine
to Lesser Slave Lake, we may steal a march on them and possibly
get ahead of them yet."
"The fact that provisions could not be readily obtained when
once on the way from Edmonton until we reached Fort McLeod,
rendered it imperative to carry supplies in quantity sufficient for
a journey of nine weeks' duration. I accordingly packed two hundred and thirty pounds of flour, twelve pounds of tea, twenty-four
pounds of sugar and sundries besides one hundred and fifty pounds
of pemmican (equal quantities of finely pounded dried buffalo
meat and grease). Meat and tea we expected to find at any of
the solitary establishments of the Hudson's Bay Company which
we might pass. Pack saddles and sundry horse trappings had to
be made and fitted, men had to be chosen, the horses picked out
from amongst the somewhat ill-conditioned animals left at the
Company's horse guard. In the meantime Mr. Macoun, who
was to be my fellow traveller as far as Stuart Lake, whence he
was to proceed to Quesnel and Victoria, busied himself by scouring
the surrounding country in search of further botanical additions
to his already bulky collection."
"Our party, when ready, consisted of four persons, namely,
the Botanist, myself, and two hired men, one of them an Irish
miner, by name Armstrong, recently arrived from the Omineca
diggings on the Peace River ;v the other an English half-breed
named Thomas, who turned out to be as lazy a rascal as ever
munched pemmican. Of horses we had six to pack and four to
ride, making ten in all."
After saying good-bye to Mr. Hardesty, I went on with the
horses and left Mr. Horetzky to settle up business at Edmonton.
At one p.m., Mr. Horetzky overtook our little train, which had
stopped by the side of a small creek, and found us busily and
pleasantly employed preparing dinner. The preparation of this
meal, indeed, of all our meals, was unvarying in kind and quality ARRIVAL AT THE COAST
and simply consisted in the pounding up with an axe of a couple
of pounds of buffalo pemmican, which, after receiving an addition
of water and a sprinkling of flour, was placed in a frying pan and
heated. This mixture, together with tea and bread, was our daily
food during the whole journey to McLeod's Lake and, though
very uninviting to a tyro, is the strongest food and the best for
the traveller. One great advantage of pemmican is its portability.
It can be compressed into very small bulk, a bag, containing one
hundred pounds net weight, measures but three feet in length by
about ten inches in width, and will serve four men over a month.
My mode of eating it was to receive my portion while it was hot
and eat it up at once.    I never took a second helping!
For the next few days, we had very bad weather. It was
raining most of the time, but on the sixth of September the morning broke bright and clear and we packed up and were off in a
short time and reached the Athabasca in the afternoon of the next
day. When we arrived there we found that the two clerks from
Edmonton were then starting for Little Slave Lake and going
down the Athabasca. We crossed the river to the Fort and Mr.
Calder, who had charge, said that his son William could guide us
across the barren ground to Little Slave Lake, as he had crossed
that way with a cow six years before. Here, Thomas, the lazy
half-breed, was dismissed and William remained with us until
we went to McLeod's Lake.
For the next ten days, we were passing through a country that
was almost impassable, swamps and marshes and difficulties of
all kinds, and the following quotation from Horetzky's book will
show what we went through. "For nearly the entire distance the
trail was hardly discernable. Our animals mired at every swamp
we came to and these were by no means a rare occurrence,
the Botanist, having counted twenty-seven separate and distinct
ones during the course of but one day's travel. We seemed during these nine days to have experienced all the misfortunes incidental to pack-train travelling. One of our horses was impaled
on a sharp stump and almost bled to death. Our provisions got
materially damaged and, to crown all, the weather, which had
been so propitious during our journey over the plains, seemed now ARRIVAL AT THE COAST 69
bent on making us pay for former benefits and enlivened us with
continued storms of wind and rain, which alternated to sleet and
' "Upon the whole, we had a remarkable time of it and were not
sorry to catch the first glimpse of the lake, which we reached on
the afternoon of the twentieth."
My opinion of the whole country was that it was a continuous
muskeg with islands of spruce through it, and our trail led through
the islands. When we reached the lake we were all tired out and
immediately camped and settled down for the evening, but not to
sleep because at this time (late in September) the whole lake, as
far as we could see, was covered with wild fowl of every description ; in fact, no water was to be seen, it was all water-fowl. This
was the condition of the lake the whole tame we passed along it.
We had gone through one series of difficulties only to meet
greater obstacles. I may say that I preferred walking to riding
as I was unused to it, but now, with a river to be crossed, I had
to mount my horse and, by good luck, I had a Mexican saddle with
a pommel in front, and when my horse got into difficulties I held
on to it.
"The river, at our crossing place, was about thirty yards wide
and each rider, before making the ford, drew his knees up to his
chin, fondly hoping that in this position he would be enabled to
reach the other side comparatively dry, but, entering the middle
of the river and sinking deeper and deeper in the cold element
that hope was rapidly dispelled and the individual temperament
of each member of the party was pretty well shown. Ejaculations
and more than direful expletives were heard uttered in an
ascending scale and equally plaintive tones as the ice-cold water
first reached the boots, then filtered into the trouser pockets and
higher still in case of the most unlucky ones. This difficult
little prelude to the day's work having been gone through, we
dismantled, and, having emptied our boots and rid ourselves of
the surplus water, we resumed our way on foot for the double
reason of restoring circulation and of sparing our animals."
Next day we came to another large creek, or river, where our
horses, losing bottom for a few yards, were obliged to swim. 70 ARRIVAL AT THE COAST
Again we camped on the other side. Next morning, after travelling a mile, we came to a much larger river and this time we had
to make a raft of dried trees and took our baggage across and
drove our horses. In this manner we travelled over land by the
lake for four days. On the evening of the fourth day we camped
in a meadow of very tall grass and at this point was the crossing
to the Little Slave Lake Post, which was close to the head of the
lake. Mr. Horetzky fired off a gun to let the people at the Post
know that we wanted help to get across but we got no word from
the Post. Two Indians who had been out hunting came up just
then; each had an old flint-lock gun of the Hudson's Bay Company's type. The following quotation is Mr. Horetzky's description of this meeting :
"Those fellows were dressed in the unmistakable Hudson's
Bay capot and were each armed with an old flint-lock gun with
which they rather astonished our Botanist. A flock of grey geese
happening to pass at a short distance, Mr. Macoun pointed to
them, and by signs signified his desire to see them shoot. The
two aborigines motioning to us to keep quiet immediately began
to imitate the cackling of geese and looking up we saw the flock
swerve slightly in their course and turn in our direction. When
within shooting distance, although to our unpracticed eyes were
yet too far off, bang, bang, went the guns and a couple of plump
geese fell into the grass beside us. A plug of tobacco each, in
payment, was received by the Indians with evident marks of
pleasure and they good-naturedly set to work collecting fire-wood
and doing other little chores of the camp."
While we were setting out our supper the Indians pointed to
a canoe which was coming up and we found that it was our two
friends, the Hudson's Bay clerks, Messrs. Young and King, who
said we would not see them again until we got to Fort McLeod.
We hailed them and they promised to have a boat sent over for
us in the morning.
On the twenty-ninth of September we started from Little
Slave Lake for Peace River Crossing with a set of new horses.
As usual, I took the lead and went forward a day ahead of Mr.
Horetzky, and made very good progress and, after an uneventful h
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trip, we reached the vicinity of Peace River on the first of October.
"Quickening our pace to a gallop, and lost in admiration of the
landscape and the sudden transformation of the scene, we at
length came to a dead stop on the brink of the Great Peace River
Valley which now barred our progress westward. We had at last
reached the long-looked-for goal of our hopes and, resting our
nags for a little, we feasted our eyes on the glorious landscape
now mapped out before us. Throwing the reins over our horses'
necks we let them feed there a few minutes while awaiting the
arrival of the others, who, with the pack animals, were still a
mile or so behind. A strong westerly gale was blowing, but the
air was so warm and balmy that to recline on the beautiful grassy
sward full face to the blast was positively delicious.
For several miles to the south-west, the noble river, flowing
eight hundred feet beneath us on its silent course to the Arctic
Ocean, could be distinctly traced as it meandered through its
mighty valley. Several large and wooded islands dotted its surface here and there causing eddies and whirlpools, which, in their
turn, made long faint streaks of foam, barely visible in the distance. With the exception of these disturbing causes the bosom
of the mighty river looked perfectly unruffled at our high altitude
and failed to give any idea of the great velocity with which it
On the morning of October first, it was decided that Mr.
Horetzky should go right up to Dunvegan, fifty miles above, and
I would bring our baggage and the boat which the Hudson's Bay
Company sent down to take us up. This boat was one of the
large Hudson's Bay barges which were used at that time on all
the rivers to carry freight. It had a crew of six men and myself
and Armstrong. Our mode of progress was, by all the men, except myself and the steersman, going ashore and hauling the boat
when the wide beach called a "Batture" was on our side of the
River. When the Batture was on the other side we crossed over
and took it. In going up the river I had nothing to do but make
observations and eat. This I did in a fashion altogether my own.
On the boat, the men got a bundle of dried meat and each man
turned over the lot and selected his own piece and so the selection 72 ARRIVAL AT THE COAST
went on until it was all taken. I asked the guide why they did
that and he said: "We know that we will get no more until this
bundle is eaten and hence each man makes his own selection of
what he is going to eat." I decided I would try the dry meat in
preference to raw pemmican and had a piece selected for myself.
At this time, I always carried a little bag of salt with me and I
remember that this day I hung the bag around my neck, sat on
the boat and cut a bite off my dried meat, dipped it in the salt
and sat there and chewed. It kept me busy until nearly dinner
time to eat my breakfast.
At nightfall we camped on the edge of the river and fastened
the boat to a tree on the bank although the boat was nearly one
hundred yards from the tree. Most of the men slept on shore.
The guide and myself slept on the boat, and, being tired and
possible sleepy, I never woke during the night. When I raised
my head in the morning I found the boat was close to the shore.
In the night the river had risen rapidly and, as the water rose, the
boat was hauled in and I discovered that I was the only one of
the party who did not realize the danger we had been in. The
flood came so unexpectedly that the boats that were at Dunvegan
were all carried away and we saw them sail past in the morning.
As far as we knew, they were lost. After a consultation with the
guide I climbed the bank and ascended to the trail and took my
way for Dunvegan, which I reached in the evening. The men
with the boat did not arrive until the next day.
The next day after my arrival at Dunvegan a council of war
was' held between ourselves and the Hudson's Bay people. Owing
to the great rise in the river and the loss of the boats it was
decided that, as we could not get assistance to go up the river by
boat, owing to the high water, and as we wished to proceed further, we would have to go overland to Fort St. John. The Hudson's Bay clerks, Mr. Young and Mr. King, decided not to proceed any further as it was too late in the season, in their opinion,
to pass the mountains before winter. Mr. Horetzky wished me
to return also to Edmonton as he thought he might be able to get
through even if winter did set in. I said at once that I would
at least attempt to continue the journey and was prepared to ARRIVAL AT THE COAST 73
leave my bones in the mountains rather than fail. From that
time forward, I saw that Mr. Horetzky believed that I would be
an encumbrance to him in getting through and he laid his plans,
without my knowledge, as I was not able to talk French. When
I decided to proceed onwards with him a number of horses were
collected and we crossed the river and took the trail for Fort St.
John on the sixth of October. On that day the Hudson's Bay
clerks returned to the south.
For the next ten days, we were crossing through a fine section
of the country bordering on the Peace River. The trail often led
us into ravines cut nearly one thousand feet into the valley but
good soil was found in every part.
We crossed Pine River on the sixteenth and, in a short time,
were in sight of St. Johns Hudson!s Bay post. While there I
discovered that Mr. Horetzky had a scheme to not go through the
mountains by Peace River but to ascend the North Pine River
where we found there was a pass that led through the mountains.
We discovered it in this way: While in conversation about the
mountains, the Beaver chief, Mastie, said that there was a canoe
route up the Pine River into a lake in the mountains from which
a stream discharged into a river flowing to the west. He showed
us a plan made with a pointed stick on the floor of the cabin. I
asked the guide to tell him to let us know what the borders of the
lake were like. I knew if he said it was rocky his statement was
wrong, but that if it were marshy along the lake his statement was
correct. He answered that it was marshy all round the lake and
I said at once, "No doubt it is a new pass."
Not understanding French I was not aware that Mr. Horetzky
was trying to get the Indians to lead him up the Pine River
while I would be sent with the baggage up the Peace River,
through the Rocky Mountains, and up the Parsnip to Fort McLeod. In other words, he would shake me off and I would be
left for the winter in the mountains. That was evidently the
scheme he had in his mind as the sequel will tell. This quotation
is Mr. Horetzky's own explanation of this: "Here I found Mr.
Kennedy, the clerk in charge, and, having expressed my wish to
cross the mountains by the Pine River Pass, we soon had engaged 74 ARRIVAL AT THE COAST
the services of three other Indians who, with Mastie, were to
conduct me to McLeod's Lake by that route, while Mr. Macoun
was to proceed by the River to the same point. But all my arrangements were soon broken through by one of my chosen band,
a newly married man, backing out and his example, being contagious, decided the others to refuse, point blank, to go on the
journey, which they now pronounced to be hazardous and
Before proceeding up the river, it was decided that we should
make a supply of pemmican for the passage of the mountains.
Being interested in the making of it, I decided to watch the process. To make fine pemmican, thirty pounds of pounded lean
meat, then thirty pounds of fat are taken, and in our case, thirty
pounds of Saskatoon berries as well, the three making a total
weight of ninety pounds. A small trough was obtained and the
thirty pounds of pounded meat thrown into it with the thirty
pounds of bear's grease, or moose grease, and then the thirty
pounds of Saskatoon berries which had been dried. With a scoop,
we mixed it all up together. Then a bag, which had been made
of green moose skin with the hairy side out, received this mixture,
by being shovelled and pounded in and, as soon as it was cold,
it became almost as hard as rock. Pemmican made, as this
was, is almost impervious to water. While at St. Johns we did
not eat pemmican because there was an abundance of moose
meat and before we started on our trip each man was given a
supply of eight pounds a day moose meat for rations. I, myself,
got thirty-two pounds of moose meat for a four-day trip, which
we now took up the Peace River.
It was fifty miles from St. Johns to Hudson's Hope by the
river and we were expecting to go up in four days. Our start
was not very propitious. We had two canoes, two Indians, in
each canoe, myself in one, and Armstrong in the other. Mastie,
the chief, steered my canoe, and Armstrong had charge of the
other. The population of the post came down to see us make
our start. When I gave the word to shove off, Armstrong's canoe
gracefully turned down the river, while Mastie turned up and of
course we had to go on shore again until the other canoe had been ARRIVAL AT THE COAST 75
brought up to the landing. For the next four days, going up that
river has always, as I look back upon it, been like a nightmare.
The current was strong and the men were awkward, and the
canoes were dugouts made of poplar. The most I can remember
about it is that it was moonlight when we were on the river and
we seemed to have worked day and night because I do not
remember sleeping at all. The Indians were fresh at the work and
were bound to go up in four days and they gave me no rest and
took litde themselves.
On the evening of the third day, we reached Half-Way River
and fell in with a company of miners from the Qmineca who were
then on their way to Liard River where they expected to find a
lot of gold. They had come through the mountains in a large
boat and had left it above the canyon of the Peace River and I
hired it from the leader for twenty dollars to take us through
the mountains to Fort McLeod.
The next evening, we arrived at Hudson's Hope and camped
on the slope of the bank while the cabin, called Hudson's Hope,
was on the other side of the river. My men immediately left for
the other side after piling the luggage on the bank and I, as night
fell and a storm arose, was all alone. The trees were falling
around me in all directions as it was a "brule" and there were
many dead poplars. Long after dark, Mastie came back and we
had our supper while the storm continued. I almost gave up
hope of being spared during the night as the trees were falling all
around. Mastie rolled himself in his blanket and lay down beside a log and I got myself fairly under another log. At any rate,
I resigned myself to my fate and fell asleep and in the morning
there was a dead calm.
Since our discussion at Dunvegan I had a feeling that Mr.
Horetzky was dissatisfied with me because I would not go back.
It again became apparent to me that he had decided not to go
through the mountains with me but that I should go through
alone.   The following extracts from his book show this conclusive-
"After vainly essaying all manner of inducements I had finally
to give up the project of going by the Pine Pass and take the 76 ARRIVAL AT THE COAST
only remaining alternative which was to proceed to the Rocky
Mountain Portage and take my chance of finding a boat or canoe
with which to ascend the river."
"Several days having been lost in getting men and horses for
the trip and collecting large supplies of fresh moose, pemmican,
and other provisions, it was three o'clock in the afternoon of the
nineteenth when Mr. Kennedy, William, two Indians and myself
crossed the Peace River with part of our baggage, and seven horses,
en route for the Rocky Mountain Portage, distant some fifty miles.
The stream being three hundred yards wide with a very strong
current the usual difficulty and loss of time was experienced in
getting the horses across. I ascended a hill on the north side
ahead of Mr. Kennedy and took an excellent point from which
to look over the country.
"The appearance of Mr. Kennedy with the horses caused me
to abandon the delightful prospect and, taking a last look at the
Fort and river, I saw two "dug-outs" (canoes) pushing off with
Mr. Macoun and the rest of the luggage. "They have a strong
current against them all the way to the portage," said Mr. Kennedy.
I had wondered at the time why we did not all go overland,
but Mr. Kennedy told me, three years later, when I was there in
1875, that Mr. Horetzky intended to go ahead of me as it was a
doubtful matter whether we would get through or not and he
thought he would get through whether the winter set in or not.
When he reached the far end of the portage beyond Hudson's
Hope, he found that, with the exception of the boat which I had
engaged, he could not proceed and required more men to navigate
than he had with him. He then decided to send over the portage
for me and the men whom I had with me. This is his account of
the situation: "At eight o'clock Kennedy and I, having turned in,
were about composing ourselves to sleep when the wind, which
had latterly been unsteady, veered to the south and blew with
such terrific violence that we were obliged to turn out and fell
several large pine trees which stood in the vicinity and threatened
us with destruction. The cracking of falling trees was heard all
night and effectually banished sleep.   The following evening, Mr. ARRIVAL AT THE COAST 77
Macoun, Armstrong and the Indians, with the horses, arrived.
We pushed off at one p.m. on October the twenty-fourth, on our
one hundred and forty-mile trip."
"The boat being heavy and the Indians perfectly unused to
pulling an oar, we started with three men on the line while William steered the unwieldy craft by the aid of a long sweep, and
I took up a station in the bow with a pole. In this manner we
proceeded up stream for the whole one hundred and forty miles."
During the first two or three days we had little difficulty in
getting along; the weather was mild and pleasant, but on the
night of the twenty-seventh it suddenly changed and began to
snow. At this time we were entering the main chain and, for the
next few days, we hardly ever saw the sun.
Our last day in the mountains, I shall never forget. About
the middle of the afternoon when the snow was falling very thickly, Mr. Horetzky called to me to look up and I looked and ap-
parendy right over my head I saw a mountain top over a mile
high in the bright sunlight with fleecy clouds tossing over the sun.
In a few minutes, the mountain was obscured and we saw the sun
no more until the next day at five o'clock, when we turned out of
Peace River into the Parsnip and faced south and in a few minutes
we were in the bright sunlight. Three years later, I discovered
the cause of our trouble of the day before. We were then passing
through what is called the real Peace River Pass, called by the
Hudson's Bay Company, "Hell's Gate," and the mountain that
we saw turned out to be the same mountain I named, in 1875,
Mount Selwyn.
We were now on the Parsnip River, seventy miles from Fort
McLeod, and, at this time, wè were certain the winter was about
to set in as we found the water was thirty-three degrees when we
tested it with a thermometer, and, indeed, the next day, after we
entered this river, little films of ice were to be seen floating. The
stream was very tortuous and shallow in places with a strong
current in others.
The second day on this river, William, our steersman, missed
his stroke and swung into the river and would have been drowned
had he not held on to the oar which we kept still in the boat.   We 78 ARRIVAL AT THE COAST
immediately put ashore, built a fire, and he put on dry clothes;
and was none the worse for his bath.
Next day, we saw two cabins on the bank and of course stopped
to have a chat with the occupants. They turned out to be
cabins belonging to Pete Toy and Bill Southworth, the former
owned a bar at the mouth of the Omineca and was noted all over the
country. He told us he dug for gold and hunted for beaver and
martin in the winter. We asked him where we were and he told
us twenty-two miles from Fort McLeod and that we had just
come up in the nick of time, for the river was going to freeze right
away. He said he was going up to the Fort the next day and
wished us to stay with him all night. We preferred, however, to
push on as the ice was floating in the river. "Mr. Toy gave us
some delicious fresh bread made from British Columbia flour.
We, in turn, presented him with a chunk of pemmican, manufactured at Fort St. John, of which we had an ample supply. Declining his offer to make use of his cabin for the night we pushed
on and camped a mile above. Pete promised to join-us the next
day as he too wished to go to the Fort. 'Gentlemen,' said Pete,
as we were shoving off, 'You may consider yourselves very lucky
to have got through as well as you did, but I see you are prepared
for the worst.' pointing to the snow-shoes and other paraphernalia
requisite for winter travelling, with which we had taken the precaution to furnish ourselves, 'And mark my words,' added he,
'before three days, this 'ere river will be running ice, but you are
all right now!'
We arrived at Fort McLeod on the 5th of November and the
next day the winter commenced. For the following four days, we
were waiting for the ice to form on the lakes and, finally, on the
ninth, Mr. Sinclair, who had charge of the fort, agreed to go with
us to Fort St. James on Stuart's Lake, over eighty miles distant.
We got ready on the ninth and started, Sinclair, Horetzky, myself and four dogs which drew a toboggan upon which was placed
our baggage. The thermometer marked nine degrees above zero
and the morning was beautifully clear. This was my first time
to travel with dogs and hence was a new experience. The snow was
hardly a foot deep and the dogs had no road to follow.    It was ARRIVAL AT THE COAST 79
necessary that one of us should travel in front of the dogs and
they would follow. This.was our mode of travelling: a runner
going in front of the dogs and they following.
Late in the afternoon, I was the leader and we came to a
little hill. I was feeling tired and thought I would drop out and
let the dogs go on ; but instead of that they ran up the little hill
after me and struck a log and upset the machine and then they
turned on each other and had a fight. When we camped that
night, we decided that the dogs with the toboggan were of no use
to us and we resolved that after this the dogs would be packed and
so we would travel in that way. This evening, while at supper,
I complained of feeling somewhat sick as I was shaky all over and
Horetzky said, "Well, let us see what the thermometer is." We
found it was down to zero.
"The weather had now become very cold, the mercury standing at zero at sundown. This night, we made our first winter
camp of the season. Having chosen a convenient spot with
plenty of green spruce and a sufficient quantity of dry wood at
hand, one of us cleared away the snow while another cut spruce
branches and a third chopped dry wood in lengths of eight or
ten feet. Spreading the spruce on the ground to a depth of six
inches or so, we arranged the wood in front and soon had a roaring
fire by which we boiled water for tea and were presently in the
enjoyment of a good supper of pemmican, bread, and scalding
hot tea. After supper, we all spent half an hour in getting an
extra supply of wood which was piled up close at hand to replenish
the fire, and spreading our blankets we lay down with our feet to
to the blaze and were soon snoring with faces upturned to the
clear and glittering sky! In a winter encampment, a covering is
rarely, if ever, used although sometimes a piece of thin sheeting
cotton is spread behind to break the force of the wind."
"The following morning at six o'clock the mercury stood at
ten degrees below zero and the air was sufficiently keen to render
heat from about a cord of blazing logs perfectly enjoyable."
Our camp was by a lake which we designed to cross in the
morning. While they were packing up, I went down to the lake
shore with an axe and tried the ice and found it three inches thick 80 ARRIVAL AT THE COAST
and prepared to cross. Our dogs carried about twenty pounds
and each of us had a load to carry also. I found that the ice was
so smooth that I could draw my pack along on it, which was
easier than carrying it, and the others did the same, excepting
the dogs. We had noticed, when starting, that cracks would run
across the ice, out, apparently, for miles, and we heard them running along. I took little notice of this at first but soon saw that
when a dog would cross a crack with his load the ice on one side
would sink and the water ooze up. I thought little of it, but the
guide, Sinclair, in changing his pack let his gun fall and the butt
broke a hole in the ice and the water flowed up. He immediately
yelled to us to separate and try to make shore as the ice was very
dangerous. By God's help, we reached the shore without any
mishap and ventured no more on ice for some time.
For the next few days, we struggled on, crossing difficult
country until we came to Muskeg River where I was exhausted
owing to the load that I had to carry. Here, we hired three
Indians to take our loads to Fort St. James and we plodded on.
On the evening of the 13 th, we reached Carrier Lake where
we camped and the night was bitterly cold. As we lay in the
open camp by the lake, the ice on it, and the trees around us,
kept cracking and between them they caused me to lie awake and
the brightness of the night, added to the intensity of the cold,
made it a night long to be remembered.
In the morning, we started to cross the lake with a strong
wind in our backs and on the way my cap flew off and went at a
terrible rate across until it was nearly out of sight and, under the
clear ice beneath our feet, could be seen water and occasionally
fish and this caused me to almost lose my nerve and I could scarcely keep my feet as we plodded on towards die shore. We reached
it almost where my hat had arrived sometime before and in a
short distance we had to cross the discharge of another lake where
the ice was very thin. I, being without a load, crossed first to
see if it would bear and I reached the shore in safety, while an
Indian of the party broke through and in a moment, almost, we
had a fire lit and "he changed his clothes and moccasins for dry
ones and was none the worse.    If we had all been white men he ARRIVAL AT THE COAST 81
would have tramped on with his wet feet and in a short time would
have had them frozen. As Mr. Horetzky looked at the thermometer, when we stopped, he found it to be twenty-six below zero,
Fahr. The same evening we reached Fort St. James and this
part of our journey was over.
The next morning, Mr. Gaven Hamilton, who had charge of
the post, came to me and apologized for the bad quarters I had
had the night before and told me that Mr. Horetzky was arranging for my departure for Quesnel, and was putting up supplies.
He said he had heard from Sinclair that I was on an equal footing
with Horetzky on the expedition and he wished to know if this
were so. I told him it was correct and showed him my credentials.
He was greatly surprised; "Why," he said, "he is ordering all
manner of luxuries for himself but, for you, he has just ordered
what we usually give to our men." I told him that I did not care
what I got as long as I got away from Horetzky with my life.
He then assured me that in giving me the provisions for my trip
my food would be as good as that of the head of the post.
Next day, I left for Quesnel, one hundred and forty-four
miles distant. My companions were a half-breed called Murdoch,
a splendid man, and with him a young Indian. These two were
to be my companions down to the Fraser and with us we took
provisions for ten days. This was carried on the backs of the
two Indians and I had nothing to carry but my overcoat. The
following is a quotation of Mr. Horetzky.
"Here, Mr. Macoun, my fellow-traveller, immediately prepared to leave for Victoria and, having procured for him a couple
of Indian guides to carry his» baggage and provisions, we said
good-bye and he took his departure for Quesnel on the 17th."
On the morning of the 17th, we started for Stuart river,
but, before leaving, Mr. Hamilton took me aside and asked me if
I had any matches. I told him I had none, so he supplied me
with some and gave me besides a light skin coat so I could travel
in it. Each one of us, when we started, carried a pair of snow-
shoes, mine were nearly seven feet long, and, as I had never worn
a snow-shoe in my life before, I felt very awkward, even in carrying them. 82 ARRIVAL AT THE COAST
We walked along rapidly and reached Stuart river by dark
and crossed it on the ice and slept in the cabin of the ferry-man
as we were travelling on the Omineca trail. Of course, the ferryman was not there, but we went in and made ourselves at home.
The next day, we walked along and, in the evening, reached
the Nechaco. The river was nearly three hundred yards wide
and covered with great hummocks of ice with the current rolling
between. We were very doubtful as to whether we could cross
it and Murdoch got a large pole and walked in front, trying the
ice at every step while I came up in the rear in perfect safety.
Some miles beyond the river we camped in a little hollow and, as
this was our first camp, I may as well describe how we arranged
matters the rest of the journey.
Every evening, when we arrived where we were to camp,
which was always in a thicket of green timber, with lots of dry
wood in the neighborhood, my business was to take a snow-shoe
and clear the ground of snow where our camp was to be. Murdoch took his axe and went to the wood to get wood for the night.
I always got a few small twigs for kindling. By the time Murdoch
got the supply of wood for the night, the Indian boy and myself
had finished getting the supper ready. I forgot to mention that
my bed was the first under way and it was arranged so that my
head would be away from the fire and my feet towards it.
I left my snow-shoes at Stuart river but the others took
theirs with them. We were blessed with fine weather ; very cold
nights but no storms during the whole trip and we pushed on
day after day as fast as possible but camped early in the afternoon and laid in a good stock of firewood for the night. As we
passed southward, the snow got deeper and at last it got so that
it was just an inch or so above the knee cap, and only then did
I find it fatiguing. As I had no burden to carry, I walked in
front and broke the road for the other two. One afternoon, when
it was almost time to camp, we suddenly came across the track of
a snow-shoe in the snow and, without ado, we followed the snow-
shoe till we came to a sylvan lodge in which we found an Indian,
and his wife and daughter, and we were greeted with all the friendliness we could expect.     I may make this remark, that all the ARRIVAL AT THE COAST 83
Indians at that time, west of the mountains, could talk Chinook,
and, no matter of what tribe they were, they always understood
each other. We talked Chinook and enjoyed ourselves very
much and remained there for the evening. In the morning, when
we were leaving, Murdoch said to me that they had a number of
fine fish there and thought it would be wise if I should purchase
a few as our rations were getting low. I hadn't a cent of money
with me, but I did have a red bandanna handkerchief, that cost
twelve and a half cents, in my pocket. I pulled it out and held
it out to the old wife and let her know that I wanted fish for it,
and she brought out a pile of fine trout and Murdoch, who stood
by, took out all he wanted.
Next day, we crossed the summit and began to go down towards Quesnel, and we found the travelling much better, but the
cold increased. Our last night, before we reached Quesnel, was
the coldest we had experienced and it was hard work to keep
ourselves warm before we started to walk. Early in the afternoon, we reached the Fraser opposite Quesnel and found the river
choked with ice moving slowly down with the current. The
ferry-man refused to cross and, as we had finished our provisions,
we were desirous to do so. He considered and then said, "If
you will take the risk, you may have the canoe and go over yourselves, but I will not take you." Murdoch went out and took a
view of the river and said to me, "If you are not afraid to go I
will risk it." I said, "Certainly, I will go if you say you can
cross." After getting directions from Murdoch as to what I
should have to do, we entered the canoe and ran up alongside of
the ice about a quarter of a mile and as soon as we got an opening,
steered straight for the other side, but we were forced down
greatly by the accumulation of ice packs until, when we got past
Quesnel, we were still fifty yards from the shore and the whole
population of the village watched us. By hard work and God's
help, we reached the shore about one hundred yards below Quesnel
and were soon landed and my long journey had ended for I had
now only four hundred miles to go by stage and another two hundred to Victoria and I would be in civilization again.
I may as well mention now that I had been the ward of the 84 ARRIVAL AT THE COAST
Hudson's Bay Company ever since I left Edmonton as, when I
left there, I had no money and they paid my way through until
I reached Ottawa. Knowing this, I immediately went to the
Hudson's Bay store there and explained to Mr. Williamson, the
factor at Quesnel, that I had arrived and would expect him to
take charge of me until I could get passage to Yale, on the Cariboo,
stage. He was very kind and arranged everything for me, promptly
and effectively, so that in a few days I was on my way to Yale
with a company of miners who were returning from the Omineca
and Cariboo gold fields. The only exceptions in the company
were myself and Judge Sullivan, who, three years after, was
drowned in the wreck that took place off Cape Flattery. We
had the usual difficulties that are experienced in travelling in
winter but the road was good and the horses were in excellent
condition and the Barnard Stage kept up its repute and Joe, our
driver, was a host in himself and careful of his passengers. I will
mention only one or two of the adventures that we had on the
way. One that stands out very prominently in my mind was
going down a steep hill with a precipice at one side and a mountain on the other. We were in a wagon by this time (we had
started with a sleigh), as we were passing south, and the whole
face of the hill was covered with clear ice upon which neither
man nor beast could stand. Joe stopped the stage and said,
"Gentlemen, you can do as you see fit, ride down the hill with
me, or go down each for himself and I will pick you up at the
bottom." We one and all decided to leave the stage and Joe
kept his seat and took the lines of his four horses and said, "Goodbye, boys," He knew well that if he went over the precipice he
and the horses would be killed and he knew, at the same time,
that if he could steer the stage, he could steer the horses. So
Joe, the stage and the horses, slid down the hill. We watched their
progress and when Joe disappeared around a turn we knew he
was safe. Then we began to descend and each man had his own
plan and his own difficulty. We all got down safely. I remember
that I kept to the cliff and held on to points of rock when it was
too difficult to stand.
The next episode I think of was when we reached Lytton. ARRIVAL AT THE COAST 85
Joe asked me if I would like to see an underground Indian house.
I remember saying: "Of course." "Well, come with me then,"
said Joe, and I went and found a number of Indians living below
the surface of the ground close to the old village. The mode of
descent was difficult. Joe asked me if I would like to go down,
and I descended the pole by means of cleats nailed to it and when
I reached the bottom I found a circle of Indians sitting round,
apparently quite comfortable and warm. However, the stench
was so great, I immediately caught my nose and closed my nostrils
and rushed for the pole, up which I scrambled in a great hurry.
I had never seen an underground house before and I have never
seen one since.
Without any mishap, we reached Yale, and, as we carried the
mail, we immediately embarked in a canoe with two Indians sitting
abreast paddling, and another man who steered. It was a large
Indian canoe and was quite comfortable and carried at least ten
passengers, perhaps more. In due course of time, we stopped at
Langley and stayed over-night at Harrison River. Here again,
Joe was willing to show us around and asked us to go and see a
tribal house which then stood near the landing. We found this
to be a large building like a shed, roofed over and built of split
cedar logs, and in it we found at least a dozen different families of
Indians. Each of these families had their own private fire and
sleeping place but no partitions whatever. All this was so new to
me that the impression which was formed then has stayed with
me ever since.    I never saw a tribal house again.
When we reached New Westminster, we could telegraph to
Victoria and I learned that the San Francisco boat was there and
about to leave shortly. Wê asked them to stay over at the outer
wharf until we could reach it as a number of us were going on at
once to California. At this time, this was the quickest way to
the East. They told us they would. In the evening, when we
arrived at Victoria, we found the boat was just passing out. My
friends asked if we were to be left and the Captain said, "Oh, we
will get you when we come back again." This left me with fourteen days to spend in Victoria and I immediately took up my
quarters with Mr. Watt, who had then charge of the Dominion
Government Stores in Victoria. Being without money, I went,
the next day, to the Hudson's Bay Company's headquarters and
interviewed Chief Factor Graham who was then in charge and
said that I wished for some money to enable me to pay my passage through to Ottawa. He looked up and said : "Are you one
of the men who left Edmonton early in September?" I told him
that I was and he said: "Where are the clerks that started with
you; did they not get through?" I told him no. "Well, how
did you get through?" "We determined to risk it and here I
am." "And where is your mate?" "Oh, he has gone down the
Skeena and will be here shortly." He drew a long breath and
then said, "Well, that is the first time that an employee of the
Government accomplished what a Hudson's Bay Company's
clerk failed in."
The evening before we sailed for San Francisco, one of my
friends turned up to go with me and the other came to bid us
good-bye. And he said, with tears in his eyes, that all his money
was gone and he was unable to go with us. And yet, he said, he
had not seen his mother in seventeen years. Three years after,
I saw him at Cache Creek where he was a man-of-all-work at the
hotel and hardly had a rag on his back. This was the fate of
many miners that I met in the early days.
Christmas was spent in Victoria, and Johnston, my friend,
the miner, and myself, reached San Francisco in due time and
the only thing I can remember, that took place there, was my
exchanging gold with a Jew for paper, and he, with a very sober
face, said that there was four per cent discount, and I, being
a tenderfoot, was about to give it when the miner said : "Look here,
old fellow, it is you who gives that discount." This was perfectly
true. It may be asked why I was changing gold for paper. The
reason is very simple. The Union Pacific had been open just
four years and the road was infested with robbers and confidence
men, and no man's life was safe, and so I changed my gold for
paper and, at the hotel, before I started for the east, I put the bills
under the soles of my feet and then put on my socks and from that
time till we reached Ottawa, the chief part of my money was
under the soles of my feet, except what little I kept out to spend ARRIVAL AT THE COAST 87
on the way. Johnston and I bought five days' provisions and a
large lunch basket at the same time and had our five days' food
no matter what happened. At this time, there were no sleeping
cars and each man sat up or slept as it best suited him. We had
many adventures in crossing to Chicago but only one I will note.
Late one evening, a man came on board with the usual belt
around him. We saw a brace of pistols in it and the miner said
to me: "That is a highwayman for sure and we are in for it tonight." And I said to him: "We will not both sleep at the same
time," and we agreed that one of us would sit up awake while
the other slept. We did so and the man disappeared in the early
morning but no damage was done to any of the passengers,
although all seemed to be aware of their danger.
In due course of time, we reached Chicago and there we
encountered our first confidence man. The station was placarded
with notices: "Beware of confidence men." When we reached
Chicago, I had a bag of wearing apparel and odds and ends that
I wanted to express and went into the express office. When I
came out I found Mr. Johnston talking with a spruce looking
young man to whom he introduced me as the son of Judge somebody in Stratford. We had a pleasing conversation and, as it
was time for the train to pull out, we took our seats in the train
and Johnston said: "That young man is the son of one of my
friends and it is a great treat to have his company with us to
Canada." A few minutes before we started, the young man came
into the car and tapped Johnston on the shoulder and asked him
to walk to the door with him, and, as he asked Johnston to come
out and shut the door after him, Johnston said : ' 'Oh, no, I wish
to sit in the car. What do you want?" The young man said:
"I want to see if I can borrow a little currency from you as I am
short on change." Johnston at once put his hand behind him as
if to draw his pistol and said: "Nary a red," shoved the man
out, shut the door and came back to me. We had been sitting
only a few minutes when a man came in with two valises. He
peered into every man's face and went out of the car into the
next one in front. Shortly after in came the conductor and he
said: "There is a bad case! Did you see that man going down 88 ARRIVAL AT THE COAST
through the car? Well, he fell into the hands of one of these
confidence men and he actually gave him a cheque that he had
so that he could pay for some goods which he was buying and he
would make it good when they got home, as they both were from
Vermont!" Johnston and I proceeded on our way and were the
best of friends going home and I have never seen him since. I
may say that the basket fell to my lot and it has been in the family
ever since.
On my arrival home, I found everything in order. My wife
had conducted the affairs of the establishment in an efficient
manner. My family having increased from four to five, in my
absence, I decided that it was now necessary to have larger quarters and I immediately set about putting up a large front to my
house with a centre hall and tower three stories high. This,
being a new undertaking for me, was given to a carpenter to carry
out. I was shortly summoned to Ottawa to give an account of
my trip and, on consultation with Mr. Sandford Fleming, I
returned to my home and commenced to write a complete report
of my extended trip. After this, I took up my duties in school and
college and continued my work. When my report was completed,
I sent it to Ottawa and got a reply from Mr. Fleming's assistant
that my report was considered the best given for the season and
that it would be printed in full. I was satisfied with this and
troubled myself no more about it.
My summer's experience had opened my eyes to the necessity
of knowing more about our country than I had known before and
I took up my studies of physical geography and climatology
with greater vigour, at this time, than ever before. I was lecturing at this time on physical geography and geology to the students and it only added to my knowledge and not to my work.
I may say that I lectured also on meteorology. In the course of
my lectures, many questions came up that I could not solve and
others I solved in my own way but was uncertain of their accuracy. One or two conclusions that I came to may be here expressed. Up to this time, when speaking of the climate of a
country, the statement was always made of the annual temperature.   For years, I had been studying the growth of things and I ARRIVAL AT THE COAST 89
found that the climatic conditions of the growing time had to be
the proper standard. At this time, Canada was looked on as,
"Our Lady of the Snows," owing to the fact that all our public
sports were held in the winter : tobogganing, snow-shoeing, and
occasionally ice palaces and carnivals. On this account, even
men writing in England had stated that Canada was merely a lump
of snow.
While crossing the continent between Winnipeg and the
Pacific, I noticed a wonderful sameness in the flora and concluded
at once that there must be a sameness in the amount of heat
given off in each district and, therefore, the plants of one district
give a key to the climate of another that produced the same plants
and the result was that I published the statement that it was only
the growing months of the season that should be counted. Many
other problems eame before me and, in thinking them out in after
years, I came to certain conclusions that were expressed in future
While Mr. Fleming and myself were absent, a change of
Government took place and Mr. John A. Macdonald gave place
to Mr. Alexander Mackenzie, and, upon our return, Mackenzie
reigned instead of Macdonald. Mr. Fleming and myself were
both conservatives and he at once told me that my allegiance was
to Mr. Mackenzie and to do what was right in my report. CHAPTER VII
Explorations from Victoria to the Peace River—New
Westminster, Yale, Spence's Bridge, Quesnel, Nechaco,
Fort St. John, McLeod's Lake, Parsnip and Finlay
Rivers, Hudson's Hope—Description of the Route—
Botanical Notes—Episodes and Incidents.
IN the spring of 1874, my report on the expedition of 1872, was
published in the Railway Report, and Dr. Selwyn, who was
then at the head of the Geological Survey, when he saw the
report, said at once: "I must have that man with me when I go
out next year." He was going to make an examination of the
Peace River Pass, and the country adjoining, for the Mackenzie
government, who were then thinking of sending the railway
through by the Peace River. Dr. Selwyn wrote to me, asking if
I would go, and, having got permission from the College and the
school authorities, I answered yes, but had doubts of being acceptable to the government as my political principles were known.
In the winter, I saw Dr. Hope, of Belleville, who had the patronage
of that city, and asked him if he thought Mr. Mackenzie would
give me the position and he said he thought he would because,
"Macoun," he said, "I, myself, tell you, we have no one else so
well fitted for the position."    It turned out as he had said.
On the 14th of April, 1875, I left home again, for the far west,
travelling by railway as far as Laramie City in the state of Wyoming, where we were detained six days by a washout owing to a
rain storm and the melting of the snow. Ours was the first train
stopped and each day another train came in heavily loaded. A
Scotchman and his sister were with our party, and, in conversation, he advised that we immediately put in a stock of provisions
as there was a scarcity in the city. We did so and eight of us
arranged with a boarding-house keeper to give us dishes and the
ladies that were of our party did the cooking and serving and our EXPLORATION TO THE PEACE RIVER 91
meals were taken after the boarders were through. We moved
after six days, and had six miles to walk through the mud and
then took the train for one hundred and fifty miles to Green
River, where I saw the most extraordinary sight I had ever seen.
Bars of silver, so heavy that none of us could lift them, were piled
up like cord-wood on the platform and the sight of so much white
metal has never left my eyes since. After this, we had no more
stoppages but, the last day we were on the train, we took dinner
on the top of the Sierra Nevada with fully ten feet of snow on all
sides. After leaving the station, we immediately began to descend and, although we were in snow-sheds, I, and two or three
other men got out on the steps and watched. We soon passed
out of the snow and into spring and could see the buds on the
bushes. In another minute or two spring flowers were seen ; later
on flowering shrubs appeared and, as we were passing towards the
plains, summer was upon us and before we came to Sacramento the
hay was cut in the fields. This was all seen in just half of one
Nothing of importance took place after this until I reached
Victoria where I commenced my duties. I had been appointed
Botanist to the party with instructions to make note on all the
country passed through, in regard to its flora, climate and agricultural capabilities. This I performed to the best of my ability
from Victoria to Peace River Pass and the whole length of the
Peace river and nearly one thousand miles more before I reached
Fort Carlton on the prairie.
I purpose, when speaking of matters in connection with this
trip, to quote largely from my report to the government on all
matters coming into my line of work. This report was published
in 1876 and will be found in the geological report for 1875. I
shall speak little of the botany on account of its being the subject
that I fully dealt with in the report alluded to. I shall deal
mostly with my observations in connection with the climate and
productiveness of the country passed through. I shall also speak
of incidents that took place on the journey not mentioned in the
I reached Victoria, B.C., on the second of May and began at 92 EXPLORATION TO THE PEACE RIVER
once to carry out the instructions already referred to as given to
me before I left Ottawa. I carefully examined the flora in the
vicinity of Victoria and collected on Cedar Hill and Mount Tolmie
and many other localities. I noticed that, on these two mountains, there were many species that seemed peculiar to them but
which plainly indicated that a part, at least, of the California
flora had worked its way thus far to the north. Since writing the
above, I have found that such is the case and that the flora in the
vicinity of Victoria has many species that are also found at San
Two facts regarding the climate of Vancouver Island and
indicated by the flora are: dry summers and abundant rainfall.
The former is shown by the annuals being all in bud and flower
by the first week in May and the latter, by the luxuriant growth of
succulent vegetation in the low grounds. The general character
of the flora, therefore, proves that the climate is warmer than that
of England and that the rainfall is periodic, rather than distributed
throughout the year, and corresponds with the decrease and increase of heat, the summer being very dry. It is a remarkable
fact that July, the month of least rainfall on the coast, is the
season of the greatest precipitation in the dry region along the
Thompson. The difference in the time of blossoming of apple
trees on Vancouver Island and that of Belleville, Ontario, is about
three weeks. In the beginning of May, 1875, vegetation was
said to be unusually backward, and yet it was three weeks, in
advance of Ontario.
Owing to the wetness of the soil, many apple trees, though
young, were beginning to show signs of decay, but draining would
remedy this and, if the advice I gave to plant orchards amongst
the rocks where the oaks abound is followed, no more complaints
will be heard about the apple trees dying young.
Although spring was so far advanced, scarcely any plowing
had been done owing to the water in the soil due largely to lack
of drainage, and.over a month of the best part of growth for
cereals was gone. In many places, I saw grass a foot high and
expected to find cabbages and other vegetables proportionately
advanced but there was nothing to be seen.   The climate is EXPLORATION TO THE PEACE RIVER 93
everything that can be desired and a larger number of settlers
with more advanced ideas of agriculture is alone required to make
Vancouver Island what nature intended it to be—the Garden of
Canada on the Pacific Coast.
In accordance with my instructions, I left Victoria on May
14th, on the Steamer "Enterprise," for New Westminster. Our
approach to the mouth of the Fraser was indicated, before we
reached the light-ship, by the muddy appearance of the water,
while extensive mud banks and low marshy grounds gave evidence
of the immense quantities of detritus brought down by the Fraser.
As we passed up, marsh gave place to meadow, and soon, the
meadow, to a thick jungle of willow and other bushes which gradually merged into forest that would vie with a tropical one for
Early on the morning of the 15th, we were again under way
and reached Harrison River about dark. I found the vegetation
further advanced here than at Victoria. The white thorn (Crataegus) was in flower and the shoots on the trees had made more
'T may mention here what seems to me the cause of the mild
climate of the Pacific Coast, and, in my opinion, it is precisely
the same as that of Western Europe. A stream of warm water, a
little south of the Island of Formosa on the southern coast of
China, a current analogous to the Gulf Stream, is observed moving
to the north east. It passes east of Japan and, while a part of it
enters the Behring Sea, the remainder passes through to the
Aleutian Islands and ameliorates the climate of Alaska to such a
degree that the annual temperature of Sitka, in latitude 57 degrees,
is higher than that of Ottawa, in latitude 45 25', the mean annual
temperature of the former being 44.8 degrees Fahr. while the latter
has 37.4 degrees. Esquimalt, within three miles of Victoria, in latitude 48 25', has a mean annual temperature of 47.4, only three
degrees higher than that of Sitka which is nine degrees further
north. With these facts, the temperature of Sitka and Esquimalt,
it is very easy to forecast the future of the whole region west of
the Cascades between Victoria and the Stikeen River. The
Queen Charlotte Islands, being more insular than Vancouver 94 EXPLORATION TO THE PEACE RIVER
Island, must have a milder climate, and hence they may be set
down as of equal value. A careful examination of a map of the
world will show the close relationship existing between Europe
and western America in the same parallels. A warm current of
water flows down the coast of the latter, while the shores of the
former are bathed in the tepid waters of the Gulf Stream. Both
regions have their shores deeply indented by inlets, "Fiords," in
the one case and "Canals" in the other. The oak and pine forests
of the British Isles and of Norway are simulated by the oak and
fir forests of British Columbia. In both, the moist climate is
caused in the same way—the vapor, rising from the warm sea
water, is blown inland and, being condensed by the cooler air over
the land, falls in rain or fog upon the slopes and valleys. The
old forests of Great Britain and Ireland, including those of Norway, are a product of the Gulf Stream, while the mighty forests
of our western province, including the Queen Charlotte Islands,
are certainly a product of the "Kuro Siwa" (Japan Current). It
only remains for me to add that as years roll on and our possessions become developed, the value of this second Britain will
come so vividly before our people that men will ask with astonishment how such ignorance prevailed in the past ! Today, there are
four hundred miles of coast line in our western possessions north,
with a forest growth superior to anything else in the world at
present. Its shore is indented with multitudes of harbours, bays,
and inlets, teeming with myriads of fish. Its rocks and sands
contain gold, iron, silver, coral, and other minerals. And besides
all this, a climate superior to England in every respect, both as
regards heat and moisture, and yet, men ask me what it is all
worth? I answer: "Worth more than Quebec, and all the Maritime Provinces thrown in, and skeptics may rest assured that the
day is not far distant when my words will be found to be true."
The boat reached Yale at noon and, after resting for a short
time, I went out to examine the neighborhood. Tempted by the
close vicinity of the mountains, I climbed the nearest and found it
by aneroid to be about 1,000 feet above the river. At the base,
many plants were in flower which, as I neared the summit, ceased EXPLORATION TO THE PEACE RIVER 95
to show blossom. On the middle slopes there were quite a number
of eastern species and those noted at Victoria were congregated
around a little moisture on the top."
During the next day and a half, I employed myself by climbing
among the rocks and collected many interesting forms; amongst
other rare things, I had the good fortune to re-discover Saxifraga
ranunculifolia Hook. This species seems never to have been
found since its discovery by the lamented Douglas. I found it
in the high cliffs some distance from where the road turns to go
up the Fraser. Dr. Gray told me there were no specimens in
American herbaria and that my discovery was interesting. While
climbing amongst the rocks I came across a crevice filled with
ice, within less than fifty feet from the river, and from which a
large supply could be taken.
On the afternoon of the 18th of May, I started on foot up
the Cariboo road expecting a conveyance to overtake me and
carry me to Boston Bar that afternoon. A few miles on the Yale
- side of Boston Bar we turned the point of the mountain and, almost immediately, the plants showed that there was less precipitation and, on looking back, I at once detected the cause, in the
mountains acting as a barrier to keep out the superabundant
moisture of the lower Fraser Valley.
"May 19th. This morning, we were on our way long before
the sun shone above the horizon. As we proceeded, the vegetation
gave more and more indications of dryness, and at Butcher's
Flat, Pinus ponderosa, the pine of the interior plateaux, was to be
seen in some abundance. After crossing Jackass Mountain,
which intercepts whatever little moisture goes up the valley from
Boston Bar, just as the range below that locality shuts out the
moist winds of the coast, the traveller will see by looking back
that it blocks up the valley while the river, much compressed,
winds round its base. Now all is changed; the sage brush (Artemisia tridentata) becomes frequent and, at Lytton, a group of
Nevada plants is the characteristic flora. Vegetation was far
advanced here, in fact ahead of Victoria, as roses were seen in
flower for the first time a little above Lytton.
Proceeding up the Thompson river, the land gets dryer, so 96        EXPLORATION TO THE PEACE RIVER
that, before we reached Spence's Bridge, we were prepared for the
change that is so marked as one rises on the terrace beyond the
bridge. All trees have disappeared except those on the mountain
summits or in sheltered valleys, with a northern aspect. Below
the line of trees, beautiful grassy slopes are covered on the lower
parts with bunch grass and above was sward with a few Compos itae
and other plants while the benches near the river are altogether
destitute of flowering plants.
I spent a week on the Thompson at Spence's Bridge and
Cache Creek and collected many species of rare and interesting
plants which were not observed in the low country. One fact
showing the similarity of the flora with that of Nevada and Utah
was the actual discovery of two species of plants, supposed by
Mr. Serrano Watson, of Harvard, who has ably explored there,
to be peculiar to those states. The species were Astragalus Beck-
withii, T. and G., only detected in the neighborhood of Salt Lake,
Utah, and in Ruby Valley, Nevada; the other Crépis occidentalis
Nutt, var. Nevadense Watson, was supposed to be peculiar to
Nevada, but here it was found in company with the type of the
species. Dr. Selwyn noticed a similarity in the rocks with those
of Nevada also.
It was very interesting in ascending the mountains to notice
the change from early summer to late spring and to observe the
shrubs which at the riverside were in full bloom and 3,000 feet
above it were only bursting into leaf. A similar change was
also noticed on May 26th when crossing the high plateau between
Clinton and Bridge Creek, and showed most conclusively the
contrast between the climate of the Thompson and that of the
country between Clinton and Lac La Hache."
Many interesting discoveries were made as we went north,
but none of particular moment until we reached Quesnel.
On the 28th of May, I commenced my examinations of the
flora around that part and found many of the common eastern
species in full flower and nearly as far advanced as at Belleville
on the 24th of May, in 1876. Nearly all the species observed were
eastern ones or western plants that reach the wooded country
west of Lake Superior. EXPLORATION TO THE PEACE RIVER 97
On June 4th, we crossed the Fraser and, I may say, launched
at once into the wilderness. Up to this time, I had travelled from
Yale on foot, in a stage, or by boat, to Soda Creek and then by
boat to Quesnel.
At Quesnel, a pack train was waiting for us to take ourselves
and goods on the overland journey to McLeod's Lake. The pack
train consisted of twenty-six pack animals besides a horse for
each one of the company. Our company, on leaving Quesnel,
consisted of five members. I elected to walk all the way as I
could thus make observations at my leisure and collect plants.
A horse, however, was set apart for me when I wished to ride, but
I handed it over to a Scotchman who was attached to the pack
train. Our mode of travel from now on to McLeod's Lake may
be stated as follows: Owing to the large number of horses to
pack, we were always late in getting away in the morning, but
we never took the packs off the horses until the evening. I would
start on ahead on the trail and make notes and enjoy myself,
having learned from Dr. Selwyn where the proposed stopping-
place for lunch was to be, the same course taking place in the
afternoon. Many observations were made on the way and the
most exciting circumstance on the trip was—one day when I was
some miles from the train of horses, I looked up and saw three
gray wolves, with their tongues hanging out, calmly looking at
me from a little height of land on one side of the trail. Like the
hunters we read about, I immediately looked for a tree to climb,
but I could see none that suited my ability, so I loosed a sheath-
knife I carried in my belt, and did the next thing that a hunter
does—I yelled at the top ofvmy voice, but they looked as unconcerned as if I had never made a sound. We faced each other
there for some minutes, when they quietly sneaked off into the
bush and I felt so relieved that I was unable to walk any further
and waited for the pack-train to overtake me.
The country travelled through for over ten days after leaving
Quesnel was rather rough, but, after we crossed a ridge that I
remembered crossing in 1872, the country showed marked signs
of improvement and was drier and richer, and, apparently, well
suited for agriculture.    I was very much struck by the grasses 98 EXPLORATION TO THE PEACE RIVER
of the region. They consisted chiefly of three Genera, Poa, Bro-
mus and Triticum, all three first-class hay and pasture grasses,
and I may say that these were the grasses that we found the whole
way to Peace River, everywhere forming a splendid sward and
were very tall for the species.
When we reached the Nechaco, we found the country very
rich and worth more extended notice than the other parts that
we had passed through, but I may just write one incident
that took place at the river to show how some people value the
things they own.
We had been at an Indian camp the preceding night and an
Indian and I went ahead of the party and reached the Nechaco
before they arrived. A thunderstorm came up and, as there was
no shelter, I put on my waterproof and sat down on the green,
but, to my surprise, the Indian took the saddle off his horse and
turned him loose and sat on the saddle and spread what little
coat he had over it to try and protect it. He protected his saddle
while I tried to protect myself.
We had now reached the crossing of the Nechaco and the
meadows on the right bank of the river were full of meadow plants
resembling those of Ontario and there was nothing in the flora to
indicate a cold climate except that it was ten or fifteen days behind that of Ontario in 1876. The familiar plants in our meadows
and fields were everywhere and not a herbaceous plant or shrub
reminded one of being more than ten degrees north of Belleville,
except the want of our forest trees. -
The 16th of July was occupied in getting our baggage across
the Nechaco, a broad and rapid stream two hundred and fifty
yards wide, and, late in the evening, we pitched our camp on the
left bank. I may mention here that Dr. Selwyn had had a canvas
punt made somewhere in the east and with this he intended to
cross the various rivers that we might meet in our exploration.
This river was the largest we had come to and the boat was put
together and found to be quite buoyant, and with it, our baggage
and ourselves, were taken across the river without much effort.
Our boat was named "Nechaco," and will be spoken of later.
The land between the  Nechaco and Stuart River was of
the very best quality, it being both prairie and forest and quite
level and not difficult to clear. The next day, we crossed Stuart
River, two hundred yards wide, and followed the trail without
difficulty to Stuart Lake. Late this afternoon, when within
six miles of Fort St. James, I suddenly came upon a limestone
cliff and immediately the flora changed. Many beautiful flowers
that I had not seen since I left the lower Fraser Valley were in
full bloom and, on the rocks at the base of the cliff, they made such
a charming picture that I sat down in my loneliness—but not
alone—and drank in the surpassing beauty of the scene; hunger
and weariness were forgotten and I resumed my march with the
light, joyous step of the morning, feeling that in the realm of
Nature, God's hand was ever open to strew one's paths with
beauties and fill one's heart with praise. While others cursed the
road and the flies, I, in my simplicity, saw nothing but Nature
decked out in the springtime loveliness and, instead of grumbling
at the difficulties of the way, I rejoiced in the activity of the animal
and vegetable kingdoms. For nearly a month ,1 had kept travelling with spring, but now, with one bound, we had passed its portals and stood on the verge of summer.
"Sunday the 20th. Looking back over the 146 miles which
lie between Fort St. James and Quesnel, I am struck with the
resemblance of the flora to that of the forest region west of Lake
Superior. There is not a species in this whole distance which in
any way indicates either an Alpine or cool climate except two,
and these were only observed once. The dry summer climate,
which is indicated by the flora, proves the rainfall to be inconsiderable, and, therefore, the prospects are good for the successful
cultivation of grain. Tomorrow, I accompany Dr. Selwyn and
two Indians in a canoe up Stuart Lake for about eight miles
for the purpose of climbing Pope's Cradle, or Stuart Lake
Mountain. Our friends at the Fort said that we would be unable
to climb it as it was quite steep and very difficult.
"We commenced to ascend from the lake shore and, after a
fatiguing climb of three hours in the hot sun, we reached the
summit, which we found to be 2,600 feet above the lake, or nearly
5,000 feet above the sea.    I obtained an enormous collection of 100 EXPLORATION TO THE PEACE RIVER
interesting plants and had quite a pleasant day while Dr. Selwyn
attended to the geology. After a rapid descent, we reached the
lake and started for the camp, propelled by the wind, against the
bear skin, which one of the Indians held up to catch the fitful
breeze. It would have been less labour to paddle but that would
have been 'work.' Late in the evening, we reached camp and
were soon oblivious to mundane things."
On the 22nd of June, we left Fort. St. James for McLeod's
Lake, and had much difficulty on our way, on account of the bad
trail through burnt forest. Some days we had to cut our way
for miles and made little progress. I quote the following from
my journal.
"To-day, that is the 26th of June, I had a lonely tramp along
the shores of Carp and Long Lakes, to the discharge of the latter
lake. When a few miles on the way, a pelting rain came on and
continued without intermission the whole afternoon. I trudged
cheerfully on believing that I would meet Indians at the ford of
the river and get myself dry and warm. What was my chagrin
to find the Indians gone and their fire burning on the other side
of the rapid river. Without hesitation, I undressed and plunged
in, but the current was so strong and the water so deep my courage
failed and I returned to the bank. Shivering and cold, I contemplated the situation and at last determined to do or die and waded
across. Soon, I had a rousing fire and its genial warmth brought
back life and content to my frozen limbs."
I was unaware of the depth of the river when I started in to
wade across. As the water was very clear, with a gravel bottom,
it seemed quite shallow, but, as I proceeded, the depths increased
and, on my second effort, I took a large pole that I found on the
shore and, with its support, I gained the other side in safety. Now,
I learned that there was a fall in the river of one hundred and
twenty feet only a couple of hundred yards below me, and, doubtless, if I had known this I would have lost my nerve and been
carried away in the swift water. Later, I found that the ford
was said to be four to five feet deep. The next day, we reached
Fort McLeod and I spent a few days collecting around the
On the 3rd of July, all our preparations were made to start for
the Peace River and now our company was reduced to eight. In
the "Nechaco" were myself, Mr. Webster, the geologist, and John
Mclennan, who had charge of the commissariat. In a light
skiff were Dr. Selwyn and two young Indians, and, in a dugout
made of poplar, were Anderson and Hillier, the cook.
About two o'clock in the afternoon, we started and all the
inhabitants of the post and a number of Indians who were there
came out to see us make our start, and they all expected that we
would never reach Hudson's Hope alive as our boats were frail
and the capacity for river work that had been shown by us at
the Fort was of no account.
Dr. Selwyn gave orders, at the start, that he was going to
micrometer the river and instructed Anderson and Hillier what
they were to do. The "Nechaco," being a large boat and carrying
the most of the baggage, was not required to do anything but
only to proceed with the rest. All went well for about half an
hour, when Hillier and Anderson stopped at a bend of the river
to give Dr. Selwyn a sight. At this point, the current was very
strong and ran with great force under the bend. They stopped
and the current caught the canoe and caused it to turn over and
both men were thrown into the rapid river. We, in the "Nechaco," were opposite the men when they were thrown into the
water and, as they were carried off in the current, we worked hard to
overtake them, but failed. However, Anderson was thrown on
the shore some distance below and we found that he was only
slightly out of breath, and Hillier kept hold of the canoe and was
caught some distance further down by Dr. Selwyn and the boys.
This ended our survey of the river—it was never attempted again
as long as I was with the party. We made camp right away and
felt consoled for the loss of the bacon when the men were saved,
but each man felt from that day forward that he was in more
than common clanger.
On the evening of the 8th, we reached the forks of the Finlay
and Parsnip rivers and camped. During the evening, I told Dr.
Selwyn that when I came up the Peace in 1872 I was told that
there was a very large eddy at the junction of the two rivers and, by 102 EXPLORATION TO THE PEACE RIVER
all means, to keep close in shore as we passed out of the Parsnip
into the main river. I had my note book and showed Dr. Selwyn
what we did and how we passed the eddy three years before. He
paid no attention to what I told him and, after breakfast the next
day, he gave orders that we were to proceed down the river and
ignored what I had told him about the eddy. I refused to start
and told Mclennan to hold on to the bushes where we were and
let Dr. Selwyn proceed first. The other men in the canoe stayed
with us and Dr. Selwyn and his two Indians went on and rounded
the point out of our sight. In a short time, we saw them going
at a great rate backwards into the middle of the river and they
were pulling with all their might to get out of it. By good luck,
the eddy was nearly full at this time and it burst and they made
the shore in a short time. We waited to see what would happen
next and Dr. Selwyn and his men came back looking rather pale
and said that it was impossible to pass the eddy, at this stage of
the water, on that side. He now gave orders that we were to
cross the Parsnip and we went along the right bank of the Finlay
and when we got about a quarter of a mile up, Dr. Selwyn said
that we were far enough and that now we would cross and run
down the left bank of the Finlay. We all crossed and went up
the Finlay and he, with his two Indians, went first and crossed the
Finlay, and ran down and were in safety. Then, they called to
us and the canoe started and they succeeded the same way; we
in the "Nechaco" had a big punt to handle and she would never
steer or go anywhere but with the current and when we reached
the far side of the Finlay, we found the trees had fallen into the
water and we couldn't make the shore and had to keep out in
the current. However, we were able to round the point with the
aid of a rope thrown to us by Mclennan. Late in the afternoon,
we ran down to the rapids about a mile below us and camped.
Here Dr. Selwyn thought that it was a good place to fish and got
on his long rubber boots that reached to his hips and waded in
and stood on a stone, but received no bites except from mosquitoes,.
and, in his efforts to beat them off, slipped and sat down on the
stone. When he got on his feet again, he found that he was
anchored as his boots were full and he was unable to walk out. EXPLORATION TO THE PEACE RIVER 103
We were all amazed at the Doctor's mishap and looked very
serious when Mclennan very slowly made his way to his assistance
arid brought him to shore. I believe that made us all happy again
as I remember the misfortunes of the morning did not seem to
stay with us.
I will now give Dr. Selwyn's version of the same event.
"July 9th. Started at 7 a.m. and at 9.15 reached the Finlay
forks. A very swift eddying current ran along the right bank of
the Parsnip and to avoid this and reach the opposite shore without being shot down the rapids below we were obliged to go some
distance up the right bank of the Finlay. We then crossed over and
were swept rapidly down the left shore, when, rounding a sandy
point which the angle, formed by the two rivers made, a few vigorous
strokes brought us into still water."
Later in the day, we moved down the river for about four
miles and camped just at the mouth of the pass, called by the
Hudson's Bay people, "Hell's Gate." The mountains on either
hand rise here to about 6,000 feet almost perpendicularly from
the water. We were now under the mountain to which Horetzky
had called my attention in 1872, when we were passing upstream.
As it seemed to be the highest mountain in the vicinity, Dr. Selwyn determined to climb it the next day and asked me to accompany him while he took observations and decided on the route
that we would follow.    I quote from his report:
"After a critical survey of the mountain from the opposite or
left bank, I thought we could reach the summit; at all events I
determined to attempt it, and we accordingly crossed to the right
bank and selected our camp^ It was too late for our ascent of
the mountain, but in the afternoon, Mr. Macoun and I ascended
a rocky spur a short distance in our rear to reconnoiter. We
reached a height of 950 or 1,000 feet above the river. I took
several bearings from this point and was also able to determine
the best route for our ascent the next day. This seemed to be a
leading ridge on the very side of the valley of a small brook which
entered the river about one and a half miles below our camp. We ;
accordingly made our way across to this ridge and on reaching the
axis of it, I was surprised at finding what appeared to be a well- 104 EXPLORATION TO THE PEACE RIVER
worn Indian trail. A closer examination, however, showed that
it was a path made by the rocky mountain goat and I at once
concluded that it would lead us up the easiest path to the highest
summit of the mountain and therefore determined to follow it
on the morrow.
"Next morning, after breakfast, 1 called for volunteers to
accompany Mr. Macoun and me up the mountain and at 8 a.m.
we set out. There had been considerable discussion in camp upon
the probability of our being able to reach the summit. One of
our party confidently asserting that it was quite impossible. So
far as his own power of climbing was concerned, his opinion proved
quite correct as when we still had some 1,500 feet to ascend he
gave it up and lay down to await our return, reiterating his opinion that none of us would ever reach the summit, and doubtless
to persons unaccustomed to alpine climbing, the undertaking might
appear somewhat formidable. At about 2 p.m., however, we
arrived there and, though it cost us five and a half hours of continuous toil, we were amply repaid by the magnificent scene around
us. We were now 4,590 feet above our camp and about 6,220
feet above the sea. To the north, the river lay directly beneath
us at probably less than three-quarters of a mile of horizontal
distance and beyond it, from northwards to northeast, stretched
away for twenty or thirty miles, a perfect sea of alpine peaks
and ridges."
Early in the morning of the 11th, as quoted above from Dr.
Selwyn's report, we started in high spirits to climb "Mt. Selwyn,"
in company with Mr. Webster and Mr. Mclennan. I started by
carrying my botanical box and, in the latter, my portfolio containing a large quantity of paper. We started from the mountain
stream which Dr. Selwyn and I had seen yesterday. When we
reached the stream, I asked as a favor that a halt of a few moments
be made while I examined the banks which I did with astonishing
success. In a few moments, I had collected a large number of
alpine species which had been brought down by the stream from
. far up the mountain. From the very base of the mountain, we
followed the path formed by the mountain goat spoken of by Dr.
Selwyn.   On the lower slopes, there was no change in the vegeta- EXPLORATION TO THE PEACE RIVER 105
tion, but gradually there came a change, at first scarcely noticeable. A few mountain forms were intermixed with die forest
flora of the valley. Gradually the valley species ceased, alpine
ones became more common, until at last none of the former
The day was very hot, being 84° Fahr., in the shade, when we
left the base and it seemed to get warmer instead of cooler as we
ascended. We had some steep climbing on the first part of the
route and our progress was both wearisome and slow. About
1,500 feet from the summit, we reached die limit of trees and here
also came upon our first snow. We were all very thirsty and I
scraped out a hole below the snow and it was very soon filled with
water and each one of us lay down on the ground and drank his
■ fill. Mclennan, who, by the way, was a man accustomed to his
drinks, could not resist the temptation of swallowing more than
his share and lost all hope of reaching the top and so lay down
and enjoyed himself while the rest of us plied our weary way to
the summit.
About two hundred feet above where we left Mclennan, the
slope got much easier and we found a real spring of beautiful
water and I thought that it might help Mclennan to bring him up
to it so I went down and asked him to go up the two hundred
feet where the good water was.   He said he was d d if he
would, so I left him and followed the others.
I am saying nothing about the flora of the mountain for, as
it has been spoken of so often by others, it is useless for me to
add to the beauties by which I was surrounded. Our trip was
very hurried, but I noticed that, on the moist places where the
snow lay longest, there were the greatest number of species and
many were observed there that did not appear in drier spots.
Where the heaviest drifts of snow had lain, and where much of
it still remained, one or two anemones and Ranunculus hyper-
boreus were blooming and in fine condition. To show the progress
of the spring, four yards from the snow the petals had fallen and
between that and the snow the plant was in all stages of growth,
from its springing out of the soil to the faded flower. A number
of drabas and arenarias absolutely plastered the ground with 106 EXPLORATION TO THE PEACE RIVER
multitudes of flowers. Five hundred feet below the summit,
Mt. Selwyn stands first, in my imagination, as the highest type
of nature's flower garden. None of the plants, except the pedun-
cularias, rose above the general level, which was about two inches
or possibly less, and all was a flat surface of expanded purple,
yellow, white and pinkish flowers. The peduncularias were
about four inches high and stood singly amongst the others and
each was nearly two inches broad with expanded blossoms.
The summit was quite level, with a little parapet in front,
upon which we stood overlooking the river as we gazed upon a
wondrous scene. Leaving others to take in the picture in detail,
after a few minutes of close scrutiny, I turned away from the
entrancing sight and busied myself with what more concerned me;
the flora of the peak. With sad and reluctant steps, I turned from
the summit and commenced to descend, intending .to examine
the different points more fully than I had done in the ascent.
About 1,000 feet from the summit, I was overtaken by the others
and, after a slight halt at the last patch of snow, where we had
left Mclennan, we hurried on, reaching camp in a more or less
exhausted state about 7 p.m., after nearly thirteen hours of incessant and continuous labour.
When we left the river in the morning, the thermometer
stood at 84° Fahr. ; on the top of the mountain in latitude 56 north,
over 6,000 feet above the sea it stood at 82°. I had supposed
that we would find it cold on the mountain top but the very opposite was the case—I had actually to take off my coat and hat
and bathe my head in the snow to cool myself. Looking east
from where we stood, a blue, sultry haze hung over the mountains
and the river, while to the west the atmosphere seemed clearer
and colder. The mountain, upon which we were, seemed to close
in on the river valley and shut out the vapour of the western
plateau in exactly the same way as the Cascade range below Boston Bar does that of the Pacific. We had this amply verified the
next day for we had scarcely gone six miles—the distance along
the base of the mountain—before we all noticed the change to a
drier and warmer climate. Mt. Selwyn thus closes the Peace
River Pass and stands as a portal barring the way against the EXPLORATION TO THE PEACE RIVER 107
Pacific breezes carrying moisture, the alleged cause of the mild
climate and luxuriant vegetation of the Peace River Valley.
Later on I shall attempt to show the true cause of the mild climate
of the eastern base along the rocky mountains.
The next day, Anderson and I climbed a limestone mountain,
3,000 feet high, on the other side of the river, and found the ascent
both toilsome and dangerous. We got little to repay us for our
trip. We did not see the slightest sign of an alpine plant and I
confess it with a feeling of disappointment. I looked about me
and found them not. We ate our lunch on the very verge of a
cliff, from which we could look down on a little mountain tarn
1,000 feet below, and our hearts yearned for water, but there was
none to be had. We reached camp at 6 p.m., exhausted but well
pleased with our trip. I had settled one point that, in this region,
Arctic vegetation is not to be found on a limestone mountain in
latitude 56°, at a height of 5,000 feet above the sea.
At noon on the sixteenth, we reached the Rocky Mountain
Canyon and, from sheer exhaustion, I was scarcely able to ascend
the bank. Our tents were pitched and I commenced to change
my plants and dry my papers. This had been part of my daily
work for nearly three months so that a halt always found me busy.
The cause of my great weariness was more from pulling our unwieldy boat in making the wide crossings that we had to make
from side to side of the river to suit Dr. Selwyn's ideas about
camping, than from climbing. I quote the following from my
report: "On the afternoon of the 17th, Mclennan and I ascended
the Buffalo's Head, the view from which is so graphically described in Buder's "Wild North Land." We, too, found the base
of the mountain lying "thick with brule and tangled forest," but,
worse thant his, was the mass of pea vine, vetch and various weeds
and grasses which covered the logs and made our progress both
slow and laborious. Before Butler, "there rose abruptly a mass
of yellow grass and blue anemones," and before us, the same steep;
but the grass waved green on the hill-side, and the herald of spring
(Anemone patens var. Nuttalliana) had already perfected its seeds
and disappeared under the wealth of grass that covered its grave.
We also stood on that hill-top and looked on the wondrous pano- 108 EXPLORATION TO THE PEACE RIVER
rama that lay stretched out before us. But our occupations
were more prosaic; we were there to see and faithfully report
what we observed regarding the soil and productions of the
country. Sitting, possibly, on the same rock on which Butler sat,
I mentally attempted to contrast the region we had left west of
the mountains, with that in which we now were, and I could find
no points of agreement. West of the mountains, the climate was
cold and moist and the land generally covered with a coniferous
forest, but here we found prairie and aspen forest and a climate
dry and warm. Here, 3,000 feet above the sea, the mountains
are actually without forest and covered with grass and vetches
over two feet high. Botrychium lunarioides, a Lychnis and Are-
naria propinqua we found on the highest point. There were many
signs of the grizzly bear being in the vicinity as there was scarcely
a log which had not been turned over or torn to pieces in their
search for ants and their larvae. Aquilegia coerulea and Parnassia
palustris were obtained on our way to camp, and a considerable
number of eastern species which were not observed west of the
During the four following days, we remained in camp close to
the canyon, and I employed my time in making excursions in the
vicinity, drying, packing and labelling plants. We had now
passed the mountains, and I closed my western observations and
commenced a new series."
On the morning of the 21st, we started to cross the portage
to Hudson's Hope. The morning was very warm and walking
over the sand hills was not pleasant. While crossing the portage,
I found quite a number of eastern species, and, amongst others,
Linum perenne. On reaching the Post, we ate a hearty dinner of
moose meat, Early Rose potatoes, turnips and onions, and rejoiced
in the thought that we had accomplished so much of our journey
in safety.
While the rest of the party were getting ready to proceed
down the river, I employed myself, as usual, making a thorough
examination of the flora in the vicinity for the purpose of comparing it with that further down the stream. The following extract
from my journal, written on the spot, will give a truthful picture EXPLORATION TO THE PEACE RIVER 109
of Hudson's Hope as I found it on the 22nd of July, 1875: "I
have been extremely surprised at the rankness of the vegetation
around here, although there is very little rain at this season and
has been little all spring. Wild peas and vetches grow to an
amazing height in the poplar woods, and form almost impenetrable
thickets in places. Vetches, roses, willow-herb and grasses of the
genera Poa, Triticum and Bromus fill the woods and cover the
burnt ground, and surprise Canadians by their rankness and
almost tropical luxuriance. Charlette, who is in charge of this
post, has two small gardens, in which he has growing, potatoes,
onions, turnips, beets, carrots, cabbage, and various other vegetables. Yesterday, we had new potatoes for dinner, of a very fair
size, which were planted on April 28th. Numbers of the onions
were one and a half inches across, raised from seed imported from
England and sown about the first of May. Growth is extremely
rapid, owing partly to the length of day and cloudless skies supplemented by heavy dews, and possibly, also, in part, to the great
range of temperature during the twenty-four hours, from about
45° at sunrise to 80° Fahr., at noon. Sometimes the range is
even more, but the above may be taken as the average. The
rankness of the vegetation on the west shore of Lake Superior
has frequently been alluded to, and may be caused by the somewhat similar great range in the temperature there."
For the next few days, I employed myself around Hudson's
Hope examining the flora of the country. The others were busy
during this time in making a raft on which we were to float down
to St. John's. During the afternoon of the 25th, and the forenoon
of the 26th of July, we floated down the river on our raft, and,
although we had ample time to admire the magnificent scenery,
there was no opportunity to botanize.
"At St. John's, a few minutes' observation tended to show
that this point was much warmer than Hudson's Hope, that the
soil was richer, and that the vegetation was in a far more advanced
state. Raspberries and service-berries were fully ripe and in
great abundance. Potatoes, oats, barley and many varieties of
vegetables were in a very flourishing state in "Nigger Dan's"
garden.   The oats stood fully five feet high, and the barley had 110 EXPLORATION TO THE PEACE RIVER
made nearly equal growth. After the tents were pitched, Anderson cut a quantity of wild grass for our beds which was over three
feet in length; it consisted principally of species of Triticum and
Poa. On your decision (Dr. Selwyn's) to build a canoe for the
ascent of Pine River, I found I would have several days at my
disposal, and on the morning of the 27th, accompanied by Anderson, I started up the hill in rear of the fort, for the purpose of
examining the region north of the river. We found the level of
of the country above the river valley to be about 700 feet. On
the plateau, the surface is either a dead level or slopes away from
the river. For nine miles, the distance travelled, the whole
country was covered with the most luxuriant vegetation. Clumps
of willows and poplars of various ages were interspersed with the
most astonishing growth of herbaceous plants I ever witnessed.
Willow herb, cow parsnip, Geum strictum, Triticum, Bromus, Poa
and a number of other tall-growing species covered the whole
region with a thick mass of vegetation that averaged from three
to five feet in height. Wild larkspur (Delphinium scoputarum)
was found over seven feet high, and many vetches were even taller.
In many places, the climbing Leguminosae were in such abundance
as to completely cover up all other plants, and cause the country
to look like a field of mixed peas and vetches. The species were
Vicia Americana, Lathyrus venosus and ochroleucus, the first named
being the most abundant."   CHAPTER VIII
Down the Peace River 700 Miles in a Dugout from Fort
St. John to Fort Chipewyan—Provisions run out-
Reaches Fort Chipewyan Sick and Starving—Returns
East via Athabasca River, Buffalo Lake, Clearwater
River and Lake, Isle-a-la-Crosse, and Green Lake—
Across Country to Fort Carlton and on to Winnipeg—
Many Interesting Incidents en route—Home on Nov.
13th after Travelling about 8,000 Miles.
WHILE at St. John's, Dr. Selwyn decided to build a canoe so
that he could proceed up the Pine River on his exploration.
The canoe was made out of a poplar tree and was thirty-
six feet long and very unwieldy but it served its purpose. He
decided that the canoe was not large enough to take all of the
party and he left Anderson and myself behind. I was to go down
the Peace River with Mr. King, who was going down the river to
meet the Hudson's Bay boats bringing up the outfit for the posts
on the river. Dr. Selwyn permitted me to accompany him with the
understanding that I should not be away more than forty days
and that I should rejoin his party either at St. John's or Dunvegan. I was supplied with forty days' provisions and from the
time Dr. Selwyn left till the morning of the 4th of August I was
busily engaged drying and packing plants and had little time to
think of the arduous journey of seven hundred miles that loomed
before me. Had I known what was to occur, I would never have
thought of going on such a foolish errand with a man who was
on his way to meet his wife.
Early on the morning of the 4th, we packed up and proceeded
to load our canoe, which was just an old cotton-wood dugout, but
found that it was so small that three men and our provisions were
too much for its capacity, so a man and a bag of pemmican were
left behind.   With light hearts, we pushed off, believing that our 112 DOWN THE PEACE RIVER
trip was going to be a pleasure excursion and that we should sail
down about 300 miles and return leisurely with the boats.
On the evening of the second day, we reached Dunvegan, and
found the people at the post living on bear meat, so I charitably
gave them some of my flour, which Mr. King agreed to replace
when we met the boats. On the morning of the 5th, we left
Dunvegan and floated down the river. After passing Smoky
River, game became plentiful and black bears were very numerous
along the river margin, feeding on berries; while beaver, lynx
and geese were quite common.
Later, we fell in with a camp of Indians who had a large
quantity of berries and these, to go with the flesh of a black bear,
constituted their sole diet. A dainty dish composed of berries
fried in bear's grease was served up but my appetite for such
food being very poor, I declined to partake of it. My flour did
duty again as, in a few days, we expected to meet the boats.
We reached Battle River on the 8th and, it being Sunday,
we remained with Mr. Macaulay, the gentleman in charge of the
post, until next morning. We fared sumptuously on cabbage,
green peas, radishes, moose meat, bacon and flour, the latter
being taken from my stores, but this could not last, and, after
breakfast on Monday morning, we were again floating down the
We slept on a sand bar above Wolverine Point, and at dawn
on Tuesday, August 10th, were again at work paddling with all
our might until the afternoon, when, the wind blowing strong up
the river, our frail canoe was in danger of capsizing, and we were
compelled to keep close in shore to avoid the waves.
I had learned by this time that my trip was to be one with
constant hard work and little opportunity to study the vegetation
along the river.
On the 11th, we started early and toiled all day with the
paddle. The river, by this time, was very wide and the wind had
a great sweep and generally blew in our faces. Late in the evening, when rounding a point, we saw buildings in the distance and
knew we were approaching Vermilion. The following is from my
"Having decided to rest one day at Vermilion, I employed it
in a botanical survey of the neighborhood. I first examined the
field and garden, and found with the utmost astonishment that,
although more than two degrees further north than Dunvegan or
St. John's, the barley and vegetables were much further advanced.
Barley was standing in shocks in the field, having been cut on
the 6th of August, while scattered ears of wheat, which I found
around the fence, were fully ripe, (August 12th). Wheat is seldom cultivated in the North-West, owing to the fact that barley
is more useful, as the former is only used when boiled with meat,
while the latter is fed to horses in the winter. The barley was
sown on the 8th of May and reaped on the 6th of August, having
been in the ground just ninety days. The heads averaged from
four to six inches in length, and were full of large grains of a beautiful colour. In fact, both wheat and barley were the plumpest I
ever saw, and must weigh as much as that brought from Fort
Chipewyan. They stood very thick in the ground and were
uncommonly stout, and must have yielded very heavily. Turnips
and Early Rose potatoes were quite large, and both gave indications of a heavy crop."
We started for Little Red River at noon on August the 15th,
but, owing to the head winds and great breadth of the river (over
1,000 yards) we feared to cross it. Towards evening, a thunderstorm came up, but passed off on one side of us and the wind fell.
We now redoubled our energies and reached Point-aux-Cache
before dark. Wearied out and exhausted, we spread our blankets
on the sand and soon fell fast asleep. At the first streak of dawn,
we were up and ready to proceed.
We were now approaching the chutes, or falls as they are
called now. There are two portages at the chutes. The first
chute is only a rapid, but the next one is a fall of at least ten feet.
By noon, we had descended to the very brink of the fall and were
within two miles of Little Red River. We never expected to
take the canoe over the fall, but intended to cache our baggage
and go on to the Fort on foot. After examining the fall, however,
we resolved to try our old experiment of a bow and stern line, and,
after dinner, we shoved the canoe off and let her take her chance. 114 DOWN THE PEACE RIVER
Each did his work well and we had the satisfaction of taking her
over the falls in safety. We fastened the canoe, bow and stern,
to the ledge of rock about five feet above the water. After some
discussion I decided that I was able to drop into the canoe and
bail out the water and so I took the risk and dropped from the
ledge into the canoe and soon baled out the water.
The next thing was for Mr. King to get into the canoe, and
he dropped into the stern while I was able to keep the canoe
steady. When starting, we decided that each of us should take
his jack-knife and at the word from King I would cut the bow
line and the canoe would then swing out and King would cut the
stern line and away we would go. We did this and in a couple
of minutes were down beside our luggage. We got our supplies
and baggage and loaded up the canoe and, in a short time, were at
Little Red River.
"August 17th. Believing that the boats were close at hand,
nothing would satisfy Mr. King but that we must go on and meet
them. I was disinclined to proceed. However, as I had already
come so far, I consented. Our flour was now all gone and we
only had a little mouldy pemmican, a few dried berries and some
tea. We still had two hundred miles of river between us and
Fort Chipewyan, but fully expecting to meet the boats, we did
not replenish our stock of provisions, and we had no matches.
To make matters worse, Mr. King broke his gun, so this last resource failed us. We worked hard all day, constantly looking
out for the boats, and at dark camped at the head of Big Island,
in a perfect storm of mosquitoes. We were nearly wild before
we got a fire lighted, which we accomplished by means of dried
grass and gunpowder. On account of starting without matches,
we were unable to have a fire at noon except by taking the hunter's
plan. Mr. King had a jack-knife and I went along the river side
till I found a pebble that seemed to be flinty and we found that
by striking the jack-knife on the flint, a spark would fly out. I
then gathered a bunch of dried grass and, with the gun-powder,
our fire was started. For the next five days, all our fires were
lighted in this manner. Some evenings, an hour was spent in
groping around in the dark to get it done.    The supplies were DOWN THE PEACE RIVER 115
now so scant and in such bad condition that it was almost impossible for us to either eat or sleep and our work on the river
never ceased."
"August 19th. Constantly paddling on we watched for the
boats around every turn, but they did not appear. About ten
o'clock, the wind sprang up dead ahead, and we were under the
necessity of putting ashore and waiting until it went down. Here
we slept by turns, one watching for the boats while the other
slept. About five p.m., the wind fell, and we immediately started
and worked hard until long after dark."
The next day we passed "Rapid Bouille." We decided to
camp and watch for the boats which should have arrived before
this. Acting on this decision—caused by the head winds we
could not face—we carried our things up the steep bank, made a
fire, and had a little uncooked mouldy pemmican and tea. The
high wind set fire to the grass and, before we caught all the things
together, my clothes were more than half burned and our tent was
altogether destroyed. Immediately after this, the wind fell and
we resolved to proceed. We still had more than 70 miles to make
before we could obtain food, and our supplies were all exhausted,
except the mouldy pemmican. We worked hard all the evening
and camped on the lower end of an island, and built a large fire,
so that if the boats came along in the night the men would see
the light and at least fire a gun.
"August 21st. Poor food and hard work now began to tell
on me. My stomach loathed raw pemmican, and all other food
was gone—our gun was useless—and it became painfully evident
that from some unaccountable vcause the boats had not yet left
Fort Chipewyan. Sixty miles lay between us and safety, and we
must either hurry on or starve. We had still a few pounds of
pemmican, but, with all my efforts, it would not stay on my
stomach, so I reluctantly ceased to eat. We toiled on until after
midday, when I became so ill that we had to put ashore. I lay
down on the sand utterly exhausted and very sick. A review of
the situation brought me to myself, and I rose up, determined to
struggle on as long as I could hold the paddle. Without a word,
we worked on and on, and reached Quatre Fourches River two 116 DOWN THE PEACE RIVER
hours after dark. Tying the canoe to the bushes, we crawled up
the bank and were soon asleep. I awoke in the morning as day
was breaking and, as I opened my eyes, I saw hanging over me an
enormous pair of horns and a huge face, which I concluded was
the devil himself. King woke up and saw the beast, but, the gun
being useless, he did not trouble it.
King said that sometimes the water from Peace River ran
into this river and other times it ran out and we hoped that the
Peace River was flowing in, but, to our consternation, it was
flowing out so the current was running very swiftly. We found
the water flowing steadily into Peace River and we knew that we
had twenty-five miles upstream to go before we could get food.
My stomach had now become so weak that tea would not
remain on it, so I drank water and ate a few high-bush cranberries.
We discovered that our united energies would not propel the
canoe against the current, so, fastening a line to the bow, I went
on shore and hauled the canoe for more than sixteen miles, floundering through mud and water, knowing that the goal was drawing nearer every step. While tramping along the river, when I
felt sick and weak, I plucked a few cranberries and, on my recovering, trudged on. Every half hour, a fainting spell would overcome
me, but, by persistent effort, I would overcome it and, at length,
wearied and exhausted, we reached the fishery just as it was getting dark. The last eight miles, I had to take to the canoe, the
mud being so soft and I so weak, I could not stand upon it. (He
evidently lost consciousness). Being unable to stand, I sat in a
clump of rushes and was soon the centre of a crowd of Indians.
I made signs that I wanted food and rest and would soon be all
right and they, misunderstanding, brought me Perry Davis' Pain
Killer and other medicines, but I made signs that I wished to
eat and a voice in the crowd, speaking good English, wanted to
know if I could eat fish and potatoes. I promptly said "Yes" and he
took me to his tent and I ate and slept, I believe, most of the night.
In the morning, I felt a new man. None of the people would
believe that we had brought our little canoe from St. John's,
seven hundred miles away, as such a thing had never been done
before by two men. DOWN THE PEACE RIVER 117
The next morning I went down, in a canoe, to Fort Chipewyan, a distance of eight miles and was well received by Mr. Mac-
farlane, the gentleman in charge of the Athabasca district. On
my arrival, I had an interview with a number of the Hudson's
Bay Company's officers, who were here from all parts of the north
to get their year's supplies. One and all advised me to return
eastward, as it was possible I could reach Fort Garry (Winnipeg)
before winter set in, but I could not get out westward until late
in the spring. I, therefore, much against my inclination, decided
to return eastward. Mr. Macfarlane informed me that he purposed sending a boat up the Athabasca to Methye Portage in
the course of ten days, which would connect with another going
down to Isle-a-la-Crosse, and by these I could get half way to
Carlton. The boats for Peace River started the day after we
During the ensuing ten days, I collected all the information
possible regarding the country, its capabilities, resources and
future prospects. One thing struck me very forcibly, that I was
1,300 miles from the Arctic Sea, and 1,200 miles from Winnipeg.
It was only then that I realized the immensity of our Great North
I met many of the chief Hudson's Bay Company's men and
talked with them day after day and got information from them
about the Yukon and the North and down the Mackenzie and
one and all said that the country northward and westward was
exceptionally fine in every respect.
Fort Chipewyan is not well situated for agricultural purposes,
with the exception of the small spot of garden ground near the
fort. Less than two miles from the fort, however, is a French
Mission, where I obtained the samples of wheat and barley which
are in Ottawa, and which later took the Bronze Medal at Philadelphia in 1876.
The reason so little land is cultivated arises from the fact
that most of the inhabitants are flesh eaters and look with contempt upon vegetables and vegetable eaters. Mr. Macfarlane told
me that just as much meat was eaten when flour and potatoes
were served out to the men as when they got none.   This state- 118 DOWN THE PEACE RIVER
ment agrees exactly with what we found after we left Fort McLeod—that our two Indian boys seemed never to be satisfied, no
matter how much bread they ate.
Multitudes of fish are taken in Lake Athabasca of many
kinds and all are fit for food. Geese are killed in prodigious
numbers in the latter part of September, it being no uncommon
occurrence for one man to kill one hundred in a few hours.
On the afternoon of September 2nd, three large boats in
charge of Mr. King, accompanied by myself, as passenger, started
for Methye Portage. I left my kind friends with regret and
started on my homeward trip in the anticipation of reaching Fort
Garry before the setting in of winter. This part of my trip was
so different from that which I had just passed through that I
felt, as I sat in a large boat, that I was almost in Paradise.
Our three boats contained twenty-seven men besides myself
and Mr. King, but, as usual, we were on half rations as we were
now on our way to get the supplies for Chipewyan for the winter.
We rowed for a short distance across the lake and entered the
delta of the Athabasca and when night fell we fastened our boat
to a log and lay down and went to sleep. I, being weary, never
awakened until morning. My slumbers were broken at the first
streak of dawn on the morning of the 3rd by the cries of innumerable geese which seemed to be above, around and beneath me.
On raising my head, I found all our men imitating the cries of the
flock of geese which were rapidly coming towards us and answering the cries of the men. On they came and, in less than five
minutes, twenty-seven shots had been fired into the flock and large
numbers of them were dead or dying in the water. During the
next two weeks, such scenes were almost of hourly occurrence and
the excitement was pleasing in the extreme.
We had started with less than half rations, calculating to get
a partial supply of food by hunting as we ascended the river and
the men were not slow to take advantage of their opportunity.
Canada geese and large white waveys were the ones we obtained.
It took us a day and a half to pass through the delta.
As we ascended the river, we gradually passed from mud to
sand, but were fully fifty miles up it before we saw anything like DOWN THE PEACE RIVER 119
a pebble. The first indications of "tar" were in the form of
pebbles composed of sand and tar, formed above and carried down
by the ice. From this time forward, we continued to see deposits
of tar wherever we came near the river margin. We sailed up the
river for days, owing to the wind being in our favor, and made no
stops. On the 7th of September, the river valley became narrower
and real banks appeared about 50 feet high and the country was
apparently level. Where we breakfasted, on the left bank, I
observed a bed of tar conglomerate about thirty inches above
the river. There was sand above and below it and the ooze along
the shore, both at this point and many places below, looked like
the ooze from petroleum streams. Fully one-half of the pebbles
along the shore, in many localities, are composed of tar conglomerate. The tar was frequently observed, sometimes forming a
bed two feet thick. Early in the afternoon, we came upon the
shale beds which produce the tar and sailed past them all the
We landed at this point and found a light gray sand-stone,
partly saturated with the tar, and over this, again, shale largely
charged with alkali matter; this was the sequence all the way,
although at times there was much more exposed.
Where we landed, the ooze from the bank had flowed down
the slide into the water and formed a tarred surface extending
along the beach over one hundred yards and as hard as iron.
But, in the bright sunshine, the surface is quite soft and the men
would, when tracking along the shore, often sink in up to their
ankles. For more than twenty miles this rock was observed, and
it was from it I obtained fossils. At the place where the Hudson's
Bay Company got their supply of tar for the boats, I noticed a
little stream of water flowing into the pool, which was coated with
an oil scum and under the stream was an abundance of tar.
Instead of getting the tar on the beach, as I expected, I took
it from this pool, which was about forty feet down the stream.
I filled one jar at the spring and another jar on the beach by taking the tar and sand and washing it in the water. That there
must be enormous quantities, I am quite satisfied, on account of
having seen the tar along the bank for over one hundred miles. 120 DOWN THE PEACE RIVER
On the 8th, we reached the forks of the Clearwater and were
received by Mr. Moberly, the gentleman in charge of the post.
Here, we learned that the food we had expected to get had not
reached him so we were placed on short rations again.
Mr. Moberly informed me that he had examined the channel
of the Athabasca all the way to the lake, the past season and found
water enough in it at its lowest stage to float a steam-boat drawing
six feet.    I carried his plans to Winnipeg that same fall.
We now entered the Clearwater and had much difficulty in
many places in ascending the river as the water was getting low.
The last day on the river, our food gave out and the men worked
steadily along with the boats, frequently stopping to rest and
have a smoke. Later, during one of our stops, I said to one of
the men, "How far have we to go now?" He considered solemnly for a few moments and then said, "Five smokes." I construed this to be true information as regards the distance, but
soon learned that the men, in making the ascent, stopped at
certain points to rest and, of course, smoke.
Late in the afternoon, we reached Methye Portage and volunteers were called for by Mr. King, to see how many men felt
able to walk across the portage, which was fourteen miles. Over
twenty volunteered and the rest of us pitched our tents and sadly
sat down to wait for night, as we knew that we would get no more
food until the next morning, and we had been all day without
any. I may mention that the half-breeds and Indians showed no
signs of discontent because we were starving, but just tightened
their belts and walked on.
We were hardly settled in our tents, and I was writing in
my note book very dolefully about our condition, when I heard a
great uproar and an old squaw arrived with thirteen rabbits
strung round her. Early in the day, a runner had been sent
ahead of the men to the portage and a squaw had been out setting
traps and she brought the thirteen for the starving men.
After breakfast, brought over by one of the men, we all
started across the portage. We learned that the boat at the other
side of the portage was waiting for me, and we hurried across and
I only remained   long   enough to eat a few mouthfuls at the DOWN THE PEACE RIVER 121
southern end of the portage before I embarked for Isle-a-la-Crosse.
The men were anxious to be off as they had only three days' provisions and it would take a week to get to our destination. I got
five days' provisions from Mr. King, but, as soon as I learned that
the men were on short rations, I put mine into the common stock.
My present companions could all speak English, the greater
number having been brought up in Manitoba. After poling down
a little river about two miles, we stopped for dinner and here was
an old half-breed who fished and raised potatoes. I bought some
potatoes and fish and we went a short distance further and camped
under the lee of a point.
On the 15th, it was quite mild and pleasant and felt almost
like summer and, shortly after, we passed into the Methye Lake and
the outlet of the lake was full of white-fish apparently going upstream. We had supper at Buffalo House on Buffalo Lake and,
after supper, the wind being fair, we embarked and sailed steadily
on until 4 a.m., when, the wind failing, we put ashore. After
sunrise, a head wind sprang up with which we battled all day and
reached the "Narrows," that connect Buffalo and Clearwater lakes,
before dark. Chipewyan House is situated at the eastern end of
the "Narrows" and at the head of Clearwater Lake. Here the
Chipewyans have built themselves a number of houses. The
evening we arrived there, one old fellow named Edward Big Belly,
was making a table and appeared quite an expert with the plane
and chisel.
Our supper, that night, was somewhat peculiar. I sat at the
table and ate fish and potatoes with a knife and fork. The men
sat on the floor and ate them with their fingers. Old Edward
Big Belly, with his wife, sat in a corner eating pemmican, while
all around on the floor were Indians smoking and staring at the
eaters. The Chipewyan women looked more like men than their
husbands. Of course, the former do all the work, while the latter
only eat and smoke.
Sept. 19th. The head wind of the night before detained us at
the House and, in the morning, our prospects were no brighter ; the
wind being still strong from the same quarter. Early in the
afternoon, we started and, shortly after, were wind-bound again at ^
the mouth of Deep River which connects La Crosse and Clearwater lakes. Here we were compelled to remain all day owing
to the gale which blew directly up the river.
To make matters worse,, our provisions were exhausted and
we could not set our net owing to the wind. Forty miles still lay
between us and Isle-a-la-Crosse, but plenty of fish were to be had
if we could only reach their haunts. One of the men went out to
hunt and shot a partridge and came in and prepared it for the pot.
To add to the flavor of the bouillon, he put the pemmican into the
pot and boiled it with the partridge. This was the fare for seven
of us.
The wind fell during the night and in the morning we started
for Clearwater Lake, but found the wind still dead ahead so we
were compelled to stop at the entrance to the lake, but ran into
a sheltered bay and set our net. We set the net safely and in a
short time, we had caught eight fine white fish. At once they
were made ready for the pot and, Indian fashion, were cut down
the back and thrown in the pot. After boiling the proper time,
they were not served up but eaten exactly as I had seen Indians
on Lake Superior eat, six years before. I thought it such a peculiar way of eating fish that I always brought it in in my lectures,
when I was speaking about Lake Superior—we all sat around the
pot and each man, when the bouillon cooled enough, would dip
in his hand and take out the fish, and we all rejoiced.
On Tuesday morning, September 21st, we sailed up the lake
with a steady breeze and, late in the afternoon, when looking forward, saw two points covered with aspen. They ran out into the
lake on either hand; ahead, the lake extended from these points
and was lost in the distance. The placid water, the bright sunshine, the rounded outline of the land, the deciduous leaves of
the forest trees touched with the first tints of autumn, interspersed with pyramidal spruce, made a scene seldom seen except
by the wanderer in distant lands.
When I reached the fort, I was heartily welcomed by Mr.
MacMurray, the officer in charge of the establishment, and I
learned from him that the only way I could reach Green Lake
would be by taking passage with Edward Big Belly, who had DOWN THE PEACE RIVER 123
followed us from Chipewyan House, who was going to Green
Lake to trade. A bargain was soon made and it was agreed to
start early the next morning. Edward was accompanied by two
boys, a son and a nephew, and had a very nice birch bark canoe
which would carry us all in safety.
The distance from Methye Portage to Isle-a-la-Crosse is
computed as being one hundred and thirty miles. I was warned
by Mr. MacMurray that Edward Big Belly was not a good Indian,
and to be careful of my provisions, while I accompanied him in
the canoe. I found out later that he was only a bad Indian because he preferred dealing at Green Lake rather than leaving his
furs with Mr. MacMurray. The next morning, I started for
Green Lake and, as we left the land, the wind increased and, being
fair, a blanket was hoisted and our canoe sped like a thing of life
across the lake. The wind kept increasing and by the time we
reached Beaver River it had risen so much that, had we been in a
wooden canoe, we must have been swamped. The wind, still
increasing, we rushed up the river at railroad speed and camped
in the evening on one of the long, narrow islands with which the
river is filled.    I quote again from my diary :
"We started with four days' provisions, but hoped to make
the distance in three. My comp*anions know nothing of English
but are kind and competent. We were early astir on the morning
of the 23rd. For the first three hours after starting, there was
swift water, alternately with still pools, and at the second forks of
the river, which we reached a little before noon, the main stream
continued about one hundred yards wide, though the volume of
the water was sensibly diminished."
At the first streak of dawn on the 25th, we were off and, after
passing two short rapids, all current ceased and the river looked
like a stagnant pool and, as we proceeded further up, the current
still got less and, in the afternoon, about 2 p.m., we came to the
discharge of Green Lake. On reaching Green Lake, Mr. Sinclair,
the officer in charge of the post, told me that the lake was raised
more than twenty feet every spring by the influx of Beaver River.
Mr. Sinclair received me most kindly and at once took steps
to enable me to continue my journey.   The only available animals 124 DOWN THE PEACE RIVER
were an old ox and a miserable horse and, with these and a young
Crée for guide, who was never over the road before, I was to start
the next day, from the southern end of the lake, for Carlton, a
distance of 140 miles.
On the afternoon of the 27th, Mr. Sinclair took me up the
lake in a birch-bark canoe, so small that I had to stand in the
water and hold it while Mr. Sinclair took his seat in the stern.
Up till now, I had been in boats which were perfectly safe, but this
one was so small that the two of us almost filled it and to sit
steady in it, while he paddled, was almost impossible. I certainly was afraid for my life, and asked him if I might be permitted
to paddle as well as himself. He said that I might, if I wanted to,
and I found that working took my mind off the danger. Long
after dark, we reached the head of the lake and I thanked God for
His preserving care of me, since I started down McLeod's River
on the eventful 3rd of July, and for having kept me safely through
nearly 1,600 miles of river navigation.
My guide was a poor childish fellow, but I got along very
well with him although I could not understand a word he said
nor he one of mine. We did not take the old horse, but a cart
and the ox, to carry my stuff. I walked in the rear, while he
walked by the ox or sat in the cart. To pass away the time, I
would sometimes sit down by the side of the road and read four
or five pages of the "Heart of Midlothian," which Mrs. MacMurray had given me at Isle-a-la-Crosse. On the third morning, on
our way, I sat down, as usual, to read on the roadside and read a
number of pages and rose up and walked on expecting to overtake
the cart. WThen I had walked a mile or more and had not seen
it, I became frightened and thought that possibly the man had
hidden in the woods and left me to shift for myself. This thought
pressed heavily upon me as I had nearly one hundred miles to go
before I reached the Mission, where I would get food. After
walking a mile, I turned back and went to the place where I had
sat down and examined carefully both sides of the road as I went,
and found that the Indian had not turned off, and so I concluded
that, by some unaccountable means, he had disappeared and that
there was no hope for me but to go on to the Mission.   About DOWN THE PEACE RIVER 125
two o'clock, I started, determined to walk on as fast and as far
as possible before I gave out. In going back, I noticed certain
things on the roadside, amongst others a dead horse, and I wondered
to see it was so like one I had seen in the morning, the only difference being that it was on the left hand side of the road instead
of on the right hand, as the one was in the morning. Proceeding,
I came to where there was a broken stone, which I examined, and
found it was one that I had myself broken in the morning and
here I had been all day going back on the road I had come. The
scales immediately fell from my eyes and I saw that I had been
blinded all day and had been completely lost all that time. I
turned back and walked rapidly to where I had sat down in the
morning and discovered that instead of sitting on the right side
of the road, I had sat down on the left hand, and, when I had
risen to my feet, I turned back instead of forward. I mention
this to show that, on a plain road, a man may get lost if he is
not attentive to what he is doing. In all my long life, I never
got lost but once and that was on a beaten road.
It was now growing dark and I heard a faint "Hello," which
turned out to be that of the Indian who had turned back to see if
he could find me. He had stopped at noon and, as I had not come
up with him, he waited the afternoon in hopes I would turn up, but,
having failed to do so, he came to look for me. I reached camp at
dark and tried to explain to him what had happened, but he could
not understand and he told the people at the Mission, when we
reached there, that I had been sick when, in reality, I was lost.
In due time, we reached the Mission and found it in charge
of an English clergyman, called Hines, and, in all my experience,
he seemed to be the most practical missionary I had come across.
He told me his aim was to teach the children English and the
old men and women how to farm. This, he was doing, in
the most practical manner, and, as I sat in his little school,
the Sunday I spent with him, and saw the crowd of attentive
children and old men and women scattered all over the floor
listening to what he said and the children's answers, I saw for
the first time what a wonderful power education of a practical
kind would have on the future of the Indians. 126 DOWN THE PEACE RIVER
On the evening of the 6th of October, I reached Carlton, having been thirty-three days on the road from Fort Chipewyan,
the computed distance being 600 miles, so that, including stoppages, I made twenty miles per day. I experienced no difficulty
in passing through the country as the officers of the Hudson's
Bay Company had done everything in their power to assist me.
The Indians did everything they could to make me comfortable
and never touched an article nor did an improper act on the
whole trip.
I rested two days at Fort Carlton and, in the meantime, had
the pleasure of meeting Capt. Crozier, of the Northwest Mounted
Police, who had been a Lieutenant in the company in which I
served at Prescott, in 1866. We were pleased to see each other
and Mr. Clark, the gentleman in charge of Carlton, invited us
both to dine with him that evening. Besides the Captain and
myself, there were two priests, one of whom was named Père
Andreau. While taking dinner, we were discussing the future of
the country and Père Andreau said that he was going to bring a
large number of half-breeds from Manitoba to settle on the Saskatchewan and form a new French province. After dinner, I told
the Captain that I would make a note of what the priest had
said as it meant trouble in the future and that I would advise
him to do the same. Whether he did so or not I cannot say, but
he commanded the Northwest Mounted Police at the battle of
Duck Lake, the first engagement in the rebellion of 1885.
On the 8th, I was again on my way and this time in company
with a number of half-breeds who had brought goods from Fort
Garry to Carlton for the Hudson's Bay Company. I purchased a
light wagon to convey myself and traps across the plains and one
of the half-breeds furnished the horse. He did everything for
me and agreed to take me to Winnipeg in twenty-one days,
weather permitting, for $45.00. I may say here that, all the time
I have spoken about travelling, I never had a shilling in my pocket
as all my expenses were furnished by the Hudson's Bay Company.
We now had six hundred miles further to go before I reached
Fort Garry.
When we came to the South Saskatchewan, we crossed on DOWN THE PEACE RIVER 127
Batoche's ferry and I found him a very fine man. We got along
wonderfully well until we had both oxen and horses in our company and, owing to the cattle being with us, we could not make
as much progress as many of the men wished. Besides myself,
we had with us a young fellow who was going from Prince Albert
and wished to reach Winnipeg before winter. We passed along
as rapidly as possible and had some uncommon experiences on
our way but I will only mention a few. One, in particular, comes
up before me and I will relate it as a novel experience.
One afternoon, we reached a bad place on the road called a
slough. In the middle of it my horse refused, or was unable, to
pull the wagon out, so the guide and myself were left sitting in
the pool. He called out to one of the men, who immediately
took his horse out of the cart and hitched a rope to the horse's
tail well up to the rump, and threw the other end to us in the
cart. My guide fastened the rope to the shafts and the half-
breed on shore and the one in the wagon, after a few "sacrés,"
started both horses on the jump and we were hauled to shore in a
few moments. I expected the horse's tail to be pulled out of the
beast, but instead we were brought to dry land. Since that time,
I have learned that it was the common way amongst the half
breeds in olden times to pull one out of the mire.
As it was late in the season, we decided to start early in the
morning and go on as fast as possible by day and this mode of
travel we kept up for quite a number of beautiful days.
One morning, when we were about to start, I decided to
remain behind and write up my notes and was busily engaged
when I became poetical and had just written: "I think I hear
the tramp of the coming millions," arid, as I had reached this
period, a concert broke out a few yards behind me, and, on looking around, I saw a line of coyotes sitting on a ridge and giving
their peculiar howl. I need scarcely add that I never became
poetical again. When I mentioned it to the men, they said that
coyotes always followed a party of half-breeds when on the trail
to pick up the refuse of the camp when they had left.
Our fine weather continued until the evening of the 23 rd of
October, when it began to thicken up and the next morning we 128 DOWN THE PEACE RIVER
were off long before daylight, but, as the day broke, we saw that
we were in for a snowstorm. We halted in a little clump of willows and had a cup of tea.
We had scarcely started again when the storm broke and, in
a few minutes, the air was filled with driving snow. For the next
sixteen miles, there was neither bush nor tree, and for the whole
of this distance we tramped against a furious gale and driving
storm. Late in the afternoon of the 24th, we reached the timber
and, under the direction of our experienced guide, penetrated to
a little marsh surrounded by wood, and camped. We could hear
the roar of the gale outside, but not a breath stirred where we
were. There was fine pasture for the horses and cattle in the
marsh and we had no difficulty in making ourselves comfortable.
In a short time, we had blazing fires and, after the ice was thawed
off our clothes, we sat about the fire making a shelter for the
night. I lay under the wagon with my feet to the fire and was
so comfortable that I never wakened until the morning.
Next morning, the snow continued to fall just as heavily as
before and a consultation was held as to what was best to be done.
Most of us preferred to remain in camp, but my guide would not
hear of it. He said that our only hope lay in pushing on as fast
as possible before the horses and cattle gave out. We trudged
on and at one o'clock reached Boggy Creek. In this valley, we
had dinner, and, as it seemed to be clearing, the young fellow,
who was with us, and myself, remained behind intending to overtake the others in a short time. When we left the creek, we
thought the snow was falling less heavily, but, when we reached
the ridge, we found it was blowing a blizzard, and exactly in our
faces, as we started out on the trail. We now had twelve miles
over an open trail to go before we would reach Pine Creek where
we had decided to camp for the night. The young man and myself decided to trot along with our heads lowered to see if we could
escape the force of the wind. We knew we were on the trail, but
were without any tracks as the wind had obliterated the tracks
of our party immediately after they had passed. We wondered
why we did not overtake them, as we knew we were going very
fast, but we learned later that they all ran for their lives.    By DOWN THE PEACE RIVER 129
and by the young man said that the storm was breaking, because
he could see much better, and I looked across at his face and said :
"Why, you fool, your whole face has frozen up and you are looking through ice." We turned our backs to the wind and then
cleared our faces. By this time, I was afraid that our trip was
going to have a serious ending, as we were on a trackless prairie
and had to face a blizzard that filled the whole atmosphere with
snow. By good fortune, I knew that the grass on each side of a
trail is longer than the grass on the trail and, as I ran along, I
kept my eyes on the left-hand side of the road and, by that means,
kept the track.
Towards evening, we reached the creek, and found that the
men had erected a teepee and had a blazing fire in the center and
everything was comfortable. When we reached the camp, we
were thirsty, but I was unable to open my mouth and the water
was poured down my throat by one of the men, as I wore a long
beard at this time.    It took me over an hour to get it tha