British Columbia History

BC Historical News Nov 30, 1968

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3 (
i vj s
President: Mrs. Mabel Jordon
First Vice-President: Mr H.. R. Brammall
Second Vice-President: Mr G. E. Bowes
Secretary: Mr P.  A. Yandle
Treasurer: Mrs G. E. Bowes
Executive Committee:    Mr H. B.  Nash
Col.  G. S. Andrew,:
Vol. 2 No, 1 November 1968
Published November, February, April and June eaeh year
by the B.C. Historical Association. Editor: P.A. Yandle,
3450 West 20th Avenue, Vancouver 8, B.C.
It seems incredible that by the time this issue reaches the
members we will have reached the halfway point between our conventions.
Therefore it seems that it should be appropriate to make you all
aware of the place and date of next year's event. Council, after
much consideration chose Penticton for the site of the next convention, and arrangements have been made for Friday and Saturday,
May 23rd and 24th, 1969, and it will be held in the new Fsnticton
Inn. A successful convention is a well attended convention, and for
a good attendance please make a note of the date and plan to be there.
The "News" will keep you posted on all special .events and speakers
as soon as arrangements are completed.
It is with regret that I bring to your attention the passing
of Rev. John Goodfellow of Princeton. I believe tha" it is :orrect
that he was one of the founding members of the British Columbia
Historical Association even though his member society is not now'
within the Asscciation. I knew him vrell when I lived in Princeton
in the late 1930's, and in those poverty-stricken days used to
admire his ability to organise and conduct an annual hike over the
old Hope-^rln^ooon Trail. It is becoming increasingly difficult to
find amongst us man as dedicated as John Goodfellow to preserve and
record I'eal history for posterity.
On a happier note I would like to wish good heal oh and happi-
nes... to Colonel Andrews of Victoria who is retiring shortly., He has
planned an extensive tour of Mexico, which should be an exciting
start to his carefree future.
During the late suamer season in a brief stay at Williams
Lake I spent an evening with Mr and Mrs Douglas Stevenson, Mr
Stevenson had reoentiy given a talk on Alfred Waddington and is in
the process of polishing up his notes into an article' for publication.
It was flattering -co me to know that the "News" was considered shipshape enough to do the launching.
There is still a problem of getting copy from the affiliated
societies of their activities, for the Notes and Comments section of
the "News". Whatever I get that is newsworthy will go into each
Issue. It should be submitted on a regular basis rather than a yearly
accumulation given at the Convention, when space in the "Newsn is at
a premium. My file for this issue looks as sc nty as a grass crop
grown on a publie highway. Source material for articles in future copies of the "News"
has been sent to me by the Nanaimo Historical Society and will appear
in the near future.
It may be of interest to members that James Nesbitt, in two
consecutive issues of the Islander, October 27th and November 3rd,
used extensively and gave credit to our President's address to the
Convention. It was the feature article of the last copy of the
"News", the memoirs of Florence Baillie Grohman.
The requests for subscriotions come from farther afield each
time. The latest requests have been from the British Museum and
Harvard University. Would yon believe it?
Minutes of Second Council Meeting of the British Co!i-"-v*'-
Historical Association held on September 15th, 1968 at 4649 West
12th Avenue, Vancouver. Present: Mrs Jordon (Pres.). Mr R. Brammall
(V.Pres.), Mrs G. Bowes (Treas.), Mr P. Yandle (Sec), Col. G,S.
Andrews (Exec.Mem.), Mr H.B. Nash (Exec.Mem.); Delegates: Mr D.
Schon (Nanaimo), Mr G, Bowes (Vancouver ).
The minutes of the Council meeting held on May 25th, 1963
were read and adopted on motion.
Arising out of the minutes it was learned that the picture cf
Captain Vancouver had not been delivered to Victoria. After considerable discussion it was moved Yandle, seconded Andrews that the
offer of Mr Brammall to deliver the picture to Victoria be accepted
and that it be done so before October 23rd to coincide with a party
to be held on that date in Victoria, and further, that M.r Brammall
take, out the necessary insurance policy to protect the picture at
all times. - Carried.
It was the understanding of Council that museums displayir. j
the picture would also have their own insurance protection to cover
it while in their care.
The question of fencing the petroglyphs at Cranbrook had
been under study by the President, and the information that she had
at this time was that the property had been purchased by an Ar" -.Lean
and was now fenced private land.; therefore the Association no longer
had any authority to make any further representation in this matter.
Col. Andrews asked if it would be possible to get a legal description
of the prooerty and the President agreed to do this for him.
The Treasurer reported that $3484.81 had been transferred to
a '"rue Savings Account at a branch of the Canadian Imperial Bank of
Co,mmerce and would bear current interest rates for that category. The- Editor--wae----instructed to make a list-<rf-s-appliss-req^-red-
"to-publish the B.C. News,, so that-'s.ome,:..arrangement could be made by
the Provincial Archivist through Col. Andrews to obtain them from
the Gestetner Company in Vancouver.
Reports of Mrs Bowes and Mrs Jordon on progress of establishing
a joint convention between the B.C. Historical Association and the
Okanagan Historical Society to be held in the Okanagan Valley next
year were given to Council, Mrs Jordon stated that she had been in
correspondence and had phoned Mrs Dewdney, the President, for last
minute informition, who informed her that a letter had been sent
from their executive to the Secretarv of the B.C. Historical Association that would be self-explanatory. Unfortunatelj'1, due to the
aftermath of the postal strike it had not arrived. However, the
President felt optimistic as did Mrs Bowes that such a convention
could be mutually agreed upon. There were, however, certain difficulties to overcome: the Okanagan Historical Society made their
convention a one day affair, with a banquet on Sunday. Their date
was May 4th at Kelowna, and the Hope-Princeton highway could be bad
at such an early date in May and the weather could be also quite
cool. Mrs Bowes felt that Penticton would possibly induce more people
to come, rather than the added distance to Kelowna, and a banquet on a
Sunday left no travelling time to return to the coast for work on M0nday.
By an expression of opinion by members, Council felt that we
still had nothing definite to work on, and. it would not be physically
possible to call Council together to discuss and arrange such a
convention when the two bodies concerned had to plan by correspondence through their respective secretaries. As it would, be too much
to expect that the Secretary be left with the burden of further
planning it was moved Bowes, seconded Brammall, that Mrs Jordon head
a committee to include Mrs Bowes, Col. Andrews and Mr Schon- with
powers to add. This committee to have powers to act. - Carried.
Further discussion suggested to the Committee that it might
be advisable to limit the convention to two days, and to consider
a date after the 24th May week-end.
The Secretarj'' was asked to pass on to the Committee a copy
of the letter from Mrs Dewdney '-.'hen it arrived.
A letter from the Social Studies Teachers' P.S.I, requesting
copies of the essays entered in the Centennial Scholarship of the
B.C. Historical Association-was discussed and it was the decision
of Council to pass on copies of the award winning essays.
Meeting adjourned on motion at 4.30 p„m.
ALBERNI   The Alberni Historical Society had an exhibit in the
Alberni District Fall Fair parade in conjunction the Community
Arts Council. This took the form of a hand operated fog horn used
at Polly's Point on the Alberni Inlet. In emergencies it was used- 4
until 1967. The fog horn was the gift of the Port Alberni Harbour
The Society has published a booklet by Margaret Trebett entitled
"Pioneer Women of the Alberni Valley", which costs $1.00. They also
have available-hasti-notes, 500 per pkt of 12, six scenes of the
Paper Mill (the first in B.C.) 1894-96, and six scenes of the Anderson
Sawmill, 1861-65. These as well as the booklet are obtainable from
Mrs F.A. Ford, R.R.#3, Stirling Arm Road, Port Alberni, B.C.
GULF ISLANDS  Winter conditions prevented meetings in the new year
until March when Mrs A. Turnbull was guest speaker at a North Pender
meeting., her subject "The Sternwheelers of the Columbia River." The
annual meeting was heldrin Aoril and in May the society was the guest
of the Saanich Pioneers in a tour of the countryside and a visit to
their Museum. At the June meeting two graduates of the Vancouver City
College's course for Museum Technicians described their training and,
as a result, in July a most successful historical workshop was held
en Saturna Island under the guidance of Mrs Hindmarch, with a display
along museum lines under the direction of Mrs May Louttit of the
Technician Course. At a picnic meeting on Galiano Island applications
for the annual bursary to an Indian student were received and after
study by the membership $100 each was awarded to Jennifer Williams,
continuing Secondary School with an excellent record for leadership,
and George James, entering the Vancouver Vocational Institute's
course in draughtsmanship.
NANAIMO   At the first meeting of the season Mr Jack Hardcas-'
spoke to a full house about his work. Mr Hardcastle, who is 8b years
old, is a famous marine artist and. his paintings of ships are eagerly
sought by maritime museums and collectors the world over,
WILLIAMS LAKE  A move to reestablish the Williams Lake Society is
underway according to Captain Evans-Atkinson whom I met recently.
He has been instrumental in bringing to the attention of the Provincial Government the need to establish a 350 acre wild-life park on
Snowshoe Plateau, and to improve the 40 mile existing road and. trail.
Quoting him from the Cariboo News, he said "All we want for a road
is a passable summer gravel affair, something deliberately circuitous
so people can take time to enjoy the scenery". We will be watching
to see if Victoria can hear you calling, Williams Lake!
The following is the address given at the banquet of the B.C.
Historical Association's Annual Convention held in May 1968. Mr
Clifford Wilson, who gave this address, in addition to holding many
other positions, was editor of the Beaver, Curator of the Hudson's
Bay Company Museum and Historian of the Company in Canada from 1939-57=
.,, Some of you may wonder why I have chosen this particular
title for my talk tonight. After all, you will say, Robert Campbell is by no means forgotten; and I grant you that this is more likely
to be. true of this, gathering than would be the case anywhere else •.
in Canada — for two reasons: First, you are especially interested
In tRe history of.this province, and secondly because the Yukon
Territory, which was Campbell's chief field of exploration, is very
close to British Columbia. In fact, to quote Stephen Leacock in
another context, it is only three-quarters of an inch away from it.
• At any rate I am sure that if you were able to ask, say, two
thousand reasonably well educated people in a gathering at Calgary's
auditorium, or Winnipeg's .new performing arts theatre; at O'Keefe
Centre in Toronto, or the- Place des Artes in Montreal: how many of
them had ever heard of Robert Campbell, maybe two or three people
would put their hands up. Yet one learned Montrealer who had just
returned from some pretty primitive travel over hundreds of miles
in the wilds of the Yukon about eighty years ago was able to write
as follows:
"The utmost credit must be accorded to the pioneer fur traders
for the enterprise displayed by them in carrying their trade into the
Yukon the face of difficulties so great, and at such an
immense distance from their base of supplies. To explorations of
this.kind, performed in the service of commerce, unostentatiously,
and as. matters of simple duty, by such men as Mackenzie, Fraser,
Thompson, and Campbell, we owe the discovery of cur great north-west
The man who wrote that in 1887 was the great Canadian geologist, Dr George M. Dawson.
.-Well, of course, everyone knows about Mackenzie, Fraser and
Thompson, But Campbell — who was he? That question I hope to
answer in some small measure tonight.
He was, like many notable officers of the North West and
Hudson's Bay Companies, a Scotsman. Born one hundred and sixty
years ago in Perthshire; his boyhood was largely spent tending, his
father's flocks on the Grampian Hills, When ha was 22 his fur
trading cousin, Chief Factor James McMillan, came home on furlough ■
and stayed, with the Campbells, and the young man listened enraptured
to his tales of travel and danger among the wild tribes and along
the wilder rivers of what is now British Columbia. McMillan•had-.
accompanied Governor Simpson on his famous canoe journey of 1824-5; •■
from York Factory to Fort George on the Columbia and back; and in'
1827 he had founded Fort Langley.
The upshot of this visit of his to the Campbells was that in
1830 young Robert sailed, for York Factory on. board a Company ship
with his. cousin and Chief Trader Donald Ross.- At Red River McMillan
was placed in charge ;of the new experimental farm a few miles- up
the Assiniboine River from Fort Garry; and at the beginning of May
1831, Campbell joined him there as his assistant. ■•
"I was so constantly on the move," he writes in his auto- 6
biography, "from earliest daylight till dark, that it was seldom I
was more than four hours out of the 24 in bed — a habit I was thankful for all my life after." And we shall see how useful that habit
was during his first year of exploration along the Liard River.
This bucolic existence, however, was not the sort of life for
which the eager young Scot had joined the Hudson's Bay Company. As
he put it: "I had a hankering after the more stirring life I had
heard so much of. So early in May I requested to be transferred to
the Fur Trade, as Governor Simpson had suggested. I proceeded with
the boats to York Factory where I was appointed to the Mackenzie
River district. The Governor's last words to me were: 'Now Campbell,
don't you get married, as we want you for active service'."
Well, Campbell did get married — twenty-five years later . . .
Travelling by the usual route via Portage la Loche and Lake
Athabasca, he arrived in mid-October, 1834> at Fort Simpson, on an
island in the Mackenzie River below the mouth of the Liard. This
famous depot of the fur trade, which is still flourishing, was the
headquarters of the Mackenzie River district. It was thus the
capital of that huge area extending down the mighty river as far as
the arctic soa and (in due course, as exploration proceeded) over
the mountains to the Yukon River. And. it was to be Campbell's field
of operations for the next eighteen years.
The day after he arrived, a canoe was sent up the Liard River
to Fort de Liard to notify Chief Trader Murdoch McPherson that he
was to succeed John Stuart in command of the district. And that, as
we shall see, was a fateful decision for the future welfare of the
Company's operations up the West Branch of the Liard. As I remember,
the word most frequently used by Campbell in his private diary to
describe the policies of Murdo Mcpherson is "imbecile".
Campbell was put in charge of Fort de Liard for the following
summer; and the next spring, when McPherson went off to Portage la
Loche to meet the annual brigade of boats from the east, he was left
in charge of the depot.
One day in August a canoe was sighted coming across the
Mackenzie from the mouth of the Liard. Campbell went down to meet
It, and was astonished to see, sitting amidships, a Company clerk
named Hutchison, who was supposed to be establishing a new post
hundreds of miles away at Dease Lake. And he had a hair-raising tale
to tell.
He said that he had not proceeded far up the Liard when an
alarm was raised that hundreds of fierce Indians were advancing down
the river intent on murdering them all. Panic had seized the whole
party, and they had jumped into their canoes and never stopped
paddling until they reached Fort de Liard. Then, after a short stay
there, they had hurried on to Fort Simpson.
This was the kind of Adventure with a capital A that young Campbell had been looking for, and '"'hen McPherson returned from
the Portage he asked if he could take another party to Dease Lake
and carry out the task allotted to Hutchison. McPherson gladly
agreed, and in March 1837 he left with a party of men on snowshoes
for Fort de Liard. Arrived there, they built two eight-man birch-
bark canoes, and finally in May Campbell succeeded in persuading
enough men to come with him.
On the second, night of their voyage up the Liard some of the
Indians deserted; and in the cold light of morning, half the other
men refused to go any further.' There was nothing to do but put
back to the fort and. try to recruit more men.
Now, perhaps this would be as good a place as any to insert
in this tale some idea of the tumultuous river that was the only
highway to the country that Campbell wanted to reach. Let me
quote again from the report of Dr. George M. Dawson. Of Campbell
and his people he writes? "Less resolute men would scarcely have
entertained the idea of utilizing, as an avenue of trade, a river
so- perilous of navigation as the Liard had proved to be when
explored,- So long, however, as this appeared to be the most practicable route to the country beyond the mountains, its abandonment
was not even contemplated. Neither distance nor danger appear to
have been taken into account, and in spite of every obstacle a way
was opened and a series of posts established, extending from1 Fort
Simpson on the Mackenzie to Fort Yukon."
On the same subject, Chief Factor James Anderson, who took
over the Mackenzie River district in 1851; writes of the Liard
River: "You can hardly conceive the intense horror the men have,
to go up to Frances Lake. They invariably, on rehiring, endeavour
to be exempted from the West Branch. The number of deaths which-
have occurred there is 14. Of' these, 3 died from starvation, and
11 from drowning."
And so, if we add to these dangers the fear that Campbell's
men had of being massacred by Indians, one can hardly wonder that
he had difficulty in recruiting enough for the journey. Nevertheless, so persuasive and determined was this tall, muscular Scotsman,
that the morning after his return downstream to Fort Liard, he
was able to start again with two full crews.
In the meantime the summer freshet had come, and when the
river is in flood -~ as Campbell writes — no boat that is built
can ascend from the lower end of the Devil's Portage. The current
is not only strong, but full of rapids and whirlpools, and rushes
between pernend.:' oular walls of rock two to three hundred feet high.
.When the Devil's Portage was reached, some of the bales' of
trade goods were carried part way across before dark. Next morning,
as was his habit, Campbell rose very early and qnietly left the
camp to reconnoitre-the portage  On the way across he noted
particularly how the pieces were lying that had been left at the
end of the first carry. But on his return from the head of the
portage ho noticed that one of the bales had been shifted and 8
was cat at one corner. Back at camp,, he found the aen sitting doing
nothing, just waiting, with gun in- hand. Hostile Indians, they told
bim, were lurking nearby. And as proof of this, they said that one
of the bales dropped the evening before had been cut open.
Campbell, of course, had them there. He told them how he had
got up early, while all of them were still in their blankets, and had
walked across to the end of the portage, noting the recently-cut bale
on the way back. There was no doubt, he said, that one of them had
done it. And he- ordered them to get moving at once, and not to try
any more silly tricks.
By the time they got to deserted Fort Halkett at the mouth of
the Smith River, the season was too late for them to go on, so Campbell decided to winter there. "However," he writes, "I determined to
go on to Portage Brule, the soot JSr Hutchison and party had evacuated
so hurriedly the year before, and which,- on reaching, we  found- just
as they had-left it. The goods were scattered about all the way down
to the water's edge, just as they had been drooped by the men running
to the canoes. Of course everything was spoilt - except such articles
as ball, shot, etc, - and. the provisions had been eaten by wild animals."
In September- the year's trading outfit was forwarded from Fort
Simpson to the Devil's Portage, and. with it came a letter to Campbell
from Governor Simpson, written at Norway House. "I am very much
pleased," he wrote, "at your spirited tender of your services to
establish Dease's Lake, which has called forth the approbation of
the Council and led to your promotion to the rank of clerk, with an
advance of salary ... „ Let me beg that your attention be particularly
directed to-pushing the trade across the mountains . . and Robert
Campbell is not the man- I take him to be unless in due time he plants
the H.B. standard on the shores of the Pacific." And that, of course,
was just the sort of gubernatorial remark to incite the romantic young
adventurer to greater efforts.
In the spring of 1838 a party came up from Fort Simpson bringing an apprentice elerk, A..R. McLeod, Jr, and. some extra hands for
the summer's work at Dease Lake. When all was ready, Campbell and
his sixteen men resumed their journe3r up the Liard in two canoes.
When they came to the mouth of the Dease River, they turned southwest
and headed upstream to Dease Lake. On the east shore they selected
a site for the new post, and at once began clearing away the surrounding timber.
On July 20th Campbell left most of the men with McLeod to put
.up the fort, and. started off to explore the west side of the Mountains.
With him he toov his interpreter, Hoole, and two fine young Indians,
Lapie and Kitza, whom ho was to find, again and again, a very present
help in time of trouble.
The four men travelled in two- small spruce-bark canoes down
to the south end of the long narrow lake, twenty miles away, and from
there headed southwest across the mountains. From the shoulder of
one of them, the next afternoon, they gw^ed far down on a river that
looked like a white thread running through the deep valley. It turned, out to be the Tuya, a tributary of the Stikine. They had
crossed the height of land from the Arctic•side to the Pacific slope.
Down the steep trail they went till they came to an Indian
bridge spanning the chasm. It was a rude, ricketty structure of pine
poles spliced together with withes and stretched high above a foaming
torrent; and to prevent it from collapsing, the ends of the poles were
loaded down with stones.
As- they approached it they saw smoke rising from a hut on the
far side, and an Indian standing there. They beckoned to him; but as
he refused to come, Campbell and his two Indians started, to cross. The
bridge, which leaned dangerously to one side, swayed and bounced,
threatening to hurl them into the boiling waters far below. But finally
they all got across and. climbed up to the hut — only to find that
the Indian had vanished. His fire was burning brightly, however,
and around it were three metal pots, showing that he had made contact
with white traders. In one of them some salmon was cooking, so they
helped themselves and left in payment a knife and some tobacco.
Then they recrossed the ricketty bridge.
At dawn the next day they spotted a party of sixteen Indians
issuing out of the woods near the hut. Campbell hoisted the Hudson's
Bay flag and beckoned to them, Whereupon the Indians began to cross
the bridge, calling out that they were friends, while their chief
held out a pipe of peace. They turned out to be Nahannis, and they
told Campbell that they- had come from a great gathering of Indians a
dozen miles down the Stikine, presided over by the great chief Shakes.
When Campbell asked them to lead him there, the chief implored
him. not to go. "Shakes will kill you," he said. "His men are as numerous as the sand's of the beaches." The young Scotsman, however, was
adamant, and they all started off for the great camp. Every now and
then they met small groups of Nahannis who would push -ohem and try to
turn them back. At last things began to look so serious that he told
Hoole, the interpreter, and one of the Indian lads to go back to the
bridge and wait for two days. If he did not turn Up in that time,
they were to conclude that he had been killed, and were to cut down
the bridge and head back to the fort on Dease Lake. Beth the Indian
boys refused to go back. Their fathers had told them, they explained,
that if .ever they deserted the white man in danger, they need never
come back themselves. So all four of them went on, wondering, no
doubt, if they would ever return.
At this point I am going to let Campbell tell what happened
in his own words, since I certainly cannot better them. Nor would I
want to abbreviate his account, which sounds almost like a few pages
from 'Rider Haggard'.
"From the top of a hill," he writes, "we caught our first
glimpse of the immense camp of which we had heard so much, and indeed
the description given us was not exaggerated. Such a concourse of
Indians I had never before seen assembled, ^ey  were gathered from
all parts of the Western slope of the Rockies and from along the
Pacific Coast.' These Indians camped here for weeks at a time, living 10
on salmon which could be caught in thousands in the Stikine by gaffing
or spearing, to aid. them in' which they had a sort of clam built across the
the river.
"On the top of the hill I lost sight of my companions, including the Nahany Chief, & went down to the closely packed crowd awaiting us below escorted by an Indian who called himself "Jack" & could
speak a little broken English. Every word I said in reply to the
numberless questions asked me was taken up & yelled by a hundred throats
till the surrounding rocks & the valley re-echoed with the sound..
"Presently a lane was cleared through the crowd for Shakes to
come down to meet me. Shakes was a coast Indian, tall & strongly
built, & as I afterwards learned was all-powerful among the Indians
on that side of the Mountains. He ruled despotically over an immense
band of Indians of different tribes. He came to the Stikine every
yeir, with boats & goods, to the splendid rendezvous where I met him.
Here he traded with the Indians of the Interior for the Russians, who
supplied him with goods at Fort Highfield at the mouth of the river.
He shook hands with me & led me to a tent which had been put up for
me. After entering & sitting down, he produced a bottle of whiskey &
a cup. I merely tasted, the liquor, but all the others in the tent had
a drink.
"Meanwhile the din outside was something fearful. Suddenly
the eaves of the tent were raised from the outside & then the whole
tent was swept away amidst loud, shouts. I was subsequently informed
that this was done by the Nahanies, who regarded, me as their guest &
friend, and who had reasons to suspect that Shakes would murder me
inside & consequently pulled the tent down calling out as they di.d so
"If the White Chief is killed, there will be plenty blood spilled hare."
"I was well armed having pistols & a dirk in my belt, & a double
barrelled, percussion gun, which was a great source of wonder to them
as the only-guns they were familiar with were single-barrelled flint
locks. Shakes wanted, me to fire so that he might see how the gun went
off. Fearing this was only a ruse to render my gun harmless, I took,
the precaution to have ball, powder & cap in my  hand ready to slip in.
immediately after firing a shot  At every report, the whole camp
yelled clapping their hands on their mouths at the same time, & the
noise was frightful.-
"I was glad to find, that some of the Indians knew Dr. McLoughlin
and Mr. (afterwards Sir) James Douglas, both prominent H.B.C. officers
on the Pacific slope. This induced me to write notes addressed to
them & others, giving particulars of my trip & informing them that I
had ascertained, that the so-called Pelly & the Stikine were identical,
& requesting them to forward the information to headquarters. I may
here .add that these notes duly reached their destination.
"I remained in the camp for some time, the object of much
curiosity, till at length getting clear of Shakes & the crowd on the
plain in safety, which wis more than I expected' when I first went
among them, I found my small party also all right on the top of the
hill, where I forthwith hoisted the H.B.C. flag, & cut H.B.C. & date
on a tree, thus taking possession of the country for the Company. 11
"Here too I first met a remarkable woman, the Chieftainess of
the Nahanies. The Nahany tribe over which she and her father, a very
old man, held sway were then about 500 strong, & like other Indians
led a nomadic, hunting life. Now & then a few of the leading men
visited the coast at the mouth of the Stikine; but the Chieftainess
said I was the first White man she ever saw. Unfortunately we had no
proper interpreter, so th^t our conversation was very limited. She
commanded the respect not only of her own people, but of the tribes
they had intercourse with. She was a fine looking woman rather above
the middle height & about 35 years old. In her actions & personal
appearance she was more like the Whites than the pure Indian race.
She had a pleasing face lit up with fine intelligent eyes, which
when she was excited flashed like fire. She was tidy & tasteful in
her dress. To the kindness ^nd influence of this Chieftainess, we
owed much on more than one occasion; in fact in all probability we
owed our lives to her more than once,
"She came bac1'' with us for some miles & urged us on no account
to stop till we were across Terror Bridge, as some of the young
bloods with the sanction of Shakes were likely to slip after us and.
kill us or do us harm.  On parting I gave her my handkerchief & all
the loose nicknacks I had about me & received in return her silver
bracelets, T,'re walked, hard fr.  late & got across the bridge in safety,
much elated at the result of our trip."
All this happened on July 23, so they still had a few weeks
of summer left. Bac'': at Dease L"ke tho5r found that work on the new
fort was oroceeding well, but th-t the daily yield of fish from the .
nets was getting smaller. Neither were the Indian hunters having
much luck in killing moose and. caribou. The only thing to be done to
meet the situation, C-vmpboll decided, was to go all the long, perilous way back to Fort Simoson for more supplies. And. there were.
other considerations. As he aut it: "I considered, that the success
of my recent trip icross the mountains, my  visit to the Russian or
Coist Indians, and m,r identifLotion of the Stikine River, were of
sufficient importance to warrant my going down to Ft. Simpson with
the news."
Accordingly he and. one of his Indian lads left in a small
canoe and paddled down the Dease River and the tumultuous Liard.
When some distance ibove Fell's Gate, enclosed on both sides by
high, oorpendicular "alls of rock, their canoe sprang a leak and
began to sink. Luckily they -sa"..' a large soruce tree growing near
the water's cdga, ind landing on a lodge of rock just in time, they
took some pitch from it and repaired the damage.
Eventually, about August 20th, they reached Ft. Simpson.
Chief Trader "cPherson was glad to hear of their success in reaching
the Stikine, but to C^pbell's amazement ind consternation he refused
point blank to let them have any extra supplies. "Though we went
there at the risv of  our lives," rTites Campbell, "it availed us
little." This was the first, but by no means the last, evidence of
lYcPherson's parsimony, which was to plague Campbell and. his men year
after year,  ^.n so, far from bringing back provisions for the starving
men on Dease Like, they had exhausted their own supplies before they
got there. 12
They passed the long winter in terrible privation, hundreds
of miles from the nearest Hudson's Bay post, scattered in twos and
threes along the lake shore, and barely existing on rations which
included small rodents, skins, and babiche. But their worst trouble
was the frequent visits of what Campbell calls "the Russian Indians."
The first really large band, came- in February, under the chieftainess
whom he idmired so much.
"We were at the time," he- writes, "perfectly destitute of food
of any kind. One of our men had just died at a camp she had passed,
and she expressed her sincere sympathy with our forlorn condition.
Her kindness to us was unbounded. She ordered her servants to cook
the best they had for our use, and it was served under her own directions. We partook of a sumptuous repast — the first for many a day —
consisting of excellent dried salmon and delicious fresh caribou meat.
"In the course of the evening, when everything had seemingly
quieted down for the night, yell after yell suddenly broke the
silence. The now furious savages rushed into the room where McLeod
and I were sitting, loading their guns. Some of them seized our
weapons from racks on the wall and would, assuredly have shot us had
not the Chieftainess, Tho was lodged in the other end of the house,
rushed in and commanded silence. She found out the instigator of the
riot, walked up to him, and stamping her foot on the ground, repeatedly spat in his face, her eyes blazing with anger.
"Peace and quiet reigned as suddenly as the outbreak had burst
forth. I have seen many far-famed warrior chiefs with their bands in
every kind of mood, but I never saw one who had. such absolute authority, or was as bold and ready to exercise it, as that noble woman.
Che was truly a born leader, whose mandate none dared dispute. Her
controlling presence and intrepid interference undoubtedly saved
our lives."'
Some weeks later the Nahannis returned without her, when
Campbell and Louis Lapierre, an old French-Canadian, were alone in
the house. They seized the old man roughly. "Are we to yield to
them" he cried out, "or are we to sell our lives as dearly as we
can?" But-Campbell, fearful that they would surprise his people
scattered along the lake, and murder them in cold blood, told him
not to struggle. The big Scot was a deeply religious man, and it
being a Sunday his Bible was close at hand. Now he picked it up,
and opening it at random, his gaze fell on the ninth verse of the
first chapter of Joshua. There he read: "Have I not commanded thee?
Be strong, and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou
dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee."
■ The words had a salutary effect on the heathen — as well as
on the Presbyterian. He had noticed that these Indians seemed to
stand in great awe of books, and pointing upward, would ask if it
was the Great Spirit speaking, presumably in this case he assured
them that it was. At any rate, they backed away, and he offered
one'of them a blanket to take a.note to McLeod at the far end of
the lake, telling him to gather all the men and hasten to the fort
as quickly as possible. 13
All hands v-ere in the next day, and with their support the
white men were able to get rid. of their troublesome guests. Many
years later, some old papers were discovered at Telegraph Creek post,
on the Stikine, written during that terrible winter of 1838-39, Two
were receipts for dried meat and fish; but the third read: "This old
scoundrel wishes me to give him a certificate of character. He has
been trying to starve ind murder me all winter, (signed) Robt. Campbell.!1
In the spring when the ice went out they prepared to leave for
Fort'Halkett. And the last meal they ate at the Dease Lake post
before abandoning it for good, on May 8th, 1839, consisted of a single
course — the babiche netting from their snowshoes and the parchment
from their windows, all boiled down into a gluey mess.
■ In September the winter's trading outfit reached them at Fort
Halkett, and with it were some despatches for Campbell. The latter
included a letter from Simpson, congratulating him on reaching the
Stikine, and telling him that in the previous winter, he and Baron
Wrangell, acting for the British and Russian trading companies, had
concluded an arrangement whereby the whole of the Russian mainland
territory north to Cape Spencer, including the fort at the entrance
to the Stikine, had been leased to the Hudson's Bay Company for ten
yeaps. "Your services," wrote Simpson, "will now therefore be
required to push our discoveries in the country situated on the Peel
and. Colvile Rivers, and I am quite sure you will distinguish yourself
as much in that quarter as you have latterly done on the west side
of the mountains."
This was the chance that Campbell had been yearning for. In
February 1840 a clerk named William Mowat arrived with instructions
to Campbell that he was to follo"r up the Liard to its source, then
cross the height of land in searc1' of a large river flowing west. If
he could, not find, such a river, he was to look for the headxvaters of
the Colvile, the mouth of which Simpson, the governor's cousin,
had discovered three years before on the Arctic coast of Alaska.
Presumably because its mouth was reported, to be two miles wide,
Simpson had concluded that it must ilso be a long river, and time and
again ha mentions it as the one Campbell must look for. Little did
he realize that its nearest branch lay about 750 miles in an air
line from the northernmost tributary of the Liard.
That tributary, vhich Campbell eventually found, flowed south-,
west into 1 beautiful lake about thirty miles long, having the shape
of a spur. He named the lake Frances, after the governor's lovely
young wife; and the land dividing the arms of the lake, rising about
2650 feet, he named Simpson's Tower, after her husband. Today the
road running from ^atson Lake to Ross River (which Campbell named after
Oonald Poss)1skirts the western shore of Frances Lake.
Following this Testcrn arm, C^ampbell and his men found a river
flowing in from the west, its last ten miles cutting through canyons
in a series of cascades. r»rith Hoole, Lapie, Kitza, and another
Indian, he followed' the tortuous course of this stream on foot and
found it had its source in a lake he named Finlayson. And. close by
he discovered the low-lying Arctic-Pacific watershed. 14
A four-mile portage across it led them to the westward-flowing waters of a creek that Dawson later named after the explorer.
Then, following it down to its mouth, C gmpbell made a great discovery —
the greatest of his career. Let us now hear him tell of it in his
own words:
"On the sixth day of our journey from 'Simpson's Tower' we had
the satisfaction of seeing from a high bank a large river in the distance, flowing northwest. I named the bank from which we caught the
first glimpse of this river "Pelly Banks", and the river "Pelly River"
after our home Governor, Sir J, H. Pelly. Then, descending to the river,
we drank out of its pellucid water to Her Majesty and the Hudson's •
Bay Company."
At the time, or course, Campbell had no idea \7hat he had discovered. And. he was not equipped to pursue his discovery very far.
However, they built a raft and drifted down for a few miles. And
when they turned back, they threw in a sealed tin can containing
some notes on their discovery.
Back at Pelly Banks, Campbell took possession of the country
in the name of the Company — as he had two years before on the hilltop above the great Indian camp — by cutting the letters HBC into
a tree trunk, with the elate, and flying what he calls "the HBC
ensign". This could.have been either of two flags — the red ensign
with the white II B C of today, or the much older houseflag bearing
the coat-cf-arms on a white field, in use until 1953.
They eventual!*- got bick to Fort Halkett in mid-September with
their canoe loaded with provisions, and the very next day the outfit
and packet arrived from Tort Simnson, with the famous guide Jean-
Baptiste Bruce in charge. He, M0wat, and seven canoemen left almost
at once on their return journey. But a few days later, Campbell was
astonished to see Bruce and two others approaching the fort' on foot.-
While running a rapid on the day they had left, and congratulating
themselves that they had passed the worst parts of the river, a
large whirlpool suddenly appeared in front of them, and. the bow was
sucked into it,. The steersman had then jumped overboard, and' the
two ends of the canoe had jack-knifed, throwing them all into the '
tumult of waters. Six, including the steersman, were drowned..
, The winter of IS4O-4I proved to be more or less normal, including a period when.the inmates of-Fort Halkett were on the verge
of starvation. In the soring Campbell went down to the depot and
there met boss, Chief Factor John Lee Lewes, an efficient,
kindly Englishman who mercifully had replaced Murdoch McPherson as
head. man. Lewes gave him a kind welcome and a promise of cordial
support in his work of extending the Company's trading empire.
Campbell had officially reported the success of his trip to
the Pelly River, and in due course received a letter from the Governor —
who had just been knighted, .and was on his way-round the world.  As
far as Campbell himself was concerned, the really important part of
the governor's letter was that in which he was instructed to continue his work of exploration, and in the spring of '42 he again went 15
down to Fort Simpson, where Lewes equipped him with two fine new
boats manned by ten Company servants and two Indians, and gave him
ample supplies for establishing a new post at Frances Lake.
They reached that spur-shaped lake in mid-August and. at once
began building and placing the fish nets on which they would have to
depend for most of their food. In October he again heard from Sir
George,'who told him that the Committee in London had decided against
building new posts in the leased Russian territory. Instead they
would trade with the tribes there through the Coast Indians, as the
Russians had done — especially as the new territory was —• to use
the Governor's words — "not of such extent or so valuable as me
expected it was."
During the ensuing winter the surrounding Indians discovered
the new post, and came to Frances Lake to trade furs and provisions.
Hoole, Campbell's right hand man, who could build houses and canoes,
make sleds and snowshoes, bring home more meat and fish than anybody
else, and serve as interpreter in the trading, was sent across to
Pelly Banks to build another post. While there he built a large
birchbirk canoe, for the ensuing voyage, and in June when Campbell
and. the remaining men joined him, they were soon able to embark on
their voyage of discovery.
The crew consisted, of Hoole, two French Canadians, and three
Indians, including Lapie and Kitza. For food they had. only three
bags of pemmican among the seven °f them, brought all the way from
Fort Edmonton; and for trade goods, a few pounds of tobacco and
beads, a few knives, .axes, and awls.
They saw their first Indians the second day, and with the
help of Hoole. they were able to converse with them. They offered the
men some tobacco, and all had a smoke and something to eat together.
Then the explorers left some presents with them, and paddled away
downstream. A large river cPming from the east Campbell named the
McMillan, after his cousin the chief factor. On the sixth day from
Pelly Banks they reached the junction of a larger river, flowing
from the southeast, and this Campbell named after his friend Chief
Factor John Lee Lewes. This junction of the two headwaters streams
was to prove an historic spot for Campbell.
Below the forks they came upon a large band, of Indians whom,
he refers to either as the Wood Indians or the Gens de Bois. They
also had never seen a white man, and were taken completely by surprise, ^hen the explorer told them he was going further down the
river they were much alarmed, and told him he would, meet with many
hostile tribes who would not only kill them- but also eat them.
This of course greatly frightened Campbell's men, especially the
Indians, and considering they were not equipped for going much
farther, he decided to turn back. "I learned afterwards," he writes,
"that it would have been madness to proceed."
On the third day of the return voyage they noticed, on both
sides of the river, fires burning on the hill tops. And he guessed
that, as in Spotland in the old days, these were signals made to 16
the tribes to gather and. intercept the strangers. So they redoubled
their efforts: with paddle and tracking line to get upstream as fast
as possible, On the fourth morning they spied a band of Indians on
the opposite bank who made signs to them to cross — which they did.
"They were very hostile," writes Campbell, "standing with
bows bent and arrows on  the string, and would not come down from the
high bank to meet us. I sent up some tobacco to assure them of our
peaceful intentions, but they would scarcely remove their hands from
their bows to receive it. We then ascended the bank to them, and
our bold, and at the same time conciliatory demeanour, had the
effect of cooling them down. We had an amicable interview with them,
carried on with words and signs. It required some finessing, however, to get away from them; but once in the canoe we quickly pushed
out of range of their arrows and. struck obliquely downstream for the
opposite bank, while I faced about, gun in hand, to watch their actions."
That night the men were completelj'- tired, out, so he made them
sleep in his tent while he kept watch. "In the forks of a large
tree," he records, "I passed the greater part of that anxious night,
reading Hervey's Meditations and. at the same time keeping a vigilant lookout. Occasionally I descended and walked to the river
bank, but all was still."
Two years afterwards, when friendly relations had been established, with those Indians, he learned that they had dogged the
strangers' steps all day, and when they camped for the night had
lain in ambush behind the crest of the hill and watched their every
movement. And. they confessed that, had Campbell knelt down to
drink, they would, have rushed upon him, and murdered him and his
sleeping followers.
In August 1844 he received orders to build a post at the
junction of the Pelly and Lewes Rivers as soon as possible, but to
delay the exploration of the river below that point in case it
would bring them into competition with their Russian neighbours.
However, four winters were to pass before they were able to make a
concerted attempt. In the meantime, another fort was erected, this
time at Pelly Banks as a jumping-off place-, and some boats and
canoes were built there for transporting men and. supplies 300 miles
downstream. Campbell himself hopefully made another trip to Fort
Simpson to get supplies, but was again refused by the miserly
McPherson. So it was not until -May I848 that Campbell and his new
assistant, James G. Stewart, set off for the Forks with eight
engages and some Indian hunters. They had a boat, a skiff, some
canoes, and a raft of building boards. Fifty miles from the Forks
they found the Indians waiting in large camps, friendly and eager to
meet the traders, The imposing flotilla, the size and character of
which astonished the natives, reached the junction of the Pelly and
Lewes on June 1st, I848. Building was begun at the extreme point
of land between the two rivers and the fort was named Selkirk.
The great drawback to this post was its isolation. By April
1850 they had been living there without any communication with
District Headquarters for eighteen, months, so Campbell sent off 17
Stewart and another man on foot to try and reach Fort Simpson, many
hundreds of miles away. • And in August, an Indian arrived with the
news that they had got back to Frances Lake with a boat-load of supplies.
Campbell and some of the others at once set off to meet Stewart.
They found him waiting for the fall boat, and there he told them of
his gruesome experiences. Arrived at Pelly Banks from Fort Selkirk on
the way out, he had found, that the whole establishment, save one small
house, had burned down in the previous winter. The incompetent in
charge, whom Campbell charitably identified only as "Mr P.", they
found camped close by with one of Campbell's Indians. They had passed
through dreadful suffering all winter and. were emaciated to skin and
bone. The other two men had died of starvation. So had. several
Indians in the vicinity, and some of the poor wretches had descended
to cannibalism.
The following April — that is, of 1851 — Campbell got an
express from Sir George telling him to explore the Pelly downwards as
far as he thought advisable. This was the permission he had been waiting for, and at the end of May he left his good friend Stewart in
charge at Selkirk'and set out in a boat for the unknown North.
After a while they began to meet bands of primitive Indians, who
proved very friendly. Their only arms were bows and. arrows, and
knives which were of bone or stone. Their kettles were woven tightly
of small spruce roots, and their cooking was done by boiling the
water in them by means of hot stones. Campbell's description of
their appearance and dress shows that they were Kutchins.
Other Indians, farther down, told him that before long he would
find a fort on the river bank, manned by people like themselves. Would
it be a Russian or a Hudson's Bay fort? Eventually he sighted it afar
off; and waving above tho palisades he saw the red ensign of his own
By this he ~'.e\! that it was Fort Yukon, founded four years
before by A.H. Murray, wall within the territory of Russian America.
And he knew too that his long-held theory, that the Pelly and. Yukon
were identical, had been proved. This river, not the murderous Liard,
was the logical supply route for the posts he had built. Thus he had
forged the last link in the great double chain of waterways connecting
Fort Simpson with Fort Yukon, eight hundred air miles apart.
This, it seems to me, is the note of triumph on which to end
this epic story of discovery and exploration in the Northwest, which
is Robert Campbell's chief claim to fame. Though he continued to
serve the Hudson's Bay Company for another twenty shears, in northern
Alberta and Manitoba, that was prosaic stuff compared to his trail-
blazing days. And it is as the discoverer and explorer of the upper
Yukon that his name will be remembered and honoured, by posterity. 


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