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Emma Crosby Letters

[Letter, Emma Crosby to Eliza Douse, July 1, 1874] Crosby, Emma, 1849-1926 Jul 1, 1874

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 Fort Simpson, B.C.  July 1st 1874    My dear Mother,   This the first letter I have dated from this much thought of and talked of place I address to you.  We arrived yesterday morning.  I will tell you all I can of the journey and the appearance of the village.  Early Saturday morning we left Victoria - one day later than we had expected.  Our craft - a H.B. Company's boat is not fitted up for a passenger boat - however we had a state room below decks which was fitted up as comfortably as could be.  The only trouble being that it was lighted and aired by a port-hole which could be opened only when the water was very smooth.  We were made very comfortable on the whole.  Of course I was the only lady passenger.  There were some forty miners on board going beyond Fort S. to the Stickeen mines and a number of Indians, both men and women.   The miners were mostly a rough lot of men but not at all disagreeable to us.  Our way lay chiefly among rocky mountainous islands rising abruptly from the water's edge - and in very quick water.  In one place though, crossing Queen Charlotte's Sound it was quite rough and I had a touch of sickness.  It rained most of Monday but we managed to be on deck a good deal.  Then Tuesday (yesterday) morning came and found us between seven and eight opposite Fort Simpson.  The boat was not to come in to the Fort till her return from Fort Wrangel, a days journey further on, so our choice was to either go ashore with a few of our things in a canoe or lose three days by going on with the "Otter" and returning.  We preferred the former plan.  The Captain had secured a fine large canoe so with four Indians, two men and two women bound for Fort S. who paddled, a trunk and a number of smaller pieces of baggage - we transshipped some eight or ten miles form the Fort.  The morning was fine, the sea pretty smooth, the scenery very fine - islands and points of land thickly wooded and hilly.  The village itself is at the head of a bay, built partly on what is an island at high tide and partly the main land.  The Indians have built a rude bridge between the two which they use at high water.  When within about two miles of the village we came across a canoe full of the Indians returning from some expedition.  They having learned who we were wished us to stay behind somewhere while they went on to tell the news.  So we landed on a beautiful little beach where the shells & mosses & sea-weed would have delighted Auntie and waited a while - then re-embarked. In the mean time the tidings had been given and by the time we came within hearing we were greeted by cheers from the Indians who were out in hundreds.  Flags were flying and guns were fired as we approached.  The landing place was crowded with men, women & children.  Mr. Morrison the H.B. officer stationed here and Mr. Tate who has been teaching the school were down to meet us.  We came up at once to the Fort where we were very hospitably received.  This Mr. Morrison is very agreeable and gentlemanly, and very friendly to our mission.  His wife is a half-breed, but a sweet pretty little woman, very quiet.  She was educated to some extent at that English Church Mission near by and is really a nice ladylike woman.  There is one child, a little girl, thirteen months old.  As to their way of living it is half aristocratic, half uncivilized, everything seems to be left to Indian servants who are not very methodical, the meals vary a good deal in their time and are not cooked exactly according to our ideas of excellence in that art, but an Indian boy waits on the table, and everything is served in order.  The house is very large and well-built - but old fashioned, of course.  We have a bed-room that has been made quite comfortable for us, and really are quite nicely accommodated, notwithstanding the bread is without salt and the potatoes always cold.  The salmon is nice - so is the venison.  Until the Otter returns day after tomorrow we are to remain here - then we shall have our things and go into one of the company's houses (there are a number of buildings within the enclosure) containing three rooms, which is being fixed up and cleaned for us.  It is not unlikely we shall remain here over the winter.  It was Thomas' intention to build the house immediately but the people seem impatient to have the church and both cannot be put up before the cold weather comes on.  There is a great deal of rain during the fall and winter, but no very intense cold.  There was a meeting held this afternoon to talk about the church, and see what the Indians would do themselves towards it.  They had the idea in their minds that somehow it was to be built altogether for them, but their new missionary talked them out of that and succeeded in arousing quite a little enthusiasm so that there was subscribed in money and blankets, a musket and a coat - the sum of about five hundred dollars just at the meeting, a result which quite surprised Mr. Morrison and Mr. Tate.  Several gave ten dollars each, and one man gave eleven blankets worth two dollars a piece.  It was amusing as they grew interested to see them.  They would go off to their houses and return with their blankets to hand over to the missionary - and even the little children in response to Thomas' urging were brought up to the table with their subscriptions.  A plan of the church brought from Victoria was put up on the wall to interest them.  There was a religious service, a kind of fellow-ship meeting last night also, at which some four hundred were present.  There is a very good site for the mission buildings and also for the Indians' houses on a rising ground just beyond the company's limits.  The idea is to build the church school house and mission house here, and the Indians say many of them that then they will pull down their present houses and build there.  This however, of course, cannot be accomplished all at once.  The village is said to number over eight hundred.  Many of them are away now fishing.  They have large houses - several families living in each house.  I have not been in many of them yet, but for Indians' houses they seem to be nicely kept.  They dress well too - the women in gay shawls and prints with handkerchiefs tied over their heads, and the men many of them in black suits - still there are some who are very dirty and degraded.  About two hundred have been attending the school.  The teacher who has been here is to return at once to Nanaimo.  I scarcely know what we can do until another teacher comes.  However there are two half-breeds, a man & his wife who have been helping to teach and might do for a while with a little oversight.  The school is held in their house - and the services in the chief's house.  A pulpit has been put up in it and it does quite well for the present.  The soil is good so that we can have as much garden as we like. Grain will not ripen nor all kinds of fruit but Mr. Morrison has currants, goose-berries and rasp-berries doing well and cranberries and other kinds of wild fruit are abundant.  There is plenty of wild hay to be had so we can keep our cow.  There will be no difficult in getting vegetables, potatoes are kept in the company's store.  Fish is plentiful also venison &c. and sometimes we may get beef from the Otter when she comes up, so you see, Mother, we are not likely to want for anything.  Indeed we feel that we ought to be very thankful for the opportunity there seems to be to do good among these people.  I do hope we may be a blessing to them.   It will be such a comfort too, to have our own house and by ourselves though it be in three rooms.  I can have any help with the house work that I want.  There is a boy here who lived with Mrs. Russ a while.  My good husband proposes engaging him but I would as soon depend on myself except for the heavy work, indeed I feel quite impatient to begin house keeping.  We shall not put down any carpets nor can we use many of the things we have while in this little house - the Indians here make a kind of mats with thin pieces of bark woven together which will do nicely.  I intend sending this by the Otter as she goes down, and as I cannot probably write to the girls before the next boat likely a month hence, I think I will trouble you to send this round.  If I have time tomorrow I will write to Georgie but I may not be able to do so.  I would like to write more but this will give you some idea of our surroundings.  I am so glad that the situation is so fine.  It is a beautiful prospect we are likely to have from our house and to me that is no small thing.   Know, Mother dear, I shall look anxiously for letters by the next boat.  You will not have forgotten as I know.  Love to my father Auntie & Sallie & all and much for yourself from Thomas who will write as soon as he can get time, and from dear Mother,   Your affectionate,    Emma 

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