Little Fort, on the North Thompson River

North Thompson River

The North Thompson river at Little Fort (North River) where, before 1843, the HBC men used to cross their brigades

It delights me to find people who are interested in the history of the little place they came from — and I have heard from someone who is from one of the smallest towns in British Columbia — Little Fort. But this place has history. This tiny little town is important to those who are interested in the early history of this province.

From primary sources, this is what I know about Little Fort, which was an actual fort built on the North Thompson River by the HBC in 1850: Today, its a small, funny little town with a few motels and a pub — a place where motorcycle gangs meet on occasion (we were told). But who cares? That was not its past: this place has fur trade history!

By the way, I will have to say that my sister and I thoroughly enjoyed our visit here, including the few hours we spent in the pub at Little Fort. You should visit. You might not see the history, but we did — we were given a free ride on the little ferry that crosses the North Thompson River at the same place where the fur traders supposedly traversed the river. It was great — like all the other rivers in this territory West of the Rocky Mountains, the North Thompson is a fierce river!

So here is Little Fort’s history: For years before the HBC’s “Little Fort” was constructed, this was the place where the brigades descended from the Thompson plateau to reach the banks of the North Thompson River. Sometimes they crossed the river here (or somewhere in the area) — sometimes it was to the south. For discover this for yourself, see my last post: http://nancymargueriteanderson.com/brigade-five/

Here is the first mention I found of the North River post — the name of the post that was established at modern-day Little Fort, B.C!

“Sunday  1st Septr [1850]. Set 3 men to Cut the wheat at the carse & dispatched an Indian up the North River to inform the Indians of that quarter of our intention of Establishing a post amongst them. [Fort Kamloops Journal kept by Paul Fraser, 1850-55, A/C/20/K12A, Transcript, BCA]

“Thursday 19th [October 1850]. Blowing strong. Camille Allen gumm [?] with the Indian Francois left this for the purpose of Establishing a small post up the North River. They have an Equipment for the purpose of trading with the natives of that quarter.” [Fort Kamloops Journal kept by Paul Fraser, fo. 8]

“Monday 5th [May 1851]. By arrival of Indians from the North River I am informed that Mr. Simpson & people were pillaged, the former of his gun & the latter of a Capot & Hkf. It is high time those Scamps of Indians were brought to their sences, A Couple of them Knocked on the head would deter others from similar Conduct. The fact is at this Establishment there is not a Man who Can face an Indian Connected as they are with them.” [Fort Kamloops Journal kept by Paul Fraser, fo. 16] I believe the Simpson mentioned might be John Simpson, another mixed-blood son of George Simpson, Governor of the HBC, and half brother of George Simpson who I will write about eventually. But I’m looking at this — it could also be George. I probably won’t find out till I write the story.

“Wed. 7th [May 1851] Blowing strong which prevented crossing the Horses. Arrived Camille from the North River with 77 Martens.” [Fort Kamloops Journal kept by Paul Fraser, fo. 16]. On Sunday 18th, Fraser reported that: “Mr. Simpson returned from the North River informing me that owing to the low State of the water that the raft could not be brought down with any Safety. In consequence of this information he and Men will return tomorrow. They have 700 Pickets Hawled to the Bank of the River.” That means  the post is not yet constructed, I suspect.

“Thursday 14th [August 1851]. Sent Mr. Simpson to the Horse Gard to take An Account of all the Horses. The North River Chief arrived. He informed me that the Indian Capot Blanc and party had Come from Jasper House to reside amongst them.” [Fort Kamloops Journal kept by Paul Fraser, fo. 22]

“Monday 10th [November 1851] Antoine and party returned with 3000 salmon, Got the North River Outfit made up and so soon as Mr. Simpson arrives I will proceed to that quarter.” [Fort Kamloops Journal kept by Paul Fraser, fo. 29] There would be no one remaining at Little Fort over the summer, as no furs were traded in that season. The post would only be occupied over the winter and early spring.

“Monday 24. [November 1851] Returned from the North River where I only found but few Indians waiting my arrival and from whom I got 60 skins in mixt Furs. They Express themselves much pleased at our Establishing the post again this year and promised to Exert themselves in hunting of Furs. I left Antoine Lamprant and McDonald at the Establishment with 600 salmon.” [Fort Kamloops Journal kept by Paul Fraser, fo. 30] On Saturday 29th Fraser “Dispatched 3 Men up the North River to square timber for sawing.”

“Tues 17th [January 1852] Returned from the North River Establishment where I left Antoine well. He had only seen 2 Indians since my first visit from whom he got 31 Beavers. They reported that they had left their friends with good hunts and would Come in February. I visited the Men who hav been squaring timber who appear to have worked well.” [Fort Kamloops Journal kept by Paul Fraser, fo. 38] On February 3 he “Dispatched McDonald to the North River House as the Indians will be now visiting that post and Antoine being alone.” [Fort Kamloops Journal kept by Paul Fraser, fo. 40]

“Monday 23rd [February 1852] Arrived Hugh McLeod from the North River where he delivered his salmon safe. Up to the date of his departure from that place no Indians had made their appearance. Consequently no furs to bring.” [Fort Kamloops Journal kept by Paul Fraser, fo. 44]

“Friday 19th [March 1852] Dispatched Hugh McLeod to the North River to ascertain if the Indians had visited the Establishment and to get the Accounts of property on hand at that place.” [Fort Kamloops Journal kept by Paul Fraser, fo. 48] On Sunday 21st, “Early this morning McDonald arrived from the North River post informing me that they are out of provisions and have been so for the last 10 days. He informs me that only 2 Indians have visited the Establishment since I heard from those who brought 100 Martins 2 fisher 1 Wolve 1 Cat & 1 Lar Blk Bear Skin not a mink [?].” On Monday 22nd, “Early this morning McDonald started for the North River.”

26th March 1852, Paul Fraser to Eden Colvile: “The Establishment erect[ed] up the North River is situated about 100 Miles from this at the Entrance of a Small River Called the Clear Water. It was from this spot that I returned from in spring 1850 and pointed out to Mr. Douglas the necessity of having a Small Post for the purpose of trade, the Establishment was under the Charge of an Interpreter and one Man for the winter and adbandoned [sic] in the spring, the Establishment which consists of 2 Small Houses left in the charge of an Indian for the summer. From the frequent roving of the Indians who inhabit this upper parts of the North River to and from Jaspers House I am not able to say with any certainty as to their number. However by the amount taken I found 36 Men Good bad & indifferent…. I am sorry to state that this has been a very hard year at Thompsons River the total want of food amongst the Natives has led to dreadful privations so those of the North River and upper Lakes, who proceeded Early in February to the Mountains in quest of food & furs up to this date no account of them, which leaves the returns much [less] than they would otherwise have been.” [Paul Fraser, Correspondence Outward, A/C/40/F862, BCA. A note on the back says HBArch B.235/c/1 so the letter might also be found there.]

“Wed 12th [May 1852]. As the water is rising much of late dispatched 7 Men up the North River to hawl and raft the timber suared [squared] last winter.” [Fort Kamloops Journal kept by Paul Fraser, fo. 56]

4th Feb. 1853, James Douglas to Paul Fraser: “I trust that the establishment on North River will answer our hopes and do something more than it has produced, heretofore, though that must rest mainly, with yourself, as your young and inexperienced assistant cannot have much influence with the natives.” [Fort Victoria Correspondence Book, 1852-1853, B.226/B/7, fo. 65, HBCA]

12th April 1854, James Douglas to Paul Fraser: “I hope for great things next year and we must provide means for taking in a good large outfit, have the North River post established, and the road opened to Dalles des Morts [on the Columbia River]. We will expect you at Langley about the usual time…” [Fort Victoria Correspondence Book, 1853-1854, B.226/B/10, fo. 112, HBCA]

“Wed. 27th [September 1854] Same Weather, Dispatched Lamprant and Dusseau to the North River with a small assortment of Goods to Equipt the Indians for a fall Hunt.” [Fort Kamloops Journal kept by Paul Fraser, 1854-1855, A/C/20/K12A, BCA, fo. 4]

“November 1854. Wednesday 1st. By the arrival of an Indian from the North River I am informed that the Indians of that quarter with their families have gone to Frasers River as not a salmon was takin in Their Country.” [Fort Kamloops Journal kept by Paul Fraser, fo. 9]

“Nov. 1854. Thursday 9. I, Paul Fraser with an Indian left this with a small assortment of Goods for the purpose of trade with the Indians of Frasers River and at the same time to withdraw the North River Indians from amongst them.” [Fort Kamloops Journal kept by Paul Fraser, fo. 10]

“Sunday 19th [November 1854] Arrived an Indian from the North River informing me of the return of part of the North River Indians who request that I should visit them with an assortment of Goods for the purpose of trading a few furs amongst them.” [Fort Kamloops Journal kept by Paul Fraser, fo. 12]

“Thursday 1 December. Two Indians arrived from the North River with about 20 Skins in furs.” [Fort Kamloops Journal kept by Paul Fraser, fo. 13]. When he returned from his trip to the Upper Lakes he noted that “the men have laid the flooring of the Cow Stable and hawled the timber brought from the North River.” [Fort Kamloops Journal kept by Paul Fraser, fo. 14] This lumber might not have come from as far upriver as the North River post, though.

“Wed. 3d [January 1855] Cold in the Extreem with a Strong wind from the North. 2 Men in the Barn and 2 Men Sawing light wood. Arranged 2 Men who will proceed to the North river to meet the Indians by appointment to convey to them 800 Salmon as non were takin in there Country last Summer.” [Fort Kamloops Journal kept by Paul Fraser, fo. 18] Providing the North River Natives with salmon toe at must be part of the deal he made with them to make them return home from the Fraser River.

“Friday 5th [January 1855] Weather moderated. Despatched Antoine Lamprant & [Baptiste] Pacquette to the North River to meet the Indians by appointment but from the late Cold weather it is to be feared they did not leave the Mountains.” [Fort Kamloops Journal kept by Paul Fraser, fo. 19]

“Monday 15th [January 1855] took an account of the Furs trading since 16th included those from the North River vis: 10 cats, 233 Martins, 11 Lar Beaver, 5 X [Cross] Foxes, 3 Red [Fox], 9 Wolverenes, 4 Wolves, 2 fishers, 4 Minks.” [Fort Kamloops Journal kept by Paul Fraser, fo. 20] I think not all of these furs came from North River.

“March Thursday 1st [1855]. Dispatched Bourk and Dusseau to square 100 Pieces of Wood up the North River.” [Fort Kamloops Journal kept by Paul Fraser, fo. 29] But perhaps not as far north as the North River post.

“Friday 6th [April 1855] Tomorrow I will proceed up to the North River with a small assortment of goods to meet the Indians by appointment.” [Fort Kamloops Journal kept by Paul Fraser, fo. 36]

“Thursday 19th [April 1855] Arrived an Indian from the North River who requests that a small supply of ammunition may be sent to trade some Furs from the Indians who had not returned from the Mountains when I was there.” [Fort Kamloops Journal kept by Paul Fraser, fo. 37] These North River Natives hunted all the way up the North Thompson River and spent some of their time on the Columbia, where they were very close to the Rocky Mountains. There they would have also dug for roots, such as the camas. As you will have noticed in the beginning of this post, some of the Jasper Natives came south, by the same route, to live in the Native village at North River.

Paul Fraser’s journal is interesting and he uses a lot of creative spelling — I added punctuation in his writing so that it made sense, but left his spelling the way it was. Enjoy.  At the end of this journal, he lists the men who went out with the brigade to Fort Hope and Langley, and I am delighted to see my favorite employee listed there. In this journal, his name is spelled Marrian — but this is Louis Desasten dit Marineau (or Martineau), a Canadien born in Riviere du Loup, Quebec, about 1800. Louis worked for many years under Alexander Caulfield Anderson at Fort Alexandria, and he was always on the move. I will have to write about him sometime.

Oh, and by the way, Paul Fraser did not return to Kamloops from his journey over the Coquihalla. On July 18, 1855, Paul Fraser was killed when a tree fell across his tent. Because he died so soon after the death of Michel Fallardeau, it has been suspected that he was murdered by one of his employees. I don’t think so, but judge for yourself — Fallardeau was another of my favorites and I have already written about him here: http://nancymargueriteanderson.com/michel-fallardeau/

Copyright, Nancy Marguerite Anderson, 2015. All rights reserved.

 

One thought on “Little Fort, on the North Thompson River

  1. Carson Stone

    Hi Nancy…I have been a bit of a follower of your writings over the past year or so. I have been researching the Community of Louis Creek for about three and half years. I am in the process of writing a book about Louis Creek. One of the chapters in my book will be about the fur trade that happened here (I live here) and just read your information about Little Fort and Paul Fraser. While I have a fair grasp of what went on at Little Fort, which to a lot of people don’t realize was on the east side of the North Thompson River, I was quite surprised to see that the actual “Little Fort” was in operation after 1852. It was, nonetheless, a very good surprise! I just wanted to thank you for sharing that information!

    Best Regards,

    Carson Stone