Men in the 1827 York Factory Express

Sioux Island Rapid
Henry Jame Warre, “The Columbia River above Sioux Island Rapid, Washington, LAC Mikan 2834204 C-117072)

Edward Ermatinger took out the 1827 York Factory Express, and he kept a journal which has been published in Journal of the Royal Society of Canada, in 1912. The nice thing about this journal is that he does list some of the men he travelled with. By the way, here is what I wrote about Edward Ermatinger a year or two ago!

The gentlemen on this expedition were: Chief Factor John McLoughlin, and Chief Trader Alexander R. McLeod who travelled to Fort Colvile; David Douglas, botanist, who crossed the mountains with the Express; and Pierre Chrysolgue Pambrun on his way to Fort Nez Perces. Archibald McDonald is again found at Fort Okanogan, and John Warren Dease comes in from the Flatheads Post. John Rowand is still in charge at Edmonton House, with John Stuart at Lesser Slave Lake and John Edward Harriott at Fort Assiniboine.

Francis Noel Annance, born about 1789 in Quebec, worked on the Pacific slopes as early as 1818, as a clerk and hunter for the North West Company. In 1824, he was a member of the expedition that explored the Fraser River for the future Fort Langley post, and it is his journal that tells the story of that exploration. He also helped build Fort Langley in 1827, and remained there as a clerk until 1830 — so where was he going when he travelled out with Ermatinger’s York Factory Express? I think he only went so far as to see them through the mountains, and then returned to Fort Vancouver, as Donald Manson did a year later.

Jean Baptiste Ouevré was a Canadien, born in Quebec and working west of the Rockies as early as 1810. In 1827 he was the Cook at Fort Vancouver, but he sure knew his way around the First Nations tribes and, I would say, is responsible in part for the success of Edward Ermatinger’s journey through the mountains to Fort Nez Percés — Ermatinger writes of him in glowing terms. Ouevré did not go out with the Express, but is later found at Fort Nisqually, from which place he seems to have retired in about 1842.

“Laprade arrives from Okanagan in the afternoon.” This must be Alexis Laprade, a Canadien born in 1796 in Quebec, and who died in Oregon in 1871. He was middleman at Fort George [Astoria] in 1813, and in 1827 he seems to have been posted to Thompson’s River post of Kamloops. Archibald McDonald, who was then at Kamloops, described Laprade as “an obedient good man,” but he worked in the Brigades in 1827, and was at this time only delivering letters to go out in the Express. In 1841, Laprade was in the basement of the Kamloops Fort when Sam Black was shot and killed by a First Nations man. Laprade immediately took charge of the fort’s affairs until more senior men arrived.

At Fort Colvile, “Perrault found himself unable to go out as intended,” and Moche Otoctavin took his place as Bowsman. There’s lots of Perraults here: this Perrault is not Antoine Perrault who worked at Fort Langley in 1827, and was killed in January 1828 in an ambush by First Nations men. Nor does it appear to be Jacques Perrault, who was also at Fort Langley in 1827. It might be Canadien Jean Baptiste Perrault, who was a Boat-builder at Fort Vancouver in 1827, and who became a settler in the Willamette in 1842. There seem to be no other Perraults who fit this description, of someone who wanted to leave the territory in 1827, but could not.

As for Moche Otoctavin, I see no records for him in Bruce Watson’s Lives Lived West of the Divide, and the editor of Ermatinger’s journals has nothing to add to his story. I suspect, from his name, that he is Iroquois, and perhaps he has been in the district for a very short time. And yet, the name is familiar… This might have been Michel Otoetanie, an Iroquois man born in Quebec who is known to have gone out in Edward Ermatinger’s Express in 1827-1828. He was probably already in the boats, but took over Perrault’s position when that man fell ill. It’s really hard to know if I am right, however, as the names are so different.

“Roy.” There are two Roys on this journey and so we don’t know which one Ermatinger spoke of. Jean Baptiste Roy was a Canadien who worked at Fort Colvile and apparently went out with the Express in 1827, as he was known to be back in Montreal in that year. Joseph (Portelance) Roy served as a middleman on the Pacific Slopes as early as 1817, and in New Caledonia in 1822-1827, when he declared his intention to pick up his pay in Montreal.

“Jacquan Cardinalle, the horse guard at Campement d’Orignal.” There were several members of the Cardinal family who worked west of the Rockies, but the one mentioned in the York Factory Express Journals is always the horse-keeper in the Jasper Valley. It is probably Jacquan’s Quebec-born father, Jacques, who worked west of the Rocky Mountains for the North West Company in 1808. The Jacques Cardinal of this time was a courier, a horse keeper who chased down horse thieves, an arbitrator, a hunter, a jack-of-all-trades. He left the Columbia in 1822 for Lesser Slave Lake, and those we find in the Jasper Valley and elsewhere are likely his descendants who, like him, remained in the West.

Finan McDonald. Ah, Finan! He was a Scotsman, born in Inverness or Aberdeen in 1782. He was one of David Thompson’s men, and built Kootenai House in 1807 and Saleesh House in 1808. McDonald is described as a large, fearsome, red-bearded man who once wrestled a bison to its death — I wonder if this is a different story than the one in the York Factory Express book, because in the story, the bison got the better of him! He crossed the mountains with the outgoing fall Express of 1827, and spent the winter of 1827-1828 at Edmonton House. He joined Edward Ermatinger’s outgoing Express in 1828, as part of the Saskatchewan brigades — and this is where he met the bison that bested him! See:

Fortunately, he survived that attack, and in 1828 brought himself a farm in Upper Canada where he raised his family.

“Bastonoise?” The editor suggests that this is an American (Boston man) travelling with the expedition, and it might be true. However, there are a number of men west of the Rockies who were named Bostonnais. One possible was A. Bostannais [dit Page], a Métis who worked at Flathead Post in 1814, and was a hunter in the Snake in 1824. A Jean Baptiste Bostonnais (brother of Pierre Bostonnais, below) was employed in New Caledonia 1822-1826 at the same time as another Jean Baptiste Bostonnais was employed at the Umpqua Post, south of Fort Vancouver – also until 1827. Pierre Bostonnais is better known as “Tete Jaune,” an Iroquois free-trapper known for his yellow hair, that travelled widely through New Caledonia, from Fort Alexandria to Yellowhead Pass to the Peace River where, in 1828, he and his family were murdered. It might be any of these men, and it might be none — this “Bastonnaise” was found at Fort Assiniboine.

“McKay” wrecked his boat coming up the Hill River. Let’s see if I can figure out which McKay, of the many McKay’s west of the Rockies, wrecked his boat on the Hayes River. It wasn’t Charles McKay, who retired the year before (1826) after a long career in the fur trade. I suspect it is Thomas McKay, a part Saulteaux man and son of the Alexander McKay who died in the explosion of the Pacific Fur Company’s ship, Tonquin. Young Thomas McKay became an excellent shot and a good hunter. But he was also embittered by his father’s death, and swore vengeance on the First Nations peoples, and was feared by those tribes who lived west of the Rockies. His mother, however, became the wife of Chief Factor John McLoughlin. Would a man with this new status have taken out the York Factory Express, I wonder? I think he must have done, as there is no one else that fits.

“One of our young Columbia hands, Desaire,” fell asleep on a portage and was left behind — or would have been, but McKay went back for him. This must be Pierre Desaire, who was sent into New Caledonia. But he was sick, and taken by William Connolly to Fort Vancouver to be treated in 1829. He recovered and returned to New Caledonia, but left the territory at the end of his contract, returning to Montreal. Some men are just not built for the “rough and tumble” of the fur trade, and it appears it did not suit him.

Dr William Todd was here, and “stretched his legs in the boat.” He left Edmonton House with the brigades and so was crossing the mountains into the west, where he served in the Columbia District for a short time. Two of his children arrived here later: Robert Todd worked at Kamloops in the 1850’s and is in my “Brigades” book, and William Todd, Jr., was at Fort Vancouver and in New Caledonia in the 1840s. Louis LeBlanc (probably Métis) was also here, and he crossed the mountains to work in the Coastal Trade until 1830 — though he seems to have been here after that too.

McKay (as above) and Guilbauche fought at the point just above Fort a la Corne, built by Luc la Corne in 1753, according to the editor. This is a tradition in the fur trade, by the way — challenging the “Bully” (McKay), and Guilbauche lost the fight. This “Guilbauche” might be either Martin Guibache, who came out from New Caledonia instead of going out with the Brigades; it might be Paul Guilbeau, who was a Middleman in the Columbia District in 1827. Or it might have been someone else from the Saskatchewan Brigades. We do not know.

And LaRance is here once again, and this is likely the same Larance as mentioned in the previous journal (but there were two men carrying that name). Michel Klyne was in charge at Jasper’s House. There’s also a list of man who left Fort Assiniboine with the Express coming into New Caledonia, and I have not yet researched these men. It will be fun to discover who these people are, in the next blogpost, perhaps. We will see.

If you wish to order the book, “The York Factory Express,” you can do so here: Thank you!

Copyright, Nancy Marguerite Anderson, 2019. All rights reserved.

One thought on “Men in the 1827 York Factory Express

  1. Gordon MacIvor

    Always enjoy your stories.
    Perchance do you have any documentation, diaries, etc., of the 1832 and 1839 York Factory Express?
    My Great Grandfather, Norman McIver, came out to Fort Vancouver, and back in those years.