Drowned Horse Lake to North River (Little Fort)

Lac des Roche

This is Lac des Roche, one of two beautiful and friendly looking lakes along the old Brigade trail over the Thompson plateau and east of Drowned Horse Lake. But you can see the rocky hills ahead.

To get from Drowned Horse Lake to the North Thompson River, these HBC Traders will now have to travel over the rugged Thompson plateau. You can more or less follow their route by driving Highway 24 from Lac la Hache to Little Fort, and I will have to say it doesn’t appear very rough and rugged. But it is! The hard part of the journey was the enormous bog that awaited them, east of the two beautiful lakes along their route.

My book, The HBC Brigades: Culture, Conflict, and Perilous Journeys of the Fur Trade, was published by Ronsdale Press in July 2024. You can order it now through your local bookstore or via Amazon. For American booksellers, the distributor for Ronsdale Press’s books in USA is Independent Publishers Group. Thank you!

Chief Factor William Connolly’s outgoing 1826 brigade has reached Drowned Horse Lake, which story I told in my last blog post in this series. We will continue his journey eastward, from there:

“16th Tuesday [May]. Baited the horses at Drowned Horse Lake at ten o’clock AM. At 2 PM we resumed our Journey, and Encamped at Six. Passed a couple of camps of Indians who gave us a few Fish for Tobacco & Ammunition. They appear to be the most wretched people in the creation. Their whole time is occupied in procuring food, consisting of Fish & Roots, and very seldom kill either Beaver or any other fur bearing Animals. What furs they do procure are carried to Alexandria. Indeed the Country seems entirely destitute of Beaver, and it appears from the few Signs either old or new that these animals were once numerous in this quarter. The weather continues fine.

“17th Wednesday. Early in the Morning we left our Encampment, and at nine o’clock reached Lac Tranquille, which we found covered with Ice, and vegetation in its neighbourhood consequently but little advanced. We here stopped to allow the Horses their usual rest, but they had scarcely dispersed to feed, when it was discovered that two of them were missing, and there being no doubt but that they had been stolen, Mr. [James] Douglas and three Men set out immediately in pursuit of the Thieves, and in the meantime several Indians who followed us since yesterday were put under arrest, as I was determined in the event of Mr. Douglas being unsuccessful in recovering our Horses, to replace one of them with the only Horse these people have in their possession. At the usual Hour the Brigade moved off, and with them the Indian Horse, together with its owner, and encamped at the East End of the Lakes, where Mr. Douglas & party arrived at night with our two Horses which they recovered after pursuing the Thieves to the borders of a Lake, which the latter crossed over in Canoes, and thus escaped the chastisement they so well deserved. A Short distance from the lake Mr. Douglas met two Indians (sons of Chief of the North [Thompson] River) who were on their way to our Camp with the two Horses which they had taken from the Thieves in order to restore them to us — an instance of honesty and good will towards the whites which I endeavoured to requite by giving them as large a proportion of our small stock of supplies, as could be well spared. The weather continues the same.

“18th Thursday. Pursued our route at the usual hour, and stopped at Lac du Rocher, which is also covered with Ice, to rest the Horses. In the afternoon we resumed our March and reached the foot of the Mountain at 5 o’clock PM when we Encamped. The road we passed through this day is very rugged, and many obstructions occasioned by fallen woods occur. For an hour before encamping, and for some time after, it snowed considerably. The old Chief, Father of the young men who recovered our Horses, came up with us at night, and as a mark of my approbation of his children’s conduct, I gave him a piece of Tobacco with some Ammunition & promised on my return to make him a more valuable present. [This will be the foot of the Mountain where they start the climb, not where they end it].

“19th Friday. It being impossible to cross the Mountain in one day, and there being only one place, about midway, which affords food for Horses, we did not therefore leave our Encampment until twelve PM & just to have time to be able to reach the above place, which we did at about 7 o’clock. Our route was through Marshes & very deep snow, in the former of which the Horses Sunk in many places up to their bellies & were with difficulty extricated. This is the most fatiguing march they have yet performed, and they were entirely exhausted when they reached the swamp, which unfortunately afforded but very poor means of recruiting their strength. One of the poor animals was left along the way, being unable to proceed any further. In such roads it was impossible to avoid wetting some of the Packs, but none of them are sufficiently so to injure the Furs. The weather was fine, but we were too much elevated to feel any heat.

“20th Sunday. Early in the Morning we pursued our route in order to reach a good feeding place for the Horses as soon as possible. A man was sent to see after the one we left yesterday, he returned shortly after, & reported that he had found him dead. Another of our Horses being unable to rise, we have therefore under the necessity of leaving him behind. At nine o’clock we reached the heights [summit] from whence we had a view of North River. In our descent the Horses fatigued a great deal, and when we reached the small River it was necessary to Halt, in order that they might rest & replenish themselves. After which we resumed our Journey and arrived at the North Branch of Thompson’s River at 5 o’clock PM, where we found three of the Kamloops Men, and two Indians, waiting our arrival with Canoes to cross over the property, and two fresh Horses to relieve such of our own as most require it…

“By sun set all the property was ferried over the River but the Horses were so much fatigued that it was judged necessary to allow them a nights rest before they crossed. The weather was fine, and the Climate being here much more moderate than on the other side of the Mountain, vegetation is therefore farther advanced, and we have a fair prospect of finding good feeding for our Horses during the remainder of our journey.”

The next portion of their journey will take men and pack horses down the east bank of the North Thompson River to Kamloops. Those of you who drive around British Columbia know this is not gentle country. The other thing to remember as we read the next batch of journals, is that a few railways and highways have ploughed through this stretch of country. In places, it is an entirely different landscape today than it was in the past.

Peter Warren Dease now continues his recording of events in his outward brigade journey to Fort Vancouver in 1831, east over the Thompson Plateau from Drowned Horse Lake:

“Thursday 19 [May 1831]. The roads not so fine to day as we have had, nor the Country so open. Our usual routine of traveling brought us to Lac Tranquil, where we put up for the night.

“Friday 20. Stopped at Lac des Rochers where we saw some Indians among whom is the Chief of North River from whom we got some fine Trout which is a Great treat, what has been heretofore procured being only Carp fresh or Dry. One of the Horses, this Evening was found missing having been allowed to go light to relieve him. The Country during this days progress being very rugged & Rocky, the Animal was recommended to the Old Chief to Catch & Keep until our Return, when he would be recompensed. Slept at the Grand Muskeg, a large Swamp. An Indian from our Breakfast place accompanies us to North River having his Canoe there for Crossing our Baggage, at the request of Lolo by Mr. [Samuel] Black’s orders. This is a very precarious dependence, and [I] am surprised a Canoe was not sent from the Establishment as requested by our letter of March to that Effect. We are hereby left to depend upon the Indians good will who by any Caprice or unwillingness would subject us to great trouble, risk of losing property, and loss of time.

“Saturday 21. From our Encampment we reached North River at Midday when we found the Indian’s Canoe. One of the Horses to day on the Mountain was so completely Knocked up, that any Endeavours to bring him on were unavailing. He was therefore left and recommended to the Care of the Indian who accompanies us. The Baggage was crossed but the horses could not be collected in time. Here we find 169 salmon, deposited under Ground by Lolo for us, out of 200 intended. Some no doubt have been taken by Indians.”

Lolo is and was a very important man in the history of the fur trade at Kamloops. Here is his short biography, from Bruce McIntyre Watson’s “Lives Lived West of the Divide:”

Leolo, Jean Baptiste [St.Paul], c 1798-1868. Native or possibly Mixed descent

Jean Baptiste Leolo, who first appeared on record with the HBC in 1822, was a free-spirited, independent and talented figure in the New Caledonia region. He was a trusted HBC employee who appeared to work on and off when needed and whose daughters intermarried into various levels of the fur trade at various locations. Added to his responsibilities, he was sometimes given enforcer duties to carry out such as, in 1831, tracking down and cutting off the tip of the ear of the lover of Francis Ermatinger’s errant wife. Leolo, aka Mr. St. Paul or Captain St. Paul, and his family gravitated to Kamloops area and when the Kamloops fort was moved in 1843 to the north east point of the river junction, the Company rewarded Leolo by building him a home on the old fort site. From there he traded on his own and bred horses. After his death in 1868, his home became part of the village on the Kamloops Indian Reserve.

To go back to the beginning of this series of posts and read through, click here: https://nancymargueriteanderson.com/brigade-one/

The next blogpost is at: https://nancymargueriteanderson.com/brigade-five/

Copyright, Nancy Marguerite Anderson, 2015. Updated, May 2016. All rights reserved.

2 thoughts on “Drowned Horse Lake to North River (Little Fort)

  1. Nathan Matthew

    I am a Simpcw First Nation member working with the Simpcw Council on title and rights issues. We have a small unit gathering Simpcw traditional use and occupancy information related to the Simcpw Division and the larger Secwepemc traditional territory. I have been looking for information regarding the brigade trails and the associations with the Secwepemc and your research and blog have shortened my research considerably. It would be great to chat with you. My cell number is (250) 851-6054.

    1. Nancy Marguerite Anderson Post author

      Hi, Nathan. I have a little information for you but not a lot, and mostly re brigade trail. Nice to hear from you.
      Actually, when I think about it, there are lots of mentions of the local Natives in your territory as the brigades pass through. I wonder if there’s any mention when they come in. If so, will forward — but probably not till the weekend when I have more time.