The incoming New Caledonia brigades leave Fort Vancouver, Columbia River

The Columbia River, where the ships that stopped at Fort Vancouver anchored

The bank of the mighty Columbia River off Fort Vancouver, where the ships anchored and where the brigades might have departed for their return journey to New Caledonia.

At Fort Vancouver, William Connolly prepared to take in the New Caledonia brigade to Fort St. James. In fur trade parlance, “Incoming” always meant that the horse and boat brigades were heading into their territory of New Caledonia, from headquarters at Fort Vancouver. It was a thousand mile journey to Fort St. James, both by boat and by horse and pack-train. Their first stop would be at Fort Nez Perces, or Walla Walla.

It is 1826, and this is Chief Factor William Connolly’s journal. Accompanying him is his clerk James Douglas, the future Governor of the Colony of British Columbia.

William Connolly, 1826: “16th Friday [June] As I have already stated, the [London] ship was not yet unloaded, and several articles required to complete the Inland Outfits & Equipping the Men, being on Board of her, the New Caledonia people  and those from the Interior of the Columbia were employed upon this service, which occupied them until the 27th. The several Outfits for New Caledonia, Fort Colvile, Thompson’s River & Walla Walla were Packed, the Men received their advances, and in the Evening of July 4th Everything was in readiness for our departure from Fort Vancouver.

“July 5th Tuesday. Early in the Morning the ladings were given out and at twelve PM the Brigade set out on its return. It consists of nine Boats manned with each six Men including the Guide. The ladings amount to 44 pieces each, making a due allowance for the passengers consisting of myself, Messr. [Archibald] McDonald, [John] Work, [James] Douglas, and [Francis] Annance, and their families. The provisions allotted to each for their voyaging is 4 Bags Corn, 1 of Rice, 1 Keg Indian Meal and 1/2 Keg grease, and they are all well supplied with the requisite agres. Mr. [Pierre Chrysologue] Pambrun’s indisposition continuing, I was under the necessity of leaving him at Fort Vancouver for the recovery of his Health. One of my Men was also too unwell to embark, and was therefore left behind also.

“The outfit for New Caledonia, to which a few Pieces are to be added at Walla Walla & Okanagan, consists of the following Pieces, viz: 38 Bales dry goods, Including Summer Men’s orders; 2 Baskets copper Kettles; 6 cases Guns; 5 cases Irons, 3 cases Sundry Goods; 5 cases Traps; 6 Bags Beaver Shot; 4 Bags Ball; 9 Bags Flour; 5 Kegs Gunpowder; 9 Kegs sugar; 9 Kegs Tallow; 2 Kegs Brandy; 3 Kegs Spirits; 3 Kegs Salt; 2 Kegs Butter; 9 Rolls Twist Tobacco; Total 120 pieces. [Each piece and roll weighs 90 lbs.]

“We are also provided with a Trading Chest containing such articles as are most in demand with the Natives along the route for the purpose of buying Salmon which will be the means of saving a considerable quantity of our European provisions. We have also four arms chests, containing Muskets & Ammunition for defense in Case of necessity. The weather was rainy and we proceed no farther than Johnson’s Island where we encamped.

“6th, Wednesday. Left our Encampment at an early hour. The water is unusually high, and out progress consequently slow. Weather cloudy with some occasional showers. Put up for the night three miles below the Cascades rapids, where we were visited by several Indians from whom we obtained an abundance of excellent salmon for Supper.

“7th, Thursday. The Boats proceeded with half cargoes to Portage Neuf, over which every thing was carried. From thence they proceeded to the Cascades with half loads also, an efficient force having been left at the last portage for the Protection of the Property, the Natives being here numerous and like all those who inhabit the banks of this river, noted Thieves. They supplied us with as many Salmon as we chose to take, for which the principal demand is Tobacco, a leaf of which is considered a sufficient equivalent for the largest Fish. The weather was fine and cool.

“8th Friday. The people brought up the Goods from Portage Neuf early in the Morning, and after carrying over the Cascades which occupied us until three o’clock PM, we departed from thence, after having procured a Stock of Salmon to last us until we get to the Dalles….”

I will leave this Brigade at the Cascades, which is the first of the major barriers on their way up the Columbia River. As as these men left Portage Neuf, they pushed their way up the twenty-mile-long section of the Columbia River that Lieutenant Aemilius Simpson described in his 1826 York Factory Express journal. He was coming downriver from the Cascades when he wrote this. [A league was equal to three French miles, approximately the distance a man could walk in an hour].

For about a League below the Cascades there is a very strong Current with rapids. The River branches of [sic] into several channels formed by Islands. For about 6 leagues below the Cascades the River is bounded by a range of High Hills densly [sic] wooded, their faces in some places being perpendicular with pretty cascades decending [sic] some hundred feet. [Source: Lt. Aemilius Simpson’s Survey from York Factory to Fort Vancouver, 1826, editors William Barr and Larry Green, The Journal of the Hakluyt Society, August 2014]

In my book, The Pathfinder, I describe the ascent of the Columbia River as far as the Cascades, as it was for Alexander Caulfield Anderson in 1835:

The New Caledonia brigade travelled east against the heavy flow of the Columbia River, following as far as Fort Okanogan along the same route that Anderson had seen when he entered the territory in 1832. But Anderson had never travelled this river with the brigade, a much larger and noisier affair than the fast-travelling express. The 60 or more voyageurs and their gentlemen passengers left Fort Vancouver and stopped five miles upriver, where [Peter Skene] Ogden distributed the regale. The hard work began the next morning, when the voyageurs paddled or rowed against the heavy current of the Columbia, choosing a route close to the banks where many eddies made the paddling easier. Once at the Cascades, some men emptied the boats and tracked them upriver with lines; other carried the cargo on their backs over the three portages. That evening, the brigaders feasted on fresh salmon traded from the Natives at Celilo Falls [at the head of the Cascades portage].

Peter Warren Dease, 1831: “Monday 27 [June] The Outfits for the Different District being ready they were taken to the Water side on Waggons, the loadings given out to the 9 Boats, 46 to 48 Pieces each, 7 men. The Boutes [bowsmen and steersmen] are not all so good as could be wished & would be required for such a navigation as this is. The Regale was Given them & sent to Encamp at the End of the Plain whither they will be Joined in the Morning by the Passengers, viz. Chief Trader [Sam] Black & McGillivray, Mr. [Francis] Annance & Self. An Invalid Bellair gets a passage to Cross the Mountains this fall; Perrault the carpenter also goes for the same purpose.

“Tuesday 28. Joined the Brigade this Morning when Perrault changed his mind & remained. Embarked at 8am. Had aft wind part of the day, Lost 3 Hours Waiting for one of the Boats (Thomas Ogoniasta) that lagged behind from the intoxication of most of the Crew.

“Wednesday 29. Reached the Portage Neuf at 1pm. One of the Boats was Injured before reaching it & were obliged to repair below (Thomas Ogoniasta’s). The other boats got safe up the Portage, a great throng of Natives obliged us to watch the Baggage very narrowly at each end while The men were Carrying the Pieces across. The Portage made, 6 Boats were Sent to the Cascades to make room for others, 2 Boats remained Canote (the Guide), with Mr. Annance until Thomas’ boat was brought up the Rapid. One of those that had left the place to go up, Augustin La Boute & J. Moreau, Boutes, sheered out shortly after the Men on the Line could not bring it in, and let the line go when the Boat with the 2 poor men was drawn into the Rapid & went down, upset below the Portage, & the unfortunate Men drowned. Thomas’ boat which had in mean time been brought up, he run down the Rapid with in hopes of saving them but too late. Mr. Annance, Canote & some of the men went down by land to get Indians if possible, the 2 boats remain at the portage and Mr. Black went down with some men who are not yet come back to the Cascades. I am anxiously Waiting to Know the Extent of our Misfortune. Many Indians about but are not very troublesome.

“Thursday 30. This Morning Messrs [Sam] Black & Annance came back with Thomas & Crew with 14 pc of the property picked up from the confined Eddy at the Portage, a great intermixture of baggages [sic] took place, the Whole baggages were Examined to ascertain the Pieces lost with an account of which Mr. Annance with 16 men will be dispatched to [Fort] Vancouver. Will take the Boat which was found below Tea Meadow also in order to come up lighter & more Expeditiously. Wrote to Chief Factor [John] McLoughlin informing him of the sad events and requesting that the Pieces of which a list is sent May be replaced as it would bear very hard upon the Posts for the trade during the season.

“July, Friday 1. This Morning Mr. Annance left this as mentioned. We are told that some things were found by the Natives, Mr. Black with a party of 13 Men went down to the Camp. In the afternoon a Bale was brought by the Natives belonging to the Nez Perces outfit….” The men stayed here for two days while the Natives brought in the lost goods from the boats.

“Sunday 3. This afternoon Mr. Annance with the 2 Boats came back from Vancouver being late and no room at the upper end of the Portage for the property the Pieces were not Carried across. The Indians who rendered us service were rewarded and seemed to be well satisfied with us. Since our stay here a Sufficiency of Salmon has been procured to save our Provisions.

“Monday 4. At 9am we left the Cascades, had aft wind…”

This is only the beginning of the long journey back to Fort St James, and Dease has already had his share of trouble, with more to come. This is the way it is, however, and some years were harder than others. My next post will bring these men through the Cascades — the first major barrier in the Columbia River system — upriver to The Dalles, and past that massive set of rapids. It will be a longer journey for these men who are going home, as they are fighting the river every inch of the way!

If you want to go back to the beginning of these two journals, go here: 

The next section of journals is now published and is found here:

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