Fort Alexandria to Drowned Horse Lake

Brigade Trail to Drowned Horse Lake

Lac la Hache and Drowned Horse Lake. CM/F9 Courtesy of the Royal BC Museum, BC Archives. Detail from original map. It may be difficult to see, but the old brigade trail continues east past Horse Lake, while the 1843 trail loops south and west to the west end of Green Lake. Later a newer trail cut by Peter Ogden Jr, would cut off the big loop between Horse and Green Lakes.

In this post, part of a series beginning here: I am continuing to tell the story of two outgoing brigades on their journey from Fort St. James to Fort Vancouver (Vancouver, WA).

These men are travelling out over the OLD brigade trail — not the new trail used for the first time in 1843. The new trail diverged from the old at Drowned Horse Lake, and continued south to Kamloops via Green Lake, Loon Lake, and the Bonaparte River. There are no surviving journals that cover this new trail, if ever any journals existed.

These men are heading for their “North River,” which is the North Thompson River north of Kamloops, B.C. How far we will get in this post I do not yet know, but we will probably not make it the entire way across the rugged North Thompson Plateau.

We will begin with this: William Connolly’s Journal of the Brigade from New Caledonia to Fort Vancouver and Return, 1826:

This is the first time these men have made their horse journey across the plateau, and there are difficulties: “10th Wednesday [May] At an early hour the Horses were mustered, but before their loads were adjusted (a duty with which most of our Men are unacquainted) it was ten o’clock, at which hour we moved off from Alexandria. The Brigade consists of myself and two clerks, with 24 men & 68 Horses, and ladings of 83 packs of Furs, 6 kegs Castoreum & 15 Bales of dry Salmon, besides our voyaging apparatus. For the greater Convenience of Travelling, the Brigade was subdivided into twelve Brigades of two Men each, with from five to six Horses each. By this arrangement much confusion will not only be avoided, but if any of the Horses are injured the offenders will be easily discovered,

“Some of the Horses having never before carried a load, did not much like their Burthens, which they contrived by kicking to throw off their backs. Some time was therefore lost in readjusting their loads, and prevented our proceeding above 15 miles, when we Encamped on the Banks of a rivulet Skirting a plain of considerable extent which afforded the Horses very good feeding. The Morning was fine, but in the afternoon it Rained.

“11th Thursday. At a quarter after 4 o’clock AM we were on the march, and reached the head of the Grand Rapid at nine, when one of the Young Horses in passing on the side of a high & almost perpendicular Bank took fright, & rolled down the precipice into the River. [“Atnah Rapids” at Soda Creek, B.C.] Any attempts on our part to save him were impossible, and I thought it equally so that he should save himself, which however to our surprise he effected after being carried by the Current to the foot of the Rapids, a distance of at least four Miles, where he succeeded in landing on the opposite side with his load, consisting of two packs of Beaver, safe upon his Back. These, by their Buoyancy, were, I conceive, the Means of his preservation. A Canoe was procured with which the Packs were brought over, and the Horse of course swam across, but the Poor Brute was too much exhausted to proceed any farther, which added to the necessity of drying the Packs prevented our proceeding any farther today. In the evening the Furs were dry and repacked, and every thing in readiness to resume our Journey early tomorrow morning.

“12th Friday. We were ready to start at an early hour, but much time was lost in climbing up a steep Hill forming the bank of the Gully in which we had Encamped. Some rain that fell during the last night had softened the mud, and rendered the Hill so extremely slippery, that several Horses reached the summit only after repeated efforts, in each of which, after ascending some distance, they rolled back again to the imminent risk of their Necks. At length this difficulty was overcome, and we continued to follow the left [East]  bank of Fraser’s River until half an hour after Nine, when we left it to pursue the shortest route to Kamloops. At Twelve we reached a small lake with excellent grass in its vicinity, which of itself was a strong inducement to Encamp for the night, even if the fatigued state the Horses are in from the unevenness of the roads we passed through today, did not require it. The weather was fine.” This is probably Williams Lake.

“13th Saturday, & 14th Sunday. We proceeded from our Encampments both these days at our usual hour, at half an hour after four o’clock AM. The Country we passed through is beautiful, the roads level & unobstructed, and food for our Horses plentiful, which enabled us to perform excellent Marches. Pheasants and water Fowl were also in tolerable abundance, of which we procured a few, and from the Indians, who frequent the Lakes that lay on our route, for the purpose of Fishing, we obtained a few Trout, Carp, & some roots. These fellows being Notorious Horse Thieves, we began on the night of the 13th to keep watch, a practice I mean to observe as long as any danger may be supposed to exist. With these people we exchanged a Mare and a Horse that were miserably poor & unable to proceed much further, for two Horses in good Condition, by giving a few trifles in the bargain. We also found it expedient to allow the Horses a few Hours rest each day, by which means they are never exhausted. They are soon refreshed and enabled to perform longer days journey with less fatigue than they possibly could by going from one Encampment to the next without Halting. We had frequent showers of rain, but none of sufficient violence to retard our march or injure the Furs.” They are probably at Lac la Hache.

“15th Monday. Two hours after leaving our Encampment we passed a small river sufficiently deep to wet the lower part of some of the Packs. At a small Lake suitable to our purpose we Halted to give the Horses their usual rest, and to dry the furs. In the afternoon we pursued our route in [the] course of which we passed a river too deep to be forded, but its breadth not exceeding ten yards we threw a bridge across, over which the Horses passed with their loads [Bridge River]. At 4 o’clock PM we reached the Beaver dam River, which was also too deep to ford. The Horses swam across, & the property was carried over a Bridge formed by drift wood. At this place we Encamped for the Night. The progress of vegetation is less, the nearer we approach the Mountain, and the Horses now feed for the most part either upon very young grass, or the stubble of last year, which does not afford much nourishment. The weather was fine.

“16th Tuesday. Pursued our route, and Baited the Horses at the drowned Horse Lake, at ten o’clock AM…” We will pause here, at today’s Horse Lake, to catch up to Peter Warren Dease’s journal.

This is the next journal: Peter Warren Dease’s Journal of the Brigade from New Caledonia to Fort Vancouver and return, 1831:

[Fort Alexandria] “Sunday 15 [May]. This Morning at an early hour took leave of Mr. Fisher and joined the Brigade who were ready to Start, rather late through the awkwardness of some of the men in Catching and tackling [tacking] the Horses. Proceeded and put ashore [halted] at 11 AM, it being an advantage to allow the Horses about 3 hours rest to feed, and less liable in warm Weather to get their backs injured by the loads. In the afternoon one of the men, Louis Jeronquay, was seriously lamed by the Kick of one of the Horses upon the leg while riding near, from which unfortunate accident he is rendered incapable of any Duty, I fear, for the voyage. 2 of the Packs got a little wet by the Horse fording a Small River, but not to Cause any damage. Warm day, put up near Sunsett at a River Called Riviere a Joseph about 12 miles after leaving Fraser’s River at the Barge.

“Monday 16. Left our Encampment at an Early hour & put ashore at the South End of first Lake where the Packs were Dried [Williams Lake]. Here we found a few Indians from whom some Roots & a few fish were traded for Tobacco & a few Pairs Shoes. Proceeded at 2 PM and encamped at 6 at Lac en Long [Lac la Hache].

“Tuesday 17. This day without any accident brought us to Salmon River where a family of 7 Atnahs [Secwepemc] came to us with some Roots & fish, from them I traded 7 Beavers, 1 Fox & a few musquash [muskrats] for Leather, Ammunition & Tobacco. The weather fine & Warm & the Rivers not being in a high state, is a great advantage, having numerous Streams to ford which at high Water Causes much difficulty & Delay besides the risk of Wetting the Packs.

“Wednesday 18. Put ashore to bait the Horses as usual at a River called Beaver River, from whence we Proceeded & Encamped along Lac des Chevaux, which is so named from the Circumstance of 18 horses having perished in it by breaking through the Ice some years ago, some Indians were Seen in Course of the day from whom we procured some Roots and a few fishes, being the only articles they have to subsist upon during the Season.”

We have made our Journey as far as Lac des Chevaux, also called Drowned Horse Lake. Today its name is Horse Lake, and it is here that the Old and new trails diverge — the old going east to the North Thompson River over the rugged Thompson plateau, and the new south and east through the beautiful open grasslands and woodlands of Green and Loon Lakes.

Here is the next section:

Copyright, Nancy Marguerite Anderson, 2014. Updated, May 2016. All rights reserved.