Joachim Lafleur worked at Fort Okanogan in the 1840’s, when Alexander Caulfield Anderson was in charge of Fort Colvile. I just wrote a tweet that mentioned Lafleur, and that reminded me that I have not yet written about this interesting man!
Bruce Watson, in Lives Lived West of the Divide, has Lafleur as a Canadien, born in Lower Canada (Quebec) about 1806. He joined the HBC and was middleman at Thompson’s River [Kamloops] from 1828-1834. He spent his time at either Kamloops or Fort Colvile and was sometimes placed in charge at Fort Okanogan, with Francois Duchoquette as his companion. Lafleur retired in 1854 and built a little store near Marcus (close to Fort Colvile). As I may have mentioned before (and certainly will do later), storekeeping is a business that many HBC men transitioned into after they left the fur trade.
So, if Lafleur came into the district in 1827 or 1828, he would be mentioned in Edward Ermatinger’s York Factory Express Journals. He is not mentioned in the list of men that worked the canoes up the Athabasca River from Fort Assiniboine in 1827, and so I presume he did not come in that year. In 1828 Ermatinger did not return to the Columbia: there is, therefore, no list of the men who rowed the boats. Joachim Lafleur was probably there, however.
Lafleur is not mentioned in the Express journals until 1848, when Thomas Lowe arrived at Fort Okanogan:
[October] 25, Wednesday. Fine weather. Arrived at Okanagan in the evening, and encamped there. Lafleur was absent, having started yesterday for Colvile for goods.
Joachim Lafleur did not travel out with the York Factory Express, or at least not in the later years. That job was preserved for the younger men, and the older travelled out with the brigades. James Robert Anderson, son of Alexander Caulfield Anderson, remembers Lafleur very clearly, and writes about him travelling out to Fort Langley in the 1850 brigade. So, from James Anderson’s “Memoirs,” written many years later and stored in the B.C. Archives, we have this story:
In conformity with the preceding letter from Mr. James Douglas [which advised Anderson his Fort Colvile brigades could travel separately from the New Caledonia brigades], in June 1850, the Hudson’s Bay Company’s brigade in charge of my father, conveying the season’s outfit of furs, started from Fort Colvile for Fort Langley. Accompanying our father were my eldest Sister [Eliza Charlotte Anderson], and myself, on our way to the only available school in those days, viz. that presided over by the Reverend Robert John Staines and Mrs. Staines at Fort Victoria.
Oh, that school! I write about it in the Fort Victoria thread (or at least I will) This is Reverend Staines’s story: https://nancymargueriteanderson.com/reverend-staines/
Crossing the Columbia River below the Kettle Falls in boats, the horses belonging to the brigade were crossing by swimming. A description of the order of march of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s brigades, as they were called, may here be given. Preceding everyone else, the gentleman in charge rides; his duty was to keep the track and should anything occur by which the trail becomes impassible or hostile natives appearing, to halt the brigade in time.
On occasion, hostile First Nations did attempt to block the path which, of course, led through their territory. Orkneyman John Greig, who is featured in the soon-to-be-published book, The York Factory Express, told the story of the Fort Colvile brigades being blocked, likely by members of the Similkameen First Nations. He thought the brigade was in some danger, and so he hauled out his fiddle and played it, and the First Nations men relented and let them through. I don’t know the truth of this, but this is one of the stories Greig told in his old age. So, back to the 1850 brigade, where we find a short story about Lafleur:
Next [in the brigade] is a superior servant whose duty it is to keep up communication between the officer in charge and the brigade. This personage on the occasion of which I write was a French Canadian called La Fleur, whose inordinate fear of snakes used to cause us much amusement. A dead rattlesnake which my father had one day killed and hung on a bush was the cause of great excitement. La Fleur on coming up to it, immediately set spurs to his horse and on his appearing in sight, riding furiously and waving his arms, the natural supposition was that the brigade had been attacked. “Un couleuvre monsieur!” explained the situation…
And so, Lafleur was ignored, poor man. He was probably also teased, as that is what the Canadien and Métis voyageurs were likely to do. But I don’t blame him for being afraid of the snakes. This was rattlesnake country, and when he was at Fort Okanogan he must have had to deal with them all the time!
And I do have some snake stories, too (from James Anderson’s “Memoirs” once again.) When I write about them they will appear here: https://nancymargueriteanderson.com/snakes/
Anyway, to continue with James’s description of the Brigade, in which Joachim Lafleur was the “superior servant” who kept up communications with all the smaller “brigades” of fifteen horses or so under the care of two men, generally, that made up the larger Fort Colvile Brigade of several hundred horses.
Then follow the pack animals conveying the necessary impedimenta in the shape of tents, provisions, bedding, etc; then the first detachment of what was known as the brigade, consisting of certain number of pack horses attended by two men, and then the second and possibly a third detachment. The finding of a suitable camp where water and fodder were obtained often entailed a long wearisome day’s journey over arid plains; on the other hand it sometimes happened that in order to reach suitable locations, a short day’s march compensated for the possibly long day preceding or following. On dismounting, the first duty was to light a fire and for this purpose the flint and steel were altogether used as matches were non-obtainable in those days; the few that I have seem were looked upon as curiosities and only used on the very rare occasions as an exhibition of the white man’s power amongst the natives…
I love the fact that James’s writings bring in stories that no one else would know, or at least write. By the way, Alexander Caulfield Anderson’s flint and steel are in the Royal British Columbia Museum — another artifact I had forgotten about. To continue:
The weary pack-horses as they arrive on the ground quickly recognize that the resting place is reached and as soon as the packs of furs are removed, take a roll and then devote their energies to feeding, or if flies and mosquitos are much in evidence, crowd round the smoke of the camp fires. Tents are pitched and soon the evening meal is ready, the seniors smoke a pipe, the weary youngsters tumble into bed and ere long the camp is wrapped in sleep…
And there we have a bit about Joachim Lafleur, and the work he would have done in the brigades.
Copyright, Nancy Marguerite Anderson, 2019. All rights reserved.
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