Joachim Lafleur

Skaha Lake, Okanagan

The area around Skaha Lake. This is the sort of country that Joachim Lafleur and the HBC brigades from Fort Colvile travelled through. 

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:

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:

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.


5 thoughts on “Joachim Lafleur

  1. Roxanne Woodruff

    Nancy, this may be the first time I really came into your blog. After all these years it is about time. At least I do not recall having the access to reply. Enjoy your work and stories always! I just learned a couple days ago that a friend I have corresponded with for several years is an assistant genealogist in the show, “Finding Your Roots”. He had contacted me many years ago maybe even when my pages were still active as he had learned about 2 powder horns that William Kittson had inherrited from John Day, possibly for working on John Day’s Last Will & Testiment. They went from William to Peter Kittson our great grandfather, to Nazaire our grandfather, then to our Uncle John Kittson. I was surprised that I do not think our mom heard about that as she always kept up with the family stories. I forget the actual exchange of how John passed those horns on to either my friend Nick or someone else first, but think Nick has them “somewhere” He was afraid to ask me about them as not too sure how things exchanged hands. I cann’t even get him to take pictures of them. He recently announced in facebook that he was an assistant genealogist for the show, so I let him know we are trying to find William Kittson’s mother. I am not sure how much time he can spare on me, but will see what he might be able to help with. Thunder and lightening so will get off the computer!

  2. Jim Harrison

    Hi Nancy …….I’ve been reading you stories with great interest.
    I grew up in a small town in the North Okanagan called Falkland. I built a log and stone cabin a short ways outside of the village. This is way back in 1974. Some of the old timers in the village told me that where my cabin sat was directly on the old “Fur Brigade Trail” that ran from Fort Astoria to Fort Kamloops. I have become incredibly fascinated by that period of history and particularly as it relates to the interior of our province.
    Do you have info on the “Brigades Trail” through the Falkland/Westwood
    (Grand Prairie) area? Have you come across any resource material that chronicals the first establishments or settlers in the Falkland area?
    If you could direct me to any literature or journals that relate to my home town I would be greatly appreciative.
    Thanks so much……..Jim Harrison

    1. Nancy Marguerite Anderson Post author

      Yes, you are right on the brigade trail indeed. The obvious recommendations are these: get the book by James Gibson, “The Lifeline of the Oregon Country,” UBC Press. If no where else it is in the library I suspect, but it is still for sale. Another thing to look for is the little booklets the Okanagan Historical Society — or someone else — put out on the brigade trails. I have the one for the south half of the trail and don’t have the one through Falkland. I suggest looking in the antiquarian bookstore in your town — they will know exactly what you are talking about. If you find two copies, let me know and I will order one. 😉

  3. Roxanne Woodruff

    Nancy, with all your wonderful research on Ft Okanagan I might have to write to you more on the Reservation as well. Peter Kittson was married to Angelique Dupre. Angelique’s parents were Nazaire & Catherine Lafantasie Dupre. Catherine’s parents were Jacques Lafantasie & Susanne (San Poil, but also known as Susanne Okanogan) My sister Sandra has much history on her and has also received info from the reservation years ago. She use to come to visit Catherine and I think the grandchildren and set up a TP on the property. I believe Susanne was blind in her later years and may have set up a parimiter around her TP on the reservation to help her find her way around to get kindling and other needs. A lot of the history is in the Church records books. I would not doubt that she could have known of Joachim Lafleur, possibly through Jacques Lafantasie.