Two Canoes: To Fort St. James, Stuart’s Lake

Flintlock Guns, Fort Langley

Flintlock Guns

In the twenty-first post in this series, we will follow Sir George Simpson from McLeod Lake [Trout Lake Post] to Fort St. James. His journey to the Trout Lake Post is found here:

This will be a fun post, in a sense. I don’t have to explain a lot, and many of the people who are traveling in this “parade” across the portage from McLeod Lake to Fort St. James can be identified. There are some surprising people here!

So here goes: Once again this is from a book titled Peace River: A Canoe Voyage from Hudson’s Bay to Pacific by the late Sir George Simpson, in 1828 [Ottawa: J. Durie & Son, 1872]. The journal is actually written by Archibald McDonald later of Fort Colvile, who was traveling west with Simpson to take charge of the newly constructed Fort Langley post, on the lower Fraser River.

Friday, 12th [September]. Remained here all day, preparing lading. Got a few remarkably small white fish in a net this morning. No potatoes this season. The Indians of this place are twenty-six, exclusive of the Chicanees, and not counting those about Finlay’s Branch. Last year they gave about two thousand beaver [a large return for such a place] and this season promise to do equally well.

Saturday, 13th — Having laid up in Mr. Tod’s store 9 bags of pemican, a keg of sugar, a tinnett [sic] of ham and tongues, and a keg of sundries, with two small bundles, the whole for the purpose of being sent for by the people at Stuart’s Lake as soon as possible, we made a move at half-past five, every man with a piece, including the provisions…

I am not copying out the list of provisions, but McDonald did list the men who carried them. Here are their names: “La Course, Delorme, Anawagon, Martin, Larante, St. Denis, Houle, Lasard, M—-, Charpentier, Hoog [Amable Hogue], Desguilars, Nicholas, Tomma, Peter.” I wonder if anyone can identify these men: most would have been from the East side of the Mountains and would have returned to the East with Governor Simpson. It has been suggested that Alexis L’Esperance, who they met on the Hayes River, was here, but I see no sign that he was. Here is his story:

…Thus loaded, we cannot be expected to get on quickly, for the road is exceedingly bad, no transport of any consequence having gone on here for the last three years, and no improvement or clearing away made on the road.

Arrived at first Lake before seven, and at second by half-past eight. Breakfasted. Off again by eleven, and reached Long Lake about four o’clock. Total distance, say eighteen miles. The last half of the way very bad. Plenty of water all along. A fine day.

Sunday, 14th — Moved off as soon as we could conveniently see. Long Lake took us but an hour. To Round Lake another, and by eight we arrived at the east end of Carp Lake. This year the road is good, however the ground we came over along the Lake till half-past nine a.m. was very indifferent. To the traverse was equally bad. This took us three hours on a very frail raft, which being effected in safety, all hands were treated with a bumper of Port Wine, and we resumed the journey at four.

It seems they followed the east bank of the long narrow lake south of McLeod Lake, which ran north-south. They rounded its end and headed west toward today’s Carp Lake, encountering another lake along the way. Anderson’s 1867 map has the road following the south bank of the creek and rounding Carp Lake’s south bank, rather than crossing the river or creek that flows of Carp Lake and traveling over its north shore. It seems that if they experienced so much difficulty in crossing the river east of Carp Lake [which I think is where they are] then the later trail was a better choice of route.

Met a Canadian [Paul Guilbault] and four Indians about five. Rode on another hour, and encamped at a small lake on our right, in what is called the Brule. [Burnt wood district]. Guilbault and the Indians proceed to McLeod’s Lake for loads to-morrow morning. Had a round on the bag-pipes, to the great astonishment of the natives. Distance to-day fifteen miles.

One of the people on this journey was Colin Fraser, who was hired as Piper for Governor Simpson. He went on to spend forty years in the HBC trade, and at Jasper’s House he greeted the incoming men of the York Factory Express by playing his bag-pipes — a tradition of the express as long as he was at the post. George Traill Allen wrote of Fraser in 1841:

Upon our arrival there we received a regular Highland welcome from the person in charge, Colin Fraser, formerly Piper to Governor Simpson, but now promoted to the charge of Jasper’s House. Colin lost no time in asking us what we would have for breakfast…. Colin could scarcely, had he searched the whole Indian Country, have found a spot to resemble more his own native Highlands — surrounded upon all sides by high mountains — frequented, if not by tame, at least by wild sheep, & at some distance a large Lake which yields most excellent Trout.

So let’s continue with Governor Simpson’s journey across the land portage that separates McLeod Lake from Fort St. James:

Monday, 15th — Before we parted from Guilbault and followers this morning, we gave about 25 lbs. pemican to put into cache until their return, as their provisions from the Fort are not adequate to the journey. Arrived at River La Cache in one hour and a half, and at Half-way Creek in about the same time. Came but a short way further, and breakfasted at the edge of a small lake to the left. Drizzly rain the whole afternoon, but throughout the rest of the day increased to heavy showers, which lasted until we encamped on a small prairie on Salmon River. Point of the woods took us two hours, and from there to White River half as long over very fine country. The rest of this day’s work took us two hours more, and we encamped at four pm, drenched to the very skin, after performing a journey of twenty miles.

Tuesday, 16th — Did not start before six o’clock. Good walking in the morning. Left Lac des Morts and another small one on the left hand, and arrived at Carrier Lake to breakfast, expect [except?] a few that missed their way, and followed a track that led them three miles to the eastward at Beaver Lake. They joined us in the course of the forenoon. While waiting for them there, two men — Indians — met us from the Fort. They, of course, continued their route to McLeod’s Lake. An hour after resuming our journey after breakfast, we bent our course to the right [north], to avoid the very bad road along a bay in Carrier Lake [whose outlet debouches near Fort St. James], and crossed a small inlet on a raft, which took us an hour. Here we again met a Canadian and four Indians with two more horses. They, in like manner, proceeded to McLeod’s Lake, and will we trust be able to carry everything. To-night we encamped within twelve miles of the Fort, and have three or four Carriers about us. The bagpipes pleased them to admiration, as well as the bugle, but it was the musical box that excited their astonishment most, especially when it was made to appear to be the Governor’s Dog that performed the whole secret. Came eighteen miles today.

Wednesday, 17th — Morning cloudy, and appearance of rain. Our horses not found till late. In the meantime, however, party with their loads commenced their march. Overtook them by nine, and about an hour after, at the last Lake, within a mile of the Fort, halted for breakfast, and changed [dress].

The day, as yet, being fine, the flag was put up; the piper in full Highland costume; and every arrangement was made to arrive at Fort St. James in the most imposing manner we could, for the sake of the Indians. Accordingly, when within about a thousand yards of the establishment, descending a gentle hill, a gun was fired, the bugle sounded, and soon after, the piper commenced the celebrated march of the clans — “Si coma leum cogadh na shea,” (Peace: or War, if you will it otherwise). The guide, with the British ensign, led the van, followed by the band; then the Governor, on horseback, supported behind by Doctor [Richard] Hamlyn and myself [Archibald McDonald] on our chargers, two deep; twenty men, with their burdens, next formed the line; then one loaded horse, and lastly, Mr. [William] McGillivray [with his wife and light infantry] closed the rear. During the brisk discharge of small arms and wall pieces from the Fort, Mr. [James] Douglas met us a short distance in advance, and in this order we made our entree into the Capital of Western Caledonia. No sooner had we arrived, than the rain which threatened us in the morning, now fell in torrents.

Mr. [William] Connolly had not arrived, nor had any work been had of him since the 24th ultimo [August], then but one day on this side of Kamloops. A letter was forthwith addressed to him by the Governor, and two men were kept standing at the gate until the shower should be over, ready to start with it down the River, when, all of a sudden a canoe appears on the Lake, and in about twenty minutes, we had the infinite satisfaction of receiving Mr. Connolly on the beach, amidst a renewal of salutes from the Fort.

So there are quite a few famous people gathered at Fort St. James on September 17th, 1828. William McGillivray was the Metis son of another William McGillivray, and was descended from the McGillivrays of the North West Company. Governor Simpson had brought him west because he was dissatisfied with his work in the Athabasca: William Connolly considered him a good worker. Dr Richard Hamlyn was clerk and surgeon at Fort Vancouver after he arrived there with Governor Simpson. “During the journey he was the object of ridicule by the tougher fur traders who noted that he slept on his watch, complained endlessly of the portages, and yearned for the days at York Factory.” [Bruce Watson: Lives Lived West of the Divide]. The gentlemen did not keep watch for danger, by the way — they watched to ensure the voyageurs, who actually kept watch, did not sleep on the job! Mr. James Douglas later became Chief Factor at Fort Vancouver, and at Fort Victoria, and later was made Governor of the Colony of Vancouver’s Island. Even later than that, he was Governor of the Colony of British Columbia. Chief Factor William Connolly was his father in law, and it is his brigade journals (and Peter Warren Dease’s) we have been following in the Brigade Journals thread.  One more person was on this journey: Governor Simpson’s then girlfriend, Margaret Taylor, who might have been traveling with her year-old son, George Stewart Simpson. Can this be? Or did Margaret leave her toddler in charge of someone at Red River?

To go back to the beginning of this series, click here:

When the next John Work post is written, it will appear here:

When the next Governor Simpson post is written, I will put it here:

Copyright, Nancy Marguerite Anderson, 2017. All rights reserved.

3 thoughts on “Two Canoes: To Fort St. James, Stuart’s Lake

  1. Jackie Corrigan

    I can identify Hoog! It’s Amable Hogue who would later marry Margaret Taylor. HBC Archives (RG20/4/16) has a letter to another researcher W.G. Speechly who was trying to identify the same person. Servants accounts and Amable’s HBC biographical info confirm this.

    I don’t know if Margaret’s son George was with her. By the time she gave birth to their second son John in August 1829, she (along with her son and mother) was under the care of Chief Factor John Stuart at Bas de la Riviere (Fort Alexander).