A Free Man Part 3

In my previous post, “A Free Man”,  I mentioned that 23 men had left Ogden’s venture for the American Company. As it happens, 12 men had left Ross’s expedition of 1824 and commenced trapping with the American’s. Later they joined up with the famed , Jedediah Smith . Smith and his party accompanied Ogden out on his first Snake Country expedition to Flathead Post. Ogden suspected him of trying to gain information for his American employer, William Ashley.  So, our ancestor Baptiste Beauchamp who was a trapper for the party,  would have known Smith or at least have been in contact with him.

At the end of the War of 1812, the British (including Canada) and the Americans were to jointly share occupation of the Columbia River region for a period of 10 years while the northern border was settled.  Ogden, who had accidentally traveled south of the 42nd parallel found his tent invaded by Johnson Gardner, leader of an American trapping party, asking him if he knew what country he was in.  Ogden insisted it was Oregon territory to which Gardener told him the area had been ceded to the United States. Neither was right and at the time, there were no territorial maps of the area.

Below a map of the Oregon Country/Columbia District during this period and the Forts.


By Kmusser [CC BY-SA 2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Then a heated discussion of  HBC policy ensued. Simpson’s policy was to overprice the supplies and equipment which each man went into debt for. Then, when the debt was being paid, he undervalued the furs given in payment.  The Freemen, many of them Métis,  like the Americans, were quick to “fly the flag”. They needed little provocation to fight and felt little allegiance to anyone . Twelve of the Freemen took their horses and furs and left. I did not see Baptiste on the list of defecting men in William Kittsons journals. Kittson was Ogden’s second in command and kept a more particular journal than Ogden.

It did not take long however, for the HBC men to return back with their tails between their legs. The American system of free enterprise was a little too rough for them. Soon after,  Simpson admitted his mistake with some prompting from John McLoughlan, the factor at Fort Vancouver.  The HBC also disallowed liquor which ensured fair dealing with the natives who could be easily parted from their furs under its influence

By March 1827, the policy to “hunt the country dry” was still in place. As Ogden moved further afield to do just that, he left the eastern Snake country unprotected, allowing the Americans to move in.  Jedediah Smith had crossed into  California and north into Oregon  for the first time which was a major threat to the HBC.  Along the way they were attacked by the Umpqua Indians.  Smith had escaped and made it to Fort Vancouver. Governor George Simpson offered him $2600 for his horses and fur. In exchange Smith agreed to stay out of territory west of the Divide.³

During the expedition of 1826, the men began to show signs of food poisoning though the form it took did not make it readily apparent. Symptoms began with severe headaches and pain in their “loins” and extremities. This they thought was from the beaver meat they ate. Ogden not being ill himself decided to eat some. He did not taste any difference in the beaver meat from that area and gloated that it didn’t have any effect on him. Five days later,  he was crawling on the ground. It turns out that the beavers were gnawing on hemlock root and that passed down to the meat. Most of the men survived. The cure? A mixture of pepper and gun powder in water as an emetic!

Baptiste Beauchamp is also mentioned by Alexander Henry who travelled with David Thompson, as having been “Thompson’s man” .

JB Thompsons Man

If you are interested in Thompson’s expedition to the Columbia River you can follow this link.



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