The Spirit of Resistance 9

When the Hudson’s Bay Company merged with the Northwest Company in 1821, the Metis began to feel increasingly frustrated and resentful. They were being governed by people who weren’t even resident there and therefore did not have the intrinsic right to control the fur market. Many continued to obtain furs directly from the Indians and bartered them to the Americans in St.Paul, Minnisota. A trading post had been set up in Pembina by the American Fur Company, where the price of furs was much more generous.

In 1845, unrest had grown to a point where petitions were sent first to the Governor and then to England with James Sinclair.  The documents were presented to the  British government by Alexander Isbister, a Scots Metis lawyer but to no avail.  HBC Governor, George Simpson attempted to stop “illicit” trading, even going so far as to search homes and impose an import duty on American products. Soon, the colony was placed under martial law.

In 1849 four men were charged with illegally trafficking furs, including Pierre Sayer. Jean-Louis Riel, father to Louis and a community activist, set up a committee to respond to the charges. He was joined by James Sinclair and Andrew McDermot two of the most prominent private traders in the settlement.  Several hundred armed Metis gathered on the grounds of St. Boniface Cathedral to listen to Riel’s rallying cry, afterwards crossing the river to congregate in front of the court-house. Some went into the courtroom and some into the jury box, all armed.

The trial proceeded in front of the Governor and Chief Factor of Fort Garry,  John Ballenden . The jury found Sayer guilty but recommended mercy since the Metis had been encouraged to trade along the border line but not specifically with whom. Since their was no direct evidence against Sayer and there was a huge armed gathering outside, Ballenden decided prudently, to drop the charges against the other three men as well as Sayer.

The declaration of free trade and liberty led to increased trade with the Americans at Pembina and St. Paul,  Minnesota. Hundreds of carts carrying the products of the fur trade, pemmican, buffalo robes and hides, tallow saddles, embroidered coats and moccasins would make the 1000 kilometre trip each year until the buffalo died out.  Most of these were created by the labour of Metis women.

Once again we see the solidarity which helped form the identity of a people with their own culture and way of life.

Note: Said Louis Riel Sr. was married to Julie Lagimodiere, my 4th great-aunt and mother of Louis Riel, famed Metis martyr.  According to some, the Riel named had its origins in Ireland as Reilly and was transmuted to Riel after the “Flight of the Wild  Geese”. The Flight of the Wild Geese was the departure of an Irish Jacobite army under the command of Patrick Sarsfield from Ireland to France in 1691. There the army disbanded and Reilly joined the ranks of Louis XIV possibly calling himself Riel by then.

Riel came to Canada as part of the Carignan Salieres regiment and decided to stay in Quebec.  Eventually, the family wound its way to Saskatchewan where Riel Sr. was born and then to Manitoba where Louis Riel the son, was born . Through Julie, Louis was my 1st cousin 4X removed. It is still hard for me to imagine the great sorrow that the family endured at their loss. Of course, the Lagimodiere family has its own story too.

I do remember my mother telling that one of my grandmother’s ancestors was the first white woman in the west. That would be Marie Anne Gaboury, Jean Baptiste’s wife. There is definitely an enduring pioneering attitude and history on both sides of my family, more on that later.

 

 

The Spirit of Resistance 7

The aboriginal people of Canada have often been referred to as a “stone-age people” at the time of contact with the Europeans in the early seventeenth century. One might even perceive the buffalo hunt as being a demonstration of this, comparing it to the mammoth hunts of their ancestors.  Let us see how the hunt out of Selkirk went in July of 1840. The Métis and Scot half-breeds comprised nearly half the colony.  In spite of  their lack of property they “held themselves above all restraint”. One might assume they had inherited the aboriginal belief that the land could not be owned.

As soon as spring arrived, a type of mania took hold of the colony, with the hunters borrowing everything they would need for the hunt on the promise of payment after the hunt. This led to a system of  “long credit” which did not help the borrower or the lender. The hunt was much bigger than one would imagine, with some 1,630 “souls” travelling along with perhaps even a member of the British nobility, taking part in the “pleasures of the chase”.  Their was no distinction given them as they sat down to a dinner of fresh buffalo-steak.

Let us look at a list of supplies ( including employees)  purchased (again mostly on credit) by the hunters.
1210 carts
620 hunters ( for the two months they would be away)
620 women (again for the two month period)
360 boys and girls
740 guns
150 gallons of gunpowder
1300 pounds of trading balls
6240 gun flints
100 steel daggers
100 (skinning knives)
403 buffalo runners
655 cart horses
586 draught oxen
1210 sets of harness
403 riding saddles
403 bridles and whips
1240 scalping knives
448 half axes
Camp equipment ( tents, cooking equipment etc.)
Total-£24,000 (roughly $107,000 American in 1800)

Finally the entourage gathered on the open plain where a roll was called and rules for the journey were decided. Leaders for the trip were named as all the carts were placed side by side with the trams outward forming a circle. Within this circle, the tents were placed in double treble rows on one end and the animals were placed at the other end in front of the tents as protection against an attack by enemies, particularly the Sioux. They were followed by a  pack of 543 hungry dogs . The dogs were a necessity in the winter as sled dogs when the horses could not make it through the snow. The hunter would wrestle the dogs into their traces and then donning his wolf costume, throw himself on the sled to get among the herd where he would silently kill the buffalo with bow and arrow.

Once they were settled, 10 captains were chosen, one of them the head captain. Under these 10, were placed 10 soldiers and under these, 10 guides. The guides duties rotated by day and each carried the flag their day. It was raised every morning to signal the raising of camp. Half an hour was allowed to be ready to march but this could be delayed by circumstance. The guide controlled all that happened in camp by day but when the flag was lowered the captains and soldiers began their duties. Like clockwork, carts were guided into position.

By now, they had arrived at Pembina and were preparing to move further out onto the plain to find the buffalo. Rules were made for the hunt.

  1. No buffalo hunting on Sunday.
  2. No one was to separate from the expedition.
  3. No one was to start before the general order
  4. Every captain was to patrol and guard the camp.
  5. For the first trespass of these rules, the offender was to have his saddle and bridle cut up.
  6. For the second offence, the offender’s coat was to be taken and cut up.
  7. For the third offence, the offender was to be flogged (whipped).
  8. Any person convicted of theft of any kind, was to be brought to the middle of the camp and shamed by having his name called out followed by the word “Thief”.

Although the punishments seem a little mild, there were very few if any misdemeanors in the camp. A priest was always there to accompany the expedition.

A break to rest the animals might be taken during the day.  Again, the flag ruled. When it was raised you moved, when it was down you stopped. The general start and stop times would be half an hour, the distance traveled 20 miles in a day.  If anyone lagged behind, the captain and soldiers would chastise him but make sure his cart was in line quickly.

At the end of day the officials would gather somewhere away to discuss the days events and plan for the next day. Conversation would inevitably lead to politics at which point the men would exclaim against any type of control on their society. Were they not all great and free men, free to live the way they saw fit? The plains were their home. Later, wandering the camp, Ross came upon some of the families of these men and found them, to his great consternation bordering on destitution. He bemoaned the hunters lack of forethought, their “feast or famine” way of life.

There was no actual way of telling where the buffalo would be. The course would generally be to the southwest, where the sources of the rivers were. The party of 1840 would travel some 250 miles before they came within sight of the buffalo. In no time, 400 hunters were assembled and ready for the chase. Like an army charging, they would start at a trot but were soon racing towards the buffalo which did not notice them until they were four or five hundred yards away. By the time they took flight, the riders were among them, guns fired, the air was filled with clouds of dust. The earth quaked with the weight of the racing herd. The fattest cows were always the most desirable and only the fastest horses could get to them at the front of the herd. The hunter, his mouth full of  musket balls, loaded his gun as he road. The best horses were trained to jump aside after a shot to avoid tripping over the wounded animal.

The hunter wasted no time getting to the animal to skin and butcher it. Most were surprisingly able to identify their kill. He kept a vigilant eye out for the enemy, a lurking Sioux only too willing to take his scalp. If this did happen, men from the camp would pursue the culprits and bring them down. Many runners were gored by a bull. The day was short and this led to many carcasses being abandoned, a factor in the decimation of the bison. If it rained the meat would be ruined. When the men returned with the hides and meat the work of the women commenced and that work was very labor intensive. At this hunt, 2500 animals were killed but only the meat of 750 animals was processed.  The chase was the greater part of the attraction. Many continued to go hungry in spite of the large kill.

The group next traveled to Missouri where the Americans charged them more than double the Canadian price for whatever goods they fancied, including the whiskey forbidden for trade in Canada. Wherever the party stopped, they would continue drying the meat for the trip home and soon they were caught up in the animosities of the Sioux and Saulteaux. The Metis, by befriending the Saulteaux put themselves in danger but managed to get back to Pembina where the parties broke up for the trip home. Once they returned, the HBC took its agreed upon share and  the market for the farmers produce dropped . After he had paid a little to his debtors the hunter was content to live off of his own surplus until the next hunt.  I am going to venture and say that it is highly probable that many of my Daigneault and Cyr ancestors went out on the buffalo hunt.

The Spirit of Resistance 5

It is hard to say whether Selkirk had any real notion of the circumstances the Scottish settlers would find themselves in when they arrived on the banks of the Red River (modern-day Winnipeg) in 1812. The journey to that point had already been an arduous one. Not long after their arrival, they were met by men “painted, disfigured and dressed in the savage costume of the country”, employees of the Northwest Company who ordered them out.  These were the “half-breeds” French and Scots. A new colony would block the company’s trade route to the northwest.

The new settlers, already exhausted, decided to continue on to Pembina, 69 miles away in North Dakota. Soon, they were followed by a group of Metis offering to guide them but this time working under their own egis. The language we now know as “Michif” did not seem to hamper negotiations and a rigorous trade was done leaving many of the colonists bereft of prized possessions including wedding rings and family heirlooms. In Pembina, the winter was spent living on the “products of the chase”. The next year, since no crops had survived, they returned to Pembina. This time they were surprised at the selfish behavior of the Metis and had to barter away some of their clothing to survive. They did not return back to the colony much better off than when they had left.

Out of this desperate situation, the Pemmican Proclamation arose, denying any outside trading of goods that were brought into or were a product of the colony. including pemmican. This started a type of civil war between the “Norwesters”, largely Metis and the Hudson’s Bay Company. It later became known as the “Pemmican Wars”.  The trade in buffalo products would be curtailed, thus reducing the livelihood of the Metis. It became so bad that some of the colonists actually joined their enemies in order to survive. Hatred welled until their homes were eventually burned to the ground.

Under the leadership of an educated Scotch half-breed named Cuthbert Grant, an order was issued,  “All settlers to retire immediately from the River and no appearance of a colony to remain.” It was signed by Cuthbert Grant, Bostanais Pangman, William Shaw and Bonhomme Montour.

My 4th great grandfather, Dugald Cameron, whom I have mentioned previously was a very willing participant in all of the events leading up to the of the “Battle of Seven Oaks”.  Speaking the Gaelic tongue and using it to inspire dissension among the settlers, he sent many off to Canada (Quebec) with the promise of land and goods. The determination of the settlers was paid with violence and upheaval. Those that did not leave moved up to Norway House, then called Jack River. Cuthbert Grant seeing the way events were going, attempted to stop the bloodshed but most of the men with Robert Semple were shot down. There still remains controversy over who fired the first shot.  Among the list of casualties, we find Toissant Vaudry another 4th great-grandfather who lost an arm. Alexander Ross states that it would have been better if Semple had gone out to talk on his own instead of displaying arms. The battle called Lord Selkirk back to the colony with a group of disbanded soldiers known as the “de Meurons” and led to actions on his part for which he would pay dearly.

Among my ancestors who may have been part of the uprising would be Charles, Jean and Pierre Beauchamp, Jean Baptiste Lagimodiere, Toussaint Vaudry, Louis Cyr, Joseph Daigneault and of course John Dugal Cameron through his wife Marie Lesperance.

Quotes are from Alexander Ross “The Red River Settlement: It’s Rise, Progress and Present State, Published 1856

The Spirit of Resistance 3

We get a better picture of what our ancestors were like if we can place them in the context of their times.  The Metis people were primarily descendants of the French fur traders. The French fur traders were from Quebec, often listed as “Canada” but their families may have been there for only a few hundred years if that. The Quebecois were primarily of Norman origin and are famous for retaining the culture of their ancestors. That became a little harder to do when you came west. The country was a creation of vastness, sweeps of prairie grass as far as the eye could see, raging rivers roaring out of the mountains only to trickle down to a creek, crippling cold….

There were people who could not deal with the isolation and hardship. Few could make the return trip home. Many came to escape oppression or poverty and many died in the attempt, especially women and children, for the promise of freedom.

You may have grown up with immigrant grandparents who retained a heavy British accent which left you with a “twang” often mistaken for a Texas accent. That is a problem I had into my 30’s.  You may have strange and wonderful memories of relatives you never did get to know,  like the man with black braids and buckskin I saw mending the roof of my Metis grandmother’s house.

During the times of the fur trade wars and Metis rebellions, members of my family were present in Selkirk and St. Boniface, Manitoba.
From Spraque and Frye’s Genealogy of the First Metis Nation:
Table 1: Genealogies of Red River Households, 1818-1870
Jean Beauchamp and Angelique Pangman
Pierre Cyr and Marie Anne Lagimonier 1) Angeliqe Klyne 2)
Joseph Daigneault and Genevieve Cameron
Louis Cyr and Catherine Martineau
Roman Lagmoniere and Marie Vaudry
Dougal Cameron and Marie Lesperance 
Jean Baptiste Lagimoniere and Marie Anne Gaboury
Toussant Vaudry and Marie Anne Crebassa

Again, the Marie Anne Lagimonier above was Louis Riel Jr’s cousin as his mother was Julie Lagimoniere.

I think it is important to note that the Metis people were a distinct society, separate from the French and First Nations. Many people ask about the native people in your family but that track could have been very long ago at the start of the fur trade.  Only a few generations passed before mixed blood began to dominate and the fur traders actually married Metis women. The marriages began to be between Metis people themselves, although culturally, the buffalo hunt kept native tradition alive. Also, you may have been from a line where the father was a Scot and generally would have been termed a half-breed.

What were some of the cultural symbols of Metis society?

The Flag

An infinity symbol representing the future of the Metis people.  It was changed to red for the hunt.

The Red River Cart
Related image

Built as a reliable means of transportation over rough ground and known for the high squeal of it’s wheels. It was an all wood construction. Trains would go out on the buffalo hunts to carry back hundreds of pounds of buffalo meat.

The Sash
Image result for metis sash

Worn over the left shoulder by women and around the waist (usually to hold a capote closed) by men.  The capote commonly made from a HBC blanket.

Image result for metis capote

Pemmican

Image result for making pemmican

Dried buffalo meat mixed with berries which was a survival food for the native people, passed to the Metis who gained a livelihood from it. It became their main commerce for canoes travelling between forts. Later, the Selkirk settlers would also rely on it to survive. After the buffalo hunt, the women did all the work, skinning, tanning and curing meat.

Fiddle Music and Step Dancing

Here is a sample of  the music and dance of the Metis people from a town close to where my mother grew up Dauphin, Manitoba, Four Nations Square Dancers.

The Spirit of Resistance

On November 16, 1885, a lone figure stood silently on the gallows waiting to meet his destiny.  His name was Louis David Riel and he was my first cousin 4 times removed. Below, a clip from Ancestry linking my father to the Lagimodiere family from whom Riel`s mother, Julie sprang. Julie`s brother Romain was my  3rd great-grandfather.

Riel Connection snip

You can see in the chart the names that were well-known in the Red River Settlement, Lagimodiere, Diagneault, Cyr, Thibault. Other names in the family were Jennie Cameron, Mary Inkster, Catherine Martineau and of course, Marie Anne Gaboury.  Further back in the family one finds the more obscure appellations, Marie…..(Lesperance), Charlotte….., Josette….(Indienne) and Suzanne Sauteuse. On the 1901 Census of Canada, my great-grandfather, William Daigneault declared  himself and his family as being French Metis (M.F.) and Red in skin colour.

The settlement was established at the confluence of the northern Red and Assiniboine rivers which is in modern-day Winnipeg, Manitoba. It had been a prominent trading place for the aboriginal people of the area, the Cree and Ojibwa among them.  Before that prehistoric people had camped and traded there. These two rivers were part of a canoe route that joined with the Mississippi and Missouri rivers on the southern trade route.

in 1783, the first trading post was built by Pierre Gualtier de la Verendrye. He named it Forte Rouge or Red River.  Many of the French trappers who traded there married First Nations women which eventually led to the creation of a new culture, the Metis.  Initially, there was a society dominated by the First Nations people of the area with whom the French were on amicable terms .

For the main part, the French traders and their offspring blended with the First Nations culture . The buffalo hunt remained one of the main features of life among the people.  Sedentary farming did not come naturally to them. It didn’t even make sense. The winters were long and freezing,  in the spring the Red River would storm its banks and flood the area. The summers were hot and humid and the tall prairie grasses provided ideal forage for the hundreds of buffalo which roamed freely.

The land that had been owned by the Hudson’s Bay Company as part of its vast empire was called Rupert’s Land and it had been given complete authority over it.  Now, the Company’s fortunes were waning. It proved to be a fortunate time for a wealthy and very idealistic  young nobleman, Thomas Douglas, 5th Earl of Selkirk. When his brother died, he inherited a great fortune.  He also had a compassionate heart and hoped to transplant hundreds of Scots who were being driven off their land during the Highland Clearances.

Selkirk realized that to gain enough land he would have to become a major shareholder in the Hudson’s Bay Company.  He bought as much stock as possible and then asked for a grant of 116,000 square miles which covered parts of  present day Manitoba, North Dakota and Minnesota. In May, 1811, the deed was granted willingly, they knew he was likely to lose money.

The first colonists arrived from the Hebrides in Scotland in the summer of 1811. At their head was Miles Macdonell also a Scot and appointed governor of the colony. They had to spend the winter at York Factory before they could come. In August 1812, they arrived at the forks of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers and settled at Point Douglas. After they took formal possession of the land, they continued on to Fort Daer on the Pembina River in North Dakota to find food.  The Metis people there supplied them with fish and pemmican made from the buffalo they hunted.  In 1813 more colonists arrived  and they all sowed crops together on long strip plots running back from the river.  The sowing was too late however and the crops failed.

The men who worked for the HBC resented the extra trouble of  having to help the new settlers and the stricter rules Selkirk was enforcing on them. They could not easily make private deals for extra money now. At Fort York, some of Macdonell’s men had been persuaded against him and he found himself with no supplies when they finally got to Point Douglas.

Selkirk had no notion of how serious the rivalry was between the HBC and the North West Company. The Northwest Company was composed largely of Metis and French from Montreal. The settlement lay across the path to the Athabasca country where the Nor’Westers gained most of their wealth. The King’s charter had granted the HBC only the lands that drained into the Hudson Bay. The Athabasca drained into the Arctic but to get to it the Nor’Westers would have to cross what was becoming British territory. They had been able to do this until now because there weren’t enough men to stop them.  The new settlement was composed of British people, faithful to Selkirk who could help close the gates to the Athabasca.  The fur trade war intensified.

Below, a map of trading posts and canoe routes:

Trading_Posts_Canoe_Routes

Trading Posts and Canoe Routes -Cristian Ionata-edmaps.com 

The map shows the canoe routes up to Athabasca country where the highest quality furs were found (colder weather made for thicker furs). From Fort Garry and up through Lake Manitoba to  Fort Cumberland  and then to Ile a La Crosse and the Athabasca River, the source of which lies in Jasper National Park, Alberta. At Ile a La Crosse we find mention of Jean Baptiste Beauchamp who travelled with Peter Skene Ogden on the Snake River Expeditons which I have written about hereRichard Daigneault is listed as an employee of the HBC in 1804 here. Jean Baptiste and Vincent Daigneault (my grandmother’s maiden name) are listed as HBC employees for 1855-6 here.

The NWC tried preventing the colonists from even arriving at the settlement by complaining to officials in Britain but did not accomplish that.  Then they tried to stop the Metis at Fort Pembina from selling supplies to the colonists.  Back at Fort Garry, they made every attempt to get the them to desert. They found themselves caught in the trade war.

Macdonell decided to act by issuing the “Pemmican Proclamation” in January 8th, 1814. For one year no supplies were to be taken out the colony without permission. He began to seize pemmican from the Nor’Westers and supervised provisioning of all canoes traveling between Lake Superior and the Athabasca country.  In June of that year the Montreal partners of the NWC arrived and decided that the colony must be destroyed entirely. The settlers were promised free passage and provisions to resettle in Upper Canada (Ontario) or be driven off.

Commander of Fort Gibraltar, Duncan Cameron, tried to win the settlers over with parties and talk of coming on side with the NWC . He even spoke Gaelic to them. When that failed he tried to raise  insurrection among the Metis by driving home the fact that they were forbidden to sell pemmican and that their land was being stolen . The Metis, reverting to the ways of their mothers, intimidated the settlers by killing horses, taking guns and plundering houses. They were setting the stage for what became known as the “Pemmican Wars”. Finally, in June, Macdonell decided it was in the settlers best interests that they give up the fight. It was too late. He and 134 deserting settlers were taken by Duncan Cameron to Fort William where he was to be charged with robbing the company. He did not get charged but the settlers proceeded to Upper Canada to settle.

Likewise,  the settlers who stayed behind were driven out and fled to Norway House on Lake Winnipeg. While they were there, a brigade of HBC officials was making its way from Montreal to the settlement on the Red River.  When they arrived and heard what was happening, they continued to Norway House to bring the settlers back. A few stubborn men had stayed behind to build Fort Douglas and start some crops. On November 3 of 1814, another group of colonists arrived with a new governor, Robert Semple. A second colony had been planted. Below, a map of the Red River Settlement as it was in 1818.

Map RRS 1818

Red River Settlement 1818 -Scan from The Romance of the Prairies by A.L. Burt

Right click on the image to open it in a new tab.

 

 

Time and Circumstance

Interestingly, I have found myself at a point where the lives of 4 different men intersect, two of them my ancestors.  They would be Sir George Simpson, Governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company, John McLoughlin, (chief factor of Fort Vancouver, Washington), my 4th great-grandfather, John Dugald Cameron and Joseph Beauchamp, blacksmith at Fort Vancouver and later Fort Victoria.

Simpson was not born under auspicious circumstances, he was the illegitimate son of George Simpson Sr. and an unknown woman in Lochbroom, Scotland.  He was raised by his aunt, Mary Simpson and attended the parish school until he went to London in 1800 around the age of 14. There his uncle Geddes Simpson, who was a partner in a sugar brokerage firm, gave him work. When the company merged with Wedderburn and Company in 1812, Simpson met a man who would greatly influence his future.  Andrew Wedderburn was brother-in-law to Lord Selkirk who established the Red River colony in Manitoba, Canada.

In the early 1800’s, the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) was in a bitter struggle for the fur trade with the North West Company (NWC), the original company based in Montreal.  Any means, fair or foul were used to gain or block access to furs;  price manipulation, selling liquor to the natives, even stealing the other’s furs and trade goods. When the officer in charge of the Athabasca country was about to be charged with murder and the governor in chief in danger of arrest,  the young Simpson’s brother-in-law, then known as Andrew Colville, ushered him into an appointment as locum governor-in-chief. When the NWC offered to buy the HBC out, the company took it as a sign of weakness and made a bid to merge the two companies. The “amalgamation” took place in March 1821.

Once appointed, Simpson travelled tirelessly across the country,  a whirlwind of closures and dismissals following him. The speed he moved at is aptly described in the book “Adventurers”.
“Around the point, two canoes come racing, flying across the water at a killing pace. Nine paddlers in matching dress, singing at the top of their lungs, bring the larger one surging up to the dock. They fall silent and a bagpiper leaps ashore. Behind him strides a man in a magnificent, tartan cloak with a tall beaver hat on his head. ……. In moments the two canoes have vanished up river. Only the echoes of the paddlers’ song remains to convince the bewildered men that the governor’s visit had really happened.”

Simpson was friendly enough but would not tolerate insubordination. No advancement was given to those who did not obey. Still, the officers in the company seldom experienced any economic downturns. That was reserved for the lower ranks. In 1821, he ordered John Lee Lewes and John Dugald Cameron to inspect the old NWC posts west of the Rocky Mountains. They reported back that profit would increase if personnel was reduced.  The only benefit in keeping the Columbia River area open was to provide a buffer zone between the Americans and the rich fur area to the North.

Simpson left York Factory for Fort George in Astoria out flanking John McLoughlin, chief factor of Fort Vancouver (Washington), who had left 20 days previous. The two met in Fort George and together formulated plans to counter the Russian American trade. One of the counter measures was the trapping expedition that we previously found Jean Baptiste Beauchamp on with Peter Skene Ogden. The other plan was to open Fort Langley on the Fraser River. Fort Langley however, was not a good place to ship furs to by water. The flow of the river was just too erratic, furs would have to be traded overland.

After postponing a trip to London for years, Simpson decided he would return to see his  uncle. While he was there he decided to marry Geddes daughter, Frances, in spite of the fact that he was 38 years her senior. Unsurprisingly, Frances found life in Canada next to intolerable and though she had 5 children with Simpson she was very frail. When they returned to England for a visit, she stayed behind for 5 years until finally returning  in 1838.  By that time he had established a residence in Lachine, Quebec.

The violent competition between the HBC and the NWC did not abate in spite of proclamations and warnings from London. In May of 1820, Simpson decided to deliver the Governors proclamation personally to the NWC at Fort William himself instead of the agents in Montreal. The chief factor there was John McLoughlin, later to become known as “the father of Oregon” and this would be their first meeting.

McLoughlin was born in 1784 at Riviere du Loup, Quebec. His father was a farmer and his mother the sister of  Dr. Simon Fraser. John started an apprenticeship under his uncle at the age of 14 and by the time he was 19 he was granted a license to practise.  Instead, he decided in 1803,  to sign on with the NWC for five years as a physician and apprentice clerk.  You can see the transcript of his contract with McTavish, Frobisher and Company here.  Later that year, we see one of my distant cousins, Michel Beauchamp,  contracted to travel to the same place, Kaministiquia (now Thunder Bay, Ontario).

John McLoughlin was a man of ” formidable appearance” and though he did practice medicine at the Fort , he turned out to be a very shrewd trader and bargainer. To that end he rose from £200 a term to a partnership in 1814. In 1816, he traveled to the Red River settlement just after the colony was caught in the Seven Oaks Massacre.  McLoughlin was arrested (being with the NWC) and charged as being a part of the attack on the colony. Once he was cleared of charges, he realized that the future looked bleak for the NWC and encouraged a merger between the two rivals.

At this point, George Simpson arrived at Fort William with the proclamation. As was his way,  McLoughlin endeavored to keep the peace, much to the chagrin of his men. This along with his natural abilities brought him the position of Chief Factor at Rainy Lake . Later he was sent to Fort George in Astoria and was replaced by Dugald Cameron. Soon he became the only chief factor in the Columbia District. The area had been largely unproductive by Simpson’s standards. Personnel was slashed and home grown produce was to replace costly provisions.

The war of 1812 had left the northern boundary undecided which meant that Fort George might very well end up inside American territory.  Fort Vancouver in Washington was soon built and Simpson then ordered the Columbia area hunted dry.  For the next 20 years McLoughlin would become in effect, the superintendent of the entire Columbia River district and controlled the reorganization of the Snake River expeditions, the freemen and Iroqouis were now minor in number and HBC servants used.

When Simpson decided to close Forts Taku and McLoughlin in 1843, we see the arrival of Joseph Ovide Beauchamp in Fort Vancouver. He is found listed in Bruce Watson’s book Lives Lived West of the Divide.

Joseph Beauchamp Lives Lived WEst

I have a great great grandfather named  Joseph Beauchamp who lived during that time but he died in Quebec. He had a son Joseph my great grandfather. I suspect that this Joseph was again a removed cousin.

By all accounts and especially those of Roderick Finlayson who kept the  Fort Victoria Journals, Joseph was a handful.  His native wife, Marguerite died in 1847 after the birth of a daughter, Caroline, in Fort Vancouver. The following year he transferred to Fort Victoria where he promptly lost one of his fingers which continued to pain him for some time.  He remarried in 1848 to an unknown woman and was noted as being sick and insolent most of the time. Then in 1850, he lost his daughter Caroline. He died at Fort Victoria in 1887.  His HBC records have him listed as being in Oregon in 1853-4, his position listed as “sundries”.  That piques my interest.  I would conjecture that Joseph drank a bit.  The entire Fort was dependent on him to make and repair the tools needed to keep things running and he is mentioned very frequently throughout Finlayson’s journals.

Among the many differences between John McLoughlin and George Simpson, the final rivet was the death of John McLoughlin Jr. at Fort Stikine, Alaska in April of 1842. Fort Stikine had a singular reputation for violence. John had been left in charge of the Fort when he was murdered by Urbain Héroux during a confrontation. Charges of self defense were never brought to trial because the incident took place in Russian territory.  Simpson did not proceed on the matter but instead wrote a very terse letter to the father informing him of the matter, using the boy’s reputation as a precedent. McLoughlin wrote letter after letter to London claiming the injustice of the situation and his son’s name was eventually cleared.  However, they were not about to let the indispensable Simpson go. It was decided that the lowering profits and McLoughlin’s charity towards the new settlers in the Willamette were sufficient reason to retire him. He died September 3, 1857 in Oregon City.

Citations:
John S. Galbraith, “SIMPSON, Sir GEORGE,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed March 8, 2018, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/simpson_george_8E.html.

W. Kaye Lamb, “McLOUGHLIN, JOHN,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed March 8, 2018, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/mcloughlin_john_8E.html.

Sylvia Van Kirk, “CAMERON, JOHN DUGALD,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed March 8, 2018, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/cameron_john_dugald_8E.html.

U.S. National Park Service Website: The Fort Vancouver Community
https://www.nps.gov/articles/fortvancouvercommunity.htm

Watson, Bruce McIntyre. Lives Lived West of the Divide. Kelowna: Centre for Social, Spatial, and Economic Justice, University of British Columbia, 2010.

Christopher Moore, Adventurers Hudson’s Bay Company The Epic Story, 2000, Madison Press Books

“Fort Victoria Journal”, Beauchamp, Joseph Ovide, Hudson’s Bay Company Archives, B.226/ a/1, edited and transcribed by Graham Brazier et al, eds. http://www.fortvictoriajournal.ca. (March 9, 2018)

 

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.

Oregoncountry2-Kmusser

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.