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THE 'ADVENTURERS OF ENGLAND' ON HUDSON BAY

* * * * *

Chronicles of Canada Series

Thirty-Two Volumes Illustrated

Edited by George M. Wrong and H. H. Langton


Chronicles of Canada Series


PART I THE FIRST EUROPEAN VISITORS

1. THE DAWN OF CANADIAN HISTORY
By Stephen Leacock.

2. THE MARINER OF ST MALO
By Stephen Leacock.


PART II THE RISE OF NEW FRANCE

3. THE FOUNDER OF NEW FRANCE*
By Charles W. Colby.

4. THE BLACKROBES*
By J. Edgar Middleton.

5. THE SEIGNEURS OF OLD CANADA
By W. Bennett Munro.

6. THE GREAT INTENDANT
By Thomas Chapais.

7. THE FIGHTING GOVERNOR*
By Charles W. Colby.


PART III THE ENGLISH INVASION

8. THE GREAT FORTRESS*
By William Wood.

9. THE ACADIAN EXILES*
By Arthur G. Doughty.

10. THE PASSING OF NEW FRANCE
By William Wood.

11. THE WINNING OF CANADA
By William Wood.


PART IV THE AMERICAN INVASIONS

12. THE INVASION OF 1775*
By C. Frederick Hamilton.

13. BATTLEFIELDS OF 1812-14*
By William Wood.


PART V THE RED MAN IN CANADA

14. PONTIAC: THE WAR CHIEF OF THE OTTAWAS*
By Thomas Guthrie Marquis.

15. BRANT: THE WAR CHIEF OF THE SIX NATIONS
By Louis Aubrey Wood.

16. TECUMSEH: THE LAST GREAT LEADER OF HIS PEOPLE*
By Ethel T. Raymond.


PART VI PATHFINDERS AND PIONEERS

17. THE 'ADVENTURERS OF ENGLAND' ON HUDSON BAY
By Agnes C. Laut.

18. PATHFINDERS OF THE GREAT PLAINS
By Lawrence J. Burpee.

19. PIONEERS OF THE PACIFIC COAST*
By Agnes C. Laut.

20. ADVENTURERS OF THE FAR NORTH
By Stephen Leacock.

21. THE UNITED EMPIRE LOYALISTS
By W. Stewart Wallace.

22. THE RED RIVER COLONY*
By Louis Aubrey Wood.

23. THE CARIBOO TRAIL*
By Agnes C. Laut.


PART VII POLITICAL FREEDOM AND NATIONALITY

24. THE 'FAMILY COMPACT'*
By W. Stewart Wallace.

25. THE REBELLION IN LOWER CANADA*
By A. D. DeCelles.

26. THE TRIBUNE OF NOVA SCOTIA*
By William L. Grant.

27. THE WINNING OF POPULAR GOVERNMENT*
By Archibald MacMechan.

28. THE FATHERS OF CONFEDERATION*
By Sir Joseph Pope.

29. THE DAY OF SIR JOHN MACDONALD*
By Sir Joseph Pope.

30. THE DAY OF SIR WILFRED LAURIER*
By Oscar D. Skelton.


PART VIII NATIONAL HIGHWAYS

31. ALL AFLOAT
By William Wood.

32. THE RAILROAD BUILDERS*
By Oscar D. Skelton.


TORONTO: GLASGOW, BROOK & COMPANY

Note: The volumes marked with an asterisk are in preparation. The others
are published.

* * * * *


[Illustration: PRINCE RUPERT From the painting in the National Portrait
Gallery]


THE 'ADVENTURERS OF ENGLAND' ON HUDSON BAY

A Chronicle of the Fur Trade in the North

by

Agnes C. Laut







[Illustration: Printers mark]


Toronto
Glasgow, Brook & Company
1914

Copyright in all Countries subscribing to
the Berne Convention




CONTENTS

Page

I. THE FUR HUNTERS 1

II. THE TRAGEDY OF HENRY HUDSON 9

III. OTHER EXPLORERS ON THE BAY 23

IV. THE 'ADVENTURERS OF ENGLAND' 34

V. FRENCH AND ENGLISH ON THE BAY 51

VI. THE GREAT OVERLAND RAID 73

VII. YEARS OF DISASTER 89

VIII. EXPANSION AND EXPLORATION 103

BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE 125

INDEX 129




ILLUSTRATIONS


PRINCE RUPERT _Frontispiece_
From the painting in the
National Portrait Gallery.

_Page_

A VIEW OF THE INTERIOR OF OLD FORT 2
GARRY
Drawn by H. A. Strong.

TRACK SURVEY OF THE SASKATCHEWAN 4
BETWEEN CEDAR LAKE AND LAKE
WINNIPEG

THE PRINCIPAL POSTS OF THE HUDSON'S 6
BAY COMPANY
Map by Bartholomew.

THE ROUTES OF HUDSON AND MUNCK 10
Map by Bartholomew.

THE LAST HOURS OF HUDSON 18
From the painting by Collier.

JOHN CHURCHILL, FIRST DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH 42
From the painting in the
National Portrait Gallery.

ON THE HAYES RIVER 58
From photograph by R. W. Brock.

ENTRANCE TO THE NELSON AND HAYES 60
RIVERS
Map by Bartholomew.

A CAMP IN THE SWAMP COUNTRY 120
From a photograph.




CHAPTER I

THE FUR HUNTERS


Thirty or more years ago, one who stood at the foot of Main Street,
Winnipeg, in front of the stone gate leading to the inner court of Fort
Garry, and looked up across the river flats, would have seen a
procession as picturesque as ever graced the streets of old Quebec - the
dog brigades of the Hudson's Bay Company coming in from the winter's
hunt.

Against the rolling snowdrifts appeared a line, at first grotesquely
dwarfed under the mock suns of the eastern sky veiled in a soft frost
fog. Then a husky-dog in bells and harness bounced up over the drifts,
followed by another and yet another - eight or ten dogs to each long, low
toboggan that slid along loaded and heaped with peltry. Beside each
sleigh emerged out of the haze the form of the driver - a swarthy fellow,
on snow-shoes, with hair bound back by a red scarf, and corduroy
trousers belted in by another red scarf, and fur gauntlets to his
elbows - flourishing his whip and yelling, in a high, snarling falsetto,
'marche! marche!' - the rallying-cry of the French wood-runner since
first he set out from Quebec in the sixteen-hundreds to thread his way
westward through the wilds of the continent.

Behind at a sort of dog-trot came women, clothed in skirts and shawls
made of red and green blankets; papooses in moss bags on their mothers'
backs, their little heads wobbling under the fur flaps and capotes.
Then, as the dog teams sped from a trot to a gallop with whoops and
jingling of bells, there whipped past a long, low, toboggan-shaped
sleigh with the fastest dogs and the finest robes - the equipage of the
chief factor or trader. Before the spectator could take in any more of
the scene, dogs and sleighs, runners and women, had swept inside the
gate.

[Illustration: A VIEW OF THE INTERIOR OF OLD FORT GARRY Drawn by H. A.
Strong]

At a still earlier period, say in the seventies, one who in summer
chanced to be on Lake Winnipeg at the mouth of the great Saskatchewan
river - which, by countless portages and interlinking lakes, is connected
with all the vast water systems of the North - would have seen the fur
traders sweeping down in huge flotillas of canoes and flat-bottomed
Mackinaw boats - exultant after running the Grand Rapids, where the
waters of the Great Plains converge to a width of some hundred rods and
rush nine miles over rocks the size of a house in a furious cataract.

Summer or winter, it was a life of wild adventure and daily romance.

Here on the Saskatchewan every paddle-dip, every twist and turn of the
supple canoes, revealed some new caprice of the river's moods. In places
the current would be shallow and the canoes would lag. Then the paddlers
must catch the veer of the flow or they would presently be out
waist-deep shoving cargo and craft off sand bars. Again, as at Grand
Rapids, where the banks were rock-faced and sheer, the canoes would run
merrily in swift-flowing waters. No wonder the Indian voyageurs regarded
all rivers as living personalities and made the River Goddess offerings
of tobacco for fair wind and good voyage. And it is to be kept in mind
that no river like the Saskatchewan can be permanently mapped. No map or
chart of such a river could serve its purpose for more than a year.
Chart it to-day, and perhaps to-morrow it jumps its river bed; and
where was a current is now a swampy lake in which the paddlemen may lose
their way.

When the waters chanced to be low at Grand Rapids, showing huge rocks
through the white spray, cargoes would be unloaded and the peltry sent
across the nine-mile portage by tramway; but when the river was high - as
in June after the melting of the mountain snows - the voyageurs were
always keen for the excitement of making the descent by canoe. Lestang,
M'Kay, Mackenzie, a dozen famous guides, could boast two trips a day
down the rapids, without so much as grazing a paddle on the rocks.
Indeed, the different crews would race each other into the very vortex
of the wildest water; and woe betide the old voyageur whose crew failed
of the strong pull into the right current just when the craft took the
plunge! Here, where the waters of the vast prairie region are descending
over huge boulders and rocky islets between banks not a third of a mile
apart, there is a wild river scene. Far ahead the paddlers can hear the
roar of the swirl. Now the surface of the river rounds and rises in the
eddies of an undertow, and the canoe leaps forward; then, a swifter
plunge through the middle of a furious overfall. The steersman rises
at the stern and leans forward like a runner.

[Illustration: TRACK SURVEY of the SASKATCHEWAN between CEDAR LAKE &
LAKE WINNIPEG]

'Pull!' shouts the steersman; and the canoe shoots past one rock to
catch the current that will whirl it past the next, every man bending to
his paddle and almost lifted to his feet. The canoe catches the right
current and is catapulted past the roaring place where rocks make the
water white. Instantly all but the steersman drop down, flat in the
bottom of the canoe, paddles rigid athwart. No need to pull now! The
waters do the work; and motion on the part of the men would be fatal.
Here the strongest swimmer would be as a chip on a cataract. The task
now is not to paddle, but to steer - to keep the craft away from the
rocks. This is the part of the steersman, who stands braced to his
paddle used rudder-wise astern; and the canoe rides the wildest plunge
like a sea-gull. One after another the brigades disappear in a white
trough of spray and roaring waters. They are gone! No human power can
bring them out of that maelstrom! But look! like corks on a wave,
mounting and climbing and riding the highest billows, there they are
again, one after another, sidling and lifting and falling and finally
gliding out to calm water, where the men fall to their paddles and
strike up one of their lusty voyageur songs!

The Company would not venture its peltry on the lower rapid where the
river rushes down almost like a waterfall. Above this the cargoes were
transferred to the portage, and prosaically sent over the hill on a
tram-car pulled by a horse. The men, however, would not be robbed of the
glee of running that last rapid, and, with just enough weight for
ballast in their canoes and boats, they would make the furious descent.

At the head of the tramway on the Grand Rapids portage stands the Great
House, facing old warehouses through which have passed millions of
dollars' worth of furs. The Great House is gambrel-roofed and is built
of heavily timbered logs whitewashed. Round it is a picket fence; below
are wine cellars. It is dismantled and empty now; but here no doubt good
wines abounded and big oaths rolled in the days when the lords of an
unmapped empire held sway.

[Illustration: THE PRINCIPAL POSTS OF THE HUDSON'S BAY COMPANY
Map by Bartholomew.]

A glance at the map of the Hudson's Bay Company's posts will show the
extent of the fur traders' empire. To the Athabaska warehouses at Fort
Chipewyan came the furs of Mackenzie river and the Arctic; to Fort
Edmonton came the furs of the Athabaska and of the Rockies; to Fort Pitt
came the peltry of the Barren Lands; and all passed down the broad
highway of the Saskatchewan to Lake Winnipeg, whence they were sent out
to York Factory on Hudson Bay, there to be loaded on ships and taken to
the Company's warehouses in London.

* * * * *

Incidentally, the fur hunters were explorers who had blazed a trail
across a continent and penetrated to the uttermost reaches of a northern
empire the size of Europe. But it was fur these explorers were seeking
when they pushed their canoes up the Saskatchewan, crossed the Rocky
Mountains, went down the Columbia. Fur, not glory, was the quest when
the dog bells went ringing over the wintry wastes from Saskatchewan to
Athabaska, across the Barren Lands, and north to the Arctic. Beaver, not
empire, was the object in view when the horse brigades of one hundred
and two hundred and three hundred hunters, led by Ogden, or Ross, or
M'Kay or Ermatinger went winding south over the mountains from New
Caledonia through the country that now comprises the states of
Washington and Oregon and Idaho, across the deserts of Utah and Nevada,
to the Spanish forts at San Francisco and Monterey. It is a question
whether La Salle could have found his way to the Mississippi, or
Radisson to the North Sea, or Mackenzie to the Pacific, if the little
beaver had not inspired the search and paid the toll.




CHAPTER II

THE TRAGEDY OF HENRY HUDSON


Though the adventurers to Hudson Bay turned to fur trading and won
wealth, and discovered an empire while pursuing the little beaver across
a continent, the beginning of all this was not the beaver, but a
myth - the North-West Passage - a short way round the world to bring back
the spices and silks and teas of India and Japan. It was this quest, not
the lure of the beaver, that first brought men into the heart of New
World wilds by way of Hudson Bay.

In this search Henry Hudson led the way when he sent his little
high-decked oak craft, the _Discovery_, butting through the ice-drive of
Hudson Strait in July of 1610; 'worming a way' through the floes by
anchor out to the fore and a pull on the rope from behind. Smith,
Wolstenholme, and Digges, the English merchant adventurers who had
supplied him with money for his brig and crew, cared for nothing but
the short route to those spices and silks of the orient. They thought,
since Hudson's progress had been blocked the year before in the same
search up the bay of Chesapeake and up the Hudson river, that the only
remaining way must lie through these northern straits. So now thought
Hudson, as the ice jams closed behind him and a clear way opened before
him to the west on a great inland sea that rocked to an ocean tide.

Was that tide from the Pacific? How easily does a wish become father to
the thought! Ice lay north, open water south and west; and so south-west
steered Hudson, standing by the wheel, though Juet, the old mate, raged
in open mutiny because not enough provisions remained to warrant further
voyaging, much less the wintering of a crew of twenty in an ice-locked
world. Henry Greene, a gutter-snipe picked off the streets of London, as
the most of the sailors of that day were, went whispering from man to
man of the crew that the master's commands to go on ought not to be
obeyed. But we must not forget two things when we sit in judgment on
Henry Hudson's crew. First, nearly all sailors of that period were
unwilling men seized forcibly and put on board. Secondly, in those days
nearly all seamen, masters as well as men, were apt to turn pirate at
the sight of an alien sail. The ships of all foreign nations were
considered lawful prey to the mariner with the stronger crew or fleeter
sail.

[Illustration: THE ROUTES OF HUDSON AND MUNCK
Map by Bartholomew.]

The waters that we know to-day as the Pacific were known to Hudson as
the South Sea. And now the tide rolled south over shelving, sandy
shores, past countless islands yellowing to the touch of September
frosts, and silent as death but for the cries of gull, tern, bittern,
the hooting piebald loon, match-legged phalaropes, and geese and ducks
of every hue, collected for the autumnal flight south. It was a
yellowish sea under a sky blue as turquoise; and it may be that Hudson
recalled sailor yarns of China's seas, lying yellow under skies blue as
a robin's egg. At any rate he continued to steer south in spite of the
old mate's mutterings. Men in unwilling service at a few shillings a
month do not court death for the sake of glory. The shore line of rocks
and pine turned westward. So did Hudson, sounding the ship's line as he
crept forward one sail up, the others rattling against the bare masts in
the autumn wind - doleful music to the thoughts of the coward crew. The
shore line at the south end of Hudson Bay, as the world now knows, is
cut sharply by a ridge of swampy land that shoals to muddy flats in
what is known as Hannah Bay.

Hudson's hopes must have been dimmed if not dashed as he saw the western
shore turn north and bar his way. He must suddenly have understood the
force of the fear that his provisions would not last him to England if
this course did not open towards China. It was now October; and the
furious equinoctial gales lashed the shallow sea to mountainous waves
that swept clear over the decks of the _Discovery_, knocking the sailors
from the capstan bars and setting all the lee scuppers spouting. In a
rage Juet threw down his pole and declared that he would serve no
longer. Hudson was compelled to arrest his old mate for mutiny and
depose him with loss of wages. The trial brought out the fact that the
crew had been plotting to break open the lockers and seize firearms. It
must be remembered that most of Hudson's sailors were ragged, under-fed,
under-clothed fellows, ill fitted for the rigorous climate of the north
and unmoved by the glorious aims that, like a star of hope, led Hudson
on. They saw no star of hope, and felt only hunger and cold and that
dislike of the hardships of life which is the birthright of the
weakling, as well as his Nemesis.

What with the north wind driving water back up the shallows, and with
tamarac swamps on the landward side, Hudson deemed it unwise to anchor
for the winter in the western corner of the Bay, and came back to the
waters that, from the description of the hills, may now be identified as
Rupert Bay, in the south-east corner. The furious autumn winds bobbled
the little high-decked ship about on the water like a chip in a
maelstrom, and finally, with a ripping crash that tore timbers asunder,
sent her on the rocks, in the blackness of a November night. The
starving crew dashed up the hatchway to decks glassed with ice and
wrapped in the gloom of a snow-storm thick as wool. To any who have been
on that shore in a storm it is quite unnecessary to explain why it was
impossible to seek safety ashore by lowering a boat. Shallow seas always
beat to wilder turbulence in storm than do the great deeps. Even so do
shallow natures, and one can guess how the mutinous crew, stung into
unwonted fury by cold and despair, railed at Hudson with the rage of
panic-stricken hysteria. But in daylight and calm, presumably on the
morning of November 11, drenched and cold, they reached shore safely,
and knocked together, out of the tamarac and pines and rocks, some
semblance of winter cabins.

Of game there was abundance then, as now - rabbit and deer and grouse
enough to provision an army; and Hudson offered reward for all
provisions brought in. But the leaven of rebellion had worked its
mischief. The men would not hunt. Probably they did not know how.
Certainly none of them had ever before felt such cold as this - cold that
left the naked hand sticking to any metal that it touched, that filled
the air with frost fog and mock suns, that set the wet ship's timbers
crackling every night like musket shots, that left a lining of
hoar-frost and snow on the under side of the berth-beds, that burst the
great pines and fir trees ashore in loud nightly explosions, and set the
air whipping in lights of unearthly splendour that passed them moving
and rustling in curtains of blood and fire.[1] As anyone who has lived
in the region knows, the cowardly incompetents should have been up and
out hunting and wresting from nature the one means of protection against
northern cold - fur clothing. That is the one demand the North makes of
man - that he shall fight and strive for mastery; but these whimpering
weaklings, convulsed with the poison of self-pity, sat inside shivering
over the little pans and braziers of coal, cursing and cursing Hudson.

In the midst of the smouldering mutiny the ship's gunner died, and
probably because the gutter boy, Greene, was the most poorly clad of
all, Hudson gave the dead man's overcoat to the London lad. Instantly
there was wild outcry from the other men. It was customary to auction a
dead seaman's clothes from the mainmast. Why had the commander shown
favour? In disgust Hudson turned the coat over to the new mate - thereby
adding fresh fuel to the crew's wrath and making Greene a real source of
danger. Greene was, to be sure, only a youth, but small snakes sometimes
secrete deadly venom.

How the winter passed there is no record, except that it was 'void of
hope'; and one may guess the tension of the sulky atmosphere. The old
captain, with his young son, stood his ground against the mutineers,
like a bear baited by snapping curs. If they had hunted half as
diligently as they snarled and complained, there would have been ample
provisions and absolute security; and this statement holds good of more
complainants against life than Henry Hudson's mutinous crew. It holds
good of nearly all mutineers against life.

Spring came, as it always comes in that snow-washed northern land, with
a ramp of the ice loosening its grip from the turbulent waters, and a
whirr of the birds winging north in long, high, wedge-shaped lines, and
a crunching of the icefloes riding turbulently out to sea, and a piping
of the odorous spring winds through the resinous balsam-scented woods.
Hudson and the loyal members of the crew attempted to replenish
provisions by fishing. Then a brilliant thought penetrated the wooden
brains of the idle and incompetent crew - a thought that still works its
poison in like brains of to-day - namely, if there were half as many
people there would be twice as much provisions for each.

Ice out, anchor up, the gulls and wild geese winging northward
again - all was ready for sail on June 18, 1611. With the tattered canvas
and the seams tarred and the mends in the hull caulked, Hudson handed
out all the bread that was left - a pound to each man.

He had failed to find the North-West Passage. He was going home a
failure, balked, beaten, thrown back by the waves that had been beating
the icefloes to the mournful call of the desolate wind all winter.
There were tears in the eyes of the old captain as he handed out the
last of the bread. Any one who has watched what snapping mongrels do
when the big dog goes down, need not be told what happened now. There
were whisperings that night as the ship slipped before the wind,
whisperings and tale-bearings from berth to berth, threats uttered in
shrill scared falsetto 'to end it or to mend it; better hang at home for
mutiny than starve at sea.' Prickett, the agent for the merchant
adventurers, pleaded for Hudson's life; the mutineers, led by Juet and
Greene, roughly bade him look to his own. Prickett was ill in bed with
scurvy, and the tremor of self-fear came into his plea. Then the
mutineers swore on the Bible that what they planned was to sacrifice the
lives of the few to save the many. When the destroyer profanes the Cross
with unclean perjury, 'tis well to use the Cross for firewood and
unsheath a sword. Peevish with sickness, Prickett punily acquiesced.

When Hudson stepped from the wheel-house or cabin next morning, they
leaped upon him like a pack of wolves. No oaths on Scripture and Holy
Cross this break of day! Oaths of another sort - oaths and blows and


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