Agnes Christina Laut.

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traders stirred up the old Company as all the home
agitation could not. Each of the forts, Churchill
farthest north, York on Hayes River, Albany, and
Henley House up Albany River, Moose (Rupert lay

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dismantled these years) and Richmond Fort on the
east side of the bay, were strengthened by additions
to the garrisons of from thirty to fifty men. Each
of the four frigates sent out by the Company had a
crew of fifty men, among whom was one young
sailor, Samuel Heame, of whom more anon. Every
year took out more frannon for the forts, more builders
for Churchill, now a stone-walled fort strong as
Quebec. Joseph Isbister, who had been governor
at Albany and made some inland voyages from
Churchill, was permanently appointed, from 1770,
as agent at Quebec to watch what rival fur traders
were doing; and when he died, Hugh Findlay suc-
ceeded him. A new house was rushed up on Severn
River in 1756, to attract those Indians of Manitoba
where the French were established. Lest other mer-
chants should petition for Labrador, the Slude River
Station was moved to Richmond Fort and Captain
Coates appointed to survey the whole east coast of
Hudson Bay, for which labor he was given a present
of ;^8o. Poor Coates! This was in 1750. Within
a year, he is hauled up for illicit trade and dismissed
ignominiously from the service; whereat he suicides
from disgrace. Eight years later, Richmond Fort is
closed at a loss of ;;£2o,ooo, but it has shut the
mouths of other petitioners for Labrador.
Tt is in 1757, too, that the Company inaugurates
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its pension system — withholding 5 per cent, of wages
for a fund. As if Joseph La France's journal had
not been alarming enough, there comes overland
to Nelson, in 1759, that Jan Ba'tiste Larl6e, a spy
whom the English engage and vote a wig (£1 5s)
*^to keep him loyal.^^

At Henley House up Albany River, pushing trade
to attract the Indians away from the French, is that
Andrew Graham, whose diary gives such a picture
of the period. Richard Norton of Churchill is long
since dead. Of his half-breed sons educated in Eng-
land, William has become a captain; Moses, from
being sailor under Middleton, wins distinction as
explorer of Chesterfield Inlet and rises to become
governor at Churchill. Among the recruits of the
increasing garrisons are names famous in the West
— Bannister's and Spencer's and Flett's. By way
of encouraging zeal, the Company, in 1776, increases
salaries for chief traders to ^£130 a year, for captains
to ;^i2 a month with a gratuity of >£ioo if they have
no wreck. Each chief trader is to have added to
his salary three shillings for every twenty beaver
sent home from his department; each captain, one
shilling sixpence for every twenty beaver brought
safely to England. As these bounties amounted to
£108 and ;^i5o a year, they more than doubled
salaries. I am sorry to say that at this period,

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— ^— ^^— ^— — ^^^^— ^^^— ^^^"^^■— — ^^— ^■^— ■'^^ ^f^—

brandy began to be plied freely. French power
had fallen at Quebec in 1759. French traders were
scattered through the* wilds — birds of passage, free
as air, lawless as birds, too, who lured the Indians
from the English by the use of liquor. If an English
trader ventured among Indians, who knew the cus-
toms of the French, and did not proflfer a keg of
watered brandy, he was apt to be forthwith douched
^^baptized^^ — ^the Indians called it.

But the greatest activity displayed by the English
at this time was inland from the bay. If Joseph La
France could come overland from Lake Superior,
English traders could be sent inland. Andrew Gra-
ham is ordered to keep his men at Severn and Albany
moving up stream. One Isaac Butt is paid £1^ for
his voyaging, and in 1756 the Company votes ;^2o to
Anthony Hendry for his remarkable voyage from
York to the Forks of the Saskatchewan — the first
Englishman to visit this now famous region. Hen-
dry's voyage merits a detailed account in the next
chapter.

Notes to Chapter XVII. — ^The list of governors at this period
is: Sir Bibye Lake, 171 2-1 743; Benjamin Pitt, 1 743-1 746,
when he died: Thomas Knapp, 1 746-1 750; Sir Atwell Lake,
1750-1760; Sir William Baker, 1 760-1 770; Bibye Lake, Jr.,
1770-1782.

The controversy between the Company and Dobbs fills vol-
umes. Ellis and Dobbs need not be taken seriously. They
were for the time maniacs on the subject of a passage that had
nonexistence except in their own fancy. Robson is different,

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Having been a builder at Churchill, he knew the ground, yet we
find hun uttering such absurd charges as that the Company
purposely sent Governor Knight to his death and were glad
that the troublesome fellow was out of the way." This is
both malicious and ignorant, for as Robson knew, the North-
west Passage played a very secondary part in Knight's fatal
voyage. The Company just as much as Knight was mfatuated
with the lure of gold-dust. Perhaps, it will some day prove not
so foolish an ii3atuation. Gold placers have been found in
Klondike. Indian legend says they also exist in the ices of the
East.

The Parliamentary Report for 1749 is an excellent example
of investigating "off the beat." The only thing of value in the
report is Joseph La France's Journal. It is valuable not as a
voyage — ^for this trip was well tracked from the days of Radisson
and Iberville — but as a description of the Frencn posts on the
Saskatchewan, which Hendry visited — Pachegoia or Pasquia
or'alie Pas'Snd Bourbon — and as helping to identify the Indians,
whom Hendry met.

La V^rendrye voyages are not given here, because not rela-
tive to the subject. His life will be found in "Pathfinders of
the West."

The Canadian Archives give Hendry's name as Hendey. It
is spelt Hendry in the H. B. C. minutes.

In 1746 the warehouse on Lime Street was purchased for
£550. This year, too, comes a letter to the Company from
Captain Lee of Virginia, warning that a French pirate of two
hundred and fifty men, which captured him, is on the lookout
for the fur ships.

Sharpe was the lawyer who engineered the Parliamentary
Inquiry of 1749. I find his charges in the Minutes £250 and
£505.

John Potts was the trader of Richmond, when Coates was
captain.

In 1766, Samuel Heame's name appears as on the pay roll
of The Prince Rupert.

Whale fisheries were now flourishing on the bay, for which
each captain received a bounty of 25 per cent, on net proceeds.

In 1769, the Company issued as standard of trade ^ marten,
I beaver; 2 fox, 3 beaver; gray fox, 4 beaver; white fox, J
beaver; i otter, i beaver.



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CHAPTER XVIII

1754-1755

THE MARCH ACROSS THE CONTINENT BEGINS — ^THE
COMPANY SENDS A MAN TO THE BLACKFEET OF
THE SOUTH SASKATCHEWAN — ^ANTHONY HENDRY)
IS THE FIRST ENGLISHMAN TO PENETRATE TO
THE SASKATCHEWAN— THE FIRST ENGLISHMAN
TO WINTER WEST OF LAKE WINNIPEG — ^HE MEETS
THE SIOUX AND THE BLACKFEET AND INVITES
THEM TO THE BAY

NOTHING lends more romantic coloring to
the operations of the fur traders on Hud-
son Bay than the character of the men
in the service. They were adventurers, pure and
simple, in the best and the worst sense of that term.
Peter Romulus, thp foreign surgeon, rubbed elbows
with Radisson, the Frenchman. A nephew of Sir
Stephen Evance — come out under the plain name,
Evans — ^is under the same roof as a niece of the same
governor of the Company, who has come to the bay
as the doweried wife of an apprentice. Younger
sons of the English gentry entered the service on the
same level as the Cockney apprentice. Rough Ork-

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The March Across the Continent Begins

ney fishermen — ^with the thick burr of the North m
their accent, the iron strength of the North in their
blood, and a periphery of Calvinistic self-righteous-
ness, which a modem gatling gun could not shoot
through — had as bedfellows in the fort barracks soft-
voiced English youths from the south counties, who
had been outlawed for smuggling, or sent to the bay
to expiate early dissipations. And sometimes this
curious conglomeration of human beings was ruled
in the fort — ^ruled with the absolute despotism of the*
litUe king, of course — by a drunken half-breed brute
like Governor Moses Norton, whose one qualification
was that he could pile up the beaver returns and hold
the Indians' friendship by being baser and more
uncivilized than they. The theme is one for song and
story as well as for history.

Among the flotsam and jetsam cast on Hudson
Bay in the seventeen hundred and fifties was one
Anthony Hendry, a boy from the Isle of Wight. He
had been outlawed for smuggling and sought escape
from punishment by service on the bay. He came
as bookkeeper. Other servants could scarcely be
driven or bribed to go inland with the Indians.
Hendry asked permission to go back to their country
with the Assiniboines, in 1754. James Isham was
governor of York Fort at the time. He was only too
glad to give Hendry permission.

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Four hundred Assiniboines had come in canoes
with their furs to the fort. Leather wigwams spread
back from the Hayes River like a town of mush-
rooms. Canoes lay in hundreds bottom-up on the
beach, and where the reddish blue of the camp-
fire curled up from the sands filling the evening air
with the pungent smell of burning bark, Assiniboine
voyageurs could be seen melting resin and tar to
gum the splits in the birch canoes. Hunters had
exchanged their furs for guns and ammunition.
Squaws had bartered their store of pemmican
(buffalo) meat for gay gewgaws — red flannels and
prints, colored beads, hand mirrors of tin — given at
the wicket gate of the fort.

Young Hendry joined the encampment, became
acquainted with different leaders of the brigades, and
finally secured an Assiniboine called Little Bear as
a guide to the country of the Great Unknown River,
where the French sent traders — the Saskatchewan.
It was the end of June before the Indians were ready
to break camp for the homeward voyage. By look-
ing at the map, it will be seen that Nelson and Hayes
rivers flow northeast from the same prairie region to
a point at the bay called Port Nelson, or Fort York.
One could ascend to the country of the Assiniboines
by either Hayes River or Nelson. York Fort was
on Hayes River. The Indians at that time usually

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The March Across the CorUineni Begins

ascended the Hayes River halfway, then crossed
westward to the Nelson by a chain of rivers and
lakes and portages, and advanced to the prairie by
a branch of the Nelson River known as Katchawan
to Playgreen Lake. Playgreen Lake is really a
northern arm of Lake Winnipeg. Instead of com-
ing on down to Lake Winnipeg, the Assiniboines
struck westward overland from Playgreen Lake to
the Saskatchewan at Pasquia, variously known as
Basquia and Pachegoia and the Pas. By cutting
across westward from Playgreen Lake to the main
Saskatchewan, three detours were avoided: (i) the
long detour round the north shore of Lake Winni-
peg; (2) the southern bend of Saskatchewan, where
it enters the lake; (3) the portage of Grand Rapids
in the Saskatchewan between Lake Winnipeg and
Cedar Lake. It is necessary to give these some-
what tedious details as this route was to become
the highway of conmierce for a hundred years.

Up these waters paddled the gay Indian voyageurs,
the foam rippling on the wake of their bark canoes
not half so light as the sparkling foam of laugh and
song and story from the paddlers. Over these long
lonely portages, silent but for the wind through the
trees, or the hoot of the owl, or flapping of a loon,
or a far weird call of the meadow lark — a mote in
an ocean of sky — the first colonists were to trudge,

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The Conquest of the Great Northwest

men and women and children, who came to the
West seeking that freedom and room for the shoulder-
swing of uncramped manhood, which hotne lands
had denied. Plymouth Rock, they call the landing
place of the Pilgrim Fathers. Every portage up
Hayes River was a Plymouth Rock to these first
colonists of the West.

On June 26, then, 1754, Hendry set out with the
Assiniboines for the voyage up Hayes River. At
Amista-Asinee or Great Stone Rock they camped
for the first night, twenty-four miles from York —
good progress considering it was against stream at
the full flood of summer rains. Fire Steel River,
Wood Partridge River, Pine Reach — ^marked the
camps for sixty miles from York. Four Falls com-
pelled portage beyond Pine Reach, and shoal water
for another twenty-five miles set the men tracking,
the crews jumping out to wade and draw the light-
ened canoes up stream.

July I, Hendry was one hundred and thirteen
miles from York. Terrific rains, hot and thundery,
deluged the whole flotilla, and Hendry learned for
the first time what clouds of huge inland mos-
quitoes can do. Mosquito Point, he called the camp.
Here, the Hayes broke into three or four branches.
Hendry's brigade of Assiniboines began to work up
one of the northwestward branches toward the

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Nelson. The land seemed to be barren rock. At
camping places was neither fish nor fowl. The
vovageurs took a reef in their belts and pressed on.
Three beaver afforded some food on Steel River but
"we are greatly fatigued,'^ records Hendry, "with
carrying and hauling our canoes, and we are not well
fed; but the natives are continually smoking, which
I find allays hunger." Pikes and ducks replenished
the provision bags on Duck Lake beyond Steel River.
Twenty canoes of Inland Indians were met at Shad
Falls beyond Cree Lake, on their way to York. With
these Hendry sent a letter to Governor Isham. It
was July 20 before Hendry realized that the laby-
rinth of willow swamps had led into Nelson River.
It must have been high up Nelson River, in some of
its western sources east of Playgreen Lake, for one
day later, on Sunday the 21st, he records: "We pad-
dled two miles up the Nelson and then came to
Keiskatchewan River, on which the French have two
houses which we expect to see to-morrow." He was
now exactly five hundred miles from York. "The
mosquitoes are intolerable, giving us peace neither
day nor night. We paddled fourteen miles up the
Keiskatchewan west, when we came to a French
house. On our arrival, two Frenchmen came to the
waterside and in a very genteel manner invited me
into their house, which I readily accepted. One

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asked if I had any letter from my master and why I
was going inland. I answered I had no letter and
was out to view the country; that I meant to return
this way in spring. He told me his master and men
were gone down to Montreal with the furs, and that
they must detain me until his return. However,
they were very kind, and at night I went to my tent
and told Little Bear my leader. He only smiled and
said: **They dare not detain you.'* Hendry was at
the Pas on the Saskatchewan. If he had come up
the Saskatchewan from Lake Winnipeg, he would
have found that the French had another fort at the
mouth of the river — Bourbon.

From now on, he describes the region which he
crossed as Mosquito Plains. White men alone in the
wilderness become friends quickly. In spite of
rivalry, the English trader presented the French with
tobacco; the French in turn gave him pemmican of
moose meat. On Wednesday, July 24, he left the
fort. Sixteen miles up the Saskatchewan, Hendry
passed Peotago River, heavily timbered with birch
trees. Up this region the canoes of the four hundred
Assiniboines ascended southward, toward the western
comer of the modem province of Manitoba. As the
river became shoal, canoes were abandoned seventy
miles south of the Saskatchewan. Packs strapped on
backs, the Indians starving for food, a dreary march

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began across country southwest over the Mosquito
Plains. "Neither bird nor beast is to be seen. We
have nothing to eat," records Hendry after a twenty-
six miles tramp. At last, seventy miles from where
they had left the canoes, one hundred and forty
from the Saskatchewan, they came on a huge patch
of ripe raspberries and wild cherries, and luckily in
the brushwood killed two moose. This relieved the
famine. Wandering Assiniboines chanced to be en-
camped here. Hendry held solemn conference with
the leaders, whiffed pipes to the four comers of the
universe — by which the deities of North, South, East
and West were called to witness the sincerity of the
sentiments — and invited these tribes down to York;
but they only answered, "we are already supplied by
the French at Pasquia."

One hundred miles south of Pas — or just where
the Canadian Northern Railroad strikes west from
Manitoba across Saskatchewan — a delightful change
came over the face of the country. Instead of
brackish swamp water or salt sloughs, were clear-
water lakes. Red deer — called by the Assiniboines
waskesaw — ^were in myriads. "I am now," writes
Hendry as he entered what is now the Province of
Saskatchewan, "entering a most pleasant and plenti-
ful country of hills and dales with little woods."

Many Indians were met, but all were strong
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partisans of the French. An average of ten miles a
day was made by the marchers, hunting red deer
as they tramped. On August 8, somewhere near
what is now Red Deer River, along the line of the
Canada Northern, pause was made for a festival of
rejoicing on safe return from the long voyage and
relief from famine. For a day and a night, all hands
feasted and smoked and danced and drank and con-
jured in gladness; the smoking of the pipe corre-
sponding to our modem grace before meals, the
dancing a way of evincing thanks in rhythmic motion
instead of music, the drinking and conjuring not so
far different from our ancestors' way of giving thanks.
The lakes were becoming alkali swamps, and camp
had to be made where there was fresh water. Some-
times the day's march did not average four miles.
Again, there would be a forced march of fifteen. For
the first time, an English fur trader saw Indians on
horseback. Where did they get the horses? As we
now know, the horses came from the Spaniards, but
we must not wonder that when Hendry reported
having seen whole tribes on horseback, he was
laughed out of the service as a romancer, and the
whole report of his;trip discredited. The Indians'
object was to reach the buflfalo grounds and lay up
store of meat for the winter. They told Hendry he
would presently see whole tribes of Indians on horse-

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back — ^Archithinues, the famous Blackfoot Con-
federacy of Bloods, Blackfeet, Piegans and Sarcees.

On the isth of August, they were among the
buflfalo, where to-day the great grooves and ruts left
by the marching herds can still be seen between the
Saskatchewan and the Assiniboine Rivers toward
Qu' Appelle. For the most part, the Indians hunted
the buflfalo with bow and arrow, and at night there
was often a casualty list like the wounded after a
battle. *^ Sunday — dressed a lame man's leg and he
gave me for my trouble a moose nose, which is con-
sidered a great delicacy among the Indians. ^^ '*/
kiUed a btdl buffalo,^^ he writes on September 8,
"Ae was nothing bui skin and hones. I took out his
tongue and left his remains to the wolves, which were
waiting around in great numbers. We cannot afford
to expend ammunition ^on them. My feet are swelled
with marching, bui otherwise I am in perfect health.
So expert are the natives buffalo hunting, they will
take an arrow out of the buffalo when the beasts are
foaming and raging and tearing the ground up with
their feet and horns. The buffalo are so numerous,
like herds of English cattle that we are obliged to
make them sheer out of our way:^^

Sometimes more dangerous game than buflfalo was
encountered. On September 17, Hendry writes:
^^Two young men kvere miserably wounded by a

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grizzly bear that they were hunting to-day. One may
recover but the other never can. His arm is torn from
his body, one eye gouged out and his stomach ripped
open.^^ The next day the Indian died.

The Assiniboines were marching southwest from
the Pas toward the land of the Blackfeet. They
were now three hundred miles southwest of the
French House. To Hendry's surprise they came
to a large river with high banks that looked exactly
like the Saskatchewan. It was the South Branch
of the Saskatchewan, where it takes the great bend
south of Prince Albert. Canoes had been left far
behind. What were the four hundred Assiniboines
to do? But the Indians solved the difficulty in less
than half a day. Making boats of willow branches
and moose parchment skin — like the bull-boats of
the Missouri — the Assiniboines rafted safely across.
The march now turned west toward the Eagle River
and Eagle Hills and North Saskatchewan. The
Eagle Indians are met and persuaded to bring their
furs to York Fort.

As winter approached, the women began dressing
the sldns for moccasins and clothes. A fire of punk
in an earth-hole smoked the skins. Beating and
pounding and stretching pelts, the squaws then
softened the skin. For winter wear, moccasins were
left with the fur inside. Hendry remarks how in

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the fall of the year, the women sat in the doors of
their wigwams "knitting moose leather into snow
shoes" made of seasoned wood. It was October
before the Indians of the far Western plains were
met. These were the famous Blackfeet for the first
time now seen by an English trader. They ap-
proached the Assiniboines mounted and armed with
bows and spears. Hendry gave them presents to
carry to their chief. Hendry notes the signs of
mines along the banks of the Saskatchewan. He
thought the mineral iron. What he saw was prob-
ably an outcropping of coal. The jumping deer he
describes as a new kind of goat. As soon as ice
formed on the swamps, the hunters began trenching
for beaver — ^which were plentiful beyond the fur
trader's hopes. When, on October the nth, the
marchers for the third time came on the Saskatche-
wan, which the Indians called Waskesaw, Hendry
recognized that all the branches were forks of one
and the same great river — the Saskatchewan, or as
the French called it, Christinaux. The Indian names
for the two branches were Keskatchew and Waske-
saw.

For several days the far smoke of an encampment
had been visible southwest. On October the 14th,
four riders came out to conduct Hendry to an en-
campment of three hundred and twenty-two tents

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of Blackfeet Indians ^^ pitched in two rows with an
opening in the middle^ where we were conducted to
the leader^ s tent.^^ This was the main tribe of which
Hendry had akeady met the outrunners. "TAe
leader^ s tent was large enough to contain fifty persons.
He received us seated on a buffalo skin attended by
twenty elderly men. He made signs for me to sit
down on his right hand, which I did. Our leaders
(the Assiniboines) set several great pipes going the
rounds and we smoked according to their custom.
Not one word was spoken. Smoking over, boiled
buffalo flesh was served in baskets of bent wood. I
was presented with ten bnffalo tongues. My guide
informed the leader I was sent by the grand leader
who lives on the Great Waters to invite his young
men down with their furs. They would receive in
return, powder, shot, guns and cloth. He made little
answer: said it was far off and his people could not
paddle. We were then ordered to depart to our tents
which we pitched a quarter of a mile outside their
lines.^^ Again invited to the leader's tent the next
morning, Hendry heard some remarkable philosophy
from the Indian. " TJte chief told m£ his tribe never
wanted food as they followed the buffalo, but he was



Online LibraryAgnes Christina LautThe conquest of the great Northwest: being the story of the ..., Volumes 1-2 → online text (page 20 of 50)