Agnes Christina Laut.

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children will be given a house inside Fort Douglas."
"j5(w/ Ba'tiste will go. Where is it? And what
is it?" "It is to carry secret letters to Lord Selkirk
in Montreal. Selkirk will have heard that the
colony was scattered. He must be told that the
people have been gathered back. Above all, he
must be told of these terrible threats about the Plain
Rangers arming for next year. "But pause, Ba'-
tiste! It is now November. It is twenty-eight hun-


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The Conquest of the Great Northwest

dred miles to Montreal by the trail you must follow,
for you must not go by the Nor'Westers trail. They
will lie in wait to assassinate you all the way from
Red River to St. Lawrence. You must go south
through Minnesota to the Sault; then south along
the American shore of Lake Huron to Detroit, and
from Detroit to Montreal."

Ba'tiste thinks twice. Of all his wild hunts, this
is the wildest, for he is to be the hunted, not the
hunter. But leaving Marie and the children in the
fort, he sets out. At Pembina, two of his old hunter
friends — Belland and Parisien — ^accompany him in a
cart, but at Red Lake there is such a heavy fall of
snow, the horse is only a hindrance. Taking only
blankets, provisions on their backs, guns and hatchets,
Ba'tiste and his friends pushed forward on foot with
an Indian called Monkman. They keep their course
by following the shores of Lake Superior — doubly
careful now, for they are nearing Fort William,
Provisions run out. One of the friends slips through
the woods to buy food at the fort, but he cannot
get it without explaining where he is going. As
they hide near the fort, a dog comes out. Good!
Ba'tiste makes short work of that dog; and they
hurry forward with a supply of fresh meat, shortening
the way by cutting across the ice of the lake. But
this is dangerous traveling. Once the ice began to


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The Coming of the Colonists

heave under their feet and a broad crevice of water
opened to the fore.

"Back!" called Lajimoniere; but when they
turned they found that the ice had broken afloat
from the shore,

" Jump, or we are lost," yelled the scout clearing
the breach in a desperate leap. Belland followed
and alighted safely, but Parisien and Monkman lost
their nerve and plunged in ice-cold water. Laji-
moniere rescued them both, and they pressed on.
For six days they marched, with no food but rock
moss — tripe de roche — boiled in water. At length
they could travel no farther. The Indian's famine-
pinched face struck fear to their hearts that he might
slay them at night for food, and gi^ng him money,
they bade him find his way to an Indian camp. To
their delight, he soon returned with a supply of
frozen fish. This lasted them to the Sault. From
Sault Ste. Marie, Lajimoniere proceeded alone by
way of Detroit to Montreal. Arriving the day be-
fore Christmas, he presented himself at the door of
the house where Selkirk was guest. The servant
asked his message.

"Letters for Lord Selkirk."

" Give them to me. I will deliver them."

"No Sir! I have come six hundred leagues to
deliver these letters into Selkirk's hands and into


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The Conquest of the Great Northwest

no other hands do they go. Go tell Lord Selkirk a
voyageur from the West is here."

Bad news were these threats against the colonists
to my Lord Selkirk. He told Lajimoniere to rest in
Montreal till letters were ready. Then he appealed
to the governor of Quebec, Sir Gordon Drummond,
for a military detachment to protect Red River, but
Sir Gordon Drummond asked advice of his Council,
and the McGillivrays of the Northwest Company
were of his Council; and there followed months of
red tape in which Selkirk could gain no satisfaction.
Finally in March, 1816, he received commission as
a justice of the peace in the Indian country and per-
mission to take for his personal protection a military
escort to be provisioned and paid at his own cost.
Canada, was full of regiments disbanded from the
Napoleon wars and 181 2. Selkirk engaged two
hundred of the De Meuron and De Watteville regi-
ments to accompany him to Red River. Then he
dispatched Lajimoniere with word that he was com-
ing to the colonists' aid.

But the Nor'Westers were on the watch for La-
jimoniere this time. One hundred strong, they had
arranged their own brigade should go west from
Fort William this year. It was to be a race between
Selkirk and the Nor'Westers. Lajimoniere must be
intercepted. *^ Lajimoniere is again to pass through


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The Coming of the Colonists

your Department, on his way to Red River j^ wrote
Norman McLeod to the partners in Minnesota,
"ife must absolutely be prevented. He and the men
along with him, and an Indian guide he has, must
all be sent to Fort William. It is a matter of astonish-
ment how he could have made his way last fall through
your Department.^^

Rewards of $ioo, two kegs of rum and two carrots
of tobacco, were offered to Minnesota Indians if
they would catch Lajimoniere. They waylaid his
canoe at Fond du L^c, beat him senseless, stole his
dispatches, and carried him to Fort WUliam where
he was thrown in the butter vat prison and told that
his wife had already been murdered on Red River.

Out on Red River, Colin Robertson was doing
his best to stem the tide of disaster. During the
winter of 1815-16, Semple was continuing the fatuous
policy of seizing all the supplies of Northwest pem-
mican, and had gone on a tour to the different fur
posts in Selkirk's territory. For reasons that are
now known, no word had come from Selkirk. Toward
March arrived an Indian from the upper Assini-
boine, whom a Hudson's Bay doctor had cured of
disease, and who now in gratitude revealed to Rob-
ertson that a storm was gathering on both sides likely
to break on the heads of the colonists. Alex Mc-


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Donell of the Assiniboine was rallying the Bois Bpilfe
to meet the spring brigade from Montreal, and the
spring brigade was to consist of nearly every partner
in the Northwest Company, with eighty fighting
men, "Look out for yourselves," warned the
Indian. "They are after the heads of the colony.
They are saying if they catch Robertson they will
skin him alive and feed him to the dogs for attack-
ing Cameron last fall."

Old Chief Peguis comes again and again with
offers to defend the colonists by having his tribe
heave "the war hatchet," but Robertson has no
notion of playing war with Indians. "Beware,
white woman, beware!" the old chief tells Marie
Gaboury. "If the Bois Bruits fight, come you and
your children to my tepee."

Robertson did not wait for the storm to break.
Taking half a dozen men with him on March 13,
1816, he marched across to Fort Gibraltar to seize
Cameron as hostage. It was night. The light of
a candle guided them straight to the room where
the Northwest partner sat pen in hand over a letter.
Bursting into the room, Robertson who was of a
large and powerful frame, caught Cameron by the
collar. Two others placed pistols at the Nor'-
Wester's head. There lay the most damning evi-
dence beneath Cameron's hand — the letter asking


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The Coming of the Colonists

Grant of Minnesota to rally the PDlager Indians
against Fort Douglas. Cameron was taken prisoner
and when Semple returned, he was sent down in
May to Hudson's Bay to be forwarded to England
for trial. Ice jam in the straits delayed him a whole
year at Moose; and when he was taken to England,
Cameron, the Nor'Wester, was no more brought to
trial by the Hudson's Bay Company than Mac-
Donell, the Hudson's Bay man, was brought to trial
by the Nor'Westers. I confess at this stage of the
game, I can see very little difference in the faults on
both sides. Both sides were playing a desperate,
ruthless, utterly lawless game. Both had advanced
too far for retreat. Even Selkirk was involved in
the meshes with his two hundred soldiers tricked out
as a bodyguard.

Semple and Robertson now quarreled outright.
Robertson was for striking the blow before it was too
late; Semple for temporizing, waiting for word from
Selkirk. Robertson was for calling all the settlers
inside the palisades. Semple could not believe there
was danger.

"Then I wash my hands of consequences and
leave this fort," vowed Robertson.

"Then wash your hands and leave," retorted
Semple, and Robertson followed Cameron down to
Moose, to be ice-bound for nearly a year. Semple


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The Conquest of the Great Northwest

continued his mad policy of enforcing English poach-
ing laws on Red River. Gibraltar was dismantled
and the timber rafted down to Fort Douglas.

Up in the North, Robertson's Athabasca brigade,
under fighting John Clarke, had come to dire dis-
aster. Clarke felt so cock-sure that his big brigade
could humble the Nor'Westers into suing for union
with the Hudson's Bay that he had galloped his
canoes up the Saskatchewan, never pausing to gather
store of pemmican meat. A third of the men were
stationed at Athabasca Lake, a third sent down the
MacKenzie to Slave Lake, a third, Clarke, himself,
led up the Peace to the mountains. On the way,
the inevitable happened. Clarke ran out of pro-
visions and set himself to obtain them by storming
the Nor'Wester, Mcintosh, at Fort Vermilion. Mc-
intosh let loose his famous Northwest bullies, who
beat Clarke oflF and chased him down the Peace to
Athabasca. Archibald MacGillivray and Black
were the partners at Chippewyan, and many a trick
they played to outwit Clarke during the long winters
of 1815-16. Far or near, not an Indian could Clarke
find to barter furs or provisions. The natives had
been frightened and bribed to keep away. Once,
the coureur brought word that a northern tribe was
coming down with furs. The Nor'Westers gave a
grand ball to their rivals of the Hudson's Bay, but


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The Coming of the Colonists

at midnight when revels .were at their height, a
Northwest dog train without any bells to sound
alarm, sped silently over the snow. The Indian
hunters were met and the furs obtained before the
Hudson's Bay had left the dance. Another night,
a party of Hudson's Bay men had gone out to meet
Indians approaching with provisions. Suddenly,
Nor'Westers appeared at the night campfire with
whiskey. The Hudson's Bay men were deluded
into taking whiskey enough to disable them. Then
they were strapped in their own sleighs and the dogs
headed home.

Clarke was almost at the end of his tether when
the Nor'Westers invited him to a dinner. When he
rose to go home, MacGillivray and Black slapped
him on the shoulder and calmly told him he was their
prisoner. As for his men, eighteen died outright of
starvation. Others were forced at bayonet point or
flogged into joining the Nor'Westers. Many scat-
tered to the wilderness and never returned. Of the
two hundred Hudson's Bay voyageurs who had gone
so gloriously to capture Athabasca, only a pitiable
remnant found their way down to the Saskatchewan
and Lake Winnipeg. Clarke obtains not one pack of
furs. The Nor'Westers send out four hundred.

Nates to Chapter XXV II. —The data for this chapter have
been drawn from the same sources as the preceding chapter.


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In addition, I took the cardinal facts from two other sources
hitherto untold; (i) from Colin Robertson's confidential letters
to Selkirk; (2) from Coltman's report to the Canadian Govern-
ment and Sherbooke's confidential rejjort to the British Gov-
ernment — aXl in manuscript. In addition there are the printed
Government Reports (including Coltman's) and TriaJs and
Archives, but I nnd in these public reports much has been sup-
pressed, which the confidential records reveal. I am again in-
debted to Abb^ Dugas for the legend of Lajimoniere's tnp Bast.
Events thicken so fast at this st^e of the H. B. C. and N. W. C.
fight, space does not permit record of all the bloody affrays,
such for instance as the killing of Slater, the H. B. C. man, at
Abbittibbi, the death of Johnstone at Isle a la Crosse, or the
violence there when Peter Skene Ogden drove the Indians from
the H. B. C.

The name of the armed schooner, which was to patrol Lake
Winnipeg to drive the Nor' Westers off, Coltman gives as Cathid-
Kn, and a personal letter of Lieut. Holte (H. B. C.) declares that
he was to be commander.

MacDonell's proclamations seem to have been feudalism run
mad. In July of 18 14, he actually forbade natives to bark
trees for canoes and wigwams, or to cut large wood for camp
fires. Then followed his notices ordering the N. W. C. to move
their forts.

Howse, the explorer, was at this time in charge of Isle a la

The H. B. C. colonists, whp sided with Cameron and carried
across to the N. W. C. the four brass cannon, four swivels, one
howitzer — ^were Georfi[e Bannerman, Angus Gunn, Hugh Ban-
nerman, Donald McKinnon, Donald McDonald, George Camp-
bell. Robert Gunn, John Cooper, An^^ McKay, Andrew Mc-
Beth and John Matheson opposed givmg the arms to Cameron
and were loyal to Selkirk.

Peter Fidler's Journal (manuscript) gives details of 181 5 at
Fort Douglas.

When the colony was dispersed in June, 181 5, it consisted of
thirteen men and their families — fort^ persons. The N. W. C.
took no part in the flight of the colonists to Lake Winnipeg. It
was the Half-breeds who ordered them to leave Red River.

The Colony Buildings burnt were four houses grouped as the
fort, five farm houses, bams, stables, a mill and eighteen set-
tlers* cabins. This was not done by order of the N. W. C. but
by the Plains Rangers.


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It appeared in N. W. C. records that as high as £ioo was
paid some of the colonists to desert Red River.

Selkirk's letter to Robertson, which the N. W. C. captured
from Lajimoniere, ran thus: *' There can be no doubt that the
N. W. C, must be compelled to quit . . . my lands . . .
especially at the Forks . . . but as it will be necessary to
use force, I am anxious this should be done under legal warrant,**
I cannot see much difference between Selkirk bringing up De
Meurons to drive the N. W. C. off, and Cameron caUing on the
Indians to drive the H. B. C. off.

May 1 8th, Cameron was sent to the bay. June i ith, Robertson
quarreled with Semple and followed. June loth, Semple had
ordered the dismantling of Gibraltar, which was completed
after Robertson left.

Letters from Mcintosh of Peace River give details of Clarke's
disaster in Athabasca, describing his men '*as starving like
church rats and so reduced they were not able to stand on their
feet, and were a picture of the resurrection."

Some authorities, like McDonald of Garth, give the number of
Voyageurs sent to Athabasca by Robertson as four hundred.
I follow Robertson's MS. account.

It is not surprising that one of the first settlers to desert Red
River for Ontario was that Angus McKay, whose child was
bom on the sled journey to York.


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HERE, then, is the position, June 17; 1816.
My Lord Selkirk is racing westward
from Montreal to the rescue of his Red
River colonists with two hundred men made up of
disbanded DeMeuron and DeWatteville soldiers and
French canoemen.

William McGillivray has gathered all the Eastern
partners of the Northwest Company together — Mc-
Loughlin, the doctor; Simon Eraser, the explorer;
McLeod, the justice of the Peace; Haldane, Mc-
Lellan, McGillis, Keith and the rest — and with a
hundred armed men and two cannon, is dashing for
Red River to outrace Selkirk, rescue Duncan Cam-
eron, restore Fort Gibraltar, and prevent the forcible
eviction of the Northwest Company from Assiniboia.


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The Coming of the Colonists

Selkirk goes by way of Lake Ontario and the
modem Simcoe. The Nor'Westers follow the old
trail up the Ottawa.

In the West, blacker gathers the storm. Deprived
of their pemmican by Semple's raids, the Nor'-
Westers rally their Plain Rangers under Cuthbert
Grant to Alexander McDonell of Qu' Appelle, de-
termined to sweep down the Assiniboine and meet
the up-coming express from Montreal at all hazards.
This will prevent Semple capturing those provisions,
too. Incidentally, the Plain Rangers intended to
rescue Cameron from the Hudson's Bay men. They
do not know he has been sent to the bay. Incident-
ally, too, they intend "to catch Robertson and skin
him and feed him to the dogsJ*^ They do not know
that he, too, has gone oflF in a huflF to the bay. Gibral-
tar is to be restored. They do not know that it has
been dismantled. Then, when the Nor'West part-
ners come from the East, the Hudson's Bay people
are to be given a taste of their own medicine. No
attack is planned. The Plain Rangers are to keep
away from Fort Douglas; but the English company
is to be starved out, and if there is resistance — then,
in the language of Alex McDonell, mad with the lust
of revenge for the death of Eneas — ^Hhe ground is to
be drenched with the blood of the colonists^

In Fort Douglas sits Robert Semple, Governor of


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The Conquest of the Great Northwest

the Colony, his cannon pointed across Red River to
stop all trespassers on Selkirk's domain.

One other chessman there is in the desperate game.
Miles MacDonell, the captured governor of Red
River, has been released at Montreal and is speed-
ing westward in a light canoe with good cheer to the
colonists — ^word of Selkirk's coming.

Red River is the storm center. Toward it con-
verge three different currents of violence: the Plain
Rangers from the West; Selkirk's soldiers, and the
Nor'Westers' men from the East. What is it all
about? Just this — shall or shall not the feudal sys-
tem prevail in the Great Northwest? Little cared
the contestants about the feudal system. They were
fighting for profits in terms of coin. They were
pawns on the chess board of Destiny.

Comes once more warning to the blinded Semple,
secure in his beliefs as if entrenched in the castle of
a feudal baron. A chance hunter paddles down the
Assiniboine to Red River. "My governor! My
governor!" the rough fellow pleads. "Are you not
afraid? The Half-breeds are gathering! They are
advancing! They will kill you!"

"Tush, my good man," laughs Semple, "I'll show
them papers proving that we own the country."

"Ortw the country? What does that mean?"


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The Coming of the Colonists

The freeman shakes his head. No man owns these
boundless plains.

Comes again Moustache Batino, whom Doctor
White had healed of a wound.

"A hundred and fifty Bois Brul6s (Burnt Wood
Runners) are at the Portage of the Prairie! They
will be here by to-morrow night."

"Well, what of it? Let 'em come," smiles

The Indian ruminates — ^Is this Englishman mad?

"Mad! Nonsense," says Semple to his secretary,
Wilkinson. "They will never be such fools as to
break the law when they know we have right on our

But old Chief Peguis of the Sauteurs knows noth-
ing at all about that word " law." June i8th, at night
when the late sunset is dyeing the Western prairies
blood red, Peguis knocks at the fort gates.

"Governor of the gard'ners and land workers,"
he decides, "listen to me — listen to me, white man!
Let me bring my warriors to protect you ! The Half-
breeds will be here to-morrow night. Have your
colonists sleep inside the fort."

Semple grows impatient. "Chief," he declares,
"mark my words! There is not going to be any

All the same Peguis goes to Marie Gaboury,


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The Conquest of the Great Northwest

Lajimoniere's wife. '^ White woman," he com-
mands, "come you across the river to my tepee!
Blood is to be shed."

And Marie Gaboury, who has learned to love the
Indians as she formerly feared them, follows Chief
Peguisdown the river bank with her brood of children,
like so many chickens.

Such is her fright as she ensconces the children in
the chief's canoe, that she faints and falls backward,
upsetting the boatload, which Peguis rescues like so
many drowned ducklings, but Lajimoniere's family
hides in the Pagan tent while the storm breaks.

On the evening of June 19th, the boy on watch in
the gate tower calls out, "the Half-breeds are com-
ing." Semple goes up to the watchtower with a
spyglass. So do Heden, the blacksmith; and Wil-
kinson, the secretary; and White, the doctor; and
Holte, the young lieutenant of the Swedish Mar-
ines; and John Pritchard, who has left the Nor'-
Westers and joined the colony; and Bourke, the

"Those certainly are Half-breeds," says Pritchard,
pointing to a line of seventy or a hundred horsemen
coming from the west across the swamps of Frog
Plain beyond Fort Douglas toward the colony.

"Let twenty men instantly follow me," commands


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The Coming of the Colonists

Semple. "We'll go out and see what those people

Bayonets, pistols, swords are picked up in con-
fusion, and out sallies a little band of twenty-seven
men on foot.

The Half-breeds are not approaching Fort Doug-
las. They are advancing toward the colony. Half
a mile out, Semple meets the colonists rushing for
the fort in a wild panic. Alex McBeth, a colonist
who had been a soldier, calls out, "Keep your back
to the river. Governor! They are painted! Don't
let them surround you."

" There is no occasion for alarm ! I am only going
to speak to them," answers Semple, marching on,
knee-deep through the hay fields. All the same, he
sends a boy back with word for Bourke, the store-
keeper, and McLean, the farmer, to hitch horses and
drag out the cannon. As the Half-breeds approach
Semple sees for himself they are daubed in war paint
and galloping forward in a semi-circle. Young
Holte of the Marines becomes so flustered that he
lets his gun off by mistake, which gives the Governor
a start.

"Mind yourself," Semple orders. "I want no
firing at all."

"My God, Governor! We are all lost men," mut-
ters Heden,the blacksmith; and Kilkenny, a fighting


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The CoTfupiest of the Great Northwest

Irishman, begs, "Give me leave, Governor! Let me
shoot; or we shall all be shot. There's Grant, the
leader. Let me pick oflF Grant !'*

"No firing, I tell you," orders Semple angrily, and
the two parties come in violent collision on a little
knoll of wooded ground called Seven Oaks.

With Grant are our old friends of the Saskatche-
wan — Falfon, the rhyming poet; and Boucher, son
of the scout shot on the South Saskatchewan; and
Louis Primo, old reprobate who had deserted Cock-
ing fifty years ago; and two of Marguerite Trot-
tier's brothers from Pembina; and a blackguard
family of Deschamps from the Missouri; and seventy
other Plain Rangers from the West.

Followed by a bloodthirsty crew hard to hold,
Cuthbert Grant was appalled to see Semple march
out courting disaster.

"Go tell those people to ground their arms and
surrender," he ordered Boucher.

"What do you want?" demanded Semple as
Boucher galloped up.

"Our fort," yelled Boucher forgetting his mes-

"Then go to your fort!" vehemently ordered

"Rascal! You have destroyed our fort," roared
the angry Half-breed.


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The Coming of the Colonists

"Dare you address me so?" retorted Semple,
seizing the scout's gun. " Men — take him prisoner !'*

"Have a care you do me no ill," shouted Boucher
slipping oflF the other side of his horse, prancing

"Take him prisoner — ^I say! Is this a time to be
afraid?" shouts Semple.

" My God ! We are all dead men," groans Suther-
land, the Scotch colonist, for the dread war whoop
had rent the air. There was a blaze of musketry,
and there reeled back with his arms thrown up —
young Holte, the oflBcer who had boasted that with
the Lake Winnipeg schooner "he would give the
Northwest scoundrels a drubbing." Another crash,
and Semple is down with a broken thigh. Cuthbert
Grant dismounts and rushes to stop the massacre.

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