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LIFE OF LORD SELKIRK



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BY DR GEORGE BRYCE



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Centennial
Volume



THE LIFE OF
LORD SELKIRK



CHIEF WORKS OF DR. BRYCE

MANITOBA : Infancy, Growth, and Present Condition

SHORT HISTORY OF THE CANADIAN PEOPLE

REMARKABLE HISTORY OF THE HUDSON
BAY COMPANY

THREE WESTERN PIONEERS AND MAKERS
OF CANADA SERIES

(Mackenzie, Selkirk, Simpson)

ROMANTIC SETTLEMENT OF LORD
SELKIRK'S COLONISTS

This work follows the life of the Colony

founded by Lord Selkirk, down throug^h

the hundred years of its existence

SMALLER WORKS OF DR. BRYCE

THE MOUND BUILDERS

EVERY MAN'S GEOLOGY OF WESTERN
CANADA

A PLEA FOR FORESTRY

SCHOOL BOTANY AND AGRICULTURE
Parts I. and II.



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THE LIFE OF
LORD SELKIRK

COLONISER OF WESTERN CANADA



BY

GEORGE BRYCE

M.A., D.D., LL.D.

Hon. Professor Manitoba College, Winnipeg ; Member of

Royal Commission on Technical Education ; President

of Royal Society of Canada (1910)



ILLUSTRATED



THE MUSSON BOOK COMPANY, LIMITED
TORONTO, CANADA LONDON, ENGLAND



CONTENTS

PAGE
1,

THE GREAT DOUGLAS FAMILY . . . , i

n.

LORD SELKIRK'S BIRTHPLACE .... 6

III.
HIS EARLY LIFE il

IV.
A NOBLE DREAMER 15

V.
THE SETTLERS BY THE SEA . . . . ao

VI.
FIRST VISIT TO CANADA 24

VII.
THE FEVER AT BALDOON 28

VIII.
THE EARL'S GREAT ENTERPRISE ... 33

IX.
THREE SHIPS SET SAIL TO YORK FACTORY 38

X.
COLD WINTER AT YORK FACTORY ... 42

V



9912v'i:



vi Contents

PAGE

XI.

LANDING AT RED RIVER, AUGUST 30, 1812 . 47

XII.
THE FIRST THREE CONTINGENTS ... 52

XIII.
A RED-COAT INTRUDER 57

XIV.
THE NEW GOVERNOR 63

XV.
THE SEVEN OAKS MASSACRE .... 67

XVI.
LORD SELKIRK RELIEVES HIS COLONY . 74

XVII.
PERSECUTION IN CANADA 79

XVIII.
LORD SELKIRK RETURNS HOME TO DIE . 85

XIX.

HIS DREAM FULFILLED IN THE CENTENNIAL

YEAR 89

XX.

THE CENTENNIAL 93

XXI.
THE FOUNDER 94



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

ST. MARY'S ISLE Frontispiece

Page
THOMAS, EARL OF SELKIRK 12

JEAN, COUNTESS OF SELKIRK 18

YORK FACTORY 43

SEVEN OAKS MONUMENT 69

LORD SELKIRK 72

DUNBAR JAMES, SIXTH EARL OF SELKIRK ... 80

BUST OF LORD SELKIRK 90

THE PRESENT LADY SELKIRK 94



VU



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CHAPTER I '■ ' • * ' •



» 1 1 1 I



THE GREAT DOUGLAS FAMiliY '

ANYONE who has read Sir Walter Scott's
''Lady of the Lake" is impressed with the
dignity and might of the Douglas, even in
exile. But this Douglas was only one of
a great family of brave and determined men. This
was the family, with its branches and connections
of Mar and Angus, from which Thomas Douglas,
fifth Earl of Selkirk, sprang.

Scottish History records the valour of a Douglas
who in the thirteenth century joined the great
patriot, Sir William Wallace, and paid for his de-
votion with his life. Everyone who has read the
ballad of Chevy Chase will remember the hardihood
of the grandson of this last-named Douglas and his
comrades, who fought at Otterburn :

" For Witherington then would I mourn
As one in doleful dumps,
For when his legs were smitten oflF,
He fought upon his — stumps."

" Few of my ancestors," cried this Douglas, as he
was dying, ** died in chambers." They fell in battle.
In the fourteenth century there was a masterful
Douglas — Sir James — who was a bosom friend of
King Robert Bruce, and did wonderful deeds of
valour at Bannockburn. Making a foray into

X



2 LIFE OF LORD SELKIRK

England, this Douglas, leading 20,000 men, himself
at the head of 200 horsemen, forced his way into
the Royal Camp, and nearly succeeded in capturing
the English King, Edward. After the death of
Bruce, who always had it in his heart, when the
stormy days of Scottish turbulence should be over,
to go as a Crusader to the Holy Land, this Douglas
felt it a sacred pledge given to his King to carry
his dead heart in a silver casket to Palestine, and
deposit it in the Holy Sepulchre. That his heart
was thus taken from his body was, a few years ago,
found to be no fiction, for, on exhuming Bruce's
body in Dunfermline Abbey, it was seen that the
breast-bone was sawn across. Sir James Douglas
kept his promise, but on his way through Spain
became involved in a fight with the Saracens. When
his enemies seemed to be wavering in the face of
his attack, the Douglas, to cause their confusion,
threw the silver casket which he carried, ahead of
him among his foes, crying out : '* Go thee onward
as thou wert wont, Douglas will follow thee or die."
The Holy Land was never reached, but the heart of
the Bruce was carried back to Scotland.

Even such heroism as this was to be exceeded by
one of this great family, of the branch of Angus, in
the warrior — in the time of James III. of Scotland
— Archibald, known as *' Bell the Cat." Those were
troublous times. The King was weak, but tyrannical
and overbearing. His nobles dreaded him, but none
of them had the courage to face His Majesty and
show the mailed fist. They repeated the well-known
fable of the '' Mice and the Cat." All failed but Sir
Archibald, and the cowardly but grumbling nobles
laid on him the duty of facing King James to declare
their hostility and opposition. Sir Archibald carried
their message to the King, stood up for the rights



THE GREAT DOUGLAS FAMILY 3

of the grovelling crowd, and gained the title of
'* Archibald Bell-the-Cat."

To such a family belonged the fifth Earl of Selkirk ;
and as we tell the story of his life, it will be for the
reader to say whether in what should have been an
age of education, personal liberty, and legal right,
the Earl of Selkirk did not suffer as great danger,
pain, and misery — even injustice and death itself —
as did the Douglas of the stormy days of the good
Sir James or the doughty Earl of Angus.

With such blood in his veins, our hero — for so we
regard him — was born on June 20, 1771, in St.
Mary's Isle, at the mouth of the River Dee, at Kirk-
cudbright, in the south-west of Scotland — a spot
of beauty which we shall describe more fully. He
was the seventh son of Dunbar, the fourth Earl of
Selkirk, who assumed the name of Douglas. This
Earl's large family of seven sons and six daughters
were the children of Helen Douglas, daughter of
Dunbar Hamilton of Baldoon, who brought the title
to the Earl, and their family history was a very
melancholy one. One after another they faded
away. The brother older than Thomas grew up
and gave promise of life and leadership. The
junior title of the Earldom of Selkirk — of which
we shall hear again — was that of Lord Daer, or, in
full. Baron Daer and Shortcleugh. This was in-
herited by the eldest son of the family.

The family characteristic was that of a tall and
slender form, evidently joined with delicate and
uncertain health. In 1797 the sixth son, who was
Lord Daer, died, when the most unlikely of all
things occurred — the old Scottish superstition and
prophecy of the *' seventh son " came true. Thomas
Douglas became Lord Daer, and two years later, at
the age of twenty-eight, on the death of his father,



4 LIFE OF LORD SELKIRK

Dunbar Douglas, he became Thomas, Earl of Selkirk,
and possessor of the honours, estates, and heredita-
ments of the noble house which had been created in
1646 and again constituted in 1688.

No member of the house of Selkirk crowded so
much into a single life as did the young fifth Earl,
who, from the time of his entering upon the Earldom
till his death, twenty-one years after — when still a
young man — gained a world-wide fame as the
founder of New World settlements, as we shall see,
in Prince Edward Island, Upper Canada, and Mani-
toba, and whose service and influence are shown in
the occurrence of place-names in Canada, which
commemorate him. The town of Selkirk in Red
River, and the Dominion County of Selkirk, which
includes the scenes of the early days of his settle-
ment, and in which also is the Selkirk Island in Lake
Winnipeg, point to his work, done a hundred years
ago. The village of Selkirk marks the spot in
Ontario where, before his Western experiment on
Red River, he made an attempt to settle a number
of his needy countrymen ; and Baldoon, the name of
one of the Scottish properties of his father, speaks
of a ten-year-long enterprise he sought to carry out
in Dover and Chatham townships, amid the direful
malaria of the shores of Lake St. Clair. Given in
later times was the name Fort Selkirk in the old
Yukon days, and a noble monument — worthy,
timely, and deserved — was accorded him in naming
after him the most picturesque and sublime range
of British Columbia, the Selkirk Mountains. The
fort erected in 18 12 near the American boundary-
line on Red River was Fort Daer.

On the landing of the Selkirk colonists, in 18 12,
which we shall more fully describe, we find in the
Records that a few days after the party landed on



THE GREAT DOUGLAS FAMILY 5

the banks of Red River, there was chosen for occu-
pation " an extensive point of land through which
fire had run and destroyed the wood, there being
only burnt wood and weeds left." Here the first
settlement was made, early in September 18 12, and
the tongue of land was called Point Douglas, in
memory of Lord Selkirk's family name. Here Fort
Douglas was afterwards built, and this is a most
central spot in the great city of Winnipeg of to-day.
In all these is found a monument more enduring
than brass.



CHAPTER II

LORD SELKlRK^S BIRTHPLACE

THE birthplace of Lord Selkirk was St. Mary's
Isle, a beautiful sequestered spot, from
which can be seen coming in the dashing
waves of Solway Firth, so well described by
Sir Walter Scott, in his story '' Redgauntlet" The
writer here spent a delightful week during the life
of Dunbar Douglas, the sixth Earl, who was the
son of the ** Founder," as we shall often call Thomas,
the fifth Earl, Here on that visit, the presiding
genius of the house was Cecely Louisa, Countess of
Selkirk, who married the Earl late in his life, and
who still survives in good health, and is a faithful
supporter of the fame and traditions of the house
of Selkirk. On the decease of the last Earl of
Selkirk, who died without issue in 1885, the titles
and estates of the house of Selkirk, including the
Earldom and the baronial title of Daer, were ab-
sorbed by the Duke of Hamilton. This seat of
the Selkirk family is now the residence of Captain
John Hope, R.N., grandson of, the Founder on his
mother's side.

St. Mary's Isle is an island of some hundreds of
acres, formed by the silt deposited at its mouth by
the River Dee. Cut off originally as an island from
the mainland, it no doubt was occupied as a refuge
in the old days of rapine and violence. Some parts
of the residence, as seen in the Frontispiece still

6



LORD SELKIRK'S BIRTHPLACE 7

remain, built into the walls of the house. These
are of great solidity and thickness, some being six
feet thick. It seems to have been a keep, or small
fortress, and had no doubt considerable powers of
resistance in barbarous times. It in some way fell
into the possession of the monks, who for a long
time inhabited it, under the name of St. Mary's Isle.
In the east end of Edinburgh is to be seen a restored
church, that of Restalrig, that for many years has
been included in the parish of South Leith. This
establishment was a Chantry, or Musical College,
in the old days, and was possessed by the monks
who owned St. Mary's Isle. The fragments of
masonry and carving still preserved at Restalrig
indicate an elaborate structure. How the monks of
Restalrig obtained possession of St. Mary's Isle,
on the very opposite side of Scotland, is not known.
Perhaps some noted pirate or riever of the Middle
Ages — scourge of the Solway Firth — may have left it to
the gentle monks to atone for his misdeeds and repay
them for singing requiems for his everlasting rest.

It was long after this time, however, when it
came into the possession of the house of Selkirk.

At any rate, the mansion and its surroundings are
now the abode of peace. The connection between
the island and the mainland has been made perma-
nent, and the carriage drive-way has made the island
into a peninsula. St. Mary's Isle is now quite
heavily wooded, and a number of fields upon it give
good pasturage. It is thoroughly stocked with
animals — indeed, it is overstocked with game. As
the writer remembers it, in driving along the carriage-
way to the mainland, hares and rabbits, partridges
and pheasants, sprang or flew in numbers almost
from under the carriage wheels. It was the custom
of the last Earl, on the beginning of shooting, with



8 LIFE OF LORD SELKIRK

a few invited guests, to shoot one day over the island,
and then all was peaceful for another year, and the
game multiplied.

The mouth of the Dee and the shore-line of St.
Mary's Isle, being without fortifications, were an
inviting spot for rovers or pirates on the Irish Sea
during the Seven Years' conflict, the American
Revolution, and the Napoleonic Wars. In the long-
ago history of the American Revolution, on one
occasion at least a dash was made upon St. Mary's
Isle. This was in 1783, when John Paul, a native
of Kirkcudbright, who had wandered as a reckless
adventurer to various countries, and, developing
great powers of bravery and leadership, had been
placed in command of a warship, the Rangei\ and
given letters of marque. Though often called a
pirate and freebooter, yet, finding himself in the
Irish Sea, he made a raid upon his native shore,
now having assumed the name of John Paul Jones.
He captured St. Mary's Isle, with the intention, it
is stated, of kidnapping the fourth Earl of Selkirk
and holding him for a ransom from the British
Government. Fortunately the Earl was absent
from home at the time of the raid, and so the master
of the Ranger missed his mark. Jones robbed
the house of St. Mary's Isle of its valuables. The
local tradition was that he had captured a great
store of treasure, but more accurate statements
declare that he did not secure more than a hundred
pounds' worth of booty.

A local peasant-ballad in that part of the south
country, dealing with the incident, runs as follows :

«* Ye've all heard of Paul Jones,
Have ye not ? Have ye no ?
Ye've all heard of Paul Jones,
Have ye no ?



LORD SELKIRK'S BIRTHPLACE 9

Ye've all heard of Paul Jones,

He was a rogue and vagabond,
He was a rogue and vagabond,
Was he no ?

He entered Lord Selkirk's Hall,

Did he not ? Did he no ?
He entered Lord Selkirk's Hall,
Did he no ?

He entered Lord Selkirk's Hall,

Stole the gold and jubals (jewels) all,
Stole the gold and jubals all,
Did he no?"

It is a matter of much interest to know that at
St. Mary's Isle we get a glance of the social and
literary life of the time. Probably not long after
the invasion of Paul Jones, the ploughman-poet of
Scotland, Robert Burns, was once a guest at St.
Mary's Isle. The house of Selkirk at the time was
Whiggish in its politics, and no doubt the Earl of
Selkirk of the day was not among those who refused
to honour the peasant bard. At table, the token
of respect shown to Burns was a recognition of the
opinion that the bard and the cleric were somewhat
of the same ilk in Scotland. The Earl asked the
poet to say Grace. The poet, unabashed, extem-
porised the following Grace, which may be found in
his published works :

SELKIRK GRACE

** Some hae meat and canna eat,

An' some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, an' we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit."

About the same time, Dugald Stewart, the great
professor of Moral Philosophy, and something like
" Christopher North." of the time, a species of
literary dictator, was holding his temporary literary



10 LIFE OF LORD SELKIRK

encenium at Ayr, in the West of Scotland. As a
friend of the professor, young Daer, an elder brother
of Thomas Douglas, was a guest, and at this gathering
the poet Burns v/as also present. The fact of such
a high-born table companion as one of the house
of Selkirk filled the poet with great glee, and in his
rollicking humour he wrote the poem from which
we clip a verse or two :

" This wot ye all whom it concerns —
I, Rhymer Robin, alias Burns,
October twenty-third,
A ne'er to be forgotten day,
Sae far I sprachled up the brae,
I dinner'd wi' a lord."

Yes, wi' a lord — stan' out, my shin —
A lord — a peer — an earl's son —
Up higher yet, my bonnet.
And sic a lord — lang Scotch ells twa,
Our peerage he o'erlooks them a'
As I look o'er my sonnet."

These are but glimpses of the life of St. Mary's
Isle, more than a century ago. They all show a
breadth of sympathy, a largeness of soul, and a
field of common sense from which we might expect
to spring, in the sanctuary of St. Mary's Isle, the
noble-minded and enterprising man whom some
have called a visionary, but whom we regard as
the sane founder of Western Canada.



CHAPTER III

HIS EARLY LIFE

AS the youngest son of the Selkirk family,
Thomas Douglas was the favourite of the
family. He was born and passed through
his boyhood in an exciting time in the
history of the British Isles. He was five years old
when the American Revolution began, and he be-
longed to a Whig family which took an interest in
and had a great sympathy for the American colonists
who were struggling for their liberties. His father,
Dunbar Douglas, was a man of strong political
feeling, and the appeals of Edmund Burke and the
fervid eloquence of the younger Pitt stirred the
whole family to a love for liberty and a hatred of
tyranny. King George HI. was no more popular
among the majority of the British people than he
was with the struggling colonists of Massachusetts
or Virginia. The boy of fifteen, who had the prospect
of having to take, as a younger son, to the Army,
the Navy, or the Church, went at that age to Edinburgh
University, which then, with the blaze of talent in
the " Northern Athens," was plainly the most
intellectual centre in Great Britain.

The young student had the faculty of making
warm friends, for he was impulsive, ambitious, and
idealistic. He was a classmate and all his life a

II



12 LIFE OF LORD SELKIRK

warm friend, of Walter Scott, Lord Abercromby,
Clerk of Eldon, and a brilliant youth with the same
family name as himself, David Douglas, afterwards
Lord Reston. These and other kindred spirits in
the University formed themselves into a literary
society of nineteen, called " The Club," which met
in a room in Carruber's Close, off the High Street,
from which they adjourned to an oyster tavern
in the neighbourhood. The high character of the
youths may be seen when we hear of Walter Scott,
in such an age as the end of the eighteenth century,
declaring, ** Depend upon it, of all vices, drinking is
the most incompatible with greatness." Among
this body there was the usual enthusiasm, uncon-
ventionality, and radicalism of the University student.
Warmth of feeling, personal devotion, and a curious
individuality of sentiment marked the youths, such
as everyone who has gone through the University
atmosphere recognises as kin to student life. When-
ever any member of the select club received a reward
or promotion of any kind, it was the rule that he
should give a dinner to his associates. The regenera-
tion of the world and of society was the very natural
aim of these high-born youths in their irrepressible
stage.

Being of an independent and original turn of
mind, during the vacations of his University career,
Thomas Douglas left the beaten track of pleasure
of those days, and betook himself to the Highland
glens of his native land. It may have been that
some of the outlying scattered holdings of the Scottish
estates were across the Firth, and thus a good
distance from Kirkcudbright, or perhaps it was that
the Highlander was the embodiment of the pictur-
esque and the daring which attracted the romantic
youth. The Highland chief was the most absolute










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HIS EARLY LIFE 13

of rulers of his clan, but at the same time he was
father of his people, the friend of the helpless, and
the first to throw himself into the " imminent and
deadly breach " in fight. In the garb of Old Gaul,
with his pride of ancestry and devotion to his
mother-tongue, the Highlander appealed to the
imagination of the romantic young noblemen.
With all these customs he sympathised ; and in token
of his interest, though of Southron blood, he under-
took the study of the Gaelic language, and is said to
have succeeded in speaking it.

But there was another feature of the Highlands

which appealed to his tender and compassionate

nature. The continued wars of Britain had brought

financial loss upon the whole people. The nobles could

not collect their rents, the peasantry had a miserable

living, and there seemed little hope of improving

the conditions of life. At this time was beginning

the well-remembered ** Highland Clearances," a

movement to which tens of thousands of Highlanders

in North America look back as the time when their

lands were taken from them — lands in which, with

the Celtic notion of clan-possession, they believed

they had a right. Great sheep-runs took the place

of the shielans and crofts of those who crossed the

ocean, to sing ** Lochaber no more." This state of

things appealed strongly to young Thomas Selkirk.

The relief of his countrymen and other sufferers

became a passion with him, and give a clue to some

of the phases of his after-life which some persons

find it hard to explain. Thus we find it recorded

that, at the close of his University career, he took an

extensive tour through the wild Highland region,

and " explored many of its remotest and most

secluded valleys."

France at this time, in the last decade of the



14 LIFE OF LORD SELKIRK

eighteenth century, was an interesting problem for
the friends of Hberty in all European countries. The
American Revolution had thrown the sparks of
liberty into the tyrannies and immoralities of Old
France. But in France the conflagrations had
become alarming. The French people had not the
solidity and saving common sense of the Anglo-Saxon
communities of North America. Like most of
those of the liberty-loving people in Great Britain,
such as Wordsworth, Coleridge, and others, young
Douglas crossed over to France, and there, amid the
disturbances and ferment, saw a leaderless populace
and the fruits of the wild theories of the Jacobins.
Dissatisfied with France, and, as he tells us after-
wards, alienated from the pleasing theories of
optimistic popular government, he came back to
betake himself for a time to the Highland Straths,
where he might have sung to him the praises of
" Evan's, Donald's fame," and hear again ** the
sounding pibroch." Taken up thus for five or six
years after he had come of age, the young nobleman
had time to settle down to the later culture that
follows the College course, and brings the thinking
man to look more dispassionately at the problems of
human life.

Thomas Selkirk became, on the death of his only
surviving brother. Baron Daer and Shortcleugh,
with, should he live, the high honours of the Earldom
as his reversion. In two years his father died, and
at the age of twenty-eight, in the year 1799, Thomas
Douglas came into all the wealth, titles, and estates
which had been bestowed a century and a half
before, in 1646, by the hand of Charles I. upon a
branch of the house of Angus, as Earl of Selkirk.



CHAPTER IV

A NOBLE DREAMER

LORD SELKIRK came of a perfervid race, and
his University training had but enlarged
his view and led him to long to leave the
ordinary and uneventful path of a common-
place life. It is a good thing for the world that the
young men should see visions and even the old men
dream dreams. He began the nineteenth century
with high hopes for the future, and provided by
station and means to undertake large and important
schemes.

Like Ulysses on Ithaca, the young noble was able
to say :



*' Yet all experience is an arch where thro'
Gleams that untravell'd world whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause to make an end,
To rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use!
As tho' to breathe were life."



His ambition seems to have been toward helping


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