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The Father of St. Kilda
Chapter VIII - General Events during 1860 - 1868


After a long winter of festivity, fiddling and dancing through all the frozen months, a portion of the population, on the approach of spring, turned again to the labour of farming, freighting, and buffalo hunting on the plains. Early in June two fleets of boats left the fort for Portage Laloche to take the Mackenzie River goods and bring back fars on their return for transport to Hudson Bay. Two specially qualified river guides accompanied this annual expedition. Their names were Alexis L’Espe-rance and Baptiste Bruce. L’Esperance was a Canadian of long service, since 1815 in fact, and in 1824 was a midman in Sir George Simpson’s canoe on a visit to the Island of Vancouver. Other fleets of boats were dispatched to Hudson’s Bay, and many oxen were yoked in the Red River carts for the journey across the plains to the Saskatchewan and Swan River districts. These were to return to us loaded with the staple food of the country, pemmican and dried meat. The country was entirely self-sustaining, and in Its supply of fish, flesh and fowl had probably no equal in the world.

The autumn white fishing was another important annual event. Millions of these excellent fish were thus secured, hung on spits to be frozen, and then carried home on sledges to be distributed free of charge to the colony. Wild fruits were never lacking, gooseberries, strawberries, raspberries, plums and different varieties of currants of excellent flavour. Wild flowers and blossoming shrubs bloomed in the woods and prairies as soon as the snow melted. Foremost were the anemones, which covered the yet frozen prairie with a lovely carpet of colours, each flower being provided by Nature with a tiny cloak, which the slender blossom draws around it for protection when the winds are chill. And one might walk all day through fields of magnificent lilies. The red and June cherries were the first to put on their garlands, and then the woods were white with the profusion of their blossom. The hawthorn followed—a dwarf tree—but so loaded with bloom that each seemed one single nosegay.

But the spirea was the most beautiful of all, with its pink and white cone-shaped flower clusters poised on every branch. Honeysuckles adorned the prairie, hops grew in abundance in the woods, winter berries, the partridge’s favourite, grew :n wood and plain alike.

By right of the Company’s Charles II. Charter, it ruled the colony absolutely. The Councillors of Assiniboia held their office in virtue of commissions granted to them by it, emanating from its house in London. The Council met at Fort Garry, and the public were not admitted to its deliberations. Two Bishops, the Governor, and a few of the more influential colonists, formed the Bench, presided over by the Company’s M.D. In 1849 a half-breed named Sayer was apprehended on a charge of trading furs with the Indians and put upon his trial. He was convicted, but the prisoner’s compatriots surrounded the place of his confinement with the avowed intention of liberating him and killing the man who locked him up. No further attempt to dispute its absolute authority was made until late in 1859, when a Canadian named McKennay suddenly appeared on the scene and commenced, in the broad face of day, to build a hotel, naming it, although carpeted with sawdust only, the “Royal Hotel.” But the Company, fearing nothing, looked on this time with unruffled indifference. A Committee of the British House of Commons sat, in 1857, to inquire into the isolated settlement on the Red River, with the result that two Canadians, civil engineers, were employed for two years to survey a part of the country with a view to a route on British soil from a point on Lake Superior to Fort Garry. In i860 one of these gentlemen published the resultof his experiences in a popular form ; calling his book “The Narrative of the Canadian Red River Exploring Expedition of 1857 and of Assiniboine and Saskatchewan Exploring Expedition of 1858.” This was almost all that came of this first venture, and the matter was allowed to rest. Early in i860 the scheme was altogether abandoned, on the somewhat absurd ground of physical difficulties. The Annual Council of the Company was not held that summer, owing to the illness of Sir George Simpson. The sad news of his death, near Montreal, reached us in September. Swift gave it for his opinion that whoever could make two ears of corn or two blades of grass to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before would deserve better of mankind, and do more essential service to his country, than the whole race of politicians put together. What there is of truth in this famous saying may be applied to Sir George Simpson. Districts where there was one post when he entered on his duty of Governor, had now their tens. He had opened a new door for commerce and civilisation and discovered a new country, and this he did by his great journey, a stupendous feat in those days, from Montreal, through the uninhabited wilds of North America, the vast territories of the Russian Empire, to London, and across the Atlantic to the starting-point. I may be forgiven for supposing that he was peculiarly fitted by the Celtic elements in his temperament, and by the influences under which he passed as a young man, to fill his important position. It cast a gravity over us all to hear that this veteran pillar of the Company had passed away, and was now, like so many travellers and administrators of our history, one of the men of the past.

Our annual mail, by York Factory, also brought us the sad news of the fate of our companion barque Kitty, which we had expected to meet in Hudson Straits on our outward journey last year. She had been nipped and crushed to pieces in the ice there, on the 5th September, off the middle Savages. The crew left the ship in two boats; and after indescribable miseries, made the land on the dreary Saddle Back Island. Both the boats then attempted to cross the straits, and work their way down to Labrador. Sixty-one days after, one of them reached the northernmost of the Moravian Missions. 'I he other boat, with the captain and ten men, landed on Akpatok Island. They were at first hospitably received by the pagan Eskimos, but as food grew scarce, and the natives began to realise their helpless condition, they were all murdered one night while sleeping in their tent. This happened in January, i8fio, a terrible fate which, by the care of a kind Providence, we had escaped.

At the same time we heard of the safe return of the steam yacht Fox, Captain L. McClintock, with the authentic news of the sad fate of Sir John Franklin and his brave crew, at last putting an end to all conjecture as to the actual spot where they suffered and died—a curious fulfilment of the prediction of the native conjurer at Fort York, early in September of last year!

No chapter in modern history is more touching than that which tells of Franklin’s mysterious disappearance from this world, and of the untiring efforts made by his devoted wife to trace him and his comrades—refusing to admit that efforts for his rescue were futile, hoping against hope and persevering to the last. At last Captain McClintock succeeded in doing all that could be done, and the world knew that the explorer, already recognised as one of the heroes of civilisation, was also one of its martyrs.

One more tragic tale and I conclude the history of this year. In the beginning of November a Roman Catholic priest, returning from a mission of kindness among the Indians, was overtaken by a furious tempest such as only these waste open plains know. His horse succumbed under the cold, and when the man dismounted he found to his dismay that his legs would no longer support him. All he could do was to dig a hole in the snow, and drag his already frozen limbs into the cold bed, placing his horse to the weather side for protection from the piercing north wind. The horse died, and he cut strips of its flesh off and ate them raw with relish. With only a buffalo robe for covering, he lay thus for four days and five nights, when he was found by a traveller and brought to Mr. Rollette, an American official on the frontier. This gentleman gave him the shelter and comfort of his house, but soon the flesh began to fall away from the bones in horrible pieces. The amputation of one leg and one foot became necessary. He was removed to St. Boniface’s Cathedral, where a still worse fate awaited him, for that magnificent building was burnt to the ground on 14th December. From the burning flames the poor half-dead cripple was carried with the bedding on which he lay, scarcely escaping death by suffocation. One man was burnt to death in this fire, and a costly library, the only one in the colony, was utterly destroyed.


One event ever memorable to me marked the spring of 1861. That was the death of my friend Mr. Angus McDonald, who had been the means of placing me where I was. He had been stationed at Fort Garry, twenty miles away, and we met as often as we could, and wrote to each other frequently. His letters were full of genuine and friendly advice, and if I was tempted to step aside from the path of duty he did not fail to point out to me the pitfalls that awaited my youthful feet.

Happy and thankful I am to say that the Governor had given him good accounts of my energy and ability, being pleased that already I might be classed as a first-rate Indian linguist. Thus the last letter I ever received from him was one of congratulation and approval, a circumstance it gladdens me to remember. For some time he had been in bad health, and at last, unexpectedly, I received a summons to his bedside. Alas ! our meeting and our parting were such as words of mine cannot describe. They passed, and the end came, and after it the funeral in Kildonan Churchyard. There were no pipes to play a coronach over this son of the isles, no strains of “ The Land of the Leal ” or “ Lochaber no more ” to follow him to his grave. But the psalm was sung w'hich lifts the thoughts of mourners from the fragility of human life to the immortality of Him to Whom a thousand years are but as yesterday when it is past and as a watch in the night. A mile in length, the procession glided along the river ice, and the folk lrom the old country and the dusky natives of the new lined the river banks and sobbed as they watched it pass. This was his funeral’s unbidden and unmarshalled pomp. His life of strenuous industry and stainless purity, his genial and kindly temper, made him an example and support to his comrades. He was one of those rare Christian souls for whom indeed this world is too vexed and rough a scene, but to whom affection will never grudge her tenderest memories. His loss to me was irreparable. I placed a stone at the head of his grave in token of my never-dying esteem.

Erected by his friend Roderick Campbell.
In loving memory of ANGUS MCDONALD,
Born in the parish of Ness, Island of Lewis, Scotland, in 1834.
Died at Fort Garry, Red River Settlement,
Hudson Bay Company's Territory, 1st April, 1861.

During this year the country suffered much from floods, one of the most serious obstacles to agriculture in this flat land. Some of the colonists remembered similar inundations in 1809, 1826, and 1852, attributable, like the present, to two causes, (1) late springs and sudden thaws of deep snow, (2) the lack of sufficient means of drainage. The river course being tortuous and extremely flat, all landmarks were completely obliterated, the landscape being transformed into one vast ocean, and the only means of communication were boats and Indian bark canoes. Except my fort, which stood on a high, solid bank of limestone, the whole colony, and far into the United States, was under water. Houses, barns and stables floated on the surface, travelling slowly to the lower level of Lake Winnipeg, cocks crowing on the roofs as they glided to destruction. The crops were nil, but the prospects of good buffalo hunting and lake fisheries later on alleviated the fears of the inhabitants.

In the midst of this a second destructive fire broke out and entirely destroyed four large buildings on the premises of the Roman Catholic Mission of St. Boniface, which contained valuable stores for the use of the inland stations of this vast diocese. The adherents of St. Boniface were the poorest in the colony, and the misery caused by flood and fire lay heavily upon them. About the same time occurred the death of the oldest resident Sister of Charity, the first of her Order in the North. No spot of dry land existed to serve as a place of interment, and the body had to be kepf to wait the subsiding of the flood.

In August Paullet Chartrain fatally stabbed John Monkman with a chisel during a drinking bout. An indictment was drawn up, and he was found guilty and sentenced—to a few months’ confinement. The medical head magistrate having died, we were thus apparently left, destitute of law. Nor had we a substitute in military occupation.

Meanwhile the builder of the “Royal Hotel” had begun to write himself down a “Company,” his half-brother, Dr. J. C. Schultz, having arrived. This gentleman proved to be the most formidable opponent my Company had as yet encountered. He took over the “Nor’-Wester’’ newspaper, and made the Company’s “iniquitous and worthless charter” the object of his periodical assaults. It was, he declared, a gross imposition on the credulity of the people, and ought not to be tolerated for a day.

It was in 1861, too, that a small steamboat first plied upon the river. The Indians hated and feared it, seeing it going miraculously without oars or sail, and called it a “water-devil,” motioning it back with incantations and exorcisms. Its career was .short, however, as it sank in its winter berth.


The New Year broke sadly for me. I had not yet recovered from the loss of my friend. Outward things went on as usual, but the mere change of a figure in the calendar meant much to me,—as indeed it does to us all every year, though why it should is difficult to say. We know what the old year has taken from us, and yet we ask ourselves with unquenched hope, what manner of good thing the bantling has for us, wrapped in the folds of his swaddling clothes.

It was during this spring of 1862 that we made a second clutch at the skirts of civilisation. It took the form of a scientific association, to be called the “Institute of Rupert’s Land”; and our worthy foe, the doctor-editor, became secretary. After a short and erratic, in fact somewhat staggering carcer, it died of inanition.

This spring also witnessed a threatening of famine among the poorer portion of the community, particularly the French and Swampy Indians. Scores of starving people besieged us daily, asking for food, though their needs must have been fictitious, as they had fish 'a abundance. Later on, in the season for seed wheat, the grain, instead of being sown in the ground, was roasted in pans and eaten, to save labour! Thus we got no return for our trouble and expense. And as it turned out, the little that was sown was destroyed by a hailstorm which passed over the colony.

On 18th May our new Governor, A. G. Dallas, Esq., arrived at Fort Garry, a man so extraordinarily tall and thin that it was one of our irreverent jests to say that he was one who compelled a second look, if only to see to the top of him. He brought a piper with him, and the unfamiliar strains of music, the ribboned pipes, and the player in feathered Glengarry and the garb of Old Gaul, brought crowds of savages to gaze with wonder on the novel spectacle.

On the 26th May the steamer International arrived in the colony, bringing one hundred and sixty Canadians, who had come with the intention of acting as pioneers in the discovery of an overland route to the Cariboo goldfields, now famous for their rich repositories of gold and “surface indication.” A new judge was also among her passengers, as well as many private individuals, come for the purpose of buying furs. Up to now very little of this private trading existed. Under the privileges granted by my Company’s much-abused charter, indiscriminate fur-trading in its territory was illegal. But it was becoming clear that, under the influence of a somewhat sophisticated newspaper, and steam communication with the greatest Republic in the world, our isolation was doomed, and our intercourse with the civilised world assured. Parties without number were fitting out expeditions by boats to penetrate into our hitherto private domain; and apparently all we could do was to look on, or quietly do our best to counteract their efforts. Foremost in this new development was the doctor-editor, our inveterate and invulnerable opponent. It would have paid my Company to have made him a chief factor on the first day of his arrival in the colony, or to have pensioned him off for the rest of his natural life at £4,000 a year, and sent him back to Canada to enjoy it. On the 14th June our new Governor embarked from the fort in a boat, which we had provided to convey him, to attend his first Northern Council at Norway House, this being the first stage of a lengthened tour of inspection through the country under his administration, from which he returned home, by the prairie route, on the 30th September.

In August Lord Milton and Dr. Cheadle arrived in the colony, in the course of a journey across the erhtire continent, only part of which task was to be accomplished this year. Another of our visitors was an American gentleman on his way home from the Arctic Circle, where he had spent three years in connection with the Smithsonian Institution at Washington. He was of a positively alarming patriotism. Woe betide the unfortunate wight who criticised Uncle Sam in his presence!

Various parties of hopeful and intrepid Cariboo miners passed through the fort as the year went on. Truly the gold they were in search of would have been as cheaply procured from any firm of bankers.

The new Judge, Mr. John Black, was not new to the country, having served the Company for a period of fifteen years. Of course the Nor'-Wester made much capital out of this, pronouncing it merely a party appointment, by which the Judge was to help his former colleagues.

Soon afterwards a second distinguished part}' arrived in our midst, that of the Earl of Dunmore and Captains Cooper and Thynne. They were on a buffalo and bear hunting expedition, and had narrowly escaped the scalping knives of the “braves” of the Sioux chief “Little Crow” while crossing the plains of Minnesota and Dakota. This wily chief made a sudden and unexplained attack upon Fort Ridgeley and the town of New Ulm, destroying the latter completely. The wholesale massacre of the white settlers on the Minnesota and Sunk Rivers followed. Nearly two thousand persons were murdered amid circumstances of the most appalling barbarity. Men were shot down, children tortured and burnt alive, and their mothers slaughtered with the tomahawk. Our stage-coach v/as also attacked, and the passengers killed and scalped mercilessly, vso that the route was again closed, and we were isolated once more.

Uneasiness breeds fear, and a meeting was held inviting the settlers to sign a petition to the Colonial Secretary asking for troops. I was now ordered to discontinue the system of paying cash for “ country produce.” This was about the first move of our new’ Governor, and one for which he was severely taken to task by the Nor'-Wester and not a few of the settlers.


in 1863 came my first promotion. Governor Dallas left the fort on a tour of inspection in the Southern Department via Lac La Pluie, but first he held the Northern Council at Fort Garry instead of Norway House. There t was decided that I should be placed in charge of a new post at the head of Berens River, in the Norway House district. Such an appointment, after only three years’ service, was a unique circumstance, and I naturally felt greatly gratified, especially as the Governor himself presented me with a forty-guinea first-class wire-twist gun in appreciation, as he kindly phrased :t, of my services.

On 11th August I took leave of my fort and my friends, and embarked in one of the brigades-boats bound for York Factory. I was to land at the mouth of the Berens River, and proceed to my destination far up near its source. A regular north-east monsoon, never before known in the land, blew during the journey, and, instead of crossing Lake Winnipeg in five days, we took twenty-three and a half. The result was that the boatmen mutinied, and I was landed at the starting-point of my new journey sick at heart and depressed.

This storm brought wider disaster, however, than my personal disappointment, for the Company lost a year’s outfit through the disablement of three ships : the Anglo-Saxon, Canada, and Ocean Nymph. A brigade of two hundred carts sent to Fort Abercrombie late in autumn to bring back loads returned empty!

A very distinguished member of my Company died this year, Mr. Edward Ellice. In a superstitious world his passing away from it might by some be taken as cause and effect of the many disasters which the Company have suffered commercially during it. He began life as the deadly opponent of the Company, was the most active spirit in the North-West Company, which fought against as well as competed with it. In later life he became a member of Parliament, and a member of Earl Grey’s Administration, and the founder of the Reform Club. Mr. Ellice thus mildly resembled the famous Frenchman Radisson, who fought for France in Hudson’s Bay, and he fought with equal valour as a servant of the Hudson’s Bay Company, passing without compunction from one master to another, yet preferring, of course, as Dugald Dalgetty would have done, to serve most heartily the master who treated him the most liberally. Only Radisson was an adventurer in the modern acceptation of the word, and resembled Dugald Dalgetty more closely than any other character n our history. Six years ago (1857) evidence was given, at a Select Committee of the House of Commons, that the soil of the Red River valley was fertile, and that wheat would flourish. Some witnesses denied this, and Mr. Ellice was leader and chief among them, nay impressed his views upon his colleagues so strongly that the opening of the Hudson’s Bay Territory to the settlers was postponed to the end of the charter—twelve years, telling them that ice was found two feet below the surface in tris Red River in the month of August. In this he might, though wrong, be perfectly sincere, being unaware that this was a cause which made wheat and other vegetables come to maturity with such marvellous luxuriant growth. When the report of Mr. Labouchere (afterwards Lord Taunton), the chairman, was submitted to his colleagues, Mr. Gladstone submitted another, and the votes for both were equal, the draft report of the chairman being carried by the chairman’s casting vote. He and his fellows desired and laboured to preserve the monopoly which my Company had exercised for two centuries, and from which the earlier members had drawn the enormous dividends of 500 per cent, that they succeeded. Tbis marvellous result was due chiefly to the trade in furs alone.

The Indians, too, gave us a good deal of concern during this year. Ever since the atrocious massacres by the Sioux in Minnesota the previous year constant rumours had been afloat regarding the alleged intentions of that barbarous tribe to pay the colony a visit. In the end of May, 1863, this rumour became a reality, and a band of eighty Sioux “ braves,” under the leadership of that wily chief “ Little Crow,” actually arrived with a complaint to our Governor against the Americans, who had not kept faith with them. “Little Crow” had been induced to give up some prisoners under pretext of exchange, but after the Americans had been safely sent back it was found that the Indians had been hanged some time before. As he knew he was no match for the enemy in sharp practice or otherwise, he begged our Governor to exert his influence in inducing General Sibley to comc to terms with him. The Governor promised to do what he could, and after he presented them with some provisions—ammunition he would not give—they took their departure, and the colony once more breathed freely. Later on this formidable and able chief was found dead on the plains, but the manner of his death was never known to us. As it turned out, Brigadier-General Sibley did not do very much harm to the Sioux, who had crossed the boundary to elude his troops. He made efforts to employ a Roman Catholic priest, Pere Andre, as ambassador, but the Indians distrusted both his efficiency and the General’s good faith after having been already deceived by him.

Meanwhile our Governor had been making his southern tour, and in doing so he encountered Senator Ramsay, of Minnesota, who had come on a treaty mission to negotiate with two thousand six hundred Chippeways near Red Lake. By arrangement with the Senator, Mr. Dallas effected a great improvement in our mails, establishing a system of “through bags.”

One other interesting circumstance of this year was the arrival, by northern express, of a parcel of documents which had been wandering for twelve years among the Eskimos within the Arctic Circle. While her Majesty’s discovery ship Investigator was lying off Cape Bathurst, in the Polar Sea, her commander, Sir R. McClure, gave the packet in charge to an Eskimo there to be delivered at the nearest of our posts, and so forwarded to England by the Company’s packets. It was discovered by a Mr. Roderick McFarlane,1 a native of my calf country, an officer of high talents and a very sensible, clear-headed man.


In 1864 the “Royal Hotel” had become an embryo village, and, as it seemed, the focus of the Red River land question. Where the Company had formerly sold land at 75. Gd. per acre, it was now selling at £.\o per square chain. The year before a report had reached us that the International Financial Association had negotiated the actual transfer of my Company’s stock in the London market, and that it had thus become extinct. “And,” added the Nor'-Wester, “its officers have been sold  like dumb, driven cattle." The news gave impetus to both American and Canadian residents to buy up land near Fort Garry at any price, which proved the beginning and the end of the Company’s monopoly, by means of which it used to sell to settlers large plots of ground on a lease of nine hundred and ninety-nine years, for which it granted deeds. Now buildings began to appear here and there on the bare prairie, each like a Noah’s ark on an ’nterminable sea of grass.

In September a large party of wretched-looking Sioux Indians arrived in the colony. There were four hundred lodges, including some four thousand souls, divided into four bands. These were the Indians who had committed the barbarous massacre of white people in Minnesota already mentioned. The authorities of that state had sent a Major Hatch to form a frontier garrison at Pembina, hence their retreat to us for refuge. But who could trust them? We felt that they might at any moment repeat their cruelty, making us their victims, defenceless as we were. They were starving, poor creatures, and wTere quite willing to sell their children for food. And we had little to give them, a scorching heat and extreme drought having greatly injured our harvest the year before, so that flour wras selling at 305. per hundred pounds. Major Hatch had paid as high as 125. per bushel for inferior grain for horse feed. Three little white children, whose parents had been massacred, were taken from them by private people; and the Grey Nuns purchased a boy and three girls for a hundredweight of pemmican. In winter some of the Major’s officers visited the colony and gained over some of the residents to a scheme for kidnapping the principal Sioux chiefs. They selected “Little Six,” a half-brother of “Little Crow,” and another named “Medicine Bottle,” and having allowed them to drink as much alcohol as they chose, they carried them off, to wake on American soil, a device surely more remarkable for its sharp practice than its honour or humanity.

Sad news reached us of a party of miners who had passed through the colony en route for the Cariboo gold diggings in 1862. Three of the five were brothers, which made the story the more tragic. In order to shoot a certain rapid on the Fraser River with greater safety, they had lashed then two frail canoes together. They were swamped, and their cargoes lost. Two of the three brothers Rennie swam ashore, while the other three m^n landed on a bare granite boulder in midstream. There they remained without food for forty-eight hours, after which, by the aid of a rope, they were hauled to the bank, frost-bitten and wholly exhausted. The other two started for the Company’s nearest fort, which took them twenty-eight days to reach. Indians n the meantime found the other three men, but only two alive. Maddened by starvation, they had killed the other and gnawed his flesh. Later one of the survivors did the same to the other, and at last died himself. Their bones were found in spring. The Indians who had seen this act of cannibalism declared that they dared not approach the spot, as the men had utterly lost their reason, and were quite demoniac.

As to events in the fort during the year, I must not forget to chronicle the inauguration of a lodge of Freemasons, called “The Northern Light,” with our doctor-editor as Worshipful Master. Many of the residents, natives included, urged by curiosity or other motive, entered the mystic brotherhood, and soon a large section of our population went about with an air of solemnity and wisdom, clothed in mystery.

In May Governor Dallas and Bishop Anderson left the colony, and Mr. William McTavish, Governor of Assiniboia, succeeded to the governorship of Rupert’s Land. In June Dr. J. Rae, the Arctic explorer, and a Mr. Schwieger, C.E., passed through the colony on a journey across the continent prospecting with a view to laying down a telegraph line contemplated by the Company’s new stockholders.

To our experience of the evils of droughts, floods, frosts, and Indians was now added that of a plague of locusts such as had only twice before been equalled, viz., in 1818 and 1857. The heat of the summer was exceptional, 1200 in the shade, and when the rain came in July it brought in its train countless millions of locusts that cleared the landscape of every green leaf.

This year saw also the founding of our first cricket club, another step to civilisation, and also one sad retrograde movement intellectually in the total destruction by fire of the offices of the Nor'-Wester. Two of the Company’s ships, the Prince of Wales and Prince Arthur, unfortunately, grounded on the shores of Mansfield Island, at the western end of Hudson’s Straits, and Captain Sennet and two of his officers passed through the colony on their way home.


The locusts of last year had left their legacy of eggs in the proportion of something like sixty to one. They lay these in little white silklike bags a few inches beneath the ground, where in some marvellous way they defy the frosts of a whole winter. They came to life in countless, unimaginable multitudes. No green thing got beyond the budding stage, and the sap was drawn from everything that attempted to live into the summer. Potatoes, cabbage, onions, and even horseradish were included in their bill of fare, and sometimes they even fell upon each other, so that the stench from the heaps of dead became a serious evil, and we had to take them in cartloads to the river. On the 13th June the new Governor of Rupert’s Land left the fort to hold his first council at Norway House, accompanied by his nephew, Mr. J. J. Hargrave, as private secretary. The Venerable Archdeacon Cochran, who had done much missionary work throughout the entire length of the colony for the past forty years, left the scene of his long labours for Canada, with the full intention of not returning. Arriving there, his health failed him, and he at once returned, but only to die suddenly. He was buried beneath the shadow of St. Andrew’s Church, hard by, which he laboured to build many years ago. He was succeeded in his archdeaconry by the Rev. J. McLean, of King’s College, Aberdeen. Bishop Anderson had been succeeded by the Right Rev. Robert Machray, also an Aberdonian Fellow and Dean of Sidney College, Cambridge, and Vicar of Madingley. On the first Sunday In Advent he introduced a weekly system of offertory in all his churches, a unique parochial alteration.

Great alarm prevailed at another visit from the Sioux Indians. It was evident that they were driven on our soil by the United States troops, and we were in constant fear of a massacre from them.

Much excitement was caused by the dissolution of partnership in the firm of McKennay & Co. The half-brothers were at each other’s throats in the quarterly court. Dr. Schultz, our doctor-editor, was always in the law-courts. Now he claimed £300, and accused the Company bitterly of injustice because it was refused him. The worthy doctor seemed to have registered a vow to smash Charles II.’s “worthless charter” to atoms. It was evident enough to all who cared to watch him carefully that he had come to the colony with a genuine heart and disposition to do good for it, but he was tilled with the frenzied ambition of youth, and feeling conscious of a grievance, his revenge expressed itself in a tempest of hatred and fury against the Company. I asked him once why he was so fond of airing his grievances in the law-courts ; was it by way of advertisement ? “No,” he said; “it is because I have them, and shall continue to have them until the country is better ruled.” I advised him to stick to his grievances ; few of us can be happy without them. The jury decided against his claim, however, and Dr. Schultz described the court as having been “bullied and browbeaten by the defendants, so that it had neither the will nor the power to do justice.”

About this time an unfortunate affair occurred at Fort Rae, on the Mackenzie River, two thousand miles away. A shipmate of mine, W. T. Smith, was accused of having shot one of his men, whether accidentally or not could not be determined, as no witnesses had been present. Some domestic jealous}' had existed, and this, along with an attempt of Smith’s to cast the blame on some innocent Indians, led to his being tied with cords and brought to the fort. He was formally tried, but, the evidence being found insufficient, he was allowed to leave the country. But such incidents provided a text for those whose aim it was to cast discredit on the Company’s government.

The lake fisheries turned out well this autumn, but the buffalo hunt was a complete failure, owing to the presence of the Indian refugees on the hunting grounds. The result was a great scarcity of food, especially among the French-Canadian half-breeds, who lived chiefly on pemmican, dried meat, etc., and trusted much to the buffalo hunt.

Excitement arose in autumn over a rumour that gold existed in paying quantities about Vermilion Lake, in Minnesota. Nothing farther was reported, however, than “surface indications.” Many of the young settlers were anxious to proceed to these diggings, but they soon found out that the only accessible route was both circuitous and very difficult, so that the scheme for emigration to Vermilion Lake from the Red River soon fell to the ground.


Skirmishes with and among Indians provided interest for 1866. Three respectable American citizens carrying on business at the Prairie Portage were cruelly attacked by a band of Salteaux Indians. The red men demanded liquor of them, and being refused, proceeded to carry off some buffalo robes that lay in the store. The Americans, whose names were Salmon, Clewitt, and O'Lone, defended their property with clubs, and beat off the Indians. They soon returned, however, armed with guns, and when one of the white men came out of the store an Indian placed the muzzle of his gun against his breast and fired. Another was cruelly cut down with the scalping knife, seeing which his partner fired on the Indians, killing one on the spot. The Indians then retired into the bush, firing as they went.

An unfortunate stabbing affray also took place in the fort, in which a Salteaux Indian was killed. His assailant, a French half-breed, was banished to New Caledonia.

The Sioux chief “Standing Buffalo” sent a band of his fellows to the fort for provisions, and also to ask advice as to the probability of their being allowed to return to their old hunting grounds. Having received both food and counsel, the wild Minnesota murderers returned highly pleased. A few miles on their journey they were attacked by a band of Chippewayans. Four were shot, and the rest fled for their lives, and only escaped through the protection of a band of brave settlers who had seen the skirmish.

About this time the ever-to-be-remembered Thomas Spence arrived upon the scene, with no smaller a task before him than our annexation to the United States of America. Finding this beyond him, he went sixty miles west, and began drawing the boundary lines of a new province he thought of forming, meanwhile demanding duties of all merchandise entering his domain. By-and-by there entered his mind the happy thought of writing an invitation to his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales to pay the colony a visit, also to the Duke of Buckingham and Chandos, then Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, asking his advice on state matters relative to the new undertaking, and signing himself President of the Council. His meteor flight was soon over, however, and we heard of him trying to make a living at Salt Springs, near Manitoba.


Again the locusts arrived in their hosts, clearing the ground of grass, vegetables, grain, nay, of every green and growing thing; and again we had a glimpse of the great world in a visit of the Earl of March and E. Hill, Esq., who stopped to secure native servants and necessary apparatus before setting out buffalo and bear hunting in the Saskatchewan valley.

Meanwhile Sheriff McKennay’s nucleus of a village had been extending, and now a cluster of houses grouped themselves upon the plain, looking rather like a colony of seals with their young reposing on an ice floe. No village street was there, no road, except the old cart track that leads only to the Rocky Mountains, a thousand miles away. But as the village grew the ideas of the inhabitants expanded likewise, so that when a Dutchman of the name of Emmering established the first billiard table, an importation from the land of Uncle Sam, it need hardly be said how well the investment paid. Then followed the establishment of a Burns club, if I mistake not by the same man, and the members of the club met, of course, at a dinner on St. Andrew’s Day. Unfortunately, an altercation arose as to the comparative excellence of highlands and lowlands in Scotland, and soon the festive gathering became a riot. At that time there was only one constable in the entire colony. His name was Mulligan, but which side he favoured during the fight I cannot say.

The steamer International was busy all this summer in fetching up goods from the United States, chiefly the property of private individuals anxious to speculate a little in fur trading before the Company’s charter quite ceased to exist. Evidently the Nor'-Wester had its public, if not in the colony, in the vast domains of our wealthy neighbours. These traders made the village on the plain their headquarters, and there drew up plans for invading our territory north, east, and west, as if the old days of the rival companies had returned upon us again All our powers could not prevent these intruders from forcing their way into the very heart of the fur country. All we could do was to follow them up, and this we did most closely, though aware that the conditions of fur trading were being altered in spite of us. I was appointed sleuth-hound to follow the invaders on the east and west shores of Lake Winnipeg. My instructions were on no account to leave my quarry, two of the best Americans that ever lived, bat to follow them everywhere and watch everything they did. In a log shanty, with a mud chimney in one corner, within sight of both parties, I made my preparations for the winter. I had a full complement of native runners, eighty Eskimo dogs, thirty thousand whitefish on spits, and six puncheons of Demerara rum warranted to kill at thirty roods, and with the first snow and ice in November I set out on the chase which was to last till the following May. The Americans were very friendly, and took it all in good part. One of them remarked to me one day, “ This year we have bought out Russia’s claim on the continent [Alaska], and we wouldn’t miss it out of our pockets to buy you out too.”


The year 1868 offered a fresh and vivid chapter in the history of that stirring and irrepressible individual Dr. Schultz. It was solely with a view to curbing the political prancing of this descendant of the Vikings that Governor McTavish had appointed Mr. McKennay sheriff. But it was not easy to control a man so precocious, so overflowing with life and energy'. He was at home in every detail of the country’s history, though in other respects' his education was far from complete, notwithstanding the efforts of an Irish tutor whom some wave of circumstance had pitched into our midst. It was this tutor who in a phrase described the man: “Fate had manufactured a scoundrel out of material meant by Nature for a gentleman.” He was now prosecuted by a London firm for a debt of £500, in connection with which so many damaging facts came to light that the Governor paid £296 out of his private purse to put an end to the matter. Truly he was a man without the most elementary conception of law and order. When his goods arrived he took personal oversight of their landing, and saw them safe within his store without paying duty; arid when his brother the sheriff went next day to put execution on them, he not only abused him, but knocked the officer of the law about so ignominiously that he was glad to escape, and this notwithstanding the fact that the court had made out a civil case against him. He was put in prison, but only to break out by the help of an oaken beam, which he used as a battering-ram, after which all that was left for him to do was to issue an “extra” of the Nor’-Wester celebrating his triumphant re-entry into liberty. It was a miserable episode, yet the man was in his way unique. He had pluck, perseverance, an indomitable spirit, and an unflinching faith in his own purposes.

The life of the colony was no doubt somewhat lawless. Shootings and murders were common, and the criminal received little or no punishment. But it was scarcely to be wondered at in an isolated district with no vestige of military authority, with but one policeman, and a frail wooden courthouse, which also served as gaol. The people were used to shootings and stabbings, and any attempt at adequate punishment would have failed utterly for lack of the support of public opinion, while the free-and-easy life had to such an extent become second nature that at any moment death would be preferred to confinement.

For the rest, a memorable hurricane, which destroyed much property and several lives, and another destructive descent of locusts, marked the year. There was again a threatening of famine owing to the failure of the buffalo hunt, and the Governor and Council of Assiniboia collected £7,500 as a relief fund. Of this £3,000 came from England, $600 from Canada, and £<joo from the United States, while the Company’s house in London devoted £2,000 to the same purpose.

Two American visitors we had, of widely differing ranks, but perhaps equally well known. The first was General R. B. Marcy, of the United States army, who paid a flying visit to Lake Winnipeg. He was Inspector-General of the North-Western Department, and was on his annual tour of inspection to posts within that circuit. He left us highly pleased with his reception.

Our other visitor was no less distinguished a person than Professor Sands, “the world-renowned magician and ventriloquist,” who stabbed himself enthusiastically in the arm, and cheerfully invited anybody and everybody to discharge loaded pistols at his heart, all to the huge amazement of the unsophisticated settlers, who crowded the room to suffocation.

The winter was long and dreary, and I was again on duty as sleuth-hound. A monotonous task I found it, and the recollection of it is like a nightmare of weariness, a whitefish boiled for breakfast, a whitefish roasted for dinner, a whitefish boiled for supper, straight on day after day for months, and nothing else happening. Let the reader fancy himself in the position, and form his own opinion. I have no wish to describe it. Yet I found some consolation in the marvellous scenes of winter beauty which I was privileged to see. These I rejoice still to remember. As far as my immediate business was concerned, the outlook was discouraging, for the introduction of the American steel trap seemed for a time to threaten the fur-bearing animals with extermination—an exaggerated fear, however, as the event has proved.

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