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The Remarkable History of the Hudson's Bay Company

Lonely trading posts—Skilful letter writers—Queer old Peter Fidler —Famous library—A remarkable will—A stubborn Highlander— Life at Red River—Badly-treated Pangman—Founding trading houses—Beating up recruits—Priest Provencher—A fur-trading mimic—Life far north—"Ruled with a rod of iron"—Seeking a fur country—Life in the canoe—A trusted trader—Sheaves of letters—A find in Edinburgh—Faithful correspondents—The Bishop's cask of wine—Red River, a " land of Canaan "— Governor Simpson's letters—The gigantic Archdeacon writes— "MacArgrave's" promotion—Kindly Sieveright—Traders and their books.

It was an empire that Governor Simpson established in the solitudes of Rupert's Land. The chaos which had resulted from the disastrous conflict of the Companies was by this Napoleon of the fur trade reduced to order. Men who had been in arms against one another—Macdonell against Mac-donell, McLeod against McLeod—learned to work together and gathered around the same Council Board. The trade was put upon a paying basis, the Indians were encouraged, and under a peaceful rule the better life of the traders began to grow up.

It is true this social life was in many respects unique. The trading posts were often hundreds of miles apart, being scattered over the area from Labrador to New Caledonia. Still, during the summer, brigades of traders carried communications from post to post, and once or twice in winter the swift-speeding dog-trains hastened for hundreds of miles with letters and despatches over the icy wastes. There grew up during the well-nigh forty years of George Simpson's governorship a comradeship of a very strong and influential kind.

Leading posts like York Factory on Hudson Bay, Fort Garry in the Red River settlement, Fort Simpson on the Mackenzie River, and Fort Victoria on the Pacific Coast, were not only business centres, but kept alive a Hudson's Bay Company sentiment which those who have not met it can hardly understand. Letters were written according to the good old style. Not mere telegraphic summaries and business orders as at the present day, but real news-letters—necessary and all the more valuable because there were no newspapers in the land. The historian of to-day finds himself led back to a very remarkable and interesting social life as he reads the collection of traders' letters and hears the tales of retired factors and officers. Specimens and condensed statements from these materials may help us to picture the life of the period.


Traditions have come down from this period of men who were far from being commonplace in their lives and habits. Among the most peculiar and interesting of these was an English trader, Peter Fidler, who for forty years played his part among the trying events preceding Governor Simpson's time, and closed his career in the year after the union of the Companies. The quaint old trader, Peter Fidler, is said to have belonged to the town of Bolsover, in the County of Derby, England, and was born August 16th, 1769. From his own statement we know that he kept a diary in the service of the Company beginning in 1791, from which it is inferred that he arrived in Rupert's Land about that time and was then engaged in the fur trade. Eight years afterwards he was at Green Lake, in the Saskatchewan district, and about the same time in Isle à la Crosse. In this region he came into active competition with the North-West Company traders, and became a most strenuous upholder of the claims of the Hudson's Bay Company.

Red River Note

Promoted on account of his administrative ability, ho is found in the early years of the new century at Cumberland House, the oldest post of the Company in the interior. His length of service at the time of the establishment of the Selkirk colony being above twenty years, he was entrusted with the conduct of one of the parties of settlers from Hudson Bay to Red River.

In his will, a copy of which lies before the writer, it is made quite evident that Fidler was a man of education, and he left his collection of five hundred books to be the nucleus of a library which was afterwards absorbed into the Red River library, and of which volumes are to be seen in Winnipeg to this day.

But Fidler was very much more than a mere fur trader. He is called in his will "Surveyor" and trader for the Honourable Hudson's Bay Company. He was stated to have made the boundary survey of the district of Assiniboia, the limits of which have been already referred to in the chapter on Lord Selkirk. He also surveyed the lots for the Selkirk settlers, in what was at that time the parish of Kildonan. The plan of the Selkirk settlement made by him may be found in Amos's Trials and in the Blue Book of 1819, and this proved to be of great value in the troublesome lawsuits arising out of the disputes between the fur companies. The plan itself states that the lots were established in 1814; and we find them to be thirty-six in number.

About the same time Fidler was placed in charge of the Red River district, and it is said that the traders and clerks found him somewhat arbitrary and headstrong. As the troubles were coming on, and Governor Semple had taken command of the Red River Company's fort and colony, Fidler was placed in charge of Brandon House, then a considerable Hudson's Bay Company Fort. He gives an account of the hostilities between the Companies there and of the seizure of arms. He continues actively engaged in the Company's service, and from his will being made at Norway House, this would seem to have been his headquarters, although in the official statement of the administration of his effects he is stated to be "late of York Factory."

Mr. Justice Archer Martin, in his useful book, "Hudson's Bay Company's Land Tenure," gives us an interesting letter of Alexander McLean to Peter Fidler, dated 1821. This is the time of the Union of the Hudson's Bay Company and the North-West Company. In the letter mention is made of the departure for New York of (Mr. Nicholas) Garry, a gentleman of the honourable committee, and of Mr. Simon McGillivray, one of the North-West Company. We have spoken elsewhere of Mr. Garry's visit, and a few years afterward Fort Garry was named after this officer.

The chief interest to us, however, centres in Fidler's eccentric will. We give a synopsis of it:—

(1) He requests that he may be buried at the colony of Red River should he die in that vicinity.

(2) He directs that his journals, covering twenty-five or thirty years, also four or five vellum bound books, being a fair copy of the narrative of his journeys, as well as astronomical and meteorological and thermometrical observations, also his manuscript maps, be given to the committee of the Honourable Hudson's Bay Company.

(3) The books already mentioned making up his library, his printed maps, two sets of twelve-inch globes, a large achromatic telescope, Wilson's microscope, and a brass sextant, a barometer, and all his thermometers were to be taken by the Governor of the Red River colony and kept in Government hands for the general good of the Selkirk colonists.

(4) Cattle, swine, and poultry, which he had purchased for one hundred pounds from John Wills, of the North-West Company, the builder of Fort Gibraltar, were to be left for the solo use of the colony, and if any of his children were to ask for a pair of the aforesaid animals or fowls their request was to be granted.

(5) To his Indian wife, Mary Fidler, he bequeathed fifteen pounds a year for life to be paid to her in goods from the Hudson's Bay Company store, to bo charged against his interest account in the hands of the Company.

(6) The will required further that of all the rest of the money belonging to him, in the hands of the Hudson's Bay Company or the Bank of England, as well as the legacy left him by his Uncle Jasper Fidler and other moneys due him, the interest be divided among his children according to their needs.

(7) After the interest of Fidler's money had been divided among his children till the youngest child Peter should come of age, the testator makes the following remarkable disposal of the residue: "All my money in the funds and other personal property after the youngest child has attained twenty-one years of age, to be placed in the public funds, and the interest annually due to be added to the capital and continue so until August 16th, 1969 (I being born on that day two hundred years before), when the whole amount of the principal and interest so accumulated I will and desire to be then placed at the disposal of the next male child heir in direct descent from my son Peter Fidler" or to the next-of-kin. He leaves his "Copyhold land and new house situated in the town of Bolsover, in the county of Derby," after the death of Mary Fidler, the mother of the testator, to be given to his youngest son, Peter Fidler.
This will was dated on August 16th, 1821, and Fidler died in the following year. The executors nominated were the Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company, the Governor of the Selkirk settlement, and the secretary of the Hudson's Bay Company.

Some time after the death of this peculiar man, John Henry Pelly, Governor-in-Chief of the Hudson's Bay Company, Donald McKenzie, Governor of the Selkirk settlement, and William Smith, Secretary of the Hudson's Bay Company, renounced the probate and execution of the will, and in October, 1827, "Thomas Fidler," his natural and lawful son, was appointed by the court to administer the will.

A considerable amount of interest in this will has been shown by the descendants of Peter Fidler, a number of whom still live in the province of Manitoba, on the banks of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers. Lawyers have from time to time been appointed to seek out the residue, which, under the will, ought to be in process of accumulation till 1969, but no trace of it can be found in Hudson's Bay Company or Bank of England accounts, though diligent search has been made.


John McLeod has already figured in our story. Coming out with Lord Selkirk's first party from the Island of Lewis, as one of the "twelve or thirteen young gentleman clerks," he, as we have seen, gave a good account of himself in the "imminent and deadly breach," when he defended the Hudson's Bay Company encampment at the Forks against the fierce Nor'-Westers. His journal account of that struggle we found to be well told, even exciting. It further gives a picture of the fur trader's life, as seen with British eyes and by one of Hudson's Bay Company sympathies.

He met at the Forks, immediately on his arrival, three chiefs of the Nor'-Westers. One of these was John Wills, who, as an old X Y trader, had Joined the Nor'-Westers and shortly after built Fort Gibraltar. A second of the trio was Benjamin Frobisher, of the celebrated Montreal firm of that name, who perished miserably; and the last was Alexander Macdonell, who was commonly known as "Yellow Head," and afterward became the "Grasshopper Governor."

McLeod vividly describes the scene on his arrival, when the Hudson's Bay Company, as represented by trader William Hillier, formally transferred to Miles Macdonell, Lord Selkirk's agent, the grant of land and the privileges pertaining thereto. The ceremony was performed in the presence of the settlers and other spectators. McLeod quaintly relates that the three bourgeois mentioned were present on his invitation, but Wills would not allow his men to witness the transaction, which consisted of reading over the concession and handing it to Macdonell. Hugh Henney, the local officer in charge of the Hudson's Bay Company affairs, then read over the concession in French for the benefit of the voyageurs and free traders.

McLeod relates a misadventure of irascible Peter Fidler in dealing with a trader, Pangman, who afterwards figured in Red River affairs. After Henney had taken part in the formal cession, he departed, leaving McLeod and Pangman in charge of the Hudson's Bay Company interests at the Forks. McLeod states that prior to this time (1813), the Hudson's Bay Com-pany "had no house at this place" thus disposing of a local tradition that there was a Hudson Bay trading post at the Forks before Lord Selkirk's time. McLeod, however, proceeded immediately to build "a good snug house." This was ready before the return of the fall craft (trade), and it was this house that McLeod so valiantly defended in the following year.

During the summer McLeod found Pangman very useful in meeting the opposition of the North-West Company traders. Peter Pangman was a German who had come from the United States, and was hence called "Bostonnais Pangman," the title Bostonnais being used in the fur-trading country for an American. Fidler, who had charge of the district for the Hudson's Bay Company, refused to give the equipment promised by Henney to Pangman. McLeod speaks of the supreme blunder of thus losing, for the sake of a few pounds, the service of so capable a man as Pangman. Pangman left the Hudson's Bay Company service, joined the Nor'-Westers, and was ever after one of the most bitter opponents of the older Company. After many a hostile blow dealt to his opponents, Pangman retired to Canada, where he bought the Seigniory of Lachenaie, and his son was an influential public man in Lower Canada, Hon. John Pangman.

Events of interest rapidly followed one another at the time of the troubles. After the fierce onset at the Forks had been met by McLeod, he was honoured by being sent 500 miles south-westward by his senior officer, Colin Robertson, with horses, carts, and goods, to trade with the Indians on the plains. This daring journey he accomplished with only three men—"an Orkneyman and two Irishmen." In early winter he had returned to Pembina, where he was to meet the newly-appointed Governor, Robert Semple. McLeod states that Semple was appointed under the resolution of the Board of Directors in London on May 19th, 1811, first Governor of Assiniboia. From this we are led to think that Miles Macdonell was Lord Selkirk's agent only, and was Governor by courtesy, though this was not the case.

The unsettled state of the country along the boundary line is shown in a frightful massacre spoken of by McLeod. On a journey down the Red River, McLeod had spent a night near Christmas time in a camp of the Saulteaux Indians. He had taken part in their festivities and passed the night in their tents. He was horrified to hear a few days after at Pembina that a band of Sioux had, on the night of the feast, fallen upon the camp of Saulteaux, which was composed of thirty-six warriors, and that all but three of those making up the camp had been brutally killed in a night attack. On his return to his post McLeod passed the scene of the terrible massacre, and he says he saw "the thirty-three slain bodies scalped, the knives and arrows and all that had touched their flesh being left there."

McLeod was noted for his energy in building posts. Ho erected an establishment on Turtle River ; and in the year after built a trading house beyond Lake Winnipeg, at the place where Oxford House afterward stood.

McLeod, being possessed of courage and energy, was sent west to Saskatchewan, where, having wintered in the district with traders Bird and Pruden, and faced many dangers and hardships, he returned to Red River and was among those arrested by the Nor'-Westers. He was sent to Montreal, where, after some delay, the charge against him was summarily dismissed. He was, while there, summoned as a witness in the case against Reinhart in Quebec.

In Montreal McLeod was rejoiced to meet Lady Selkirk, the wife of his patron, from whom he received tokens of confidence and respect.

The trader had a hand in the important movement by which Lord Selkirk provided for his French and German dependents on the Red River, who belonged to the Roman Catholic faith, the ordinances of religion. As we shall see, Lord Selkirk secured, according to his promise, the two priests Provencher and Dumoulin, and with them sent out a considerable number of French Canadians to Red River.

McLeod's account of his part in the matter is as follows:—

"On my way between Montreal and Quebec, I took occasion, with the help of the good Roman Catholic priests, Dumoulin of Three Rivers, and Provencher of Montreal, to beat up recruits for the Hudson's Bay Company service and the colony among the French Canadians. On the opening of navigation about May 1st, I started, in charge with a brigade of seven large canoes, and with about forty Canadians, some with their families, headed by my two good friends the priests—the first missionaries in the north since the time of the French before the conquest. Without any loss or difficulty, I conducted the whole through to Norway House, whence in due course they were taken in boats and schooner to Red River. At this place we had a navy on the lake, but lately under the command of Lieutenant Holt, one of the victims of 1816. Holt had been of the Swedish navy."

At Norway House McLeod's well-known ability and trustworthiness led to his appointment to the far West, "and from this time forth his field was northward to the Arctic." He had the distinguished honour of establishing a permanent highway, by a line of suitable forts and trade establishments to the Peace River region. While in charge of his post he had the pleasure of entertaining Franklin (the noble Sir John) on his first Arctic land expedition, and afterwards at Norway House saw the same distinguished traveller on his second journey to the interior of the North land.

After the union of the Companies, McLeod, now raised to the position of Chief Trader, was the first officer of the old Hudson's Bay Company to be sent across the Rocky Mountains to take charge of the district in New Caledonia. Among the restless and vindictive natives of that region he continued for many years with a good measure of success, and ended up a career of thirty-seven years as a successful trader and thorough defender of the name and fame of the Hudson's Bay Company, by retiring to spend the remainder of his days, as so many of the traders did, upon the Ottawa River.


Wentzel was a Norwegian who had entered the North-West Company in 1799, and spent most of his time in Athabasca and Mackenzie River districts, where he passed the hard life of a "winterer" in the northern department. He was intelligent, but a mimic—and this troublesome cleverness prevented his promotion in the Company. He co-operated with Franklin the explorer in his journey to the Arctic Ocean. Wentzel was a musician—according to Franklin "an excellent musician." This talent of his brightened the long and dreary hours of life and contributed to keep all cheerful around him. A collection of the voyageur songs made by him is in existence, but they are somewhat gross. Wentzel married a Montagnais Indian woman, by whom he had two children. One of them lived on the Red River and built the St. Norbert Roman Catholic Church in 1855. From Wentzel's letters we quote extracts showing the state of feeling at the time of the union of the fur companies in 1821 and for a few years afterwards.

March 20th, 1821.—"In Athabasca, affairs seem to revive ; the natives are beginning to be subjected by the rivalship in trade that has been carried on so long, and are heartily desirous of seeing themselves once more in peaceable times, which makes the proverb true that says, 'Too much of a good thing is good for nothing.' Besides, the Hudson's Bay Company have apparently realized the extravagance of their measures ; last autumn they came into the department with fifteen canoes only, containing each about fifteen pieces. Mr. Simpson (afterward Sir George), a gentleman from England last spring, superintends their business. His being a stranger, and reputedly a gentlemanly man, will not create much alarm, nor do I presume him formidable as an Indian trader. Indeed, Mr. Leith, who manages the concerns of the North-West Company in Athabasca, has been so liberally supplied with men and goods that it will be almost wonderful if the opposition can make good a subsistence during the winter. Fort Chipewyan alone has an equipment of no less than seventy men, enough to crush their rivals." (Editor's note.—Another year saw Simpson Governor of the United Company.)

April 10th, 1823.—"Necessity rather than persuasion, however, influenced me to remain ; my means for future support are too slender for me to give up my employment, but the late revolution in the affairs of the country (the coalition of the Hudson's Bay Company with the North-West Company in 1821) now obliges me to leave it the ensuing year, as the advantages and prospects are too discouraging to hold forth a probability of clearing one penny for future support. Salaries do not exceed one hundred pounds sterling, out of which clerks must purchase every necessity, even tobacco, and the prices of goods at the Bay are at the rate of one hundred and fifty or three hundred per cent. on prime cost, therefore I shall take this opportunity of humbly requesting your advice how to settle my little earnings, which do not much exceed five hundred pounds, to the best advantage."

March 1st, 1824.—"Respecting the concerns of the North-West (country), little occurs that can be interesting to Canada. Furs have lost a great deal of their former value in Europe, and many of the chief factors and traders would willingly compound for their shares with the Company for one thousand five hundred pounds, in order to retire from a country which has become disgusting and irksome to all classes. Still, the returns are not altogether unprofitable ; but debts, disappointments, and age seem to oppress everyone alike. Engages' prices are now reduced to twenty-five pounds annually to a boute (foreman), and twenty pounds to middlemen, without equipment or any perquisites whatever. In fact, no class enjoys the gratuity of an equipment. Besides, the committee at home insist upon being paid for families residing in posts and belonging to partners, clerks, or men, at the rate of two shillings for every woman and child over fourteen years of age, one shilling for every child under that age. This is complained of as a grievance by all parties, and must eventually become very hard on some who have large families to support. In short, the North-West is now beginning to be ruled with a rod of iron." (Evidently Wentzel is not an admirer of the new regime.)


The name of Finlay was a famous one among the traders. As we have seen, James Finlay was one of the first to leave Montreal, and penetrate among the tribes of Indians, in search of fur, to the far distant Saskatchewan. His son James was a trader, and served in the firm of Gregory, McLeod & Co. As was not uncommon, these traders had children by the Indian women, having a "country marriage," as it was called. As the result of these there was connected with the Finlay family a half-breed named Jaceo, or Jacko Finlay, who took his part in exploration in the Rocky Mountains in company with David Thompson. Besides these, there was a well-known trader, John Finlay, who is often difficult to separate from the other traders of the name.

The writer has lying before him a manuscript, never hitherto published, entitled "A Voyage of Discovery from the Rocky Mountain Portage in Peace River, to the Sources of Finlay's Branch, and North-Westward : Summer, 1824." This is certified by Chief Factor McDougall, to-day of Prince Albert, to be the journal of John Finlay. As it illustrates the methods by which the fur country was opened, we give a few extracts.

May 13th.—"Rainy weather. In the evening, left Rocky Mountain Portage establishment. Crossed over to the portage and encamped for the night. . . . The expedition people are as follows : six effective canoe men, Joseph Le Guard, Antoine Perreault (bowman), Joseph Cunnayer, J. B. Tourangeau, J. M. Bouche, and Louis Olsen (middleman), M. McDonald, Manson, and myself, besides Le Prise, and wife, in all ten persons. Le Prise is in the double capacity of hunter and interpreter."

Finlay speaks of "The existing troubles in this quarter caused by the murderers of our people at St. John's, roving about free and, it is said, menacing all; but as this is an exploratory voyage, and the principal motive to ascertain the existence of beaver in the country we are bound for, we shall do our best to accomplish the intentions of the voyage."

17th.—"Encamped at the hill at the little lake on the top of the hills at the west side of the Portage, Mr. M. shot a large fowl of the grouse kind, larger than the black heath cock in Scotland. Found some dried salmon in exchange with Mr. Stunt for pemmican—a meal for his men, and this year ho seems independent of the Peace River, at least as far as Dunvegan: they have nothing in provisions at the Portage."

Finlay is very much in the habit of describing the rock formations seen on his voyage. His descriptions are not very valuable, for he says, "I am not qualified to give a scientific description of the different species and genera of the different substances composing the strata of the Rocky Mountains."

22nd May.—"In this valley, about four miles before us right south, Finlay's branch comes in on the right: a mile and a half below Finlay's branch made a portage of five hundred paces. At a rapid here we found the Canny cache (a hiding place for valuables); said to be some beaver in it of last year's 23rd.—"Met a band of Indians, who told us they were going up the small river—(evidently this had been named after the elder Finlay, as this instances its familiarity)—on the left, to pass the summer, and a little before another river on the right; that there were some beavers in it, but not so many as the one they were to pass the summer in."

24th.—"To-day some tracks of the reindeer, mountain sheep and goats, but the old slave (hunter) has killed nothing but a fowl or beaver now and then."

25th.—"I have never seen in any part of the country such luxuriance of wood as hereabout, the valley to near the tops of the mountains on both sides covered with thick, strong, dark-green branching pines. We see a good many beaver and some fowl, game (bustards), and duck, but kill few."

Finlay declares to the slave, the hunter of his party, his intention to go up the large branch of the Finlay. "This is a disappointment to him as well as to the people, who have indulged their imaginations on this route falling on the Liard River, teeming in beaver and large animals."

7th June.—"This afternoon we have seen a great deal of beaver work, and killed some bustards and Canadian grey geese; we have seen no swans, and the ducks, with few exceptions, are shabby."

Finlay gives a statement of his journey made so far, thus:—

Rocky Mountain Portage to entrance of Finlay's Branch........ 6 days.
To Deserter's Portage...... 4
To Large Branch..... . 5
To Point Du Mouton...... 4
To end of Portage......4
To Fishing Lakes....... 3
Total 26 days.


"In some of the large rivers coming into Finlay's branch, where soft ground with wood, eligible for beaver, had been accumulated, beaver were to be found. Otherwise, except such places as here and here, the whole country is one continued mountain valley of rock and stone, and can by no means come under the denomination of a beaver country, in the common acceptation of the word, on the waters of the Hudson's Bay and Mackenzie River."

June 15th.—"Very fine warm weather; huge masses of snow falling down from the mountains with a noise resembling thunder. Those snow déboules seem irresistible, shivering the trees to atoms, carrying all clean before them, forming ruins as if the Tower of Babel or the Pyramids of Egypt had been thrown down from their foundations."

June 29th.—"Made a good fishery to-day: 7 trout, 12 carp, 1 small white fish, like those at McLeod's lake in Western Caledonia."

Finlay closes his journal of seventy-five closely-written quarto pages at the lake high in the mountains, where he saw a river rising. This lake we see from the map to be the source of the Liard River.


Not very long ago it was the good fortune of the writer to be in Edinburgh. He was talking to his friend, a well-known Writer to the Signet. The conversation turned on the old fur-trading days, and in a short time author and lawyer found themselves four stories high, in a garret, examining boxes, packages, and effects of James Hargrave and his son Joseph, who as fur traders, father and son, had occupied posts in the Hudson's Bay Company service extending from 1820 to 1892.

Several cases were filled with copies of a book entitled "Red River," published by the younger Hargrave in 1871. Other boxes enclosed the library of father and son. Two canvas bags contained many pounds of new farthings, which, by some strange mischance, had found their way to the Hudson Bay and had been returned as useless. Miscellaneous articles of no value to the searchers lay about, but in one large valise were many bundles of letters. These were done up in the most careful manner. The packages were carefully tied with red tape, and each, securely sealed with three black ominous seals, emphasized the effect of the directions written on them, in some cases "to be opened only by my son," in others, "to be opened only by my children." After some delay the permission of the heirs was obtained, and the packages were opened and examined.

They were all letters written between 1821 and 1859 by fur-trading friends to James Hargrave, who had carefully preserved them, folded, docketed, and arranged them, and who had, in the last years of his life at "Burnside House," his residence at Brockville, Canada, kept the large correspondence as the "apple of his eye." The vast majority of the letters, numbering many hundreds in all, had been addressed to York Factory. For most of his life Hargrave had been in charge of York Factory, on Hudson Bay. York Factory was during the greater part of this fur trader's life, as it had been for more than a century before his time, the port of entry to which goods brought by ship from Britain had been borne to the interior of Rupert's Land, and also the port from which the ships had carried their precious cargoes of furs to the mother country. James Hargrave had thus become the trusted correspondent of governor and merchant, of bishop and clergyman, of medical man and educationist. He was emphatically a middleman, a sort of Janus, looking with one face to the London merchants and with the other to the dwellers in Rupert's Land.

But Hargrave was also a letter-writer, and a receiver of many news letters and friendly letters, a man who enjoyed conversation, and when this could not be had with his friends tete-a-tete, his social chats were carried on by means of letters, many months and even years apart. By degrees he rose in the service. From the first a friend of the emperor-governor, he has the good wishes of his friends expressed for his first rise to the post of chief trader, which he gained in 1833, and by-and-bye came his next well-deserved promotion to be chief factor in 1844.

Along with all these letters was a book handsomely bound for keeping accounts and private memoranda. This book shows James Hargrave to have been a most methodical and painstaking man. In it is contained a list of all the promotions to official positions of commissioned officers for nearly forty years, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Here also is an account of his investments, and the satisfactory statement that, during his nearly forty years of service, his shares of the profits, investments, and re-investments of what he did not use, allowed him to retire from active service with, as the result of his labour, about 8,700l.

The writer has sought to glean from the hundreds of letters in the Edinburgh garret what is interesting in the life of Rupert's Land, so far as is shown in the writing and acting of this old fur trader and his friends.

Many of the letters are from Governor Simpson. These letters of the Governor are chiefly written from Red River or Norway House—the former the "Fur Traders' Paradise," the latter the meeting-place of the Council, held once a year to decide all matters of business. Occasionally a letter of the Governor's is from Bas de la Riviere (i.e. the mouth of the Winnipeg River), written by that energetic officer, as might be said, "on the wing," and in a few cases from London, England, whither frequently Governor Simpson crossed on the business of the Company.

Governor Simpson's remarks as to society in Red River, 1831, are keen and amusing:—"As yet we have had one fete, which was honoured by the presence of all the elegance and dignity of the place from his Reverence of Juliopolis (Bishop Provencher) down to friend Cook, who (the latter) was as grave and sober as a bishop. . . . By-the-bye, we have got a very 'rum' fellow of a doctor here now : the strangest compound of skill, simplicity, selfishness, extravagance, musical taste, and want of courtesy, I ever fell in with. The people are living on the fat of the earth, in short, Red River is a perfect land of Canaan as far as good cheer goes. . . . Do me the favour to pick out a couple pounds of choice snuff for me and send them by Mr. Miles."

A short time after this, Governor Simpson, writing, says, speaking of the completion of St. John's Church, afterward the Cathedral Church, and referring to the discontent of the Selkirk settlers, with which he had small sympathy, "We have got into the new church, which is really a splendid edifice for Red River, and the people are less clamorous about a Gaelic minister than they wore." The good Governor had his pleasant fling at the claim made by the Highlanders to have their private stills when he says, "And about whiskey they say not one word, now that rum is so cheap, and good strong 'heavy wet' in general use." Speaking of one of the chief officers who was off duty, the Governor says "Chief Factor Charles is like a fish out of water, having no musquash to count, nor Chipewyans to trade with; he is as brisk and active as a boy, and instead of showing any disposition to retire, wishes to volunteer to put a finishing hand to the as yet fruitless attempt at discovering the North-West passage."
Governor Simpson knows well the art of flattery, and his skill in managing his large force of Company officers and men is well seen. He states to Hargrave that he once predicted at the board that the traders of York Factory would yet have a seat at the Board. This, he stated, gave mortal offence to some members, but he was to bear the prediction in mind. He compliments him on sending the best-written letter that he has received for a long time, and we find that in the following year Hargrave was made Chief Trader. This was the occasion for numerous congratulations from his friends Archdeacon Cochrane of Red River, Trader Sieveright, and others.

The news of the time was common subject of discussion between the traders in their letters. Governor Simpson gave an account of the outbreak of cholera in the eastern states and provinces, and traces in a very graphic way its dangerous approach towards Rupert's Land. Up to August, 1832, fifteen hundred people had died in Montreal. The pestilence had reached Mackinaw, and two hundred of the steamboat passengers were carried off, and some near Sault Ste. Marie. "God grant," says the Governor, "it may not penetrate further into our wilds, but the chances are decidedly against us."

That the Hudson's Bay Company officers were not traders only is made abundantly evident. In one of his letters, Governor Simpson states that their countryman, Sir Walter Scott, has just passed away, he thanks Hargrave for sending him copies of Blackwood's Magazine, and orders are often given for fresh and timely books. A little earlier we find the minute interest which the fur traders took in public events in a letter from Chief Factor John Stuart, after whom Stuart's Lake, in New Caledonia, was named. He speaks to Hargrave of the continuation of Southey's "History of the War of the Peninsula" not being published, and we know from other sources that this History fell still-born, but Stuart goes on to say that he had sent for Col. Napier's "History of the Peninsular War." "Napier's politics," says Stuart, "are different, and we shall see whether it is the radical or a laurel (Southey was poet laureate) that deserves the palm." These examples but illustrate what all close observers notice, that the officers of the Hudson's Bay Company not only read to purpose, but maintained a keen outlook for the best and most finished contemporary literature. Much additional evidence might be supplied on this point.

All through Governor Simpson's letters there is a strain of sympathy for the people of the Company that is very beautiful. These show that instead of being a hard and tyrannical man, the Governor had a tender heart. In one of his letters he expresses sympathy for Trader Heron, who had met misfortune. He speaks of his great anxiety for a serious trouble that had arisen in Rev. Mr. Jones's school at Red River, and hopes that it may not injure education ; he laments at considerable length over Mr. J. S. McTavish's unfortunate accident. Having heard of Hargrave's long illness he sends a letter of warm sympathy, and this in the midst of a flying visit, and in London in the following year pays every attention by giving kind, hospitable invitations to Hargrave to enjoy the society of himself and Lady Simpson.

The racy letters of Governor Simpson are by no means more interesting than those of many others of Hargrave's friends. Ordinary business letters sometimes seem to have a humorous turn about them even fifty years after they were written. The Roman Catholic Bishop Provencher (Bishop of Juliopolis in partibus infidelium) affords an example of this. He writes in great distress to Hargrave as to the loss of a cask of white wine (une barrique de vin blanc). He had expected it by the York boats sent down by the great Red River merchant, Andrew McDermott. . . . The cask had not arrived. The good Bishop cannot understand it, but presumes, as it is December when he writes, that it will come in the spring. The Bishop's last remark is open to a double meaning, when he says, "Leave it as it is, for he will take it without putting it in barrels."

The Bishop in a more important matter addresses Governor Simpson, and the Governor forwards his letter to York Factory. In this Bishop Provencher thanks him for giving a voyage in the canoes, from Red River to Montreal, to Priest Harper, and for bringing up Sub-Deacon Poiré, a "young man of talent." He also gives hearty thanks for a passage, granted by the Governor on the fur traders' route from the St. Lawrence, to two stonemasons. "I commence," he said, "to dig the foundation of my church to-morrow." He asks for a passage down and up for members of his ecclesiastical staff. He wants from York Factory forty or fifty hoes for Mr. Belcour to use in teaching the Indians to cultivate potatoes and Indian corn, and he naively remarks, "while thus engaged, he will at the same time cultivate their spirits and their hearts by the preaching of the Word of God." The eye for business is seen in the Bishop's final remark that he thinks "that the shoes from the Bay will cost much less than those made by the smiths at Red River."

Archdeacon Cochrane, a man of gigantic form and of amazing bonhomie, who has been called the "founder of the Church of England on Red River," writes several interesting letters. Beginning with business he drifts into a friendly talk. One of his letters deals with the supplies for the school he had opened (1831) at St. Andrew's, Red River, another sings the praises of his new church at the rapids; "It is an elegant little church, pewed for three hundred and forty people, and finished in the neatest manner it could be for Red River. The ceiling is an arc of an ellipse, painted light blue. The moulding and pulpit brown; the jambs and sashes of the windows white."

A little of the inner working of the fur-trading system in the predominance of Scottish influence is exhibited by Archdeacon Cochrane in one letter to Hargrave. Recurring to Hargrave's promotion to the chief tradership, not yet bestowed, the old clergyman quaintly says, "Are you likely to get another feather in your cap? I begin to think that your name will have to be changed into MacArgrave. A 'mac' before your name would produce a greater effect than all the rest of your merits put together. Can't you demonstrate that you are one of the descendants of one of the great clans?"

Among the correspondence is a neat little note to Hargrave (1826) from Rev. David Jones, the Archdeacon's predecessor, written at Red River, asking his company to a family dinner on the next Monday, at 2 p.m.; and a delicate missive from Acting-Governor Bulger, of Red River, asking Hargrave to accept a small quantity of snuff.

Among Hargrave's correspondents are such notable fur traders as Cuthbert Grant, the leader of the Bois Brules, who had settled down on White Horse Plains, on the Assiniboine River, and was the famous captain of the buffalo hunters ; and William Conolly, the daring Chief Factor of New Caledonia. Events in Fort Churchill are well described in the extensive correspondence of J. G. McTavish, long stationed there ; and good Governors Finlayson and McMillan of Red River are well represented ; as well as Alexander Ross, the historian of the Rod River affairs. A full account of the wanderings from York Factory to the far distant Pacific slope of Mr. George Barnston, who afterwards was well known in business circles as a resident of Montreal, could be gathered, did time permit, from a most regular correspondence with Hargrave.

Probably the man most after the York Chief Factor's own heart was a good letter writer, John Sieveright, who early became Chief Trader and afterwards Chief Factor in 1846. Sieveright had become acquainted with Hargrave at Sault Ste. Marie. Afterwards he was removed to Fort Coulonge on the Upper Ottawa, but he still kept up his interest in Hargrave and the affairs of Rupert's Land. Sieveright has a play of humour and pleasant banter that was very agreeable to Hargrave. He rallies him about an old acquaintance, the handsome daughter of Fur Trader Johnston, of Sault Ste. Marie, who, it will be remembered, married an Indian princess. He has a great faculty of using what other correspondents write to him, in making up very readable and well written letters to his friends.

For many years Sieveright was at Fort Coulonge, and thus was in touch with the Hudson's Bay Company house at Lachine, the centre of the fur trade on this continent. Every year he paid a visit to headquarters, and had an advantage over the distant traders on the Saskatchewan, Mackenzie, and Nelson Rivers. He, however, seemed always to envy them their lot. Writing of Fort Coulonge, he gives us a picture of the fur trader's life: "This place has the advantage of being so near the civilized world as to allow us to hear now and then what is going on in it; but no society or amusement to help pass the time away. In consequence I cannot help reading a great deal too much—injurious at any time of life— particularly so when on the wrong side of fifty. I have been lately reading John Galt's 'Southernan,' not much to be admired. His characters are mostly all caricatures. If place will be allowed in paper trunk, I shall put that work and 'Laurie Todd' in for your acceptance."

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