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History of Saskatchewan and The Old North West
Chapter IV - The Rival Fur Companies and Further Explorations in the West—1759-1821


Canadian Fret. Traders—Currie and Finlay, First English-Speaking Canadians in Saskatchewan—Alex. Henry, Sr.; His Adventures Near Forks of Saskatchewan, 1774—Peter Pond; Founding of N. W. Co., 17S3-S4—Fort Chippeweyan—Alex. Mackenzie The N. Y. Co., 1795-1805—Alex. Henry, Jr.; David Thompson-Daniel Harmon; His Adventures near Ou'Appelle and Last Mountain, 1804—Larocoue—Explorers Sent Out by LI. P>. Co. and British Government—Simpson's Journeys in the N. W.— Rivalry of II. I!. Co. and Montreal Traders—Massacre at Seven Oaks, 1816—Union of II. B. Co. and N. W. Co., 1821.

As we have seen in previous chapters, the claims of the Hudson's Bay Company to exclusive control of western trade were strenuously disputed by the French, whose intrepid adventurers had penetrated far into the interior before the fall of Quebec in 1759. With the surrender of Canada, the activities of French governmental officials, in connection with western trade and exploration, of course, ceased; but with the new regime came the rapid development of independent trading organizations, some of which even rivalled in the magnitude of their interests and operations the Hudson's Bay Company itself. Many years later the ancient British company regained its old monopoly, but only by virtue of amalgamation with its rivals. To picturesque aspects of this long commercial strife and of the important explorations consequent upon the activities of the rival fur traders, especially as regards directly the present province of Saskatchewan, the present chapter is to be devoted.

Thomas Currie was the first Britisher from old Canada to penetrate the regions of Saskatchewan. He was followed very closely by James Finlay. and the success of their ventures rendered them the forerunners of numerous other traders operating from Montreal.

One of the first and most important of these was Alexander Henry, Sr., whose fascinating Journal has been edited by Dr. James Bain under the title of "Travels and Adventures in Canada and the Indian Territories Between the Years 1S60 and i8y6."

With the conquest of Canada the fur trade was soon made free from all government interference. Henry had served in the war of the conquest, hut on its completion he promptly gave up military pursuits and proceeded westward to take a share in what he foresaw would develop into a very lucrative trade. His initial attempts proved premature, however, as he remarks in his preface, and his first rewards were almost entirely confined to adventures. It was not until 1775 that lie penetrated the North West proper. His description of the journey westward, via the Grand Portage Du I\at ( or Rat Portage, the River Winnipegon, Winnipic (or Winnipeg), and westward via the River du Bourbon, Pasquayah or Saskatchiwaine, to Cumberland House, which had been established in 1774, constitutes an entrancing tale. From it we obtain some of our earliest geographical data regarding what is now the province of Saskatchewan. The hardships experienced by early explorers and the nature of the country as it then was are well pictured in the following extract:

"From Cumberland House I pursued a westerly course on the ice, following tbe southern bank of Sturgeon Lake, till I crossed the neck of land by which alone it is separated from the great River Pasquayah, or Saskatchiwaine. In the evening I encamped 011 the north side of this river at a distance of ten leagues from Cumberland House.

"The depth of snow and the intenseness of the cold rendered in progress so much slower than I had reckoned upon, that 1 soon began to fear the want of provisions. The sun did not rise until half past nine in the morning, and it set at half past two in the afternoon ; it is, however, at 110 time wholly dark in these climates; the northern lights and the reflection of the snow affording always sufficient light for the traveller. Add to this that the river, the course of which I was ascending, was a guide with the aid of which 1 could not lose my way. Every day's journey was commenced at three o'clock in the morning.

"I was not far advanced before the country betrayed some approaches to the characteristic nakedness of the plains. The wood dwindled away, both in size and quantity, so that it was with difficulty that we could collect sufficient for making a fire; and without fire we could not drink; for melted snow was our only resource, the ice 011 the river being too thick to be penetrated with the axe.

"On the evening of the sixth, the weather continuing severely cold, I made my two men sleep on the same skin as myself, one on each side; and though this arrangement was particularly beneficial to myself, it increased the comfort of all. At the usual hour in the morning we attempted to rise, but found that a foot of snow had fallen on our bed. as well as extinguished and covered our fire. this situation we remained till day-break, when, with much exertion, we collected fresh fuel. Proceeding on our journey, we found that the use of our sledges had become impracticable through the quantity of newly fallen snow, and we were now constrained to carry our provisions on our backs. Unfortunately, they were a diminishing burden.

"The two days succeeding, the depth of the snow and the violence of the winds greatly retarded our journey; but from the ninth to the twelfth the elements were less hostile and we travelled rapidly. Xo trace of anything human presented itself on our road, except that we saw the old wintering ground of Mr. Finlay. who had left it some years before, and was now stationed at Fort des Prairies. This fort was the stage we had to make before we could enter the prairies or plains; and, on our examining our provisions, we found only sufficient for five days, while, even at the swiftest rate we had travelled, a journey of twelve clays was before us. My men began to fear being starved, seeing no prospect of relief; but I endeavored to maintain their courage by representing that I should certainly kill red deer or elk, of which the tracks were visible along the banks of the river and on the sides of the bills. What I hoped for in this respect, it was not easy to accomplish ; for the animals kept within the shelter of the woods; and the snow was too deep to let me seek them there.

"On the fifteenth our situation was rendered still more alarming by the commencement of a fresh fall of snow, which added nearly two feet to the depth of that which was already 011 the ground. At the same time we were scarcely able to collect enough wood for making a fire to melt the snow. The only trees around us were starveling willows, and the hills which discovered themselves at a short distance were bare of every vegetable production such as could rear itself above the snow. Their appearance was rather that of lofty snow banks than of hills. We were now on the borders of the plains.

"On the twentieth the last remains of our provisions were expended; but I had taken the precaution to conceal a cake of chocolate in reserve for an occasion like that which had now arrived. Towards evening, my men, after walking the whole day, began to lose their strength, but we nevertheless kept our feet till it was late; and when we encamped 1 informed them of the treasure that was still in store. I desired them to fill the kettle with snow, and argued with them the while that the chocolate would keep us alive for five days at least, an interval in which we should surely meet with some Indian in the chase. Their spirits revived at the suggestion; and, the kettle being filled with two gallons of water, I put into it one square of the chocolate. The quantity was scarcely sufficient to alter the color of the water; but each of us drank about half a gallon of the warm liquor, by which we were much refreshed, and in its enjoyment felt no more of the fatigues of the day. In the morning we allowed ourselves a similar repast, after finishing which we marched vigorously for six hours. Hut now the spirits of my countrymen again deserted them, and they declared that they neither would, nor could, proceed any further, 1'or myself, they advised me to leave them and accomplish the journey as I could; but for themselves, they said, they must soon die, and might as well die where they were as anywhere else.

"While things were in this melancholy posture I filled the kettle and boiled another scpiare of chocolate. When prepared, I prevailed upon my desponding companions to return to their warm beverage. On taking it, they recovered inconceivably; and, after smoking a pipe, consented to go forward. While their stomachs were comforted by the warm water they walked well; but as the evening approached, fatigue overtook them, and they relapsed into their former condition; and, the chocolate being now almost consumed, 1 began to fear that 1 must really abandon them; for I was able to endure more hardship than they, and, had it not been for keeping company with them, I could have advanced double the distance within the time which had been spent. To my great joy, however, the usual quantity of warm water revived them.

"For breakfast the next morning, I put the last remaining square of chocolate in the kettle, and our meal finished, we began our march, but in very indifferent spirits. We were surrounded by large herds of wolves, which sometimes came close upon us, and who knew, as we were prone to think, the extremity in which we were, and marked us for their prey; but I carried a gun, and this was our protection. I fired several, times; but unfortunately missed at each; for a morsel of wolf's flesh would have afforded us a banquet.

"Our misery, however, was still nearer the end than we imagined; and the event was to give one of the innumerable proofs that despair is not made for man. Before sunset, we discovered on the ice some remains of the bones of an elk left there by the wolves. Having instantly gathered them we encamped and, filling our kettle, prepared ourselves a meal of strong and excellent soup. The greater part of the night was spent in boiling and regaling on our booty; and early in the morning, we felt ourselves strong enough to proceed.

"This day, the twenty-fifth, we found the borders of the plains reaching to the very banks of the river, which were two hundred feet above the level of the ice. Water marks presented themselves twenty feet above the actual level.

"Want had lost his dominion over us. At noon we saw the horns of a red deer standing in the snow on the river. On examination we found that the whole carcass was with them, the animal having broken through the ice in the beginning of the winter in attempting to cross the river toe early in season; while his horns, fastening themselves in the ice. had prevented him from sinking. By cutting away the ice, we were enabled to lay bare a part of the back and shoulders, and thus procure a stock of food amply sufficient for the rest of the journey. We accordingly encamped, and employed our kettle to good purpose, forgot all our misfortunes and prepared to walk with cheerfulness the twenty leagues, which, as we reckoned, lay between ourselves and Fort des Prairies.

"Though the deer must have been in this situation ever since the month of November, yet its flesh was perfectly good. Its horns alone were five feet high or more, and it will therefore not appear extraordinary that they should be seen above the snow.

"On the twenty-seventh, in the morning, we discovered the print of snow shoes, demonstrating that several persons bad passed that way the dav before. These were the first marks of other human feet than our own which we had seen since our leaving Cumberland House; and it was much to feel that we had fellow creatures in the wild waste surrounding us! In the evening we reached the fort."

Meantime, among the other traders and explorers from the far East operating in Saskatchewan and adjacent territories, the student of history meets with the notorious American, Peter Pond. This picturesque adventurer came from Connecticut to Canada in the latter sixties, and spent his first winter in the North West in 1769. Indeed, he purchased more peltries than he could carry away, and a creditable light is thrown 011 the character of the Indians by the fact that a large quantity of furs left by him, unprotected in his hut in the wilderness, was found undisturbed when lie returned from Montreal the following year. Though profits were great, the competition in the trade led Pond to form a combine. I11 it were included Henry Cadotte, a Canadian who had been associated with Alexander Henry, Senior, and the Frobishers, Joseph and Thomas. From this syndicate, the North West company subsequently developed. I11 1778 Peter Pond carried on extensive explorations in the district later known as Athabasca. The details of his journey are ill known as be did not publish his journal, only a fragment of which has been preserved for students of today. Some interesting extracts from it will be found elsewhere in the present work. The Athabasca district, as it was then called, was the greatest fur country in the North West, and in it Pond pursued his commercial enterprises with great energy and success. He built a trading post on the Churchill River and shortly after crossed the height of land via Lake Lache Portage, being the first white man so to do. He also built Athabasca on the Biche River. Through his efforts trade was established in the North beyond the regions controlled by the Hudson's Hay Company. His competition with the British and other rival concerns led to many quarrels and culminated in a duel in which Pond killed a trader of the name of Ross. On a previous occasion he had been accused of killing another trader in the same district, Waddin by name. On bis return to Montreal, Pond was charged with murder, and though the trial ended in his release, the more respectable Montreal traders ostracized him, and he returned in disgust to Boston in 1790.

Though Pond achieved relatively little as an explorer if he be compared with such men as Mackenzie, he did amply sufficient to entitle him to a place in the history of western exploration, and the part he played as the forerunner of the famous North West Fur Trust makes his a very important name to the student of Saskatchewan history.

In 1779, through his influence, nine distinct commercial interests had become parties to an agreement valid for a single year by virtue of which their entire trade was rendered common property. The agreement was renewed on substantially the same terms the following year, and again for a period of three years longer. Internal jealousies, however, broke lip the trust before this time expired.

In 1783, according to most authorities (but in 1784, according to the important treatise on The Origin and Progress of the North West Company, published anonymously by Nathaniel Atcheson). the trust was revived, assuming as its name "The North West Company." The compact was renewed from time to time until 1802, and in 1803 an agreement was consummated, to be valid for twenty years.

Besides the partners already mentioned in connection with these initial combines, Peter Pangman, John Ross, Alexander Mackenzie, his cousin, Roderick Mackenzie, William McGillivray, Simon McTavish, David Thompson. Archibald Norman Macleod, John Gregory, Thomas and Joseph Frobisher, and others played prominent roles. Fort Chippewcyan was established by Roderick Mackenzie in 1788, and soon became tbe most important trading rendezvous and distributing post in the north country, though it was abandoned thirty-two years later. It was situated in west longitude in°, 18', 32" and north latitude 58°, 40". The Slave River and its tributaries to the north, the Peace River to the west, Athabasca to the south, and the Churchill, with its chain of lakes, to the east, constituted natural highways to this centre.

This fort was for several years the headquarters of the great fur trader and explorer, Alexander Mackenzie, and from it he conducted his exploring expeditions down the Slave River, up the Peace River, down the Mackenzie River to the Arctic Seas in 1789, and over the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific in 1793. In recognition of his notable achievements as an explorer, Mackenzie was knighted in 1S02, his entrancing journals having been published in the preceding year.

In 1795, or, as some authorities state, in 179S, a new trading organization, known as The X. Y. Company, came into existence as an offshoot of the North West Company. Apparently the mysterious letters involved in its name were not initials or contractions. The bales of the North West Company were marked with the letters X*. W*, and the new company simply employed the next two letters of the alphabet. The concern is sometimes called the little North West Company, or La Petite Compagnie. From this its members and employees got the name of Les Petits, which degenerated into The Potties. This company owed its origin to the bitter rivalry between Alexander Mackenzie and Simon McTavish with their respective adherents, and consisted of partisans of the former, though Roderick Mackenzie remained with the North West Company. The two concerns again united in 1805.

Among the most interesting of all the early tales of exploration and adventure is that embodied in the voluminous journals of Alexander Henry, the Younger, which remained all but unknown for nearly a century, until edited by Elliot Cones. This Henry was the nephew of the Alexander Henry to whom we have previously referred. His journals cover the period from 1799 to 1814. The years 1808 to 1811 were spent in the Saskatchewan district and regions further west.

In all Henry's journeyings he was, as Cones remarks, shadowed or foreshadowed by Thompson. This latter explorer was an astronomer and surveyor in the employ, first of the Hudson's Bay Company and afterwards of the North West Company. Among his discoveries were the Athabasca and Saskatchewan passes. The most important of his numerous expeditions was probably that made in 1798. The record of his adventures is included by Coues with that of Henry's under the title of "New Light on the Early History of the Greater North West."'

In the year 1800 Daniel W. Harmon left Montreal for the West, "there to remain," as he says in his journal, "if my life should be spared, for seven years at least. For this space of time I am under engagement to serve as a Clerk to the North West Company, otherwise denominated McTavish, Frobisher and Company." As a matter of fact, he remained in the interior for nineteen years, and it would be hard for anyone interested in the West to find more fascinating reading than that contained in his journal, of which several editions are extant.

In 1804 we find him in the vicinity of Qu'Appelle and Last Mountain. The following record of his adventures in that locality is of such interest as to justify quoting at length.

"Wednesday. February 22nd. 1804. Lac la Teche. or Fishing Lake. This lies about two days' march into the large plains, west from Alexandria, which place I left on the 15th ultimo, accompanied by twelve of our people.

I have come here to pass the winter, by the side of the X. Y. People. For some time after our arrival we existed on rose buds, a Kind of food neither very palatable nor nourishing, which we gathered in the fields. They were better than nothing, since they would just support life. When we should procure anything better I knew not, as the buffalos at that time, in consequence of the mild weather, were at a great distance, out in the large plains, and my hunters could find neither moose nor deer. I hoped, however, that a merciful God would not suffer us to starve, and that hope has not been disappointed, for we now have provisions in abundance, for which we endeavor to be thankful.

"On the eleventh instant, 1 took one of my interpreters and ten laboring men with me, and proceeded several days' march into the wilderness, where we found a camp of upward of thirty lodges of Crees and Assiniboins, of whom we made a good purchase of furs and provisions. They were encamped on the summit of a hill, whence we had an extensive view of the surrounding country, which was low and level. Xot a tree could be seen as far as the eye could extend, and thousands of buffaloes were to be seen grazing in different parts of the plain. In order to kill them, the natives, in large bands, mount their horses, run them down, and shoot with their bows and arrows what number they please, or drive them into parks and kill them at their leisure. In fact, these Indians who reside in the large plains or prairies, are the most independent, and appear to be the most contented and happy people on the face of the earth. They subsist on the flesh of the buffalo and of tbe skins of that animal they make the greater part of their clothing, which is both warm and convenient. Their tents and beds are also made of the skins of the same animal.

"Thursday, March 1st, 1804. Es-qui-un-a-wach-a, or the Last Mountain, or rather Hill: for there are no mountains in this part of the country. Here 1 arrived this evening, having left Lac La Peche on the 28th ultimo, in company-with my interpreter and seven men. The men I ordered to encamp at a short distance from this, and to join me early tomorrow morning; as it is more convenient and safe, especially when we are not in our forts, to give the Indians spirits to drink in the day time than at night. On our arrival we were invited to several of the tents of the principal Indians, to eat and smoke our pipes.—Indians show great hospitality to strangers, before they have been long acquainted with civilized people, after which they adopt many of their customs; but they are by no means always gainers by the exchange.

"Tuesday, March 6, 1804. North side of the Great Devil's Lake, or. as the natives call it, Much-e-man-e-to Sa-ky-e-gnn. As I had nothing of importance to attend to, while our people would be absent in their trip to and from the fort, and was desirous of seeing my friend Henry, who, I understood, was about half a clay's march from where I was the last night, I therefore set off this morning, accompanied by an Indian lad who serves as a guide, with the intention of visiting this place. After walking all day, without finding either food or water, and but a few inches of snow, just as the sun was descending below the horizon, we thought we described a small grove at a considerable distance, directly before us. So long, therefore, as the light remained, we directed our course to that object; but, as soon as the daylight failed, we had nothing by which to guide ourselves excepting the stars, which, however, answered very well until even their faint twinkling was obscured by clouds and we were enveloped in total darkness. In this forlorn condition, we thought it best to continue our march as well as we could; for we were unwilling to lie down, with little or nothing with which to cover us and keep ourselves from freezing. There was no wood with which we could make a fire, or buffalo dung, which often serves as fuel when travelling about these plains. Neither could we find water to drink, and without fire, we could not melt the snow for this purpose. We suffered much from the want of water, as we had nothing to cat but very dry provisions which greatly excited thirst. To be deprived of drink for one day is more distressing than to be destitute for food for two. It would not have been safe for us to camp without a fire, for wc should have been continually exposed to be trodden by the large herds of buffaloes that arc perpetually roving about the plains, or to be devoured by the wolves which ever follow the buffalo. We therefore continued travelling, uncertain whither we were going, until at length the dogs that drew my sledge suddenly passed by us, as if they saw some uncommon object directly before us. We did not attempt to impede their motion, but followed them as fast as we could, until they brought ns to the place where we now are. It is almost incredible that my dogs should have smelt this camp at such a distance, for we walked vigorously for four hours after they passed us before we arrived.

"We arc happy in finding fifteen tents of Crees and Assiniboins, who want for none of the dainties of this country; and I met, as usual, with a very hospitable reception. The mistress of tbe tent where I unharnessed the dogs put my sledge, etc., in a safe place. She was then proceeding to give food to my dogs, which labor I offered to do myself; but she told me to remain quiet and smoke my pipe, for she added "they shall be taken good care of, and will be as safe in my hands as tlicy would be were they in your own." Notwithstanding it was near midnight when I arrived, yet, at that late hour, the most of the Indians rose, and many of them invited me to their tents to eat a few mouthfnls, and to smoke the sociable pipe.

"Friday, March 9, 1804. North side of Devil's Lake. I11 the morning I left the Canadians' camp, and this afternoon reached this place, where I found my young guide waiting my return. He is the son of a chief among his Crees and Assiniboius. His grandfather was Monsieur Florimeaux, a Frenchman, who passed a number of years in the Indian country. When lie went to Canada he took his soil, the father of my young guide, along with him as far as Quebec, intending to send him to France. P>ut the lad, who was then twelve or thirteen years old did not like to leave his native country. After remaining in Canada some time therefore, he deserted, and returned to this par! of. the world, where he in time became a famous warrior, and at length a chief. He is much respected and beloved by his relatives, and is revered by his own family. As a husband he is affectionate, and as a father, he is kind. It was perhaps fortunate for him that he did not go to France; for I am persuaded lie could not have lived more happily and at ease in any part of the world than in this independent country, which is abundantly supplied with all the necessaries and many of the luxuries of life.

"Saturday, March 10, 1804. in the middle of an extensive plain. Early in the morning, accompanied by my young guide, I left our last night's lodging to go to the place where 1 expect to find our people, which is about two days' march farther into the great plain than where 1 separated with my interpreter on the 6th inst. After walking all day without finding either food or water, at eight o'clock at night we have concluded to lay ourselves down, in order, if possible, to get a little rest. In the daytime the snow melted a little, but in the evening it has frozen hard, and our feel and legs, as high as our knees, are so much covered with ice that we cannot take off our shoes, and having nothing with which to make a lire in order to thaw them, we must pass the night with them 011. A more serious evil is the risk we must run of being killed by wild beasts.

"Sunday, March 11. 1804. Ca-ta-buv-se-pu, or The River that Calls. This stream is -so named by the superstitious natives, who imagine that a spirit is constantly going up and down it; and they say that they often hear its voice distinctly, which resembles the cry of a human being. The last night was so unpleasant to me that I could not even sleep, arising in part from the constant fear 1 was in of being lorn to pieces before the morning by wild beasts. Despondency to a degree look possession of my spirits. Rut the light of the morning dissipated my fears, and restored lo mv mind its usual cheerfulness. As soon as the light of day appeared we left the place where we had lain, not a little pleased that the wild beasts had uol fallen on us. It has snowed and rained all day. Here I find my interpreter and eighty tents, or nearly two hundred men with their families.—Along the banks of this rivulet there is a little limber, consisting chiefly of the inferior species of the maple: but nowhere else is there even a shrub to be seen. The surrounding country is a barren plain, where nothing grows excepting grass, which rises from six to eight inches in height, and furnishes food for the buffalo.

"Wednesday, March 14th, 1804. Last evening my people returned front the fort; and as I now had spirits for tbe natives, they, of course, drank during the whole night, being so numerous, they made a terrible noise. They stole a small keg of spirits from us and one of them attempted to stab me. The knife went through my clothes and just grazed the skin of my body. Today I spoke to the Indian who made this attempt, and he cried like a child and said that he bad nearly killed bis father, meaning me, and asked why I did not tie him when he bad lost the use of his reason.—My people inform me that there is little or no snow for three days' march from this; but after that, there is an abundance all the way to the fort.

"Friday March 16th, 1804. About twelve o'clock we left the Indians' camp; but, being heavily loaded considering that there is no snow and that our property is drawn by dogs on sledges, we made slow progress. After we had encamped we sent our dogs, which are twenty-two in number, after the buffalo; and that soon stopped one of them, when one of our party went and killed him with an axe, for we have not got a gun with us. It is, however, imprudent for 11s to venture thus far without fire-arms; for every white man, when in this savage country, ought at all times to be well armed. Then he need be under little apprehension of an attack; for Indians, when sober, are not inclined to hazard their lives, and, when they apprehend danger from quarrelling, will remain quiet and peaceable.

"Thursday, March 22nd, 1804. Lac la Peche. Here we have arrived, and I am happy in reaching a place where 1 can take a little repose after so long and fatiguing a jaunt. Yet it has been, in many respects, both pleasant and profitable. The country which 1 have travelled over was beautifully situated, and overspread with buffaloes and other kinds of animals, as well as many other delightful objects, which in succession presented themselves to our view. These things made tbe days glide away almost imperceptibly. But there were times when my situation was far from being agreeable; they, however, soon passed away, and we have all abundant reason to render thanks to a kind Providence, for His protection and for a safe return to our homes and families."

Another early journal of Western adventure and exploration is that of Larocque, of which an important portion is published in a report of the Canadian Archivist for 1910. Larocque was a contemporary and acquaintance of Harmon. The special interest of his journal lies in the fact that it describes the first visit of white men to tbe country of the Crow Indians, and provides the earliest authoritative account of that tribe, if we except the narrative of La Verendrye's expedition of 1742 and 1743.

During the long period of which we ha\e been treating, the North West Company showed astonishing energy in exploring the West and opening it up to trade, and tbe Hudson's Ray Company, of which we have said little, had been far from idle in this regard. A long period of relative inaction bad been terminated by tbe agitation of 1749 for the cancellation of the company's charter. At that time, its forts were all 011 the coast and numbered only four or five. In 1751 Captain Coats conducted an exploratory expedition up Wagner Inlet. In November, 1769, the company sent Samuel Hearne on a vain attempt to explore the Northern Seas, which, after a second failure, lie reached via the Coppermine River two years later. It will be remembered that the great Alexander Mackenzie was also in the employ of the Hudson's Bay Company during the early part of his career as an explorer, as also was David Thompson.

In 1816 an expedition was sent up by the British Government to search for the long-desired North West passage, and after its failure a reward of twenty thousand pounds was promised to any one who should show the existence of a water route north of the American continent. Giving to this encouragement, two notable expeditions followed. The first was under the leadership of David Buchau and Sir John Irranklin. The second was under that of Captain John Ross and Captain Edward Fairy. Captain Parry continued for several years his unsuccessful efforts to discover the northern passage. Franklin was also sent overland in 1819 to explore the country west of the Coppermine River. While these and various other expeditions failed of their primary purpose, they gave to the world much valuable geographical knowledge, though they added but little, if anything, to what was known of that portion of the North West to which this treatise-is devoted.

In 1821, however. Sir George Simpson, Governor of the Hudson's Hay Company, made the first of his notable journeys across the continent. On his way he ascended the Saskatchewan as far as Cumberland House, lie also visited Lake Athabasca. Sir George was a most interesting character, and the reports of his journeys did much to make tbe country better known. He was famous for the extraordinary speed at which lie travelled. When journeying by water, he did not even allow his men to stop for meals. Two of his little barks would be tied side by side, and half the crew would thus be released from the paddle for a hasty repast, after which they would lake the places of the voyageurs who in the meanwhile had continued their labours. Of one of his journeys Sir George wrote as follows:

"Here (that is, at Colville) terminated a long and laborious journey of nearly two thousand miles on horseback, across plains, mountains, rivers and forests. For six weeks and five days we have been constantly riding. or at least, as constantly as the strength of our horses would allow, from early dawn to sunset, and we have, on the average, been in the saddle eleven and a half hours a day."

In the main the relations of tbe rival companies in the pursuit of the fur trade were at first reasonably free from acrimony, though the Hudson's I lay Company always looked on its competitors as poachers. Throughout the region of the interior in which the Hudson's Bay Company conducted active operations, the rival concerns systematically established their trading posts side by side with those of the British company. As the competition became keener, mutual recriminations became more and more general, and culminated eventually in numerous deeds of violence. These lawless proceedings at last developed into real warfare. The Red River settlement was established by the Hudson's Bay Company in 1812, perhaps chiefly lo check the ingress and hamper the operations of the North West Company. This region thus became the scene of moody feuds, of which we will have more to say in the chapter devoted to tbe Selkirk settlement. The murder of Governor Semple of the Hudson's Bay Company, with twenty of his followers, by partisans of the North West Company, in 1816 at Seven Oaks, together with the forcible seizure of Fort Douglas by the North Westers and its recapture by Selkirk in the following year, 1817, roused public sentiment in Great Britain and Canada, and in the councils of the companies themselves, to the necessity of putting a stop to this disgraceful strife. Accordingly, in 1821, mutual concessions were made, and the North West Company was absorbed by its ancient rival.


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