Check all the Clans that have DNA Projects. If your Clan is not in the list there's a way for it to be listed. Electric Scotland's Classified Directory An amazing collection of unique holiday cottages, castles and apartments, all over Scotland in truly amazing locations.

Click here to get a Printer Friendly Page

A History of British Columbia
Chapter IV - Land Expeditions and their Outcome


After Vancouver there was a second lull in the interest attached to the fortunes of the Pacific Ocean. There were trading vessels from a number of countries, principally the United States and Great Britain, that came to traffic in the sea otter, which gradually became scarcer until they ceased to be profitable and sought for as formerly. After the Hudson's Bay Company had firmly established itself on the northwest coast, subsequent to the amalgamation with the Northwest Company, in 1821, the navigation of the north Pacific was practically limited for a number of years to their ships, and an occasional man of war. It will be permissible here to quote from the Year Book of British Columbia (1897), a summarized account of the conditions which prevailed after Vancouver took his departure for England, and it may be incidentally remarked the period immediately succeeding were dark days for not only England, but for all Europe.

"As has already been stated, the Spaniards abandoned the country after the Nootka affair was terminated and never afterwards made any attempt at exploration or discovery in these waters. As a matter of fact, Great Britain herself ceased to< take any interest in it, and practically abandoned it as well. It is true the victory was with the-British, but largely on account of the negative attitude of Spain, to which she was forced by her continental position; but the unsatisfactory terms of the settlement could hardly be regarded a victory of diplomacy. They left wide open a ground of dispute, which was the cause of subsequent complications when the Oregon boundary came to be fixed. Notwithstanding that Spain took no direct part or interest in it, the United States government, claiming to inherit her rights, did not fail to take advantage of the terms of the convention, which the great Fox at the time properly denounced as a blunder.

"It is an interesting fact that the setlement of the Nootka affair left matters on this coast in a very uncertain, indefinable status quo. For some years a long stretch of the Pacific territory was in reality "No Man's Land," and it is not in any sense due to the prescience or wisdom of British statesmen of these days,, that it is British territory today. To the enterprise of the Northwest Gompany, and of its legitimate successor, the Hudson's Bay Company, is due any credit that may attach to an accomplishment we now appraise so highly. The traders of that powerful organization pushed their way through to the coast by way of New Caledonia and the southern passes of the Rocky Mountains, carrying with them the supremacy of the British flag and extending the authority of the Canadian laws, and finally occupied practically the whole of the Pacific Coast from Russian America to Mexico. That we do not occupy the whole of the Pacific slope today was no fault of theirs. However, in placing an estimate upon the statesmanship of Great Britain, which permitted by a policy of laissez-faire so much territory to slip through her hands, we must consider the circumstances and conditions of the the times, the remoteness of the country, the almost total lack of knowledge concerning it, and the general indifference which existed regarding its future. Men ofttimes are, but cannot ordinarily be expected to be, wiser than they know. In view of all that has happened to, and in, the North American continent since that time, there is reason to be thankful that there has been left to us so glorious a heritage as we now possess.

"Several fearful tragedies in which the Indians were concerned are recorded to have taken place on this coast when the fur trade was at the "height of prosperity. One was the destruction in 1803 of the American ship 'Boston' by the natives at Nootka Sound, all the crew being murdered with the exception of the armourer, Jewitt, and the sail-maker, Thompson, who were kept in slavery four years by the Chief Maquinna of Vancouver and Quadra's Bay. In 1805 the American ship 'Atahualpa,' of Rhode Island, was attacked by the savages of Millbank Sound and her captain, mate and six seamen were killed, after which the other seaman succeeded in repelling the assailants and saving the vessel. In the same manner the 'Tonquin,' of Boston, was in June, 1811, attacked by the natives whilst at anchor in Clayo-quot Sound, and nearly the whole crew murdered. Five of the survivors managed to reach the cabin, and from that vantage ground drove the savages from the vessel. During the night four of these men left the ship in a boat, and were ultimately murdered by the Indians. The day after the attack on the vessel, all being quiet on board, the savages crowded the decks for the purpose of pillage, when the ship suddenly blew up, causing death and destruction to all on board. About one hundred natives were killed by the explosion, and this tragic ending has always been ascribed to the members of the crew secreted below."

Alexander Mackenzie.

While Vancouver was seeking in vain to find a waterway through the North American continent, a man of kindred spirit was, with no less perseverance and with perhaps greater difficulty, making his way from the great plains of the Northwest over the rocky region that divides them from the Pacific Ocean.

Towards the end of the eighteenth century Alexander Mackenzie was a partner in the Northwest Company, which was at that time striving to wrest from the Hudson's Bay Company the monopoly of the fur trade in the immense region to the north and west of Canada that it had held for more than a hundred years. The Northwest Company was founded in Montreal in 1783 and consisted chiefly of Scotchmen who had made Canada their home. Among these was Alexander Mackenzie, one of the Mackenzies of Seaforth in Storna-wery, Island of Lewis. Having proved himself brave and enterprising, Mackenzie was sent to one of the company's outposts, Fort Chippewayan on Athabasca Lake. In the year 1789 he discovered the great river which bears his name and followed its course to the Arctic Ocean. Not seeing how it was possible to reach the Pacific from the ice-bound region which he was the first civilized man to behold, Mackenzie determined to find a western road to its shores. Accordingly, having prepared for the task he had set himself by going to England and studying astronomy and the use of instruments, Mackenzie set out from Chippewayan on October 10, 1792. He took the western branch of the Peace River, and at a place a short distance from the Forks he made his winter home. Two men had been sent forward during the summer to prepare timber, so Mackenzie was able to proceed rapidly with the w6rk of building a trading post. The winter was unusually cold, though not unpleasant. There were Indians in the neighborhood who had previously given the fur traders some trouble. Mackenzie called them together and reprimanded them for their bad conduct, at the same time giving them presents and showing them the benefits to be got by treating the white men well. Both among the Peace River and the Rocky Mountain Indians the women were greatly inferior to the men in personal appearance. Yet, though they were kept in a state of abject slavery, they were not without influence in the councils of the tribe. There was much sickness among these natives and Mackenzie was often called upon to play the part of physician and surgeon, which he did with great humanity and no little skill. The explorer speaks of the warm southwest winds since called the Chinook winds, which moderate the climate on the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains.

On the 9th of May the river was clear of ice and the exploring party in a light but very heavily laden canoe. It consisted of Mackenzie himself and his lieutenant, Alexander MacKay, six French Canadians, two Indian hunters, and an interpreter. With infinite toil these hardy boatmen forced their way against the current of the Peace river. Many times they were obliged to unload their canoe and carry boat and cargo along the steep wooded banks of the river. Often their frail bark was caught in the rapids and dashed against the rocks. Sometimes they drew it along by lines fastened to trees on the impending precipice, at others they guided its course by catching hold of overhanging branches. Night frequently overtook them where there was not a landing place large enough to afford a resting place for their exhausted frames. But a life of privation and hardship was the lot of these voyageurs, and a big camp fire, a comfortable meal and a glass of rum rarely failed to restore their good-humor and make them forget their fatigue.

By the end of May they found that the river again divided and they took the southern-branch. Mackenzie tells us that wild parsnips abounded here, and that their tops made a pleasant and refreshing addition to the diet of the explorers. In this vicinity Indians were met who, though at first terrified by a party of white men, were reassured by the fearless yet kind demeanor of their leader. They told him that there were Indians eleven days' march away who traveled a moon to another nation who< live in houses. These people. extended their journey to the seacoast and traded with white men who came in vessels as big as islands. Mackenzie could not, however, obtain any information concerning the river which he sought, but one of the young men consented to accompany the party as a guide.

On the 9th of June the explorers entered a lake two miles long by five hundred yards wide which Mackenzie believed to be the source of the Peace River. Beyond this lake was a swampy region where the streams were encumbered with falling trees. Here their progress was slow. Mackenzie, seeing that unless provision were made for the homeward journey the party would be in danger of starvation, buried pemmican of the 21st of June. Making their way as best they could from one stream to another, the explorers at last found they had a river whose current was carrying them onwards. The banks soon grew steep and the rapids frequent. The men were in peril of their lives, and their canoe was continually being pierced by the jagged rocks.

A large party of Indians and their families came up the river in canoes. They at first showed signs of hostility, but, as before, Mackenzie was able to induce some of them to enter into conversation with him and to obtain guides. He learned that the river ran south, its banks were steep, its current rapid and dangerous and the natives fierce. A few days later he .was able to get from a native of another party a plan of the river which he supposed to be the Columbia. This Indian told Mackenzie that there was a well-beaten path which led to the coast, but that the strangers had passed the opening into it some days ago. The story of the dangers of the route was repeated, and at last Mackenzie became convinced that it would be useless, even if it were practicable to go any further down the river. The place where Mackenzie came to this resolution was on the Fraser River near the mouth of the Quesnel. He procured material for a new canoe and 'again began rowing against the current. On the ist of July he put his men on short allowance, and on the 4th, having reached the west road, he hung up his canoe, made a cache where another portion of their scant provisions was left behind.

As was very natural, the hardships and uncertainties of the journey and the determination to leave the river and adopt with unreliable guides an unknown route overland, occasioned great dissatisfaction among Mackenzie's men. When, however, they saw that their leader's resolution was unalterable, and that if they abandoned him he would proceed alone, they determined to accompany him. On this as other occasions, Mackenzie owed much to his friend MacKay. The party then set out, each man carrying a heavy burden. The road seems to have been a well beaten one and several parties of Indians were met with. At the first of these encampments they noticed in the ears of one of the children two coins, one English and the other of Massachusetts Bay, bearing the date of 1787.

On the 10th of July the explorers reached an Indian village near which was a burial place. Here they were kindly treated. A few days later they met a party of Northern Indians. Here for the first Mackenzie speaks of the women as taking great pains with their personal appearance. The men, too, were tall and well dressed. The eyes of these people were gray, with a tinge of red, and their complexion fairer than that of any natives he had seen. Soon after this the explorers reached a mountainous region. Having climbed over a ridge they arrived at a place where there is a confluence of two rivers crossed by one to the left. Here the weary, half-starved travelers were hospitably entertained at a large village inhabited by a tribe of fishermen, whose skill in taking and curing salmon excited their admiration. They procured a canoe at this place and proceeded down the river now known as the Bella Coola. They next stopped at a village where the women were employed in manufacturing cloth from the inner bark of the cedar tree. Here also they were kindly treated. As they neared the sea the natives seemed to be less prosperous. On the 20th of June Mackenzie reached the mouth of the Bella Coola, which empties not into the open ocean, but into one of the numerous channels which pierce the coast of British Columbia. Not satisfied with meeting the water, Mackenzie proceeded down Labouchere Channel towards the sea. Here for the first time the explorers were in great peril of destruction from a band of hostile natives. The most troublesome of them declared he had been ill-treated by white men whom, he called Macubah and Bensins. When Mackenzie afterwards learned that Vancouver had explored Burke Channel that season, he interpreted these names as Vancouver and Johnstone. The party was forced to take refuge for the night on a rocky island and in the morning Mackenzie painted in melted grease and vermilion on the face of the rock the words:

"Alexander Mackenzie, From Canada by Land, The Twenty Second of July, One Thousand, Seven Hundred and Ninety Three."

The place where Mackenzie's journey ended was in latitude 52 20' 48" N. A few hours afterwards the great explorer had good reason to fear that this brief record of his journey would be the only one made, for they again encountered the savages in greatly increased numbers, and the little band of almost expended travelers seemed doomed to destruction. Mackenzie, however, was able not only to repulse them, but to force them to restore some articles they had carried off the previous day. He lived to return to his native land, and to receive from the King of England the honor of Knighthood, an honor seldom won, even in the brave days of old, by a more gallant or a more blameless knight.

Lewis and Clark Expedition.

When in 1803 Louisiana was purchased from France by the United States, the government determined to explore the new territory. President Jefferson accordingly planned an expedition for discovering the courses and sources of the Missouri, and the most convenient waterways to the Pacific Ocean. The leaders of the exploring party, which was splendidly equipped, were the president's secretary, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. Both were captains in the United States army. Besides the captains there were forty-three persons. They set out in three boats heavily laden with stores, and materials for presents for the Indians. The party wintered at Wood River and on May 14, 1804, set out on their voyage up the Missouri. On the 25th of the same month they passed the last white settlement on the river, a French village called La Charette. When they reached the mouth of the Osage River at the beginning of June, the Indians there refused to believe that Spain had parted with Louisiana. The explorers were, however, able to show the Indians that the government of the United States had really succeeded to the power of Spain. On the 12th of June a party of Sioux came down the river, and the explorers were fortunate enough to obtain as guide and interpreter a man named Durion, who had lived for twenty years among those formidable savages.

In the autumn Lewis and Clark arrived at the Mandan country, where they resolved to winter. These Indians, the most civilized of the North American-tribes, had long been friendly to the white men, and during their stay among them the explorers found them intelligent and friendly. Several of the leading men of the Northwest Company visited this place during the autumn and winter. Among them were McCracken, McKenzie, and Leroche. The last named trader offered to join the expedition, but his services were declined.

At the beginning of April the expedition divided. Sixteen men were sent back to make a report to the government of what had been done, and thirty-two proceeded up the river. In the latter party was an .Indian woman, the wife of Carbonneau, an interpreter; Her name was Sacajawea, or the Birdwoman. She had been captured from the Shoshones, a tribe living among the Rocky Mountains, and who proved a useful member of the party. On Sunday, May 26, Captain Lewis obtained his first view of the Rocky Mountains. Thus far the course of the explorers, though sometimes toilsome, had been neither dangerous nor uncertain. However, they found that one branch of the river tended north, while the other ran in a southerly direction. They could not ascertain which was the main river, and Captain Lewis went north into Maria's River to explore. When he became convinced that no river rising near the source of this stream could reach the western ocean he returned. At the junction of the rivers, in latitude 47 25' 17.2" the explorers lightened their load by leaving behind everything that they could spare.

On the 12th of June they reached the falls of the Missouri. Here expeditions set out in different directions to seek for the best route. There was no want of adventure in this region. Bears were frequently met with and buffalo hunting proved dangerous sport. Waterfalls and precipices made travel either by boat or by foot hazardous. On the 29th of June Captain Lewis, Sacajawea with her child and husband were almost carried down the river by a cloud burst. After about a month's careful exploring the junction of three streams was reached. These were called the Jefferson, Madison and Gallatin. Following the longest, the Jefferson, the party on the 12th of August reached the headwaters of the Missouri. Lewis writes of this discovery, "At the distance of four miles further the road took us to the most distant fountain of water, the mighty Missouri, in search of which we have spent so many toilsome days and restless nights. Thus far I had accomplished one of those great objects on which my mind had been unalterably fixed for many years; judge then of the pleasure I felt in allaying my thirst with this pure, ice-cold water which issues from the base of a low mountain or hill of a gentle ascent for half a mile. The mountains are high on either hand, but leave this gap at the head of this rivulet through which the road passes. Here I halted a few minutes and rested myself. Two miles below, McNeal had exultingly stood with one foot on each side of this little rivulet and thanked his God that he had lived to bestride the mighty and hitherto deemed endless Missouri."

They climbed a mountain ridge and, looking around them, saw the snow-covered mountains which now form the boundary line between Montana and Idaho. "They followed a descent much steeper than that on the eastern side, and at a distance of the three-quarters of a mile reached a handsome, bold creek of cold, clear water, running to the westward. They stopped to taste for the first time the waters of the Columbia, and after a few minutes followed the road across steep hills and low hollows till they reached a spring on the side of a mountain."

The first part of the commission of the explorers had now been accomplished, but the most difficult task was still before them. As they searched for some path by which they could reach the navigable part of the river they met a band of Shoshone Indians. Among them Sacajawea recognized a dear friend who had been a fellow prisoner, and who greeted her very affectionately. The chief of the tribe proved to be her brother. Lewis and Clark smoked the pipe of peace with these Indians and gave the chiefs medals bearing the image of Washington. To the people many presents were given. The Shoshone Indians have a curious custom of removing their shoes before beginning their council, and they insisted upon the white men following their example. Food was given the travelers, and to their surprise and delight one of the dishes was a fresh salmon. They received this as evidence that they could not be far from a river by which they could reach the ocean. They were able to procure horses with which they were to proceed on their journey. On August 18 Captain Lewis kept his thirty-first birthday. On this occasion he tells us he was resolved "to live in future for mankind as I have formerly lived for myself," a resolution which one would think it was not necessary for a young man to make who had spent "toilsome days and restless nights" in order to bring an unknown region to the knowledge of civilized man. On the 21st of August Captain Clark discovered salmon weirs on the bank of a river and named the stream after his brother explorer, the Lewis River. The country was terribly rough and there was no game to be seen. The Indians whom they met used sunflower seeds and the roots of a plant called "yamp" to eke out their slender store of food. Towards the end of August the Shoshone Indians who had accompanied them on their journey wished to leave them and join the hunting parties that were going to the plains to hunt buffalo on the banks of the Missouri. Captain Lewis was, however, able to persuade them to remain with him some time longer. The difficulty of getting enough horses for so large a party retarded their progress. At the beginning of September the explorers fell in with a party of Indians called Citashoots, who spoke a language quite different from any he had yet heard. It was full of strange guttural sounds, which Lewis compares to the clucking of a hen. The Indians were well mounted, but had very little food. As the season advanced a fall of snow added to the difficulties of their route and increased the scarcity of game. On the 16th of September they were reduced to the necessity of killing one of their colts for food, and they gave the place the name of Hungry Creek.

The river had become broader and they determined to make canoes in which to descend to the mouth of the Columbia. They had met a party of the Perce-nez, or, as Lewis calls them, the Pierced Nose Indians. Their chief, who was styled Twisted-Hair, drew a plan of the river below on a piece of white elk-skin. From these people the half-famished party were able to procure supplies of kamas root, buffalo and dried salmon. The unaccustomed plenty made many of the men very ill, but by the 5th of October the canoes were finished and they were able to proceed. On the tenth day they were told by an Indian whom they met that he had seen white men at the falls of the Columbia. They reached the Snake River, but were forced to buy from Chopunnish or Pierced Nose Indians some of their dogs for food. The men of these people are described as stout, portly, well-looking men. The women are small, good-looking features, generally handsome, and their dress more modest than any hitherto observed. They spend their summers in fishing and collecting roots, the autumn in hunting roots and the spring in trading for buffalo with the Indians of the plains. Unlike the hospitable Sho-shones, they were selfish and avaricious. As they proceeded they met other Indians who used vapour baths, which Lewis describes, and on the 17th of October the explorers arrived at the confluence of the Snake or Lewis River with the Columbia. Here they met a band of Sokulk Indians, the first of the natives who followed the curious custom of flattening their heads. These people were very unprepossessing in appearance and in habits. They made their houses of mats and rushes. The men were more industrious than is usual among these savages, and great respect was paid to old age. On the 19th of October Lewis discerned Mount St. Helens and recognized it by Vancouver's description. About this time the travelers observed a great burial vault sixty feet long by twelve feet wide. The bodies of those who had recently died were carefully wrapped in robes of skin, but the place contained heaps of bones of people who had died long ago. The remains of animals and various domestic utensils which had been left for the use of the departed spirits were scattered about. On the 22nd of October the expedition reached the mouth of the Deschutes River. The population of the banks of the Columbia River must at the beginning of the nineteenth century have been quite numerous, for few days passed without meeting parties of natives or passing their villages. At one of the latter Lewis took note of the Indian method of curing salmon. The fish were dried on scaffolds, then pounded and placed in baskets made of grass and rushes. These receptacles were two feet long by one in diameter. They were lined with salmon skin and pounded fish pressed so closely together that the contents of each weighed from ninety to one hundred pounds. Preserved in this way, the salmon remained fresh for years. It was an article of commerce as well as a provision against future want, and the Indians were very chary of parting with it. Ever since reaching the source of the Columbia game had been growing scarcer, but as the explorers neared the falls of the Columbia, in latitude 45 42' 57" the country became more fertile and game more plentiful. Here the Indians built their houses of wood. Lewis was able to perform the office of peacemaker near the falls between a tribe of Indians called the Escheloots and the tribes above, with whom they had been at enmity. This was done through some of the chiefs of the Upper Columbia tribes who had accompanied the expedition thus far. Towards the end of October large numbers of sea otter were observed, though not many of them were killed. Mount Hood was recognized by Captain Lewis and it continued in sight for many days. The Indians below the falls spoke a fully different language from those above. A party met with on the 28th of October displayed a musket, cutlasses, several brass kettles and other articles obtained from the traders. Their chief showed with great pride a medicine bag filled with fingers of his enemies. Shortly after passing the Klikitat River an island was seen which contained an ancient burial-place. This was called by the native's "The Land of the Dead." On the first of November the traveler avoided a long rapid and shoot by making a portage, and soon after reached the tide water in latitude 45 45' 45". Three days later an Indian village containing two hundred people of Skilkoot nation was reached. The houses were built of bark and thatched with straw. The natives were impudent and dishonest. They had had much intercourse with the white traders. One of the canoes met with in this vicinity bore on its prow a full-sized image of a white man and a bear. On the 6th of November it was observed that the Coast Mountains crossed the river. Near the mouth of the Cowlitz some canoe loads of Indians were met. Their leader could speak a few words of English, and informed the explorers that he had traded with a Mr. Haley. The next village was formed of houses built entirely above ground and belonged to a tribe calling themselves Wakkiacum. The dress of the women is thus described: "They wore a robe not reaching lower than the hip, added to this was a sort of petticoat or rather tissue of white cedar bark, bruised or broken into small strands and woven into a girdle by several cords of the same material."

On the 7th of November the billows of the Pacific were seen, and for more than a week the boats endeavored, in spite of rain and wind, to reach the shore of the ocean. This they accomplished on the 18th of November, when they passed Cape Disappointment. Before this they had met two chiefs of the Chinook nation, Concommoly and Chillahlawil. Having made their way across the mouth of the river, they made acquaintance with the Chilts and Clatsops. Clark printed in beautiful characters on a tree the following inscription: "William. Clark. Dec. 3rd, 1805. By land from the United States in 1804 and 1805."

Here Lewis and Clark resolved to winter, and proceeded to build Fort Clatsop, which was finished on the 30th of December. The Indians, who had become familiar and intrusive, were now warned that the gates of the stockade would be closed at dark, and that from that time till morning the white men wished to be alone. Here we will take our leave of the explorers, who spent the third winter of their voluntary exile on the shores of the Pacific they had striven so hard to reach.

This imperfect sketch gives but little idea of the toils and privations of the noble band of brave men who first explored the grand rivers which water so large a part of the territory of the United States. Still less does it do justice to their careful observation and diligent research. When the journals of Lewis and Clark were made public the reader learned the quality of the soil, the nature of the vegetation, the various kinds of wild animals and the characteristics of the many tribes of natives to be met with between the confines of civilization and the Pacific Ocean. By the aid of the maps and the •descriptions of the explorers, the traveler could identify every bend in the river and ascertain the position of every island and mountain range along the route followed by them.


Return to Book Index Page

 

 


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus

Quantcast