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

Ocean to Ocean
From Manitoba to Fort Carlton on the North Saskatchewan


Fine fertile country.—The water question.—Duck shooting.—Salt Lakes.—Camping on the plains.—Fort Ellice.—Qu'appelle Valley.—"Souzie."—The River Assiniboine.—The Buffalo.—Cold nights.—Rich soil.—Lovely Country.—Little Touchwood Hills.—Cause of prairie fires.—A day of rest.—Prairie uplands.—Indian family.—Buffalo skulls.— Desolate tract.—Quill Lake.—Salt water.—Broken prairie.—Round hill.—Prairie fire.—Rich black soil.—Magnificent Panorama.—Break-neck speed.—The South Saskatchewan. — Sweethearts and wives.— Fort Carlton. —Free traders.— The Indians.—Crop raising.

August 5th.—This morning it rained heavily, and delayed us a little; but, by the time we had our morning cup or pannikin of tea, the carts packed, and everything in its place, the weather cleared up. We got away at 5 A.M., and rode sixteen miles before breakfast; reaching "Pine Creek," a favorite camping ground; still following up the course of the Assiniboine, though never coming near enough to get a sight of it, after leaving our first camp from Fort Garry. The next stage was fourteen miles to 'Bog Creek,' and, after dinner, eleven miles more, making forty-one for the day. Instead of the level prairie of the two preceding days, and the black peaty loam, we had an undulating and more wooded country, with soil of sandy loam of varying degrees of richness. Here and there ridges of sand dunes, covered, however, with vegetation, sloped to the south, having originally drifted from the north, probably from the Riding Mountains of which they may be considered the outlying spurs. From the top of any one of these, a magnificent view can be had. At our feet a park-like country stretched far out, studded with young oaks ; vast expanses beyond, extending on the north to the Riding Mountains, and on the south to the Tortoise Mountain on the boundary line; a beautiful country extending hundreds of square miles without a settler, though there is less bad land in the whole of it than there is in the little peninsula of Halifax, or within five or ten miles of any of our eastern cities. This almost entire absence of unproductive land is to us very wonderful. If we except the narrow range of sandhills, there is actually none ; for the soil, even at their base, is a light sandy loam which would yield a good return to the farmer. The soil about these hills is not what is usually termed prairie, and is not equal to prairie. Its flora is not that of the prairie. Both soil and flora are like those of the Rice Lake plains, and the County of Simcoe in Ontario, where excellent wheat crops are raised. The only question, suggestive of a doubt, that came up was the old one of "Is there plenty of water?" The rivers are few; the creeks small. Along their banks there is no difficulty, but what of the intervening ground? We had heard of wells sunk in different places, and good water found from four to fifty feet down. But, yesterday, Grant informed us that a beautiful stretch of prairie, immediately to the west of his location, which had been taken up by a friend of his, had been abandoned because no water could be got. They had sunk wells in three places, one of them to the depth of seventy-five feet, but pierced only hard white clay. Grant believed that this stratum of clay extended over a limited area, and that, under it, water would be tapped if they went deep enough. But the matter is of too great importance to be left to conjecture. Test-wells should be sunk by the Government in different places; and even where there are saline or brackish lakes, or even should the first water tapped prove saline, artesian wells might be tried, so as to get to the fresh water beneath. Till it is certain that good water can be easily had all over the prairie, successful colonization on a large scale cannot be expected. The general belief is that there is water enough everywhere. There is an abundant rain fall, and the water does not form little brooks and run off, but is absorbed by the rich, deep, porous ground. Still the claims of our North-west on the attention of emigrants would be rendered all the stronger, were they assured that the water supply was unfailing everywhere. Up to this time the question has not been started, because much of the land on the river-banks has not yet been taken up. But it would be well to be prepared with an answer.

Nothing could be more exhilarating than our rides across the prairie, especially the morning ones. The weather, since our arrival at Fort Garry, had been delightful, and we knew that we had escaped the sultry heat of July, and were just at the commencement of the two pleasantest months of the year. The nights were so cool that the blanket was welcome, and in the evenings and mornings we could enjoy the hot tea. The air throughout the day was delicious, fresh, flower-scented, healthful, and generally breezy, so that neither horse nor rider was warm after a fifteen or twenty miles' ride. We ceased to wonder that we had not heard of a case of sickness in one of the settlers' families. Each day was like a new pic-nic. Even the short, terrific, thunder storm of the day before yesterday had been enjoyed because of its grandeur. Grant told us that it was the heaviest he had ever seen in the country, and that we had felt its full force. Three miles away there had been no hail.

August 6th.—Up before four A.M., but were delayed some time by the difficulty of lassoing the horses that were wanted. The Doctor had, meanwhile, some shooting round the little lake by which we had camped ; and getting some more on the way, Terry, the cook, was enabled to serve up plover, duck and pigeons, with rice curry for breakfast. Our morning's ride was sixteen miles, and brought us to the Little Saskatchewan,—a swift-flowing pebbly-bottomed stream, running south into the Assiniboine. Its valley was about two miles wide and two hundred and fifty feet deep. All the rivers of the North-west have this peculiarity of wide valleys, and it constitutes a serious difficulty in the way of railroad making; they must be crossed, but regular bridging on so gigantic a scale is out of the question. The hill sides sloping down into the valley or intervale of the river are green and rounded, with clumps of trees, most of them fire-scorched, in the depressions.

We hailed the sight of this flowing stream with peculiar delight; for it was the first thing that looked, to our eyes, like a river in all the hundred and twenty miles since leaving the Assiniboine. The creeks crossed on the way were sluggish and had little water in them, and most of the swamps and lakelets were dried up, and their bottom covered with rank coarse grass, instead of the water that fills them in the spring. This morning, however, we passed by several pretty-well-filled lakes,— plover and snipe about most of them—on the "height of land," from which the ground slopes toward the Little Saskatchewan.

Our second stage for the day was only eleven miles; but the next was fourteen, and we drove or rode along the winding road at a rattling pace, reaching our camping ground, at Salt Lake, an hour before sunset. This lake is bitter or brackish, but, on the opposite side of the road, there is good water; and, although the mosquitoes gave us a little trouble, here we fared well—as at all our camps. This was the first saline lake we had seen, but farther north on the way to Edmonton, there are many such; and grievous has been the disappointment of weary travellers, on drawing near to one of them and preparing to camp. The causes are probably local, for good water is found near, and, all around, the grass is as luxuriant as elsewhere. A white crust forms on the dried up part of the bottom and the shores are covered with marine plants, chiefly reddish-colored, thick, succulent samphire and sea-blite growing together and extending over several acres of ground. The salt in these lakes is sulphate of soda.

A bathe in the little Saskatchewan before breakfast was our first good wash for two or three days, and we enjoyed it proportionately. Our horses did their forty-one miles to-day, seemingly with greater ease than they had any previous day's work. Most of them are of pure native breed; some of them—the largest— have been crossed with Canadian, and the swiftest with Yankee breeds. In all our pack there are only two or three bad horses; none of them looked well at first, but, though small and common looking, they are so patient, hardy and companionable, that it is impossible for their riders to avoid becoming attached to them. Hardly two of the saddles provided for our party were alike. There was choice of English, American, and Mexican military,—the first kind being the general favorite.

August 7th.—Made a good day's journey of forty-five miles, from the Salt Lake to the junction of the Qu'Appelle and Assiniboine rivers. The first stage was ten miles, to the "Shoal Lake"—a large and beautiful sheet of water with a pebbly or sandy beach—a capital place for a halt or for camping. The great requirements of such spots are wood, water, and feed for the horses ; the traveller has to make his stages square with the absence or presence of those essentials. If he can get a hilly spot where there are few mosquitoes, and a sheet of water large enough to bathe in, and a resort of game, so much the better. Arrived at the ground, the grassiest and most level spots, gently sloping, if possible, that the head may be higher than the feet, are selected. The tents are pitched over these, one tent being allotted to two persons, when comfort is desirable, though sometimes a dozen crowd inside of one. A waterproof is spread on the ground, and, over that, a blanket. Each man has another blanket to pull over him, and he may be sound asleep ten minutes after arriving at the ground, if he has not to cook or wait for his supper. The horses need very little attention; the harness is taken off and they are turned loose—the leaders or most turbulent ones being hobbled, i. e., their fore feet are fettered with intertwined folds of shaganappi or raw buffalo hide, so that they can only move about by a succession of short jumps. Hobbling is the western substitute for tethering. They find out, or are driven to, the water, and, immediately after, begin grazing around ; next morning they are ready for the road. A morning's swim and wash in Shoal Lake was a great luxury, and the Doctor had some good shooting at ducks, loons, yellowlegs, and snipe.

Our second stage was twenty-one miles to "Bird's Tail Creek," a pretty little running stream, with valley nearly as wide, and banks as high, as the Little Saskatchewan. It is wonderful to see the immense breadth of valley that insignificant creeks, in land where they have not to cut their way through rocks, have eroded in the course of ages.

At this creek, we were only twelve miles distant from Fort Ellice. The true distance from Fort Garry, as measured by our odometer being two hundred and fifteen miles, and not two hundred and thirty-one, as stated on Palliser's map and by Captain Butler in his book. As our course lay to the north of Fort Ellice, the Chief and two of the party went on ahead to get provisions and half a dozen Government horses that had been left to winter there, and to attend to some business, while the rest followed the direct trail and struck the edge of the plateau overlooking the Assiniboine,—which was running south —just where the Qu'Appelle joined it from the west. The view from this point is magnificent; between two and three hundred feet below, extending far south and then winding to the east, was the valley of the Assiniboine,—at least two miles wide.

Opposite us, the Qu'Appelle joined it, and both ran so slowly, that the united river meandered through the intervale, as circuitously as the links of the Forth, cutting necks and promontories of land that seemed, and were, almost islands, some of them soft and grassy, and others covered with willows or timber. The broad open valley of the Qu'Appelle stretched along to the west, making a grand break in what would otherwise have been an unbroken plateau of prairie. Three miles to the south of this valley, and therefore opposite us but farther down, two or three small white buildings on the edge of the plateau were pointed out as Fort Ellice. To the north of the Qu'Appelle, the sun was dipping behind woods far away on the edge of the horizon, and throwing a mellow light on the vast expanse which spread around in every direction.

We descended to the intervale by a much-winding path, and moved on north a little to the "crossing" three miles above the Fort, and immediately above where the Qu'Appelle flows into the main river. Scarcely had the tents been pitched and the fires lighted, when the Chief appeared bringing supplies of flour, pemmican, dried meat, salt, etc., from Fort Ellice. He reported that there were several parties of Indians about the Fort, who had emigrated two or three years ago from the United States, anxious to settle in British territory. One of them, from Ohio, spoke good English, and from him he gained the information about them.

The first portion of the journey from Fort Garry is considered to extend to Fort Ellice, and we had accomplished it in less than six days. The last stage had been over the worst road—a road winding between broad hill-sides strewn with granite boulders, and lacking only brawling streams and foaming fells to make it like Moffatdale, and many another similar dale in the south of Scotland. But here there never had been bold moss troopers, and there were no "Tales of the Borders." Crees, and Sioux and Ojibbeways may have gone in the war path against each other, and have hunted the buffalo over the plains to the west, but there has been no Walter Scott or even Wilson to gather up and record their legends, and hand down the fame of their braves. And there are no sheep grazing on those rich hill-sides, and there was neither wigwam, steading, nor shieling on the last hundred and sixty miles of road. Silence reigned everywhere, broken only by the harsh cry of wild fowl rising from lakelets, [or the grouse-like whirr of the prairie hen on its short flight. We had seen but a small part, and that by no means the best of the land. The trail follows along the ridges, where there is a probability of its being dry for most of the year, as it was not part of its object to shew the fertility of the country or its suitableness for settlers. But we had seen enough to show that, even east of Fort Ellice, there is room for a large population. Those great breadths of unoccupied land are calling 'come, plough, sow, and reap us.' The rich grass is destroyed by the autumn fires, which a spark kindles, and which destroy also the wood, which formerly was of larger size and much more abundant than now. This destruction of wood seriously affects the water supply. Lakes that once had water all the year round are now dry, except in the spring time. But, when settlers come in, all this shall be changed. The grass will be cut at the proper time, and stacked for the cattle, and then there shall not be the wide spreading dried fuel to feed the fires, and give them ever increasing force. Fields of ploughed land, interspersed here and there, shall set bounds to the flames, and tourists and travellers will be less likely to leave their camp-fires burning, when they know that there are settlers near, whose property would be endangered, and who therefore would not tolerate criminal carelessness on the part of strangers.

8th August.—Being in the neighbourhood of a fort, and having to re-arrange luggage and look after the new horses, we did not get away till nine o'clock. An hour before, greatly to the surprise of Emilien,—for he had calculated on keeping in advance the twenty-two miles he had gained on Sunday,—and greatly to our delight, Mr. McDougal drove up and rejoined us with his man "Souzie." Souzie had never been east before, and the glories of Winnepeg had fairly dazzled him. He was going home heavy-laden with wonderful stories of all he had seen ;— the crowd hearing Mr. Punshon preach and the collection taken up at the close, the review of the battalion of militia, the splendour of the village stores, the Red River steamboat, the quantities of rum, were all amazing. When the plate came round at the church Souzie rejoiced, and was going to help himself, but, noticing his neighbors put money in, he was so puzzled that he let it pass. He chuckled for many a day at the simplicity of the Winnepeggers:—"Who ever before saw a plate handed round except to take something from it?" The review excited his highest admiration:—"Wah, wah! wonderful! I have seen a hundred men turned into one!"

Our first work this morning was to cross the Assiniboine. The ford was only three feet deep, but the bottom was of shifting sand, so that it did not do to let the horses stand still while crossing. The bank on the west side is bold, and the sand so deep, that it is a heavy pull up to the top. After ascending, we moved west for the first few miles along the north bank of the Qu'Appelle. The Botanist went down to the intervale and sand-hills near the stream, to inspect the flora, and was rewarded by finding half-a-dozen new species. We soon turned in a more northerly direction, though, had there been a fortnight to spare, some of us would have liked to have gone a hundred miles up the Qu'Appelle, where, we had been told yesterday by a Scotch half-breed, called Mackay, that the buffalo were in swarms. Mackay was on his way back to Fort Garry with the spoils of his hunt. He had left home with his wife and seven children and six carts, late in May, joined a party at Fort Ellice and gone up to the high plains, where the source of the Qu'Appelle is, near the elbow of the South Saskatchewan, and obtained his food for the year in the way most pleasing to a half-breed. They had all lived sumptuously while near the buffalo, and when they had dried enough meat to fill their carts, at the rate of ten buffalos to a cart, they parted company; and he and his wife, with the meat and skins, turned homewards, to do little for the rest of the year, but enjoy themselves. This is all very well when the buffalo are plenty ; but as they get scarcer or move farther away, what is to be done? A man cannot be both a hunter and a farmer; and, therefore, as the buffalo go west, so will the half-breeds.

But, fascinating as a buffalo-hunt seemed, described in all the glowing language and gesticulations of a successful hunter, the time could not be spared, and so we jogged along our road, hoping that we might fall in with the lord of the prairies as far north as Carlton or Fort Pitt.

The first part of the day's ride, like the last part of the previous day's, was over the poorest ground we had seen—light and sandy—and yet the grass nowhere presented the dried up, crisp, brownish look that is so often seen in the eastern provinces at this time of the year. Still the land about Fort Ellice is not to be recommended, especially when there is so much of the very best waiting to be cultivated.

Nine miles from the Assiniboine, we breakfasted beside a spring in the marsh where the water is good, but where a barrel or some such thing, sunk in the ground, would be desirable. This is every traveller's business, and, therefore, is not done. We are now in "No man's Land;"—where the Governor of Manitoba has a nominal jurisdiction, but where there are no taxes and no laws ; where every man does what is right in his own eyes, and prays that the great Manitou would prosper him in his horse, stealing or scalping expeditions.

Our next stage was twenty-two miles to "Broken Arm River" —a pretty little stream with the usual deep and broad valley. The soil improved as we travelled west. The grass was richer, and much of the flora that had disappeared for the previous twenty miles began to show again. On the banks of the river there was time before tea to indulge in a great feast of raspberries, as we camped early in the evening, after having travelled only thirty-one miles. The Botanist had found exactly that number of new species,—the largest number by far on any one day since leaving Fort Garry. The explanation is, that he had the valleys of two rivers and several varieties of soil to botanize over.

August 9th.—Last night the thermometer fell to 34°, and we all suffered from the cold, not being prepared for such a sudden change. There was heavy dew, as there always is on prairies, and at four o'clock, when we came out of the tents, shivering a little, the cold wet grass was comfortless enough; but a warm cup of tea around the camp fire put all right. We were on horseback before sunrise, and a trot of thirteen miles, over a beautiful and somewhat broken country, fitted us for breakfast. Mr. McDougal told us that in the elevated part of the country in which we were, extending north-west from Fort Ellice, light frosts were not unusual in July or August. They are not so heavy as seriously to injure grain crops; but still they must be regarded as an unpleasant feature in this section of the country. The general destruction of the trees by fires makes a recurrence of these frosts only too likely, till some action is taken to stop the real fountain of all the evils. If there were forests, there would be a greater rainfall, less heavy dews, and probably no frosts. But it will be little use for the government to issue proclamations in reference to the extinguishing of camp-fires, until there are settlers here and there, who will see to their observance for their own interest. Settlers will plant trees, or give a chance of growing to those that sow themselves, cut the grass, and prevent the spread of fires. But settlers will not come, till there is a railroad to bring them in.

Our second stage for the day was sixteen miles over an excellent road and through a country that evoked spontaneous bursts of admiration from every one. The prairie was more than rolling, it was undulating; broken into natural fields by the rounded hillocks and ridges crowned with clumps of aspens —too often, alas ! fire-scathed. In the hollows grew tall, rich, grass which would never be mowed; everywhere else, even on the sandy ridges, was excellent pasture.

We met a half-breed travelling, with dried meat and buffalo, skins, to Fort Garry, in his wooden cart covered with a cotton roof, and he informed us that men were hunting, two days' journey ahead, about the Touchwood Hills. This excited our men to the highest pitch, for the buffalo have not come on this route for many years, and eager hopes were exchanged that we might see and get a shot at them. Wonderful stories were told of the buffalo-hunts in former days, and men, hitherto taciturn, perhaps because they knew little English (more, however, than we knew of French or Indian, which they all spoke fluently) began explaining volubly—eking out their meaning with expressive gesticulation,—the nature of a buffalo hunt. Fine fellows all our half-breeds were as far as riding, hunting, camping, dancing and such like were concerned; though they would have made but poor farm-servants. Two of them had belonged to Riel's body-guard in the days of his little rebellion. The youngest was Willie, a boy of sixteen, who rode and lassoed, and raged, and stormed, and swore on the slightest provocation, better than any of them. He looked part of the horse when on his back, and never shirked the roughest work. We were horrified at his ready profanity however, and the Doctor rowed him up about it; but, though they all liked the Doctor, for he had physicked two or three of them successfully, and had even bound up the sore leg of one of the horses better than they could, the jawing had no effect. The Secretary then tried his hand. Finding that Willie believed in his father, an adventurous daring Scot, who had married a squaw, he accosted him one day when none of the others were near, with, "Willie, would you like to hear me yelling out your father's name, with shameful words among strangers?" He looked up with a half-puzzled, half-defiant air, and shook his head. "Well, how can I like to hear you shouting out bad language about my best friend?" A few more words "on that line" and Willie was 'converted.' We heard no more oaths from him except the mild ones, "By George,"by jing," or "by Golly," and in many an ingenious way thereafter he showed a sneaking fondness for the Secretary.

We rested to-day for dinner on a hillock beside two deep pools of water, and the Doctor made us some capital soup from preserved tomatoes and mutton. Ten or eleven miles from our dining table brought us to the end of this section of wooded country, where we had intended to camp for the night, but the ponds were empty and no halt could be made. We therefore pushed on across a vast treeless plain, twenty miles wide, with the knowledge that if there was no water in a marsh beside a solitary tree four miles ahead, we would have to go off the road for five miles to get some, and, as the sun was setting, the prospect for the first time looked a little gloomy. Making rapidly for the lonely tree, enough water for ourselves and horses was found, and with hurrahs from the united party, the tents were pitched. Forty-two and a half miles, the odometer shewed to be our day's travel.

August 10th.—The night of the 8th having been so cold, we divided out more blankets the following evening by dispensing with one tent, and sleeping three, instead of two, in each. The precaution turned out to be unnecessary, though we kept it up afterwards for the nights were always cool. This feature of cool nights after hot days is an agreeable surprise to those who know how different it is in inland countries, or wherever there is no sea breeze. It is one of the causes of the healthy appearance of the new settlers even in the summer months. In the hottest season of the year the nights are cool on these prairies and the dews abundant, except when the sky is covered with clouds, and then there is usually rain. No wonder that the grass keeps green when elsewhere it is dry and grey.

Our morning's ride was across sixteen miles of the great plain, four miles from the easterly edge of which we had camped. The Secretary walked the distance, and got into the breakfast-place ten minutes after the mounted party. A morning's walk or ride across such an open has a wonderfully exhilarating effect. The air is so pure that it acts as a perpetual gentle stimulant, and so bracing that little fatigue is felt, even after unusual exertion; seldom is a hair turned on either horse or man.

The plain was not an unbroken expanse but a succession of very shallow basins, enclosed in one large basin, itself shallow, from the run of which you could look across the whole, whereas, at the bottom of one of the smaller basins, the horizon was exceedingly limited. No sound broke the stillness except the chirp of the gopher, or prairie squirrel, running to his hole in the ground. The character of the soil every few yards could be seen from the fresh earth, that the moles had scarcely finished throwing up. It varied from the richest of black peaty loam, crumbled as if it had been worked by a gardener's hand for his pots, to a very light sandy soil. The ridges of the basins were often gravelly. Everywhere the pasturage was excellent, though it was tall enough for hay only in the depressions or marshy spots.

Our two next stages carried us over twenty-five miles of a lovely country, known as the Little Touchwood Hills; aspens were grouped on gentle slopes, or so thrown in at the right points of valley and plain, as to convey the idea of distance and every other effect that a landscape gardener could desire. Lakelets and pools, fringed with willows, glistened out at almost every turn of the road—though many of them were saline. Only the manorhouses and some gently-flowing streams were wanting, to make out a resemblance to the most beautiful parts of England. For generations, all this boundless extent of beauty and wealth had been here, owned by England ; and yet statesmen had been puzzling their heads over the "Condition of England's Poor, the Irish Famine, the Land and Labor Questions," without once turning their eyes to a land that offered a practical solution to them all. And the beauty in former years had been still greater, for, though the fires have somehow been kept oft this district for a few years, it is not very long since both hardwood and evergreens as well as willows and aspens, grew all over it; and then, at every season of the year, it must have been beautiful. It is only of late years that fires have been frequent; and they are so disastrous to the whole of our North-west that energetic action should be taken to prevent them. Formerly, when the Hudson's Bay Company was the only power in this "Great Lone Land," it was alive to the necessity of this, and very successful in impressing its views on the Indians as well as on its own servants. Each of its travelling parties carried a spade with which the piece of ground on which the fire was to be made was dug up, and as the party moved off, earth thrown on the embers extinguished them. But since miners, traders, tourists and others have entered the country, there has been a very different state of affairs. Some of the spring traders set fire to the grass round their camps, that it may grow up the better and be fresh on their return in autumn. The destruction of forests, the drying up of pools, and the extermination of game by roasting the spring eggs, are all nothing compared to a little selfish advantage. And the Indians and the Hudson's Bay parties seeing this, have become nearly as reckless.

This afternoon we had some idea of the lovely aspect that this country would soon assume, if protected from the fire-demon. The trees grow up with great rapidity; in five or six years the aspens are thick enough for fencing purposes. There was good sport near the lake, and clumps of trees, and Frank shot prairie-hen, partridge and teal, for dinner and next day's breakfast. As he was confined to the roadside, and had no dog, he had but indifferent chances for a good bag. We had to push on to do our forty-one miles, and could not wait for sportsmen. At sunset the camp was selected, by a pond in the middle of a plain, away from the bush so as to avoid mosquitoes; and as Emilien was tired enough by this time, he agreed readily to the proposal to rest on the following day.

August 11th.—Breakfast at 9 a. m., having allowed ourselves the luxury of a long sleep on the "Day of Rest." The water beside our camp was hard and brackish, scarcely drinkable in fact, and not good even to wash with. It gave an unpleasant taste to the tea, and even a dash of spirits did not neutralize its brackishness. Here again the necessity of finding out the real state of the water-supply to this country, was forced on our attention. Even if the pools do not all dry up, the water in them at this time of the year is only what is left of melted snow and the spring and summer rains, tainted with decayed vegetable matter, and filled with animalculae. The question must be satisfactorily settled; for men must have pure water and plenty of it.

This was a grand day for horses and men. Most of the latter rose early and had their breakfasts and then went to sleep again; others did not rise from under the carts and shake themselves out of their buffalo blankets, till after ten o'clock. At 11.15 all assembled for service—Roman Catholics, Methodists, Episcopalians and Presbyterians. The Secretary sat on a box in front of the tents, with Frank by his side holding an umbrella over both heads, as the sun shone fiercely. The congregation, thirteen in number, sat in the doors, or shade of the tents. Mr. McDougal led the responses, and all joined in devoutly. After the service had been read and hymns sung, a short sermon was preached.

The advantages of resting on the Lord's Day, on such expeditions as this, and also of uniting in some common form of worship, are very manifest. The physical rest is needed by man and beast. All through the week there has been a rush; the camp begins to be astir at three in the morning, and from that hour till nine or ten at night, there is constant high pressure. At the halting places, meals have to be cooked, baggage arranged and re-arranged, horses looked to, harness mended, clothes washed or dried, and everything kept clean and trim; rest is therefore impossible. From four to six hours of sleep are all that can be snatched. The excitement keeps a mere tourist up, so that on Saturday night he feels quite able to go ahead, but if he insists on pushing on, the strain soon becomes too much, and he loses all the benefit to his health that he had gained: and to the men there is none of the excitement of novelty, and they therefore need the periodic rest all the more.

But the great advantages of the day, to such a party, are lost if each man is left the whole time to look after himself,—as if there was no common bond of union,—to sleep, to gamble, to ramble, to shoot, to snare gophers, to read or write, and eat. Let the head of the party ask them to meet for common-prayer or some simple service, let it be ever so short; all will come if they believe that they are welcome. The singing of a hymn will bring them round the tent or hillock where the service is held ; and the kneeling together, the alternate reading, a few earnest kindly words, will do more than anything else to awaken old remembrances, to stir the better nature of all, to heal up little bitternesses, and give each that sentiment or common brotherhood that cements into one the whole party.

The large body of Canadians that preceded Milton and Cheadle in their journey across these same plains ten years ago, would hardly have held together, had it not been for their observance of the Sunday rest. In an account of their arduous expedition by this route to the Cariboo gold mines, one of themselves gives the following earnestly-worded testimony:— "The fatigues of the journey were now beginning to have an injurious effect upon our animals, as well as upon the tempers and dispositions of the men, and especially towards the end of the week were these effects more apparent, when frequent disagreements and petty disputes or quarrels of a more serious kind would take place, when each was ready to contradict the other, and, at the slightest occasion or without any occasion, to take offence. But to-morrow would be the Sabbath; and no wonder that its approach should be regarded with pleasurable anticipations, as furnishing an opportunity for restoring the exhausted energies of both man and beast, for smoothing down the asperities of our natures, and by allowing us time for reflection, for regaining a just opinion of our duties towards one another ; and the vigor with which our journey would be prosecuted, and the cordiality and good feeling that characterized our intercourse after our accustomed rest on the first day of the week, are sufficient evidence to us that the law of the Sabbath is of physical as well as moral obligation, and that its precepts cannot be violated with impunity. We certainly have had much reason gratefully to adore that infinite wisdom and goodness that provided for us such a rest."—All which we endorse as the utterances of sound common sense.

Our Sunday dinner was a good one. Terry had time and did his best. Soup made from canned tomatoes and canned meat gladdened our hearts. The Chief gave a little whiskey to the men, to take the bad taste from the water and kill the animalculae; and Emilien took as kindly to resting as if he had never travelled on Sundays in his life.

The afternoon was sultry and thundery. Heavy showers, we could see, were falling ahead and all around, but, although the clouds threatened serious things, we got only a sprinkling, and the evening cleared up with a glorious sunset.

After tea, Mr. McDougal led our "family worship." We did not ask the men to come, but the sound of the hymn brought them round, and they joined in the short service with devoutness, Willie, who had done a good day's work in snaring fat gophers, being particularly attentive. They were all thankful for the rest of the day.

August 12th.—"The 12th" found us up early, as if near a highland moor, and away from camp a few minutes after sunrise. Another delightful day; sunny and breezy. First stage, thirteen miles; the second, sixteen, and the third, fourteen miles, or forty-three for the day; every mile across a country of unequalled beauty and fertility ; of swelling uplands enclosing in their hollows lakelets, the homes of snipe, plover and duck, fringed with tall reeds, and surrounded with a belt of soft woods; long reaches of rich lowlands, with hillsides spreading gently away from them, on which we were always imagining the houses of the owners; avenues of whispering trees through which we rode on, without ever coming to lodge or gate.

Our first "spell" [The term "spell" is commonly used, all over the plains, to indicate the length of journey between meals or stopping-places; the latter are sometimes called spelling-places, by half-breeds and others.] was through the most beautiful country, beautiful simply because longest spared by fire. Many of the aspens were from one to two feet in diameter. Most of the water was fresh, but probably not very healthy, for the lakes or ponds were shallow, and the water tainted by the annual deposition of an enormous quantity of decomposed organic matter. In summer when the water is low, it is difficult to get at it, because of the depth of the mire. When the buffalo ranged through this country and came to ponds to drink, they often sank so deep in the mud that they were unable to extricate themselves, especially if the foremost were driven on by those behind, or the hunters were pressing them. The harder the poor beasts struggled, the deeper they sank; till, resigning themselves to the inevitable, they have been known to disappear from sight and be trampled over by others of the herd. The old deeply indented trails of the herd, in the direction of the saline lakes, are still visible. They used to lick greedily the saline incrustations round the border, as they do still when near such lakes, Like domestic cattle, they instinctively understand the medicinal value of salt. From this point of view, it is doubtful if the saline lakes will prove a serious disadvantage to the stock-raising farmer. In British Columbia and on the Pacific Coast generally, such lakes are found, and the cattle that are accustomed to the water. receive no injury from drinking it.

On our way to dinner, two large white cranes rose swan-like from a wet marsh near the road. Frank with his gun and Willie with a stone made after them. The larger of the two flew high, but Willie's stone brought down the other. As he was seizing it, the big one, evidently the mother, attacked him, but, seeing the gun coming, flew up in time to save herself. The young one was a beautiful bird, the extended wings measuring over six feet from tip to tip. As soon as Willie had killed his game, he rode off in triumph with it slung across his shoulders. In twenty minutes after his arrival at camp, he and his mates had plucked, cooked, and disposed of it, all uniting in pronouncing the meat delicate and 'first-class.'

After dinner a good chance of killing a brown" bear was lost. At a turn of the road he was surprised on a hillock, not twenty yards distant from the buckboard that led our cavalcade. Had the horsemen and guns been in front as usual, he could have been shot at once; but, before they came up, he was off, at a shambling but rapid gait among the thickets, and there was not time to give chase. This was a disappointment, for all of us would have relished a bear-steak.

The low line of the Touchwood Hills had been visible in the forenoon; and, for the rest of the day's journey, we first skirted them in a north-westerly direction, and then, turning directly west, we gained their height by a road so winding and an ascent so easy, that there was no point at which we could look back and get an extended view of the ground travelled in the course of the afternoon. It is almost inaccurate to call this section of country by the name of "Hills," little or big. It is simply a series of prairie uplands, from fifty to eighty miles wide, that swell up in beautiful undulations from the level prairies on each side. They have no decided summits from which the ascent and the plain beyond can be seen; but everywhere are grassy or wooded, rounded knolls, enclosing natural fields or farms, with small ponds in the windings and larger ones in the lowest hollows. The land everywhere is of the richest loam. Every acre that we saw might be ploughed. Though not as well suited for steam ploughs as the open prairie, in many respects this section is better adapted for farming purposes, being well wooded, well watered, and with excellent and natural drainage, not to speak of its wonderful beauty. All that it lacks is a murmuring brook or brawling burn; but there is not one, partly because the trail is along the watershed. On a parallel road farther north that passes by Quill Lake, Mr. McDougal says that there are running streams, and that the country is, of course, all the more beautiful.

Our camp for the night was beside two lakelets near forks where the road divides, one going northerly from our course to the old Touchwood trading-post, fifteen miles distant.

So passed 'the 12th' with us. If we had not sweet-scented heather and Scotch grouse, we had duck and plover and prairie hen ; and, beside the cheery camp-fires under a cloudless star-lit-sky, we enjoyed our feast as heartily as any band of gypsies or sportsmen on the moors.

August 13th.—Heavy rain this morning which ceased at sunrise. Got off an hour after, and descended, in our first stage of fourteen and a half miles, the western side of the Touchwood Hills. This side is very much like the other; the descent to us was so imperceptible that nowhere could we see far ahead or feel certain that we were descending, until the most western upland was reached, and then, beneath and far before us, stretched a seemingly endless sea of level prairie, a mist on the horizon giving it still more the look of a sea. Early in the morning we came upon two buffalo-tents by the roadside. In these were the first Indians we had fallen in with since meeting the Sioux at Rat Creek, with the exception of two or three tents at "the crossing" of the Assiniboine. They were two families of Bungys, (a section of the Salteaux or Ojibbeway tribe) who had been hunting buffalo on the prairie to the south-west of us.. They had a good many skins on their carts, and the women were engaged at the door of a tent chopping up the fat and meat to make pemmican. Marchaud, our guide, at once struck "a trade" with them, a few handfuls of tea for several pieces of dried buffalo meat. The men seemed willing that he should take as much as he liked, but the oldest squaw haggled pertinaciously over each piece, and chuckled and grinned horribly when she succeeded in snatching away from him the last piece he was carrying off. She was the only ugly being in their camp. The men had straight delicate features, with little appearance of manly strength in their limbs; hair nicely trimmed and plaited. Two or three young girls were decidedly pretty, and so were the little pappooses. The whole party would have been taken for good looking gypsies in England.

The road on this stage was the worst we had travelled over; so full of ruts and boulders that the axle of one of the carts snapped, and as there was not time to make another, the cart had to be abandoned by the road-side till Emilien's return from Carlton. It was a marvel how well those Red River carts stood out all the jolting they got. When any part broke before, a thong of Shaganappi had united the pieces. Shaganappi in this part of the world does all that leather, cloth, rope, nails, glue, straps, cord, tape, and a number of other articles are used for elsewhere. Without it the Red River cart, which is simply a clumsy looking, but really light, box cart with wheels six or seven feet in diameter, and not a bit of iron about the whole concern, would be an impossibility. These high wheeled carts cross the miry creeks, borne up by the grass roots, when ordinary waggons would sink to the hubs.

After breakfast we entered on a vast plain that stretched out on every side, but the one we had left, to the horizon. This had once been a favourite resort of the buffalo, and we passed in the course of the day more than a score of skulls that were bleaching on the prairie. All the other bones had been of course chopped and boiled by the Indian women for the oil in them. The Chief picked up two or three of the best skulls to send as specimens to Ottawa. Great was "Souzie's" amazement at such an act He had been amused at the Botanist gathering flowers and grasses; but the idea of a great O-ghe-ma coming hundreds of miles, to carry home bones without any marrow in them, was inexplicable. He went up to Frank and explained by gestures that they were quite useless, and urged him to throw them out of the buckboard, and when Frank shook his head he appealed to Mr. McDougal to argue with us. All his efforts failing, he gave it up; but whenever his eyes caught sight of the skulls it was too much for even Indian gravity, and off he would go into fits of laughing at the folly of the white men.

Our second "spell" was nineteen, and the third, nine miles across this treeless desolate-looking prairie. Towards evening the country became slightly broken and wooded, but we had to camp on a spot where there was not enough wood to make the fires for the night. Knowing this, Marchaud passed the word to the men on horseback, two or three miles before arriving at the camp. They dashed into a thicket, pitched some small dead dry wood into the carts, and then each throwing an uprooted tree from fifteen to twenty-five feet long, and four to six inches in diameter across his shoulders or on the pommel of his saddle, cantered off with it, Sancho Panza like, as easily as if it was only a long whip. They had done this several times before, Willie generally picking out the biggest tree to carry, and, no matter how unwieldy the load, they rode their horses firmly and gracefully as ever.

The prairie crossed to-day extends north-easterly to Quill Lake, the largest of the salt lakes. Just on that account, and because all the ponds on it are saline, clearly shown, even where dried up, by the reddish samphire or white incrustations about the edges, one or two test wells should be sunk here; for if good water is found on this plain, it will likely be found everywhere.

To-day we had two opportunities of sending to Red River letters or telegrams for home, and—lest one should fail—availed ourselves of both. Tying our packets with red tape, to give them an official look and thus impress Posty with due care, and sealing the commission with a plug of tobacco, we trusted our venture with the comfortable feeling that we had re-established our communications with the outer world.

[It is only fair to mention that both messengers, one of them a French, the other a Scotch half-breed and parishioner of Mr. McDougal's, proved trusty. Every letter or telegram we sent from the plains reached home sooner than we had counted on.]

All day our men had been on the outlook for buffalo but without result. Marchaud rode in advance, gun slung across his shoulders, but although he scanned every corner of the horizon eagerly, and galloped ahead or on either side to any overhanging lip of the plateau, no herd or solitary bull came within his view. They were not far off, for fresh tracks were seen, few in comparison to the tracks of former times, indented in the ground like old furrows and running in parallel lines to the salt lakes, as if in those days the whole prairie had been covered with wood, and the beasts had made their way through in long files of thousands.

August 14th.—The thermometer fell below freezing point last night, but the additional allowance of blankets kept us warm enough. At sunrise there was a slight skiff of ice on some water in a bucket; and, in the course of the morning's ride, we noticed some of the leaves of the more tender plants withered, but whether from the frost, or blight, or natural decay—they having reached maturity,—we could not determine.

The sun rose clear, and the day like its predecessors was warm and bracing, the perfection of weather for travelling. We had hitherto been on "the height of land" that divides the streams running into the Assiniboine from those that run into the Qu' Appelle, and this, in part, accounts for the absence of creeks near our road. To-day we got to a still higher elevation, the watershed of the South Saskatchewan, and found, in consequence, that the grass and flowers were in an advanced stage as compared with those farther east. The grass was grey and ripe, and flowers, that were in bloom not far away, were seeding here. The general upward slope of the plains between Red River and Lake Winnepeg, and the Rocky Mountains, is towards the west. The elevation at Fort Garry is 700 feet, at Fort Edmonton 2088 feet, and at the base of the Mountain Chain 3000 feet above the sea. This rise of 2,300 feet is spread over a thousand miles, but Captain Palliser marked three distinct steppes in this great plain. The first springs from the southern shore of the Lake of the Woods, and, trending to the south-west, crosses the Red River well south of the boundary line; thence it runs irregularly, in a north-westerly direction, by the Riding Mountains toward Swan River, and thence to the Saskatchewan—where the north and south branches unite. The average altitude of the easterly steppe is from 800 to 900 feet above the sea level. The second or middle steppe, on which we now are, extends west to the elbow of the South Saskatchewan, and thence northwards to the Eagle Hills, west of Fort Carlton. Its mean altitude is 1600 feet. The third prairie steppe extends to the mountains. Each of these steppes, says Palliser, is marked by important changes in the composition of the soil, and consequently in the character of the vegetation.

Our first "spell" to-day was fifteen, and our second, twenty miles, to "the Round Hill," over rolling or slightly broken prairie; the loam was not so rich as usual and had a sandy subsoil. Ridges and hillocks of gravel intersected or broke the general level, so that, should the railway come in this direction, abundant material for ballasting can be promised.

The prairie to-day had an upward slope till about one o'clock, when it terminated in a range of grassy round hills. For the next hour's travelling the road wound through these; a succession of knolls enclosing cup-like basins, which in the heart of the range contained water, either fresh or saline. Wood also began to re-appear; and, when we halted for dinner, at the height of the range, the beauty that wood, water, and bold hill-sides give were blended in one spot. We were certainly three or four hundred feet above the prairie ; the scenery round us was bolder than is to be found in any part of Ontario, and resembled that of the Pentlands, near Edinburgh. It is well to mention this, because of the exaggerated ideas that some people have when a country is spoken of. The hill at the foot of which we camped rose abruptly from the rest, like the site of an ancient fortalice. Horetski described it as a New Zealand pah; one hill, like a wall, enclosing another in its centre, and a deep precipitous valley, that would have served admirably as a moat, filled with thick wood and underbrush, between the two. Climbing to the summit of the central hill, we found ourselves in the middle of a circle, thirty to forty miles in diameter, enclosing about a thousand square miles of beautiful country. North and east it was undulating, studded with aspen groves and shining with lakes. To the south and west was a level prairie, with a sky line of hills to the south-west. To the north-west—our direction—a prairie fire, kindled probably by embers that had been left carelessly behind at a camp, partly hid the view. Masses of fiery smoke rose from the burning grass and willows, and if there had been a strong wind, or the grass less green and damp, the beauty of much of the fair scene we were gazing on would soon have vanished, and a vast blackened surface alone been left.

It was nearly 4 P.M. before we left "the Round Hill:" and then we passed between the remaining hills of the range, and gradually descended to the more level prairie beyond, through a beautiful, boldly irregular country, with more open expanses than the Touchwood Hills showed, and more beautiful pools, though the wood was not so artistically grouped. Passing near the fire, which was blazing fiercely along a line of a quarter of a mile, we saw that it had commenced from a camping ground near the roadside. Heavy clouds were gathering that would soon extinguish the flames. As there was the appearance of a terrific thunder storm, we hurried to a sheltered spot seven or eight miles from Round Hill, and camped before sunset, just as heavy drops commenced to fall. The speed with which our arrangements for the night were made astonished ourselves. Every one did what he could ; and in five minutes the horses were unharnessed, the tents pitched, the saddles and all perishable articles covered with waterproofs; but, while exchanging congratulations, the dense black clouds drove on to the south, and, though the sky was a-flame with lightning, the rain scarcely touched us.

August 15th.—Early in the morning rain pattered on our tents, but before day-light it had all passed off, and we started comfortably at our usual hour, a little after sunrise. Our aim was to reach the south branch of the Saskatchewan, forty-six miles away, before night; the distance was divided into three 'spells' of thirteen, seventeen, and sixteen miles.

The scenery in the morning's ride was a continuation of that of last night ; through a lovely country, well wooded, abounding in lakelets, swelling into softly-rounded knolls, and occasionally opening out into a wide and fair landscape. The soil was of the richest loam and the vegetation correspondingly luxuriant; the flora the same, and almost at the same stage, as that we had first seen on the prairie, a fortnight before, near Red River;—the roses just going out of bloom; the yellow marigolds and golden-rods, the lilac bergamot, the white tansey, blue-bells and harebells, and asters, of many colours and sizes, in all their splendour. We were quite beyond the high and dry region ; and again in a country that could easily be converted into an earthly paradise.

We met or passed a great many teams and "brigades" to-day; traders going west, and half-breeds returning east with carts well-laden with buffalo skins and dried meat. A number of Red River people club together in the spring, and go west to hunt the buffalo. Their united caravan is popularly called "a brigade," and very picturesque is its appearance on the road or round the camp-fire. The old men, the women and little children are all engaged on the expedition, and all help. The men ride and the women drive the carts. The children make the fires and do 'chores' for the women. The men shoot buffalo ; the women dry the meat and make it into pemmican.

Our breakfast place was a neck of land between two lakes, one of them sweet, the other bitter. The elevation of the two seemed to be the same, but, on a closer look, the fresh lake was seen to be the higher of the two, so that when full it would overflow into the other. This was invariably the case, as* far as we saw, when two or more of such lakes were near each other. The salt lakes had no outlet, the natural drainage passing off only by absorption and evaporation.

The country between this first halt and the Saskatchewan consisted of three successive basins; each bounded by a low ridge, less or more broken. Everywhere the ground was uneven, not so well suited as the level for steam agricultural implements, but the very country for stock-raising or dairy farms. The road was bad, and no wonder, according to the axiom that good soil makes bad roads. The ruts were deep in black loam, and rough with willow roots. Even when the wheels sank to the axles, they never brought up any clay; moist, dripping, black muck, that would gladden the eyes of a farmer, was all that they found.

Soon after dinner, we came to the last ridge, and before us spread out a magnificent panorama. Fifteen miles farther west rolled the South Saskatchewan. We could not see the river, but the blue plateau that formed our sky line was on the other side of it. And those fifteen miles at our feet, stretching to an indefinite horizon on the south, and bounded five miles away to the north by Minitchenass or 'the lumping hill of the woods,' showed every variety of rolling plain, gentle upland, wooded knoll, and gleaming lake. Where hundreds of homesteads shall yet be, there is not one. Perhaps it is not to be regretted that there is so much good land in the world still unoccupied. The intense saltness of many of the lakes was to us the only doubtful feature in the landscape. One at our feet several miles long had a shore of brightest red, sure sign of how it would taste. All at the foot of the ridge with one exception are saline; after going on a few miles and mounting a slope, they are fresh.

The sun set when we were still five miles from the river. Another axle had broken and heavy clouds threatened instant rain. Some advised halting; but the desire to see the Saskatchewan was too strong to be resisted, and we pushed on at a rattling rate over the rutty and uneven road. Never were buckboards tested more severely, and no carts but those of Red River could have stood for ten minutes the bumps from hillock to hillock, over boulders, roots, and holes, at a break-neck rate. The last mile was down hill. The Doctor and the Chief dashed on at a gallop, and only drew rein when, right beneath, they saw the shining waters of the river. The rest of us were scarcely a minute behind, and three rousing cheers sent back the news to the carts. In twelve working days, we had travelled five hundred and six miles, doing on this last forty-six; and the horses looked as fresh as at the beginning of the journey; a fact that establishes the nutritious properties of the grasses that were their only food on the way, as well as the strength and the hardihood of the breed.

The first thing the Chief saw to, after pitching the tents, was the preparation of a kettle of whiskey-toddy, of which all who were not teetotallers received an equal share. The allowance was not excessive after nearly a fortnight's work; about three half-pints to thirteen men, six of them old voyageurs; but they had been so abstemious on the road that it was quite enough, and great was the hilarity with which each one drank his mug-full, pledging the Queen, sweethearts and wives, the Dominion, and the Chief. It shakes a company together to share something in common occasionally; and by this time we felt a personal interest in every member of the party, and looked forward with regret to the farewells that would be exchanged to-morrow.

While at supper rain began to fall, and it continued with intermissions all night, but we slept soundly in our tents,—caring nothing, for were we not faring on in good style? A month from Toronto and we were on the Saskatchewan.

August 16th.—The morning was grey and chilly, and there was some delay in getting the scow, that is now kept on the river by the Hudson's Bay Company, up from a point where it had been left, so that we did not move from camp till 8 o'clock. This delay gave the Botanist an hour or two to hunt for new species, which he did with all diligence, and the rest of us had time for a swim or a ramble up and down the river. Our Botanist had been slightly cast down of late by finding few new varieties. The flora of the five hundred and thirty miles between the eastern verge of the prairie at Oak Point, and the Saskatchewan, is wonderfully uniform. The characteristic flowers and grasses are everywhere the same. We expect, however, to meet with many strange varieties after crossing the two Saskatchewans.

At this point of the river, where the scow is usually kept and where a regular ferry is to be established next year, crossing is an easy matter. When there was no scow, every party that came along had to make a raft for their baggage, and a whole day was lost. Our buckboards, carts, and Mr. McDougal's waggons made two scow-loads ; and the horses swam across. Some were very reluctant to go into the water, but they were forced on by the men, who waded after them—shouting and throwing stones,—to the very brink of the channel. Once in there, they had to swim. Some,—ignorant of "how to do it"— struggled violently against the full force of the current or to get back, when of course they were stoned in again. Others went quietly and cunningly with the current and got across at the very point the scow made. The river for a few minutes looked alive with horses' heads, for that was all that was seen of them from the shore. As the water was lower and the force of the stream less than usual, all got across with comparative ease. The river at this point is from two hundred to two hundred and fifty yards wide. A hand-level showed the west bank to be about a hundred and seventy feet high, and the east somewhat higher. Groves of aspens, balsams, poplars, and small white birch are on both banks. The valley is about a mile wide, narrower therefore than the valley of the Assiniboine or the Qu'Appelle, though the Saskatchewan is larger than the two put together. The water now is of a milky grey colour, but very sweet to the taste, especially to those who had not drunk of 'living water' for some days. A month hence it will be clear as crystal. In the spring it is discoloured by the turbid torrents along its banks, composed of the melting snows and an admixture of soil and sand ; and this colour is continued through the summer, by the melted snow and ice and the debris borne along with them from the Rocky Mountains. In August it begins to get clear, and remains so till frozen, which usually happens about the end of November.

Near the ferry an extensive reserve of land has been secured for a French half-breed settlement. A number of families have already come up from Fort Garry. We did not see them as the buffalo-magnet had drawn them away to the plains. The scantling for a house was on the ground near our camp.

After crossing, most of us drove rapidly to Fort Carlton,— eighteen miles distant, on the North Saskatchewan,—being anxious to see a house, store, and civilized ways and people again. Mr. Clark, the agent, received us with customary Hudson's Bay hospitality. The eighteen miles between the two rivers is a plateau, not more at its highest than three hundred feet above either stream. The soil looked rather light and sandy, but sufficiently rich for profitable farming. There is capital duck-shooting on lakes near the road. From the ancient bank of the river, above the Fort, is a good view of the course of the north stream. It is a noble river, rather broader, with higher banks and a wider valley, than the south branch. The usual square of four or five wooden buildings, surrounded by a high plank fence, constitutes "the Fort," and, having been intended for defence against Indians only, it is of little consequence that it is built on the low ground, so immediately under the ancient bank of the river that you can look down into the inclosure, and almost throw a stone into it from a point on the bank. Fifty miles down stream is the Prince Albert Presbyterian Mission to the Crees, where there is also the nucleus of a thriving Scotch settlement. Fifty miles farther down, in the same north-easterly direction, the two Saskatchewans unite, and then pursue their way with a magnificent volume of water—broken only by one rapid of any consequence—to Lake Winnipeg.

We dined with Mr. Clark on pemmican, a strong but savoury dish, not at all like 'the dried chips and tallow' some Sybarites have called it. There is pemmican and pemmican however, and we were warned that what is made for ordinary fare needs all the sauce that hunger supplies to make it palatable.

A few hours before our arrival, Mr. Clark had received intelligence from Edmonton, that Yankee free-traders from Belly River had entered the country, and were selling rum to the Indians in exchange for their horses. The worst consequences were feared, as when the Indians have no horses they cannot hunt. When they cannot hunt, they are not ashamed to steal, and stealing leads to wars. The Crees and Blackfeet had been at peace for the last two or three years, but, if the peace was once broken, the old thirst for scalps would revive and the country be rendered insecure. Mr. Clark spoke bitterly of the helplessness of the authorities, in consequence of having had no force from the outset to back up the proclamations that had been issued. Both traders and Indians were learning the dangerous lesson that the Queen's orders could be disregarded with impunity; and it would cost more before the lesson was unlearned, than would have taught the opposite at the beginning of the new regime. We comforted our good host with the assurance that the Adjutant-General was coming up with thirty men, to repress all disorders and to see what was necessary to be done for the future peace of the country.

Making all allowances for the fears of those who see no protection for life or property within five hundred or a thousand miles of them, and for the exaggerated size to which rumours swell in a country of such magnificent distances, where there are no newspapers and no means of communication except 'expresses,' it is clear that if the government wishes to avoid worrying, expensive, murderous difficulties with the Indians, 'something must be done.' There must be law and order all over our North-west from the first. Three or four companies of fifty men each, like those now in Manitoba, would be sufficient for the purpose, if judiciously stationed. Ten times the number may be required if there is long delay. The country cannot afford repetitions of the Manitoba rebellion, on account of the neglect of either half-breeds or Indians. The Crees are anxious for a treaty. The Blackfeet should be dealt with firmly and generously; treaties made with both on the basis of those agreed upon in the east; a few simple laws for the protection of life and property explained to them, and their observance enforced; small annuities allowed; the spirit-traffic prohibited, and schools and missionaries encouraged.

On asking Mr. Clark why there was no farm at Carlton, he explained that the neighbourhood of a fort was the worst possible place for farm or garden ; that the Indians who come about a fort from all quarters, to trade and to see what they can get, would, without the slightest intention of stealing, use the fences for firewood, dig up the potatoes and turnips, and let their horses get into the grain-fields. He had therefore established a farm at the Prince Albert Mission, fifty miles down the river.

With regards to crops, barley and potatoes were always sure, wheat generally a success, though threatened by frosts or early drought, and never a total failure. This year, he expected two thousand bushels of wheat from a sowing of a hundred. The land at Carlton, and everywhere round, is the same as at Prince Albert. Its only fault is that it is rather too rich.

After dinner, three or four hours were allowed for writing letters home, and making arrangements for the journey farther west. We got some fresh horses and provisions from Mr. Clark; said good-bye to Emilien, Marchand, Willie, Frederick, and Jerome ; and taking two of our old crew, Terry and Maxime, along with two half-breeds and a hunch-backed Indian from Carlton, crossed the North Saskatchewan before sunset. In addition to Mr. McDougal, two Hudson's Bay officers joined us—one of whom, Mr. Macaulay, had been long stationed at Jasper House and Edmonton, and the other, Mr. King, far north on the McKenzie River. The scow took everything across in two loads, and the horses swam the river; but it was after dark before the tents were pitched on the top of the hill, and nearly midnight when we got to bed.


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