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.

In the days of the Red River Rebellion
Chapter I
Primitive transport—The "buckboard '—New country— Edmonton— A pioneer parsonage —House- building - Fishing—A race for noble game—A birthday feast—A motley company.


DURING the autumn of 1868, and on the last page of "Pathfinding on Plain and Prairie," I bade my kind reader adieu, with the promise that if opportunity came I would sometime resume my narrative of life and adventure in the far West. As yet but little change had come upon the scene; primeval conditions still largely obtained throughout that great region. The party I had guided into the beautiful valley of the Saskatchewan (as related in the closing chapters of my last volume) had left the banks of the Mississippi several months before, and by dint of continuous travel and many weeks of camping on the trail, had succeeded in reaching this distant spot. These people had left railway transport far to the south-east of this big upland country. Away under the Stars and Stripes they had said farewell for long years to what might fittingly be called civilized modes of travel. The ox-cart, the heavily burdened waggon, the prairie schooner, were slow in pace, and when one took into consideration the great wilderness, with its bridgeless and ferryless rivers and its thousands of miles of ungraded trails and utter solitude, so far as man was concerned, the enterprise of those few who ventured into this distant field seemed sublime.

This little party brought with them the first buckboards to come into Manitoba and the North-West. Hitherto the Red River cart had reigned supreme—the aristocracy of the land had nothing better; but now the light and easy- riding buckboard came to conquer, and with base ingratitude the cart was relegated to the plebeian work of freighting only. No more of the dangling of one's legs over the front bar of this wooden coach; good-bye forever to the dulcet tones of squeaking axles and the shrieking of unbushed hubs! No, gentlemen, we are making history, we are entering on an epoch of development with the arrival of the springless buckboard. God bless the man whose brain caught the glorious idea and who thus became a benefactor to all who ventured upon the great continents beyond the limits of steam. Even as a palace Pullman coach is to a loaded flat-car, so is the buckboard to an honest Red River cart. We can speak feelingly, if not regretfully.

Forward the Star of Empire takes her course, and we on a glorious day in September of 1868, with but a portion of the original party, move onward and westward. Up along the north bank of the big Saskatchewan we ride and roll; across lovely bits of prairie, through dense woods where the road as yet has been barely cut out and countless stumps are in omnipresent evidence; the heavens above a sea of glory, and the earth beneath full of autumn grass and herbage and foliage colored and tinted and gorgeous. Ever and anon the graceful and majestic bends and stretches of this mighty river are at our feet. Over thousands of acres of rich soil, down into and across numerous streams and creeks—the three "Was-uh-huh-de-nows," the Sucker, the Vermilion, the Deep, the Sturgeon, and many others—all arteries feeding the giant river. The stream is the father of the river, even as the child is the father of the man, and the individual the progenitor of the nation. This is why we are camping and rolling and straining and working up the slopes of a great continent. We are here to preach and live loyalty to God and country, to make men strong and true; therefore we worry along. What matters an upset, and serious loss in consequence? Who cares for breaking axles and snapping dowelpins, and splitting felloes and ripping harness, dew and rain and mud and cold and storm, and sometimes hunger, and always danger? Behold, to the true pioneer these are counted as nothing in order that the making of the man, the building of the citizen, may go on and the world be made better.

Excepting my own family, our party is entirely tenderfoot. The Rev. Peter Campbell and wife and children are with us, also Mr. A. I. Snider, who has come out as teacher, and a sturdy Scotchman with his Red River native wife; these latter going with us to Pigeon Lake, and Messrs. Campbell and Snider to Edmonton. Even in a small party of tenderfeet there is striking variety in point of vision. As we gather around the camp-fires we listen and hear such talk as this: "Oh, what a big country! months of constant travel, and it is still before us!" "Room for millions!" "Splendid soil!" "Rich grass!" "What glorious landscapes!" it air, clear skies!" "Surely this is God's country!" and in our hearts and minds we say, verily it is God's country. Then it is another voice that speaks, and what we hear is thus: ``What a fool I was to leave Ontario!" the "0 h" long drawn out, almost a wail; it horrible roads!" "Such barren wastes!" "A beastly, dirty country, only fit for dogs and breeds and wild animals!" "Oh, I'm tired of this endless journey!" "My, my, how some men will lie about a country!" "Surely this mud and these tormenting mosquitoes, and these infernal bulldogs, and these constant bridgeless streams, I hate them! oh, why did I ever come out here into this God-forsaken and beastly land?" and so on through all the gamut of execration.

But now we are approaching Edmonton. This is a prominent place; has been on the map of Britain's empire for scores of years, has been a "station" in the Minutes of a large Conference for a long time. Are there any hotels? None. Are there any churches? One, a Roman Catholic. How many stores? One, the Hudson's Bay Company. What is the population? From twenty to one hundred and fifty; and in tones of bitter disappointment the sad traveller turns away with the despairing comment: "And this is the end of it all! Oh, my, what folly to send us out to such a place." Well, just here we are in accord, and sometimes even wise men make mistakes in their disposition of humanity. Edmonton, as she really is, stands for the centredom of the great Saskatchewan country—the centre in religion, government, commerce, transport. Within the four walls of yonder little fort, and within its wooden bastions and picket sides, large business is conducted and far-reaching measures are planned. Its tentacles run out and grip this country in all directions. The population, we have just said, was from twenty to one hundred and fifty. We meant in this the residents of the post, for outside its walls hundreds, sometimes thousands, encamped. Hither the tribes came up for trade and barter, as also for war and revenge; here many a temporary peace was patched up and again broken; here scenes of butchery and rapine and murder took place, and it was truly wonderful how this stout little frontier post had held its own throughout the years, amidst such constant turbulence and strife. The policy of the great Fur Company had much to do with this. They took sides with none, they were the friends of all; theirs was truly a paternal attitude to every Indian in this whole land.

And now in this autumn of 1868 we are at Edmonton, and those of our party destined for this point remain, while we go on. This time fortunately there is a scow, and by dint of much pulling and tracking we cross our carts and stock, and climb the southern bank, and keep our eyes alert as we move up athwart the converging trails, upon all or any of which our enemy might come. To-day we are fortunate, and we slip away into the timber country between here and Pigeon Lake with a growing sense of security; and yet we watch and listen and safeguard as best we may, and travel on and reach our home on the northern shore of this forest-fringed lake. If we have any home, this is the spot. Here we began in 1864, and for two years this mission was, I am bound to say, unique in the fact of its being maintained without any contributed funds. It cost the Society it served not one farthing. We hunted and fished and trapped, and, like our people, were nomads, sometimes feasting and then starving; for, such was the energy of our life, I cannot say we fasted. During the last two years we have had a humble salary, which has had to perform the cantilever act and lift us out of the hole of the past as well as hold down the present. Now we have a simple home, a one-roomed shanty, and in line with this another similar for our man. Ours has been kitchen, dining-room and sleeping apartment. In it we have held many public services and councils, and entertained various guests—Hudson's Bay officials, wandering missionaries, and vagrant Indians. Horse-thieves and war parties have stopped with us for the night, and we have watched them sleep, and stood guard over their every action until the next day relieved us of the anxiety of their presence.

We now went to work to add another room to our house, and soon the logs were up and the chimney built. My man and myself were, between the intervals of hunting and fishing, exceedingly busy sawing lumber for the floor of this new room, when a couple of travellers came upon us from the West, an altogether unexpected quarter. These proved to be an English half- breed, House by name, and Henry Hardisty, whose brother Richard was my sister's husband. These men had come across the mountain by the Vermilion Pass, and, reaching the Rocky Mountain fort, had come by way of Buck Lake to Pigeon Lake as the safest and most secure route to Edmonton; for the southern Indians had so often ambushed and slain small parties of white men passing through the country, that the way was fraught with extreme peril. Of course these camped with us for the night. It was a delightful change for us to have intercourse with men who came from afar, and to listen to their story of travel and adventure on the Pacific slope.

During the course of the evening, spent in the blaze of our chimney fire, Hardisty noticed my skates hanging on the wall, and inquired if I could skate. I answered, "Some." Again came the question, how fast could I skate? I answered that I had never timed myself. "Could I skate eight miles an hour?" And I laughingly answered, "I would not think much of my running without skates if I did not do better than that." Then my new-found friend began to take an interest in me; he evidently admired speed —said he was quite a sprinter himself; had more than once run among the miners and Indians in Washington and Oregon, where he was known as the "Pondura antelope"; strongly advised me to go over there and make a vast deal more money by running and athletics than I possibly could by preaching in this country. He, like a good many more I have met, did not quite comprehend our estimates of values.

Holding meetings at home, visiting adjacent camps, building and making lumber, plastering and mudding and preparing for winter, and all the while keeping a good lookout for the approach of a wily enemy, thus occupied the short days and long nights found us busy. And now that the lake was frozen over, the work of fishing began in earnest. We needed several thousands to carry us through until spring. The fish in this lake are not very good, and we are making them better by making them less. As we pick the bones of the poor fish we solve the problem by mentally determining to help rid this lake of its surplus life. Two hundred thousand whitefish out of this little body of fresh water will give the balance opportunity to live and thrive. This is why we have gone without clothes and furniture, even to a cooking stove, in order to invest in twine and net material, all of which is exceedingly costly. We have introduced these amongst the Indians, and quite a number who in all their previous history never owned or used a net are now the happy possessors of a narrow fifteen or twenty fathom one. To these men this is a wonderful advance in civilization and permanent life; to us it is all this and more, for it is so much toward the carrying out of our method of making the fish in this particular lake fitter food for man and beast.

We had already found that the first few weeks of winter are the best time for catching fish, and now with long pole and forked stick and cod lines we pass our nets under the ice, and every morning overhaul them and freeze the fish, and carry them up to the storehouse, and thus prepare for home and journey and general work, and also for the inevitable wanderer, who will doubtless, as in the past, come to us singly and in droves. And, as ever, if we would reach the heart and soul we must, as did the Master, do this through the stomach; and, as we know full well by this time, even a poor fish is better than an empty stomach. Thus the early morn of the twenty-fifth of November found us on our knees on the ice of this beautiful highland lake, literally jerking the fish from the net with our teeth and swinging them out upon the ice beside us with a toss of the neck, when in looking out upon the lake I discerned an object which it seemed to me must have come upon the scene since the previous evening. After glancing at it a few times, I pointed it out to an Indian, who also was overhauling his net. He laughingly replied, "Oh, it is only the ice- crack shining up in that place," and we went on with our work; but ever and anon I looked at the object and determined to investigate it later.

This being our little daughter's birthday, we had decided upon a humble feast, and as there were twelve or fifteen 'lodges of our people with us, all were invited. But as this would not take place until afternoon, I went on as usual and put my fish away- and washed my nets, and then, being at leisure, quietly took my gun and skates and went down to the lake. The snow was beaten hard to the ice in ridges or drifts, and in between these there was good skating. With my skates firmly tied on, I started to reconnoitre the object far out on the ice. When the Indians saw me, some of their best runners came in pursuit. They reasoned, "John has a far-seeing glass; he has already made that spot out, and it is worth a run; let us race him for it." The fact was, I had no glass, but was of that make that I must find out if possible what this object was, and this was the spur of my action that morning and many mornings since then. Soon the whole camp was astir, and soon they saw that the fleetest men were not in it, for even on the snow I ran about as fast as they could, and when in the windings of the ice doubled and quadrupled on them, all the time with my eye keenly on the speck which had aroused my curiosity, and which was now quickly growing larger. Presently, as the big animal rose to its feet, I saw this was a full- grown cow moose. Ah, thought I, this is a royal birthday present for little Ruth. Now began the chase and fun in real earnest, and still my skates gave me a great advantage, for while my game made fast time on the snow-clad spots, it slipped and sometimes almost fell on the places where I was making the greatest speed. Verily it was a most unfair race, as usually are indeed such between man and the lower order of animals, for this was but a sample of all hunting. In a very short time I was upon the big moose, and suddenly she turned to strike me, but I fired right into her breast, straight for the heart, and

down upon the ice fell my quarry. By the time I had bled the moose and got nicely to work skinning it, my Indian friends came up smilingly congratulating me on my good fortune and speed. I gave my good old skates—a pair I had brought into the country in 1860—all the credit, and invited them to share the meat, just as any one of these fellows would have done to me if I had come upon his kill. Our menu that day included moose-nose and brisket and meat, all of which was delightfully opportune, and I was truly thankful. It was a great day to those simple people; such a feast some of them had never seen, much less partaken of. The King of England may feed once in a lifetime a host of his poor subjects, but we at that time were really doing more in feeding half a hundred; and the appreciation was great. Enduring bonds of friendship and trust were made that day between us and those wild roving men and women.

A strange little company that was to thus meet and for the little while forget all the alien idea, and in common give themselves to enjoyment and goodly cheer; a motley crew, of strange history and tradition, murderers and poisoners and horse-thieves, and conjurers and medicine-men, and gamblers and warriors, and skilful hunters, etc. Many a foul crime, many a glorious deed, is written in the faces of those who linger at our feast to-day. Yonder sits old Paul. Even now the avenger is on the lookout for him, and his kin and his arms are ever at hand, and his eye ever alert to guard his life and home. He and his brother each killed his man over a gambling quarrel. Now both are repentant, and Paul is, as I verily believe, a converted soul, and one of our staunch Christians; but the recent past hangs over him all the same. God is more ready to forgive than man.

Yonder is Simon, who also is, as we watch him, gripping his gun, and feeling for his knife, and listening and looking doorwards. He also has recently murdered two men, both half- breeds, and knows full well that if any of their friends come upon him unawares his life and perhaps that of his party will make atonement for the crime. He, too, is sorry, but still rankling with the insults that he claims these men gave him and his people. There is the look of murder in his very attitude as we behold him as our guest.

Here is a noted horse-thief. At the time of which I write this was a glory, a meritorious act, with most of the native population of the West. There is no blush on his brow; the more horses he has stolen the greater man is he, and the more renown and favor he has in camp with both sexes.

On the other hand are Samson, and John, and William, all noble specimens of manhood, valiant in war, heroic for peace, and exports in animal lore and hunting life. Grizzlies and moose, mountain and elk, cariboo and wolverine, all manner of small game, and black and cinnamon bear, have fallen to their scouting skill and unerring marksmanship. Now in the prime and full vigor of their mature manhood, these noble fellows are our welcome guests, and in all confidence we depend upon them under God to keep the peace at our festive board. Some good folk, as also some merely inquisitive people, have often said to us, "How did you win the confidence and faith of these native tribes?" To-day's experience is in part the answer. We companioned with them in sorrow and in joy, in fasting and in feasting, in peace and in war; were in all things like them, without in any sense compromising either principle or manliness. We were nomads or permanents, as our work needed. We hunted and trapped and fished, and engaged in all manner of athletics, foot races, horse races, anything for real fun and common brotherhood. Thus we found out men, and these in turn saw us and read us as a book, until they knew that on every page of our life there was written friendship and the true desire to help them. More than this, they saw we believed in them, and at last they grew to believe most heartily in us.


Return to Book Contents Page