" An irregular Sketch of the principal Transactions and Occurrences in a Voyage to and from Oxford House and during a Winters residence at Edmonton House Commencing July 18th 1806 Ending June 23rd 1807 by Mr James Bird."
July 18 1806
" A 10 m set off from Oxf. House with two Canoes the Boats being all inreadinefs to start tomorrow, & at 9 PM encamped on Wippenepanis? Carrying Place."
" At 2 PM arrived without any extraordinary Occurrence on the Pafsage at Cumberland House where I had the pleasure to find Mr Sutherland lately arrived from Acton House, with a little addtion to the Trade, and to hear that he left all well in that Quarter."
Aug. 3 1806
" Sent of two Canoes loaded with 16 bundles of furs and 7 bags pemmican &c for York Factory."
" Early in the Morning three boats lightly loaded with Trading Goods &c arrived from Oxford House with every thing in good condition."
" At 11 AM embarked with two large and one small boat for the Upper Settlements. Sent off also one boat lightly loaded for the South Branch."
" This Morning had the pleasure to meet Mr Howse with two Men According to appointment (a little above Old Hudson's House) And to hear he left all well at the upper Settlements. but am sorry to add he informs us that a fatal Quarrel has taken place between the blackfeet & South'd Indians, that a battle had been fought between them in which 28 of the former & three of the latter had fallen, that the South'd Indians are flying in all Quarters to conceal themselves in the Woods and that the Blackfeet threaten indiscriminate Vengeance. how far the effects of this Quarrel may extend it's impofsible to forsee, but the Trade is certain to suffer by it at all wants, as each party will be in too much dread of the other to seperate in small parties for killing skins."
" About 3 PM met a French Canoe (which had gone before us from Cumberland House) the Men belonging to her still pale with Fear, they tell us that about 20 Miles above this they saw three or four Hundred Indians on horseback, besides some on foot who pursued them a considerable distance, that they heard Shots & the shouts of Indians where one of their party was riding along the banks, that they concluded he was Killed, and that the Indians must be blackfeet &c. Gave every man a Gun and a little Ammunition in case of an attack and proceeded on (the French Canoe in Company) till 7 PM when we anchored at a Sand and kept watch all night."
" Early AM arrived at an encampment of stone Indians consisting of eighty Tents, who treat us very civilly and supplied us with a little provisions. they seem to be in continual dread of a sudden attack from the Blackfeet and gave us repeated charges to be on our Guard as we proceed. These it seems were the People who so terrified the Canadians notwithstanding they endeavoured by every friendly sign to prevent them from retreating."
Sept. 8 1806
" At 10 AM after a most tedious pafsage owing to the extreme ? of the water - arrived at Paint Creeck and had the pleasure to find Mr Hallett & Men well, but not the least news from Edmonton."
" Employed forming an afsortment of Goods for this Place."
" Embarked with the three Boats lightly laden for Edmonton House."
" At 12 AM arrived at Edmonton House & had the pleasure to find Mr Whitford & Men well, but the mortification to hear of fresh Mafsacres, among the Indians & even that an attack on Acton House is threatened. - Four Tents of South'd Indians who were returning from the Muddy River Indian Country quite ignorant of the late quarrel were on a sudden attackted about 100 Miles from this, by two or three hundred Blackfeet, two Men made their escape but the rest, Men, Women & Children were either butchered or taken Slaves."
" Sent off a small boat and a large Canoe laden with an afsortment of Goods, and two Men on horseback with an Indian, for Acton House. the latter to see if all are well and to inform them of our arrival &c."
Oct. 3 1806
" The Men & Indian who went off on horseback the 24th Ult.? arrived from Acton House with the agreeable intelligence that Mr Pruden & his Men are well and every thing safe. - Seventy Blackfeet Men all well armed had been there? agreeable to the Information I had received, and Traded Ammunition &c but offered no manner of Violence tho' they beheaved in a lefs friendly & submifsive manner than usual & Mr Pruden was under the necefsity of Trading articles from them of little Value and paying them better than he would have done under other circumstances."
" Several Indians arrived to take credits &c. Engaged a Hunter for the Winter."
" Mr McDonald of the NWC arrived by land on his way to the Rocky Mountain House, his Canoes he left a few Days behind."
" Mr McDonald set off for the Rocky Mountain House. sent a few lines by him for Mr Pruden."
" Sent of two Men in a small Canoe with a few articles of Trading Goods &c for Paint River."
" Mr Hughes the Master of this place for the NWC arrived."
" Sent three Men with Indians on hunting."
" Two NW Canoes arrived, also the Canoe & Men I sent to afsist up with Goods to the rocky Mountain. Nothing new had occured there since the last News nor had any Indians Yet been at the Houses."
Nov. 1 1806
" Two Men arrived from Paint Creek with the Packet from England. Copy of a Letter from Mr McNab dated
York Factory 27th August 1806
I rec'd Your Letter of the 31st Ult. with pleasure to hear of your safe arrival at Cumberland. I hope Mr Howse & Mens wants were soon relieved. Mr Fidler tells me he added to Your supplys from O.H. & I hope what is now sent will effectually supply your wants.
In consultation with Mr Auld we judged the exploring of the route to A.L. through Deer Lake an objective of the greatest attention. Mr Fidler for that intent now goes to Cumberland House from whence early next spring with 3 Men he is to proceed & Mr Auld promises to have Men waiting his arrival near the Frog? Portage to act as Guides. During his stay at Cumberland, Mr Sutherland will of course be guided by him & if an additional post? from thence against the Canadians is judged necefsary he will be ready for action.
Scarcity of Canoes prevents sending more than three. Men are plenty. John Dearon is sent to afsist John Park in building Canoes. Our Carpenter Died last month we shall be in want of ? Hay. Dearon is a good Joiner if You want that duty, no Taylors are received or You should have had one. I propose Mr Swain and a party to occupy Swan River next Summer if You can send two Men with horses to old Swan River House.
Your Most Hble Servt.
signed John McNab."
" Ben went away. four Men on hunting below."
" Our Men of the 3rd returned with the meat of seven Bulls, Mr Pruden also arrived from Acton Houe for the letters from England."
" Sent two Men for Meat."
" Mr Pruden went off on his return to A.H. a Stone Indian arrived but brot nothing."
" A Stone Indian arrived for Men to fetch furs."
" Sent two Men with the Indian of the 24th for to fetch Furs &c."
" Mefs McDonald & Robinson went below. Two Men went to Sobersides for meat."
" Three Men went to the Crow for Meat. Those of Yesterday arrived with three large & one small red Deer."
Dec. 3 1806
" Men arrived from Crow with two red Deer & a Moose. Big Bastard arrived."
" Men returned from Stone Indians with 120 Beaver Skins & 16 MB in other Furs."
" Sent Corrigal to sore hand Man for Skins. Mr Isham's son arrived. 1700 Fish at the Lake."
" Crow arrived 6 Animals to fetch."
" Sent Seven Men with Horses for Fish & four for Meat."
" The Men who went for meat arrived as also did Corrigal with 65 MB principally martins."
" Five Men arrived with 550 Tickomeg."
" Sent more Men for fish."
" Sent two Men with an Indian, who arrived Yesterday for furs."
" Sent two Men to Paint River. Seven Men arrived with 850 Tickomeg."
" The Men of the 22nd arrived with 170 MB principally martins."
" Mr Isham arrived with Kestanecthimu's? Skins, 130 MB."
" Crow arrived with 6 red Deer & Peter Corrigal with two."
" Copy of a Letter to Mr Howse
Dated E.H. Dec. 23rd 1806
Inclosed are letters which You will please to send with all Expedition to Cumberland House. that Mr Fidler may put them in the way of being conveyed to YF by the Ice. wishing first to hear from the Slave Indians that I might be able to give Mr McNab a tolerable just Idea of our expectations of Trade, has been the cause of Your not seeing the bearers sooner but I hope their not arriving earlier will have been of no great consequence. Part of the Goods you request will be sent from Paint River, and others in case of actual want you can send there for - far from being in a condition to supply you with Blankets, I am affraid I shall be unable to secure all the furs here for want of this Article, as I have now only two.
You must be sensible that from the situation of affairs here, all our dependance for provisions for the Summer is on You & of course will not fail to procure as much as in your power.
So far with the help of fish from the Gods lake we have had a tolerable supply of fresh provisions but if the Buffalo do not pay us a visit I Know not how we shall subsist towards Spring.
James Gaddy with another man, an Indian guide and three or four horses, You are to send to meet Mr Swain by the 10th of june at Swan River & You are desired to inform the Natives of the intended reastablishment of that place.
Wishing You a Succefsfull Winter
I remain Your Hble Serv.
signed James Bird."
" Copy of a Letter to Mr Fidler
Dated E.H. Dec. 23rd 1806
Considering the communication between You and Oxford House by the way of Crofs Lake to be easy I enclose Letters for Mr McNab which I hope You will cause to be forwarded with all expedition.
You have heard of the Quarrel among the Indians and can fully judge of the probable Effects upon the Trade, 'tis therefore unnecefsary for me to be prolix on this head. We already feel severe inconveniences from it, and are apprehensive of not being able to obtain sufficient meat for the Spring, as our Hunters dare not venture near the plains, & should no accommodations be brought about in course of the Winter I fear our Houses will scarcely be tenable in Summer for want of provisions.
No Beaver are now to be found here, otherwise I think our South'd Indians being confined to the woods would make tolerable Hunts, they bid fair however to kill a good many Martins.
The Canoe, Men, & Provisions for Your Northw'd Expedition shall be sent by the time You appoint.
Wishing You a pleasant & plentifull Winter.
Your Hble Servt
signed James Bird"
" Copy of a Letter to John McNab Esq.
Dated E.H. Dec. 23rd 1806
As the new Settlements of Moose & Crofs Lakes seem to afford an easy communication with York I am induced to hope? that You may receive this before the Rivers open and tho I can inform You of little that will give present satisfaction, I may probably prevent future disappointment; besides had You partaken of our apprehensions from the Month of August till? the latter end of Sept., an account of our present safety would not fail? to be sufficiently interesting.
I am sorry then Sir to say that a quarrel took place in the latter end of July last between the Blackfeet supported by the Blood Indians, & the Southward Indians afsisted by the Stone Indians, each party consisting of about 400 Men. a Battle was fought in which twenty eight of the former and three of the latter are said to have fallen - The Southw'd Ind. were ultimately forced to a precipitate retreat with the lofs of part of their Horses & baggage and dispersing in all quarters to conceal themselves in the woods, leaving their Enemies masters of the Plains from South Branch to Acton House. This News? we met a little above Hudson House & a strong probability of our being attacked on the way up was represented to us, or the destruction of all the Settlements to be considered as certain; The latter, Knowing the Blackfeets eagernefs for indiscriminate Vengance, I feared; we however arrived in safety at Paint River & Edmonton House and had the pleasure to find all safe & well. One alarm we met with by the way occasioned by the Men of a French Canoe which had ventured to precede us several Days; near the elbow of the River - we met them returning with the utmost Hurry & dismay. they told us that they had met about three Hundred Indians (Blackfeet of course) who had Killed one of their Companions as he was riding along Shore and given long chase to them. Without giving full credit to the Story we proceeded with caution and in a few Days had the satisfaction to arrive at Eighty Tents of Stone Indians from whom we received a very seasonable supply of Provisions and discovered that these had unwillingly been the cause of the flight of the Canadians. Their abandoned Companion we found a few Days after -
At Edmonton I found an Indian lately arrived from whom I had the mortification to learn that his, with three other Families amounting in all to twenty five Souls, were a few Days since surprised by the Blackfeet & totally destroyed, about an Hundred Miles from this, as they were returning from the plains ignorant of the late Quarrel, he told us also that eighty of the Enemy had set off for Acton House & as he thought with hostile designs. Prevailing on this Man to venture? himself as a guide I immediately dispatched two Men with him on Horseback & at the end of Nine days my Anxieties were terminated by the receipt of Letters from Mr Pruden. The Blackfeet had actually visited him and with very suspicious appearances, but however Traded the few articles that they brought of little Value which Mr Pruden dared not refuse; and returned with the utmost speed to their Tents. Since this we have had no certain intelligence of them so that it is doubtfull whether they will visit the Houses this Season & should this be the case few Wolves & Kitts can be expected. Of other Furs I hope we shall be able to procure nearly as last Year. indeed were Beaver to be found we might expect some increase but none are now to be discovered within reach of us. -
We propose endeavouring in the Spring, afsisted by their Fears to prevail on the Indians of this Place to pafs next Season in the Rocky Mountain Where some Beaver have been lately discovered, and if we succeed to make a Settlement there for them, but large Animals are there so scarce & the Country so rugged that I have little hope of their complyance.
Besides the effects this rupture among the Indians may have on the Trade it will prevent our getting near the usual supply of Pemmican for the Summer - & has already occasioned the greatest difficulties in getting present subsistance? At this time we live principally on Fish which are brought about sixty Miles. - The Coottanas visited Acton House as expected but brot only eighty Beaver Skins. Mr David Thompson is making preparations for another attempt to crofs the Mountains, pafs through their Country and follow the Columbia River to the Sea. He is to have eight Men with him & the object of his enterprize is said to be to ascertain pofsitively whether a Trade can be formed with that Country Valuable enough to be worth pursuing thro the difficulties with which it must be attended, and if it should, the uniting of the Command? of the two Seas. -
A party of Americans were seen last Summer where the Mifsisoury enters the rocky Mountains & 'tis reported by the Muddy (or Mifsisoury) River Indians that four of them set off with an intention to come here but that they Killed one & the rest returned.
your orders respecting Swan River - shall be punctually attended to & I think Mr Swain may rely on finding Gaddy there by the time appointed. Several of the Indians are retreating towards that Quarter and will probably pafs the next Winter there?, they are however ? ? ? and kill nothing but Wolves.
Mr Fidler shall be supplied with every requisite for his intended expedition. - I have had some trouble in detaining Will Walker in the Service owing to his receiving no reply to his request of 1804 as Mr Howse could not do well without him. I ventured to promise him £ 18 pr Ann in case the Honble Company should ultimately refuse to give him Twenty, which he requested & still wishes to be again represented to them.
I had almost forgot to tell You that we received our Letters on the 1st Nov. The Canoes were stoped by the Ice about thirty Miles below Paint River but every thing was fetched safe to that place.
I have now given You the principal News of this place & insensibly drawn my Letter to a length which You will think tedious - therefore Conclude & Subscribe myself
signed James Bird."
Jan. 3 1807
" Mr Isham went to his Tent."
" Two of the Men who went away the 24th arrived with 90 MB in pretty good Furs. Two Indians also arrived with 40 MB."
" The other two Men of the 24th arrived with 600 Martins 46 Beaver 4 Otters 3 Red foxes & 3 Wolverines."
Feb. 6 1807
" One Man arrived from some Indians with 160 MB Principally Martins."
" Sent off eight Men with an Indian Hunter & Horses to find Buffalo if pofsible & bring home some meat."
" The Men of the 8th arrived with the meat of eleven good Cow Buffalo."
" Set of with ten Men & fourteen Horses with sleds on Hunting."
Mar. 3 1807
" Arrived near the Buffalo and encamped."
" Set off on our return to the House with the meat of 22 Cows."
" Arrived at the House where nothing worth notice had occured since my departure."
" Sent Mr Isham to some Indian Tents for their Furs."
" Sent one Man with an Indian who arrived Yesterday to fetch Furs. Mr Isham arrived with 70 MB. Three Indians also arrived."
" The Man of the 13th arrived with 110 MB."
" Sent Six Men with Horses for Birchrind."
" The Men of the 23rd arrived with 180 fathoms of Birchrind."
Apr. 2 1807
" Sent two Men off with Horses to fetch furs. several Indians arrived."
" Sent a Man off with an Indian to fetch furs."
" The Men who went away on Saturday arrived with 100 MB. several Indians also arrived."
" Part? of the Indians traded & went away. they all promise to go up towards the Stony Mountain where Beaver are said to be numerous & where we have promised them a House shall be built to supply them with necefsaries. The Men of the third returned with 140 MB."
" A few Blackfeet arrived, among them was their principal Chief. A man who has long been remarkable for his attachment to white Men & his friendship for the Crees. this Man tells us that his Country Men all wish sincerely for Peace . that having been long accustomed to be supplied with Brandy Tobacco &c. these articles are become objects of primary necefsity to them, & nothing but absolute Danger can prevent their coming to procure them as usual - Conceiving himself to be beloved by the Crees, he says, he has come therefore to ascertain their sentiments towards his Country men in general and if these should prove favourable we may expect to see all the Blackfeet here before the departure of the Canoes. Several crees are now here, in general they seem to wish for Peace, but a few individuals of them would eagerly take the opportunity of avenging the Death of their relations who were so cruelly butchered last fall did we not take every precaution by depriving them of their Arms &c to put it as much as pofsible out of their Power."
" The Blackfeet of Yesterday traded and went away seemingly satisfied of the pacific wishes of the Crees; they gave us to understand that a large band of Blackfeet, Blood, & Fall Indians will visit us about the beginning of May, but at the same time I am fully convinced that they have nothing worth our wishing to see them for."
" Several Sufsew Indians arrived with a few Wolves &c."
" The Sufsews of Yesterday traded and went away. Traded about 200 Wolves 20 Beaver 20 Red Foxes 1 Bear & about 700 lb of dry provisions."
" Three? Men arrived from Acton House with Horses to supply the Indians of this Place with &c?. By Mr Prudens Letter I learn that all the Muddy River Indians have been at his House but that they have made very poor Hunts as his whole Trade amounts to no more than 1700? MB."
" Two Men arrived from Paint River with the Horses of that Place to be taken care of here during the Summer."
" Sent three Men off for Acton House to afsist down with the Furs &c. Mr Pruden I have desired to take proper heading? for getting his remains of Goods taken to the North Branch where he is to build a House & pafs the Summer as near to the rocky Mountain as pofsible.
All the Indians of this Place are on the way up to meet him there & next winter will probably? determine whether Beaver are to be found within any pofsible reach of this River or not."
" Some Stone Indians in the course of last night stole away about twenty four Horses. eight belonging to us & the remainder to the Canadians."
" The Ice broke a little, opposite the House."
" Canadians arrived from Rocky Mountain with their Horses. Letter from Mr Pruden but no news. No Indians had visited him since his last."
" Two Men arrived with Letters from Mr Pruden. he informs me that five Cootanahas Men had visited him since his last who brought him 100 MB. Beaver, Bears, & Otters, that they afsured him the Principal part of their Country Men would visit the House in course of the Summer and that other tribes that have not yet seen any House proposed accompanying them who had all of them? a few Beaver. these Cutinahas slept sixteen Nights coming on their Journey, carrying their few Furs on their backs thro the deep Snows in the Mountain. It may probably be supposed that were we to make a Settlement nearer to the Country of these People, they would bring us more Furs, and an advantagous Trade be formed but according to our present Knowledge of them, drawn not only from themselves, but from Canadians who have Wintered with Them, they are too Idle & Small a tribe & their Country too poor ever to support a separate Trade through Difficulties so various as the Rocky Mountain presents and accompanied as it must be with extraordinary Expense.
The Mountain itself presents objects that at first sight would remove any Idea of the practicability of carrying on a profitable Trade with Natives on the other side of it. but there is still another serious obstacle the impofsibility of procuring provisions there; yet should Mr Thompson, who is going this Summer to survey the Country to the Pacific Ocean, find it productive of rich furs, I have no doubt but all these difficulties will be surmounted by the NWC who from the late coalition? have become more than ever desirous to extend their Trade and are pofsefsed of all the means requisite for such an undertaking.
The River Ice cleared away."
May 1 1807
" Sent three Men off in a boat loaded with 40 Bundles of furs & 180 fathoms of Birchrind for Paint River where the Canoes are to be made."
" Sent off one Man with Mr Pruden's Men to afsist down with the Canoes &c.
Copy of a Letter to Mr Pruden
Yours I received on the 30th Ulto. The arrival of the Cootanahas is to me an unexpected event at this Season of the Year Since they have so earnestly promised to return to You, & You are so sanguine in Your expectations from them and other tribes, I have come to a resolution that You should pafs the Summer at Acton House once more, and have allowed You a Sufficient number of Men (as pr list enclosed) for this purpose as well as for attending to our Indians that are going towards the North Branch. - I have so fully explained to You in course of the Winter my views in settling at this latter place that it is unnecefsary for me to add any thing at present. - Directly You have seen the Indians You expect at Acton House send three men down with the Furs you will have procured to Cumb. House and retire with the rest to the North Branch to ? forward the building there, attend to the Indians, & acquire some Knowledge of that part of the Country.
The Cootanahas Trade is too small to support a Settlement itself. even on the most confined scale? while there are competitors, but it has occurred to me that if we could fix on a certain place in the Mountain where we could meet them at a fixed time & remain no longer there than? would be necefsary for the exchanging our commodities they might be worth attending too. - Try therefore when You see them if it would be pofsible to make a rendesvous of this Kind & if it should appear practicable settle it accordingly.
I hope You will be able to send off Your Canoes & Boats by the 10th, or 11th of May at farthest tho' the Season is here the backwardist I have ever seen.
signed James Bird."
" A Band of about sixty ? of Fall Indians arrived with a few Wolves; These? have been this two Years just in the Neighbourhood of some Spanish Settlements which are supposed to be Inland from the most northerly part of California. they have brought very little & the reason of it they say is the small hopes they entertained of being permitted to see the Houses."
" A Band of Blackfeet & Blood Indians arrived. these also have brought very few Wolves indeed and give the same reason for it as the Fall Indians. Mr Isham also arrived in a Small Boat with 300 Wolves & 10 bags of Pemmican from Acton House."