"Report of Carlton District from the 2nd of May 1818 to May 1819
1818 May the 27th Embarked and left behind to pafs the Summer Mr Jn Edward Harriott in charge, Geo Flett afsistant Trader and eight Men Viz. Donald McDonald, Angus McLeod, Andrew Loutit, Robert Malcom, William Stanger, Donald McMillan, James Whitford and James Johnson Sen. The reason for leaving so many Men this Summer than the Summer preceeding was on Account of Danger being Apprehended from the Hostile Indians we have to deal with and at the same time they being at War with the Indians who Trade at Edmonton District makes it doubly dangerous. We put the Fort in as good a State of Defence as time and means would admit before we left it. but after all it was far from being what it ought to be in such a part of the Country as this; Strict Watch was kept through the Summer every Night and often in the Day. Short after we left the place they were alarmed by a War party of the Fall Indians having Killed a Stone Indian Boy and wounded another about 25 Miles from the House at a place called Bloody berry Hill. And a little time after that another War party fell in with three Cree Indians as they were hunting which they Killed. this took place on the south side of South Branch River and about 50 Miles to the SE of the House. they often got many other alarms through the Summer but nothing took place of consequence till after our arrival in the beginning of Sept. when the Blackfeet Indians and other Tribes their Allies Attacked the Indians of this place again in two Places? and Killed 20 Men & Boys, all of the Stone Indian Tribes. Three Cree Indians got wounded, 2 Severely 1 slightly, of the Blackfeet Party 5 got Killed - The Indians of this place now finding themselves much harrafsed by their enemies they fled in all directions the Cree Indians to the thick Woods and the Stone Indians towards Red River - No Provisions were procured through the Summer or Trade of any kind except a few Moose skins.
State of the Post
The Houses are in a most ruinous state their being only one small House of 30 by 20 which is any way sufficient in the lower parts of which the Master resides and in the Garret the Goods are kept. the rest of the buildings are tumbling to pieces; I have had two of the Houses taken down & rebuilt in a temporary way and a little House was built in Summer for a Blacksmith Shop. The Stockades that surround the buildings are very low and in a decayed State. the cause of the Fort being in this Condition can be attributed to nothing? else? than the number of Men left here being inadequate to the businefs required to be done and the Indians who will not allow us to keep a Sufficient number of Horses to enable us to get Timber home, and which there are none fit for building nearer than 6 or 8 Miles distant and which could be easily brought providing we had the means, as the Country is level and good ground for Wheel Carriages to run on. The State of this part of the Country at present, requires a Strong and well manned Fort as the Indians are becoming more daring every Year, and it is expected that they will ere long attempt to take the Fort. In putting this Post in a posture of Defence it would require an additional number of Men for a Year or two and some of these Men ought to be acquainted with building. There is no convenient place either Above or below (near) so as to induce us to shift our situation and to go too far below would be detrimental with regard to getting Meat as the Buffalo seldom go below this place and would be more inconvenient for the Provision Trade which is the Staple Commodity at this Post
Their was About 6 Acres of Ground sowed & planted this spring but the drynefs of the first part of the Summer prevented the greater part of the seed from springing; in the middle of the Summer the rains began to be prevalent and seeds that had laid on the ground for a Month & a half began to spring but had not time to come to perfection so that, that part of the seed that came up soon after it was sown, was smothered by that, that came up after and which in a manner spoiled the whole, We barely got sufficient of Wheat, Barley & Oats that would suffice for seed another Year. Potatoes were much hurt by a severe frost, we got about 40 Bushels but they were very small & watery. All other small seeds were entirely burnt up with the drought. the soil is very fine and I am convinced that every seed committed to the ground would come to good perfection if the Months of May and June were productive of a few good showers of rain.- Much more ground might be cultivated if required as the Point the House stands on, I suppose 150 Acres might be ploughed up without having any obstruction from Woods or any thing else, but we labour under the disadvantage of the Indians stealing the Produce when ever they come in large bands to the House & which we cannot prevent -
Of The Officers and Men
I have to recommend Mr Jn Edward Harriott is a very promising and interested young Man well acquainted in the way of Trade; Understands and speaks the Cree Language fluently and much beloved by the Natives, of a good Temper & very obedient to his Superiors
Mr Pinsonant a young Man a Clerk from Montreal last Summer also deserves my best recommendation. The generallity of my Men have been very disobedient and Obstinant and little work done by them through the Winter although much was required the character of each shall be specified in the Account Book.
Of The Indians
The Indians that we deal with at this place are of two Nations each having a Language of their own, called the Southern Indians or Crees the other are the Stone Indians, and with the exception of a very few individuals both these Tribes are a set of Thieves & cheats. they are also very indolent. No valuable Trade got from any one of them and a very chance one have paid their Debt altho trusted to a very trifling amount, On account of their being obliged to fly their Country by their enemies in the Fall, they did nothing but move about in search of food and which they had a great deal of difficulty to procure a sufficiency to subsist on, till they hearing of the Buffalo being very numerous in the vicinity of this place in January; The Stone Indians who went towards Red River in the Fall came back and the Crees also came out of the Woods and commenced Pounding the Buffalo and made a good deal of dried Provisions, and which as enabled us to get our usual quantity of that Article, Furs that are of Value are very scarce About this place Beaver are almost extinct other small Furs that are taken in the Woods such as Martens, Fishers, Cats etc. are also very scarce; but neverthelefs if the Indians would exert themselves they would kill much more than they do.- Wolves are very numerous and Foxes are tolerably so but as we do not take Wolves, the Indians does not strive to Kill foxes either. Were the Wolves of a sufficient value to encourage their killing we would get a greater number of Foxes than we do at Present. With respect to the Division of the Indians between the NW Co. Post and ours The Crees are nearly equally divided and with the Stone Indians this Year I think we have the advantage
Of the NWt Post
It is impofsible for me to state to any Certainty the Amount of Furs procured by them at their post, as they keep this to themselves but I am confident this Year that they will not make more than 8 packs of all kind of Fur, a Pack is considered from 80 to 90 lbs weight, and the provisions procured by them this Winter I should suppose would not exceed 200 Bags of Pemican of 90 lbs each but they had a Stock remaining from last year (say 50 or 60 Bags); Mr Teries is the person in charge, Mr Fisher Clerk, Battosh occaisionally Master at an Outpost, Mr Rocque Stone Indian Interpreter, Jerome Cree Interpreter, Paranto Guide and 31 Men the greater part of these Men have families and are Old Standers at this place; The number of Men, Women & Children they agree to provide food for Amount to upwards of 140 Souls
Of the Trade
Furs procured at this place will be considerably lefs than last Year owing to the Indians being drove of their usual hunting Grounds by the enemy, and some of them say there are no Furs to be found. Provisions if we should not get quite so much as last year is owing to none having been procured in the Summer. We have no Outpost as last Year, nor do I know of any Place that one could be established to be of any advantage; The Only Method I know off that might augment the Trade of this District for one or two Years, and which I think might be attempted with Succefs if properly Comducted.- I have been Often informed by Indians, that when on their War excurtions they pafs a place where there are great Quantities of Beaver in a part of the Country no Indians resort, This Place I am told is 20 Days moderate march from this, through a plain Country and in a Southerly direction Only one large River to Crofs which is the South Branch where the Beaver are found are a number of Small Rivers with steepish Banks whose Waters empty itself into the Missouri River.-
In attempting this expedition It would require an Able Officer and 8 or 10 good Men and to Collect from 20 to 30 of our Indians such as would leave their families or such has only had Wives without children; It's my Opinion they would have no Objection in going in this Manner and only to remain to Work 2 or 3 Months and as the party would be strong they would not apprehend any Danger from their Enemies.but as far as I can learn their is little fear to be apprehended. If this Plan is approved off It would be necefsary to have 20 Horses, Saddles & 40 to 50 Steel Traps and some flat Ice Chifsels all in readinefs to leave this about the 25 August or 1st September and ought to be carried into execution as Secret as pofsible to prevent our opponents knowledge as late as Pofsible and then if they did find out our intentions they in all probability would not have the means of following. They might be back about the Month of January.
28th May 1819
To William Williams Esq.
Governor in Chief Ruperts Land"
A copy of a letter from James Sutherland at Swan River to James Bird. at ?
October 3 1816
I have protracted the sending off these people in hopes that the North west Companys Canoes would arrive, so as I might be able to give you a little more news, and be able to form an idea what their intentions were, and consequently be more able to judge what our wants and prospects would be, they have not yet arrived. the season is far advanced and John Spence arrived yesterday with news of such importance, that I loose no time in communicating it to you verbatum as he related it. Viz.
He accompanied Mr Fidler to Manitoba from there proceeded to the forks of Red River, previous to his arrival there Alexander McDonell had arrived from Fort William with two Canoes one of which were loaded and McDonell had distributed the whole Cargo among the half-breeds, they were all drunk on Spence's arrival and continued so for two days, at first they treated Spence well as they thought he had joined them but when they found that his intention was to proceed here they altered their conduct and tried to force him to disclose every thing he knew, and kept him prisoner a day for that purpose at times threatening and at other times making him great offers to join their side when they found that neither would avail they gave him his liberty, but kept his partner, John Favel.
On the second day after Spence arrived at the Forks, a Canoe came from the bottom of Winnipeg River with a Packet, which caused great bustle and confusion among the Half-breeds, and consternation visible in every countenance, immediately the Saskatchewan half-breeds start to return to their homes but McDonald followed them and got them to return. next day two Canoes and one large Boat was got ready and McDonell, Grant a number of half-breeds, Canadians and eighteen Bungee Indians (in all about sixty Men) embarked and went down the River, with a Flag flying in each craft and singing French and Indian songs. they carried with them thirty or forty extra Guns and said it was arms for Indians that was to join them at the bottom of the Rivers. Previous to McDonells and Grants embarking they told Spence that Lord Selkirk had again begun a War that would not soon be ended, that he had taken their principal fort meaning Fort William and had made prisoners of seven of their Proprietors and stopt all their Canoes intended for Red river and Swan river they further added that they were determined to have their Fort again and if they did not succeed they would destroy every post belonging to the Hudsons Bay Company and neirher spare age or sex. from the information that Spence received from several others of the halfbreeds seems to corroborate the above that Fort William was taken, they gave him a circumstantial account and told him that Lord Selkirk had taken their Fort by the following stratagem.
Having landed his Men a little below their Fort, he proceeded to it, had admittance and was kindly treated, After dinner he requested to view the place and the different Stores, which was granted, and he was admitted into every Store about the place he then returned to his Camp. The next day he again went up to the Fort with a number of Men, and a band of Music and requested they should be admitted into the inside of the Fort to play which was agreed to, as soon as he got in, he changed his note and demanded the surrender of the place, which seemingly was complied with without bloodshed no one attempted to lift Arms except blind McDonell from this place all the officers found there were made prisoners of and sent to Montreal, Captain McDonell was left in charge of Fort William with sixty Soldiers to defend it and Lord Selkirk was proceeding to the interior with Sixty more besides Labourers to work them along, this is the party that McDonell and Grants band intended to intercept they are to lay wait for them on a certain Portage in Winnipeg River untill a certain date and if his Lordship does not arrive at that time they are to proceed to Fort William, but in the mean time said they would be back again in a Month from the date of their embarkation from the forks. Whither the taking of Fort William is true or false I know not, but that the party embarked from the forks is certain as Spence was an eye witnefs of their departure so that certain it is that something has been done below, or that Lord Selkirk is coming with a great force which they are determined to stop, it is that all this news came by some Canadians who made their escape from Fort William after it was taken there is something very mysterious throughout the whole. I learn from a free man who remained at the big Fall untill about the middle of last month, that all the North west Canoes for the Northward of that place had pafsed he happened to remain there a few days after all their loaded Canoes pafsed and was told by them that no more of their Canoes would pafs there that season, but he says the day before he left that place that Mr John Stewart pafsed in a light Canoe with Twelve Men not an Article in her but their bedding and a little Provisions. Stewart would give no infornmation concerning anything but said he had letters for McLeod. he would not allow any of his men to hold any conversation with the free men and seemed to be in a terrible hurry. This same Stewart intended to have gone to Canada this Year, I suspect this is the very Canoe that brought the news to Pointe au Foutre, that was sent to Red River in a small Canoe. Spence says that as soon as he arrived at the Forks of Red River and told that our people was at Manitoba a Party of eighteen Men was ordered off to pillage them of the Goods, they went within a few miles of Mr Fidlers House when they met with a party of Indians, who stopped them and sent them back but the Halfbreeds say they will not forget to go again and in such force as not to be repulsed. Spence heard of no direct threats against us but say that when they gave him his liberty they wished to know where he intended to go he told thm he intended to proceed untill he found some settlements where our people were, they said (whither inadvertantly or not) that if they found him at the Elbow House they would shew him no mercy. he seems to be very much alarmed at this threat and I do not think I shall be able to prevent him to proceed to the Saskatchewan. Indeed all our Men seem to be alarmed and I do not think one will lift an arm should we be attacked. I understand McKay has acted a villianous part this summer, he had embezzled all the property I left at Qu'appelle and disposed of ten or twelve of the Companys Horses and although he wrote me a few lines from the Forks he has given no account of either, he is now engaged with the North West Company and in charge for them at Qu'appelle through his influence Francis Moosame and John Favel has been obliged to engage also and is along with him he has used his utmost influence with all the rest of the Men to get them to Engage with the North West Company - John Easter, John Lyons, Thomas Favel, and Humphrey Favel are gone free men in Red River. all the rest of our Men have arrived at Fort Hibernia and old Magnus Spence among the number. I do not know what to do with him, I suppose I shall be obliged to engage him for the Winter altho' I have no use for him, indeed we have a great many more men than is necefsary for the District and I am afraid more than we will be able to maintain and I am convinced that should we be permitted to carry on the trade that the whole returns of the place will not pay their Wages, we are altogether now thirty-eight Men and attached to these about fifty more Women and Children, it is entirely impracticable in the present state of affairs to settle a Post beyond Fort Hibernia. I am of opinion there will more Indians resort to the latter place than are we be able to supply, numbers of the Saskatchewan Indians are arriving there daily. all the Crees from Qu'appelle to the Saskatchewan has been at War this summer in a body they have killed a great number of Blood and Muddy River Indians, this will drive a great number of the Saskatchewan Indians to this quarter a great number will also resort here from Qu'appelle. The prospect of Provisions is not flattering all the plains are burnt about Red River to a very great distance and fire was in the ground in many places near the Elbow.
Mr Garrock has been at the Elbow ever since I arrived, the Indians are coming to the House in great numbers but bring nothing they barely get enough of Meat to feed themselves and here the Men has been on half allowance of Meat ever since I arrived, this is one of the most miserable spots I ever was at, hardly a House to put ourselves in not a Stockade about the place, nor is it pofsible at this season to supply these defficiences, no pofsibility of hauling wood if we had Horses to do it and it is equally impofsible to raft wood the water in the River is not six inches deep. I have had about hundred Logs felled and squared to make a Watch House but all my contrivance cannot get them home, it is really a great folly to send people to this place early in the summer they can do nothing but create expence. The Swan River Men might have made another trip in the low Country and still been in time enough here. I am really at a lofs how to dispose of myself, the Indians at this place detest Mr Garrock and at the Upper House the Men will do nothing for him, I hope you will not prevent Mr Findlayson from coming here I intend to proceed to the Upper House myself as soon as pofsible, I am really at a lofs what to say concerning the quantity of Goods to be sent here if we are permitted to carry on the trade peacably we would require every article I indented for but if we are to be overpowered by a superior force and plundered there is too much here already. I therefore must leave it to you to order what you please. I have never wrote a letter under such pain as the present. ever since I arrived here I have been in a weakly state of health and for some time back a contagious disorder has been amongst us, a kind of breaking out of the skin or more properly a kind of pimples on every part of the body, I have several on my right arm and one on the tip of my Elbow which pains me very much and cannot think of copying this, I hope you will excuse the manner it is wrote.
Your son James requested me for permifsion to go to meet you he will be able to give any information I have omitted. I therefore Shall add no more but conclude with wishing you a pleasant pafsage and Remain
Sir Your Most
Obed' Humble Servant
(signed) James Sutherland
PS. If Men and Goods were plenty I am of opinion that if a Post was Settled up the Branch this fall it would have a good chance of procuring Provisions. I wish I had gone there in the summer with the Men I came here with I would have done more good for my employers and not been in the same danger I am in at present for then we would have only to fear the Indians, and there would be no fear but the Men would defend the property to the last as they would expect no quarters from them - Our Men seems to have no hopes to Conquer these half breeds we are now indread of and think that resistance will only irritate them to act the same scene as they did at the Forks.
The reply from James Bird to James Sutherland
October 15 1816
I met my Son and George Sinclair in Lake Winnipeg where they delivered me your Letter of the 3rd inst.
It is impofsible for us to know what part to credit of the information John Spence received from the Half-breeds, Yet I am of opinion that Lord Selkirk has actually carried into effect some measure of importance below Lake Winnipeg but I imagine that it is more probably the North west Companys House at Rainy Lake that his Lordship has taken pofsefsion of than Fort William, and I am led to form the opinion from a consideration that the former is situated in the Hudsons Bay Company's territories, and that the other is not, I am at a lofs therefore to think how his Lordship could be justified in seizing Fort William and we may be sure that he would do nothing that is not strictly legal, It is superfluous however to troble you with conjectures as in all probability you will soon hear news that will remove all doubt
The band of horrid barbarians which Alexander McDonell has again collected, and the threats he made use of prove that the shocking events, the results of the steps he took last Spring, have made no lasting imprefsion on his cruel Heart. I hope however that providence and the perfect knowledge Lord Selkirk must now pofsefs, of the measures which the North West Company do not hesitate to resort to in support of their interests, will enable his Lordship to frustrate the design of his detestable Enemies, and bring them to the punishment they so richly merit. still however, I am sorry to say there is reason to fear that his Lordship has not been able to effect a pafsage to Lake Winnipeg, since there was no news from him at Jack River so late as the thirteenth of October. I am sorry to see you write in such desponding terms; can you not raise the spirits of your Men, put your House in a state of defence and determine on defending yourselves in your Houses at any rate? [his question mark] The Men should be reminded that their contracts oblige them to defend the Company's property. If you were to hire Jack Lyons and gather all the half-breeds in your quarter under him, and by a little liberality engage Thummy and his band, the same Indians who saved Mr McKay last winter, surely you might make yourself respected. Let me beg of you to exert yourself in this way and not allow the North west McDonell, or a few Half-breeds, to dictate to you without your making an attempt at resistance. If such measures as I have mentioned are necefsary, the expence that might attend them ought not to prevent you having recourse to them, for surely it is bad policy to loose all we have rather than sacrifice a part. If you could collect a small body of volunteers under Mr Halcro, Gaddy, and Lyons, keep them constantly ready and exercise them at firing at marks etc. they might be of infinte use, not only in protecting your own House but as a rallying point to many others. If any thing has happened below that will seriously weaken the North west Company in Red River do not fail to employ all the influence such an event may give you to benefit by it. If circumstance would admit, I would particularly recommend your taking Mr McKay and all our Men that are under engagement to us, who have joined the North West Company prisoners; but McKay in particular. that villian ought not to escape with impunity. To enable us to defend ourselves we must of course concentrate our forces in some measure though the trade should suffer by it and above all things it will be requisite for you to send information with all pofsible expedition to other Houses of any event that may happen by which they are likely to be ultimately affected. What advantages had the North West Company over us in this respect last Spring? [His again] Mr Hughes was informed of Camerons House being taken and might have retaliated on us at Edmonton without our being in the least prepared to expect such an attack. I particularly desire you to send information of any events of consequence that may happen in your quarter as soon as pofsible to Mr Pruden at Carlton House. I wish to winter at this latter place if the season will permit, but I fear it is too late to reach so far by water and that I shall be unable to walk from Cumberland to that place. I hope however that we shall have opportunities in course of the winter of concerting such measures as may appear to us to be most proper for the support of the interests with which we are entrusted. If any thing should happen towards Red River which should make you despair of being able to maintaine your ground in Swan River it will be proper for you to take measures in time for sending part of your force to the Saskatchewan to enable us to make a stand there at least, if it is pofsible. with my best wishes for your happinefs
I remain Sir
Your Humble Servant
(signed) James Bird"
To ? from James Bird at Cumberland House
Nov. 8 1816
I arrived here the 25th October, in the evening and on the 26th this Lake set fast and the weather continued so cold as to prevent any further progrefs by water.
You will already have heard the Account of Lord Selkirks taking the Grand Portage and of Alexander McDonells having collected a party of Half-breeds and Indians, and of his having left Red River to go and cut off Lord Selkirk, whom he understood to be on his way to Red River; as well as of the same Alexander McDonnell's threats, if he miscarried in that enterprise to destroy all the Hudsons Bay Company's Settlements etc. and I regret I cannot at present add anything on this subject, tho I am not without hopes that you will hear something more to be depended on, direct from Swan River. The preparations for defence it will be necefsary for you to make in consequence of that news will occur to yourself and you will not of course fail to carry them into execution.- You will also have heard of Archibald Norman McLeod's intentions to take our Mr John McLeod prisoner in virtue of a warrant that he intends to ifsue. Now it has occurred to me that I, as govenor in Chief of the Northern Department for the Hudsons Bay Comapny may on the rights of this Charter legally rescue any person arrested within their Territories by my authority not originating in, or proceeding from them, and that in the same principal I may; if circumstances will permit, arrest McLeod also for exercising such Authority and for his abuse of power in taking Mr Fidler prisoner without a Warrent or without being able to afsign any just cause for such an action. This is a matter in which I wish to be guided by your opinion, if it agrees with mine, and you are disposed to afsist in such an ubdertaking I wish you, to collect as many volunteers as pofsible out of the Settlers and Servants at Jack River and those who are below you, to make them feel a warm interest in the cause, exercise them in the use of your great Guns, and small Arms, join them to a few good Indians and come with the Gun Boat to meet us at the Big Fall as soon as the ice will pofsibly permit. By taking Hooks, Nets and Twine with You, you can maintain any Men there at that season on fish. The Stornaway Men you will perhaps easily inspire with an ardent desire to rescue McLeod. In case you should approve of this plan I have desired Mr Kirknefs to send to YF for the Govenors Seal which may be necefsary for to render any Warrant I may ifsue Authentic, as also for Pistols which I neglected to take with me last fall. As there will be some risk of your Letters to me falling into the hands of the North West Company I send you a cypher in which you can write such parts of your Letter as maybe of particular consequence.
You will of course consider what I have said regaring Archibald Norman McLeod in all its bearing; the consequences such a measure may have with respect to the steps it may induce the North West Company to take ? I am in hopes that you will receive Letters from Lord Selkirk in course of the Winter which will tell us decidedly how to act & which of course in that case be guided by. I left a letter with some Indians at the big Fall for you which I hope you have received.
I am Sir
With sentiments of regard
(signed) James Bird"