The Red River Colony - A Chronicle of the Beginnings of Manitoba
by Louis Aubrey Wood
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[Frontispiece: Thomas Douglas, Fifth Earl of Selkirk. From the painting at St Mary's Isle]



A Chronicle of the Beginnings of Manitoba






Copyright in all Countries subscribing to the Berne Convention






I. ST MARY'S ISLE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 II. SELKIRK, THE COLONIZER . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 III. THE PURSE-STRINGS LOOSEN . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 IV. STORNOWAY—AND BEYOND . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 V. WINTERING ON THE BAY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44 VI. RED RIVER AND PEMBINA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54 VII. THE BEGINNING OF STRIFE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65 VIII. COLIN ROBERTSON, THE AVENGER . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80 IX. SEVEN OAKS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 91 X. LORD SELKIRK'S JOURNEY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 108 XI. FORT WILLIAM . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 116 XII. THE PIPE OF PEACE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 129 BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 142 INDEX . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 147



THOMAS DOUGLAS, FIFTH EARL OF SELKIRK . . . . . . . Frontispiece From the painting at St Mary's Isle.

PLACE D'ARMES, MONTREAL, IN 1807 . . . . . . . . . . Facing page 20 From a water-colour sketch after Dillon in M'Gill University Library.

JOSEPH FROBISHER, A PARTNER IN THE NORTH-WEST COMPANY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . " " 22 From an engraving in the John Ross Robertson Collection, Toronto Public Library.

THE COUNTRY OF LORD SELKIRK'S SETTLERS . . . . . . . " " 48 Map by Bartholomew.

HUNTING THE BUFFALO . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . " " 58 From a painting by George Catlin.

PLAN OF THE RED RIVER COLONY . . . . . . . . . . . . " " 64 Drawn by Bartholomew.

FORT WILLIAM . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . " " 116 From an old print in the John Ross Robertson Collection, Toronto Public Library.

SIMON M'TAVISH, FOUNDER OF THE NORTH-WEST COMPANY . " " 118 From a water-colour drawing in M'Gill University Library.

WILLIAM M'GILLIVRAY, A PARTNER IN THE NORTH-WEST COMPANY . . . . . . . . . . . . . " " 122 From a photograph in M'Gill University Library.




When the Ranger stole into the firth of Solway she carried an exultant crew. From the cliffs of Cumberland she might have been mistaken for a trading bark, lined and crusted by long travel. But she was something else, as the townsfolk of Whitehaven, on the north-west coast of England, had found it to their cost. Out of their harbour the Ranger had just emerged, leaving thirty guns spiked and a large ship burned to the water's edge. In fact, this innocent-looking vessel was a sloop-of-war—as trim and tidy a craft as had ever set sail from the shores of New England. On her upper deck was stationed a strong battery of eighteen six-pounders, ready to be brought into action at a moment's notice.

On the quarter-deck of the Ranger, deep in thought, paced the captain, John Paul Jones, a man of meagre build but of indomitable will, and as daring a fighter as roved the ocean {2} in this year 1778. He held a letter of marque from the Congress of the revolted colonies in America, and was just now engaged in harrying the British coasts. Across the broad firth the Ranger sped with bellying sails and shaped her course along the south-western shore of Scotland. To Paul Jones this coast was an open book; he had been born and bred in the stewartry of Kirkcudbright, which lay on his vessel's starboard bow. Soon the Ranger swept round a foreland and boldly entered the river Dee, where the anchor was dropped.

A boat was swung out, speedily manned, and headed for the shelving beach of St Mary's Isle. Here, as Captain Paul Jones knew, dwelt one of the chief noblemen of the south of Scotland. The vine-clad, rambling mansion of the fourth Earl of Selkirk was just behind the fringe of trees skirting the shore. According to the official report of this descent upon St Mary's Isle, it was the captain's intention to capture Selkirk, drag him on board the Ranger, and carry him as a hostage to some harbour in France. But it is possible that there was another and more personal object. Paul Jones, it is said, believed that he was a natural son of the Scottish nobleman, {3} and went with this armed force to disclose his identity.

When the boat grated upon the shingle the seamen swarmed ashore and found themselves in a great park, interspersed with gardens and walks and green open spaces. The party met with no opposition. Everything, indeed, seemed to favour their undertaking, until it was learned from some workmen in the grounds that the master was not at home.

In sullen displeasure John Paul Jones paced nervously to and fro in the garden. His purpose was thwarted; he was cheated of his prisoner. A company of his men, however, went on and entered the manor-house. There they showed the hostile character of their mission. Having terrorized the servants, they seized the household plate and bore it in bags to their vessel. Under full canvas the Ranger then directed her course for the Irish Sea.

Thomas Douglas, the future lord of the Red River Colony, was a boy of not quite seven years at the time of this raid on his father's mansion. He had been born on June 20, 1771, and was the youngest of seven brothers in the Selkirk family. What he thought of Paul Jones and his marauders can only be {4} surmised. St Mary's Isle was a remote spot, replete with relics of history, but uneventful in daily life; and a real adventure at his own doors could hardly fail to leave an impression on the boy's mind. The historical associations of St Mary's Isle made it an excellent training-ground for an imaginative youth. Monks of the Middle Ages had noted its favourable situation for a religious community, and the canons-regular of the Order of St Augustine had erected there one of their priories. A portion of an extensive wall which had surrounded the cloister was retained in the Selkirk manor-house. Farther afield were other reminders of past days to stir the imagination of young Thomas Douglas. A few miles eastward from his home was Dundrennan Abbey. Up the Dee was Thrieve Castle, begun by Archibald the Grim, and later used as a stronghold by the famous Black Douglas.

The ancient district of Galloway, in which the Selkirk home was situated, had long been known as the Whig country. It had been the chosen land of the Covenanters, the foes of privilege and the defenders of liberal principles in government. Its leading families, the Kennedys, the Gordons, and {5} the Douglases, formed a broad-minded aristocracy. In such surroundings, as one of the 'lads of the Dee,' Thomas Douglas inevitably developed a type of mind more or less radical. His political opinions, however, were guided by a cultivated intellect. His father, a patron of letters, kept open house for men of genius, and brought his sons into contact with some of the foremost thinkers and writers of the day. One of these was Robert Burns, the most beloved of Scottish poets. In his earlier life, when scarcely known to his countrymen, Burns had dined with Basil, Lord Daer, Thomas Douglas's eldest brother and heir-apparent of the Selkirk line. This was the occasion commemorated by Burns in the poem of which this is the first stanza:

This wot ye all whom it concerns: I, Rhymer Robin, alias Burns, October twenty-third, A ne'er-to-be-forgotten day, Sae far I sprachl'd up the brae I dinner'd wi' a Lord.

One wet evening in the summer of 1793 Burns drew up before the Selkirk manor-house in company with John Syme of Ryedale. The two friends were making a tour of Galloway on horseback. The poet was in bad humour. {6} The night before, during a wild storm of rain and thunder, he had been inspired to the rousing measures of 'Scots wha hae wi' Wallace bled.' But now he was drenched to the skin, and the rain had damaged a new pair of jemmy boots which he was wearing. The passionate appeal of the Bruce to his countrymen was now forgotten, and Burns was as cross as the proverbial bear. It was the dinner hour when the two wanderers arrived and were cordially invited to stay. Various other guests were present; and so agreeable was the company and so genial the welcome, that the grumbling bard soon lost his irritable mood. The evening passed in song and story, and Burns recited one of his ballads, we are told, to an audience which listened in 'dead silence.' The young mind of Thomas Douglas could not fail to be influenced by such associations.

In 1786 Thomas Douglas entered the University of Edinburgh. From this year until 1790 his name appears regularly upon the class lists kept by its professors. The 'grey metropolis of the North' was at this period pre-eminent among the literary and academic centres of Great Britain. The principal of the university was William Robertson, the {7} celebrated historian. Professor Dugald Stewart, who held the chair of philosophy, had gained a reputation extending to the continent of Europe. Adam Smith, the epoch-making economist, was spending the closing years of his life at his home near the Canongate churchyard. During his stay in Edinburgh, Thomas Douglas interested himself in the work of the literary societies, which were among the leading features of academic life. At the meetings essays were read upon various themes and lengthy debates were held. In 1788 a group of nineteen young men at Edinburgh formed a new society known as 'The Club.' Two of the original members were Thomas Douglas and Walter Scott, the latter an Edinburgh lad a few weeks younger than Douglas. These two formed an intimate friendship which did not wane when one had become a peer of the realm, his mind occupied by a great social problem, and the other a baronet and the greatest novelist of his generation.

When the French Revolution stirred Europe to its depths, Thomas Douglas was attracted by the doctrines of the revolutionists, and went to France that he might study the new movement. But Douglas, like so many of his {8} contemporaries in Great Britain, was filled with disgust at the blind carnage of the Revolution. He returned to Scotland and began a series of tours in the Highlands, studying the conditions of life among his Celtic countrymen and becoming proficient in the use of the Gaelic tongue. Not France but Scotland was to be the scene of his reforming efforts.




From the north and west of Scotland have come two types of men with whom every schoolboy is now familiar. One of these has been on many a battlefield. He is the brawny Highland warrior, with buckled tartan flung across his shoulder, gay in pointed plume and filibeg. The other is seen in many a famous picture of the hill-country—the Highland shepherd, wrapped in his plaid, with staff in hand and long-haired dog by his side, guarding his flock in silent glen, by still-running burn, or out upon the lonely brae.

But in Thomas Douglas's day such types of Highland life were very recent factors in Scottish history. They did not appear, indeed, until after the battle of Culloden and the failure of the Rebellion of 1745. Loyalty, firm and unbending, has always been a characteristic of the mountaineer. The {10} Highlanders held to the ancient house of Stuart which had been dethroned. George II of England was repudiated by most of them as a 'wee, wee German Lairdie.' More than thirty thousand claymores flashed at the beck of Charles Edward, the Stuart prince, acclaimed as 'King o' the Highland hearts.' When the uprising had been quelled and Charles Edward had become a fugitive with a price on his head, little consideration could be expected from the house of Hanover. The British government decided that, once and for all, the power of the clans should be broken.

For centuries the chief strength of the Highland race had lain in the clan. By right of birth every Highlander belonged to a sept or clan. His overlord was an elected chief, whom he was expected to obey under all circumstances. This chief led in war and exercised a wide authority over his people. Just below him were the tacksmen, who were more nearly related to him than were the ordinary clansmen. Every member of the clan had some land; indeed, each clansman had the same rights to the soil as the chief himself enjoyed. The Highlander dwelt in a humble shealing; but, however poor, he {11} gloried in his independence. He grew his own corn and took it to the common mill; he raised fodder for his black, shaggy cattle which roamed upon the rugged hillsides or in the misty valleys; his women-folk carded wool sheared from his own flock, spun it, and wove the cloth for bonnet, kilt, and plaid. When his chief had need of him, the summons was vivid and picturesque. The Fiery Cross was carried over the district by swift messengers who shouted a slogan known to all; and soon from every quarter the clansmen would gather at the appointed meeting-place.

The clans of the Highlands had led a wild, free life, but their dogged love for the Stuart cause brought to them desolation and ruin. By one stroke the British government destroyed the social fabric of centuries. From the farthest rock of the storm-wasted Orkneys to the narrow home of Clan Donald in Argyllshire, the ban of the government was laid on the clan organization. Worst of all, possession of the soil was given, not to the many clansmen, but to the chiefs alone.

While the old chiefs remained alive, little real hardship was inflicted. They were {12} wedded to the old order of things, and left it unchanged. With their successors, however, began a new era. These men had come under the influence of the south, whither they had gone for education, to correct the rudeness of their Highland manners. On their return to their native country they too often held themselves aloof from the uncouth dwellers in the hills. The mysterious love of the Gael for his kith and kin had left them; they were no longer to their dependants as fathers to children. More especially had these Saxon-bred lordlings fallen a prey to the commercial ideas of the south. It was trying for them to possess the nominal dignity of landlords without the money needed to maintain their rank. They were bare of retinue, shabby in equipage, and light of purse. They saw but one solution of their difficulty. Like their English and Lowland brethren, they must increase the rents upon their Highland estates. So it came about that the one-time clansmen, reduced to mere tenants, groaned for the upkeep of their overlords.

Nor did this end the misfortunes of the clansmen. An attractive lure was held out to the new generation of chieftains, and greed and avarice were to triumph. Southern {13} speculators had been rambling over the Highlands, eager to exploit the country. These men had seen a land of grass and heather, steep crag, and winter snow. Observing that the country was specially adapted to the raising of sheep, they sought by offering high rents to acquire land for sheep-walks. Thus, through the length and breadth of the Highlands, great enclosures were formed for the breeding of sheep. Where many crofters had once tilled the soil, only a lone shepherd was now found, meditating on scenes of desolation. Ruined dwellings and forsaken hamlets remained to tell the tale. Human beings had been evicted: sheep had become the 'devourers of men.' In many parts of the Highlands the inhabitants, driven from mountain homes, were forced to eke out a meagre existence on narrow strips of land by the seashore, where they pined and where they half-starved on the fish caught in the dangerous waters.

From such a dilemma there was but one escape. Behind the evicted tenantry were the sheep-walks; before them was the open sea. Few herrings came to the net; the bannock meal was low; the tartan threadbare. In their utter hopelessness they listened to the good news which came of a land beyond the {14} Atlantic where there was plenty and to spare. It is small wonder that as the ships moved westward they carried with them the destitute Highlander, bound for the colonies planted in North America.

This 'expatriation' was spread over many weary years. It was in full process in 1797, when Thomas Douglas became Lord Daer. His six elder brothers had been ailing, and one by one they had died, until he, the youngest, alone survived. Then, when his father also passed away, on May 24, 1799, he was left in possession of the ancestral estates and became the fifth Earl of Selkirk.

As a youngest son, who would have to make his own way in the world, Thomas Douglas had prepared himself, and this was a distinct advantage to him when his elevation in rank occurred. He entered into his fortune and place an educated man, with the broad outlook upon life and the humanitarian sympathy which study and experience bring to a generous spirit. Now he was in a position to carry out certain philanthropic schemes which had begun earlier to engage his attention. His jaunts in the Highlands amid 'the mountain and the flood' were now to bear fruit. The dolorous plaint of the hapless clansmen had {15} struck an answering chord in the depths of his nature. As Thomas Douglas, he had meant to interest himself in the cause of the Highlanders; now that he was Earl of Selkirk, he decided, as a servant of the public, to use his wealth and influence for their social and economic welfare. With this resolve he took up what was to be the main task of his life—the providing of homes under other skies for the homeless in the Highlands.

In the spring of 1802 the young earl addressed a letter to Lord Pelham, a minister in the British government, in which he dwelt with enthusiasm upon the subject of emigration. His letter took the form of an appeal, and was prophetic. There had previously come into Selkirk's hands Alexander Mackenzie's thrilling story of his journeys to the Arctic and the Pacific. This book had filled Selkirk's mind with a great conception. Men had settled, he told Lord Pelham, on the sea-coast of British America, until no tract there was left uninhabited but—frozen wastes and arid plains. What of the fruitful regions which lay in the vast interior? It was thither that the government should turn the thoughts of the homeless and the improvident. Leading to this temperate and fertile area was {16} an excellent northern highway—the waters of Hudson Bay and the Nelson.

Lord Selkirk received a not unfavourable reply to his appeal. The authorities said that, though for the present they could not undertake a scheme of emigration such as he had outlined, they would raise no barrier against any private movement which Lord Selkirk might care to set on foot. The refusal of the government itself to move the dispossessed men was dictated by the political exigencies of the moment. Great Britain had no desire to decrease her male population. Napoleon had just become first consul in France. His imperial eagles would soon be carrying their menace across the face of Europe, and Great Britain saw that, at any moment, she might require all the men she could bring into the field.

As the government had not discountenanced his plan, the Earl of Selkirk determined to put his theories at once into practice. He made known in the Highlands that he proposed to establish a settlement in British North America. Keen interest was aroused, and soon a large company, mostly from the isle of Skye, with a scattering from other parts of Scotland, was prepared to embark. {17} It was intended that these settlers should sail for Hudson Bay. This and the lands beyond were, however, by chartered right the hunting preserve of the Hudson's Bay Company, of which more will be said. Presumably this company interfered, for unofficial word came from England to Selkirk that the scheme of colonizing the prairie region west of Hudson Bay and the Great Lakes would not be pleasing to the government. Selkirk, however, quickly turned elsewhere. He secured land for his settlers in Prince Edward Island, in the Gulf of St Lawrence. The prospective colonists, numbering eight hundred, sailed from Scotland on board three chartered vessels, and reached their destination in the midsummer of 1803.

Lord Selkirk had intended to reach Prince Edward Island in advance of his colonists, in order to make ready for their arrival. But he was delayed by his private affairs, and when he came upon the scene of the intended settlement, after sunset on an August day, the ships had arrived and one of them had landed its passengers. On the site of a little French village of former days they had propped poles together in a circle, matted them with foliage from the trees, and were {18} living, like a band of Indians, in these improvised wigwams.

There was, of course, much to be done. Trees and undergrowth had to be cleared away, surveys made, and plots of land meted out to the various families. Lord Selkirk remained for several weeks supervising the work. Then, leaving the colony in charge of an agent, he set out to make a tour of Canada and the United States.

Meanwhile, Selkirk's agents in Scotland were not idle. During the same summer (1803) a hundred and eleven emigrants were mustered at Tobermory, a harbour town on the island of Mull. Most of them were natives of the island. For some reason, said to be danger of attack by French privateers, they did not put out into the Atlantic that year; they sailed round to Kirkcaldy and wintered there. In May 1804 the party went on board the ship Oughton of Greenock, and after a six weeks' journey landed at Montreal. Thence they travelled in bateaux to Kingston.

These settlers were on their way to Baldoon Farm, a tract of about nine hundred and fifty acres which Lord Selkirk had purchased for them in Upper Canada, near Lake St Clair. Selkirk himself met the party at Kingston, {19} having journeyed from Albany for that purpose. He brought with him an Englishman named Lionel Johnson and his family. The new settlement was to be stocked with a thousand merino sheep, already on the way to Canada, and Johnson was engaged to take care of these and distribute them properly among the settlers. The journey from Kingston to the Niagara was made in a good sailing ship and occupied only four days. The goods of the settlers were carried above the Falls. Then the party resumed their journey along the north shore of Lake Erie in bateaux, and arrived at their destination in September.

Baldoon Farm was an ill-chosen site for a colony. The land, prairie-like in its appearance, lay in what is now known as the St Clair Flats in Kent county, Ontario. It proved to be too wet for successful farming. It was with difficulty, too, that the settlers became inured to the climate. Within a year forty-two are reported to have died, chiefly of fever and dysentery. The colony, however, enjoyed a measure of prosperity until the War of 1812 broke out, when the Americans under General M'Arthur, moving from Detroit, despoiled it of stores, cattle, and sheep, and almost obliterated it. In 1818 Lord Selkirk {20} sold the land to John M'Nab, a trader of the Hudson's Bay Company. Many descendants of the original settlers are, however, still living in the neighbourhood.

Before returning to Great Britain, Lord Selkirk rested from his travels for a time in the city of Montreal, where he was feted by many of the leading merchants. What the plutocrats of the fur trade had to relate to Selkirk was of more than passing interest. No doubt he talked with Joseph Frobisher in his quaint home on Beaver Hall Hill. Simon M'Tavish, too, was living in a new-built mansion under the brow of Mount Royal. This 'old lion of Montreal,' who was the founder of the North-West Company, had for the mere asking a sheaf of tales, as realistic as they were entertaining. Honour was done Lord Selkirk during his stay in the city by the Beaver Club, which met once a fortnight. This was an exclusive organization, which limited its membership to those who dealt in furs. Every meeting meant a banquet, and at these meetings each club-man wore a gold medal on which was engraved the motto, 'Fortitude in Distress.' Dishes were served which smacked of prairie and forest—venison, bear flesh, and {21} buffalo tongue. The club's resplendent glass and polished silver were marked with its crest, a beaver. After the toasts had been drunk, the jovial party knelt on the floor for a final ceremony. With pokers or tongs or whatever else was at hand, they imitated paddlers in action, and a chorus of lusty voices joined in a burst of song. It may be supposed that Lord Selkirk was impressed by what he saw at this gathering and that he was a sympathetic guest. He asked many questions, and nothing escaped his eager observation. Little did he then think that his hosts would soon be banded together in a struggle to the death against him and his schemes of western colonization.




Traffic in furs was hazardous, but it brought great returns. The peltry of the north, no less than the gold and silver of the south, gave impetus to the efforts of those who first settled the western hemisphere. In expectation of ample profits, the fur ship threaded its way through the ice-pack of the northern seas, and the trader sent his canoes by tortuous stream and toilsome portage. In the early days of the eighteenth century sixteen beaver skins could be obtained from the Indians for a single musket, and ten skins for a blanket. Profits were great, and with the margin of gain so enormous, jealousies and quarrels without number were certain to arise between rival fur traders.

The right to the fur trade in America had been granted—given away, as the English of the time thought—by the hand of Charles II of England. In prodigal fashion Charles {23} conceded, in 1670, a charter, which conveyed extensive lands, with the privileges of monopoly, to the 'Company of Adventurers of England trading into Hudson's Bay.' But if the courtiers of the Merry Monarch had any notion that he could thus exclude all others from the field, their dream was an empty one. England had an active rival in France, and French traders penetrated into the region granted to the Hudson's Bay Company. Towards the close of the seventeenth century Le Moyne d'Iberville was making conquests on Hudson Bay for the French king, and Greysolon Du Lhut was carrying on successful trading operations in the vicinity of Lakes Nipigon and Superior. Even after the Treaty of Utrecht (1713) had given the Hudson Bay territories to the English, the French-Canadian explorer La Verendrye entered the forbidden lands, and penetrated to the more remote west. A new situation arose after the British conquest of Canada during the Seven Years' War. Plucky independent traders, mostly of Scottish birth, now began to follow the watercourses which led from the rapids of Lachine on the St Lawrence to the country beyond Lake Superior. These men treated with disdain the royal charter of the Hudson's {24} Bay Company. In 1783 a group of them united to form the North-West Company, with headquarters at Montreal. The organization grew in strength and became the most powerful antagonist of the older company, and the open feud between the two spread through the wide region from the Great Lakes to the slopes of the Rocky Mountains.

The Nor'westers, as the partners and servants of the North-West Company were called, were bold competitors. Their enthusiasm for the conflict was all the more eager because their trade was regarded as illicit by their rivals. There was singleness of purpose in their ranks; almost every man in the service had been tried and proved. All the Montreal partners of the company had taken the long trip to the Grand Portage, a transit station at the mouth of the Pigeon river, on the western shore of Lake Superior. Other partners had wintered on the frozen plains or in the thick of the forest, tracking the yellow-grey badger, the pine-marten, and the greedy wolverine. The guides employed by the company knew every mile of the rivers, and they rarely mistook the most elusive trail. Its interpreters could converse with the red men like natives. Even the clerks who looked {25} after the office routine of the company laboured with zest, for, if they were faithful and attentive in their work, the time would come when they, too, would be elected as partners in the great concern. The canoemen were mainly French-Canadian coureurs de bois, gay voyageurs on lake and stream. In the veins of many of them flowed the blood of Cree or Iroquois. Though half barbarous in their mode of life, they had their own devotions. At the first halting-place on their westward journey, above Lachine, they were accustomed to enter a little chapel which stood on the bank of the Ottawa. Here they prayed reverently that 'the good Saint Anne,' the friend of all canoemen, would guard them on their way to the Grand Portage. Then they dropped an offering at Saint Anne's shrine, and pointed their craft against the current. These rovers of the wilderness were buoyant of heart, and they lightened the weary hours of their six weeks' journey with blithe songs of love and the river. When the snow fell and ice closed the river, they would tie their 'husky' dogs to sledges and travel over the desolate wastes, carrying furs and provisions.

It was a very different company that traded into Hudson Bay. The Hudson's Bay {26} Company was launched on its career in a princely manner, and had tried to cling fast to its time-worn traditions. The bundles of uncured skins were received from the red men by its servants with pomp and dignity. At first the Indians had to bring their 'catch' to the shores of Hudson Bay itself, and here they were made to feel that it was a privilege to be allowed to trade with the company. Sometimes they were permitted to pass in their wares only through a window in the outer part of the fort. A beaver skin was the regular standard of value, and in return for their skins the savages received all manner of gaudy trinkets and also useful merchandise, chiefly knives, hatchets, guns, ammunition, and blankets. But before the end of the eighteenth century the activity of the Nor'westers had forced the Hudson's Bay Company out of its aristocratic slothfulness. The savages were now sought out in their prairie homes, and the company began to set up trading-posts in the interior, all the way from Rainy Lake to Edmonton House on the North Saskatchewan.

Such was the situation of affairs in the fur-bearing country when the Earl of Selkirk had his vision of a rich prairie home for the {27} desolate Highlanders. Though he had not himself visited the Far West, he had some conception of the probable outcome of the fierce rivalry between the two great fur companies in North America. He foresaw that, sooner or later, if his scheme of planting a colony in the interior was to prosper, he must ally himself with one or the other of these two factions of traders.

We may gain a knowledge of Lord Selkirk's ideas at this time from his own writings and public utterances. In 1805 he issued a work on the Highlands of Scotland, which Sir Walter Scott praised for its 'precision and accuracy,' and which expressed the significant sentiment that the government should adopt a policy that would keep the Highlanders within the British Empire. In 1806, when he had been chosen as one of the sixteen representative peers from Scotland, he delivered a speech in the House of Lords upon the subject of national defence, and his views were afterwards stated more fully in a book. With telling logic he argued for the need of a local militia, rather than a volunteer force, as the best protection for England in a moment of peril. The tenor of this and Selkirk's other writings would indicate the staunchness of {28} his patriotism. In his efforts at colonization his desire was to keep Britain's sons from emigrating to an alien shore.

'Now, it is our duty to befriend this people,' he affirmed, in writing of the Highlanders. 'Let us direct their emigration; let them be led abroad to new possessions.' Selkirk states plainly his reason. 'Give them homes under our own flag,' is his entreaty, 'and they will strengthen the empire.'

In 1807 Selkirk was chosen as lord-lieutenant of the stewartry of Kirkcudbright, and in the same year took place his marriage with Jean Wedderburn-Colvile, the only daughter of James Wedderburn-Colvile of Ochiltree. One year later he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society, a distinction conferred only upon intellectual workers whose labours have increased the world's stock of knowledge.

After some shrewd thinking Lord Selkirk decided to throw in his lot with the Hudson's Bay Company. Why he did this will subsequently appear. At first, one might have judged the step unwise. The financiers of London believed that the company was drifting into deep water. When the books were made up for 1808, there were no funds available for dividends, and bankruptcy seemed {29} inevitable. Any one who owned a share of Hudson's Bay stock found that it had not earned him a sixpence during that year. The company's business was being cut down by the operations of its aggressive rival. The chief cause, however, of the company's financial plight was not the trade war in America, but the European war, which had dealt a heavy blow to British commerce. Napoleon had found himself unable to land his army in England, but he had other means of striking. In 1806 he issued the famous Berlin Decree, declaring that no other country should trade with his greatest enemy. Dealers had been wont to come every year to London from Germany, France, and Russia, in order to purchase the fine skins which the Hudson's Bay Company could supply. Now that this trade was lost to the company, the profits disappeared. For three seasons bale after bale of unsold peltry had been stacked to the rafters of the London warehouse.

The Earl of Selkirk was a practical man; and, seeing the plight of the Hudson's Bay Company, he was tempted to take advantage of the situation to further his plans of emigration. Like a genuine lord of Galloway, however, he proceeded with extreme caution. His {30} initial move was to get the best possible legal advice regarding the validity of the company's royal charter. Five of the foremost lawyers in the land were asked for their opinion upon this matter. Chief of those who were approached was Sir Samuel Romilly, the friend of Bentham and of Mirabeau. The other four were George Holroyd and James Scarlet, both distinguished pleaders, and William Cruise and John Bell. The finding of these lawyers put the question out of doubt. The charter, they said, was flawless. Of all the lands which were drained by the many rivers running into Hudson Bay, the company was the sole proprietor. Within these limits it could appoint sheriffs and bring law-breakers to trial. Besides, there was nothing to prevent it from granting to any one in fee-simple tracts of land in its vast domain.

Having satisfied himself that the charter of 1670 was legally unassailable, the earl was now ready for his subsequent line of action. He had resolved to get a foothold in the company itself. To effect this object he brought his own capital into play, and sought at the same time the aid of his wife's relatives, the Wedderburn-Colviles, and of other personal friends. Shares in the company had depreciated in value, and the owners, in many {31} cases, were jubilant at the chance of getting them off their hands. Selkirk and his friends did not stop buying until they had acquired about one-third of the company's total stock.

In the meantime the Nor'westers scented trouble ahead. As soon as Lord Selkirk had completed his purchase of Hudson's Bay stock, he began to make overtures to the company's shareholders to be allowed to plant a colony in the territories assigned to them by their royal charter. To the Nor'westers this proposition was anathema. They argued that if a permanent settlement was established in the fur country, the fur-bearing animals would be driven out, and their trade ruined. Their alarm grew apace. In May 1811 a general court of the Hudson's Bay Company, which had been adjourned, was on the point of reassembling. The London agents of the North-West Company decided to act at once. Forty-eight hours before the general court opened three of their number bought up a quantity of Hudson's Bay stock. One of these purchasers was the redoubtable explorer, Sir Alexander Mackenzie.

Straightway there ensued one of the liveliest sessions that ever occurred in a general court of the Hudson's Bay Company. The {32} Nor'westers, who now had a right to voice their opinions, fumed and haggled. Other share holders flared into vigorous protest as the Earl of Selkirk's plan was disclosed. In the midst of the clash of interests, however, the earl's following stated his proposal succinctly. They said that Selkirk wished to secure a tract of fertile territory within the borders of Rupert's Land, for purposes of colonization. Preferably, this should lie in the region of the Red River, which ran northward towards Hudson Bay. At his own expense Selkirk would people this tract within a given period, foster the early efforts of its settlers, and appease the claims of the Indian tribes that inhabited the territory. He promised, moreover, to help to supply the Hudson's Bay Company with labourers for its work.

Had Lord Selkirk been present to view the animated throng of merchant adventurers, he would have foreseen his victory. In his first tilt with the Nor'westers he was to be successful. The opposition was strong, but it wore down before the onslaught of his friends. Then came the show of hands. There was no uncertainty about the vote: two-thirds of the court had pledged themselves in favour of Lord Selkirk's proposal.


By the terms of the grant which the general court made to Selkirk, he was to receive 116,000 square miles of virgin soil in the locality which he had selected. The boundaries of this immense area were carefully fixed. Roughly speaking, it extended from Big Island, in Lake Winnipeg, to the parting of the Red River from the head-waters of the Mississippi in the south, and from beyond the forks of the Red and Assiniboine rivers in the west to the shores of the Lake of the Woods, and at one point almost to Lake Superior, in the east. If a map is consulted, it will be seen that one-half of the grant lay in what is now the province of Manitoba, the other half in the present states of Minnesota and North Dakota.[1]

A great variety of opinions were expressed in London upon the subject of this grant. Some wiseacres said that the earl's proposal was as extravagant as it was visionary. One of Selkirk's acquaintances met him strolling along Pall Mall, and brought him up short on the street with the query: 'If you are bent {34} on doing something futile, why do you not sow tares at home in order to reap wheat, or plough the desert of Sahara, which is nearer?'

The extensive tract which the Hudson's Bay Company had bestowed upon Lord Selkirk for the nominal sum of ten shillings had made him the greatest individual land-owner in Christendom. His new possession was quite as large as the province of Egypt in the days of Caesar Augustus. But in some other respects Lord Selkirk's heritage was much greater. The province of Egypt, the granary of Rome, was fertile only along the banks of the Nile. More than three-fourths of Lord Selkirk's domain, on the other hand, was highly fertile soil.

[1] It will be understood that the boundary-line between British and American territory in the North-West was not yet established. What afterwards became United States soil was at this time claimed by the Hudson's Bay Company under its charter.




On June 13, 1811, the deed was given to Selkirk of his wide possessions with the seal and signature of the Hudson's Bay Company, attached by Alexander Lean, the secretary. Before this, however, Selkirk had become deeply engrossed in the details of his enterprise. No time was to be lost, for unless all should be in readiness before the Hudson's Bay vessels set out to sea on their summer voyage, the proposed expedition of colonists must be postponed for another year.

Selkirk issued without delay a pamphlet, setting forth the advantages of the prospective colony. Land was to be given away free, or sold for a nominal sum. To the poor, transport would cost nothing; others would have to pay according to their means. No one would be debarred on account of his religious belief; all creeds were to be treated alike. The seat of the colony was to be called {36} Assiniboia, after a tribe of the Sioux nation, the Assiniboines, buffalo hunters on the Great Plains.

Wherever this pamphlet was read by men dissatisfied with their lot in the Old World, it aroused hope. With his usual good judgment, Selkirk had engaged several men whose training fitted them for the work of inducing landless men to emigrate. One of these was Captain Miles Macdonell, lately summoned by Lord Selkirk from his home in Canada. Macdonell had been reared in the Mohawk valley, had served in the ranks of the Royal Greens during the War of the Revolution, and had survived many a hard fight on the New York frontier. After the war, like most of his regiment, he had gone as a Loyalist to the county of Glengarry, on the Ottawa. It so chanced that the Earl of Selkirk while in Canada had met Macdonell, then a captain of the Royal Canadian Volunteers, and had been impressed by his courage and energy. In consequence, Selkirk now invited him to be the first governor of Assiniboia. Macdonell accepted the appointment; and promptly upon his arrival in Britain he went to the west coast of Ireland to win recruits for the settlement. Owing to the straitened circumstances {37} of the Irish peasantry, the tide of emigration from Ireland was already running high, and Lord Selkirk thought that Captain Macdonell, who was a Roman Catholic, might influence some of his co-religionists to go to Assiniboia.

Another agent upon whom Selkirk felt that he could rely was Colin Robertson, a native of the island of Lewis, in the Hebrides. To this island he was now dispatched, with instructions to visit other sections of the Highlands as well. Robertson had formerly held a post under the North-West Company in the Saskatchewan valley. There he had quarrelled with a surly-natured trader known as Crooked-armed Macdonald, with the result that Robertson had been dismissed by the Nor'westers and had come back to Scotland in an angry mood.

A third place of muster for the colony was the city of Glasgow. There the Earl of Selkirk's representative was Captain Roderick M'Donald. Many Highlanders had gone to Glasgow, that busy hive of industry, in search of work. To the clerks in the shops and to the labourers in the yards or at the loom, M'Donald described the glories of Assiniboia. Many were impressed by his words, but objected to the low wages offered for their {38} services. M'Donald compromised, and by offering a higher wage induced a number to enlist. But the recruits from Glasgow turned out to be a shiftless lot and a constant source of annoyance to Selkirk's officers.

While this work was being done the Nor'westers in London were burning with wrath at their inability to hinder Lord Selkirk's project. Their hostility, we have seen, arose from their belief, which was quite correct, that a colony would interfere with their trading operations. In the hope that the enterprise might yet be stopped, they circulated in the Highlands various rumours against it. An anonymous attack, clearly from a Nor'wester source, appeared in the columns of the Inverness Journal. The author of this diatribe pictured the rigours of Assiniboia in terrible colours. Selkirk's agents were characterized as a brood of dissemblers. With respect to the earl himself words were not minced. His philanthropy was all assumed; he was only biding his time in order to make large profits out of his colonization scheme.

Notwithstanding this campaign of slander, groups of would-be settlers came straggling along from various places to the port of rendezvous, Stornoway, the capital of the {39} Hebrides. When all had gathered, these people who had answered the call to a new heritage beyond the seas proved to be a motley throng. Some were stalwart men in the prime of life, men who looked forward to homes of their own on a distant shore; others, with youth on their side, were eager for the trail of the flying moose or the sight of a painted redskin; a few were women, steeled to bravery through fires of want and sorrow. Too many were wastrels, cutting adrift from a blighted past. A goodly number were malcontents, wondering whether to go or stay.

The leading vessel of the Hudson's Bay fleet in the year 1811 was the commodore's ship, the Prince of Wales. At her moorings in the Thames another ship, the Eddystone, lay ready for the long passage to the Great Bay. Besides these, a shaky old hulk, the Edward and Ann, was put into commission for the use of Lord Selkirk's settlers. Her grey sails were mottled with age and her rigging was loose and worn. Sixteen men and boys made up her crew, a number by no means sufficient for a boat of her size. It seemed almost criminal to send such an ill-manned craft out on the tempestuous North Atlantic. However, the three ships sailed from the {40} Thames and steered up the east coast of England. Opposite Yarmouth a gale rose and forced them into a sheltering harbour. It was the middle of July before they rounded the north shore of Scotland. At Stromness in the Orkneys the Prince of Wales took on board a small body of emigrants and a number of the company's servants who were waiting there.

At length the tiny fleet reached the bustling harbour-town of Stornoway; and here Miles Macdonell faced a task of no little difficulty. Counting the Orkneymen just arrived, there were one hundred and twenty-five in his party. The atmosphere seemed full of unrest, and the cause was not far to seek. The Nor'westers were at work, and their agents were sowing discontent among the emigrants. Even Collector Reed, the government official in charge of the customs, was acting as the tool of the Nor'westers. It was Reed's duty, of course, to hasten the departure of the expedition; but instead of doing this he put every possible obstacle in the way. Moreover, he mingled with the emigrants, urging them to forsake the venture while there was yet time.

Another partisan of the North-West {41} Company also appeared on the scene. This was an army officer named Captain Mackenzie, who pretended to be gathering recruits for the army. He had succeeded, it appears, in getting some of Selkirk's men to take the king's shilling, and now was trying to lead these men away from the ships as 'deserters from His Majesty's service.' One day this trouble-maker brought his dinghy alongside one of the vessels. A sailor on deck, who saw Captain Mackenzie in the boat and was eager for a lark, picked up a nine-pound shot, poised it carefully, and let it fall. There was a splintering thud. Captain Mackenzie suddenly remembered how dry it was on shore, and put off for land as fast as oars would hurry him. Next day he sent a pompous challenge to the commander of the vessel. It was, of course, ignored.

In spite of obstacles, little by little the arrangements for the ocean voyage were being completed. There were many irritating delays. Disputes about wages broke out afresh when inequalities were discovered. There was much wrangling among the emigrants as to their quarters on the uninviting Edward and Ann. At the last moment a number of the party took fear and decided to stay at home. {42} Some left the ship in unceremonious fashion, even forgetting their effects. These were subsequently sold among the passengers. 'One man,' wrote Captain Macdonell, 'jumped into the sea and swam for it until he was picked up.' It may be believed that the governor of Assiniboia heaved a thankful sigh when the ships were ready to hoist their sails. 'It has been a herculean task,' ran the text of his parting message to the Earl of Selkirk.

On July 26 a favourable breeze bore the vessels out to sea. There were now one hundred and five in the party, seventy of whom had professed an intention to till the soil. The remainder had been indentured as servants of the Hudson's Bay Company. Seventy-six of the total number were quartered on board the Edward and Ann. As the vessels swept seaward many eyes were fastened sadly on the receding shore. The white houses of Stornoway loomed up distinctly across the dark waters of the bay. The hill which rose gloomily in the background was treeless and inky black. On the clean shingle lay the cod and herring, piled loose to catch the sun's warm rays. The settlers remembered that they were perhaps scanning for the last time the rugged outline {43} of that heather-clad landscape, and their hearts grew sick within them. Foreland after foreland came into view and disappeared. At length the ships were skirting the Butt of Lewis with its wave-worn clefts and caverns. Then all sight of land vanished, and they were steering their course into the northern main.

A man-of-war had been sent as a convoy to the vessels, for the quick-sailing frigates of France had been harrying British shipping, and the mercantile marine needed protection. After standing guard to a point four hundred miles off the Irish coast, the ship-of-the-line turned back, and the three vessels held their way alone in a turbulent sea. Two of them beat stoutly against the gale, but the Edward and Ann hove to for a time, her timbers creaking and her bowsprit catching the water as she rose and fell with the waves. And so they put out into the wide and wild Atlantic—these poor, homeless, storm-tossed exiles, who were to add a new chapter to Great Britain's colonial history.




Little is known of the many strange things which must have taken place on the voyage. On board the Edward and Ann sickness was prevalent and the ship's surgeon was kept busy. There were few days on which the passengers could come from below-decks. When weather permitted, Captain Macdonell, who knew the dangers to be encountered in the country they were going to, attempted to give the emigrants military drill. 'There never was a more awkward squad,' was his opinion, 'not a man, or even officer, of the party knew how to put a gun to his eye or had ever fired a shot.' A prominent figure on the Edward and Ann was a careless-hearted cleric, whose wit and banter were in evidence throughout the voyage. This was the Reverend Father Burke, an Irish priest. He had stolen away without the leave of his bishop, and it appears that he and Macdonell, {45} although of the same faith, were not the best of friends.

After a stormy voyage of nearly two months the ships entered the long, barren straits leading into Hudson Bay. From the beginning of September the fleet had been hourly expected at York Factory, and speculation was rife there as to its delay in arriving. On September 24 the suspense ended, for the look-out at the fort descried the ships moving in from the north and east. They anchored in the shallow haven on the western shore, where two streams, the Nelson and the Hayes, enter Hudson Bay, and the sorely tried passengers disembarked. They were at once marched to York Factory, on the north bank of the Hayes. The strong palisades and wooden bastions of the fort warned the newcomers that there were dangers in America to be guarded against. A pack of 'husky' dogs came bounding forth to meet them as they approached the gates.

A survey of the company's buildings convinced Macdonell that much more roomy quarters would be required for the approaching winter, and he determined to erect suitable habitations for his people before snowfall. With this in view he crossed over to the Nelson {46} and ascended it until he reached a high clearing on its left bank, near which grew an abundance of white spruce. He brought up a body of men, most of whom now received their first lesson in woodcraft. The pale and flaky-barked aromatic spruce trees were felled and stripped of their branches. Next, the logs were 'snaked' into the open, where the dwellings were to be erected, and hewed into proper shape. These timbers were then deftly fitted together and the four walls of a rude but substantial building began to rise. A drooping roof was added, the chinks were closed, and then the structure was complete. When a sufficient number of such houses had been built, Macdonell set the party to work cutting firewood and gathering it into convenient piles.

The prudence of these measures became apparent when the frost king fixed his iron grip upon land and sea. As the days shortened, the rivers were locked deep and fast; a sharp wind penetrated the forest, and the salty bay was fringed with jagged and glistening hummocks of ice. So severe was the cold that the newcomers were loath to go forth from their warm shelter even to haul food from the fort over the brittle, yielding snow. Under such {47} conditions life in the camp grew monotonous and dull. More serious still, the food they had to eat was the common fare of such isolated winterers; it was chiefly salt meat. The effect of this was seen as early as December. Some of the party became listless and sluggish, their faces turned sallow and their eyes appeared sunken. They found it difficult to breathe and their gums were swollen and spongy. Macdonell, a veteran in hardship, saw at once that scurvy had broken out among them; but he had a simple remedy and the supply was without limit. The sap of the white spruce was extracted and administered to the sufferers. Almost immediately their health showed improvement, and soon all were on the road to recovery. But the medicine was not pleasant to take, and some of the party at first foolishly refused to submit to the treatment.

The settlers, almost unwittingly, banded together into distinct groups, each individual tending to associate with the others from his own home district. As time went on these groups, with their separate grievances, gave Macdonell much trouble. The Orkneymen, who were largely servants of the Hudson's Bay Company, were not long in incurring his {48} disfavour. To him they seemed to have the appetites of a pack of hungry wolves. He dubbed them 'lazy, spiritless and ill-disposed.' The 'Glasgow rascals,' too, were a source of annoyance. 'A more ... cross-grained lot,' he asserted, 'were never put under any person's care.'

Owing to the discord existing in the camp, the New Year was not ushered in happily. In Scotland, of all the days of the year, this anniversary was held in the highest regard. It was generally celebrated to the strains of 'Weel may we a' be,' and with effusive handshakings, much dining, and a hot kettle. The lads from the Orkneys were quite wide awake to the occasion and had no intention of omitting the customs of their sires. On New Year's Day they were having a rollicking time in one of the cabins. But their enthusiasm was quickly damped by a party of Irish who, having primed their courage with whisky, set upon the merry-makers and created a scene of wild disorder. In the heat of the melee three of the Orkneymen were badly beaten, and for a month their lives hung in the balance. Captain Macdonell later sent several of the Irish back to Great Britain, saying that such 'worthless blackguards' were {49} better under the discipline of the army or the navy.

One of the number who had not taken kindly to Miles Macdonell as a 'medicine-man' was William Findlay, a very obdurate Orkneyman, who had flatly refused to soil his lips with the wonder-working syrup of the white spruce. Shortly afterwards, having been told to do something, he was again disobedient. This time he was forced to appear before Magistrate Hillier of the Hudson's Bay Company and was condemned to gaol. As there was really no such place, a log-house was built for Findlay, and he was imprisoned in it. A gruff-noted babel of dissent arose among his kinsfolk, supported by the men from Glasgow. A gang of thirteen, in which both parties were represented, put a match to the prison where Findlay was confined, and rescued its solitary inmate out of the blaze. Then, uttering defiance, they seized another building, and decided to live apart. Thus, with the attitude of rebels and well supplied with firearms, they kept the rest of the camp in a state of nervousness for several months. In June, however, these rebels allowed themselves to fall into a trap. Having crossed the Nelson, they found their return cut off by {50} the melting of the ice. This put them at the mercy of the officials at York Factory, and they were forced to surrender. After receiving their humble acknowledgments Macdonell was not disposed to treat them severely, and he took them back into service.

But what of jovial Father Burke since his arrival on the shores of Hudson Bay? To all appearances, he had not been able to restrain his flock from mischief. He had, however, been exploring on his own account, and thoroughly believed that he had made some valuable discoveries. He had come upon pebbles of various kinds which he thought were precious stones. Some of them shone like diamonds; others seemed like rubies. Father Burke was indeed sure that bits of the sand which he had collected contained particles of gold. Macdonell himself believed that the soil along the Nelson abounded in mineral wealth. He told the priest to keep the discovery a secret, and sent samples of sand and stone to Lord Selkirk, advising him to acquire the banks of the Nelson river from the company. In the end, to the disgust of Macdonell and Father Burke, not one sample proved of any value.

Weeks before the ice had left the river, the {51} colonists became impatient to set forward on the remainder of their journey. To transport so many persons, with all their belongings and with sufficient provisions, seven or eight hundred miles inland was an undertaking formidable enough to put Captain Macdonell's energies to the fullest test. The only craft available were bark canoes, and these would be too fragile for the heavy cargoes that must be borne. Stouter boats must be built. Macdonell devised a sort of punt or flat-bottomed boat, such as he had formerly seen in the colony of New York. Four of these clumsy craft were constructed, but only with great difficulty, and after much trouble with the workmen. Inefficiency, as well as misconduct, on the part of the colonists was a sore trial to Macdonell. The men from the Hebrides were now practically the only members of the party who were not, for one reason or another, in his black book.

It was almost midsummer before the boats began to push up the Hayes river for the interior. There were many blistered hands at the oars; nevertheless, on the journey they managed to make an average of thirteen miles each day. Before the colonists could reach Oxford House, the next post of the Hudson's {52} Bay Company, three dozen portages had to be passed. It was with thankful hearts that they came to Holy Lake and caught sight of the trading-post by its margin. Here was an ample reach of water, reminding the Highlanders of a loch of far-away Scotland. When the wind died down, Holy Lake was like a giant mirror. Looking into its quiet waters, the voyagers saw great fish swimming swiftly.

From Oxford House the route lay over a height-of-land to the head-waters of the Nelson. After a series of difficulties the party reached Norway House, another post of the Hudson's Bay Company, on an upper arm of Lake Winnipeg. At this time Norway House was the centre of the great fur-bearing region. The colonists found it strongly entrenched in a rocky basin and astir with life. After a short rest they proceeded towards Lake Winnipeg, and soon were moving slowly down its low-lying eastern shore. Here they had their first glimpse of the prairie country, with its green carpet of grass. Out from the water's edge grew tall, lank reeds, the lurking place of snipe and sand-piper. Doubtless, in the brief night-watches, they listened to the shrill cry of the restless lynx, or heard the yapping howl of the timber wolf as he slunk {53} away among the copses. But presently the boats were gliding in through the sand-choked outlet of the Red River, and they were on the last stage of their journey.

Some forty miles up-stream from its mouth the Red River bends sharply towards the east, forming what is known as Point Douglas in the present city of Winnipeg. Having toiled round this point, the colonists pushed their boats to the muddy shore. The day they landed—the natal day of a community which was to grow into three great provinces of Canada—was August 30, 1812.




Scarcely had the settlers taken stock of their surroundings on the Red River when they were chilled to the marrow with a sudden terror. Towards them came racing on horseback a formidable-looking troop, decked out in all the accoutrements of the Indian—spreading feather, dangling tomahawk, and a thick coat of war-paint. To the newcomers it was a never-to-be-forgotten spectacle. But when the riders came within close range, shouting and gesticulating, it was seen that they wore borrowed apparel, and that their speech was a medley of French and Indian dialects. They were a troop of Bois Brules, Metis, or half-breeds of French and Indian blood, aping for the time the manners of their mothers' people. Their object was to tell Lord Selkirk's party that settlers were not wanted on the Red River; that it was the country of the fur traders, and that settlers must go farther afield.


This was surely an inhospitable reception, after a long and fatiguing journey. Plainly the Nor'westers were at it again, trying now to frighten the colonists away, as they had tried before to keep them from coming. These mounted half-breeds were a deputation from Fort Gibraltar, the Nor'westers' nearest trading-post, which stood two miles higher up at 'the Forks,' where the Red River is joined by the Assiniboine.

Nevertheless, Governor Macdonell, having planned as dignified a ceremony as the circumstances would allow, sent to the Nor'westers at Fort Gibraltar an invitation to be present at the official inauguration of Lord Selkirk's colony. At the appointed hour, on September 4, several traders from the fort, together with a few French Canadians and Indians, put in an appearance. In the presence of this odd company Governor Macdonell read the Earl of Selkirk's patent to Assiniboia. About him was drawn up a guard of honour, and overhead the British ensign fluttered in the breeze. Six small swivel-guns, which had been brought with the colonists, belched forth a salute to mark the occasion. The Nor'westers were visibly impressed by this show of authority and power. In pretended friendship they {56} entered Governor Macdonell's tent and accepted his hospitality before departing. At variance with the scowls of trapper and trader towards the settlers was the attitude of the full-blooded Indians who were camping along the Red River. From the outset these red-skins were friendly, and their conduct was soon to stand the settlers in good stead.

The provisions brought from Hudson Bay were fast diminishing and would soon be at an end. True, the Nor'westers offered for sale supplies of oats, barley, poultry, and the like, but their prices were high and the settlers had not the means of purchase. But there was other food. Myriads of buffalo roamed over the Great Plains. Herds of these animals often darkened the horizon like a slowly moving cloud. In summer they might be seen cropping the prairie grass, or plunging and rolling about in muddy 'wallows.' In winter they moved to higher levels, where lay less snow to be removed from the dried grass which they devoured. At that season those who needed to hunt the buffalo for food must follow them wherever they went. This was now the plight of the settlers: winter was coming on and food was already scarce. The settlers must seek out the winter haunts of the buffalo. {57} The Indians were of great service, for they offered to act as guides.

A party to hunt the buffalo was organized. Like a train of pilgrims, the majority of the colonists now set out afoot. Their dark-skinned escort, mounted on wiry ponies, bent their course in a southerly direction. The redskins eyed with amusement the queer-clad strangers whom they were guiding. These were ignorant of the ways of the wild prairie country and badly equipped to face its difficulties. Sometimes the Indians indulged in horse-play, and a few of them were unable to keep their hands off the settlers' possessions. One Highlander lost an ancient musket which he treasured. A wedding ring was taken by an Indian guide from the hand of one of the women. Five days of straggling march brought the party to a wide plateau where the Indians said that the buffalo were accustomed to pasture. Here the party halted, at the junction of the Red and Pembina rivers, and awaited the arrival of Captain Macdonell, who came up next day on horseback with three others of his party.

Temporary tents and cabins were erected, and steps were taken to provide more commodious shelters. But this second winter {58} threatened to be almost as uncomfortable as the first had been on Hudson Bay. Captain Macdonell selected a suitable place south of the Pembina river, and on this site a storehouse and other buildings were put up. The end of the year saw a neat little encampment, surrounded by palisades, where before had been nothing but unbroken prairie. As a finishing touch, a flagstaff was raised within the stockade, and in honour of one of Lord Selkirk's titles the name Fort Daer was given to the whole. In the meantime a body of seventeen Irishmen, led by Owen Keveny, had arrived from the old country, having accomplished the feat of making their way across the ocean to Hudson Bay and up to the settlement during the single season of 1812. This additional force was housed at once in Fort Daer along with the rest. Until spring opened, buffalo meat was to be had in plenty, the Indians bringing in quantities of it for a slight reward. So unconscious were the buffalo of danger that they came up to the very palisades, giving the settlers an excellent view of their drab-brown backs and fluffy, curling manes.

On the departure of the herds in the springtime there was no reason why the colonists {59} should remain any longer at Fort Daer. Accordingly the entire band plodded wearily back to the ground which they had vacated above 'the Forks' on the Red River. As the season of 1813 advanced, more solid structures were erected on this site, and the place became known as Colony Gardens. An attempt was now made to prepare the soil and to sow some seed, but it was a difficult task, as the only agricultural implement possessed by the settlers was the hoe. They next turned to the river in search of food, only to find it almost empty of fish. Even the bushes, upon which clusters of wild berries ought to have been found, were practically devoid of fruit. Nature seemed to have veiled her countenance from the hapless settlers, and to be mocking their most steadfast efforts. In their dire need they were driven to use weeds for food. An indigenous plant called the prairie apple grew in abundance, and the leaves of a species of the goosefoot family were found to be nourishing.

With the coming of autumn 1813 the experiences of the previous year were repeated. Once more they went over the dreary road to Fort Daer. Then followed the most cruel winter that the settlers had yet endured. The {60} snow fell thickly and lay in heavy drifts, and the buffalo with animal foresight had wandered to other fields. The Nor'westers sold the colonists a few provisions, but were egging on their allies, the Bois Brules, who occupied a small post in the vicinity of the Pembina, to annoy them whenever possible. It required courage of the highest order on the part of the colonists to battle through the winter. They were in extreme poverty, and in many cases their frost-bitten, starved bodies were wrapped only in rags before spring came. Those who still had their plaids, or other presentable garments, were prepared to part with them for a morsel of food. With the coming of spring once more, the party travelled northward to 'the Forks' of the Red River, resolved never again to set foot within the gates of Fort Daer.

Meanwhile, some news of the desperate state of affairs on the Red River had reached the Earl of Selkirk in Scotland. So many were the discouragements that one might forgive him if at this juncture he had flung his colonizing scheme to the winds as a lost venture. The lord of St Mary's Isle did not, however, abandon hope; he was a persistent man and not easily turned aside from his {61} purpose. Now he went in person to the straths and glens of Sutherlandshire to recruit more settlers. For several years the crofters in this section of the Highlands had been ejected in ruthless fashion from their holdings. Those who aimed to 'quench the smoke of cottage fires' had sent a regiment of soldiers into this shire to cow the Highlanders into submission. Lord Selkirk came at a critical moment and extended a helping hand to the outcasts. A large company agreed to join the colony of Assiniboia, and under Selkirk's own superintendence they were equipped for the journey. As the sad-eyed exiles were about to leave the port of Helmsdale, the earl passed among them, dispensing words of comfort and of cheer.

This contingent numbered ninety-seven persons. The vessel carrying them from Helmsdale reached the Prince of Wales of the Hudson's Bay Company, on which they embarked, at Stromness in the Orkneys. The parish of Kildonan, in Sutherlandshire, had the largest representation among these emigrants. Names commonly met with on the ship's register were Gunn, Matheson, MacBeth, Sutherland, and Bannerman.

After the Prince of Wales had put to sea, {62} fever broke out on board, and the contagion quickly spread among the passengers. Many of them died. They had escaped from beggary on shore only to perish at sea and to be consigned to a watery grave. The vessel reached Hudson Bay in good time, but for some unknown reason the captain put into Churchill, over a hundred miles north of York Factory. This meant that the newcomers must camp on the Churchill for the winter; there was nothing else to be done. Fortunately partridge were numerous in the neighbourhood of their encampment, and, as the uneventful months dragged by, the settlers had an unstinted supply of fresh food. In April 1814 forty-one members of the party, about half of whom were women, undertook to walk over the snow to York Factory. The men drew the sledges on which their provisions were loaded and went in advance, clearing the way for the women. In the midst of the company strode a solemn-visaged piper. At one moment, as a dirge wailed forth, the spirits of the people drooped and they felt themselves beaten and forsaken. But anon the music changed. Up through the scrubby pine and over the mantle of snow rang the skirl of the undefeated; and as they heard the gathering song of Bonnie Dundee {63} or the summons to fight for Royal Charlie, they pressed forward with unfaltering steps.

This advance party came to York Factory, and, continuing the journey, reached Colony Gardens without misadventure early in the summer. They were better husbandmen than their predecessors, and they quickly addressed themselves to the cultivation of the soil. Thirty or forty bushels of potatoes were planted in the black loam of the prairie. These yielded a substantial increase. The thrifty Sutherlanders might have saved the tottering colony, had not Governor Macdonell committed an act which, however legally right, was nothing less than foolhardy in the circumstances, and which brought disaster in its train.

In his administration of the affairs of the colony Macdonell had shown good executive ability and a willingness to endure every trial that his followers endured. Towards the Nor'westers, however, he was inclined to be stubborn and arrogant. He was convinced that he must adopt stringent measures against them. He determined to assert his authority as governor of the colony under Lord Selkirk's patent. Undoubtedly Macdonell had reason to be indignant at the {64} unfriendly attitude of the fur traders; yet, so far, this had merely taken the form of petty annoyance, and might have been met by good nature and diplomacy.

In January 1814 Governor Macdonell issued a proclamation pronouncing it unlawful for any person who dealt in furs to remove from the colony of Assiniboia supplies of flesh, fish, grain, or vegetable. Punishment would be meted out to those who offended against this official order. The aim of Macdonell was to keep a supply of food in the colony for the support of the new settlers. He was, however, offering a challenge to the fur traders, for his policy meant in effect that these had no right in Assiniboia, that it was to be kept for the use of settlers alone. Such a mandate could not fail to rouse intense hostility among the traders, whose doctrine was the very opposite. The Nor'westers were quick to seize the occasion to strike at the struggling colony.




Stormy days were coming. Once Governor Macdonell had published his edict, he did not hesitate to enforce its terms. Information had been received at Colony Gardens that the Nor'westers had stored a quantity of provisions in their trading-post at the mouth of the Souris, a large southern tributary of the Assiniboine. It was clear that, in defiance of Macdonell's decree, they meant to send food supplies out of Assiniboia to support their trading-posts elsewhere. The fort at Souris was in close proximity to Brandon House on the Assiniboine, a post founded by the Hudson's Bay Company in 1794. Macdonell decided on strong action. His secretary, John Spencer, was ordered to go to the Souris in the capacity of a sheriff, accompanied by a strong guard and carrying a warrant in his pocket. When Spencer drew near the stockades of the Nor'westers' fort and found the {66} gate closed against him, he commanded his men to batter it in with their hatchets. They obeyed with alacrity, and having filed inside the fort, took charge of the contents of the storehouse. Six hundred bags of pemmican were seized and carried to Brandon House. Already there was a state of war in Assiniboia.

The territory which comprised the colony was of great value economically to the North-West Company. The food supplies which supported its traders in the far interior were largely drawn from this area. In the eyes of the Nor'westers, Sheriff John Spencer had performed an act of pure brigandage at their Souris post. Still, they were in no hurry to execute a counter-move. In order to make no mistake they thought it best to restrain themselves until their partners should hold their summer meeting at Fort William,[1] on Lake Superior.

The partners of the North-West Company {67} met at Fort William in the month of July 1814. Their fond hope had been that Lord Selkirk's colony would languish and die. Instead, it was flourishing and waxing aggressive. The governor of Assiniboia had published an edict which he seemed determined to enforce, to the ruin of the business of the North-West Company. The grizzled partners, as they rubbed elbows in secret conclave, decided that something must be done to crush this troublesome settlement. Whether or not they formed any definite plan cannot be ascertained. It is scarcely believable that at this meeting was plotted the opposition to Lord Selkirk's enterprise which was to begin with deceit and perfidy and to culminate in bloodshed. Among the Nor'westers were men of great worth and integrity. There were, however, others in their ranks who proved base and irresponsible. During this conference at Fort William a bitter animosity was expressed against Lord Selkirk and the company which had endorsed his colonizing project. It was the Nor'westers' misfortune and fault that some of their number were prepared to vent this outspoken enmity in deeds of criminal violence.

Two 'wintering partners' of the {68} North-West Company—men who remained in the interior during the winter—appear to have been entrusted by their fellows with the task of dealing with the settlers on the Red River. Both these men, Duncan Cameron and Alexander Macdonell, had a wide experience of the prairie country. Of the pair, Cameron was unquestionably the more resourceful. In view of the fact that later in life he became a trusted representative of the county of Glengarry in the legislature of Upper Canada, there has been a tendency to gloss over some of his misdemeanours when he was still a trader in furs. But he was a sinister character. His principal aim, on going to the Red River, was to pay lavish court to the settlers in order to deceive them. He was a born actor, and could assume at will the gravest or the gayest of demeanours or any disposition he chose to put on.

Alexander Macdonell, the other emissary of the Nor'westers, was of an inferior type. He was crafty enough never to burn his own fingers. Macdonell had some influence over the Indians of the Qu'Appelle district and of the more distant west. His immediate proposal was to attract a band of redskins to the neighbourhood of Colony Gardens with the {69} avowed intention of creating a panic among the settlers.

Shortly after the July meeting at Fort William these two men started on their mission for the Red River. On August 5, while at a stopping-point by the way, Alexander Macdonell dated a letter to a friend in Montreal. The tenor of this letter would indicate that only a portion of the Nor'westers were ready to adopt extreme measures against the settlement. 'Something serious will undoubtedly take place,' was Macdonell's callous admission. 'Nothing but the complete downfall of the colony,' he continued, 'will satisfy some, by fair or foul means—a most desirable object if it can be accomplished. So here is at them with all my heart and energy.'

Towards the end of August the twain arrived at Fort Gibraltar, where they parted company. Alexander Macdonell proceeded to his winter quarters at Fort Qu'Appelle, on the river of the same name which empties into the upper Assiniboine. Duncan Cameron made his appearance with considerable pomp and circumstance at Fort Gibraltar. The settlers soon knew him as 'Captain' Duncan Cameron, of the Voyageur Corps, a battalion which had ranged the border during the recent {70} war with the United States. Cameron decked himself in a crimson uniform. He had a sword by his side and the outward bearing of a gallant officer. Lest there should be any want of belief on the part of the colonists, he caused his credentials to be tacked up on the gateway of Fort Gibraltar. There, in legible scrawl, was an order appointing him as captain and Alexander Macdonell as lieutenant in the Voyageur Corps. The sight of a soldier sent a thrill through the breasts of the Highlanders and the fight-loving Irish. Cameron had in fact once belonged to the Voyageurs, and no one at Colony Gardens yet knew that the corps had been disbanded the year before. At a later date Lord Selkirk took pains to prove that Cameron had been guilty of rank imposture.

To pose in the guise of a captain of militia was not Duncan Cameron's only role. Having impressed his martial importance upon all, he next went among the settlers as a comrade. He could chat at ease in Gaelic, and this won the confidence of the Highlanders. Some of the colonists were invited to his table. These he treated with studied kindness, and he furnished them with such an abundance of good food that they felt disgust for the scant {71} and humble fare allowed them at the settlement. At the same time Cameron began to make bold insinuations in his conversation. He had, he said, heard news from the interior that a body of Indians would raid them in the spring. He harped upon the deplorable state in which the settlers were living; out of fellow-feeling for them, he said, he would gladly act as their deliverer. Why did they not throw themselves upon the mercies of the North-West Company? In their unhappy condition, abandoned, as he hinted, by Lord Selkirk to their own resources, there was but one thing for them to do. They must leave the Red River far behind, and he would guarantee that the Nor'westers would assist them.

As a result of Cameron's intrigues, signs of wavering allegiance were soon in evidence. One of the settlers in particular, George Campbell, became a traitor in the camp. Campbell had negotiated with Lord Selkirk personally during Selkirk's visit to Sutherlandshire. Now he complained vigorously of his treatment since leaving Scotland, and was in favour of accepting the terms which Cameron, as a partner in the North-West Company, offered. As many colonists as desired it, said Cameron, would be transported by the {72} Nor'westers free of charge to Montreal or other parts of Canada. A year's provisions would be supplied to them, and each colonist would be granted two hundred acres of fertile land. Tempting bribes of money were offered some of them as a bait. An influential Highlander, Alexander M'Lean, was promised two hundred pounds from Cameron's own pocket, on condition that he would take his family away. Several letters which were penned by the sham officer during the winter of 1815 can still be read. 'I am glad,' he wrote to a couple of settlers in February, 'that the eyes of some of you are getting open at last ... and that you now see your past follies in obeying the unlawful orders of a plunderer, and I may say, of a highway robber, for what took place here last spring can be called nothing else but manifest robbery.'

As yet Duncan Cameron had refrained from the use of force, but as winter wore on towards spring he saw that, to complete his work, force would be necessary. The proportion of settlers remaining loyal to Lord Selkirk was by no means insignificant, and Cameron feared the pieces of artillery at Colony Gardens. He decided on a bold effort to get these field-pieces into his possession. {73} Early in April he made a startling move. Miles Macdonell was away at Fort Daer, and Archibald Macdonald, the deputy-governor of the colony, was in charge. To him Cameron sent a peremptory demand in writing for the field-pieces, that they might be 'out of harm's way.'

This missive was first given into the hands of the traitor George Campbell, who read it to the settlers on Sunday after church. Next day, while rations were being distributed, it was delivered to the deputy-governor in the colony storehouse. About one o'clock on the same afternoon, George Campbell and a few kindred spirits broke into the building where the field-pieces were stored, took the guns outside, and placed them on horse-sledges for the purpose of drawing them away. At this juncture a musket was fired as a signal, and Duncan Cameron with some Bois Brules stole from a clump of trees. 'Well done, my hearty fellows,' Cameron exclaimed, as he came hurrying up. The guns were borne away and lodged within the precincts of Fort Gibraltar, and a number of the colonists now took sides openly with Duncan Cameron and the Nor'westers.

Meanwhile Cameron's colleague, Alexander {74} Macdonell, was not succeeding in his efforts to incite the Indians about Fort Qu'Appelle against the colony. He found that the Indians did not lust for the blood of the settlers; and when he appeared at Fort Gibraltar, in May, he had with him only a handful of Plain Crees. These redskins lingered about the fort for a time, being well supplied with liquor to make them pot-valiant. During their stay a number of horses belonging to the settlers were wounded by arrows, but it is doubtful if the perpetrators of these outrages were Indians. The chief of the Crees finally visited Governor Miles Macdonell, and convinced him that his warriors intended the colonists no ill. Before the Indians departed they sent to Colony Gardens a pipe of peace—the red man's token of friendship.

An equally futile attempt was made about the same time by two traders of the North-West Company to persuade Katawabetay, chief of the Chippewas, to lead a band of his tribesmen against the settlement. Katawabetay was at Sand Lake, just west of Lake Superior, when his parley with the Nor'westers took place. The two traders promised to give Katawabetay and his warriors all the merchandise and rum in three of the {75} company's posts, if they would raise the hatchet and descend upon the Red River settlers. The cautious chief wished to know whether this was the desire of the military authorities. The traders had to confess that it was merely a wish of the North-West Company. Katawabetay then demurred, saying that, before beginning hostilities, he must speak about the matter to one of the provincial military leaders on St Joseph's Island, at the head of Lake Huron.

Finding it impossible to get the Indians to raid the settlement, Cameron now adopted other methods. His party had been increasing in numbers day by day. Joined by the deserters from the colony, the Nor'westers pitched their camp a short distance down the river from Fort Gibraltar. At this point guns were mounted, and at Fort Gibraltar Cameron's men were being drilled. On June 11 a chosen company, furnished with loaded muskets and ammunition, were marched towards Governor Macdonell's house, where they concealed themselves behind some trees. James White, the surgeon of the colony, was seen walking close to the house. A puff of grey smoke came from the Nor'westers' cover. The shot went wide. Then John Bourke, the {76} store-keeper, heard a bullet whiz by his head, and narrowly escaped death. The colonists at once seized their arms and answered the Nor'westers' fire. In the exchange of volleys, however, they were at a disadvantage, as their adversaries remained hidden from view. When the Nor'westers decamped, four persons on the colonists' side had been wounded.

Apparently there was no longer security for life or property among those still adhering to Lord Selkirk's cause at Colony Gardens. Duncan Cameron, employing a subterfuge, now said that his main object was to capture Governor Macdonell. If this were accomplished he would leave the settlers unmolested. In order to safeguard the colony Macdonell voluntarily surrendered himself to the Nor'westers. Cameron was jubilant. With the loyal settlers worsted and almost defenceless, and the governor of Assiniboia his prisoner, he could dictate his own terms. He issued an explicit command that the settlers must vacate the Red River without delay. A majority of the settlers decided to obey, and their exodus began under Cameron's guidance. About one hundred and forty, inclusive of women and children, stepped into the canoes of the North-West Company to be borne away {77} to Canada. Miles Macdonell was taken to Montreal under arrest.

The forty or fifty colonists who still clung to their homes at Colony Gardens were left to be dealt with by Alexander Macdonell, who was nothing loath to finish Cameron's work of destruction. Once more muskets were brought into play; horses and cattle belonging to the settlers were spirited away; and several of the colonists were placed under arrest on trumped-up charges. These dastardly tactics were followed by an organized attempt to raid the settlement. On June 25 a troop of Bois Brules gathered on horseback, armed to the teeth and led by Alexander Macdonell and a half-breed named Cuthbert Grant. The settlers, though mustering barely one-half the strength of the raiders, resolved to make a stand, and placed themselves under the command of John M'Leod, a trader in the service of the Hudson's Bay Company. The Bois Brules bore down upon the settlement in menacing array. The colonists took what shelter they could find and prepared for battle. Fighting coolly, they made their shots tell. The advancing column hesitated and halted in dismay at the courage of the defenders. Then John M'Leod {78} remembered a cannon which was rusting unused at the small post which the Hudson's Bay Company had on the river. Hugh M'Lean and two others were ordered to haul this to the blacksmith's shanty. The three men soon found the cannon, and set it up in the smithy. For shot, cart chains were chopped into sections; and the Bois Brules were treated to a raking volley of 'chain shot.' This was something they had not looked for; their courage failed them, and they galloped out of range.

But the remnant of Lord Selkirk's settlers who had dared to linger on the Red River were at the end of their resources. Taking counsel together, they resolved to quit the colony. They launched their boats on the river, and followed the canoe route which led to Hudson Bay. They were accompanied by a band of Indians of the Saulteaux tribe as far as the entrance to Lake Winnipeg. From there a short journey placed them outside the boundaries of Assiniboia. When they arrived at the northern end of Lake Winnipeg they found a temporary refuge, in the vicinity of Norway House, on the Jack river.

Alexander Macdonell and his Bois Brules were now free utterly to blot out Colony {79} Gardens. They visited every part of the settlement and set fire to everything. Not a single house was left standing. Cabins, storehouses, the colony's grinding mill—all were reduced to a mass of ruins. Cameron's duplicity had been crowned with success; Alexander Macdonell's armed marauders had finished the task; Lord Selkirk's colony of farmers-in-the-making was scattered far and wide. Nevertheless, the Nor'westers were not undisputed masters of the situation. In the Hudson's Bay smithy, but ten feet square, four men continued the struggle. John M'Leod, James M'Intosh, and Archibald Currie, of the Hudson's Bay Company, defended their trading-post, with the assistance of 'noble Hugh M'Lean,' the only settler remaining on the Red River banks. By day and by night these men were forced to keep watch and ward. Whenever the Bois Brules drew near, the 'chain shot' drove them hurriedly to cover. At length the enemy withdrew, and M'Leod and his comrades walked out to survey the scene of desolation.

[1] After it had been discovered that the Grand Portage was situated partly on land awarded by treaty to the United States, the Nor'westers, in 1803, had erected a new factory thirty or forty miles farther north where the Kaministikwia river enters Thunder Bay. This post became their chief fur emporium west of Montreal, and was given the name Fort William as a tribute to William M'Gillivray, one of the leading partners in the company.




Three years of self-sacrificing effort seemed to have been wasted. The colony of Assiniboia was no more; its site was free to wandering redskins and greedy traders. Yet, at the very time when the colonists were being dispersed, succour was not far off. Lord Selkirk had received alarming news some time before, and at his solicitation Colin Robertson had hired a band of voyageurs, and was speeding forward with them to defend the settlement. Since 1811, when we saw him recruiting settlers for Lord Selkirk in Scotland, Colin Robertson had been in the service of the Hudson's Bay Company. Having been a servant of the Nor'westers he knew the value of Canadian canoemen in the fur trade, and, on his advice, the Hudson's Bay Company now imitated its rival by employing voyageurs. In temperament Colin was dour but audacious, a common type among the men of the Outer {81} Hebrides, and he had a grievance to avenge. He was sprung from the Robertson clan, which did not easily forget or forgive. He still remembered his quarrel with Crooked-armed Macdonald on the Saskatchewan. In his mind was the goading thought that he was a cast-off servant of the North-West Company; and he yearned for the day when he might exact retribution for his injuries, some of them real, some fancied.

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