New Light on the Old Forts of Winnipeg

by William Douglas

MHS Transactions, Series 3, 1954-55 season

This article was published originally in MHS Transactions by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make this online version available as a free, public service. As an historical document, the article may contain language and views that are no longer in common use and may be culturally sensitive in nature.

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The old Forts which stood at or near the Forks of the Red and Assiniboine rivers have been dealt with, in addition to general works on early Manitoba specifically, in 1885, by Dr. George Bryce in an article titled "The Five Forts of Winnipeg" [1] and by Dr. C. N. Bell in "The Old Forts of Winnipeg" [2] in 1927. These articles lack documentary support for some of the information. It is not my purpose to compare or criticize these items which, at the time they were prepared, conveyed the story in accordance with what records were then available or as it was told by people who were old-time residents in the district. There has been much legend and supposition wrought into the story of our old Forts. An up-to-date version, based upon the records which are now available, may give a better understanding of these important establishments.

In my previous paper "The Forks Becomes a City," [3] I dealt with the conjecture as to the location of Fort Rouge. From a careful study of Alexander Henry's Journal [4] one would sense that the south side of the Assiniboine river was not the ideal site for a trading post. While Henry does not indicate just where he had his own camp, he did refer to the arrival "of a few Indians from the direction of Portage La Prairie," and he described the south side of the river in these words, "particularly near the Forks, is a woody country, overgrown with poplars so thickly as scarcely to allow a man to pass on foot, this extends for some miles W." This would surely justify the conclusion that he was camped on the north side. Then, his added comment gives a clue to the elusive site of Fort Rouge: "In French times there was a trading establishment on this spot, traces of which are still to be seen where the chimneys and cellars stood." [5] Dr. C. N. Bell supported the location as being on the north bank.

Here is an authentic description of Gibraltar as told by Jean Baptiste Roi, one of the workmen engaged on its construction: "I know the Forks of Red River and a Fort built there twelve years before its destruction, by a man of the name of Wills; he was a (bourgeous) partner of the North West Company at the time the said fort was built. It was a wooden picketing, made of oak trees split in two, which formed its enclosure. Within the said enclosure were built the house of the partner, two houses for the men, a store, two hangards or stores, a blacksmith's shop and a stable; there was also an ice-house with a watch-house (guerite) over it; these houses were good log houses, large and inhabited. In the house of the partner were his clerks and interpreters, and in the other house his engages (servants) to the number of eight or ten men; each of the houses could have contained twenty men. The houses were occupied for the space of twelve years, until about two years ago. I lived on one side of the river and the fort was on the other ... I cultivated a piece of ground of my own ... The river was about seventy-five fathoms wide. My house was about forty paces distant from the opposite shore; and the North West fort fifteen paces from the adjacent shore; one may speak and be heard without difficulty from the one to the other." [6]

Jean Baptiste Mennie was another worker employed on the construction of Fort Gibraltar and confirmation of Roi's account is found in the following testimony: [7] "Fort Gibraltar was built twelve years ago; we were employed a whole year building it. In the winter there were twenty men there who were all employed. The fort was built by one, Mr. Wills, who died there and was succeeded by Mr. Cameron. (Duncan Cameron) There were in the fort one house, sixty-four feet long, one of thirty, a kitchen of fifteen feet, another house twenty-eight feet, a store twenty-two feet, and other buildings. I lived on the other side of the river ... it was customary to winter at Pembina and come down to the Forks in Spring. I have now been twelve years a free man, that is to say, under no engagement ... The people of Hudson's Bay were called "les Anglois," and those of the North West Company, "les Canadiens."

When Alexander Henry, who had been in charge of the District with headquarters at Pembina, was succeeded by "one of the many McKenzies' connected with the North West Company," [8] the change took place in 1808, at which time Fort Gibraltar did not exist. Daniel McKenzie was still in command at Pembina on January 14th, 1809" [9] Shortly afterwards, he was transferred to Fort Alexander, from which post he wrote: "The Salteau & Crees of Red River have massacred forty Sioux out of four hundred who were coming to attack my old Quarters (Pembina). I am not sorry for this. Wills must be on his guard, there is danger. He must absolutely remove the fort to some other quarter." [10] As the date of this letter is August 8th, 1809, it appears that Wills built Fort Gibraltar in the summer of 1810 and the winter following. Additional confirmation of the above is given by Tanner, who stated: "Mr. Henry had traded ten years at Pembinah; he was succeeded by a Mr. McKenzie, who remained but a short time, and after him came Mr. Wells, called by the Indians, GAH/SE/MO/AN (a sail), from the roundness and fullness of his person. He built a strong fort on Red River, near the mouth of the Assiniboine." [11]

In support of the claim that Fort Gibraltar was built in 1810 is a petition submitted by The North West Company to Commissioner W. B. Coltman at the time he was enquiring into the troubles between the two companies. Dated August 22nd, 1817, it reads, in part, "Whereas, the North West Company have for many years been in possession of certain tracts of land at Forks of Red River ... and have for the period of seven years last past been usually in the habit of cutting grass for their Horses at the Forks aforesaid ... The said North West Company have been and continued during the said period of seven years in undisturbed possession and use of the said meadow." [12]

John Wills was originally a wintering partner with the X. Y. Company and was one of the signatories to the amalgamation agreement with the North West Company in 1804. [13] He continued in charge of Fort Gibraltar from the time he built the post until he died there on Friday, January 6th, 1815. [14] During the first days of the Selkirk Settlement, he was most friendly to the officers in charge of the Settlement. This friendliness seems to find expression in Miles McDonell's Journal where he wrote: "Saturday, 7 Jan. I went with all our gentlemen to the interment of Mr. Wills, by invitation, & took along two of our men - the corpse interred alongside of Wilkie's grave. Mr. D. Cameron read the funeral service. [15]

This is the story of Fort Gibraltar according to the records which are now available and it would seem to deny the claim that the Fort was built in 1806 by John McDonald of Garth, the generally accepted theory. The correct year of building was 1810.

There are two reasons why I do not believe any such post of the Hudson's Bay Company ever existed on the East side of the Red River. First, a letter written by Hugh Heney from Brandon House on October 23rd, 1810, stated: "This is to inform you that the Company is determined to help up the Red River, also Brandon House, therefore I hope you will not dispose of the Horses nor of anything belonging to the House till such time I have the pleasure of seeing you. Take no bad skins such as Rabbits or any Summer Furs, but trade as much Bear Meat and Fat as you can. You'll be so good as to send as soon as possible to the usual place at the Forks, Four carts and also Four Horses, two with Riding Saddles and two with burden. You'll please to give the men a fortnight's provisions to here, in wait of our Superintendent, Mr. Auld, who is to be here as soon as possible. I am now going to Pabanat (Pembina) and will soon be with you. I send by Humphrey Favel the Packet which I hope will reach you in safety." [16]

The second reason centres upon the arrival of Miles McDonell at The Forks in 1812. He was met by Hillier and Heney of the Hudson's Bay Company and the entire party, including the Hudson's Bay officers and men, were accommodated in tents and there is no mention of any post or building in any document dealing with this event.

Miles McDonell, the man charged with the responsibility of setting up a Colonial establishment and to make preparations for the accommodation of his staff as well as the settlers now on their way inland, arrived at Red River on August 30th, 1812. A most significant entry appears in his journal under date August 31st, 1812, the day after his arrival. "No place here to store up things in. I resolve to build a temporary log shade (shed)." [17] He put his resolve into action the next day when he wrote: "Set my men about cutting & carrying timber for the store, they make very slow progress. Messrs. Wills, McDonell & Frobisher call on me to ask me to go to dinner with them. I was engaged to Mr. Hillier but they proposed to ask him likewise. We crossed together after taking a smoke & drink with me. We passed a very pleasant evening & only returned at 1 in the morning." [18]

After dividing his men between Pembina and The Forks he chose as a centre of his activity a site which at a later date became known as "Douglas Point". He makes reference to his future establishment on October 13th, 1812, in these words: "My people are cutting wood for building & clearing ground for same." This is followed a day later with this entry, "Engage Francois De Lorme to treat with the Indians - assist & direct my people in building & his son Francois as labourer, likewise engaged Webi-bi-ness or White Partridge as Hunter ... Propose to leave only a party of 5 men here with De Lorme & his son. Deposit all my seed grain liquor & ammunition in the N. W. Co. Fort for security as I did not deem it safe in Le Roy's house." [19] McDonell gave the necessary orders and directions to De Lorme and party and proceeded to Pembina where he made preparations to house the second party of settlers, under Owen Keveny, who reached Pembina on October 27th, 1812.

It is quite evident that little or no building was carried on at The Forks during the winter of 1812-1813. McDonell was busy with his settlers at Pembina and on his return to The Forks on May 20th, 1813, he recorded in his journal: "Indians came drunk round my tent at night at different times," indicating he did not then have a building. The men whom he had engaged as builders, De Lorme and his son, must have been unsatisfactory workmen as no further reference is made regarding them nor the building they were supposed to erect.

On June 4th, 1813, McDonell appears to have got busy. He writes: "Engage 3 Canadians for house building-Basil Belanger, Andre Troquet - Antoine Azure." [20] Three days later we read "Engaged 2 more Canadians for jobwork to get pickets for the garden." Building operations had begun in reality. The few brief references found in McDonell's journal show the progress made that year:

"June 30th, 1813. The Canadians have prepared timber for a house 54 feet long. Have removed (the timber) to this side the river-a party is sent to bring over the foundation sills."

"July 2nd, 1813. The Canadians bring across the whole of the House timber."

"July 3rd, 1813. Traced on the ground the site of the House & put posts at the extreme angles of the proposed Fort." [21]

Miles McDonell found it necessary to leave for York Factory on Sunday, July 18th, 1813, and did not return to The Forks until October 15th. The fact that he makes no reference to his building program until the following year would suggest that little headway had been made during his absence. On July 25th, 1814, he wrote thus to Lord Selkirk: "The shell of a house 54 feet by 20, one and a half stories high, covered with bark, was built by three Canadians I hired before going down; one end of it was used as a store, the other part was entirely open, there were no boards sawed for floors, no doors, no chimney." [22]

Let us consider another development that took place in 1813. In this connection A. S. Morton wrote, "Under the orders of Mr. Heney, John McLeod was building a post on the East side of the Red River opposite the Forks, where St. Boniface now stands." [23] The contemporary documentary evidence does not justify such a conclusion.

McLeod's own journal reads: "In the month of May 1813 ... settling my affairs or transactions of my post for the winter with Mr. Henney, I left Pembina on the 16th inst. and on the 17th arrived at the Forks of the Red River. Mr. Henney joined me on the 21st and on the 22nd took his departure for York Factory leaving self and Pangman in charge for the summer, of the Company's Post at The Forks; left 4 men building and fishing, etc. As the Hudson's Bay Co. had no house at this place prior to this, I immediately on Mr. Henney's departure began to build and had a good snug house erected before the return of the fall craft ..." [24]

The building of this house for the Hudson's Bay Company forms the subject of part of a letter sent by Miles McDonell to Lord Selkirk on July 17th, 1813. [25] This reads "Mr. Heney has established a trading post close by us here, I believe purposely to annoy us & in direct opposition to his chief, Mr. Hillier, who had ordered men to be left at Pembina and not at the forks of the Red and Assiniboine rivers; the it also brings the Indians to camp too near, the ill consequences of which has already been felt, in their having taken the bark off and spoiled a fine clump of trees I intended to preserve as an ornament to the House."

In the same letter McDonell refers to Edwards and McRae in these words: "the poor doctor remained on our side of the river till the evening he embarked, but McRae took up his abode entirely with Heney since he joined him at Pembina." In my opinion, A. S. Morton and other writers have mis-read this paragraph. They appear to associate the location of McLeod's house with the comment regarding Edwards and McRae without realizing that both these men were residing at Pembina and not the forks of the Red and Assiniboine rivers; the Hudson's Bay Post at Pembina was on one side of the river while Fort Daer was on the opposite side. Another reference to this subject is found in Miles McDonell's journal, "Tuesday, May 18th, 1813; Reached The Forks at 7 p.m. Mr. McLeod & Bostonais are building here for the H. B. Co., by order of Mr. Heney." [26]

Spring of 1814 brought about a renewal of building activity but Miles McDonell has left very little detail, only three short entries:

June 6th, 1814. "Amlent begins to build the Forge"

July 15th. "Our rafters arrive with timber for buildings"

July 18th. "Hired Canadians to haul timber for the new settlershouses"

One week after making this last entry, on July 25th, he proceeded again to York Factory and did not return to The Forks until October 19th. During his absence, the affairs of the Colony were under the charge of Peter Fidler and Archibald McDonald. Peter Fidler has left us a most comprehensive account of the building operations carried out in the summer of 1814.

While Peter Fidler was an officer of the Hudson's Bay Company, and at that time in charge of Brandon House, he appears to have been loaned to the Colony for the summer. There must have been a close working agreement between Lord Selkirk and the Company because there is an abundance of evidence to indicate that men and goods were exchanged from time to time.

Shortly after Fidler arrived at The Forks he received the following letter from Miles McDonell, dated July 22, 1814:

"The affairs of the Right Honorable the Earl of Selkirk requiring the presence of the undersigned at York Factory, Hudson's Bay, Messrs. Peter Fidler and Archibald McDonald are left )n charge of Red River Settlement, and all matters belonging to this until his return. The stores to be particularly in Mr. Fidler's charge, who is to keep an account of all issues of Goods, Provisions, Liquors &c, &c., and purchases of Provisions, and also the superintendance of the artificers and buildings. Mr. McDonald is best acquainted with the settlers and is to attend to their wants. Mr. Fidler and McDonald are expected to do their utmost endeavours, jointly, to carry on the work required to be done." [27]

Fidler lost no time in making a start. On the day of McDonell's departure - July 25th - he entered in his journal, "Men hauling up from the river's edge the foundation logs of a very large House and afterwards began to lay the foundation." [28]

On July 28th, his journal reads: "People busily employed daily about dragging wood for the Buildings and other necessary duty relating to it," and on the 29th, he continued: "finished building a kitchen 15 by 23, and the women entered into their new habitation 2 from the Highlands, hired for the purpose some time ago." [29] Again, on Monday, August 1st: "Hired three Canadians to fall and raft wood &c. at the usual price given by the Captain (McDonell) ... wages, half a dollar a day & find them in provisions, principally fish." [30]

By Saturday of that week he reports progress in these words: "4 men are constantly employed at the large House-this day they got up all the posts and three logs high along the Front." [31] On Monday, 8th, "Laid the foundations of a small house 15 by 22 feet and three Canadians employed at it. Engaged a Canadian, Bellemiere, to get 700 Roofing Sticks of 12½ by 15 feet long, and to haul them to the River's edge for 10 Dollars - the wood of this size is rather scarce near us 4 men constantly at the new building and three Canadians at the small house - occasionally working with them myself in order to expedite the buildings." [32] Next day he reported: "Got 3 logs entirely round the House and putting in windows." [33]

On Wednesday, August 10th, the domestic scene must have been somewhat ruffled. He begins the entry "Got in all the roofing sticks & part of the chimney up in the small House, called it the "Chateau". Then he adds, "Had another dispute with the 2 women in the kitchen about their using so much oatmeal, there is only Mr. McDonald & self. On Saturday night served out 2 pounds meal & 3 pints flour for us. On Monday morning the Storekeeper let them have 2 Qts. more, when I told him to give none away without an order. On Wednesday, and I would not allow them to have above one gallon per week which even is too much but by the interference of Mr. McDonald, I allowed them to have that quantity. I am positive they make an improper use of some part of it." [34]

By Saturday, 13th, he had, "Finished building the chimney in the Chateau and hung both doors, filled up the cracks in the walls - it was plastered yesterday. I daily work hard at it myself. Everything ready to lay the floor." Before closing the page for that week he added: "A Canadian boring & fitting stockades about where the farm house is to be built. The roof of the Potato house fell in and buried under the earth near 2,000 lb. Fat. - busily engaged clearing away the rubbish. On Thursday last began to saw wood for flooring of the Chateau." [35]

Tuesday, August 16th relates: "Yesterday and got all hands to lay the floor in the Chateau and one man till noon finished it and slept in this night. This building has been very soon finished - got all the fat carted up from the Potatoe hole to the house here." [36] (It is strange that Fidler makes no mention of the house which Miles McDonell began to build in 1813.)

The scene must have been one of vigorous activity. There was no relaxation in the building program. On Wednesday, August 17th, we are told "made a new saw pit. Began to put on the lower beams on the large house. These four men that are always at work at it work well. Indeed everyone behaves remarkably well - and goes about their work with alacrity." On the same day he added, "2 men grooving window posts - 5 men cutting down wood for charcoal. Smith daily employed at his duty and obliged to make many large fish hooks from, large bars of steel, which is a great waste of labour, steel & charcoal & files, aitho' he keeps close at it he cannot seldom make more than 30 or 35 per day." [37]

On August 18th, "let a Barn 20 by 30 & 9 feet high in the square to 5 Colonists lately arrived for f6." Evidently he means he "let" a contract to these men as the record continues "they went away to cut & raft wood for it and sent one of the servants of the Settlement to haul it to the river and to instruct them." Two days later, on 20th, "those who undertook building the Barn came home with a raft of wood, everything but roofing sticks." [38]

By this time, four weeks had elapsed since Fidler took charge of building operations and it is evident he had made considerable headway. The plans, however, called for an extensive establishment and the season was short. With the beginning of the fifth week he reported, "Sent away six men to cut down and raft 350 logs for building the Farm House, Stables & other out-houses." [39] Three days later, on Thursday, August 25th, he briefly comments upon the arrival of the Settlers who had been compelled to spend the winter of 1813-14 at Churchill. "33 Colonists now arrived, mostly all old people & children, the more robust arrived here about 22nd June, having walked from C. R. (Churchill River) to Y. F. (York Factory) in April ... the rafters returned with only 43 logs, 70 being fallen but too heavy to haul to the water's edge." [40]

On Saturday, 27th, we read: "2 men making a chimney in the Old Hut for Mrs. Stewart & family to reside in." It was the original shed or hut built by Miles McDonell immediately after his arrival in 1812. At a later date it was rehabilitated (in 1815) and used as the first public school to receive scholars in the West. The event is recorded: "Tuesday, Jan. 10, 1815. Engaged John Matheson Jun'r for Schoolmaster - the school to be for the present kept at the Old Huts which are to be put immediately in repair." [41] Monday, Jan. 16, 1815. "Our School began to-day."

The next report tells that "sent 6 men to cut down wood & 2 to drag it to the water's edge, for the building of the outhouses about the Farmyard, one man hauling out roofing sticks here; a Canadians squaring 50 logs, 14½ feet long for Boards for the flooring of New Building; began to put up the stockades around the Farmyard." [42]

September 1st. "Got the large House to the square at the top and the next day all our wood cutters came home having cut down the quantity desired, but the heavy rains prevented their hauling it out to the river, being soft, swampy ground. 350 logs cut to 20 posts." [43]

For the first and only time, Fidler makes reference to the house Miles McDonell built in 1813. This is what he said: "Saturday, Sept'r 3rd. Dryed our Pemmican and everything above stairs, the roof of the house being so very bad that every shower comes thro' - only a single bark roof and badly laid on by the Canadians last summer." [44]

The first outward appearance of hostility by the North Westers' occurred on September 7th, 1814. Two years had passed since Miles McDonell had taken possession of the country in the name of Lord Selkirk. Perhaps the extensive building activity aroused the North West Company to a realization that colonization was a definite objective. The affair is described by Peter Fidler, "Sent 4 men to raft building wood - two free Canadians to accompany them, who are cutting near the Canadian house (Fort Gibraltar). Ordered Crian, (Michael Cryan) one of our men to call for them. - Trotier & Bonneau, who have been working for us at times most part of those two months, but they were intimidated by the Canadian Cameron, from going along with our men. Cameron, McDonald, Seraphim & many more Canadians surrounded our man Crier (Cryan) and held a drawn sword to his head. Cameron told him he would hang him to a tree & Seraphim put his clenched fist close to his nose and told him he would box with him, and was otherwise severely abused by them." [45]

Two days after the episode we read: "Friday, Septr. 9th. Carpenters employed sawing wall plates for the large building and every person busily employed every day for 6 to 6 at night. Settled accounts with Belleman (Bellemiere) for cutting roofing sticks". - and on Saturday, "six men came home with rafts about 200 logs." [46]

The week following showed no let-up. Monday 12th. "Employed hauling up rafts. Carpenters got some wood across the river for the large House; also for posts & ridge pole for the Old Building (1813) which wants a better roof." [47] Tuesday 13th. "The 4 men finished the Barn. Sent away 6 men to raft more wood & 2 horses to drag them out." Wednesday 14th. "The 3 men finished the Potatoe cellar. Put on the Ridge Poles on the New House." Thursday 15th. "Three Canadians at work for us grooving posts &c., for the Farmyard. The House & buildings all to be joining each other near 80 feet long & 17 wide." Saturday 17th. "Rafters came home with 125 logs. Got all the 13 posts up at Farmyard and layed a few logs ... Hung the Barn doors yesterday; the Potatoe House door." [48]

The advance of the season prompted an accelerated program. On Monday Septr. 19th. "Charles (Fidler) and 4 Canadians building the Farm House, a Sheep House, Stable, Cow House & Hog Sty all on an end. The 4 Carpenters busily employed daily at the large House & the others variously employed." Sept. 20th. "One man hauling wood for Miles Livingstone's House." Sept. 21st. Finished covering the large House with roofing and finished the walls of the Farm House, except the wall plates." [49] Sept. 22nd. "Two carpenters sawing plank for flooring; four Canadians across and cut down 400 roofing sticks for Farm House; 5 men covering the large house with Sods, they covered 114 of it." Sept. 23rd. "5 men finished covering one side of the large House with Sods." Sept 24th. "Got on the Beams on the Farm House." [50]

Sept 26th. "Put up a Flag Staff & finished making 4 ladders as there were none about the House. One man laying the floor over the Carpenters room and grooving the boards." Sept 27th. "Rain. Men variously employed within doors." Sept 28th. "Finished covering the House with Sods, the Canadians did not work for rain, these two days. Took off the earth from the new built Potatoe cellar, as the ridge pole broke down & put a much stronger one in its place." Sept 29th. "Got all the roofing sticks down for Farmyard and covered part of it ... Sent five men away to raft." Sept 30th. Finished covering in the farm house with roofing sticks and built up the ends." Oct. 3rd. "Men variously employed & 5 rafting wood for buildings." Oct. 5th. "Set 2 Canadians to build the chimney in the Farm House. Others covered the House part with Sods." Oct. 6th. "Covered the House with about 2/3 with Sods, and as they were so heavy, and the wall plates being poplar and hewn too small, the whole roof fell in that was covered and even tore out the posts of the walls to the very foundation. Employed clearing away the wreck, and got the posts put up again, and some part of the walls, luckily nobody received any hurt. 2 men building the chimney, 3 Carpenters got 2 ridge poles and one post for the House built last summer, (1813), as we mean to cover it with Sods in preference to Bark, as they are both lighter and warmer than Bark. Yesterday the Carpenter finished laying the flooring over the Captain's cabin and Dining Room - hauling up rafts brought down last night - 207 logs. Sent 2 Canadians across to cut down Oak Wall Plates & 6 Oak Beams for the farm House. One man hauling them."

Oct. 7th. "Hauled part of the raft up and got home 12 pieces of Oak for Wall Plates and beams for farm house, also one ridge pole & post for big house built last summer (1813)." Oct. 8th "Hauled out all the rafts, could find no horses to plow or haul up logs these two days." Oct. 10th. "3 men digging sods to cover the Old House (1813). Charles & 3 Canadians working at the Farm House. Carpenters & all the rest across the river to bring home a ridge pole but it was so large they could not manage it."

Oct. 11th. "Got the large ridge pole across." Oct. 12. "Farm House ready again for the ridge poles." Oct. 13th. "Plastering the large New House." Oct. 14th. "Covered the farm house with sods, but as Capt. McDonell (Miles) is daily expected we don't like to take away the old roof as it will be a work of 4 or 5 days to get on a new one. Hauling home roofing sticks." Oct. 17th. "5 men plastering the large House. Two Carpenters putting up Gates at the Farm yard pickets. We have got a great deal of work done this last 3 weeks with the 12 men left here & people worked very cheerfully & well." Oct. 18th. "Finished making & hanging the Gates at the Farm yard. Sent 2 men to boat home roof sticks & the boat sunk with them in the middle of the River, but Indians seeing them immediately went to them with Canoes & brought them ashore safe." Oct. 19th. "At 2 p.m. Capt. McDonell, Messrs. Bourke, Warren & Surgeon White arrived here." [51]

With the return of Miles McDonell to Red River the responsibility of Peter Fidler ended. He has left a complete account of the building of the original Colonial establishment. Had he continued in charge of operations for a few more weeks we might have been told about the completion, opening and occupation. Unfortunately neither Fidler nor McDonell left such a record.

The question arises, what was the location of this establishment? If we examine the document marked "Plan of the Settlement on Red River as it was in June 1816," it will be noticed that at the first bend in the Red River, north of the mouth of the Assiniboine River, it is marked "Ruins of the Houses occupied by Governor McDonell in 1815. Burned by the North West Company." The site was a short distance south of the spot chosen later for Fort Douglas. According to present day street geography it would be the land lying between Market Street and Pacific Avenue close to the river.

Peter Fidler returned to Brandon House for the winter of 1814-1815. Part of the 'Settlers remained at The Forks the remainder went to Pembina. The first murmurings of discontent became apparent and the people of the North West Company began to interfere. There were also some alarming aggressions against the Colony.

In the spring of 1815, Peter Fidler returned to Red River from his winter quarters. Under date, May 19th, he wrote: "Nearly all the Settlers that have come to the country these last two years had gone over to the Canadian House (N. W. Co.) with some contracted servants amounting in the whole to upwards of 90 persons." [52]

Three days later, on May 22nd, he comments: "The H. B. Co. small Trading House (built by McLeod) nearly opposite the Canadian House at the Forks rafted down here to erect near the Settlement as it is not thought safe for a few men to remain in it all summer on account of the violent conduct of the Canadians." [53]

Despite the tense situation, Fidler continued his interest in the building program with which he had been so active the preceding summer. He tells in his journal, under date, May 26th, "Two men working daily at the Horse Mill - the outer walls of it are up but no roof yet put on. The water very high in the Red River and has not yet began to abate, it is about 10 feet below the bank at the Settlement on the N. side, but into the woods on the other side." [54]

Another glimpse of the Hudson's Bay Company House comes from Miles McDonell, who wrote, May 31st, "Propose to have the Company's House pulled down & put up near us to flank the South Ravine. Mr. Stitt went with a party to begin the work." [55] Two days later, Peter Fidler reports the removal thus: "Busily building the H. B. Co. small House lately rafted over at the angle of a Creek where it joins the river, about 100 yards above the Settlement, that it may enfilade both places in case of an attack by the Canadians", and on the same day, McDonell wrote, "The Company's House was erected to-day & the roofing sticks put on."

Hostilities in stern reality broke in fury on Sunday, June 11th. Two days later Fidler tells us, "We pulled down the block house in very bad condition & piled about the outside of our dwelling house to protect us from the enemies shot, we also pulled down the end next our house of the one lately erected by the H. B. Co. & the inner partitions to prevent the Canadians concealing themselves there and annoying us as we are too few now to man these places."

A few days later the Settlement was abandoned. The majority of the Settlers, and some contracted servants, under the protection of and guided by the North West Company left for Canada while a remnant who remained loyal to Lord Selkirk proceeded to the north end of Lake Winnipeg. These people were not forced to abandon the Settlement, they went of their own free will and every male in the party received his price for deserting the infant colony. [56]

Commissioner W. B. Coltman, who investigated the affairs in the North West tells, in his report, the disposition of the establishment after it had been vacated. "June 28th, 1815. All the Colonial buildings were burnt down consisting of four houses, forming what was called the fort, and five farm houses standing near the barn and stables; these last were also burnt at the same time, together with the mill; it appears also that between the departure of Captain Miles McDonell, on the 21st June, and this date, all the settlers houses to the number of about eighteen, had been burnt." [57]

Peter Fidler has left us an added note regarding the demolition "one of the Colony houses were promised sh'd be allowed the H. B. Co. servants to remain in, but it was set fire to as well as the rest ... the whole of every building belonging to the Colony (is) only the Blacksmith's shop which was spared for the Co." [58] It had been agreed that a small detail of Hudson's Bay Company men, with John McLeod in charge, would be permitted to remain at The Forks. Writing to Lord Selkirk from Red River Settlement on August 5th, 1815, McLeod advised his Lordship in part, "I was, by Mr. James Sutherland's request, left here in the H. B. Co.'s name to act for both it & the Colony ... with the three men (James McIntosh, Archibald Curry and Hugh McLean) I have got the sowings of 100 kegs of ... weeded & howed ... Seeing that crops would be useless without a house has induced to build one altho' without orders from any of my superiors. I am now building a house of 40 feet long, 20 feet wide, 16 feet high; this may be disapproved of but to refer (defer) it till arrival of the boats would be too late." [59]

This house was erected by Hudson's Bay Company servants and doubtless was regarded as a Company building. As to its location it would seem reasonable to assume that it stood in close proximity to the site of the house McLeod had built in 1813. It must have been built near the river at the foot of our present day Lombard Street or thereabout.

The group of buildings destroyed in 1815 were the only ones at The Forks, built under the supervision of Peter Fidler. There has been considerable speculation regarding a so-called "Fidler's Fort", but Peter does not seem to have been active at The Forks later than 1814 and 1815.

In considering the sites upon which the early Forts or Posts stood we should realize that Main Street, Winnipeg, as it exists to-day, follows the trail of pioneer days. In the central section of the City, between Main Street and Red River, there is a short street, Louise Street, which runs from Pacific Avenue to Market Street. Beginning at Market Street and slightly to the east of the Louise Street intersection, another short street, Rorie Street, continues southward. Before the day of City surveys this roadway, or trail, ended at Portage and Main. There seems to be a logical reason for these short, irregular streets!

Originally, they were auxiliary trails along which the traveller wended his way between Fort Douglas, the Hudson's Bay Company house, and Fort Gibraltar. It occurs to me that when it was necessary to travel from and to these establishments, our pioneer created a shortcut which in time developed into a well beaten trail. When City streets were laid out the old trail became the streets we know to-day.

With the dispersion of the settlers and the complete destruction of the Colony and its buildings, in June, 1815, Fort Gibraltar was the only remaining group of buildings. It is questionable if anyone had thoughts that the Settlement could ever be re-established. However, unknown to the loyalists at the north end of Lake Winnipeg, an Express from Montreal was on its way. This was under the command of Colin Robertson, who met and passed the eastbound dissident settlers at Lac La Pluie on July 6th. Robertson, at that time, had an opportunity to discuss colony affairs with Miles McDonell, then a prisoner in the hands of the North West Company at Lac des Bois, on July 8th.

Hurrying forward, Colin Robertson decided to visit The Forks before proceeding north to the camp of the loyalists who had refused to be driven out of the country. He wrote: "July 15th, 1815. about 11 a.m. I arrived at Frog Plain (Kildonan), where a number of natives and Free men were encamped. I went on shore and walked up to the Fort over the ruins of several of the houses that had been burnt by the white savages. A Blacksmith's shop was all that remained of the Colony which was occupied by Mr. McLeod of the H. B. Co. as a store which was supposed to be a great favor conferred on the Company by our amiable opponents. He adds: "Mr. McLeod appears to be an active, intelligent young man and deserves much credit for remaining here after the Council was put to flight. He has begun to build a house about 100 yards from the old establishment. I am informed Capt. McDonell had no Fort at this place nor a single bastion to defend his house." [60]

Robertson left The Forks on July 15th to visit with the dispossessed settlers. He reached them at the north end of Lake Winnipeg on July 21st and remained three weeks. His task in trying to get the settlers to decide what they wanted to do was surrounded by many difficulties. Some wanted to return to Scotland; others suggested a Settlement at Moose; Robertson endeavoured to get them to return to Red River. He proposed a plan of return under the supervision of Dr. White and Archibald McDonald but this was emphatically rejected. Finally, on July 30th., one of the leading spirits waited upon him, representing the whole party, and intimated if Robertson would personally take charge they would consent to return to Red River. On August 2nd he advised them he would lead them back.

Little time was lost in making preparations for the departure. On August 7th, he announced the disposition of the party thus; "The only families that accompany me are Mr. & Mrs. McLean and four children; Mr. & Mrs. Pritchard and two children. The following families remain here until the Fall. Widow McLean, Mrs. Jourdan (Jordan), and Miss Kennedy. The servants that go with me to Red River are, A. McLean, Duncan McNaughton, Samuel Lamont, Mich'l Kilbride, Pat Clubby, Pat Corrigan (Corcoran), Jno Fowler; Norwegians Neils Muller, Peter Dhal, Peter Isaacson, and twelve Canadians. My officers are Messrs. St. Germain, Pambrun and Holt, with two Indian Interpreters. With this corps I take my departure tomorrow in the hope of re-establishing the Colony at Red River." [61] He wrote in his journal next day: "Left Winipic House with 3 Boats and 35 men, women & children."

Robertson reached The Forks on Saturday, August 19th, and lost no time in reaching a decision as to his course of action. On Sunday, 20th, he wrote: "Douglas Point. It is my intention to build a fort on this point as it is well situated for a place of defence and has a beautiful prospect of the plains and commands two angles of the river. Mr. McLeod has got up the shell of a house and I have sent off the men to square the logs for other buildings." [62] This entry in his journal was followed on Monday with "The men employed in clearing the Brushwood and cutting the long grass round the house in order to prepare a spot for a Fort." On Tuesday he, "sent five of the Canadian Servants to cut down pickets and square logs for the purpose of putting this place in some state of defence before the arrival of the N. W. Co. It appears strange from the number of men Capt. McDonell had that no kind of fortification was raised for the defence of the Settlement."

Up to 1815, letters, journals and other documents originating at The Forks bear that name or "Red River Settlement" or "Douglas Point". A significant change took place on Wednesday, August 23rd, 1815. For the first time, Robertson heads his journal "Fort Douglas." This is the birthday of a place that was to figure large in the history of Red River. The honor of naming the establishment belongs to Colin Robertson and it is surprising that he gives no explanation for his action nor what incident determined his decision. [63]

Reference to his building operations begin September 6th, when, "Mons'r Pombrun built a hut for me to-day, 'a la compagne', as the men have not been able to go on with the buildings on account of the Crops." A further reference tells us: "engaged two freemen to build my chimneys - began to cover my house. Sent two men to saw boards & two to square logs. I have only one good axeman among the Colonial servants, that is Samuel Lamont. I am sorry to employ him at this rough work as he is a very superior and well behaved man. He came out here as a millwright and I am informed that he understands his business well, however, in the present situation of affairs we cannot pay that attention which deserving merit demands." [64]

There existed a lurking suspicion that sooner or later the North West Company would interfere with this renewed activity. Evidence that Robertson held these fears is found in the journal entry he made on Sunday, September 10th: "Information had been received that Cameron and McDonald, North West Company partners, were en route to Fort Gibraltar," and "ordered a number of port holes to be cut out in the log house and cleared away the brushwood to a considerable distance round the buildings." [65] and two days later "Mr. Stitt (H. B. Co.) lent me ten men of the Company's servants to assist me in putting Fort Douglas in a little order." [66]

Tuesday, Sept. 19th. "The season is so far advanced now that but few men can be employed in building - a great number of men being employed in reaping, it will therefore take some time yet before the Government House can be finished." On Thursday, we read: "In the forenoon the foundation logs were laid for a new house at which three men are at present employed," and on Friday, an unidentified workman, "came to finish the chimnies." [67]

The entry under date, Monday, September 25th, is interesting - "Sent off John McViccar and five men for the purpose of bringing down Hanney's (Heney) Fort at Pembina." [68] This fort was the first post built on Red River, in 1801, and it had recently been abandoned.

Two weeks later, Saturday October 7th, "the boat from Pembina arrived here about 10 o'clock this morning with only 2 men and McVicar.

This latter informed that the rafts were ready but it would be a great difficulty in getting them down on account of the water being so low, and the extreme strong rapids. It would be a great disappointment if they could not come down as so many men have been employed at this work which then would be, of course, entirely lost, the season is far advanced now, men are scarce and houses very necessary." [69] On October 12th, a more hopeful note was sounded: "This has been a very fine day. Lagimonier arrived here with his family, also about 10 p.m. the raft from Pembina, they passed the rapids in the night with little difficulty." [70] From this information we learn that the logs and timbers which originally formed part of the Hudson's Bay Company post at Pembina had been brought to be used in the construction of Fort Douglas.

The erection of the necessary buildings as a central establishment where the affairs of the Colony would be centred represented but one phase of Robertson's responsibility. The North West Company still continued to harass the colonists. Robertson was concerned because his force of effective consisted of twenty men in all. He was fearful that something would disturb his plans but he found consolation from the fact that the force at Fort Gibraltar was about equal in numbers to his own.

He contemplated seizing Fort Gibraltar as part of the plan of reoccupation. Sitting at breakfast on Sunday morning, October 15th, he was astounded to learn from his servant that McLean (Alexander) and Bourke (J. P.) were, at that moment, bringing Cameron and Seraphim as prisoners to Fort Douglas. This unexpected turn of events created an awkward, yet critical, situation. The prisoners were brought in but in the course of the forenoon Robertson sent a detail of 12 men, under McLean, to take Seraphim back to Fort Gibraltar. Before departing, McLean had been secretly instructed that once the gates of that Fort were opened he was to take possession and hold it until he received further orders. Meantime, Cameron was held at Fort Douglas for a time, then sent back to his own place, under escort, but held as a prisoner. The following day he was released from custody and Fort Gibraltar returned to his possession, but, very rigid conditions as to his future behaviour were imposed. This was the first seizure of Fort Gibraltar.

On October 17th, Robertson had received advice that Governor Robert Semple and a party of newly arrived settlers were en route from York Factory. He entered in this journal: "This induced me to send Jean Baptiste Logmonier (Lagimonier) and one of the Company's servants with the Montreal Packet - they left this place about 4 o'clock for Fort Daer. They have an Indian Guide." [71]

A brief reference to the building activity is recorded on October 20th. "I ordered a cellar to be dug in the Store". His time was fully occupied making preparations for Governor Semple and party, who reached Fort Douglas on November 3rd, 1815.

Very little information regarding the new buildings is found until November 14th, when we learn: "the men busy building a Barn, Stable etc." [72] This would suggest that the main buildings were well on the way to completion. That he had built his headquarters as planned is confirmed in a letter issued by the opposition on March 13th, 1816. Written by Alexander McDonell, and addressed to "The Agents & Proprietors of the North West Company," this document reads: "Contrary to our expectations that hero, Colin Robertson, brought back in the course of last summer the Settlers who left this River with an intention of visiting their own Country and a number of Clerks & Canadians from his Canada Brigade. A strong establishment is here formed for their Provision Post." [73]

About a month after his arrival at Red River, Semple anxiously enquired if the North West Company had any intention of renewing hostilities. Robertson replied, "they had the intention if they had the means." The Governor expressed his regret that Fort Gibraltar had not been retained at the time it was seized. Robertson explained he could not have held it because he did not have a sufficient force, but added, "I will give you Cameron and the Fort whenever you choose." [74]

Early in December, Robertson commented "the work goes on strongly with my countrymen, the foot-rule is always in their hand - this is a great damper to expedition. I would do twice the quantity of work with Canadians and still more if I had Americans. A Scotch Carpenter works in this country as if he was paying 2 shillings pr. foot for his wood." [75]

Despite this criticism the work of construction continued without abatement through the cold winter days. On January 5th, 1816, he wrote, "Ordered Cochran (Corcoran) and four men to square logs for a Bastion - Boyle and Fobister sawing boards." [76]

Matters other than building, however, were disturbing Robertson. Governor Semple had gone to Qu'Appelle early in January on an extended visit. During his absence, rumors were prevalent that the North Westers were planning an attack on the re-established settlement. Some freemen brought the disturbing news that Cameron intended driving the settlers away for a second time. Robertson received a communication from the Governor but it was quite indefinite. Consequently he hesitated making any move on rumor. What he expected from Semple was instructions but none were forthcoming. Meantime, large quantities of provisions were being accumulated at Fort Gibraltar and several half-breeds from scattered outlying districts began to congregate there.

On March 16th, his journal reads: "How anxious I am to hear from Govenor Semple and what a degree of anxiety I feel to intercept their (N. W. Co.) winter express. Are they to bring bands of savages upon us without one document to warn us of our danger or show the world who are the authors of the outrage. They struck the first blow at Qu'Appelle. They shall not be the first at The Forks - at all events, I will endeavour to seize their Packet - self-preservation urges the measure." [77]

Next day on Sunday, March 17th, he and his men busied themselves trying to ascertain what the opposition was doing. The result of his sleuthing brought a decision which can best be told in his own words: "As soon as I arrived at Fort Douglas, I sent for Messrs. McLean, Holt and Bourke, and informed them that I intended to take Cameron's Fort, this evening. That he was assembling men and officers from all quarters as well as collecting provisions, and other circumstances convinced me that these people were determined to disturb the peace of the Settlement. I told these Gentlemen that I had written Governor Semple on the subject but from the hostile conduct of the N. W. Co. I thought it would be imprudent to wait for an answer. My officers approved of my plan (Mr. Wilkinson excepted). I then assembled all my men, say fourteen, eleven of whom volunteered to accompany me.

"At half-past six I had them under arms and just as I was marching off Mr. Wilkinson threw himself into the ranks. When I got about half way to Gibraltar, I halted my men and communicated to Messrs. McLean and Bourke the plan of attack - that I should lead the van and enter Cameron's Hall, that Mr. McLean should attack the men's house on the right and Mr. Bourke that on the left.

"As we approached, the dogs gave the alarm. I then quickened my pace and ordered McLean to follow. I came up to the small wicket in the large gate just as the guard was attempting to shut it, this I forced, my faithful servant followed me and in five minutes the Fort was ours. The enemy was taken so completely by surprise that they had not time to fly to their arms, and to our astonishment we found the numbers nearly doubled ours. The cool, determined courage displayed by both officers and men was truly pleasing, in particular by Mr. McLean and his party who took possession of the men's house.

"The moment I entered Cameron's Hall a circumstance occurred that had nearly been attended with serious consequences. While I was in the act of seizing Cameron and Seraphin's Arms, Bourke arrived and presented a pistol to the head of Siveright and I believe would have shot him had I not been present. Perhaps Mr. Bourke thought that this Gentleman had not surrendered. As soon as I had secured the prisoner and private papers of Cameron, I left Gibraltar in charge of McLean. I returned to Fort Douglas and sent an Express to Fort Daer, and from thence it was to proceed to Brandon House. I was obliged to send it by way of the former place as I had no guide who knew the way to Brandon House where the Governor resided." [78]

With Gibraltar securely in his possession, Robertson issued the order "no one could leave the Fort for twenty-four hours." The expected North West Express reached The Forks on March 19th and this was seized. Among the correspondence was a letter from Alexander McDonell (N. W. Co.) at Qu'Appelle, addressed to Duncan Cameron, now prisoner at Gibraltar. A very significant threat was expressed in this letter: "there is a storm gathering in the North over the rascals (meaning the Colony). Little do they know the situation they are placed in, last Spring will be a joke to what this will be." [79]

On March 20th, several prisoners who had large families were released from custody and on the same day Robertson moved a quantity of property from Fort Douglas to Fort Gibraltar, where he intended taking up residence. After moving in, he gives us a glimpse of the North West Fort: "Examined Gibraltar this morning, it is certainly in an excellent state of defence; it has two good bastions at the two angles of the Square and the Square is formed with Out Palisades, eighteen feet in height and these are proof against Musketry. This is not only a strong place but very comfortable lodgings, such as I have not been accustomed to for some time past."

At long last, Governor Semple returned to Fort Douglas on March 28th, having been absent since the first week in January. He expressed his approval of all that Robertson had done and was highly pleased with the capture of Fort Gibraltar and the state of defence he found there. As for the prisoner, Cameron, Robertson wanted to get rid of him and suggested that he be sent to Jack River, but Semple would not give his consent to this proposal.

Towards the end of April, Robertson sent three men for a raft consisting of 100 pieces of squared timber, which he had purchased from one of the freemen. This would suggest that building was still in progress. It should be noted that from time to time Robertson urged the Governor that Gibraltar should be dismantled and operations centred at "Douglas Point", however, no action in this regard was taken. Relations between Semple and Robertson became somewhat strained as time went on and towards the end of April that situation became so tense that Robertson decided to ask for his release and permission to leave Red River. In addition to the unfriendliness of the Governor, it appears the other officers at Fort Douglas were also jealous of Robertson being second in command. This did not tend to reconcile the, two principals. There were a series of disagreeable altercations between the two, which caused Robertson to write: "I am indeed sick of this business. I mean to resign my situation; things are going wrong and my temper is getting ruffled." [80] He submitted his resignation - on May 3rd, but the Governor refused to accept it. A week later, he again resigned, and once more the two disputants adjusted their differences. It was then arranged that Robertson would leave for Jack River, taking Duncan Cameron in custody. The prisoner would be handed over to another officer, who was to convey him to York Factory. This arrangement was changed on the eve of departure because information had been received that the North West Company men had seized a quantity of provisions and several of Hudson's Bay Company servants on the upper reaches of the Assiniboine river.

As a precaution against a sudden raid the Governor "ordered all the freemen and Indians that were encamped round the Fort to remove to the opposite side of the river for on the eve of our being attacked these lodges would shelter the enemy." [81]

About May 21st it was reported that a number of half-breeds had been seen skulking in the plains, and several of the Colonists were afraid of being attacked. They wanted permission to lodge within the stockaded Fort Douglas but, for the time being, this was refused.

Despite all the rumors of impending trouble, Governor Semple showed no inclination to make up his mind to a definite plan of action. This exasperated Robertson who, on June 4th, decided to leave The Forks. It might be recalled at this point that he had remained in resident possession of Fort Gibraltar from March 17th. So, on June 5th, according to his journal, "arranged all my private papers ... I forgot to mention in a former part of my journal that about the 23rd May, all the property was removed from Gibraltar to Fort Douglas and this Fort (Gibraltar) was to be considered only as a Military Post." [82]

Robertson had all arrangements made to leave on Monday, June 10th, on which day "an Indian arrived this morning from Brandon House with intelligence that the N. W. Co. were coming in force, say eighty half-breeds and 60 Canadians, and that it was his opinion they would be here in a few days." This alarming information disturbed Robertson, who wrote the Governor, "My duty to the Earl of Selkirk would not allow me to leave the Colony until this storm was over. I also mentioned that the best plan was to condense our forces by throwing both Forts into one." [83] The Governor agreed with the plan but his reply was so indefinite that Robertson went in person to discuss details and ascertain at first hand just what Semple planned to do.

Then a most astonishing thing happened. Perhaps it can best be understood if we use the actual words of Robertson: "While I was sitting in the Governor's room reading a letter he had received from Mr. Fidler, Bourke burst in and cocked a pistol at my breast saying, 'you scoundrel, you had nearly got me murdered.' The Governor seemed a good deal embarrassed. I replied, 'Sir, your officers are in excellent order, however, Mr. Bourke is fortunate this is the first time I ever left the Fort without being armed.' I then left the room and as I entered the Hall, accompanied by Mr. Semple, I met Bourke again, who had the impudence to ask me if I would fight a duel with him. I answered that a cowardly assassin was not entitled to that privilege. I then turned round to the Governor and observed that either Bourke or myself left here tomorrow. He replied, 'that's a command, Mr. Robertson.' I then went over to Gibraltar and mentioned the circumstance to Mr. McLean and enquired if anything had happened at this place during my absence. Mr. Me. informed me that as soon as I had left the Fort, Mr. Bourke came in and began to break down the house. When Mr. McLean called out to stop until I arrived, his answer was that he did not care a dam for Mr. Robertson and began to break down the planks. McLean and some of the Guard got hold of him and turned him out. After this he armed himself and burst into the Governor's chamber in the manner I have related.

"As soon as the men learned of Bourke's outrage, sixty of them went to the Governor and demanded Bourke to be discharged. On the Governor's refusal they piled up their arms alongside the House. I endeavoured to prevent them from taking this step, but all to no purpose. My Guard, consisting of fifteen men, were going to follow their example when I ordered them to stop. I then wrote a note to Governor Semple to send an officer to take charge of this Fort as I was determined to remain no longer in Red River. Half past ten p.m. and no answer." [84]

The morning of June 11th brought Governor Semple to Gibraltar with a Guard to take possession of that Fort. There is a touch of sadness in what we read in Robertson's journal: "While my servant was arranging my trunks I kept walking about the Fort to avoid some of the Colonists that would embark with me." [85] The Governor seemed quite dejected but would not speak to Robertson, who finally broke the spell. Robertson prevailed upon the Colonists to remain at Red River, then, making his way to the platform where the Governor was standing he bade his farewell. The parting is described thus: "he held my hand and appeared very much affected. 'Don't leave me, Mr. Robertson, I entreat you on Lord Selkirk's account not to leave the Settlement at this juncture, take my advice and think seriously what you are about to do.' I was so overcome that I could make no answer, but went with a quick step and threw myself into my Boat. When I came opposite to Fort Douglas I intended to have stopped there but the insolence of Rogers and Bourke obliged me to change my opinion again. Peguis and the Red Lake Chief came to the Boat and entreated me to remain, but my faithful sweed pushed off the Boat saying, 'no, if you remain they will kill you.' " [86]

This was the parting scene at The Forks of the Red and Assiniboine. It witnessed the departure of the man who, within the short space of ten months, had brought the Colonists back to the Settlement; had re-established them on their lands; had built an entirely new Fort, which he named "Fort Douglas"; and had seized possession of the opposition Fort. Surely a remarkable achievement!

Life at Fort Douglas continued at an exciting pace. On June 11th, the day Robertson bade farewell, the work of demolishing Fort Gibraltar was started. On the day following, one Bastion and part of the Stockades were removed to Fort Douglas. On the 13th, the men were employed all day pulling down and removing the material of Gibraltar. On June 14th, not a house was left standing on the site. When the last raft came down to Fort Douglas, Governor Semple caused three rounds to be fired in celebration of the destruction. On June 15th, all hands were employed in fortifying Fort Douglas and the second Bastion was then put up. Thus, an important structure for the defence of Fort Gibraltar became an important part of Fort Douglas. A day of relaxation was observed on Sunday and Mr. Rogers gave a patriotic sermon. Work was resumed on Monday, when part of the Gibraltar Stockades was added to the Stockade at Fort Douglas. This brings us to June 17th, two days before disaster struck at Seven Oaks. [87]

The story of the tragedy at Seven Oaks is told by Alexander McDonell (Sheriff), who assumed command of the Settlement after the death of Governor Semple.

"In the evening of June 17th, Mustouche Bostona's brother in-law arrived with intelligence that the half-breeds and N. W. Co. were coming in force and requested the Governor to have his Stockades put up and all his people called in. The Governor treated this young man as a spy and ordered him to return and inform the half-breeds he was ready to receive them. In the evening of June 18th, a number of Colonists came from their lands determined to remain at Fort Douglas on account of the reports spread by Mustouche. This vexed the Governor. He ordered them to return back and informed them that Mr. McDonell (Alexander) would encamp with them, that they had nothing to fear. Poor Mustouche still insisted that there was great danger if they went out but they had nothing to fear if they remained at Fort Douglas. Mustouche, to show his sincerity, brought his wife and child and encamped within twenty yards of the Fort. Most part of the 18th, the men were employed in putting up the Stockades.

"On the afternoon of the 19th, the N. W. Co. with their half-breed allies made appearance & twenty were seen passing towards Frog Plain. When this intelligence was brought the Governor, he called for his Telescope and had a view of the enemy from one of the Bastions; he counted about twenty-two horsemen. Having ascertained the number in sight he demanded and enquired if all the Settlers were at the Fort. He was answered that four of them had gone to the Frog Plain to visit their farms. He then with a quick pace stepped upstairs to his room and in a few minutes came in front of the Government House with doublebarrelled gun & pistols and asked for twenty volunteers to accompany him, which was immediately complied with. When the men were drawn out Hayden & Moore went up to the Governor and asked him to take the Three Pounder with them. He replied that he was not going to fight but to ask them what they meant to do, meaning the N. W. Co. Some of the other men observed that the Cannon might be, useful. The Governor replied that he only wanted volunteers and if they did not choose to accompany him they might remain at home. The men feeling hurt at this expression ran into the House and each took hold of a musket, some of which had not been fired for a month. They were served with ammunition, but so unequally and with so much confusion that some had only two rounds and others ten. Mr. McDonell finding that he could not prevail on the Governor he requested him earnestly to take the field piece with him. 'Well', says the Governor 'you may order it!' and immediately went off with his men.

"When they came to McLean's farm they were joined by that Gentleman there but they now perceived that the enemy had nearly doubled their numbers. They paused a few minutes and sent for the field piece, in the interim, McBeath, one of the Settlers came up and informed the Governor that the enemy had taken four or five of the Colonists prisoners while they were working on their farms. This intelligence vexed the Gov. so much that he ordered his men to follow him immediately, when Hayden took the Governor aside and observed, 'For God's sake, Governor Semple, if you will take a poor man's advice, stop until the Field Piece comes up, they are too many for us.' The Gov. answered, 'I'll take no man's advice but my own,' and moved off towards the enemy. In marching along he frequently turned round to Pritchard and requested him to return to the Fort, and it would have been a fortunate circumstance had this weak creature complied. The Governor and his party having got as far as Campbell's House, about two miles from the Fort, the Canadians and half 'breeds began to approach them. Bushe (Bouchier) one of the N. W. Co's contracted servants came up to the Governor and in a most insolent manner demanded their Fort (Gibraltar). He immediately seized the bridle of the fellow's horse, but the scoundrel soon disentangled himself and made off. During this time the enemy, to the number of sixty, had nearly surrounded them. The Governor in endeavouring to force a passage received a ball in his arm and in a short time after another in his knee which brought him to the ground. Mr. Wilkinson was killed the first shot. The men began to fall in all quarters, one half of the muskets would not go off, and if they had they would have done little or no execution as the enemy had formed a circle with their horses and fired at our people from behind these animals. Mr. Pritchard at the commencement of the action threw himself alongside one of the dead bodies where he lay until the affair was over. Governor Semple finding himself so severely wounded requested the men to save themselves. Doctor White by this time attempted to make his escape but was pursued by one of the half-breeds and shot. Mr. Rogers was dreadfully wounded but did not give over firing until he was literally cut to pieces. The enemy wished to make a prisoner of Mr. McLean, but this brave gentleman having received a shot in his right hand, the left being already disabled from the affair of last Spring (1815) refused to be taken and with the most heroic courage raised his carbine on his wounded arms and bayonetted two horses in attempting to run at the enemy, when he received his mortal wound.

"The Governor was sitting at some distance with his loaded pistols in a posture of defence, at that time one of the Canadians came up and promised to save his life if he would deliver up his arms, which he complied with, but as soon as they disarmed this brave man, a villain came behind and shot him. The wretches finding that they had no more to contend with dispatched a party toward the Fort to prevent reinforcements, encountered Mr. Bourke with the Cannon coming to the Governor's assistance. They killed one man and wounded Mr. B. but he escaped to the Fort with the Field Piece. When the banditti came to finish the wounded and mangled dead bodies, Pritchard started Partners of the North West Company to Red River three days after the departure of the Settlers and the annexation of Fort Douglas. Whatever the reason, there arrived at that time; Alexander McKenzie, commonly called the Emperor, Archibald Norman McLeod, James Leith, John Haldane, Hugh McGillis, John McDonald, John Duncan Campbell, John McLaughlin, Robert Henry, John Thompson, Simon Fraser and Archibald McLellan, all proprietors or partners of the North West Company; their headquarters was Fort Douglas.

The officer whose record will be quoted accompanied some of the group to Red River; he relates the story thus: "We reached Fort Douglas about 4 p.m. (June 25th) which we found in possession of Alexander McDonell, (Partner N. W. Co.) and the half-breeds, (Cuthbert Grant, Alexander Fraser, Roderick McKenzie, Thomas McKay, Bostonois Pangman, Louis La Certi, Antoine Hoole, Michael Bourassa and Robert Montour). Shortly after our arrival, Mr. McLeod gave a dram to all the half-breeds in the late Governor's apartment and shook hands with them all.

"On the 26th. Mr. Mcleod had all the half-breeds assembled behind the Fort, made them a speech, in the name of the North West Company, in which he told them he approved much of what they had done on the 19th June; that it was well done, and exhorted them to continue the same line of conduct in case the settlers should come back to the River [90] ... I rode the same day to the field where Governor Semple and many people had lately lost their lives, in company with Archibald Norman McLeod, Alexander McKenzie, John McDonald, John McLaughlin, James Leith, John Duncan Campbell and Archibald McLellan, with the half-breeds (50) and other servants of the Company who had been, as I was informed, employed on that occasion, all on horseback. At this period, scarcely a week after the nineteenth of June, I saw a number of human bodies scattered about the plain and nearly reduced to skeletons, there being very little flesh adhering to the bones ... There was a scene of rejoicing the same evening at the Fort, the halfbreeds being painted and dancing naked in the manner of savages. I had not seen the half-breeds painted on any other occasion, and from my own knowledge I can state it is not their usual custom." [91]

Two days after this heartless celebration, the Partners departed on their several ways leaving Fort Douglas under the care of Alexander McDonell and Archibald McLellan. The former, however, left the next day for Fort William and shortly afterwards, McLellan left for Qu'Appelle, leaving Cuthbert Grant and Seraphim Lamar in charge. The two partners were absent most of the summer, during which time the large contingent of half-breeds who had assembled for the Seven Oaks Massacre remained at Fort Douglas.

Early in September, word reached Red River that Lord Selkirk had arrived at Fort William and captured the North West Company Post there. This caused some uneasiness and a constant alert was maintained in case of attack on Fort Douglas. With the approach of winter the excitement gradually subsided. Evidently, it was thought that no danger would arise until spring, when the different waterways would be open to navigation. The strategy of Lord Selkirk and his advisors was, however, underestimated.

Turning our attention briefly from Red River to Fort William, we learn that Lord Selkirk had arrived on August 13th, 1816, less than two months after the affair at Seven Oaks. He was accompanied by a large retinue, which included a body of recently discharged De Meuron soldiers. Later, he was joined by Miles McDonell, who, according to His Lordship, "still held his commission from the Hudson's Bay Company as Governor of the District around Red River." [92]

It was decided to split up the Selkirk forces. Captain D'Orsonnes was sent ahead with part of the De Meurons. Miles McDonell overtook D'Orsonnes at Lac la Pluie on November 6th. Between them it was considered advisable to send a scouting party forward, and two days later word was received that 'an Indian, called the American, was encamped at the Forks.' They decided to wait for his arrival before making any further move. 'The Indian, called the American, arrived on November 21st, and was immediately engaged to be our hunter and guide for the Chemin de Guerre.'

Not until December 10th were the arrangements for the journey to Red River completed. On that day "I set out with the Canadians, 10 in number, about 1/2 past eight at night, reached the Grand Forks where our people were encamped. It was necessary to come here on account of the horses, there being hay made here by the N. W. Co. Our forces consist of: 1 Governor, 1 Captain, 2 Subs, Witschy & Nolan, 25 Soldiers & 10 Canadians, making a total of 38 effective men with 5 horses, 2 cannon, ammunition & provisions &c." [93] This cavalcade travelled on foot and it was fortunate the weather was favorable all the way from Lac la Pluie to Pembina. The route followed the course of the Rosseaux river for some distance, and then the party moved overland to Pembina, where they took possession of the North West Company Post on the last day of 1816.

The entire party rested at Pembina, where New Year's Day was observed. The soldiers received the customary dram and a discharge of arms saluted the arrival of the year 1817. Next day the forward march was resumed. The weather, which thus far had been clear and calm, suddenly changed. A violent gale from the Northwest, accompanied by heavy drifting snow, retarded progress. It was deemed advisable to leave the usual trail and follow a route close to Red River for a considerable distance in order to have shelter from the elements and have sufficient wood available for the fires. Arriving at the Passage, (Assiniboine river and Sturgeon Creek) about sunset on January 9th, they had spent a whole week in covering a journey of sixty miles. Here they were joined by Peguis and his band of Indians. After resting at this spot for six or seven hours, we are told: "at midnight the men were prepared for the march - the Indians were all night on the alert & now pressed our departure. I gave the soldiers, who had suffered much from the cold & were all day on a light diet, a little brandy which I had kept in reserve, which cheered them much. We set out in high spirits certain of success. Mr. Laidlaw accompanied us, he would not remain behind with the cattle & luggage. The wind had fallen, the night was fine & clear & not so cold as the preceding day. On reaching the free men houses at the Forks parties were sent to make prisoners of all within & sentries placed on these to prevent their giving intelligence to the enemy. Four ladders were immediately prepared & after the men had warmed themselves we proceeded to the Fort (Douglas). No sooner were the ladders placed to the pickets than Nolan, Jno Taylor (guide), L'Ecuriel, Witschy & others entered. The main gate was then thrown open (by John Taylor) [94] when we all entered. The houses were taken possession of & all within the Fort were made prisoners & all put into one quarter except Mr. McLellan who was put in a house apart from the others. The prisoners made were: Mr. Arch'd McLellan, Seraphin Lamar, Tousaints Vourdrie, F. Mainville & 12 others. All was finished and quiet before daylight, guards & sentries placed. Gave some liquor to the men. Took possession of all the stores in the Fort. It was time we had arrived & made so easy a conquest. Had our Flag hoisted at sunrise ... We are much straightened for quarters in the Fort. The gentlemen are obliged to be crowded all together in a small apartment for the present." [95]

The successful re-capture of their Fort opened the way for the re-establishment of the Settlement. The captors were kept busy throughout the winter and spring obtaining food and fuel for the establishment. It was also necessary to maintain the prisoners, who were kept under close guard. Sentries were constantly on the lookout for any marauders who might approach too near. The hostile half-breeds remained a compact group, encamped by themselves a safe distance west of the Fort.

Miles McDonell knew that with the opening of navigation Lord Selkirk would come to Red River. His Lordship reached Fort Douglas on June 21st, 1817, accompanied by "an escort consisting of seven men of the 37th Reg't. Captains Matthey, d'Orsonnens and de Lorimiore; Dr. Allen, Charles Bruce and Chauvin, also 37 Soldiers, late of the de Meuron & Watteville Regiments, and several Canadians." [96]

Three days later, Angus Shaw and John McDonald, Partners of the North West Company, passed Fort Douglas in a canoe and put ashore a little above the Fort. The place chosen for their encampment was the original site of the destroyed Fort Gibraltar. Shaw lost no time in waiting upon Lord Selkirk and made a peremptory demand for everything that belonged to the N. W. Co. He behaved himself with insolent effrontery when offered the furs which had been stored at the time the Fort had been re-taken.

On July 1st, two more North West Company canoes, with 10 men in each, arrived, but the occupants could not be identified. A third canoe passed on July 2nd. All in the canoes landed at the North West Company encampment. The place seethed with excitement in anticipation of the expected arrival of Colonel W. B. Coltman, who had been appointed "Special Commissioner for enquiring into the offences committed in the Indian Territory." This gentleman reached The Forks on July 5th and set up his own encampment to accommodate his large entourage and form his headquarters. The location of this camp was close to that of the North West Company, with Fort Douglas lying to the north.

One of the first acts of Coltman, after his arrival, was to visit the men who had been held in custody since the beginning of January. After the visit "he expressed his approbation of the prison room and manner of confinement." In the course of the negotiations, Simon McGillivray and Rocheblave, on behalf of the North West Company, gave a pledge that no disputed property should be taken out of the river in North West Canoes. Lord Selkirk agreed "to restore for the H. B. Co. all that was seized from the N. W. Co., provided the N. W. Co. restore the amount pillaged from the Colony & the H. B. Co."

On July 15th, the Commissioner issued an order for such restorations by the two Companies and Rocheblave and J. McDonald, with some North West Company servants, went forthwith to Fort Douglas to recognize property and take an inventory. Later, on the same day, they returned and removed the things they claimed; these consisted of some trifling articles of household furniture and a few books. In addition, they carried away a quantity of hewn lumber, doubtless, part of the salvage remaining after Fort Gibraltar had been destroyed in 1816. A controversy arose over some of the buildings as well as the pickets forming the Stockade surrounding Fort Douglas. The North Westers wanted to carry them away and after a great deal of debating pro and con, Coltman settled the dispute with this decision; "demanding my interference to enforce the restoration of the Pickets and part of the buildings at Fort Douglas - this latter will of course be refused." [97]

The most controversial property coming up for adjudication was the site on which Fort Gibraltar had been erected. Lord Selkirk expressed himself thus: "Another of the restitution decreed by Mr. C. (Coltman) was that of the ground formerly occupied by the Fort of the N. W. Co., and which had been recovered by Governor Semple in Spring 1816, on account of the hostile preparations of N. W. Co. & their half-breeds & the apprehension that this Fort if left standing would serve as a rallying point to facilitate their bloody designs. It was represented to Mr. C. that this ground did not fall within the scope of the Proclamation which ordered only the restitution of Forts and Trading Stations actually in existence & which evidently contemplated that no new buildings were to be erected upon contested ground till there should be time for the intended legal investigation of the rights of the contending parties - that it was contrary to the spirit of this order to restore a mere site, where a new Fort was to be erected - that such a measure was in direct contradiction to Mr. C's. professed object of restoring the peace of the Country, since nothing could be more adverse to that object than that the N. W. Co. should occupy a Fort in the middle of the Settlement which they had made such efforts to destroy - that on former occasions this close vicinity had afforded them opportunities for the most nefarious intrigues to debauch the minds of the Settlers & that the least which could be expected was that it should lead to frequent squabbles & disputes which might be avoided by their occupying some station at a reasonable distance from the Settlers.

"Lord Selkirk offer'd that no objection would be made to their pitching upon any other situation either up the River or down in lieu of the Fort they had formerly occupied. It was pointed out to Mr. C. that no possible inconvenience could arise to the N. W. Co. from such a measure - that the situation of their former Post tho' peculiarly disadvantageous to the Settlers had no peculiar advantage to the N. W. Co. except it were from the opportunity of annoying & sowing the seeds of dissention among the Settlers.

"These arguments seem to have had some weight with Mr. C. for he afterwards acknowledged that he had expressed to Mr. Hy McKenzie, his wish that the N. W. Co. would do as Ld.S. had proposed, but that this gentleman received the suggestions with expressions of furious anger & accordingly Mr. C. acquiesced in his determination.

"To aggravate the grossness of this procedure Mr. C. permitted the N. W. Co. to resume not only the site of their former trading post but a field adjoining to it which had been sown with grain by the servants of Ld. S ... accordingly he held that the field was to be considered as a part of the Trading Station & the N. W. Co. were permitted to graze their horses upon a promising crop of barley which might have offered subsistence to 5 or 6 families ..." [98]

Fort Douglas was the scene of an important historic event about the middle of July. Lord Selkirk arranged a meeting with the Indians of the district and at this gathering he entered into an agreement which provided "an annual payment to the Sautaux tribe the present or Quit Rent consisting of one hundred pounds weight of good merchantable tobacco to be delivered on or before 10th. October, at the Forks of the Ossiniboyne River and to the Killistino or Cree a like present to be delivered at Portage la Prairie on the banks of the Ossiniboyne River." [99]

In addition to making the agreement with the Indians His Lordship met with the Settlers. He confirmed them in the ownership of their land and agreed, under conditions, "those who had suffered in consequence of the lawless conduct of the North West Company," [100] would receive their land gratuitously.

Another matter of significance and an indication that the permanency of the Settlement was recognized is found in the decision of Colonel Coltman to appoint a corps of local constabulary. Undoubtedly, this was the first organized police force in the West. The document of appointment reads: "Whereas, I, William Bachelor Coltman, His Majesty's Special Commissioner, &c. ... have constituted and appointed Jacob Storgus, Pierre Brusselles, Donald Livingston and Angus Matheson,-all of the Colony of Red River, on the said Indian Territories, Yeomen, to be constables for and within the limits of the present Settlement of the said Colony; that is to say, beginning at the first of the Settlers lots at the Frog Plain and continuing up the said Red River to certain Indian Tombs near half a mile above Fort Douglas and extending back to the distance of half a mile from the banks of the said river on each side thereof;-and have also administered the Oath of office of Constable to each and of the said persons before named. There are therefore to command and require all persons whomsoever to be aiding and assisting to the said Constables to preserve the peace within the said limits; and likewise to require that the said Constables do cause watch to be kept by night and ward by day with able men of and belonging to the said limits throughout the same - from the 15th day of the present month of September until they shall be lawfully discharged therefrom." [101]

Mention was made previously that after the massacre at Seven Oaks in June, 1816, some of the bodies had been taken to Fort Douglas for burial. The bodies of the other victims had been left where they fell. In the Spring of 1817, after the snow had melted, some skulls and other bones were collected and buried. The record does not tell the exact place of internment but the inference is that it took place in the vicinity of Seven Oaks. Captain d'Orsonnes had this unhappy experience, about which he comments: "at the same time that these European subjects of His Majesty had been exposed on the plain, under the eyes of several Partners of the North West Company, to the summer's sun and winter's frost, the only servant of the North West Company, a half-breed, who fell on that occasion, had been interred by the servants of the North West Company and a decent paling put round his grave." [102]

The purpose for which Commissioner Coltman had come to Red River being accomplished he turned his steps homeward on September 11th, 1817, travelling by the same route he had come. Lord Selkirk's visit had been prompted for a different reason; he was concerned about his infant Settlement and it was co-incidental that these two individuals should arrive at The Forks within two weeks of each other. His Lordship did accomplish his objective and re-establish the Settlement. He also consolidated the friendship of the Indians and the Settlers. He took his departure on September 9th, 1817, heading south to return to Canada through the United States. His journey, lay across hostile territory but it was made in safety because he was escorted by the Sioux Indians under the guidance of their chief. [103]

It is quite evident that while the Commissioner was still at The Forks the North West Company had begun to build a new Fort Gibraltar in the immediate vicinity of the original post. This is borne out in a letter written by S. Gale Jr., the legal representative of Lord Selkirk, who was there at the time. Dated August 23rd, 1817, it stated "Fort Gibraltar, which they are re-building for purposes of trade." [104] A few days later, August 27th, we read that Henry MacKenzie, Agent, and James Leith, Partner, are supervising the affairs of the North West Company at The Forks, and John Haldane, another Partner, was in the immediate neighbourhood.

Alexander McDonell (Sheriff) making report to Lord Selkirk, November 10th, 1817, tells his Lordship, "Messrs Leith, Holden (Haldane) and Grant (James) of the N. W. Co. arrived in the River 19th Oct; 8 Canoes have come into the River with goods to them for the season. Leith remains here (The Forks). Holdan, River Qu Appelle, and Grant at Pembina." [105] These three men were Partners in the North West Company and the entry indicates that a trading establishment had been built and the necessary articles of trade had arrived to stock the shelves. Thus, Fort Gibraltar was re-established in brand new buildings in 1817.

The day after Lord Selkirk bade farewell to Red River an early frost brought disaster of another kind. The crops which had been so promising were practically ruined. Making his report to his Lordship, Alexander McDonell wrote: "secured everything together for seed & salvaged 991/2 bushels Wheat; 111/4 bushels Barley; 308 bushels Potatoes. Advised people not to use grain . . . (in the following spring) sowed 142 bushels Wheat; 53 bushels Barley; 475 bushels Potatoes, among us all." [106] The apparent discrepancy between what was reported as being salvaged and the quantity available at seedtime is no doubt explained by adding together the produce of the Fort Douglas farm to that harvested by the Settlers at Kildonan.

In the course of his homeward journey through the United States Lord Selkirk arranged "a plan for transmitting letters in Winter through the U. S." and he instructed his officers at Red River "to write every month or six weeks sending letters by way of Pembina." [107] That such a mail service was inaugurated is evident from a letter sent from Lac des Grosses Roche (Cheyenne River) by Duncan Graham to J. Allen, on February 24th, 1818, which reads: " ... the 18th of last month Grigon arrived from Pembina & brought with him despatches for his Lordship. I came with them here as I expected by this time the Express from Montreal would be arrived but there is no account yet." [108] And on February 25th, Robert Dickson, writing from the same place to Lord Selkirk, had this to say: "I now forward an Express to your Lordship's direction which I only received two days ago. This Express has, I learn, been a long time on its way from Fort Douglas to this place owing to the uncommon severity of the weather. I forward it tomorrow & I hope that it will reach Montreal by the 1st of May." [109] Undoubtedly this was the first overland mail sent from Red River to Montreal, routed through the United States.

Social service of a practical nature existed in the Settlement at this early date. An example of true community spirit is related by Alexander McDonell. "On 23rd April, 1818, the plains took fire near James Sutherland's House - the Parson - and extended itself through all the people's houses to the north, it being a strong southerly wind in consequence of which some houses were burnt. Alex. Poison's and John Bannerman's, the former lost a good deal of his effects, but the latter lost everything. No lives lost. I set a subscription on foot and collected £20 stg. for their assistance."' [110]

Up to this time the Hudson's Bay Company did not operate a general trading store at The Forks. On the other hand, the Colonial Establishment had such a shop for the convenience of the Settlers. Negotiations for such a Company store had been made in the past but no definite result followed. After Lord Selkirk's visit it was decided to make a change, as evident in a letter: "the goods which I had delivered to Mr. Eustace, belonging to the Colony, upon his taking charge of the Company's Shop amounted to £1,200. in Stg., but I charged the 2517, on these goods the same as they did upon goods they gave us." [111]

In working towards a permanent settlement of the many annoyances which had beset the Colony since its inception, Lord Selkirk gave added proof of his far-sighted policy soon after he arrived back in Montreal. True he had left his Settlement at Red River in a more tranquil state, but something more than agreement with the opposition was necessary. How he proceeded to bring his plan to fruition is explained in his own words: "I flatter myself that we have something to counter-balance this (intrigue of the N. W. Co.) in the establishment of a Church. The R. C. Bishop of Q. has fixed on two very respectable Priests to establish a permanent mission. One of them leaves an excellent, rich and extensive Parish in this Province to fix himself at Red R.; the other is a young man to assist him. We have obtained the Gov'rs. consent for Capt. De Lorirnier to escort them, & we expect they will be ready to set out by the middle of May. The Priests have a Canoe of their own, manned by men who are engaged for their own exclusive service & will be employed by them in erecting their buildings & cultivating their ground. I trust that all the Canadians and other Catholic inhabitants will be ready to contribute their aid, in bringing in building materials, provisions or any other supply they can afford. I would be glad if you would announce your expectation of the speedy arrival of the missionaries & try the emulation of the missionaries to bring in such contributions to the best of their ability. If you can manage to touch their vanity a little on the subject, they will do wonders.

"Perhaps too, you may induce the Scotch Settlers to lend a hand by pointing out to them, that as soon as it is known in England that Catholic clergymen are established at the place, it will be the more easy for us to obtain a Protestant Clergyman for them & probably the Canadians & other Catholics may give them a promise that as soon as a Protestant Clergyman comes they will in return give the same assistance for his accommodation as the Protestants may give now for the accommodation of the Catholic Priests. Independently of the direct value of their assistance I should be glad to see such an interchange of good offices, as tending to promote good neighbourhood between the two classes of Settlers. We have ordered a Bell for the Church from England by Y. F. (York Factory)

"The Priests will bring with them all the necessaries for the performance of their service, but as the quantity of wine which they will need was now likely to lumber their canoes, I suggested that a part of it might be obtained from Y.F. & I would be glad therefore if you would take measures for getting up 20 Or 30 gallons of White Wine by any opportunity that may present itself.

"I have promised to the Bishop to give a Lot of land in the village for the erection of the Church & its appendages & a large tract for its endowment beyond the River La Seine. The situation pitched upon for the Church is opposite the N. W. Co's Post, immediately below the Lot (formerly Belleumeur's now laid out for Mr. Huerter. I left with Mr. Graffenreid a memorandum of the lines to be run for Mr. H's. boundary & from his land down the river a Lot should be measured 330 yards in front by an equal depth. The land that may remain below this lot, between the Church & the lots of Schiller & Lutman on the point, should be laid out as a street, with building lots of about an acre only so as to form a village, which the vicinity of the Church will perhaps attract more speedily than near the Fort. The larger tract for the endowment of the Church is to begin immediately South of Lagimonier's Lot, his Southern boundary will form so far the Northern boundary of the Church Land & from the back of his lot, the line will run due East 5 English miles, then due South 4 miles, then due West till it comes to the River La Seine, then following that River to its mouth ... If by means either of the Free Canadians or of your own people, you can get some preparation made for the reception of the Priests, as to lodging &c., it would be very desirable. If it were only to shew them that you care about them & that they are welcomed by the people they are going to, it may go a great way in reconciling them to the situation." [112]

The two Roman Catholic Priests, Fathers Joseph Norbert Provencher and Severe Joseph Nicolas Dumoulin, arrived at Red River on July 16th, 1818. Shortly after their arrival, Alexander McDonell advised Lord Selkirk, "I had the big house covered over with weather boards and made different from the state in which you have seen it but I cannot say that it is completely watertight yet." [113] Writing to Bishop Plessis of Quebec on July 21st Father Provencher said "the location for the Chapel is fine; it is situated across from the Forts of the North West Company and the Hudson's Bay Company, which are eight or ten arpents apart and just about fifteen arpents from Fort Douglas." [114]

After the clergy had time to adjust themselves to their new surroundings, Provencher advised Lord Selkirk on August 14th: "we are lodged in Fort Douglas, where we occupy the second floor of a house, which serves for home and Chapel." On the same day Dumoulin wrote Bishop Plessis, "We celebrate Mass and Vespers every Sunday and on feast-days." [115] This house in Fort Douglas continued to be the centre of activity for the Priests both as a residence, as well as a church, until sufficient progress had been made with their own establishment on the East side of Red River to enable them to occupy a portion of the edifice. When Provencher moved to his own property he named the place "St. Boniface."

Before leaving Red River Lord Selkirk created a sort of divided authority. Captain F. Matthey was entrusted with all that related to the defence and protection of the Settlement. Alexander McDonell was to continue to direct the other responsibilities at Fort Douglas and in addition to supervise the general welfare of the Settlers.

His Lordship was confident that the troubles of his young Colony, so far as interference from outside sources were concerned, had been overcome. He had a much fuller progam of development mapped out than in merely arranging for the establishment of a Roman Catholic Mission. Captain Matthey, with a brigade from Montreal, arrived at Red River on August 26th with the following instructions to erect:

"1. A Fortified Dwelling on the principle of the Hexagon Blockhouse.

2. The Farm Buildings requisite for Mr. Laidlaw's establishment.

3. A Mill, Sawmill, & the various workshops required for the Carpenters, Coopers, Blacksmith, Tinsmith, Porter &c.

"Notwithstanding the paramount importance of defence, it does not appear advisable to begin the Blockhouse among the first works; for it could not possibly be ready before next Spring, and if it were not completed before the opening of navigation, it would be of no use till after another year. On the other hand, the present Fort, tho' inconvenient in many respects, is sufficiently capable of defence, when well manned & vigilantly guarded & it is also of extreme urgency that the Farm should be provided with the buildings that are necessary for securing the produce of the land, as well as for the accommodation of the labourers."

"As the farm serves in some degree as a protection to the Settlement on one side, & as it is remote from the principal Fort, it ought to be constructed with a view to defence, at least as far as to contain one building of the plan of a small blockhouse, in which the workmen might defend themselves in case of emergency. The first buildings for the farm may be on a very small scale as there are at present very few cattle or other live stock to be accommodated; & after the Hexagon is erected the materials of the present Fort may be applied in a great measure to the extension of the Farm Buildings.

"If any temporary repair, on the present Fort be requisite for immediate accommodation, that ought to be among the first objects, but this ought to be of great amount. It would be advisable as early this autumn as possible to send a party of good axemen under Roquebrane, or some other trusty & intelligent overseer to the most convenient place where good pine or spruce timber may be procured - they should cut the timber to proper lengths & haul it out on the snow to the river's edge so as to have it ready to raft down in Spring. Red Lake is spoke of as a fit place; but perhaps good timber may be procured more near at hand on the Roseaux River. The quantity requisite for all the principal buildings should be calculated and the workmen should receive instructions as to the proper dimensions, so as to avoid needless labour & after the requisite quantity is brought out of the woods they may employ themselves in squaring as much as they can before the rafting season begins. In all cases of this kind, much advantage may be expected from holding out to the overseer some premium in proportion to the amount of work that he can accomplish in the alloted time. It is to be hoped that in this way a sufficient quantity of good timber may be brought down about the opening of navigation, so that the shell of the Hexagon may be erected early in Summer, & rendered habitable in the course of the season, & that the old Fort may be removed in the Autumn to add to the Farm buildings. In the plan of the Farm buildings when completed there ought to be a small Carpenters Shop & a forge where the Blacksmith may come once or twice a week with the Carpent'r to repair the Farm utensils. But the principal workshops of these men ought to be in the village or perhaps among the buildings which may be left of the old Fort.

"A Horse Mill, for the purpose of threshing, will be of great consequence to the farm, & in fact almost indispensible & as this, with very little additional work may be made to serve the purpose of grinding a small quantity of grain it may serve the purpose of the Settlement for a year or two & give sufficient leisure for erecting more complete mills to go by wind or water. Considering the general superiority of water mills it would be proper before determining to erect a Windmill to examine deliberately all the situations within reach of the Settle't. where it might be practicable to erect one to go by water. It is said that there is a Creek with abundance of water between the Image Plain (Presse) & the Limestone Rapid (Sault a la Biche) but this would be rather remote from the Settlement. The lowest rapid of the Ossiniboyne River would afford ample fall & perhaps the dam would not be a very difficult undertaking on the American Plan. The Saw Mill would be more conveniently placed above the Settlement, near the rout of the rafts as they would come down Red River. In order to have it as near to the Settlement as it may be conveniently placed, it would be necessary to examine the Different Creeks which fall into Red River above the Forks to see if there be any one which has a good Mill Seat near its mouth so as not to require the timber to be hauled up against the Stream for any considerable distance.

"A Salt work on an improved plan would be an important object. If our workmen are supposed capable of managing it; Sheet Iron may be sent out by way of Hudson's Bay for the purpose of constructing a large, broad & flat boiler, which may be placed upon a Furnace constructed on Rumford's principles. Perhaps even by means of the flat boiler which we found at the Fort, something on a small scale might be constructed so as to carry on the process in a better & more economical method that hitherto, particularly by adopting some contrivance for concentrating the brine by evaporating the superabundant water in Summer & separating it by frost in Winter.

"A Buffaloe Pack is a very interesting object which it will be desirable to accomplish as soon as circumstances admit. But the urgent necessity of the buildings required for the immediate accommodation of the Settlement will hardly admit of any axemen being spared for that work till after another year.

"If on the whole a Windmill is preferred the Iron & metal work may be sent out from England to correspond with the plan & model sent out three years ago to York Factory." [116]

Three days after Matthey arrived at Red River he made a report to Lord Selkirk: "Not a nail has been put in or drawn out in the Fort - the stairs of the large House are still broken, though the upper part is occupied by the Clergy; the roof has been made anew and in that respect much improved though still leaky." In the same communication he is a bit contemptuous because of the lack of cooperation on the part of the Hudson's Bay Company Officers: "Fidler in his generous nicety had the conscience to charge His Lordship's account ... 1 fathom of Pack Line ... id. " [117]

It will be recalled that frost had played havoc with the 1817 crop. Now, disaster of another kind confronted the Settlement. On August 2nd, 1818, clouds of grasshoppers invaded the Colony and as a result the barley and potato crop was all but ruined. At the time the calamity was first reported, the standing wheat had not been attacked by the invading hordes. On September 12th, Matthey wrote: "they had harvested 700 bushels potatoes, and 400 bushels wheat." [118]

In September, 1818, a start had been made on the ambitious building program outlined by Lord Selkirk. The record states: " ... 3 Carpenters, Corchoran at the head, are finishing and temporarily covering a Farm House (at Hayfield Farm, four miles west of Fort Douglas) 50 by 25 feet, began by Laidlaw. Dugal, 2 Fort Canadians, and 2 H. B. men, whose names have been given to Mr. Stitt, are squaring timber for an Ice House. Eiler & 1 Canadian fishing, Old Casimer taking care of the Horses, dogs and Fort. This at present composes the garrison of the Fort." [119]

The people at Fort Douglas continued to be suspicious of their old enemies it Fort Gibraltar which hid been fully re-established. We ire told "James Grant, a Partner, winters here (1818-19) and Mr. McBean a Partner, winters it River Qu Appelle. We can easily keep Grant in order. I hive do so in a great measure already." [120]

The events of 1815 and 1816 and in epidemic among the horses hid reduced the stock to a dangerous degree. The seriousness of the situation was felt in the winter of 1818-19, and Archibald McDonald offered to head in expedition to the Missouri River in search of some animals. The undertaking, with its different adventures, is recorded by McDonald himself.

"I volunteered my services with a party of eight men, besides Old La Grave, is Interpreter, and Ambassador, and young Risk Kippling from Mr. Sutherland. On 10th November, I left Fort Douglas and on 18th. I was able to leave Pembina with my ten men, 3 horses & 2 carts. Behind the Mountain I was overtaken by a heavy fill of snow on 23rd. and were obliged to spend a few days there making Trains for the horses &c. The second day after we moved off, one of the horses was completely knocked up & the others would soon give way. I therefore resolved to incline towards Brandon House along with Kippling and leave the party with the goods &c. behind till such time as I returned with Dogs & sleds from River La Sourie, about two good days journey off. Having scrambled together five sleds and fifteen dogs, I returned from Brandon on 2nd Dec'r. with an additional min to enable me to join the party is speedily is possible.

"On the 4th. I learned to my inexpressible astonishment that the party hid decamped, and the goods carried away. Soon after I fell in with and Indian Encampment where I found a Soulteau Indian family who hid conveyed the goods & everything to their Camp a few days before. By all the information I could collect from them, they said that the white people got alarmed it seeing them in the woods, & must hive taken them for Stone Indians, and on the other hind they asserted that the body of people they saw it first sight, in the edge of the big plain, appeared to them to be Sioux Indians and consequently both parties got alarmed it each other.

"After 25 days unremitted exertion to get on with this little expedition, I found myself as fir back is the first day, and consequently the whole expence of procuring dogs &c. would dwindle to nothing. I was therefore reduced to the alternative of returning home, or continuing the journey myself, and then came to the resolution of proceeding to the Mindins with four men, five sleds and ill the goods. Risk & Angus Mitheson from Bran'. were two of the number - a young half-breed, whom I engaged in the plains was the third, and a Soutu Indian was the fourth, he was to act the part of Guide & Interpret Stone Indian should we fill in with the Ossiniboines."

"After two days journey I was informed by Risk, to my great disappointment, that the Indian would not venture any further on account of the danger he dreaded from some bad Indians & very deliberately took his leave of us behind the Turtle Mountain on the 5th. I then determined to persevere with the three men & myself, and got to the banks of the Missouri on the forenoon of 12th. and the dusk of the evening brought us to the Upper Village.

"Having met with every civility & friendship I spent six days among them there. The horses were not so cheap or numerous as I had reason to expect at first, however, I traded nine fine able horses (exclusive of one Kippling bought) and 170 Beaver, besides other little matters as no other village was within some days journey.

"I returned from the Mandans on the afternoon of 18th. with the ten horses & five sleds and a considerable quantity of the goods which remained on hand, and reached Brandon House on 26th. Having left the furs there, and allowed the horses to remain for a few days rest, I left Brandon Hs. on 28th and safely arrived at The Forks to the agreeable surprise of everyone on 31st Dec'r.

"The consternation into which every one in the place was thrown, from the moment the report was carried home to Pembina by the deserters, to the time of my return, was so excessively alarming that different parties were sent out in various directions but could hear no tidings of myself or even find out the place where the goods were abandoned. Some of the men were examined before I returned home. One man said he had seen from 10 to 15 Indians, another would say he saw from 30 to 50, a third saw upwards of 100, but Old Grave & others saw 300, all painted, with feathers stuck up in their heads & could distinctly see the Bows & Arrows, and the whole infamous in the extreme on this occasion but some of them had actually mutinied against me before I was two days from Pembina." [121]

The cause of all the excitement turned out to be one lone Saulteaux Indian and his family.

Some of the N.W.Co., people continued to interfere with the Settlers, no doubt with intent to bring about a renewal of the discontent and dissatisfaction they had so successfully fomented in previous years. Confirmation of such a condition is found in a letter sent by S. Gale Jr. (the family solicitor) to Lady Selkirk, September 20th, 1819: "The N. W.'s who report that the Scotch Settlers, with the old Gaelic Priest, or Parson at their head, have sent a petition to Sir Peregrine Maitland, praying to be removed from their exile and relieved from the danger of perishing by famine, with reflections upon the oppressions & miseries to which Lord Selkirk has subjected them." [122]

Whether or not such a petition actually materialized I have not been able to find out, but there seems little doubt that a movement of some sort had existed. This conclusion is borne out by Alexander McDonell who wrote: "Old Alex. Murray, the pensioner, & James Sutherland, called The Parson, went to York in Upper Canada to see their sons there, and satisfy themselves as to the reports transmitted them by letters from their friends there. They were to return to their families next Summer, Indeed I did not attempt to prevent them." [123]

Alexander McDonell left Fort Douglas, August 3rd, 1819, on a visit to his family in Great Britain and arrived back at Red River, June 19th, 1820. Upon his return he gives some additional information regarding the departure of James Sutherland from the Settlement. "During my absence some of the Scotch Settlers had been prevailed upon to leave the country in the N. W. Co. Canoes but I am glad to find they are of that description that would never do good here and far less elsewhere, they were principally two MacKay widows who had large families, the Old Parson, James Sutherland, has got some of his family there ... they put some of the little implements of husbandry they had into the Store of the N. W. Co." [124]

These documented references seem at variance with the oft-repeated sob story regarding Sutherland's forced departure from Red River. In trying to trace the origin of the kidnap theory I am inclined to believe it to be founded upon the reference in Ross's Red River Settlement [125] published in 1856. Ross did not settle at Red River until 1825. He was not personally present and no doubt he based his writing upon some legend prevalent in the Settlement. Almost from the time of his arrival, in 1815, 'Sutherland had his sights set upon Upper Canada. Colin Robertson entered this in his journal, June 25th, 1816: "I am informed from good authority that Parson Sutherland and the younger Matheson were extremely solicitous that McLeod (Archibald Norman, of N. W. Co.) would take them to Canada." [126]

The problem of bringing about a working arrangement whereby the bitter opposition and antagonism between the Hudson's Bay Company, and the North West Company, would cease, seems to have arisen long before the official negotiations which resulted in the subsequent amalgamation of these Companies in 1821. We get a glimpse of these preliminary discussions from a letter sent by S. Gale Jr. to Lady Selkirk, September 20th, 1819. "... A question has lately been asked me, on the part of a Wintering Partner now in the Indian Country, by a gentleman of this place whose name I promised not to mention. The following circumstances were related to me before the question was put.

"When Mr. McGillivray was at Fort William great exertions were made by him to induce the Wintering Partners to agree to a prolongation or renewal of the N. W. partnership agreement which is soon to expire. The Wintering Partners refused, being desirous to see whether they could do nothing by which the fruits of their labours might be rendered more secure, & Mr. McG. consequence left Fort William in a melancholy mood, but is determined next summer to make further attempts to obtain a renewal of the partnership without which the whole N. W. concern would be annihilated. McG's success or failure may perhaps in some measure depend upon the answer which I may be enabled to give.

"The Question was this: whether the Wintering Partners, if they should persevere in their refusal to renew the agreement with McT., McG. & Co., could obtain from the Hudson's Bay Company, their outfits or supplies of goods & sanction to trade on condition of sending their returns of furs to the H. B. Co. My reply was that I knew nothing on the subject at present, but I thought it very likely the H. B. Co. would have no objection except as to some of the great criminals, for instance Cameron & McDonell. I was then desired to ascertain as speedily as I could (without however allowing any surmise of it to reach any of the firm of McT. McG. & Co., or even Maitland's house either in England or America) whether the H. B. Co. would give any & what assistance to the Wintering Partners who should refuse any longer connexion with the Montreal Houses. The answer I may have to give, I am told will be relied on by the Wintering Partner who requests the information & he possesses influence to withdraw almost every useful member of the N. W. Association who are all dissatisfied & alarmed at being unable to get what is due them from the Montreal Houses. It appears to me of considerable importance to the H. B. Co. that the opportunity now offered to put an end to the combination which has so cruelly injured them should not be allowed to escape and that their former opponents should be reduced to the situation of their dependents & friends. The Wintering Partners cannot be looked upon in the same light as the other Partners, Councillors &c., in Montreal & in London.the latter are the great criminals - the prime movers - the favor'd of Gov't and for whom the Gov't has disgraced itself. Anything but perpetual hostility to the Montreal and London Agency houses would disgrace the H. B. Co. but there could be no impropriety in enabling the Wintering Partners to call upon McT. McG. & Co. & the other Agents for what will be due at the close of the present partnership, not in relieving them from the tyrannical dominion and ruinous exaction under which they have long labored, and by so doing the H. B. Co. could not but be gainers.

"I should be glad to learn as much in detail as possible, the most favorable terms the H. B. Co. would be likely to give to the Wintering Partners. My answers will bind no one & commit no one for they will be guarded & only verbal. Yet I should not like to raise any expectations without an internal conviction that the H. B. Co. would realize them. I should like also to have the answer on this subject as soon as possible in order that my friend may give information to his correspondent by the first conveyance after the opening of the navigation and before any meeting take place at Fort William." [127]

It would seem natural to conclude, from the foregoing, that the idea to arrive at a working agreement did not originate with top level executives but rather because of the attitude of the Wintering Partners who manned the isolated Posts throughout our Western prairies.

Getting back to the affairs of Red River Settlement we find that a serious epidemic of measles as well as whooping cough affected nearly every family. Also, grasshoppers swooped up the growth almost as quick as it made its appearance. We should remark that these pests attacked the crops at Red River year after year from 1818 to 1821 inclusive. [128]

The division of authority at Red River between Alexander McDonell and Captain F. Matthey proved to be unsatisfactory. Accusations and counter-accusations were constantly in circulation. Jealousy, bickerings and drinking bouts interfered with good government. McDonell obtained a long sought leave of absence, as already noted, and Robert Logan was appointed to take his place during the furlough. As for Matthey, he wanted his release from service that he might settle upon a large grant of land he had obtained. Commenting upon the state of affairs McDonell had this to say: "Very little done in the way of building; an ice house is the only building since his (Matthey's) arrival and some wood was cut last winter for a Mill, but Corcoran, the Carpenter says there are but a few logs adapted for the Mill." [129]

The year 1820 brought many drastic changes. Lord Selkirk was a sick man and his affairs were being directed by Andrew Colvile, a brother-in-law. Writing to the legal agent in Montreal, February 20th, 1820, Colvile made reference to the return of Alexander McDonell to Red River, adding: "He is accompanied by Mr. Simpson (George) who is sent out by the H. B. Co. to take charge of their affairs in case Gov. Williams should be dragged away ... I shall give him an authority to take charge of Lord Selkirk's affairs at R.R. in case anything occurring to detain Macdonell." [130] This was evidently an added precaution because on the following day, February 24th, Lord Selkirk appointed McDonell, "his Agent to take charge of all affairs that concern me in Assiniboia". [131] "Simpson and McDonell arrived here (Fort Douglas) on the 19th June, 1820." [132] A new era in the affairs of the Hudson's Bay Company began at this time and for the next forty years the dynamic force of George Simpson left its imprint throughout the entire country.

Lord Selkirk passed away on April 8th, 1820, but many months were to pass before the information was received at Red River.

Another event of importance occurred in 1820. The Rev. John West, first Protestant Clergyman to reach Red River arrived at Fort Douglas in the month of October. He had sailed from Britain on May 27th. The underlying purpose of his coming can be understood from the contents of a letter addressed to Alexander McDonell by A. Colvile, written two days before Mr. West sailed. It reads: "Mr. West goes out as clergyman & takes with him persons acquainted with making bricks & pottery-ware. They are under engagements to Mr. West for a term of years but if he wishes it you may relieve him from the wages. I make them work at their trades for the account of the Estate. It would be better however, to establish them on Lots of Land at rents as before mentioned & give them prices for their articles which would encourage them to work on their own account.

"You will afford every accommodation in your power to Mr. West as to lodging & board until his own establishment is formed & his house built & for this & building a Church you must give such assistance as you see requisite. I trust also that by your example & advice you will encourage all the Protestants - Presbyterians, as well as others, to attend divine service as performed by Mr. West. He means to open schools & I have no doubt will do everything in his power to make himself agreeable to the people. A Bell is sent out for the Church.

"You will select a proper situation for the Church & Churchyard & measure off a proper piece of ground for that purpose. You will also measure off 100 acres for a Glebe on which Mr. West's house will be built. Mr. West is also to receive as a gift in property to himself a lot of 300 acres in a good situation but this need not be contiguous to the Glebe lot which will belong to the Clergyman for the time being.

"I think you ought to lay out an open square in front of Fort Douglas of about 5 acres as an open area - and the Church and Churchyard on one side - the Churchyard running back so as not to take too much front - & the rest laid out in lots of 3 or 4 acres - not too much front. These lots would be convenient for tradesmen or others who might wish to have houses near to the Fort with a yard & garden.

"If these lots were arranged on a proper plan & each yard stockaded, the whole might be connected so as be a place of defence if necessary. Proper wide streets ought to be left for entrances into this square and lots reserved for the erection of public buildings when the Settlement gets into a more systematic form. Let this be kept in view & full reserve of ground made for this place & you may make a sketch of the plan & send it home before anything except the Church & Glebe is placed ..." [133]

The proposal outlined in this plan, however, was changed considerably as can be gathered from the official despatches sent by the Governor and Committee of the Hudson's Bay Company. The letter of 27th February, 1822, paragraph 45, states: "It has become a matter of serious importance to determine on the most proper measures to be adopted with regard to the men who have large families and who must be discharged, and with the numerous half-breed children whose parents have died or deserted them. These people form a burden which cannot be got rid of without expense, and, if allowed to remain in their present condition, they will become dangerous to the peace of the country and safety of the Trading Posts.

"We consider that all these people ought to be removed to Red River, where the Catholics will fall under the Roman Catholic Mission which is established there, and the Protestants and such orphan children as fall to be maintained and clothed by the Company may be placed under the Protestant establishment and schools under Mr. West.

"The Church Society has voted large sums for the provision of two clergymen and a schoolmaster and mistress for the instruction of the Indian children, and other children to 'be educated in the school on payment of a moderate fee."

The letter of March 8th, 1822, paragraph 7 and 8, states: "Small allottments of 20 or 25 acres of land will be made for men with families, and a general establishment under the plan of a School of Industry will have to be formed for the orphan children ... With respect to the orphan children there will be some expense at first in erecting buildings etc., but, if the older boys are employed in cultivation, and the girls and younger children at other works of industry, the expense will not be very considerable and their religious instruction and education may be carried on at the same time. As the children grow up they may be apprenticed to the respectable settlers who will afterwards support them in consideration of their labor for the term of their apprenticeship. Mr. West and his assistants will take charge of, this part of the plan."

The Council of the Northern Department, Hudson's Bay Company, at a meeting held at York Factory on August 20th, 1822, passed a series of resolutions relating to the directives of the London Committee. Chief Clarke was to consult with Governor Bulger with regard to the construction of the buildings and to seek the cooperation of Mr. West. An expenditure of 1300. sterling, for the first year was authorized.

When Mr. West first arrived at Red River, he was accommodated at Fort Douglas, later, he took up residence at Haywood Farm. [134] Reference to the situation is found in a letter sent to A. Colvile from George Simpson on May 20th, 1822: "Mr. West at present lives at the Farm and officiates in the old North West Fort to a very thin congregation, not exceeding a Doz. in general. He has had an unpleasant winter of it, as like other Parsons, fond of good living, and therefore altho' not actually starving did not experience much comfort. He is dissatisfied in not having a Church, Schoolhouse and Manse, and altho' I have taken a good deal of trouble to get the Scotch Settlers (with whom I have some influence) to give the labor required by the Title to their lands, they have rendered very little assistance. A temporary building has however been knocked up, about a mile below Fort Douglas, which will for the present answer the purpose of Church and Schoolhouse." [135]

We get a picture of life at Fort Douglas from a report made by Alexander McDonell to A. Colvile, under date August 8th, 1820, which reads, in part: "Arrived at Montreal from New York on 14th. April. Left on 29th. April for the interior; arrived here 19th June ... Since my arrival, he (Matthey) began to build a Block House, to the south of the garden upon Mr. Pritchard's lot; he had contracted for it in the winter. The frame of the house was to cost 1550. sterling, and before it was to have been finished the cost would amount to 11850. stg. I told him that in my opinion it would have been better to build it within the Fort and would save the expense of a house for the gentlemen upon the establishment. He said he intended at a future period to remove the Fort round the House. I have caused the two first Tradesmen to make out an estimation of the expense of removing the Fort to it and the amount would come to 16000. stg. I hardly think his Lordship or yourself would wish to go to this expense of either building when I am certain that spending about 1800. stg. upon the present Fort it would answer every purpose for the defense of the place; permit me then to give you my reasons; in the 1st place, we would be strong enough for the N. W. Co., in any attempt they might make; and besides I am convinced they will not do anything ag't the Colony in future except that of underhand work which they will never give up while their heads are above water. On the other hand, should the Indians make an attempt upon us the Fort would not be their object but kill the Settlers, who are now increased to such a number that it would be impossible to get themselves and their property into a Fort or a Block House.

"I have not taken it upon myself to stop the Block House, far from it, as I am not aware of the instructions he might have from his Lordship upon these points. He wrote me that Captain Matthey was to carry on all such works, however, I have represented to Captain Matthey that removing the Fort would am't to more money than his Lordship would be disposed to bestow upon it. At present he has stopped the Block House not for any suggestion of mine, but that he does not find it necessary - the wood intended for the Block House would answer famously for a Grain Mill & Saw Mill which appears to me to be more necessary for the place & which I should recommend to begin building next season. I have sent for the proper irons for these mills, in the indent sent home this year, and I hope they will come out by the Ships next season. I have been obliged, since my arrival, to bring down the House within the Fort, and build it up again, it will be finished in the month of October." [136]

McDonell's proposed Mill became a reality, as we learn from his letter to Colville, January 15th, 1821. "I have built a horse mill this winter, tho' the machinery are not yet finished the Mill Stones of which have been found in the neighbourhood, and in future no Mill Stones or Grind Stones need be sent here from any other quarter ... Mill Stones 4 feet diameter & will do for any other Mill & last a long time. I never saw better Stones." [137]

Then in connection with the "house", McDonell reported, on September 13th, 1821. "I am re-building the House in the Fort this winter tho' it will not be finished. I hope it will be more useful than the Block House which would cost a very great deal of money, and indeed, in my opinion, to no purpose whatever." He adds this comment about the Mill, "I have last winter built a Horse Mill, behind the Fort, the Mill Stones were found pretty near hand - they are 4 feet diameter and upon trial the Mill went on well during winter, but when the thaw came on, we found that some of the foundation gave way and in the course of the ensuing Spring, we are to arrange it again, it will grind from 12 to 15 Bushels of grain P' day." [138]

The year 1820 brought several new influences to Red River. There was the arrival of John West; the impact of George Simpson on the affairs of the Colony and the Hudson's Bay Company; also a change in the administration following the death of Lord Selkirk. Important and far-reaching as these events were on the life of the community, the contents of a letter from Colvile, dated from London, February 24th, 1821, doubtless brought the greatest surprise to both settlers and Company servants. "I expect this will be sent by an early canoe for the purpose of communicating to Mr. Williams the arrangement which is nearly completed with the N. W. Co., which will secure the peace of the whole country as the whole trade is to be conducted by the H. B. Co.the Partners of the N. W. Co., receiving a certain share of the concern. The agreement is not yet signed but the heads are agreed to & the lawyers are preparing the papers & it is so much for the interest of all parties that I have no doubt it will be carried into effect." [139]

Four weeks later, a further communication advised: "We have finally settled with the N. W. Co. so there will be no disturbance from that quarter." [140] Thus ended the bitter oppositions and fierce antagonisms of more than thirty years. The work of re-organizing the combined forces proceeded and the former rivals soon found themselves working together under the banner of the Hudson's Bay Company. The changeover had its effect on the Colonial affairs at Red River.

James Bird had been sent to Red River as "Trader for the Company in 1819, but this would seem to have been a preliminary move. [141] Bird and his family had taken up land in the vicinity of Fort Douglas about that time prior to his retirement from the service. It may be that he was working on a part-time basis for the Company during the period of transition, and likely took up premises in John McLeod's house, 40 by 20 feet, and 16 feet high, built in 1815. In August, 1821, the Council of the Northern Department of Rupert's Land, appointed Bird as Chief Factor for lower Red River, and in addition authorized "that one hundred pieces of Goods be sent to Red River as a stock for a shop to be opened there, also, Hudson's Bay Company's Notes to the amount of £500." [142] This is the first evidence relating to the stocking of a general trading store, under the direct control of the Hudson's Bay Company, at "The Forks."

Following the mentioned decision of the Northern Council, George Simpson wrote Andrew Colvile from York Factory, September 8th, 1821, as follows: "I find you have sent a very liberal supply of goods and necessaries this year but regret it should be to such an extent under the present management and I cannot help thinking that it would be advantageous if you had no shop there; while the Superintendent has the Shop in his own hands the Colonists will be continually tormenting him for goods whereas if in the hands of the Comp'y they could not expect more than they can pay or give security for; on this account I suggested to Mr. Garry & with his concurrence recommended to the Council at Norway House that a small supply of goods for a shop should be put in charge of Mr. Bird at The Forks which has been done and he has got 1500. in Notes for circulation which I think will have the effect of reducing the price of labour which has got to a most enormous pitch. It is moreover absolutely necessary to keep a considerable supply of goods there in order to undersell and check the progress of Canadian adventurers, many of whom have found their way there and not only take all the ready money out of the Country but carry on a regular and illicit Trade in Furs." [143]

The opening of this Shop at The Forks brings up the subject of "buildings". Alexander McDonell wrote to A. Colvile, on September 13th, 1821: "Governor Williams says that the Store House here does not belong to the Colony and that we have no right to occupy it. I can only say that it has been our house since I have been in the Country. Our goods are in it this year, but I hope by the June Packet, that you decide upon the question as we cannot do here without it, and it would be an enormous expense to build a house of the kind here, from the expense of Provisions, indeed it would require a thorough repair also." [144]

The only building I have been able to trace as having been erected by Hudson's Bay Company servants was the "house" 40 x 20 feet, built in the Summer of 1815 by John McLeod. Undoubtedly, in the interval it would be used as a warehouse to store the property of the Colony, because the Company did not operate a shop at The Forks at the time. Perhaps we can visualize the relative positions of the three establishments at The Forks from a letter written by Father Provencher to Bishop Plessis: "The location for the chapel is fine; it is situated across from the forts of the North West Company and the Hudson's Bay Company which are 8 or 10 arpents apart and at about 15 arpents from Fort Douglas." [145]

The amalgamation of the two rival trading companies had been completed in the month of March, 1821, eleven months after the death of Lord Selkirk. Following the fusion, Nicholas Garry, a member of the London Advisory Committee, was commissioned to visit Red River and other centres to meet with the local officers and servants in order to smooth out difficulties and reconcile the working force to the change. Writing to A. Colvile, one of the Executors of the Selkirk Estate, George Simpson relates an interesting event. "Red River. 20th May, 1822; ... Fort Douglas assumes a more respectable appearance than it did when I was last here, there is a good Dwelling House built and the offices are sufficient for any purpose at present. The Company's place here is a piece with all our other old establishments, filthy, irregular, and ruinous, I am therefore getting the New North West Fort in order so as to remove into it next Fall; there is a good frame of a Dwelling House already up; The situation is preferable to ours, exactly opposite the Forks of the River and in order to commemorate Mr. Garry's visit I have taken the liberty of christening it after him, 'FORT GARRY'." [146]

Thus May 20th, 1822, may be regarded as the birthday of Fort Garry. On that day the name was used for the first time; Fort Gibraltar disappeared so far as the name goes, and the house built by McLeod, in which the H. B. Co., had been conducting their business became but a memory.

In the Fall of 1823, a new Governor of Assiniboia, in the person of Robert Parker Pelly, arrived at Red River. Concurrent with his arrival, the executors of the Selkirk Estate decided to close the Colony Trading Store at Fort Douglas. This meant that in future the Settlers would be obliged to do their trading with the Hudson's Bay Company.

Commenting upon the new regulations, George Simpson advised A. Colvile, on November 1st, 1823; "at Fort Douglas it is unnecessary to have more than one or two clerks and a couple of men servants, but on this scale, in its present situation, it would not be safe from the troublesome Indians or Settlers. I have therefore recommended to Gov'r Pelly, that it should be removed close to Fort Garry, the East side of our Fort to form the West side of Fort Douglas, so as merely to be separated by the Stockades with a private entrance between them and thus situated they will always be a protection to each other; the removal will not be attended with much additional expense as Fort Douglas is now in a ruinous state and we have a sufficient number of men to finish the work before embarkation; the distance between the establishments is about 11/2 miles which is most inconvenient as it is necessary for Mr. Pelly & myself or whoever is in charge here to be in constant communication, the interests of the Company & the Colony being now so closely united." [147]

Further information regarding the forthcoming changes is found in a letter sent to Colvile by Simpson, May 31st, 1824: "The Buildings of Fort Douglas were in a ruinous state and could not have stood another year, the Main House rotten to the foundation and tottering, so much so, that it was necessary to fit up a temporary dwelling for Gov'r Pelly, which altho' small, was the most comfortable in the Colony; he would have been welcome to our quarters but they were worse than his own: the Thermometer being at 20 below zero in my bedroom repeatedly during the winter, it therefore became necessary to erect a New Fort altogether.

"The site of Old Fort Douglas is upwards of a mile distant from Fort Garry and as both establishments must be in constant communication, and that according to the system now adopted, the complement of people will not be one fourth what it usually has been. I considered it advisable both in reference to convenience and mutual safety that the two Forts should be under the protection of the same Bastions and the same range of picketting should enclose them - for those reasons the new Establishment is erected by the side of this on the Assiniboine River as P. Plan or drawing herewith transmitted.

"In consequence of our having a greater number of men in this District this season than necessary for the business thereof but required to take up Gov'r Pelly & Baggage with the Colonists and property from York, I considered it a favorable opportunity for erecting this Establishment by the Coy's people, which not only gives them employment, so that the Co'y are no losers, but gets the work completed at half the expense it would otherwise cost. Should it be considered expedient at any future period to transfer the management of the Colony affairs into the hands of the Co'y, this range of building will, with the addition of another Store, answer every purpose for both concern and thereby the Executors may be relieved of the expense, as Fort Garry, altho' new, cannot stand above another year or two - without incurring expensive alterations, repairs and improvements, whereas, the new Fort Douglas is built of such good materials and so well put together that it will, barring accidents, last Twenty or Thirty Years." [148]

The new buildings were severely tested two years later when the entire district was inundated by the disastrous flood of 1826. Governor Donald McKenzie, in his report had this to say: "Our fort being situated at the junction of both rivers it has been subject to great dilapidation, more especially the side belonging to the Company. The main body of the Colony buildings stood out the pressure but the Stockades and various parts and implements, quite indispensable to a place of this kind, have either been smashed to pieces or carried away by the Stream. However, between the buildings of both enough can be repaired for our purpose without material expence." [149]

* *

To close the story of the first ten years of the Red River Settlement, I shall relate the subsequent disposition of these historic spots. The Hudson's Bay Company continuing as a Trading concern naturally retained Fort Garry and an extensive tract of land in its immediate vicinity.

Andrew McDermott ended his service with the Company in 1824 and shortly thereafter obtained Lot 248 which had a river frontage of 12 chains. This property lay to the north of the H. B. Co. reserve, its southerly boundary being close to what later became the corner of Portage and Main. On this land John McLeod had built the first H. B. Co. "house" in 1813, also its successor in 1815. Doubtless, the remains of the latter were still standing when McDermott entered into possession and who knows, the original building may have been one of the many log structures used by this enterprising Irishman.

Alexander Ross arrived at Red River after a long service in the Fur Trade at the west coast, in 1825. George Simpson granted to him, free of all expense, "in consideration of your (Ross) exertions and success in the Snake Country," Lot 247, consisting of 14 chains river frontage. This particular property was the site of the original Colonial Establishment, built in 1813, and destroyed by the North West Company in 1815. It had been the garden attached to the Colony headquarters from the inception of the Settlement in 1812.

Robert Logan retired from the H. B. Co. service sometime between 1822 and 1825, and had taken up residence with his family on the east side of Red River. He purchased Fort Douglas, buildings and land, in 1825. The unique document conveying the property to Robert Logan was published in my earlier paper. [150]

For the story of the first decade, the documentary evidence used so freely, will, I believe, throw new light upon certain events of that pioneer period. There is so much contemporary material now available that further research should be encouraged in order to dispel legends and false versions which have crept into the history of the province of Manitoba. I shall be happy if I have stimulated students to continue research on this important phase of Canadian history.


1 Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada. 1885.

2 Transactions of the Manitoba Historical Society, 1927.

3 Papers Read Before the Historical and Scientific Society of Manitoba. Series III, No. 1, 1944-45.

4 Elliott Coues, New Light on the Early History of the Greater Northwest. New York, 1897. p. 46.

5 Loc. cit.

6 Amos' Trials. London, 1820. p. 3.

7 Ibid., p. 12.

8 See footnote 3, p. 57.

9 Selkirk Papers, p. 8536.

10 Ibid., p. 8546.

11 Coues, op. cit., p. 448.

12 Selkirk Papers, p. 3962.

13 Coues, op. cit., p. 255.

14 Selkirk Papers, p. 1694-5

15 Loc. cit.

16 Ibid., p. 16514.

17 Ibid., p. 16742.

18 Loc. cit.

19 Ibid., p. 16763.

20 Ibid, p. 16834.

21 Ibid., p. 18840.

22 Ibid., p. 17077.

23 A. S. Morton, A History of the Canadian West to 1870-1871. Toronto, 1939. p. 553.

24 Public Archives of Canada. Series M, vol. 201.

25 Selkirk Papers, pp. 764-794.

26 Ibid., p. 16830.

27 Ibid., p. 18430.

28 Loc. cit.

29 Ibid., p. 18431.

30 Ibid., p. 18432.

31 Loc. cit.

32 Loc. cit.

33 Ibid., p. 18433.

34 Loc. cit.

35 Ibid., p. 18434.

36 Loc. cit.

37 Ibid., p. 18435.

38 Ibid., p. 18436.

39 Loc. cit.

40 Ibid., p. 18437.

41 Ibid., p. 16946.

42 Ibid., p. 18438.

43 Ibid., p. 18439.

44 Ibid., p. 18440.

45 Ibid., p. 18443.

46 Ibid., p. 18444.

47 Ibid., p. 18445.

48 Ibid., p. 18446.

49 Ibid., p. 18447.

50 Ibid., p. 18448.

51 Ibid., pp. 18448-56.

52 Ibid., p. 18460.

53 Ibid., p. 18463.

54 Ibid., p. 18456.

55 Ibid., p. 17017.

56 Ibid., p. 9732.

57 Coltman Papers, p. 172.

58 Selkirk Papers, p. 18512.

59 Ibid., p. 1593.

60 Ibid., p. 17345.

61 Ibid., p. 17368.

62 Ibid., p. 17383.

63 Ibid., p. 17384.

64 Ibid., p. 17385.

65 Ibid., p. 17396.

66 Ibid., p. 17397.

67 Ibid., p. 17402.

68 Ibid., p. 1714.

69 Ibid., p. 1721.

70 Ibid., p. 1722.

71 Ibid., p. 17425.

72 Ibid., p. 17438.

73 Ibid., p. 9065.

74 Ibid., p. 17445.

75 Ibid., p. 17447.

76 Ibid., p. 17464.

77 Ibid., p. 17491.

78 Ibid., p. 17493.

79 Ibid., p. 17496.

80 Ibid., p. 17517.

81 Ibid., p. 17526.

82 Ibid., p. 17540.

83 Ibid., p. 17542.

84 Ibid., p. 17543-44.

85 Ibid., p. 17544.

86 Ibid., p. 17545.

87 Ibid., p. 17591.

88 Ibid., pp. 17591-96.

89 Ibid., p. 12337.

90 Ibid., p. 3328.

91 Ibid., p. 12776.

92 Ibid., p. 12419.

93 Ibid., p. 17164.

94 "John Taylor" is the name commonly associated with "the Indian, called the American (Kitche Moocoman). His real name was "John Tanner." Lord Selkirk's letter of March 7, 1818, to Alexander McDonell (Sheriff) reads: "I have traced the family of the American who guided Capt. D'O. from L.L.P. to R.R. His name is not Taylor as we had supposed but Tanner." Ibid., p. 12769.

95 Ibid., p. 17183.

96 Ibid., p. 17294.

97 Ibid., p. 3805.

98 Ibid., p. 13255.

99 Ibid., p. 3824.

100 Ibid., p. 8495.

101 Ibid., p. 4120.

102 Ibid., p. 16165.

103 Ibid., p. 7303.

104 Ibid., p. 3965.

105 Ibid., p. 4198.

106 Ibid., p. 5188.

107 Ibid., p. 4059.

108 Ibid., p. 4547.

109 Ibid., p. 4557.

110 Ibid., p. 5188.

111 Ibid., p. 5198.

112 Ibid., p. 20416.

113 Ibid., p. 5196.

114 Grace Lee Nute(ed.), Documents Relating to Northwest Missions, 1818-1829. St. Paul, 1942. p. 132.

115 Ibid., pp. 136, 139.

116 Selkirk Papers, p. 6267.

117 Ibid., p. 5333.

118 Ibid., p. 5385.

119 Ibid., p. 5370.

120 Ibid., p. 5386.

121 Ibid., p. 20520.

122 Ibid., p. 6498.

123 Ibid., p. 6544.

124 Ibid., p. 6947.

125 A1ex. Ross, The Red River Settlement. London, 1856. p. 47.

126 Selkirk Papers, p. 17588.

127 Ibid., p. 6500.

128 Ibid., pp. 5385, 5541, 6942-7302.

129 Ibid., p. 6543.

130 Ibid., p. 6738.

131 Ibid., p. 6743.

132 Ibid., p. 6829.

133 Ibid., p. 6876.

134 Hayward Farm was situated about four miles from Fort Douglas. Ibid., p. 7609.

135 Ibid., p. 7604.

136 Ibid., p. 6941.

137 Ibid., p. 7053.

138 Ibid., p. 7416.

139 Ibid., p. 7093.

140 Ibid., p. 7143.

141 Ibid., p. 6547.

142 Hudson's Bay Record Society. Vol. III, p. 8.

143 Selkirk Papers, p. 7390.

144 Ibid., p. 7424.

145 Nute, op. cit., p. 132.

146 Selkirk Papers, p. 7617.

147 Ibid., p. 8079.

148 Ibid., p. 8229.

149 Ibid., p. 8453.

150 See footnote 3, pp. 65-66.

Page revised: 23 May 2011