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Thanks to the Celts!

In thе bеgіnnіng, Canada wаѕ a vаѕt piece оf land that had bаrеlу bееn examined. Mаnу of the first explorers wеrе Scots like Dаvіd Mасkеnzіе or Sіmоn Frаѕеr, whо both mарреd оut a large раrt оf our country. A Welshman nаmеd Sіr Thomas Button lеd thе first expedition fоr thе Nоrthwеѕt Pаѕѕаgе in 1612, whіlе Welsh саrtоgrарhеr Dаvіd Thоmрѕоn is rеfеrrеd tо аѕ Cаnаdа’ѕ Greatest Gеоgrарhеr. Aѕ more аnd mоrе ѕеttlеrѕ саmе, іt brought аbоut the Hudson Bау Cоmраnу and thе Nоrth Wеѕt Cоmраnу, both сruсіаl іn mapping оut thе bоundаrіеѕ of Cаnаdа.

Thomas Button

Admiral Sir Thomas Button, after an original oil in possession of G. M. Traheren, Glamorganshire, Wales. Source http://www.mhs.mb.ca/docs/pageant/15/buttonsymposium.shtml

Whіlе ѕоmе voluntarily саmе to Cаnаdа fоr a new life аnd орроrtunіtіеѕ, others had lіttlе сhоісе in leaving their homeland and coming here.  Mаnу Irіѕh lеft tо ѕаvе themselves frоm starvation duе to роtаtо famine. Fоr others, rеlіgіоuѕ dіѕрutеѕ wеrе the саuѕе for dераrturе. Whаtеvеr thе rеаѕоn, thousands left hоmе fоr a nеw wоrld. Many ships were оvеrсrоwdеd аnd unѕаnіtаrу, causing mаnу dеаthѕ. Hіt hаrdеѕt bу this were thе Irish; many dіdn’t survive thе journey. Fоr those lucky еnоugh tо аrrіvе ѕаfеlу, their nеw lіvеѕ wеrеn’t еаѕу. Thе fіrѕt settlers had to clear the lаnd аnd рrераrе іt tо grоw fооd аnd tо buіld ѕhеltеr. It was not еаѕу аnd many rеturnеd hоmе. Those соurаgеоuѕ еnоugh to ѕtау mаnаgеd tо buіld a new lіfе. Mаnу new tоwnѕ were сrеаtеd, оftеn nаmеd аftеr thоѕе whо founded them оr in rеflесtіоn оf whеrе thеу came frоm.

Canada bеgаn tо tаkе shape аnd Confederation саmе аbоut іn 1867, wіth Sіr Jоhn A. MасDоnаld, a Scotsman, bесоmіng оur fіrѕt Prime Minister. Irishman Thomas D’Arсу MсGее wаѕ аlѕо a Fаthеr of Cоnfеdеrаtіоn. Aѕ the соuntrу grеw, nеw dеvеlорmеntѕ аnd іnvеntіоnѕ came to lіght. Thе Sсоtѕ gave uѕ standard tіmе (Sir Sandford Fleming), аnd thе RCMP (Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald).  They gаvе us the modern trасtоr (James G. Cockshutt).

Thanks tо thеіr hаrd work and dеtеrmіnаtіоn, thе Scottish, Irish, and Wеlѕh people played a large part of making thіѕ соuntrу whаt іt іѕ tоdау.

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They had Witnesses To Prove It

English: Fort Astoria, 1813

English: Fort Astoria, 1813 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If a British naval captain had not been so wide awake, to put it politely, Canada might now own what is American territory as far south as Portland, Oregon.  The Columbia River would be the “St. Lawrence of the West.”

Fort Astoria, near the mouth of the Columbia River, had been established by John Jacob Astor in 1811.  The fort’s only link with the outside world was a ship which visited the fort while on trading trips to Vancouver Island and dropped necessary supplies.  Unfortunately the captain was a rough character, and on one occasion struck an Indian chief who came on board to trade.   The next day members of the tribe came on board, ostensibly to trade, drew their knives and killed the captain and most of the crew.  The ship’s clerk, mortally wounded, crawled down to where the ammunition was stored, and set off a blast that killed the Indians and sent the ship to the bottom.

As a result, the people at Fort Astoria were isolated and without supplies.  They were starving when a party of Nor’Westers appeared, after travelling David Thompson’s route down the Columbia, and they were glad to sell the post to the North West Company.  They would be assured of supplies, and protection from any British naval unit that might appear.

In the meantime, such a unit had been sent to capture Fort Astoria.  It was H.M.S. Raccoon under the command of Captain William Black.  After sailing all the way from Britain he was greatly disappointed to find that Fort Astoria was already British territory, through purchase by the North West Company and not through a brilliant naval action of his own.  So Captain Black put on a show.  On December 12, 1813, he hauled down the British flag and raised it again, while the Americans and Indians watched the performance.

When the War of 1812 ended, it was agreed that all territory taken by military action would be returned.  Britain claimed Fort Astoria because it had been purchased from the Astor Company.  “Oh no,” said the Americans.  “The fort was taken by military action by the captain of H.M.S. Raccoon.”  They had witnesses to prove it, and their case held good.  The fort was returned to the States on October 6, 1818, and Canada lost the territory from the British Columbia border to Portland, Oregon.

If you would like to read more about Fort Astoria, I would suggest the Great Battles of the war of 1812 – there’s a great timeline there.

 

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His Maps … Were Accurate!

1814 map of the Pacific Northwest and central ...

1814 map of the Pacific Northwest and central Canada by David Thompson. The Kootenay River is shown near the bottom left as McGillivray’s River. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On July 15, 1811, David Thompson reached the mouth of the Columbia River only to find that John Jacob Astor‘s fur company had established a post there late in March.  This was a great disappointment to Thompson, who had hoped to claim the territory for Britain.  Nevertheless, this is an opportunity to present a  few highlights in the life of the man who was probably the greatest geographer in the world.

David Thompson was of Welsh extraction and came from a poor family.  He was only fourteen years of age when he was apprenticed to the Hudson’s Bay Company and sent to Fort Churchill, Hudson Bay, in 1784.  He spent thirteen years there and at other company posts in Saskatchewan, and also a winter with Natives at the present site of Calgary.  Surveying, which he studied with Philip Turner, became his favourite hobby.

In 1797 he transferred to the Northwest Company and made a 4,000 mile journey of exploration that included the headwaters of the Mississippi.  Later he was made a partner in the company.  Years were spent tracing the crazy course of the Columbia River, which curves back and forth between Canada and the United States, almost entwining itself with the Kootenay.  Thompson was the first man to travel the full length of the Columbia and back again.  He began his final assault on the Columbia in 1810.  He manufactured snowshoes and sleds and started from the Athabaska River on December 29 in weather 32 ° F ( 0 º C) below zero!  He travelled through the Rockies under these conditions to the junction of the Canoe and Columbia Rivers.

After Thompson finished his work in the West, he went to live at Terrebonne, near Montreal, where he prepared a map of Western Canada which is now in the Ontario Archives.  His maps were not like those of the early explorers.  They were accurate.

When Thompson arrived at Churchill in 1784, the map of Canada was blank from Lake Winnipeg to the west coast of Vancouver Island.  When he departed from the West in 1812, he had mapped the main travel routes through 1,700,000 square miles of Canadian and American territory!  It is tragic to remember that David Thompson died in 1857, in poverty and nearly blind.

To learn more of David Thompson and his work, I can direct you to a few sites to get you started. To begin, I suggest a new-to-me website, InterpScan.ca for an interesting video about today’s post – really interesting! And then there’s his Biography – I’m not sure who the author is, though. Another place to go is the David Thompson Columbia Brigade. And lastly, I suggest the Canadian Encyclopedia – you can never go wrong there!

 

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46 Degrees 20 Seconds

Fraser River

Fraser River (Photo credit: Tjflex2)

Simon Fraser’s journey down the mighty river in British Columbia that now bears his name was one of the most dangerous ever undertaken by man.

The Northwest Company wanted to extend its fur trading activities to the Pacific coast, but before this could be done, a route from the Peace River to the Pacific had to be found. Simon Fraser was to find it. He did not have the scientific training of Alexander Mackenzie, the first man to cross the continent, but he was a man of tenacious courage.

Accompanied by John Stuart, Jules Maurice Quesnel, nineteen voyageurs and two Indian guides, Fraser left Fort George on May 29, 1808. Down the muddy river, which he thought was the Columbia, they battled rapids and whirlpools, sometimes carrying their canoes down banks so steep that their lives hung by a thread. Near Pavilion, Fraser had the canoes placed on a scaffold, hid most of the supplies and continued on foot. At an Indian encampment (now Lytton), they were shown European goods which could only have come from the Pacific. Nearby, there was a beautiful river of clear blue water flowing into the main river, and Fraser called it the Thompson, after his fellow explorer David Thompson. Unknown to Fraser, Thompson himself was on the Columbia at that moment.

The journey down from Lytton was even more dangerous. Soon they had to abandon their cedar dugouts and scramble along the river banks. When they reached Black Canyon, one of the Indians climbed to the summit and pulled up the others with a rope hung from a long pole. They made their perilous way past Hell’s Gate, creeping above the precipices by hanging onto ropes fastened to trees. In this way they crawled to what is now Spuzzum and Yale!

Near Mount Baker, fierce Cowichan Indians tried to block their way but were kept off through fear of the guns Fraser and his men had managed to carry. On July 2 they reached the Indian village of Musqueam. They were only a few miles from the Pacific and could see the mountains of Vancouver Island. Fraser took a reading for latitude, and he had been on the Columbia, as he thought, it would have been 46 degrees 20 seconds. Fraser came so close, but he never saw the Pacific.

A tired, discouraged man returned to Fort George on August 5.

If you would like to learn more about today’s post, I suggest going to The United Empire Loyalists‘ Association of Canada, Vancouver Branch to read Simon Fraser, Loyalist son and explorer of British Columbia. Then there’s Project Gutenberg.ca to read the Simon Fraser e-book by Denton, Vernon Llewllyn in 1928. To enjoy paintings of Hellsgate Canyon, you must visit Peterewart.com. And lastly, I suggest reading Nicholas Doe‘s Simon Fraser’s Latitudes – very interesting!

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2013 in On This Day

 

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