Tag Archives: Simon Fraser

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

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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Simon Fraser, Fur Trader, Explorer and Daddy

Upper Fountain Rapids of the Fraser River at F...

Upper Fountain Rapids of the Fraser River at Fountain, located 15 km upstream from Lillooet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On May 20, 1776, in Mapletown (near Bennington) New York, Simon Fraser was born.

In his life, he was a fur trader and explorer. As a matter of fact, he charted most of British Columbia!

Fraser worked for the Montreal-based North West Company. In 1805, he had been put in charge of all the company’s operations west of the Rocky Mountains. Fraser built that area’s first trading posts, and, in 1808, he explored what is now known as the Fraser River.  His exploratory efforts were partly responsible for Canada’s boundary later being established at the 49th parallel (after the War of 1812).  According to historian Alexander Begg, Fraser “was offered a knighthood but declined the title due to his limited wealth.”

Fraser settled on land near present day Cornwall, Ontario and married Catherine McDonnell on June 2, 1820.
They had 9 children, but one died in infancy. Fraser was one of the last surviving partners of the North West Company when he died on August 18, 1862. His wife died the next day, and they were buried in a single grave in the Roman Catholic cemetery at St. Andrew’s West. Begg quotes Sanford Fleming in an address to the Royal Society of Canada in 1889 as saying that Fraser died poor.

He did leave behind a legacy.
@ The Fraser River, named for him by the explorer David Thompson.
@ Fraser Lake, a lake in north-central British Columbia and a community on the lake’s western shore.
@ Fort Fraser, just east of Fraser Lake.
@ Simon Fraser University, in Burnaby, British Columbia
@ The Simon Fraser Bridge in Prince George over the Fraser River along Highway 97.
@ Numerous schools, neighbourhoods and roads
@ The Simon Fraser Rose, (explorer series) developed by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, was named in his honour.

To learn more about this great man, Simon Fraser, I suggest the Dictionary of Canadian Biography.


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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 to read the Simon Fraser e-book by Denton, Vernon Llewllyn in 1928. To enjoy paintings of Hellsgate Canyon, you must visit And lastly, I suggest reading Nicholas Doe‘s Simon Fraser’s Latitudes – very interesting!


Posted by on July 2, 2013 in On This Day


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