Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Thursday 12th July, 1827 - Fort Garry at last

Morning cool with a heavy dew. Started at 3 AM up the river. At sunrise passed several thinly planted low houses, with small herds of cattle; humble and peasant-like as these may appear to many, to me – who have been no sharer of civilised society for a considerable time past – they impart a pleasant sensation.

At seven took breakfast two miles below the rapid, where I left my canoe and luggage to go by land.

Strangers in this quarter appear to be few; scarcely a house I passed without an invitation to enter, more particularly from the Scottish settlers who no doubt judging from coat [of Stewart tartan] imagined me a son from the bleak dreary mountains of Scotland. Had many questions put to me regarding the country, which now they only see through ideal recollection [being part of the great Scots diaspora to North America]. They appear to live comfortable and have the means of subsistence by little exertion.

About a mile further on passed a large windmill, from which Fort Garry appeared, situated to the junction of Assiniboine Ro
River with the Red River [This is the Forks area, right at the heart of modern-day Winnipeg] among some wide-spreading oaks, and on the opposite side the Roman Catholic Church and Mission establishment. [Photo above is from 1870, not 1827!!]

Called at Fort Garry and presented myself to Donald McKenzie Esq., the Governor of the colony who received me with great kindness. While a basin of tea was preparing at my request, a large tureen of fine milk was placed on the table, which I found excellent.

Mr McKenzie’s conversation to me is the more acceptable from the intimate knowledge he possess of the country west of the Rocky Mountains. In 1819 he ascended the Missouri River and crossed the continent to the mouth of the Columbia with an American party; was the companions of Messrs Nuttall [another plant collector] & Bradbury as far as they accompanied the expedition up the former river.

He has travelled largely through the country south of the Columbia, in the interior, behind the Spanish settlements [in modern-day California] and like all who share in such undertakings, shared in the fatigues and hardships attendant on these expeditions. But his was more than usual, being the first [non-Indian!] who ventured on these untrodden wilds.

He has since recrossed by the Columbia route. Had a visit paid me by Spokane Garry, an Indian boy, native of the Columbia, who is receiving his education at the Missionary school. He came to enquire of his father and brothers, who I saw; he speaks good English; his mother tongue (Spokane) he has nearly forgotten.

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