J. G. MacGregor, in Land of Twelve Foot Davis, gives an account of that enterprise, which the Northwesters regarded as “sheer effrontery”, in spite of the fact that they had been crossing Bay territory since before Peter Pond’s time. The proposed plan was “leaked” To Hugh McGillis of Lesser Slave Lake by some Bay employees in 1814. He sent word to his friend John MacGillivray, factor at Dunvegan, and between them preparations were made to keep the Indians from helping the inexperienced new-comers.
In the fall of 1815 John Clarke was sent west by the Bay with a force of nearly a hundred men. Spies reported their progress as soon as they left Lake Winnipeg. Clarke reached Ile-a-la-Crosse, Bay territory, from which he dispatched a lieutenant, Decoigne, to set up Fort Waterloo in 1816 almost under Hugh Gillis’ nose on Lesser Slave Lake. He held it only during the winter of 1816-17 because the Indians were effectively prevented from trading with him for food or furs.
Meanwhile, Clarke was pressing on towards a notable battle with Samuel Black, who was then in charge of the little known Fort, Horseshoe House, just east of present-day Notikewin. Clarke had hoped to get meat from the country, but the Indians and as much game as possible had been chased back from the river. He did manage, half-starving, to reach Lake Athabasca and build a little House, Fort Wedderburn, on Potato Island in the lake almost under the palisades of the Northwest stronghold, Fort Chipewyan. It would be almost as much as an Indian’s life was worth to be observed from the bastion dealing with the invaders. Actual starvation stared Clarke’s party in the face, since the winter turned so terribly cold that even the Nor’westers were feeling it. Clarke sent some of his men back to Lesser Slave Lake while he himself led fifty men farther up the Peace towards Fort Vermilion. It looked like a foolish move, as they had only one Cree hunter to provide meat, while Chipewyan had access to the fisheries on the Lake — that is, in theory.
Clarke was a brave and desperate man, but MacGillivray sent a party ahead to Vermilion. Clarke, taking only three canoes, tried a desperate gamble –racing to Vermilion to get supplies to take back to the others. He failed. Now he tried a last desperate move, trying to walk upriver to find Indians who were not in control of the Bay. At Horseshoe House, after four days without food, and meeting not a single Indian, he hoped to buy supplies.
But Black was in charge there. MacGregor says that “he (Clarke) had the satisfaction of a fight with Black”. The record does not show who won but it would have been an interesting battle in spite of Clarke’s starvation. “Black — huge and heavily armed — must have played cat-and-mouse with the weakened man, but roughed him up considerably, in an environment of no-holds-barred frontier fisticuffs.” Clarke survived and undertook another desperate struggle to get provisions to the men he had left behind when he embarked for Vermilion. He did so, only to find that they had capitulated to the Northwesters. They set out for Fort Wedderburn, but only three survived. Clarke lived for several weeks on reships before he, too, surrendered what trade goods he had left for safe conduct to Fort Wedderburn. Even MacGillivray of the Northwesters wrote in admiration of “Clarke’s perseverance”. To have escaped from Black, he must have reduced that worthy to a beaten and bloody pulp – a reputation that Black would have to live down, and hardly matching the legends that grew up thanks to Governor Simpson’s spite and hatred. It is more likely, in view of later descriptions of him, that he just decided that he had administered punishment enough to the luckless Clarke.
Three years later, at the time when the fires of fur trade rivalry had been heated up nearly to the combustion point of all-out war, Fort Chipewyan on our Northeastern corner was the fire-pot of violence. Flint and tinder found themselves only a few rods apart at Fort Chipewyan and little Fort Wedderburn. In the autumn of 1820, Simpson and his little dog disembarked at Fort Wedderburn from a journey that had started at London and proceeded via fort York on Hudson’s Bay to Lake Athabasca. Post.
The Western Governor of the H. B. territory, Williams, under indictment for having “seized” Northwesters at Grand Rapids, was staving off being “carried down to Lower Canada (Quebec) for trial. If he had to go, a strong man was needed in the Athabasca district, the hot spot in the trade war. His predecessor, Colin Robertson, had managed to extend the Bay’s trade into the Athabasca country and even up into the Peace River country. He had faced terrific opposition, led by one Samuel black, “the very personification of a reckless Northwest trader”. What the Northwesters did to make Simpson’s first year at fur trading miserable is called by Douglas McKay “a baptism of fire”.
Samuel Black and his great friend, Peter Skene Ogden, had driven “the English” (H. B. Co.) from the Ile-a-la-Crosse district, and gone on to the Pacific coast. He had been recalled to take charge of the Northwest Company’s affairs in the Athabasca. From the inexperienced newcomer they did not “anticipate much alarm.” They were soon disillusioned.
Simon MacGillivray was an officer of the huge and strong Fort Chipewyan. He persisted in taunting Simpson who, although merely a clerk, had quickly taken the initiative from the Fort’s nominal factor. By trickery, Simpson succeeded in having MacGillivray arrested and imprisoned for the remainder of the winter in Fort Wedderburn.
What else he did to infuriate Samuel Black we do not know. Years later, after the union of the two companies had brought Black into the HBCo’s service, Simpson recorded that he met Black, who, (said Simpson), “could at first hardly look me in the face. He remembered my Athabasca campaign and never will he forget the terrors in which he was kept that winter.” Then there is an addition, which tells us a great deal about both men. How vain of his powers could Simpson be, when he wrote, “We parted the best of friends”? Since Simpson was then Governor and Black a merely tolerated chief factor as far away from Simpson as possible, Black undoubtedly “knew which side his bread was buttered on,” and reacted accordingly. Or more likely he was smothering a laugh.
R. M. Patterson in Trail to the Interior, however, sees their earlier relationship in another light. Black, he said, “had the little man on tenterhooks and in acute discomfort”. Through his own journal, Simpson revealed himself as “armed to the teeth and resolved to sell my life as dear as possible and never allow a Northwester to come within reach of my rifle if flint and steel and bullet can keep him off.”
Patterson went on to say that the winter’s anxiety rankled, to the detriment of the career of Samuel Black. “Simpson”, he says, “who could write as much nonsense as any other man when the occasion demanded it or his dignity was involved, tried to convey the impression that Black at Chipewyan had spent the winter in terror of him – a ridiculous claim, as it is well known that Black and Ogden were . . . excluded from service with the Hudson’s Bay Company. . in 1821. That for the moment satisfied the petty, vindictive streak in the future Governor’s nature.”
Even the Governor had to acknowledge that Black and Ogden, “each one resolute and capable”, would still be dangerous to the Honorable Company if they joined the Americans who were pushing Westward or the Russians already established on the Alaska Coast. So Black and Ogden were “graciously admitted into the fold” as chief traders, but as far away as possible from the ‘little Governor’ — that is, beyond the mountains in New Caledonia district. Ogden became famous in United States history as the explorer in Oregon, Idaho and Utah, and for his fearless and successful handling of hostile Indians. Black was assigned the task of exploring the headwaters of the Peace River into the unexplored Cassiar area. His orders were to lead a little company of voyageurs and hunters from the Company’s post at Rocky Mountain Portage (just across the river from present day Hudson’s Hope) “to the Sources of Finlay’s Branch and Northwest Ward”. In other words, he was to meet and block the Russian’s advance. Even Simpson had to admit a grudging approval of this late enemy, and his suitability for such a difficult assignment.
“The strangest Man I ever knew . . . Very cool, resolute to desperation and equal to the cutting of a throat with perfect deliberation, yet. . . his word may be depended upon. A Don Quixote, in appearance ghastly, raw boned and lantern jawed, yet strong, vigorous and active. . .”
Thus it came about that Black was back again in Dunvegan in the winter of 1824, and had been at Fort St. John just before the massacre of Guy Hughes and four men in 1823, probably on his way up-river on his new assignment.
In his journal, Chief factor Archibald McDonald, wrote that a certain Indian, Sancho, was “much enraged at Mr. Black for taking away one of his wives a few days prior to the sanguinary deed (and) was present when the Indians fired at Messrs. Black and Henry’s canoes going off from Fort St. John.” Was Black proceeding upstream? Or was he one of the two reported to have been warned off by a friendly Indian on their return from Rocky Mountain Fort, to which goods were being moved when Hughes was left behind alone? Whatever the circumstances, Black, in the gossip of the day, was held to be indirectly responsible for the “Fort St. John Massacre” although woman-stealing was not considered even a misdemeanor in those days. Simpson’s account cannot be taken at face value, for it was only hearsay in the first place, and the Mexican “Sancho” is an unlikely name for a Northern Indian. As we shall see, there was no opportunity to amend Black’s black reputation until over a century and a quarter later.
At the time of the puny “massacre”, Black was on his way to that job which had been wished upon him by the strutting little Governor who wanted him buried, in a manner of speaking, as far away as possible from his friend Ogden and from the governor. He was out in a large birch bark canoe with a crew of ten, later added to by some Sikanni Indians, on a long, highly dangerous but ultimately successful exploration for which history gave him no honorable mention.
Probably about 1797 a John Finlay (probably the one who founded Fort St. John) had gone upriver to where the Peace originates from the union of two powerful streams. The one from the Northwest had actually cut through the chain of the Rocky Mountains. Possibly to see whether Alexander Mackenzie had made a mistake in turning to the left, up the Parsnip or south branch of the Peace, Finlay went up the north branch. Black’s journal says, “for a few days”), probably as far as the wild Ingenika, about eighty miles up, and then turned back. Of this there is no remaining record — after all, he was a Nor’Wester whose records were of little interest to the Bay — but he did leave a chart which Black had studied. The stream was thereafter referred to as Finlay’s Branch. Later, and more rarely, it was called Finlay’s River. (Note the apostrophe, which at that time and also much later appeared in the name of many rivers, such as Fraser’s, Thompson’s, etc.) A later explorer of the South Nahanni, John McLeod, named it Black’s River. R.M. Patterson, ex-Peace River homesteader, and modern writer and student of our Rivers, surmises how it came to be changed back to the almost equally unknown Finlay’s credit. This we will relate later.
Patterson put it on the record again, if not on the map, when he, a born adventurer, ignored good advice – “You take my advice . . . and leave the Finlay alone, a bad river.” Black had no choice – he was ordered to go. There were still hopes of finding that tantalizing Northwest Passage and that was the direction in which the Russians were thought to be.
Black undertook the job with enthusiasm. He had the “gift of words”, and a sure outlet for them. Simpson wrote, “I will feel obliged by your giving me a full and particular account of everything worthy of remark that may come under your observation.” He did, and Simpson and his successors “obliged” by keeping it locked away in the Bay’s Company Archives until 1955.
What was he actually like, as seen at Fort St. John and later at Dunvegan after the murder of Guy Hughes? Probably few knew that he was the illegitimate son of John Black and Mary Leith in the parish of Pitsligo in the County Aberdeen in Scotland. Simpson probably knew, since he came from not too far away, but he would hardly cast any slurs since he himself suffered the “bar sinister”. His parents never married and Black’s eventually did. Black never failed to make provision for his mother out of his salary. He grew to be a huge man, with a “slow and imposing manner of speech”. Simpson, whose spelling also had its eccentricities, conceded that Black was “tolerably well educated, and at all times a hard student”. Another ex-fur trader, A. C. Andersen, who published A History of the Northwest Coast, described him “a man of great mental as well as literary attainments, though lacking the advantages of a critically correct education”. He was a great reader, especially of books of exploration and geography, but he did not neglect literary mythology, and, most surprising, he was a keen amateur geologist — the first to see the Peace River area.
Simpson says that Black fancied that “every man has a design upon him” and he had got the reputation of being “wary and suspicious and hard to pin down to a direct answer”. But “he had the universal respect of his colleagues – though they sometimes indulged in quiet smiles at his eccentricities.” Doubtless Simpson would not have been so outspoken in criticism except in the locked privacy of his “Character Book” where only he had the code to the names of the people he described.
Most of all, Black’s closest and life-long friend was the “well educated, gay and laughter-loving” Peter Skene Ogden, who may have laughed with his pal over a legendary episode at Chipewyan. Black, wisely perhaps after the Bay men appeared, often went about armed with dirk (like any other Highland Scot), saber and pistols. On that occasion a Bay man, Hebert Lemas, loudly protested the Nor’westers dragging Indians out of the Bay’s canoes. Black drew his saber, and told the intruder, in his slow imposing speech and broad Scots accent to “hold your noise, or I will send your head flying into the lake”. It was enough to send a little city-clerk runt of a man like Simpson shuddering in his shoes.
In the late 1830’s, after their strenuous explorations, Ogden and Black used to get together each year across the four hundred miles separating them, when Black was Chief Factor at Kamloops and Ogden at the god-forsaken post at Fort St. James, to spend a few weeks together. Simpson wrote that Black was “so tedious that it is impossible to get through business with him. But evidently he was able to keep up with the “humorous, honest, eccentric, law-defying Peter Ogden”, exchanging reminiscences, gossip and hair-brained schemes over — of all things for hard-bitten adventurers – – “a choice bottle of Port wine.”
Father Morice, O.M.I., the historian of Central B.C., who seems to have had access to some of Black’s private letters, concluded that “Black (like so many big men) must have been a good-natured man who saw life through rose-colored glasses and had not a little sense of the ludicrous.”
We can get the picture clearly. Black drowning with longwinded orations, the snide remarks and curt commands of the strutting, ridiculous, little redhead, Simpson. Simpson, who always carried his little dog, his gold headed cane and high beaver hat. Simpson with the golden musical snuff box that he used to fasten under his little dog’s hair to astonish the natives and always with the bag-piper leading the triumphal progress. Black needed no props to put on an impressive act, but he must have been a good actor to convince the Governor that “they were parting the best of friends”.
There is no choice but to acknowledge that Black’s ascent of the Finlay was not too well planned, but he was not altogether responsible. He chose a birch-bark canoe rather than the less maneuverable York boat, and more easily repaired in the bush. His six crewmen were inexperienced ex-Northwester voyageurs. A half-Iroquois French-Canadian, Joseph La Guarde, was foreman of the crew. He had vowed “not to drown us or perish the canoe”, but Black thought him a little over-cautious. Antoine Perrault, steersman, was a bit lazy, but a fair hunter. Apparently he was being sent off to the backcountry because he had attacked and stabbed one of the Company clerks at Dunvegan. Black wrote in his journal, “I dread he is a bad bargain but I cannot help it.” Oarsmen included Joseph Courneyor who worked, “with hand and foot, tooth and nail at the Line”. They were going upstream where lining was almost continuous. The rest of the crew were Jean Baptiste Tarrangeau, and a worthless pair of French Canadians — Jean Marie Bouche and Louis Ossin — who deserted Black on the very first bad white water they encountered. “They got clear away from the expedition but there was no escape from the long arm of the HBCo. One was exiled to frigid Hudson’s Bay, the other to Fort Vancouver.” Second in command was Donald Manson, another Scot, who was good for anything that demanded strength and activity but “cannot be left to the exercise of his own judgement in any matter requiring head work.”
There were also “La Prise and Wife”, as interpreter and hunter, at which neither was much good and especially at interpreting, although Sikanni is akin to Chipewyan. At Finlay Forks Black picked up “The old Slave” and his family, in their own canoe, making a party of thirteen men and two children. La Prise and the Old Slave family, quarreling among themselves and afraid of the northern tribes, all deserted Black before the end of the venture.
Thanks to R. M. Patterson, retracing Black’s Journey in 1949, we get an idea of some of the problems that Black and the faithful ones of his party took in their stride. For example, there is Deserter’s Canyon near Old Fort Grahame. You will have to read his book, Finlay’s River, to get a mental picture of that canoe man’s nightmare, which baffled even an experienced river boatman in a stout freight canoe, powered with a 65 horse power marine inboard motor. After unloading seven hundred pounds of freight, men and motor could make no headway upstream — they were standing still in the water. They had to turn back and take it in three trips.
Black and the Old Slave reconnoitered the fast water and decided that most of the load would have to be portaged, but that the birch-bark canoe could be taken up with some light “pieces” as ballast, with only one short “carry”. It was late May and the river was almost in full flood, “a tremendous force of water, far more than we [Patterson and company] had to tackle.” Meanwhile, La Guarde and Perrault had made their own assessment and, as Black recorded, had decided that “tho they might go up in the canoe they think it a risque and want to make a portage”. This they did. Paterson comments on “the amazing thing about the hardihood of these men. They did not regard this turbulent canyon as an impossibility as it has been regarded ever since.” They merely thought it was a “risk” – and Black agreed. It filled Patterson with “awe and admiration”. They cut the portage, but not before Bouche and Ossin had deserted in one of the little canoes, well supplied with stolen Company and private property.
Black called the rest together and gave them a chance to go back. As for himself, he said, he would go on alone with the Sikannis, regardless. They all went with him. Deserter’s Canyon and Deserter’s Peaks are names on modern maps.
About forty or fifty miles along they ran into trouble of a different kind – – weather. The year was 1824, the low point of a long, cold cycle, “almost the year of extended glaciation and maximum rain and frost”. May ended in a “deluge of cold rain”. June 1 brought cold gales and stinging sleet. Black described the mist rising off the water and “stout Pines nodding and bending like Willow Wands and the Snow (like in the Middle of Winter) drifting along the Mountains”. They broke camp and struggled on. Old Slave wanted to go up a tributary, the Tochieca or Fox River over the Divide into the Liard watershed. He knew that the main river cut through the high mountains of the West wall of the Rocky Mountain Trench and rose in a Lake called Thutadé (pronounce the “e”). Black chose to go to the source of the Finlay, as he had been ordered. The river dropped a thousand feet between Tochieca and Thutadé. The half-frozen men, clothed in fur hats and whatever they could contrive to keep out the freezing rain, had to walk in the freezing water for twelve days while they fought and dragged the canoe up the fast water, that froze on the gunwale of the canoe at night. It took twelve days to go about forty-five miles – less than four miles a day. The two Sikanni women and two children walked, and made beds in the rocks, lined with moss, for the weary men, and cooked whatever they found to eat.
The river had narrowed to places no more than thirty feet wide, through which, as Black described it; the river was “pouring its white foaming torrents through the deep narrow chasm with great impetuosity, the swelling surges dancing in great Majesty”.
The two Sikanni women and La Prise’s wife were now forced to carry heavy loads to lighten the canoe. Black described their rages — flinging down the goods, yelling and cursing at the top of their lungs, but always going on. The canoe was holed and the “Gun Walls” cracked. The “Sikanni ladies had taken to grubbing like bears, for the licorice root, which “they never washed before use, a rub or two on the leather doublet being sufficient preparation.” Taking a shortcut, they had got behind the men. Black took time to write about it.
Iroquois hunters had been up this reach of the river which they had described as absolutely impassable, but Black and Old Slave found a way on a narrow ledge which they widened by felling trees. Beyond was a rapids which “made La Guard’s head dizzy, looking at them.” At the end of a narrow gap they shot out on a fine valley. Old Slave shot a mountain sheep, the very first game animal they had got on the journey. Besides that they killed very little — a few birds and only nine beaver. The ladies arrived in a towering rage because the bears had been ahead of them all day, and got all of the licorice root. The men fed them, for a change.
Here Black found some winter camps of the Sikannis, and Old Slave confessed that he knew more of the country than he had admitted. Black wanted to go on to Fishing (or Tototadé) Lakes, where some Sikannis might be catching fish with their nets made out of the Willow Bark twisted into thread.
Between them and the Lakes was a terrible stretch of water. La Guarde lost his nerve. He broke down and wept. Black went on himself, accompanied only by La Prise and his wife. He found two Sikannis and got information that the river beyond was passable. He had played out La Prise and his wife, but he was able to get back to the others. By this time they were feeling much better and keen to show off before the new Sikannis on the way to a camp on a lake ahead called Thucadé by them, [called Todoggoné Lake today) where the chief Methodiates was camped. La Guarde, now over his “low” spell, brought them safely through and Black rested there for four days. Conferences with Old Methodiates convinced Black that this country was no place to build a post, since any furs obtained there would be traded off to the Trading Nahannis to the North, or taken down to Rocky Mountain Portage House (Hudson’s Hope) anyway. He was determined to get on to the source of the Finlay at Thutadé Lake.
It took them six days to get there, with two Sikanni guides, over the trickiest pieces of water they had yet encountered. La Guarde was nervous again, and inclined to be balky, if not insubordinate, but Black “let things simmer down” to quote Patterson, who imagines him, “the very large man reaming the culprit out without heat, with dignity and restraint, in his usual deep voice”. Evidently he accused La Guarde of cowardice for that worthy asked for a new track-line and went off muttering that he was afraid of nothing living or of any one, of which Black “was pleased to take no notice of.”
A portage of 950 paces brought them to Thutadé Lake, the source of the Mackenzie River, its mouth being 2,362 miles away, and 3,625 feet lower. Black explored the lakeshore on foot, not liking it very much as he could have easily broken a leg in the ground tangle of a low-growing tangled fir. “Such is the true description of the Bonney Glens of the Rocky Mountains” — eloquent sarcasm!
Having been missed by old Methodiates’ band who were to meet them, they followed the band over the divide into the valley of the Stikine, which would lead to the coast, and the Russian forts. He and Manson were the first white men to reach this westward-flowing river from the East.
The “Thloadennis” who lived there were still living almost in the primitive way; dependent for what “white goods” they had on the intermediary “Trading Nahannis” with whom they were presently at war, terrified and nearly starved. There were some nomad Sikannis there also.
A dance was given in Black’s honour – his comments on the dress of the ladies and their conduct is full of dry humour. It sounds as if he were having fun!
But business must go on! Those “Trading Nahannis”, now, and the Schadzué River which flowed to the setting sun interested him. Was there an opportunity for business there? Or in the open country to the west, the Spatsizi, from which the Nahannis came? Black would go and see, even if only a few Sikannis would join his party and even if they deserted at the first tributary of the Stikine – the Chuckachida. His hunch was right. With reliable guides and luck, a man of his calibre just might have got down the Stikine to the present town of Wrangell, and set up a post there before the Russians built a fort there ten years later. By coincidence, Black’s great friend Peter Skene Ogden was in command of the brig Dryad out of Vancouver that sailed into the Russian’s harbour. Doubtless the Bay had studied Black’s report, and decided to approach the “Trading Nahannis” from the West. However, a Russian brig of superior firepower was in harbour, and the grim Tlingits appeared – they who were profiting from the Nahannis as middlemen, – so Ogden withdrew.
Black had no intimation of this as he slogged on North on foot — in rain and snow and guided by a compass that was “out” by twenty degrees — until they came to a good-sized river. Unknowingly, they had crossed another divide, the one between the Stikine and Liard, living on caribou, sheep, goats and marmots or “whistlers”, which they could snare. They forded streams by crazy rafts or by a human chain until they came to a large river flowing east. Was it another branch of the Finlay? No. At the base of a huge mountain, it turned into a larger river flowing North, the Kechika, a tributary of the Liard which is a tributary of Mackenzie’s “River of Disappointments”. How was Black to know? He wrote, rather pathetically, “I wish I had wings to go and see, for in such a country our progress is slow.”
He turned back, naming the river the Turnagain. Again he passed the Peak Mountains which, he wrote in his diary, “looked like the Wreck of the Worlds,” picked up the cached canoe at Thutadé Lake, braved again the fierce canyons of the Finlay, and arrived in autumn at Hudson’s Hope.
In due course his remarkable Journal got to Simpson, who had the grace to write, “They pursued their course as near as possible through perhaps as rugged a country as ever was passed,” but no further word of praise. In due time the Journal reached the Bay Headquarters at London and was filed.
But not properly filed. Somehow it got divided into three parts, only the last one being signed. The first one somehow became stranded at Cumberland House where Chief Factor James McDougall filed it as part of the Journal of John Finlay of H. B. Co. – Finlay was a Nor’Wester! Many quoted it, adding to the myth that Finlay explored the river, and fixing on the river officially the name of the man who turned back at the first white water. The fur traders called it Black’s River after John McLeod relocated the river that finally baffled Black, and set it down on his chart. But not the Canadian Board of Geographical names, which dropped the apostrophes, converting it to the undistinguished Black River in some office in Ottawa. That wasn’t good enough. The river Black had actually discovered and then turned back from, naming it the Turnagain, they called the Kechika but they kept the name Turnagain for the tributary. The Kechika was and still is known locally as the Big Muddy. Cutting Black’s name completely off the map of our country was indeed “the most unkindest cut of all”.
At last when the HBCo. opened their archives to scholars and historians, somebody recognized the big man’s tiny, precise slanted handwriting on all three documents and put them together again. In 1955 it was published to the delight of historians and scholars by the exclusive Champlain Society. But it was a hundred and twenty years too late. The United States did better by Peter Skene Ogden.
Black and Ogden were remembered mostly by Simpson’s prissy remarks about his associate Ogden as a perpetrator of “coarse practical jokes”. It seems that one of the two pals had put a wad of spruce gum on the Little Emperor’s saddle.
Chief Trader Black went to York Factory on Hudson’s Bay in 1825 and was returned to Walla Walla on the Columbia River in the present state of Washington. In 1837 he was promoted to Superintendent of the Posts in the Columbia. Ogden, hero of the Western States, was relegated to Fort St. James, farthest post in the Interior.
Seventeen years after the epic voyage, at the age of sixty, Black was murdered by an Indian in the hall of the Fort at Kamloops.
One of the noticeable qualities of Black’s writing is his recognition of the contribution of his Indian guides and their wives who accompanied him. He also acknowledged the fact that the Indians had preceded him over all of the territory that he explored. Few of the others recorded the actual names of their Indian associates. Although he described with quiet humour the wrath and rage of the “ladies” who bore the terribly heavy loads over the portages, he nevertheless did not fail to acknowledge their contribution, without which he could not possibly have carried out his assignment.
It seems appropriate to pay a tribute to the accomplishments of a truly remarkable but very human man in the area where he distinguished himself.