by Dorthea Calverley
Daniel Williams Harmon was a Northwest Company trader from the state of Vermont. He arrived at Fort Dunvegan on the Peace River on October 10, 1808, and at once fell in love with the country. His records tell that the winter he spent at Dunvegan was the “most agreeable one that [he had] yet spent in the country.” Doubtless the “provision for the improvement of our minds … a good collection of books,” had something to do with it. He remained in the area with his Indian wife for only two years. Their twin newborn baby boys were buried in the old Dunvegan cemetery.
Because he not only made notes in his daily journals, but wrote a book on the subject, we are indebted to Harmon more than any other early writer for our knowledge of the Northern Indians, almost in their aboriginal state. He was a careful observer, though a bad speller!
Harmon recorded two especially significant items of general history: the finding of a bone of a mammoth, and the first record in history found so far of the first Fort St. John, which had formerly been called Rocky Mountain Fort. Harmon, a scholarly, gentle, and religious man legally married his Indian wife, and like David Thompson took her and their children back East.
His book is not in general circulation, but is well worth looking for if a reliable, first-hand account of the fur trade on the Peace in the early 1800’s is desired. The book is Sixteen Years in the Indian Country, edited by W. Kaye Lamb, Dominion Archivist and published by the Macmillan Company of Canada.