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Return to Altercation with McDonald

February 1813, disputes with the North West Company Red Deer River post journal.
HBCA, B.176/a/1, fos. 7-9d

February 1813

Monday 8th Set off for Swan River in Company with one man & an Indian Boy, arrived there on Wednesday after a pleasant journey of three days. Found Mr Garrioch & his man well, tho’ their fare was none of the best, having been reduced to live on fish, mostly Succors, for some time before my arrival, as not an Indian had been permitted to come in to him, since my departure from here in the fall. Remained one day at Swan River which I left on Friday to proceed for the Upper House. Took Mr Garrioch along with me & one man, we were overtaken the first day from Swan River by Mr Cummings & one man who had followed me from Red Deer’s River. So jealous are these fellows of our visiting Indians that we cannot go a day’s journey without being followed by them. We arrived at the Upper house in company with our Convoy, on;

unday 15 When I found James Gaddy, & all of the people well, but was sorry to be informed of the small prospect they had of trade, which was principally owing to the outrageous conduct of their Neighbour, — McDonald, a notorious scoundrel; Proprietor of the North West Company, Horse thief, &c. This fellow declared that as I would not make an arrangement with him in the fall of the year, to give up the principal part of the Indians, entirely to him, that he would make use of the means he had in his power, to prevent any Indians whatsoever to come in to us & he has not only done so, but even encouraged the Indians to maltreat us, if we came to their tents. The consequence is that we have had one man near murdered by an Indian at his tent, where he was pillaged by the servants of McDonald, of part of the furs he had obtained from the Indians, & such of them as are attached to us, have taken a resolution to do nothing, as they have not the permission of giving their skins to whom they please, being threatened by McDonald with Death or Mutilation if they give us any share of their hunts. A few days before my arrival at the Upper house, McDonald with a party of his men armed, had gone to the tents of two of our Debtors who were employed hunting meat for us & after taking from them their Arms & property, which they had taken on debt from us, he had them tied by their arms to trees, when he menac’d them with a Horse whip, till he made them promise not to give us a skin, or look near our house, which promise the poor creatures readily made, to regain their liberty, after which he took one of their children, to his house to retain as an hostage for the performance of their promises. This circumstance has had a strange effect upon the Indians who winter in the thick woods, who are the only Indians who kill good skins, & being more dependant on the houses for frequent supplies, than the Indians in the plains, they do not like to incur the displeasure if McDonald for fear of being treated in a similar manner. They are therefore now, contented to have permission to hunt for their families, & if they chance to kill a skin we must get it secretly, or it is taken from them, for whatever McDonald chooses to give them, which is principally a little liquor. Another outrageous affair took place during my stay at the Upper house. A few days after my arrival there, finding so little provisions in the house, I sent a party of our people out to the plains, where we were requested by some Indians to come & trade provisions. In the interval a party of Stone-Indians, who were coming in to us, with provisions, & peltries, were stopped, a few yards from the gates of our fort, by McDonald & taken into his house by force, with all their property. I shall relate the circumstance just as it happened.

As our two forts were close together, the Indians must be very near before it can be known to which house they intend to come, & these Indians took the fork of the track that led straight to our gates. — McDonald’s interpreter (his wife) called to them repeatedly, on their own language, from the gates of his fort, which the Indians took no manner of notice of, but came straight in towards us, who were standing at the gates of our fort, to receive them. When McDonald saw they would not listen to his interpreter he came forward himself to our track & stood in the foreway of the Indians, upon which I immediately run up to him, & told him to desist from his purpose of trying to prevent the Indians from coming in to us. He immediately began to abuse me, & called to one of his men, on french, to bring his sword, as I understood him, I called to James Morwick to bring my Gun, who answered (as he went to look for it) he did not know where it was, upon which I run in myself for it. When I came out, McDonald was standing with his drawn sword, a man a little distance from him with a gun, & an Indian, came running out of his house to join him loading his gun as he came. McDonald poured out a torrent of abuse, calling us, at the same time murderers & menacing me with his sword. I returned him most of his compliments, & told him at the same time, I would prove what I asserted but that there was not a rascal belonging to his fraternity, could prove me guilty of any rascality. After many threats he at last struck me with his sword, which cut me on the back part of the head, & also cut thro’ the neck of my coat. He then retreated backwards, as I presented my piece at him, which without taking aim I fired. My ball only grazed the inside of his thigh, & bored his trowsers on the other[.] he immediately snatched a gun out of the hand of one of his men, who was standing near him with it & fired at me, which fortunately missed. I now run in for my horn & shot-bag, & was detained a minute or two, to have the wound on my head tied up, & when I came out again, the Rascal had all the Indians and almost all their property within his fort. I then saw it was in vain for me to contend any longer, there being only two men at home with me, and they had only one gun between them, the rest of our arms being out at the plains, with the men I had sent to trade provisions. Indeed if we had, had arms, to try to rescue the property, it appeared to me the most prudent way for the present, to let the affair rest, as we are now told that a time has come, that these rascals shall not with impunity, commit their insults, & depredations on the persons & property of the men of the Honourable Hudson’s Bay Company & if redress is not had for a transaction of this kind, it is in vain for us to contend any longer with them, unless we are enabled to cope with them by force & empowered to treat them as foreign enemies. Even this would be degrading to the servants of the Honourable Hudson’s Bay Company to put them so far on a level with some of the rascals belonging to the North West Company as to give them a chance of taking our lives, & it would be conferring on them too great an honour, for us to do that duty for them, which by right belongs to a common Jack catch.

Not content with endeavouring to prevent us from getting skins, McDonald was doing all he could to debauch our hunters at the Upper house, on whom we depend for daily food, during my stay there, he sent his interpreter, to their tent while some of our people were there who did not understand much of what he said, but I learned from a young lad, brother to our hunter, who came in to the house while I was there that the purport of the visit was, to tell our hunters that McDonald wanted to see them at his house, & if they did not come, to inform them, that he himself would come & pay them a visit. I sent word to our hunters to pay no attention to his threats or menaces, & that as soon as our people returned from the plains I promised to send them two men armed, to guard them from his insults. Another little affair I cannot help mentioning, which happened during my stay above, tho’ it is disagreeable dwelling on the subject, it will serve to show the malignity of my neighbour. Two days after the above affair between me & McDonald happened, I had sent the only man I had home, besides Mr Fisher, to the hunters tent for meat, when two Indians arrived at McDonald’s house, the very same whom he had tied up at their tents before my arrival. They came over & paid me a visit & expressed great sorrow at not being permitted to pay their Debts to me, which they had taken in the fall assuring me at the same time, that nothing prevented them from working furs, but the love they bore their Children, who they said would be rendered orphans, if they oppose the will of McDonald, but they consoled me so far as to assure me, that as they were prevented from killing Skins to me, they should do nothing for McDonald either, & that as soon as ever they recovered their liberty their debts should be paid, it was in vain for me to try to persuade them that McDonald durst not kill them, they saw they had already suffered so much from him that left them no reason to doubt, he intended to take their lives if they had not submitted to his will. As they had done pretty well the first part of the winter, & made such fair promises for the future, I gave each of them a dram & a small piece of tobacco, & and they went away well pleased. I could not help being surprised at receiving a visit from them at this time, as McDonald had made them promise some time before not to enter our Fort, but I soon learned the cause of the visit. McDonald had sent them over in hopes that I would quarrel with them on account of the Debts they owed to us, as he is jealous of that good will the Natives in general bear towards us, he lets slip no opportunity of trying to involve us in quarrels with them, in hopes of preventing us from running to their tents, where we have a chance of getting a share of their hunts. As McDonald did not succeed in his expectations of getting me to quarrel with the Indians, he tried another scheme, after the Indians left me, they went over to his house, where he made them drunk, & persuaded one of them (who, when in liquor is almost as great a rascal as McDonald is, when sober) to go over & insult me. As I was almost alone, the fellow who is ready to do any thing for liquer, did not hesitate, & as the gates of our Fort are generally left open in the night time, that Indians who are afraid of coming in to us in the Day time may find easy admittance, he came to the window of the room where I slept just as I had undressed to go to bed, & called on me to open the door, I asked him what he wanted, when he only replied he wanted to be let into the house. I told him he had no business in that time of night, & that I would not open the door as I had already gone to bed, & told him to go back where he came from, as I perceived he was drunk, or he would not come to trouble me at that time of night. He told me then that he was sent over by McDonald to quarrel with me, & he insisted on being let in[.] I told him then, that, as that was his intention, I should not open the door & accused him of ingratitude for the treatment he had received from me, & advised him to go back & tell McDonald to come & quarrel himself if he wanted to do so, but not for him to interfere, he then threatened that if I did not open the door he would break it, I threatened him to do so at his peril, he then asked me repeatedly if I hated him, when I assented to the question he drove his knife thro’ the window & cut it from side to side. I then sprung out naked with a hatchet which was the first weapon that came to hand & Mr Fisher followed me when we perceived he had set off with speed, for he had only made three steps from my window to the gates of the Fort, (a space of about 18 feet) where in the hurry of running out he dropped a war club, which he had taken with him for the purposes of breaking open the door, this we took up, & shut the gates. Towards morning the fellow climbed over the stockades, & came into the yard again, looking for his club as we supposed, for he went quietly thro’ the yard seemingly in want of something, but as I wished to avoid every opportunity that prudently I could of quarreling with Indians we only just watched his motions thro’ a hole in the window, & after looking about for some time he quietly went out over the stockades again. That same day he was met going from the house by two of my men, who were returning from the hunting tent, when he begged of them to tell me, to forget what had passed at the house, as he was sorry to have been persuaded, when he did not recollect what he was doing, to offer any violence to those, whom he acknowledged to be his best friends. This is only one instance out of many rascally tricks, of this kind, invented by our neighbour, not only to prevent us from getting skins, but to endanger our lives, which are often exposed to the Natives, who when free from the effects of spiritous Liquor, are far less deserving the name of savages than McDonald & his rascally set of Canadians whom we have here to oppose. Now that Justices of Peace are appointed in the Country, it is to be hoped that the transactions of McDonald during this last winter will not be passed over, without investigation, & that such an example may be made of him, that shall convince these interlopers, that they are not to make laws for the Natives, nor commit their depradations [sic] any longer on the property of the Hudsons Bay Company, & tho’ McDonald boasts of being out of the reach of the laws of his country, I sincerely hope that he shall have cause to be convinced to the contrary. And that nothing might be wanting on my part to accelerate the apprehension of McDonald, as I have not the means of doing so myself, I have applied by letter to William Hillier Esquire, one of the Justices of Peace, on the Indian territory, to have the rascal apprehended at the lower end of the River, as no time in my humble opinion ought to be lost in convincing the Natives, that they shall not be under the control of these audacious intruders, & the Servants of the Honourable Hudson’s Bay Company, that they are no longer to be insulted with impunity, while endeavouring honestly for the Interest of their Honourable Employers.


Tuesday 9th Being in daily expectation of the return of our people from the plains, & business requiring my attendance at Red Deer’s River, I came off my return to Swan River, with an Indian Boy, where we arrived after a disagreeable journey of four days, when I found Mr Garrioch & man well, but reduced to live on fish & that not of the best kind. I remained here one whole day, & came off for Red Deer’s River.

Sunday 14th In company with my Indian boy & after a journey of three days we arrived here, when I had the pleasure of finding all well, & in no want of flesh or fish. The few Indians hereabouts, had killed about 40 Skins, principally in Martins, since my departure, & which John Turner had got from them on their Debts. The Moose Lake Indians had returned to that quarter, before my arrival, & one of our Indians accompanied them who is due me 16 skins. (Keshethin)

Friday 19th Sent off two men for Swan River with a small supply of provisions for Mr Garrioch. Only John Turner home with myself. The old man Geputyquash with his Son & Grandson are also at the house, the former preparing wood for canoe building & the boys hunting. In the course of seven days, the boys killed two Doe Moose & a young one, which we got taken home by themselves & John Turner[.] I am now anxious to hear from the rest of our Indians, who tho’ there is a man tenting with them, are not safe from the depredations of our Neighbours, who have been several times at their tent during the winter with liquor &c trying to persuade them to part with their skins, which temptation they have hitherto resisted.

Thursday 25th William Lieth & his partner arrived from Swan River by whom I received Letters from Misters Garrioch & Fisher, the later at the Upper house informs me, of another robbery having been committed there by McDonald. Good God! when shall we have an end put to this outrageous conduct. Mr Fisher writes me word that one of our principal Indians, with his followers, who were nearly at the gates of our fort, coming in with a good deal of peltries & provisions, which they were indebted to us, were again forcibly taken in by McDonald to his house, with all their property, & Mr Fisher adds, he found it useless to make any resistance, as McDonald had two armed men besides himself. James Gaddy & party arrived next day from the plains, with ten sled loads, mostly dry provisions. I am also informed, that McDonald has now made a threat, that not an Indian shall be permitted to come into our house, as he has the means “he says, in his power & he is determined to make use of that means.[”] In consequence I am obliged reluctantly, to sacrifice almost all my expectations at this place, which were not a little in the spring, (when Indians could paddle in, who had promised to give me share of their hunts, providing I remained here myself) being obliged to undertake another journey to the Upper house, to see whether McDonald will put his threats in execution, for I think it is absolutely necessary to convince the Indians of the fallacy of McDonald’s insinuations, who holds it out to the Indians that we are afraid to protect them, & that it is only by a tame submission to his will that they can secure the future welfare of their families & that we the servants of the Honourable Hudson’s Bay Company shall not escape with our lives!!! This is the report brought me by one of the men who accompanied James Gaddy to the plains.