The Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online has a good biography of
Umfreville you may wish to read. The preceeding link directs you to it.
There are several locations in Northern Ontario named in honour of Edward
Umfreville, including a lake in his name Northwest of Kenora and a railway
section along the now closed CN rail line to Sioux Lookout. As well, a new
walking trail has recently been opened in Sioux Lookout in his honour. The
story announcing it in the Thunder Bay newspaper is as follows.
July 27, 2002.
"Good news" trail to open next week
Sioux Lookout officials will host a grand opening of the Umfreville Trail
Trail committee chairman Doug Switzer is excited about the event.
He has worked with the various levels of government and fundraising committees
to make the trail a reality.
"It's a good news story," he said.
The 3.6 kilometer Umfreville trail begins at the Sioux Lookout Travel
Information Center and runs parallel to Highway 72. It is named in honour of
Edward Umfreville, an early explorer who discovered one of the three canoe
routes from Lake Superior to the West in 1784.
Interpretive signage along the two-metre-wide paved surface relates the legend
of Sioux Mountain, Sioux Lookout's aboriginal beginnings, portage routes and
archeological sites that span 7,000 years of human life in the area.
Some historical sites along the route include the first Canadian water base for
float planes, an old mill site and Squaw Island.
The total cost of trail construction, paving and historical plaques was about
$338,000, of which $100,000 was provided by the Millennium Bureau of Canada,
$100,000 through the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund and the remainder by local
[Note: I have included comments in a few places in RED
text. All other
comments were made by Mr. Douglas in the original text. His comments and mine
enclosed in square brackets, except for the footnotes, which Mr. Douglas
The romance of the fur trade in Ontario has yet to be written. The
material at the historian's disposal is scanty. Trading posts
and traders were numerous, but the traders themselves, both
during the French regime and under the succeeding British rule,
have left few records of the successes they achieved and the
hardships they endured.
Of the known fur-traders' narratives, there is none for whose
detail the future historian will be more thankful than that of
Edward Umfreville, which is now published for the first time. It
describes a journey made by canoe is 1784 through western Ontario
from Pays Plat, lake Superior, to portage de l'Isle, Winnipeg
river. The voyage was not a trading venture, but was an
exploratory one, made by direction of the North West Company.
By the treaty of peace entered into in September, 1783, between
Great Britain and the United States, Grand Portage[Minnesota] was
placed in the United States and it devolved upon the British fur
traders to seek new headquarters on lake Superior. A year and a month
later, Benjamin and Joseph Frobisher memorialized Governor
Haldimand that the North West Company, of which they were directors,
being apprehensive the United States would avail themselves of
every means in their power to dispossess them of their Trade to
the North West, from being entitled to an equal if not an exclusive
right to the Grand Portage on Lake Superior and the water communication
to the extent of Lake du Bois[Lake of the Woods]: Have
at their own expense and with the approbation of your Excellency sent off
from the North side of Lake Superior in the month of June last,
Two persons on whom they can depend accompanied by six Canadians,
to attempt the discovery of another passage, north of the line of
Boundary to the River Ouinipique, and from the information your
Memoralists have since received from them, they have every reason
to expect this passage, so much to be wished for, will be discovered
and found practicable; which will effectually secure that valuable
branch of the Fur trade to this Province.1
(1) Can. Arch. Rep. 1890 p. 48
In a letter accompanying the memorial, the Frobishers state that
early in June last, they actually sent off from the North side of
Lake Superior a Canoe with Provisions only, navigated by six
Canadians under the direction of Mr. Edward Umfreville, who has
been Eleven Years in the Service of the Hudson's Bay Company and
Mr. Venance St. Germain; both of them men who speak the language
of the Natives and who are other respects very well qualifed to
execute the Company's intentions.
Their instructions were to proceed to Lake Alempigon[Nipigon] and thence
in a West direction by the best Road for the Transportation of
Goods in Canoes to the River Ouinipique[Winnipeg] at, or
as near as may be
to the Portage de l'Isle, and by letters received from them at
Lake Alempigon 30th June, it appears they had met with
innumerable difficulties from the want of Indian Guides, but
they had then one who had undertaken to conduct them to Lake
Eturgeon and they expressed the most sanguine hopes of getting
forward from thence to the River Ounipique. The Company have no
accounts of them since that period, and as all their Canoes are
now returned from the Grand Portage, they cannot until the next
year give your Excellency any further information concerning
this discovery. 2
(2) Can. Arch. Rep. 1890 p. 51
It is an account of the voyage referred to in this memorial that
is now printed.
Edward Umfreville, the writer, is the author of "The Present
State of Hudson Bay" published in London in 1790. We know
no more of him today than he tells us in that book. The name
Umfreville would indicate that he was descended from that great
family which accompanied William the Conqueror from Normandy to
England and of whom "Robert with the Beard" was given in 1076
"the forest valley and lordship of Redesdale in Northumberland
to hold by the service of defending that part of the realm for
ever against enemies and wolves with the sword which King
William had by his side when he entered Northumberland."
In the "Prefatory Advertisement" to "The Present State of Hudson
Bay", Umfreville writes as follows:-
In the year 1771, I entered into the service of the Hudson's
Bay Company, in the capacity of writer, at the salary of fifteen
pounds a year; and continued in that employ eleven years. But
two of their principal settlements being taken by the French in
1782, when I was made prisoner, and, upon their restoration, to
the Company some disagreement arising in point of salary, I
quitted their service. Being thus disengaged, in April, 1783, I
made a voyage to Quebec with a view of acquiring a knowledge of
the manner in which the Fur trade was carried on from that
quarter and here I remained for four years".
From other autobiographical references, it is clear that he was
first stationed at York factory and that he resided there eight
years though not consecutively. The journal now published
indicates he had resided at Severn. Possibly also he was at
Moose factory and he may have visited Churchill though he does
not speak of Samuel Hearne, who was governor there from 1775 as
if he knew him personally, nor does Hearne refer to Umfreville
as an acquaintance. He was at York in August, 1782, when it was
captured by La Perouse and the garrison taken prisoners to
France. By October, says Miss Laut,3 the Hudson's Bay Company
had received letters from the prison at Dinan Castle, France,
asking for the ransom of the men.
(3) Conquest of Great Northwest I., p. 386.
By May 1783 the ransomed men were in London and by June back
at their posts in the bay - all except Umfreville. To quote his
own words, again:-
In June 1783, I landed at Quebec; and in May 1784, I left
the city of Montreal to penetrate into the interor parts.....
In about one month we arrived at the falls of St. Mary.... As
the fur-merchants in Canada began to be alarmed this year on
account of the partition line established by the late peace,
apprehending that the key of the interior country, situated on
the bottom of lake Superior, would thereby fall within the
American boundary, I was pitched upon to pursue an unknown tract
in order to explore another passage into the interior country
independant of the old one known by the name of the Great
Carrying-Place. I accordingly sat out for that purpose and
succeeded in my expedition much to the satisfaction of the
merchants; but as the Americans have not yet been able to obtain
possession of the western posts on the lakes, ceded to them by
the late peace, the traders still continue the old route".
Umfreville's journal is dated Lac du Bois, 31 July, 1784.
Whether he proceeded from lake of the Woods to Grand Portage is
not stated. If he did, he was soon on his way west again for he
"passed the winter of the years 1784, 1785, 1786 and 1787"
for the North West Company at Umfreville House on the North
Saskatchewan river in Sec. 4, Tp. 53, R. 25, W. 3rd.4.
On 14 May, 1788 be left his wintering ground, on 8 July be reached
Grand Portage and on 15 September, Montreal. Ten days later he left
for New York, which he reached on 10 October, whence presumably
he sailed for England. The preface to "The Present State of Hudson Bay"
is dated 17 June, 1789 and the book was published in 1790. A journal for
1804 dealing with Rainy lake district mentions a clerk called
"Young Umpherville", no doubt a son.
(4) Tyrrell's Thompson p. LXXIX.
[Section 4, Township 53, Range 25, West of the 3rd
The manuscript of Umfreville's journal is among the Masson papers
preserved in McGill University, Montreal and is not unknown to
historians. That it has not been published before, can be
attributed to the lack of accurate maps of the region on which
the explorer's route could be followed. Even yet, his course
between lake Nipigon and Sturgeon lake has not been mapped
completely. Its detail, also, has been against it, but, being
intended for the guidance of future travellers, Umfreville's
journal was of necessity circumstantial. As such, it is in
striking contrast to the elusive narrative of John Long, who
traded west of lake Nipigon eight years before Umfreville and to
the disappointingly brief account of Daniel Harmon, who spent a year
for his health's sake, west of lake Nipigon, twenty three years
after Umfreville. Umfreville's journal throws light on their
movements and indicates, what otherwise we would not be sure of,
that their route westward from lake Nipigon was identical with
the one which he followed.
Umfreville's starting point was an island of Pays Plat river.
Shallows and swamps make the mouth of the river an unsuitable
camping ground. Alex Henry, the elder, in 1775, also "encamped
on an island apposite the Pays Plat". However, the site of the
North West Co's post was not on an island, nor in the bay into
which Pays Plat river empties. As shown by Geological Survey map
No. 78, prepared by Dr. Robert Bell in 1869, it was situated in the
next bay east, about five miles beyond Rossport. The same map
shows a Hudson's Bay Co. post near Rossport.
Umfreville passes without mention the site of the French post
said by Alex Henry, 1775, to have existed at the mouth of Nipigon river.
For almost 100 years after Father Allouez visited lake Nipigon
in 1667, the French held undisputed sway on it and, latterly at
any rate, there was a constant stream of traders to it.
Umfreville mentions the location of two French posts on the west
shore of the lake. We only know of the building of one post on
the lake, that of Latourette, which Duluth, September, 1684
refers to as "the fort which I have constructed near the river à
La Maune at the bottom of lake Allemipigon"5. If the
expression "bottom of the bay" is to be taken literally, the post
could hardly be one of those mentioned by Umfreville. The position
of Fort Latourette on such maps as that of Jaillot 1685 has
suggested it was somewhere in Ombabika bay, at the northeast end
of the lake. The purpose of the fort was to attract the Indians
who were accustomed to travel east down the Albany and its
tributaries to Hudson bay. Two streams lead over a low height
of land from Ombabika bay to Albany river, namely Ombabika river
and Kabasakkandagaming or Little Jackfish river. Either of these
may be the river La Maune. At the mouth of Little Jackfish river
a Revillon Frères trading post is shown on Geological Survey map
No. 1090 published in 1910. Near the junction of the Ombabika bay
canoe route with the Albany river is a lac à la Carpe" [Nemeiben lake]
with a good fishery, which may be that on which a fort was built in
17525. Latourette and La Maune are titles of Duluth's brother who is
in a letter of l687 as having recently arrived in Montreal from the
rivers above the lake.
(5) "Forts and Trading Posts In Labrador Peninsula", Ottawa,
There is also communication with the Albany from Wabinosh bay at
the northwest end of the lake. Traces of an old post have been
found on Rocky Island lake near the head of Wabinosh river.
It is in or near Wabinosh bay that Fort Duncan, the North West
Co. post mentioned by Harmon seems to have been situated. A
comparison of Harmon's narrative with that of Umfreville
leads to this conclusion, although the only maps known to us to
show a North West Co. post on lake Nipigon locate it near the
outlet6. Maps of the 1860's, including that of Dr. R. Bell
published in 1869 show Hudson's Bay Co. posts in Wabinosh bay
and at Poplar point on the east shore of the lake in addition to
the then main establishment at its present site on the west shore.
(6) Map showing "the principal trading stations of the North
West" published in London, 1817 and reproduced in Davidson's
"North West Co." and map issued with British blue-book, 1819.
Umfreville's party consisted of Umfreville himself, his
contremaître or foreman Venance St. Germain who also kept a
diary, and six men, including Jean Roy, Dubay and Raymond the
steersman, St. Germain may be the Ven. St. Germain with whom
Alex. Henry, the younger, hunted buffalo at Pembina River post
on 30 September, 1801.
Umfreville also mentions several traders, Mr. Coté, Mr. Grant
Mr. James, Mr. Lyons and Mr. Roy.
Mr. Coté would be Gabriel Cotté7, as he spelled his same, who
was one of the founders of the Beaver Club and give his name to
Coté Street, Montreal. He was twice married - at Makinac on 18
August, 1765 and at Montreal on 29 December 1783 to Angélique
Blondeau, daughter of a bourgeois. Cotté died in Montreal aged 55
and was buried 7 February 1794. He had four children by his
first wife and five by his second. He left a fortune for the time.
Daughters married Alexis Laframboise, Jules Maurice Quesnel and
François Antoine Larocque all well-known fur-traders. In 1778
and later years, Cotté had permits to send canoes to Nipigon.
(7) Information from E. Z. Massicotte, Montreal.
The Grants who were fur-traders in Umfreville's time were
legion. Peter Grant joined the North-West Co. with Umfreville,
but being only 20 years of age, would be hardly likely to
proffer him advice regarding spirituous liquors as mentioned on
page 42. A "Mr. Grant" established Pine fort on Assinboine
river, Manitoba in 1784.
Benjamin Lyons, merchant, resided at Makinac in 1778 8,
(8) Cruikshank In Canadian Institute Transactions III. 1891-2 p.
David Thompson met two Roys in the West in 1798, one on Churchill river
and the other on upper Red river.
Umfreville's success in reaching Winnipeg river was highly
gratifying to the North West Co. He himself recognized that luck
had favoured him on the trip:-
Circumstanced as we were, in an extensive country, unacquainted
without a guide, the voyage has been completed very fortunately
and had we not met with a conductor when we did, the voyage must
Umfrevilles own opinion of the route, given in a concluding note to
his journal was a favourable one:-
The course we have followed seems not only to be very
practicable but preferable to the course by the Grand Portage.
Though we have been a considerable time on the journey, it is no
objection, as I compute we have lost by bad weather and other
casualties, at least twelve or thirteen days and it is my sincere
opinion that a stirring guide, something like Bazil Ireland
would complete the whole in three weeks. The good fishing places
are numerous and wild rice may be bartered from the Indians. I
know not one carrying place all the way that can absolutely be
called bad-the worst is the Grand Côte de Roche- and the rivers
in general are not remarkable for strong currents.
The North West Company's opinion expressed eight years later was
an adverse one. In urging Governor Simcoe to support a revision
of the treaty of 1783, they claim that if Grand Portage is
forbidden them, the only route remaining,
"as the treaty now stands is by a river about 48 leagues
on this side the Grand Portage, falling into lake Superior, called
Nipigon or in some maps Alemipigon river. When news of the last peace
reached this country and an immediate delivery of the posts was apprehended,
the route by this river [Nipigon] was explored in order to ascertain
how far it was practicable. The result was that nothing but the most
extreme necessity could ever make it be resorted to as a communicaton
to the North West".
The letter points out that from the mouth of Nipigon river to
portage de l'Isle by way of lake Nipigon is a journey of 286
leagues with 72 carrying places in contrast to a distance of 214
leagues with only 26 carrying places by way of the Grand
Portage, meaning a difference of three or four weeks in time.
The letter also explains that the Nipigon route portage, were
only suitable for small canoes and worst of all, the small birch
bark canoes necessary to penetrate into the Northwest were only
obtainable at Rainy lake, there being no bark nor Indian
(9) Can. Arch. Q. 278, pp 146-162
There was no revision of the treaty, but the British traders
were able to retain their headquarters at Grand Portage for
seventeen years after Umfreville's voyage. Then, the United
States Government announced its intention to tax their
merchandise and reluctantly a move was made from both Grand
Portage and the Grand Portage route.10 It was not, however,
to Nipigon and Umfreville's, route, but to Fort William and the
old Kaministikwia river route, strangely forgotten, but rediscovered
(10) Bigsby "Shoe and Canoe" II p. 240.
The usefulness of his route aside, Umfreville's voyage was
highly creditable to a newcomer to an unmapped country, who had
to trust to chance for guides through its maze of waterways, and
it is doubtful if a modern traveller with the best of maps could
have brought it to a more speedy and successful conclusion.
In the year 1784 there were no posts in occupation at any of the
lakes on Umfreville's route from start to finish. West of lake
Nipigon he notices the sites of former trading houses on Shikag
lake, Sturgeon lake and lac Seul. Before this time, as John Long
informs us, independant traders had wintered also on Minitaki
lake and Tide lake- Shaw at Minnitaki lake in 1777-78 and Long
himself at Tide lake in 1778-79. Harmon mentions North West Co.
posts at Sturgeon lake and lake Minnitaki in 1808-09 and the same
company had a post on Tide lake in 1820-21. After the coalition,
the Hudson's Bay Co. occupied posts on all the lakes mentioned
except Shikag lake.
MAPS SHOWING UMFREVILLE'S ROUTE
Lake Nipigon sheet, English River sheet and Rainy River sheet, on
the scale of 8 miles to one inch, published by the Department of
Interior, Ottawa or Maps 23a and 24a, on the scale of 8 miles to
one inch, published by the Department of Lands, Toronto.
Portions of the route are shown with greater detail on the
Lac Seul sheet and Pointe du Bois sheet, on a scale of 4 miles to
one inch, published by Topographical Survey, Ottawa and Lake Nipigon
sheet 1090 and Ignace sheet 663 on a scale of 4 miles to one inch,
published by the Geological Survey, Ottawa.
PAYS PLAT TO WABINOSH LAKE
Wednesday, 16 June. At 11 a.m. parted company
with Mr. Grant,
having an Indian guide to pilot us to lake Nippigon.
First course from the east end of an island at the mouth of the
river Pais Plat to a point N.W. by W. 3 miles. W. by N. 9 miles
to a creek called by the Indians Na-ab-be-cow1. Then....
commencement of river Nippigon and both shores run pretty regular
N. and S. An island lays off the mouth of the river, distant about
2 miles. Both shores are perpendicular and rocky and the river is
about 1 mile wide.
(1) Naomikan creek, 1 1/2 miles east of Gravel river.
Thursday, 17 June. We had proceeded but a short
distance this day
before we found the river very shallow, not having above two
foot water in several places, but the bottom is sandy and
current gentle..... the river appears to be entirely closed by
woods, but on a nearer approach a passage opens between a high
sandy bank and the point of an islet N.N.W. 1/4 mile; shoaly on
the east side and stony bottom and strong current. Passed on the
west or left side; then a rapid, stony and shoaly. Here the men
debarked and led the canoe. This rapid is about 1/2 mile long.
Passed it with perches on the left side. Then an easy current
for about 100 yards. Then came to a rapid point which sent us on
the other side of the river. Then about 40 yards to a point,
after which the river opens wide or is rather a small lake
[Helen lake]. Here our guide said sturgeon were plentiful. Went
in this lake N.N.W. 3 miles to a point. From hence the main
branch of the river bore north. Left it on the right hand and
entered the lesser branch....Passed a small creek which
empties itself on the west side with a waterfall, then N. 1/2
mile to the portage de Roche Capitaine. Carried over goods and
passed the canoe with perches and tracking line of about 50
yards in length; the portage on the right hand side of the river....
We then left the river on our right hand and entered a small
creek which opens south. Went in about 1 1/2 miles north and then
arrived at the first Grand portage [Long portage] mentioned by
Mr. Lyons of about 4 miles in length. The road is very good, but
it took us about 7 hours in passing our things over.
Friday, 18 June. Left the end of the portage and
went north per
compass in a fine wide opening about 2 miles, two islands
appearing at the end of the course. I found a sudden variation
of the compass here of six points for, when we had turned a point,
we were still going north per compass, so that I imagine the magnetic
needle must be affected by some mineral ore in the earth....The portage
d'Islet [Island portage] 200 yards over: portage on the west side, road
tolerable. From hence portage Roche [Split-rock portage] is in a
direct line N. by E. 1/2 mile over an islet in the middle of the
river, a waterfall on each side. This portage is 50 yards over and
good road. From hence second Grand portage [Pine portage] lies
N.E. by N. 1/2 mile; portage on west side and 3 miles long. We were
not able to pass the whole of our baggage over this night, though it
was but 11 o'clock when we began and half after 8 when we gave over.
This carrying place is much incommoded with windfall trees, but
they might be soon cleared away by a few men with hatchets.
Saturday, 19 June. Brought the remainder of the
things over the
portage and the Indians left at Pais Plat overtook us. First
course N. by E. 1 mile to a rapid [White chute] which runs out of a
lake [Emma lake]2 with great violence. It requires some judgment
to pass it properly, as the water is thrown very forcibly against
the opposite shore and returns back with equal velocity. This
opening bore west about 30 yards but we kept our course N. 1 mile
round a point to portage Plat [Flat-rock portage]. This is 180
yards over and very good road. Then N. 1 1/2 miles into a fine
spacious opening. The Indians that had been absent from us about
half an hour had killed several fine jackfish on our arrival. They say
they are very numerous here in all the little bays. From hence N.W. by
N. 1 mile to the end of a bay. Left the river on our right hand
and entered a small creek, very shallow in places and stones
above water. Much care must be taken of the canoes here,
especially if large ones. Went in for about 1 mile N. and then
entered a small lake [Hannah lake]; course in it N.N.W. 1 mile
N.W. by W. 4 miles to a portage called by the Indians
Shoce-co-wap-pe-cau Win-ne-cum,3 but not mentioned in Mr.
Lyons' account; about 1 1/2 miles over, the greatest part of the road
very good, at the end of which is lac Nippigon.
(2) The names of the lake expansions of Nipigon river namely
Helen lake, Jessie lake, Maria lake and Emma lake, as well as
Hannah lake were given by Mr. Robert Bell of the Geological Survey
[NOTE: The names of these lakes were given by Mr. Bell in honour
of his wife [Emma] and three daughters. From 'Our Living Heritage
(The Glory of the Nipigon)' by John R. M. Kelso and James W. Demers,
publ. by Mill Creek, 1993. Page 16.]
(3) Big Flat-rock portage, Joshkwanabika - there is a flat
smooth broad rock, Onigam - portage (Baraga). In a concluding
note to his Journal, Umfreville states that -
"The portages are all called by names given them by the guide and where he has
known none, it is always mentioned by whom the new name was given.
As to my Indian information I refer you to Mr. St. Germain, who is a much
better master of the Indian language hereabouts. I endeavoured to
obtain the French names which I thought of more consequence to
Sunday, 20 June. The Indians that engaged to
pilot us to Fort
Nippigon4 wanted payment here and were desirous to leave us,
but I was resolved to deny this to the last till their agreement
was completed. They tried several Indian fetches to raise a
drink but as they found we were determined to keep our word,
they consented to accompany us. We made some small presents to a
few left behind and proceeded on a course N.W. by N. between two
islands which appear from the end of the portage, 14 miles to a
point [Smoke point or Poplar point]. Before this course was
completed we met a family of Indians in two canoes5. The man
remembered seeing me at Severn Fort on the coast of Hudson's
Bay. He belongs to Sturgeon lake and has agreed to pilot us to
portage de l'Isle. Proceeded with him a few miles when we were
stopped by thunder, wind and rain. He pretends he has a son
hereabouts whom he must see before be can go with us. He proposes to
set off tomorrow morning and return about 2 o'clock. We parted company
with our first guides entirely satisfied with each other.
(4) The only forts mentioned by Umfreville are the old French
houses on the west side of the lake.
(5) In a concluding note, Umfreville states that
"the Indians we met on the way were very few compared to the distances
was a time of year when the major part were hunting. Those we did meet we found
very well disposed and they left us on terms of friendship, but we found it very
necessary to inform them with the intention of our voyage without any disguise.
This hindered any jealousy or unfavourable surmises from taking place and they
were inquisitive to know if we intended to return this way next spring as a
chief told me his journey to Hudson's bay would thereby be prevented."
Monday, 21 June. Several Indians came to us
yesterday afternoon which
proved very rainy and stormy with thunder and lightning. The Indians were very
troublesome for a drink, a little of which was given them. Our guide told
flatly this morning he would not go with us, but on our setting off with another
he soon followed us. Proceeded from the point mentioned yesterday across
a bay N.N.W. 3 miles, then N.W. by N. to a point, across another bay 4 miles
but instead of crossing it entirely we turned round a point in
the middle of it. This leads into an opening like a river
[between St. Paul island and the mainland]. First course in it is
W.S.W. 1 1/2 miles then W. by N. 1 mile W.N.W. 1 mile which
opens into lake, then west 3 miles to the north end of the first
island which appears from the south shore, then W. by N. 6 miles
between several islands to a rocky point [Ingall point]. Here we
slept. It is necessary to remark that a young guide ought to be
provided with a compass in this lake, as it is full of islands
which form as many openings.
Tuesday, 22 June. This day it blew so hard westerly that we
could not proceed. The men were employed putting the canoe in
better trim for the carrying places. The ribs and timbers were
all taken out, washed and made smaller, so that now she is
considerably lighter. The guide is very wavering in his opinion;
he this day told us be must be obliged to leave us, on account
of his wife's sickness, though she was equally bad when he first
engaged. Every reasonable promise is made to him to persuade him
to continue the journey, but Indians will be Indians to the last of
the chapter. We tried for fish in the lac, but the meshes of the
nets are too large.
Wednesday, 23 June. From the rocky point
mentioned the day
before yesterday, we proceeded W.N.W. to the south end of an
island 2 1/2 miles, at the end of which lays a small rocky island, a
short distance off. Went between them, then N.W. 1 mile to point
of an island, then N.W. by W. 3 miles to the point of another island of
high land. Coasted along the end of this island 1 1/2 miles N.W., then
to a point [Champlain point] across a bay N.W. by N. 6 miles. In
the middle of this course we were obliged to put back and encamp
on account of wind and here our guide gave a fresh determination
that he would proceed no farther. Yesterday he came into our
tent and gave us an account of the carrying places to portage de
l'Isle, which he made amount to sixty-six besides six lakes,
for which favour he requested a drink, a little of which was
given him; but my gentleman afterwards grew so violently outrageous,
as to threaten destruction to everything about him, by turns
flattering, threatening and then endeavouring to thieve and break
the canoes. Though the fairest promises and kindest usage has
been given this man, it is all to no purpose, for at the very
instant I was writing the above, one of our men has brought an
account of his having found a nine gallon keg half-full of mixed
liquor in the woods, which he found means to steal though a sharp
lookout is kept. I enticed the father and son to the place, by
telling them I had found the fresh track of a moose. They came
very unsuspectingly to the place, but how great was his surprise
when I showed him the keg of liquor. After upbraiding him with
his perfidy, I obliged the father to carry it back to our
baggage, and as to the son he took to the woods and was heard of
no more for several hours. We were soon afterwards outwardly good
friends, but experience says no confidence can be put in this villain.
Thursday, 24 June. The continuance of the wind
prevented us from
proceeding this day before it was late in the afternoon, when we
set off, our Indian guide in command. Finished the last course
mentioned yesterday at the end of which passed the point
[Champlain point] leaving a small island on our right. After
turning the point, we went W. by N. 3 miles to a place where a
settlement has formerly been erected6, but no traces are now
to be seen of it except the wood being cut away. Here the dilatory
proceedings of the guide obliged us to encamp. Latitude observed 49º
The knavery of the Indian together with the continual deceit
he has practised on us, determined us to go on without him,
especially as the number of his family lays very heavy on our
provisions. Finding us thus resolved, he prayed to be employed,
but we told him this could not be done, unless be would promise
most faithfully to be good and honest. On this condition, we
promised him every kindness and good payment and, on the
contrary, told him he must leave us without payment in goods,
but a severe payment in stripes[flogging]. He promised
everything we could
desire. How long he may keep his word, time must determine, but
nothing but absolute necessity would induce a person to have
anything to do with a man possessed of every bad quality, and
whose mind is as black as his outward skin.
(6) Umfreville is still south of Kaiashk bay.
(7) In a concluding note, Umfreville states that
"the reason that so few observations have been made with the quadrant
was for want of proper places to make them in. It is true we have
been in lakes large enough but the horizon was generally
obscured by islands or clouds at the proper time of day and
could not make an artificial horizon for want of quicksilver[mercury].
I am in hopes these obstacles will be removed in lac Ouinipque, etc."
Friday, 25 June. From the old French house north
to a point on
the main shore 4 miles. Passed two islands on our right and a
small river on the left. From hence across a bay to a lofty
peak of perpendicular rock, [Undercliff island] N. by E. 7 miles.
Several islands in the bay on our left and high mountainous
lands. From the peak 3 1/2 miles N.N.E. to a point; several
islands on our right. Passed another place where a house had
formerly been erected. From the peak we entered a strait about
1/2 mile wide; island [Dog Island] on the right, the main on the left.
From the end of last course the lake opens wide, a remarkable round
island of high land [Jack Fish island] appearing in the front of
the strait. Then rounded the point to the south point of an
island. N.W. 1 1/2 miles leaving many islands on our right, N.N.W.
1 mile to a point on the main, then north 2 miles across a bay,
[English bay] passing very near an island on our right, then
round the point and along a steep rocky shore N.W. 4 miles to the
west end of an island very high and shaped like a barn [Inner
Barn island]. Here we met with a tent of Indians one of whom we
intended to engage as a pilot, but they were unacquainted with the
road. We made them a small present of tobacco, powder and shot and
departed. Opposite to this point N.W. by N. 3 miles at the bottom of
bay8 [Wabinosh bay] lays the beginning of the river we
have to enter. Three pointed mountains lay on the left near its entrance.
First course in the river N.W. by W. 1/2 mile strong current and about
60 yards wide. Then N.W. 1/4 mile to the portage le Petit Jour, 280 yards
over a good road. At the bottom of this rapid, plenty of fish may be
taken. Then N.W. by N. 1/2 mile strong current, small rapid and
stones above water and shoaly in places. The men debarked and led canoe
up the middle of it. At the end of this course the river opens wide
forming a small lake, [Wabinosh lake] then N.W. 1 mile to a point.
The Indians we left followed us with their families and baggage.
(8) French translation of the Indian name Wabinosh which means
"daybreak" "dawning day". Possibly Wabinosh bay and lake were the
headquarters of Petit Jour (Wabinosh) the Cree Chief of lake Nipigon
who gave Verendrye information about routes to the west as related
in his report from Nipigon post in 1730.
WABINOSH LAKE TO STURGEON LAKE
Saturday, 26 June. The Indians here offered us a few skins to
trade and they would have been displeased had we denied it.
These with a few got from the guide amounts to eight otters, one
peccant, two beaver, two cub beaver, three martins and two mink.
Nothing was done this day, but making a net9 with smaller
meshes. The distress we are in for a guide is very great. This
fellow possesses all the duplicity of the devil himself. One day
he knows our way better than any Indian in the country; the next
day be knows nothing about it, at one time he is ready to do us
any service, and soon after be will threaten our lives; but our
situation is such, we must accept of him or give up the journey.
(9) In a concluding note Umfreville states that
"any nets that may be sent this way for the use of the voyage should have
meshs much smaller than those intended for the Grand Portage. We were
obliged to make one on the voyage, one we received from Mr. Grant
being of no use to us".
Sunday, 27 June. The guide said this morning he would go with us
no farther, so that we resolved to wait here till the French
people pass by, especially as the men have no occasion to eat
much of their corn, fish being tolerably plenty. Finding we were
likely to remain here this day, I went in an Indian canoe across
the lake [Wabinosh lake] to the river we have to enter. I went
as far as the second carrying place and then returned but was
much concerned to find the Indians all drunk, notwithstanding it
had been my utmost care to keep them sober, especially while our
villain of a guide is with them. It seems they came and took the
liquor forcibly, though they were but three of them and six of
our people. St. Germaine says none of the men would help him
except Jean Roy. They afterwards recovered the liquor, but not
till the Indians had taken out enough to make them all drunk, men
and women. I expected much trouble in consequence of the above, and
accordingly we had our hands full. Our old troublesome fellow was so
outrageous we could hardly keep him from breaking the canoe and
doing every mischief. He was particularly violent against me for
detecting him in his last villainy. The other Indians were
very peaceable and helped us to cool this firebrand. In short
we know not what to do with him; he follows us everywhere,
destroys our provisions and keeps us under continual apprehensions.
Monday, 28 June. The last night we were obliged to keep two
men continually up to guard our things, the villain being always
ready to break the canoe. This morning I consulted with Mr.
St. Germaine on our situation, being entirely without a guide,
and no prospect of procuring one. I must confess I never was
more uneasy, well knowing it is impossible to make our journey,
while this fellow is in our company. One of the Indians here has
offered to conduct us to a place, Tête de Bête Puante,10 which
is in our road, but this man has eight persons in family and we
must maintain them, or be retarded on the journey while be goes
hunting, consequently our provisions will be in no condition
to continue our journey farther, and farther he does not know
the way; and even when we are there, the obtaining a guide to
portage de l'Isle is very precarious. Reflecting on these
matters, we resolved to return to the other end of portage de
Petit Jour, and there wait the return of the French people, fish
not being in sufficient plenty where we are to save the corn. But,
thank God, our gloomy apprehensions were in a great measure
obliterated in the afternoon by the arrival of a canoe, with a
Frenchman and Indian in it. The former is called Constant, and
is a guide in the service of Monsieur Coté. Sixty packs has been
made this winter in his quarter, but four of their men have been
eaten by the savages through extremity of hunger. Constant says a
Canadian is near hand, who is not at present engaged to any one, is
well acquainted with the road, and be thinks will be willing to
engage with us. This is a prize not to be lost, and that we may
see him as soon as possible, mean to send after him tomorrow.
This man says we may reach lac Rouge in 15 days from hence, but
adds the Indians on the road are not very friendly. Made Roy a
present for aiding St. Germaine.
(10) French translation of the Indian name of the lake referred to by
John Long, 1778 as "Shekarkistergoan or the skunk's-head lake", so called,
present day Indians say, because one of the promontories when seen from a
distance, looks like the head of a skunk; name contracted on modern maps
to Shikag lake; on reaching the lake Umfreville forgets he has referred to
it by the French translation of its Indian name and applies to it the name
lac des Morts, meaning lake of the Dead referred to some such tragedy as that
of cannibalism and murder referred to by John Long as having occurred in 1778.
Tuesday, 29 June. Mr. St. Germaine set off this morning with the
man that arrived yesterday in quest of the man we are in hopes
to engage. I stayed with the men to guard our things. They
returned in the evening. He is named Pierre Bonneau;11 he
knows the way as far as Sturgeon lake, which, he says, is above
half the way, and the greatest part of the portages over. Tomorrow he
means to give us his determination.
(11) Joseph Boneau was one of John Long's men in this region in 1778.
Wednesday, 30 June. This day and last night proved remarkable
tempestuous. We made our agreement with Bonneau to guide to
Sturgeon lake and farther he is not content to go. We wished
much to engage him to winter, but found it impossible. The goods
he is to receive for his trouble is specified in his agreement
of which he has a copy. What other things he may occasionally
receive, I shall notice, and, God willing, leave this place
to-morrow early. This is the twelfth day since we left the last
portage the other side of lac Nippigon and this is absolutely not
two days paddling. Latitude by 2 altitudes 50º 02'. One canoe of
Nippigon Indians and two canoes in the service of Mr. Coté‚ came
to us today.
Thursday, 1 July. Made Indians a present of
tobacco, powder and
shot and departed. From the end of last course mentioned,- (Friday, 25th)
W.S.W. 4 miles to the mouth of the river de Petite Jour, [Kopka river the
South branch of Wabinosh river] about 70 yards wide, a small round island
laying off its entrance. In the river... to a small lac [Pishidgi lake]
across it S.W. by S. 3 miles. In the river S.W. by S. 1/4 mile S.S. W. 1/4
mile to portage ie Babbian, on left side, 280 yards over; a few wind falls
in the road, but may be cleared away with a little trouble. S.S.W. 1/4
mile strong current and rapid, debarked and led canoe. Then
about 100 yards to another shoaly rapid near 1/4 mile long, at
the end of which portage des Cèdres, 170 yards long, and good road.
Then W.S.W. in a spacious opening or rather small lac [Kopka lake]
1 1/2 miles to a point W. by S. 1 mile across a small bay,
N.W. by W. 1 1/4 miles to a point N.W. 1/2 mile. In last course
passed where the river discharges itself into the lac. Then
immediately round a point to portage le Petite Côte Roche, 1100 yards
long; it is almost choked up with willows, etc., growing in it,
otherwise the road is good. From the portage entered a lac [Obonga lake]
... to a peaked mountain. Encamped in a sandy bay.
Friday, 2 July. The side of the mountain is the
west side of a
bay, in which appears another channel, which runs northerly from
the bottom of the mountain across a small bay S.S.W. 3/4 mile;
S.W. by W. 1 mile across another; S.W. by S. 1 mile across another,
W. by S. 1 1/2 miles three islands on left S.W. by W. 1/2 mile across
a small bay to portage la Prairie12 on right side; 470 yards
long and road in same condition as the last yesterday. Then
120 yards to portage Brulé, 160 yards long and good road. In a
river S.W. 150 yards, W. by S. 2 miles W.S.W. 1 mile. This is
generally about 80 yards wide and steep, perpendicular rocky
shores. Passed a small bay on left surrounded with perpendicular
rocks, then came to portage d'Artoise, 130 yards long and good
road. Then entered a swamp. Went in it 120 yards to portage la
Grande Côte de Roche, which is 4550 yards long or 2 1/2 miles and
150 yards: first 1/2 mile sloping up a mountainous rock, the remainder
part good; past windfalls and part choked up; made three trips or rests
this day, after being obliged to clear a passage with our hatchets.
Met an Indian with his family on the portage who was going to Pais Plat,
but now means to return with us. St. Germaine gives him a bad character,
so that if the other comes up with us we shall be worse off than before.
(12) Umfreville's route west from the head of Obonga meaning
(sandy narrows) lake is not clearly traceable on any map yet published.
In 1902 Wm. McInnes followed a course to the first height of land over
Umfreville's Grand Côte de Roche which "climbs in a steep slope up the
almost vertical side of the valley, reaching a height of over 300 feet
and... descending again 100 feet to a smaller lake" (Geol. Survey Report
1902 p. 208 A). Umfreville's spelling of French nemes has been retained.
Saturday, 3 July. Got our things over the portage
at two more
rests, then entered a lac about 1 mile long, after which portage
Noir, 1430 yards; discharged on right side on a rock, portage is
incommoded by small woods growing in it; got our baggage over
and encamp on account of rain.
Sunday, 4 July. At the end of last portage a small
lac. Went to
the end of it, to a portage. On left side is a communication
with another lac and on right near the portage is a small creek
which runs out of it. Portage is 340 yards over a middling road.
Then entered a lac, went to end of it, W.S.W. 1 1/4 miles to a
small creek. Went to the end of it 1/2 mile to another portage
300 yards over. Then a swamp about 200 yards long, at the end
of which a portage 500 yards long, partly choked up. The three
last portages are called les trois portages de Portage Noir.
From last portage entered a river, stony, shoaly and bad loading
at beginning; afterwards opens into a lac with several small
islands in it. The river is about 120 yards over, went in it W. 3
miles passed an opening on the left, which appeared like the
junction of a small lac, then S.W. 1 mile to a rocky islet.
Left it on the right, then 3/4 mile to grassy point. From this point
1/4 mile to the mouth of a creek on left. It afterwards opens into
a small lac. Went in it to its end about 1 mile to portage les Pêches,
500 yards long and good road. Then entered a lac S.W. by W, to a point
on the other side, 1 1/4 miles. Round the point 1/2 mile, W. by S. 1 mile
across a bay on left. S.W. by W. 3/4 mile. Here the lac draws up
in the form of a bold creek. West in it 1 mile and turned immediately round
a point to portage Catteaux, 80 yards over and good road, leaving the portage
about 70 yards to a point across a bay. Then W.S.W. 2 miles W. by S. 1 mile,
W. by S. 1 mile to a creek which in about 1/4 mile terminates in a swamp.
About 40 yards up this on the right is portage Bushé 135 yards long by the
swamp into another small lac. Passed the canoe in it part of the way
and carried the remainder. Then round a point across the lac 1/4
mile S.W. to portage le Gros Galais, 450 yards long and good road
over a rock. From this portage the current descends westerly.13
(13) The drainage is now westerly and northerly.
Monday, 5 July. From the end of the portage a
small lac. Crossed
it into an opening like a creek, which ends in a swamp. Went to the end
of it 1 1/4 miles to portage Brulé, 670 yards long, and, after clearing
away a little a tolerable road. Part of the passage to the portage was so
shallow, that we were obliged to half unload the canoe, but the guide says
the water is lower than common. Leaving the portage, crossed a small lac
N.W. by W. about 200 yards to another opening like a river. Went to the
end of it, which is broad 1 mile to portage des Grosses Roches. In
the course of this mile passed another opening on the right,
which appears like a strait into another lac. Last portage 430
yards long, and bad road over sharp rocks. Then entered a narrow
lac. Went to the end 3/4 mile to portage de Calumet 160 yards
over and good road. Then entered a lac N.W. by W. 3/4 mile from
hence. As usual the lac draws up to a narrow channel. Went to
the end 2 miles to portage Savanne, 450 yards long and road mostly swampy.
Then entered narrow lac 1 1/4 miles long (leaving a channel on the right)
to portage de Ram, 90 yards long and good road. Then a lac [?Kashishibog lake]
[This is Birchall Lake, not Kashishibog which is southwest about
which appears from the portage to be of a square form. N.W. by W. to a point
on left 3/4 mile, N.W. 1/4 mile across a bay to a grassy point. Then entered
a narrow strait 1/2 mile long into another lac.[Hawn
Lake] The strait has plenty
of water in it, but several large stones being under water makes it necessary to
be cautious. After leaving the strait, went 3/4 mile to a point, several
large stones above water. S.W. by S. 3/4 mile W.S.W. 1/2 mile three islands
on right and three small ones on left; also several stones appear above water
in this course. W.S.W. 3/4 mile to a point on right, on which side passed
one island and another on the left. Then S. by E. 2 1/2 miles
having several islands on left and the end of the lac on right.
This brought us to portage Campion,14 160 yards over a good
road. As this portage is not very easy for a stranger to find,
on account of the number of small islands, it is necessary to
mention that at the beginning of it several trees are barked and
on the right is a small run of water, with large stones at its
mouth. The numerous small lakes which we pass are joined by
small drains of water, the passing of which makes the carrying
places. At a portage, this day Dubay, one of our men narrowly
missed mutilation by the bursting of a gun be had in care.
(14) This name suggests that Etienne Campion, the old French
trader who was Alex Henry's assistant in 1761 had travelled this
way; or it may have been Alexis Campion who resided at
Matchedash bay in 1778.
Tuesday, 6 July. From portage Campion a narrow
in which went to the end 1 1/4 miles on the right of which another lac
[Kershaw Lake]joins with this, but the neck between them
has so many large
stones in it that we were obliged to discharge and carry over
it. Then about 200 yards to another narrow neck. From hence west
3 miles to a sloping rocky point; small rocky island on right
and several small ones and a bay on left. Opposite the end of
the course is a deep narrow bay. Then west 2 1/2 miles. Passed a
deep bay on left. This course goes to a low rocky point on left.
Then a narrow channel like a creek 1/4 mile up which the channel
in nearly stopped by high stones above water. Men debarked and
passed the canoe among the stones to portage de la Praline. Here
the water descends through a narrow passage into another lac
through which we passed the empty canoe; portage 55 yards over a
good road. From the end of the portage W. by S. 120 yards to a
point. Then west to a point 250 yards, being the beginning of a broad
strait into another lac,[Savage Lake] a creek being on
left. W. by S.
1 1/2 miles to a point having a bay on left and several small islands
on right. From this point turned round S.S.W. 2 1/2 miles,
having a small round islet of pine trees on right and a bay with
larger ones on the left. This brought us to an opening like a
creek, which is soon after closed by rocks and small stones. The
men debarked and passed the canoe in the strait among stones, about
70 yards. Then entered a narrow lac S.S.W. 3/4 mile to a point on left.
S. by W. 3/4 mile to a point on left into a bay. Then entered a narrow
channel with large stones at its mouth. Went in it 1/4 mile when
it opens wide with islands in it. From the end of first island
to south end of another 1/4 mile S. by W. W.S.W. to a point 1 mile;
a bay on left and two small ones on the right. Then went through
a narrow passage into another lac. Then round a point on an
island on left, a bay on right, W.N.W. 1/4 mile, lac [Kashishibog Lake]
spacious with many islands. Then W. by S. 1/2 mile to the north end
of the island. From hence S.W. 3/4 mile to a point on right. Then
S.W. along the N.W. shore with many islands on left 1 1/2 miles to
an opening like a wide creek. Went in it W.S.W. to the point of
an island on the right and then S.S.W. across a bay on left 3
miles; three islands on right and many on left. Then S.S.W. 3/4
mile to point of an island on left. Many stones lay in the channel
at the beginning of this course and a bay on left. Then S.W. by W.
along the north or right hand shore 2 1/2 miles; large islands to
the left. Went in a channel like a bold river. Last course is to
a low point of pine trees on left. Opposite to this point is a
bay and two islands. Then S.W. by S. 1 1/2 miles to a point on
right. S.S.W. 1 1/4 mile a traverse to the point of an inland on
left; bay and rocky shore on right. S.W. 3/4 mile to an opening like
a bold creek. Passed a small rocky island and another lays at
the entrance of the strait. In it S.W. 1 mile to a point on left, a
bay on right and another on left; both shores rocky. Turned round the
point and went S.E. in a spacious bay, 1/4 mile to a rocky point. Then
round last point S.S.W. in a strait 3/4 mile to a point on right;
both shores rocky and a little bay on left. Went round the point
and then W.N.W. 2 miles to a rocky point. Then entered a strait on
left. Went in it west to a point of pine trees on left 2 miles when it
opens wide with several islands on right and one on left. Then 1/4
mile to an inlet between two rocks, on the right is portage Islet 40 yards;
good road over a smooth rock. Another lac immediately joins to this,
but it has a descent of about 2 1/2 yards and the passage between the
rocks is about 5 yards over. From the portage went west 1/2 mile to the
end of a rocky island of pine trees, being a strait about 50 yards wide.
In it W. by S. 1 mile to a point on right; passed three openings on right and
four on left. From the end of this course the strait is divided
into two channels by an island. Then W. by N. in a fair channel
and regular shores about l00 yards wide to a point on right 2 miles.
At the end of this course a bay on the left. Then turned round the
point and went north in a narrow strait 1/4 mile to a
place where the channel is almost choked up with stones. The men
debarked and passed the canoe down it. Then turned round a rocky
point on left and came to a discharge called discharge d'Orignal.
Half unloaded the canoe and then shot the rapid with the remainder;
rapid about 100 yards long. From the bottom of it went W. by S.
3/4 mile over a small lac to portage d'Orignal 230 yards over a good road.
Carried the goods over, and passed the canoe down the rapid. Here the
place has all the appearance of a creek with a strong current in our
favour. From the bottom of the rapid 1/4 mile to another rapid,
about 70 yards long. Men debarked and led the canoe down it.
From the bottom it opens into a lac [un-named lake between
Kashishibog lake and Clearwater lake] in which went 1/2 mile to a
point on right; a small rocky island on left. Then N W. by N. 1 1/2
miles to a point: two bays and one isle on right and two bays and three
isles on left. Then traversed 1 mile to the point of an island; same course;
deep bay and several islands on right. Then N. 1 mile to the
point of an island; many islands on left. N.W. 3/4 mile to a point;
a bay and several islands on right. Then traversed over to a
rocky face of the bank N.W. 1 mile and island laying on the right.
Went round the rock to a narrow rapid on left, leaving the lac behind us,
which I named lac des Isles. The canoe went very well down the
rapid. Then 5 miles in a narrow channel, after which it opens
into a lac [Clearwater lake][Sparkling Lake]. Went 1 1/4
to a point on right; one bay and one isle on left. Encamped.
Wedneday, 7 July. From the point last night W. by
S. 3/4 mile: a
bay and rocky island on right; the same on left. Then in
a channel like a broad river west 1 1/2 miles; on the left is
small island. At the end of the course, W.S.W. a traverse to a
point on left, a bay on right; 1/2 mile round the point to the
end of a bay; about 1/4 mile to a rapid in a narrow channel. Men
debarked, except two and shot it. A short distance from the
former is another. Passed it as before. Then it opens into a lac
[un-named lake west of Clearwater lake]. Turned the first point on
left and then went W.S.W. 1/2 mile to the entrance of a channel like the
mouth of a river. Then S.S.W. 1 mile to a rock on the point of an island
on right. Passed a rocky point on left, also a deep bay on left.
From the point S.W. 1 mile to the bottom of a rapid. Passed
three islands on right and two on left. Here the current runs
easterly, being against us. This is a portage 263 yards long
over a good road and called portage à la Line. At the bottom of
the rapid are poisson doré[pickerel/walleye]‚ jack, carp
and white fish.
From the top of the rapid in a spacious river [Bright sand river]15
which our guide calls rivière de Portage à la Line. After going
up it a south-westerly course 4 1/2 miles, turned round a rocky
point on left and went S.E. to a point on right 3/4 mile having a
deep bay on left. Then S.W. by S. 1/4 mile to a point. Turned
round it and then went 1 mile S.W. to a narrow channel near
which lies a round rocky island. Having entered the channel went
among stones above water against a strong current near 1/4 mile
to a short rapid. The men debarked and led canoe against it.
S.W. by S. 2 1/2 miles, several large stones in the river, to a
narrow neck between rocks. From this entered a lac called lac de
Bute de Sable16[Brightsand Lake] and went S.W.
by S. 2 1/2 miles to
a point on right along the west shore, having two islands and several
high stones on left. Then to a point on right S.W. by W. 2 miles four
islands and stones on left. From this point left west shore and
traversed S.S.W. 4 miles, four islands and a deep bay on right
and a deep bay with islands at a distance on our left. This
brought us to a narrow stony channel and rapid. Men debarked and
led the canoe up it. Then S. by W. 1/2 mile to another stony
channel, strong current. Passed a narrow opening on left, which
leads into the lac we just came out of. Then S.W. to a point on
right 3/4 mile; a deep bay on each side, and opposite each other.
Thence W. by N. to a stony channel 1 mile, a deep bay on left.[Metionga Lake]
Passed the channel and went 3 1/2 miles to a sandy point on right;
one small bay and another very deep and wide on right; also one
deep bay and islands on left. Went round the point 1/2 mile to a
point of stones on right. Then crossed the mouth of a bay 1/4
mile over portage des Attucon; at present 800 yards long, and
middling road, but a passage might be made much shorter. There
is a strait, very stony, between the two lacs, through which we
passed the canoe. Then entered a lac which is called lac de
Portage de Pishu[Dove Lake]. Went in it S.W. by W. 1
mile from the portage
to the point of a small island on left, passed two on the right,
W.N.W. 2 miles to portage de Pishu 64 yards over a good road;
a bay and two small islands on right and a bay and one island on left.
From the portage a small lac, which we crossed W.N.W. 1 1/2 miles to
portage des Cyprès,17 616 yards over a good road.
(15) Brightsand river drains northeasterly into Wapikaimaski
lake and Seseganaga lake; ruins of an old trading post exist
on the former lake, according to Indian report.
(16) Butte de Sable is a French translation of an Indian name
Metionga (Geological Survey report 1899, p. 117 A.) or
Neteianga as on modern maps, which means "Sand Point": the
lake drains east and north through Brightsand river.
(17) The drainage is now west and south through Shikag and
Mattawa Lakes into English river: according to Indian report,
there are ruins of a trading post on a lake in the group of
which Mattawa lake is one.
Thursday, 8 July. From the port W.S.W. 1 mile
across a small lac
to a point. Then W. by N. 1 mile to a point on right in a
channel like a river. N.W. by W. 1/2 mile to a point on left. Went
round the point to a grassy swamp, being a strait into another
lac. Passed through it without debarking and went in a small lac
N.W. by W. 1 mile to a point on right, having a deep bay with
islands on right and a narrow stony channel on left. N.W. by W.
1 mile to a point on the left, a bay on the right. Round the point
W. by N. 1 mile to a narrow passage like a creek on left. Went down the
current in it 2 miles at the end of which a grassy neck, which
opens into lac des Morts. Turned round upon right and went
W.S.W. 1 mile. Along the N.W. shore 2 1/2 miles to a grassy point,
leaving two rocks and two small islands on the right. W. by N. 1 1/2
miles to another point of grass on right, a deep bay on the left. Then
round the point and across a bay N.W. by 3/4 mile. Then crossed in
a bay N.W. 3 miles. Then turned off on the left and went W.S.W.
to point of an island on right, two bays and two islands on
right. Then west 3 miles to a point opposite an old fort, where
a Mr. Roy wintered two years ago; two islands on left and deep
bay on right: Hence to a point of stones 1 1/2 miles W.N.W. a deep
bay on right island, and stones on left. Turned round the point and
went N. by W. in a bay 2 miles, some burnt woods of a red colour on
left, to a wide strait. Went in it W.N.W. near 1/2 mile, then
turned round an island on right and went N.N.E. 1 mile to two
black rocks on the shore. Left them on the right and turned on
the left side into a narrow channel with stony shore. A short
distance in it debarked and passed the canoe between some stones in
a narrow neck. Here the current runs easterly18. Then entered
a small lac, crossed it W.N.W. 1 1/2 miles to a broad channel. Went
in it W. by N. 3 miles when we were stopped by rain at 11 a.m.
(18) Umfreville is now west of Shikag lake but the drainage is
still east and south into English river through Shikag lake.
Friday, 9 July. Left the strait and crossed a
small lac to
a point of high land on left W. by N. 1 mile. Passed a bay on
left and an island on right. Then W. 1 1/2 miles to the point of an
island on left: channel 3/4 mile wide; very irregular shores. From
this isle went to the first point on right 1/2 mile on the N. shore. Kept
along it westerly about 1 mile to la première portage de lac
It lies in a small bay [Willow lake] on right, a rock lying in the bay,
and a large one close to the path. Portage is 300 yards long and
bad road, being choked up with small woods. From the end of the
portage a small lac. Turned first point on left and went
W. by N. 3/4 mile having two bays on right and two on left.
Went to the end of the lac, on left, to portage de la Discharge;
340 yards long and a bad road, being swampy and choked up. Then
entered a small narrow lac, went in it about 3/4 mile to a swamp,
on left, in which went about 3/4 mile. Men debarked and passed the
canoe through it to another lac [Bell lake]. Had much trouble
in the swamp, having scarce room enough for the canoe. Here is a
path on the right along which carried part of our things.
Leaving the swamp, passed round first point on left 1/4 mile,
then entered a channel about 100 yards wide to the first point on right,
W. 1/2 mile. Turned the point into another channel W.N.W. to a point on
left 2 miles. Here the lac [Bell Lake] opens large with several
islands. Then W. by N. to the point of a small island on left;
islands and a bay on each side. Stopped by rain at 10 1/2 a.m. W. by N.
2 1/2 miles: a traverse to the point of an island, lac spacious on both
sides with large islands. Then W.N.W., 1 1/2 miles to a point on
right between two islands which appear at a distance like a
strait, lac spacious and large islands. Then W.N.W. to a point
on right 2 miles; lac spacious on both sides with islands on
left. Turned round the point and came to le Grand portage de Lac Sturgeon,
1750 yards over; part of the road good and part swampy. At the end of the
portage is a swamp which runs into a lac [Darkwater lake]. N. by W. 1/2
mile to a point on left from the end of the swamp. Then W. by N. 1/2 mile
between a small island and the main on left, deep bay on the right and
several isles. Then 1 mile W.N.W. to a point on left, being a traverse
across the lac; bay and several islands on right and a bay on left. At
the end of this course is a narrow neck, a grassy point on right. Then
turned point on the right and went N.W. by N. 1/4 mile to a point on left.
Here entered a channel like a creek; long grass on both sides. Went in
about 1 mile, when it draws narrow and is almost stopped up with reeds,
and long grass. Went among it 1/4 mile to portage de Fort20.
(19) Another height of land; beyond this the drainage is west
into Sturgeon lake.
(20) Portage du Fort is also mentioned by Harmon who 1807 made the
Journey to the portage from fort Duncan, lake Nipigon in ten days and
the return Journey a 1808 in the same time; Umfreville took eleven days
from Champlain point, lake Nipigon to the portage; evidently Harmon
followed Umfreville's route and fort Duncan was near Wabinosh bay.
STURGEON LAKE TO LAC SEUL
Saturday, 10 July. Passed our things over the
portage which is
540 yards over a good road. An old settlement where a Mr. James
wintered six years ago is still in being on the left side of the
portage. Then entered Sturgeon late,21 in which we went about
15 miles out of [our course] expecting to go by a way, la Chemin
Neuve, [Sturgeon river] which our guide was unable to find....
to portage Embarrassé [leading to Young lake]. Here we encamped.
In the passage from the fort to this portage, the course being
about west keep the south shore on left crossing the bays. There
is no river in the way. If the weather is clear and not too much
wind, one may go more large and by cutting off points, islands.
etc. make the distance much shorter. And by keeping the south or
left hand shore always in view, a person cannot miss the
portage, which is marked down from the last point mentioned,
the end of the lac being 1/4 mile from the portage. Our Canadian
guide having gone with us as far as he knows the way, we have no
further occasion for him, but, as be has no canoe, he is still
in our company. He has been a very good, quiet man and, as he
knows the way very well from Pais Plat to Sturgeon lake, we
would willingly engage him to winter, so that he may be employed
as guide hereafter, if there should be occasion for him. The
Indian we met on the 2nd instant has been ever since in our
company and has by no means answered to the character given by
St. Germaine. If it had not been for him we should now be in much
distress for a guide, he being the only Indian we have seen
since we left lac de Petite Jour. He knows the way we have taken
today, but is at a loss in the one attempted this morning. He
says we have more portages and more rapids this way than the
other, but, on the contrary it is much shorter. Be it as it will,
we must go the way he is capable to guide us. Entered into an agreement
with him in writing, to the same purport as that of Pierre Bonneau.
(21) Mr. Dallas Gastmeier of Allanwater who is well acquainted
with Sturgeon lake states that on a point a mile from the bay
where the portage from Darkwater lake hits Sturgeon lake are
mounds of earth, betokening log house foundations banked for
winter; Harmon wintered 1807-08 at a North West Co. post on the
west side of the lake. This would be in the southern portion of
the lake, possibly where the water route goes to lake of Bays, as
according to Mr. Gastmeier traces of a house are visible here.
The Report of the Exploration of Northern Ontario in 1900 describes
a deserted trading post, "once the scene of an Indian visitation as
its timbers are cut and scarred by many shot holes", situated above
a rapid on the first bend of a river which flows into the northwestern
bay of the lake.
Sunday, 11 July. Got our things over the portage, which is 1010 yards
long and a good road. It blew so hard today that we were confined to the end
of the portage. Paid Pierre Bonneau for guiding us to Sturgeon lake.
Monday, 12 July. From the portage entered a lac,
[Young lake] crossed
it W. by N. 1 1/2 miles to a point on the right. Passed two islands and
a bay on left. Then W. by N. 1 mile to a point on same side-this point is
an excellent place for poisson doré, etc.-a bay on right and left. Then
N.W. by W. 1 mile to a narrow stony channel. Passed the entrance with
difficulty without discharging. Went in the channel 3/4 mile, then entered
a lac [Whiterock lake]. Turned round first point on left 1/4 mile than
traversed S.W. 3 miles to a point; a bay on left three islands on right.
Then S.W. by S. 1 mile, two islands on left, to portage des Bouleaux -here
is a stony strait which discharges into the adjoining lac- which is 180 yards
over a good road. From the portage, entered a lac [Pine lake] in which
turned immediately to left and coasted along shore 1/2 mile to a point;
many islands on right. From the point traversed over the lac S.W. by W.
3 miles to a point, leaving a small island of pine trees on right. From
this point crossed to a channel like a creek, grassy on each side. Went
in it 1/2 mile to portage de la Presse, 195 yards over a good road. Then
a small lac, about 60 yards wide, to a narrow grassy channel. Went in it
1 1/2 miles to a lac [Hut lake] which we crossed S.S.W. 2 1/2 miles to a
point; a wide opening on right and two small islands before it and a bay
on left. Went around the point to a wide channel, went along right side
of it S.W. when it opens into a lac. Crossed it S.W. 3 miles,
passing a small island on the right and a deep bay on left near
the end of the course. Then entered a narrow channel [Rice river].
Went in it, in fine deep water with wild rice on each side, 2 1/2 miles,
then entered a lac. Went in it S.W. by W. 3 miles to
a point; several islands and deep bay on left. Passed near a
point of the main on right and a small isle on left. Turned
round the point and entered a broad channel; course in it W. by S.
1 mile to a point of grass on the right, being a neck which
leads into lac a la Presse [Otter lake]. Turned upon the right and
went W.N.W. 2 1/2 miles having two small isles on left and an old
press on a sandy beach, and a bay upon the right. This course
goes to the first island on the right, laying at the mouth of a
wide branch of the lac, which turns off to the right. After
leaving the island, N.E. by E. 2 miles to a rocky point on left,
keeping several islands on the right. Turned round the rocky
point and went W.N.W. 1 1/4 miles in a broad channel to a point on
left. At the end of this course, the channel is narrower and
turns off westerly into a small lac. Went N.W. by W. 2 miles
between two isles on left and the main on right. This brought us
to the mouth of rivière de Monataggé,22 [English river] which
is stony at the mouth and has a little island laying at its
entrance. Went in it, down an easy current, north 1 mile to a
rapid being portage de Detour [leading to Jarvis lake]-named by
St. Germaine-102 yards over a good road on left side. Shot the
rapid with the major part of the goods in the canoe and carried
the remainder. At the bottom of this rapid a lac with islands.
Turned round first point on left and went W.S.W. 1 1/2 miles to a point
on left, having two small islands on the left and two ditto and a
bay on right, then S.W. 1/4 mile. In the river S.W. by W. 1 mile
W.S.W. 1 mile, W. 1/2 mile to a rapid. Shot down the right hand
side after a few pieces were taken out. The portage [below Jarvis lake]
was named la Batture by our men; 250 yards over; wants clearing.
W.N.W, 1 mile in a lac, having islands on right and left. Three
channels appear on the right. Entered the third. N.N.W. 3/4 mile
from the beginning of the channel to a point on left, the lac on
right. From the point, north 3/4 mile to a rapid. Here are two
channels. Went down the left, the beginning of which is shallow
and stony bottom. Men debarked and led the canoe down it about
30 yards. Then about 100 yards to another rapid, about 150 yards
long, at the end of which portage de l'Isle. 180 yards over a
good road. When the water is low, they pass by another portage which the
guide says is 1/2 league over. From the end of the portage by the
isle, over a short shoal of large stones near 1/2 mile to a
rapid at the end of the isle, which we passed on our right. Then
went near 1/2 mile to a rapid, which the canoe passed with half
its lading. Carried the rest over the portage, which is on the
right side 190 yards over and named by our men portage de Deux Rapids.
(22) Having reached English river in Otter lake, Umfreville
continues down it through Minnitaki lake and lac Seul to
Winnipeg river. Umfreville does not employ the name English
river, but calls the portion of the waterway above Minnitaki
lake after the lake into which it runs.
Tuesday, 13 July. From the portage went about 1/4
stones and strong current, then turned to the right leaving a
swampy channel behind us; 1/4 mile farther another rapid. Shot it
easily, having plenty of water. Near 1/4 mile to another or
rather two, but a short distance being between them. Shot them
without difficulty. Then 1 mile to another. Shot it as the last.
Then 1/2 mile to another, being portage Neuf, 520 yards long on
right side and much incommoded for want of use. Discharged a few
pieces and passed it easily. From the rapid turned upon the
left. At first point is a rapid. Passed it without discharging.
Thon 3/4 mile to another. Went down easy. 100 yards to another.
Shot it as before. Then 5 3/4 miles to the end of a swampy lac, on
each side the river. Turned a point on right and came to a
rapid, which we shot about 1/4 mile without discharging. The
remainder was a strong portage for near all the things. Is on
the right side. Called portage des Grosses Roches, by our men;
260 yards over a good road. The men who shot the canoe say it is
difficult. From the portage entered a small lac, across which
and into the river N.W. 2 miles, then 2 1/2 miles to a rapid. All
debarked but two to shoot the canoe. It is at least 3 miles long
and difficult in places, and called rapid Croche. From hence 3/4
mile to rapid les Trois Roches, this three rapids following each other
very quick. Passed the first two without debarking, but at the
beginning of the last, all debarked except two to shoot the
canoe. Distance of the whole about 3/4 mile. Then 3/4 mile to
another rapid, called le Grosse Volante; at least 3 miles long
with little breaks in places; exceeding strong current; all ashore
but three to shoot the canoe. At the end of this a cataract, which has
a sloping descent over smooth rock, about 20 feet and called chutte
à Monataggé, 100 yards over a good road. On the right side of the
portage is a channel, which leads into the lac. Went through it about
70 yards and then entered lac Monataggé‚23. From the end of the
channel went W.S.W. 1 mile to a grassy point on right. Turned round the
point W.N.W. 3 miles between two islands, a large stone in the middle of
the channel which is narrow. From this, the lac appears spacious with isles
to right. Passed a wide bay on the left and a large island called
isle de Diable. The end of the course is between two islands N.N.W.
3 1/2 miles. Then turned the island on right N.W. 1/4 mile across a
bay to a point on left, several islands on right. From thence in a deep
bay to a point on the right N.W. by W. 1/4 mile. Passed two wide
openings and several islands on left. N.W. by W. 1 1/4 miles to a
point on left; sandy beach on right and spacious lac on left.
Then 1 1/2 miles N.W. to a rocky point of an island on right, lac
spacious and many islands on both sides. Then N.W. by N. 2 1/2
miles to a remarkable peaked uneven rock on a point on right;
lac spacious and many islands on left. From the rock 1/2 mile to a
rocky point on left, deep bay on right. Turned round the point W.
by N. 1 1/4 miles to a point on right, several islands on left and
isles and rocky uneven shore on right. Then crossed to the point
of an island 3 1/2 miles W.N.W.; four bays on right and many
islands, also islands and spacious lac on left. Then N.W. by W.
to a low rocky point 1 1/4 miles being a narrow neck and rapid
called rapid à la Loutre; bay and islands on right; spacious lac
and islands on left. From this point shot the rapid and entered
another lac [Abram lake]. Encamped. This rapid is well stored
with poisson doré and whitefish. Lac de Montaggé‚ [Minnitaki lake]
is the largest we have been in since we left lac Nippigon and is
very full of islands which makes the way rather difficult. As to
the river we have left behind us today, I can say little in its favour.
It is so very full of rapids, that it must be hurtful to canoes and
fatiguing to the man to go against the current; the line must be
out three parts of the way, and if the water is high, it will
cover over the stones on the shore, which is the only way the
men have to walk in. On the contrary, the portages are good in
general and, though choked up with small woods, the ground is
dry and even, and the small woods may be soon cleared away. One
recommendation for this way I must mention is its shortness,
which I am pretty certain, by the courses we have made, exceeds
le Chemin Neuve by Sturgeon lake. The guide informs me that the
river which descends from Sturgeon lake, falls also into this
lake, but does not think we should have arrived here so soon,
had we taken the other road. He says it is one river [Sturgeon
river] all the way and is called by the Canadians rivière de
Chemin Neuve, and by the Indians Pishu a sepy24. I put much
confidence in what this man says, as he has been brought up
among the Canadians and seems very fond of them. He is an
excellent guide, and good hunter and, in a word, the very reverse
of our former guide, he being the most villainous and this the
best Indian that ever I met with. I am induced to make this
digression at the end of the day in favour of a man whom
Providence has put in our way, for had it not been for him when
we arrived in Sturgeon lake, the fruits of the voyage must have
been lost, and we probably perished for want of provisions.
(23) John Long tells us that Shaw had a post here in 1777-78;
Long visited it in January 1778; he calls it Manontoye: the
North West Company spelling about 1808 was Monontagua: or
Monontague; the modern spelling of the name Minnitaki dates from
Dr. R. Bells survey of 1872 and has led to the suggested
derivation of the name from the Sioux words Minne "water" and
Tanka "big". The explanation is not very convincing despite the
fact that the Sioux are said to have come this far north to pilfer
and plunder and a high rocky bluff which has given its name to Sioux
Lookout railway station is pointed out as the place where they used
to lie in wait. Aeneas McDonnell, writing to Roderick Mackenzie from
lac Seul, 15 June, 1807, states that "In the fall of 1802 when I first
came to this country, there were forty Indians in Monontague, (exclusive
of boys) then independent of Red lake. Ten of that number are now
dead, seven of them were killed by their relatives in their drunken frolics
the other three died a natural death. They appear to be a tribe of the
Missassagues, at least their language and manners much resemble each other
and seem to be a mixture of the Sauteux and Maskigon". Umfrevilles Manitou
or Devil Island is still so known to the Indians. Mr. W. S. Jardine of Sioux
Lookout states it is the largest and furthest out of the small group of Islands
off the mouth of Minnikau river where the bay enters the main body of water;
the largest island which lies right in the mouth of the bay is of a very
irregular coast line and the southernmost point is of a rather remarkable rock
formation, which may be the rock referred to by Umfreville.
(24) Indian for "Lynx river".
Wednesday, 14 July. From the rapid à la Loutre
Minnitaki lake and Abram lake] W. by N. 3 1/2 miles to a narrow
channel between two islands; lac des Truits [southwest portion
of Abram lake] which appears like a river on the left, one
island, two bays, and river mentioned yesterday on right, which
river passing the point of a bay bore N. by E. The channel
mentioned in last course has several stones in it, which makes it
very narrow....then W.S.W. to the mouth of river du lac Seul25
3/4 mile, deep bay and two islands on left. From the mouth of the
river 1 1/2 miles to a rapid near 1/4 mile long and difficult.
Debarked all but three. After passing the canoe, portage Shatake26,
on right side and 156 yards over a good road. From the end
of the portage W.S.W. 1 1/2 miles then 2 miles, where the river
appears to be divided into two branches. Went down the right
hand one. The other is a lac and called by the Indians Tête de
François27 and bore from the middle of the channel west.
N.N.E. 1 mile. Then turned upon the right N.E. 2 miles to a
point on left, round point 1/4 mile when it opens into a small
lac. Crossed it from the point of first island N.N.W. 2 miles,
(passed three islands and bay on left and three bays and one
island on right) to the river, [Crooked rapids] rocky on both
sides; in it 5 miles to a wide channel, in the middle of which
is a large island of pine trees and a long view in a straight
line about 5 leagues. Passed between the island and the main on
the left shore, from which to the first point of the island 1/2
mile island 3/4 long. From the lower end of it E. by N. 2 1/2 miles
to a broad channel on left, leaving the main branch behind us. Went
in it N.W. by W. 3/4 mile to a narrow channel on left. The channel
leads into a lac. Turned the point on left and went 3/4 mile W.N.W.
to the point of an island on left, leaving a deep narrow opening on left.
Then W. by S. 1/4 mile to a stony point on right, deep bay on left.
Then N.W. by W. along north shore 3/4 mile. Then left the lac and
entered the river N. by W. 1/2 mile then, 1 mile to a rapid. Shot
it with ease, having plenty of water. Then a small lac in which 1/4
mile to first point on left. Turned the point which is rocky, then
100 yards to a point of grass. Went along it 1 mile and then the
river. Passed a deep bay and two islands on right. Went 2
miles to the end of the grass on left shore, then W. by S. 3 1/2
miles in a broad channel to a grassy point on right. Passed a
deep bay on right and a rocky point and a bay on left. Encamped.
The river de lac Seul so far has a very flattering appearance,
being in many places near a mile wide, with an easy current all
the way and pleasant shores, and is a very fine inland river.
Its course after leaving the large island mentioned before is east and our
guide says runs down to one of the Hudson's Bay settlements. The
rapid passed in it today is passed by the line going against the current.
(25) Umfreville's name for English river from Minnitaki lake to lac
(26) Modern Pelican portage; Shatake, usually written Chitek is
Indian for pelican.
(27) Meaning Frenchman Head lake; still so called though designated
Lost lake on most maps.
Thursday, 15 July. Passed an opening like a
right (this opening afterwards turns into a large bay, in which
the French people sometimes pass to lac Seul, to avoid the
portage, but our guide says it is a round about way) and high
rocky points on left, then W.S.W. 2 miles. Passed two islands and one
bay on right and a grassy opening like a swamp at the beginning of the
course on left. Turned a point on left and went W.S.W. 4 miles in a clear
wide channel [Grassy bay] to a grassy point on right. Passed a
bay and one island on left. Turned point and went N.W. by W. 1/2
mile to a stony point, deep bay and two islands in left, N.W. 1/4
mile to a grassy point on right, then in a bay N.W. 1 1/2 miles
to a narrow channel, wild rice on each side. Went in it about 3
miles, meadow land on each side, always keeping the right hand
channel to an opening which appears between a few willows to a
small lac. This is a portage and called portage la Prairie, 220 yards
over a fine meadow, not having one stick in the way. Then
in the lac [Canoe lake]...to a point on right, being the entrance
of a broad channel, like a river [Canoe river]. Went in
it about 1 mile to a rock in the channel, when it opens into a
small lac. Crossed it 1 mile to a point on right. Then another
small lac. Crossed it N.N.E. 3/4 mile to a narrow channel, with
high grass on each side. Went to the end of it 4 miles to the
beginning of lac Seul, in which to first point on left 1/4 mile.
Across a bay on left to the point of an island 1/2 mile, from
which point, which is rocky, crossed over to a long island on
the right and coasted along it about 7 miles crossing a bay on
left. In this course, which is west, passed a sandy point which
has a round stone on it called roche de Diable. This stone is
reverenced by the Indians who have deposited several presents to
the old gentleman. Passing the point, which is about 1 mile from
roche de Diable went W.N.W. 2 1/2 miles to a point on right, an
excellent fishing place, a bay on right, spacious lac on left.
In this course passed by an old settlement29 of Mr. Lyons on
the right, when we were stopped by rain for the third time this
day. Pierre Bonneau parted from us this mornmg in company with
the Indians met yesterday. On the first entrance into lac Seul,30
a long opening appears in view and goes north. Our guide
informs me that all the Indians who trade at Albany Fort, pass
by here, that it is no more than three days paddling to Henley house and
five to Albany fort and that Mr. Lyons made 36 packs one year at
(28) Umfreville here leaves English river, but rejoins it again
in lac Seul.
(29) Presumably near the present Hudson's Bay Co. post; John Long mentions
a post on the lake in charge of Joseph La Forme in 1778.
(30) Bishop Anderson In "The Net In the Bay" implies that lac
Seul, meaning the "lonely" or "solitary" lake, is a translation
of an Indian name of the lake; Umfreville is the first to
mention the like by its present name: John Long in his book,
published 1791, calls it lac Sel, meaning Salt lake; however,
he never visited the lake; another Indian name of the lake is
Obijikoka, the meaning of which Dr. R. Bell in Geol. Surv. Report
1872 gives as lake of "the strait of white pine trees' referring to the
narrows at the present Hudson's Bay Co. post. Umfreville's name for
English river below lac Seul, Mattauwaw or "forks" river, refers to its
"junction" with modern Chukuni river.
Friday, 16 July. To the point of an island on
lac and islands on left and several other islands in a cluster
on left near the course. Here we met three canoes of Indians
(mostly men) on their way to Albany fort. Two of these were
chiefs, one of Sturgeon lac and the other of lac Seul.
We made them a present of tobacco, powder and shot with a gallon keg
of liquor and, as it is necessary to make friends with men of
influence on the road, we encamped according to their request.
Some liquor was given them afterwards, but they were tolerably
peacable on the whole, and we parted very good friends. It is true
the best part of a day is lost, but, as they traded some provisions
with us, our men have no occasion to eat their corn, which from eight
sacks at Pais Plat is reduced to less than two. Latitude 50º 22' N.
Saturday, 17 July. To a rocky point on right,
at a distance on left. Latitude, as yesterday, 50º 22'. This
morning we left the islands early but were obliged to embark the
guide in our canoe, without his wife and children, she being
drunk and unwilling to depart. This obliged us to wait for them
at the end of the course. Accordingly they came up to us in the
evening, but the work of two fine days was lost, and this I must
contribute entirely to our having spirits with us, which is entirely
unnecessary in a voyage where expedition is a primary object, on
account of provisions, which begin to be in pain for, as it runs off
very fast notwithstanding we have two nets in the water at every opportunity,
but the provisions has been consumed by means unforseen. A guide must be
had at all events and him and his family maintained or he will
not proceed. This has been as heavy upon our stock as the men's
allowance. It was the opinion of Mr. Grant that the less
spirituous liquors we had with us the better. This was my opinion and
also the opinion of the traders we met at lac de Petite Jour, who were
intelligent men. An Indian may be as meek as a lamb when sober and the same
man when drunk a mere devil. In short, we have not had occasion
for an hour's uneasiness in all the route, but what has proceeded from
this infernal stimulator. Were we on a trading voyage, I own the
necessity of it.
Sunday, 18 July. Turned the rocky point mentioned
went N.W. by W. 3 miles to a point on right (the lac here
appears narrower) then N.W. by W. about 1 mile across the lac
till we were in the midway between two small islands of stones.
Here are three small stony islands, but we took the course
between the two farthest. Then N.N.W. 3 miles to a conspicuous
sandy point on left [Manitoba point]. Turned the sandy point and
crossed a bay 2 miles to next point on left, islands on right.
Then slanted over the adjoining bay to a rocky point on right,
being a broad channel [Poplar narrows] with grass on right; W. by N.
3 miles in it; N.W. by N. 1 1/2 miles to a point on left; a bay on
right; then 1 mile along the point which is of wild rice, and from it a
long view forward....to a broad strait [Shanty narrows]; several islands
on right. Went in the strait 4 1/2 miles to the extreme point on
right, without regarding several openings on left. Then entered
the lac again; W.N.W 6 miles a traverse, to a point on right;
lac spacious on both sides, one large island on left and several
on right. Encamped. At least half this day was lost by Mr. St. Germaine
leaving the key of the trunk, cave and quadrant case at last night's
encampment. This was a loss not to be retrieved in this part. Accordingly
we went in search of them after we had proceeded 4 leagues, and, the wind
blowing hard, it was late before the canoe arrived. Stoppages are now become
so regular that I look for some impediment every day. One of the Indian
chiefs passed us to-day, having altered his mind in going to Albany Fort.
LAC SEUL TO WINNIPEG RIVER
Monday, 19 July. From the point on the right 2
1/2 miles to a
point on same side. Here the lac draws more narrow. 150 yards
to another point on right, then N.W. by W. to a rocky point,
apparently at end of the lac, 1 mile, but is a narrow neck which
directly opens into the lac, course nearly N.W. by W. 3 miles to
a white conspicuous rock on a point on left; many islands and
spacious lac on right. Went near the land on left; then 1 mile
to a smooth rocky point of an island on left N.W. by N. 2 miles
to the point of an island on left, lac spacious and many islands on
both sides; several small islands on left and larger ones on right.
Then N.N.W. 3 miles to the point of an island on right; lac spacious
and many islands on both sides N.W. 3 1/2 miles to the point of a small
rocky island on left with burnt woods on it. Lac here draws
narrow. Passed two islands on left and one bay on right. N.W. by W.
1 1/2 miles to a grassy point on right. Then entered a bold
river called Mattauwaw went in it with a fresh current in our
favour 2 1/2 miles to portage de l'Oreille [upper Ear falls], 146
yards over a good road. At the bottom of this rapid is a bay, on
the bottom of which is the other portage de I'Oreille [Lower Ear falls],
being both together called les deux portages de l'Oreille. The last is
280 yards over and tolerable road, the latter part of it much descending.
Both portages are on the left. From the end of the last turned first
point on the right and went 14 1/2 miles to the branch [Chukuni river].
The one on the left we entered south, leaving the right hand one running
west. Went in the south branch 1 1/2 miles, when it opens into a
lac [Camping lake]. Crossed it to a rock on a point on right. S.E. by S.
5 miles, leaving a long grassy point on the left. Then coasted
along the shore on the right, 3/4 mile to an opening on the same
side. Then crossed a small bay 3/4 mile S. by W. to portage Cyprès,
[avoiding upper Manitou falls] as called by our guide. The portage is
difficult to find being 100 yards through long grass, before you
reach the woods. It is 1810 yards over, or 1 mile and 50 yards.
The road is good. Encamped. The river we have been in to-day is
a fine bold river, being in general about 50 yards over, deep
water and an easy current. From the commencement to the branch,
there is no other river or creek of consequence that runs into it, so that
the proper course cannot be mistaken. The guide says that the
branch left runs down to lac Rouge31 [Red lake] and is one
and a half days -and also three carrying places, but I could never learn
there was any passage to portage de l'Isle by the way of lac Rouge-
paddle from the branch to the lac and the lac at the other end
of this portage, he says, is nearly dry when the water is low.
(31) For John Long's explanation of the name Red lake see
Tuesday, 20 July. From the end of the portage
fell into the river
again and went 3/4 mile between two stony points. From hence
1 1/4 miles to portage à la Chute [Lower Manitou falls], a cataract
of about 30 feet descent; portage on right side and 106 yards
over. From the portage went S.W. by W. 1 1/2 miles to a rocky point
on left. Then W.S.W. in a lac [Barnston lake] 2 miles a small
island of stones on right and bay on each side, to a strait. In
it 3/4 mile to a rapid [between Barnston lake and Wegg lake].
Passed it easily, then left an island on left and took a narrow
channel on right. 300 yards to another rapid. Passed it as
before. Then a lac;32 [Wegg lake]: course 3 miles to a point on
right, a high point of woods laying opposite. Then coasted along same
shore 1 1/2 miles to a point, passing a small rocky island on left.
Then traversed 1 1/2 miles to a rocky point on left, a small island
opposite to it and bay on right. Course N.W. by W. Then turned the point
and went west 3/4 mile to a rocky point on left, then to a rock on left
W. by S. 3 miles passed an island on left, then W.S.W. 3 miles to a high
point on left appearing like a narrow strait, but afterwards into
a river. From the strait mentioned turned upon the right and
went 8 miles to a lac [Wilcox lake] in which S.W. 3 miles to a lofty
point of an island on left; passed a deep bay on each side. Coasted along
the island about 3/4 mile. From it S.W. 1 1/2 miles to a low rocky point
on right, passing two small islands on left. From thence to a grassy point
on same side, near 1/4 mile. Turned the grassy point and traversed 1/2 mile
to a point on left turned the point and entered a river again and went 1 mile
to a rapid [just below Wilcox lake]. Shot it by leaving one small island on
right and another near it on left. Then went S. by W. to a point on left
1 mile, then 2 1/2 miles farther to portage de l'Isle [Upper Oak falls],
22 yards over a rock, being a small isle in the middle of the river.
The guide says this is the first time that ever the canoe passed this
cataract in this manner, the usual manner being to discharge on a rock on the
right and make a portage on the main, which portage, he says is called
La Pante. About 20 yards from which two small islets. Shot the remainder
of the rapid, leaving the two islands on the left. 1/4 mile to portage Galais,
near 70 yards over a rock. From the end of this portage S.E. by S. 1 1/2 miles
to portage à la Pointe [Lower Oak falls] 46 yards over a rock; portage
on right side and island on left in the middle of the channel. From the
portage into a lac [Oak lake]. Course from the portage S.S.W. 1/2 mile
to the smooth rocky point of an island on right, then S.W. 2 miles a
traverse to the point of a small rocky isle on left, lac spacious to the right.
Then same course to an opening, which appears like a river, distant 2 miles.
Turned the point on left and entered a river again, passing a small rocky
island on right and leaving a long straight view behind us. Went in it
2 1/2 miles to a rapid, passing it on left side, then 5 3/4 miles to a small
lac. Crossed it S.S.E. 1 mile to a strait. In it 1/4 mile to the extreme
point on right. Then entered a lac [Maynard lake], turned the point on right
and went W.S.W. 1 mile to a point on left (long view to the left entering
the lac), leaving a rocky island on right. Turned the point and traversed
S.W. by W. 3 1/2 miles to a low point on right. Passed four large islands
on left and one on right then W.S.W. 1 1/4 miles to a point of stones. Here
we found the chief mentioned the 18th with another chief and three young men,
who had a fine stock of deer's flesh and which they were desirous of trading.
This was most acceptable to us as the men had began upon their last sack
of corn. The old man who had returned affected much regard for
me as being a Sagonosh [Englishman] and was honoured in an
extraordinary manner, by their discharging their fuzees. These
Indians and those who we left on the 17th promised me that in
case I wintered hereabouts they would trade their fur with me
and I have some reasons to think them sincere.
(32) Wegg lake commemorates Samuel Wegg, Governor, Hudson's Bay Co.
1782-99; present Wegg lake and Barnston lake are considered
as one and called Governor Wegg's lake on Arrowsmith's map, 1796.
In 1872 Dr. R. Bell named Young, Lount, Barnston, Ball, Maynard and
Jarvis lakes after members of his survey party J. C. Young, George Lount,
Alex Barnston, Alfred S. Ball and Wm. Maynard and after E. W. Jarvis, C. E.
Wednesday, 21 July. On examining the meat traded
find we have full allowance for four days without touching the
corn. The point of stones mentioned yesterday is the beginning
of a wide strait with a very strong current. Went in it 1/4 mile
to portage la Chutte (Maynard falls); 170 yards over a rock on
right side. The place for reloading the canoe is exceeding bad,
the water being much agitated by the rapid. From the portage
entered a lac33 [Tide lake]....crossed a bay to a strait
[between Tide lake and Ball lake]....Then in a lac [Ball lake]
....spacious on both sides....to a rock point on left, being the
entrance into a strait [between Ball lake and Indian lake]. Went in
it near 2 miles to a lac [Indian lake]. S.W. 6 miles to a rocky
point on left, several bays on left. Then S.W. by W. along
south shore to a point on right, which appears like a narrow
strait. Passed between a rocky island on left and several on right
2 miles, then S.S.W. to a point on left 2 miles. Lac narrow. Turned
the point, leaving several smooth rocks on right and a wide channel behind
us. Then entered a strait in which went 7 miles to a lac [Lount lake].
Turned first point on right and entered a bold channel like a river. Went
in it 3 miles when it opens into a lac. W. 4 1/2 miles to a point of wild
rice on right; two bays on right and one on left, several islands on right.
Then west 3 miles to the point of an island on right; islands on both sides.
Then traversed S.E. by E. 2 miles to a point on left; deep bay on right.
One island on left. Then coasted along the island W.N.W. 1 1/2 miles to first
point on left, from which crossed west 1 1/4 miles to the opposite shore,
along which 1 1/4 miles to first point on right. Encamped. Met a family
today in two canoes from whom we traded a moose-skin tent and yesterday one
cub beaver and two cub otters.
(33) John Long wintered here 1778-79. Shabeechevan is the name
he applies to the lake. T. Fawcett, D.L.S. in Dept. Intr. Rep. 1885,
part II, p. 32 spells Esquabatchewan and explains that "the water at
the [Maynard] falls runs round in a circle, causing a constant ebb and
flow of about three feet, giving rise to the Indian name which literally
means high and low water. The North West Co. had a post here at the coalition
as had the Hudson's Bay Co. later. Bishop Anderson, who ascended English river
in 1852 refers to the latter post in "The Net In the Bay". Prof. E. L. Bruce
in Ont. Dept. of Mines Rep. 1924 Part IV p. 2, mentions the discovery in 1922
of the remains of an old post. "The walls of the main building can be traced
as low mounds and show the size was about 45 to 50 feet, with two main rooms
each with a large fireplace. The stones for the fireplaces were obtained
from the outcrop of granite at the portage about half a mile to the east.
Another building of nearly equal proportions was found near this large
one. Poplar trees, 18 inches in diameter, were growing in the place once
occupied by the building show that the building must have fallen down
many years ago".
Thursday, 22 July. From the point on right W. by
S. 6 miles to a
strait between two islands. Passed three bays on right and some large
islands on left. Turned the point on right, another laying opposite.
Went along the end of the island 1 1/2 miles and then turned upon the
right in a kind of strait to a grassy point on left 1 mile. Turned the
point which is rocky and entered a strait, having an opening and islands
on right. Went in it 2 3/4 miles, when it opens into a kind of broken lac
[Separation lake]....islands on each aide and spacious lac on right. Then
west 1 mile to an island which I named Isle des Framboises, on account of
its being covered with most delicious ones. Here the Indians we met
yesterday and who returned with us pointed out to us a shorter way to
portage de l'Isle, than the one we were in, which goes directly to
portage de Rats [Rat portage]. On arriving there, we must descend down
Winnipeg river a considerable distance to portage de l'Isle, whereas the
one he pointed out is much shorter. This intelligence he inadvertently
let fall. As Indians are in the way to portage des Rats, he was in hopes
of raising a drink. Luckily our trusty guide was acquainted with the way
and though his wife refused to go with us be left her and two children to
continue in our company....a long rapid [Separation rapid] which was named
by Monsr St. Germaine de la Pouvent and on which we were nearly trapped, for,
attempting to shoot it, we were not aware of a sudden descent it has nearly
across the river over a smooth black rock, which is covered with water and
is difficult to be seen. We had just time enough to gain the shore, after
which all debarked except two to shoot the canoe. This rapid may be
avoided by passing on the other side of the island on left, but there you
have a portage to a small rapid, where the channel is narrowed by large
white stones projecting from the left shore. From the rapid went 2 miles
to portage des Chênes, [Upper Kettle falls] named by our men. 260 yards
over on right side and after cutting away some windfalls etc. a good road.
Near the bottom of the rapid are two islands. Left them on the right and
in about 1 mile from the rapid another island. Left it and a bay on left.
From the island went 1/2 mile to a low rocky point on right. Then traversed
to the opposite shore and discharged on a rock at the head of a cataract.
Portage [middle Kettle falls] was called by St. Germaine des Trembles,
247 yards over and, being cleared, a good road. Exactly opposite is portage
de Petite Rivière [Lower Kettle falls] named by our men; 500 yards over a
good road. From this we were introduced to a swamp in which went 3/4 mile
and fell into the river again. The junction is a fine fishing place for
sturgeon, etc. From the end of la Petite Rivière went 8 miles to the
mouth of a small river on right called la rivière de Beau Soleil
[Sturgeon river]. Its left shore has a stony point which our men called
pointe au Baptême, on account of my paying my baptême here.
Friday, 23 Ju1y. From the little river mentioned
6 miles when our river opens wide in the form of a long lac, [One man lake].
Then in it 9 miles farther, when it has a rounder form with many islands in
it....came to a rapid called de l'Isle [foot of One man lake] a small rocky
island being on right, shot it with ease, having plenty of water. From the
rapid N.W. by W. 1 1/2 miles to point on left. Then turned upon the left
3/4 mile to a smooth rocky isle in the channel. From this a lac
[Umfreville lake]34... Then entered the river again, went in it
2 1/2 miles to rapid Carribou [Deer falls]; portage 47 yards over a smooth
rock on right....fell into rivière Ouinipique and a red rock being portage
de l'Ile, [Boundary falls on some maps] the place of our destination.
[Umfreville remained at portage de l'Ile for two days, during which
St. Germaine and he wrote up their diaries. On Monday they left for
Grand Portage. Soon after entering lake of the Woods, Raymond, the
"governail" became uncertain of the route and, to avoid missing the
canoe that was on its way to meet them, Umfreville decided to return
to Rat Portage and await it there].
(34) So named after the explorer in 1925.
EXTRACTS FROM THE WRITINGS OF
OTHER EARLY TRAVELLERS
THROUGH THE REGION
FROM DUNCAN CAMERON "The Nipigon Country" in
Masson, Bourgeois, Vol II, pp. 242 and 244
One Monsieur Clause, who was afterwards killed by the Indians at
Fond du Lac, was the first [trader] who passed Lake Nipigon in
the year 1767 and got as far as Nid du Corbeau35, which was
then considered a great distance indeed. He and his men were
almost starved to death and reduced to eat several packs of
beaver to preserve their lives.
This was a poor encouragement to others; however, some years
after other traders came to Lac La Savanne (Savant lake], Nid de
Corbeau and lac du Pichou where several men were starved to
death at different times. In lac la Savanne, no less than four
out of eight starved in one year....No one attempted to go
beyond Nid du Corbeau and Lac du Pichou [Cat lake] till the
year 1793, when I sent one Mr. Turcot with three well-mounted
canoes to penetrate as far north as he possibly could, but they
got no farther than Big lake. None....got any farther till I came
to this quarter myself in the year 1796, when the English were
again carrying all before them. Since that time I got above one
hundred leagues farther than Big Lake and met with the York traders.
(35) Meaning Crowsnest; Arrowsmith's map, 1796 and later maps
place it between Sturgeon lake and Savant lake; present day
Indians do not know a lake of the name; possibly it is modern
Crow lake; crows nest in the region.
From a manuscript diary of DANIEL HARMON, 1807-08
Saturday, 25 July, 1807. This afternoon I in company of three
canoes left Fort William and came and encamped on an island in
lake Superior and am thus far on my way to Sturgeon Lake.
Saturday, 1 August, 1807. Pointe à la Gourgaine, [Gourgane
-horse-bean; the point is at the north entrance to Nipigon strait].
In the morning Messrs Haldane, Leith, Chaboillez, McLoughlin, Russel
and Dougall Camerons and Roderick McKenzie overtook and came on with us.
Monday, 3 August, 1807. First long portage in the Nipigon road.
Yesterday we separated with Messrs. Chaboillez and Leith who are gone
to winter at the Pic and Michipicotton....and today we left lake Superior.
Friday, 7 August, 1807. Fort Duncan which stands on the north side
of Nipigon lake....
Sunday, 9 August, 1807. In the morning we sent off three canoes
but in the afterpart of the day, some of the people returned
with the melancholy tidings that one of their companions was
drowned in going up a small rapid when the canoe he was in
upset, but all the others saved themselves by swimming ashore.
Also the most of the property they had on board was lost.
Thursday, 13 August, 1807. In the morning Mr. Haldane, the
Doctor and myself, etc., left fort Duncan, where Mr. McKenzie will pass
the ensuing winter and where we separated also with the Mr. Camerons as
there we took different routes they northward and we westward.
Monday, 24 August, 1807. Portage du Fort, Sturgeon lake.
Where we arrived yesterday; and this morning Mr. Haldane left us to
continue his route to Red Lake but the Doctor and I, with four
labouring men are to winter at the other end of this, and for
which place we shall leave this tomorrow.
Tuesday, 1 September, 1807. Our people are putting up houses for
us to pass the winter in. Here we take whitefish pretty plentifully.
The lake may be about forty miles long and from one to five
broad. The country after leaving Lake Superior lies low and
pretty level. There are no mountains to be seen and but few
hills. However there are a great number of small lakes and ponds
and rivers and brooks and has been a beaver country, but now
these animals are become scarce for they have been continually
hunted by the natives for more than a hundred years.
Saturday, 3 October, 1807. Sent people to the other side of
this lake to make a fishery of whitefish, pike and carp....They are
the principal food of the people of this part of the world. Yet
there is no want of moose and cariboux hereabouts. The Indians
who frequent this post are Sauteux and Muscagoes.
Monday, 9 November 1807. Our people are returned from the fishery....
Monday, 28 December, 1807. Doctor McLaughlin....has gone to pay a visit
to Mr. Haldane at Red lake.
Tuesday, 24 May, 1808. As this place will not be kept during the
summer, I therefore have sent our people with the goods we have
remaining on hand to the next establishment, lac Seul, which
place lies about four days march from this.
Thursday, 9 June, 1808. Portage du Fort and where we shall wait
the arrival of the people of this department and then continue
our route with them to Fort William....
Wednesday, 22 June 1808. Fort Duncan. The people for whom we
were waiting at Portage du Fort arrived on the 12th and the day
following we all set off for this place, where we arrived this afternoon.
Saturday, 25 June, 1808. Yesterday we left Fort Duncan and have
come and encamped on an island in lake Nipigon where we shall
remain a few days to fish for trout which are plentiful and of
an excellent quality.
Thursday, 7 July, 1808. Yesterday morning I arrived at Fort William.
From JOHN LONG'S "Voyages and Travels of an Indian
Interpreter and Trader", London, 1791.
John Long spent two years from 1777 to 1779 in the region north of lake
Superior. His movements are narrated in the extracts from his book which
follow. The words are his own:-
I made an excursion to Montreal where I met with an offer to go
to an interpreter to the north....On the fourth of May, 1777 I left Montreal
with two large birch canoes, called by the French maître canots, having ten
Canadians in each....On the 4th of July we arrived at Pays Plat, on the
northeast side of the Lake [Superior], where we unpacked our goods and made
the bales smaller having by the Indian accounts, one hundred and eighty carrying
places to the part where I intended to winter....On the 21st we embarked....
I engaged twenty of the Chippeways to accompany me in passing by land the
Grands Côte de a Roche [Long portage] which is the route that all the traders
are obliged to take, on account of the great cataract [Cameron falls] which
is reckoned six hundred feet in height near the entrance of the Nipegon River.
This journey is extremely fatiguing to the men who are obliged to ascend a
steep hill with considerable burdens, and for this reason it is customary to
rest two or three days to recruit their strength.
We left la Grande Côte de La Roche in good spirits, and continued our voyage
to Lake Alemipigon....We stayed here ten days encamped by the side of the
lake....On the first of August we departed with fifteen Indians not only
to serve as guides but to assist us across the portages. We lived on animal
food and roots, reserving our corn and hard grease for the winter. Every
evening at sunset we encamped and got into our canoes at break of day. We
continued our march to Lac Eturgeon or Sturgeon lake....
On the twenty fifth of September we arrived at Lac la Mort or Dead Lake,
situate to the [northwest] north east of Lake Alemipigon.
This lake is about sixty miles in circumference, the Land low
and swampy and the water very unpleasant to the palate: it has been much
frequented by the Indians, for, during the time I wintered there, I discovered
no less than thirty five different roads, about three feet wide, leading from
the wood to the Lake side; it abounds with fish....
Close to the lake side....we erected a loghouse, thirty feet long and twenty
feet wide, divided into two apartments, into which we deposited our goods....
In the beginning of January, 1778 our provisions run short....the men became
disheartened; this induced me to propose a journey to Lake Manontoye, where we
knew Mr. Shaw, a brother trader, had wintered, to endeavour to procure some
wild rice, which the Indians told me grew in the swamps at that place....I put
on my snow shoes and persuaded an Indian and his wife, who were with me
occasionally and had accidentally come in from the hunt with six hares, to
accompany me, promising them payment in rum at my return; they agreed to go
and it was very fortunate they did, as I could not have found the way without
We set off with the six hares and travelled four days without killing
On our arrival at Lac Eturgeon, as the weather was bad, we encamped three days,
which gave me an opportunity of making some observations on this Lake, which
I could not do when I passed it in my way to Lac la Mort.
When arrived within about six miles of the lake [Manontoye], we met a small
party of Indians who alarmed us by an account of a dreadful confusion among
their tribe, occasioned by the Hudson's Bay Savages having killed three of
their band; and they said they believed Mr. Shaw had fallen a sacrifice to
Mr. Shaw's house might very properly be styled a fort, being secured by
high pickets which made it difficult for the Indians to approach it and
he had taken the precaution to fasten the outer gate as well as the door.
I told the chief it was not my my intention to interfere, that I passed
accidentally in my way to Lac le Rouge and should only stay to refresh
myself. This information pleased him exceedingly as be knew Mr. Shaw
had only one man in the house, the rest, with the interpreter, being
out in search of provisions, so that at my departure there would not
remain force sufficient to obstruct the proceedings....
I remained with Mr. Shaw until the return of his men and took and Indian slay,
loaded with wild rice and dried meat and two of his Canadians to assist me....
Lake Manontoye, where Mr. Shaw wintered is not so large as Lac Eturgeon: it
abounds with excellent fish and wild fowl; and oats, rice and cranberries grow
spontaneously in the swamps. There are very few islands on it.
A few days after my return to Lac la Mort, a band of Savages arrived from
the Red Lake, called by the Indians, Misqui Sakiegan, and some from Lake
Shabeechevan or the Weed lake [Tide lake] about five days march beyond
lake Manontoye. Red Lake is so called on account of a remarkable circumstance
which happened to two favourite warriors of the Chippeway nation who were
hunting by the lake side, and as they were looking out for game perceived
at some distance an enormous beast, that appeared much larger than any
animal they had ever seen; his pace was slow and heavy and he kept
constantly by the water side. They followed him as close as they thought
prudent determined at all hazards to use their best endeavours to kill him.
As they approached, they had a clearer view, and discovered that his body
was covered with something like moss; this increased their surprise and
after consulting together, they continued advancing toward the beast, and
fired large shot, without appearing to make any impression. They fired
again with as little effect as before; then retreated some distance sat
down and sung their war songs, addressing themselves to the Master of Life,
and desiring his assistance to enable them to conquer it, as they believed
it to be the Matchee Manitoo, or bad spirit in the shape of this monster.
They then got up and pursued him, both firing at the same time; the shot
proved successful and caused the animal to turn round, which induced them
to keep up their fire till the beast jumped into the water and they lost
sight of him. From the circumstance of his blood dyeing the water red, this
lake has ever since been called the Red lake....
From Red Lake to Lake le Sel, or Salt Lake [lac Seul], by the Indian accounts,
there are fourteen short portages, and twenty-two creeks. Lake le Sel is
very small, and the water shallow and muddy. It does not exceed three miles
in length. There are few fish except eels, cat fish and pike, but it abounds
with musquashes and wild fowl. From this lake to Lake Caribou, or Rein-Deer
Lake [Deer lake] is eight days march across five creeks and three portages.
Lake Caribou, or in the Indian language, Ateeque, is about thirty miles long,
with several small islands, resembling the Mille Isles, in the River
St. Laurence, above Montreal. The water is deep and clear and the bottom hard.
It abounds with large trout, white fish, pickerill, pike and sturgeon. It is
surrounded by a chain of high mountains. Some years ago a French trader
settled here, but of late it has been deserted. The Indians reckon it ten
days march to Lake Schabeechewan, across thirteen portages, and as many
creeks; but as I wintered there the following year, though I went to it by
a different track, [Wabigoon river]. I shall not describe it till I give an
account of the occurences of that time. From Lake Schabeechevan to
Lake Arbitibis are three small lakes, eight creeks, and five portages.
Lake Arbitibis is very large and the surrounding land rocky and mountainous.
This Lake furnishes the Indians with fish and wild fowl. The acquatic
race abound in this part of the world, doubtless so appointed for the
numerous tribes of Savages, who are obliged to resort to the lakes for food.
At the northern extremity of this Lake is a large fall of water, which flows
from a river whose current is rapid for about twenty miles. On this river
there are also dangerous rapids; the land upon its banks is low, and the
beach sandy. From Lake Arbitibis to Crow's-nest Lake, called by the Indians
Cark Sark Sakiegan, is a short distance. The utmost circumference of
Crow's-nest Lake scarcely exceeds two leagues, and is only remarkable
for a small island in the middle, with about forty high palm trees,
where the crows build their nests, which is called Cark Cark Minnesey.
The fish in this lake are very indifferent, being mostly of the sword-fish
kind, which the Indians seldom eat. From this Lake is a long portage, and
about a half way a high mountain. At the end of the carrying place is
a river called Cark Cark Seepi, or Crows' River, which runs with a
strong current for about thirty miles, from Neeshshemaince Sakiegan, or
the Lake of the Two Sisters; so called from the meeting of two currents,
which from one grand discharge into the lake. The Hudson's Bay Indians
hunt here with great success. At the end is a carrying place about a
quarter of a mile long that leads to a remarkably narrow river, which runs
with a strong current for about fifty leagues; the land on each side being
very high, makes the navigation dark. The Indians in going up this river
travel as light as possible, to enable them to combat the strong current.
The Hudson's Bay Company are supplied with a considerable quantity of peltry
from this river.
The severity of the season was sensibly felt by Mr. James Clark, belonging
to the same company, who had five men starved at Lake Savan, a bad lake for
fish, about three hundred and fifty miles from my wintering ground....
Early in the month of April , I received a letter from Monsieur Jacques
Santeron at Lake Schabeechevan, in the same employ as myself, to inform me
that he was tired of being a servant, and thinking his labours not
sufficiently rewarded, had determined to make a grand coup, having a number
of fine packs which he proposed selling to the Hudson's Bay Company, that he
should leave his wintering ground next morning with four birch canoes and
would write further particulars on bark, which he would nail against one
of the crooked trees at the foot of the Grand Rapid....I was disappointed
as I expected him to pass my wintering ground on his return to Pays Plat.
Cranberry Lake, so called from the great quantity of cranberries growing in
the swamps. We stopped here two days to refresh ourselves after the great
fatigue we had undergone in struggling against the rapids. Being sufficiently
recovered and having nothing to detain us we proceeded to a short carrying
place called La Grande Côte de La Roche, near the entrance of the Nipegon
River, which is a high ridge of rocks that must be passed to avoid the great
cataract which I mentioned in my former voyage.
....From La Grands Côte de la Roche, we proceeded to Lac le Nid au Corbeau
or Crow's Nest Lake, which is about two hundred miles in circumference and
supplied by a number of small rivers; there are also several islands on it
which furnish the Indians with great plenty of wild fowl; bears are also
found here in abundance and a surprising number of beaver dams, running in a
crooked direction about ten miles. The Chippeways hunt here and find a great
deal of game.
The reader will observe that in the first voyage I gave an account of another
Crow's Nest Lake, which is very small, with an island in the middle with high
palm trees; in such an extent of country it is not surprising that there
should be two places of the same name.
During our stay a band of Indians arrived from Lake Arbitibis who probably
were dissatisfied with the trader dealt with and intended to go to
The next day we took our leave and pursued our journey to Shecarke Sokiegan
or the Skunk's Lake which runs with a strong current. In the fall it abounds
with geese and ducks; here we hunted one day and with good success. The next
morning at break of day we embarked and had favourable weather till we arrived
at Lake Schabeechevan or the Weed Lake. This lake is about one hundred and
eighty miles in circumference and full of small islands; it abounds with fish
and the swamps are full of wild rice and cranberries; it is about six days
march from Lac la Mort.
Conceiving it my duty to exert my best endeavours to prevent the loss of so
much property to my employers, I engaged Kesconeek the chief and twenty
Savages, under promise of being satisfied for their trouble, to conduct
me to the crooked trees. We went off with the utmost expedition and in
a few days arrived at the spot, where I saw the piece of bark, as he
described and the following words written with charcoal, "Adieu, mon
cher ami, je prends mon départ avec courage et j'attends une bonne vente
pour ma pellterie. De bon coeur je vous souhaite a prospérité; faites
mes compliments à tous mes amis- Au revoir mon cher compagnon."
[Rough translation- Goodbye my dear friend, I bravely
take my leave
expecting a good sale for my pelts. In good faith I wish you prosperity;
give my regards to all of my friends- goodbye my dear companion.]
Having perused it, and explained it to the chief, he said he was a bad
spirit and that as he had been gone six days before our arrival, it would
be impossible to overtake him, as he could not be far from the entrance
of the North River, leading to Hudson's Bay....
We baled up our peltry and on the 23rd of May left Lac la Mort with four
small birch canoes richly laden with skins of beavers, otters, martens,
minx, loup serviers, beaver eaters, foxes, bears, etc....
On the 2nd day of July we arrived at Portage Plain, so called on account
of its being a barren rock, near a mile long, joining to Lake Alemipigon....
We continued our journey to Lac Eturgeon....We arrived at Pays Plat on the
10th of August....I delivered my cargo of furs, consisting of about one
hundred and forty packs, in good condition and loaded the canoes with the
fresh goods; then taking leave of my companions, prepared for my departure
for the inlands, to winter another year among the Nipegon Savages....
On the 15th of August I left Pays Plat, with four birch canoes and the same
men who wintered with me at Lac la Mort and arrived at Rivière a Pique
[Jackfish river], which runs into Lake Superior, this river is very crooked
for about seven miles and extremely deep; it abounds with fish, particularly
pike, from which it takes its name....
We proceeded on our voyage and arrived at a short carrying place, called
Portage la Rame, where we encamped for nine days, being windbound....The
wind proving favourable, we proceeded to [sentence ends at this
The lake was an unfortunate situation to my employers last year, when one
of their servants, Jacques Santeron went off with a valuable cargo. On my
arrival, I looked out for the house he had erected, but could not discern
the least trace of it; probably he was so elated he made a feu de joie on
the prospect of being his own master. At the extremity of this lake is a
fall of water, which runs from a river of the same name, and has a direct
communication with the waters leading from Fort Albany within the boundaries
of the Hudson's Bay territories; it is about thirty days march across
nineteen portages and creeks, besides fourteen rapids, which are a great
hindrance to the journey.
Having secured the canoes and refreshed my men with good soup, I left them
in charge of the goods and took two Indians to shew me in a convenient place
to build a house, which having fixed on, a building was erected, fifty feet
long and twenty feet wide, divided into two separate apartments, one for
merchandise and the other for common use.
An Indian arrived and informed me that Mr. Joseph la Forme a brother trader
who was settled at Lac le Sel, was killed by a Savage. On this information
I dispatched six Indians, with a trusty Canadian, to endeavour to secure the
property, in which they fortunately succeeded and brought away all the peltry,
merchandise etc., and the deceased trader's men, whom I engaged in my service.
The latter end of January, 1779, a band of the Rat Nation arrived, belonging
to Shekarkistergoan or the Skunk's head lake, which is between Lake Nipegon
and Lake Manontoye. They brought me provisions and furs, which I bartered for.
[Long goes on to relate the Indians told him that Mr. Fulton then had a post
at Shekarkistergoan and that Charles Janvier one of his men when starving on
a fishing trip had killed an Indian and then had a post at Shekarbistergoan
and that Charles Janvier one become cannibals; later Janvier killed St. Ange].
[this sentence is confused...]
In the month of February I had a visit from a trader, dressed in a smoked
leather shirt; who was accompanied by three Indians, and had been absent
five days from Fort Albany. He said be was induced to come from a motive
of curiosity to see me, not having heard of any person wintering so far
inland before, except the servants belonging to the Hudson's Bay Company.
[In April Umfreville [should be Long???] left his winter
for Pays Plat. ]
We continued our voyage without meeting with any occurrence worth relating
till we arrived at the Skunk's River....We pursued our journey to Lac le Nid
un Corbeau, where we killed some wild geese and ducks, which at this season
of the year have a fishy taste. Here we rested two days to enable us to
pursue the remainder of our voyage with greater vigour. The third morning,
at daybreak, we embarked, and arrived at La Grande Côte de la Roche.
We proceeded to Cranberry Lake, where we caught some fish and picked as
many cranberries as we could conveniently carry; from thence we continued
our route to Portage la Rame, where we were again wind-bound for some days;
but during our stay we had not a single visitor to disturb us. At length
the wind proving favourable, we proceeded to rivière la Pique....We continued
our voyage to Pays Plat, where we stayed some days in the society of traders,
who had also wintered in the inlands, and others who arrived with goods to
supply those who were engaged to return; but as my time was expired, I
returned to Michillimakinac.
Bill Martin, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada.
My Site Map