Friday, October 18, 2013

My new website and Blog

Good morning, everyone.
I have been a little busy lately, as you may know.
I have been setting up a new website. 
It was such a frustrating job, and I had so little time that I finally hired a professional to do it.
It's been up and running for a while, and I have enough information on the blog that I feel I can now promote it. 

On my new blog I will be writing about the transportation systems used by the Hudson's Bay Company -- the York Factory Express, the Brigades, and the London Ships.
I will put in the rest of the Anderson information I have, including information about the Japanese shipwreck on the Washington coast, 1834.

Will I post anything more on this old blog?
I don't know. 
But there's still lots of reading to do on it, so enjoy.
It is just not easy to travel around this blog to find the old posts -- and this is the huge advantage I find with WordPress.
You can categorize types of articles, so if anyone is interested in the brigade trails and only the brigade trails (for example) they can click on the brigade trail category and read only articles re: that particular subject.

The website is found at:
My new blog is attached to that website. 

Click here for the Website.
The blog is on the right hand side of site.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

A little more on some of the men in the Fur Trade -- some of them from the West of the Mountains

I have told you that my new blog is up and running, and its address is at
Much of the information on this blog will be familiar to people who have followed this blog from the beginning -- there will however be more coming that you have not heard of.
I am concentrating on that blog at the moment, and so you might feel a little ignored.
Its decorations are coming....

Changes are coming to this blog as well: I will probably keep this going as a research blog, and completed information will be transferred onto the Wordpress blog, where appropriate.

However, to carry on from the previous post, I have learned a few more things about some of the men I have already spoken of.
George McDougall, who built Fort Alexandria about 1821, and who afterward remained in the fur trade on the east side of the Rocky Mountains, was a man I got quite fond of.
It seemed that he was a warm and friendly man who everyone liked.
In a letter from John Rowand of Edmonton House, written from the Saskatchewan District on the 29th of December, 1849.
McDougall went out to York Factory with the express in the command of John Charles.
He returned to Edmonton House and apparently made his way to Fort Assiniboine -- but he never reached his home base at Lesser Slave Lake.
Rowand gave this report: "As the time is approaching for the departure of our annual express, I beg leave to bring under your notice the few incidents that have occurred since my arrival at this place [with the incoming York Factory express].
"The distribution of the Outfit for the several Outposts was completed as early as possible. On the 29th September the several Gentlemen were off for their respective stations. On the 14th October I received intelligence of the death of Mr. Geo. McDougall -- that gentleman died on his way to Slave Lake in the Athabasca River after a short illness of five or six days; in consequence of this unfortunate & unforeseen circumstance on the 16th I was under the necessity of sending Mr. Christie to adjust the Company's affairs of Slave Lake, leaving Louis Chastellain in charge for the time being, as it was necessary for that Gentleman to return hither..."

So now you know. McDougall had no wife and children (though his brother James, did) and so there will be no descendants to be interested in this story. Its almost a shame. Like I said, I found him a very likable man.

Here's a new story, and its a gruesome one! You will remember some time ago I blogged portions of the York Factory Express's journeys from the Columbia, to Hudson's Bay and back.
In one of these journals I mentioned the artist, whose name I thought was Hood.
The actual quote is: "We commenced our ascent of the Trout River, which having done for 1 1/2 miles, we arrived at the Trout Falls, one of the most dangerous rapids or falls on the line of Communication.
"We encampt at the Head of these falls, two of our Boats having fallen again in the rear.
"These falls with the surrounding scenery afforded a fine subject for the Pencil of poor [Hood], but the heightening of the Landscape, by the Silver tints of the Moon's rays shooting above a projecting point of wood on the opposite shore & playing upon the agitated surface of these fierce falls, made me regret that they were not similarly presented to him, as they were to me this evening, which added much of their natural grandeur."

As you see, I wasn't even sure what the artist's name was, which presents quite a challenge.
But I found him immediately.
An article from "Arctic Profiles" tells me his full name was Robert Hood, born in 1797 and dead by 1821.
Hood was a member of the Franklin exhibition, 1819-22 -- a mapmaker who made incredibly accurate maps of the Arctic coastline during this single journey.
But on their return journey, eleven out of twenty members of Franklin's party died -- and Hood was one of them.
From Antony Brandt's book, The Man Who Ate his Boots: the Tragic History of the Search for the Northwest Passage, comes this story.
It is needless for me to tell you that the returning party was in great distress at this time, and separated into various clusters of men were spread over the snowy wastes that surrounded Franklin's Fort Enterprise:

"Eleven men died in all. Not all of them died of starvation. Four men -- Jean-Baptiste Bellanger, Michel Teroahaute, the Iroquois, followed shortly after by Fontana and Perrault -- had left Franklin's party early in October to struggled the five miles back to the willow grove where Richardson, Hood, and Hepburn were camped. Only Michel arrived. Richardson never wrote up in his journal an actual day-by-day account of what happened after that, but he did prepare an official report to the Admiralty. Those days were spent, he said, hunting for the lichen that poor Hood could not eat and trying to snare partridges. Michel came and went as he wished, keeping himself apart, behaving in a hostile and surly manner. One evening he brought back a piece of what he said was a wolf that a caribou had killed with his antlers, and they ate it, but later Richardson would come to believe that it was a piece of a man he brought back, Belanger or maybe Perrault.

"No one knows whether he actually killed these men, or whether they collapsed on the way back to Richardson's camp. It is certain that he killed Hood. By the eighteenth Hood was "so weak as to be scarcely able to sit up at the fire-side, and complained that the least breeze of wind seemed to blow through his frame." He gathered the strength nevertheless to argue with Michel, telling him it was his duty to hunt for them and to bring wood to the fire, which Michel refused to do, while threatening at the same time to leave them and go to the fort by himself. On the twentieth, while Richardson was out of the camp looking for tripe de roche, he heard a gunshot, and Hepburn yelled to him to return right away. Hood was in their tent, shot through the head. Michel claimed that Hood had shot himself, but that was impossible. He had been shot through the back of his head, with a rifle. "Although I dared not," Richardson explained, "openly to evince any suspicion that I thought Michel guilty of the deed, yet he repeatedly protested to me that he was incapable of committing such an act, kept constantly on his guard, and carefully avoided leaving Hepburn and me together."

"The next day they set out for Fort Enterprise. On the twenty-third, as they were struggling south, Michel began threatening them, told them he hated the white people, by whom he meant the French voyageurs, "some of whom, he said, had killed and eaten his uncle and two of his relations." Michel was well armed. He had besides his gun "two pistols, an Indian bayonet, and a knife." Hepburn and Richardson had no strength left and expected him to turn on them at the first opportunity. When they came to a rock where there was some tripe de roche, Michel stayed behind to gather it, and Richardson and Hepburn seized the opportunity, the first they had had, to compare notes. Hepburn offered to do the deed, but Richardson said no, he would do it himself. when Michel came up to them, Richardson put a bullet through his head. Then they looked in his pouch. Michel had in fact gathered no tripe de roche."

So there you are. In the Arctic Profiles article, mention is made of the cannibalism that occurred on this long foot journey, and Franklin himself said, on his arrival at Fort Chipewyan: "To tell the truth, .. things have taken place which must not be known." It is clearly stated that "Richardson and Hepburn, his two remaining companions in the straggling rearward group, owed their survival in part to eating, knowingly or unknowingly, some human flesh and Hood's buffalo robe."

All of John Franklin's explorations in the Arctic (except those done by ship, I presume) were done under the auspices and with the help of the Hudson's Bay Company. They are stories of exploration, but they are also fur trade stories.

Some of you will know that the original quote from whence I started the above story was written by the fabulous failure, Lieutenant Aemelius Simpson, cousin of the governor of the Hudson's Bay Company, who was travelling to the west coast to take charge of one of the HBC's ships.
In his Lives Lived, Bruce Watson has this to say of him:
He was born in Dingwall, Ross, Scotland, and died at Fort Simpson on the Northwest Coast, in 1831.
It was his grave that the furtraders (including James Birnie and Alexander Caulfield Anderson) removed from the old Fort Simpson and buried in the new, in 1834 (page 47 of my book, The Pathfinder.)
Aemelius Simpson "introduced the first apple trees to the North Pacific Coast and had an HBC post named after him... Aemelius joined the Royal Navy as a voluntary midshipman in 1806 and rose to the rank of Lieutenant before retiring in 1816.
"Upon the recommendation of George Simpson in 1826, he  joined the company as a hydrographer and surveyor reaching Fort Vancouver on November 2, 1826 as superintendent of shipping of the west coast.
"The following year, he was given command of the Cadboro when it arrived. That year he took soundings in the Fraser River and helped found Fort Langley. Three years later in 1829 he was involved in trading negotiations with the Russian American Company in Sitka.
"He became a chief trader in 1830 and the following year helped to establish a post at the mouth of the Nass River where he died in 1831. The post was later moved to the Tsimshian Peninsula and renamed Fort Simpson in his honour. His body was also removed to the new site, re-interred and surrounded by a white picket fence."

There is more information on Aemelius Simpson, and this comes from The Free Library at
This source tells us that Simpson had seen much of the world before making his transcontinental journey in 1826, when he was a Royal Navy officer on half-pay travelling as a passenger with the HBC brigade and Columbia express. "He was a novice who lacked the authoritative voice of someone who had spent half his life bartering or animal pelts.."
But because he was a novice, he described a part of the world that the fur traders never did. For this reason alone, his journal is important to some researchers.

Aemelius Simpson's duty on the west coast was to take charge of the little ship Cadboro, which was being delivered to Fort Vancouver from England.
On his death in 1831, Archibald McDonald (then of Fort Langley) wrote: "Among the latter [deaths] we have to lament the loss of poor Lieutenant Simpson who died on board his own vessel .... Independent of his loss to the concern I regret him very much as a private friend. I am sorry to say with you in confidence however, that he was not over-popular with us -- the cause you know as well as I do."

Chief Factor Duncan Finlayson made a similar remark: "He departed this life ... much lamented and regretted and whatever feelings might be entertained toward him during his career in the past of the country there is now but one of general sympathy for his untimely end."
It appears that Lieutenant Simpson was a misfit in the fur trade.
He attempted to bring the protocol and discipline of the Royal Navy to the unruly fur traders west of the Rocky Mountains, and that did not work!
Historian H.H. Bancroft stated (from information he collected many years later) that Aemelius Simpson had demanded that his sailors' "hands must be incased in kid before he could give an order on his own deck in the daylight, and if the occasion was perilous or peculiar, his gloves must be white kid. Form was nine-tenths of the law with him and the other tenth conformity."

But Governor Simpson did not criticize his cousin in his infamous "Character Book."
In fact he praised him (something that did not happen often):
"About forty years of age. A namesake and Relation of my own, whom I should not have introduced into the Fur Trade, had I not known him to be a man of high character and respectable abilities. He has occupied the most dangerous posts in the Service since he came to the country, and his whole public and private Conduct and Character have been unexceptional."

Governor Simpson also later noted that Aemelius was "as good a little fellow as ever breathed, honourable, above board and to the point.
"He may be a disciplinarian but it was very necessary among the Vagabonds he had to deal with.
"The Drunken wretched creature [Thomas] Sinclair could afford him no support, he was therefore under the necessity of doing all the dirty work of cuffing & thunking himself... I have (laying all other claims & feeling aside) a very great respect for his character & high opinion of his worth."

I can't imagine what the above-mentioned "cuffing & thunking" was, but I think you will agree: There are lots of good stories in the fur trade.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

More information re: Ovid Allard, and Jason his son

I have been speaking of Fort Langley and Ovid Allard, so let me tell you a few more stories about the man and the place, collected from various resources including the writing of local historian Bruce McKelvie, and James Robert Anderson, son of A.C.Anderson.

So here we go, from Mss 001, B.A. McKelvie, BCA, Box 24:
Jason the Fleece Hunter, by Jason Allard, Chapter 3
"My father, Ovid Allard, was a remarkable man in many ways. Although he entered the service of the great fur trading organization at the age of seventeen he had attained a grounding in classical education and useful arts that was uncommon with the majority of young men enlisted in the service from the Canadas. It was customary in those times to recruit the "gentlemen" in Scotland and England, and to engage the "servants" in the Canadas or from the Metis of Rupert's Land....
"It was in 1834 that Ovid Allard and Donald McLean, who was later to achieve prominence as a trader and eventually die in the Chilcotin War, joined the Hudson's Bay Company's service, appending their names to a formidable document that bound them to serve, day or night, and in any part of the continent where the company might direct. For forty years, until his death in 1874, Ovid Allard never faltered in that obligation -- and never once in that time did he revisit his boyhood home....
"It was with high hopes of rising in the company of such men that Ovid Allard and Donald McLean set out from Montreal on their great adventure. the next four years they were constantly on the move. Now at fort Garry; now on the Saskatchewan; now on an expedition to strange tribes in search of new sources of fur supply -- all over the Prairies they wandered, from Hudson's Bay to the Rocky Mountains, and from the sub-Arctic region to the Missouri. They were among those who constructed the fort where Boise, Idaho, now stands, and traveled with hunting parties of Blackfeet and Cree. then in 1839 they were separated. McLean was sent to Spokane, and my father was ordered to Fort Vancouver, where after a few months he was sent overland to Puget Sound to embark for Fort Langley.
"Shortly after his arrival at the fort on the Fraser he was delegated to assist in trading with the Indians. Francis Noel Annance, whom the Indians named "The War Chief" -- a title they later bestowed on my father -- was still occupying the post of Indian trader, a position which he held from the commencement of the establishment. It required patience, courage, tact and a sharp wit to be an Indian trader, and Annance possessed all these qualifications.
"A year after Ovid Allard was taken on to the strength of Fort Langley [sic] the place was destroyed by fire. He often told me of that terrible night; how the men risked their lives to save the property of the fort, neglecting their own meagre belongings.
"There was a Scottish woman by the name of Findlay. She was the wife of one of the men and one of the very few white women in the whole Western country. she was a wonderful butter-maker, and the fame of her butter spread to the far reaches of New Caledonia in the north. Her chief concern when fire broke out was for the safety of the pans of cream from which she planned to churn butter the following day.
""Who will save my cream?" she shouted, ringing her hands and catching at first one and then another scurrying figure. She grasped my father by the arm as he dashed back into the fort to carry out another load of trade goods. "My cream, my cream," she cried.
""Never mind your cream," he answered, "where are your children?" The woman gave a shriek. She had forgotten her two little tots, and it was fortunate that Ovid Allard remembered them, for it was with the greatest difficulty that he managed to get into the burning hut where they were asleep. He carried them to safety, just as some others arrived with the precious cream. And Mrs. Findlay, in her happiness at the recovery of her children, rushed to gather them in her arms and upset the pans of cream over which she had been making so much fuss.
"Immediate steps were taken to rebuild the fort, but a new location was decided upon. Erosion of the river bank was already threatening the ground close to the palisades and on several occasions the floods in the spring had crept through the pickets. So higher ground, on a rise three miles higher up the stream was selected, and here was reared one of the largest forts in the West. Four bastions guarded the sides, and the enclosure was sufficiently large to permit of a substantial fire break between the main buildings. A huge structure of squared logs was erected at the end farthest from the river, for the accomodation of the officers of the establishment, and this became known as "The Big House." ....
"On either side of the main, or river gate, within the stockade, were situated the store houses, while along the length of one was were stretched the cooperage, blacksmith shop, trading store, and several dwellings. On the other side of the square was a row of dwelling. There were fifteen buildings in the fort, all told....
"Very little iron was used in the building of Fort Langley, and in the construction of Fort Victoria three years later, none at all was used. The squared logs were mortised and fitted, and where it was necessary to fasten timbers, wooden pins were utilized.
"It was already apparent, by the time that the fort was reconstructed, that the Hudson's Bay Comapny could not make good its claim to the Oregon Territory, and sooner or later Fort Vancouver must be relinquished to the United States. this would mean that a new outlet for the trade of New Caledonia must be found, and a new depot must be established where the products of the Northern woods could be exchanged for the trade goods brought by ship from England, and the new fort was constructed to meet the requirements of such a depot....."

And that is where Alexander Caufield Anderson came into the story of Fort Langley.

From the Memoirs of James Robert Anderson, a description of Ovid Allard. James would have first seen the fort in 1851:
"Mr. James Murray Yale, the gentleman in charge, was a man of retiring disposition, but of unquestioned ability. the rest of the people employed were workmen, one of whom was named Allard, who was usually known by the name of Shortlain. This man was designated as a Post Master. Post Masters mentioned in the Hudson's Bay Company's service were not officers, but workmen, who by their superior ability were put in charge of small outposts, hence the designation of Post Master.

From: "Jason Allard, Fur-trader, Prince, and Gentleman," by B.A. McKelvie, British Columbia Historical Quarterly, vol. 9, 1945:
""There were gay times at Fort Langley, too, especially when the annual fur brigade would sweet down the river with the furs from New Caledonia," Jason recalled. "Or when the Company's ships would arrive with supplies. then there would be high celebration; bagpipes and fiddles would be brought out, and reels and square dances -- and the inevitable dram -- would be the order of the day. The voyageurs would dance and fight all night and have a mighty good time of it. At the Big House, as the officers' quarters were known, there would be feasting and merriment galore. Dangers and privations were forgotten when there was occasion for a celebration."
"He recalled many noted characters in the Hudson's Bay Service who came to Fort Langley, mentioning such individuals as Chief Factor James Douglas, Donald Manson, and A. C. Anderson, who would never stay at the Big House, but would pitch his tent outside of the fort."

I have one more piece to write about Ovid Allard, and it has taken me two hours to find it!
Here it is, in James Robert Anderson's papers:
Miscellaneous Historical Inquiries, Mss. 1912, vol. 17, file 13:
"Dear Brenda; You asked me one day to write you some of my recollections of old Fort Langley. You have read Jason Allard's account of the finding of the site and building of the Fort where his father was post master -- that is he had charge of the Indian shop, and the keys of the Fort. Many a time I have heard him calling out the time for the people to go out, and of course all strangers would hurry out. I used to visit him when he was trading with the natives for their cranberries and hazel nuts. the blacksmith's shop was a wonderful place to me. The smith made nails of different sizes and iron hoops for the kegs, barrels and vats that were being made by the Cooper with his three or four assistants, getting ready for the salmon run. Ovid Allard did all the trading with the natives for their salmon. He used to stand at the wharf with two or three trunks full of the Indians' favorite stuffs such as vermillion for the women to give themselves rosy cheeks, and tobacco for the men. Cromarty [was] at the cauldron making brine, and ever so many boys and a man or two would be running from the wharf with the salmon which they piled before the women of the fort and others who were seated in a circle in the shed where they cut the salmon. No rest for the boys -- they had to continued their running this time with the cut salmon to the .. men in the big shed where they were salting the salmon. And so they worked for the week -- early in the morning till late at night, till the salmon run was over. All that old Basil with three or four assistants used to do was to milk the cows, make the butter, and look after the herd in winter...."

You probably saw in my last post [Sunday, July 7, 2012] that a modern historian criticized Mrs. John Manson for stating that Allard "had boxes filled with things to please [the Natives], beads, vermilion and other knick-knacks."
The historian said that the Natives were shrewd bargainers and knew the value of their labour.
Now another witness is listing the same items that Mrs. Manson listed: vermillion and tobacco.
Historians: Listen to the fur trade descendents!
They were there: you were not.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Ovid Allard, and Jason, his son

It's wonderful to talk to someone who is descended from one of the fur trade people I have researched (to a degree, anyway).
Frankly sometimes I sit down at this blog and say to myself: Well, what will I write today?
Knowing that there is someone out there who is descended from so-and-so always gives me something to write about.
So here you are -- whether you like it or not I am going to tell you what I know about Ovid Allard.

It's not a lot, but I have told you that I am going to make these posts shorter, haven't I?
I hope to (it doesn't always work that way, though).

So here is what Bruce McIntyre Watson, author of Lives Lived West of the Divide: A Biographical Dictionary of Fur Traders Working West of the Rockies, 1793-1858, volume 1 (of 3), has to say of Ovid Allard.

Any descendant of this man could join two Facebook pages -- that of Children of Fort Langley and Descendants of Fort Nisqually Employees.

Allard, Ovid [Ovide] (1817-1874) Canadian: French
Birth: St. Roch, Montreal, July 1817. Born to Francois Allard and Suzanne Mercier
Death: Fort Langley, B.C., August 1874
HBC Middleman, Fort Vancouver, 1834-1835; Middleman, Snake Party, 1835-1839; Assistant trader, Fort Langley, 1839-1841; Middleman, Fort Langley,1841-1842; Indian trader, Fort Langley, 1842-1843; Interpreter, Fort Langley, 1843-1846; Labourer and Carpenter, Fort Nisqually, 1846-1847; Interpreter, Fort Langley, 1847-1853; Post master, Fort Langley, 1849-1850; Interpreter, Columbia Dept., 1853-1854; Untraced vocation, Fort Langley, 1858-1859; Clerk, Fort Yale, 1859-1865; Clerk, Fort Langley, 1864-1874; and Post master, Fort Langley, 1864-1874.

According to oral tradition, a seventeen year old Ovid Allard was articling for a notarial office in Lachine when he joined the HBC from that city as a middleman in 1834. He spent his first five years at Fort Hall [Idaho] and was second in command when Fort Boise was built in 1837. In 1839 the tall competent French Canadian was assigned to Fort Langley, where he helped to build the new fort after it was burned down in 1840 by a careless Jean Baptists Brulez.

He spent much of his forty year career at Fort Langley, and when the 1846 border was drawn, he established a new Brigade route from Fort Kamloops to Fort Langley [in 1849 or later. A note here: the actual brigade trail never did go over any of the routes that Alexander Caulfield Anderson explored, but followed the route that Blackeye's son showed Henry Newsham Peers in 1848].

That same year, he along with sixteen others each laid claim to 640 acres of land around Fort Nisqually in an unsuccessful bid to secure PSAC land. In 1847 he established Fort Yale, and the following year, Fort Hope.

According to Mrs. John Manson, during the salmon run at Fort Langley, Allard did all the trading with the natives for their salmon. "He used to stand at the wharf and had boxes filled with things to please them, beads, vermilion and other knick knacks," perhaps misstating the real situation as the natives were shrewd bargainers and knew the real price of their labour.

Allard's education and competence posed a problem for an insecure James Murray Yale, who from the 1850s, tried to keep Allard subservient through apparent mean spiritedness and a short temper. In 1853, Yale became so enraged at Allard for shooting his favourite, but vicious dog, and for Allard having provided barrels to a non-Company trader, that Ovid packed his family off in a canoe and went to Fort Victoria to hand in his resignation. James Douglas convinced him otherwise and sent him to Nanaimo where he arrived on March 11, 1854, as "supervisor of outside work." Four years later, on February 4, 1858, he left Nanaimo on the steamer Otter to re-establish a defunct Fort Yale, where he stayed from May 1858 to 1864. At that point he returned to Fort Langley and remained in charge there until his death on August 2, 1874.

Ovid Allard, whose family life was very complex, had two wives and seven or eight children. In Fort Hall he married a native woman with whom he had Sennie.
According to his granddaughter, Julia Hamburger Apnaut, Sennie was given away at Fort Langley by his second wife, Justine, to a passing Scottish trader, a Mr. McKay, by a jealous wife tired of Allard's doting on the youngster.
Justine, on the other hand, claimed that the baby had fallen overboard and drowned in the river (the baby returned some years later as Marie and became the mother of Julia Hamburger Apnaut, the story of which she chronicled in Indian time.)
On February 22, 1853, Allard formalized his marriage to second wife, Justine Cowichan (c.1823-1907), the sister of a Cowichan confederacy chief T'Soshia.
Their children were: Lucie, Jason Ovide (who worked in the fur trade for many years), Mathilde, Sara, and Joseph.
While at Fort Langley, a young daughter accidentally drank poison, died, and was buried by Ovid in a coffin made from boards in the floor.

Here is a letter from Ovid Allard to James Murray Yale, written from Fort Hope, 2nd June 1850 [E/B/Al52c, BCA].
The letter may make him appear uneducated -- but he was a French Canadian who wrote English creatively:
"My dear sir; I am sending this canoe down with the furs thats here and in the same time to inquire if you think its necessary for us to go and work uppon the old road, Pahallak says there as been amaney sticks that falld in the roade in the winter of which you would likely wish it should be take off, we cannot do nothing upon the new Road yet for the snow, its trew that its not very deep and yet its likely if this Cold weather continew that it will be some time yet before its gone, it has been snowing on the mountain for three Nights now. We are Clearing ground here the timothy is all sowed, I am near out of all Articles of trade, but I don't ask for Any, the Indians [h]as little now to trade salmon the[y] only catches a few here and the[y] Seems to not have a great wish to trade them. However I have no doubt that the[y] will be glad to get us to purchase them by and by.
I would like to have a canoe here we have none belongs to the Fort the are all Scatter uppon the several Crossing place along the new road that's three in all. I always thought by a letter Mr. Peerse send me by the New Road in the spring that Mr. Manson intended to come by the New Road as he was saying that he was in hope that there was grass enough for to feed the horses here all the time that the brigade should be at Langley, and that it would be injureing the horses very much to send them back across the mountains to feed. Please to Excuse for saying so much, if you wishes me to go and work uppon the old road I am redey. I would like to go all though as far as I would meat them if you approve of it I'll take three Indians & old Pahallak with me and Mr. [George] Simpson, I think that the snow would not hinder the brigade to pass uppon the new road yet about the 20th of the month its was about the times I went with Mr. Peerse last spring on the mountain and the snow was then mid way up the trees its not so now we are able to see all the trees thats been mark along when the where working at the rod.
"Please to exuse of all Errors. Ovid Allard."

The old road he talks off was the one via Anderson River and Lake Mountain: it was never used again. In fact, when Alexander Anderson came out over the Coquihalla route, he found the snow hard enough that it easily supported the horses' weight.

The other good story I have is about Jason Ovide Allard, Ovide's son, and this is what Bruce Watson tells us about him:
Birth: Fort Langley, September 1848, mixed race
Death: New Westminster, December 1931
Untraced vocation, Western Dept., 1860-1861; Apprentice post master, Fort Yale, 1861-1865; Post master, Fort Shepherd, 1866-1869; In charge of company store at Wild Horse Creek, 1867
Born into the fur trade, Jason Allard became a later source of information about life in this period. Jason attended school in Nanaimo and at the age of twelve went to work for the HBC as an apprentice post master. As a young lad, he also occasionally interpreted for British Columbia judge Matthew Baillie Begbie. He had many small adventures throughout his short career, but one of the most unusual happened at Fort Shepherd. While he was working at that borderline fort, he ordered the regular two hundred lbs of cheese for nearby Fort Colvile; however a gremlin extra "0" slipped into the order form and was signed by Colvile's Angus McDonald as such.....

Here's the rest of the story, direct from the BCArchives:
Jason Allard's Ton of Cheese [E/D/Al5s]
A package was opened and it proved to be cheese. Then another 100-pound bale was opened. It was cheese, too. I began to get nervous. The third and the fourth and the fifth proved likewise to be cheese.
"How much cheese did you order?" demanded Angus McDonald.
"Two hundred pounds."
"Are you sure?" And away he rushed for the order book. There sure enough was the duplicate, but instead of the 200 pounds I had intended to order, an extra cipher had been added, and we had been sent 2,000 pounds of it. Macdonald became wrathy. He almost exploded, and fumed and stormed about until I reminded him that he had signed the order. "Get it out of my sight, cheese, cheese, image it, a whole ton of cheese," he shouted.
I looked about for a place to stow the offending cheese, but the warehouse was pretty well filled. At last, over in one corner I spied a number of empty rum barrels, so I had the cheese all unpacked and put into the barrels, and I covered them over with sacking.
Months went by and there was nothing said about cheese, and you can depend on it, I was not going to be the first to mention it.
Then one day, Macdonald complained that the fare was rather scanty. "Let's see," he mused, "isn't there some cheese about? Where is it, Jason?"
"You told me to put it out of your sight, and I always obey orders."
"Well, get some."
So I had a piece brought, and I can assure you that it was without doubt the best cheese that anyone ever tasted. The hot summer sun had melted and mellowed it and the flavour of the rum impregnated it. "Goodness, man! What have you been hiding this for?" shouted Macdonald in glee. After that he wanted cheese for breakfast, lunch and supper, and the odd midnight snack as well. I took the improved cheese out of storage and had it transferred to the store. The officers of the United States army barracks, who used to dine with us frequently, got a taste of it and it recommended itself so highly that soon posts 100 miles away were sending in for "Allard's Cheese." The result was that within two months it was all gone, and then Mr. Macdonald kicked again. this time because I had not saved it. But believe me, I worried more over that cheese, while it was maturing in the rum barrels, than I want to again, and the very mention of cheese for years after was enough to put me off my meals."

Well, admittedly, Angus McDonald [A.C. Anderson's clerk at Fort Colvile] was a rough character who would have frightened a young man like Jason Allard, who was probably only about twenty years old at the time.
Let's continue his biography: Allard first retired from service on March 17th, 1865 but finally left the service in 1869, angry at being upbraided for his familiarity with the young American army officers at Fort Colvile. He led a full life after retirement (chronicled in "Jason Allard, fur trader, prince and gentleman") and in his later years was still recognized by the Cowichan natives as having inherited rights within the Cowichan group. As he spoke five native dialects plus English and French, in 1871 he was hired for a CPR survey crew. To supplement his income, Allard and his family would walk across the border and pick hops, but after his wife's death, he moved into New Westminster to be closer to the courts for interpreting. Jason Allard died December 16, 1931.

So there are the stories of Ovid Allard, and his son, Jason -- at least in part.
Ovid especially played a role in the creation of the brigade trails; thus he will be a character in one of my next books.
But it will be a few years before I am able to write Jason's story, so I am recording it now, so that you too can enjoy it.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Alexander Caulfield Anderson, writer

From the Introduction to A. C. Anderson's Autobiography: 
This might have been written on his deathbed, and writing this might have kept Anderson from thinking of his impending death.

"Two hundred years ago, some ten years after the Restoration of the Second Charles, when England enjoyed a somewhat troubled repose after the agonies of the Civil War; when the nations of the New World were in their non-age; when Commerce was pausing for the gigantic strides which it has since taken; that "merrie monarch" (may we never be afflicted with another of similar stamp!) took at least one useful step. He granted a charter to certain magnates of the land and others, worthy citizens of the good city of London, endowing them with exclusive privileges to prosecute a new branch of traffic in the remote regions of the north, under the style and title of the "Company of Adventurers of England trading into Hudson's Bay" (in more familiar parlance the Hudson's Bay Company). 

"Fortified by their charter, and with abundant capital at command, this Company for many years carried on unobtrusively a very lucrative commerce. It of of comparatively late years only, under the combination of many outer influences, that its affairs have attracted much public attention; attaining at length to what has become to many a question of absorbing interest in a national point of view. Reft of its almost princely domination, with its territory purchased for a price and thrown open for the spread of a civilized community, the Company, if it still continues its business as a body, will do so only on the footing of any other co-partnership. Its glory, as the last representative of the great chartered bodies of England, will have departed. Such is the order of things, and such -- while admitted all praise and honor for the past -- is the desirable culmination.

"To the departing shade of the Company, with whose interest the events of my own life have been so intimately bound up, I desire to pay a valedictory tribute. I purpose to recount some of my own experiences during a long and uninterrupted sojourn in the wildness of the North West and its immediate frontiers, to show some of the causes that have conduced to the uninterrupted success of the Company in its dealing with the native tribes; perhaps, by implication, to correct many of the misconceptions that may have arisen in regard to the policy pursued, and some of the slanders to which that policy has, at times, been mischievously subjected. 

"With this general purpose in view I write without premeditation. Incidentally, I may introduce remarks necessary to the due apprehension of the relations existing between the Company and the Acting partners in the Fur Trade of the Country. Many of my past colleagues may be spoken of, and in a personal narrative such as I contemplate my own individuality will appear; but whether in speaking of myself or others, I trust to do so with proper judgement, in the one case without egotism, and the other with candour and good fellowship."

Sadly, he never lived long enough to complete his Autobiography.

Nancy Marguerite Anderson, author of The Pathfinder: A. C. Anderson's Journeys in the West [Victoria: Heritage House Pub., 2011]
Author Page at: or Amazon Author Page
Twitter handle: @Marguerite_HBC
Thank you. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

A.C. Anderson's Letter to Royal Botanic Gardens, at Kew

Years ago I learned that Alexander Caulfield Anderson had written a letter to Kew Gardens.
I emailed them for more information, and Claire Daniel (who was an Archives Graduate Trainee in 2003) sent me a letter that included a copy of A.C. Anderson's letter.
Talk about being floored!
It is easy to be ignored by an archives, especially one of this size and importance.
But they did anything but ignore me.
Thank you, Kew Gardens, and Claire Daniel.

Many fur traders communicated with Sir William Jackson Hooker of Kew Gardens over the years, and the man who referred A.C. Anderson to Hooker, as a correspondent and plant collector, was Fort Colvile's Archibald McDonald.
From Jean Murray Cole's book, "This Blessed Wilderness," we have McDonald's letter of reference, written 20th April 1844:
"Until this moment I was rather angry that my letter & small package of last year was too late at the mouth of the river for the Cape Horne vessel of the season. By that communication it could not be inferred that I was myself speedily quitting the Columbia, but I fear the state of my health now will oblige me to rise camp and once more recross the R[ocky] Mountains. I have however succeeded in constituting in my stead a very good correspondent, Mr. Alexander Anderson of New Caledonia. By a letter I lately had from this Gentleman he seemed delicate about intruding himself upon your notice, Sir, until he had heard from you, scruples I soon removed, directing him by all means to write forthwith with the very first collection he could make himself, or get in from the young Gentlemen whom I commissioned myself."

So Anderson overcame his scruples: Here is his letter, written from Fort Alexandria, 30th September 1845, to Sir William Hooker:
"Sir; At the suggestion of our mutual friend Archibald McDonald, Esquire, I have during the past summer been engaged in collecting some seeds and botanical specimens with the view of forwarding them to you.
"The collection, unsatisfactory as I fear it may prove, is accordingly now sent, and will, I trust, reach you in safety.
"The package is well secured; and will be shipped at Vancouver under the care of my friend, Dr. Barclay, there.

"For the poverty of my collection let me plead that circumstances have in some measure interfere with my own endeavours, while I have been sadly disappointed in the assistance which I had expected from divers quarters.
"Forty-six varieties of seeds are however sent......

"Our New Caledonia fields have already, I believe, yielded their humble treasures very [fully] to poor David Douglas, who, if my memory fail me not, visited them in 1833, when I was stationed elsewhere.
"Thus I cannot hope that my little collection will possess much novelty to you.
"The Tza-chin or edible Bitter Root of New Caledonia (which by the way appears to me to be nearly identical with the Tiger-lily of our gardens) might perhaps be entitled to some little notice as a bonne-bouche if cultivated in England.
"The mode of preparing it is either in small subterranean kilns, or by steaming until soft and mealy.
"It is easily raised from the seed, of which I have sent a supply; there are also some bulbs, but I fear their germinating principle will be destroyed before they reach their destination.
"A deep, light, black soil, similar to the bog earth used in gardens, is what it delights in; and it thrives best in humid situations.....

"The Broue (Fr), or Froth-Berry -- seeds of which are sent -- is a fruit having some peculiar properties, and meriting notice for the agreeable bitter which it possess.
"No-ghoos is the name by which the natives distinguish it.
"It is with them an article of luxurious entertainment at their occasional banquets.
"The mode of using it, after it is prepared by boiling and drying in cakes, is by soaking a small piece in a little water, and afterwards whisking the mixture until it froths up.
"By this means a large vessel will after a while [be] filled with a viscid froth of considerable tenacity.
"This product when free from the detestable accompaniment of grass with which the natives frequently incorporate the berries for the convenience of drying, is nowise unpalatable.
"Of this substance I have sent you a cake, as prepared by the natives, by way of specimen.
"There is likewise a small bag containing the dried roots of the Spet-lum.
"Some of these last which have [not] been entirely desiccated in the process of drying might possibly germinate if planted; as from the nature of the plant I should imagine the most to be rather tenacious of life.

"As my acquaintance with Botany is extremely limited, I have avoided on all costs the endeavour to apply names at random, which could add no possible value to my collection of seeds or flowers.
"Thus they are undistinguished by name or reference, save where necessity has constrained me to be more particular.
"I trust, however, my collection may prove acceptable and shall content myself with hoping that a future day I may be enabled to forward a contribution more worthy of your acceptance.
"I have the honor to be, sir
"Your most obedient & humble servant,
"Alex C. Anderson."

I have already written about Indian Potatoes and other Native Foods, on Sunday, October 2, 2011.
From that page, I take these descriptions, and please note that they come from Nancy J. Turner's book, "Food Plants of Interior First Peoples," published by the Royal British Columbia Museum.

This is what she says of the bulb Anderson thought resembled the English Tiger Lily:
"Tiger Lily is a tall perennial with a white ovoid bulb, up to 5 cm in diameter, composed of thick fleshy scales like garlic cloves.
"The stem is slender, the flowers are bright orange, dark spotted near the centre.
"The Natives used the large bulbs of the Tiger Lily wherever they could find them.
"The flavour of the bulb was strong, peppery and bitter, and they were used like pepper or garlic to flavour foods.
"The Tsilhquot'in [Chilcotin] called the bulb 'beaver-stick,' and harvested the bulbs in the early spring; the Okanagan and other southern Natives harvest them in the fall."

This following is, perhaps, the identification of the plant that Anderson called the "Spet-lum."
The bitter-root "is a low stemless perennial arising from a branching deep-seated fleshy taproot, which is grey-skinned with a white inner core that may turn pink on exposure to the air.
"The plant grows in the driest areas of the B.C. Interior, and is now considered rare.
"But to the Okanagan and the Thompson River Natives, this plant was the most important of all the edible roots."
However, it does not grow in the Chilcotin district, and might not be the plant that Anderson knew.

However, I can go to Anderson's own writing for a description of these plants and the others mentioned in this letter.
Here is how he describes the "Froth Berry," mentioned above:
The "Froth-Berry" is the Cornus Ferruginia or Shepherdia Canadensis (La Broue of the [French-] Canadians) is described in his unpublished essay, "British Columbia," in this manner: "The Berry is dried for winter use. In its fresh or prepared state it is thus used: A small portion is placed in a large vessel, and a little water added. Then being whisked with branches it gradually expands and becomes converted into a very palatable substance resembling Trifle."
[Sounds good: Today they call this Indian Ice-Cream!]

Anderson's son, James Robert, gave a better description of the Froth Berry in his book, Trees and Shrubs, Food, Medicinal and Poisonous Plants of British Columbia:
"Soapberry: Brue [Shepherdia canadensis, Nutt]
"This is one of the two representatives of the natural order Elaeagnaceae (which is allied to the Olive family) in this Province. It is a shrub from 3 to 10 feet high. The leaves, from 1 to 2 inches long and half as wide, pointed and quite smooth on the edges and of a dull-green colour, are covered on the under-sides, in common with the young branches or twigs, with shiny reddish specks, giving them a distinctly rusty-red appearance when viewed from underneath.
"The flowers appear very early in the spring, before the leaves, and are of a dull-red colour, very small, and borne in clusters, usually two clusters at the end of a short stem, divided by a small leaflet or bract and with two leaves at the extremity. The buds form in the summer previous and may be seen at any time in the shape of small reddish globules. The fruit is usually red, sometimes orange in colour, resembling a red currant in size, but more elongated. This peculiarity renders it objectionable to some, but very agreeable to many. The juice, when beaten up, forms a beautiful salmon-coloured froth, which when mixed with sugar is greatly esteemed by the natives, and by whites who have acquired a taste for it. It is from this peculiarity that it obtains the name of Soapberry or Soap Oalalie, in the Chinook jargon. The range of this shrub is very wide, inasmuch as it is to be found in all parts of the Province where suitable conditions exist. Its habitat is the hilly and mountainous parts of the Province, usually in rather open situations, and on dry soil. It is common in the vicinity of Victoria and on the Saanich Arm, and very abundant in the Rocky Mountains."

Nancy J. Turner also identifies this plant as the Soapberry, and gives it the Latin name of Sheperdia canadensis [Nutt.] It is of the Oleaster Family, and might also be called the Russet Buffalo Berry or Foamberry.

Here's what James Robert Anderson says about the Tiger Lily, from the same source as before mentioned:
Tiger-Lily (Lilium columbianum, Hanson)
"The bulb is used in its fresh state and is cooked by boiling. It is slightly bitter and quite glutinous... Then James quotes from his father's manuscript:
"The Tiger-Lily is found abundantly in the fertile bottoms and extends considerably to the north of Alexandria on the upper Fraser. Under the name of Tza-chin the natives of the latter place use the root as an article of food. Carefully steamed it is an excellent substitute for the potato, its flavour somewhat like that of a roasted chestnut, with a slight bitterness which renders it very agreeable."

Here is what James Robert Anderson has to say of the Spet-lum mentioned in A.C. Anderson's letter. It is also called the Bitter-Root.
Bitter-Root; Spetlum; Sand-Hill Rose (Lewisia rediviva,  Pursh)
"This plant, belonging to the Portulaca family, has its habitat in the arid regions of the Interior in open plains. The thick leaves, some 2 inches in length and shaped like those of Portulaca, come up in bunches in the early spring and are followed later on, when the leaves die down, by the flower, which is a beautiful pink blossom resembling a rose. In places they appear in great profusion and present a lovely sight. The Bitter Root Valley (in Montana, I believe) is named after this plant. When the leaves appear, the women dig up the roots, which are thick and generally bifurcated, with the digging-sticks ..., and after stripping off the skin throw them into a basket. They are then dried and kept for future use. They may be eaten in that state or boiled into a pinkish jelly. As its name indicates, it has a bitter taste, somewhat aromatic, and is, I believe, quite nutritious; personally, I never cared much for it, although it is generally much appreciated. It is well named L. rediviva, as it is most tenacious of life, and I have known herbarium specimens to show flowers developing months after having been pressed."

As you can see, these fur traders kept active, and like others of their time they learned about the plants and flowers that surrounded them.
Many collected botanical specimens for Dr. Hooker, of Kew Gardens.
We Andersons, of course, went one step further: my cousin, a direct descendant of Alexander Caulfield Anderson, married a woman who was the direct descendant of Sir William Jackson Hooker, of Kew Gardens.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Fur-traders' "Smess" -- Sumas Prairie

The map below is a small portion of Alexander Caulfield Anderson's 1867 map of British Columbia, CM/F9 in the British Columbia Archives.
The full 6ft x 6ft map (which you will never be able to see) covers all of British Columbia and includes part of the United States (Fort Colvile area) and Alberta (Edmonton House).
In this small section of the big map, I have shown the lower Fraser River between Fort Hope and the mouth of the river itself.
If you look at the map carefully, you will notice many interesting and historical facts: the route of the Collins Telegraph Trail is shown as it travels through the Fraser Valley north of the river.
You can see the bottom of Harrison Lake and the mouth of the Harrison River, where the Fort Langley fur traders had their most important fishery.
To the east is the Chilahayook [Chilliwack] River, where Anderson's Sto:lo guide, chief Pahallak, lived.
Finally, at the bottom of this portion of his map he drew in the route of "Lacey's Trail of 1858," which followed the Lummi River north to the goldfields on the lower Fraser River.
Today, this muddy trail is known as the Whatcom Trail, and its name is commemorated up and down the Fraser River valley.

As I drive up and down the Fraser Valley I often notice these old names.
But one road sign I often noticed was "Sumas," and I had no idea where its name came from.
Then, as I looked at the details of the Fraser River on A. C Anderson's 1867 map, I suddenly understood the origin of the name.
Take a look at the large lake in the middle of the map, and notice that the fur traders, and Natives, called this lake "Smess."
That is what Sumas used  to be.
It is no longer.

"Smess" is a fur trade name, learned from the Natives who lived on what used to be Sumas Lake.
The water was drained from this eleven-thousand-acre lake by the Provincial Government, ninety years ago, to create the place we now call "Sumas Prairie."
But before the Government drained the lake, the Sumas Natives made their homes along its shores.
When the mosquitoes came in the June or July, the people moved into their summer homes built on stilts in the middle of their lake.
They travelled everywhere in their canoes; they fished for sturgeon in the lake and hunted waterfowl.
"There were millions of ducks, geese," a Sumas elder named Ray Silver said.
"The fish would jump right into your canoe there was so many of them, jumping all the time."
Ray Silver did not know the lake, but heard these stories from his grand-father, who had lived while the lake still belonged to the Sumas people.
His grandfather aso told him of the sturgeon left behind when the lake was drained, and how they suffocated and died in the mud.

The Sumas people moved away from their emptied lake and now live elsewhere in their territory.
Farmers moved in and ploughed the rich land created by the drained lake, sometimes turning up fresh-water clams as they did so.
Now "Smess" is filled with valuable dairy farms and agricultural land that produces thousands of pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables for market every year.
It's history has been drained away with the lake, and its original people have gone.
Even its name, Smess, was forgotten.

If you want to learn more about  what used to be Sumas Lake, the article I am getting the above information from appeared in the Vancouver Sun, April 26, 2013, and contains much more information than I am giving you here.

I don't know if Anderson was ever at Smess, but he paddled past the lake in his passages up and down the Fraser, many times.
He would also have obtained a map of sorts from his co-worker, Chief Trader James Murray Yale of Fort Langley, and so Anderson's map is probably fairly accurate in spite of the fact he was probably never there.
Smess was a place well known to the fur traders at Fort Langley, and there are a number of mentions of the place in fur trade records in the years after 1848.
James Douglas drove James Murray Yale crazy in those years, with his demands that Yale once again explore for a new trail that would bring the brigaders safely past the dangers of Manson's Mountain, on the Coquihalla Brigade Trail.
Poor Yale; he was so frustrated by Douglas' inability to envision the mountainous land that surrounded Fort Langley, that he complained to Governor Simpson that Douglas, who thought he was a fine geographer, was anything but.

For those of you who regularly read my posts and now expect me to write seven pages every week, you will be disappointed to find they are becoming shorter.
The reason for this: I am now beginning to write my second book and am still continuing the research on my third.
I have plenty of work to do, and so the blog posts must take up less time.
Do not lose hope: you will have plenty to read still.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Carpet Beetles!

Carpet beetles: I have been thinking about these little buggers a lot lately.
These, I think, are the bugs the fur traders found every spring, when they shook out their furs before packing them for the outgoing brigades.
These tiny beetles emerge as adults every year, in mid-April or early May, and crawl out to die on the windowsills.
They do this even today. If you look on your windowsill, you might well find some small, round, red-striped (or black) beetles there.
These are the oh, so-common-everywhere carpet beetles!

I first came to know of these bugs when the staff of the seniors facility my ancient mother lived in noticed a "line of bugs" marching down the back of her couch, and moved her out for a few days to have her room fumigated.
She was furious! She believed her care-givers were calling her "dirty!"Her reaction was a complete throwback to her youth in veddy-English Duncan in the 1920's.
This Vancouver Island town had more than its share of English residents, who were very prejudiced against the Natives.
Even though my English grandmother (my mother's mother) was the laziest and dirtiest housekeeper around, she was English, and therefore was accepted in Duncan society. (Well, almost completely accepted -- her own family members would not speak to her after her marriage because she had married "an Indian.")
But my mother's father was the youngest son of Alexander Caulfield Anderson, and Duncan residents knew he carried Indian blood.
Therefore, my mother and all her brothers and sisters grew up with the stain of being called "a dirty Indian."

But we are not talking of my mother's past and the prejudice she endured: we are speaking of the bugs that upset her so much as a ninety year old.
She was blind; these bugs had probably emerged from her couch every year to march toward the window, but she would never have seen them!
They could have lived forever in that sofa; it was old enough to be made of natural fabrics, and its fibres were plugged with the cat hair her old cat shed.
And that is what carpet beetles live on: wools and other natural fabrics such as cotton, fur, animal hair and bird feathers, leather, silk and linens.
They can destroy expensive clothing and furniture, and devastate museum collections.
They can live on dogs (did my mother's "body-rot" dog have an allergy to fleas as the vet told us, or did Carpet beetles make their home in her hair?)

I am now occupying the place where my mother used to live before she moved, and once the carpet beetles were discovered in her couch at the seniors' home, my sister and I both knew that the carpet beetles were where I lived too.
But I never saw them, until one day one wandered out onto the piece of paper I happened to be looking at under a strong light!
I caught it and identified it -- and then worried about the damage these "millions of bugs" were doing.

When I learned how they travelled from one house to another on a person's clothes, I thought I was spreading them to all my friends' houses.
What was worse: when I knew what to look for, I discovered carpet beetles in all their homes too.
But I quickly learned to not worry about my carpet beetles, and theirs.
Let me tell you why.....

Everyone of my friends had more carpet beetles on their windowsills than I had.

Almost everyone has a few carpet beetles, and some people have more than a few.
Maybe even you have some: they are the red and black striped beetles [or small black beetles] that appear on your windowsill every spring from mid-April or early May all the way through June and early July, at least.
Apparently there is another rush of carpet beetles in August, but I haven't seen it anywhere here.
The little beetles are probably dead when you find them, and probably you've seen them a million times and have never worried about them.
But these are the adult carpet beetles, and they have left batches of tiny larval beetles behind them.

Of course, the larvae of the carpet beetles are the beetles that do the most damage.
They are the ones that you do not see -- you do not even know you have carpet beetles until you see the adults dead, on your windowsills.
So, should you be afraid?

Well, not really.
Everyone has them, and if you have three or four or six or a dozen, don't worry about them too much.
If you have a lot more than that, then start considering getting rid of them before they march in an orderly little line down the back of the couch they have been consuming for years!

There are four kinds of carpet beetles, or maybe more depending on where you live.
I think the beetles I see here on the west coast are Black Carpet Beetles, and Varied (or variegated) Carpet Beetles -- these appear to be red and black striped beetles but apparently have other colours as well.

The Black Carpet Beetles measures about 2.5-5mm long; it is dark brown to black in colour.
It is just a little oblong black beetle, smaller (the ones I have seen, at least ) than the apparently more common Varied.

The Varied (or Variegated) Carpet Beetles are about 2 to 3mm long and nearly round. Its top body is gray with a mixture of white, brown and yellow scales and irregular black cross bands according to most descriptions.
Still, on the west coast, they look like red and black striped bugs to me. Almost like tiny lady bugs, in fact.

I don't think I have seen any Common Carpet Beetles, but you might have. They are rounder than the black carpet beetle and about 3mm to 4.5mm long. Its colouration is gray to black with 3 wavy white bands on the wings, and a reddish stripe running down the centre of the back.

Furniture Carpet Beetles are slightly larger than the varied carpet beetle (and I might have seen these once). They are 2.5mm long with an oval, plump shape. It is coloured yellow, white and black and has a definite wing cleft (the stripe down the middle of the back of the beetle).

These things fly! I never knew that.
They are said to be very efficient flyers, in fact.

The larvae of the carpet beetles have visible hairs along their body and may vary from pale to dark in colour, depending on the species. Some are quite big (bigger than the adult) and some very small.
I actually saw one and I can see why no one knows they are there -- this one was tiny, like the tiniest little spiders you see -- and white to almost transparent, similar to those whitish silverfish you occasionally see.
It was almost invisible, and I only saw it because I happened to be kneeling down at a time when it was moving from its food source to its home.
It crossed the tile floor at a good clip, and disappeared under the base board before I even realized what it was.
It was about the size of this semi-colon " ; " -- pretty darn small.

But it makes sense: the adult is about the size of a large bold capital O, or " O " -- again, depending on the species.
The black carpet beetles I see are perhaps this size: " 0 " or a bit larger -- though the information I have given above says they are the same size as the others.
And that's what taught me not to be terrified of these things -- yes, the larvae can be voracious and is described as a big eater, but it is also very much smaller than pest control companies picture it!
It depends on the numbers, I think. If you have a lot of larvae, you have a lot of problems.

How do the first carpet beetles get into your house?
They come on batches of fresh flowers, and don't leave again.
They fly in your windows!
They walk in your doors.
They are outdoor insects, and may be carried into your house on your firewood.
They come in on dried food or pet food -- yes, very common. They are closely related to the bugs that infest dried foods, in fact, and you can probably bring them home from the grocery store!
They also appear in your house after a rat or mouse infestation; perhaps they live in the coats of rats and mice.
They can live in your attic for years before you know they are there, and slowly spread downstairs.
They can live behind, or beneath, heavy pieces of furniture -- and maybe even inside the furniture!

They may be in your mattress or pillow.
If you have what appears to be bed-bug bites (especially if one person in the bed is bitten and the other is not), it could be you are allergic to the larvae of the carpet beetle!

Once they are in your house, the adult females lay eggs.
Depending upon the species of course, the female can lay from 30 to 100 eggs, once a year or more often than that.
One source describes the eggs as small and pearly-white, located near a food source such as the lint around baseboards, or the duct-work of hot-air furnace systems.
Eggs are laid on clothing, in dust-balls or lint in cracks under or behind baseboards, in dusty heating ducts, or on dead insects that have accumulated inside light fixtures! (Obviously, these bugs get everywhere!)
Do you have a dog, and does the dog hair go under your frig? I bet the carpet beetles are there!

Larvae hatch five or six weeks after being laid (again, that depends on the species) and they feed for about nine months before hibernation.
They feed in dark, undisturbed areas like closets, and in areas under heavy pieces of furniture (couches, pianos) where there is no foot traffic.
Carpet beetle larvae tend to be secretive and only come out in the dark to feed.
They live between 250 to 650 days, depending on the species, and most of their time is spent scavenging for protein rich food in dimly lit areas.

Yes, I think these fur traders would have had a problem with these bugs!

When you are searching for the source of your infestation, look at the following:
Search your attics, basements and storage places;
Check rugs next to walls; upholstered furniture; closets; shelves; radiators and the space beneath and behind them; registers and ducts, baseboards; moldings, corners and floor cracks (between tiles, for example).
Stored woolen and flannels in wooden chests or boxes, or in dresser drawers or cupboards.
Around the edges of, or underneath, rarely moved furniture.

If you have holes in your clothes, it could be either carpet beetles, or clothes moths.
The difference between the two seems to be quite apparent -- if clothes moths you will see the adult moths flying nearby, and you will find moths or pupae casings in your clothes.
Carpet beetles are less conspicuous.
They feed, and then they move elsewhere after feeding.
Tell-tale signs of carpet beetle infestation in clothes is: small, irregular holes, especially around the collar!
Why I do not know, but they like soiled or sweat-stained clothing (even if polyester), and so might be attracted to the neckline of the garment.

I am not going to talk about dealing with a carpet beetle infestation, but I will tell you what I did.
I only had three or four on my windowsill last year -- that is not a lot.
However I panicked: thinking that I was spreading these things on my clothes to all my friends' houses!
I did a bit of research, and put borax on pieces of paper which I slid them under every single piece of furniture I had (if you mix borax with sugar and do the same thing it works on silverfish).
I stuffed all the many gaps behind my baseboards with borax or boric acid powder.
That was last summer.
I haven't done a thing since.
And I haven't seen a single carpet beetle this year, in my place, anyway!
Problem solved, I think.

Caution: Do not put borax straight on the carpet, it might bleach or stain it. I don't think you have to worry about boric acid, but check first.
You can buy boric acid in a pharmacy: do not breath in the powder!
Do not put either borax, or boric acid, anywhere your child or pet might lick it up -- it's toxic. That's why I put it under all the heavy, immovable pieces of furniture that go all the way to the floor.

So while this might not sound like a fur trade story, I think it is.
The fur traders shook out their furs every spring to get rid of the bugs: the adult and very visible carpet beetles emerged in the springtime about the same time.
A little research told me that carpet beetles are everywhere in Canada, even in the cities that experience winters much more fierce than Victoria's.
Every article I opened up told me that carpet beetles loved furs -- in fact, furs were at the top of every experts' list.
I have no problem believing that these outdoor bugs moved into Native houses and lived there; they were also in the log houses the fur traders lived in.
I think these bugs, in their larvael stage, were carried in the Natives' furs traded every spring at the various fur trade posts.  
I have no problem believing that the red and black adult carpet beetles were the insects that the fur traders spotted every spring, ant that these are the bugs they shook out of their furs every spring. They may have rid themselves of the adults; the larvae, however, remained in the furs to be shipped to England.

So someone on Twitter called me a nerd the other day; I felt quite flattered.
I later discovered that the definition of a nerd is "a person utterly fixated on a certain subject."
I'm happy with that: I think that when I can take a perfectly common and totally unconnected subject such as modern-day carpet beetles, and turn it into a fur trade post, then I have passed the nerd test.
I accept that I am a fur trade nerd.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

My "Story-Teller" talk at St. Stephens Church

I was invited to speak at an event put on by St. Stephen's Trust Society, called "Exploring the Past."
St Stephens is the old church in Central Saanich, where my great-grandfather Alexander Caulfield Anderson is buried. [His worn tombstone is shown, above].
The St. Stephens Trust Society has been established to prevent the old church from being closed down, and so far they have been quite successful in this.

I was only one of the invited speakers, and my talk was about ten minutes long.
The evening began with a video of the retiring churchyard guide taking about some of the people who are buried in the churchyard, and telling his stories of what he knew about them.
Many of the people he spoke of were people he had known many years ago, and he told stories about them that no one else knew.
He also told us all that St. Stephens was a country church and that people from many denominations attended the church in its earlier years, before splitting off to build their own churches in the immediate neighbourhood.
I had never thought of St. Stephens Church in that way.

After the video ran, I was the next speaker, and I was followed by Diana Chown who talked about the neighboring Holy Trinity Graveyard.
Sylvia van Kirk was to close the evening but she had laryngitis, and so the president of the Old Cemetery Society rose to tell the crowd what that organization does in Victoria.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening, and there were lots of conversations after the night was done -- especially as Diana Chown talked about a few people who appeared in my book, The Pathfinder.

So anyway, here is what I had to say:

"Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the celebrations we are enjoying here tonight, as we say thank you to St. Stephens Church's resident story-teller.

"My name is Nancy Anderson, and I am the great grand-daughter of the fur trader and explorer, Alexander Caulfield Anderson, whose worn gravestone stands just outside the front door of St. Stephens Church.

"So -- who was Alexander Caulfield Anderson, you ask: and why is he important?

"He was the fur trader who, in 1846 and 1847, explored four routes across the range of mountains that separated the fort at Kamloops, from Fort Langley on the lower Fraser River.
"Those of you who have driven through British Columbia know that means he must have traversed the Coquihalla long before any roads existed there, or he walked around the range of mountains that loomed above Hell's Gate.

"In fact he did both -- on foot, and in later years on horseback, with the fur traders' brigades.
"His story is told in my book, The Pathfinder -- and from this book you will also come to understand how significant a figure he was in North and Central Saanich's early history.

"Stories are important, and they are how both family histories, and local histories, are saved.

"For example: you would probably not consider A. C. Anderson's wife, Betsy Birnie, a significant person -- but she was the probable mixed-blood grand-daughter of the voyageur Joseph Beaulieu, who crossed the Rocky Mountains with the North West Company's explorer David Thompson in 1807.
"But after I say something like this, I have to add the line: -- "Not that we can prove it!"

"And this is why stories must be told and retold and, also, written down. It is highly likely that our story is true but it wasn't written down, and so we can't prove it.
"We do, however, know, that Anderson's wife, Betsy, was born into the fur trade at Spokane House in 1822, shortly after her mother's marriage to fur trader James Birnie.

"So, Betsy grew up in the fur trade, and lived a fur trade life until she was forty years old -- she would not have fitted well into the lives of the English settlers who broke land in this valley.
"Still, when she died in March 1872, her funeral at St. Stephens was attended by the many friends of the Anderson family.

"And so the first generation of Andersons who came to early British Columbia are buried in this cemetery -- the next generation is represented here as well.
"The grave of Anderson's son, Walter Birnie Anderson (and his wife and daughter), stands only twenty feet away from A. C. Anderson's grave.

"Walter came to Saanich when he was about twelve years old, and he grew up on the Anderson farm on Wain Road.
"He eventually became one of the early British Columbia policemen, and served the force in Comox and Cumberland for many years.
"He returned to Victoria on his retirement, and when he died, he chose to be buried at St. Stephens.
"This was his home.

"The next two generations are also represented here, in two separate plots.
"The Harveys, who lived on Knapp Island, are descendants of A. C. Anderson's daughter Agnes, who was also born into the fur trade at Fort Colvile, near Spokane.
"Agnes was fortunate, and unlike her older brothers and sisters she adapted well to the civilization at early Fort Victoria.
"She married well, to Captain James Gaudin -- a rather famous man himself, and her grandchildren married into the Dunsmuirs of Nanaimo.
"Hence her family brings representatives of many prominent British Columbia families into St. Stephens Churchyard.

"The final Anderson family member buried here is my aunt, Claire.
"No one but my sister and I could have identified the infant buried in Walter Anderson's grave, and we only managed to do so because of our ancient mother's many stories about her older sister, Claire -- who she never knew! Claire died before my mother was even born.

"Both Claire and my mother, Marguerite Flora Anderson, were children of Alexander Caulfield Anderson's youngest son, born in Saanich in 1864.
"His name was Arthur, and he was less than twenty years old when his father died.
"He remained in Saanich for a few years before going to the Kootenays to log and mine.
"Eventually he returned home with money, and purchased a strip of land west and north of this church.
"If any of you live on Salmon Road or the tangle of roads in that immediate vicinity, you are living on Arthur Beattie Anderson's old property. [At that point a few people put up their hands; they lived there].

"Arthur sold off pieces of his land as his money ran out, and he also rowed across the inlet to work on the Malahat, which was then under construction.
"When he ran out of money in 1917 or so, he sold his last piece of property and moved to Valdez Island to raise sheep.
"Arthur eventually died in Duncan, where he is buried in an unmarked grave.

"But before Arthur left Saanich, he sold one piece of land to his father-in-law, Reverend Frederick Granville Christmas -- the man church members now know as "Father Christmas."
"This gives my family one more very strong connection to St. Stephens Church.

"As I have said, stories are important.
"Tonight we are celebrating the work your resident story teller has done in researching your stories and in bringing them to you.
"He might not have known all the Anderson family stories, but he would certainly have understood who Alexander Caulfield Anderson was!

"In the fall of 1861, Anderson was one of three men who cleared the land so that St. Stephens Church could be constructed the following spring.
"For this reason, if for no other, A. C. Anderson will remain a part of St. Stephens Church's long and wonderful history.
"Moreover, to members of the Anderson family, St. Stephens churchyard continues to hold an important place in our collective memories; it's a special place."

It's odd, but many people are afraid of public speaking -- and so was I when I first started.
I no longer am.
I have a few tricks that makes it all work for me, and for the all-important attendees.
I write my speech for the audience, and so each talk is aimed at the people I think will be attending -- casual for people who might not know who he is, and more detailed for people who are historians.
The Anderson Island people, for example, got to see all the family pictures that never made it into the book -- the image of the school Anderson attended, the maps of Australia and India and London. They also saw images of Fort Nisqually that no one else has seen.

I write my speech and print it out, double-spaced and in large letters. I also staple the pages together so I won't drop a page and lose track of where I am.
In this last talk, I hadn't printed the speech in large enough letters, so I found it harder to follow and, on one occasion, lost my place for a bit.
I time the speech with a timer when I am writing it, and stop a little short of the usual 45 minutes.
I re-read the talk a few times just before I am going to give it; that way I know the talk well enough that I can read, to remind myself, and look at the audience.
I pause at important places. People take in what you said in the pauses (so losing your place for a moment or two is not a bad thing as it gives people time to absorb what you just said).
I plan the pauses, and write them into my talk.
And most importantly: I eat a big pasta meal before every talk.
Pasta and other complex carbohydrates are very calming, and though I am nervous at the start, I am rarely if ever terribly nervous.

At the end of the talk I am willing to answer questions. I carry a "Need to know book" in which I have answers to the questions I might be asked.
At my first talk I was asked the size of A.C. Anderson 1867 map, and I gave the wrong answer.
Of course I should have gone to my book for the answer, but did not, and based my answer on my visualization of the smaller-sized scan I was more familiar with.
I also need to carry a family tree around with me, because someone will always ask about his children.

If you give talks you will begin to learn what works for you, and what you need to carry around with you.
I hope some of what I said has helped you.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Le Camas

In his book, Trees and Shrubs: Food, Medicinal and Poisonous Plants of British Columbia, [Victoria: Banfield, 1925] James Robert Anderson -- eldest son of A. C. Anderson -- described the two kinds of Camas that bloomed every May in the oak meadows that surrounded Fort Victoria:

"It is commonly called Camas or Le Camas and so the name has degenerated into Lickomas amongst those who are ignorant of the origin of the name. It is a bulbous plant, bearing a spike of beautiful blue flowers, from 6 to 12 inches in height, belonging to the Lily family. The bulb, which is about the size of a small Hyacinth, is a common article of food among the Indian tribes of North America.

"I am not aware of the limits of the territory in which it grows, but certainly in British Columbia, with which I am at present dealing, it is common everywhere where the land is sufficiently clear of trees and the soil rich enough, a rich black loam in open country being its natural habitat. The women go out when the plant is in bloom and with long, sharp, slightly curved and flattened, tough sticks dig up the bulbs, which are from 4 to 5 inches in the ground. These are conveyed to a kiln, 10 feet or less in diameter, and there cooked, after which the bulbs are divided among the contributors, who place them in baskets and store them away for future use. 

"In a raw state the Camas is perfectly white, very glutinous, sweet, with an aromatic and pleasant flavour. The kilns of which I speak are hollows in the ground from 2 to 3 feet in depth, the bottoms of which are filled with large stones, on which fires are built until the stone become red hot. Grass is then placed on the stones, on the grass the Camas is heaped, and in turn covered over with grass and mats, and earth heaped over all. The Camas is allowed to remain in the kiln for several days or until it is quite cold, when, as I said before, the bulbs are divided up. This, before the use of iron utensils became known, was a very common mode of cooking. Besides Camas, other roots were cooked in the same way."

Botanist Nancy J. Turner, in her book Food Plants of Coastal First Peoples [Royal BC Museum Handbook], accurately describes these two flowers, see below:
I saw camas in bloom in Beacon Hill Park a few weeks ago, and so I think those are the Common Camas, while the ones that are just beginning to bloom outside my window are the larger Great Camas -- I hadn't know that till now.
Next year I will be sure to get photos of the earlier Beacon Hill Park flowers, so we can, perhaps, see the difference.

But for now, this is how Ms. Turner describes the camas:
"These [two] species of camas are herbaceous perennials with large, glutinous bulbs, 1.5 to 3 cm. thick and 2 to 4 cm. long, covered by a membranous brown skin. The grass-like leaves are basal, 10 to 20 mm broad and 20 to 40 cm long. The flower stems are 30 to 50 cm long, bearing a loose terminal cluster of showy blue blossoms in late spring. Great Camas (C. leichtlinii) is generally larger and stouter than the Common Camas (C. quamash) and blooms two or three weeks later."

Both camas are common to southeastern Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.
Great Camas may also grow on the west side of the Cascade Mountains, but the Common Camas blooms in the Columbia Valley south of Castlegar and in parts of eastern Washington and Idaho.
Young James would have seen the camas there as a twelve-year old, when he lived with his father at Fort Colvile.
The Common Camas is the plant that early fur trader David Thompson would have known.
I call these fur traders' flowers, and that is why I use their images on both my Twitter and Facebook page.
I wait for them every spring -- so, too, did the David Thompson and the fur traders in the Kootenays, Idaho and Eastern Washington.

From Jack Nisbet's book, Sources of the River, I quote:

"On a fall day in 1809, [David] Thompson had stopped at a bend in the Pend Oreille River to smoke with a small group of Kalispel Indians led by a good-natured old chief. In his diary it amounts to nothing more than a brief exchange: "The oldest man according to custom made a speech & a Present of 2 Cakes of root Bread about 12 lb. of roots & 2 1/2 dried Salmon..." The Kalispel chief has presented the surveyor with his first basket of roasted camas bulbs. They would become one of his trail staples, a food that made his belly grumble but kept it full. Thompson had saved some of these roots, and from his desk in 1847, when he was seventy-seven years old, he could take time to savor the moment, to focus his rheumy eye on a few small tubers."

Nisbet continues with the lines that David Thompson wrote: "These Roots are about the size of a Nutmeg, they are ... near the surface, and are turned up with a pointed Stick, they are farinaceous, of a pleasant taste, easily masticated, and nutritive, they are found in the small meadows of short grass, in a rich soil, and a short exposure to the Sun dries them sufficiently to keep for years. I have some beside me which were dug up in 1811 and are now thirty-six years old and are in good preservation ... but they have lost their fine aromatic smell."

"As he sniffed the camas roots, Thompson transported himself back to the blue-petaled meadows of the Pend Oreille, and the shriveled relics on his desk brought back the taste of the whole place..."

Camas bulbs were a staple food for the Coast Salish on southern Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. "Although the natural range of camas in the interior is extremely limited," Nancy Turner writes in her book, Food Plants of Interior First Peoples, "its distribution was significantly increased through trade with aboriginal groups of Washington, Idaho and Montana, where it was a staple food. Hence it was known not only to the Kutanaxa but also, at least in dried form, to the Okanagan, Nlaka'pamux and southern Secwepemc of British Columbia."

At one time I had a description of a fire pit for camas in the Thompson River district -- and after quite a search I finally found it.
This description is included in "Notes on the Shuswap People of British Columbia," by George M. Dawson, in Transactions of Royal Society of Canada,

In the section labeled "Plants used as Food or for Other Purposes," Dawson wrote:
"Several native roots still constitute notable items in the food of the Shuswaps, though their importance in this respect has much decreased since flour and other farinaceous foods have become common, and particularly since the cultivation of the potato has become customary among the Indians.
"Roots are always dug and cooked or cured by the women.
"In digging the roots a pointed stick about four feet in length, with a crutch-shaped handle, is used.....

"In some places on that part of the Columbia which is included in the territory of the Shuswaps, the camass (Camassia esculenia) is abundant, and forms an important article of diet.
"This following excellent description of the mode of cooking the camass in this district is given by Mr. J. M. Macoun.
"It will serve equally to explain this process of cooking roots of other kinds: --
""The bulbs were collected by the Indians before the seed was fully matured, at which time they consider them at their best.
"The party I speak of had between twenty and twenty-five bushels of them at the lowest estimate.
"For two or three days before cooking was begun, the women of the party were engaged in cutting and carrying to camp branches of the alder and maple.
"Several bundles of the broad leaves of skunk cabbage, and two or three of the black hair like lichen that grows in profusion on Larix occidentalis (Larch?), had been brought with them.
"Everything being ready, the men of the party cut down a huge pine for no other object, apparently, than to obtain its smaller branches, as no other portion of it was used.
"A hole about ten feet square and two deep was then dug in a gravelly bank near the lake shore, which was filled with broken pine branches.
"Upon these were piled several cords of dry cedar and pine, and this was covered over with small boulders.
"The pile was then lighted in several places, and left  for some hours to take care of itself.
"When the Indians returned to it the stones lay glowing among a mass or embers.
"The few unburnt pieces of wood which remained near the edge were raked away, and the women with wooden spades banked up the sides of the pile with sand, throwing enough of it over the stones to fill up every little crevice through which a tongue of flame might be thrust up from the coals that still burned beneath the stones.
"Then the whole was covered with the maple and alder boughs to the depth of a foot ore more after they had been well trampled down.
"Over these were placed the wide leaves of the skunk cabbage until every cranny was closed.
"Sheets of tamarac bark were then spread over the steaming green mass, and upon these the bulbs were placed.
"About half of them were in bark baskets closed at the mouth, and each holding about a bushel and a half.
"These were carried to the centre of this pile.
"The lichen of which I have spoken was then laid over the unoccupied bark, having been well washed first, and over it were strewn the bulbs that remained.
"The whole was then covered with boughs and leaves as before and roofed with sheets of bark.
"Upon this three or four inches of sand was thrown, and over all was heaped the material for another fire, larger even than the first one.
"When this was lighted the sun was just setting, and it continued to burn all night.

"The next morning our camp was moved away, and I was unable to see the results of the day's labour.
"I was told, however, by one of the Indians who could speak a little English, that their oven would be allowed a day in which to cool, and that when opened the bulbs in the baskets would have 'dissolved to flour' from which bread could be made, while those mixed with the lichen would have united with it to form a solid substance resembling black plug tobacco in colour and consistency, which could be broken up and kept sweet for a long time."
This method of cooking differs from others in this post, as you will see.
It also appears that this last, written by J.M. Macoun, was published in Garden and Forest, July 16, 1890.

Turner has much more information in her book Food Plants of Coastal First Peoples, because, of course, the camas grows on the coast more than it does in the BC interior, excepting the Kootenays.
And all this is new to me!
"Camas bulbs were a staple article of diet for many indigenous groups of the northwestern United States and were also widely used in British Columbia in areas where they were obtainable. 
"They were especially important to the Coast Salish of southern Vancouver Island, but were eaten to a lesser extent by the mainland Halq'emeylem, Squamish, Sechelt, Comox, Nuu-chah-nulth and Kwakwaka'wakw.....
"Methods of collection and preparation of the bulbs vary according to tradition, but most groups dug up the bulbs during or after flowering, between May and August, and steamed them in pits.... 
"Among the Vancouver Island Coast Salish, aboriginal harvesting and crop maintenance practices for camas can be termed semi-agricultural. 
"Large areas around Victoria, such as the grasslands of Beacon Hill Park, and the small islands off the Saanich Peninsula, were frequented each year by the Saanich and Songhees peoples. 
"They divided the camas beds into individually owned plots, passed from generation to generation. "Each season, the families cleared their plots of stones, weeds and brush, often by controlled burning. 
"Harvesting took several days, with entire families participating. 
"The harvesters systematically lifted out the soil in small sections, removed the larger bulbs and replaced the sod.
Even in this century, families would collect four to five potato-sacks full at a time; most of these would be used for a communal feast upon returning to the villages."

Now she describes the pits the camas were cooked in -- and it is the same, but also differs, from the descriptions I have already given you:
The Natives "cooked the bulbs in steaming pits usually 1 to 2 metres across and almost a metre deep.
"The cooks lit a fire in the bottom and allowed it to burn until the rocks lining the pit were red hot.
"After removing the ashes, they levelled the bottom of the pit and placed seaweed, blackberry and salal branches, fern fronds or Grand Fir boughs in the pit.
"Then they added the camas bulbs -- as much as 50 kg at a time.
"Sometimes they mixed them with Red Alder or Arbutus bark to give the bulbs a reddish colour.
"Finally, they covered the pit with more branches, then with soil or sand and old mats or sacking.
"Water was poured in through a hole made with a stick, and the bulbs were allowed to steam for a day and a half."

"When cooked," Nancy Turner finishes her story, "Blue Camas bulbs are soft, brownish and sweet.  They were often used to sweeten other foods, such as Soapberries, in the days before sugar was available.
"Contrary to popular belief, the bulbs do not contain starch, but a complex sugar known as inulin -- the same substance found in the roots of the Spring Sunflower and Jerusalem Artichoke. 
"Slow cooking promotes the conversion of inulin to its component units of fructose, a sweet, digestible sugar.
"This is why cooked camas bulbs taste sweet."

So now you know.
You can purchase these bulbs for planting in some gardening stores.
However, I have friends that planted many at great expense on their island property, and not one came up.

In his above mentioned book, Trees and Shrubs, A. C.Anderson's son, James, also talked of the Death Camas, or what he called Zygadenus venenosus.
In the Poisonous Plants section of the book, he writes this about the bulb:
"This is the variety which grows about Victoria in company with the real Camas; it also occurs quite commonly in the open parts of the Province... Both have the same grass-like leaves as the ordinary edible Camas, but are to be distinguished by the colour of the flowers, the former being of a yellowish-white, whilst those of the edible Camas are blue. Nevertheless, care has to be exercised by the natives in digging up the bulbs of the edible Camas on account of the resemblance of the bulbs. This is a well-known poisonous plant both to human beings and animals, the poison being contained both in the leaves and bulbs. According to United States reports, in the State of Montana 3,030 sheep were poisoned in 1900, of which 21 per cent died. Experiments in the United States show the poison to be an alkaloid related to the violent poison of hellebore. One-fiftieth of a grain killed a frog in two minutes. The dose of strychnine fatal to a frog is twice that amount. From this some idea of the intensely poisonous nature of the bulbs may be gathered."

Nancy J. Turner also warns against eating the Death Camas.
She says: "Care must be taken never to confuse the bulbs of the Blue Camas with those of the closely related Death Camas. The bulbs are similar in size and shape... Death Camas has cream-coloured flowers that are smaller and in a tighter cluster than those of the two Blue Camas species. Death Camas commonly grows together with the Blue Camas, and the leaves are difficult to distinguish. Anyone wishing to sample Blue Camas bulbs should dig them up at flowering time to avoid any possibility of misidentification.

Every year at about this time, I begin to post pictures of the Camas on various Facebook pages where the fur trade descendants gather, and we all tell our stories of Le Camas.
I will do the same this year.
It is our tradition.