During the fur trade era every fur trading post was required to keep a daily jourÂnal. This journal was usually written up by the chief clerk who was second in command at the fort. All these daily journals eventually ended up at the headquarters of their respective companies. AlthÂough Fort George was a North West Trading Co. post during 1794-95 its journals enÂded up in the Hudson's Bay Co. archives after the two companies joined forces shorÂtly after 1820.
During the late 1920s, Dr. A.S. Morton, a professor of history of the University of Saskatchewan received permission from the Royal ColoÂnial Institute at London, EngÂland to review these Fort George Journals. He also received a lot of useful inforÂmation from the Public ArÂchives in Ottawa. From this inÂformation he gathered from these two sources he was able to write a historical book about the happenings at nearby Fort George. His book was called the Journals of Duncan MâGillivray 1794-95.
This book was a limited ediÂtion printing of which only 359 were ever printed. They were numbered from one to 350 and were made available to a number of historical societies through out Canada as well as to a few major museums. Because of the small number printed this edition is conÂsidered a very rare edition. One which is almost impossiÂble to buy today; at any price. In 1954 I became interested in acquiring this book and after a two year search by a book firm in Toronto, one turÂned up, book No.317. RealizÂing that they were extremely scarce, I didn't hesitate to purchase it.
During the period of 1794-95 Duncan M'Gillivray was the head clerk of nearby Fort George and Angus Shaw was the Chief Factor. In this book many interesting hapÂpenings are described in Duncan MâGillivrayâs own words. Although in this column I have selected only a small segment of his Journals of Fort George, it will give you some idea of what took place at this fort during the period of 1794-95.
Duncan M'Gillivray quotes the following in his journals:
When a band of Indians apÂproach the fort it is customary for the chiefs to send a few men before them to announce their arrival, and to procure a few articles which they are accustomed to receive on these occasions - such as gun powder, a piece of tobacco and a little paint to besmear their faces, an operation which they seldom fail to perform, preÂvious to their presenting themselves before the white people. At a few yards disÂtance from the gate they saÂlute us with several discharÂges of their guns, which is anÂswered by hoisting a flag and firing a few guns. On entering the house they are disarmed, treated with a few drams and a bit of tobacco, and after the pipe has been plied about for some time, they relate the news with great deliberation and ceremony, relaxing from their usual taciturnity in proÂportion to the rum they have swallowed, till at length their voices are drowned in a genÂeral clamour. When their lodges are erected by the women, they receive a preÂsent of rum proportioned to the nation and quality of the chiefs, and the whole band drinks during 24 hours and Sometimes much longer for nothing - a privilege of which they take every advantage for in the seat of an opposition, profusion is absolutely necessary to secure the trade of the Indians. When the drinking match has subsided they begin to trade - they obÂtain a large keg of rum for 30 beaver pelts, a long gun for 14 beaver, a 3 point blanket for 6 beaver, an axe for two beaver, one fathom of Brazil tobacco for 3 beaver pelts, etc. etc. (The beaver pelt was the unit of value during barterÂing.)
The neighboring Indians are pouring in continuously from all quarters and the fort since that time has been a scene of drunkenness and brutality. This day in a quarrel betwixt two factions of the Crees, an Indian was butchered in a cruel manner - another young man was Stabbed in the neck, but it is hoped he will recover. The drinking match is thereÂfore stopped to prevent more mischief at this time.
This gives you some idea of how the fur trading post operated during that period. Many other interesting happenings at nearby Fort George are recorded in this book, some will be selected in some future column.