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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


August 9, 2003 - Issue 93


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Interesting Sidelights on the History of the Early Fur Trade Industry (Part 11)

Article from The Eau Claire Leader -September 27, 1925
credits: submitted by Timm Severud (Ondamitag)


(NOTE: This article continues the selections from the McLeod diary. Only so much of the diary account pertains to the trip up into the Red River Country has been or will be quoted, as other parts would probably be of little interest to the general reader. It would be difficult to find recorded the details of a trip more entailing hardships and dangers that Mr. McLeod has penned. A disappointing feature of the account is the lack of any definite statement by McLeod as to what became of General Dickson and what was the result of his hair brained venture. Dickson's name simply drops out of McLeod's diary account. From footnotes to the diary account in the Minnesota Historical Bulletin are to be found mentions, which throw some further light on Dickson's intentions, also of unexpected obstacles encountered at the Red River fur trade settlement, which in any case must have ended in a fiasco. A Mr. Ely, a missionary in the Lake Superior region, in his diary under the date September 23, 1836 writes as follows:)

What Became of Dickson
About 1 o'clock this noon the boat which left for La Point on the 8th arrived. Another boat from the Sault Ste. Marie also arrived, chartered by General Dickson and manned by his soldiers. The company consists of the General, a Polish refugee officer, 5 young men, ranking lieutenants, and 7 soldiers. They are on an expedition against Mexico, and it is the present intentions if a sufficient force is collected, to make a descent from the passes of the Rocky Mountains upon a certain Mexican city, and destroy it. General Dickson says that every man must die, as they will not be able to keep the city if their men are spared. I had a long conversation with him concerning his plans. He keeps nothing back, except the name of the city in view. His plan is to form a government in California of the scattered Indian tribes of the west; Cherokees, Creek, etc., and all others who may be disposed to join them."

(NOTE: This Mr. Ely later adds to his diary entry as below:)

Our conversation brought out the following points. That Dickson and the Pole had been engaged in the Texan Army. That the idea of being called to fill some important position in the affairs of the world possessed him. That the star of fate was guiding him in this bold stroke. He proceeded to Montreal where he recruited his small force of young men, who would constitute his officers in the army he expected to raise. With a very meager supply of arms, and small resources, they started for the Red River Colony, expecting to recruit a force of half-breeds, hunt their way across the buffalo plains, and thus suddenly, and from an unexpected quarter, fall on the doomed city, which I conclude is Santa Fe, and from its pillage to find himself abundantly supplied with fold for future wants… I afterwards learned through Mr. Aitkins that Dickson wandered off among the Indian Tribes.

Actuated By Revenge
(NOTE: Another footnote is as follows:)

"This guide who accompanied the party was the famous Pierre Bottineau. Mr. William Bottineau, a son of Pierre, has told the writer much of the story of this expedition as he heard from his father. His version of Dickson's motives is that the General had been robbed and abused in other ways by the Mexicans, and desired revenge. When he reached the Red River settlement the Hudson Bay Company refused to honor his draft, being unwilling to lose their best hunters. Then Dickson was stranded without money or equipment and had to abandon the enterprise."

(NOTE: The closing of the preceding article left McLeod and party when they had just reached the shelter of a clump of trees, thus probably saving them from perishing on the open plain.)

Continuation of McLeod's Diary

March 14, 1837 - Last night it was so cold I could not get a moments sleep. Today we remained in camp, as the guide was unable to go on because of sore eyes.

Caught in Storm
March 17, 1837 - This morning when we left the camp the weather was very mild and pleasant. Guide discovered the tracks of a deer and pent in pursuit of it, meantime Mr. Hayes, Mr. Parys and myself directed our course across the plains towards a point of woods as fast as possible. It was distant about 3 miles. I was foremost, the dogs following close behind. In a few moments nothing was perceptible, and it was with difficulty I kept myself from suffocating - however, I hastened on in a short time caught glimpse of the woods through a drifting cloud of snow. I was not more than 300 yards from it. At that time I saw Mr. Hayes who had come up within 30 yards of me, and called out that I was going the wrong course, exclaiming 'Keep more to the right.' I said, 'No, follow me quick.' I perceived him to stoop, probably to arrange the strings of his snowshoes, an instant later an immense cloud of snow hid him from view, and I saw him no more. I cannot describe what my feelings then were and what they must have been a few seconds later when I found myself at the bottom of a ravine more that 20 feet deep, from which I had to use the greatest exertions to save myself from suffocating in the snow, which was drifting down on me. Upon gaining the edge of the ravine, which I affected with the greatest of difficulty, having my snowshoes still on, as my hands were too cold to untie the strings of them, which were frozen. I found the poor faithful dogs with their traineau buried in a snow bank. Having dug them out my next effort was to gain the woods, which I found was composed of only a few scattered trees, making miserable shelter. I tried to make a fire, but my matches were wet, my hands were too cold to strike a spark with flint and steel. 'What shall be done? I must not perish,' I said to myself. I thus thought of my companions, alas, poor fellows, there can be no hope for you, as I have all the blankets, buffalo robes, provisions and etc.

Digs a Hole in Snow
Having dug a hole in a snow bank I made a sort of shelter with my cloak and a blanket and buffalo robe. I was completely wet through, for a shower of sleet had accompanied the storm. In a few moments it began to freeze. The night came, the storm continued unabated and my situation was truly miserable. My companions and guide probably all have perished. I myself am in great danger of freezing in a strange country some hundreds of miles from any settlement or trading post.

One Frozen, One Lost
March 18, 1837 - Never was a light more welcome to a mortal. At dawn I crept from my hole and soon afterwards heard cries. Fired two shots and soon afterwards the guide came up. He had escaped by making a fire and being a native, and a half blood, his knowledge of the country and its danger had saved his life. Mr. Parys was found with both legs and feet frozen. All search for Hayes proved ineffectual. We remained all day near the scene of our disaster in the hope that some trace of him might be found.

Forced to Leave Parys Behind
Sunday, March 19, 1837 - Started early today, with poor Parys on the dog traineau, having left all our luggage behind. At 2 pm found dogs unable to proceed with him and he suffered too much to bear the pain of moving about. The guide made a hut for Parys, where he will have to remain for 5 or 6 days, until I can send horses from him from Lake Traverse, 60 miles distant. Left with Parys our blankets and robes, except a blanket each for the guide and myself, also plenty of provisions. We were obliged to kill one of our dogs; dog meat is excellent eating.

March 21, 1837 - Left the Bois de Sioux at sunrise and arrived at dark at the trading house at Lake Traverse, having traveled 45 miles, with a severe pain in my right side and knee.

March 23, 1837 - Sent the guide with another person and two horses and a cart for Mr. Parys, my trunk, etc., with instructions to search for the body of Mr. Hayes, in order that he might be decently interred at the trading post.

Find Parys Dead
Sunday, April 2, 1837 - This morning the two men returned poor Parys is no more. They found him in his hut dead. He had taken off the greatest part of his clothing, no doubt in the delirium of fever, caused by the excruciating pain of his frozen feet. In the hut was found nearly all the wood we left him and a kettle of water partly frozen. Everything indicated that he died the second or third day after we left him.

No trace of Mr. Hayes was found. The poor fellow ere this has become food for the savage animals that prowl these boundless wilds. Thus has perished a young and amiable man at the age of 20, in the full vigor of youth.

Placed in Grave
Monday, April 5, 1837 - This day poor Parys was consigned to his last abode, the silent and solitary tomb. It is a source of consolation to me amid my troubles that I have been enabled to perform this last duty for a friend. Would that I could say the same for Mr. Hayes. I have however, left directions with all the Indians near this port to search diligently for his bones and inter them. They are about to depart on their spring hunt and will in all probability find his remains. I can do no more.

April 5, 1837 - Left Lac Traverse at 10 o'clock. Came 20 miles through a hilly prairie. Encamped at 3 pm.

April 7, 1837 - Cold and stormy; I had some difficulty in getting across the Pomme de Terre River, I made the horses swim. I got our baggage and cart across on so jammed ice. Arrive at Lac qui Parle at 2 pm and was well received by Mr. Reinville, who has a trading post for the Indians here.

Sunday, April 9, 1837 - Went to hear Mr. Williamson preach. He also read a chapter from the testament in Dakota. A number of the psalms of David were song in Dakota by half-breeds and Indians. The audience consisted of half-breeds, Indians, Canadians, and a few whites.

April 13, 1837 - Came 30 miles this day and arrived at 3 pm at the Monte de Sioux, at the trading post of Mr. Provencable.

Start for Fort Snelling
April 14, 1837 - Embarked at sunrise in a canoe with Indians and squaws who were down where the St. Peter River joins the Mississippi at Fort Snelling. Have for company 10 Indians and squaws in 3 canoes. These people have in one of their canoes the bodies of two of their deceased relative which they intend to carry to a lake near the Mississippi more than a hundred miles from here.

Sunday, April 16, 1837 - At 3 pm arrived at last at Fort Snelling, St. Peters, having escaped a variety of dangers and endured great fatigue and privation in the Sioux country.

(NOTE: Mr. McLeod having now reached a comparatively civilized community and his danger and privations over we will bring his diary account to a close. There was no thought at the outset of furnishing such a lengthy series of articles as this has turned out to be. If the result has been a feeling of better acquaintance on the part of the reader with the pioneer fur traders of this northern region and a better realization of their hardships and dangers the working in compiling this material will not be considered as entirely wasted - William W. Bartlett)

(Note from Editor - This paper and judging from the nature of comments heard, it readers are deeply indebted to Mr. William W. Bartlett for gathering and compiling the material for this series of fur trading articles which have appeared in this paper weekly for some time past, for they have not only been interesting but instructive as well in throwing light on a phase of early Chippewa Valley history of which the people of this valley have very little knowledge. After the publication of Mr. Bartlett's talk on early fur trading days, at a picnic held some months ago at Jim Falls, the editor prevailed on him to prepare a series of articles on the subject, and those who have read them will appreciate to some extent the labor and effort to which he has put himself to place this interesting information before the readers of this paper. The editor hopes that Mr. Bartlett, at some time, and not too far distant, will see fit to give this paper and its readers the benefit of his study and knowledge of the early history of the Chippewa Valley in other articles. We know that he has not exhausted the subject and has much in reserve that will be of interest.)

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