Dalmore Daytime

Dalmore Daytime
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Wednesday, 20 February 2008

John Macleod - How The West Was Won.

My great great uncle,John Macleod,arrived in Quebec Province in 1837,aged 22 years,and found employment with the Hudson Bay Company,as many emigres from Scotland had,and would do so in the future.He was put in charge of all the company boats plying the southern Hudson Bay,which for a Leodhasach was second nature.The Company had plans to establish a presence west of the Rocky Mountains,where others,including the Russians were already involved in the fur trade.John and two other employees of the Hudson Bay Company were chosen to "go west" and establish the company's presence on the Pacific Coast.Men like these who undertook massive journeys into the unknown, fraught with hardships and danger,would be immortalised on the silver screen as heroes and pioneers of the "West".
They chose their own route westwards,and where possible used their small light canoes to carry them and their packs to the foothills of the Rockies.Here they had to abandon the canoes,and the party started across the high mountains on foot,with no beaten trail to guide them.They eventually reached the shores of the great Columbia River on the western side of the Rockies,and here they built boats strong enough to navigate this powerful river.
The 1838 trip,at least the portion down the Columbia River,is well documented in Hudson Bay Co. papers and correspondence,and by the accounts written by the first two Catholic priests to arrive in the Pacific Northwest.The two priests were travelling in the same group as John Macleod,at least from Boat Encampment,the first station west of the Rockies,where they started down the Columbia River.At a notoriously dangerous stretch of the Columbia called the "Dalles of the Dead",their boat capsized with a total of 26 on board,17 men,3 women and 6 small children.12 people were lost and only 3 bodies of children were recovered for burial.The priests had gone ahead in the first group,with two boats.Then one boat had been sent back from Upper Arrow Lake for the rest of the people and supplies.It was clearly overloaded when it was wrecked,and of those saved,most could not swim,including John Macleod who held on to pieces of flotsom.Those who tried to swim were carried to their deaths in the vicious currents.There were two English botanists on board,both of whom drowned.The wife of one of them,Maria(Simpson)Wallace,half-Indian,was reputed to be the daughter of the Governor,Sir George Wallace.She also drowned.
For John Macleod and the others the remainder of their journey was one of self denial and hardship.When he arrived in what is now the great city of Vancouver,the only evidence of humanity which John could see was a small Russian trading post.He went to Fort Nisqually and worked on a boat called the "Beaver" for the Hudson Bay Co. This boat plied between Fort Nisqually and Sitka, the Russian trading post,the future Vancouver.
John married a native Indian woman of high status in the early 1840s.My mother used to say that her great-uncle married a "Red Indian Squaw".She was a lady named Claquodote,the daughter of Chief Scanewah,who was chief of the Cowlitz Indians,their name derived from the river of that name.They only had one child,a daughter named Catherine.In 1849,John left for California to make his fortune in the so-called "Gold Rush" - a Lewis Miner 49er.He stayed for two years,but there would be no fortune.When John came back to Fort Nisqually,he was surprised to find that Claquodote,his erstwhile wife was now wedded to a man of her own tribe.Scanewah,the chief and her father, had decided that Macleod would not be coming back.Anyway,who's going to argue with the Chief? So John picked another Cowlitz "gal".During the early 1850s,when the "Indian Outbreak" occured,John was suspected by government soldiers of aiding the Indians,and was kept in prison for several months.Later in time,Claquodote's husband died,and as if it were fated,John's second wife died.John married his beloved Claquodote and they were together until she died in 1889.
His only child,Catherine, married one Daniel Mounts and together they had a large family.John died in 1905,a few days short of his 90th birthday,and is buried in the Masonic Cemetery at Stellacoom,near Tacoma,Washington State.There were obituaries of John in all the newspapers of the area."one of the earliest pioneers","one of the oldest white people in Washington","he preceeded civilisation" are some of the more colourful aphorisms.
Although John never returned to Lewis,he sent many letters home to Garenin,and each year sent £10 to each of his brothers and sisters,a considerable amount in these days.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Donald - Just wanted to say, great work on John McLeod - recently, I've been doing some research on this crofter/HBCer and if you want to get more info on him - email me and I'll send it on. You've got a majority of your facts absolutely spot on correct - but I think I can shed some light on a few corners that you've not touched at all, if you are interested.
Feel free to contact me.