Two months in the camp of Big Bear
Theresa Gowanlock and Theresa Delaney
Part 1 out of 2
Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Charles Franks
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
This file was produced from images generously made available by
the Canadian Institute for Historical Microreproductions.
TWO MONTHS IN THE CAMP OF BIG BEAR.
The Life and Adventures
Theresa Gowanlock and Theresa Delaney.
WE LEAVE ONTARIO
INCIDENTS AT BATTLEFORD
ON TO OUR HOME
WOOD AND PLAIN INDIANS
WITH THE INDIANS
PROTECTED BY HALF-BREEDS
THEY TAKE FORT PITT
COOKING FOR A LARGE FAMILY
INCIDENTS BY THE WAY
HOPE ALMOST DEFERRED
OUT OF BIG BEAR'S CAMP
WE LEAVE FOR HOME
TO ONE OF THE ABSENT
J. A. GOWANLOCK.
W. C. GILCHRIST.
MY YOUTH AND EARLY LIFE.
MY MARRIAGE LIFE.
THE NORTH-WEST TROUBLES.
THE SASKATCHEWAN STREAM.
THE SCENE OF THE MASSACRE.
SQUAW CARRYING WOOD.
MR GOWANLOCK'S HOUSE, STORE AND MILL.
THE WAR DANCE.
FROG LAKE SETTLEMENT.
It is not the desire of the author of this work to publish the
incidents which drenched a peaceful and prosperous settlement in
blood, and subjected the survivors to untold suffering and privations
at the hands of savages, in order to gratify a morbid craving for
notoriety. During all my perils and wanderings amid the snow and ice
of that trackless prairie, the hope that nerved me to struggle on,
was, that if rescued, I might within the sacred precincts of the
paternal hearth, seek seclusion, where loving hands would help me to
bear the burden of my sorrow, and try to make me forget at times, if
they could not completely efface from my memory, the frightful scenes
enacted around that prairie hamlet, which bereft me of my loved one,
leaving my heart and fireside desolate for ever. Prostrated by fatigue
and exposure, distracted by the constant dread of outrage and death, I
had well-nigh abandoned all hope of ever escaping from the Indians
with my life, but, as the darkness of the night is just before the
dawn, so my fears which had increased until I was in despair, God in
his inscrutible way speedily calmed, for while I was brooding over and
preparing for my impending fate, a sudden commotion attracted my
attention and in less time than it takes to write it, I was free. From
that moment I received every kindness and attention, and as I
approached the confines of civilization, I became aware of how
diligently I had been sought after, and that for weeks I had been the
object of the tenderest solicitude, not only of my friends and
relations, but of the whole continent.
There have appeared so many conflicting statements in the public press
regarding my capture and treatment while with the Indians, that it is
my bounden duty to give to the public a truthful and accurate
description of my capture, detention and misfortunes while captive in
the camp of Big Bear. The task may be an irksome one and I might with
justice shrink from anything which would recall the past. Still it is
a debt of gratitude I owe to the people of this broad dominion. To the
brave men who sacrificed their business and comfort and endured the
hardships incident to a soldier's life, in order to vindicate the law.
And to the noble men and women who planned for the comfort and
supplied the wants of the gallant band who had so nobly responded to
the call of duty and cry for help. And I gladly embrace this
opportunity of showing to the public and especially the ladies, my
appreciation of their kindness and sympathy in my bereavement, and
their noble and disinterested efforts for my release. In undertaking a
task which has no pleasures for me, and has been accomplished under
the most trying difficulties and with the greatest physical suffering,
I have embodied in the narrative a few of the manners and customs of
Indians, the leading features of the country, only sufficient to
render it clear and intelligible. I make no apology for issuing this
volume to the public as their unabated interest make it manifest that
they desire it, and I am only repaying a debt of gratitude by giving a
truthful narrative to correct false impressions, for their kindness
and sympathy to me.
I trust the public will receive the work in the spirit in which it is
given and any literary defects which it may have, and I am sure there
are many, may be overlooked, as I am only endeavoring to rectify
error, instead of aspiring to literary excellence. I express my
sincere and heartfelt thanks to the half-breeds who befriended me
during my captivity, and to the friends and public generally who
sheltered and assisted me in many ways and by many acts of kindness
and sympathy, and whose attention was unremitting until I had reached
And now I must bid the public a grateful farewell and seek my wished
for seclusion from which I would never have emerged but to perform a
WE LEAVE ONTARIO.
We left my father's house at Tintern on the 7th of October, 1884,
having been married on the 1st, for Parkdale, where we spent a few
days with my husband's friends. We started for our home on the 10th by
the Canadian Pacific Railway to Owen Sound, thence by boat to Port
Arthur, and then on to Winnipeg by rail, where we stopped one night,
going on the next day to Regina. We only stopped in that place one
day, taking rail again to Swift Current, arriving there the same day.
This ended our travel by the locomotion of steam.
After taking in a supply of provisions we made a start for Battleford,
distant 195 miles, by buckboard over the prairie, which stretches out
about 130 miles in length, and for the remaining 55 miles there are
clumps of trees or bluffs as they are called, scattered here and
there. Our journey over this part was very pleasant, the weather was
fine and the mode of travelling, which was new to me, delightful. Our
company, consisted in addition to ourselves, of only one person, Mr.
Levalley, a gentleman from Ottawa. We passed four nights under canvas.
The journey was not a lonely one, the ships of the prairie were
continually on the go, we passed several companies of freighters with
harnessed oxen, half-breeds and Indians. It was also full of incident
and adventure; on one occasion, when cooking our tea, we set fire to
the prairie, although we worked hard to put it out, it in a very few
minutes spread in a most alarming manner, and entirely beyond our
control, and we let it go looking on enjoying the scene. Upon nearing
Battleford a number of half-famished squaws came to us begging for
something to eat, but we were not in a position, unfortunately, to
supply their wants, on account of our larder having run dry. We
entered Battleford on the 19th of October.
The town of Battleford is situated on the Battle river. The old on one
side, the new on the other, in the direction of the fort. When the
Indians plundered that place it was the town on the south bank. The
houses on the opposite bank were protected by the guns at the fort. My
husband had a store on the north bank in the direction of the fort.
The town is very scattered, covering a large area of ground, it is
verily a place of distances and quite in keeping with the north-west
generally. There are a few fine houses in the place, notably, the
industrial home for Indian children and the residence of Judge
INCIDENTS AT BATTLEFORD
I remained at Battleford six weeks, while my husband went to Frog
Creek, (where he had thirteen men working on the house and mills,) and
while there I became initiated into the manners and customs of the
inhabitants. A few incidents which happened during my stay might be
interesting to the reader, therefore, I will jot them down as they
come to mind.
After our arrival the Indians and squaws came to see me and would go
and tell some of the others to come and see the monias, (squaw) and
when they saw my husband they asked him why he did not live with her,
and if she was well; and one day I walked with him over to where he
was keeping store before he went west and the Indians came in and
shook hands, and laughed, and the squaws thought my costume was rather
odd and not in keeping with that of the fashionable north-western
belle. The squaws cut off about three yards of print and make the
skirt; while others take flour sacks and cut holes through for the
waist and have leggings and moccasins; they would disdain to wear such
an article as hose.
They are quite adepts in the art of tanning. I saw them tanning
leather; they took the skin and put something on it, I do not know
what it was, and put it in the sun for a few days, then with a small
sharp iron fastened on a long handle, they scraped the skin with this
until very smooth, and greased it over and put it in the sun again for
some time, afterwards two squaws pulled it until nice and soft,
and then it was ready for use.
One afternoon I was out shopping and on my way home I saw some little
Indian children coasting down hill on an earthen plate, but before
getting to the end of the hill, to their evident surprise the plate
broke and they commenced crying because it was broken and went back
and got another one, and so on until they thought they would try tin
plates, and the little friend that was with me, Effie Laurie, took the
tin plate from them and sat down on it herself and went down the hill,
and they looked so astonished to think that a white woman would do
such a thing.
Another time on going out while two men were crossing the bridge over
Battle river; a horse broke through and was killed and the squaws
gathered around it taking the skin off, while others carried some of
the carcass away, and I asked what they were going to do with it, and
my husband said "they will take it home and have a big feast and if
the meat has been poisoned they will boil it for a long time, changing
the water, and in this way anything that was poisonous would not
The way the Indians get their wood, they send their squaws to the bush
to cut the wood and they take a rope and tie around as much as they
can carry, and hang it on their backs. Those who have dogs to carry
the wood for them tie two long sticks together, fastening them on the
dog's back, then tying a large bundle of wood on the back part of the
cross sticks by that means the squaw is relieved from the task. The
squaws perform all manual labor, while the big, lazy, good-for-nothing
Indian lolls about in idleness.
ON TO OUR HOME.
At the end of six weeks my husband returned from the west, and with
many pleasant recollections of Battleford, we left for our own home,
which I had pictured in my mind with joyous anticipation, as the place
of our continued happiness: a beautiful oasis, in that land of prairie
and sparse settlement, and with a buoyancy of spirit which true
happiness alone can bring, I looked forward with anticipated pleasure,
which made that little log house appear to me, a palace, and we its
king and queen.
On this last part of our journey we were favored with the company of
Mr. Ballentyne of Battleford who went with us, and after the first
day's travelling, we stopped all night at a half-breed's house, where
they had a large fire-place made of mud, which was just like a solid
piece of stone; they had a bright fire, and everything appeared nice
and tidy within; a woman was making bannock, and when she had the
dough prepared, she took a frying pan and put the cake in and stood it
up before the fire. This is the way they do all their baking, and then
she fried some nice white fish and hung a little kettle on a long iron
hook over the fire, put in potatoes, and boiled the tea-kettle, making
the tea in it too. She then spread a white cloth over the table and we
all enjoyed our supper together after the long ride. The squaw gave us
a nice clean bed to sleep in, making theirs on the floor and in the
morning I saw four little children crawling out from under the bed
where we slept, and my husband looked up at me and laughed, and said,
"that is where children sleep up in _this country_." Their ways
appeared very strange to me, and in the morning before going away,
they gave us a warm breakfast.
We travelled all the next day and camped that night. We had a small
tin stove which is part of a camping outfit, and which smoked very
much while cooking. We had great trouble to know how we would obtain a
light, but we had a candle and we lighted that, and then we had
nothing to hold it in, but as necessity is the mother of invention, we
found a way out of the difficulty; we took a pocket knife that had two
blades, and stuck one blade in the tent pole and opened the other half
way, fastening the candle into the blade, which answered the purpose
and enabled us to see while we ate our supper. We then turned down our
beds, and in a few minutes were fast asleep. When morning came we had
breakfast, and travelled on again. Mr. Ballentyne shot some prairie
chickens and we had them for our dinner, which was a great treat to
me. We arrived at Fort Pitt on the tenth, bidding Mr. Ballentyne
good-bye, stopped at Mr. McLean's all night, where we enjoyed a very
The next morning we left for Onion Lake, where we were welcomed by Mr.
Mann and family, and after a night's rest proceeded on our journey to
Frog Lake, reaching there on the 12th. We went to Mr. and Mrs.
Delaney's, who kindly allowed me to stop there until my husband fixed
up some articles of furniture at our own house two miles further on
and south-west of the Lake.
After arriving at Mrs. Delaney's, my husband left me and went down to
the house to work, on Saturday evening he came back. On Sunday morning
Mr. Quinn came over and asked us to go for a drive, we accepted the
invitation. It was a bright frosty morning; he took us to our little
home that I had not yet seen. On hearing the men singing who were
employed at the mill, we drove down to their cooking tent, where we
found Mr. Gilchrist cooking breakfast for fourteen men. They had a
large cooking stove inside, with a long board table; the table was
covered with tin plates and cups. They had rabbit soup, and bread and
coffee for breakfast; after getting ourselves warm we drove back to
Mr. Delaney's. On the following Thursday my husband drove up and took
me to our home, where all was in beautiful order, and Mr. Gilchrist
waiting for our arrival.
Now we are at home and I am thankful. There they nestle in a pretty
valley, the simple house, the store, and beside the brook, the mill.
The music of the workman's hammer alone breaks the stillness that
pervades the scene, and the hills send back the echo without a
discordant note. The hills were covered with trees, principally poplar
and spruce, interspersed with berry-bearing shrubs. A most beautiful
and enchanting location.
That little settlement of our own was situated upon Frog Creek, about
three miles west of the lake of the same name, and distant from the
Frog Lake Settlement, our nearest white neighbours, about two miles.
But we had neighbours close by, who came in to see us the next day,
shaking hands and chatting to us in Cree, of which language we knew
but little. The Indians appeared to be very kind and supplied us with
white fish twice a week which they procured from the river for which
in return we gave sugar, tea, prints, &c., from the store. Christmas
and New Year's were celebrated in about the same manner that they are
amongst us civilized people. Both Indians and squaws put on their good
clothes, which at the best of times is very scant, and do their
calling. They salute the inmates of each house they enter with a
congratulatory shake, expecting to be kissed in return. Just think of
having to kiss a whole tribe of Indians in one day, that part we would
rather do by proxy. We would not countenance it in any way.
On Christmas day we went out for a walk along Frog Creek; on our way
we came to where two little Indian children were catching rabbits with
a snare, they stepped to one side and let us pass, and were delighted
to have us watching them while catching their game; and further on
some of the squaws had holes cut in the ice, and having a sharp hook
were catching fish. In this way they get fish all winter, and to look
at these "shrimpy-looking" women trotting along with their brown
babies slung in a sort of loose pocket dangling away behind their
backs, it was comical in the extreme, they would stop and look and
laugh at us, our appearance being so very different to their own dark
skin and sharp eyes. They wear their hair hanging, strung with brass
beads, and have small pieces of rabbit fur tied in; and the men wear
theirs cut very short in front, hanging over their brows, and
ornaments of every description. These people don't set at table on
chairs, rich or poor; they squat down on their feet in a fashion that
would soon tire us exceedingly. Then at night they wrap themselves up
in a blanket, lie down and sleep as soundly as we would in our warm
feather bed and blankets.
My husband and the men worked hard during the next two months on the
mill in order to get it finished before the spring set in. As far as
the weather was concerned it was very favourable for working. The men
lost no time from the cold. During that period the thermometer ranged
from zero to 60? below but the air was so clear and bracing that the
cold was never felt. I have experienced more severe weather in Ontario
than I ever did in this part. I have heard of north-west blizzards,
but they are confined to the prairie and did not reach us. It is the
most beautiful country I ever saw with its towering hills, majestic
rivers, beautiful flowers and rolling land. I had made up my mind to
see nothing but frost, ice and snow, but was agreeably disappointed.
Nothing of an eventful nature transpired, during those two months, the
mill was about completed and Williscraft and the other men were
discharged with the exception of Mr. Gilchrist, who assisted my
husband. The machinery was all in position and everything done but
finishing up, when on the 17th of March, two men, strangers, made
their appearance at the mill and asked for employment. They said they
were weary and worn and had left Duck Lake in order to avoid the
trouble that was brewing there. One was Gregory Donaire and the other
Peter Blondin, my husband took pity on them and gave them employment.
They worked for us until the massacre. They were continually going too
and fro among the Indians, and I cannot but believe, that they were
cognizant of everything that was going on, if not responsible in a
great degree for the murders which were afterwards committed.
WOOD AND PLAIN INDIANS.
The Indians are in their habits very unclean and filthy. They will not
in the least impress anyone to such an extent that they would be
willing to forego the restrictions of civilized life, and enter upon
the free life of the red man.
The Indians living on the reserve in the neighbourhood of Frog Creek
are known as the Wood Crees, they were all peaceable and industrious,
and were becoming proficient in the art of husbandry. They lived in
the log cabins in the winter, but in the summer they took to their
tents. They numbered about 200 persons. They appeared satisfied with
their position which was much better than what falls to the lot of
other Indians. They did not take part in the massacre, nor where they
responsible for it in any way.
The Plain Crees are composed of the worst characters from all the
tribes of that name. They were dissatisfied, revengeful, and cruel,
they could not be persuaded to select their reserve until lately, and
then they would not settle upon it. Their tastes lay in a direction
the opposite to domestic; they were idle and worthless, and were the
Indians who killed our dear ones on that ever to be remembered 2nd of
April. Those same Indians were constantly fed by Mr. Delaney and my
husband. The following correspondence will show how he treated those
ungrateful characters:--Big Bear's Indians were sent up to Frog Lake,
it is said, by Governor Dewdney who told them, if they would go there,
they would never be hungry, but last winter their rations were
stopped, and they had to work to get provisions, or starve. They would
go around to the settlers houses and ask for something to eat, and Mr.
Delaney would give those Indians rations, paying for them out of his
own salary. Gov. Dewdney wrote a letter stating that he must stop it
at once; but he did not listen to him and kept on giving to them until
the outbreak. And the very men he befriended were the ones who hurled
him into sudden death.
Big Bear was only nominally the chief of this tribe, the ruling power
being in the hands of Wandering Spirit, a bad and vicious man, who
exercised it with all the craft and cunning of an accomplished
Now come the dreadful scenes of blood and cruel death. The happy life
is changed to one of suffering and sorrow. The few months of happiness
I enjoyed with the one I loved above all others was abruptly closed--
taken from me--for ever--it was cruel, it was dreadful. When I look
back to it all, I often wonder, is it all a dream, and has it really
taken place. Yes, the dream is too true; it is a terrible reality, and
as such will never leave my heart, or be effaced from off my mind.
The first news we heard of the Duck Lake affair was on the 30th of
March. Mr. Quinn, the Indian Agent at Frog Lake, wrote a letter to us
and sent it down to our house about twelve o'clock at night with John
Pritchard, telling my husband and I to go up to Mr. Delaney's on
Tuesday morning, and with his wife go on to Fort Pitt, and if they saw
any excitement they would follow. We did not expect anything to occur.
When we got up to Mr. Delaney's we found the police had left for Fort
Pitt. Big Bear's Indians were in the house talking to Mr. Quinn about
the trouble at Duck Lake, and saying that Poundmaker the chief at
Battleford wanted Big Bear to join him but he would not, as he
intended remaining where he was and live peaceably. They considered
Big Bear to be a better man than he was given credit for.
On the 1st of April they were in, making April fools of the white
people and shaking hands, and they thought I was frightened and told
me not to be afraid, because they would not hurt us. My husband left
me at Mr. Delaney's and went back to his work at the mill, returning
in the evening with Mr. Gilchrist. We all sat talking for some time
along with Mr. Dill, who had a store at Frog Lake and Mr. Cameron,
clerk for the Hudson Bay Company. We all felt perfectly safe where we
were, saying that as we were so far away from the trouble at Duck
Lake, the Government would likely come to some terms with them and the
affair be settled at once. The young Chief and another Indian by the
name of Isador said if anything was wrong among Big Bear's band they
would come and tell us; and that night Big Bear's braves heard about
it and watched them all night to keep them from telling us. We all
went to bed not feeling in any way alarmed. About five o'clock in the
morning a rap came to the door and Mr. Delaney went down stairs and
opened it, and John Pritchard and one of Big Bear's sons by the name
of Ibesies were there.
Pritchard said "There trouble."
Mr. Delaney said "Where?"
Pritchard "_Here_! Our horses are all gone, the Indians deceived
us, and said that some half-breeds from Edmonton had come in the night
and had taken them to Duck Lake, but Big Bear's band has taken them
and hid them, I am afraid it is all up."
My husband and I got up, and Mrs. Delaney came down stairs with a
frightened look. In a few minutes Big Bear's Indians were all in the
house, and had taken all the arms from the men saying they were going
to protect us from the half-breeds, and then we felt we were being
deceived. They took all the men over to Mr. Quinn's, and my husband
and I were sitting on the lounge, and an Indian came in and took him
by the arm saying He wanted him to go too; and he said to Mrs. Delaney
and I "do not to be afraid, while I go with this Indian." We stopped
in the house, and while they were gone some of the Indians came in and
went through the cupboard to find something to eat. They opened the
trap door to go down cellar, but it was very dark, and they were
afraid to venture down. Then the men came back and Mrs. Delaney got
breakfast. We all sat down, but I could not eat, and an Indian asked
Mr. Gowanlock to tell me not to be afraid, they would not hurt us, and
I should eat plenty. After breakfast they took us out of the house and
escorted us over to the church; my husband taking my arm, Mr. and Mrs.
Delaney were walking beside us. When we got to the church the priests
were holding mass; it was Holy Thursday, and as we entered the door,
Wandering Spirit sat on his knees with his gun; he was painted, and
had on such a wicked look. The priests did not finish the service on
account of the menacing manner of the Indians; they were both around
and inside the church. We were all very much frightened by their
behaviour. They then told us to go out of the church, and took us back
to Mr. Delaney's, all the Indians going in too. We stopped there for
awhile and an Indian came and told us to come out again, and my
husband came to me and said "you had better put your shawl around you,
for its very cold, perhaps we will not be gone long." We all went out
with the Indians. They were going through all the stores. Everything
was given to them, and they got everything they could wish for and
took us up the hill towards their camp. We had only gone but a short
distance from the house when we heard the reports of guns, but thought
they were firing in the air to frighten us; but they had shot Quinn,
Dill and Gilchrist, whom I did not see fall. Mr. and Mrs. Delaney were
a short distance ahead of my husband, I having my husband's arm. Mr.
Williscraft, an old grey-headed man about seventy-five years of age
came running by us, and an Indian shot at him and knocked his hat off,
and he turned around and said, _"Oh! don't shoot! don't shoot!"_
But they fired again, and he ran screaming and fell in some bushes. On
seeing this I began crying, and my husband tried to comfort me,
saying, "my _dear_ wife be _brave_ to the end," and immediately an
Indian behind us fired, and my husband fell beside me his arm pulling
from mine. I tried to assist him from falling. He put out his arms for
me and fell, and I fell down beside him and buried my face on his,
while his life was ebbing away so quickly, and was prepared for the
next shot myself, thinking I was going with him too. But death just
then was not ordained for me. I had yet to live. An Indian came and
took me away from my dying husband side, and I refused to leave. Oh!
to think of leaving my _dear_ husband lying there for those cruel
Indians to dance around. I begged of the Indian to let me stay with
him, but he took my arm and pulled me away. Just before this, I saw
Mr. Delaney and a priest fall, and Mrs. Delaney was taken away in the
same manner that I was. I still looking back to where my poor husband
was lying dead; the Indian motioned to where he was going to take me,
and on we went. I thought my heart would break; I would rather have
died with my husband and been at rest.
"A rest that is sure for us all,
But sweeter to some."
WITH THE INDIANS.
Hardly knowing how I went or what I did, I trudged along in a half
conscious condition. Led a captive into the camp of Big Bear by one of
his vile band. Taken through brush and briar, a large pond came to
view, we did not pass it by, he made me go through the water on that
cold 2nd of April nearly to my waist. I got so very weak that I could
not walk and the Indian pulled me along, in this way he managed to get
me to his tepee. On seeing Mrs. Delaney taken away so far from me, I
asked the Indian to take me to her; and he said _"No, No,"_ and
opening the tent shoved me in. A friendly squaw put down a rabbit robe
for me to sit on; I was shivering with the cold; this squaw took my
shoes and stockings off and partly dried them for me. Their tepees
consisted of long poles covered with smoke-stained canvas with two
openings, one at the top for a smoke hole and the other at the bottom
for a door through which I had to crawl in order to enter. In the
centre they have their fire; this squaw took a long stick and took out
a large piece of beef from the kettle and offered it to me, which I
refused, as I could not eat anything after what I had gone through.
Just then Big Bear's braves came into the tent; there were nearly
thirty of them, covered with war paint, some having on my husband's
clothes, and all giving vent to those terrible yells, and holding most
murderous looking instruments. They were long wooden clubs. At one end
were set three sharp shining knife blades. They all looked at me as I
eyed those weapons (and they well matched the expression of their
cruel mouths and develish eyes) thinking my troubles would soon be
over I calmly awaited the result. But they sat down around me with a
bottle full of something that looked like water, passing it from one
Indian to the other, so I put on a brave look as if I was not afraid
of them. After this they all went out and the most bloodcurdling yells
that ever pierced my ears was their war-whoop, mingled with dancing
and yelling and cutting most foolish antics.
I saw a little baby that I thought must be dead, lying in one part of
the tent, they had it done up in a moss bag. I will try and give an
idea of what it was like: they take a piece of cloth having it large
at the top, and cut it around where the feet should be, and on both
sides, of this little bag they have loops of very fine leather, then
they have a small thin cushion laid on this, the length of the child,
and three or four pieces of different colored flannels, then they
dress the baby in a thin print gown and put it in this bag, and its
little legs are put down just as straight as a needle, covered over
with moss, which they first heat very hot; then the arms are put down
in the same way and the flannels are wrapped around very tight and
then they lace the bag up, and all that can be seen is the little
brown face peeping out.
Just then Pritchard's little girl came in where I was; she could talk
a few words of English. I asked her where her pa was, and she said
that he was putting up a tent not far away, and then I had some hope
of getting from the Indians.
After I had been there for four hours, Louis Goulet and Andre Nault
came in, and Goulet said to me "Mrs. Gowanlock if you will give
yourself over to the half-breeds, they will not hurt you; Peter
Blondin has gone down to where the mill is, and when he comes back he
will give his horse for you." I asked them to interpret it to the
Indians in order to let me go to Pritchard's tent for awhile, and the
Indians said that she could go with this squaw. I went and was
overjoyed to see Mrs. Delaney there also. After getting in there I was
unconscious for a long time, and upon coming to my senses, I found
Mrs. Pritchard bathing my face with cold water. When Blondin came back
he gave his horse and thirty dollars for Mrs. Delaney and me. He put
up a tent and asked me to go with him, but I refused; and he became
angry and did everything he could to injure me. That man treated me
most shamefully; if it had not been for Pritchard I do not know what
would have become of me. Pritchard was kinder than any of the others.
After I had been a prisoner three days, Blondin came and asked me if I
could ride horse back, and I said "yes," and he said if I would go
with him, he would go and take two of the best horses that Big Bear
had and desert that night. I told him I would _never_ leave
Pritchard's tent until we all left, saying "I would go and drown
myself in the river before I would go with him."
Late that same night a French Canadian by the name of Pierre came into
the tent, and hid himself behind us, he said the Indians wanted to
shoot him, and some one told him to go and hide himself, ultimately
one of the half-breeds gave a horse to save his life. Mrs. Pritchard
told him not to stay in there. She did not want to see any more men
killed, and one of the half-breeds took him away and he was placed
under the protection of the Wood Crees. This man had been working with
Goulet and Nault all winter getting out logs about thirty miles from
PROTECTED BY HALF-BREEDS.
On the 3rd of April Big Bear came into our tent and sitting down
beside us told us he was very sorry for what had happened, and cried
over it, saying he knew he had so many bad men but had no control over
them. He came very often to our tent telling us to "eat and sleep
plenty, they would not treat us like the white man. The white man when
he make prisoner of Indian, he starve him and cut his hair off." He
told us he would protect us if the police came. The same day Big
Bear's braves paid our tent another visit, they came in and around us
with their guns, knives and tomahawks, looking at us so wickedly.
Pritchard said, "For God sake let these poor women live, they can do
no harm to you: let them go home to their friends."
The leaders held a brief consultation.
An Indian stood up and pointing to the heavens said, "We promise by
God that we will not hurt these white women; we will let them live."
They then left the tent.
Every time I saw one of Big Bear's Indians coming in, I expected it
was to kill us, or take us away from the tent, which would have been
_far worse_ than death to _me_.
But they did not keep their word.
On the third night (Saturday, the 4th April,) after our captivity, two
Indians came in while all the men and Mrs. Delaney were asleep, I
heard them, and thought it was Pritchard fixing the harness, he
usually sat up to protect us.
A match was lighted and I saw two of the most hedious looking Indians
looking over and saying where is the _Monias_ squaw, meaning the
white women. I got so frightened I could not move, but Mrs. Delaney
put out her foot and awakened Mrs. Pritchard, and she wakened her
husband, and he started up and asked what they wanted, and they said
they wanted to take the white women to their tent, and I told
Pritchard they could kill me before I would go, and I prayed to God to
help me. Pritchard and Adolphus Nolin gave their blankets and dishes
and Mrs. Pritchard, took the best blanket off her bed to give to them
and they went off, and in the morning the Wood Crees came in and asked
if those Indians took much from us, and Pritchard told them "No"; the
Indians wanted to make them give them back. After that Pritchard and
other half-breeds protected us from night to night for we were not
safe a single minute.
During the two days which had passed, the bodies of the men that were
murdered had not been buried. They were lying on the road exposed to
the view of everyone. The half-breeds carried them off the road to the
side, but the Indians coming along dragged them out again. It was
dreadful to see the bodies of our _poor dear_ husbands dragged
back and forth by those demoniac savages.
On Saturday the day before Easter, we induced some half-breeds to take
our husbands' bodies and bury them. They placed them, with those of the
priests, under the church. The Indians would not allow the other
bodies to be moved. And dreadful to relate those inhuman wretches set
fire to the church, and with yelling and dancing witnessed it burn to
the ground. The bodies, I afterwards heard, were charred beyond
Upon seeing what was done the tears ran profusely down our cheeks and
I thought my very heart would break. All the comfort we received from
that unfeeling band was, "that's right, cry plenty, we have killed
your husbands and we will soon have you."
On Easter Sunday night there was a heavy thunder storm and before
morning it turned cold and snowed; the tent pole broke, coming down
within an inch of my head, the snow blowing in and our bedding all
covered with it and nothing to keep us warm. I got up in the morning
and found my shoes all wet and frozen, and the Indians came in and
told us what they saw in the heavens. They saw a church and a man on a
large black horse with his arm out and he looked so angry, and they
said God must be angry with them for doing such a thing; the half-
breeds are as superstitious as the Indians.
THEY TAKE FORT PITT.
The morning of the 6th of April was a memorable one. Something unusual
was going to take place from the excited state of the camp. Everyone
was on the go. I was in a short time made acquainted with the reason.
It was more blood, more butchery, and more treachery. And oh! such a
sight presented itself to my eyes. The Indians were all attired in
full war habiliments. They had removed their clothes. A girdle around
their waists, was all--and their paint--every shade and color. Heads
with feathers, and those, who had killed a white, with quills. A quill
for every man scalped. Eyes painted like stars, in red, yellow and
green; faces, arms, legs and bodies elaborately decorated, and
frescoed in all their savage beauty, with bars, spots, rings and dots.
Brandishing tomahawks, bludgeons and guns; flinging and firing them in
every direction, accompanied with yells and whoops; a most hideous and
terrible sight. They embraced their wives and children, and the
command was given to start for Fort Pitt. In order to swell their
numbers they compelled the half-breeds and some of their squaws to
accompany them. The squaws ride horses like the men.
On Sunday the 12th of April they returned from the Fort flush with
victory. They had captured that place, killed policeman Cowan, taken
the whites prisoners, and allowed the police to escape down the river,
all without loosing an Indian or half-breed. The prisoners were
brought in while we were at dinner. Mr. and Mrs. Quinney came to our
tent. Mrs. Quinney said she was cold and wet. She sat, down and put
her arms around me and cried. I gave her a cup of hot tea and
something to eat. Shortly after the McLean's and Mann's came in. It
was a great relief to see white people again.
It was not long before they moved camp about two miles from Frog Lake.
Mrs. Delaney and I, walking with Mrs. Pritchard and family, through
mud and water: my shoes were very thin, and my feet very wet and sore
from walking. The Indians were riding beside us with our horses and
buckboards, laughing and jeering at us with umbrellas over their heads
and buffalo overcoats on. We would laugh and make them believe we were
enjoying it, and my heart ready to break with grief all the time. When
we camped, it was in a circle. A space in the centre being kept for
I asked Blondin if he had any of our stockings or underclothing in his
sacks. He told me _no_ and shortly afterwards took out a pair of
my husband's long stockings and put them on before me, he would change
them three and four times a week. He had nearly all my poor husband's
clothes. Two men came in one time while Blondin was asleep and took
one of my husband's coats out of his sack and went out; Blondin upon
missing it got very angry and swore before me, saying that some person
had come in and taken one of his coats, and all the time I knew whose
coat it was they were quarrelling over. I wished then I could close my
eyes and go home to God. I went outside the tent and saw this other
half-breed named Gregory Donaire with my husband's coat on and pants,
and just as I looked up I thought it must be my own husband, and to
see the fellow laugh in my face, he evidently had an idea about what I
was thinking. Blondin wore my husband's overcoat, and all I had was my
little shawl and nothing to wear on my head, and the rain pouring down
in torrents on me; this fellow would walk beside the waggon and laugh,
and when it quit raining asked me if I wanted _his_ overcoat; I told
him _no_, I did not mind being wet as much as he did. That night Mrs.
Delaney and I lay down in one corner of the tent until morning came
and then we had all the baking to do. We dug a hole in the ground and
started a fire, taking flour, we stirred in water, kneading it hard.
We then with our hands flattened it out and placed it in a frying pan,
baking it before the fire, and by the time it was baked it was as
black as the pan itself. We dined on bannock and bacon for two months,
and were very thankful to get it.
COOKING FOR A LARGE FAMILY.
My experience of camp life was of such a character, that I would
rather be a maid-of-all-work in any position than slush in an Indian
tepee, reeking as it is, with filth and poisonous odors. There is no
such a thing as an health officer among that band of braves. They have
a half spiritualized personage whom they desiginate the Medicine Man;
but he is nothing more or less than a quack of the worst kind. As in
every other part of their life, so in the domestic they were unclean.
One evening, just as we had everything ready for our meal, in rushed
the Big Bear's, gobbling up everything. After they had gone, I set to
work to wash the dishes. Mrs. Pritchard thereat became quite angry,
and would not allow me, saying that we would be glad to do more than
that for the Indians yet. I went without my supper that night; I would
rather starve than eat after that dirty horde.
One day, Pritchard brought in a rabbit for dinner. I thought we were
going to have a treat as well as a good meal; we were engaged at other
work that day, and Mrs. Pritchard did the cooking herself, but I had
occasion to go in the direction of the fire, and there was the rabbit
in the pot boiling, it was all there, head, eyes, feet, and everything
together. My good dinner vanished there and then. I told Mrs. Delaney
there was no rabbit for me. I only ate to keep myself alive and well,
for if I showed signs of sickness I would have been put with the
Indians, and they would have put an end to me in a short time.
We had fifteen in our tent to bake for, besides the Indians, that came
in to gorge, about thirty at a time. We cut wood and carried water and
did Mrs. Pritchard sewing for her nine children; making their clothing
that came from our own house. She took some muslin that Mrs. Delaney
had bought before the trouble, and cut it up into aprons for her
little baby, and gave me to make, and then she went to the trunk that
had all my lace trimming that I had made through the winter, and
brought some for me to sew on the aprons. I made them up as neatly as
I possibly could, and when finished, she thanked me for it. The little
children played with keepsakes that my _mother_ had given to me
when a little girl, and I had to look and see them broken in pieces
without a murmur, also see my friends photographs thrown around and
destroyed. I gathered up a few that were scattered around in the dirt
and saved them when no one was looking.
If Big Bear's braves would say move camp immediately, and if we should
be eating and our tent not taken down just then, they would shout in
the air and come and tear it down. In travelling, the Indians ride,
and their squaws walk and do all the work, and they pack their dogs
and have "travores" on their horses, upon which they tied their little
children, and then all would move off together; dogs howling, and
babies crying, and Indians beating their wives, and carts tumbling
over the banks of the trail, and children falling, and horses and oxen
getting mired down in the mud, and squaws cutting sacks of flour open
to get a piece of cotton for string, and leaving the flour and
throwing away the provisions, while others would come along and gather
it up. We rode on a lumber waggon, with an ox team, and some of the
squaws thought we did not work enough. Not work enough, after walking
or working all day, after dark we were required to bake bannock and do
anything else they had a mind to give us. They wanted to work us to
INCIDENTS BY THE WAY.
The Indians are not only vicious, treacherous and superstitious, but
they are childlike and simple, as the following incident will show:--
After the Indians came back from Fort Pitt, one of them found a glass
eye; that eye was the favorite optic of Stanley Simpson, who was taken
a prisoner there by Big Bear. He brought it with him for one of his
brother Indians who was blind in one eye, imagining with untutored
wisdom that if it gave light to a white man, it should also to a red,
and they worked at it for a time, but they could not get the focus,
finally they threw it away, saying it was no good, he could not see.
While we were in camp, Mr. Quinn's little two year old girl would come
in and put her little arms around our necks and kiss us. The dear
little thing had no one to care for her, she would stay with us until
her mother would come and take her away. The squaws also carried her
around on their backs with nothing but a thin print dress on and in
her bare feet. How I did feel for her, she was such a bright little
girl, her father when alive took care of her. It was very hard to see
her going around like any of the Indian children.
One day while travelling we came to a large creek and had to get off
the waggon and pull our shoes and stockings off in-order that they
would be dry to put on after we got across; the water was up to our
waists and we waded through. Miss McLean took her little three year
old sister on her back and carried her over. After crossing we had to
walk a long distance on the burnt prairie to get to the waggon, then
we sat down and put our shoes on. Some of the Indians coming along
said, "oh! see the monais squaw." We would laugh, tell them it was
nice; that we enjoyed it. If they thought we did not, we were in
danger of being taken away by them and made to work for them like
One of Big Bear's son's wives died, and they dug a hole in the ground
and wrapped blankets around her, and laid her in it, and put sacks of
bacon and flour on top so that she could not get out, they covered her
over with earth; and watched the place for some time for fear she
would come to life again.
Their dances occur every day, they go and pick out the largest tents
and go and take them from the Wood Crees, and leave them all day
without any covering, with the white people who were prisoners, with
them. They thought the white people took it as an honor to them, and
every time in moving, Big Bear's band would tell us just where to put
our tents, and if one camped outside this circle, they would go and
cut their tent in pieces. In some of their dances, Little Poplar was
arrayed in some of Miss McLean's ribbons, ties and shawls, another
with my hat on, and another with Mrs. Delaney's, and the squaws with
our dresses, and they had a large dish of meat in the centre and
danced awhile, and sat down and ate and danced again, keeping this up
all day long. And if anyone lagged in the dance, it was a bad day for
him. Little Poplar had a whip, and he would ply it thick on the back
of the sluggish dancer.
One day just as we were eating dinner, an Indian came and invited us
out to a dog feast; the men went, but we preferred bannock and bacon,
to dog. They sent each of us _three yards_ of print to make us a
dress; a squaw takes no more than that. And then a friendly Indian
made me a present of a pair of green glasses.
A most dreadful affair occurred one day, they killed one of their
squaws, an old grey beaded woman that was insane. The Indians and
half-breeds were afraid of her, and she told them if they did not kill
her before the sun went down, she would eat the whole camp up. They
got some of the half-breeds to tie her; and they carried her out on a
hill, and one old half-breed struck her on the head, and the Indians
shot her in the head three times, cut it off and set fire to it; they
were very much afraid she would come back and do some harm to them.
One evening after making our bed for the night, four squaws came into
our tent and sat down for two hours, crying and singing and clapping
their hands, and after going out, some of the Indians took and tied
them until morning; it was a most strange procedure. I could go on
enumerating incident after incident, but I have, I think, given
sufficient to give the reader an insight into their character.
While we were on the way too Fort Pitt, a letter was received from the
Rev. John McDougall, of Calgary, stating that troops were coming
through from Edmonton, and that they would make short work of Big
Bear's band for the murders they had committed at Frog Lake. They were
terribly frightened at that news, and took turns and watched on the
hills night and day. Others spent their time in dancing--it was
dancing all the time--all day and all night.
I will explain their mode of dancing as well as I can:--They all get
in a circle, while two sit down outside and play the tom-tom, a most
unmelodious instrument, something like a tambourine, only not half so
_sweet_; it is made in this way:--they take a hoop or the lid of
a butter firkin, and cover one side with a very thin skin, while the
other has strings fastened across from side to side, and upon this
they pound with sticks with all their might, making a most unearthly
racket. The whole being a fit emblem of what is going on in the other
world of unclean spirits. Those forming the circle, kept going around
shouting and kicking, with all the actions and paraphernalia of a
clown in a pantomine, only not so dumb.
We passed a short distance from where Mrs. Delaney lived, and all we
could see standing, was the bell of the Catholic Mission, and when we
came to Onion Lake, they had burnt some of the buildings there, and as
we passed they set fire to the rest. They burnt all the flour and
potatoes, some three hundred sacks, and when we reached Fort Pitt our
provisions were getting scarce, and the half-breeds went to the Fort
to get some flour, but the Indians had previously poured coal and
machine oil on what was left, and they only got a few sacks and not
very clean at that. Still we felt very thankful to have it as it was.
While in this neighbourhood, Blondin and Henry Quinn went down to the
river to make their escape, and Blondin well knew that the Indians had
said if one prisoner ran away they would kill all the rest. The half-
breeds hearing what they had done, went after them and brought them
back, and that night Big Bear's braves came into our tent where Quinn
and Blondin were, and wanted to go to work and cut Quinn in pieces.
Blondin was like one of themselves. Pritchard sat on his knees in
front of Quinn and kept them from doing it. They were in our tent
nearly the whole night with their guns, large sharp knives and war
clubs. After Pritchard had talked some hours to them they went out
only partly pacified. Some of them said, "he has ran away once, let us
kill him and have no more trouble with him; if he runs away he will be
going away and telling the police to come."
When near the Fort they had their "Thirst Dance." An Indian went to
the bush and broke off a green bough, and carried it to the place
arranged for the dance, and all the other Indians shot at it. Then the
Indians got their squaws with them on horse-back; some thought it
would not be polite if they did not invite the white women to help
them also, and Mrs. Pritchard and another squaw came in and put Mrs.
Delaney in one corner and covered her over, and me in another with a
feather bed over me, so as not to find us. Then some said, "Oh, let
the white women stay where they are," and they took their squaws and
went to the woods. I should say about fifty rode to the woods for one
stick at a time, fastening a chain around it, dragged it along to this
place singing and yelling as they went. After they had enough sticks,
they arranged a tent in the centre of the circle. They stood a long
pole up, and on this pole they tied everything they wished to give to
the _sun_, and this is never taken down, and then they erected
smaller poles about five feet high, all around in a large circle, and
from the top of these they fastened sticks to the long pole in the
centre, and covered it all with green boughs, they then partitioned
the tent into small stalls, and tied print and anything bright all
around inside on these poles; after they had this arranged they began
dancing. It continues three days and three nights, neither eating or
drinking during the entertainment. They danced all that night and the
squaws had each a small whistle made of bone which they blow all the
time in addition to the musical "tom-toms." Mrs. Delaney and I lay
awake all night, and I said to her, "I hope the police will come in
while they are having this dance." Mrs. Pritchard asked us next
morning if we would go and see them at it, and remarked "they will not
like it if you white women do not go and see them." We went with her,
and when we got inside they laughed and were delighted at seeing us
come. There they were, some of the squaws with my clothes on, and one
Indian with my husband's on, and my table linen hanging on the poles.
The squaws stood in those little stalls and danced. They had their
faces painted, and fingers and ears filled with brass rings and
thimbles. Some of the Indians were dressed in the police uniforms and
had veils over their faces; and just as we got nicely there, two
Indians came riding around and saying the police were all on this side
of the river with their tents pitched. There must be hundreds of them,
some said, and the others said no, because they have their wives and
children with them; and then came the scattering, they ran in all
directions like scared rabbits and tore their tents down, the Indians
riding around on horse-back singing and yelling, and saying "let us go
and meet them" that was to fight, and others said "_no_, let us
move," and we all left and moved through the woods.
But it proved to be more than a mere scare. _Our_ friends were drawing
near--too near to be comfortable for the _noble_ "red man," the
murderers of defenceless settlers, the despoilers of happy homes, the
polluters of poor women and children. They did all that, and yet they
are called the noble "red man." It might sound musical in the ears of
the poet to write of the virtues of that race, but I consider it a
perversion of the real facts. During the time I was with them I could
not see anything noble in them, unless it was that they were _noble_
murderers, _noble_ cowards, _noble_ thieves. The facts, I think, also
go to show that the Indians are not treated properly. There is no
distinction made between the good (there are good Indians) and bad.
The character of the Indian is not studied sufficiently, or only so
far as self-interest and selfish motives are concerned. But the
majority of the present race can be designated anything but the noble
They would in many instances, be better without the missionary. If all
denominations would only amalgamate their forces and agree upon an
unsectarian basis for missionary effort, the Indians would become
evangalized more quickly then they are at present. It would be better
for the Indians, and more honorable for the Christian Church. Give the
Indians the Gospel in its simplicity without the ritual of the
Was it the distant roar of heaven's artillery that caught my ear. I
listened and heard it again. The Indians heard it and were frightened.
A half-breed in a stage whisper cried, "a cannon! a cannon!"
An Indian answered, "a cannon is no good to fight."
I looked at them and it showed them to be a startled and fear-stricken
company, notwithstanding that they held the cannon with such disdain
as to say "cannon no good to fight." That night was full of excitement
for the Indians; they felt that the enemy was drawing near, too close
in fact to be safe. The prisoners were excited with the thought, that
perhaps there was liberty behind that cannon for them, and taking it
all round, there was little sleep within the tepees.
The next morning I awoke early with hopefulness rising within my
breast at the thought of again obtaining my liberty. The first sound I
heard was the firing of cannon near at hand; it sounded beautiful; it
was sweet music to my ears. Anticipating the prospect of seeing
friends once more, I listened and breathed in the echo after every
The fighting commenced at seven o'clock by Gen. Strange's troops
forcing the Indians to make a stand. It was continued until ten with
indifferent success. The troops surely could not have known the
demoralized condition of the Indians, else they would have compelled
them to surrender. The fighting was very near, for the bullets were
whizzing around all the time. We thought surely that liberty was not
far away. The Indians were continually riding back and fro inspiring
their followers in the rear with hope, and we poor prisoners with
despair. At last they came back and said that they had killed twenty
policemen and not an Indian hurt. But there were two Indians killed,
one of whom was the Worm, he who killed my poor husband, and several
wounded. We were kept running and walking about all that morning with
their squaws, keeping out of the way of their enemies, and our
friends. We were taken through mud and water until my feet got so very
sore that I could hardly walk at all.
The Indians ordered us to dig pits for our protection. Pritchard and
Blondin dug a large one about five feet deep for us, and they piled
flour sacks around it as a further protection but they dug it too deep
and there was two or three inches of water at the bottom. They then
threw down some brush and we got into it, twenty persons in all, with
one blanket for Mrs. Delaney and me. McLean's family had another pit,
and his daughters cut down trees to place around it. Mr. Mann and
family dug a hole in the side of the hill and crawled into it. If I
had my way I would have kept out of the pit altogether and watched my
chance to escape.
We fully expected the troops to follow but they did not; and early in
the morning we were up and off again. Some of the Indians went back to
see how about the troops, and came back with the report that the
"police" (they call all soldiers police) had vanished, they were
afraid. When I heard it, I fairly sank, and the slight spark of hope I
had, had almost gone out. Just to think that succor was so near, yet
alas! so far. But for Mrs. Delaney I would have given way and allowed
myself to perish.
Just here a word about Indian boys would not be amiss. An Indian boy
is a live, wild, and untamed being. He is full of mischief and cruelty
to those he hates, and passably kind to those he likes. I never saw in
their character anything that could be called love. They have no idea
of such a tender tie. Thus by nature he is cruel without having a
sense of humor, much less gayety, and in all my experience I never saw
or heard one give a hearty laugh, except on the occasion of a mishap
or accident to any one, and then the little fragment of humor is
He is skillful in drawing his bow and sling, and has a keenness of
sight and hearing. He takes to the life of a hunter as a duck takes to
water, and his delight is in shooting fowl and animals. He does it all
with an ease and grace that is most astonishing. In everything of that
nature he is very skillful. Pony riding is his great delight, when the
ponies were not otherwise engaged, but during my stay with them, there
was too much excitement and change all around for the boys to exercise
While we were driving along after breaking up camp the little fellows
would run along and pick flowers for us, one vieing with the other as
to who would get the most and the prettiest. They were gifted with a
most remarkable memory and a slight was not very soon forgotten, while
a kindness held the same place in their memory.
The general behaviour of Indian boys was nevertheless most intolerable
to us white people. In the tepee there was no light and very often no
fuel, and owing to the forced marches there was not much time for
cutting wood, also it was hard to light as it was so green and sappy.
The boys would then wrap themselves up in a blanket, but not to sleep,
only to yell and sing as if to keep in the heat. They would keep this
up until they finally dozed off; very often that would be in the early
hours of the morning.
Like father, like son; the virtues of young Indians were extremely
few. They reach their tether when they fail to benefit self. Their
morality was in a very low state. I do not remember that I saw much of
it, if I did it was hardly noticible.
Where the charm of a savage life comes in I do not know, I failed to
observe it during my experience in the camp of the Crees. The charm is
a delusion, except perhaps when viewed from the deck of a steamer as
it glided along the large rivers and lakes of the Indian country, or
perhaps within the pages of a blood and thunder novel.
HOPE ALMOST DEFERRED.
Almost a week afterwards, on a Saturday night, the fighting Indians
gathered around a tepee near ours and began that never ending dancing
and singing. It was a most unusual thing for them to dance so close to
our tent. They had never done so before. It betokened no good on their
part and looked extremely suspicious. It seemed to me that they were
there to fulfil the threat they made some time previous, that they
would put an end to us soon. The hour was late and that made it all
the more certain that our doom had come. I became very nervous and
frightened at what was going on. When all at once there was a
scattering, and running, and yelling at the top of their voices,
looking for squaws and children, and tearing down tents, while we two
sat in ours in the depths of despair, waiting for further
developments. I clung to Mrs. Delaney like my own mother, not knowing
what to do. The cause of the stampede we were told was that they had
heard the report of a gun. That report was fortunate for us, as it was
the intention of the Indians to wrench us from our half-breed
protectors and kill us.
The tents were all down and in a very few minutes we were on the move
again. It was Sunday morning at an early hour, raining heavily, and
cold. We were compelled to travel all that day until eleven o'clock at
night. The halt was only given then, because the brutes were tired
themselves. Tents were pitched and comparative quietness reigned. Our
bedding consisted of one blanket which was soaked with water. Andre
Nault took pity on us and gave us his, and tried in every way to make
us comfortable. I had a great aversion to that fellow, I was afraid to
look at him I was so weak and tired that I could not sleep but for
only a few minutes. I had given up and despair had entered my mind. I
told Mrs. Delaney I wished I could never see morning, as I had nothing
to look forward to but certain death. In that frame of mind I passed
OUT OF BIG BEAR'S CAMP.
Monday morning, May 31st, was ushered in dark and gloomy, foggy and
raining, but it proved to be the happiest day we had spent since the
31st of March. As the night was passing, I felt its oppressiveness, I
shuddered with the thought of what another day might bring forth; but
deliverance it seems was not far away; it was even now at hand. When
the light of day had swallowed up the blackness of darkness, the first
words that greeted my ears was Pritchard saying "I am going to watch
my chance and get out of the camp of Big Bear." Oh! what we suffered,
Oh! what we endured, during those two long months, as captives among a
horde of semi-barbarians. And to think that we would elude them, just
when I was giving up in despair. It is said that the darkest hour is
that which preceedes dawn; weeping may endure for a night, but joy
cometh in the morning. So with me, in my utter prostration, in the act
of giving way, God heard my prayer, and opened a way of deliverance,
and we made the best of the opportunity.
"No foe, no dangerous path we lead,
Brook no delay, but onward speed."
Some of the Indians it seems had come across General Strange's scouts
the night before, and in consequence, all kinds of rumors were afloat
among the band. They were all very much frightened, for it looked as
if they were about to be surrounded. So a move, and a quick one, was
made by them, at an early hour, leaving the half-breeds to follow on.
This was now the golden opportunity, and Pritchard grasped it, and
with him, five other half-breed families fled in an opposite
direction, thereby severing our connection with the band nominally led
by Big Bear.
We cut through the woods, making a road, dividing the thick brush,
driving across creeks and over logs. On we sped. At one time hanging
on by a corner of the bedding in order to keep from falling off the
waggon. Another time I fell off the waggon while fording a stream; my
back got so sore that I could not walk much. On we went roaming
through the forest, not knowing where we were going, until the night
of June 3rd the cry was made by Mrs. Pritchard with unfeigned disgust,
"that the police were coming." Mrs. Delaney was making bannock for the
next morning's meal, while I with cotton and crochet needle was making
trimming for the dresses of Mrs. Pritchards nine half-breed babies.
I threw the trimming work to the other end of the tent, and Mrs.
Delaney called upon Mrs. Pritchard to finish making the bannocks
herself, and we both rushed out just as the scouts galloped in.
Rescued! at last, and from a life worse than death. I was so overjoyed
that I sat down and cried. The rescuing party were members of General
Strange's scouts, led by two friends of my late husband, William
McKay, and Peter Ballentyne of Battleford. We were so glad to see
them. They had provisions with them, and they asked us if we wanted
anything to eat. We told them we had bannock and bacon, but partook of
their canned beef and hard tack. It was clean and good; and was the
first meal we enjoyed for two months.
I could not realize that I was safe until I reached Fort Pitt. The
soldiers came out to welcome us back to life. The stories they heard
about us were so terrible, that they could scarcely believe we were
The steamer was in waiting to take us to Battleford. Rev. Mr. Gordon
took my arm and led me on board. The same gentleman gave us hats, we
had no covering for our heads for the entire two months we were
captives We were very scant for clothing. Mrs. Delaney had a ragged
print dress, while I managed to save one an Indian boy brought me
while in camp. Upon reaching Battleford we were taken to the residence
of Mr. Laurie.
Coming down on the steamer, on nearing a little island, we saw a
number of squaws fishing and waving white flags. All along wherever we
passed the Indians, they were carrying white flags as a token that
they had washed off their war paint and desired rest.
WE LEAVE FOR HOME.
We leave Battleford for Swift Current, and our journey takes us across
the prairie; that same stretch that I travelled a few months before,
but under different circumstances and associations. Then I went up as
a happy bride, Now I go down _alone_ and bowed with grief. Everything
around is full of life, the prairie is a sea of green interspersed
with beautiful flowers and plants. It is a pretty scene to feast upon,
yet my soul cannot drink it in. I am on the way to friends, a feeling
of desolation takes hold of me; but I must control myself, and by
God's help I will, for his goodness is forever sure.
Rev. John McDougall, Dr. Hooper, Captain Dillon, Capt. Nash and
Messrs. Fox and Bayley, of Toronto, and Mrs. Laurie accompanied us on
the journey, and did everything they could to make us comfortable. The
trip over the prairie was a pleasant one. When we got to the South
Saskatchewan, a thunder storm came on which roughened the water so, we
could not cross for about an hour. After it quieted down a scow came
and carried us over. Friends there took care of us for the night, and
on the 1st of July we boarded a train for Moose Jaw. Capt. Dillon on
going to the post office met several young ladies in a carriage who
asked where we were as they wished to take us to their homes for tea,
he informed them that the train had only a few minutes to stop and
that it would be impossible. Those same young ladies were back to the
train before it started with a bottle of milk and a box full of
eatables. At eleven o'clock p.m., we arrived at Regina, and remained
with Mr. and Mrs. Fowler, going next morning to a hotel. We were there
four days. At Moose Jaw we received the following kind letter from
Mrs. C. F. Bennett, of Winnipeg:--
NEW DOUGLASS HOUSE, WINNIPEG, JUNE 8TH, 1885.
Mrs. Delaney and Mrs. Gowanlock:
DEAR MADAMS,--Although an entire stranger to both of you, I cannot
resist the impulse to write you a few lines to say how thankful and
delightful I am to hear of your rescue.
Before I was dressed this morning; my husband came up to tell me that
you were both safe. And I cannot express to you, neither can you
comprehend the joy that intelligence brought to everyone. The terrible
stories of your being tortured and finally murdered, outraged the
feelings of the whole civilized world, and while men swore to avenge
your wrongs, women mourned you, as sisters.
I am very thankful to see by the papers that you were not so inhumanly
treated as reported, although your experience has been a terrible
one--and one which you can never forget.
I presume that as soon as you are a little rested, you will go east to
your friends; should you do so, I will be most happy to entertain you
while you are in Winnipeg.
After your captivity, you must be destitute of everything, and if you
will come down here, we will be delighted to supply you with what you
require. I do not know if you have personal friends here, or not, but
your sufferings have given you a sister's place in every heart, and
_every one_ in Winnipeg would be deeply disappointed if you did
not give them an opportunity of expressing their deep sympathy and
Mr. Bennett unites with me in best wishes, and in hopes that you will
accept our hospitality on your way east.
I am in deepest sympathy,
MRS. C. F. BENNETT.
I shall never forget the words of sympathy that are expressed in this
epistle, or the kindness of Mr. and Mrs. McCaul and the people of
Winnipeg generally. On our way from Winnipeg to Parkdale we received
every attention and assistance, which I can assure the reader went a
long way in making sorrow lighter and more able to bear. I thank God
for the sympathy that was extended to me by his people. Mr. J. K.
Macdonald of Toronto, was most assiduous in his attention to us from
Winnipeg until we left the train at Parkdale on the 12th of July. I
must not forget the kindness of Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong also of
Toronto, or the other ladies and gentlemen who were our fellow
passengers on the journey.
Home--torn from mine--back to the parental. I will now look back over
the scene, taking a panoramic view of the whole, as it occurred from
the day I left my father's house full of happiness and joy, until I
entered it full of sorrow and suffering.
It is well for mankind that they are forbidden the knowledge of what
will be their destiny. It was well-conceived by a loving father that
it was for our interest to be kept in ignorance of what was in store,
for we, his creatures. And thus it was that I entered upon the duties
of the household, with a lightness of heart equal to that of any
matron. In the humble home (I commence from there) in that beautiful
north-west land of quietness and peace, there was not a ruffle heard,
or a rumor sounded, of what was in store for that industrious little
community. We were living in the bonds of fellowship with all mankind,
and we had no fear. But in all that stillness there was an
undercurrent at work that would soon make itself felt. Dissatisfaction
on account of grievances, real or fancied, was blowing. It had broken
out in one place, why should it not in another. This disaffected
spirit was prevalent in all parts of that country. Who was to blame?
who was the cause? direct or indirect, it is not my intention or
desire to say; suffice it is to note, that there was discontent; and
therefore there must have, been grievances, and an attempt should have
been made or an understanding arrived at, whereby this state of
discontent should have been replaced by that of content, without
disturbance. Where there is discontent there must be badness and
suffering, with evils and excesses lying in its wake.
To have removed those grievances was the imperative duty of the
dispensers of law and order and thus avoid those excesses, but it was
not done in time and the inevitable did come swift and sure; the
innocent were made to feel its fury. For that little hamlet by the
creek was entered, and its domestic quietness destroyed and future
prospects blighted. There was a degree of uneasiness felt after we
were informed of the horror of Duck Lake. Two half-breeds, Blondin and
Donaire, who were employed by my husband, were observed in frequent
and earnest conversation with the Indians. Those two had but arrived
from the scene at Duck Lake. For what were they there? Was it to
incite the Indians? Their actions were, to say the least, suspicious.
I will not dwell on the terrible slaughter which followed, it is too
painful a subject, simply stating that I had not believed that
anything so awful would have been perpetrated by either half-breeds or
Indians, until we were taken out of Mrs. Delaney's the second time,
and then I felt that there would be trouble, but not in such a manner
as that. When I was dragged from the death-bed of my husband, who had
the ground for a couch and the canopy of heaven for a coverlet, I was
in a bewildered condition. Half-unconsciously I allowed the Indian to
drag me on to his tepee, and once in, the circumstances which led to
my position, flitted through my brain in quick succession. I then
realized that it was most critical; in a few hours I would be forced
to undergo ill-treatment that would very soon kill me. With those
thoughts within my mind, the tepee opened and a little girl entered,
an angel sent by God to be my deliverer. Although not aware, she was
his instrument in taking me out of danger and placing me in a purer
atmosphere. That child was Pritchard's little girl and I asked her to
send her father. He came and by his influence I was transferred to his
care for a while. And when I entered his tent and there saw Mrs.
Delaney, I was overjoyed for a minute, and then all was a blank; the
excitement proved too much for me and I swooned away. When I returned
to consciousness they were all doing their best for me.
In a short time Blondin came in, (at the commencement of the massacre
he left for our house) he brought with him our waggon, and oxen, and
all the furniture and provisions he could take. Immediately thereafter
the Indians appeared and it was then that he offered them $30 and a
horse for our release. The offer was accepted and I was transferred to
Blondin. The wretch was there with evil intent in his heart. I fully
believe that he felt exultant over the doings of the day. Why did he
go down to our house when that dreadful affair was going on? Why did
he help himself to our goods? _Only_ for a bad purpose. Oh! God I
saw it all. He had everything arranged for me to live with him. All my
husband's things; all my things; and a tent. But I refused to accept
him or his conditions. I resented the infamous proposals as strongly
as I was able, and appealed to John Pritchard for protection and he
generously granted my request. I will never forget his kindness to me
as long as I live: "Yes, Mrs. Gowanlock, you can share my tent, with
myself and family, and I will protect you."
That dated the commencement of the shameful treatment I received at
the hands of Blondin, and whenever Pritchard was absent, it was meted
out to me to the full. Blondin purchased my liberty, that would have
been a good action if prompted by honorable motives, but in the
absence of that it has no weight with me. He was amply repaid, he got
our oxen, our waggon, our provisions, our clothes, we had money there,
perhaps he got that. I have wondered since was it not my money with
which he purchased me. By the help of God I was saved from him; and a
life worse than death. If the worst had come I would have drowned or
killed myself; but it did not. "God moves in a mysterious way."
During the next two months I was called upon to witness heart-rending
scenes; first the brutal treatment of the dead bodies of our
husbands', as well as cruelty to ourselves; for even under Pritchard's
care we were not safe and did not know what minute would be our last.
Not content with murdering them in cold blood, they must needs perform
diabolical deeds which causes me to shudder when I think of it. They
danced around them with demoniac glee, kicking and pulling them in
every direction, and we were the unwilling witnesses of such
behaviour. And when we had them buried under the church they burned it
down, with dancing and yelling, accompanied with hysterical laughter.
The sight was sickening to me and I was glad they moved in the
direction of Fort Pitt, leaving that place with all its associations
of suffering and death. But when I heard that they intended to take
the Fort, and destroy more life, I felt that I would rather remain
where we were than witness any more scenes of so sad a nature. I have
no happy tale to tell for this period was filled with woe and pain.
I will not enumerate further the trials I had to undergo day after
day, but will pass rapidly on until the gladsome note was sounded by
our hostess Mrs. Pritchard the "police are here." God delivered us
It is unnecessary to itemize in detail what passed from that time
until I reached Ontario. I have told my tale, simple and truthful, and
what remains for me now is my old home, my old associations, and my
old life--the lines are hard to bear--"Thy will not mine be done."
Once I thought my cross to heavy,
And my heart was sore afraid,
Summoned forth to stand a witness
For the cause of truth betrayed.
"Send, O Lord," I prayed, "some Simon,
As of old was sent to Thee."
"Be a Simon," said the Master,
"For this cross belongs to me."
Still is crucified my Saviour,
I myself must a Simon be;
Take my cross and walk humbly
Up the slopes of Calvary.
TO ONE OF THE ABSENT.
You bade me good-bye with a smile, love,
And away to the west wild and drear;
At the sound of war's bugle shrill calling
You went without shadow of fear.
But when I complained of your going,
To face dangers untold in the west;
You chided me gently by singing:
"Encourage me dear 'twill be best."
"I know you will miss me each hour
And grieve when I'm far, far away:
But its duty's demand and I'm ready:
Could I show the white feather to-day?
Oh! Now, you're my own bright eyed blessing
And show the true spirit within:
Those eyes now so fearlessly flashing
Shall guide me through war's crash and din."
With your men you went cheerful and willing,
To defend and take peace to the poor
Helpless children and sad prisoned women
Who had homes on Saskatchewan's shore,
And now I'm so proud of you darling
I can worship a hero so brave,
While I pray for your safe home returning;
When the peace flag shall quietly wave.
O'er the land where poor Scott's heartless murderer,
Has added much more to his sin;
By the cold-blooded uncalled for slaughter,
Of Gowanlock, Delaney and Quinn,
Who like many others now sleeping,
Shroudless near the sky of the west,
May be called the sad victims and martyrs
Of Riel who's name we detest.
Many hearts are now mourning their lov'd ones
Who died at their post, true and brave,
In defiance of one heartless rebel,
Who's life not e'en "millions" should save.
So keep your arms strong for the fray dear,
I'll not wish you back 'ere the fight
Shall decide for you, country and comrades,
In favor of honour and right.
Let justice be done now unfailing
Nought but _death_ can atone for his sin;
Let the fate be has meted to others;
By our dauntless be meted to him,
Don't return until quiet contentment;
Fills the homes now deserted out west,
And the true ring of peace finds an echo,
In each sturdy settler's breast.
And when you are homeward returning,
With heart that has never known fear;
Remember the love light is burning,
Unceasingly, constantly, here
And "Bright Eyes" will give you a welcome
Which even a soldier may prize
While the lips will be smiling with pleasure,
That have prayed in your absence with sighs.
And the whole world shall ring with the praises
Of Canada's noblest and best;
Who shoulder to shoulder defended,
And saved the unhappy North-West
While in coming years 'round the hearthstone
Will be told how the dark coats and red,
Put to rout Riel, rebels and half-breeds
And aveng'd both the living and dead.
20 Alexander St., Toronto.
They died a brutal death on the 2nd of April, disarmed first, and then
shot down. The perpetrators of that outrage were actuated by fiendish
instincts, nevertheless they had an intuition of what was meant by
civilization. How they could have so forgotten the training they had
received religiously and socially to have allowed the lower instincts
of the savage to gain the ascendancy and fell in cold blood--not
extortioners or land-grabbers--but their spiritual advisers; their
superintendent; their farm instructor, and those who had left
comfortable homes in the east in order to carry civilization into the
remote places of the west. The work that they were performing was
calculated to elevate the Indian and make him a better man; taking him
from his miserable mode of living and leading him into a more happy
and prosperous life for this and the next. It is unaccountable, and
there is yet a something that will come to the surface that was the
real cause for this dreadful act. At this point a brief sketch of the
lives of some of those killed would not be out of place.
They numbered nine, the entire male population of that growing little
village. There were T. Quinn, J. Delanay, J. A. Gowanlock, T. Dill, W.
C. Gilchrist, J. Williscraft, C. Gouin and Father Fafard and a priest
from Onion Lake. Mr. Quinn was the Indian agent for that district well
fitted in every particular for the position he held. Mr. Dill kept a
general store and at one time lived at Bracebridge, was a brother of
the member of Muskoka in the local house. Mr. Williscraft came from
Owen Sound where his friends reside. C. Gouin was a native of the
John Alexander Gowanlock, one of the Frog Lake martyrs, was born in
the City of Stratford, Province of Ontario, on the 17th of April,
1861. He was the youngest son of Mr. Jas. Gowanlock, of East Otto,
Cattaraguas County, New York State. He has three brothers living, and
one sister, A. G. and J. Gowanlock of Parkdale, Ontario, R. K.
Gowanlock, of Oscoda, Michigan, and Mrs. Daisy Huntsman, of Tintern,
Co. Lincoln. From a boy he was a general favorite, quiet and
unassuming, yet withal, firm and decided in his opinions. After
leaving Stratford he resided for some time in Barrie, and then went to
the Village of Parkdale, where he resided until he left for the north-
Being in ill-health (at the age of 19), his physician and aunt, Dr. J.
K. Trout, of Toronto, advised a change of climate, and acting upon
that advice left for that great country. After a short residence every
symptom of disease had vanished, and upon his return some eighteen
months after, he felt and was a new man in every particular. In three
months time he returned to the land of his adoption. By honesty and
energy he succeeded well. He took hold of every kind of work that he
thought would pay. He became farmer, mill-builder, speculator,
surveyor, store-keeper and mill-owner in succession, buying and
selling, and at the same time pushing further west. His greatest
success was in Battleford, the Indians of that district would flock to
his store, because they knew they could get a good article at a
reasonable price. Last year the Government wanted mills for the
reserves in the region of Frog Lake, and after negotiating with them
for some time he finally decided, in conjunction with Mr. Laurie, to
accept the offer made, the Government giving them the sum of $2,800 as
In the month of October of last year, he began operations, which, if
those poor, deluded savages, who did not know when they were well off,
had allowed him to finish, would long ere this been a hive of industry
and a blessing to those Indians. He visited Ontario the same year,
buying all the machinery necessary for the mills and superintending
its shipment. He also took unto himself a wife from among the fair
daughters of Ontario, and never a happier couple went forth to brave
the cares of life. Both young and fell of energy.
But they were not allowed to enjoy their domestic bliss long. The sad
event which terminated with him being murdered, along with eight
others, being still fresh in the memory of all; it was a sudden call,
but he was prepared for it. An oath was never uttered by him, nor did
he know the taste of liquor, a temperance man in the full meaning of
the term. He also took a hearty interest in church matters having been
one of the managers of the Battleford Presbyterian Church. Wherever he
went he did good, in a gentle and kind way; and he will be remembered
by both Indian, half-breed and settler, as one who never took
advantage of them in any way, and the very soul of honor.
Not himself, but the truth that in life he had spoken,
Not himself, but the seed that in life he had sown,
Shall past to the ages--all about him forgotten,
Save the truth be had spoken, the things he had done.
One of the victims of the Frog Lake massacre was William Campbell
Gilchrist, a native of the village of Woodville, Ontario, and eldest
son of Mr. J. C. Gilchrist, Postmaster of that place. He was an
energetic young man, of good address, and if spared would have made
his mark in the land of promise. Prior to going there, he held
situations in various parts of this province, and they were all of
such a nature, as to make him proficient in the calling of his
adoption, he had splendid business ability and with a good education,
made progress that was quite remarkable for one of his years, at the
time of his murder he was only in his twenty-fourth year.
He was clerk for Mr. E. McTavish of Lindsay, for some time; he then
returned to his home to take a situation which had been offered him by
Mr. L. H. Staples, as assistant in his general store; he afterwards
went to the village of Brechin as Clerk and Telegraph Operator, for
Messrs. Gregg & Todd. While there he formed the acquaintance of Mr. A.
G. Cavana, a Surveyor, and it was through his representations that he
directed his steps to the great unknown land. Shortly after his
acquaintance with Mr. Cavana, that gentleman received a government
appointment as surveyor in the territories, taking Mr. Gilchrist with
him in the capacity of book keeper and assistant surveyor; they left
in the spring of 1882. He was well fitted for the position, for
besides being an excellent penman, was an expert at figures; when the
winter set in, he remained there, taking a situation in a store in
Winnipeg, and when the summer opened out he again went with Mr. Cavana
on the survey, (1883) on his way home in the autumn he fell in with
Mr. J. A. Gowanlock, who induced him to remain with him as clerk, with
whom he never left until that sad morning on the 2nd of April, when he
was shot down in his strength and manhood. He was a member of the
Presbyterian church having confessed at the early age of 14 years. It
was his intention to enter the Manitoba College as a theological
Several friends have asked me to write a sketch of my life and more
especially of my adventures in the North-West. At first I hesitated
before promising to comply with the request. There is a certain class
of orators who, invariable, commence their public address by stating
that they are "unaccustomed to public speaking." It may be true in
many cases, but most certainly no public speaker was ever less
accustomed to address an audience, than I am to write a book. Outside
my limited correspondence, I never undertook to compose a page, much
less a book. But, if any excuse were necessary, I feel that the
kindness of the people I have met, the friendliness of all with whom I
have come in contact, during the last eventful half-year, would render
such excuse uncalled for. I look upon the writing of these pages as a
duty imposed upon me by gratitude. When memory recalls the sad scenes
through which I have passed, the feeling may be painful, but there is
a pleasure in knowing that sympathy has poured a balm upon the deep
wounds, and that kindness and friendship have sweetened many a bitter
drop in the cup of my sorrow and trouble.
"There is a tide in the affairs of men," sang England's great Bard,
but we never know when it is about to turn, or if that turn will be
the ebb or the flow of happiness. "The veil of the Future is woven by
the hand of Mercy." Could I have but caught a glimpse through its
folds, some three years ago, I might not have the story to tell that
you, kind reader, will find in this short work. I might not be, to-
day, mourning the loss of a dear husband.
But who can judge of the ways of Divine Providence? For His own wise
ends has the Almighty permitted such things to take place: and
submissive to His will, I feel that instead of repining, I should
return Him thanks for my Own life and preservation; and, under God, I
must thank my friends one and all!
If this little sketch should prove instructive or even interesting to
anyone I will feel doubly repaid. The scenes I have to describe, the
story I have to tell, would require the pen of a Fenimore Cooper to do
them justice. Feeling myself unable to relate all I experienced and
suffered, in an adequate manner, I will merely offer the public, a
simple, truthful, unvarnished tale and for every fact thereof, I give
my word that it is no fiction, but real truth.
With this short preface I will now crave the indulgence of my readers,
while they peruse the following pages.
MY YOUTH AND EARLY LIFE.
AS the principal object of this work, is to give an account of my
experiences in the North-West, and my many adventures during the last
few months, I would deem it out of place to detain my readers with any
lengthy description of my birth-place or any details of my younger
days. I have noticed many false reports that have been circulated
through the press, upon the different situations and conditions in the
North-West--whether as to the whites, the half-breeds, or the Indians.
In the second chapter I will give a truthful version of what I saw,
heard and know. Still I cannot well enter upon this work, with justice
to myself or to my late husband, without informing my readers whence
we came and how our lots happened to be cast together amidst the
scenes of our new home, and upon the theatre of the fearful tragedy in
which we played such important parts.
My grandfather, Henry Marshall Fulford, while yet a young man, about
the year 1812, came from Woburn Massachusetts, and established his
home on the Aylmer road, near Bytown, the Ottawa of to-day, where he
carried on an extensive lumbering and farming business. My father was
born there, and it was also the place of my own birth. Our home was
situated about two miles and a half from Aylmer, and about five miles
from the present capital of the Dominion.
In those days Ottawa was called Bytown. No one then dreamed that it
was destined to become the capital and the seat of the future Federal
government of the country. The town, for it was then a town, was small
and far from attractive, and the surrounding country was not very much
inhabited. The lumbering operations constituted the staple commerce,
and the shanties were the winter homes of the greater number of the
Nearly all my life, except the last three years, was spent at home. I
never travelled much, and in fact, never expected to become a
traveller, and above all, an unwilling heroine in the North-West
troubles. I had several sisters and brothers. I was the eldest of the
family, and as such, for many years had to devote my time to household
cares. My school-days seem now the pleasantest period of my early
life. Since then I have known many ups and downs; but never felt the
same peace of mind and gayness of spirit that I have felt in days now
gone. I might say that I have lived three distinct lives. From my
birth until the day of my marriage, which took place on the 27th of
July, 1882, I led a uniform life. Few, if any changes, marked each
passing year. The seasons came and went, and the winter's snow fell
and the summer's sun ripened the golden harvests, and days flowed into
weeks, weeks into months, months into years, and year succeeded year
as I felt myself growing into womanhood. The changes in my life were
few and my troubles so small, that memory had scarcely ever to recall
a dark or dreary scene and hope always beckoned me on to the future.
The only events that seemed to stand out, landmarks in the past, were
two deaths in the family--the first my eldest brother and the second
my dearly beloved and much lamented father.
Had it not been for these two events I might drop a veil over all the
past and consider merely that I had lived through such a number of
years:-these years, like the great desert of the east, would stretch
back, an unbroken tract, with no object to break the monotony of the
scene. But, as the kirches tombs or monuments of Arabia, rise up in
solemn grandeur from out the loneliness of the plain, casting their
shadows of the sandy waste, so these two monuments or tombs appear
upon the level scene of my uneventful past. Could I, then, have caught
one glimpse adown the valley of the "Yet to be," what a different
picture would have presented itself to my vision! A confusion of
adventures, a panorama never ending, ever shifting, of an eventful
My second life might be called a period from my wedding day until the
arid of April, 1885. And the third, the last and most eventful life,
is that of three months--April, May and June, 1885. To the second
important period in my career I will consecrate the next chapter and
to the third and final part of my life will be devoted the last
My husband was born in Napean, in the Province of Ontario, about the
end of 1846. Physically speaking, he was a, man of very fine
appearance. Over six feet in height and weighing about two hundred and
ten pounds. His youth was spent in his native place, where he went to
school and where he commenced his life of labor and exertion. I don't
know, exactly, when it was that I first met him; but I must have been
quite young, for I remember him these many years. He was, during the
last ten years that he lived in the Ottawa valley, foreman for
different lumber firms. Naturally gifted to command, he knew the great
duty of obedience, and this knowledge raised him in the estimation of
all those whose business he undertook to direct. And owing to that
good opinion, he received a general recommendation to the government,
and in the year 1879, he was appointed Indian instructor for the
north-west. Like my own life, his was uneventful. Outside the circle
of his friends--and that circle was large--he was unknown to the
public. Nor was he one of those who ever sought notoriety. His
disposition was the very opposite of a boastful one.
Often I heard tell of the north-west. But I never took any particular
interest in the country previous to his appointment and departure for
his new sphere. I knew by the map, that such a region existed--just as
I knew that there was a Brazil in South America, or a vast desert in
the centre of Africa. Our statesmen were then forming plans to build
the great Pacific Road, that band of iron which was soon destined to
unite ocean to ocean. However, I never dreamed that I would one day
visit those vast regions, the former home of the buffalo, the haunt of
the prairie-chicken and the prairie-wolf. It never dawned upon me,
that as I watched the puffing of the engine that rushed along the
opposite side of the Ottawa from my home, that, one day, I would go
from end to end of that line,--pass over those vast plains and behold
the sun set, amidst the low poplars of the rolling prairies,--listen
to the snort of the same engine as it died away, in echo, amongst the
gorges of the Rockies. My husband had been three years, previous to
our marriage, in the north west. His first winter was spent at "Onion
Lake," there being no buildings at "Frog Lake." In fact, when he
arrived there, "Frog Lake" district was a wilderness. During those
three years I began to take some interest in that "land of the setting
sun,"--but, as yet, I scarcely imagined that I would ever see the
places he described. In 1882, my husband returned to Ottawa and his
principal object in coming, was to take me, as his wife, away with him
to his new home.
We were married in Aylmer on the 27th July, 1882. Our intention was to
start for the wilds on the first day of August. In the next chapter I
will take up that second period of my life and strive to describe our
trip and what we saw, learned and experienced during the following
My readers will have to excuse what may seem egotism on my part, in
speaking so much about myself and my husband. But as the subject
demands that I should detail, all that can be of any public interest,
in my short life, it would be difficult to write my story and not
appear, at times, somewhat egotistical.
This first chapter must necessarily be short, when one has nothing to
write about it is hard to fill up pages, and my life, and that of my
husband, so far as I know, were most uneventful up to the day of our
"We joined the hands of each other.
To move through the stillness and noise
_Dividing_ the _cares_ of existence,
But _doubling_ its _hopes_ and its _joys_."
My younger days seem to have passed away like a quiet dream, leaving
but a faint memory behind; but my last period of life resembles more
some frightful night-mare and I often wonder can it be true that I
have passed through such scenes or is the whole affair a fevered
vision of the night!
Now that I am safely home again with my good dear mother beside me, my
fond brothers and sisters around me, it would appear as if I had never
got married, never left them, never saw the north-west, never suffered
the exposure, loss, sorrow, turmoil, dangers and terrors of the late
rebellion. But fancy cannot destroy the truth--the real exists in
spite of the ideal, and, as I enter upon my description, faint and
imperfect as it may be, I feel my hand shake with nervous excitement,
my pulse throb faster, my heart beat heavier, as scene after scene of
the great drama passes before me, clear and perfect as when first
enacted. Had I only the language at my command, as I have the pictures
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