McNabs’ Saga. part II

Index ‘McNab, John, journal of’ 914: C-18 continued

[NB: for the purpose of this chronology, broken into sections and inserted by date where appropriate]

“May 25

In the morng. 4 men arrived in a Canoe from Pt. Meuron- they brought some fresh fish and the following Letters

‘In the Portage.

Next Arrow Lake, Friday

May 23rd

Dear Sir,

I have just met La Londe who informed me that another Canoe from L l pluie with 8 men had gone forward to Fort William with my Letters; It is very unlucky that they took that road, as the Canoe and men would have been very useful to us, and I fear that they may not overtake us in time- I reckon that we shall set out from Perrins on Tuesday morng. and if these men are still at Fort William writing orders I wish them to come thro’ the Portage with no lead except their Canoes and a few days provisions, provided it is thought practicable for them to go to Perrins by Monday eveng. or Tuesday at farthest.- If that is not practicable, I wish the Canoe to be loaded with part of the H.Bay Tobacco, at Pt Meuron together with the Baggage of the Mily. [Military] Settlers who went with Mr. Graffenried and to be sent with all expedition by the common road to L l pluie- there is, also a Trunk of Mr. Laidlaw’s and a Box of Mr. Graffenried’s which ought to be sent as also the Bales left by Capt. Matthey at the Pariseaux, but I believe the latter would not be sent without reducing the other Cargo of the Canoe too much.- They may be sent however provided the Canoe can carry at least 10 or 12 roles of Tobc. besides- From what I have heard of the character of the men of this Canoe I would not think it advisable to trust any of them with the cargo that I speak of, without a lock and I therefore write to Capt. Matthey to send Merill or some other fit person to go with them and look after the Cargo; if Capt. Matthey cannot send such a man the Canoe must return light either by this, or by the old Grand Portage as they like best so as to overtake us if possible and give us such assistance as circumstances may admit- They must have provis. for the whole voyage to L l pluie.-

Morache brings a report that Mr. Campbell and Mr. Smith had left Fort William, but as you have not sent any information of it I presume that is a Canadian report- I hope yet to receive the L l pluie Letters, but I shall not wait for them when we are ready to set out from Arrow Lake

I am

Dear Sir

Yours &c


P.S. L Eugen who was left at Pt. Meuron has behaved very improperly in leaving Capn. Matthey without permission, and deserves to be punished.- If Desmarais men require any supplies they may have them in moderation, but I am not sufficiently acquainted, with the state of their Accounts to fix an exact limit 100 or 120 livres per Trip is probably as much as they can require. Jack Perrault has bought some things from Pascall for 6 Dollars but his account it is so much overdrawn that I cannot authorize this to be paid.- Perrault says he has left some articles in Le Blanc’s charge which ought to be put in Pascall’s custody in pledge till Perrault is able to pay him. I understand you have ordered rations to be given to Crete’s wife.- She is not entitled to any, and ought only to have provisions in payment of her work- but employment should be found for her, so that she may maintain herself if industriously disposed-

I enclose a letter to Mr. Gale who is expected to arrive as agent for the H.B.Co. and for my self along with the Commissioners. If any other Gentleman should come as agent in place of Mr. Gale the letter is to be opened by him.’

‘Point Meuron 25th May 1817


I beg leave to inform you that I sent a small Canoe to Griste- I have also sent a Bag of [Pinse?] Charette continues building his small house (You’ll probably see him to day) the Indian women are getting Bark for the Store- Shall I give them any provisions- Mrs. Crete boiled one case of sap, a little of which I send for your inspection- I have sent the Ham and some fish

I am &c. &c.

J.P. Bourke.’


‘Mr. Bourke

You have done well in sending a Canoe to Griste as Charette’s assistants are so few; you will judge how he can be best employed.- By the quantity of Bark and its quality you will be enabled to recompense the women accordingly. His Lordship desires that the maintenance of Crete’s wife must be regulated by her own Industry- Mr. Spencer will arrange the large Canoe according to his Lordship’s desires.- the fish are very acceptable.-

I am &c

Mr. Bourke                                          J McNab’

‘Fort William 25th May 1817

My Lord,

On the Evening of the 25th Inst. the Bearer arrived from L l pluie by the Grand Portage- he brought several Letters for your Lordship, and a request of Goods for Mr. McPherson- which were instantly got ready; these are now left and your Lordship’s orders obeyed.

I have enclosed a copy of daily remarks at Fort William to apprize your Lordship of occurrences and have presumed to send a Triplicate to Lady Selkirk of what has transpired here since Capn. Matthey’s departure

(Mr. Smith arrested me last night, his motives for doing so I presume for preventing the return of this Canoe if possible.- Three of the Crew are under engagements to the N.W.Co. one is sick and remains, the others I have told not to return, Mr. Spencer goes to Pt. Meuron to arrange the Canoe’s Cargoe and will state the particulars to your Lordship.

I have the Honor to be &c.&c.&c.

The Right Honourable,                      J McNab

The Earl of Selkirk.’

‘Dear Sir,

The articles you requested were prepared, under orders arrived from Earl Selkirk which has caused a different arrangement.

I am &c.

J. McNab

Mr. McPherson L l. pluie.’

‘My Lord,

Your Lordship will think the advances to this Canoes crew are great- without attending to their requests they would not have complied with your Lordship’s desires Desmarais says he has killed above 100 Buffalos for Capn. McDonnell during winter and required payment here, the others were also in great want, and all say they will be ready to render their future services in the best manner to your Lordship.-

I have the Honor to be &c &c &c

John McNab

The Right Honorable

The Earl of Selkirk’

After repairing pitching &c their Canoe which was not till 5 P.M. Desmarais, Morell (one of the men from Point Meuron) an Indian and 3 of the former crew set out for L.l. Pluie, Mr. Spencer accompanies to Pt. Meuron to regulate the Cargoe- 4 of the N.W. former crew are under engagements to the N.W.Co. One man had his services ready at the Water side before this was known- Mr. Taitt then it would seem mentioned it purposely so late that we might be the more embarrassed, they all wanted to go, and if not dissuaded by Mr. Spencer and myself would have put their things in the Canoe.”

Index ‘McNab, John, and Selkirk’ 293: reel C-4 p. 3470, image 321

i.e. letter, from John McNab to Selkirk (25 May 1817, Fort William); McNab has been arrested.

“My Lord

The Bearer arrived here the 25th Inst. By the G. Portage, he brought several letters from your Lordship and a request of goods for Mr. McPherson which was instantly got ready- these are now left and your Lordships Orders obeyed. I have enclosed a duplicate of daily remarks since my last at Fort William to apprise your Lordship of occurrences and have presumed to send a Triplicate to Lady Selkirk of what has transpired here since Capt. [of the late de Meuron Regiment, Frédérick] Matthey’s departure.

Mr. [William] Smith [Under Sheriff, Western District of Upper Canada] arrested me last night his motives for doing so I presume are if possible to prevent the return of this canoe; there are three of the crew under engagements to the N.W.Coy. one is sick and remains here, I have told the other two I do not wish their return; so far they say they will not stay behind- Mr. [John] Spencer goes to Pt. Meuron to manage this cargo and will state the particulars to your Lordship.”

Index ‘McNab, John, journal of’ 914: C-18 continued

“May 26th

Captain Lorimier, 6 Canadians and 11 Indians arrived with dispatches from Montreal.- Mr. Spencer returned from Pt Meuron, says the crew of Desmarais Canoe found themselves so weak, they can carry no Cargo if dispatch was required, they therefore set out with the light Canoe.- Capn. Lorimier expressing a doubt of his men going above Mr. Spencer Volunteered his service to follow Desmarais, bring him back either to assist Capt. Lorimier or carry Cargoe to L.l. pluie- Some time after this- Capn. Lorimier resolved on taking his own Crew, and a smaller Canoe- On going to the Canoe yard for a Canoe, Mr. Taitt told Capn. Lorimier, they were the property of the N.W. Company and that he had no right to take any. Capn. Lorimier told me he was prevented from getting a Canoe for his intended journey to-morrow, I went with him to Mr. Taitt, Willin accompanied us. I mentioned to Mr. Taitt my surprise at his interposition in opposing a measure he had before countenanced- he replied his Lordship told him before he left Fort William that he would take nothing from Fort William but what he had brought, and that now he thought it his duty to prevent further proceedings of such a nature- I then told him I would deliver the Keys of Fort William to him- he said he would not take them but would tell Mr. Smith and be directed by him, not returning soon we went towards Mr. Smith’s window, met Mr. Taitt and Mr. Smith, who said he only had a right to receive the Keys- had demanded them from Earl Selkirk; and from me, and had a right to receive them from me, but he himself only; after several other trifling remarks we parted.

May 27

This morning in company with Capn. Lorimier and Willin I called on the Sheriff who with Mr. Taitt joined us. I asked Mr. Smith if he approved of what Mt. Taitt did last night, he said he certainly did- Several other remarks were made on both sides which the Sheriff explained in French to Capn. Lorimier, soon after (at 8 am) he set out for Pt. Meuron with the follg. notes

‘Dear Sir,

Should Capn. Lorimier meet you below Pt Meuron you will return with him, who may add to Desmerais Crew and enable him to carry Cargo, as the Captain intends to take all the dispatches himself in the speediest manner in one of the Canoes at Pt Meuron

I am &c

Mr. Spencer.                                        J McNab.’

‘Mr. Bourke,

You will deliver a Ham to Capn. Lorimier and such other articles as he may require the requisitions and regulations of his men you will comply and accord with

I am &c

J. McNab.’

One of the Inds. who came from L.l. Pluie going to his father. I sent by him the follg. Letter to Capn. Matthey

‘Dear Sir,

This young man is going to his father and one of Desmarais men who was detained here as an engaged servant to the N.W. Co. but has now leave from Mr. Taitt to go where he pleases accompanies him to see you- Capn. Lorimier, 4 Canad. & 11 Indians arrived last night and set out a few hours ago for L.l. pluie by the old road with expresses for his Lordship- report says many of your late regiment are engaged in the N.W. Service. Most of the N.Wt. proprietors at the S.S. Mary [Sault Ste Marie] and may soon be expected here

I am &c

J. McNab.’

In the Evening Mr. Spencer arrived with 3 men from Pt Meuron, Capn. Lorimier set out before he came off 4 of Capn. Lorimier’s Crew are left and 2 men added to Desmarais Crew who also departed with cargoe for L.l. pluie.

May 28

‘Mr. Bourke-

You will now receive a further addition to your number of men I think it would be judicious to employ them in planting Potatoes as soon as possible

I am &c

J. McNab.’

Mr Sayer again applied for food, saying he was in real want, and that he would be answerable for payment but could not state it on the N.W.Co. account I considered it imprudent to refuse and he had a small supply- the men of yesterday returned to Pt. Meuron

[May] 29

In the forenoon Mr. Campbell and party who left this place the 18th Ulto came back, and in great haste changed the crew for fresh hands, with whom Mr. Kennedy instantly returned, the rumour now was that he was going purposely to meet the Commissioners.- A few hours after 3 Canoes arrived at the mouth of the River, and stopt some time till 8 more came to them, an Ensign was then displayed, and all proceeded towards the Fort, when at a short distance off Mr. Smith joined Mr. Spencer & myself walking before the Gate, he told us we had better retire into our Chambers, and that he would accompany us; this was unexpected, and wishing to avoid altercation in the eyes of strangers so near we accompanied him into our own apartment- in a few minutes after this the N.W. Gentlemen arrived and several proprietors without ceremony came into the Room where we were- Mr. McGillivray entered also Mr. Smith in their presence asked from me the Keys of the Fort in the King’s Name. I hesitated, Mr. McGillivray then, desired I should comply- seeing the folly of denial I mentioned it should be done, and he received them- Soon after he said Mr. Spencer or one of us would be called on to-morrow to witness the taking of an Inventory of Stores &c. I replied I had no objection.- After this the Key of the counting house was called for this was given. I told them I had one Key enclosed, sealed, and directed to the Commissioners and to them only I was desired to deliver it Mr. McGillivray then said he would be responsible, and must have it, it was then also given up We were immediately after placed in an adjoining apartment under the notice of a Constable and a Servant allowed us.- The Keys were no sooner delivered up than every separate store was opened- as neither Mr. Spencer nor I was called upon to witness this; I shall defer having anything further to do with further transactions unless ordered by the Commissioners.- Willin & all Earl Selkirks servants were ordered out of the Fort, and Willin’s box & bundles were opened and examined by some of the Proprietors; all hands went to Point Meuron- We had made a light dinner, and sent a request for several articles to supper- the Servant brought an answer from Mr. Rocheblave that we must wait till the Inventory was taken.-

[May] 30

This morning I sent the following letter to Mr. McGillivray.

‘Sir, Last evening after a spare dinner Mr. Spencer & I applied to Mr. Smith for supper, the request was refused (as the servant informed us) by Mr. Rocheblave who replied we must wait till the Inventory was taken, this I presume will be some days. the servant assented to for our attendance (an invalid) arrived from a journey yesterday and is more liable to feel want than either of us- I have five adherents, two claim my protection the other two were sent to my care from the Interior a few days ago, I shall be glad to know if I can have subsistence for them particularly the two former, or if they must otherwise be provided for,

I am &c

J. McNab.’



I have this moment received your note I have also seen your requisition of yesterday and cannot help feeling surprise that you and Mr. Spencer having for such a length of time had the free use of all the ample Stores of every description belonging to the N.W.Co. found at Fort William in August last on the arrest of the Partners of that concern, and of which it appears you and your party have not been sparing, should a few hours after the lawful owners had taken possession of the remaining property made a demand for articles which have been plundered and embezzled by themselves.- I allude to the Tea & Chocolate in particular, if any of them remain, and are found in taking the Inventory, your requisition shall be complied with, but we do not give room in light Canoes for any articles except what may be immediately required for travelling. As to the second part of your note I have only to say that a servant being allowed to attend you and Mr. Spencer- I can know [sic: allow] no other retainers and you must yourself acknowledge, that after what we have suffered we have a right, at least to be suspicious.

I am &c &c

signed Wm. NcGillivray.’

Centeries [sic] placed at various stations about the Fort and several loaded swivels mounted and pointed towards the Gate, the following letter was ready but I had no opportunity of sending it last night.


Willin will inform you of occurrences here, he will now reside at Point Meuron: you are aware of his responsibility and consideration by his Lordship-

I have found him active, attentive, and economical- you know he is to have the direction and regulation of provisions to his own men; your own good sense and conciliating disposition will suggest to you the propriety of his regulating the others as may be judged most conducive to forwarding his Lordship’s desires.-

His Lordship requires the articles may be brought from the Grand Portage and from Perrons house as soon as can prudently be done.- Desmarais is to build one or more canoes- his Lordship hopes you will be able to procure bark from Indians for that purpose.- You will be so good as countenance my concerns, now sent for your protection, the 2 children of Bouchis [Boucher] should not want, the other woman will earn her maintenance if you direct- she will soon go with her relations.-

I am &c

To Mr. Bourke                               John McNab.’

After the lumber [sic: luggage] &c of the above party had been carried out of the Fort to the Canoe Mr. McGillivray ordered it to be brought back and searched, it was therefore all brought in again. Mr. Taitt & Robertson (Constable) came after, I desired them to open them and examine each parcel, they both refused, saying that I might do it if I pleased. I replied it was not my pleasure, they stopped some time when Mr. Smith entered, he said that as a number of Papers was missing it was necessary a search should be made. I told him to open & search, that it was for that purpose the luggage was brought back, he said if I would give my word that no papers were among it that all might go I answered that I would not that it was his duty to search and be satisfied, he then said that a Box which he pointed out should be left till the Commissioners arrived- this was done, without his demanding the Key which I am allowed to retain, the suspicious persons were then expelled from the Fort with their remaining luggage- soon after this a servant brought a verbal order from Mr. Smith for Mr. Spencer and myself to occupy a different apartment which was accordingly obeyed.-“

Index ‘McNab, John, family of—ordered out of the Fort’ 294: reel C-4, p. 3490, image 341

i.e. letter, from John Spencer to Selkirk (31 May 1817, Fort William); William McGillivray seized the fort; McNab’s family ordered out of the fort

“My Lord,

I have to relate to your Lordship the strange alteration in this fort since you left us- but however I must first observe that in consequence of the hurry at this place when you left us, I had entirely neglected taking from the Debt Book extracts of the Freemens accounts, and would be glad if your Lordship would cause this to be done, as early as possible, as we are rather at a nonplus for want of such documents.-

The day before yesterday Mr. William McGillivray arrived with six canoes and just before they arrived at the Beach, Mr. Smith ordered Mr. McNab & myself to go to our rooms- after a short time in came the N.W.C Gentlemen – and Mr. Smith demanded the Keys of the Fort, Mr. McNab said that the keys should not be given up, unless force was used- when Mr. McGillivray said then I order you to give the Keys to Mr. Smith, and that they were to take this responsibility upon themselves- the keys were accordingly delivered and I should hope that it will be means of saving several Thousand Pounds to your Lordship.

We were first of all told, after Mr. Campbell arrived that the Commissioners were at the Islands, and that Mr. Kennedy was required there, and off he went, but behold he told me this morning that he was deceived himself in not seeing them, and that he was of opinion that there was great differences in the appearance of every thing, than what was usually the case in former years.

I understand that a Canoe is going off today, to bring everything from the Grand portage, this I heard from Mr. Sayer who by the bye is going to Lac la Pluie in a light canoe this afternoon.

I was requested by Mr. Smith to accompany the Clerks of the N.W.Coy. in taking Stock, but I told him candidly that I protested against everything that was done, in regard to interference with the stores, until such time as the commissioners came themselves- and that it was only by their concurrence that such matters of importance could be properly transacted..

We are now in the Bell house in fact in the same room which Campbell & Smith occupied- and this morning a sentry with musket & bayonet was ordered to escort us wherever we went that is in case of going to the necessary but otherwise limited to the back yard.-

I think the people in general seem to be very dull and much disappointed (I assure you My Lord) in their expectations as they were engaged to keep watch all the summer, and at the same time expected to fight for the fort itself. Many rye [sic] faces are now going about, and some have declared that they were never disappointed so much in their lives, that they even found the gates of the fort open to them, which had they known, nothing would have induced them to have come up here.

Several promises have been made to them, which they say has not been fulfilled, and I can assure your Lordship that the disaffection among them is increasing rapidly.-

Mr. [Pierre] Rocheblave, John McDonald, Fraser – Dease [Peter Warren Dease?]- and a concourse of approved young Gentlemen have only arrived as yet, but I see nothing of importance among them, they seem more like lost sheep than anything else.- Mr. Smith the other night informed me that he was going after your Lordship, but the next morning found that he had no escape warrant, has [sic] he termed it, this is sufficient to say nothing could be obtained from below or otherwise it would have been procured.

Mr. McGillivray has now ordered Mr. McNabs family out of the Fort- and they were wishing to search the baggage &c which she was going to take with her- for the purpose of which Messrs (Robertson, the Constable of last fall) & Mr. Tait came in- I observed to Mr. R. have you a search warrant for these kind of proceedings- he said no- & further observed that he would have nothing to do with it, and they accordingly walked off.-

This was ordered to be done by Mr. McGillivray, but he confessed after that he was not a Magistrate, and consequently could not legally enforce his wish.- God Almighty bless you my Lord, and if I am too bold in expressing myself, I hope you will pardon me-”

Index ‘McNab, John, journal of’ 914: C-18 continued

“May 31

This morning I sent the following note to Mr. McGillivray


A Prisoner here by your immediate authority, as such I beg leave to know if I can (without interruption to the bearer) have a Letter conveyed to Point Meuron, where occasion requires an business relative to the Earl of Selkirk I need not aminadvert [sic] on the absurdity of the cause from which the Warrant proceeds, it is sufficiently glaring.-

I am &c.

John McNab.’

Soon after this an armed sentry was placed at our chamber door we had no longer permission to appear beyond the front door of the House, a small back court we had liberty to walk in and Mr. Smith with a young man took our warlike accoutrements- in the afternoon Mr. Taitt brought the following Letter,


Your note of this morning did not appear to me to require any immediate reply, but in regard to your corresponding with the people at the Post established at the foot of the Rapids, if I have any controul [sic] I certainly cannot consent to it, for the object of such correspondence must be obvious You are not a prisoner by my authority, I am not a Magistrate of this District.- The Officer who committed you is fully authorized so to do, notwithstanding the attempts made to make him pass for an impostor, as you will find in due time, if the cause of the arrest is absurd as you state, so much the better for you, but if plundering and appropriating to themselves what belongs to others can be documented Causes- you must acknowledge that there are lawful charges against all the leaders at least of the Band who passed the winter in this Fort.

I am Sir

Your most obedt Servt.

signed Wm. McGillivray

To Mr. McNab’

As in the above there seems allusions to a want of power to all at Fort William, I called for Mr. Smith for explanation, and asked him if I could obtain the above request, reading to him Mr. McGillivray’s answer to my Letter he seemed to startle at my having received one- hesitatingly said as Mr. McGillivray had refused he could not comply-

June 1st

This morning Mr. Spencer having occasion to repair to a certain recess which he a Key for admittance was told by the Sentry he must have the Seargeant [sic] of the Guard’s permission before he could go out- It was found necessary to apply to Mr. Smith who told the servant he could not be troubled with such triffles [sic]- not such to Mr. Spencer- at last the Sergeant came, who said he must go to a certain resort accompanied by this man of military step; Wither he went- the ceremony ended on shewing an entry to the common sewer of the most menial servants at Ft. William- Having a Key to a place of decency where we had hitherto retired I delivered it to Mr. Taitt by the servant, and soon after had occasion to pass through the military etiquette as Mr. Spencer had done.-

June 2

In the forenoon in Company with Mr. Spencer we were ordered to go on board one of 4 Boats loaded with furs, our necessaries being divided among the others, there not being sufficient room for them in our own; before going out of the apartment allotted us complaints were made of our quantity of Baggage &c by Mr. Smith, I told him we could not go with less, on this in an irritable manner he called the Srgt. of the Guard armed, ordered him to turn us out, which of course we complied with, our necessaries put on board and deposed as above; (an Invalid of the 37th Regt. (one of his Lordship’s bodyguard) was given as a servant to us. he was also, after having delivered up his arms, sent in the same rigorous manner, not suffered to stop for Medc. which the Surgeon was preparing At Pt Tonnerre a Canoe passed us keeping a long way out out [sic] in the Lake. Mr. Fraser, a passenger in one of the Boats.”