McNabs’ Saga. part V

Index ‘McNab, John, journal of’ 914: C-18 continued: “A Journal of occurrences from my departure from Fort William from the 2nd June to the 23rd October 1817”

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

“[July] 2

The Vessel waits for a fair wind. Sent my Baggage on board, Mr. Drysdale mentioned to me a Mr. Jones from Baldoon had been here some days, that he is the most respectable man in the Settlement, and expressed a wish to have had some conversation with me; I expressed my grief at his not telling me before Mr. Jones went away- he said if I chose I could proceed to the spot which might be more satisfactory, and that I would meet the Vessel which now lay wind bound here, I agreed in his suggestion, agreed [with] two men to carry me there in a Wooden Canoe and set out as soon as they got ready and we passed the night near the Traverse in Lake Sinclair.

[July] 3

At 5 p.m. reached Baldoon, found Mr. Jones who made me welcome, we traversed several fields, in one of which several men were hoeing Indian Corn of considerable extent, bearing prospects of a good crop- I advised him and a Mr. Brown who formerly occupied the Farm, and now holds a few acres to write their sentiments to Earl Selkirk and I would carry them, this they did.

[July] 4

Had a short walk with Mr. Jones who is an intelligent man, in the forenoon with one of his men in a Canoe we set out to meet the Vessel, the wind being in her favour, we found her in Lake Sinclair at anchor, and my companions returned.

Index ‘Baldoon, lease of property at’ 303: reel C-4, p. 3668, image 522

i.e. letter, from William Jones to Selkirk (4 July 1817), delivered by John McNab

“Right Honourable Earl of Selkirk

My Lord

Being the person who now occupies the Baldoon farm, and the Bearer Mr. McNab having intimated that it would be satisfactory to your Lordship to hear from me the particulars relative to my lease and of the present state of the farm, I am induced to take the liberty of stating, that Mr. John Brown, the person who it appears has had charge of your Lordships business in this place ever since the departure of Mr. McDonald, has leased the place to me for the term of two years from the 1st May 1816. And I am bound to deliver up the premises on the 1st May 1818. With the exception of such fields as I may have sowed with grain in the fall of the present year, the proceeds of which I have a right to store and thresh on the farm. The rent I am to pay Mr. Brown is two hundred dollars for year or rather four hundred dollars for the whole term of my Lease, which I can assure your Lordship, is by far more than the neat proceeds of all that I shall have raised on the farm (after deducting my labourers wages) will be worth. The high water which we have had in these parts for several years, and only began to receded the year before last, has left the ground so cold that it produces very indifferently, and will in all probability take some considerable time yet to recover its original state of warmth and fertility- The buildings are much out of repair the fences such of them as have not been destroyed are principally Rotten and will soon become intirely [sic] useless and the ditches want cleaning to render them of such use to the farm- I should notwithstanding (as it will probably be inconvenient for me to leave the the [sic] place so soon as May next) wish to have my lease renewed. In which case I might hope that the increase of my stock, to which I would turn my attention, would in great measure make up for the loss which I shall now inevitably sustain by the badness of my crops.- If your Lordship is disposed to let me have the place for a longer time, it will be necessary to authorize some person to give me a lease, or send me one from under your Lordships hand letting me the premises for such a term of time as may be convenient: On the contrary if I am to move off at the expiration of my present Lease I shall consider it as a Singular favor to be notified of same as soon as possible.”

[Signed William Jones]

“PS. I have had some conversation with Mr. McNab which if your Lordship pleases he will communicate.”

Index ‘McNab, John, journal of’ 914: C-18 continued: “A Journal of occurrences from my departure from Fort William from the 2nd June to the 23rd October 1817”

[July] 5

The Vessel got under way- a light breeze carried us to Mr. Cartwight’s where we were obliged to cast anchor. there are 20 fine Oxen in the Hold, & 13 sheep in Boats, for the Military department on Drummond’s Island. One Basset an old Colonist at Red River came on board, Captn. Maxwell is our Commander, he was formerly in the N.W. Company’s Service and navigated their Vessel on Lake Superior- he has a share of this Vessel, the Lady Provost.

[July] 6

Got under way at 8 a.m. in the afternoon a head wind stopt us 5 leagues below the rapids at the head of River Sinclair- lost an anchor.

[July] 7

In the afternoon a light breeze carried us within 4 miles of Lake Huron.

[July] 8

Wind contrary- throughout the river the current is considerable- here it is strong.

[July] 9

Adverse winds continue- very hot weather, Mosquitoes has been troublesome in the nights since our entry into the River Sinclair and all are anxious to get out of it.

[July] 10

At 3 p.m. a favourable breeze springing up. At 5 we got over the rapid and entered Lake Huron course N by W.

[July] 11

In Shagwina Bay at 7 this morning Point of Bark in sight. Course NNWt. at 4 p.m. Middle Island & Thunder Bay in sight little wind.

[July] 12

Calm during the night – at 7 this morning a contrary wind sprang up and blew strong, in the evening reached middle Island and came to anchor.

[July] 13

Got under way at noon with a light breeze; at 8 am a Vessel passed us for Michilimackina, Course N.N.Wt. in the morng. the Captain and his other two passengers went on shore of Middle Island to hunt Pigeons- here they told us the American Army stopt previous to their unsuccessful attempt to take Michillimackina last war. in a few hours the Captain and companions came on board, they found a Hatchet on the Island.

[July] 14

A fine breeze at 6 am Drummonds Island appeared, and the Etrn. shore, as did the land to the Wtward course N.W. a Vessel in sight. At 10 am came to an anchor in the Harbour at Drummond’s Island, went immediately on shore, arranged matters for my procedure with Mr. La Croix, and at 11 am set out in a canoe with 4 men for the Sault St. Mary

[July] 15

At 9 this forenoon arrived at Sault St. Mary, Mr. Ermatinger immediately prepared for my departure for Fort William.

[July] 16

After breakfast set out in Canoe with 3 men for Fort William. Contrary wind detained us at Point du pain- on walking across the Portage, Mr. MacGillies came and invited me into his House, I made an excuse at the early hour; he accompanied me to the place of embarkation when we parted.

[July] 17

We embarked early this morning, a thunder storm stopt us a few miles beyond House Bay in Lake Superior, my companions are strangers in this Lake and dread the high waves on these shores.

[July] 18

Left our encampment very early this morning at 5 am met Mr Colin Robertson in a Canoe for the Sault St Mary, we breakfasted together, he communicated the Bay news, and enquired how we passed the winter at Fort William &c &c in the evening we reached a fine Harbour 4 miles beyond Montreal Island Bay

[July] 19

At daybreak set out with a fine breeze two hours after a head wind drove us into a convenient landing place, where we escaped a Squall we again set out, and now again drove on shore, among rocks & stones, by a thunder storm and heavy rain, after a few hours drenching, again we proceeded, and with hard labour reached near the Gargantua close by a fine river.

[July] 20

In the morning reached the usual resort at Gargantua, the storm continuing, we stopped till 1 p.m. when we proceeded, met 6 Boats on their way for Sault St Mary loaded with furs, with hard labour reached Michipicoton late in the evening, where we found Messrs Vincent, Mr. [Mc]Ormick old acquaintances, and spent a few pleasant hours before we parted

[July] 21

Contrary wind, with heavy rain, detained us

[July] 22

Weather as yesterday continus [sic]

[July] 23

Proceeded on our journey at an early hour in the afternoon a head wind stopt us 14 Leags. from Michipicoton

[July] 24

At daybreak we were underway at 2 pm met Mr. Archibald McDonald at Otter Head, where we dined, afterwards proceeded on 3 Leagues

[July] 25

Fine weather and a favorable breeze at times drove us 4 Leagues beyond the Pic- in the mornig. met a light Canoe full of men, they kept out to sea, avoiding us. Afterwards heard Mr. McLeod was on board- in the evening 2 Boats passed us for the Sault St Mary, my old Guard (Blondeau) their guide, he told us all were well at Fort William, and by the last account at Point Meurons

[NB: reference to ‘all who were well’ likely meaning wife Jane and children]

[July] 26

High Seas and adverse winds with thick mist detained us among Islands where we were drove before breakfast.

[July] 27

A continuation of Weather as yesterday stopt us till 3 p.m. when we groped out way a few miles along shore and entered a fine harbour, which was not the case yesterday, the mist continus [sic]

[July] 28

A fine day rose early and late in the evening decamped after advancing considerably in the Pays du Platt.

[July] 29

The fine weather continues, and the men make the most of it, in the evening encamped near Shaquina.

[July] 30

After sun set landed at Point Meuron Willin now in charge told me he had been a close prisoner at Fort William by an order from Major Fletcher, and had been liberated a few days ago for a misdemeanour [sic] by his account frivelous [sic], and unworthy of notice, thus the men were left without the direction, or control of any individual, I endeavoured to impress on his mind the responsibility of his situation, the confidence placed in his integrity, prudence, and good conduct, so as bid defiance to the wiles and malicious wishes of his enemies; and that by his actions and endeavours he ought to emulate [sic: animate] and encourage the men now under his direction, to carry on the work with diligence and spirit, he expressed his sense of the propriety of such conduct on his part and made fervent promises of his future attention thereto.

[July] 31

Went with Willin to examine the state of the Magazine after looking through the other stores. the former we found in a very damp state, a crust of mould on many of the Kegs and snowshoes, which had been placed there some weeks ago, almost rendered useless by the moisture and confined air, had them exposed to the air, and desired him to begin immediately about erecting a magazine on a dry spot and as near the Block House as prudence admits- The powder now lays across the river, out of sight, and by a few men or Indians might be taken or destroyed without being seen by any at Pt. Meuron.”

Index ‘McNab, John, and Selkirk’ 319: C-4, p. 3885, image 742  

i.e. letter, from John McNab to Selkirk (1 August 1817, Point Meuron)

“After my liberation at Sandwich I posted hither as fast as the mode of conveyance would admit- I wished for the honor of seeing your Lordship here, As the state of affairs will not admit my stay, I leave every information I could collect at Sandwich in a Letter from Mr. Woods &c and have arranged the papers here, and put the whole in a packet now in Willins care- The morning after the Sandwich examination, our Host (Mr. Forsyth) told me a Mr. Jones a Tennant of your Lordships in Baldoon had just departed thence had expressed An earnest wish to speak previously to me, vexed neither hinted the desire, and hearing a general good character of the man, resolved that if the wind continued unfavorable for the vessel sailing till noon that I would proceed to Baldoon in a canoe & meet the Brig in River Sinclair, this occurred, and in consequence I desired Messrs Jones and Brown to state their sentiments and reports- these are inclosed- On the passage to Drummonds Island I happened to mention to our Capt. of your Lordships having lodged ropes & Canvas at the S. St. Mary. He expressed how much his vessel was in want of these materials, that Capt. Hall the principal owner (a respectable man) would readily pay a fair price for them; I understand they are liable to injury where they are, and to suffer administration, which last has already been the case- I met Mr. Colin Robertson between the S. St. Mary and Michipicoton I requested him to write to your Lordship, he complained of indisposition, said he would stop there till your arrival, and was to purchase canoes, engage men &c for Mr. Vincent, At Michipicoton I found that Gentleman and several of his officers there. I hinted to him the propriety of bringing all the corn 4 or 500 bags, from Drummonds Island- he expressed a want of other provisionary articles, in that case I recommended it to him to go himself to the fountain Head Michillimackina where these articles are selling as cheap as at Detroit,- he speaks much of the changes of seasons for the worse in the Bay and how necessary to guard against the consequences- I hinted to him the propriety of sending a Trader to Pt. Meuron- he proposes making a Station at the Pic, & wishes much to have the honor of seeing your Lordship for acting more substantially and effectively- I understand the Indians that came here were very fond of Mr. Bourke, Willin complains of a defect of Tools as a cause of not carrying on the building of the Block House- Your Lordship will observe how necessary a supply of articles for Indian Trade is here at this present moment, There are several Indians now resorting who are well worth keeping and to whom every endeavor will be used to prevent a [dis]continuance, cloth and blankets are the most essential, shot and several articles of iron work are necessary- the furs 13 pcks were sent to Moose Factory before I reached Michipicoton.- I understand I am to be again arrested here.”

[There follows a list (dated 31 July 1817):]

“Articles belonging to Earl Selkirk in Fort William when taken possession of by the N.Wt. Company May 1817

In Indian Store


Several loose Small furs

Gunpowder, an Large Canister

                        in half Powd & barrel, in quarter Do [sic: ditto],

Shot in open box for sale

Upper floor Fresh Deer Skins

In sale Shop

Several loose furs, a Cassette & Straps

Loose empty kegs marked HBC NB saw one of those among other empty kegs brot down to S St Marys.

In one of the Boats in my party a black painted can was brought from Fort William Earl Selkirks Property

Point Meuron 31 July 1817

The quantities of the respective articles I cannot ascertain”

Index ‘McNab, John, journal of’ 914: C-18 continued: “A Journal of occurrences from my departure from Fort William from the 2nd June to the 23rd October 1817”

“[August] 1

Several of the men began digging a foundation for a magazine 40 feet more or less from the Block House. I advised Willin to have the floor raised so as the [mg?: magazine?] might be covered in such manner as to prevent accident by fire; and surrounded with stockades- I received a Note from the Deputy Sheriff Smith advising me to go to Fort William, for my private property there; saying there is articles found in my Cassets claimed by the N.W. Company. Willin says that for want of a cross cut saw he cannot carry on the building of the Block House, which I have been urging him to do- made some arrangements in the Store Houses. Three canoes of Indians brought some fine Birch rhind [sic] & Pitch or Gum, they were well received, Willin promised to use them well, and they promised adherence to Point Meuron; trusting the necessary articles for their subsistence would be sent to supply them with  I delivered a 10 Gn Keg of High Wines to Willin (for the Indian supplies) all I could bring from Sault St Mary except a Ham which I left expressly for Earl Selkirk.-

[August] 2

This morning early I proceeded to Fort William in a canoe, landed opposite to the Gate, went thereto and told the Centinel [sic] I desired to see the Commissioner, one of his comrades being informed so by him went immediately to the Major’s residence; I walked solitary before the Gate some time, numbers of men and Indians gazing at the stranger, at last Mr. [McCormmic?] expressed sorrow for my staying there, and desired me to walk into the Fort I followed him in and told him I would step into Mr. McLaughlin’s apartment, who I heard was unwell, he assented and went towards the Mess room, on entering, I found several proprietors sitting with the Doctor, who welcomed me into his chamber, and mentioned his complaints his fears of their consequence &c. &c. some of the Gents retired with seeming disaffection Mr. John McDonald remained, coloured highly, never spoke, the Dr. and I had begun a promiscuous conversation, when I was called for by the Commissioner, I instantly, without reluctance, followed the messenger out of the Gate, when he pointed out the Major standing a short distance off, a number of men on all sides. I accosted him, he turned about, and with a better grace than on former occasions, wished to know my desires- I told him of Mr. Smiths Note, denying that there was anything belonging to the N.W. Company among my Private Property: he walked on and said that Messers Smith and Taitt would settle those matters with me.- I replied it was to him only I came, and that I would speak to neither of them on this occasion, he stopped and said he would make enquiry concerning the business; desired me to accompany him into the Fort; on our way I handed him two Bills of Articles I had bought in Montreal, in which these alledged [sic] were particularized, he read them, and advancing called on a Mr. Cowie; shewed the Bills to him, and asked him if the articles claimed accorded with those in the Bills, with considerable perturbation the young man looked repeatedly at both and with some hesitation said, he thought they might. The Major then asked if he believed they did, he answered the prices corresponded so with the articles that he believed them the same as mentioned in the Bills and of course not the N.W. Company’s property- The Major after taking back the Bills, desired me to follow him into his chamber, when he wrote down my affidavit, that they were my own property, this I signed &c. he folded it up and placed it among other papers. I now retired, and with some ceremony got my property put into the Canoe.- Some Candles, a Coffee Pot, Silver handd. knives &c. were with great formality nailed up in a Box, sealed, and a direction wrote thereon, to be sent to Sandwich.- These were left in the apartments occupied by Earl Selkirk and his servants during winter, which I entered on his departure, they underwent the same change of places as I did myself till my removal for Sandwich, when they were left in my last abode, a N.W. Gun was also there; this had been used in Winter by various travellers by Earl Selkirk’s orders and by the last person who had it in use; was delivered into my charge. After the completion of this sealing business by Mr. Simon McGillivray, Vandersluyes Smith &c. I embarked for Point Meuron During my stay in the Fort, I was told the above Mr. Cowie had sworn before Major Fletcher that the articles claimed among my property had been taken from the N.W. Company’s Stores, and that it was in contemplation to have arrested me for the offence- on my arrival at Point Meuron, I arranged with Willin for my departure to-morrow morning. The Indians, among which are 5 or 6 good hunters express their wishes of having their necessary wants from here. I promised my endeavours should be used for that purpose- advised Willin to be attentive to them- had a pack of furs tied and marked [symbol] which Mr. Gordon (Mr. Lacroix’s trader) promises to leave at Michipicoton it weighs above 100 [symbol, lbs?], my Canoe will not contain it, represented to Willin the situation he now held, his responsibility, and what ought to be expected therefrom; he made ample promises of using his best endeavours to give satisfaction, which he trusted would be testified by the result”

Index ‘McNab, John, and Selkirk’, ‘articles found on property of’, ‘and William Smith’ 320: reel C-4, p. 3893, image 750

i.e. letter, from McNab to Selkirk (2 August 1817, Point Meuron); describing articles found at Fort William that were property of McNab or Selkirk; includes list by McNab and list from Smith.

“My Lord

Since closing the last I had the honor of addressing to your Lordship I received the enclosed note from Mr. Smith late last night in consequence I repaired early this morning to Fort William instead of setting out for Sandwich as I had intended.- I waited on the Commissioner, told him I came purposely to declare what property was mine and what I laid no claim to as such, the scissors and suspenders I showed him the Bills of Sale of, where, and when purchased by me, he examined them called on Mr Cowie (who I was told had given an affidavit of their having been taken from the N.Wt. Store) asked him if he did not think from the prices, that the articles were originally my own? He said from the Statement he saw he believed they were.- I then accompanied the Major who rook my affidavit that they were so. The articles claimed by the N.Wt. Gentm. were found in the Kitchen chamber cupboards &c, all which I understood were your Lordships property and I told them so. The Gun had been in use by some of the Winter travelers and was in my apartment some time.- these articles were ceremoniously sealed to be sent to Sandwich- After spending the day in the business I was allowed to take my own private property and return therewith to Point Meuron tomorrow early I propose setting out-

I trust I have not been to presumptive in telling Mr. Gordon to leave here such articles of his remains as may be in request by the men or for Trade with the Indians at Drummonds Island Mr Lacroix said that should your Lordship receive them, that he would make a very reasonable charge and state the prices as low as he possibly could.”

[Wm. Smith Under Sheriff W.D.U.C. (2 August 1817, Fort William):]

“Articles found amongst John McNab Esquires private property, claimed by the North West Company and admitted by him not to belong to himself viz

1 North West Gun

1 black tin Coffee Pot

11 Knives with plated Handles

1 Patent Black Book

1 Paper Red Ink

28 Mould Candles


All the above packed for Sandwich



It appears that among the articles left by you in care of Mr. Tait are the following articles claimed as belonging to the North West Coy viz

1 N W Gun

1 Coffee Pot

11 Knives Plated Handles

3 dozen Pairs Scissors

1 Patent black Book

3 Prs. Suspenders

1 paper Red Ink

A quantity Mould Candles.-

It will perhaps be proper in you to prove this property to be yours before the Commissioners now here as it may be a subject of future litigation

Sir Your obt. Servt.

Wm. Smith Under Sheriff


John McNab Esquire

Point Meuron”

 [Both the above papers enclosed in McNabs Letter]