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Publications of the Canadian Archives-No. 4.
JOURNAL OF THE YUKON
ALEXANDER HUNTER MURRAY
EDITED WITH NOTES BY
L. J. BURPEE, F.R.G.S.
Published by authority of the Minister of Agriculture
GOVERNMENT PRINTING BUREAU
A JOURNAL OF THE YUKON IN 1848
Alexander Hunter Murray, the author of this Journal, was born at Kilmun, Argyllshire, Scotland, in the year 1818. He emigrated to the United States as a young man, and joined the American Fur Company, with which he remained for several years. His service with the American Fur Company must have taken him pretty far afield, as witness his familiar references to Balize, Lake Pontchartrain, and the Red River of Texas, in the present Journal. In the spring of 1846, accompanied by the late Mr. Brazeau (afterward of Edmonton), he found his way from the Missouri to Fort Garry, where he entered the service of the Hudson's Bay Company as a senior clerk. He was appointed to the Mackenzie River District, under Chief Factor Murdoch McPherson, and set forth almost immediately for his post in the extreme north. His way lay by Lake Winnipeg and the Saskatchewan to Cumberland House; thence by Frog portage to the Churchill, and by Methye portage (famous in the annals of the fur trade) to the river and lake Athabaska. Descending Slave river to Great Slave lake, he entered the mighty Mackenzie, and reported to the head of his department at Fort Simpson. Some where on his journey-perhaps at Fort Chipewyan, on Lake Athabaska-he had had the good fortune to meet the daughter of Chief Trader Colin Campbell, of the Athabaska District. After a brief courtship, they were married à la contract, by Chief Factor McPherson-there being no clergy so far north at that time. Murray and his young wife spent their honeymoon descending the Mackenzie, a long and, under the circumstances, no doubt delightful journey. Finally they reached the mouth of Peel river, and turned up to Fort McPherson, where they wintered.
In the early spring Murray took his wife over the mountains to Lapierre House, on Bell river. Returning to Fort McPherson, he made all preparations for the important journey
described in this Journal. Leaving the fort on June 11, 1847, he reached Lapierre House three days later. On the 18th he embarked with inren in the Pioneer, a stout river-boat built at Lapierre for the expedition, and set forth to the westward, his wife remaining at Lapierre. Murray's object was to build a post on the Yukon, a practicable route to which had been discovered three years before by Chief Trader John Bell. Bell, after exploring Peel river in 1839, and building Fort McPherson in 1840, had crossed the mountains to what was then known as Rat river-later named Bell, in honour of its discoverer. Descending this stream to its junction with a larger river known as the Porcupine, he explored the latter to some where about the present international boundary-three days' journey down stream. This was in 1842. Two years afterward he completed his exploration of the Porcupine to its mouth. The natives informed him that the great river into which the Porcupine emptied was called the Yukon-or Youcon, as the traders spelled it. As a result of this journey, it was decided to establish a post on the Yukon, near the mouth of the Porcupine, and, as already mentioned, Murray was entrusted with this important task.
Descending Bell river to the Porcupine, Murray reached the Yukon, June 25, and, after some difficulty, found a suitable site for his fort, about three miles above the mouth of the Porcupine, on the east bank of the Yukon. Thenceforward his journal is devoted to a detailed narrative of the building of Fort Yukon, and the visits of parties of Indians from up and down the river. Of these he offers us a lively description, and seems to have missed no opportunity of questioning them as to the character of their country, the fur-bearing and other animals found there, and the language, manners and customs of the inhabitants-all of which is duly recorded in his journal. After spending the winter at Fort Yukon, Murray left June 5, 1848, for Lapierre House, with the returns' of the new establishment. He rejoined his wife at Lapierre House, June 23, having been absent a little over a year.
Here his present journal ends, but a few words may be added as to his subsequent career, for which, as well as for the particulars of his life previous to the Yukon journey, the
editor is mainly indebted to Mr. Roderick MacFarlane, of Winnipeg, formerly Chief Factor in the service of the Hudson's Bay Company. Mr. Murray seems to have returned to Fort Yukon the same year, taking his wife with him. In 1850 he accompanied Robert Campbell (of whom something will be said later) to Lapierre House; and the following year finally left Fort Yukon, returning to Fort Simpson on the Mackenzie, where he spent the winter. In the autumn of 1852 he reached Fort Garry with his wife, and several children, who had been born to them in the north country. Murray spent the succeeding winter at Fort Pembina (now Emerson), of which he had charge for the Hudson's Bay Company, for several years, after which he was appointed to the management of the district of Lac la Pluie, or Rainy Lake, and Swan River. Returning to Pembina, he was promoted to a Chief Tradership in 1856. The following year, being in poor health, he made a trip to Scotland, where, curiously enough, he met Joseph James Hargrave, who a few years later was himself to become a resident of Fort Garry. When Hargrave came out in 1861, one of the first men he met on the banks of the Red river was Murray. The meeting took place at the little settlement of Georgetown, to which Hargrave had travelled overland from the south, on his way to Fort Garry.
'After supper I went for a stroll,' he says in his "Red River." 'Before we had proceeded fifteen yards I observed symptoms of occupancy about a house in the village which had during my short residence been shut up and uninhabited. On inquiry, I learned the house was the residence of the local representative of the Hudson's Bay Company, Chief Trader Murray, who had that afternoon arrived on board the steamer, accompanied by his family and servants; and as we passed his gate we encountered that gentleman himself standing at the entrance to the inclosure before his house smoking his evening pipe. On hearing my name Mr. Murray greeted me as an old acquaintance, but I ridiculed the idea, till he mentioned the fact of my having one morning walked to the Waverley Bridge Railway Station in Edinburgh along with him, when I at once remembered the circumstance as having occurred in 1857, after a night which Mr. Murray passed in the house where I lived at the time. I accounted for my forgetfulness by assuring the