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JUN 2 1900
THE CITY ON THE SASKATCHEWAN.
By Bleasdell Cameron.
That was my introduction to Ad. McPherson and to a class of seasoned frontiers - men whose calling brought wealth of gold and lands to many of them in the pioneer days. of the Canadian Northwest. McPherson had ar
a hot day in July, 1881, I dropped into a wooden restaurant in the wooden town of Winnipeg and sat down at a very wooden table with a magenta cover. A small wiry man opposite at once attracted my attention. He had short, bristling, red hair and moustache, aggressively blue eyes and a flaming visage. He ordered steak; so did I. When it came I thought the pepper-box had been emptied; but the eyes of the little red man and my own met over the uninviting grills, his brows narrowed in a comical frown, and at length in his smooth southern drawl he said:
"Do you allow there's likely anything underneath 'em?"
"If there is, I allow a coyote wouldn't eat it," I returned; and we each pushed aside his dish, for the stuff was black with flies.
rived a week or two before with his outfit of oxen and ponies from the North Saskatchewan River, and would shortly return. I was bound west my
"You can travel with us, and welcome," he said to me. "I'm leaving next week with sixty loaded cartsfreight for the Hudson's Bay Company at Edmington.' But bring a rifle. Don't forget a rifle. It'll be a mighty useful thing to have along if old Sittin' Bull's people swoop down on us some mornin' about the Touchwood Hills."
And there was a suspicious twinkle in his blue eyes as he said this, for I was very young, and wore a leather belt with a nice new knife and untarnished six-shooter looking ostentatiously out of it; and he saw that I knew all that there was to know about Indians.
If you look up a picture of a Red River cart, you will see the sort of vehicle used by the old-time freighter to transport merchandise from Winnipeg over the thousand-mile cart trail to Edmonton. Every pound cost the Saskatchewan merchant ten cents in freight for the distance-a cent for each hundred miles. Fancy a barrel of salt, worth perhaps fifty cents at the works, the freight on which from Winnipeg increased its value by thirty dollars.
Freighters left Edmonton as soon in spring as the grass was green, and journeyed leisurely with their loose
to nine hundredweight. Snow sometimes lay on the ground and the streams ran thick with ice before Edmonton was reached on the return. May, June, July, August, September and frequently October were consumed in the round trip.
animals, and a cart or two for the camp outfit, to Winnipeg. It was a ten weeks' trip. They purchased their carts and harness from the Red River half-breeds. No iron entered into the composition of these carts, but only oak. The wheels, even, were tireless. If a cart broke down it was easily repaired; a splint or two wound and bound with rawhide did the trick. An extra axle, lashed beneath each cart, An was ready to replace a worn one. ox would keep fat in front of a thousand pounds walking fitteen miles a day; a pony was good for from seven
Edmonton merchants are not paying ten cents a pound any more for freight on their goods from Winnipeg. For eight years the terminus of the Calgary & Edmonton branch of the Canadian Pacific Railway has not been in Edmonton at all, but in Strathcona, which is on the opposite (south)
side of the North Saskatchewan River. A bridge is now being built across the river so that trains may run into that growing town. The bridge is a traffic as well as a railway bridge, and its importance to the town may be gathered from the fact that Edmonton gave $25,000 to the Government towards its construction. Daily trains are expected in Edmonton during 1900.
OLD FORT EDMONTON.
Just what the age of Edmonton-Fort Edmonton-is, I have been unable to ascertain. At least a century has elapsed
since the Hudson's Bay Company established itself on the Upper Saskatchewan, for there was a fort there in 1799. It was named, I understand, from a chief factor of the Company. The present fort was built about fifty years ago. It has a commanding position on the north bank of the river. When I first saw it, the buildings were enclosed by a high stockade with a bastion at each of the four corners, but as will be seen from the accompanying photograph, all of these defensive structures have been cleared away, as useless encumbrances. Yet the time has not long passed since they were considered highly necessary. During the troubles of 1885 the settlers of the district flocked for safety to the Hudson's Bay Company's fort, and no later than 1869 the Blackfeet, under Old Sun, attacked the place in force from the opposite side of the river, the water being high and crossing difficult. They failed to draw any response to their fire from the besieged, and the nearest approach they achieved to hurting anybody consisted in shooting Mr. David McDougall through the coat. However, it might easily have been very different had not the garrison had warning or had the place not been a fort in fact as well as in name. I have talked with a number of the Company's officers who were present at this "siege" and have seen the two little brass cannons which were ready loaded and would have been emptied into the Blackfeet
had not the sage judgment of the chief capacity of 200 barrels daily, and two factor in charge prevented.
large saw mills. On the south side of the river there are two more flour mills, with a joint capacity of 300 barrels; two elevators and an oatmeal mill. At Fort Saskatchewan, 20 miles down the river, there are also two grist mills, with a joint capacity of 250 barrels; and scattered through the surrounding country a number of other saw mills.
THE NEW EDMONTON.
In 1882 there were on the present town site of Edmonton, exclusive of the fort, exactly one dozen buildings, priacipally of logs. To-day Edmonton has a population of 3,000, electric light, telephone, ten miles of sidewalk, dye
works, pork-packing corporation, four hotels, four newspapers, two chartered banks, two wholesale warehouses, five churches, public school, Roman Catholic school, general hospital, sodawater factory, two breweries, fire hall, four implement warehouses, sixty stores and shops, and members of all the professions.
Edmonton has a flour mill with a
In 1898 Edmonton exported 1,000,000 bushels of grain. The crop for 1899 is estimated at over 2,000,000 bushels. The mines of British Columbia and the northern fur-trade furnish a reliable market for all surplus produce.
Edmonton has a fine public school, brick, built three years ago. The attendance has increased so rapidly, however, that already it has become altogether too small, and next summer an addition, with eight rooms, will be built. At present eight teachers are
employed. The Roman Catholic school employs three additional teachers.
dians of the Mackenzie, Peace, Yukon and Athabasca River districts packs of beaver, bear, fisher, fox, lynx, marten, mink, otter, skunk, wolf, wolverine and muskrat pelts, in great number and of princely worth, found their way over the mighty water-routes of the North to Fort Edmonton. From hence these packs and robes went down the Saskatchewan in York boats, to be loaded upon the "Company's Ship" in Hudson's Bay, and ultimately sorted and sold in the fur market of the world, London.
THE FUR TRADE.
To the fur trade, of course, Edmonton originally owes its existence, as this industry is, even to the present, one of the town's chief sources of revenue and prosperity. In early days immense quantities of buffalo robes were here gathered by the Hudson's Bay Company from the Crees, Blackfeet, and other tribes of Indians, who warred and hunted on the Great Plains to the south; while from the Wood In
To-day Edmonton is the largest raw fur depot in Canada. It is still-indeed more than ever-the gateway of the North. Ninety miles of good waggon-road connect it with "The Landing" of the Athabasca, whence steamers ply almost without interruption to the estuary of the Mackenzie, far within the Arctic Circle.
It would be unsafe to speculate on the value of furs now annually marketed at Edmonton, but there is no doubt that a-quarter of a million dollars would not pay for them. Several of the more enterprising of the "free"
traders in the North-that is, those not in the service of the Hudson's Bay Company-alone secure as much as $20,000 to $30,000 worth of peltries in a single season. The big Company's furs are all marketed in London, and those gathered at their northern posts do not, therefore, enter into this consideration. Most of the leading fur dealers of London, Europe and the United States are represented at Edmonton by established buyers.
Of local purchasers, perhaps, the firm of McDougall & Secord, heads the list. The gentlemen composing the firm are both old "Northwesters," Mr. McDougall having come to Edmonton in 1876 as the
agent of Winnipeg merchants, and Mr. Secord in the early 80's, as teacher of an Indian school. Messrs. McDougall & Secord enjoy the distinction of having received the highest price ever paid in the London fur market for a silver fox pelt -£340. It was a pure black, and one of the most beautiful skins seen in recent years. The purchasers secured it to be mounted for the Paris Exposition.
One of the illustrations shows a
company of freetraders embarking at "The Landing of the Athabasca with their outfits for the North; also the Hudson's Bay Company's steamer Athabasca.
"GOLD! GOLD! GOLD!
The discovery of gold in the sand