A Journey from Prince of Wales’s Fort in Hudson’s Bay to the Northern Ocean in the Years 1769, 1770, 1771, 1772 / New Edition with Introduction, Notes, and Illustrations

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THE PUBLICATIONS OF
THE CHAMPLAIN
SOCIETY
VI


THE PUBLICATIONS OF
THE CHAMPLAIN
SOCIETY

HEARNE:

A JOURNEY FROM PRINCE OF
WALES’S FORT IN HUDSON’S BAY
TO THE NORTHERN OCEAN

TORONTO
THE CHAMPLAIN SOCIETY

Five Hundred and Twenty Copies of
this Volume have been printed. Twenty
are reserved for Editorial purposes.
The remaining Five Hundred are
supplied only to Members of the
Society and to Subscribing Libraries.
This copy is No. 229

A JOURNEY
FROM PRINCE OF WALES’S
FORT IN HUDSON’S BAY TO
THE NORTHERN OCEAN

In the Years 1769, 1770, 1771, and 1772

BY

SAMUEL HEARNE

NEW EDITION
WITH INTRODUCTION, NOTES, AND ILLUSTRATIONS, BY
J. B. TYRRELL, M.A.

TORONTO
THE CHAMPLAIN SOCIETY
1911


All rights reserved.

PREFACE

By SIR EDMUND WALKER

President of the Champlain Society

When the Champlain Society was first organised in 1905 one of the works on its list of proposed publications was the Journal of Samuel Hearne. This book, written with great literary charm, is the first account preserved to us of an attempt to explore the interior of far-northern Canada from a base on Hudson Bay. The natives had brought to Fort Prince of Wales glowing reports of a vast store of copper at the mouth of a river which flowed into the Arctic Ocean. An attempt to find it was inevitable. Twice Hearne failed, but his third effort succeeded and, after a laborious journey, he reached the mouth of the Coppermine River. Soon after he was promoted to command at Fort Prince of Wales, now Churchill, on Hudson Bay. France had joined Britain’s revolted colonies in their war on the mother land, and one day, in 1782, a French squadron, under the well-known seaman, La Pérouse, dropped anchor before Fort Prince of Wales. Hearne, mightier with the pen than with the sword, surrendered meekly enough in spite of his massive walls from thirty to forty feet thick. Thus ingloriously he dies out of history.

Hearne’s Journal, published after his early death, has become a rather rare book. Besides the narrative of what he did, it contains copious notes on the natural history of the region which he was the first white man to make known. A new edition has long been needed. Yet to secure competent editing was a difficult task, since few knew the remote country which Hearne explored. It may be regarded as fortunate that the new edition has been delayed, for only now are we able to present Hearne’s story with the annotations necessary to give it the last possible elucidation. The needed knowledge is supplied by Mr. J. B. Tyrrell and Mr. E. A. Preble, two writers pre-eminently suited for their task by journeys in the regions described by Hearne, on parts of which so few white men have set eyes.

Mr. J. B. Tyrrell began his work of exploring in North Western Canada in 1883, and during the ensuing fifteen years he made many important additions to our knowledge of the geology and geography of what is still the least known part of Canada. In 1893, accompanied by his brother, Mr. J. W. Tyrrell, as his assistant, he traversed the so-called Barren Grounds from Lake Athabasca eastward to Chesterfield Inlet, and from there his party paddled in canoes down the west shore of Hudson Bay to Fort Churchill. Of the 3200 miles thus traversed, 1650 were previously unsurveyed and unmapped. From Fort Churchill Mr. Tyrrell walked eight or nine hundred miles on snowshoes to the southern end of Lake Winnipeg. In 1894 he again crossed the Barren Grounds, this time travelling from the north end of Reindeer Lake to a point on Hudson Bay, about 200 miles south-west of Chesterfield Inlet. Thence he went to Churchill as before in canoes along the open coast. From Churchill Mr. Tyrrell again, but by another route, walked on showshoes to the southern end of Lake Winnipeg. On this journey he travelled about 2900 miles, of which 1750 were by canoe and 750 on snowshoes. Almost the whole journey was through previously unexplored country. For the geographical work done in these two years he was awarded the Back Premium by the Royal Geographical Society of London.

In response to an enquiry whether any other white man has visited the regions described by Hearne, Mr. Tyrrell writes:—

“I happen to be the only one since Hearne who has conducted explorations in the country lying between Fort Churchill and the eastern end of Great Slave Lake and south of latitude 63° N. Except Hearne, I and those who accompanied and assisted me are the only white men who have crossed that great stretch of country, north of a line between the mouth of the Churchill River and Lake Athabasca and a line between the east end of Great Slave Lake and Chesterfield Inlet. Absolutely the only information that I had about the region when I visited it, other than what I had secured in conversation with Indians, was contained in Hearne’s book. My last journey was made sixteen years ago, and no white man has since travelled across that country. With the building of the railroad to Fort Churchill, it will doubtless soon be visited. Since I made a survey of Chesterfield Inlet and its vicinity, my brother, Mr. J. W. Tyrrell, has crossed from the east end of Great Slave Lake by the Hanbury River to Chesterfield Inlet, making a survey as he went, and the Royal North West Mounted Police have sent parties from the Mackenzie River to Hudson Bay along this route, using my brother’s maps as their guide. It is hardly necessary to say that a magnificent field for exploration is still left in that far northern country.”

So much as to Mr. Tyrrell’s work. For the notes explaining Hearne’s many observations on natural history we are indebted to Mr. E. A. Preble of Washington. Mr. Preble spent a summer on the west shore of Hudson Bay north of Fort Churchill. He also spent the summers of 1901 and 1903, the winter of 1903-4, and the summers of 1904 and 1907 on the Athabasca and Mackenzie Rivers and on the Barren Grounds north of Great Slave Lake. This most important study of the fauna of Northern Canada was undertaken by Mr. Preble on behalf of the Biological Survey of the United States Department of Agriculture. The various reports and other publications arising from the journeys of Mr. Tyrrell and the investigations of Mr. Preble are mentioned in a bibliographical note at the end of this volume.

This is the first work relating to the West to be published by the Champlain Society. It has already begun an extensive list of the works of early writers on Eastern Canada. The year 1911 will, it is hoped, see the completion of the three volumes of Lescarbot’s History of New France, now for the first time entirely translated into English. In this as in all other publications of the Society the original text is given with the translation. Nicolas Denys was the first writer to describe in detail the coasts of eastern Canada, and the Society has republished his great book, adequately translated and with copious notes. It has done the same with Le Clercq’s account of Gaspé and its interesting natives. The writings of Champlain, entirely translated into English for the first time, will soon appear in six volumes. The regions lying west of Lake Superior have a history as interesting, but the material is scattered. Hearne’s Journal makes a good beginning. In preparation are the Journals of La Vérendrye, the first white man to come in sight of the Rocky Mountains by an overland route. His writings will now for the first time be translated into English. The Society is sparing no pains to provide volumes bearing on the Hudson’s Bay Company. Much further work on examining and classifying the papers of the Company will, however, be necessary before anything final can be done. Meanwhile members will enjoy the pleasant narrative of Hearne edited by the competent observers whose services the Society has had the good fortune to secure.

Toronto, January 1911.


CONTENTS

PAGE
PREFACEvii
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONSxiii
EDITOR’S INTRODUCTION1
AUTHOR’S PREFACE29
AUTHOR’S CONTENTS33
AUTHOR’S INTRODUCTION41
A JOURNEY TO THE NORTHERN OCEAN61
BIBLIOGRAPHY419
INDEX427


LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

IN ORIGINAL VOLUME
 
A NORTH-WEST VIEW OF PRINCE OF WALES’S
FORT IN HUDSON’S BAY, NORTH AMERICATo face p.  61
INDIAN IMPLEMENTS“    134
A WINTER VIEW IN ATHAPUSCOW LAKE“    232
INDIAN IMPLEMENTS“    310
A MAP EXHIBITING Mr. HEARNE’S TRACKS
IN HIS TWO JOURNIES FOR THE DISCOVERY
OF THE COPPER MINE RIVER
IN THE YEARS 1770, 1771, AND 1772, UNDER
THE DIRECTION OF THE HUDSON’S BAY
COMPANYAt end
PLAN OF THE COPPER MINE RIVER“    
PLAN OF ALBANY RIVER IN HUDSON’S BAY“    
PLAN OF MOOS RIVER IN HUDSON’S BAY“    
PLAN OF SLUDE RIVER“    
 
ADDITIONS IN PRESENT VOLUME
 
MAP OF PART OF NORTHERN CANADA AS
AT PRESENT KNOWNAt end
Drawn on the same projection and scale as Hearne’s
general Map
MAP OF COPPERMINE RIVERAt end
As surveyed by Sir John Franklin in 1821. From
“Franklin’s First Journey,” London, 1823.
MAP OF PART OF NORTH AMERICATo face p. 18
Showing Hearne’s course as first published. From
“Cook’s Third Voyage,” 1784.
MAP OF PART OF NORTH AMERICA, 1787“      18
From Supplement to “Pennant’s Arctic Zoology.”
PLAN OF FORT PRINCE OF WALES AS IT
APPEARED IN 1894. By J. B. Tyrrellpage 22
MAP OF YATH-KYED LAKE AND PART OF
KAZAN (CATHAWHACHAGA) RIVER. By
 J. B. TyrrellTo face p. 86
MAP OF DUBAWNT LAKE AND PART OF
DUBAWNT RIVER. By J. B. and J. W.
Tyrrell“      90
HEARNE’S NAME ON ROCK AT CHURCHILL“        4
SAMUEL HEARNE“      25
DUBAWNT LAKE“      96
DUBAWNT RIVER WHERE HEARNE CROSSED
IT“      96
A SOUTH-WEST VIEW OF PRINCE OF WALES’S
FORT“     106
WHOLDIAH LAKE“     120
GROVE OF SPRUCE WITHIN BARREN LANDS“     120
ARTILLERY LAKE, LAST WOODS“     138
ARTILLERY LAKE“     138
BLOODY FALLS, COPPERMINE RIVER“     178
From “Franklin’s First Journey,” p. 360.
COPPER IMPLEMENTS FROM COPPERMINE
RIVER“     178
HERD OF CARIBOU ON BARREN LANDS NEAR
DUBAWNT RIVERTo face p. 234
DRYING CARIBOU MEAT“     234
WOODS OF SPRUCE AND LARCH, SOUTH-WEST
OF CHURCHILL, IN WINTER“     288
STONY BARREN LANDS IN SUMMER“     288
CHIPEWYAN INDIANS FROM KAZAN RIVER“     296
VALLEY OF THLEWIAZA RIVER“     296
FORT PRINCE OF WALES, GATE“     328
FORT PRINCE OF WALES, INTERIOR“     328


EDITOR’S INTRODUCTION

Samuel Hearne, the author of the book here republished, is one of the most interesting characters to be met with in the annals of exploration in North America. When a young man, only twenty-four years old, he was sent on foot to explore the interior of a great continent. Though he knew nothing of mines or minerals, he, like many a man similarly equipped since his day, was to report on a great mining property. Naturally his report on the “mine” of copper is of little value, but his account of Northern Canada and of the life of the natives who inhabited it is the first published detailed description of any portion of the interior of Western Canada. Very few men of his age accomplished so much, and fewer still have published such admirable narratives of their enterprises.

All that we know of Hearne’s early life is contained in an obituary notice which appeared in the European Magazine and London Review for June 1797, entitled “Some Account of the late Mr. Samuel Hearne, Author of ‘A Journey from Prince of Wales Fort, in Hudson’s Bay, to the Northern Ocean, undertaken by order of the Hudson’s Bay Company for the discovery of Copper Mines, a North-West Passage, &c., in the years 1769, 1770, 1771, and 1772.'”

“Mr. Samuel Hearne was born in the year 1745. He was the son of Mr. Hearne, Secretary to the Waterworks, London Bridge, a very sensible man, and of a respectable family in Somersetshire; he died of fever in his 40th year, and left Mrs. Hearne with this son, then but three years of age, and a daughter two years older. Mrs. Hearne, finding her income too small to admit her living in town as she had been accustomed to, retired to Bimmester, in Dorsetshire (her native place), where she lived as a gentlewoman, and was much respected. It was her wish to give her children as good an education as the place afforded, and accordingly [she] sent her son to school at a very early period, but his dislike to reading and writing was so great that he made very little progress in either. His masters, indeed, spared neither threats nor persuasion to induce him to learn, but their arguments were thrown away on one who seemed predetermined never to become a learned man; he had, however, a very quick apprehension, and, in his childish sports, showed unusual activity and ingenuity; he was particularly fond of drawing, and though he never had the least instruction in the art, copied with great delicacy and correctness even from nature. Mrs. Hearne’s friends, finding her son had no taste for study, advised her fixing on some business, and proposed such as they judged most suitable for him; but he declared himself utterly averse to trade, and begged he might be sent to sea. His mother very reluctantly complied with his request, took him to Portsmouth, and remained with him till he sailed. His captain (now Lord Hood) promised to take care of him, and he kept his word; for he gave him every indulgence his youth required. He was then but eleven years of age. They had a warm engagement soon after he entered, and took several prizes. The captain told him he should have his share, but he begged, in a very affectionate manner, it should be given to his mother, and she should know best what to do with it. He was a midshipman several years under the same commander; but, either on the conclusion of the war, or having no hopes of preferment, he left the navy, and entered into the service of the Hudson’s Bay Company as mate of one of their sloops. He was, however, soon distinguished from his associates by his ingenuity, industry, and a wish to undertake some hazardous enterprise by which mankind might be benefited. This was represented to the Company, and they immediately applied to him as a proper person to be sent on an expedition they had long had in view, viz. to find out the North-West Passage. He gladly accepted the proposal, and how far he succeeded is shown to the public in his Journal. On his return he was advanced to a more lucrative post at Prince of Wales Fort, on Hudson Bay, and in a few years was made Commander-in-Chief, in which position he remained till 1782, when the French unexpectedly landed at Prince of Wales Fort, took possession of it, and after having given the governor leave to secure his own property, seized the stock of furs, &c. &c., and blew up the fort. At the Company’s request Mr. H. went out the year following, saw it rebuilt,[1] and the new Governor settled in his habitation (which they took care to fortify a little better than formerly), and returned to England in 1787. He had saved a few thousands, the fruits of many years’ industry, and might, had he been blessed with prudence, have enjoyed many years of ease and plenty; but he had lived so long where money was of no use that he seemed insensible of its value here, and lent it with little or no security to those he was scarcely acquainted with by name. Sincere and undesigning himself, he was by no means a match for the duplicity of others. His disposition, as may be judged by his writing, was naturally humane; what he wanted in learning and polite accomplishments he made up in native simplicity and innate goodness; and he was so strictly scrupulous with regard to the property of others that he was heard to say a few days before his death, ‘He could lay his hand on his heart and say he had never wronged any man of sixpence.’

“Such are the outlines of Mr. Hearne’s character, who, if he had some failings, had many virtues to counterbalance them, of which charity was not the least. He died of the dropsy, November 1792, aged 47.”

He seems to have entered the service of the Hudson’s Bay Company and to have been sent to Fort Prince of Wales, the great stone fortification on the low bare rocky point at the mouth of the Churchill River on Hudson Bay, when he was about twenty years old. For several years he was engaged in the fur trade with the Eskimos, up and down the coast of Hudson Bay, north of Churchill River. One little glimpse is caught of him, on July 1, 1767, for on that day he chiselled his name on the smooth hard rock of Sloops Cove, on the west side of Churchill harbour. When I visited the place, in 1894, the name was as fresh and plain as if his hammer and chisel had just been laid aside.

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