2 July

Fraser at the Black Canyon

Fraser Nears Pacific

Simon Fraser's journey down the mighty river in British Columbia that now bears his name was one of the most dangerous ever undertaken by man.

The Northwest Company wanted to extend its fur trading activities to the Pacific coast., but before this could be done, a route from the Peace River to the Pacific had to be found. Simon Fraser was to find it. He did not have the scientific training of Alexander Mackenzie, the first man to cross the continent, but he was a man of tenacious courage.

Accompanied by John Stuart, Jules Maurice Quesnel, nineteen voyageurs and two Indian guides, Fraser left Fort George on May 29, 1808. Down the muddy river, which he thought was the Columbia, they battled rapids and whirlpools, sometimes carrying their canoes down banks so steep that their lives hung by a thread. Near Pavilion, Fraser had the canoes placed on a scaffold, hid most of the supplies and continued on foot. At an Indian encampment (now Lytton), they were shown European goods which could only have come from the Pacific. Nearby, there was a beautiful river of clear blue water flowing into the main river, and Fraser called it the Thompson, after his fellow explorer David Thompson. Unknown to Fraser, Thompson himself was on the Columbia at that moment.

The journey down from Lytton was even more dangerous. Soon they had to abandon their cedar dugouts and scramble along the river banks. When they reached Black Canyon, one of the Indians climbed to the summit and pulled up the others with a rope hung from a long pole. They made their perilous way past Hell's Gate, creeping above the precipices by hanging onto ropes fastened to trees. In this way they crawled to what is now Spuzzum and Yale!

Near Mount Baker, fierce Cowichan Indians tried to block their way but were kept off through fear of the guns Fraser and his men had managed to carry. On July 2 they reached the Indian village of Musqueam. They were only a few miles from the Pacific and could see the mountains of Vancouver Island. Fraser took a reading for latitude, and discovered that it was 49 degrees; whereas if he had been on the Columbia, as he thought, it would have been 46 degrees 20 seconds.

What a disappointment after such a journey! Fraser came so close, but he never saw the Pacific. A tired, discouraged man returned to Fort George on August 5.


2 July

-1578    Martin Frobisher discovered Hudson Strait.

-1603    Champlain reached the rapids that later became known as "Lachine".

-1679    Dulhut (after whom Duluth is called) claimed the Red River area for France. 1851 Lord Elgin laid the cornerstone of the Ottawa Normal School.

-1885    Northwest Rebellion ended with the capture of Big Bear.

-1955    Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, celebrated its centennial.

-1959    Canada and Japan signed a pact concerning the use of atomic energy.

-1963    Canada rushed 50,000 doses of polio vaccine to the Barbados.