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An Extraordinary Marketing Man . . .

Monday, June 14th, 2010

~~~ excerpt from Gates Ajar, Summer 1993, Fifth Anniversary Edition

When Ranald MacDonald died in 1894, whispering “Sayonara”, the Japanese word for farewell, he had spent less than 10 months of his life within the bristling island fortress that was mid-19th century Japan.  Consideration should therefore be given the other 822 months which made up Ranald’s adventure-laden 70 years.  He spent his first 10 years at the rugged Pacific Northwest outposts of the Hudson’s Bay Company; then five years at school at Red River; a dozen years at sea (with time out in Japan and the Australian gold fields); and some 30 years in Canada before returning to Fort Colville, Washington Territory, in 1882.

During the three Canadian decades, Ranald ranched, mined, ran a ferry, ran pack trains, explored . . .

Ranald MacDonald also secured permission from the government of British Columbia to build a 200-mile toll road (a cent and a half a pound for all goods transported, a half-dollar per head for cattle) for pack trains from the Bella Coola inlet on North Bentinck Arm to the Fraser River, and a steamer connection to the Cariboo gold fields.  Ranald’s half-brother, Benjamin, thought “capitalists of San Francisco” were involved in the project.

The sophisticated prospectus signed by Ranald and his partner, John Barnston, deserves our attention.  Certainly Ranald must have played a key role in creating the prospectus, based as it was upon both a careful exploration of the proposed route and a thorough-going knowledge of the requirements of miners during a gold rush.  In a report he points out that the town site at the head of the inlet had a safe harbor, superior timber, fisheries, nearby copper deposits, and agricultural potential.

In the prospectus, the technique with which hot buttons are pushed would do credit to a good marketing vice president today.  It points out that, compared with contemporary Douglas and Lillooette routes, the proposed road would save 158 miles, cut almost a quarter the “transhipments (sic) and detentions” costing miners time and money, save passengers at least 12 days, land goods 10 to 15 days earlier . . .

Unfortunately, the estimated gain of $66,000 in the first six months may have failed to materialize.  ” . . . Ranald’s grant was small, simply for a pack trail,” Benjamin recalled, and someone more influential persuaded the government into building a wagon road.  Ranald finally built a trail but never got a steamer connection.  He had a few things shipped in but the wagon road took all the business”.

It seems likely that the “wagon road” which so blighted Ranald’s hopes was the Cariboo Wagon Road (now part of the trans-Canada Highway) supported by British Columbia Governor James Douglas, who said he wanted to secure “the whole trade of the colony for Fraser’s River” and prevent “all attempts at competition from Oregon”.

~~ Barbara Peeples.  Sources:  Prospectus on file in the Provincial Archives of British Columbia; books: Ranald MacDonald: The Narrative of His life, 1824-1894; The Great Northwest, by Oscar Osburn-Winther; Caesars of the Wilderness, by Peter C. Newman; Benjamin’s narrative, from Jean Murray Cole’s family collection.


Apple Blossom Time, 100 Years Ago

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

~reprinted from Gates Ajar, Spring 1992

Almost (120) years ago, Ranald MacDonald took pen in hand to correct an article in the Spokane (Washington) Review. He sent his correction, however, [not to the Spokane Review but] to his local newspaper, The Kettle Falls Pioneer, where it won front page coverage on May 12, 1892.  This ‘letter to the editor’ revealed something of Ranald’s style (concerned historians will note that Ranald added his own disclaimer.)  The column was headed:  “HISTORIC APPLE TREES, A Few Facts Penned by Mr. Ranald MacDonald”.

Here is a portion of the “offending” story Ranald felt compelled to refute:

“The Washington State Historical Society is doing very valuable work, and has much more to do.  Among other things demanding its attention should be the removal to one of the public parks in Tacoma of those two old historic apple trees now growing at old Fort Nisqually.  Those threes are the first apple trees planted in the northwest, at least north of the Columbia.  On November 1, 1834 it was planted in a hotbed by Archie McDonald. Nicknamed “Sleepy” McDonald, and the following spring the twigs were transplanted to the ground where they now stand at old Fort Nisqually.  McDonald was one of the chief clerks of the Hudson Bay Company, and was sent from Vancouver by the good Dr. McLaughlin to found Fort Nisqually.  In England in 1833 the captain of an English ship was given a grand dinner on the eve of his departure for the wild wilderness of the northwest.  In eating an apple a lady carefully saved its seeds, presented them to the captain, and requested him to have them planted in the new world.  These were the seeds planted at old Fort Nisqually.  The two trees they produced stand about a mile off the main road between Tacoma and Olympia, the location of Nisqually having been changed from its original site …”   ~Spokane Review


And so Ranald wrote:

“OLD FORT COLVILLE

MARCUS P.O., WASH.

EDITOR PIONEER: –The above interesting paragraph, having the ring and spice of romance, I fear will not bear the cold facts of history.  I will be brief:  Mr. Archibald MacDonald, stationed at Fort Langley on the Fraser River, received his parchment or commission while there; was then assigned to Fort Colville; the family, I believe, left Langley in 1833 in a bateau to reach Colville for the second time; coasted down Puget Sound, going ashore every night to camp; in due course arrived at Nisqually and camped on the beach at the mouth of a creek which I suppose to be the Sequalichew; here we laid over, Mr. MacDonald, inspecting the country.  I remember (him) taking me and a younger brother to view the beautiful, park-like country covered with green and luxuriant grasses, and remember him saying is was just the country for cattle and sheep, and pointing to the running stream that could be utilized for milling purposes … Then Mr. MacDonald and the late Sir James Douglas and party was sent to build Fort Nisqually … with a view of making it the headquarters of the future Puget Sound Agricultural Company …

I have never heard Mr. Archie MacDonald called “Sleepy” or nicknamed; if so he must have slept with one eye open, for he was quick to see, act with energy and prompt to execute.  The mistake may arise from the fact that there were three Angus MacDonalds – one was called ‘Sleepy’, one ‘Holey’, and the other ‘Glencoe’ – this I have been credibly informed by satisfactory evidence now living; but this was a long time after the founding of Nisqually, so this Sleepy McDonald could not be connected with the “Historic Apple Trees”.

The first apple trees planted and bearing fruit was at old Fort Vancouver north of the Columbia (river), where the Hudson Bay Company had a large garden under the care and management of a careful and intelligent Scotsman by the name of Mr. Bruce, who sometimes would cut an apple and give the boys a taste …

What I have some doubt is with respect to dates not having the journals by me, but note this from memory.

~RANALD MacDONALD, a Pro-Pioneer”

[Editor’s note:  Although specific details vary, the story of apple seeds traveling from a London dinner party to Fort Vancouver is a well-known story.  Vancouver’s “Old Apple Tree” still stands today and bears fruit, as it has for more than 150 years (more than 170 years to date!), not far from the site of the restored Fort Vancouver on the Columbia River.]

Oldest Apple Tree at Ft Vancouver

The annual Old Apple Tree Festival is typically held on the first Saturday in October from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Old Apple Tree Park, located on Columbia Way, just east of Interstate 5 Bridge. The festival focuses on environmental education and historic preservation with Heritage Tree walks, Historic Clark County tours, Birds of Prey show, scavenger hunts along the waterfront trail, kids’ activities, and much more. As a bonus, the Urban Forestry Commission gives away state-grown apples, as well as tree cuttings from the Old Apple Tree to each visitor.

Gates Ajar – Spring 1993

Sunday, March 28th, 1993

100 Years Ago:  1893 was Ranald’s year of trial …

Ranald MacDonald, then 69 years old, was living as Fort Colville, Washington.  He and his Ontario editor, Malcolm McLeod, had fleshed-out the story of Ranald’s Japan adventure.  During 1891 and 1892, in response to McLeod’s insistent demands for money to publish the book, Ranald pleaded for loans, attempted to mortgage his ranch, and sold subscriptions – desperate efforts to raise a few hundred dollars.  he recorded his failures in a heartbreaking series of letters, now among the McLeod papers in the Provincial Archives at Victoria, B.C. ~~~

” … My cousin, who understands the circumstances, unfortunately has not the available cash …”  ” … Money is very tight, more especially after the fire and rebuilding of Spokane …”   ” … It is impossible to avoid a feeling of disappointment and mortification …”

McLeod, meanwhile, was apparently writing to Ranald about his own financial problems, and Ranald was quick to sympathize.

“Thanks to kind providence we have plenty to eat and the broad Columbia passes our door — no fear of thirst,” Ranald wrote in late 1893.  He tells of banks closing, hard times and his own poor health.  Yet he remains optimistic:  he thinks he can sell 100-150 copies of the book, once it is published.

A month later, Ranald writes again, this time saying he is disheartened and disappointed to learn that, after a year, the Book is no closer to publication.

His natural optimism returned quickly; he approached a local newspaper about publishing his book.  One professional newspaperwoman, excited about the book, offers encouragement but is unable to find a publisher; she did select several chapters to be printed in the Kettle Falls Pioneer beginning in November 1893.  Within a year, the Pioneer had published Ranald’s obituary.  His book was not to see its first publication for more than 30 years; its second, for almost 100.

*****

FOM paid membership grows …

Friends of MacDonald paid membership has climbed 150% during the past year, bringing income g=from membership to within $69 of the budget, according to Chairman Mas Tomita.  Lyn Hadley, who has computerized and reorganized the mailing list for faster access, says that the current roster lists 233 names, including courtesy mailings to Honorary members. Account reports from the Clatsop County Historical Society, of which Friends of MacDonald is a committee, indicate that FOM has almost reached its $1800 budget goals for the 1992-93 budget year and has established a sound financial base of operations.

*****

1994 Turoda tour plans underway …

Plans are moving forward for FOM’s 1994 Centennial Tour to Turoda, Washington, and the grave of Ranald MacDonald, who died August 5, 1894.  Current thinking favors a four-day bus tour in June or October.  it would include Fort Vancouver, museums in Spokane and Colville, Washington, which house MacDonald memorabilia; the house in which MacDonald died, and the Indian cemetery where he lies buried.  Some interest has been expressed in a longer tour, including visits to Forts Kamloops and Langley in British Columbia, Nisquilly in Washington and Astoria  Plans are still open to member opinions and suggestions (see FOM address, pg 4) but should be completed this Spring.

*****

OPB considers feature film …

Oregon Public Broadcasting has tentative plans underway for a documentary film which will focus on the story of Ranald MacDonald.  A draft script has been completed, according to a report to FOM members, and the station is now seeking necessary funding.  Michael McLeod, who wrote the draft script, claims no relationship to Malcolm McLeod, Ranald’s friend and editor.  Mike based the script on Herbert H. Gowen’s Five Foreigners in Japan and Ranald’s Narrative of His Life; FOM reprinted a chapter from the first book and assisted the Oregon historical Society in reprinting of the second.  Any members interested in participating in the project are invited to call or write FOM Chairman Mas Tomita, 3950 NW Aloclek Pl., Hillsboro, OR  97214; 503.645.1118.

*****

A Return To Japan

FOM Chairman Bruce Berney and his son Mark traveled to Japan in late summer of 1992, following the path of Ranald MacDonald from Lahaina in the Hawaiian Islands to Rishiri and Nagasaki.  It was Bruce’s first trip to Japan since he taught in Toyama 30 years ago and he visited friends of that era as well as Friends of MacDonald throughout Japan.

IT WAS A FANTASTIC homecoming.  The generosity of friendly people who welcomed us in Tokyo, Toyama, Nagasaki, Sapporo and Rishiri Island surely sets a new standard for visits here from our Japanese Friends of MacDonald.

We left Seattle on August 15 and spent one night at Lahaina, Maui, Hawaiian Islands, to see the town from which Ranald MacDonald sailed for Japan.  We were thrilled to see two houses which he would have known:  the 1847 Masters’ Reading Room and the 1838 Baldwin Home.  We stayed at the Pioneer Inn, built in 1901 and later expanded.  It is the oldest and cheapest hotel in town, but if you like atmosphere, I recommend it.  Although overrun with tourists, Lahaina is rich in history and should be considered as a destination for FOM members.

We were greeted in Tokyo by FOM/Japan Chairman Mikio Kawasaki [Oregon’s trade representative in Tokyo] and Dr. Masaki Takahashi of Sapporo, and Mrs. Ishihara led us to the gravestone of Moriyama Einosuke, MacDonald’s most famous pupil.  On, then, to Toyama, where we spent three nights with the family of Dr. Atsuro Oshima, my Japanese brother, in whose home I lived 30 years ago.  Mother Oshima is beautiful as ever.  Sister Hiroko came from Nagoya to help, as her English is very good.  Among Toyama highlights:  a visit to the minister of education and new principal of Chubu Hugh School, to whom I told the MacDonald story; a jazz party, at which I met three of my former students; and a folk dance festival in the village of Yatsuo.  It is my pleasure, but not my doing, that Oregon and Toyama are sister cities.  next, FOM enthusiast Yuji Aisaka accompanied us to Osaka and Dr. Morokuma had planned a MacDonald seminar, well-attended.  They also took us to the Nagasaki Prefectural Library for a press conference.  The librarian, Mr. Ishiyama, showed me the valuable manuscript of the official report of MacDonald’s stay at Nagasaki and gave me a photocopy of it for our library.

Then:  sightseeing, including a visit to Deshima, the partially restored site of the Dutch factory from which MacDonald was deported; Daihian, a house at the location of the hermitage where MacDonald was incarcerated, and a memorable lunch at the famous Fukiro restaurant near the shrine which serves the Daihian neighborhood.  Yuji, who joined us for the tour, made sure we arrived at Nagasaki Airport in time for our flight to Sapporo.

We were welcomed to Sapporo by Dr. Takahashi, Dr. Zengoro Terashima of Hokkaido Women’s College, Takahashi Shiroshita of TV Hokkaido, and the bright lights of his camera crew.  The following day, we met with the vice-governor of Hokkaido, the president and executive director of Sapporo International Communication Plaza Foundation, and a reporter for Hokkaido Shimbun Press, lunched with several other FOM enthusiasts, and visited the Historical Museum of Hokkaido, where Hideshi Seki showed us models of boats believed similar to those in which MacDonald traveled the Japanese coast.

Dr. Takahashi and Tak Shiroshita and his TV camera flew with us to Rishiri Island.  Among those who greeted us at the airport:  Hideo Iwashima, my guest last year and the first Rishiri Islander to visit MacDonald’s birthplace.  (It was pointed out that my son mark is the second native Astorian to visit Rishiri – MacDonald being the first.)

Highlights of Rishiri:  visits to the Rishiri and Rishiri-Fuji city halls, to two beaches on which MacDonald may have landed, to the ancient customs house up an ancient stone stairway MacDonald may have climbed, to historic shrines … There was a tour of Rishiri Museum, including an excellent Ranald MacDonald exhibit, and guided by curator Eiji Nishiya, and a tour around the island with Mr. Furukawa and our interpreter, Lisa.  Our lodgings were in a tatami room of the beautiful new Rishiri hotel, especially memorable because of the formal banquet held there in my honor.  The next night, Mr. Iwashima hosted a sukiyaki farewell party in his popular gift shop, the Marine House.  Close friends later took us to the dock for our overnight ferry ride to a port near Sapporo.  We rested the next morning at the home of Dr. and Mrs. Takahashi, who later put us on the flight to Tokyo.  There, an FOM dinner climaxed our adventure and included presentation of a new middle school English text (Chuko Shuppan Press) which devotes five pages to “The First American Teacher”.

*****

Book Presented

A copy of The Attic Letters, Ume Tsuda’s correspondence with her American mother at the turn of the 20th century, has been presented to the Astoria Public library by FOM-Japan member Akiko Ueda, who is one of the editors.  Tsuda (1864-1929) was one of the first five girls sent to study in America by Japan’s Meiji government in its effort to modernize the nation.  The book is available on inter-library loan; call number is 952.03.

*****

Fall Luncheon Proves Success …

Chairman Mas Tomita and Vice Chairman Bruce Berney reported to an October 24 meeting of FOM members on their trips following MacDonald’s path.  Mas recalled his brief but exciting trip to Toroda, where he accompanied a Hokkaido TV team on a visit to the grave of Ranald MacDonald.  Details are told in the Fall 1992 Gates Ajar.  Bruce, whose journey to Japan in late summer is recounted in this issue, told of visiting sites Ranald might have visited and also of his meetings with FOM and other friends.

*****

Author to lecture in Astoria April 17 …

Dr. James P. Ronda, author of Astoria and Empire, will speak at the Astoria public Library at 3 pm Saturday, April 17, discussing “Astoria and the Wilder West”.  The event is sponsored by the Astor Library Friends Association.  Following the lecture, there will be an informal no-host dinner with Dr. Ronda.  For reservations, call Bruce Berney, Astoria, Oregon, Public Library, 503-325-7323.  Dr. Ronda’s book is the first scholarly treatment of the 1811 Astor Expedition, which built the first American settlement on the Northwest coast, since Washington Irving’s Astoria appeared in 1834.  Fort Astor, later Fort George, became the birthplace of Ranald MacDonald in 1824.

*****

Recommended Reading: FOM Chairman Mas Tomita recommends FOM member JoAnn Roe’s new book, The Columbia River: An Historical Travel Guide ($15.95 softcover) to “those interested in Indian heritage.”  For those interested in the MacDonald family’s role in the Northwest, he suggests member Jean Murray Cole’s Exile in the Wilderness ($30; University of Washington Press).

*****

Suggestions from friends …

DAVID H. WALLACE of Coquitlam B.C., who has studied and written about Ranald MacDonald, writes FOM to report that he recently has prepared a typescript of the only known actual Ranald MacDonald manuscript of his Japan visit, now in the Provincial Archives in Victoria, B.C.  it is the basis of McLeod’s text. [A copy of the original is in FOM Archives.]

“It shows MacDonald a little less flowery than McLeod would make him appear and also shows his interest as a British Imperialist … [This poor word is so maligned today – at one time it was quite respectable to be a British Imperialist, especially in Canada,” Wallace writes.]  He also suggests that the “MacDonald country” map printed in last fall’s Gates Ajar be expanded to include the Canadian sites which figured importantly in Ranald’s life.

Author JEAN MURRAY COLE also asks, in connection with the1994 tour, if it could include Fort Langley, where Ranald spent the “most memorable years of his childhood with the family — 1828 to 1833 …”  She mentions also the archeological work around Fort Colville – and is seconded in that interest by DON STERLING, retired editor, who suggests that the tour include information about Indian settlements of the area.

[Diverse member interests may lead to some “tour extensions” for those with more time to travel.]

*****

Gates Ajar – Spring 1992

Monday, April 27th, 1992

GLOSSARY USEFUL AID TO SCHOLARS ~Stephen Kohl, Ph.D.

Ranald MacDonald’s account of his stay in Japan was written from memory many years after the experience.  Many of his Japanese artifacts were lost; the one concrete thing brought back from Japan and appended to his account of his adventures is his glossary of Japanese words.

We are fortunate that Professor Kenji Sonoda has recently taken the trouble to reconstruct the list of words as MacDonald originally had them.  It is understandable and inevitable that misspellings slipped into the list after Malcolm McLeod worked it over twice.  One of the most difficult things in the world is to work with words in a language with which one is not familiar.  One would suppose that these discrepancies would have come to light in 1923 when Lewis and Marakami assembled the manuscript we have today.  Nevertheless, we now have Professor Sonoda’s reconstruction which will stand as a valuable linguistic tool.

We have relatively few sources available to tell us how Japanese words were actually pronounced in pre-modern times.  As Professor Sonoda points out, the major sources are Carl Peter Thunberg (1743 – 1828), Walter Henry Medhurst (1796-1857) and Ranald MacDonald.  There are important differences in these lists which are instructive.  Since Medhurst got his words from a dictionary, he provides us with official readings as opposed to the way people actually spoke the words.  Thunberg compiled his list on the basis of how he heard people say the words.  He traveled extensively in Japan, but from west to east, from Nagasaki to Edo and back.  Ranald MacDonald also compiled his list on the basis of what he heard, but he traveled the entire length of the country from the northernmost tip of Hokkaido to Nagasaki in the south.  Although much of his journey was by boat, they put to shore at regular intervals so that his vocabulary will surely show a variety of dialects not found in either Medhurst or Thunberg.

The important thing, of course, is having an accurate version of what Ranald MacDonald heard and recorded.  Professor Sonoda has given us that.

. . . . .