Posts Tagged ‘Comcomly’
Sunday, June 26th, 2011
To help us appreciate the First Peoples of the Columbia River Basin …
(Chinook, from Tsinúk, their Chehalis name). The best-known ‘tribe’ of the Chinookan family claimed the territory on the north side of the Columbia River from its mouth to Grays Bay, a distance of about 15 miles, and north along the seacoast as far as the north part of Shoal-water bay, where they were met by the Chehalis, a Salish tribe. The Chinook were first described by Lewis and Clark, who visited them in 1805, though they had been known to traders for at least 12 years previously(1) ~
“… This Chin nook Nation is about 400 Souls inhabid the Countrey on the Small rivrs which run into the bay below us and on the Ponds to the N W of us, live principally on fish and roots, they are well armed with fusees and Sometimes kill Elk Deer and fowl. our hunters killed to day 3 Deer, 4 brant and 2 Ducks, and inform me they Saw Some Elk Sign. I directed all the men who wished to See more of the main Ocian to prepare themselves to Set out with me early on tomorrow morning. The principal Chief of the Chinnooks & his familey came up to See us this evening …” [Clark, November 17, 1805] “… found maney of the Chin nooks with Capt. Lewis of whome there was 2 Cheifs Com com mo ly & Chil-lar-la-wil to whome we gave Medals and to one a flag. …” [ Wm. Clark, November 20, 1805 ]
Com’comly, grandfather of Ranald and the principle Chinook Chief of the time, received the Lewis and Clark expedition hospitably when it emerged at the mouth of Columbia River in 1805, and when, in 1810, the J.J. Astor Expedition arrived to take possession of the region for the United States, Com’comly cultivated a close friendship with the pioneers, even giving his daughter [Ilchee] as wife to Duncan McDougal, a Canadian fur trader who was at their head and who took part in the founding of Ft. Astoria in 1811.
Yet Com’comly may have been an accomplice in a plot to massacre the garrison and seize the stores. When a British ship arrived in 1812 to capture the fort at Astoria, Com’comly, with 800 warriors at his back, offered to fight the’ enemy’. The American agents, however, had already made a peaceful transfer by bargain and sale, and gifts and promises from the new owners [the North West Company] immediately made Com’comly their friend.(2) Writing in Aug., 1844, Father De Smet(3) states that in the days of his glory Com’comly, on his visits to Vancouver, would be preceded by 300 slaves, “and he used to carpet the ground that he had to traverse, from the main entrance of the fort to the governor’s door – several hundred feet – with beaver and otter skins.”(4)
The Chinookan nation was one of the most powerful native groups in Oregon. It included those tribes formerly living on the Columbia River, from The Dalles to its mouth (except a small strip occupied by the Athapascan Tlstskanai), and on the lower Willamette as far as the present site of Oregon City, Oregon. The family also extended a short distance along the coast on each side of the mouth of the Columbia, from Shoalwater bay on the North. to Tillamook Head on the South.
The region occupied by Chinookan tribes seems to have been well populated in early times. Lewis and Clark estimated the total number at somewhat more than 16,000. In 1829, however, there occurred an epidemic of unknown nature, which, in a single summer, destroyed four-fifths of the entire native population. Whole villages disappeared, and others were so reduced that they were, in some cases, absorbed into other villages. It can be assumed that it was the result of contact with a “white man’s” disease for which they had no immunity. The epidemic was most disastrous below the Cascades. In 1846 Hale estimated the number below the Cascades at 500, and between the Cascades and The Dalles at 800. By 1854 Gibbs gave the population of the former region as 120 and of the latter as 236. They were scattered along the river in several bands, all more or less mixed with neighboring stocks. In 1885 Powell estimated the total number at from 500-600, for the most part living on Warm Springs, Yakima, and Grande Ronde reservations in Oregon.
Most of the original Chinookan bands had no special tribal names, being designated simply as “those living at (place name)” This fact, especially after the epidemic of 1829, made it impossible to identify all the tribes and villages mentioned by early writers. Their language served as the basis for the Chinook Jargon which became the principal means of communication for the Indians from California to the Yukon, as well as trappers, traders and the majority of other individuals living and surviving in the territory.(5)
Sunday, June 26th, 2011
On July 20, 1811, Duncan McDougal, Chief Factor for the Pacific Fur Company at Astoria, Oregon, and Ilchee, daughter of Chief Comcomly of the Chinook Tribe, married, becoming the first couple to be married in Astoria.
Washington Irving in his narrative Astoria (published in 1836) tells the tale:
“… M’Dougal, who appears to have been a man of a thousand projects, and of great, though somewhat irregular ambition, suddenly conceived the idea of seeking the hand of one of the native princesses, a daughter of the one-eyed potentate Com’comly, who held sway over the fishing tribe of the Chinooks, and had long supplied the factory with smelts and sturgeons. Some accounts give rather a romantic origin to this affair, tracing it to the stormy night when M’Dougal, in the course of an exploring expedition, was driven by stress of the weather to seek shelter in the royal abode of Com’comly. Then and there he was first struck with the charms of the piscatory (sic) princess, as she exerted herself to entertain her father’s guest.
The “Journal of Astoria,” however, which was kept under his own eye, records this union as a high state alliance, and great stroke of policy. The factory had to depend, in a great measure, on the Chinooks for provisions. They were at present friendly, but it was to be feared they would prove otherwise, should they discover the weakness and the exigencies of the post, and the intention to leave the country. This alliance, therefore, would infallibly rivet Com’comly to the interests of the Astorians, and with him the powerful tribe of the Chinooks. Be this as it may, and it is hard to fathom the real policy of governors and princes, M’Dougal dispatched two of the clerks as ambassadors extraordinary, to wait upon the one-eyed chieftain, and make overtures for the hand of his daughter.
The Chinooks, though not a very refined nation, have notions of matrimonial arrangements that would not disgrace the most refined sticklers for settlements and pin-money. The suitor repairs not to the bower of his mistress, but to her father’s lodge, and throws down a present at his feet. His wishes are then disclosed by some discreet friend employed by him for that purpose. If the suitor and his present find favor in the eyes of the father, he breaks the matter to his daughter, and inquires into the state of her inclinations. Should her answer be favorable, the suit is accepted and the lover has to make further presents to the father of horses, canoes, and other valuables, according to the beauty and merits of the bride; looking forward to a return in kind whenever they shall go to housekeeping.
We have more than once had occasion to speak of the shrewdness of Com’comly; but never was it exerted more adroitly than on this occasion. Com’comly was a great friend of M’Dougal, and pleased with the idea of having so distinguished a son-in-law; but so favorable an opportunity of benefiting his own fortune was not likely to occur a second time and he determined to make the most of it. Accordingly, the negotiation was protracted with true diplomatic skill. Conference after conference was held with the two ambassadors. Com’comly was extravagant in his terms; rating the charms of his daughter at the highest price, and indeed she is represented as having one of the flattest and most aristocratical (sic) heads in the tribe.
At length the preliminaries were all happily adjusted. On the 20th of July, early in the afternoon, a squadron of canoes crossed over from the village of the Chinooks, bearing the royal family of Com’comly, and all his court.
That worthy sachem landed in princely state, arrayed in a bright blue blanket and red breech clout, with an extra quantity of paint and feathers, attended by a train of half-naked warriors and nobles. A horse was in waiting to receive the princess, who was mounted behind one of the clerks, and thus conveyed, coy but compliant, to the fortress. Here she was received with devout, though decent joy, by her expecting bridegroom.
Her bridal adornments, it is true, at first caused some little dismay, having painted and anointed herself for the occasion according to the Chinook toilet; by dint, however, of copious ablutions, she was freed from all adventitious tint and fragrance, and entered into the nuptial state, the cleanest princess that had ever been known, of the somewhat unctuous tribe of the Chinooks.
From that time forward, Comcomly was a daily visitor at the fort, and was admitted into the most intimate councils of his son-in-law. He took an interest in everything that was going forward, but was particularly frequent in his visits to the blacksmith’s shop; tasking the labors of the artificer in iron for every state, insomuch that the necessary business of the factory was often postponed to attend to his requisitions. …”
Paul Kane wrote about Ilchee and Duncan McDougal in his Wanderings of an Artist among the Indians of North America, published in 1859:
“… [Ilchee] was the daughter of the great chief generally known as King Com’comly, so beautifully alluded to in Washington Irving’s “Astoria”. She was formerly the wife of a Mr. McDougall, who bought her from her father for, as it was supposed, the enormous price of ten articles of each description, guns, blankets, knives, hatchets, &c., then in Fort Astoria. Com’comly, however, acted with unexpected liberality on the occasion by carpeting her path from the canoe to the Fort with sea otter skins, at that time numerous and valuable, but now scarce, and presenting them as a dowry, in reality far exceeding in value the articles at which she had been estimated. On Mr. McDougall’s leaving the Indian country she became the wife of Casanov . . .” In 1813, when Astoria was turned over to the British, McDougal left. Ilchee eventually traveled up the Columbia to the Vancouver area and married Chief Casino (often seen as “Casanov”), a Chinook chief and successor to Chief Com’comly, before returning to her home at the mouth of the Columbia.
In 1823, in the ‘custom of the country,’ Archibald McDonald took a Native wife, Princess Raven – Koale’Koa – daughter of the influential Chinook chief Com’comly. Early in 1824 a son, Ranald, was born to them. Raven did not long survive the baby’s arrival, and Ranald was sent to live with his mother’s sister, Ilchee, in Com’comly’s lodge.
~~~ photo of Ilchee by Mas Yatabe
Monday, January 17th, 2011
The next post will definitely take on an ‘academic’ tone, sort of like what you’d find on The History Channel, but I think it is important to be able to place oneself shoulder-to-shoulder with Ranald MacDonald before one can really appreciate what it was like to live as a Metis – a half-European, half-Native American — in 19th Century North America [and beyond].
Many of us at Friends of MacDonald are familiar with the biography of MacDonald and can recite a near-litany of his many accomplishments, most particularly those events leading up to and including his clandestine entry into Japan in July of 1848. Though celebrated among those of us who know about his history as a world traveller and quasi-diplomat, in regards to his DNA, Ranald MacDonald was in no way unique.
When celebrating the history of the Celtic peoples in the New World, one must include the descendants of their liaisons with the First Peoples, for here is where we find many of the greatest stories on this continent. The joining of these two tribal cultures resulted in some of the greatest warrior-heroes to walk the planet – just when their people needed them the most. The traditional powers of the Old World (Britain, Spain and France) were locked in mortal combat over the vast resources of the New World. These “resources” included the “Coilltich“, the Gaelic word for the “forest-folk” – the term the Highlanders had for the Red Man.(1)
From the Gaelic periodical, Cuairtear nan Gleann, 1840, translated:
“There is no People on the face of this earth who, in matters of war or hunting, can surpass the Indians who inhabit the region of America not inhabited by the white people. They are now (alas!) few in number compared to what they were at one time; for, as the white people become more numerous and powerful, the Indians are scourged backwards before them, from place to place; and are injured by every sort of the most merciless brutality and violence.”
“The American Indians are very refined in their language and they are eloquent and expressive in their manner of speaking.”
It is possible that the Gaels realized that Native Americans were the disposed and disenfranchised of America in the same sense that the Gaels themselves had become the subject race of Scotland, driven out of their home by Clearances that continued into the early twentieth century.(2)
It is no wonder then, that the Highlander would leave the English on the coast of America and settle on the frontiers of the 18th and 19th centuries, intermingling with the tribes and settling down with the women of the First Peoples. “Such unions enabled them to enjoy better relations with their wife’s tribe, gave them a partner with the knowledge and experience necessary to survive in the wild, and bestowed full “native status” to their children on account of the matrilineal reckoning of Native American society.” Those children, who, having the bloodlines of two warrior tribes from different ends of the planet, made their indelible mark on history for both the Coilltich and the Ceiltich.(3)
To better understand Ranald’s story – who he was as well as his place in the history of this continent (and even in world history) it is important to understand and become familiar with what “his” world was like. This article will be the first in a series of articles that will hopefully provide some meaningful background to help us all better empathize with the “Life and Times” of Ranald MacDonald.
Landing of the Selkirk Settlers, Red River, 1812, J.E. Schaflein HBC’s 1924 calendar illustration, H.B.C. Archives
The fur trade – and the subsequent arrival of the Hudson’s Bay Company – had various effects on the northern First People [indigenous] populations from the Oregon Territory on the Pacific coast to the northwestern portion of the Northwest Territories and across South and Central Canada. The fur trade itself had already disrupted previous economic relationships between indigenous groups, and in some examples the presence of the Hudson’s Bay Company furthered tension between these groups as each vied for the control of fur-rich regions and sole access to specific Company posts. Though the Tribes may have competed with each other, due to the frontier nature of the region, the relations between fur trade companies and First Peoples was, by necessity, generally one of mutual accommodation. [This was in stark contrast to other European-First People relations.] The fur trade was dependent on indigenous trappers. This dependence resulted in a certain amount of respect for the ability of the indigenous trappers to locate fur-rich areas. Merchant firms such as the Hudson’s Bay Company were subject to market competition, and this in itself encouraged “fair behavior”. Another factor was that the White Traders and the First Peoples were too dependent upon each other to allow any type of extensive exploitation to occur.
The first large wave of Scottish immigration to Canada occurred between 1770 and 1815, when some 15,000 individuals moved to places like the Selkirk Settlement in current-day Manitoba, as well as to settlements along the East Coast and eastern Ontario. A significant number during the fur trade were men, and many of them would settle with Aboriginal women to create the Métis. During the great wave of immigration to Canada’s West during the 1800s and early 1900s, the Highlanders were the preferred group of immigrants because of their hardiness and their adaptability to farming, and these men were highly sought after. Archibald McDonald, Ranald’s father, was just such a man.
Winter Sunlight on Glencoe and Loch Leven ~ Copyright Jim Stewart
Archibald McDonald was born at Leeckhentium, on the southern shore of Loch Leven, Glencoe, Appin, in North Argyleshire, Scotland, on February 3rd, 1790. [His paternal grandfather, Iain (or John) McDonald, had been one of the few male survivors of the Massacre of Glencoe** in 1692.] It is said that Archibald was well educated and studied the rudiments of medicine at the University of Edinburgh before immigrating to Canada as a member of Lord Selkirk’s Colony(4) at Red River (Manitoba) in 1813, where he assumed a considerable share in the management of the Colony’s affairs, in part because he could act as an interpreter between the overseers of the colony, who spoke English, and the settlers, who, like him, were native Gaelic-speakers. [Thomas Douglas (June 20, 1771~ April 8, 1820) was the 5th Earl of Selkirk and was part-owner of the Hudson Bay Company.]
After Lord Selkirk’s death in 1820, his executors administered the colony, and sought to reduce expenses by ending settlers’ subsidies and refusing to recruit new European immigrants. Consequently, population growth came largely through the retirement of fur traders and their native families to the colony, encouraged by the newly-formed Hudson’s Bay Company’s reduction of the number of its employees. In the spring of 1820 Archibald entered the service of the H.B.C., shortly after the union of the H.B.C. and the North West Company; in 1821 H.B.C. Governor George Simpson sent McDonald to the Columbia district, on the Pacific Northwest coast, where he first served as accountant at Fort George [Fort Astoria].
It was at Fort Astoria in 1823 that Archibald was married “according to the custom of the country”, to the princess Koale’zoa (also known as Raven or Sunday) (d. 1824), daughter of Chinook chief Comcomly, with whom he had one son, Ranald McDonald; Archibald married a second time in 1825, also according to the custom of the country, Jane Klyne, a Metis [mixed-blood] woman with whom he had twelve sons and one daughter.(5)
McDonald was one very busy man; we might even be tempted to call him an ‘over-achiever’. At the very least his resume` is impressive. The following information is taken from Archibald McDonald: Biography and Genealogy, an article written by William S. Lewis and published in the Washington Historical Quarterly, Vol. 9, No. 2, April 1918 : “In 1824 Archibald McDonald was one of the clerks in charge of posts in the Thompson’s River District, also known as the Columbia District. He succeeded John McLeod, Chief Trader, at Kamloops in the Thompson’s River District, in 1826.(6) In July 1828 he accompanied Governor George Simpson of the H.B.C. on a canoe voyage from York Factory, Hudson’s Bay to Fort Langley, New Caledonia, where he succeeded James McMillan.(7) He remained at Fort Langley until the spring of 1833. While stationed there he inaugurated the business of salting and curing salmon for market. In a letter to John McLeod dated January 15, 1831, McDonald wrote: “Our salmon, for all the contempt entertained for everything outside of the routine of beaver at York Factory, is close up to 300 barrels.”(8)
In 1833 he suggested the idea of raising flocks and herds on the Pacific Coast.
McDonald left Fort Langley for Fort Vancouver and on May 1833 selected the site and helped lay the foundation of Nisqually House [near present-day Tacoma, WA.] In July of that year he accompanied William Connolly up the Columbia with supplies for the interior, for the purpose of proceeding overland to enjoy a furlough. He spent 1834-35 in Scotland. Returning in the spring of 1835, he took charge of Fort Colville in 1836.(9) McDonald was stationed at Fort Colville from 1836 to 1843. In 1842 he was promoted to Chief Factor. While in the Columbia River district, Archibald had charge of and was eminently successful in placing the land in cultivation, and acquiring and raising horses, cattle, sheep, etc. In a letter to John McLeod dated January 25, 1837, McDonald states, “Your three calves are up to 55 and your 3 grunters would have swarmed the country if we did not make it a point to keep them down to 150.”(10)
Writing in September, 1837, Rev. Elkanah Walker thus describes Archibald McDonald’s farming operations at Fort Colville:
“It was truly pleasing after being nearly half a year without seeing anything that will bear to be compared with good farming, to see fenced fields, houses and barns grouped together, with large and numerous stacks and grain, with cattle and swine feeding on the plain in large number. There is more the appearance of civilized life at Fort Colville than any place I have seen since I left the States, and more than you see in some of the new places in the States … Mr. McDonald raises great crops. He estimates his wheat this year at 1500 bushels and his potatoes at 7000 bushels. Corn is in small quantity in comparison with his other grains.”
While at Fort Colville, in the early forties, Archibald McDonald is said to have had many hundred acres under partial cultivation. His son, Benjamin, stated that his father had nearly five thousand acres of land under cultivation at one time in the vicinity of old Fort Colville. Mr. Jacob A. Meyers places the maximum of land in agricultural use by the Hudson’s Bay Company in the vicinity of Fort Colville at 2000 acres, including in this estimate hay lands some twelve miles distant in the neighborhood of the present town of Colville. The company also held six townships of pasture lands obtained from the Indians by treaty.(11) [In his later years, Archie’s son Ranald panned the creeks flowing into the Kettle River and Boundary Creek in search of gold; Ranald died on the Colville reservation in 1894 in the arms of his niece, Jenny Lynch, the daughter of his half-brother Benjamin.](12)
At Fort Colville, Archibald supervised the reconstruction of the old sawmill, said to have been originally built in 1826-9, and the first sawmill on the Pacific Coast north of California. The original roof boards of the old fort buildings, of mill-sawn lumber, and lumber for company boats, bateaux and other purposes came from this mill. McDonald also supervised the rebuilding of the gristmill on “Mill Creek” (now Meyers Falls of the Colville River).
During Archibald McDonald’s many years in the Northwest he made no less than 15 trips across the continent between 1812 and 1845. He also kept very accurate journals, describing the country as regards to topography, soil, timber, rivers, climate, etc., through plains and over mountains, from Hudson’s Bay and the Great Lakes to the Pacific.
On his retirement from the H.B.C. in 1844 he moved overland with his family to Montreal, where he resided for two years. He then moved to St. Andrews on the Ottawa River, where he purchased a large tract of land and established a permanent home. He called his residence “Glencoe Cottage” and here he continued to live until his death on January 15, 1853, at the age of 62 years. Sadly, he may have died believing that his eldest son Ranald had perished at sea, though according to Fred Schodt in Native American in the Land of the Shogun, “ … this was unlikely. On April 3, 1852, the month before he removed Ranald from his will, Archibald wrote to a relative in Ft. Colville: ‘From Ranald, the Hero of Japan, I had several letters since his withdrawal from Jedo (sic) – He sticks to the sea, and last sailed from London for Sidney. But I trust now he will prefer digging for gold in Australia to the precarious and uncertain life of a sailor.’ ”
In the business of the Hudson’s Bay Company Archibald displayed great initiative and energy, and, possessing also considerable executive and business ability, he was unquestionably one of the most capable chief traders in the Columbia River District. Moreover, Archibald McDonald was a likeable character. He was naturally of a kindly nature, and a most agreeable companion. During his many years in the Northwest he maintained an extensive correspondence with his contemporaries in the Hudson’s Bay Company’s service. To visitors at his post he was a most courteous host. John McLean, writing in April, 1887, says, “We met with a most friendly reception from a warm hearted Gael, Mr. McDonald.”(13) Reverend Elkanah Walker, in his Journal, under date of September 17, 1888, writes of his arrival at Fort Colville, “Received a cordial welcome from Mr. McDonald and lady.” Subsequent pages of the Journal record many courtesies and kindnesses of the Hudson’s Bay Chief Trader.(14)
His family relations were ideal, and he at all times displayed a patient and earnest regard for the spiritual and temporal welfare of his children, to all of whom he gave such educational advantages as his means and the times permitted. “It is high time,” he writes, “for me to see and get my little boys to school – God bless them – I have no less than five of them all in a promising way.”(15) A highlander born and bred, Archibald McDonald was in the best sense of the term “a gentleman of the old school,” a man utterly fearless, and of greatest personal integrity and honor. McLeod in his Peace River (pp. 117, 91) describes him as “a gentleman of utmost suavity of spirit as well as form.”
“As the twig is bent, so grows the tree.” It seems that in this, Ranald MacDonald had a superior role model in the form of his father.
To be continued … ~A.M.Y.~~~
(1)The Legacy of Scottish Highlanders in the United States ~Michael Newton 2001 (2)Ibid. Mike Dunlap, from the upcoming book, “New World Celts: Voyage to America”Thomas Douglas (June 20, 1771 — April 8, 1820) was the 5th Earl of SelkirkJean Murray Cole, Dictionary of Canadian History On LineMcLeod’s Peace RiverSee Archibald McDonald’s Journal; McLeod’s Peace RiverWashington Historical Quarterly, i, 265, July, 1907.Washington Historical Quarterly/, ii, 254, April, 1908;Ibid Lieutenant Johnson gives the cultivated land in the immediate vicinity of the fort (1841) as but 130 acres. U. B. Exploring Exp., iv, 443.Washington State History, Native Americans in Ferry CountyJohn McLean, Notes of a Twenty-Five Years’ Service in the Hudson’s Bay Territory Reports of the U. S. (Wilkes Expedition (1841), IV, 443, 454Washington Historical Quarterly, ii, 163, January, 1908
Sunday, April 10th, 1994
The text of this article is reprinted from the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, (Volume XII) 1891-1900, thanks to the great kindness of its author, David H. Wallace, and of the publisher, University of Toronto Press, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
MACDONALD, RANALD, adventurer, teacher, explorer, businessman, and author; b. 3 Feb. 1824 in Fort George (Astoria, Oreg.), eldest son of Archibald McDonald*, an HBC fur trader, and Chinook Indian princess Raven (Sunday), daughter of Chief Comcomly; d. unmarried 24 Aug. 1894 in Toroda, Wash.
Ranald MacDonald’s mother died shortly after his birth, and he was raised by his stepmother, Jane Klyne. After spending his early years at several Hudson’s Bay Company posts in the Columbia district, he was sent in 1834 to the Red River Academy at Fort Garry (Winnipeg) [see David Thomas Jones*]. Four years later he went to St Thomas, Upper Canada, to train in banking at a bank managed by one of his father’s friends, Edward Ermatinger*. He soon tired of this work, however, and early in 1841 he left surreptitiously to go to sea. Determined to visit the closed country of Japan, he shipped from Lahaina (Hawaii) in 1848 on the whaler Plymouth and arranged to be dropped off, appearing to be a shipwrecked sailor, near the west coast of Ezo (Hokkaido).
Taken by the Japanese authorities to Nagasaki, he made the best of his comfortable confinement in a temple room by becoming the first teacher of English in Japan, and it is as a teacher that he is best remembered there. One of his students, Enosuke Moriyama, later became a noted interpreter to the missions of Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry in 1853–54 and of Lord Elgin [Bruce*] in 1858–59.
At the end of April 1849 MacDonald was released to the American sloop of war Preble, which was visiting Nagasaki to pick up American sailors who had deserted from the whaler Lagoda. He traveled widely in Asia, Australia, and Europe before returning, shortly after his father’s death in 1853, to his family, then living in St Andrews (Saint-André-Est), Lower Canada. He remained there for about five years, during which time he became a Freemason.
In 1858 Ranald and his half-brother Allan returned to the Pacific coast, to the new colony of British Columbia. They set up a packing business between Port Douglas (Douglas), at the head of Little Harrison Lake and the Fraser River gold-mines, and ran a ferry across the Fraser at Lillooet. Their younger brother Benjamin later joined them. In 1861–62 Ranald MacDonald and Johnston George Hillbride Barnston, whose families were connected through marriage, set up the Bentinck Arm and Fraser River Road Company to service the new mines in the Caribou district. The route for this road was a pack-trail, running from the site of present-day Bella Coola to the Fraser River near Fort Alexandria (Alexandria, B.C.). The enterprise was not completed, however, because of financial difficulties. In 1864 MacDonald and Barnston’s younger brother Alexander joined the Vancouver Island Exploring Expedition [see Robert Brown]. On this expedition, which crossed the largely unexplored interior of Vancouver Island four times, MacDonald participated in the discovery of vast stands of prime timber, the Sooke gold-fields, and a large coalfield on Browns River near Comox. The next year he led a government-sponsored expedition to explore for minerals in the Horsefly area of the Caribou.
MacDonald spent the following decade in the Caribou district, exploring, and at his ranch on Hat Creek. He was also an employee of Barnard’s Express and Stage Line [see Francis Jones Barnard*] and later of Bonaparte House, the hotel run by Charles Augustus Semlin* and Philip Parke at Cache Creek. In 1875 he assisted his cousin Christina MacDonald in her trading operation at Kamloops. He finally retired to a log cabin close to the home of Christina’s brother Donald near Fort Colvile (near Colville, Wash.), where his own father had developed a large farm for the HBC during the 1830s.
While in retirement, MacDonald tried to find a publisher for his account of his visit to Japan. The manuscript was edited by Malcolm McLeod, who in 1872 had published Archibald McDonald’s Peace River journal, and several drafts were submitted to Canadian, American, and British publishers. A proposal for publication in Montreal under the title “A Canadian in Japan” fell through in 1892 because of a lack of subscriptions, but a revised version which McLeod prepared the following year finally appeared in 1923.
A portion of Ranald MacDonald’s original account of his visit to Japan is preserved in Malcolm McLeod’s papers at PABC, Add. mss 1249, along with one of the three manuscript copies of McLeod’s final 1893 edition, “Japan: story of adventure of Ranald MacDonald, first teacher of English in Japan, A.D. 1848–49.” The other surviving copy (the one McLeod returned to MacDonald) is held by the Eastern Wash. State Hist. Soc. (Spokane), which published it in 1923 as Ranald MacDonald: the narrative of his early life on the Columbia under the Hudson’s Bay Company’s regime; of his experiences in the Pacific whale fishery; and of his great adventure to Japan; with a sketch of his later life on the western frontier, 1824–1894, ed. W. S. Lewis and Naojiro Murakami. A Japanese translation of the Narrative prepared by Toruo Tomita, Makudonarudo “Nihon Kaisoki”, appeared in Tokyo in 1979.
MacDonald is also the author of Bentinck Arm and Fraser River Road Company, Limited, prospectus (Victoria, 1862), prepared in collaboration with his partner, Johnston George Hillbride Barnston.
Japan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Repository (Tokyo), Zoku Tsushin Zenran Ruishu (coil. of docs. from the time of the Tokugawa government), “Beikoku Hyomin no Geisen Nagasaki-ko ni Torai Ikken” (record of the visit to Nagasaki of the Preble, 1849) and “Kits Kaigan Hyochaku no Beikokujin Nagasaki Goso a Ikken, 1848–1849” (record of Ranald MacDonald and the Lagoda seamen). PABC, Add. mss 794, esp. Vancouver Island Exploring Expedition journals of Robert Brown and of Ranald MacDonald. [Robert Brown], Vancouver Island; exploration, 1864 (Victoria, ). “An interesting visitor,” Ottawa Daily Citizen, 1 Sept. 1888; repr. in Daily News–Advertiser (Vancouver), 15 Sept. 1888. Frederick Whymper, Travel and adventure in the territory of Alaska, formerly Russian America – now ceded to the United States – and in various other parts of the north Pacific (London, 1868).
British Colonist (Victoria), 1858–60, continued as Daily British Colonist, 1860–64, and Daily Colonist, September 1894. Cariboo Sentinel (Barkerville, B.C.), 12 June 1865. China Mail (Hong Kong), 1 May 1849. Morning Oregonian (Portland), 12 Feb. 1891. Spokesman–Review (Spokane), 31 Aug. 1894. DAB. J. E. Ferris, “Ranald MacDonald, the sailor boy who visited Japan,” Pacific Northwest Quarterly (Seattle, Wash.), 48 (1957): 13–16; “Ranald MacDonald’s monument, Toroda Creek, state of Washington,” BCHQ, 15 (1951): 223–27. Province (Vancouver), 18 Nov. 1963. Shunzo Sakamaki, “Japan and the United States, 1790–1853,” Asiatic Soc. of Japan, Trans., 2nd ser., 18 (1939): 44–49. Vancouver Daily Province, 20 May 1928.
© 2000 University of Toronto/Université Laval
NOTE: A second edition of Ranald’s Narrative was published in 1990 by the Oregon Historical Society Press with support from FOM and Epson Portland, Inc. It is available from the OHS Press, 1200 S.W. Park Ave., Portland, OR 97205, at $30 plus shipping. [U.S. funds only.]
Chinook Tribe Seeks Information …
Edna Miller, secretary of the Chinook Indian Tribe, has asked that FOM share with the Tribe information about Ranald MacDonald, half-Scot, half-Indian, and grandson of legendary Chinook Chieftain Comcomly. FOM Chairman Bruce Berney has offered copies of our publications and suggested a newsletter exchange.
Dramatic Scenery, Historic Sites, Good Company, Great Fun …
The vastness of Eastern Washington is awe-inspiring. The air is pungent with the scent of pine and sage, the land rolls with breathtaking skies. Travelers will visit three unusual museums: the Native Cultures Collection at Cheney Cowles Museum, Spokane; the architecturally exciting Yakima Nation Indian museum; and the charming Colville Museum, the heart of an historic complex.
We’ll learn more about Indian culture with an Indian feast — and see pictographs and petroglyphs painted and carved thousands of years ago. We’ll see gigantic Grand Coulee Dam, a working gold mine, a winery …
We will visit, finally, the house in which Ranald MacDonald died and the lands he knew, pausing for a centennial tribute at his well-marked grave site near the Canadian border.
The tour is being organized in cooperation with the Oregon Historical Society , which will also invite its members to participate. TO ASSURE YOUR PLACE on the tour, complete and mail the special FOM advance reservation form in this newsletter.
A Visit to Toroda
by Prof. Steve Kohl, Ph.D.
(FOM Vice Chair Steve Kohl, a member of the Department of Asian Languages and Literature at the University of Oregon, has long been interested in the Ranald MacDonald story. Steve will lead our Tour to Toroda. The following is his account of his visit there last summer …)
RANALD MacDONALD died at Toroda on the Canadian border of Washington. Eva Emory Dye romantically and erroneously describes him passing away at his home at Fort Colville near Kettle Falls. The actual circumstances of his death were more dramatically poignant than that. Away from home, visiting his niece, Jennie Lynch, he died in her arms saying, “Sayonara, my dear, sayonara.”
Last August we drove through the Okanogan country, passing through Kettle Falls, crossing the Columbia, camping at Curlew Lake, and going on to Toroda to visit the site of MacDonald’s grave on a bluff high above Kettle River. In many ways the area has greatly changed since MacDonald passed through here on his last journey, and in that process of change our sense of history has changed as some things are lost and other things gain heightened importance.
MacDonald spent his final years at Fort Colville where his father had been chief factor half a century earlier. MacDonald evidently cared a great deal about preserving that legacy in his father’s memory. He seems to have found contentment during those final years of his life. He is quoted as saying, “I yearn for nothing more than to live according to the whims of my nature. If I need meat for my dogs, in the foothills there is plenty of game. If it is flour that I lack, there is a store at the nearest settlement. My books furnish diversion, and in my solitude I am free to write and meditate.” Today, neither fort nor homestead remain; all were flooded by the backwaters of Grand Coulee Dam.
As we crossed the 75 miles or so from Kettle Falls to Toroda, i could not help but wonder if these mountains and meadows are any different from what they were when Mac made his last journey in August of 1894. He surely passed by Curlew Lake and perhaps camped there as we did, watching the sun set and twilight gather over the Okanogan.
When Lewis and Murakami were editing MacDonald’s Narrative in 1923, they described the site as a neglected Indian cemetery. Today it is a neatly fenced plot which includes also the graves of Jennie Lynch, Nellie Stanton and other family members. The mountains and rivers have not changed at all. On a clear August morning the hills are green and dotted with pines and the river flows through the valley below, a remarkably lovely location.
Changes, of course, have been many. MacDonald went to Japan hoping to open the doors of commerce with that country. Today, as we see the vast amount of commerce – the wheat, cattle, timber, potatoes, fish and fruit of the Columbia River basin that goes to Japan, and when we see the Toyotas, televisions and computers that comes from Japan — we can appreciate the extent to which MacDonald’s dream of commerce and friendship between our two countries has been accomplished. As we near the 100th anniversary of MacDonald’s death, it seems appropriate to honor this man of vision and humanity.
What FOM’s Been Doing …
AT FORT VANCOUVER Boy Scouts from Hyogo Prefecture in Japan joined Washington State representatives to rededicate the Friendship Monument erected in 1988 to honor three Japanese sailors – “shipwrecked” sea-drifters rescued and brought to the Fort in 1833 on orders of Dr. McLaughlin. Chairman Mas Tomita represented FOM.
AT THE OREGON HISTORICAL SOCIETY FOM was represented at the August 6th opening of an OHS exhibit about the issei, Japanese pioneers who came to Oregon in the late 19th and early 10th centuries. A special FOM flyer was developed for the opening. FOM member George Azumano was among those instrumental in developing the popular exhibit, a joint effort of the japanese American National Museum, Oregon Japanese Americans and OHS.
IN PORTLAND FOM was host to a film crew from KTN-TV/Nagasaki, which created a special documentary about Ranald MacDonald as part of the stations 25th anniversary celebration. Portland-area Friends met for dinner with the film crew. FOM Vice Chairman Bruce Berney entertained the group in Astoria. The film-makers also traveled to Vancouver and Victoria, B.C.; Winnipeg; Toronto; Washington, D.C.; Republic and Spokane, Washington, and Lahaina and Honolulu, Hawaii. A copy of the Japanese-language production will be placed in FOM archives.
FOM/PORTLAND this month also greeted visitors from Japan led by FOM Vice Chair/Japan Masaki Takahashi. The group was making an early centennial pilgrimage to Toroda.
IN JAPAN – Masaki Takahashi, who spearheaded development of the Rishiri monument memorializing Ranald MacDonald, is the new Vice Chairman/Japan for FOM. He will serve as liaison between FOM/US and leaders of four Japanese chapters, who are Dr. Obama, Nagasaki; Mr. Nishiya, Rishiri; Mr. Aisaka, Kansai; and Mr. Kawasaki, Tokyo. The Japanese groups have published a number of MacDonald studies.
AT THE BANK – Chairman Mas Tomita reported on FOM’s fiscal year-end status during the November meeting, noting a 12% increase in current paid membership. income from memberships exceeded budget projects by $231; resale items were up $8, donations up $450, and luncheon receipts up $452, for a total increase in income of $1,181. Expenses overall decreased, down from a budgeted $1800 to $1265, primarily because of reduced printing expenses.