Letitia Hargrave nee MacTavish (1813-1854) was the daughter of Sheriff Dugald MacTavish and Letitia Lockhart. In 1840, she married James Hargrave, Chief Trader for the HBC, and left Scotland for York Factory.
The letters Letitia wrote to family and friends provide us with observations of daily life that differ from the typical post journals of that time which were written by men.
Her correspondence is also recognized for its importance as being one of the earliest for pioneer women in the fur trade in Western Canada. Through her letters, we can see her mature from a gawking and sea-sick newcomer to a shrewd and experienced observer of fur trade life.
14-16 May, 1842. To Mrs. D. MacTavish. This part of the letter tells of the extreme winter cold. P112, 2nd pgh: “Our ink gets frozen… no meat nor geese.”
“Our ink gets frozen and is bad, there will be no better till the ship comes – The madeira in the store is still solid. They cant fill the wine kegs till the barrelsful thaw – the oil is in the same state – We breakfast at 1/2 past 7. I am always up but take it in my own sitting room. Every one in the Fort is in bed by ten.
On the 1st of June the gentlemen go over to the other the kitchen side of the Fort so that till 1st October I have the whole house to myself and eat alone unless I expressly invite someone or when Mrs Evans, Cowley or Ross are here. It is rather dull work but I think I prefer it to encountering so many men.
I have not got reconciled to the one o’clock dinner and last summer used to keep it till tea time – six o’clock. The ladies here appear to have prodigious appetites judging from those I have seen and Willie says they are all the same high and low. Mrs Gladman wrote me that they had lived for 62 days on rice flour milk and potatoes at Fort Alexander, as if she had had severe privations, no meat nor geese.”
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