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Daily life and challenges for the various groups involved in the fur trade.

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Author: Frances Simpson
Location: HBCA - Archives of Manitoba
Copyright Holder: Expired; no restrictions on use. Please credit HBCA - Archives of Manitoba.
  -36- Frances Simpson: Journey Begins

Frances Ramsay Simpson (b. c.1812 - d. 1853), the daughter of a London merchant, married her cousin, HBC Governor George Simpson, in 1830. She initially accompanied him to Rupert's Land but her health deteriorated during her first pregnancy, and she was often an invalid therafter. Her husband settled her first in London and then in Lachine, where she died after giving birth to her fifth child.

This is the initial entry in the journal kept by Frances during her first canoe trip from Lachine to Red River and beyond in 1830. p50-51, 6th pgh: "May 2nd... state of the weather."

May 2nd Left La Chine at 4 A.M. in two Canoes manned by 15 hands each, all strong active, fine looking Canadians. The passengers consisting of Mr. & Mrs. McTavish, & Maid Servant in the one, & Mr. Simpson Myself & Servant in the other accompanied by Messrs. Keith & Gale who kindly volunteered to favor us with their company for a day or two.

Our Canoe, a most beautiful craft, airy and elegant beyond description, was 35 feet in length, the lading consisting of 2 Water proof Trunks (known by the name of Cassets) containing our clothes; 1 Basket for holding Cold Meat, Knives & Forks, Towels &c 1 Egg Basket, a travelling Case (or Canteen) containing 6 Wine Bottles, Cups & Saucers, Tea Pot, Sugar Basin, Spoons, Cruets, Glasses & Tumblers, Fishing Apparatus, Tea, Sugar Salt &c &c – also a bag of Biscuits, a bale of Hams, a Keg of Butter &c &c

The provisions for the Crew were Pork & Biscuits: from which circumstance the young recruits are called “Pork Eaters” to distinguish them from the old Winterers, who feed chiefly on “Pemican,” a mixture of Buffalo Meat, Tallow, and a due proportion of hairs (but whether the last ingredient is intended to keep the composition together or not, I cannot say) this is not the most delicate, but it is very substantial food, and more portable than any other, as it is closely packed in a bag made of Buffalo hide.

There is also a keg of liquor (called the Dutchman) from which the people are drammed three or four times a day, according to the state of the Weather.”

Other Related Material
Read excerpts from Frances' journal - enter 'Frances' in the search box to your left.

What does Frances Simpson look like?

Discover a personal object that once belonged to Frances.

Check the Beaver Index - e.g., Journey for Frances [Parts 1-3], by Grace Lee Nute, December 1953, March 1954 and June 1954.

Did You Know?
During this voyage, Frances Simpson was grateful to have the company of Catherine Turner, the Scottish bride of HBC Chief Factor John George McTavish: the parting from her family in London had caused her “bitter sorrow.”

Frances had been violently seasick during the ocean crossing, but her health improved sufficiently after her arrival in Montreal for her to enjoy the canoe trip from Lachine to York Factory.

The two wives were the first British women ever to travel this route. Frances particularly admired the strength and skill of the voyageurs, two of whom were entrusted to carry the ladies over the portages.