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# 7 (July 11-, 1853 ). Lake Jessie and Red River Hunters.

Our last article of the series ended with the trains and teams arriving at Lake Jessee in the mid-afternoon. Stevens wrote this entry about their camp: “We arrived at Lake Jessie about 3 o’clock p.m., the bluff shore on which we encamped being some sixty-four feet above the level of the lake [see lithograph print]. …The water of Lake Jessie is considerably saline in its character, but about three-fourths of a mile from camp an excellent spring of good fresh water was found”[1] which provided them with pleasurable relief from the brackish water of the lake and surrounding lakes.

Lithographic print of Lake Jessee by Stanley Del

Worry that they would not come upon fresh water for some time, Stevens ordered two casks (same as barrels) be filled with spring water before they began the day’s travels. He also directed Mr. Tinkham’s party to run a line of levels (levels strung between two stakes in the ground to find level ground); a tricky task in the days before laser levels. Stevens also directed Mr. Morfett to make corresponding barometrical observations to verify the level work hoping to secure a good profile of the country over which they were traveling.

They had only traveled about four miles when they came across a small band of buffalo which were startled and began bounding away. Four of their loose mules and Le Frambois’s horse took off after the heard, so riders had to be dispatched to retrieve the animals. Unfortunately, the mules and horse mixed in with the herd and the riders gave up after a fruitless 15 mile chase. The group managed only ten miles that day and established a camp that “was beautifully surrounded by hills, the grazing excellent, and the water passibly good.” (Stevens 1853) Stevens and two others rode out to determine the best line for the next day as they were surrounded by hills and needed more level passage for the mule trains.

At 5 o’clock in the morning of the 12th, Stevens, Tinkham and several of their guides set out in advance of the main train to “reconnoitre and pick out a good road.” (Stevens 1853) The main train was behind by two hours as they had to repair a broken wheel on one of the wagons. It was decided that the dividing ridge of the tributaries of the Jacques and Shyenne rivers would be the best route to a plateau, so Stevens changed their course N. 85° W, with Boutineau to remain in advance and point the way forward. Stevens noted “this is the first day we have run according to the compass, and it succeeded admirably.” (p. 61). “About 8 o’clock I sent off Mr. Tinkham, accompanied by the two Boulieaus, well mounted, with instructions to go southward, determining the position of the headwaters of Bald Hillock creek, and thus connecting his work with Mr. Lander’s reconnaissance; thence westward in a line nearly parallel with our route of to-day, making a reconnaissance of the tributaries of the Jacques river, leaving it to his own discretion whether to join our camp to-night or the next day. By this we would secure the reconnaissance of a belt of the country forty miles wide, lying between the Shyenne and Jacques rivers.” [2]

Approximately 11 miles from their camp they had to cross a deep slough[i] after which they came across decent water and decided to break for lunch and then proceeded to reach Beaver Lodge creek. Buffalo seemed to have been more easily found in the recent legs of their journey and one of their hunters killed a “fine buffalo cow, not twenty feet from the compass line” (Stevens 1853) and had it ready for the cooks’ wagons when they came along. They managed another 16 miles before setting up their next camp. The small lake provided fresh water and the grasses were ideal for the cattle, however, they were again short of wood so limited the fire pits. Before they could do anything about searching for wood they were hit by a severe storm, complete with thunder and lightning and it doused all of their fires. The storm increased in its fury just about the same time that Mr. Lander’s party arrived. Lander’s and his group had separated from the main train on the 4th and were a few miles away when a rider arrived requesting fresh horses as theirs were giving out. For the next few days they battled thunderstorms, lightning and sheets of pouring rain, making travel difficult and cooking even more so. The weather finally broke calm on the 15th when advance scouts returned with news of a group of “Sioux Indians with 1,000 lodges” less than 10 miles out. Debates over whether they were friendly Sioux, hostile or perhaps a hunting party erupted and eventually arms and ammunition were distributed, but strictly to be used only if attacked. On the 16th, the Red River Hunters, “a large community of “Indians, half-breeds, traders or former employees of the Hudson Bay and Fur Companies, various individuals of European descent.” This group had a small band of Prairie Chippewa Indians accompanying them on the journey.

Lithographic print of the camp of The Red River Hunters by Stanley Dell.

[1] Stevens, Isaac. “Part I, General Report, Narrative of 1853” Page 60. [2] Stevens, Isaac. “Part I, General Report, Narrative of 1853” Page 61

[i] Slough: a place of deep mud or mire; swampy.


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