This article continues the selections from the McLeod diary.
Only so much of the diary account pertains to the trip up
into the Red River Country has been or will be quoted, as
other parts would probably be of little interest to the general
reader. It would be difficult to find recorded the details
of a trip more entailing hardships and dangers that Mr. McLeod
has penned. A disappointing feature of the account is the
lack of any definite statement by McLeod as to what became
of General Dickson and what was the result of his hair brained
venture. Dickson's name simply drops out of McLeod's diary
account. From footnotes to the diary account in the Minnesota
Historical Bulletin are to be found mentions, which throw
some further light on Dickson's intentions, also of unexpected
obstacles encountered at the Red River fur trade settlement,
which in any case must have ended in a fiasco. A Mr. Ely,
a missionary in the Lake Superior region, in his diary under
the date September 23, 1836 writes as follows:)
Became of Dickson
1 o'clock this noon the boat which left for La Point on the
8th arrived. Another boat from the Sault Ste. Marie also arrived,
chartered by General Dickson and manned by his soldiers. The
company consists of the General, a Polish refugee officer,
5 young men, ranking lieutenants, and 7 soldiers. They are
on an expedition against Mexico, and it is the present intentions
if a sufficient force is collected, to make a descent from
the passes of the Rocky Mountains upon a certain Mexican city,
and destroy it. General Dickson says that every man must die,
as they will not be able to keep the city if their men are
spared. I had a long conversation with him concerning his
plans. He keeps nothing back, except the name of the city
in view. His plan is to form a government in California of
the scattered Indian tribes of the west; Cherokees, Creek,
etc., and all others who may be disposed to join them."
This Mr. Ely later adds to his diary entry as below:)
conversation brought out the following points. That Dickson
and the Pole had been engaged in the Texan Army. That the
idea of being called to fill some important position in the
affairs of the world possessed him. That the star of fate
was guiding him in this bold stroke. He proceeded to Montreal
where he recruited his small force of young men, who would
constitute his officers in the army he expected to raise.
With a very meager supply of arms, and small resources, they
started for the Red River Colony, expecting to recruit a force
of half-breeds, hunt their way across the buffalo plains,
and thus suddenly, and from an unexpected quarter, fall on
the doomed city, which I conclude is Santa Fe, and from its
pillage to find himself abundantly supplied with fold for
I afterwards learned through Mr. Aitkins
that Dickson wandered off among the Indian Tribes.
Another footnote is as follows:)
guide who accompanied the party was the famous Pierre Bottineau.
Mr. William Bottineau, a son of Pierre, has told the writer
much of the story of this expedition as he heard from his
father. His version of Dickson's motives is that the General
had been robbed and abused in other ways by the Mexicans,
and desired revenge. When he reached the Red River settlement
the Hudson Bay Company refused to honor his draft, being unwilling
to lose their best hunters. Then Dickson was stranded without
money or equipment and had to abandon the enterprise."
The closing of the preceding article left McLeod and party
when they had just reached the shelter of a clump of trees,
thus probably saving them from perishing on the open plain.)
of McLeod's Diary
14, 1837 - Last night it was so cold I could not get a moments
sleep. Today we remained in camp, as the guide was unable
to go on because of sore eyes.
17, 1837 - This morning when we left the camp the weather
was very mild and pleasant. Guide discovered the tracks of
a deer and pent in pursuit of it, meantime Mr. Hayes, Mr.
Parys and myself directed our course across the plains towards
a point of woods as fast as possible. It was distant about
3 miles. I was foremost, the dogs following close behind.
In a few moments nothing was perceptible, and it was with
difficulty I kept myself from suffocating - however, I hastened
on in a short time caught glimpse of the woods through a drifting
cloud of snow. I was not more than 300 yards from it. At that
time I saw Mr. Hayes who had come up within 30 yards of me,
and called out that I was going the wrong course, exclaiming
'Keep more to the right.' I said, 'No, follow me quick.' I
perceived him to stoop, probably to arrange the strings of
his snowshoes, an instant later an immense cloud of snow hid
him from view, and I saw him no more. I cannot describe what
my feelings then were and what they must have been a few seconds
later when I found myself at the bottom of a ravine more that
20 feet deep, from which I had to use the greatest exertions
to save myself from suffocating in the snow, which was drifting
down on me. Upon gaining the edge of the ravine, which I affected
with the greatest of difficulty, having my snowshoes still
on, as my hands were too cold to untie the strings of them,
which were frozen. I found the poor faithful dogs with their
traineau buried in a snow bank. Having dug them out my next
effort was to gain the woods, which I found was composed of
only a few scattered trees, making miserable shelter. I tried
to make a fire, but my matches were wet, my hands were too
cold to strike a spark with flint and steel. 'What shall be
done? I must not perish,' I said to myself. I thus thought
of my companions, alas, poor fellows, there can be no hope
for you, as I have all the blankets, buffalo robes, provisions
a Hole in Snow
dug a hole in a snow bank I made a sort of shelter with my
cloak and a blanket and buffalo robe. I was completely wet
through, for a shower of sleet had accompanied the storm.
In a few moments it began to freeze. The night came, the storm
continued unabated and my situation was truly miserable. My
companions and guide probably all have perished. I myself
am in great danger of freezing in a strange country some hundreds
of miles from any settlement or trading post.
Frozen, One Lost
18, 1837 - Never was a light more welcome to a mortal. At
dawn I crept from my hole and soon afterwards heard cries.
Fired two shots and soon afterwards the guide came up. He
had escaped by making a fire and being a native, and a half
blood, his knowledge of the country and its danger had saved
his life. Mr. Parys was found with both legs and feet frozen.
All search for Hayes proved ineffectual. We remained all day
near the scene of our disaster in the hope that some trace
of him might be found.
to Leave Parys Behind
March 19, 1837 - Started early today, with poor Parys on the
dog traineau, having left all our luggage behind. At 2 pm
found dogs unable to proceed with him and he suffered too
much to bear the pain of moving about. The guide made a hut
for Parys, where he will have to remain for 5 or 6 days, until
I can send horses from him from Lake Traverse, 60 miles distant.
Left with Parys our blankets and robes, except a blanket each
for the guide and myself, also plenty of provisions. We were
obliged to kill one of our dogs; dog meat is excellent eating.
21, 1837 - Left the Bois de Sioux at sunrise and arrived at
dark at the trading house at Lake Traverse, having traveled
45 miles, with a severe pain in my right side and knee.
23, 1837 - Sent the guide with another person and two horses
and a cart for Mr. Parys, my trunk, etc., with instructions
to search for the body of Mr. Hayes, in order that he might
be decently interred at the trading post.
April 2, 1837 - This morning the two men returned poor Parys
is no more. They found him in his hut dead. He had taken off
the greatest part of his clothing, no doubt in the delirium
of fever, caused by the excruciating pain of his frozen feet.
In the hut was found nearly all the wood we left him and a
kettle of water partly frozen. Everything indicated that he
died the second or third day after we left him.
trace of Mr. Hayes was found. The poor fellow ere this has
become food for the savage animals that prowl these boundless
wilds. Thus has perished a young and amiable man at the age
of 20, in the full vigor of youth.
April 5, 1837 - This day poor Parys was consigned to his last
abode, the silent and solitary tomb. It is a source of consolation
to me amid my troubles that I have been enabled to perform
this last duty for a friend. Would that I could say the same
for Mr. Hayes. I have however, left directions with all the
Indians near this port to search diligently for his bones
and inter them. They are about to depart on their spring hunt
and will in all probability find his remains. I can do no
5, 1837 - Left Lac Traverse at 10 o'clock. Came 20 miles through
a hilly prairie. Encamped at 3 pm.
7, 1837 - Cold and stormy; I had some difficulty in getting
across the Pomme de Terre River, I made the horses swim. I
got our baggage and cart across on so jammed ice. Arrive at
Lac qui Parle at 2 pm and was well received by Mr. Reinville,
who has a trading post for the Indians here.
April 9, 1837 - Went to hear Mr. Williamson preach. He also
read a chapter from the testament in Dakota. A number of the
psalms of David were song in Dakota by half-breeds and Indians.
The audience consisted of half-breeds, Indians, Canadians,
and a few whites.
13, 1837 - Came 30 miles this day and arrived at 3 pm at the
Monte de Sioux, at the trading post of Mr. Provencable.
for Fort Snelling
14, 1837 - Embarked at sunrise in a canoe with Indians and
squaws who were down where the St. Peter River joins the Mississippi
at Fort Snelling. Have for company 10 Indians and squaws in
3 canoes. These people have in one of their canoes the bodies
of two of their deceased relative which they intend to carry
to a lake near the Mississippi more than a hundred miles from
April 16, 1837 - At 3 pm arrived at last at Fort Snelling,
St. Peters, having escaped a variety of dangers and endured
great fatigue and privation in the Sioux country.
Mr. McLeod having now reached a comparatively civilized community
and his danger and privations over we will bring his diary
account to a close. There was no thought at the outset of
furnishing such a lengthy series of articles as this has turned
out to be. If the result has been a feeling of better acquaintance
on the part of the reader with the pioneer fur traders of
this northern region and a better realization of their hardships
and dangers the working in compiling this material will not
be considered as entirely wasted - William W. Bartlett)
from Editor - This paper and judging from the nature of comments
heard, it readers are deeply indebted to Mr. William W. Bartlett
for gathering and compiling the material for this series of
fur trading articles which have appeared in this paper weekly
for some time past, for they have not only been interesting
but instructive as well in throwing light on a phase of early
Chippewa Valley history of which the people of this valley
have very little knowledge. After the publication of Mr. Bartlett's
talk on early fur trading days, at a picnic held some months
ago at Jim Falls, the editor prevailed on him to prepare a
series of articles on the subject, and those who have read
them will appreciate to some extent the labor and effort to
which he has put himself to place this interesting information
before the readers of this paper. The editor hopes that Mr.
Bartlett, at some time, and not too far distant, will see
fit to give this paper and its readers the benefit of his
study and knowledge of the early history of the Chippewa Valley
in other articles. We know that he has not exhausted the subject
and has much in reserve that will be of interest.)