Journal of Sam Steele - 1874 - N.W.M.P. Trek West

Why the NWMP was Formed

Background information on Sam Steele

Sam Steele's Journal

The story as told by Sam Steele in his book Forty Years in Canada Reminiscences of the Great North-West (1915). Extracts from a variety of other journals have been used to supplement the story and establish dates.

Most of the photographs were taken by my junior high students when we retraced the route in 1974 - 100 years after the "originals."

July 8, 1874

The first camp was merely a "pull out," commonly called for many years a " Hudson's Bay Start," very necessary so that before finally launching into the unknown one could see that nothing had been forgotten, or that if one had taken too much, being so near to the base, the mistake could be easily corrected.

July 9, 1874

The column made only 10 miles... It was about two and a half miles in length when closed up...and...must have presented a curious appearance with its motley string of ox-carts, ox-waggons, cattle for slaughter, cows, calves, mowing machines, etc.

July 17, 1874

At the Turtle Mountains, a range of low, partially-wooded hills, a heavy shower of rain came on, which was followed by a hailstorm, but this did not last very long, and the sun came out brightly...

July 19, 1874

...but the pattering noise on the tents continued. This proved to be caused by the visitation of locusts, which afflicted the province of Manitoba so sorely that year. The air for the height of hundreds of yards was full of them, their wings shining in the sun, and the trees, grass, flowers, and in fact everything in sight, was covered by them.

July 19, 1874

Even the paint and woodwork of the waggons, and our carbines were not free from their (locust) attacks, and our tents had to be hurriedly packed away to save them from destruction.

July 21, 1874

This swarm destroyed the crops of the majority of the settlers in the province, and seed grain had to be distributed for the next season's crop.

July 22, 1874

From the Turtle Mountains as far west as the extremity of the path of the locusts the grass was very scanty; the pests came with the south west wind from their breeding grounds on the great plains.

July 23, 1874

The force was halted at Riviere des Lacs, near the Hill of the Murdered Scout, a forbidding spot not far from the border. The hill is named on account of a story, the truth of which can be vouched for. A Cree scout in his search for his enemies perceived a Mandan ascend the hill on the same errand and, having taken a survey of the horizon, lie down and sleep. The Cree then approached the spot with the usual stealth of the redman and killed him. He cut in the hard clay with his hunting knife the shape of the Mandan's footsteps, of his own where he crept up the hill, and that of the murdered scout's body where he lay asleep.

July 23, 1874

Although the occurrence had taken place many years previously every mark was as clear when we visited the spot as when made, and no doubt can be traced to this day, the clay being almost as hard as brick, and not likely to be much affected by the rainfall.

July 24, 1874

At St. Peter's springs we found only a group of dirty mud holes, so had to set to work to make several wells. Sawing barrels in half, we bored holes in the bottoms of them, and set them in the spring, and soon had them running over with fine clear water.

July 25, 1874

At Short Creek, on the banks of the Souris, by La Roche Percée, " A " division under Inspector Jarvis left the rest of the train, to proceed to Fort Edmonton via Forts Ellice and Carlton, a distance of 875 miles by trail.

July 26, 1874

The commissioner was compelled to transfer the majority of the men and all of our horses except the officers' chargers to other divisions, and Jarvis received in their stead the quartermaster and several of the youngest and weakest men, 55 sick and almost played-out horses recovering from a severe attack of epizootic, 24 waggons, 55 ox-carts with 12 drivers, 62 oxen, 50 cows and 50 calves to help us on to Fort Ellice.

July 29, 1874

The commissioner with the main force left La Roche Percée. We were a disconsolate lot when we saw the force depart on their long trek, but we had a much harder time before us than any experienced that year. There was no oats for the horses, although they had never before done work on grass alone.

July 30, 1874

Erroneous reports of travellers in the northern part of the prairie region had been made to the effect that horses could do 40 miles a day on grass. The people forgot to say that they had ridden and driven on horseback and in buck-boards with a herd of acclimatized native ponies driven behind them, and none of them were obliged to be under saddle or in harness for more than a couple of hours in the day at most.

August 3, 1874

We remained in camp getting everything put in shipshape order until August 3, when we started for Fort Ellice. Every man, including the sick, was employed. The latter drove teams, and as we went on improved in health.

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