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Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit


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Simon Fraser: Canada’s most successful failure

By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

A number of years ago, my middle son Mark graduated from Simon Fraser University in Chemistry.  SFU was named in 1963 by Leslie Peterson, the Provincial Minister of Education, because SFU overlooks the very river where Simon Fraser made his historic journey to the Pacific Coast.

My earliest memory of SFU was walking through the beautiful new plazas in the 1960’s, and then hearing about the student protests that paralyzed the university.  One of the most puzzling demands of the students was that SFU be renamed Louie Riel University.  What is it about Simon Fraser the Explorer that seems to both repel and attract people?  Why is it that he is the least well known of all Canadian explorers?

 The Greater Vancouver Book holds that Simon Fraser could be called the founding father of British Columbia because he built the first colonial trading posts west of the Rockies. Fraser, however, is best known for his bold exploration of the great river which bears his name.  On the Canadian Peace Tower in Ottawa is the verse “He shall have dominion from sea to sea” (Psalm 72:8) By Simon Fraser’s heroic journey to the Pacific Coast, he made it possible for the Dominion of Canada to stretch from sea to sea. Fraser’s was the third expedition to span the continent of North America: after Alexander Mackenzie and Lewis & Clarke.  Simon Fraser felt like a total failure when he reached the Pacific Coast.  Yet his remarkable quest kept Canada from remaining land-locked at the Alberta border.  Simon Fraser was one of the most successful failures that Canada has ever known.

Descended from a well-known Scottish Highland family, the Lovat Frasers, Simon ‘Jr.’ was the youngest son of Simon Fraser of Culbokie and Isabel Grant of Duldreggan.  In September 1773 the family joined a celebrated migration of Highlanders who travelled to America on the SS Pearl to seek their fortunes in the New World. In 1775, the year before the birth of their ninth child Simon, the first shots in the American Revolution were fired.  Simon’s Pro-British father was captured at the Battle of Bennington.  Every time he and his older son refused to join the rebels, his wife was fined another farm animal.  Simon Sr. died  thirteen months later from harsh treatment as a prisoner in the Albany jail.  Mrs. Fraser fled as a United Empire Loyalist with her family to Canada in 1784.

When Simon turned 16, his Uncle John Fraser, a Montreal judge found him a seven-year clerical apprenticeship with the famous North West Company of Montreal.  In 1793 Simon was sent to the Athabascan wilderness to learn his trade at the secluded Peace River posts. By 1802 he was selected as one of the company’s youngest partners.

In 1805 Simon was chosen for the important role of expanding the company’s trade to the land west of the Rocky Mountains from 1805-1808.  His mandate from the North West Company was to cross the Rockies and establish trading relations with the Indigenous people in the interior of what is now British Columbia, but which Fraser named New Caledonia. According to family tradition, Fraser selected the name New Caledonia because the country reminded him of his mother’s description of Caledonia, the ancient Roman name for the Scottish Highlands.  Between 1805 and 1807 Fraser set up the first four forts west of the Rockies at McLeod, Stuart and Fraser Lakes and Fort George, making himself the pioneer of permanent settlement, in what is now the mainland of BC.

What mattered now above all else  to the Nor’Westers was the search for a route to the Pacific that would reduce the enormous cost of the long canoe-haul from Montreal.  Only then would they be able to survive the competition from the Hudson’s Bay Company with its monopoly on all shipping to England via the Hudson’s Bay area.

Photo by Stephen Rees

On May 22, 1808, Fraser left Fort George (Modern-day Prince George) with two clerks, John Stuart and Jules Quesnel, 19 voyageurs and two Indian guides.  Simon Fraser named his lead canoe, Perseverance, which was also  the motto of the North West Company and one of the greatest strengths of the Scottish people.  Fittingly, Fraser wrote at the worst of his Fraser River journey: “Our situation is critical and highly unpleasant; however we shall endeavour to make the best of it; what cannot be cured, must be endured.” As he explored one of the world’s most difficult and dangerous rivers, Fraser showed remarkable courage, stamina, and firmness tempered with restraint. In the midst of enormous strain, he never lost his temper nor acted unfairly.

Simon Fraser travelled during the springtime flood, the most dangerous time of the year on the Fraser.  After surviving numerous near-drownings and upset canoes, Fraser was at last persuaded that it was impossible to make the entire journey by water.  ‘Our situation was really dangerous’, Fraser wrote on June 5th, ‘being constantly between steep and high banks where there was no possibility of stopping the canoe.’  At the Black Canyon, they were forced to follow native guides as they climbed jagged cliffs using intricate scaffolds, bridges and ladders hundreds of feet above the raging water.  One missed step would be their last.  Simon Fraser commented in his journal: “I have been for a long period among the Rocky Mountains, but have never seen anything to equal this country, for I cannot find words to describe our situation at times.  We had to pass where no human beings should venture.”  Every bend threatened new dangers –perilous rapids, treacherous portages, and impassible whirlpools.

Despite incurring a serious groin injury, Fraser completed the journey in 36 days (May 28th-July 2nd) and made the return trip in one day less (July 3rd to August 6th). He and his voyageurs had travelled more than a 1,000 miles of uncharted territory on the largest salmon-spawning river in the world.

Sadly this greatest adventure of his life won him little fame and less reward, for the Fraser River was useless as a canoe Highway for fur traders. Even worse, this river which Fraser so successfully navigated turned out not to be the prized Columbia, but rather an unknown river which fellow Nor’wester David Thompson would later name the Fraser River.  Before Fraser died in poverty and obscurity in 1862, he learned of the BC Gold rush with hundreds of prospectors rushing up the Fraser River, past the Fraser Valley, and through the Fraser Canyon.

Over two hundred years later, I give thanks to God for the perseverance of Simon Fraser who ‘ran with perseverance the race marked out for him’. (Hebrews 12:1)  May Jesus strengthen us this day to never, ever, ever give up in our journeys of life.

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin

-award-winning author of the book Battle for the Soul of Canada

-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News

for better for worse-Click to check out our newest marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you.

 

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form. In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook.

It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook ), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, #102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC V4A 0A5, Canada.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘Ed Hird’, #102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC V4A 0A5.

For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 


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Sir Martin Frobisher: the first Canadian Pirate

By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

How many of us have realized that the Canadian North was first ‘discovered’ 434 years ago by an English pirate?  A pirate, of course, is in the eye of the beholder.  Sir Martin Frobisher was arrested at least four times for high-sea piracy, but was let go with a scolding by Queen Elizabeth I.  Confiscating Spanish ships was one thing, but a good English ‘sea-dog’ was always supposed to keep his hands off English goods.  Frobisher ended up spending time in jail for confiscating English wine vats that had been on a French ship.  Upon release from prison, Frobisher decided to sail over the top of Canada through the mythical Northwest Passage to China.  His goal was to become rich by finding an alternative route for Asian pepper.  Because there was no refrigeration in those days, pepper was in high demand, being used by Europeans to make their meat palatable.

One of Frobisher’s specialties as Captain was to punish sabre-duelling crewmates by chopping off their right hands.  Frobisher was also a brave leader who thought nothing of diving into iceberg-strewn waters to rescue drowning sailors.  Once while on their way to Baffin Island, his ship Gabriel fell over on its side and began filling up with water.  Without a moment’s hesitation, Frobisher grabbed an axe and hacked off the foresail, enabling the ship to right itself.  Though a rough-and-tumbles privateer, he never went anywhere on his daring voyages without his bible.  Upon returning to England with three Inuit hostages and a mysterious black rock, Frobisher kicked off Canada’s first Gold Rush.  The Russian Tsar officially protested this kidnapping of Asian Siberians!  Frobisher claimed that his Inuit hostages were being held to seek the release of five of his crewmembers that had disappeared.  Before dying from English fog and food, the 3 Inuits thrilled the Queen by shooting royal birds and kayaking down the Avon River.

All the credible scientists told Frobisher’s financial backer, Michael Lok, that the black rock was worthless ‘fools gold’.  But Michael Lok, being an early stock promoter of the less reputable kind, ignored their advice and instead consulted an Italian alchemist, Giovanni Agnello, who used ‘black magic’ to discern that Martin Frobisher’s rock was indeed gold.

The English business community, backed by Queen Elizabeth I, became so excited about the first Canadian Gold Rush, that they sent 15 Ships to Frobisher Bay on Baffin Island.  The Queen even lent her own 200-ton ship AID.  Gold Rush fever brought together the largest Armada of English ships ever assembled until World War II.  Frobisher’s public image was rapidly transformed by his stockpromoter, Michael Lok, from that of an uncouth pirate to that of the ‘rare and valiant’ Captain General embarking on a heroic mission. Everyone, including Martin Frobisher himself, believed that he had discovered the Northwest Passage to China, and that Baffin Island contained King Solomon’s hidden mines.  In this first English attempt to colonize the New World, Frobisher brought 120 would-be settlers, miners, carpenters, and an Anglican priest named Rev. Robert Wolfall.

On their way to Baffin Island, they faced desperate circumstances due to mountainous icebergs that could crush their ships like matchboxes.  The hardened sailors knelt down on the decks and prayed for God’s mercy. Two of the sailors’ prayers recorded for posterity by Captain Best were ‘Lord help us now or never’ and ‘Now Lord look down from heaven and save us sinners, or else our safety will come too late’.  With no radar or telecommunications to guide them in the fog, they saved the sailors on the sunken ‘Dennis’ by using trumpets, drums, canons and the two passwords: ‘Before the world was God’, to be answered by ‘After God came Christ His Son’. Captain Best recorded that Rev. Wolfall encouraged Frobisher’s men ‘to be thankful for their strange and miraculous deliverance’ at sea.  To celebrate their safe arrival on Baffin Island, Rev. Wolfall celebrated the first Anglican Communion service ever held in Canada, just 420 years ago.

After three Frobisher Bay expeditions costing over 20,000 pounds, including 3,500 pounds of the Queen’s money, Martin Frobisher brought back 2,300 tons of alleged gold to England.  This ‘gold rush’ treasure was promptly secured with 4 padlocks in the Tower of London and Bristol Castle.  Once the geologists found out that the Baffin Island gold was fool’s gold, Frobisher and many of his investors went into bankruptcy.  His financial backer, Michael Lok, was sent to jail.  To cover the embarrassment of Canada’s first Bre-X-style disaster, the 2,300 tons of fools gold was dumped into the Bristol Harbour and also used to pave roads.  Yet Frobisher never stayed defeated for long. Within a few years, he joined the British navy and ended up being knighted by Queen Elizabeth for defeating the Spanish Armada.

Sir Martin Frobisher’s story teaches us that all of us are on a journey, that sometimes our hopes and dreams turn out to be fools gold, but that God can even use our mistakes and turn them to a higher good.  My prayer for those reading this article is that God may turn everything that is against us to our advantage.(Romans 8:28)

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin

 -previously published in the Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News

-award-winning author of the book Battle for the Soul of Canada

for better for worse-Click to check out our newest marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you.

 

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form. In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook.

It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook ), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, #102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC V4A 0A5, Canada.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘Ed Hird’, #102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC V4A 0A5.

For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca