Maine Historical Society header
Maine Historical Society header

Archive Record

  • Email This Page
  • Send Feedback
Title David Thompson letter to Anthony Barclay
Date May 21, 1822
Description 1 letter; 6 pages
People Thompson, David, 1770-1857
Search Terms International Boundary Commission
Treaty of Ghent
Scope & Content 1822_May_21
River Raisin 21 May 1822
Anthony Barclay Esqr

Since my arrival
here, on the evening of the 26th February, I have had
the honor of addressing you three letters, the first on
the 16th March, accompanied by 1 map of the lower
part of the River St. Lawrence; a map of the controver-
ted part of the Detroit River; and one of the Lake and
channels of the Lake St. Clair; with a map of the interi-
or countries, north of Lake Superior; all which were
received by Mr. Ross at Montreal; and by him for-
warded to New York, and which I hope have reached
you in safety. My next letter was under date of the 30
April; in answer to yours of the 30th March; and the third
was on the 6th May, a kind of duplicate of that of the 30th
April. It is my intention, if you think proper, as I con-
ceive it to be my duty, to write you this state of the busi-
ness intrusted to my care, every opportunity that my
offer on my journey. The above letters detail every
thing worth your notice. The maps you require
are all finished, and put up in a tin base in the hands
of Mr. Ross to be delivered to Mr. Hale. This tin case
contains 4 copies of the lower part of the River St. Lawrence up
to Cat Island. 4 copies of the controverted part of the Detroit
River; 4 copies of the Lake and channels of St. Clair - all cer-
tified as you directed. One map of the American Survey
of the channels of St. Clair, on the scale of 5 inches to 1 mile. One
map of the American Survey of Lake Huron of 1820, on the
scale of 2 1/2 inches to 1 mile. On the 26th April I left my
house, and staid 8 days at Montreal, arranging every
thing for the voyage; it was then my intention of seeing
Mr. Hale at Quebec, and settle accounts and other matters
with him, but the backward state of the canoe, and my

end p1
begin p2

anxiety to get it built as soon as possible did not permit me
and on the 6 May left Montreal for this place; since which
I have closely attended the workmen, until at length on the
evening of the 16th it was finished. It had then to be scraped
painted &c&c and this day is ready. Mr. Pomainville
left La Chine the 20th Inst. in the steam boat, crosses to the
Cascades, and from thence the property must be carted to
the Cedars. In the mean time, to permit the canoe to
dry, the men yesterday morning took a batteaux down
to the Cedars, and this evening bring the whole up to the
entrance of this River, ready for the morrow if the wea-
ther is favorable, and thus please god we prosecute our
journney to Lake Superior &c&c. As we have a tent and
provisions, we shall avoid tavern expences. The
tedious building of the canoe, the making of the moulds,
which is the same expence and trouble for only one canoe,
as for many; with the mode so different from boat build-
ing has swelled the price of the canoe much beyond the
estimate. IT is however strongly built, and in my opinion
very capable of lasting 3 or 4 years with trifling repairs.
On my arrival at Montreal I intended deducting from
the outfit, every thing we had left in store at Amherstburgh
&c; but reflecting on the uncertainty of the state in which
those things may be; and the loss of time the want of them
would occasion; I compleated the outfit; and intend to
lay up, whatever can be spared at the Falls of St. Maries,
ready for the Spring of 1823; for having no canoe to build
next spring, we shall be able to proceed as soon as the
ice permits. And the provisions thus laid by, with
what we shall have with us, will enable us to proceed
to the interior of Lake Superior; before the Provisions
by way of Lake Erie will reach the falls of St. Maries, un-
less they are very early. At all events they will be a
supply in case of accident. When I consider the
extent and intricacy of the countries before us, with the
geometrical survey from the Neebish Rapids up to the
gorge of Lake Superior; it appears to me, that it will be

end p2
begin p3

the Summer of 1825 before the survey can be finished;
unless that part of the interior countries are passed over in
a very hasty manner. The maps of the survey of this
year, as well as what my be surveyed hereafter; I wish
to transmit to you on good drawing paper; they will be far
more neat, and substantial, than on tracing paper; and
inclosed in a tin case, will always reach New York, by
the messenger for the packets, or ^ some other gentleman.
I shall be much obliged to you to send me your orders
thereon; and also for the number of copies required;
as well as for the copy usually sent to the Earl of Lon
-donderry; and if a copy is made for the Earl, on what
kind of paper, and where am I to direct it. I
suppose the order you gave me to have 2 fair copies
wrote out, of all the field notes, and calculations, of the
survey of the 6th Article is still inforce; as well as furnish-
ing the American Party with one copy of 1817, and part
of 1818, of which it appears they are totally destitute.
In looking over my minutes of your orders at New
York, they stand thus. To settle accurately the latitude
and longitude of Point aux Pins, the sortie of Lake Supe-
rior t? of the mouth of the Pigeon River (Grand Portage)
to survey this river to Goose Lake, and ascertain from
whence it comes. To ascertain the position of Caribeau
Island near the east end of Lake Superior. To deter-
mine the position and extent of Isle Royal, and those
in its vicinity where the Boundary may be supposed
to pass; and ascertain the main shores of Lake Superior.
-to survey geometrically the extent of water from the
head of the Neebish Rapids, to the gorge of Lake Superior.
All which we shall do our best endeavours to execute
to your satisfaction. As Isle Caribeau lies out of sight
of land, it will be a great drawback on this summers
operations. The map of Lake Ontario, not yet forwarded,
makes it impossible for us to send you the four copies
required, but it shall, please God, be our first duty next

end p3
begin p4

The men for the voyage are engaged at the wages settles
at New York: 14$ for the foreman and steersman, and 12$
to each middle man. The high prices for expert men on
the rapids of the Ottawa river, made it unreasonable for
me to pass that way. The very difference in the price of
one man's wages will pay the transport from York to
Lake Simcoe; for those men could not be procured under
25$ pr month, and I did not think myself authorised
to part so far from my orders. And the two routes
to Lake Huron are nearly equally eligible except the
Ottawa has the advantage in preventing the desertion
of men, but is far more dangerous. On Sunday the
19th Inst. an express from Mr. thos Thain, Agent for the
Hudson's Bay Company arrived; he informs me, a Re-
solve of the Committee of that Company has passed a com-
-plying with your application to Mr. Wm McGillvray
last December, for the use of their Schooner on Lake Superior
to convey yourself and Party to Fort William; and that he
is entrusted with making the necessary arrangements;
requesting me to inform him, what is to be done; and if the
vesssel is not wanted this year, whether it will be requir-
ed the next year; and whether Commissioner Barre
will purchase the schooner for the King. To this I directly
replied; that I was aware you had applied to Mr. Wm
McGillivray for the use of the Schooner; but that the un-
certainty of the Resolve of the Hudson's Bay company,
had obliged you to adopt a decisive plan of operations
independent of the use of their Schooner; and as I was
now on the very eve of setting out on my voyage, the
plan for this season did not allow of any alteration:
and that on the whole of this business, you alone could
give a decisive answer; and to you I referred him.
The survey of this year obliging us to coast the Lake, the
vessel would be of no essential service. The next
year we shall have to proceed directly for the interior
of Lake Superior, a vessel ready to convey us and the
provisions for the season may be of use; altho' we may

end p4
begin p5

coast the Lake to the Grand Portage in 10 or 12 days.
Should the policy of Great Britain be, to have a vessel
on Lake Superior, it is easy to declare one necessary; other-
wise we can do without a vessel. The use of the Schooner
this year would be to settle the position of Isle Caribeau;
but is Isle Caribeau worth the expence. This business
resolves it--self wholly into what your judgment
shall see most fit; and whatever your orders may be
to me on this affair, I shall adapt the survey to it.
I expected at the latest to have left La Chine on the
15th Inst. it is the 20th which however late, from the state
of the countries about Quebec, the upper lakes will
be scarcely clear of ice by the time we arrive there.
On parting with you at New York, you had
the goodness to tell me to remember you on the salary
of my son as assistant. And I also beg leave to call
your attention to my own case, and request of you
how far any board wages may be allowed me, or the
assistant. Or any sum for an office. This last
alone was an annual expence of about L60. I shall
be much obliged to you to write me fully on this, to
me of importance. I have not drawn any money
on the above heads of Board wages, as pay for an office;
nor shall, until I know your pleasure. Your liberal
and gentlemanlike behaviour to myself and the
assistant, assures us, that what can be added with
propriety to our present allowances will be done
for us; and whatever your determination may
be, we shall rest satisfied. I left in Mr. Ross’s hands
for Mr. Hale, three receipts for my salary ending
the 5 day of July and now inclose three receipts
for the quarter ending the 5th October. This anticipation
of life rests on the hope of the mercy of that might
Providence, who has protected me thro so many

end p5
begin p6

Whatever appearances affairs may have, or take;
rest assured Sir, the same integrity of character, which
I have assuredly sustained thro life, will be steadily
exerted in the survey entrusted to my care,
I am with respect
Your most obedient
and humble servant
David Thompson

Anthony Barclay Esq

Mr. Thompson
Dated, May 21. 1822
Ansd July 17, 1822.

Admin/Biographical History This compiled collection includes papers from Thomas Barclay (1753-1830), his son, Anthony Barclay (1792-1877), John Ogilvy (d. 1819), Ward Chipman (1754-1824), Ward Chipman, [Jr.] (1787-1851), David Thompson (1770-1857), Alexander Wadsworth Longfellow (1814-1901) and others related to the determination of the boundary between Canada and the United States. Materials include government documents, correspondence, maps, surveys, diaries and Indian deeds related to the determination of the boundary between Canada and the United States, particularly of the years of the St. Croix Commission, 1796-1812, the Commissions appointed after the Treaty of Ghent, 1814-1838, and the Commissions under the Treaty of Washington, 1842. Papers of diplomats appointed by the British and American governments include the correspondence of explorers who surveyed the boundary zones and of several other diplomats, political officers and aids who became involved in the arbitration of the border. The explorations around the Island of St. Croix by Robert Pagan and Native American Francis Joseph Neptune, and a map by Chief Wasp of the Ojibway tribe in the vicinity of Ontario and Minnesota are noteworthy.