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Title David Thompson letter to Anthony Barclay
Date May 30 - June 4, 1821
Description 1 letter; 8 pages
People Thompson, David, 1770-1857
Search Terms International Boundary Commission
Treaty of Ghent
Scope & Content

Old Ship Channel 30th May
Anthony Barclay Esqr.

As my letter of May 16th
may not have reached you, I shall return to the date
of my letter of april 4th. From very bad weather, we
could not set off on the survey until the 9th April; the
ground being then covered with snow. Mr. A. Gibbs
was left ill of a liver complaint. To Mr. A. Stevenson
I entrusted the survey of the Main shore of the Lake St.
Clair, from where the survey terminated in 1820, to the
mouth of the Thames; a distance of about 27 miles.
While myself and son took up the survey from the Thames
to the channels, and over them to the head in the River St.
clair; and then down the old Ship Channel to its sentice?
The triangles of this part of the survey pass? over 39 ^
besides the survey of many long channels &c &c
Miles; ^ and this would have been finally completed on the
19 May, had not your letter of the 10th April, sent by express
found me on the 13th Inst. when I had only about 7 miles
of the Old Ship Channel to complete, and 8 stations
which connect the mouths of these Channels. Indeed,
such is the rigors with which this Survey has been prose-
=cuted, that we have suffered, not only from the most
distressing weather, even to the risque of our lives; but
also privations which might have been otherwise avoid-
=ed, if we would have lost but 2 days to go for wine
brandy &c; to which we have been perfect strangers these
6 weeks. As the regular journal of the Occurrences
which have taken place will be among the papers for you
at Utica, I shall say no more on this business. On
of the 10th April
the receipt of your letter ^ having given directions to
my son to set stations along the remaining 7 miles of
the Old Ship channel, and continue his survey with

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one man. At 2 1/2 AM next morning we got up, and even were soon off,
and that evening arrived at ? the next day I sent back
the boat with provisions, and got ready for my passage in the
Steam Boat on the 16 Inst. the Steam Boat arrived, and the
same day Dr. Bigsby handed me lettes &c from you. On
May 17 Mr. Bird and myself, according to the resolves of
the Board, and the purpose of your ltters; settled the
plan of the remainder of the Survey which is That
I should only finish the survey of the Old Ship Chan-
=nel leaving the connection of their mouths with the
survey of the River St. Clair &c &c. And the Survey of the
Point Pele section, entirely to Mssr. Bird and Stevenson
and Parties. That as soon as this was done and my
papers, maps &c &c in order, to take my departure in the
Confiance, if ready, to determine by astronomical observati-
ons, the 5 or 6 points alluded to in Lake Huron by the Re-
=solve of the Board. (Mr. Bird told me, it was the request
of Genl Porter, as well as himself that I would undertake
this business) But if the Confiance was not at my dispo-
=sal, that I should lose no time, but proceed on this duty
int he Cutter, with my son and six men. This latter
part I have altered ? to the Jolly Boat, my son and four
men, as the least expensive. On the 18th I set off for the
River Rrosercum?, and then came to Mr. Stevenson at 3 May
he had ten 11 miles of survey to perform. At 4 ? Mon eve?
embarked on board his boat, to show him the survey
already completed, and what was required to be done.
It became dark before we could gain the mouth of
the channels, and we passed a severe frosty night in the
open boat. next morning we held on, and at 3 PM arri-
ved at my camp. The boat which I had sent off on
the 15th? did not arrive until 3 PM? Having now pointed
out everything necessary to Mr. Stevenson, he left me in
the morning of the 20th to return to his camp, and prose-
=cute his survey. On my leaving Moy [?Monday?] Dr. Bigsby and

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Mr. Gibbs were to find their passage by some Detroit
Boat up to my camp, rather than stop the survey.
during my absence my son had got all the stations set
- rainy weather now came on, which, with attention to
other things, did not allow me to finish this survey
until Saturday last the 26 Inst. On the 29th Inst my son
finished his part also; having set up all the stations & c
at the mouths of the channels to be connected, so that a
single fine day will complete it, if the mischievous ^
do not throw or cut them down. Having now the
Field Notes to copy fair, the Maps of this survey to lay
down; with the accounts; letters to you and the agent
&c&c&c which will take me until the 1st or 2nd of June to
finish; and the men doing nothing in this time. On the
30th I sent off 4 men in the boat to Moy? for provisions &c&c
for the Lake Huron Business, with letters to Dr. Bigsby
and Mr. Gibbs, whom I suppose are there yet; requesting
them to forward every thing required and come them-
=selves, as living there must be expensive.
In answer to your letter May 9th I have received the bills
of exchange for the quarter ending the 5th April and thank
you for them. I have perused the letter inclosed in it,
and am ? to think it is partly my fault the patent
logs are not procured; had I noticed to Col Barclay
that his Majesty's navel yards would be the best place,
they would probably have been found; I expected they
were more common as the Fontinac Steam Boat has one,
and some of our packets have tried them. As this survey
is now ordered by the Boat, their loss will not be so much
felt; but they will be extremely useful on the 7th Article.
The transit instrument will be acceptable - when the
Repeating Circle was ordered up, the plan now acting on
was not then known to me; otherwise the expense of bring-
=ing it up; and Board ^ for an observatory, might well have
been spared. Had an accurate survey of the shores of
Lake Huron been required, as was contemplated, that
Instrument would then have been necessary; as in the

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months of June, July and August, very few stars, and those
too low declination fall under the power of the sextant
to follow the plan now laid down by the Board, the sextant
is sufficient, and is all I shall take; unfortunately for
dispatch, the observations that are most required are
those for Longitude, and Jupiter is so near the sun that
the eclipses of his satellites cannot be seen. In the month
of June only 2 eclipses are visible, and both those on the
same night; and in the month of July only 6? Therefore
my dependance must be almost wholly on the lunar
observations; the Lake lying nearly north and south
longitude only determines its breadth. The magnets
and needles I have received, they appear very good.
and the box of stationary will be highly acceptalbe
is is very much wanted. The survey already compleated
by me is an evidence how much I have its speedy ter-
=mination at heart; nothing less than this object could
have prevented me being present at the Board, and I
readily saw what its effects might bon on my son's in-
terest, as well as on other matters; but I justly trusted
that you would see and appreciate the sacrifice I made
by not quitting the survey. Had I done it, I can
assure you the survey would not have been finished
before September; but I have now every hope, the
whole will be completed by the 10 August. I shall
finish my observations &c in Lake Huron with all possi-
ble expedtion, and return to Amherstburgh, and from
thence to Fort Erie. Mr. A. Stevenson somehow does
not advance in his survey, I have heard nothing of
him since the 20 Inst. Mr. A. Gibbs has rendered us
no service since the 15 April, and for a month before
could do but little, on account of his sickness.
As Mr. Bird and myself have now settled the plan of
survey, both Parties will be working together, and I
hope emulation will give its full impulse to the
business. At every spare? hour? I shall calculate the
triangles for the maps, that they may be ready by the
appointed time.

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You cannot possibly regret, more than myself, the effect the
most changeful season, aided by the worst of roads, has had
on our surveying operation. When the point Pele survey
became hopeless I directly turned my attention to the
making 2 fair copies of the survey of 1820 for the Board.
then I had almost to remake anew, from rough sketches,
and laborious calculations, to which my assistants are
totally unequal. Mr. A. Stevenson, as I have already
related to you, having in a most unaccountable man-
=ner forgotten the original maps, when sent for them to
Fort George the very object of his journey, and which had
enporelose? been drawn with such accuracy, as to need
only copies to be taken from it. Early in February I
wrote to Mr. Ress to foward them, but owing to the post
master they did not come to my hand until the 5th Apri;
when they were not wanted. This chained me down
all the month of March. And the weather was so very
bad until the 19 April, that altho' I was camped out
int he wide marshes with nothing but driftwood to burn
and miles from any shelter, yet scarcely one days survey
could be done in four days, and our sufferings from
snow, cold and storm, in our tens &c almost beyond -
bearing; which has left me with smart? attacks of the
Rheumatism. This I hope will fully account to you
why the survey was not begun sooner. Letters o fMay
10th. Mr. Bird has not yet spoken to me for the loat of our
maps, as you desire they will be at his service, with the
precaution you have ordered me to take. Both my
son and myself find ourselves very much obliged to you
for the lively interest you have shewed in his behalf;
the date, and salary allowed him, is everything that
we could expect; and we feel ourselves grateful
for the favor. It is beyond our power to exert our-
=selves more than we do, but we hope to merit this
favor by a steady continuance of these exertions.
Every attention will be paid to the orders of your last
letter; and in my instructions to Mr. A. Stevenson

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during my absence, I have pointed out to him to follow
the orders you have given, should they finish their
part of the business before I finish mine in Lake Huron.
formerly we had five complete copies of the maps
to make vix 1 original - 1 copy for exchange - 2 fair
copies for the Board, and 1 copy of the whole survey
for the Board Ministry. I should be very hap-
=py to receive from Mr. Hale, any map of Lake Huron
however rough, to guide me to the desired places
of observation; but am afraid I must set off without
any. As yet, I know nothing of the Confiance
and am preparing to execute my orders in the Jolly
Boat with 4 men. In my own opinion the boat
is more sure and expeditious than the Confiance
- not only from the prevalence of fogs, calms and
light variable winds during the months of June
and July; but also from the projecting points (
have to observe, (so far as I can learn) being with-
=out harbors; and also the shoals tract? of the Lake
the vessel will not anchor near them; and more
time will be lost in this manner than would com-
=plete the business. the boat will allow me
to act freely day and night. How far I have
been able to impress on Mssr Stevenson and Gibbs
the necessity of every exertion, I cannot say; the
work they perofrm will best decide this point.
I could wish them more fortunate.
Permit me Sir, to assure you that to me at
least, these countries have nothing in them to induce
me to stay, one minute longer than duty requires.
I find I have to check myself on the other hand.
In these vast marshes, on a level with the water
covered with serpents, and the air of which hastens
to be

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to be noxious, every wish is to escape away. In Lake
Huron, the air is healthy, but crowded with four
species of tormenting flies; the most hardy voya-
=geur passing at full speed, speaks of them with
fear. Every thing adds speed to your orders
and nothing will give me greater pleasure than
to inform you as early as possible, the Survey
of the 6th Article of the Treaty of Ghent is completed.
Your most Obedient
and very humble Servant
David Thompson

The Honorable Commissioner Barclay

June 2nd Mr. Alax? Alan Stevenson arrived at 4? PM having fini
shed the survey entrusted to him. delivered him his
instructions for the summer &c: and pointed out to
him every thing I thought would conduce to the for
warding the survey. The boat with 4 men that I
had sent off on May 30th arrived at Moy? the same
day and delivered my letter to Dr. Bigsby and Mr.
a gibbs - the boat was detained the following day

and on June 1 sent off by Mr. Gibbs back again with
out provisions &c and no letter. Dr. Bigsby with
the Confiance was then, and they had put the pro-
=visions on board of? has? their depriving me of the
power of proceeding and losing a fine season
while the vessel lies off Detroit with calm &
light winds &c - I had also ordered Mr. Gibbs him-
=self to embark on board the boat, and come di-
rectly to me for the survey, but he has thought
proper to amuse himself with good company on
board the schooner and leave the work of these

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marshes to Mr. Stevenson, myself & son. His San?cie?
as usual, has now become inactivity and also for the
present condemns us to inactivity. The sailing
Masters say, that they have known seasons
when vessels lag 6 weeks at the foot? of the Lake
Huron Rapid, head of this River. My intention
so soon as I can get provisions to push forward in
the boat, whenever the vessels becalmed or has
contrary winds, and by the time my observations
are compleated, the may have a favorable wind
I ought to be in Lake Huron today. It is exceed-
=ing vexatious, at this critical period of the survey.
Your humble Servant
David Thompson
June 4th 1821. 6 miles above the head of the channels.
I expect Mr. Stevenson here the morrow evening
or Wednesday morning and while the schooner
is not arrived shall carry on the survey of this

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.