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1860s Sauvie Island
“A people which takes no pride in the noble achievements of remote ancestors will never achieve anything worthy to be remembered with pride by future descendants”
(a British Historian and Politician 1800-1859)
I was looking online for a list of the 1841 Sinclair migration. I wanted to confirm what I had. I ran across a site called "Sinclair Expedition to the Oregon Territory". Google this link and you will find info on all the settlers. I might have some info that isn't in that site and if I do I will post it.
The Red River Migration
During 1811 George Selkirk brought about 800 Highlanders from Scotland. Farming was not good in the Highlands and many families were starving. Farmers were needed in Canada (Rupert's Land). He was killing two birds with one stone. He was saving the people from starving and getting the cheap labor he needed in Canada.
Things did not go exactly as he planned. The settlers intermarried with the Indians and there were uprisings. Hudson's Bay was losing control of the Pacific Northwest and they needed people there. He tried to coerce families into moving to that area.
In 1841 23 families left the Red River Settlement to live in the Oregon territory. They were given money an promises of many things when they arrived. Two of the men didn't accept the money but did join the others. Those men were Horace Calder and John Flett. John's wife, Charlotte Bird (daughter of James) was a Metis as were many of the wives of these early settlers.
Many of the men were Metis, descendants of those first settlers who were brought from the British Isles. Many from the Orkneys. Hudson Bay company preferred the men from the Orkneys. They said they were industrious, frugal,quiet, honest people who were satisfied with very little.
This wasn't the typical "wagon train" journey. Covered wagons weren't used by the Red River people. They used a cart called the "Red River Cart". It was made of wood and bound together with leather. It made a horrible squeal that could be heard for miles. For many years they had been used between the Red River St. Paul, Minn for delivering furs, etc. The carts had two huge wheels and could go through mud and slush better than the typical cart. Being made of wood they were buoyant for crossing the many streams along the way.
The carts served them well until they got to the mountains. There they were no longer usable. All their goods had to be loaded onto the oxen. The oxen had never been pack animals and didn't like this at all. In his story about the journey, John Flett said the cattle were bawling, the children were bawling and the women were screaming and bawling. No one was happy about this turn of events.
The rest of the journey was spent on foot by most of the people. Up until this time they hadn't been bothered by Indians. They had expected trouble and heard many "horror" stories but maybe the squeeling of the carts kept them away.
They arrived without any serious problems from the Indians. But when they arrived they were told that the promises made by Hudson's Bay would not be kept. Some of the people stayed for awhile and some came to Oregon. There are many records at Fort Nisqually of the settlers and their purchases. Those who went to Oregon stayed there for awhile and then moved back to Washington. Three of the men went California for the Gold Rush and died while there (John Cline, Archie Spence, John Spence).
The widow of John Spence married James Taylor and became one of the early settlers on Sauvie Island.
One of these early settlers was Henry Buxton. They were early settlers in the Forest Grove area in Oregon. Buxton cemetery was deeded to the area by Henry Buxton, a descendant of the first Henry.
John Flett went back to the Tacoma, Washington area and became very successful with a dairy farm. The area where he had his dairy farm is still called "Flett" and there is a dairy called "Flett". It is a well known name in the area.
John was married to Charlotte Bird. She was Metis. Her sister Letitia was married to Charles McKay, another important Red River Pioneer. They were important early settlers in Columbia County, Oregon.
Charlotte and Letitia were daughters of James Bird an impportant Canadian. We will share his story in another post.
(more about the Metis in another Post)