Author Tags: 1800-1850, Early B.C., Forts and Fur
The pioneering narrative of Gabriel Franchère has been described by historian W.K. Lamb as "the most informative single record of events at Astoria during the three years in which John Jacob Astor was endeavouring to establish a fur-trading depot at the mouth of the Columbia River."
Gabriel Franchère was born in Montreal on November 3, 1786. Educated in Montreal, Franchère was signed into service as a clerk by Alexander McKay for John Jacob Astor's Pacific Fur Company in 1810. In 1809, the German-born Astor had attempted to make a joint venture with the Northwest Company but, when rejected, he organized the American Fur Company to establish operations in the Oregon Territory. Franchère sailed from New York in September of 1810 with 54 men on the Tonquin and arrived at the Columbia River, after visiting the Hawaiian Islands, in March of 1811, at age 26.
Franchère's journal of life at Fort Astoria refers to the massacre of 17 white men, including Alexander McKay ("an irreparable loss") aboard the Tonquin in Clayoquot Sound in 1811. He notes, "The slaughter of our people was avenged, it is true, by the destruction of ten times the number of their murderers; but this circumstance, that could perhaps gladden the heart of a savage, was little, if any, consolation for civilized men."
From Franchère we have learned the employees of the American-owned Pacific Fur Company at Fort Astoria in 1811 were mostly Canadians: Antoine Belleau, Jean Baptiste Belleau, Bazile Brousseau, Pierre Brugiere, George Cone, Joseph Cote aka Cotte, Ross Cox, John Day, Joseph Delauney, Pierre Delaunay, Jean Baptiste Delorme, Louis Dinnelle aka Dinelle, Pierre Dorion, Jean Baptiste Dubreuil d-1849, Francois Ducharquette aka Dechouquette, Andre Dufresne, Russell Farnham, Prisque Felix, Gabriel Franchere, Jean Baptiste Gardipie, Joseph Gervais, J. Cook Halsey, John Hoback aka Hobough, Francis William Hodgkins aka Hodgens, Charles Jacouette, Paul Den Jeremie, Jean Baptiste Labonte, Louis Labonte Sr., Andrie Lachapelle (1781-1881), Michel Laframboise, Louis Laliberte, Francois Landry, Joseph Landry, Joseph La Pierre, Louis La Valle, Giles Leclere, Alexis Le Compte, Andre Longtain b-1794, William Matthews, Duncan McDougall, Donald McGillis, Thomas McKay, Metis, Jean Baptiste Ouvre, Francis Benjamin Pillette, John Reid (Reed), Alexander Ross, Alfred Seton, Joseph Samant, David Stuart, Jonathan Thorn and William Wallace.
Franchère also describes rivalry with the North West Company, arrival of David Thompson at Astoria and the appearance of the British sloop Racooon in 1813. Franchère's history of the Astorians' activities and his detailed accounts of the interior of Oregon would later prove useful to Washington Irving during the territorial negotiations between the United States and Britain over the Oregon boundaries.
After witnessing the transfer of Fort Astoria to the Northwest Company, Franchère worked for the new owners prior to making the 5,000-mile overland journey to Montreal with other Astorians by canoe and on foot, passing through southwestern British Columbia and camping "at the same spot where Mr. Thompson has spend the winter of 1810-11." He later worked at Sault Ste. Marie and started Franchere and Company in New York City. There he also established the Societe St. Jean Baptiste to preserve French religion and customs in the United States.
Franchère died in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1856. Although his activities did not have direct impact on British Columbia, he was representative of the wide-ranging French fur traders of his era, many of whom reached the Pacific Northwest without leaving any literary trail. One of the best-known of these was Jules-Maurice Quesnel, born in Montreal in 1786, who accompanied Simon Fraser to the mouth of the Fraser River in 1808. "There is nothing to be had [in New Caledonia] but misery and boredom," he once wrote. Nonetheless the lake, river and town of Quesnel all bear his name. In 1811 he returned to Montreal where he died in 1842.
Franchère, Gabriel. Relation d'un Voyage a la Côte du Nord Ouest de l'Amérique Septentrionale, dans les Années 1810, 11, 12, 13, et 14 (Montreal: De L'Imprimerie de C.B. Pasteur, 1820). Michel Bibaud, ed.
Franchère, Gabriel. Narrative of a Voyage to the Northwest Coast of America in the Years 1811, 1812, 1813, and 1814 or, The First American Settlement on the Pacific. Edited by Jedediah Vincent Huntington (New York: Redfield, 1854).
Franchère, Gabriel. Journal of a Voyage up the River Missouri, performed in 1811, by H.M. Brackenridge (&) Narrative of a Voyage to the Northwest Coast of America in the Years 1811, 1812, 1813, and 1814; or the First American Settlement on the Pacific (Cleveland: The Arthur H. Clark Company, 1904). Edited by Reuben Gold Thwaites. A republication of Volume VI in the "Early Western Travels, 1748-1846" series.
Franchère, Gabriel. A Voyage to the Northwest Coast of America (Chicago: The Lakeside Press, 1954). Milo Milton Quaife, ed. Reprint: New York: Citadel Press, 1968).
Franchère, Gabriel. Adventure at Astoria, 1810-1814. Edited by Hoyt C. Franchère. Translated by Hoyt C. Franchère. American Exploration and Travel Series (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1967).
Franchère, Gabriel. Journal of a Voyage on the North West Coast of North America During the Years 1811, 1812, 1813 and 1814 (Toronto: Champlain Society, 1969). Edited by W. Kaye Lamb.
[BCBW 2005] "Early B.C." "French" "Forts and Fur" "1800-1850"