A Son of the Fur Trade
The Memoirs of Johnny Grant


A Son of the Fur Trade

Born in 1833 at Fort Edmonton, Johnny Grant experienced and wrote about many historical events in the Canada-US northwest, and died within sight of the same fort in 1907. Grant was not only a fur trader; he was instrumental in early ranching efforts in Montana and played a pivotal role in the Riel Resistance of 1869-70. Published in its entirety for the first time, Grant's memoir-with a perceptive introduction by Gerhard Ens-is an indispensable primary source for the shelves of fur trade and Métis historians.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Front cover 1
Title page 4
Copyright page 5
Dedication 6
Contents 8
Maps 12
Introduction 14
The Memoir and Manuscript 14
From Edmonton, to Trois-Rivières, to Montana, 1833–1867 17
The Riel Resistance, 1869–1870 21
The Manitoba Years, 1870–1891 29
The Alberta Years, 1891–1907 42
Editorial Comments 48
Acknowledgements 50
Preface | Clothilde Grant 52
1 In which is set forth my birth and parentage 64
2 In which the little Bois Brulé meets with the gentler elatives in the east 67
3 In which a glimpse is had of child life in French Canada 69
4 Wherein the Bois Brulé’s pluck matches the eastern bully 71
5 Wherein he enters College and leaves it hurriedly 73
6 In which he parts with grief from his sister and his first love 75
7 In which he journeys from civilization to the frontier 77
8 In which he reaches Fort Hall where his father was in command 81
9 Wherein it is clear that he and his father were not made to agree 84
10 Wherein he prefers the hardships of the Vancouver trail to his home 86
11 In which the men of the Winter Express were reduced to eating horseflesh 89
12 In which something is related of the Douglas family and life at Fort Vancouver in 1849 91
13 Wherein his friends at the garrison introduce egg-nogg to him with fateful results 93
14 Wherein he leaves his father’s home and takes up life with the trappers 96
15 In which is related tales of an old trapper and how a new lodge was set up 99
16 Wherein various Indian tribes, and the Sioux Massacre are dealt with 102
17 Wherein my father retires after 43 years service with the Hudson’s Bay Company 105
18 Wherein he makes the acquaintance of several gamblers and desperadoes who haunted the traders’ camps along the Oregon Trail 107
19 In which he races horses with the desperadoes one of whom comes to a tragic end 110
20 In which he tells of his success in trading with the immigrants and of the massacre of one party by the Indians 113
21 In which he becomes the interpreter for Major Haller and accompanies a crude young lieutenant 116
22 In which he narrates some painful incidents in the Indian war 119
23 Wherein he ends his work with the soldiers and is obliged to leave the country 122
24 In which he joins his father and returns to trade with immigrants at Soda Springs 125
25 In which he tells of some pioneers, and of the Mormon Rising in 1857 128
26 In which he entertains some Indians royally and decides to form a settlement at Deer Lodge 154
27 Wherein is related something of the discovery of gold in Montana and the opening of new markets for the settlement in Deer Lodge Valley 157
28 Wherein Captain Grant —“Handsome” Grant—dies without leaving his son even the proverbial shilling 160
29 In which he builds the first good house in Deer Lodge Valley and with his Quarra, enters on a new period of existence 162
30 In which he rewards the honesty of Little Dog for restoring his stolen horses 165
31 Wherein he makes a couple of trips among the Indians in search of stolen horses; Brown, a discouraged companion, shoots himself 167
32 Wherein he tells of his big freighting outfit and of the advent of “bad men”— white robbers and murderers—intoMontana 171
33 In which the Vigilantes are seen to take the law in their own hands and the rascally sheriff is one of the first to be hanged 174
34 In which he lends his horse to the Vigilance Committee setting out from Hell’s Gate on their grim mission of death to law breakers 177
35 In which he tells of the decisive way in which the Vigilantes rid the country of highwaymen, three of them being hanged to the corners of Baron O’Keefe’s stable 180
36 Wherein he goes down to St. Louis by stage spending his money like water. He puts up at the Olive House and does business in a pleasant and leisurely way 183
37 In which he gives an insight into methods of doing business in St. Louis in the sixties when his purchases amounted to twenty-eight thousand dollars 186
38 Wherein he describes the tiresome stage journey from Omaha, where he had abandoned the still more tiresome Missouri boat. The stage upsets once and breaks the monotony. He kills his first buffalo 189
39 In which his milling venture did not satisfy his impatient nature, and he is tricked into disposing of it for three hundred gallons of homemade liquor 192
40 In which his new livery stable is burned, his pet saddle horse killed by a champagne bottle, and there is seen the beginning of the end of his days in Montana 195
41 In which Conrad Kohrs, afterward millionaire and Cattle King buys his ranch for $19,000 198
42 Wherein he and Johnny Healy have a taste of adventure and he loses his sack of gold nuggets on his trip to St. Louis 200
43 He suddenly determines to go back to Three Rivers from St. Louis instead of going up to the Red River and his wild western guise startles his relatives 204
44 In which he renews old friendships and revisits old scenes, his memory sharpened with many regrets 207
45 He returns to the west, reaching the Red River by way of St. Louis and Fort Abercrombie 211
46 Red River—My arrival at Mr. McKay’s 215
47 He describes the conditions of life in the Red River Settlement — their work and amusements; their probity and fine harmony 218
48 He returns to Montana and his family, bringing a company of Red River Half-breeds with him to bring his freight train of carts and wagons back to the Red River 222
49 On his arrival at Deer Lodge he finds his Quarra is dead, his business shattered and his trusted clerk leaving the country with saddle-bags heavy with gold 228
50 His life is threatened by a jealous Mexican whose hand is stayed by memories of old kindness; then leaving about $50,000 worth of property behind him he sets out for the Red River 231
51 The Red River caravan has a most amiable but tiresome encounter with a band of Blackfeet who are intensely appreciative of past kindness. Grant and his seven year old son running buffalo 234
52 A band of Assiniboine Indians next meet the caravan, and a double guard is straightaway put upon the horses at night 237
53 In which he is kept busy watching the Cree guide obtained in the Assiniboine camp, and his suspicions of treachery are fulfilled 240
54 He makes a new home for himself along the Red River valley and marries Clotilde Bruneau, the daughter of a county judge who was the leader of the French population around St. Boniface 243
55 He makes a trip to the United States for relief wheat 248
56 Governor McDougall coming from Canada is turned back at the boundary by Riel’s men, and Riel marching back to Fort Garry takes peaceful possession of the old post 273
Louis Riel’s First Rebellion in 1869 and 1870—My First Knowledge of It 273
Governor Attempts To Enter Into the Country 275
57 The arrival of Mr. D.A. Smith as commissioner and the general meeting at Fort Garry 277
Attending a Wedding 278
Our Arrival at the Fort 279
The Night Before the Papers Were Read 280
The Attempt to Kill Us 281
Reading of the Papers Sent by the Dominion Government 282
We Left the Fort 283
58 He is nominated as delegate to the Provisional Government but Riel remembering his part during the risingr efuses to recognize him as a delegate, and carrying his enmity further imprisons him 285
59 The Portage Uprising 289
60 In which he contracts to bring the Canadian Volunteers from the Red River to the Lake of the Woods. The trip is made with difficulty and Grant conceives a great contempt for the militiamen’s ability 291
61 First Election in Manitoba 294
62 Mr. D.A. Smith’s Election 299
63 My speculation in scrip 313
64 Change of Manitoba after the Transfer 319
65 Captain Moberley going west 323
66 Fever in my family 330
67 My first meeting with C. Allard partner of Mr. Pablo 335
68 The bad luck I had with giving my cattle [on] share 340
69 Property lost by fire 344
70 Bought a Saw Mill and Gristmill; Sailing on the railroad and selling land 348
71 My first trip to Montana 352
Visit to my friends the Snake Indians 356
72 My return trip 361
73 My trip to BC and Alberta 365
74 Manitoba to Banff to Edmonton and back to Manitoba—1889 or 1890 374
75 The move [to] Alberta, 1891 377
Notes 382
Appendix 1: Genealogical Charts of the Grant Family | Anita Steele 424
Appendix 2: Descriptive Genealogy of the Grant Family | Anita Steele 436
John Grant and Jean Forbes 436
William Grant, son of John Grant in Inverlochie and Jean Forbes 437
Richard Grant, son of William Grant and Marguerite Laframboise 438
John F. Grant 442
Bibliography 446
Archival Collections 446
Newspapers 447
Books and Articles 447
Reference Books and Databases 452
Other Genealogical Sources 454
Individuals Credited for Family Histories 455
Index 458