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The Pioneers   By: (1825-1894)

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Sir Alexander Mackenzie was one of the most energetic and successful of the discoverers who have traversed the vast wilderness of British America. He did his work single handed, with slender means, and slight encouragement, at a time when discovery was rare and the country almost terra incognita . The long and difficult route, so recently traversed by the Red River Expedition, was, to Sir Alexander, but the small beginning of his far reaching travels. He traced the great river which bears his name to its outlet in the Polar Sea, and was the first to cross the Rocky Mountains in those latitudes and descend to the Pacific ocean.

Being a man of action, and not particularly enamoured of the pen, his journal [For a sight of which apply to the British Museum, London, or the Advocates' Library, Edinburgh] full though it be of important and most interesting facts is a bare and unadorned though valuable record of progress made, of work done, which is unsuited to juvenile minds, besides being bulky and scarce.

Having spent some years in Rupert's Land, and seen something of Red Indian and fur trading life, I have ventured to weave the incidents of Sir Alexander's narratives into a story which, it is hoped, may prove interesting to the young perchance, also, to the old.

I take this opportunity of acknowledging myself deeply indebted to Sir Alexander's daughter, Miss Mackenzie, and to his two sons, for kindly placing at my disposal all the information in their possession.





"The world is round," said somebody in ancient times to somebody else.

"Not at all; it is flat flat as a pancake," replied somebody else to somebody; "and if you were to travel far enough you might get to the end of it and tumble over the edge, if so disposed."

Ever since the commencement of this early geographical controversy, men have been labouring with more or less energy and success to ascertain the form and character of the earth; a grand, glorious labour it has been; resulting in blessings innumerable to mankind blessings both spiritual and temporal.

We have heard some people object to geographical discovery, especially in the inclement parts of the earth, on the ground that it could be of no use, and involved great risk to life and limb. "Of no use!" Who can tell what discoveries shall be useful and what useless? "The works of God are great, sought out of all those that have pleasure therein," saith the Scripture. There is no reference here to usefulness, but the searching out of God's works, without limitation, is authorised; and those who "take pleasure therein," will be content to leave the result of their labours in the hands of Him who sent them forth. As to "risk," why, a carpenter cannot ascend to the top of a house to put the rafters thereon without risk; a chemist cannot investigate the properties of certain fumes without risk; you cannot even eat your dinner without risk. Only this are we sure of that, if man had never undertaken labour except when such was obviously useful and devoid of risk, the world would still be in the darkness of the Middle Ages.

Reuben Guff held these sentiments, or something like them; and Reuben was a man who had seen a great deal of life in his day, although at the time we introduce him to public notice he had not lived more than six and thirty summers. He was a bronzed, stalwart Canadian. His father had been Scotch, his mother of French extraction; and Reuben possessed the dogged resolution of the Scot with the vivacity of the Frenchman. In regard to his tastes and occupation we shall let him speak for himself.

Sitting under a pine tree, in the wild wilderness that lies to the north of Canada with the drumstick of a goose in one hand and a scalping knife in the other; with a log fire in front of him, and his son, a stripling of sixteen, by his side, he delivered himself of the following sentiments:

"I tell 'ee what it is, Lawrence," (the lad was named after the great river on the banks of which he had been reared), "I was born to be a pioneer... Continue reading book >>

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