Alexander Ross, the subject of the book I am presently writing, was one of the many Scottish Highlanders who immigrated to North America and became a fur trader. He spent 15 years as a trader in what are now British Columbia and the American West Coast before retiring to the Red River Settlement where he and his Okanogan First Nations wife Sally raised a large family. Also, during his time at the Red River, Ross farmed, worked as a trader, was active in local politics, and wrote a number of books about his experiences.
Ross’ fur trade career almost ended before it had properly begun when he was part of a small group of men who were abandoned on one of the deserted Falkland Islands on their voyage from New York via Cape Horn and the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) to the west coast of North America in 1810-11. As he described the beginning of the event:
“The ship’s off!” When all of us…beheld…the Tonquin, under full sail, steering out of the bay we knew too well the callous and headstrong passions of the wayward captain to hesitate a moment in determining what to do;…some [of us] made for the boat, whilst others kept running and firing over hill and dale to warn…[two men] who had not yet returned….We…[stowed] ourselves into a trumpery little boat…In this dreadful dilemma, we launched on a rough and tempestuous sea, and, against wind and tide, followed the ship.
Ross’s first year at the Red River in 1825-26 was almost equally dramatic:
It was not until the beginning of May when the ice started to move on the Red River that people realized they had another serious problem. The water rose nine feet in 24 hours, overflowing the river banks and spreading over land to people’s houses almost before they were aware of the danger. By May fifth everyone had abandoned their homes for higher ground. “The most singular spectacle,” Ross wrote, “was a house in flames, drifting along in the night…one half immersed in water, and the remainder furiously burning.”
I hope to have my biography of Alexander Ross and his family published by next summer. Check My Blog on the left sidebar for a link to my blog site to find 12 articles I have published about Ross.
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