"The greatest land geographer who  ever lived."

                     A SHORT  HISTORY

Wood Carving David Thompson Visitor Centre
Rocky Mountain House

It was the North Saskatchewan River that brought to Rocky Mountain House the greatest of land geographers and one of Canada's great explorers. Indeed the North Saskatchewan bore witness to many encounters Thompson had with the Peigan and Blackfoot Indians who made a special crusade of denying the passes to traders bent on crossing. David Thompson warranted special attention by these Indians. Thompson was believed to have special powers by the Indians. One example of this is related in The North Saskatchewan River 1972 White Water report. 

"The remaining three miles to Saskatchewan Crossing are easy paddling, for the river again widens into a larger channel. It was in this vicinity in 1810 that David Thompson's party was attacked by a Peigan ( Blackfoot) war party determined to stop Thompson from going through the mountain passes. Fortunately for Thompson, three grizzlies suddenly appeared on the scene. Since the Peigans and most of the Tribes who met David Thompson, believed that bears were Thompson's supernatural protectors, Thompson and his men were able to escape. The Indians named Thompson koo-koo-sint, " You who Look at the Stars," from his constant use of his sextant which the Indians saw as possessed of special powers. 

David Thompson spent 28 hard years in the fur trade after he arrived in Canada as a 14-year-old apprentice of the Hudson's Bay Company. But the Story of David Thompson is much more than a story of maps. The story of the man, of his love affair with Charlotte Small, his wife of 57 years, is one of the great and legendary stories of our country. Until the 1920's David Thompson and His wife Charlotte Small lay in obscurity in Mount Royal Cemetery in Montreal. At the time of their deaths they were living in dire straits. Within three months of David Thompson's death, Charlotte died. Their love story and that of Thompson's achievement is the stuff of legend.

Very little has been written of the man David Thompson and of his wife or his children. In understanding Thompson, It is important for us to observe him in the milieu of the societal values of his day and the rough and tumble life of the fur brigades. David Thompson was to spend a great portion of his life following his true dream of charting and mapping the tremendous expanses of western wilderness that encompasses almost two million square miles of today's Canada! His "Great Map" speaks for itself as a testament to his genius. 

David Thompson in his travels was to spend time on more than one occasion, living and working at the Northwest Company fort in Rocky Mountain House. It was here that Thompson first brought his young bride, Charlotte Small. And it was at Rocky Mountain House that their first child, Fanny, was born in 1801.
As I sat on the bank of the North Saskatchewan River in Riverside Park, two miles downstream from the site of the historic fur trade posts, I thought of how hard the living conditions must have been for all who lived at the Forts. The history of the forts in this area is also a history of countless occasions of starvation. Many times the trading posts were closed because of lack of provisions. On other occasions because of the threat of violence from the Peigan Indians of the Blackfoot Confederacy. This was a very harsh and unforgiving land. 
At the age of seventeen, David Thompson spent the winter of 1787 with the Peigan Indians, where young Thompson soaked up the language, life and customs of these plains' Indians. It was here that Thompson would be impressed by the wisdom of Kootenay Appee, the Peigan War Chief who was to become his friend and, in all probability, deterred many young Blackfoot braves in later years who wanted to get rid of Thompson. 

The fur trade was essentially a male-dominated society; men held the most significant economic and political positions. Though fur trade society was itself highly stratified, women's roles were consistently defined with respect to their relationships to men. Women were wives, mothers, or daughters; their responsibilities to the larger community in terms of the work they did were directly related to these principal definitions. But as it turned out, Charlotte Small was much, much more to David Thompson. Their relationship of fifty-seven years is a monument to their courage and their love of each other and their children."
Author Elizabeth Clutton-Brock asks in her book: " Woman of the Paddle Song"
"However did she ( Charlotte Small) cope with the constant and arduous traveling, with her brood of small children? Indeed! The more we read and learn of the life of David Thompson the more mysteries and unanswered questions seem to present itself. The story of David Thompson as evidenced in his letters to Charlotte Small is a moving record of the devotion of this great surveyor and map maker to his family. As for this man's achievements they will more than stand the test of time as they are extrordinary. Neither came from aristocratic stock nor from the same culture yet they forged a love and a life that would be heroic, tender and meaningful in any time, place, or in any society. "

David Thompson, fresh from the Grey Coat School of London, was apprenticed to the Hudson's Bay Company at the age 14. It was the experience of the Company to recruit apprentices coming from these schools, who were all business, disciplined and moralistic. David Thompson in his Narratives, wrote when he was back in Montreal after years with the fur trade, commented, somewhat sarcastically, on the Hudson's Bay Policy to send to the school in which I was educated to procure a scholar who had a mathematical education to send out as clerk . . . To learn what? For all I had seen in their service neither reading nor writing was required. My only business was to amuse myself, in winter growling at the cold ; and in the open season shooting Gulls, Ducks, Plover , and Curlews and quarreling with mosketoes and Sand flies..
One thing David Thompson had was a very good eye and mind for Mathematics and if he hadn't severely injured his leg after arriving in the colony, most likely would have carried out his duties for the rest of his life as a clerk for the Hudson's Bay Company .But David Thompson was to come under the mentorship of Philip Turnor, a very able cartographer who taught Thompson the skills of the surveyor. It was the Good Providence that David often referred to that brought him to the attention of Philip Turnor after David injured his leg.

While recuperating, Thompson was taught the skills of the map maker,a skill that excited a passion in young Thompson that not only changed the course of his life but also of this country.
"While wintering at Manchester House I fell, breaking my leg, which by the mercy of God turned out to be the best thing ever happened to me.....when Philip Turnor.. ..taught me the science of surveying: how to determine longitude and latitude exactly for each post of trade... Now I could make of this uncharted land a known quality and to this end I kept for sixty years records of all observations of each journey made.
Narratives While still in the employ of The Hudson's Bay Company he soon began to show remarkable talent for very accurate maps. 
For instance, in 1796, at the age of 26, Thompson blazed a new route to Lake Athabaska for the company, travelling from York Factory by way of the Nelson, Burntwood, and Churchill rivers and Reindeer Lake to Fond du Lac. 

However, dissatisfied with his employers, and wanting to follow his passion of map making , Thompson joined the Northwest company in 1797. On Tuesday , May 23, 1797, he left Bedford House and walked 75 miles to the nearest North West Company post. Here he signed up with his former competitors. 
Thompson's termination of employment was eventually received by William Tomison of the Hudson's Bay Company. Tomison did not like Thompson and made his feelings known in later years. 
Many have speculated as to Thompson's sudden departure. Tomison may have been hard to work for. Certainly there is evidence of that. Thompson's future brother in law, and the original builder of the Northwest Fort at Rocky Mountain House, John MacDonald of Garth had his own run in with Tomison. Tomison had forbidden the Nor'Westers the use of a common well. Tomison pointed out to an outraged MacDonald that because the Hudson's Bay Company had dug the well they would be the only ones drinking from it. MacDonald insisted that the well belonged to all who needed to drink. MacDonald made one further point- He informed Tomison that either the Nor'Westers got their water or Tomison would shortly be visiting the bottom of the well! Tomison, to his credit, understood this line of logic very well. 

Very soon thereafter both companies were drinking from the communal well. This was an opportune time for both Thompson and The Northwest Company. They needed to explore the reaches of the North Saskatchewan River and hoped to finally find the elusive way through the mountains to the Pacific. They needed Thompson's skills as a surveyor and map maker and gave him every opportunity to use them.
His first major assignment was a vital one, to survey the 49th parallel, to ascertain whether or not any North West Company posts were now in American territory. Thompson discovered that some were. Thompson now had under his command the the most experienced , the boldest, and the hardiest of the hundreds of voyageursemployed by the Company.

In 1797, the North West Company was headquartered in Montreal. Each year, they would send a large number of voyageurs from Montreal up the Ottawa River, up the Mattawa River, across Lake Nipissing, down the French River across Georgian Bay and Lake Huron, through the Sault (French for rapids) at Sault St. Marie, and across Lake Superior to Grand Portage at the eastern tip of Minnesota to rendezvous with the Mennes du Nord." They would leave Montreal as soon as the ice melted in early April and arrive at Grand Portage by the end of June. They would return to Montreal before winter set in.
A glance at a map of Canada and you will see that they covered an amazing amount of territory each year - all of it by canoe! The purpose for this amazing annual trip was to exchange the goods they left Montreal with for furs brought to Grand Portage by the voyageurs who lived in the continental interior. Voyageurs would paddle 15 to 18 hours a day with five minute breaks each hour for a smoke on their pipes. They covered up to 80 miles a day through rapids, around falls, over portages, and up and down powerful rivers. 
David Thompson's crews were comprised of these French voyageurs and his canoe brigades were capable of mighty feats of work and travel, and even if suffering from severe hunger, could accomplish amazing feats of building such as erecting a big log house from the cutting of the trees in just a few days. 

Each voyageur pack ( piece) contained ninety pounds of goods, was wrapped in canvas, tied securely and labeled with its destination. These packs were carried on the backs of the voyageurs across the nine mile portage and loaded into the west bound canoes." Such was the competitive nature of these men that they never walked , but always raced over the rough, steep ground at a jog trot..." 
"Their diet was a porridge made of beans, corn, and salt pork cooked until it was stiff enough to hold a spoon erect. Few of these voyageurs knew how to swim and the most common cause of death was drowning. No voyageur carried less than two packets. Some carried three at the same time. These fellows were short, and over 5'6" disqualified you as a voyageur, and weighed about 150 Ibs. Consider a 150 lb. man carrying 270 Ibs. over rocks and unmarked trail! Or, consider them carrying their canoe which weighed600 Ibs. " 
Their birchbark canoes were constantly in need of repair from the thrashing that they would take. They merely fixed their canoes with the native materials at their disposal and pressed on with the trip. These 'canots du nord' were, at first glance very fragile, and easily damaged, but were capable of carrying 3000 pounds of provisions or trade goods and in addition carried six paddlers. The voyageurs used a variety of canoes from their big forty foot freight canoes to the small single canoes that David Thompson would use on occasion to either track ahead or to catch up to his canoes. 
They were great singers and were known to sing continually as they paddled sometimes to the pace of 120 strokes per minute! Charlotte Small describes these voyageurs. They had always dashed up to the landing ( at Isle a La Croix) at top speed, singing as loud as they could. 
" En roulant ma boule roulant En roulant ma boule Derriere chez nous, ya tu etang, En roulant ma boule Trois beaux canards sen vont baignant, rouli , roulant , ma boule roulant,En roulant ma boule roulant En roulant ma boule.." Early Voyageur Song

The song is sung to a fast , pounding beat . "ya tu etang" is probably slang for ' Il y a' or ' there is'. The whole phrase means that behind us you ( the brigades or canoes) are stretched out. 
When David Thompson first met  Charlotte Small at Isle a la Croix, he found the young family of Patrick Small, a Hudson's Bay wintering partner, abandoned. Their father, Patrick Small, had retired to England. Such was the case of a great many young Indian and Metis women who entered into relationships without benefit of clergy in the west of the Fur Trade. 

The marriages of Company men and Native women were encouraged by Native leaders, as a way to create a social bond consolidating the economic relationship between the two groups. Marriages not only connected two separate communities, but created a new society, the Metis.
Charlotte Small was a mixture of Scot and Indian blood. With respect to the ceremony involved in these marriages, the following description is given in 'Many Tender Ties:' 

"Marriage a la facon du pays apparently did not involve any exchange of vows between the couple, but it was solemnized by other rituals. The smoking of the calumet sealed the alliance that was formed between the trader and the Indian band....The trader usually visited the Indian encampment to claim his wife, and then the couple would be ceremoniously escorted to the fort. It became customary for a new Indian bride to go through a cleansing ritual performed by the other women at the fort, which was designed to render her more pleasing to the white man. She was scoured of grease and paint and her leather garments were exchanged for those of a more European style....Then the trader conducted his bride to his quarters, and from thenceforth they were conside red to be man and wife. 
" The lack of a formal, legal marriage contract occasionally resulted in abandonment of Native wives by Company men who either returned home to Britain or elsewhere. In some cases, the women remained in the fort as part of the community; sometimes they remarried. It is admirable to note that the marriage of David Thompson to Charlotte Small, a Metis, lasted for over 57 years and when his mapping days were over, David Thompson had his " country marriage" legalized in Montreal. 
In the spring of 1799 , I came to Isle a la Crosse and there met Charlotte Small a lovely Metis Girl. Her father, Patrick, a company wintering partner, was now retired in England, having left a family in the west. On June 10th Charlotte became my wife an d many a mile and river we have traveled together since. When David Thompson first met Charlotte Small he was 28 years old, she was fourteen. Thompson would probably be the first to admit that he was not the most handsome of countenance. His friends had been urging Thompson to get married for some time. 

There are no photographs of Thompson and very few sketches. However descriptions do exist. In the book "Heroes" Stephen Franklin describes Thompson and his family. He is a stocky man of 36 in a buckskin shirt, whose black hair is cut in bang level with his eyebrows. Beside him is a young woman, half Irish, half Cree, with long black hair, his wife Charlotte, who married him at 14........And close by is Fanny, the , born at Rocky Mountain Houseon the first anniversary of their wedding day.
Gabriel Franchere described Thompson's arrival in 1811 at Fort Astoria after his epic exploration of the Columbia River " Toward midday we saw a large canoe with a flag displayed at her stern, rounding the point we called Tongue Point. The flag she bore was the British, and her crew was composed of eight Canadian boatmen or voyageurs. A well-dressed man, who appeared to be their commander, was the first to leap ashore' (Glover, 358n) James K Smith in his book on The Canadians series, says of David Thompson He had a snub nose. his hair was dark, his skin sallow. The boy was downright homely. Small and chunky , dressed in dark , coarse, woolen jacket and trousers, to the men of the Hudson's Bay Company's ship Prince Rupert he was not worth a second glance:

Just another son from another penniless family on his way to a job in North America with the company.
David Thompson was considered to be an excellent story teller and whether at wintering quarters or in a canoe brigade or at the fort David Thompson often regaled listeners with his stories and adventures.( Story Telling) Indeed , although no photograph or reasonable sketch of David Thompson exists, there are a few examples of encounters with him. One such encounter occurred after Thompson had retired after 38 years in the Pays den haut the great Northwest. …Dr. J.J. Bigsby a fellow member of the Boundary Commission describes the pleasure of David Thompson's company and his story telling.
..He was plainly dressed , quiet and observant. His figure short and compact, and his black hair was worn all round and cut square, as if by one stroke of the shears, just above the eyebrows. His complexion was of the gardener's ruddy brown, while the expression of his deeply furrowed features was friendly and intelligent... His speech betrayed the Welshman - he has a very powerful mind , and a singular facility of picture making. Thompson can create a wilderness and people it with warring Indians, or climb the Rocky mountains with you in a snowstorm, so clearly and palpably , that you have only to shut your eyes and you hear the crack of the rifle, or feel the snowflakes melt on your cheeks as he talks...'
When Charlotte first met David Thompson she could not read or write although she could speak English, French and Cree. This was a a matter that would soon be rectified during their marriage. David Thompson was very protective of his wife and children and the family was inseparable for the greater part of their marriage. She later reflected on her first meeting with David Thompson.
When David came to Isle a La Croix it was in the spring.... You can not know how beautiful it is when the grass is new and soft..... He was not very tall but his eyes were dark like ours and his hair dark too, and fine. And I liked him from the fir st day he called at the old post when he asked me, Charlotte Small, to marry him with the permission of my brothers . I was so happy! And proud to be the wife of such a fine man, who knew the ways of my people and would never disgrace me before them.' David Thompson never did. 
On a high bank , seventy yards from the river's edge stood Rocky Mountain House behind enormous strong log stockades, protected by two blockhouses Quite formidable, it looked. Such defence was necessary, for this was Blackfoot country and the Blackfoot were noted for their unfriendliness to the white intruders.' 

' Alexander Henry in his Journals of 1811 also describes the fort and the geography along the North Saskatchewan River: Our establishment at this place stands upon a high bank on the north side of the river, the situation is well adapted for defense in case of an attack from the slave Indians, as our block houses have a full command around the fort for some distance... the bend of the river is 180 yards while the distance from the top of the bank on which the fort stands to the opposite bank is 250 yards, at high water the whole of this place is covered , and flows with a strong current. 
Given the cautious and protective nature of David Thompson and his deep love of his wife and his children, it is to be believed that Charlotte and the children accompanied him on his early trips. Although the journals and logs are, in the main, silent it does not indicate that it was not so.There is ample evidence to the contrary. Bay Journals are devoid usually of family matters and it would be very rare for Thompson to mention Charlotte and the children in his journals even though it was likely they accompanied him on some of them.
Their marriage was an enduring one. Charlotte went with him on many of his travels, and it was no uncommon sight to see them, accompanied by several of their children, in a canoe going up and down the Saskatchewan or encamped in some deep mountain valley. : In 1808, He had been gone six weeks and had journeyed about 600 miles. A few days later, loading his family and the winter's furs onto horses, he ( Thompson) led his party back over the pass above the head waters of the North Saskatchewan and embarked in a canoe they had left at Kootenay Plains the previous year.'
Travelling on this journey then n 1808 would have been Charlotte, Fanny 7 years, Samuel 4 years, and Emma 2 years. Charlotte was also expecting their fourth child in August. l.. By October 31st 1808, Thompson and his family ( including Joshuah 2 months) were back on the Columbia! 
There were often villages of several different tribes in close proximity of the forts and these relations were not always friendly. In the vicinity of the Rocky Mountain House Fort, great attempts were made to keep the Blackfoot and Cree separated, across the river if necessary. Ross MacDonald recounts the story of such an incident when one young brave was literally drawn and quartered by warring tribes and his body discarded to all corners. Father Albert Lacombe was enraged when told, and stormed into t he offending tribe and insisted they retrieve the body segments and present the remains for a dignified burial, which was done. 
Native custom believed even before the coming of the white man that a spirit be presented decently before their ancestors in the spirit world. This incident is referred to again in determining the remains found at the " Seafort Burial Site" near the Historic Park. 

The Fort was typical of the Northwest Company forts. Some buildings were common to all. Strongly fortified with sturdy palisades, there was always the Indian Hall, the place where the Indians met, and often slept, while at the fort. It was here that the trade was carried on. 
David Thompson also abhorred liquor at least in selling liquor to the Indians. He saw many horrible tragedies of abuse, maimings and killings that he attributed directly to the sale of liquor as a trade item. Thompson refused to use liquor as any kind of enticement to trade. One example Thompson narrates.
I was obliged to take two kegs of alcohol, overruled by my partners, ( one being his brother in law , John MacDonald of Garth) for I had made it a law to myself that no alcohol should pass the mountains in my company, and thus be clear of the sad sight of drunkenness and its many evils. But these gentlemen insisted upon alcohol being the most profitable article that could be taken for the Indian trade..When we came to the defiles of the mountains I placed the two kegs of alcohol on a vicious horse , and by noon the kegs were empty and in pieces...I wrote to my partners what I had done and that I would do the same to every keg of alcohol , and for the next six years I had charge of the fur trade on the west side of the mountains , no further attempt was made to introduce spirituous liquors. " David Thompson Narratives 

Thompson always tried to relieve the monotony at any trading post. His nature was to be on the move, to be mapping and surveying and during idle times he would feel obliged to keep people occupied. It was said of David Thompson that he could sit all night near a fire and spin tales of courage that would keep any listener spell bound. David Thompson had an extraordinary mixture of talent and character that made him one of our historical giants. Thompson was well respected by white man and Indian. 
Even the rival posts of the Hudson's Bay Company at Rocky Mountain House visited with Thompson.
In 1806 Thompson's Journal recorded " .. driving down the ( North Saskatchewan)river, invited Mr. Pruden to sup." Pruden was in charge of the rival trading post of the Hudson's Bay Company
He was also a God fearing man. 
Our men were almost without exception Roman Catholic and French Speaking, but this did not deter David. Every Sunday in the winter, and whenever possible in the summer, he held a devotional service which we all attended. He would read to them three chapters from the old testament and three from the new , offering explanations when .. needed. David did this always in French and David's French was bad in everyday use , so you can imagine what he did to the poetic language of

For much of his early years with the North West Company, and immediately after his marriage to Charlotte Small in June of 1799, Thompson most likely travelled with his wife and with the children born from 1801 to 1808. Thompson was rarely without the company of his wife and children during these years but when he was , especially when she was expecting, Thompson wrote letters and his letters again reveal much of the man as husband and father. 

Excerpts of Letters of Thompson to Charlotte Small Pembina river 31 October 1810 My dear Charlotte, Mr. Alexander Henry informs me that he will be spending the winter at Rocky mountain House and so, when you write to me, you should send your letters to him as any express coming my way will no doubt stop there first.... I hope this finds you and the children well; and may good providence be with you, yours, as ever, David 

"Good Providence" was a term that David Thompson used regularly and may have revealed his early schooling at Westminster in a God fearing Anglican environment. Thompson always travelled with his bible and some say a copy of Milton's Paradise Lost. 

11th December, 1810 My dear Charlotte, In a few days I will be sending six or seven of my men to Rocky Mountain House to get pemmican and other supplies and they will carry this and my other letters with them.I am hoping they will return with a letter from you, for I am anxious to know how you are faring. I hope you and the children are well. .... we have a log hut to shelter our goods , provisions and ourselves. We are making sleds and snowshoes for the rest of the journey over the mountains, as well as obtaining dogs to replace the horses....

Mr. William Henry will be staying here with the horses and a large store of provisions for our future use.It is very cold, the temperature being minus 32 degrees which is 64 degrees below the freezing point.......I wonder if this will reach you by Christmas? I wish you and the children every blessing; I long for news of you.

as ever, David 

In 1810 David and Charlotte had four children :

Fanny age nine born at Rocky Mountain House 1801

Samuel age six born at Peace River Forks 1804

Emmaage four born at Reed Lake House 1806 

John age two born atBoggy Hall, Saskatchewan 1808 

‹At the time of the Charlotte was carrying their fifth child, Joshuah, who would be born at Fort Augustus ( Edmonton ) on March 28th , 1811. It would appear that Fort Augustus was used as a safer haven for Charlotte and the children during his absences. Travelling with the children must have been precarious and hard on the men of the canoe brigades as well. 
The children were crying and had to be carried on already loaded shoulders...Once I heard one of the men mutter, Why couldn't he have left his woman at the fort with the children until it was time to go east? This is a hard , unnecessary trip for them. But he's afraid of the Peigans. You know darn well...if they found only a few women and children at Rocky Mountain House what they would do. 

Already the children had experienced the trek of the voyageur canoe and had accompanied Charlotte and their father for the great portion of his travels to date. Fanny the oldest child was attending school in Montreal. Education was something David Thompson felt very strongly about. In a letter to Alexander Fraser, David Thompson writes about the education of his children: It is my wish to give all my children an equal and good education. My conscience obliges me to it and it is for this I am working in this country. If all goes well and it pleases Good Providence to take care of me , I hope to see you and a civilized world in the Autumn. 

Thompson's achievements are staggering. The greatest 19th-century surveyor in North America, David Thompson explored vast areas that later became part of Western Canada and the northwestern United States. In 1796 he blazed a new route to Lake Athabaska for the company, travelling from York Factory by way of the Nelson, Burntwood, and Churchill rivers and Reindeer Lake to Fond du Lac. After he joined the Northwest Company in 1797, Thompson surveyed (1797-98) the Mississippi's head waters, crossed (1807) the Rockies by the Howse Pass to the source of the Columbia, explored (1808-10) the present states of Washington, Idaho, and Montana, and became the first white person to travel (1811) the Columbia's entire length. 
Everywhere, he made observations that, after retirement in 1812, enabled him to complete a map (1813-14) that became the basis for all subsequent maps of western Canada. From 1816 to 1826 he surveyed the Canadian-United States boundary between the Saint Lawrence River and Lake of the Woods for the International Boundary Commission. 
But his character remained steadfast to the end. After Thompson and his family finally settled in the east David lent a large sum of money to a group of men in Williamstown who were building a new church, a Presbyterian church, though Thompson himself w as an Anglican. The church people could not afford to pay back their benefactor , and with characteristic generosity , David Thompson destroyed the note and forgave the debt.

There is no question that Thompson did not endear himself to the Hudson Bay Company when he left for the Northwest Company in 1797. They had recruited him, trained him and employed him. There is much conjecture surrounding his departure. 

After the amalgamation of the two companies in 1821, David Thompson's 'Great Map' eventually surfaced in London at the Hudson's Bay Company Headquarters. The map itself could fill one wall of a room. One of the major disservices done to Thompson occurred when Thompson's magnificent maps and notebooks were handed by the Hudson's Bay Company to Aaron Arrowsmith, London cartographers. Commissioned by the Hudson's Bay Company, Arrowsmith incorporated Thompson's maps into his own maps of North America to which the Hudson Bay Company was given credit, claiming proprietary ownership. Ironically, Thompson's original maps published in 1795 of North America while in the employ of the Northwest Company, gave no credit or mention of Thompson. 

One can only imagine whether or not this poor boy from the charity school of Westminster and his half breed wife were ever really welcomed and made to feel at home during their years in the east. One could question whether the Hudson's Bay Company ever forgave Thompson for leaving their company in 1797. It was Tyrell who found Thompson's unmarked grave in Mount Royal Cemetery in 1924. Until then the world had forgotten for over 70 years what little they knew about David Thompson. Indeed if it had not been for J.B. Tyrell who stumbled upon Thompson's notes, journals maps and Narrative, David Thompson and Charlotte Small would have died , not only in poverty, but in obscurity as well. After much research , Tyrell came upon a dusty collection of 39 journals, 11 books of field notes, and a large yellowing map of the western half of North America between the 45th and 60th parallels.

That Thompson was not a man of means when he died is generally agreed. The times in Montreal and Terre Bonne had not been good to him and Charlotte in their declining years. For the last nine years of his life David was close to total blindness due to the advances of Glaucoma. It was not generally known then that Thompson had been blind in one eye since his early years which makes his incredible observations, calculations and map making all the more startling.

This man who had done so much for Canada , and who was still working at surveying long after his 70th birthday to make ends meet, was refused a modest pension he had requested from the British Government. 

He was obliged to rely on his son in -law for the barest of necessities and he was most thankful to anyone who was able to give him and Charlotte the smallest of monetary gifts. The poverty worsened. Thompson was forced to sell his beloved sextant and his surveying instruments, and pawned his overcoat for a little money to buy food for Charlotte and himself. One of the last entries in his daily journal is a very poignant and sad note. "Have this day borrowed two shillings and six pence from a friend. Thank God for this relief."

Thankfully the great heroic accomplishments of David Thompson live on. In the course of 28 years in the west of the fur trade Thompson surveyed, and mapped almost two million miles of terrain. He accomplished all this by such extensive travel and observation that Thompson's maps were used well into the twentieth century , maps that were prepared almost a hundred years before. No one has disputed Tyrell' s description of the greatest land geographer who ever lived . This is what Tyrell had inscribed on Thompson's tombstone.

Tyrell, ( his photo)who traveled through Rocky Mountain House in 1885 , recalled that Indians, who were living near Rocky Mountain House on the Upper Saskatchewan, still remembered Thompson. As did a band of Crees who had settled around the Baptiste and Brazeau rivers close to the banks of the swift flowing North Saskatchewan. In their oral tradition they had passed on their stories telling of the feats of the dark haired, ruddy faced man who always treated them with such kindness. 

'Stoney Indians on the Kootenai plains told their young children of the great white man " Koo-Koo-Sint who had passed that way many years ago . There is a tinge of sadness mingled with pride as I gaze at the North Saskatchewan River aware that David Thompson, the greatest of all Canadian map makers paddled these waters. One can almost see , hear and sense Thompson's voyageur canoe brigades, straining against the current as they approach the Mountain Fort , to the pounding beat of a " En roulant ma boule, en roulant roulant." And if you really see, hear and feel into your picture comes David Thompson with Charlotte and his young children. 

The marriage of David Thompson and Charlotte Small lasted 59 years. When David Thompson died in Montreal in 1757, Charlotte followed him a scant three months later. It wasn't until 1926 that a tombstone was erected at the urging of J.B. Tyrell and the Canadian Historical Society. Until that time his grave was basically unmarked. Charlotte had no marker until recently when a new tombstone included the inscription ' the woman of the paddle song'. On top of Thompson's fluted pillar was placed a sextant . Sadly all that remains today are the three metal prongs that held the sextant. 

Charlotte Small was to bear David Thompson 13 children, three who died very young and a son, Henry, who preceded them at the age of 42. In his family bible Thompson recorded in his meticulous way their births, baptisms and deaths. John and Emma were two of the five children born in the west during Thompson's years of exploration. 

HE was particularly fond of Emma who accompanied them on some of their journeys. °Both children died only a few years after their arrival in the east and within a few weeks of each other. This is how Thompson recorded their births and their untimely deaths. 
Emma Thompson - born March 1806- Reed Lake House. John Thompson - born August 25th, 1808, Boggy Hall, Saskatchewan 

JOHN Thompson - deceased January 11, 1814 at 7 a.m. in the Village of Terrebonne, buried in Montreal the 12th inst.no 353. Aged 5 years and near 5 months, A beautiful, promising boy 

Emma Thompson - deceased February 22 nd, 1814 at 7:25 p.m. Aged 7 years and near 11 months. Buried close touching her brother ( John) in Montreal. No. 353.' An amiable, innocent little girl,too good for this world'. " 

Thompson also recorded the birth and death of George ," born July 13, 1824. Williamstown, Glengarry , Up. Canada, died August 27, buried August 28, 1824. Aged 7 weeks

The sight of David Thompson doing his astronomical observations and calculations was always a source of wonder and awe to the Indian. They believed Thompson had spiritual powers that put him in tune with the spirit world and that he knew great things that other mortals didn't. They called David Thompson  Koo-Koo- Sint "You that looked at the stars"

During the 28 years that David Thompson spent in the west , in addition to his meticulous and accurate maps, his journals and field notes are filled with his observations of the Indian Tribes, their customs, their way of life, their legends and beliefs. Indeed David Thompson became a legend himself, as inextricable from the rivers and the land of Western Canada as the water and soil.

Heroic characters such as David Thompson are all too rare in the annals of a nation. So long as honor is due to greatness his memory deserves to be enshrined in the heart of Canadiens 

"David Thompson never considered himself a fur trader, indeed some have said that a good description would be a great surveyor and map maker disguised as a fur trader 

At the Historic park in Rocky Mountain House a cairn is erected to the exploits of David Thompson, and there are similar cairns in Wilmer , British Columbia at the site of his Kootenay House Fort and in Thompson Falls , Montana , the site of his Saleesh House post.

In 1957 the Canadian Government remembered David Thompson with a postage stamp. The tribute was long overdue. The great explorer of the west had died 100 years earlier in poverty, totally blind and forgotten. Charlotte Small was still with him at his death. It is said that even approaching death, Thompson still remained a kindly, courteous. gentleman to the end. 

Perhaps the best monument anyone can have is the high esteem of good friends. During his travels , David Thompson made many friends, from his voyageurs who pushed on with him through some of the most treacherous and arduous journeys, to fellow fur traders, explorers, and even his competitors who recorded in their journals the charm of his personality, his intelligence, integrity and his unfailing courtesy to all. The Indians he met , even the Peigans who wanted to kill him, revered Koo-Koo-Sint for his wisdom and courage. Above all else, his family loved him. 

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