Thursday, 23 August 2012

Fort William, Thunder Bay, Ontario

Again, as with previous historical sites we have visited, we were treated as if we were part of it all and our hosts were impressed by our long canoe journey, all the way from England!

We were welcomed by a trapper for the North West Company. He was representing a member of the Ojibwe, first nation group of trappers. He proudly showed us his furs of fox, beaver and others, especially the white fox winter fur, prized by European woman of the 1800's.

His cosy Wigwam, made of Birch bark,sewn together with roots and lined with furs and fir branches to keep the snakes from sliding in, was surprisingly spacious with a central fireplace.

We were told that a Wigwam is a permanent structure as opposed to a Tee pee, which is more transportable and covered with skin or cloth.

The doctor's wife showed us her husband's instruments for curing the effects of a bad diet and extracting bad teeth!
Oh and if you needed your toes cut off because of a bad case of trench foot, the cocktail of rum, opium and camphor was on the menu.

The drying room of furs did not have the authentic odour of the time, luckily.

Here the furs were pressed, baled and wrapped in canvas to be carried by the French voyageurs by foot and canoe to their destination.

This back breaking work was called 'portage'. They would carry two of these bales at a time for maybe six miles between lakes.
They would have to move the bales 100 metres at a time then go back and forth to get the rest and of course the canoe, until they reached the next strip of water.

The canoes were also made from birch bark and lined with cedar with bitumen to seal the joints.

All good business for the Scottish gentleman running the company whilst beaver felt hats and furs were fashionable.

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