The following extracts are taken from a diary kept by Lizzie McFad-
den, as she travelled from Winnipeg to Prince Albert with her parents in
the early days of 1879. She was then fourteen years of age. Subsequently
Lizzie McFadden has been for many years known to a large circle of
friends as Mrs. Joseph Coombs, of East Prince Albert.
Thursday, July 3, 1879: Left Winnipeg. The horses balked; went
about 100 yards and the harness broke and it rained about ten minutes.
Two hours getting through a mud-hole. Got about two miles and the
cart axle broke and we had to camp for the night.
Friday, July 4: Ben and Tom went on horse back to Winnipeg for a
new axle. After getting rigged up we started, and we had good roads
for about four miles; then we came to another mud-hole about a mile long.
There we went through a man's yard to shun the mud-hole and paid him
a dollar. Then we camped for the night. The mosquitoes were awful
Saturday, July 5: Started early in the morning: had splendid roads
all the way, forded three creeks about three feet deep; camped for noon,
rested two hours, then started again. The cart ox fell down twice. Came
to a man ploughing. Came thirteen miles that day and passed through a
beautiful country. Camped for the night, saw sixty cattle and 60 native
Sunday, July 6: It rained all night. A man came and laid down by
the fire at night: got breakfast and then the children and I started to
pick strawberries and the women made pies of them and baked biscuits.
We had a splendid dinner: then picked some more strawberries for tea.
Baked our pies in a dutch oven.
Monday, July 7: It rained all Sunday night, so we did not start very
early, but when we did we had splendid roads all the way and no trouble
with the oxen. There were two cart trains passed us on the road. One
train contained over 76 horses and carts; crossed one creek. It was
pretty deep. We camped about 7 o'clock beside some half-breeds and
slept soundly all night.
Tuesday, July 8: Started early in the morning, expecting to have a
good day's journey, but we failed. The men waded up to their knees in
water all day. There was nothing but mud and water all day. There
was no wood and our bread ran out and we could not bake, so we had
oatmeal and water and sugar for our dinner; then at supper time we
got some wood and water and had some porridge and meat. A man came
in with his team (?). He had some meat and cakes and all we could I
give him was a cup of tea. He travelled on foot.
Wednesday, July 9: Started early without our breakfast. Had some
oatmeal and water on the road. We forded three creeks; had to double
at one of them. It was hard work to get across. Camped at 11 o'clock
and let the horses feed, but we could not feed ourselves as there was no
wood to be got, so we had a little more oatmeal and water. The children
cried for bread, and we could not get any wood to bake with; had not
seen any wood for the last three days. Camped at three o'clock where
there was lots of wood and water. Made lots of bannock and cakes,
boiled rice for our tea and had meat and beans. We had all we could
eat and were prepared to last longer. Camped at Poplar Point. Mos-
quitoes awful bad.
Thursday, July 10: Started to look for our oxen this morning: they
got away in the night. The boys tramped all the morning and found
them about five miles away. We started about 10 o'clock. Had a good
many mud holes to go through. Our pony got down in a hole coming
through a great slough and the oxen had to pull us out. We camped on
a beautiful hill with white poplar at the back of us. It is the nicest
place we have seen yet. The mosquitoes are not so bad, and it is very
Friday, July 11: Started early in the morning; had a few
but not very bad ones. We had to cross a bridge and paid a man a
dollar for going over it. It was across Long Lake. Camped for dinner
and got some milk from a half breed. Started at 2 o'clock; had splendid
roads. It was very hot. Stopped and got strawberries, then went on
and came out on the main road through the village of Poplar Point; had
splendid roads all the way and are likely to. Camped on a bank by a
creek; looks like rain. Got some milk.
Saturday, July 12: Started at 5 o'clock in the morning and made
seven miles by nine o'clock. Camped and fed the horses at High Bluff.
Saw the Orangemen pass on their way to Portage La Prairie. Started
again at 12 o'clock; had good roads, then we had to double over a mud-
hole; then had good roads all the way to Portage. Arrived there at 7
p. m. Mr. Carruthers met us as soon as we got there, and I went to buy
some bread. It was four loaves for 25c. Camped by a house and got lots
of water there. Looks like rain.
Sunday, July 13: Thunder, lightning and wind through the night,
but it did not rain much. It was very warm. Some gentlemen came in
the evening and we went to church. It was a big one. There was a
melodeon and a choir. heard a splendid sermon. The minister was from
Monday, July 14: We did not start on our journey today but rested.
Washed all the forenoon; in the afternoon we went to see Mrs. Haggerty;
had a very pleasant time. Went shopping and saw a man from London
who was a clerk in Walker & Sons. Came home and pa and ma went and
got some pemmican.
Tuesday, July 15: Ma baked all the morning and went up town. At
noon we started on our journey; had splendid roads; camped at Rat Tail
Creek by Mr. McKenzie's farm. An old Indian came begging that night.
Mosquitoes awful bad.
Wednesday, July 16: Started early this morning and saw beautiful
farms and scenery and fed the oxen about 8 o'clock. Passed several
trains. Had very good roads. Fed again at 4 o'clock. Camped at Sand
Creek. Very cool tonight. Came about 15 miles.
Thursday, July 17: Started very early, good roads all the way. We
are in the North West Territory. Looks like rain. There are half-breeds
camping here at the corner.
Friday, July 18: Rained in the morning; did not start until pretty
late. Went up McAnnon's field and over a bridge about a mile long.
Camped for noon at a creek. It rained all the morning; got some berries,
saw beautiful fields and prairie, great hills and dales. Talked with some
Indians; I did not understand what they said.
Saturday, July 19: Started off early before the sun was up without
breakfast. Came four miles to Pine Creek and fed the oxen and started
again over hills, and hollows. Had beautiful roads all the way. Had
dinner at 11 o'clock in the middle of the prairie. No wood or water to
be got. Saw some farms. Camped at night at Boggy Creek. Came 18
Sunday, July 20: Rested today. Very pleasant day. Baked cakes
and pies all morning. Read all the afternoon. A minister came to see us
in the middle of our cooking. Went for a walk in the evening. Mos-
quitoes nearly ate us up. There were lots of trains passed us today. Cool
Monday, July 21: Rained all night; very muddy in the morning. Had
a hard time crossing the creek; had to double and pay to cross a bridge.
Had a disagreeable day. Had to ford two creeks. Camped in the evening.
Lost our Englishmen; they went another road.
Tuesday, July 22: Had a better day today. Started pretty early,
camped and had dinner about 11, then came to Rapid City. It is a very
small place. A squaw wanted to sell us some berries, but we did not buy
them. It was very stony coming over the hills. Struck on the road for
Shoe Lake; camped for the night. I banked the tent up with sod, but
the mosquitoes got in in the night in spite of all we could do.
Wednesday, July 23: It rained all night and we did not start until
10 o'clock. Had bad roads and it was very cold. Camped for noon in a
strawberry bed, and picked strawberries all the time we stayed there.
Got a good few. Started and had a very hard time with the horses. We
had one in front of the other and they did not work well. Had berries
and pancakes for tea. Camped on a hill by a lake. It is very cool. No
mosquitoes tonight. The boys shot a muskrat and it sunk. They could
not get it.
Thursday, July 24: No entry.
Friday, July 25: The roads are not very good today. We made
about four miles before noon and then camped and had dinner. Rest
about two hours and started again. The horses did not get along
verywell. They fell down twice. Crossed Salt Lake. It is a very
but very salt water. Camped on the hill by a bluff of poplars.
The mosquitoes are very bad.
Saturday, July 26: Started pretty early. Had a fearful time with
the horses. Had a great many sloughs to cross. Camped and had dinner.
Rested about two hours; then started and got to Shoal Lake about five
miles. Had to cross the lake. It was up to the wagon box. Camped
near the barracks. Had the police visiting us this evening trying to find
out if we had any liquor about us.
Sunday, July 27: Rested today. Very nice day. No church in the
village. The police was around all day. In the evening we visited Mr.
Marchel's. Had a very nice time. I got sick coming home and was sick
all night. Very cool.
Monday, July 28: Started very early this morning before the sun
was up. Came to a dreadful slough about a mile wide. Got the wagon
stuck and had to unload. Had breakfast, rested two hours and started.
Had a great many sloughs to ford. Camped, had dinner, baked bannock
and started again. Came 10 miles today. Camped in the evening. Mos-
quitoes were pretty bad, but did not get into the tent. Slept pretty well.
Tuesday, July 29: Started very early. Had very bad roads today.
Camped at a creek and had breakfast. Had a good many creeks to cross.
Had to double crossing an old bridge. Crossed over a creek with two
great holes on both sides. At Bird Tail Creek it was very stony on the
banks. Had a very bad time on the bank. It was very steep. It is a
very pretty place but not very well settled. Camped on the bank. It is
Wednesday, July 30: Started very early and came over 28 sloughs
before dinner. After dinner we had splendid roads. When we came in
view of Fort Ellice there were great hills to go up and we had to cross a
bridge over the Assiniboine; then climb high hills and reach the top of
them at 7 o'clock. I was frightened by some Indians on the road. Fort
Ellice is a very pretty place, but no farming country. It is very cool
Thursday, July 31: Rested today. The very first thing in the morn-
ing we had three Indians come to stare at us. Mrs. Plaxton and ma went
to the Fort and did some shopping. Bought me a pair of moccasins.
When getting the luggage we emptied the wagon. Bought a new cart,
pony and harness. The Indians stole three oxen today and killed them.
They were nearly starved. The children and I went to the Fort and all
around the hills. Everything is very dear. Very cool tonight.
Friday, August 1: The Indians' dogs got the meat out of the cart.
Pa got out and scared them away. Put the meat away and got the re-
volver and shot twice at them, but did not hit them. We startedaway
early in the morning. As we passed the Indians they all came out and
laughed at us. We were going down hill all the way. Had very stony
roads all down to the river. Got lots of raspberries on the road. Crossed
the Qu'Appelle. It was very high and the bridges very bad. Had a
great many sand banks to go through that day. Camped by a spring
and a bluff. Very cool today.
Saturday, August 2: Started very early. Had a great many sand
banks and sloughs to cross. Passed the McDougal party today. Mr.
McDougal is going to preach tomorrow, and we are going to camp near
them. Made a very big day. Mosquitoes very bad tonight. It was about
9 o'clock when we camped. Had a hard time to find a place to camp. We
are about two miles from Cut-Arm Creek.
Sunday, August 3:Rested today; very pleasant day. In the morn-
ing Mr. Wm. Miller and son came up. They were going home to Huron
after his mother-in-law, expecting to be back in September. He is from
Prince Albert. Gives a good account of it. Had dinner with us. In the
evening we went to hear Mr. McDougal preach. Had a splendid sermon.
Monday, August 4: Started very early. Very rutty roads. Had a
hard time crossing Cut-Arm Creek and climbing the hills on the. other
side. McDougals crossed us by there; again we passed them as they
stopped for dinner. We camped for dinner by a bluff. After dinner we
started and came over some prairie. Had to camp for the night with
no wood to be got, except that which we had with us. Very cool.
Tuesday, August 5: Started early; came to the bush where we passed
McDougals; got some milk there; had breakfast. Lots of wood, got wood
and water there and started out to cross the Pheasant Plain. Travelled
on the Plains today; camped tonight about five miles from the bush.
Wednesday, August 6: Had breakfast before we started. We reached
Touchwood Hills Plains and had dinner. It is a very hilly place and
pretty stony. Travelled very late this evening and the mosquitoes are
Thursday, August 7: We are still in the Touchwood Hills and likely
to be. They are very long. We have not so many sloughs as we used to
have, but the roads are very rough. We have a party of half-breeds with
us who are going to Prince Albert and have lots of company. They
have a cow and we have lots of milk. Travelled very late tonight.
Friday, August 8: Did not start as early in the morning as we
usually do. Something got at Mrs. Plaxton's bird cage and killed the
hen and hurt the rooster, but he is getting along very nicely. Travelled
over hills and hollows all the time and through bush. Have not seen the
McDougals since Monday. The days are not so warm as they were. Ma
lost her shawl and it could not be found. One of the half-breeds went
back to look for it but could not find it.
Saturday, August 9: Had breakfast before we started. Had a good
many sloughs to take; passed some travellers. We have had very good
luck this week. We are still in the hills about eight miles from the Hud-
son Bay Fort. The cattle ate a half-breed's flour in the night and they have
had to borrow from us. Mr. Plaxton lost his ox tonight and Bennie will
go back for it tomorrow. Travelled a little late tonight and got in a great
slough in the dark. Had to double up to get out. Mosquitoes were worse
than usual and we were nearly crazy. After I got in bed there was a
lizard crept over my arm and nearly scared me to death. We killed it
and fixed the tent so no more could get in.
Sunday, August 10: Rested today. It is very warm. About three
o'clock we started and went about two hours and then camped on high
ground. It is very cool this evening and we can sleep well.
TOUCHWOOD HILLS PORT.
Monday, August 11: Started very early this morning; travelled about
four miles, then caught up to McDougals. They brought us milk and said
there were 300 camps went from where they were camped on Sunday
morning. We got to the Fort at noon. Got some things there. Paid
36c a pound for butter. Camped there at noon. We had some of our
freight taken up the rest of the way by some half-breeds. Camped by a
hill on a bluff tonight.
Tuesday, August 12: Started early. The mosquitoes were very bad
for a while. The ox is very lame. Had berries at noon. It has been very
dismal all day. The breeds are with us yet. It is cool tonight and the
mosquitoes are not as bad as usual.
GREAT SALT PLAIN.
Wednesday, August 13: Did not start as early as usual this morning.
Fixed an axle. Ox was pretty lame. We went and got wood and water
and prepared to cross the crossing. Had dinner on a hill. The breeds are
with us yet. In the morning we crossed a great gully and slough. Climbed
the hill and are on level prairie. No wood to be seen at all. There is a
great deal of alkali here. Had dinner and started again and travelled
until late. The ox is better this afternoon.
Thursday, August 14: Started very early and crossed the plains. Ox
is much worse today. It seems to be lamer. This morning there were
two policemen passed by and in the afternoon we met them. One, S. J.
Donaldson, was sick. Mother gave him some painkiller. In the eve-
ning Honorable Matthew Ryan passed on his way to Battleford to council.
We travelled very late this evening and the mosquitoes were terrifying.
Pa had to come slower with the ox. Camped by Mr. Ryan's this eve-ning.
Friday, August 15: We started about 7 o'clock in the morning and
came to wood. Could not travel very fast on account of the ox. Passed
several trains for Winnipeg. Camped early. The ox! The ox!
Saturday, August 16: The ox seems to be much worse today, so
we had to travel very slowly. Passed a man going to Winnipeg from
Glencoe, Ont. He knew Uncle James well. Then we passed another man,
a brother-in-law of the breed. We got to Humboldt at noon and camped
there. The breeds came along and went on without us as they were in
a hurry to reach Prince Albert. In the afternoon Captain Moore came
to visit us. He came down to Prince Albert to telegraph. Had a visit
from Maggie Leggett and brother-in-law. She brought us over to see
her sister. They are very friendly people. We did not start tonight.
Sunday, August 17: Rested today. We could not find the lame ox
for a long time. He was in a bluff. The sore foot had broken out and
was running and we opened it up. Went for a walk in the afternoon.
The rest of the folks came to the station for tea. In the evening Maggie
and I came home and I went back and stayed all night with her.
Monday, August 18: Did not start until 9 o'clock. Left the ox and
cart and we came at pretty good speed. Got dinner on a hill. In the
evening Jim played out (that is Mr. Plaxton's horse). After tea we
started and there came up a thunder storm which lasted about ten min-
utes. We had to camp without water that night. It is very cool.
Tuesday, August 19: Started very early. Passed some hunters. It
was very cold. Had breakfast by a lake; we made across the plains today.
Wednesday, August 20: Early start as usual and made a good way
today. Had a good deal of brush wood to go through. Camped at night
about three miles from the level.
Thursday, August 21: Did not start until after breakfast. Reached
the level about 10 o'clock. There were lots of Indians there and the men
got four of them to help them. We got over the ferry about 2 o'clock;
got up the hill. Found a Shagnappi bag full of tent pegs. Camped on
the top of the hill. We baked and went to water the cattle and there
were the Indians coming across the ferry, so we picked 'up and went up
Friday, August 22: Started very early. Made a good way before
breakfast. Had a good many hills to climb. Camped at night by St.
Larent Mission. Went to the house and got some potatoes from Father
Andrews. We was very kind and gave them to us for nothing. There
was a thunder storm at night.
Saturday, August 23: Started early and got breakfast in the woods.
Had a good deal of bush to go through. The surveyors were talking to
us. Camped for dinner after fording the creek. Met Mrs. McKay and
several others today. Camped at night by Mr. Jos. McFarland's farm.
He and Mr. Oliver visited us. Lost our frying pan today.
Sunday, August 24: Rested today.
Monday, August 25: Started about 10 o'clock today as it was rain-
ing. Got to the commencement of the settlement where we camped.
Rained all morning.
Tuesday, August 26: Started after breakfast and came through the
village. Camped at noon the other side of Captain Moore's hill. Had the
Captain and McKenzie to see us after dinner. (This was Fighting Jack
McKenzie). Then we started and went to Captain Young's and there we
had to stay as we could get no further on account of the smallpox. We
stayed there at night and have been there ever since. The policeman who
placed us under quarantine was Mr. J. D. Hanafin of Prince Albert.