Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Profile: H.L. Hime

Hind Expedition encamped along the Red River of the NorthBorn in Ireland, H. L. Hime came to Canada in 1854 and joined the Hind Expedition as official photographer. His photographs are probably the first ever taken of the Canadian prairies.

As so often happens, due to the geographic proximity, he is connected to our area in that he passed through it, and made observations of the land and the people living here...
The Palliser and Hind Expeditions, 1857 -1860

By 1855, the last remaining piece of wild land in Canada West (formerly Upper Canada) was sold for settlement. This allowed politicians to look to the prairies as a possible region to open up for immigrants. Starting in 1857, two explorers named John Palliser and Henry Youle Hind would set out on a "scientific expedition" to discover if this land was suitable for mass settlement.

However, Palliser's expedition had another purpose. It was to survey the 49th parallel as a possible western border between the U.S. and Canada. This was crucial as America created massive east-west Intercolonial railways during the 1860s, a move that some in British North America viewed as an attempt by the Americans to expand their territory into what was to become Canada.


On Wednesday we reached Fort Pembina, and stayed the night with Mr. Mackenzie, the officer in charge of the Post, whose sad fate last December (described further on) is a melancholy proof of the danger attending traveling alone during the winters of this climate. The woods and prairies are then perfect deserts, Indians being at their winter quarters, birds far in the sunny south, and wild animals hibernating, or seeking food and shelter in the thickest parts of the swamps and forests. So complete is this desolation in the interior of many parts of Rupert's Land during the winter, that Mr. Christie, chief factor of the Hudson's Bay Company, when traveling from Athabasca to Red River in December 1859, did not meet with a single Indian throughout a long and dreary journey of 1400 miles. (of that I can believe!!)

The thermometer at Pembina Fort indicated 22 below zero on the morning of December 2nd, when we left the Post. Having procured another train of two dogs at the small village of Pembina, two miles from the Hudson's Bay Post of that name, we struck across the prairie to the "first of the Two Creeks," where we camped...

Pine River crossing is the spot from which Mr. Mackenzie, who had so hospitably treated us at Fort Pembina, started on the morning of the 29th December 1859, on his ill-fated journey in search of assistance. He and some companions were escorting an engineer from George Town to Fort Garry, who was traveling thither to make alterations and repairs in the steamer Anson Northrup, then laid up for the winter near the Indian settlement. The party fell short of provisions, and Mr. Mackenzie pushed on in the hope of being able to send supplies from Pembina. After leaving his companions, he appears to have followed the trail for some distance, and at the approach of night to have lost his way. His beaten track showed that in order to keep himself from freezing, he had spent the night in running round in a circle. At the break of day he started again across the trackless waste, but in a direction considerably to the eastward of his proper course. A second day of fruitless wandering was followed by a night more dreary than the first. The third day's journey brought him near the Roseau Lake, far to the east of his destination; here his strength appears to have failed him, for having hung some shreds of his coat on a tree, to mark his last resting-place, he lay down beneath it, where his frozen body was found, with one hand on his heart and the other grasping a compass.*

* An account of this melancholy journey is given in the Red River Nor'Wester, for January 14, 1860...

From Narrative of the Canadian Red River Exploring Expedition of 1857 by Henry Youle Hind (Link)