Saturday, March 21, 2015

1810: Rocky Mountain District

A great remove to New Caledonia in 1810 took the Harmons into the Rocky Mountain region for a decade. Three sojourns at Stuarts Lake led to Daniel's posting as factor at a new fort at Fraser's Lake, British Columbia, just across the continental divide. Fraser Lake fort was founded by Daniel's fellow Bennington native Simon Fraser , the North West Company adventurer famed for his discovery and descent of the Fraser River to Vancouver.

One of Fraser's companions, J.N. Quesnel (founder of Quesnel, BC), offered to take young George Harmon back to his Vermont relatives to attend school. This was the custom of the country during the fur trade era; the daughters were reared as natives with their mothers, while the sons were sent to white schools and families to be groomed for futures in the fur trade.
"No consideration could induce me to send him down, especially while he is so young, excepting the thought that he will soon be under the fostering care of my kind relations, who will be able to educate him much better than it would be possible for me to do in this savage country. As I do that which I apprehend will be or the benefit of my little son, so I earnestly pray that God will generously protect him in his absence from me."

Four-year-old George bid farewell to his parents on April 22, 1811 and embarked on his cross-continental canoe trip. It would take four more years for the letter to reach Daniel that informed him that while George had made the epic journey safely, the eldest Harmon son had died of scarlet fever in Vergennes, Vermont, on March 18, 1813.

Three days after George's departure, Mary Patience (known as Polly) Harmon was born on April 25, 1811. Polly would become very important to her father, who taught her to read in English (though "with their mother I more regularly employ the French"), and was the only one of the Harmon children old enough to remember their years in the Indian Country after their return to Vermont.

Sarah (Sally) was born at Fraser Lake on February 10, 1817, the last of the Harmon children (save John) to be born in the Northwest.

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