• Voices from the Gathering PlaceSault Ste. Marie: 1622 - 1870

Die Stromschnellen von St Marie (The Rapids Of St Mary), Frank Buchser, 1868

By kind permission of the Kunsthaus Art Gallery, Zurich, Switzerland

This website was created by teacher Peter White for the Algoma District School Board

John deserted by his men!

The fur trade was often a cutthroat business. Competing traders were willing to go to extremes to gain an advantage.


In August of 1791 John traveled in a huge canoe with five voyageurs to La Pointe island  at the Western end of lake Superior to begin his life as a fur trader.


Everything was going well until November 17, when the voyageurs whose skills that John was depending on for survival in the Canadian wilderness deserted him.


There were two other fur traders nearby and John was sure that they convinced his voyageurs to abandon him and so eliminate a threat of competition.


In the book, The Historic Johnston Family, John describes how  the voyageurs not only left but also took, "my fishing canoe, an oil cloth, nets, axes, etc., and nearly all my fish, leaving me only with a lad of 17 or 18, who slept in my little kitchen, and who luckily could speak a little Ottawa, by which he would make the Chippeways understand him."


John, who loved to read books, remembered how Robinson Crusoe depended on his wits and determination to survive being stranded alone on a desert island and decided he would do the same.


Have you or someone you know ever been stuck in a situation where you could only depend on yourself to get out of it?

Photo courtesy  of the Chippewa  County Historical Society of Michigan