As the river is deep at its entrance, the company has had a wharf constructed, extending the whole length of the fort, for the discharge of the vessels which it keeps on Lake Superior, whether to transport its furs from Fort William to the Saut Ste. Marie, or merchandise and provisions from Saut Ste. Marie to Fort William. The land behind the fort and on both sides of it, is cleared and under tillage. We saw barley, peas, and oats, which had a very fine appearance. At the end of the clearing is the burying-ground. There are also, on the opposite bank of the river, a certain number of log-houses, all inhabited by old Canadian voyageurs, worn out in the service of the company, without having enriched themselves. Married to women of the country, and incumbered with large families of half-breed children, these men prefer to cultivate a little Indian corn and potatoes, and to fish, for a subsistence, rather than return to their native districts, to give their relatives and former acquaintance certain proofs of their misconduct or their imprudence.
Fort William is the grand depot of the Northwest Company for their interior posts, and the general rendezvous of the partners. The agents from Montreal and the wintering partners assemble here every summer, to receive the returns of the respective outfits, prepare for the operations of the ensuing season, and discuss the general interests of their association. The greater part of them were assembled at the time of our arrival. The wintering hands who are to return with their employers, pass also a great part of the summer here; they form a great encampment on the west side of the fort, outside the palisades. Those who engage at Montreal to go no further than Fort William or Rainy lake, and who do not winter, occupy yet another space, on the east side. The winterers, or hivernants, give to these last the name of mangeurs de lard, or pork-eaters. They are also called comers-and-goers. One perceives an astonishing difference between these two camps, which are composed sometimes of three or four hundred men each; that of the pork-eaters is always dirty and disorderly, while that of the winterers is clean and neat.
To clear its land and improve its property, the company inserts a clause in the engagement of all who enter its service as canoe-men, that they shall work for a certain number of days during their stay at Fort William. It is thus that it has cleared and drained the environs of the fort, and has erected so many fine buildings. But when a hand has once worked the stipulated number of days, he is for ever after exempt, even if he remain in the service twenty or thirty years, and should come down to the fort every summer.
They received us very courteously at Fort William, and I perceived by the reception given to myself in particular, that thanks to the Chinook dialect of which I was sufficiently master, they would not have asked better than to give me employment, on advantageous terms. But I felt a great deal more eagerness to arrive in Montreal, than desire to return to the River Columbia.