So long as we expected the return of the vessel, we had served out to the people a regular supply of bread: we found ourselves in consequence, very short of provisions, on the arrival of Mr. M’Kenzie and his men. This augmentation in the number of mouths to be fed compelled us to reduce the ration of each man to four ounces of flour and half a pound of dried fish per diem: and even to send a portion of the hands to pass the rest of the winter with Messrs. Wallace and Halsey on the Willamet, where game was plenty.
Meanwhile, the sturgeon having begun to enter the river, I left, on the 13th of February, to fish for them; and on the 15th sent the first boat-load to the establishment; which proved a very timely succor to the men, who for several days had broken off work from want of sufficient food. I formed a camp near Oak Point, whence I continued to despatch canoe after canoe of fine fresh fish to Astoria, and Mr. M’Dougal sent to me thither all the men who were sick of scurvy, for the re-establishment of their health.
On the 20th of March, Messrs. Reed and Seton, who had led a part of our men to the post on the Willamet, to subsist them, returned to Astoria, with a supply of dried venison. These gentlemen spoke to us in glowing terms of the country of the Willamet as charming, and abounding in beaver, elk, and deer; and informed us that Messrs. Wallace and Halsey had constructed a dwelling and trading house, on a great prairie, about one hundred and fifty miles from the confluence of that river with the Columbia. Mr. M’Kenzie and his party quitted us again on the 31st, to make known the resolutions recently adopted at Astoria, to the gentlemen who were wintering in the interior.
On the 11th of April two birch-bark canoes, bearing the British flag, arrived at the factory. They were commanded by Messrs. J.G. M’Tavish and Joseph Laroque, and manned by nineteen Canadian voyageurs. They landed on a point of land under the guns of the fort, and formed their camp. We invited these gentlemen to our quarters and learned from them the object of their visit. They had come to await the arrival of the ship Isaac Todd, despatched from Canada by the Northwest Company, in October, 1811, with furs, and from England in March, 1812, with a cargo of suitable merchandise for the Indian trade. They had orders to wait at the mouth of the Columbia till the month of July, and then to return, if the vessel did not make her appearance by that time. They also informed us that the natives near Lewis river had shown them fowling-pieces, gun-flints, lead, and powder; and that they had communicated this news to Mr. M’Kenzie, presuming that the Indians had discovered and plundered his cache; which turned out afterward to be the case.