Shooting the Rapids by Frances Anne Hopkins 1838-1919
In 1802, Terrebonne came into the possession of Simon McTavish, a Scot and principal partner of the North West Company, which competed with the Hudson's Bay Company. McTavish transformed l’Île-des-Moulins into a supply post for fur traders known as voyageurs, who navigated trade routes in canoes between 1690 and 1850.
The work of the voyageurs began in the spring with a gathering in Montreal to prepare the goods they would be carrying, at least 90 pounds’ worth each. Once the canoes had been packed, the men set off from Lachine, stopping briefly in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue for religious services. For 6 to 8 weeks, the voyageurs canoed and portaged their way to distant fur posts in a network that spanned 5,000 km. They rose well before dawn, stopping for breakfast only at about 8 o’clock. Each hour of the journey was marked with a smoke break, a practice which became so common that distances were measured according to the number of pipes taken along the route.
At night, the voyageurs slept under the stars, protected from wind and rain by tarps and overturned canoes. While they rested, a kettle filled with peas, water, and a few strips of pork simmered over a fire until dawn when the cook added “biscuits.” These biscuits were prepared by bakeries like the one established by Simon McTavish on l’Île-des-Moulins. Made from a mixture of flour, water, salt, and grease, they were twice baked in order to preserve them. To render them edible again, the voyageurs hung this staple in satchels made of flax that dragged in the water alongside their canoes.
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