Peter Pond newsletter :: September 2004 :: #19

Peter Pond

Peter Pond


We welcome Jay Gitlin, history lecturer and associate director of Yale University's Howard R. Lamar Center for the Study of Frontiers and Borders in nearby New Haven, as newestPeter Pond Society member. Lamar is a former Yale president and eminent western historian.
I have started writing freelance for a new magazine called Milford Living and just submitted a short article on Peter Pond for the winter 2005 issue, since he was born in January. That gave me an excuse to contact the Lamar Center for their comment on Peter Pond.
Here is Gitlin's reply:

Dear Bill--

I guess of the three of us (John Mack Faragher, Howard, and myself), I am the likely candidate to send back a few words on Peter Pond. (Howard doesn't e-mail, Johnny is in California--but I am here--also, my field is the fur trade--though I focus more on those companies operating out of St. Louis and Detroit.

First, let me say that Peter Pond is one of those figures that gets mentioned in the American West survey course--but almost always in passing. I consider him an important figure--but poor Peter never seems to last very long in our consciousness. I believe that's because only those fur traders who, in the end, can be attached to an important river (like Mackenzie) or were empire builders and/or endowed universities (Astor, Chouteau, McGill) have remained firmly embedded in our historical memory. Had Peter Pond led the same rather romantic and adventurous life and had similar claims to important firsts (crossing Methye Portage and initiating the Chipewyan trade) south of the border, I think his name might resonate in American frontier history at the same frequency as folks such as Kit Carson and Jedidiah Smith. Harold Innis certainly noted his importance in the history of Canada. Yet, Pond had an impact on the evolution of his native country as well--from the time he served with Amherst during the Seven Years War to his apparent role in helping Benj Franklin during the boundary negotiations of 1782-83 to his activities as an agent for Secretary of War Knox in the 1790s. If you are working on a biography of Pond, I think this is a task well worth the effort. He deserves the attention--and you have piqued my curiosity. So please let us know more about your inquiry. By the way, about ten years ago, I edited a new edition of Margaret Dwight's A Journey to Ohio in 1810. Dwight was the great-granddaughter of Jonathan Edwards and granddaughter of Major Timothy Dwight. Dwight's mother, Margaret Dewitt Dwight of Milford, was, I think, related to Peter Pond.
Jay Gitlin

Gitlin probably cites Edwards and Dwight since Yale has residential colleges named after both. If a genealogist would like to track Margaret Dwight to Peter Pond, that would be interesting. More pointedly, I wrote back asking for comment on Peter Pond influencing the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Replied Gitlin:
Yes--I'll go along with that--Though Mackenzie was not the only source of inspiration for Jefferson/L&C. Jim Ronda has written on this in a number of excellent articles and books. (We brought Jim in for a lecture 2 years ago.) Russian and Spanish activities on the West Coast were also a spur. And French fur traders out of St. Louis had long been attempting to travel along the Upper Missouri--and were there befroe, during, and after L & C. Still--in this way, I think Peter Pond was, indeed, influential.


Without getting into debate over the above comments, which are indeed laudatory…and the whole theory is debatable…I bring attention to a comment on Mackenzie's role (ergo Pond's) in an impressive Lewis and Clark website

It's from University of Nebraska, home of the current pre-eminent L&C historian, Gary Moulton. The article…the author is not named…in 49 pages details the succession of famous editor/historians, starting with Elliott Coues in the 1890's, who tackled publishing the L&C journals. Moulton currently has that role.

Paragraph seven cites Mackenzie's book as the "catalyst" for Jefferson to launch L&C, though he had been mulling the idea of western exploration for years. It says:

The catalyst, however, of Jefferson's decision to launch the expedition was apparently the publication of Alexander Mackenzie's Voyages from Montreal … through the Continent of North America, to the Frozen and Pacific Oceans (London, 1801); therein Mackenzie, a partner in the North West Company of Canada, described his 1789 trip to the Arctic Ocean and his 1792-93 journey across the Rockies to the coast of present British Columbia. He had made the first crossing of the continent north of Mexico and had discovered what he took to be the upper reaches of the Columbia. Having proved that such a crossing was possible, he urged in his book that Britain develop the transcontinental route, in order to secure the fur trade and open commerce with Asia. Here again was the danger that Jefferson had long feared-British preemption of the far West.


You were told in the previous newsletter that Michael Peake, editor of the fine Canadian wilderness canoeing newsletter, CHE-MUN (, had been picking my brains about Peter Pond's travels last winter. Peake was planning a summer trip with his Hide Away Canoe Club along Peter Pond's pioneering westward route from Ile a la Crosse, Sask. to Fort McMurray, Alberta. The trip, through Peter Pond Lake, portaging 12 miles across Methye Portage and paddling down the Clearwater River to Fort McMurray, was set for early July. It even had a website chronicling the trip ( planned for debut in late June. But the trip had to be cancelled at the last minute due to medical emergency.

First, here is what Mike Peake wrote June 29:

Dear HACC Sponsors and Supporters,

It is with great regret I have to announce that the Crown of a Continent canoe trip scheduled for this July 3 - 17 is being cancelled.

Due to unforeseen medical circumstances, the trip cannot go ahead at this time. We deeply regret this decision but it is unavoidable and unexpected.

I will be contacting some of you individually to arrange for return of gear and cancelation of flight and hotel arrangements.

We deeply appreciate the support you have shown to the HACC and this very worthy project. We look forward to working with you again, perhaps next year, as all the preliminary work and Web infrastructure has been completed. I believe we have a great story to tell, it will just have to wait a while longer.

Thank you for your consideration and understanding at this difficult time.

Michael Peake

Here is what I got from Mike's brother, Sean, on July 5:
Now that I have some time to respond, I guess it's apparent that our trip is off. A two serious medical problems arose within a week (stricken family members not ourselves) and the only course was to postpone the trip. We got to within three days of going but the choice was clear and here we will stay to ride this thing out. Our site was pretty much done before we pulled the plug so it will sit in the can until we're ready to go. I am enclosing a content map of our site and a copy of our map for the Web map (hope it won't clog your in-box) for your amusement. On our site we hadn't mentioned too much of Peter Pond because I wanted to do that (as well as mention other traders like Turnor, Fidler, and Ross) as we moved along, especially crossing the Methye itself. Anyway, if there's something I can add to your upcoming newsletter, send me some electrons and I'll see what I can do.

Anyway, I'd prefer that we talk first before you contact Mike about this-his wife is one of the seriously ill and I would prefer to "intercept" stuff on his behalf since he has a lot on his mind at the moment.
Sean Peake

I have nothing more to report in this matter. It will probably all come out in the fall issue of CHE-MUN. I'm sure we all extend our best wishes and hopes of recovery for the Peake family and other affected trip members and look forward to the expedition's resurgence next year.


Let's not forget that Peter Pond is part of a long line of a distinguished Milford family. Here's an interesting note to the site's Guest Book this summer:

Name: Betty Pond Snyder
Where are you from: California

Comments: Hi, again. It's been too long since I accessed this site as I had a different e-mail address. Am preparing a talk on Peter Pond for a Colonial Dames XVII Century meeting this fall and looking through my extensive Pond files, I realiized I needed to update the Peter Pond Newsletters. Have about run out of my books, "Pioneer Pond People plus Robinson and Allied Families" but have about ten left in case anyone is interested. I am a descendant of Peter's brother John Pond of North Carolina who was my DAR Patriot Ancestor. Years ago I visited Susan Abbott in Milford and she declared that "No one knows where THAT John Pond went. Well, I recall my grandfather Marion Pond in Rockford, Ohio, talking about his Connecticut cousins and I received a copy of a will which proves the connection, it was also accepted by Daughters of Founders & Patriots of which I am a member through this line. I have a copy of their father's will which I found at the CT State Library. Would love to become a member of t
July 14, 2004 17:09:12 (GMT Time)

Snyder, 84, a resident of Laguna Woods, Calif, later explained that Colonial Dames required proving lineage back to someone "who was here prior to the 1700's and I joined through Lt. Samuel Pond Jr." She plans to give the Peter Pond talk in November.

Here is information on her book:
Title: "Pioneer Pond People plus Robinson and Allied Families." The Allied Families include chapters on Cochran, Scott, Davis, Shaw, Miller, Shively, Pierpont, Warfield, Gaither and Vantilburg families.
The book is hardbound in green cloth with goldleaf lettering, indexed and footnoted; contains 400 + pages, over 8,300 names, 170 photos and is 8 1/2" by 11".
The price is $24.95 plus $4.00.
Send a check to:
Betty Pond Snyder
24055 Paseo del Lago W., #806
Laguna Woods CA 92653-2643


I had another visit by Peter Pond Society members over the summer in which I was treated to lunch in return for my giving them a Peter Pond tour around Milford. Marcie Winton of Dayton, Ohio, and her 10-year-old daughter, Durand, came July 23 as part of a trip east to trace their Durand forebears ie visit area cemeteries and see what they find.

My big revelation from this visit was learning that both of Peter Pond's Milford offspring (Peter and Elizabeth) by Susannah Newell married a brother and sister (John and Anna) in the Durand family. The Durands are also an old Milford family. Marcie pointed out the Samuel Durand house on North Street built in 1725, as stated on a plaque out front. Up to then, I thought Peter and Elizabeth married into the Durand family of Barbados and were never heard from again. Marcie clarified that only Peter Jr. (1763-1813) died in Barbados, most likely on a merchant voyage. Many Ponds before and after, including his dad, took up that job at least for a while. Elizabeth (Betsey…there have been many Ponds by that name and spelling thru generations) stayed home and had 12 children.

So that dashes the notion that both of Peter Pond's children disappeared in Barbados without a trace, only the son. Peter Pond Jr. had one child who died in infancy. Peter Pond's line is carried down through the Durands of Connecticut on his daughter's side. One of her children, William, had a son, Anson Durand who became an acrobat with "Barnum's show." Let me know if you would like PDF's on what Marcie sent me ie Durand line in general and Elizabeth's (Betsey) and John's line in particular to the late 19th century, and I'll try to send it.


I have heard of re-enactor groups over the years, those who dress in authentic garb of a certain historical period to get a good feel for people of those times. For a while I joined and got newsletters from a fur trade era group in the mid-west, I believe called the North American Voyageur Alliance. I'm not sure if anyone there ever chose to dress and re-enact Peter Pond. But someone right here in Milford finally did. And it wasn't a male but a female.

Meet Nicole Wayne, 24, a Milford native who came through St. Mary's School, Lauralton Hall, and Southern Connecticut University. One of her graduate courses at Southern had her choose an American who made a significant historical contribution but never received the notoriety of presidents or generals. So she chose Peter Pond, found the website and emailed me. I lent her books and answered questions. Other personalities students were reporting on included: Jonas Salk and John Deere.

Included in the requirement was dressing as the character and giving a 12-minute presentation, without notes, on his life. I'm still waiting for her photo in Peter Pond garb to slap it on the web site.

Needless to say, Nicole got an "A" for the assignment. She expects to have all her student teaching done and master's degree in hand to start as a full-time kindergarten teacher at Mathewson School, Milford, in January. She was also recently engaged for which we wish her all the best.

On why she chose Peter Pond: "I heard about Peter Pond on and off growing up in Milford and never did any research until now. I love the web site. If you're going to teach history, it should be something that Milford kids can relate to. So if you grew up in Milford, you should be able to appreciate something about Milford history."


It's been more than a year since the unsuccessful three-day dig for Peter Pond's grave in Milford Cemetery of August 2003. Connecticut State Archeologist Nick Bellantoni who led the project sent me a draft report about a month ago. I made some historical corrections and sent it back. So I expect it to be ready sometime this fall complete with pictures and footnotes. You will be promptly told when it's finished and added to the web site.

Peter Pond Society editor Bill McDonald

Au revoir,