Peter Pond newsletter :: May 2006 :: #24

Peter Pond

Peter Pond

Peter Pond boat

I should share with you photos of a boat named the "Peter Pond" that served Winnipeg and Great Slave lakes for more than 50 years. Primary information comes from one of the newest Peter Pond Society members, Jim McPherson of Hay River, NWT, whose father was one of the boat's owners.

I first heard of the boat when Peter Pond Society member and co-worker John Burgeson showed me some old "National Geographic" magazines from the 1930's with various photo articles on Western Canada. One issue was about a trip down the Mackenzie River starting from Great Slave Lake on which the boat, "Peter Pond," was used to cross it.

It's the August 1931 issue in an article entitled "On Mackenzie's Trail to the Polar Sea" by Amos Burg with 33 black and white "illustrations" or photos. The lone mention of the boat is on page 140 as the party is about to leave Hay River:

"I now joined Doctor Rebec on the decks of the launch, Peter Pond, and for the first and only time took the canoe from the water. We sailed the next morning at sunrise on the 75-mile voyage to Providence."

Later I found Jim's message in my guest book (since closed due to spam invasion). It said:

"My father owned a boat named the Peter Pond. He purchased the boat at a Govt auction in 1957 and ran the boat on Great Slave Lake until 1962. The boat was wrecked in Hay River in 1983 in a flood. I have the original marine registration which was mailed to me mysteriously in 1999, 38 years after the boat was destroyed. I believe the boat was built in Winnipeg and was used on that lake for many years before being trucked up to Great Slave Lake. I believe the construction date was in the late 20's. It had a sister ship which I do not know the name of." I photocopied the NG article and sent it to him. Since then he has searched the internet and found some fabulous photos plus more information:

"The boat was built in 1926 in Edmonton Alberta by a company called Edmonton Boat works. I believe the boat was used on Lake Winnipeg for several years before being moved up to Great Slave Lake. The boat was 45 ft long 12 ft beam and was powered by a grey Marine 6 cylinder gas engine 160 hp. It was capable of hauling approx 20 tons of supplies and could accomodate 12 people. There are several other pictures of the boat on the same site and shows the boat at a place called Rocher River (settlement on Talston River into south shore of Great Slave Lake). These pictures also dont show a good view of the vessel but do add something overall to the history of the boat. The boat was owned by the Dept of Indian Affairs."

The best are in the Glenbow Musuem (Calgary, Alberta) photo archive website. Type in "Peter Pond" as keyword and hit "search." There you will find five Peter Pond maps followed by five black and white shots of the boat, starting when it is spanking new in 1926. Captions say where it is through its history.

Never mind the Rocher River shot, a better color shot is available through the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Center, Yellowknife, NWT.

The caption says: "View of the Indian Agent's boat at the dock at Snowdrift (Lutselk'e), 1955." This is a Chipewyan settlement along the eastern arm of Great Slave Lake.


This note from Sue, always supportive Peter Pond Society charter member with wonderful fur trade library and fellow Milford resident, should speak for itself:

"Peter Pond Society Website Did It Again!
Once before, my name and the fact that I am descended from Hon. Roderick McKenzie and John George McTavish, Nor'wester fur traders, was found on the Peter Pond Society website, resulting in great contacts for me.

This time I received mail from descendants of McKenzie living in Australia, Saskatchewan, Ohio, and a Mr. Hugh Macmillan in Ottawa. He is not a descendant, but a reknown researcher of materials on the Nor'west Fur Company.

It turned out that he had corresponded with my aunt, Vida Williams, who did a great deal of research on the fur trade before her death in 1974. I inherited her library and research files including correspondence with many authors and archivists.

With the additional research I've done, and purchase of books, the library has grown to over 60 books on the Nor'westers and the Hudson Bay Fur Company, and stuffed file drawers, a mass of materials. I had begun to wonder what was to become of the collection as none of my descendants have houseroom for it.

Now I have a wonderful solution thanks to the Peter Pond Society. Hugh Macmillan was instrumental in the development of the "Nor'westers and Loyalist Museum" in Williamstown, Glengarry County, Ontario, Canada. The organizers are interested in developing an archive and have assured me that they would be most interested in receiving my collection when I am ready to give it up. What a relief!
Thank you Peter Pond Society and Bill McDonald, president and webmaster.
Susan D'Ambrosio"

I'm flattered and honored that Peter Pond Society has once again been able to connect like-minded people. I'm glad to help Sue since we have been swapping, books, information and notes since Peter Pond Society started. She's a wonderful resource.
See the museum's website. Also, here is my late father's article on Williamstown's namesake, Sir William Johnson, father of Sir John Johnson who founded Williamstown. Dad (same name as mine, he's III, I'm IV, my son, Liam is V) grew up in Gloversville, N.Y. That's the next town over from Johnstown, where Johnson Hall, built by Sir William, is located. Dad grew up with local history knowledge of Johnson Hall. Interest heightened as he became of aware of his own Scottish roots. Johnson Hall enabled many Scottish immigrants to settle in North America including Alexander Mackenzie. "Tartan Tomahawk" first appeared in the mid-1980's in the Gloversville "Leader-Herald" where dad had his first newspaper job before transferring to public relations. It was reprinted in "Clan Donald Magazine" in 1995 a year before he died. Small world.


Here is my note with response from Walter Woodward, Connecticut State Historian. Welcome to Peter Pond Society, Walter…

THIS IS A GREAT SITE. and Peter Pond was clearly another Connecticut original. Thanks for clueing me in."
Walt Woodward
-----Original Message-----
From: Bill McDonald
Sent: Fri 3/24/2006 1:30 PM
To: Woodward, Walter
Subject: join peter pond society

Thought you'd might to have a look at my website on Peter Pond of Milford (1740-1807). Interested in your comments. Thanks. Bill McDonald


I am off to Canada again, this time on a family-related pilgrimage.
You saw in Peter Pond Society 22 that my maternal great grandfather, who won the Medal of Honor in the Civil War, is buried in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, about 60 miles south of Halifax. Capt. Lee Nutting) died in 1908, buried next to his wife, Arrietta, who died in 1907. The New York City residents were taken in for their final years by oldest daughter, Grace Moore, my great aunt. The MOH Society installed a plaque by the grave in a 1990 ceremony but without knowledge of family. So none attended. I learned a year ago a group of CW reenactors with the 20th Maine Regiment were planning a graveside ceremony for Capt. Nutting as part of honoring CW vets (about 35) buried in Canada. It's set for 3 p.m. Saturday June 10, 2006 at Brookside Cemetery. Family will be attending this time. I'm making a speech. You're all invited.

Peter Pond Society editor Bill McDonald

Au revoir,