Peter Pond newsletter :: June 2007 :: #31

Peter Pond

Peter Pond


The Peter Pond Monument in Fort McMurray has been moved to a not altogether appropriate spot. Another descendant of a fur trade era figure has made herself known, this one with a negative Peter Pond connection. We'll also discuss two prominent modern-day Canadians with Fort McMurray ties: a Hollywood actress and a professional hockey player whose team reached the Stanley Cup final round.


We only have two Fort McMurray residents to date as Peter Pond Society member, and both have nicely enhanced this piece of information. Art Avery, who has seen a lot of changes to this tar sands boomtown since opening a bank branch in the 1960's and is about to retire south to an Edmonton suburb, sent me the initial news. Here's his 5/5 email after getting Peter Pond Society29.

"Hi Bill:
As usual, an interesting newsletter. Just a quick note - The Peter Pond Cairn is being moved to the Snye. The "instant experts" feel that is where Peter Pond would have landed at the confluence of the Clearwater and the Athabasca. The sad thing is that it is being moved to an area that has been flooded 3 times in the last 20 years. At least it is being preserved for now.

I asked for more information and Art graciously followed up with a snail mail containing a 5/4/07 FORT McMURRAY TODAY story with picture plus his own photos of the monument relocation: plaque side and facing the Clearwater River. If you want to read the plaque inscription you may see my photo of the same monument in Newsletter 1 of the Peter Pond Society website. That's when it was in front of the former Peter Pond School, since demolished, during my 1988 visit. Another photo shows a nice aerial view of Fort McMurray with MacDonald Island in the foreground at the confluence of the Clearwater and Athabasca Rivers. Darin Zandee, the other Peter Pond Society member from FM, has applied pertinent labels in regard to the relocated cairn. Turns out it's at the boat launch area and float plane base where I finished my 1988 canoe trip. I wrote back to Art and said it looked like a pretty spot, asked if flooding would really be a problem and had there been any public comment, pro or con, about the historic monument being moved. His answer:

"Hi Bill:
The reason for the move was that the owner of the property wanted it moved for customer parking. It is probably in a more suitable location. I doubt that there will be any problems with flooding. The big flood in the 70s would have had it totally under water but there was no ice in that area.
There has been no comment from the public one way or the other.
Unfortunately the population that we have now only cares about the eternal dollar. They don't care about the community, they don't take ownership in the community and as a result there is not the beautification effort that we had a few years ago. It is a sad situation but us elders cannot shoulder all the load.

As for me, I still think a better place for the marker would be higher ground. And we all wish Art well in his move and retirement and thank him for being a fine Fort McMurray correspondent.


Here is a May 10 entry from Carol Hassemer of Wisconsin in the Peter Pond Society website guestbook:

"I'm a descendent of Jean Etienne Wadden and his daughter, Marguerite Wadden McKay McLoughlin. Guess that each family has a perspective on history! Cheers."

I said to myself, I can't believe it, I've finally heard from a Waden descendant. Waden was someone Peter Pond allegedly murdered, but he somehow beat the rap.
I have seen Jean Etienne's last name spelled several different ways (ie Wadden, Waddins, Wadin), but I have decided to go by "Waden." That's because there is a Waden Bay on Lake La Ronge at La Ronge, SK. And a Waden Bay Resort is also there. Basically Peter Pond and Waden were rival traders. The descendant's name is Carol Hassemer of Madison, WI and she has never heard of Waden Bay, said to be where Waden met his end March 1782, and has a small stone marker saying so.
About a week later I got a snail mail letter from Hugh MacMillan, one of my more knowledgeable fur trade expert members. Among other things he helped organize and conduct an epic voyageur canoe trip in 1967 from Lake Superior to Williamstown, ON as part of the Canadian Centennial and later founded the Nor'wester and Loyalist Museum in Williamstown. This is where Susan D'Ambrosio of Milford plans to bequeath her fine fur trade library after finding it thru Peter Pond Society.
Here is part of Hugh's letter (see my annotations and endnotes):

"Excerpt re Peter Pond and Patrick Small from Prologue to Norman, The Canadian Bethunes by Mosaic Press, Oakville 1976 copywrited (sic) by Mary Larrat Smith.
Joseph Faignant of Berthier, later swore under oath that he had found his master lying on the ground with his leg shattered, and saw Pond and his man, Toussaint Lesier, by the door, and Waddin had said, 'Ah, mon ami, Je suis mort.' And, using some words unintelligible to Faignant, told him to fetch la…to stop the blood. Shortly after that, Jean Etienne Waddin, the great-great-great grandfather of Dr. Norman Bethune and all our generation of Bethunes, died.
When news of her husband's death reached Marie Joseph Waddin in Montreal, she sent Joseph Faignant's affidavit1 to Sir Frederick Haldimand, the governor of Quested, 2 with a request for Pond's apprehension. Pond was seized and taken to Montreal. The case, however, never reached the courts. Some said, for lack of evidence, others believed that the Montreal courts were afraid to try a case from the western part of the country. Peter Pond got off scot-free and went back to the fur trade where he prospered until 17893 when, due to some unpleasantness connected with the murder of another fur trader, John Ross. Pond was obliged to sell his shares in the trade and leave the country.4
Jean Etienne Waddin was said by his friends and business associates to have been a man of strict probity and sobriety. One of his friends was a fur trader called Patrick Small5. Small and Waddin had wintered together on the Churchill River before the beginnings of the North West Company and therefore knew each other well. I have been told that after Waddin's death, Patrick Small happened to be in the Ile a la Crosse area and came into possession of Waddin's journals, and that some years later when Small retired and went back to England, he took with him his dead friend's journals, and in the year 1800 published them together with his own records in a book entitled "FUR TRADING ON THE CHURCHILL". I have been told that although it is an extremely rare book there are a few copies in private collections in England, but I, myself, have never been able to locate one."

1 Entire affidavit reprinted in French in the Innis biography on Peter Pond. Faignant was not an eye-witness to the whole incident, only arrived on the scene shortly after hearing a shot.
2 Quebec?
3 Pond was replaced by A. Mackenzie and left Athabasca for good May 1788, remained in Montreal until March 1790 when he departed Canada for the last time.
4 Ross was shot Spring 1787 in a scuffle between his group and Pond's men. Pond was not there. But this fatality and that of Waden were close enough together to warrant Pond being replaced at Athabasca. The replacement was Mackenzie, to whom Pond imparted all his knowledge and theories sending AM on to greatness. Pond apparently left Canada under a cloud after it was learned his direction send AM down the wrong river, which AM soon enough corrected by finding the right system of rivers to the Pacific in 1793. Pond was apparently not that tainted, selling his shares to William McGillivray who took over the Northwest Co. on the death of his uncle, Simon McTavish, and is remembered today at the re-constructed fur trade post-museum, Old Fort William, in Thunder Bay, ON.
5 Patrick Small was also a Pond contemporary and acquaintance, father of Charlotte Small, devoted metis wife of 57 years to explorer David Thompson. David and Charlotte bore 13 children and spent their final years in Williamstown, ON. Their house still stands as a private residence, called the Bethune-Thompson House since the Bethunes built it and sold it to Thompson. Current owner is Peter Pond Society member David Anderson, friend of Hugh MacMillan.

Also, Carol has heard of the Bethune book but not the Small book.


Maybe it's time we got to know Fort McMurray better. So here is a basic information from Wikipedia). At the bottom it notes famous residents. One is Natasha Henstridge, who I so admired in the 1995 comedic Alien/date movie, "Species." One of her websites say she is the celebrity fund raising chairman for the MacDonald Island restoration project. Where did my nice aerial photo of MacDonald Island come from? Correct, that website.
Another famous resident is Ottawa Senators defenseman (spelled defenceman in Canada) Chris Phillips. I'll admit I booed him during the Stanley Cup Playoffs when the Senators beat the Buffalo Sabres. The Sabres' star, Chris Drury, has his hometown of Trumbull 20 miles from me, and I've watched him play since high school. We crossed paths at work a few times, and he always called me "Mr. McDonald." But the Senators prevailed in that series so I started rooting for them on their continued quest, once learning about Phillips and the FM connection. Sorry they didn't quite make it.

Have a good summer.

Peter Pond Society editor Bill McDonald

Au revoir,