Fort Enterprise Days

As it may be interesting to the reader to know how we passed our time at this season of the year, I shall mention briefly, that a considerable portion of it was occupied in writing up our journals. Some newspapers and magazines, that we had received from England with our letters, were read again and again, and commented upon, at our meals; and we often exercised ourselves with conjecturing the changes that might take place in the world before we could hear from it again. The probability of our receiving letters, and the period of their arrival, were calculated to a nicety. We occasionally paid the woodmen a visit, or took a walk for a mile or two on the river.

In the evenings we joined the men in the hall, and took a part in their games, which generally continued to a late hour; in short, we never found the time to hang heavy upon our hands; and the peculiar occupations of each of the officers afforded them more employment than might at first be supposed. I re-calculated the observations made on our route; Mr. Hood protracted the charts, and made those drawings of birds, plants, and fishes, which cannot appear in this work, but which have been the admiration of every one who has seen them. Each of the party sedulously and separately recorded their observations on the aurora; and Dr. Richardson contrived to obtain from under the snow, specimens of most of the lichens in the neighbourhood, and to make himself acquainted with the mineralogy of the surrounding country.

The Sabbath was always a day of rest with us; the woodmen were required to provide for the exigencies of that day on Saturday, and the party were dressed in their best attire. Divine service was regularly performed, and the Canadians attended, and behaved with great decorum, although they were all Roman Catholics, and but little acquainted with the language in which the prayers were read. I regretted much that we had not a French Prayer-Book, but the Lord’s Prayer and Creed were always read to them in their own language.

Our diet consisted almost entirely of rein-deer meat, varied twice a week by fish, and occasionally by a little flour, but we had no vegetables of any description. On the Sunday mornings we drank a cup of chocolate, but our greatest luxury was tea (without sugar) of which we regularly partook twice a-day. With rein-deer’s fat, and strips of cotton shirts, we formed candles; and Hepburn acquired considerable skill in the manufacture of soap, from the wood-ashes, fat, and salt. The formation of soap was considered as rather a mysterious operation by our Canadians, and, in their hands, was always supposed to fail if a woman approached the kettle in which the ley was boiling. Such are our simple domestic details.

John Franklin
Fort Enterprise
November 1820 – May 1821