What was it like to paddle on a canoe brigade?

What was it like to paddle on a canoe brigade? Did voyageurs ever write about it? Did voyageurs keep journals? (Renner, 12; Carsyn, 13; Blake, 11) In 1793,  John Macdonell left Lachine to begin serving as a North West Company clerk—and he kept a journal! This post focuses on the time when his brigade left Montreal to their arrival at the rendezvous at Grand Portage (the first half of his journal). He wrote much more, but these shortened comments give you a sense of the voyageurs’ work and his experience. As a clerk, Macdonell didn’t have to paddle or portage on the voyage. When his brigade arrives—after about 5 months of rigorous travel—he will supervise a wintering post and be in charge of its trading. *** May 10 ~ Signed my engagement papers with the North West Company for five years to winter in the Indian Country as a clerk. The terms are £100 at the expiration, and found in necessaries. [That’s £20 per year. As “necessaries,” clerks were allotted special provisions like tea, sugar and liquor, extra clothing, extra blankets and traveling equipment, and a tent. He will get paid the cash upon return.] May 25 ~ Embarked at Lachine on board a birch bark canoe, the first that I remember to have been in. …The brigade of canoes in the Grand River [Ottawa] is generally 4. Canoes when fully loaded carry about 3 Tuns. [His steersman and foreman and the canoe’s 8-10 paddlers come from the parish of Berthier. His guide is swapped at the last minute, and goes with a different trader.] May 27 ~ At 9 a.m. Crossed over to St. Ann’s where we found the Priest saying mass for one Lalonde who had been drowned 110 leagues [A league is the distance a man can walk in one hour, perhaps three miles.] above this place, at Roche Capitaine [a series of rapids in the Ottawa River below the forks at Mattawa].Tho drowned near 12 months ago, his remains were only brought down by his brothers this spring on their return from the upper country in a coffin made for the purpose in order to give him Christian Sepulture, according to the Catholic Rites. [At St. Ann’s, the crews normally collected a voluntary donation to have prayers said for the prosperity of the voyage and a safe return to those engaged in it, to their family...
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