Historical Vignettes

"Study history, study history. In history lies all the secrets of statecraft ."
- Winston Churchill
 

David Thompson and Charlotte Small

District of Invermere Trail System Interpretive Signage, Summer 2014


This project combines the art of distilling research into a set word count while maintaining reader interest. All 14 stories required firm word limits for the website, trail pamphlet, and interpretive signs. The stories involved archival research, on-site visits, and interviews with community elders.   

     David Thompson and Charlotte Small

Website - 410
"At noon, arrived at the Kootanae Lake ... the Water is very clear & the Country on the whole has a very romantic appearance."
Those were David Thompson's initial impressions of Lake Windermere on his arrival in April, 1807. One of the greatest explorers and cartographers the world has ever known came to the Columbia Valley in the employ of the North West Company. His instructions were to open up the fur trade with the Kootanae (Ktunaxa) Indians, establish trading forts, and discover a route to the Pacific Ocean through the great river systems of the Rockies.
Thompson and his men built a fort at Kootenae House where the Columbia River and Toby Creek meet. The spot is now a Parks Canada National Historic Site. Also with him were Charlotte Small and their 3 young children, the first of 13 they would have together. A half-Cree Metis woman who married the 29-year-old Thompson when she was 13, Charlotte was fluent in English, French, and Cree, and knew how to hunt, trap, travel, and household in the wild. Her skills helped them survive on their explorations, and her heritage helped Thompson with his fur trading negotiations.
From 1807 to 1812 Thompson traded with the Ktunaxa, explored the entire length of the Columbia River to the Pacific Ocean, established 3 outposts, and surveyed all the land he passed through. His maps were renowned for their accuracy, and his journals are thick with survey notations and landscape descriptions. During his long career David Thompson travelled over 90,000 kilometres by canoe, dogsled, horse, and on foot. He surveyed and mapped over 3.9 million square kilometres of land from the Mississippi headwaters to the West Coast, earning him the title of North America's Greatest Geographer.
In 1812 Thompson retired from exploration and took Charlotte and his children to Montreal. The couple shared a deep love for each other, seldom spoken about in his journals but inferred in the details. She travelled with him for 25,000 kilometres of his journeys. They stayed together for 58 years, the longest marriage in Canada at the time, helping each other through the loss of 3 children and a later life of poor means. They died within 3 months of each other, and are buried together in Montreal.
Both David Thompson and Charlotte Small are recognized as Persons of National Historical Significance. Many artifacts of their time in the Columbia Valley are kept in the Windermere Valley Museum.

 

Pamphlet - 255
"At noon, arrived at the Kootanae Lake ... the Water is very clear & the Country on the whole has a very romantic appearance."
Those were David Thompson's initial impressions of Lake Windermere on his arrival in April, 1807. One of the greatest explorers and cartographers the world has ever known came to the Columbia Valley to open up the fur trade with the Kootanae (Ktunaxa) Indians and discover a route to the Pacific Ocean through the great river systems of the Rockies.
Thompson built a fort at Kootenae House where the Columbia River and Toby Creek meet. Also with him were Charlotte Small and their 3 young children. A half-Cree Metis woman, Charlotte was fluent in English, French, and Cree, and knew how to hunt, trap, travel, and household in the wild.
From 1807 to 1812 Thompson traded furs, explored the entire length of the Columbia River, established 3 outposts, and surveyed all the land he passed through. In 1812 Thompson retired from exploration and took Charlotte and his children to Montreal. The couple shared a deep love for each other. They stayed together for 58 years, the longest marriage in Canada at the time, helping each other through the loss of 3 children and a later life of poor means. They died within 3 months of each other, and are buried together in Montreal.
Both David Thompson and Charlotte Small are recognized as Persons of National Historical Significance. Many artifacts of their time in the Columbia Valley are kept in the Windermere Valley Museum.

 

 

 

 

Sign - 200
"At noon, arrived at the Kootanae Lake ... the Water is very clear & the Country on the whole has a very romantic appearance."
Those were David Thompson's initial impressions of Lake Windermere on his arrival in April, 1807 when the great explorer and cartographer came to the Columbia Valley to open up the fur trade with the Kootanae (Ktunaxa) Indians and discover a route to the Pacific through the great river systems of the Rockies.
Thompson built a fort at Kootenae House close to today's Wilmer. Charlotte Small and their 3 young children came with him. A half-Cree Metis woman, Charlotte was fluent in English, French, and Cree, and knew how to hunt, trap, travel, and household in the wild.
From 1807 to 1812 Thompson traded furs, explored the entire length of the Columbia River, and surveyed all the land he passed through. In 1812 Thompson retired with Charlotte and his children to Montreal. The couple shared a deep love for each other, staying together for 58 years, and died within 3 months of each other. Both David Thompson and Charlotte Small are recognized as Persons of National Historical Significance. Many David Thompson artifacts are kept in the Windermere Valley Museum.