by HARRIET D. MUNNICK West Linn, Oregon
On the lowest rung but one in the hierarchy of the fur trade monopolies were the French Canadian engages, below them being only the Indian servants. The Canadians were humble, hard-working, poorly paid, and usually illiterate. They worked as boatmen, carpenters, guides, trappers, boatbuilders, millers, herders, or at any of the varied tasks a fur post entailed. One such engage, Pierre Pariseau, may be said to typify the hundreds that penetrated the unknown valleys and mountain meadows of the Northwest during the first half of the nineteenth century.
Not much is known of Pierre Pariseau prior to his arrival in the West. He was born about 1793 to Jean Baptiste Pariseau and Francoise Alarie, possibly in France, as family belief has it, and brought to Montreal at an early age. He himself said that he had drifted down into New York State while Andrew Jackson was president, and probably joined some fur expedition across the continent, as he is known to have been in the Oregon country in 1832 in the employ of the Hudson's Bay Company. He was dispatched almost at once to the south to help in the erection of a fort on the Umpqua River.
This stream, which flows west from the Cascade Mountains between the Calapooya and Siskiyou ranges, was the home of an inimical tribe that had massacred Jedediah Smith's party five years earlier. Trading with them was unpredictable, calling for a stout fort and constant alertness against a shift in relations, particularly since so remote a post could not command a large force of employees.
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Publication information: Book title: French Fur Traders and Voyageurs in the American West. Contributors: Leroy R. Hafen - Editor. Publisher: University of Nebraska Press. Place of publication: Lincoln, NE. Publication year: 1997. Page number: 253.
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