Learn More: Excerpts from Peter Kalm’s Diary

Excerpts from Peter Kalm’s Diary

Link to full text of his Travels into North America, 1772

Naturalist Peter Kalm

July the 2d.  EARLY this morning we set out on our journey again, it being moonshine and calm, and we feared lest the wind should change and become unfavourable to us if we stopped any longer.  We all rowed as hard as possible, and happily arrived about eight in the morning at Fort St. Frederic, which the English call Crown Point.  Monsieur Lusignan, the governor, received us politely.  He was about fifty years old, well acquainted with polite literature, and had made several journies into this country, by which he had acquired an exact knowledge of several things relative to its state.”

July the 6th.  THE soldiers, which had been paid off after war, had built houses round the fort, on the grounds allotted to them; but most of these habitations were no more than wretched cottages, no better than those in the most wretched places of Sweden; with that difference, however, that their inhabitants here were rarely oppressed by hunger, and could eat good and pure wheat bread.  The huts which they had erected consisted of boards, standing perpendicularly close to each other.  The roofs were of wood too.  The crevices were stopped up with clay, to keep the room warm.  The floor was commonly clay, or a black limestone, which is common here.  The hearth was built of the same stone, except the place [where] the fire was to [lie], which was made of grey sandstones, which for the greatest part consist of particles of quartz.  In some hearths, the stones quite close to the fire-place were limestones; however, I was assured that there was no danger of fire, especially if the stones, which were most exposed to the heat, were of large size.  They had no glass in their windows.”

“ July the 11th. AMONG some other kinds of sand, which are found on the shores of Lake Champlain, two were very peculiar, and commonly lay in the same place; the one was black, and the other reddish brown, or granite coloured.”

“THE black sand always lies uppermost, consists of very fine grains, which, when examined by a microscope, appear to have a dark blue colour, like that of a smooth iron, not attacked by rust.  Some grains are roundish, but most of them angular, with shining surfaces; and they sparkle when the sun shines.  All the grains of this sand without exception are attracted by the magnet.  Amongst these black or deep blue grains, they meet with a few grains of red or garnet coloured sand, which is the same with the red sand which lies immediately under it, and which I shall now describe.  This red or garnet coloured sand is very fine, but not so fine as the black sand.  Its grains not only participate of the colour of garnets, but they are really nothing but pounded garnets.  Some grains are round, other angulated; all shine and are semipellucid; but the magnet has no effect on them, and they do not sparkle so much in sunshine.  This red sand is seldom found very pure, it being commonly mixed with a white sand, consisting of particles of quartz.  The black and red sand is not found in every part of the shore, but only in a few places, in the order before mentioned.  The uppermost or black sand lay about a quarter of an inch deep; when it was carefully taken off, the sand under it became deeper red the deeper it lay, and its depth was commonly greater than that of the former.  When this was carefully taken away, the white sand of quartz appeared mixed very much at top with the red sand, but growing purer the deeper it lay.  This white sand as above four inches deep, had round grains, which made it entirely like a pearl sand.  Below this was a pale grey angulated quartz sand.  In some places the garnet coloured sand lay immediately under it, without a grain of either the black of the white sand.

“I CANNOT determine the origin of the black or steel-coloured sand, for it was not known here whether there were iron mines in the neighbourhood or not.  But I am rather inclined to believe they may be found in these parts, as they are common in different parts of Canada, and as this sand is found on the shores of almost all the lakes, and rivers in Canada, though not in equal quantities.”

 

July the 19th.  FORT St. Frederic is a fortification, on the southern extremity of Lake Champlain, situated on a neck of land, between that lake and the river, which arises from the union of the river Woodcreek, and lake St. Sacrement.  The breadth of this river is here about a good musket shot.  The English call this fortress Crownpoint, but its French name is derived from the French secretary of state, Frederic Maurepas, in whose hands the direction and management of the French court of admiralty was, at the time of the erection of this fort: for it is to be observed, that the government of Canada is subject to the court of admiralty in France, and the governor-general is always chosen out of that court.  As most of the places in Canada bear the names of saints, custom has made it necessary to prefix the Saint to the name of the fortress.  The fort is built on a rock, consisting of black lime-slates, as afore said; it is nearly quadrangular, has high and thick walls, made of lime-stone, of which there is a quarry about a half a mile from the fort.  On the eastern part of the fort, is a high tower, which is proof against bombshells, provided with very thick and substantial walls, and well stored with cannon, from the bottom almost to the very top; and the governor lives in the tower.  In the terre-plein of the fort is a well-built little church, and houses of stone for the officers and soldiers.  There are sharp rocks on all sides towards the land, beyond a cannon-shot from the fort, but among them are some which are as high as the walls of the fort, and very near them.”

THE soil about for St. Frederic is said to be very fertile, on both sides of the river; and before the last war a great many French families, especially old soldiers, have settled there; but the king obliged them to go into Canada, or to settle close to the fort, and to [lie] in it at night.  A great number of them returned at this time, and it was thought that about forty or fifty families would go settle there this autumn.  Within one or two musket-shots to the east of the fort, is a wind-mill, built of stone with very thick walls, and most of the flour which is wanted to supply the fort is ground here.  This wind-mill is so contrived, as to serve the purpose of a redoubt, and at the top of it are five or six small pieces of cannon.  During the last war, there was a number of soldiers quartered in this mill, because they could from thence look a great way up the river, and observe whether the English boats approached; which could not be done from the fort itself, and which was a matter of great consequence, as the English might (if this guard had not been placed here) have gone in their little boats close under the western shore of the river, and then the hills would have prevented their being seen from the fort.  Therefore, the fort ought to have been built on the spot where the mill stands, and all those who come to see it, are immediately struck with the absurdity of its situation.  If it had been erected in the place of the mill, it would have commanded the river, and prevented the approach of the enemy; and a small ditch cut through the loose limestone, from the river (which comes out of the lake St. Sacramanet [Lake George] to Lake Champlain, would have surrounded the fort with flowing water, because it would have been situated on the extremity of the neck of land.  In that case the fort would always have been sufficiently supplied with fresh water, and at a distance from the high rocks, which surround it in its present situation.”

“We prepared to-day to leave this place…  The governor of the fort Mr. Lusignan, a man of learning and of great politeness, heaped obligations upon us, and treated us with as much civility as if we had been his relations.  I had the honor of eating at his table during my stay here, and my servant was allowed to eat with his.  We had our rooms, &c. to ourselves, and at our departure the governor supplied us with ample provisions for our journey to fort St. John.  In short, he did us more favours than we could have expected from our own countrymen, and the officers were likewise particularly obliging to us.”

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