The Elusive Mr. Pond

The Elusive Mr. Pond

The Soldier, Fur Trader and Explorer Who Opened the Northwest

Book - 2014
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Sir Alexander Mackenzie is known to schoolchildren as a great Canadian explorer who gave his name to the country's longest river, but hardly anyone could name the man who mentored Mackenzie and mapped much of northwestern Canada before him. Soldier,fur trader and explorer Peter Pond, the subject of this long overdue book, is a man whose legend has been forgotten in favour of those who came after him.

Born in Connecticut in 1739, Pond volunteered for the colonial Connecticut and New York regiments that fought against the French for control of North America. Soon after, drawn by the promise of wealth and adventure, Pond paddled into the wild territory of the Indians to the west with only a canoe, some trade goods and a few French Canadians to aid him. What he returned with is the stuff of legend. From the voyage that defined his career, Pond brought back over eighty thousand furs and directions to a portage and river system that would carry traders farther west than they had ever been. In 1779, Pond was a founding partner of the North West Company that entered into fierce competition with the Hudson's Bay Company for control of the North American fur trade. He was a gruff man not to be crossed and left his position with the company in 1788 after being implicated in two murders.

Much of Pond's life is shadowed in mystery. The second half of his memoirs are torn from the original journal and he died in obscurity without an obituary or marked tomb. Historian Barry Gough uses Pond's surviving memoirs, explorers' journals, letters written by acquaintances of Pond, publications in London magazines and many other sources to track and reconstruct the life of one of the last of the tough, old-style explorers who ventured into the wilderness with little more than a strong instinct for survival and helped shape the modern world.

Publisher: Madeira Park, British Columbia : Douglas & McIntyre, ©2014
ISBN: 9781771620390
Branch Call Number: 971.201092 PON 2014
Characteristics: xxv, 230 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm

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rb3221 Mar 30, 2015

Peter Pond began his life as a colonial soldier, then mapped, explored and traded furs over vast regions of the rivers and lakes between Lake Superior and Great Slave Lake and the Peace River. Although poorly educated (and died uncelebrated) he became the most prominent fur trader and explorer of the time and although an American could even be considered a father of Confederation. As Gough clearly explains with great detail Pond's success was due to his knowledge of fur trade logistics, forward planning and the excellent rapport he developed with the Natives. He often traveled alone through vast distances for over 20 years and made handsome profits for himself and the North West Company, of which he was a founding member.
This book is a very interesting historical and very detailed account of Peter Pond's life in context with the times (but perhaps too detailed as the story was occasionally difficult to follow).

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