Angus Mac Donald

Image from the University of Montana

I don’t know if this is the same Angus  Mac Donald in the following poem, but the Angus Mac Donald pictured above  also lived an interesting life.

ANGUS MAC DONALD

(By. J. HAMPTON MILES.)

When Arctic was a wilderness,
E’er foot of Pioneer
Had trod upon the velvet moss
That draped her golden lair;
When forest monarch reigned supreme
O’er mountain, lea, and dale,
E’er winter’s crested, crystal sheen
Was streaked with silver trail.

A white-winged sloop approached the coast,
Then fringed with gorse and teak,
Old Angus Mac., with miner’s pack,
Mushed up her glacier’d peak;
The red man’s snarling, wolfish cur —
The bear, and antler’d king,
With growl and wail, near camp and trail
Did nightly anthems sing.

In manhood’s prime, with giant’s frame,
Herculean bone and brawn,
Piercing the sylvan God’s domain
Into the frigid zone.
Thewed was he like the polar bear,
Living in glacier’d cave,
For fortune’s weal, with heart of steel,
He fought the Arctic wave.

Through forest wild, and herbage dense,
He moved and moved and moved,
With silent care toward the star
His spirit sought and loved;
Through endless waste, o’er mountain dome,
From surging ocean brine —
From Ketchikan to plot of Nome
He mushed and builded shrine.

Among the first to pierce the hue
Of Arctic circle’s ray,
The first to ride a bark canoe
O’er Yukon’s surging spray.
His camp-fires were the first to glow
In valley, dale and glen,
He broke the first trail through the snow
With white man’s moccasin.

When savage sought to take the life
Of wives and children dear,
He fought the red man knife to knife
And drove him to the rear;
In Wrangel camp, through winter’s cold,
Defended he the white,
When demon’s yell brave hearts did quell,
He ever fought the fight.

Through blinding mist of sleet and snow,
He paced from dark till dawn,
Each weary hour along the shore,
Protecting white man’s spawn;
Thus night by night, and day by day,
Did he the vigil keep,
Through rain and snows, without repose,
While others slept sweet sleep.

Beneath two flags he fortunes sought,
And fortunes whiled away;
Like other men he sold and bought
The pleasures of the day;
And be it said that never man
On whom the cruel fate
Had filled with dirt the golden pan
Turned hungry from his gate.

But sun of life moves on his course,
And Angus, old and gray,
With broken health and empty purse,
Is treading in its ray;
The days that’re gone and days that dawn
Are memories and care,
With broken health and vanished wealth,
He moves toward his star.

But not the star of which he dreamed
In cycles past and gone,
When golden sun rays on him streamed
From dawn till balmy dawn.
But will our flag — the Stripes and Stars —
Forsake his silver head?
Forsake the son who forged her crown,
And weaved her silken thread?

Fairbanks Daily Times (Failbanks, Alaska) Dec 24, 1912

Image from the Hudson Bay CompanyLearning Center

*****

From Scots in the American Northwest:

Angus MacDonald from the Isle of Skye entered the service of the HBC in 1838 and proved so skillful in obtaining Indian furs that in 1852 he was appointed head of the extensive Colville district, including all traditional posts north of Walla Walla, Washington, far into British Columbia. MacDonald held this position until 1871, when the HBC finally gave up its last posts in the United States, and lived the rest of his life as an American in Montana Territory.

At HistoryLink, an essay about Christina McDonald, Angus’ daughter, includes some fascinating recollections:

Angus MacDonald from the Isle of Skye entered the service of the HBC in 1838 and proved so skillful in obtaining Indian furs that in 1852 he was appointed head of the extensive Colville district, including all traditional posts north of Walla Walla, Washington, far into British Columbia. MacDonald held this position until 1871, when the HBC finally gave up its last posts in the United States, and lived the rest of his life as an American in Montana Territory.

…..

Christina McDonald, the second child of Angus McDonald  and his wife, Catherine Baptiste (1826-1902), was born on September 20, 1847, near the Hudson’s Bay Company’s Fort Hall (present-day Idaho), where her father was employed as a clerk. A native of Scotland, Angus McDonald had immigrated to Canada in 1838 to work in the fur trade and had served his apprenticeship in the Snake River country, where he met Catherine. Christina later wrote: “My mother was of mixed blood. Her father was an Iroquois Frenchman, long in the employ of the Hudson’s Bay Company. Mother was a cousin of  Eagle-of-the-Light the Nez Perce chief” (Williams, Daughter, 107).

…..

Looking back on her relationship with her father, Christina explained that “as I grew older, I became his special companion and acted as interpreter for him most of the time” (Williams, Daughter, 109). Fluent in at least four languages, she became a valuable asset in his business dealings throughout the Northwest. She kept the books for him, and would accompany him and the company brigade to Kamloops each year to deliver furpacks, carrying the records in a buckskin sack. The first part of the journey was along a trail up the Kettle River (present-day Ferry County), and at one point the horses had to be swum across and a raft built to carry the goods.

…..

Read the complete essay at the link above.

Evidently, the Museum of Northern Idaho has a book for sale about Angus McDonald  [review excerpt]:

Quirky exploits, life and death challenges, his wide-ranging celebrity status, intimate victories and continental-sized disappointments were all enjoyed by this frontiersman from Ross-shire, Scotland. Included in this was a marriage to Catherine, a young Métis girl of royal Nez Perce lineage, and McDonald’s rotation through Hudson’s Bay Company’s York Factory, Fort Colvile, Fort Hall and Fort Connah. Throughout the book, author Steve A. Anderson “has allowed the unique and sympathetic voice that emerges from McDonald’s narratives, poetry and native stories, to throw light on the unheralded richness of the time” notes Bruce M. Watson, Canadian biographer and author.

In this description, it does sound like it could be the same Angus MacDonald as in the poem, however, in  a Google review, I found the following:

McDonald has been confused with others of the same name for a century. Anderson has clearly separated this Angus form the others in very scholarly fashion.

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