edited version, but had no more idea than my grandfather of a publisher. Probably none was ever approached. The two manuscripts went into a box of family papers from where, almost ninety years later, they emerged. The history of the Slocan was never written.
My grandfather’s account of Martin Fry is reproduced here largely as he wrote it. I have edited it a little, added a few explanatory notes, eliminated three short passages (deletions noted in the text), provided dates where they could be easily worked out, and added a few headings. Otherwise, what follows is my grandfather’s 1927 account, based on his conversations with Martin Fry.
Reading this manuscript now, I am struck by the level of violence in which Martin’s life was situated. He shot on sight animals that would now be admired. Indigenous peoples were being displaced, and the process was not pretty. Martin reported a summary hanging of an Indigenous man—one such incident, presumably, among many. And there were full-blown wars between Indigenous tribes and U.S. troops, wars that the tribes, up against the organization and fire-power of modern armies, would eventually lose. Martin never participated in such wars—his brother, who married an Indigenous woman, was often considered more “Indian” than White — but these wars lurked around him.
I am also struck by the selectivity of memory. The complexity of Martin’s life is compressed into a few pages, basically into a few vivid incidents, as when a seven-month trip by covered wagon along the Oregon Trail is represented by sightings of buffaloes and Indians and burials of dead children. Martin’s memory, good as it was, offers only a lean selection of the myriad doings of his life. Like most oral accounts, his is uncertain about time and digresses into byways. Sometimes his chronology breaks down, and some of his facts are questionable. Moreover, his story is filtered through my grandfather, who had come to the Slocan only five years after Martin but out of a very different, upper-middle-class English background. His notes (which have not survived) must have omitted parts of what Martin told him, and he must have imposed something of his own background, values, and turns of phrase on his retelling of Martin’s story. In short, this biography should probably be read less for specific information about the places and events described, than as a glimpse of the general contours of a remarkable life and of the context of that life in a particular moment of Western North American time.