David Thompson (1770-1857), after early education at a London charity school where he studied mathematics and navigation, signed on as an apprentice with the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1784, and worked as surveyor for both the HBC and the North West Company.
p. 5, on his early reading as a charity student at Grey Coat Hospital: Books in those days were scarce and dear and most of the scholars got the loan of such books as his parents could lend him. Those which pleased us most were the Tales of the Genii, the Persian, and Arabian Tales, with Robinson Crusoe and Gullivers Travels: these gave us many subjects for discussion and how each would behave on various occasions.
p. 26, at his first HBC post in Churchill in winter of 1784-85: I was fortunate in passing my time in the company of three gentlemen the officers of the factory, Mr Jefferson, the deputy governor, Mr Prince the captain of the Sloop, that annually trade with the Esquimaux to the northward, and Mr Hodges the Surgeon; they had books which they freely lent to me, among them were several on history and animated nature, these were what I paid most attention to as the most instructive. Writing paper there was none but what was in the hands of the Governor, and a few sheets among the officers. On my complaining that I should lose my writing for want of practice, Mr Hearne employed me a few days on his manuscript entitled “A journey to the North” and at another time I copied an Invoice.
p. 51, “Life at a Trading Post”: The summer months pass away without regret, the myriads of tormenting flies allow no respite, and we see the cold months advance with something like pleasure, for now we can enjoy a book, or a walk.
p. 180: It seems when the French from Canada first entered these furr countries, every summer a Priest came to instruct the Traders and their men their religious duties, and preach to them and the Natives in Latin, it being the only language the Devil does not understand and cannot learn: He had collected about twenty Men with a few of the Natives upon a small Island, of rock; and while instructing them, a large war party of Sieux Indians came on then and began the work of death; not one escaped; whilst this was going on, the Priest kept walking backwards and forwards on a level rock about fifty yards in length, with his eyes fixed on his book, without seeming to notice them; at length as he turned about, one of them sent an arrow through him and he fell dead.
p. 241: These great Plains appear to be given by Providence to the Red Men for ever, as the wilds and sands of Africa are given to the Arabians.