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In Their Own Voices

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In his memoirs, Peter Erasmus recalls his first impression of Thomas Woolsey:

Woolsey was not really small but he had the appearance of a man of delicate physical development. He was openly pleasant in manner, smiling and affable as he greeted the rest of Stark's crew by their first names. He had some news of each of their families in Edmonton, Lac Ste. Anne, and St. Albert-a name later given to a new settlement.

The men, a long way from their families on the annual summer trips, crowded around him with eagerness and pleasure for the first knowledge they had of their people since early in the spring. His thoughtfulness in this kindly act was typical of the man, as I was to learn in my association with him later. I was pleasantly impressed at this first meeting. I liked the man; his spontaneous laugh at Stark's joke indicated a happy, easy disposition. A well balanced sense of humor was a delightful contrast to some of my recent experiences.

And later, he records his final thoughts about the same man:

I was sorry to see my old friend leave but I was glad that henceforth he would have things much easier. I felt guilty for his illness in that I could possibly have protected him against his overzealous efforts among the Indians. I was convinced that he could have been saved his present misery if he had not been so [prejudiced against Indian medicines. A fine character, kindly and unselfish, but strong-willed and determined far beyond the powers of his physical strength to support. His influence with the Indians was tremendous. History will never record the extent of his labours.

Having traveled hundreds of miles in all kinds of way and weather conditions, I always found him cheerful and happy, although there were times when I thought we might have curtailed the length of his grace at meals or his prayers in the morning and when camping at night. Extreme cold, blizzards, or buckets of rain never affected his customary supplications on these occasions, much to my own impatience which by his example I learned to accept without complaint. I admired the man for his sincerity and I knew it was beyond him to boast of his work of the privations he had suffered traveling to reach his migratory flock. He would never dwell on the sacrifice of comfort or of his endurance on the trail to impress his eastern superiors. I hope that these few words may remove some of the obscurity that hides his work among the Indians.

Citation Sources
Erasmus, Peter. Buffalo Days and Nights. Calgary: Glenbow Institute, 1999.


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