In October, 1809, North West Company trader-explorer-surveyor extraordinaire David Thompson picked out a location for a fur trading post and started construction. For more than a hundred years academics and archeologists as well as professional and amateur historians and writers have diligently searched for its location.
Information related to its whereabouts had been painstakingly recorded by Thompson himself in his daily Journal as well as in his Narrative, written some 40 years after he left Saleesh House and retired from the NWCo. All the information necessary for finding that historic place was included. As it turns out the mystery was like a thousand-piece puzzle. Often infused by 20th Century writers with rumors, speculation and sometimes tall tales we now commonly refer to as urban legend, Thompson's roadmap got lost in the shuffle.
After years of relatively intense research and a significant amount of time in the field truth-checking routes and features he described, we are confident we now know—within a very small, well-defined area—where Saleesh House stood.
The link above provides information about the location and why we think we can now safely say we know the place Thompson described when he wrote in his Narrative the following description:
"The House was situated in a small bay of the river, close to us was a spur of the hills which came on the River in a cliff of about sixty feet in height, beyond which to the south eastward the country opened out to a great extent of fine meadow ground, the scene of many a battle; the Saleesh Indians and their allies, when hard pressed, always made for this rock as their natural defence, and which had always proved a shield to them, and [they] shewed us, the bones of their enemies slain at different times in attempting to force this pass; to me it appeared easy to become master of it, to proceed farther up the River was to be still more exposed."
In 2018, the river through the small town of Thompson Falls, MT, originally named Clark's Fork of the Columbia, experienced two historically significant water levels—one very high, the other very low.
The former was due to heavy winter snowpack that produced a significantly higher spring runoff than is usual in the realm of at least a 50-year event. The latter was the result of necessary repair work on the dam built at Thompson Falls in 1917.
The lower Clark's Fork carries water from an immense region west of the Continental Divide to its confluence with the Columbia River and thence down that river to the Pacific Ocean. The north end of the watershed is located in Canada about 15 miles southeast of the town of Fernie, BC, the headwaters of today's Flathead River. To the south, the watershed ends about 20 miles from Butte, MT and at Missoula, it is joined by the waters of the Bitteroot River originating along the Continental Divide where Highway 93 crosses Lost Trail Pass.
Both events provided opportunities to see and explore features rarely in evidence. The result was the exposure of additional, exciting information related to Thompson's Journal notes regarding water levels and trail locations.
Fortunately, my friends Dave Bennett and Ron Petrie provided me with photographs and more that further help define where Saleesh House and, later, Flathead House were most likely located.
Locating and walking trails Thompson traveled and seeing places he observed and noted help provide yet more detail about what the country was like when he first wrote about them.
The link above will take you to a page showing some of what was newly discovered and shown here for the first time.
Carl W. Haywood