The Saleesh House Site

Where Was Saleesh House Actually Located?

Our search for the true location of David Thompson’s Saleesh House began in 2003. That was when Linda and I finally returned to Thompson Falls to retire. It was also when we discovered that a handful of local historians had decided that Thompson’s post was located on the south side of the river—nowhere near where Thompson told us it was in his journals—the first written history of the region. The group refused to even discuss the subject with us. That is why in 2008 I completed my book, Sometimes Only Horses to Eat. If you have not yet read it, you should think about doing so.

Saleesh House

Saleesh House by Cricket Johnston

Now, 20 years later, we feel we have done all we can to pinpoint the site. That is not to say we might have missed some important piece of information Thompson left. Such a discovery could turn all our work on its head. If so, so be it. Keeping history true and accurate has been our goal since we started this project; nothing more, nothing less.
Thompson knew his calculations for latitude were not going to be perfectly accurate since since access to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) as not available except at the Greenwich Royal Observatory in London when the sun crosses the Prime Meridian. The latitudes he recorded were based on looking up the time of his observation in printed tables he carried with him. He also had to apply a correction to his compass readings to determine true north for use in mapping his travels and other important locations. The accuracy of his observations for longitude were even more difficult. That required using a telescope to observe the precise time one of Jupiter’s 50+ moons entering the shadow of the planet, some 393 million plus miles from Earth.
This sketch of the Royal Observatory is from an engraving (circa 1676) by Francis Place that was published in 1862. The Quadrant and Sextant Houses are at the south-east corner of the structure where the two figures are standing. The observatory probably looked much like this when Thompson was setting his chronometer.

Royal Observatory

Royal Observatory cir. 1676

Add to that, the accuracy of having to set up his artificial horizon precisely at noon along the trail for sun-shot observations for latitude. Using an artificial horizon and sextant, he attempted to note the exact time the sun reached its apogee and began descending into the western sky. He then went to the book of tables he used to convert to degrees, minutes and seconds of latitude. Such a process would rarely have been right-on-the-money. The accumulation of even small errors could, over a long distance and span of time would have affected final calculations, even for a surveyor of the time with far-superior skills like those of David Thompson.
During January and February of 1810, while the finishing touches of construction at Saleesh House were still being completed, Thompson took 45 observations for latitude. He recorded the latitude of Saleesh House to be 47º 34' 35" N. Based on my personal, limited, surveying experience, I think his accuracy is probably no more than plus or minus 150 feet.
During the same period, he also took 15 observations for longitude which he averaged to be 115º 22' 51" W. On page lxi of the Introduction to David Thompson’s Narrative of His Explorations in Western America 1784-1812 by J. B. Tyrrell, published in 1916 by the The Champlain Society this longitude was adjusted to 115º 15' W.


Location of coordinates listed in Thompson's journal and narrative.

Following are a three Google Earth images that are my best effort to put the vastness of all this in perspective. The red line you see begins at the dome of Royal Greenwich Observatory and ends at the Saleesh House site at Thompson Falls. It is 4,350 miles between the two places!
A detail I find extraordinarily amazing about this is that the line drawn from the dome of the observatory to the spot where David Thompson stood on his first day EVER at the Saleesh House location lines up with the Thompson River Canyon here at Thompson Falls! Believe it or not! Each time he looked up the river, Thompson was looking directly towards his homeland. What are the odds? See for yourself.

Greenwich Royal Observatory

The yellow pin in this image is centered on the dome of the Greenwich Royal Observatory.
Here’s a believe-it-or-not FACT...a line connecting this point and the Saleesh House
location passes straight down the Thompson River Canyon!

Greenwich Royal Observatory

This line, approximately 4,350 miles long, is from the dome of the Royal Observatory to the Saleesh House site.

Saleeh House Site

Yellow pin is the end of the line drawn from the dome of the Royal Greenwich Observatory to the Saleesh House site.

The primary research source my book was Catherine White’s book titled David Thompson’s Journals Relating to Montana and Adjacent Regions 1808-1812. We also used David Thompson's Narrative of His Exploration in Western America, 1784-1812, Toronto, The Champlain Society, 1916, as well as comments and references from the journals of other, well-known, fur traders of the period who had been there.

David Thompson journal

Page from David Thompson's Journal no.22, 1809-1810.
Archives of Ontario

White did not include the entire list of Thompson's observations. However, her excerpts did include the dates on which the original entries were made and all the key pieces of information necessary to determine where Saleesh House stood were included in both Thompson's journals and his narrative.
Now that you have some concept of how difficult it was for Thompson to accurately record his exact location, we will discuss why we believe that the Saleesh House site was located at the east end of Thompson's Prairie and nowhere else.
  • • First was Thompson's journal entry on October 14, 1809, when he provided compass bearings and estimated distance that allowed us to determine with a fair degree of accuracy where he was standing when he took the readings. Followed by his November 9th entry about arriving back at the site where he built his store.
  • • Second were journal notes from two separate canoe trips from his trading camp near today's Dixon, Montana to Saleesh House. In both cases, he provided bearings and/or distances from the mouth of the "House Rivulet" (Thompson River) to two distinctly separate "small bays" where they could land bark canoes avoiding damage had they been on a rocky, river bank.
  • • Third was an entry in Thompson's journal that provided us with compass bearings and estimated distances posted in the spring of 1810 and again in 1812 when he left Saleesh House and headed downriver by canoe. On both occasions he noted the initial bearing(s) to be in a southwesterly direction. The only spot where the river flows in a southwesterly direction in the area is immediately west of the mouth of Thompson River.
  • • Fourth, what we consider to be the most obvious and most important clue about the location of Saleesh House, is the table in the Tyrrell’s introduction to Thompson’s narrative that provided an adjustment for Thompson's calculated longitude for Saleesh House.
Each of these points a discussed with supporting arguments in the following:


Thompson's first attempt to contact Indian tribes west of the Rocky Mountains in the Pacific Northwest along what is today the Kootenai River took place in 1808. Unfortunately, his plans were thwarted by serious problems forcing him to return to Kootenae House, his first post west of the Rockies. The route he followed back to Kootenae House was up the Moyie River to its headwaters where he crossed the divide to the Columbia near the site where Ft. Steele was later established.
In 1809, he traveled by canoe to where he had previously camped near the mouth of Deep Creek, a few miles west of Bonners Ferry, Idaho. He and one of his clerks, probably Finan McDonald, had evidently done some trading at that site earlier. Angus McDonald, who is discussed in more detail on the Flathead House OBS page, stated that the big, redheaded Scotsman's given name was Phinan McDonnen of Glengary.
Thompson's map shows a NWCo post at the mouth of Deep Creek. I have been unable to find much about it but generally agree with a handful of other writers and historians that it was likely a temporary trading camp run by Finan. I did manage to locate a reference to it labeled as McDonald's House.
The lower circle shows the NWCo notation for Kullyspel House. The Lake Indian notation is across what is today's Pack River which flows into Lake Pend Oreille. The Lake Indian Road, noted by Thompson in his journal, connected the two trading sites located about 30 miles apart.

Deep Creek Observations

Another OBS page on our website titled 1809 Trip to McGillivray's River covers that trip in detail. This page deals only with our final determination about where Saleesh House was located.
Thompson eventually made contact with Indians familiar with the region, and in 1809 was able to engage enough men and horses to travel overland via the Lake Indian Road. He and his men left the Deep Creek camp on the morning of Wednesday, September 6. Two days later he arrived at the mouth of Pack River near where it empties into Lake Pend Oreille and by early October construction work on Kullyspel House was well underway.
During this same period, a canoe brigade under command of Thompson's clerk James McMillan was on its way from the Rainy Lake depot with orders to meet Thompson at the mouth of Deep Creek. McMillian was bringing goods and supplies for any new posts that Thompson might build.
As Thompson visited with Indians familiar with the country and with a few Métis voyagers who had married into the tribes or had "country wives" among them, he heard about an Indian road that might provide a better route from McGillivray's River (today's Kootenai) to his post. A shorter route would reduce the cost of transportation in both directions and would mean more profit for the company.
The cutoff from the Big Bend of McGillivray's River leading off in a southerly direction had been pointed out to Thompson in 1808. In his journal he referred to it as the Kootenae Road.
To explore eastward up the Saleesh River for more good beaver hunting grounds Thompson hired a guide to lead him back to the Big Bend of McGillivray's River in time to intercept McMillan. A Saleesh man who claimed he was familiar with the route was soon engaged. Knowing how scarce food could be in parts of this vast wilderness, Thompson also hired the guide's son as a hunter to feed his party along the way.
Thompson left Kullyspel House on October 11, 1809, following a well-worn Indian road he called Saleesh Road to the Buffalo. Three days later he arrived on what is now called Thompson's Prairie, a few miles east of the present town of Thompson Falls, Montana. That was where he camped for the night and where, a month later, he began construction on Saleesh House.
The following picture shows an actual segment of the Road to the Buffalo taken by Linda in the vicinity of Trout Creek, Montana. Notice the large, old-growth ponderosa pine in this photo, the ones with yellow bark. Ponderosa bark begins changing color from black to yellow at about age 150 years and typically produces a seed crop every 5–7 years. These trees were likely germinated shortly after the road was abandoned and replaced by wagon roads in the valley along the river. Similar, near-pristine segments of the road are rare.


Original Tread
Photo by Linda Haywood

This is about as good as it gets. The Clark's Fork River valley was burned almost clean in many parts of western Sanders County by the huge 1910 Fire. Then in 1935, equally devastating fires destroyed additional large areas of forest along the river.
According to his October 14 journal entry, Thompson had arrived at the "Prairie" about 4:30 PM. He noted there were about 40 horses grazing there, but he did not observe anyone else around. Thompson hiked around the area to have a closer look. Returning to the campsite area he had selected, he recorded two important compass bearings and one distance measurement. This is what he wrote in his journal:
"The Course of the Rivulet which is abt 20 yards is from N18ºE & the Co[urse] we have to go the Morrow is N20ºE ½ M along the Rivulet..."
The importance he placed on the bearings he recorded is obvious. We know that because the bearings he recorded were always in 2º, 5º or 10º increments. Using 2º increments indicated he took special care to make it as accurate as possible, which he did in this case. Ten-degree increments were primarily used for bearings taken while in a loaded canoe on a choppy river or a line-of-sight shot to some distant landmark. In this case, he was being as accurate as possible.
The first bearing he recorded (the longer red line on the left in the following image) was sighting up the Thompson River canyon. The second (the shorter red line on the right) was where the Saleesh Road to the Buffalo crossed Thompson River which he sometimes referred as the "House Rivulet."


Google image where Thompson took his two bearings on Oct 14, 1809.

Using the bearings and distances he recorded to where the Road to the Buffalo crossed the river, we can calculate, fairly accurately, where he stood on that Saturday afternoon. The difference between the two bearings was only 2º, his most precise bearing with a hand-held compass. He also noted that the crossing was half a mile from where he was standing. Accuracy was important to him that day. He would be back.
Following is a photo showing the view up Thompson River from the edge of Highway 200, not far from where Thompson would have been that day. Following that is a line-of-sight elevation profile indicating that Thompson's view would have been blocked beyond the top of the ridge where the red line ends in the previous image. The elevation profile is shown immediately below the photo.

Thompson River

Photo by Carl Haywood

Thompson River

Line-of-sight Profile

By the time Thompson and his men were ready to hit the trail again the following morning, we can be fairly certain he had already made up his mind to return to this place since he had his men prepare a cache where he concealed items which they were packing that would not be needed before he could get back to this site. There was still a lot of traveling to be done before he could return to the prairie east of Thompson Falls to build Saleesh House. In his narrative he noted the following about the day he completed the loop back to the prairie:
"On the 9th of November, thank God, we arrived at the place we had builded a Store, and were now to build a House for ourselves."
For some reason his comment about a "store" appears to have baffled historians for a hundred years resulting in a long-standing argument about the subject. It focused on whether or not he had constructed some sort of a building during the very few hours he had spent there. In my opinion, that idea is absurd because there would not have been time to do so.
The spot was perfect for a post. It was on a grassy prairie that provided a great place to graze horses. It was along the bank of a clear mountain stream for a good water supply. It was located on the Saleesh River with good access by either canoe or horseback. It was along on a main Indian road providing easy access for travelers and beaver hunters. And, there were beaver in the area. What else could he ask for? It is clear to me that he had decided this would be a good place to build another post and he had already made up his mind to come back and do just that.
As for the Store? During the fur trade era trappers, traders and hunters often used the words store and cache interchangeably. The word "store" was an English word that is self-explanatory. The word "cache" has its origins in the French word cacher—to hide.
Most men involved in the fur trade at the time were of English, French or Métis heritage. In this case, Thompson had excess baggage he wouldn't be using along the way to meet McMillan then take him directly to Kullyspel House. Why pack around, for several more days or weeks, stuff he could get along without? I'm betting he either concealed the baggage by hiding it in the brush or he dug a hole, placed the gear inside then covered and concealed any evidence of the disturbance. That is how a traditional cache was often constructed.
In his November 15, 1809, journal entry Thompson noted when the construction of Saleesh House began: "Men cut the Wood for my House & set up 5 Posts..."
Based on that entry and the one the following, the construction of Saleesh House was well underway on November 28th. In his journal entry for the day he wrote: "...took a turn across the River, but the Woods are too close for hunting."
The way I interpret this entry, in spite of a few naysayers, is that he had not crossed the river until 13 days after construction had started on Saleesh House. Since there is no other entry in his journal about him crossing the river again at or near Saleesh House, I think it is safe to say that trip was probably his first—and last.


Pictured below are the charter members of the David Thompson Days organizing committee when it was resurrected in 2009. These were likely the first moccasin tracks in a hundred years left on the sandbar in the "small bay of the river." The sand was deposited by the back-current created by the fast-flowing water spilling through the narrow, constricted channel that formed the rapids. Linda and I are on the left.

Saleesh House

Photo by Jason Shueh

How do we know this was one of the places where Thompson landed his loaded canoes after returning to the post from the Indians' winter camps 50 miles upriver? Because on two occasions he made detailed entries in his journal about where they were located. The first entry referred to a late evening arrival back at the post on Sunday, March 25, 1810:
" it became dusk so that I cannot well see the figures distce 1/5 M to the Brook [Thompson River] + 1/4 R. [Rapid] + 1/5 M to the House Road..."
Note the last reference to distance implies the spot where he landed the canoe is where the road up the bank led to Saleesh House.

Saleesh House Canoe Landing

Cricket Johnston's drawing of the "House Road" landing.

The second landing was recorded in his journal on March 4, 1812. This time he chose to land above the rapid. His reference was to the distance to the place where he landed his canoe almost immediately after passing the mouth of the "...the Brook"—Thompson River.
"March 4th Wednesday – A very stormy Night, cloudy Morng – & fine day, partly clear – gummed the Canoe & set off at 8..7 AM Co N72W 1/4, N55W 1/3 the Brook S72W 1/4 end of Co..."
Based on this description, his landing spot was above the spot described in 1810. His description puts it just below the mouth of Thompson River and just above the entry to the narrow channel creating the rapid. The following Google image shows the two courses he described.

Canoe Landings

On page 542 of the narrative, Thompson describes the location of the house as follows:
"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."
Thompson's OBS

Google image showing "spur of the hills" and "extent of fine meadow. "

For the last 130 years, most of the land between State Highway 200 and the river has been owned or leased by several different entities. The now defunct Anaconda Company owned large tracts of land in the Thompson River drainage and were actively logging the area from 1890 to 1971. When I first moved here in the late 1960s, they were still in business.
That history suggested to us that the chances of finding any remnants of Saleesh House would have been destroyed. We hope providing visual images for reference will be of use to you as we identify and discuss some of the key details on which our conclusions are based. Our best estimate for the location of Saleesh House is shown on the following Google image. This image shows the vicinity of the house location about three miles east of Thompson Falls. It also shows the location for the site located in the 1973 Malouf dig—referred to as the “Traditional Site”.

Malouf Site

This image shows what we believe to be the true location of Saleesh House
as well as the location identified by Dr. Malouf and his students in 1973

Since the Champlain Society’s publication, most research and attempts to locate the Saleesh House site, those prior to the late 1960s, were based on the Narrative—not Thompson's Journal. Information signs about the "traditional" location of Saleesh House were erected in the Thompson Falls, Montana area more than 50 years ago. The location was based on a 1973 archeological project conducted by Dr. Carling Malouf and a group of his students from the University of Montana. Malouf's dig was not based on his personal research, as far as I can tell, but on that of Thain White, a well-known, well-respected, amateur historian of the time.
It is extremely important to keep in mind the huge difference in access to material online today versus the time when these men were doing most of their work. Back then the Internet did not exist. If you wanted to research a subject you had to go to a bricks-and-mortar library, sort through the card files for the subject matter, then head for the stacks to locate and pull the book or document of interest.
This aerial photo was taken from directly over my house by Dave Bennett from his Piper Super Cub. Dave and I have been friends for more than 55 years … Thanks Bud! The red dot in the foreground has generally been accepted as the “traditional” location of Saleesh House for many years. I believe the historical “facts” tell us otherwise. Koo-Koo-Sint Ridge in the center background.

Thompson Prairie

Photo by my friend Dave Bennett

Other clues, but certainly no less valuable by any means, are artifacts found in the relatively small area where we believe Saleesh House stood. Let me be clear at this point that I am not claiming these items belonged to David Thompson or to any of his men. However, they do appear to be period correct and were found very near where I think Saleesh House and the associated canoe landing areas were located.
The first artifact was a brass powder flask. The construction of the flask and the figures on it indicate this is an original from the late 1700s to early 1800s period.


Photo of a c.1790-1810 brass powder flask found by my friend
Gary Weisz at Saleesh Ho Site.

Reproductions of the original are still being made for use by historical re-enactors. The two halves of the flask were discovered lying side by side as shown. The solder holding the two pieces together had been destroyed by a hundred years of weathering in the elements and it had been crushed during that time. Such a flask was a valuable piece of equipment during the Saleesh House period and had obviously been "lost" or forgotten by its owner.
The second credible discovery was made by an amateur historian a few years after my book was published. Wanting to visit the site by canoe, she paddled upriver armed with a metal detector to have a closer look around the Saleesh House canoe landing area we had identified. What she discovered was a small "cache" of old nails located within about 50 yards from where the flask had been discovered.


Photo by finder

The finder did a lot of research on the nails for several months before I knew about them. Among them were a few she thought might be "rose-head" nails, an easily identifiable forged nail, so-called because of the manufacturing process. Such nails were first produced in England and later in the US. The British were turning out rose-heads between about 1790 and 1810. Among their customers during that period would almost certainly have been the Hudson's Bay Company and the North West Company—Thompson had worked for both.
Following is a page from a publication about primitive nails that might be of interest. With the exception of #10, all would have been available during the period when Saleesh House (aka Flathead House or Flathead Post) was in operation near the mouth of Thompson River during the years 1809 to the mid-1820s.


At the turn of the 19th Century, nails were a very valuable commodity in the vast wilderness west of the Rocky Mountains. They made construction easier but weight and space were always limiting factors for bark canoe brigades. A single brigade could be responsible for supplying everything needed by one or more remote trading posts for an entire year. Unlike a lot of commodities, nails could be reused. Structures being abandoned were sometimes burned, in part so nails and other forged iron hardware could be fairly easily salvaged.
Some argue that similar nails are often found along the railroad and were likely to have been associated with that construction—not with Saleesh House. It is possible they are correct, but then again, perhaps not. What we do know is that these nails were available during all the years Thompson's original post remained was in operation—1809 to the mid-1820s. Unfortunately, this question may never be resolved.
This Google image provides a bird's eye view of the area near the mouth of the Thompson River where—despite a hundred years of controversy and urban legend—Saleesh House was most likely located.

Saleesh House

Here is a more detailed image showing where Thompson landed his bark canoes laden with furs and pemmican being transported from the Dixon and Camas Prairie areas to the trading post.
Below is a photo of the "small bay" located below the rapid that existed before the Thompson Falls Dam was constructed in the early 1900s. The rapid was located where the channel narrows just beyond the tall trees on the right of the image.

Saleesh House

Photo by Ron Petrie

For a little perspective about the differences in the river Thompson saw when he was here compared to what we see today, note the pine stand in this photo when compared with the previous photo.

Saleesh Bay

When filled the water level behind the Thompson Falls Dam is about the same depth (which is the case in this photo) as it was at spring flood stage in 1812. In his Narrative, based on his journal and enhanced by personal recollection, for June 5, 1811, Thompson wrote:
"...having killed a fifth Horse to take with us, we embarked and were soon in the Saleesh River; but how very different from what it was in the Autumn of 1809. Then it had a gentle current of 350 to 500 yards in width in places bordered by fine Forests, in other places by rich Meadows of considerable extent, with plenty of Swans, Geese, Ducks and Plover; all the time we have been here the water has been rising at the rate of two feet each day, the River now presented a great width agitated by eddies and whirlpools, it's apparent height above the level of Autumn was about thirty feet, rushing through the woods in a fearful manner, every Island was a dangerous Fall, and [had a] strong eddy at the lower end; we saw the risque before us, but we were all experienced men and kept the waves of the middle of the River, one place appeared so formidable that we put ashore, and carried everything for two and a half hours."


Early photo of the Thompson Falls Powerhouse
Courtesy, Lee Enterprises Daily Missoulian

The Thompson Falls Dam, completed in 1915, is forty feet high so the spring runoff level experienced by Thompson more than 200 years ago would appear much like the static water level you see impounded behind the dam today.


Each spring while Thompson was in charge of Saleesh House, furs and dried meat, usually in the form of pemmican, were shipped by horseback and canoe from his trading posts to his assigned supply depot at Rainy Lake.
Two key clues to the location of Saleesh House are spelled out in his Journal notes on April 19, 1810, and again on March 13, 1812, as he was leaving Saleesh House by canoe.
1. In 1810, he departed the post in a canoe loaded with furs and pemmican on his way downriver to Kullyspel House. The important point to note here is his first two bearings and distances indicated his canoe was headed in a southwesterly direction:"Co from the Ho S70W 1/2 M, S88W 1/2 M ..."
2. In 1812, on his final departure from Saleesh House with furs and meat acquired during the winter of 1811–1812, he again noted compass bearings and estimated distances taken from the canoe. This time only the first bearing was in a southwesterly direction but the distances in both cases were similar if we allow a reasonable margin of error related to estimating the speed of the canoe. The total distance on a southwesterly bearing in 1810 was 2,640 feet. In 1812 it was 2,112 feet:"Co S85W 2/5 M, N60W 1/2 M..."

In the Thompson Falls area there is only a single stretch of the river that flows in a southwesterly direction. It is located between the mouth of Thompson River and the mouth of Cherry Creek that flows in from the south. Saleesh House was undoubtedly located above that part of river.
The stretch that flows in a southwesterly direction can be seen in the center-right of the following Google image. It flows in that direction for only about a mile, ending about halfway between the Thompson River location and the traditional location of Saleesh House.

Clark Fork River

This image shows the Thompson Prairie from near the “traditional” Saleesh House location
to where it was actually located near the mouth of the Thompson River.


Following is the page from the introduction to Thompson’s Narrative written by J. B. Tyrrell in 1916 mentioned near the beginning. The middle column, shows the longitude of the post determined by Thompson based on several observations while he was there. The right column presents the "corrected" longitude according to the "latest surveys" available in 1915. These figures are from the table for three of the four posts Thompson built west of the Rocky Mountains during the period 1807–1812.


Thompson's    Latest Survey's

Longitude     Longitude

Kootanae House  115º 51' 40"    116º 00'
Saleesh House   115º 22' 51"    115º 15'
Spokane House  117º 27'      117º 33'

We know precisely where Kootenae House and Spokane House stood. Both have been excavated so there is little or no doubt about the latitude and longitude of each. Using Google Earth, I plotted the points of noted longitude and latitude for both posts as recorded by Thompson as well as those resulting from the "latest surveys." Thompson's calculations were both east of the actual sites. The "modern survey" points were to the west.
Using the same methodology at Saleesh House site (without it having been located or excavated) Thompson's calculations were west of both the "modern survey's" and my own. Keep in mind that Thompson's calculation at Saleesh House were based on 45 observations for latitude and 15 for longitude. On the following Google image, I have plotted a few the observations for latitude and the corrected survey for longitude as precisely as possible using Google Earth.


Thompson was acutely aware of the limits of accuracy of surveys from this wilderness. Besides, keep in mind it was well into winter at Saleesh House. Taking sun-shots at noon could not be done on cloudy days and observations for longitude required observation and timing of one of the moons of the planet Jupiter, never an easy thing to do even with weather conditions at their best. He was taking more shots for latitude than longitude because it was, by far, easier to obtain more accurate information than that necessary for determining longitude.
This next image shows where I think Thompson was standing on his first visit to the area and where, a short time later, he would return to build his trading post. The red circles are five of the 45 observations he made for determining the latitude of Saleesh House.

Clark Fork River

And Finally ... our last, and most important decision about David Thompson and the location of Saleesh House. After 20 years of research and field work based on Thompson’s journals and his passion for accuracy, we have decided the most likely location of his trading post was where he was standing on October 18, 1809 after he had paced the direction and distance from the point where the trail crossed Thompson River. Soon after arriving at the prairie that afternoon, he noted it was...
"...where we stopped at the end of a fine Plain abt 1 ½ M long, where we found about 40 Horses feeding but no Person in care of them – here we put up at 4 ¼ PM. I took a walk & set the Courses … The Course of the Rivulet (Thompson River) which is abt 20 yds is from N18ºE & the CO we have to go the Morrow is N20E ½M along the Rivulet, here we cross it, & then between close Mountains S76E ..."
In our opinion, this Google image fits well Thompson’s description of the area where he camped that first night and returned to a few weeks later to begin building Saleesh House.

TR Crossing

This image (looking southwest) shows the route of the Indian Road Thompson described in his Journal.
Portions of the original road are still in use.

Our Assumptions are … that the entries Thompson noted for us in his journals were essentially correct. We will probably never know, with absolute certainty where the trading house stood because of land disturbance and use changes over the 200+ years since it was built. Perhaps someday, someone will discover a clue we missed by using technology more advanced than what is available today. We welcome new “discoveries” as long as they are based on a high standard of research, and on the use of proven technology.
And, probably most important of all, we are absolutely certain Saleesh House was NOT on the south side of the Clark’s Fork River.
Thank you for your interest in our efforts over the past 20 years to locate where the Saleesh House site was. Please contact us with questions or newly acquired information we may have missed.
And, above all, thank you for your interest in the earliest written record about a little trading post located in a vast, largely unexplored wilderness by a renowned surveyor-trader-explorer who took the time to tell us about the challenges and successes of his own greatest, personal adventure.

Clark Fork River

Copyright @2023, Rockman's Trading Post, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Last updated: 5/31/2023

"Ordinary history conveys information; extraordinary history conveys understanding!"
Stewart Edward White-1931